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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

272 Days Later

It’s been 272 days since we landed on American soil as a new family of four. 2014 is behind us and to say 2014 was a whirlwind for our family would be a gross understatement. When reflecting on the year, it was the most traumatic, unnerving, costly, stressful, exhausting yet GLORIOUS year yet, and I have some unwanted grey hairs to prove it #thankfulforhaircolor. 2014 was truly epic! For the first time in seven years, I was able to cross off my “Become a Mom” New Year’s Resolution. Hallelujah!!!

I’ve been horrible about writing lately, partly because I’ve been busy with my jobs, mommy job and accounting job but also because we were in stage three of adoption bonding, commonly known in the adoption community as the spaz out/meltdown phase #soexhausting. Well I’m thrilled to announce stage three, the triage phase, is mostly behind us. We’ve stopped the bleeding and the vitals are looking good.  Stage three was so exhausting. Oops, I already said that.  I felt like I was a failure as a parent and there were times I wondered if our son would ever see past his anger and grief.  Now we are joyfully entering stage four – rehab.  God has been good to us and we are seeing the sun light shine through the clouds and boy, do I love sunshine! We have a ton of work ahead of us, as we teach them to cope, manage their frustrations, feel secure, find self-worth and tackle their education, but we feel incredibly blessed to have made so much progress in the last few months.

Even more exciting, is for the first time in the last 272 days, I feel content. I don’t feel frustrated or guilty for not meeting my own made-up fascinations of what type of mom I need to be. For the first time, Andrey has went off to school with a large smile on his face and gave me a hug and kiss before leaving. For the first time, I’m not comparing my children to anyone else, adopted or bio.  I can also admit for the first time, I am extremely proud to parent two creative, witty, strong-willed, loving, outgoing, determined, brave, caring and joyful children. I have made a lot of mistakes in the last 272 days, but as I look at the wide-eyed smiles on my kiddos, I feel content that I must be doing something right. With God’s help, I have the family I have always dreamed of.  I have three people in this world that adore me more than I deserve, my children’s health has seen phenomenal improvement, I have my dream job of being a mom and  I live in a country that is safe from warfare. Moments of pure bliss are common in my home and I have God to thank for that.  God has been with us every step of the way. Taking that first leap of faith over three years ago has proven to be extremely rewarding. I’m looking forward to see what God has in store for our family in the coming year and hope we can make it as memorable as the last.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Life Changing Moments - Our Adoption Journey

Okay friends, the pity party is over! It's time to prepare for the many, way more enjoyable, parties that await us in the holiday seasons. As thanksgiving approaches, I find myself thinking of all God has provided for us in the last year and how His protective hand has been over us in the last year. This year could be summed up by so many life changing moments that showed me how miraculous and powerful God really is in my own life. Some of those moments are when we got the call to pack our bags and leave for Ukraine to pick up our children, when we arrived in Kiev and saw the devastating aftermath of the Maidan revolution, when we met our daughter for the first time, when the judge officially pronounced me to be the mom of Andrey and Katya and most of all, the moment we landed on American soil, complete as a family. We had made it out of Donetsk unharmed and our family had doubled in size. The overwhelming amount of emotions I felt in that moment will be engraved in my mind forever. God had provided a victory! The moment that had kept me going through the crippling fear, anxiety and stress came to fruition. We were all finally safe and ready to walk into the loving arms of our family and friends. I'm so grateful our friend was able to capture this moment to share with our children. This isn't a professional video, but it's by far my favorite video of all time, because it's a symbol of what we have to be grateful for, not only this Thanksgiving, but many more to come!

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Pity Party

First and foremost, I’d like to apologize for my inconsistent and infrequent blog posts. I could make excuses all day long about my not having enough time, being a working mom, juggling the kiddos schedule  and finding time to reconnect with my husband, but I know deep inside those are all just that, excuses… The reality is when I put my thoughts on paper, or in type, they all of a sudden become very real and I’m not always ready to face the reality of my emotions and feelings. I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been scared to share the truth about what’s really going on in this head of mine. You see, when you adopt, people are always telling you how amazing you are, how they think you are practically saints and although that is so kind, I also have become very aware of this false image that people have painted of me, and I’m terrified to let them down.  The truth is we are ordinary people, with tons of flaws and we are just starting to figure out this whole parenting thing. We make mistakes daily and I am always aware of the fact that I need to work on myself, that I am still being molded and mended. Don't ­­­­forget we are all human and nine times out of ten, we face the same struggles in various areas of our lives.

