Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's Been One Week!!!

November 2, 2011
It's Been One Week!!!

We've been home one week already! Crazy! The time has flown by and we are all adjusting to our "new normal" quite well.

I did want to give a quick update and tell you about our Christmas Angel (from Reece's Rainbow!) So, bear with me while I ramble for a bit.

First, before I get to the good stuff and the stuff you want to hear, I am going to ask you for money.
Every year Reece's Rainbow has the Angel Tree Project. As an extension of this project, they are hosting the Christmas Warrior Project this year as well.

This tells you a little bit about the Christmas Warrior Project:

"As an extension of our Prayer Warrior project, and an enhancement to our annual Christmas Angel Tree Project, we are seeking passionate folks to be one child's Christmas Warrior this year.
Our Christmas Angel Tree Project is our biggest and most important fundraiser of the year. All of our orphans with Down syndrome from ages 0-5 are posted on one page for people to sponsor and donate for their adoption grants. It runs from November 1- December 31, 2011. Those who give more than $35 recieve a beautiful photo ornament of their sponsored child to hang on their Christmas tree. These ornaments make fabulous gifts for your friends, family, and fellow Down syndrome advocates, while providing a life-saving gift for the child who is in desperate need of a "forever family" of their own."

Brian and I have signed up to be Yegor B's Christmas Warrior! I will be working on a couple of fundraisers to raise money for Yegor's adoption grant.

OUR GOAL IS TO RAISE $1000 for Yegor by December 31! I know Christmas is coming up and many of you are strapped financially; but, every penny helps bring Yegor closer to a family. He has been on the Angel Tree 3 times now and his grant isn't even at the $3000 mark. PLEASE help us to raise his grant up so that a family will have a great start up fund for his adoption. It's incredibly sad to say (but it's true) families look mostly at younger children and children with strong grants. If we can raise Yegor's grant money we increase his chances of finding a family.

If you donate $35 you get an ornament for your Christmas tree that will come to you with Yegor's picture on it! This comes from Reece's Rainbow. I will also make you a personalized necklace using the photo of your choice! (You will need to email me your photo!)

I know that many of you have donated and helped us to get to where we are with Sterling and we REALLY appreciate it! Let's work together to get Yegor taken care of!

To donate click here: then click the yellow DONATE button at the bottom of the page!

Thanks with LOVE-

From Erin, Brian and Sterling

Yegor is 4 and needs a family NOW!

Now that we are done with that I can update on Sterling! I'm going to use a Q and A format with the questions I get asked ALL THE TIME! I'll be sure to add some new pictures too!

How has he adjusted?

Amazingly well! In some ways I'm glad that developmentally he isn't super aware of what happened. He knows we feed him, keep him clean, dress him, let him play and love him. His basic needs are being met and that keep him happy. He is very easy going, he loves to go "bye bye" and he is good with people. Everyone that has met him LOVES him. He is fine with the dogs (he and Hannah are inseparable) and he walks around like he owns the house. We have spent time doing some behavior training and he knows what timeout is and he knows what "no" means. (Not that he always cares - total toddler!) We are lucky his transistion has been so easy. It's not to say we don't have meltdowns - we do - but they are almost always typical toddler meltdowns. The only real issue we have is with food.

How is he sleeping?

Amazingly well! We went with the crib to be sure he was safe. Developmentally he is about 15 months old so its a fit developmentally too. He sleeps between 10-13 hours each night. He is NOT a great napper. I will put him upstairs when he gets tired (red eyes, crying, fussy, rubbing his eyes, etc) but at the orphanage he taught himself to keep himself awake so he rarely least I know he is resting a bit.

How is he eating?

Amazingly well! He eats anything and everything. The only thing he won't touch is apple juice (but he will eat applesauce...) He isn't a picky eater and will eat and eat and eat. Our only issue is that he flips out and melts down if he isnt eating and you are or if you dont feed him fast enough or when he wants to be fed. That being said, he has made HUGE improvements in this area. He self feeds finger foods but doesn't have the fine or gross motor to use silverware yet. The good news is he KNOWS what to do with a spoon (if you give him a spoon with food on it he will try to get it to his mouth) but he just can't get it there yet. That will come soon. We are also working on throwing. When he has too much in from of him he will pick something up in each hand, realize he can't pick something else up and throw the first thing to get to something new. (BTW the dogs LOVE this and lay under his chair when he eats!)

Does he like the dogs?

Yes! He is in LOVE with them and they with him. A match made in heaven. I've had Hannah since she was 9 weeks old and we often refer to her as "Meth Lab". She was seriously CRAZY and still puppy at 6 years old. Nothing calmed her down...until we came home with Sterling. She is so different and she won't leave his side. I'm so relieved and grateful that both Sterling and the dogs adjusted to each other so well.

How is Sterling medically?

OY! The short answer is fairly healthy! Yesterday we went to the pediatrician and the opthalmologist. His strabismus is significant in his left eye and the ophthalmologist prescribed "patching" for him. Starting today he will be "patched" over his good eye for 2-6 hours a day to strengthen his "lazy eye." 

