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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. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Welcome to Parenting

 The last few days we were just covering parenting 101, and couldn't believe how amazingly well behaved our beautiful children were. I told Roman last night, "geez we are really getting the hang of this parenting thing." I failed to mention the fact that they were eating everything we offered them, always cleaned up after themselves and were perfectly disciplined and super low key and independent. Andrey was super grateful and followed me around everywhere telling me how much he loved us and how grateful he was we picked him (little does he know it was God, not us). He also was a huge help, always cleaning up after himself and watching Katya's every move, showing her the ropes (iPad, iPhone, cars, etc). Katya is perfectly potty trained and keeps herself busy with one toy for an average of two hours and is capable of dressing herself and feeding herself. Her vocabulary seemed to have been limited to just a few basic words and anytime I'd as much as glance her way, she's just smile  from ear to eat and come hug me.  When asked to do something, she'd immediately nod yes and run off to complete the task. The only major struggle was the fact that Katya had never been outside the orphanage, so car and airplane rides are completely terrifying to her, so we have been trying to cope with that.  


Today however, is an entirely different story.  Welcome to advanced parenting! After spending two hours at the medical clinic to complete their medical exams for immigration,   Andrey came home to a 102-103 fever we couldn't break for hours. We have tried prayer, local medicine, home remedies, children's Tylenol and he is still burning up. Meanwhile, Katya has a cough and runny nose. Also, Katya has decided to show us her secret vocabulary, and although she is still a little sweet pea, this girl can talk like an old women. Boy, were we surprised. As we are trying to get sickly Andrey to bed (mind you we all share one room) our Katya decides to test out what happens if she refuses to sleep. After yelling for papa and mama for 30 minutes, she decided to turn up the stakes. At first, it was that she needed to go potty, next it was her head hurt, then her leg, etc. Lastly she reverted to crying the final, sure option, crying and wanted to sleep on our bed, which already included one too many. As we finally succeeded in getting our kiddos to bed, I realize we have an embassy appointment at 8, which means we wake up at the crack of dawn to get the kids fed, dressed and take our long drive to the US embassy. I'm praying our little guy will be fever free, if not we may not make it out of Ukraine by Thursday. Oh that's right, I still have big stack of documents to fill out before I can take a bath (I miss US showers) and get to bed. 


Overall, I've gotta say this parenting thing isn't easy. I never thought it was, but I think we just got our crash course today, while traveling thousands of miles from home with two brand new (sick) children, living at a friend's house, trying to make it to all of our painstaking adoption and immigration appointments. I gotta say, it's difficult but awesome. Despite of today's difficulties, I know we've hit the jackpot with our little darlings and we couldn't be happier! 

Oh, and it's our wedding anniversary today! I wonder what the next seven years will bring? ;) 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What a Glorious Day!

The Day of Our Hearing - What a Glorious Day! 

Wow, today was quiet the eventful day. We arrived in Donetsk late last night, while still jet lagged, we quickly visited Katya, then headed to court.   The court system in Ukraine is different than our beloved US. First of all, we started the hearing two hours after our scheduled appointment. Once the hearing started, the judge spoke very quickly and in pure Ukrainian, so I struggled to understand all the questions. Although the judge asked us and Andrey (Katya is too young to attend)  some very difficult questions, and made some interesting comments, we were relieved to hear the court approved our adoption and we are officially Katya and Andrey's parents!!! We get to pick up our beloved children tomorrow. After our hearing, we grabbed dessert and visited Andrey's orphanage, where we threw a little goodbye party for him. Andrey was on cloud nine! He smiled from ear to ear as he told his friends that tomorrow he'll be leaving with mama and papa. This was a bitter sweet moment that I had thought about for a long time.  These kids were so excited to spend some time with us. As soon as I walked in , I had a half-dozen  10 year olds hugging, kissing, petting and calling me mamuchka (mommy in a russian). My heart breaks for these children and I realize that I was no different then them, no more deserving, yet I was given a family that loves and cherishes me. I couldn't help but feel that more can be done for these children who so desire to be loved. These children deserve to be in a home and to get a mama and papa like Andrey did. 


 I realized long ago that this journey of adoption wasn't just about growing our family, but about saving two children from a horrific future. Statistics in Ukraine prove that children who grow up in orphanages in Ukraine, have a grim future awaiting them, consisting of drugs, alcohol, prostitution and/or prison. Today a huge victory was won!!! The devil thought he had a strong grip on these innocent, but helpless children, but boy oh boy does God have big plans for them?!! Today is a day to celebrate and with the amount of prayers being lifted up for us, I know God has been with us ever step of the way.  I envision angels celebrating this victory, singing praise to our wonderful Father. As I am overcome by many emotions today, all I want to do is pray. 

My prayer today:
Thank you Jesus for giving me the honor to become a mom today! I am humbled by your grace. I know your will is perfect and you are sovereign. Thank you for giving us the courage to walk this difficult (but very fulfilling road) and seeing us through the end!  I feel so humbled that you have chosen us to impact the lives of Andrey and Katya, we hope to do them justice, because we know they deserve the best, as do all of your precious children.We thank you for being faithful in all You do. Please continue to bless this journey and we ask that we get home safely, so we can celebrate with our loved ones! 

