Saturday, January 16, 2010

It has been a month

I have had Nina with me for a month (yesterday). Time went by so quickly, yet, our time in Ukraine is still tainted with raw feelings of the emotional hardships. It feels like our life together really started when we got home. We have had 2 wonderful weeks as a family!

Please understand, my time with Nina when it was just the 2 of us was great, but the emotional journey that the rest of our family took during that time was very hard. Being in an unfamiliar place where people spoke Nina's language which made her reject me at times made it hard too. It is good to be home!

Nina is doing fantastic. She is picking up on English quickly and she is showing us more and more of who she is. She has many words and is even starting to put 2 word sentences together with the words that she knows. Things like "Nina eat" "sit here" "follow me" "no touch" "I try" etc.

Two days ago she really got interested in using her walker and she is doing fantastic with it. She finds great joy in her accomplishment and thrives in Andy and I encouraging her and delighting in her. Even while Nichole follows her around trying to take the walker while saying, "Mine!"

Being delighted in. What a wonderful feeling for Nina, there are people in her life that delight in her. She is loved, she is wanted, she is celebrated. Just like her sisters.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Becoming a Family

It has been only a little over a week since Nina and I got back home. I will honestly say that it is nice to be away from Russian speaking people. Nina showed a marked preference for those she understood and it is important for her to be attached to us, we are her family. I know she gets frustrated with the language barrier, but at the same time, she is picking up on English quickly.

Some of her phrases in English are, "Oh goodness!" "No touch," "It's okay" "I know" "Nina play" "Baby Signing Time" "I love you"

And she has many words.

Nina no longer cries or screams at night. She has found great comfort in the fact that Nichole is right there in the room with her in a crib next to hers. It is what Nina was used to. Nichole is having more of an adjustment as Nichole talks and talks to Nina until they both fall asleep. Tonight, Nina gave us kisses and she waved "paka" at Andy and I as we laid the girls down to sleep.

When we were in Ukraine, Nina did not want much to do with Andy. She was okay playing with him and sitting next to him, but touching or holding were very hard for her. As soon as we got home and Nina saw her sisters love on their daddy, and their daddy love on them, she decided to give Andy a try. So after one day, she became a daddy's little girl.

That first day together (January 1st) Andy rolled on the floor with the girls, Nina joining in the fun and tickles. Andy and I looked at each other for a moment. Understanding in our eyes, our hearts full. This is what we had been dreaming for, this is what we wanted to do for this once orphan girl, now our daughter.

There has been adjustment at home. Some very good and some hard. The 3 girls are getting to know each other and they have good moments and not so good. Nina is not very affectionate (due to the orphanage) and has a hard time accepting physical love especially from Ellie. I am sure she never received any form the other kids. Ellie has a very hard time being rejected, pushed, hit, or hair pulled by Nina. Nichole is jealous and yet Nina seems to follow Nichole quite a bit, she likes her very much. They are at about the same developmental stage. Nichole is more advanced except for speech, so they play well (next to each other) but Nina is quickly catching up as she learns and explores the world every day.

Andy and I feel exhausted by the end of the day, but we seem to be more disciplined in some areas (because we have to!) However, if you feel like helping us clean our house, you are welcome! The pile of dishes is high and the bathrooms and floors need some cleaning :)

So finally, here are some pictures of our family! (Mainly the 3 girls)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Journey Home: Reunited