At the pediatrician we received a referral for a cardio; she is not expecting any problems as she said his heart sounds great and she can't hear a murmur (let alone anything of more signifigance.)  But since a "congenital heart defect" is listed in his adoption records she want to refer to be safe. We also received a referral for a urologist, a script for his 5 year old neck xray, and a whole HOST of scripts for outpatient lab work including Thyroid panels, a CBC, blood allergy testing, and parasite screenings.  On a positive note, she is not concerned with his tonsils or adenoids (yet.) He has no sleep apnea, he doesn't snore and he doesn't really have any tongue protrusion. So at least we get to skip that visit!

What are you going to do for school for Sterling?

I called our developmental testing center downtown this morning. They only screen on Wednesday mornings. (Alas - today is Wednesday - thanks Murphy!) So we have to wait until next Wednesday. Once he is screened they will set up a testing schedule for him (hopefully much sooner than the anticipated wait.) Sterling will be going to a school for kids with special needs called  UCP ( and we are trying to get him into the PK4 class (which will still be way too much for him) but they won't bend with me here. Until he is cleared through the school boards developmental testing center we will have to pay for his schooling. Once he is cleared, he will be covered under ESE pre-k. Luckily he can receive all of his services at this school too and they will bill insurance directly so that helps a lot!!! He will be starting there on November 14th (hopefully - still need to call them back!)

How are YOU?

Brian and I are great! I am still at home with Sterling. Brian went back to school (and coaching) Monday. He is glad to be back. We have FINALLY adjusted back to Eastern Standard Time (thank goodness!) and are finally sleeping well. Everything is going great here! I'm super busy with calling doctors, Cigna, labs, schools, the developmental testing center and I still need to do his whole register with the consulate thing. We also need to get him a US passport and I need to get him registered with Medicaid, SSI and Social Security... So I am BUSY!
Like I promised - here are some updated pictures since we've been home.... If you are HAPPY to see Sterling home PLEASE drop us a line AND also help us find a family for Yegor by DONATING to his grant! Help us get to the $1000 mark and find him a FAMILY!!! (If you think you are Yegor's parents even better! Send me an email and I'll help you with the next steps!!!) 

Notice how often the dogs are near him....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


October 25, 2011
We're Going to Disney World!!!

Well, not anytime soon. We need to get adjusted first; but we ARE COMING HOME!!!!

The medical visit is done, the passport is in our hands, the visa is in the passport and the flights are booked.

For people on EST this is our schedule (In EST)

We leave the apartment at 8pm EST
We take off for Germany at 10:35 pm EST
We land in Germany at 1:35am EST

We will leave Frankfurt at 8:20am EST
We will LAND AT HOME 6:20 pm EST

We are flying Lufthansa and would LOVE and WELCOME lots of PRAYERS for SAFE TRAVELS and SMOOTH flights! I am a PHOBIC flyer. It makes me physically ill and I cry the whole time. Even with my script on the last flights, I was still a mess. I know I will have Sterling with me, but Im already starting to freak out. We are VERY excited to be coming home and start our life as a family. I am so proud of myself for getting over here but I need help and prayers to get home...

All that being said, I have a WHOLE GROUP of people to thank...
During the 10 People in 10 Days Posts I purposely left out a WHOLE GROUP of people so that I could save them for THIS POST about COMING HOME TO DISNEY WORLD!!!

MY DISNEY FRIENDS!!!! My online group Liners :-) has been so INCREDIBLY SUPPORTIVE.
They were there when we first decided to adopt and have been there through it all. I am so excited to have been able to share our journey with them. I know of one family that is even looking into adopting through RR because of our trip! :)

So, to my Liners :-) THANKS SO MUCH!!! For the help, the support (donations, gifts, prayers, kind words!) and all of the love and pixie dust you have showered on us! This group helped raise over $1000 towards our FSP and made our trip and our adoption a possibility!  THANKS!!!!

The next time I blog we will be HOME!!!! <3

PS Thanks Carrie for the Bible verses: Brian has written them down so I can read them over and over on the plane!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Waiting