Confession:  I’m breaking my own rules over here. I’m always telling people how the worst thing you can do for yourself is have a pity party. Well guess who’s having a pity party this week and feeling bad about it? I've been comparing my children and my parenting to everyone else’s. No bueno! I know better than that, but I can’t help it. Here are the things I’ve been struggling with:

  •       I’ve been feeling sorry for myself because I haven’t had the opportunity to raise my kiddos from birth, like most moms, which I feel puts my children at a disadvantage. This especially happens when we get bad news at Katya’s doctor’s appointments, which for a while, were weekly visits. If it wasn’t an ulcer, a parasite, staff infection, ear infection, it’s been hip dysplasia and birth defects. Anyhow, every time I hear about another issue I begin to resent others who had perfectly healthy kids and complain about nonsense issues, like the color of their hair and the size of their nose.  I completely understand this is unfair, but once again, not always rational in moments and far from perfect. The good news is despite of all these physical and psychological challenges, Katya is the most optimistic kiddo I’ve ever met.  I wish I could have protected her from all these physical ailments and given her the medical attention she deserved, but I’m also grateful to have medical insurance and access to Shriners Hospital, who can help us bring her into good health.

  •        I’ve quicky realized my kids aren’t going to be like all the other kids we hang out with, or most kids in general. This week was parent teacher conference time at my son’s school. While other parents were beaming with joy over their child’s straight A’s,  honor roll and student of the month, we were relieved our 4th grader has managed to count to 20 and has learned basic addition. Most of the year, our homework sessions have ended in either or both Andrey and I in tears. It’s been tough. Katya has her own struggles as well. The preschoolers at Katya’s school are celebrating how nicely they write and sound out the letters of the alphabet and 7 weeks into school I’m still trying to get my daughter to call the Teacher by name instead of yelling “Hey!”. Just when I think we made progress, I pick her up from school and ask, “Katya, what is your teacher’s name? She says with a huge smile on her face “Miss Doggy!” Oh Vey! I feel like the more I realize how far behind our children are, the more work I realize I have to do to get them to be normal functioning adults one day, and the truth is I’m already getting burned out and overwhelmed from the physical and emotional needs, that I don’t feel l have anything left for their educational needs. I feel like they will always be carrying around the damage that was done to them by their past. It sucks and it’s not fair that they are already at such a disadvantage in life. Also, selfishly, I’ve always been a go getter and have made my parents proud in my accomplishments and I become a bit jealous that others will be proud of their children, showing them off to the world,  while I try to rush out of church, hoping my kids don't dig in people's purses for candy and ask complete stranger if they can please have their Ipod. Like seriously, this is hard work!

  •             I feel like I’m too hard on my kids, but I don’t know how to change. First of all, I wish I was a more graceful parent. I’m not the calm and collected mom I envisioned I would be. I struggle between making sure they know the rules and I'm consistent with follow through and feeling like they really may not know better. In my defense though, I don’t think I was fully aware of how difficult it would be to parent an older child. We knew to some extent it would be difficult to parent an 11 year old who has been institutionalized the majority of his life, I still feel the books should have said in bold and underlined… WARNING, THIS WILL TEST YOUR LAST BIT OF PATIENCE… PROCEED WITH CAUTION! Don’t get me wrong, if we knew how difficult it would be, it still would not have changed our decision, but I think I would have had set different expectations. The truth is Andrey is doing amazing for the short period of time he’s been in a family environment, I think I’m the one who is failing. I always say I feel like we've hit the jackpot as far as international adoption go, but I can’t let go of my standards and my expectations. Roman constantly reminds me that we need to set different bench marks for our kiddos, but I guess the over-achiever in me doesn't want to accept that. I’m working through this and hope God guides me through this process.

Comparison is a road that leads to know where but resentment, jealousy, anger, etc. A friend of mine recently shared a quote with me, “comparison is the thief of contentment.” This is so true! I’m not entirely sure how I’ll work through these issues, but I think God will come through and change me through this process. I’ve realized I don’t have much grace for mistakes but I have to constantly remind myself of how much grace God has shown me in my life. I’m definitely far from deserving of the magnitude of blessings that surround me each day, yet God still pours out his love and compassion. Too bad I haven’t made a lot of time for devotionals or reading God’s word, or I bet I’d be doing much better #workinprogress. Have you ever struggled with comparing yourselves to others? How'd you work through it?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Infertility After Adoption

The last few weeks have been very eventful, my sister-in-law and one of my best friends had babies, both beautiful and healthy little princesses. As my kids have observed these gals going from a forty-one week belly, to a newborn in their hands, it has sparked their curiosity. Andrey asked me some very difficult questions about how children are made (I think it’s time for the birds and the bees talk) and Katya has become obsessed with babies and has asked for a new lyalya (baby doll) of our own. I love that my kids are getting to experience and observe the beauty of God bringing a new little miracle into the world, well knowing this may be as close to the experience as they’ll get. Although I’ve mostly celebrated the many pregnancies and babies around the last few months, every once in a while, a bit of baby fever will come over me.