As soon as we landed I tried to call Andy but I was getting his voice mail right away. I called my sister and told her we were home, my voice cracking with emotion.
Nina was sleeping and I decided I would just cover her with my winter coat, I did not want to wake her up getting her own winter gear on. I carefully laid her down in the wheelchair and she was able to sleep as we raced through the halls.
As we approached entered the elevator that would take us to the baggage claim, more tears made their way down my cheeks. I would see my family soon.
As we walked out the sliding doors I frantically started searching for Andy and my family. I saw him standing across the baggage claim carousel with my friend Leah, both of them trying to find me.
I did not care if I made a scene, I yelled, "Honey!" "Andy!" He turned and saw me waving like a fool. I looked over at the nice man pushing Nina and motioned for him to follow me. I ran. So did Ellie, straight into my arms!
"Mommy" she said in her sweet voice. "Why are you crying."
"Because I missed you so much sweetie!"
And we hugged some more.
Then I saw my husband, oh how I love him and how I missed him. We hugged and cried into each other's arms. Nichole slept on his chest.
After a while Ellie asked where Nina was. I told her she was in the wheelchair, underneath my coat. Ellie lifted it gently and looked at Nina.
"Oh She is so cute!" she said. "Oh Nina! You are real!"
Yes, Nina was real. She really had a sister. And in no time Ellie woke her up.
Andy's sister and her husband (Amy and Ben) were there too. And Ellie told Amy that Nina was really real.
My dad and sisters were there, and so was my mom and her friend.
We were finally together.
The long journey home had brought us there, to the airport. Such a magnitude of emotions rushing in. if only those watching knew what was taking place. But we knew, and that was all that mattered.
We are home!

And thanks to my friend Leah here are some pictures of our reunion.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Journey Home: Frankfurt, Chicago, and Minnesota

We landed in Frankfurt. The plane burst into applause. If only the pilot knew our stories, he would know that in fact, this was cause for celebration.

Next to me in the plane sat a Ukranian lady who lived in the United States. Both, her Ukranian and her English were perfect, and she helped me so much with Nina too. As we made our way out of the plane, my two angels waited for me to help. We found a wheelchair and got Nina situated as we made our way to the Lufthansa booth to arrange our next flights.

As we got there, my angels made sure to tell the Lufthansa workers that I had a child with a disability and that I needed help. A woman quickly came and got me to a waiting area. She took my previous flight itinerary and our passports and promised to get back to us with our new flights. We did not have to wait in line. It was a huge blessing, however, it left me unable to talk through options with an agent.

A few minutes later a nice lady came and asked me to follow her to a small room. As we entered she explained to me that there were no more flights to America that night, and we would have to spend the night in Frankfurt, which meant Nina needed a visa for the night. I then asked what time our flight would leave. 2:10 pm she said.

I looked at her, tears threatening to come out. I tried to push them back but they burst out, fast. They exploded. In a matter of seconds I was sobbing loudly and there was the nice Lufthansa lady along with the Visa employees dumbfounded at the crazy woman's reaction. All along I was trying to say "I am sorry" for such an outburst.

When I settled down, the nice Lufthansa lady asked, "I am sorry, but why is this so upsetting to you?" Oh I don't blame her! I would wonder that too if a stranger had such a meltdown in front of me. So I explained to her that we had been stuck in an airport for 2 days, that I had been gone from my family for 45 days, and that I had hoped to get on their 8:30 am plane, or at least keep my original flight at 10:30 am.

She was a compassionate woman, and she empathized with me. Somehow she understood that this was hard. So looked at other options and came back saying she was sorry, it was all they had and I was lucky I could get in a flight the next day. They had even had to switch airlines for us to go back home. She had arranged a hotel stay for us with our dinner and breakfast taken care of. She had even brought an overnight bag for me. I asked about my luggage, she said I did not have to worry, she would take care of that. And they drove Nina and I to our hotel.

We ate.

We slept.

The next morning we woke up and got ready, had breakfast and headed to our ticket booth. The man behind the desk spoke Spanish and thought it would be fun to practice his Spanish with me. He then informed me we were only on stand by, we did not have set tickets. "I have been gone 46 days away from my family, please. Can I pay more for a ticket?" He smiled. "I am working the gates, so I get to make those decisions, don't worry, I will give you a ticket." So he got us settled and on our way home.

The flight was long. Nina did fantastic.

Chicago welcomed us with a wheelchair and with Nina becoming an American citizen. We went through shorter lines reserved for those with disabilities and were able to do all the immigration stuff in no time.

We even had time to get some french fries at Macdonald's!

We boarded the plane and were finally headed to Minnesota, to see our family!

The flight is short. By the time you are up in the sky, it feels like you are ready to land.