Thursday, October 20, 2011
More Waiting

I didn't get a chance to blog yesterday. I'll give you the short version here. We woke up (with Sterling's help) around 07:00. We got up, dressed, had breakfast and got ready to leave. We THOUGHT Nicolai would be picking us up in the morning but when we hadn't heard anything by the time 11:00 rolled around we called Tatyana. She told us Nico would be to Sumy to pick us up between 14:00-15:00. Well, that didn't happen either. Nico showed up at 16:40. We packed the van and we were off to Kiev! Sterling was asleep within 5 minutes of us leaving the apartment (we withheld his afternoon nap purposely) and he slept for two and half hours. Perfect! We woke him up at 19:30 (purposely) and he stayed awake - although VERY drowsy for the rest of the ride. We made it into Kiev around 21:40ish and asked Nico to drop us by TGI Fridays - we were both craving American food. I stayed in the van with Nico and Sterling (to feed him a snack) while Brian ran in and grabbed dinner to go. While Brian was in the restaurant Yulia (one of the facs) called me on Nico's phone. Bad news - no passport on Friday. The soonest we could get the passport would be Monday. So, they canceled our embassy appointment that was scheduled for today and we were to have embassy Friday and Monday. Bummer, but I trust God is keeping us safe. By 22:15 we were in the new apartment. Sterling was fed and put to bed - he was asleep by 22:40. No crying, no screaming, no refusal. He just passed out. A great day for him! He was a trooper and I'm super proud of him. He was so well behaved. :) Brian and I ate after he fell asleep and then we crashed ourselves (both exhausted).

Little man woke us up today at 8:00. That means he slept for 9 hours last night! YAY! We got up and got dressed. Little man played in the apartment and we just relaxed (since our embassy appointment had been cancelled). We wanted to go to TGI Fridays but they dont open until 11:00. Unfortunately - little man was tried and cranky by 11:00 so we fed him lunch and we put him down for a nap. Today was the first day he let me rock him to sleep. He hasn't been super fond of physcial touch so today was big. He was napping GREAT - until he fell off of the bed. He didn't cry - he barely woke up...but I picked him up to lay him back in bed and THAT woke him up (really??) So, we tried to let him go back to sleep but NO DICE. We were going to walk to TGI Fridays but he was still tired and we didn't want to push it. By 17:30 he was EXHAUSTED and C.R.A.N.K.Y but this Mama is no fool. We fed him dinner and managed to keep him awake until almost 19:30. That was a stretch even so who knows when we will be getting up tomorrow!

Luda called around 20:30 to check on us. We inquired about the NEW embassy appointment and Luda said she had no idea what we were talking about. PANIC! She told us she would call Yulia to find out. We were worried that the embassy appointment never got changed - but it turned out there was just a lack of communication. No big deal. We have embassy visit #1 tomorrow at 10:00.

Because we now know when our embassy visits will be, we have booked our flights home! We will be HOME Tuesday, October 25 @ 18:05. Praise God! From here, all we need is prayer for: 1) an easy medical appointment and 2) SAFE TRAVELS HOME!!!!!

We are so excited to be returning to the states but sad that we will not be able to go through London to see our friends one last time!

Sorry I havent blogged ! Its been busy with a toddler around!!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gotcha Day!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Gotcha Day!

This has been one of the longest days of my life…and currently I wouldn’t even come close to saying the best. Probably – if you were to ask me now I would say the opposite. But that’s because I’m annoyed, tired, hungry and incredibly emotionally spent. Go grab a cup of tea or something this one is going to take a while.

The day started out great. Tatyana and Valentin picked us up around 09:30 and we headed out for the day.  As we were leaving, Tatyana told us she got our court decree by train yesterday. Tatyana and Valentine took us to the Foreign Passport office in Sumy first. But, the guy she needed to talk to wasn’t there. So, we went to the Birth Certificate office instead. On the way there we noticed that it was snowing…it started out as flurries but pretty soon it was really coming down. This was the first time Brian has ever seen snow fall. J Tatyana told us this is really early snow for Ukraine. The first snowfall normally is in November.

 Snow on the ground....

Yes, it stuck...

Ok so focus back on the birth certificate office – this is where the day started to go downhill.  They told us it would be a 30 minute wait… an hour later Tatyana decided that we needed to be productive while we waited. Tatyana and I got dropped off at the tax office while the men went and got the Adoption Certificate.   Remember how we left the birth certificate place because they were taking too long…well the lady at the tax office was clueless too. Apparently adoptions in this region are few and far between. Nobody we encountered today really knew what to do. After another 30 minute wait at the tax office trying to explain what the lady needed to do, Tatyana and I met the guys outside. Their story was just as interesting. When they left, Valentin jumped the curb instead of staying on the driveway.  They had to RUSH to the birth certificate office (they close at noon for lunch) and they made it with 2 minutes to spare. When they got there the lady gave them a hard time because I wasn’t with them and she needed my signature, so Brian took the liberty of signing for me.  In the end we got the new birth certificate with our names on it. We then RETURNED to the Foreign Passport office so Tatyana could ask them a question…no red passports. Luckily the passports from Sumy take only three days processing so we *might* have our passport in Kiev on Friday. But this set back in timing may have cost us…we will see.

After all of this we didn’t get on our way to Bilopillya (I can use all our city names since Sterling his now with us) to go to the orphanage until well after noon (BAD!). We found out then that it was going to be Gotcha Day. I should mention here that my stomach was in knots and nerves all day. This was the norm all day (and it still hurts.) On the way to Bilopillya, Valentin was pulled over by the police. The guy must have diplomatic immunity of some sort because he flashed them some card, told them he was transporting Americans and the policeman let us go (after rolling his eyes.)

