Help outfit Michael, Sarah, and John

Monday, October 27, 2008

I love the gospel of Jesus Christ

Post I wrote yesterday:

Today was a marvelous day. We woke up early and got ready and went down to meet with other Latter-Day Saints here in the Mariupol branch. We all caught a bus to Donets’k for a District Conference. It was so enjoyable! I got to know a sister missionary from Utah and it was SO nice to speak English for the 2 hour ride! Plus, to be with such happy people – what a joy that was! The Ukrainian people are nice – but the Ukrainian LDS people are just very happy and wonderful to be around! The gospel of Jesus Christ just shines in their faces. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints hasn’t been in Ukraine very long and everyone we met today was a convert to the church. You can feel of their testimonies of our Savior, Jesus Christ; their excitement is tangible. It was a breath of fresh air to be with these sweet saints. The broadcast was wonderful and our beloved prophet, President Monson spoke to us – his talk was directed towards the Ukrainian people and the other eastern European countries. It was so nice to feel the Holy Spirit as these saints sang the hymns in Russian. Oh, how I’ve missed going to church! It had been 3 weeks since we’d been to church (General Conference, then flying to Ukraine, then last week we were in an area where the church isn’t located in yet) so today was really a treat.

I met a lovely young lady, Yl’ana, who is 16 years old. I was impressed with her dedication for getting up and being ready to board the bus at 7:30am. Her mother passed away a few years ago and her father abandoned her & her brother. She now lives with her grandparents and is very strong in her testimony of Christ. I have been hoping to meet someone while here in Ukraine that I could bring back as a foreign exchange student to give them the experience of coming to America and when I met her – I knew that she was the one to bring back. The only thing is – I’m not sure how to do a foreign exchange. Any ideas? I don’t know anything about it – so I could use any/all advice on the matter. Thanks!

After the District Conference we came back to Mariupol. It’s amazing how we’ve been in Mariupol for 6 days and haven’t had much of a fun schedule – now we’ve been invited to attend FHE (family home evening – an evening with family/friends learning the gospel and spending time together) tomorrow night, going out to see Mariupol with the sister missionaries, and then help teach English on Wednesday. I’ve been asked to sing at both the FHE and at the English lessons which should be fun. I have so many things to look forward to now – it’s wonderful!!! J

We went to visit Kristina today. Our visit with her yesterday was the best visit up-to-date. And today was okay. It’s difficult to see progress in not pulling hair/slapping when she returns to this behavior after each of our visits. But we are confident that upon returning home things will improve in this area. The caretakers call Kristina “little bird” because she makes this high pitched sound “OH!” whenever anything happens. It’s quite cute to hear her do it. Whenever we visit Kristina, we go into a music room with a piano. I play songs and we sing them. Kristina recognizes us as “Mama” & “Papa” & herself as “Kristina”. I love it when we first go see her – she runs to us and gives us a BIG hug. It’s precious – it’s probably my favorite time of the visit. By the end of our time together, she’s wound up and running all over the place. I’ll take my snuggles whenever I can get them! We discovered today that she knows how to blow kisses! So we blew about 20 kisses when we said goodbye at the end of our afternoon visit. Her caretaker on Sundays is different from during the week. She was very kind and could speak some English. We explained to her that Kristina will hit and pull hair. She responded that she doesn't do it out of anger. I had not thought of that before - she's not angry when she hits or pulls hair. I wonder what that means or doesn't mean. Your thoughts? Plus, I've read from your comments that you do not condone slapping her hand (I've already stated that I don't like doing it, either) but I have not seen any recommendations as to what else we can try. We've tried time-outs, we always look her in the eye when we tell her "no" and we praise her good behavior. I am open to other ideas of discipline for her.

We had a fun taxi driver today. We’ve had him just one time before and really enjoyed him. This guy is just a NICE man. You know what I mean – he has a big smile on his face and you get the feeling that he’s a good, decent person who enjoys life. We gave him a Russian Book of Mormon when we got back to the hotel. I hope he will read it and feel the Holy Spirit when he does. I was hoping that during this time in Ukraine that I would feel closer to God and I do. Tyler & I have been reading one chapter every night of a book entitled: “Prayers that bring miracles”. As you may know, there are many miracles that happen in adoption and we’ve had our share already! It’s a miracle that we were able to find our sweet Kristina and to accomplish all that we’ve accomplished in expediting our adoption thus far.

Our court date is set for this coming Friday, Oct 31st. (yes, Halloween) We had originally thought to pray and fast for the 10 days to be waived so that Tyler could help me bring the kids home together. However, after praying about this, we both feel that these 10 days will not be waived, so we are moving forward with our time-table where I will be here for these 10 days and my wonderful in-laws and sister-in-law will fly out to Kiev and help me bring these 2 souvenirs (wonderful children) home.

Tyler suggested that I should sing for the judge at the court this Friday. My translator thinks that the judge would really enjoy it, so I think I will sing for him. I am ready to share the talent that I have been blessed with – in fact, one of the caretakers at Kristina’s orphanage was commenting to me how much she enjoyed hearing me sing and I replied that I can sing for her any and every day, after all, my voice is free! I know that I was given this talent to share with others. Before we left for Ukraine, I was given a blessing which said that I would have opportunities to share my talents with the Ukrainian people and it’s amazing how that has come to pass. I am grateful to God for blessing me with a talent that I enjoy and for paving the way for me to use this talent to bless the lives of other people. What a marvelous Father in Heaven! He blesses us, which blesses the lives of others. I am so blessed in my life.