As I’ve thought about my infertility after adoption, I’ve been able to recognize why it still hurts at times. In addition to preventing you from conceiving and bearing a child “like everyone else,” infertility can lower your self-esteem. No matter how accomplished you may be in other areas, once you begin to battle the specter of infertility, it is easy to see yourself as a failure. And even after you “move on” with your life, the fact that you are infertile can weigh you down.

When the doctors told me I would probably never conceive a child, I felt like such a failure as a woman, I mean, I worked hard all my life to accomplish what I wanted. In the past, if I saw something I wanted, I went for it and if I worked hard enough, 99% of the time, I was able to achieve it. But the one thing that I wasn’t supposed to have to work at [conceiving and bearing a child] is impossible for me. Coming to grips with that was very hard. It’s still a sore spot for me at times, but the big difference is now I know God writes our story and we don’t always know what’s best. Of course as I’ve grown in my faith, it became more clear to me that God allowed me to be successful in other areas of my life, it wasn’t through my effort or determination, but only through his grace and blessings that I was able to accomplish anything at all.

As I write this post, I am also grateful for my infertility. As I look back on the last 7 years of my life, I know if it weren’t for the trials God allowed in my life, I probably wouldn’t experience the joy and blessing of parenting two sweet (and unique) children through the gift of adoption. As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for God’s intervention, Andrey and Katya may not even be alive today. Shortly after our adoption, both of their Donetsk orphanages were seized by terrorists and the children were disbursed all over the place, some were transferred to Russia and others just fell off the grid. So although infertility still stings a bit, I know God has everything under control. Luckily, when I do sense baby fever coming over my, I’m able to get my dose of babies these days and there’s nothing I love more than holding baby Chloe and Alexandra. There’s something about holding a precious little one that restores your faith in humanity and leaves you in awe of God’s pure and innocent creation.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Confessions of a New (Adoptive) Mom

These days, I am in awe of how these wonder moms seem to have it all together. I don’t know if it’s just an image they put out there on social media, but I sure can’t seem to keep up with cleaning, cooking, bathing, grooming, working and up keeping my social life very well. Instead of acting like I have it all figured out, I’m going to confess a few things, that I’m ashamed and surprised of as a new mom who is still learning to adjust to her new role. I know you may judge me, but I promised I’d be honest, so here it goes…

     1)   I knew parenting would be hard. I knew adoption would make parenting harder. I didn't know the hardest part would be the whirlwind of emotions and utter exhaustion that comes with parenting two, very different and determined kids.

2) I have moments when I am filled with bitter anger towards my children's birthmom and her crappy decisions. I'm mostly upset at the fact that her decisions have complicated my children's lives and they have to deal with the repercussions of her decisions. Katya and Andrey both have physical and emotional ailments that are clearly side effects of substance abuse.  Praise God Almighty they are extremely determined and don't let these things define or hinder them.

3) I have moments when I'm so grateful that Andrey and Katya's birth-mom decided to give them life and didn't go for the much too popular decision of aborting. As hectic as our lives are now, I can't imagine it any other way or without them in our lives.

4) I thought I would be more appreciated. Do Andrey and Katya appreciate us? Yes, of course. But somehow that doesn’t always translate into being obedient and grateful children. In turn, when they are making bad decisions, I feel like they aren’t appreciative. I'm sure this is partly because they did not have the childhood they should’ve had. Or maybe it’s just because Andrey is a preteen going through a whole lot of change and talking back is a must. (This seems to be common in kids of all ages, and quite frankly, in some adults.)

5) This is a big one... and I can’t believe I’m writing this, but here goes full disclosure…I dread going to church now. Before mommy hood, Sunday was my favorite  day of the week. I now feel anxious on the Sunday drive, hoping Andrey doesn't get too excited and bite someone (playfully, not out of anger) and Katya doesn't have an accident and ruin her carefully ironed outfit. Andrey and Katya seem to both be on their worst behavior during church and I feel like I only catch 10% of the message. This is certainly getting better, but it's a work in progress.