We first went to the Foreign Passport Office in Bilopillya (don’t know why). Tatyana got out and went in. The three of us stayed in the car (Brian, Valentine and myself.) A police man came out and let a car through the gates and waved Valentin to move. Valentin pointed and said to us, “Policia…Mafia…HAHAHA”  That gave us a giggle.

We arrived at the orphanage and began paperwork central. Well, Tatyana began paperwork central. We were in a HUGE RUSH because the Foreign Passport office in Bilopillya closes at 16:00. The doctor had to get copies of his medical and shot records, Tatyana and Nina (assistant director) did bank stuff and release stuff. They asked us to give all of Sterling’s clothes to his nurse (Oksana) so she could change him. We did so. Close to an hour went by and we were told the director (WHOM WE HAD NEVER MET) had to sign off  on us taking Sterling today. Apparently, they were under the impression that we had to have the passport before they release him. In the beginning the director was adamant that we not take him today. Then there was a huge discussion over the bank accounts. Long story short, they wanted to know who was getting the money, the institution or the orphanage in Sumy.  They were under the impression it was there choice – which it is not. We found out too that you NOT obligated to return any of the child’s account money to the orphanages – you CAN keep it. We knew all along we were donating though and when Tatyana asked who we wanted to get the money we told them the institution. It’s the only place we know and they are so underfunded. After we said that the director eased up on the bank account thing. Then he went into this tirade about how kids with Down Syndrome are too much work, they are aggressive, they can’t learn etc. He questioned WHY (really … again?) we wanted a child with Down Syndrome (if I weren’t trying to be nice so he would let us take him I would have given him a piece of my mind, especially since he was already ours.) I humored him, promised to send him information on how to teach children with special needs and hook him up with an American contact. Only then did he stamp the release.  He then tried to talk our ears off and Tatyana pretty much walked out on him and told me to follow – leaving Brian and Valentin to fend for themselves. LOL. We went back downstairs to collect the bank cards, get jackets and get Sterling. But Sterling STILL hadn’t been dressed or delivered. OY! We eventually got him (with a haircut...butchered) – but it was a COMPLETE RUSH at this point (well after 15:00 – So no good gotcha day pictures) to get to the Foreign Passport office. We arrived, dropped Tatyana off to start paperwork and took Sterling to get his passport photo. The first round of passport photos. He was cooperative and although we made a lot of efforts – his passport picture didn’t come out so great. We rushed back to the passport office to drop off the photo just in time – Brian went in to meet Tatyana and Valentin took me to the bank. They wanted a picture of Sterling too…to close his account out. That took a while and he was starting to get tired there. Brian finally showed up and we left. Thank God!

Look at my face...I'm like, "Get me OUT OF HERE!"

Tiny little steps...Valentin is point to Brian telling him to put the diaper bag in the trunk.

The FIRST passport picture.

I had Sterling asleep in my arms within 5 minutes of us leaving. He slept the whole way to Sumy. I was assuming we were going home and they would let him sleep. But – I was wrong. We weren’t done. L

You can see how tiny he is in this picture. And I must say - so angelic...


Slept like a log...until the door was slammed....

 We had to go to the Sumy Foreign Passport office too (they close at 17:00 – we got there at 17:00.) Tatyana raced inside and we were good. Valentin opened his door and slammed it – thereby awaking our little angel. Commence the nightmare from a horror movie. Have you ever awoken a sound sleeping child and then expected them to be completely cooperative and sit still for yet ANOTHER set of passport pictures (WHO KNOWS WHY!?????) Well, let me assure you it was NOT pretty.  Commence meltdown of the decade. Seriously. Full on screaming tantrum. They were aggravated with us because, “we cannot make picture when he cries.” Well, I don’t know what they wanted me to do. It was now past 5:30 he was starving and exhausted. We finally got one picture (tongue protrusion and shading – they were not happy with us.) But Tatyana told them we were done. So, we left the passport office in Sumy at 18:15. Sterling was still in a MOOD and nothing would console him. When we got home Valentin told us we owed him $100 for driving this all day…I told him that wasn’t enough and we paid him $200. He was a sport and was so patient with an uber cranky toddler.

As soon as we got here I fed him and he was much happier. Mood change. Until we gave him a bath. NOT A FAN! HATED it! Screaming, crying, flailing – absolutely hated it. Still, I forced a hairwash (the orphanage stench HAD TO GO) and bathed him FAST. Then into PJs (3T bottoms way too big – super droopy). He was very tired – rubbing his eyes and CRANKY. I tried to put him down but NO DICE. So, I’m thinking that nap was just enough to ruin his bed time. ;)  

So, it is 8:30 he is exploring in his PJs and is SO HAPPY right now. Smiling, toddling everywhere just happy with FREEDOM. Today was not my favorite day. Everyone was pushed to the limits including my 5 year old…who did NOT need that today.  I’m so glad he has calmed down and is happy again. Hopefully he stays like this for tonight and can get some sleep.

Whatcha doin'?