Father, I also know there are 153 million children in this world, who don't have the chance to experience your love, grace and sacrifice, but I know you created them for a purpose. These children can do great things and can have beautiful futures! Although these children's fate seem horrific, I know You can turn darkness into light and You can and will send more victories. These children belong to You, but You need Your faithful servants to step up and ask themselves some difficult questions. Jesus, I ask You to help each and every person reading this to examine their heart and see if they are willing to take a leap of faith.  Show them what they can do to impact these children's lives. Maybe they can adopt or foster a child, but they think they don't have what it takes (finances, energy, time, faith).  Maybe they can financially support or fundraise for a family who wants to care for an orphan. Maybe they can serve these children in other ways, like an orphan hosting program. Whatever it may be, please give them the courage to go out and do it!!! Give them courage to overcome any insecurities or distractions and take that first leap of faith. Most of all, give them the support, love and care You have awarded me through this journey. Lord, You know if it wasn't for Your believers, I may  have fallen short and may not have seen this victory. Thank you again Father, for showing me You are bigger than my fears! Amen. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Final Sprint

For those of you haven’t heard, we traveled back to the states last week. Unfortunately, On April 4th, one hour before our scheduled court hearing, we found out there were some complications and due to the political instability, they had to cancel our court hearing, and postpone it until April 22nd at the earliest. I honestly felt such a whirlwind of emotions at that time. I hated that we came so close to the kiddos being ours, and in one phone call, that all changed. I hated that I had to endure yet another trip to Ukraine and face all of my fears, insecurities, travel, costs and frustrations. Most of all, I hated leaving Andrey and Katya behind. On the other hand, as you could gather from my previous post, I was growing extremely home sick and the pressure of the adoption and Ukraine tensions were weighing on me - emotionally, physically and spiritually. In the last week, I have thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful country of ours, the magnificent weather and most of all, seeing our lovely family and friends!

After having some time to recuperate, I feel like I owe you all an apology for my attitude on my previous post. Most of all, I came to realize I owed God an apology. Sometimes I am like a child. When things don’t go my way, or the way I anticipated, I throw spiritual tantrums and let my emotions take over. I often struggle praising God and worshipping Him in all His Glory, just because things aren’t going my way. Luckily, our God is an amazing Father and He knows how to put me in my place. Over the past weeks, I was reminded how difficult it is to praise God through the storm. This weekend, at a women’s conference, I was reminded of a promise I had once made God. A few years ago, the night before my surgery, I prayed that God would use me to fulfill His will, even if it meant I wouldn’t receive the one thing I wanted most… a child. When I prayed this prayer, I had wanted my desire for God to be stronger than my desire to have children. I had to ask myself if this was still true. I felt so convicted.

This week, I made a new promise to God. I prayed and vowed that despite of what life throws at me, I will not grumble at God. May He give me strength and wisdom to fulfill this promise throughout my life.

In three short days, God willing, we will embark on the last phase of this adoption journey. We are scheduled for court on April 23rd. We are traveling to the center of the turmoil, Donetsk, Ukraine. We pray for God to guide us every step of the way and hope and pray we can get our children out of their safely. We have to spend a few days in Donetsk and then plan to travel to Kiev to complete visas and immigration requirements.

Dear friend, I ask you, I beg you, please pray for us as we take these final difficult steps of this journey. Thank you to all those who have been praying. When we are down, we know the prayers of others will carry us through.  We are terrified. We are uncertain. We are hopeless. We are weak. But GOD is ALL KNOWING. GOD is FAITHFUL. GOD is STRONGER. I keep reminding myself that GOD is greater than are problem. GOD is greater than politics. GOD is greater than war. GOD is greater than death! He will see us through. GOD is GOOD!
Happy Easter!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Homesick

Just a few weeks ago, I was raving about how exciting and blessed this journey has been.  Fast forward 14 days later: we traveled 24 hours by train (it must have been an antique) to arrive in Kovel, Ukraine. Now we wait, impatiently, for our court date in Donetsk, which we were supposed to get by Wednesday. Unfortunately there are some delays, which means we have to stay in a country that is in complete turmoil, for an extended time...Lovely! Although we have enjoyed our unexpected family time and my grandma's delicious cooking, my patience has quickly run out. Yesterday, I had a bit of a breakdown and I fear I may have accepted defeat. I am extremely homesick. I am sick of waiting for this adoption process to be over with already. I want to go home. 

I am afraid. I wish I was brave and could say the fear of the war wasn't weighing on my shoulders, but it is getting heavier with  every  day. It is all anyone talks about. Every few days, I receive a new email from the United States embassy urging US residence to evacuate and avoid travel into Ukraine, especially Donetsk and other eastern cities.  The Russian military poses a safety threat and there is warning of  potential war. Every time I see this, I can't believe this is reality! Is this really my life??? Am I really thousands of miles from home, spending my last bit of energy, money, faith and patience to do something God has called us to. Why does this have to be so darn difficult??? Honestly, most families start in the comfort of their homes through the beautiful process of pregnancy. The long awaited ultrasounds, baby kicking, the lovely pregnancy glow, the glorious baby shower and finally the beautiful (granted painful) process of birth, at which you get this perfect bundle of joy. It's perfect because it's yours and you don't doubt for a moment that it'll be the best thing that ever happened to you. But nope, that's not me,  here I am... scared, impatient, frustrated with no guarantees we will get our happy ending. Isn't this God's plan!?  Shouldn't God's plan offer some insurance? I didn't wake up one day and decide I'd like to take a detour in life and chose this fate. if God put us here, when will he pull us out? Will life ever get easier for us?Why is life often so unfair? Why am I getting held up on what's fair or not to begin with?  Shouldn't I be stronger, braver and more faithful by now? When will we get our happily ever after?