6) There are times I feel like I'm failing. I can't seem to get around to vacuuming the house for the 4th time in one day, let alone try to teach my kids their letters or numbers. I feel like I had these expectations of the mother I wanted to be, the one who only feeds her children the best organic food, teaches them a few Bible verses a week, etc. I feel like for every five steps we take forward, we end up taking many steps back. I just pray God gives me the wisdom to get through this season gracefully.

7) Both of our kiddos have some side effects from being institutionalized for the majority of their lives. The truth of the matter is, it can get really ugly and emotional when seeing your child deal with the trauma of their pasts. When they are having an outburst, I go through a wide spectrum of emotions. Sometimes I have to hold myself back from yelling at them and demanding they stop over-reacting, and other times I feel so much pain and sorrow for them I just cry beside them while they are falling apart. We are working through these things as a family and we know God has the power to heal their wounds.

8) Somedays, after waking up at the crack of dawn, I find myself very tempted to give Andrey the Ipad for a few hours while Katya naps, so I can catch some zzzs. Fortunately, I still resist the urge most of the time, but boy does that nap sound great!

9) There are times I cry like a baby from pure joy, despite of all the struggles. Sometimes Andrey and Katya will say or do something so sweet, I will hold back tears of joy, because I can’t believe I'm a mom. I dreamed of these moments since being a young teen and once lost hope I'd ever have the honor of being someone's mom. I sometimes baby Katya and rock her to bed, and while she sleeps I just weep. How is it that I’m lucky enough to be her mom? Why does God think I’m strong enough to be a mom to these precious human beings who have so much to learn still? I am often overwhelmed with the fact that God loves us more than I love these children, regardless of our faults. He adopted me into and is my father. How amazing is that?

10) I confess that most of the time, I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing. Everyone thinks I have it all together -- good wife, good mom -- but I really don't. I'm ready to stop trying to be perfect and just be real. Can anyone relate?

Monday, July 7, 2014

8 Weeks Later

I'm sorry I've been a bit MIA lately, juggling my new role as mommy-of-two has had me in a bit of a whirlwind. Looking back now, our entire journey to Ukraine and back seemed like a bad nightmare and we are now finally recuperated and adjusting to our new family. I've been fortunate enough to stay home with our kiddos as they adjust to their new country and new family. I can go on and on about how they are adjusting (the good, the bad and the ugly) but I'll share about those struggles in a later post. For now, let me start with a few highlights of the last few weeks and give you a chance to get to know the two newest members of the Kravchuk clan:

- Andrey and Katya are both obsessed with dogs, literally obsessed! Katya has a fake dog she carries around and calls Milo (in honor of our friend Dana's dog). She takes her role as a toy-dog owner very seriously, she proceeds to feed, walk and put Milo down for naps daily, after singing him a few lullabies of course. Andrey isn't quiet as mesmerized but our toy dog and asks me when we will get a "real" dog a few times weekly. 

-Andrey asks me daily "мама, почему ми такая щасливая семя?" (Mom, why are we such a happy family?) I never know the right way to answer this, but usually try to explain that God loves us and many people have prayed for us over the last year. 

Andrey and Katya's bond is unbelievable, considering they've only known each other for 8 short weeks. Andrey will often wake up, brush her teeth, change her, brush her hair and tell me his sister needs breakfast. He is a wonderful big brother and it melts my heart to see their bond. Katya only refers to Andrey as Andruyshka and is always concerned of his whereabouts, especially on school days. 

- Katya is pretty easy to win over with either candy, a phone, dog , music, something shiny, etc. You get the picture. She is a girly girl, who loves taking pictures, shopping and trying in clothes, but she isn't afraid to get her hands dirty either. This girl will fight for herself if needed. She has a big heart and automatically falls in love with anyone who loves her back and after meeting someone new and spending some time with them, she'll usually tell me the remainder of the day "Мама, Jimmy Катю любить!" (Jimmy loves Katya!) She will smile from ear to ear and tell me how many people love her. I love that she grasps the fact that she is loved by so many.

- Andrey and Katya both share an undeniable love for music! Katya is always air drumming along to the music in the car and both beg to listen to music on my phone. Andrey asked us a few days after his arrival in the US "why does everyone on the radio talk about Caleb so much?" Caleb is Andrey's cousin. Roman and I both chuckled and explained how the radio station is K-love. Needless to say, K-love is his favorite station and he now literally knows every song they play on the station by heart. 

- Andrey went to summer school a few weeks ago and since has a whole new vocabulary of English words that we are now only get accustomed to. The other day our neighbor came over and Andrey totally had a conversation with him. I was dumbfounded! He asked how he was doing, where his dog was (of course) and told him Roman was at work. In Andrey's words "oh my hoodness, what you dooinh?" 