I'm NOT way!

I have one thought for you: BEING A PIONEER IS NO FUN! Today would have been so much better if everyone knew what they were doing. Since we were the FIRST people to adopt here – it was a nightmare of a day. Brian and I haven’t eaten all day.  Nikko is picking us up tomorrow to take us back to Kyiv. We are needing LOTS OF PRAYERS now that our passport will be ready by Friday since we stayed well past closing today. We would also appreciate prayers for us as we settle into our “new normal” and begin our life as parents.

Tomorrow, the 5 hour car ride should be interesting…LOL.
But I hope we can get some GOOD pictures for you!

Thanks for all of the prayers and well wishes! It is SO GOOD to have him OUT OF THERE!!!!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Quarantine is OVER!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011
The Quarantine is OVER!!

We were so HAPPY to see our little man again today! And, we are happy to report that he was just as THRILLED to see us!

We were so afraid that we would see some regression after not being able to visit with him for a week, but much to our surprise he was his charming little self. We missed him so much and it was AWESOME to be able to love on him again. We missed him so so so much!

Um, yea - I'm not attached or anything...

He was SO HAPPY today. You can see from the pictures we got lots of smiles.

This is my FAVORITE Sterling face BY FAR. It totally melts my heart!

And when he giggles he just throws his head back....

And lets it go...absolutely precious!

He has figured the Bumble Ball out - we think!

And he now loves books! But he still has a short attention span!

He still explores everything with his mouth. Today Brian put Sterling's hand on his goatee so Sterling could feel it. His vision isn't great and he is still very much a toddler so he learns about things by putting them in his mouth. He has never been around men much - so he has never seen a goatee. Much to Brian's surprise (and so glad I got a picture) this is how Sterling "explored" Brian's goatee. And YES that tongue landed! It was NOT a kiss and it was HILARIOUS!!!

As we neared the end of our visit we started putting things away. Brian zipped the backpack up so Sterling couldn't take everything out. Sterling then decided it was time to get his back and go...only he couldn't lift it. Imagine in this picture the sound of much grunting and groaning!

Yes - his shirt today said 9-12 months (and yes for the most part it fit fine...) Don't go out buying clothes this little. He fit into our 2T and 3T shirts fine.

For those wondering this is what "boy's tights" look like. They are standard over here. And SUPER cute!

Daddy was so surprised (and excited) he was wearing a pair of Air Jordan's today! LOL!

Our hour visit flew by and before we knew it, it was time for us to return him to his caregivers for lunch. We THINK tonight is his last night in an orphanage EVER!!! Praise God!

According to one of our facilitators our day tomorrow should go something like this:

"So, my understanding of your schedule for tomorrow is as follows:
your first step is to get court decree from the court. (probably Tatiana is going to pick it up without you on the way to Sumy - I do not know).
Then you go to Vital Record Office to change original BC for post-adoption BC.
Then you need a Notary to certify the copy of new BC.

You need to go to Tax office to change identification number for post-adoption name.
Then you go to the orphanage to submit court decree and a copy of new BC, to sign lots of papers and pick up the boy. (The child is staying with you from then.)
You go to Passport Office to scan the picture of the child and submit the paper-work.

On Wednesday Nikko will pick you up and bring to Kiev. Then you may move your Embassy appointment or to submit all the documents on Thursday and wait for passport in Kiev.

All mentioned above is the prospective schedule for tomorrow, and you need to realize that it may be changed or delayed depending on different circumstances. I really hope you will be able to fulfill this plan tomorrow. Good luck to you!"

As you can see our day tomorrow will be pretty packed! We are pretty stoked about the part in green!
You can also tell from her response that there is no guarantee our passport will arrive on Friday for us to be home on Sunday. We will need lots of luck and prayers for that to happen.

So, tomorrow you SHOULD see pictures of our Gotcha Day!!!

One funny thing for today, we finished up our chocolate shopping. Now that we are done I can tell you we are coming home with 82 bars of chocolate. I'm sure it's a record of some sort, but we won't be able to get it again (unless we ask people who are coming!) Here is a picture of our stash!

I promised another top 10 today. Today Brian and I collaborated on what we mill miss most about being here.

The Hinz Family Countdown of the Top 10 Things We Will Miss About Living in Ukraine!

10) Having a Cleaning Lady - it's been fun for sure, but it won't be happening at home...sadly

9) Celentano's Pizza - Seriously it is very good and the toppings are fresh.

8) Sleeping In - Yea I'm pretty sure that life is over. Brian is a great husband though so maybe he will let me pull it off every now and then.

7) The Inexpensive Cost of Food - Being here made us realize how much we spend (and waste) on groceries. We will be much more mindful at the grocery store now.

6) Having the Ability to Walk Everywhere - We have missed our cars. But it is nice to not need one. No gas. No distance constraints. If we wanted to go somewhere we just walked. I like the end result of the weight loss too. Life here is so much "simpler" than back home. We really do take a lot for granted.