"Ladies and gentleman," the pilot said over the speaker phone, "We will be arriving in 19 minutes at the Minneapolis airport."

The words wrapped around me, in a friendly and welcoming hug. I again started to cry. Oh I was crying hard, shaking, trying not to wake up Nina who was sleeping in my arms.

We landed, emotion washed over me once more.

There was only one thing in my mind. Get out of the airplane as soon as possible, and run through the airport until I saw my family, hoping the wheelchair was waiting for us. It was. I told the man to run with me, and he did.

We were home! Our family waited for us somewhere in the same building. I had to run!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Journey Home: Kiev Airport

Tuesday morning.

My alarm clock went off at 1:30 am. I got up, got dressed. I got all my bags lined up by the door and looked out side the window. It had started snowing the night before and it was still coming down. It looked beautiful. I then got Nina bundled up and went outside to get our driver who was waiting for us. We walked out of the apartment. It was 2:00 am.

The trip to the airport lasted about an hour, a few times we were stuck in the snow and there were no plows at that time at night.

3:00 am we arrived at the airport. I was not familiar with the setting and was left sitting on the stairs, with my bags and all. I was on my own and the airport slept. At 3:30 am the Lufthansa booth opened and I realized that there was a long line of people waiting. I had my suitcases, backpacks and Nina. I had to put the sling on to carry her. We stood at the end of a long line. A woman came out and made an announcement in Russian. Frustration was in the air. I asked the lady if she spoke English, she did, and I asked what she had said. Our flight had been cancelled, and that was that. I needed to stay in line and reschedule.

Nina was heavy, I was dumbfounded. I went to get a chair so I could sit down and a man told me I couldn't take the chair (2 feet from where it was) I lost it (yes, I did) I told him in English, even though I knew he couldn't understand that my child was disabled and that I was exhausted and that I was going to sit on the chair weather he wanted me to or not, all while trying not to cry too hard. I made a scene. I didn't care.

I sat on the chair and prayed for God to send me an angel, but everyone just started at the crazy American. I looked at a lady in front o me who kept glancing at us, "Please don't stare" I asked. "Sorry, I don't speak much English, but can I help you?" I talked to her a little and was able to communicate to her that Nina had CP and that our plane was cancelled. She then talked to every single person in front of us, and then came over to me and said it was my turn, I could go next. God did send me an angel.

They said my flight was cancelled but I could reschedule for the next day. I asked to be rescheduled for a different flight for that day, they agreed. I would leave at 10:00 am. Only 6 hours to go. We went to a cafeteria and sat there, our angel lady came too. She was Ukranian and spoke Ukranian. Nina attached to her quickly, and it gave me the freedom to go and arrange a wheelchair for Nina and find out more about our flight or possibilities. At 9:00 am the flight was delayed to 12:00 pm, we would not make it to our connecting flight, so I did reschedule for the next day.

I called our missionary friends and asked if we could stay with them for the night. I arrived at their house and we ate brunch. Then Nina and I slept until late, we had been at the airport for about 10 hours, we were exhausted.

Wednesday morning.

My alarm clock went off at 2:00 am. I was ready to go by 2:30. I saw our flight had been delayed until 8:45 am, however, the taxi was already there waiting. The roads looked clear so we were hopeful we would be able to fly home.

We arrived at the airport at 3:30 am, right as they opened the airport. Our angel was there, waiting for us. She had breakfast ready for Nina. She was there with a nice man from Canada. We all waited for the same flight. They both took such great care of Nina and I.

At 8:00 am they delayed our flight to 6:00 pm. The airport was still closed and they thought it would be closed until 12:00 pm. We waited and waited and waited some more. I don't know what I would have done without my angels. We shared stories and brought each other comfort.

Finally at 12:00 pm we were able to check in. The airport was open. I am not sure how long we waited inside, quite a while, but we knew that our flight would leave any time and we had to be alert to hear the new time. At around 4:00 pm we were able to board and we arrived in Frankfurt at around 6:00 pm. It was a long long day, but I was finally out of Ukraine.

I was on my way home.