-Katya and her box... One day after a trip to Costco, Katya asked if she could play with one of the remaining cardboard boxes. Of course she could.  At the time I did not realize this would become a valuable piece of real estate to a 4 year old girl with a wild imagination. Katya now believes this simple cardboard box is her home and she spends 75% of her time in this box. She carefully lays out her blankets, arranges her favorite toys and then proceeds to lay in this box (knees almost touching her head) for a few hours daily. She carries this thing around the house all day long. As we were driving home from Los Angleles this weekend, I asked her what she missed most about home, without any hesitation, she said "my box!" I should have known. I made the mistake of replacing this cardboard box for a newer upgraded model, but she would not have it! She walked around the house poking in the closets looking for her old box. 

To conclude, sometimes it's hard not to dwell on the fact that we missed out on a huge portion of our childrens' lives, but we are enjoying getting to know them better each day. It's really exciting discovering a new part of their personality, a new like, dislike, dream or fear of theirs daily. Right now they are like onions and we are peeling their layers one day at a time. It isn't always easy but it sure is a ton of fun and we are constantly overwhelmed by God's goodness.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Home Sweet Home

We are finally home!!! Hallelujah! We were blessed by our close friends and family who drove out to San Francisco to give us a wonderful and emotional homecoming. I was so touched when we finally saw our friends and family, I had realized this crazy struggle of getting our children home, was finally over. We were on US soil, all four of us, safe and sound! Tears of joy streamed down my face as I saw the people who have prayed, hoped and cried with us during this journey. What a beautiful memory this will be for us to cherish! 

It's taken the kiddos a few days to adjust to their new life, but they have handled it like troopers!  Boy am I glad that Roman and I paid attention to the countless hours of adoption training and carefully read adoption books on bonding and making this transition easier for both us and the kids. These children (especially Katya) have been mostly confined to the same four walls, have only seem a few people and have lived with the same routine, day in and day out, for their entire lives.  They are now experiencing a lot of new senses, emotions, people, attention and places for the very first time, and it's easy in our excitement, to forget that this may be very confusing and overwhelming for them internally. The time change alone can be difficult for adults to transition to, but this is only one of the major life changes facing our children. We've tried to follow through with the recommendation of our social workers and lay low for awhile, giving the children a chance to process all the change before throwing them into more crowds of new people. This has been harder than we thought, as we've been traveling for a combination of eight weeks, so we've desperately wanted to spend some time catching up with friends and family.

Roman and I are still adjusting to a family of four. We are learning our new children's personalities, schedules, likes, dislikes, flaws, emotional state, health problems, etc. I think what is most surprising, is we are discovering so much about God's unconditional love. 

Let me tell you, it's true what they say, children from orphanages come with a whole host of problems, especially emotional and physical problems. Other parents may judge me for this, but I have no problem admitting my  kiddos are far from perfect. Andrey is extremely insecure and as impatient as a 16 year old girl waiting to get asked to prom. He is behind in math, reading and writing. We will have our hands full trying to get him caught up and ready for school. Katya is discovering when she cries, she gets a lot of attention, so I think she's made it a new hobby of hers. Katya is below the first percentile for weight and height for her age group, has a broken arm that was never fixed and suffers from severe vision problems (it must run in the family). Both children will require a lot of work and an incredible amount of patience. Regardless of how many imperfections, inadequacies, flaws or how many mistakes they make, I love them with every morsel of my being!!! I can't explain it, but from the moment I saw their photos, I knew they'd be broken, flawed and unwanted by others, but will be deeply loved by me. Does that sound familiar? Aren't we bruised, broken and flawed in so many ways, yet we are so deeply loved by our Father? I never understood how God could love me, unconditionally, even though I've messed up so many times, and I'm without a doubt unworthy of His love. 

God adopted us into His family. The best Father, the one who created all things, who is pure and perfect, has accepted us into His family! Wow! Have you ever thought about what an honor that is ? I am a daughter of the one true King! Maybe you have been rejected by this world, your peers, your family, or even your loved ones, but you will always be accepted by God. He looks at our flaws and sees our past, our hurts and our history. Despite of it all, God will show us great and unthinkable things we did not know. He will show us so many wonderful things and teach us so many valuables lessons, but most of all, he will love us with a love that we can't even grasp, an unconditional love that never fails. I am just learning to be a parent. I'm sure there will be times that I will fail and mess up, but I hope I can teach my children about a love that never falters or fails.