5) The People - Really they have been so nice. The ladies at McDonald's, the restaurants and the stores have all been pleasant and have tried to communicate with us. The ones that do speak English (broken) have been really patient with us.

4) More Specifically We Realized That We Will Miss Alexei - Despite his not speaking English and his (at times) crazy driving, I almost cried today when I realized we might not see him again. He has kept us safe and delivered us diligently to our son. We wish him many blessings.

3) Spending Time Together - Being together 24/7 has its challenges but it really has helped us to grow closer. When we started this process we, at one time, talked about Brian going back during the 10 day wait and me staying. We are so beyond happy we didn't do that.

2) Having Time to Read Devotionals and Really Grow Closer to God - I'm sure some will argue that this should be number one. But we CAN do this at home. It's been nice readin devotionals daily and reading the Good Word. Without the hustle and bustle of life going on it made it easier to focus on taking time to do this.

1) Being Sterling's Birth Country - It really nice that we have had this time to explore and take pictures to share with him when he gets home. I want to take some pictures (With the good camera!) of him in Sumy tomorrow or Wednesday before we leave. They belong on his walls.

I'm all teary eyed after writing this. We so badly want to come home but at the same time we are sad to be leaving here. It is a beautiful country with an amazingly deep culture and history. You can't often point to a building and say it's over 1000 years old. And you can't do it in America at all. I am so very glad we got to have this experience and that God chose us to be Sterling's parents. It really is too much for words.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Little Humor

Sunday, October 16, 2011
A Little Humor

I skipped writing a blog post yesterday - and despite the guilt I had over not providing fodder to my readers, It felt great. I had written over 30 blog posts consecutively since we left the USA. I like writing the blog - but I really enjoyed the break.

Today, Brian and I are going to humor you. We are giving you several top ten lists....for fun. They are not meant to be serious...I warn you because someone is going to tell me I should miss my family and friends. We do miss our family and our friends....but...there are other things we miss as well.

Without further ado I give to you....


10) An Oven - Do you know how annoying it is to make the same foods over and over? I can't wait to be able to have a little variety in my cooking! We have an oven...but we don't know how to use it and when we turn it on the whole apartment smells of propane...Yeah - we dont use it!

9) Target - For when you want out of the house and you don't know what you want to do or where you want to go.

8) A Sink - We have sinks. But we can't drink the water, can't brush our teeth with the water, and can't wash fruit with the water. Enough said.

7) Starbucks - I could really go for a decaf non-fat, no whip Grande Salted Caramel Frappuccino right now.

6) My bathtub -  Bath is my detox/destress time... I miss HOT water too.

5) Warm Days - I miss wearing shorts, sandals and tank tops. Last night it was -2* C. Yea that's like 28*.

4) My truck - I miss being able to get in the car and go somewhere. Anywhere. We walk everywhere here. My legs look great. But, I miss being able to get out and about.

3) TV in English - We have now seen: ALF, South Park, NCIS, CSI, CSI NY, Family Guy, Kill Bill, Terminator, Hawaii Five-0, Biggest Loser and many other shows in Russian. I have a new found respect for ESOL students.

2) Milk - I am a HEAVY milk drinker. A quart a day....its a wonder I'm not huge. I get this milk drinking habit from my father. I have a love affair with milk. The milk over here is different. When I get home I want a glass of milk.

1) Tijuana Flats - If you aren't from Central Florida this won't make sense. This is a Mexican restaurant chain in C. FL. With a HOT BAR and amazingly delicious food. I've already told our ride home we are stopping there for dinner before we even go to the house. 'nuff said.


10) The Dryer - Having clothes hanging around your house is not attractive. Looking at underwear while eating dinner is strange. We have a drying rack outside...but its too cold for that.

9) Menchies and Jeremiahs - Again if you aren't from Central Florida you dont know what these are. Jeremiah's is italian ice....honestly the best italian ice ever. And Menchies is one of those Fro Yo places where you can decorate your own yogurt and pay by weight. Delish!

8) Chick-Fil-A - Brian loves to stop for Chick-Fil-A breakfast in the morning.

7) My Radio - Lets just say there is no Mike and Mike in the morning here and they certainly don't have any country stations that we can find...

6) Survivor - He's an addict...seriously...and Brian is devastated that he is missing Coach, who is back on Survivor this season.

5) Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper - If you know me well, you know I don't drink soda. I don't like soda. It's too sweet and I'm not a fan of bubbles. Brian is the complete opposite - it's an addiction. He is so over Coca-Cola I'm not sure he will touch one for a long time once we get home.

4) NFL/NCAA Football - That is self-explanatory. (I should mention we have seen basketball, ping pong, tennis, and hockey...all in Russian.)

3) Bacon and Steak - or how about a filet wrapped in bacon! We eat chicken...lots of chicken. Brian is craving other meat...

2) Tijuana Flats - See note above. (I literally could drool right now.)

1) ESPN - Sad since he can read it online that he needs to list it as his number 1. When we stop by Flats on the way home - he can watch us eat. HAHAHAHA....

OK...I hope that helps you understand the serious withdrawls we are going through. I read on someone's blog (before we came) that they missed Mexican. No kidding. I didn't know I could miss an entire type of food this much.

As we were compiling the lists of things we miss about home, I nonchalantly said, I'll tell you what I WON'T miss about this place. And that started a whole new Top 10. I should say, that just because we have OPINIONS doesn't mean we don't respect this country. Someone said something to that effect last week. It's not true. Until you have been in these shoes (and walked the obligatory mile) you cannot even begin to FATHOM what it is like to be over here. The culture shock is huge. Just because families in country VENT and offer OPINIONS as to what it is like to be over here, does not mean that they don't RESPECT the culture or that they won't raise their children with a deep fondness of their Mother Land. Brian and I have already discussed how we are going to do this. Now that that warning has been stated I give you:


10) Being 7 hours ahead of home - I'm way past "jet lag" and into something else. My laptop time is home time and because of that - I haven't really adjusted. It isn't odd for me to go to bed at 02:00 and wake up at 13:00 (which I do at home too btw - not anymore since I'm now a mother) but I'm pretty sure it has to do with the fact that I want to talk with people at home and to do that I have to stay awake long enough to speak with them.

9) Being with Brian 24/7 - I love him...really I do...but everyone needs breathing room (and a break!)

8) Walking Everywhere - I mentioned I miss my car right? (I do like these new legs though - and I have vowed to walk with Sterling everyday after school!)

7) Stomach Aches - Nerves, food, stress - who knows what is causing them. My whole family has stomach issues but over here my stomach aches have been worse. I'm sure it's a combination of stuff - but I will not miss them.

6) Wearing the same clothes every day - seriously I'm leaving a lot of my clothes here. I need new jeans anyway and the shirts I brought (I packed smartly) are just solid colored Gap long sleeve tees for layering. Won't miss them. I'm coming home with less than I brought here. I never want to wear these shoes again either. And I mean NEVER.

5) Walking up 4 flights of musty stairs - enough said.

4) The gas stove - I LOVE gas stoves. Any cook will tell you they are SO MUCH BETTER than electric. But, not this one. It's 15 inches wide and it won't heat at a simmer. And I've already mentioned we can't get the oven to work. I miss my dependable electric right now.

3) Cold Weather - I was born and raised in the Orlando area. I am a rarity - not many natives exist. That being said, I did my stint in cold weather. After college I  moved back to Florida to avoid the cold. Sure, I love visiting it and I love snow. But if its cold and its not snowing then the cold is pointless. I want my sunshine back.

2) Eating the same food over and over and over and.... - you get the idea. I can pretty much guarantee I won't touch McDonald's, pizza, grilled cheese or an omelet for weeks after getting home.

1) Lady Gaga - Our neighbor (he/she - we don't know!) plays Lady Gaga CONSTANTLY. Brian joked that they only had the single of Poker Face because thats ALL we heard for the first week. Then it was Bad Romance. Now it's Poker Face again. Seriously - I'm not a Gaga fan to begin with and this hasn't helped.


10) McDonald's - In Brian's words, "I like McDonald's but not this much." I should say that they only reason we were going to McDonalds in the beginning was for free WiFi. Well, they did something and we can't get WiFi there any more. I only go now for the fries. And the coffee. The coffee everywhere else is either really weak or really strong.

9) Lady Gaga - Seriously...enough is enough.

8) Wearing the same clothes over and over and over and.... - We pretty much want to burn everything we brought with us.

7) Being 7 hours ahead - It's hard to talk to your friends and family when you have to wait until 1 am for them to get off of work.

6) The Wahl - When you plug it in and turn it on it's like a herd of elephants is taking over the apartment. It is literally the loudest thing I have ever heard. - rock concert loud. We should take a video of it...I'm not sure it would do it any justice. Sterling needs a haircut and we were planning on Wahl-ing him before we left. Not going to happen. I'm sure it will scare the pants right off of him. So forgive me if both of my boys come home looking a little shaggy.

5) Being Followed Around the Supermarket by the Policemen and the Workers - I should say this only happens at our little corner market. At the bigger markets they leave us alone. But at the small one, they know we are American and they aren't very fond of us. This one guard literally stalks us from when we walk in the gate until we pay. Annoying.

4) Our downstairs neighbor's constant home repair - This is the lady who yelled at us in the stairwell. We really wish we knew what she was doing. But there is CONSTANT drilling and banging. With walls paper thin it gets old fast. And its ALL DAY - even around 23:00 we will still hear drilling. UGH!

3) Seeing fresh fish (and I mean FRESH fish) sold everywhere - It's a little disconcerting to have fish eyes stare at you while you're buying meat from the deli. It's also a little strange to be at the fruit stand and have: a bushel of apples, a bushel of grapes and oh look a bushel of whole fish.

2) Not being able to read the menu at a restaurant - This is so tricky! We either resort to pointing (if the menu has pictures or the food is on display) or taking a pictures of what we want to show the workers. If we can't do either, and they don't have a menu in English, we leave.

1) The cold weather - No, really. It's cold. He may not be a FL native but he has lived in FL since he was 6 months old. Last night to bed he wore: 2 pair of pants, 4 shirts, 2 pair of socks and his gloves. Our apartment doesn't have heat...


Hope you got a's about time for a little lightheartedness up in here!

Friday, October 14, 2011

10 People in 10 Days: Day TEN - Benny Factor

Friday, October 14, 2011
10 People in 10 Days
Sterling’s Celebrity Benefactor

We received an update on Sterling today from our facilitator. Fortunately it’s the same update we have been receiving all along. For now, Sterling is still chicken pox free (praise God!). We will be able to visit him on Monday for the first time in a week. I cannot wait to see him and love on him. I’m sad that, to him, we just disappeared. I hope it doesn’t affect the progress we have made so far.

Tatyana will be here early Tuesday morning to pick us up and in her words, “we will be doing paperwork all day.” If it means I can get my boy out of that mental institution on Wednesday then let’s go! I was originally going to leave him in there until the last possible minute, but seeing as how the place gets shut down and five days of quarantine start over every time someone breaks out in Chicken Pox – I want him out of there so we don’t get held up in country.  Hopefully, we will be able to get his passport QUICKLY so we can head to the capitol and head home!

Today is the last day of our 10 day wait! Normally the family would be SUPER EXCITED; but, since our 10 day wait isn’t officially over until Tuesday when we get our court decree, Brian and I are still practicing patience.

Because it is the last day of our 10 day wait – today is the last day of the 10 People in 10 Days feature. I really did save the best for last. Without this person, this adoption would have never happened.

Today, Brian and I thank:

Sterling’s Celebrity Benefactor

(This person wishes to remain anonymous, so I will call them Benny Factor to make writing easier.)

Many of you may not know that Sterling had a celebrity benefactor. Benny donated over half of Sterling’s adoption costs. Before we had even committed to adopting Sterling, Benny had donated $10,000 into Sterling’s adoption grant. When we committed, we had no idea where the money in Sterling’s grant came from. We were just incredibly grateful that the grant was going to help us bring him home.

Once our paperwork was turned into Reece’s Rainbow, I received an email from Andrea Roberts (Director of RR) regarding his grant. She told me who Benny Factor really is and requested that we respect the request to keep Benny’s true identity private. We were granted permission to tell our families and a few close friends, but other than that, we have not mentioned Benny’s identity to anyone.

We asked Andrea to get a message to Benny thanking Benny for the incredibly kind gesture. We explained that we were teachers and without the financial aid of the grant, Sterling’s adoption would not have been a possibility for us. We heard nothing back from Andrea – but I know that she did pass the message on.

We went on with the adoption process - home study updates, paperwork, fundraising, etc. We never forgot about Benny Factor and we were struggling with a way to honor this person for their gift of a family. One day after our dossier was submitted to the government here, I checked my email at school. In my inbox was a message from Andrea – letting us know that Benny had capped off our FSP and that we were fully funded. I’m glad I eat lunch alone because I started crying right away. I immediately emailed Brian who was just as shocked as I. Benny had already done SO MUCH for our adoption. The last thing we expected was another donation!

In August, Brian and I figured out how to honor Benny. My hands are tied in explaining how, but once Brian and I decided how we were going to honor Benny we sent word to Andrea and asked her to pass it on. Imagine our surprise when we got a forwarded response from Benny thanking us!  That was definitely not what we were expecting! The response was very personal and I am SO HAPPY that we made the decision we did.

At times I wonder if Benny understands exactly how much that grant meant for us. Without that money, we would not be here. We would not be gaining a son. Sterling would not be gaining THIS family. Actually, the likelihood that he would have a family at all is slim. He would have been transferred to the older child page and his status would have eventually changed to reflect the fact that he was institutionalized. The children on that page need families so very badly. So many families look at the younger children – that a lot of the older children go unnoticed.

As I was reading my devotion last night (I read Our Daily Bread) the reading for the night was Psalm 37 v 23-26. I took note of v 23-24 especially. They say, “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

I have said all along that I know this adoption is God’s will. After reading these verses I was even more sure of it. EVERYTHING fell into place for us. Paperwork, apostilling, family responses, timing and, most importantly, money. There is no doubt that God sent Benny to us. We will be forever grateful. Words CANNOT and DO NOT do our gratitude any justice. I truly hope that one day our family can meet Benny and offer our thanks in person. I would LOVE for Benny to get to meet Sterling so that they too can see what an amazing little gift he is to us.

I wish I could tell you who this person is. However, I am respecting his/her wish to stay ANONYMOUS. This means, even if you ask, I will not tell you. There are a few people who know already. If you are one of these people, please respect the benefactor’s wish to stay anonymous and do not name them. It is the least we can do.