Here is a video of Kristina from our 3rd visit with her in the orphanage:

Post from today:

Our visit with Kristina was fabulous today. She only pulled our hair once and slapped once. And twice she was about to hit me, but hesitated and I said "No" and she repeated "no". I could see the wheels turning in her head as she thought about it beforehand & realized that hitting wasn't good. HUGE PROGRESS!!!

We met with the Sister Missionaries today and went to a little "cake shop" where they had all sorts of pastries - I have to tell you, the pastries here are amazing! They have one that is like pie crust layers with real whipped cream in between = YUM! No doughnuts, though, but there is a lovely "coconut bun" that we eat for breakfast - a bagel-like roll with a coconut cream custard in the middle = YUMMY! The sister missionaries then took us to eat "SHARMA" which is a wrap with chicken, cabbage, cheese, and some kind of plain yogurt - very tasty! Then we went and saw the Black Sea. Currently I'm trying to pull up some pictures, but with no luck. I'll keep trying! Tonight we're going to FHE at an active family's house in the branch here. It should be fun. Stay tuned!


Diana said...

Amazing what it can do for the soul, isn't it! I'm so glad you were able to meet with the truely wonderful Ukrainian members...and enjoy some real English conversation with the missionaries :-). Attending the Ivano-Frankivsk branch are some of the sweetest highlight memories of our trip.

As for the hitting/pulling hair and what it means, I mentioned in my last comment that it is a very typical fear/stress response for hurt children who are merely surviving and have no concept of boundaries. It can also point to overstimulation (so can the being totally wound up by the end of your visit). Try doing some more contained and quieter activities with her (stickers, nail painting, etc.) Remember she is used to living in a very small and contained world. It will serve all of you well to keep her world very small, very contained, very structured, and very quiet for quite a while...especially after you get home. Also prep your bio daughter for this type of behavior as best as you can. She's not going to understand it - but will be affected by it in a big way.

Conethia and Jim Bob said...

It seems that your little Kristina is improving wonderfully. She seems so vibrant and full of life. If you do sing for the judge, try to capture that on video. I would love to hear your talents.

Leah said...

Oh, she's too cute! I can't wait till you get her home! In my comment to your previous post I did give a pretty detailed explanation of how we were told to deal with hair pulling/slapping. It's interesting, in the video you posted today she pulled your husband's hair when he stopped tossing her. The first thing that popped into my mind was that it was a response to over-stimulation. Clearly she likes being tossed, so you just have to figure out how handle that. Maybe when it happens in other situations it's a combination of over stimulation or a communication issue. ALL behavior is communication, it's just tricky figuring out what they're trying to communicate!

Julie said...

I just stumbled across your blog - Kristina is precious. What a joy! We adopted from Mariupol in April and spent lots of time there! Our daughter was at Solnitchka orphanage (I can't tell for sure, but it looks like you are at a different one). Who is your translator? Her voice on the video sounded a lot like her name Oksana by chance?
So glad that things are going well for you! We've been home 6 months now with our daughter, and she has adjusted beautifully.
Julie Hinshaw

sturpin said...

I am so glad you were able to go to the branch there. I am hoping we can do the same in our area. Curious - how did you find them? Did you ask your facilitator?

What a blessing to be able to worship with the Saints there.

Liz said...

When Isaac is hitting I strap him in my lap and hold him so he can't move and I say "Mommy does not like to get hit. Do not hit," or "in our family hitting is not acceptable" or something similar. I sit him on my lap until he calms down, which is sometimes a long struggle, and he says sorry of his own volition. Of course I realize you probably have a bit of a language barrier.

I have tried smacking Isaac's hand before and it never had long-term effects. He would just laugh in my face. Time outs work great for Sydney but not for Isaac.

Good luck with this one. Thinking about you guys!

Joseph and Kamber said...

I would be careful with slapping her hand for hitting. To a child it doesn't make sense for them to be disciplined in the same way of the offense. Also she is a "hurt" child and needs to be dealt with in different ways than the "normal" child. You want her to have respect for you and not be afraid of you. Also I would not reward with food at this point. Our kids both had food issues and still struggle with that a bit. Reward her with something she likes (tossing in the air). Just a few thoughts. I know it's going to be a long road ahead. Continue to pray for direction in helping all THREE kids in the adjustment along with yourselves.

Thanks for letting us be apart of your journey.


Heather said...

Jota! I miss you! I love to read your blog and hear how things are going. We called the other day, but you were sleeping. We will call again! About the slapping hand thing, I don't see any problem with that. I would do the same. But what do I know? I only have one child and she's going wild these days. :) I can't wait to hear more and see pics! Love you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Katie said...

If you think about it from a developmental standpoint, many professionals believe that little kids hit, bite, etc. due to frustration over the inability to communicate. You are looking at a child who has been in a "survival of the fittest" envivornment, is having everything about her world and identity changed, and doesn't have the language skills to talk to you about it. It would be frustrating.

While I certainly hope that it resolves quickly for you, be prepared for the possibility that it won't. My sister's older son was very aggressive for, well, a long time, and her daughter was frequently the recipient of it. It was very hard for all of them. Her second son didn't have any aggression issues, though. It depends on the kid, but it can be a real challenge in a child with an inclination to express him or herself that way.

ramblinamblins said...

I agree with Diana.

She is very overstimulated when you are tossing her and spinning her. She likes it but it's too much for her. I would keep her world very small, very quiet, and very very calm right now and when you get home. She has lived in a very contained, very small world. She loves the excitement of all the new (parents, love, tossing, swinging, playing) but it is too much for her because she's never known that. In the excitement of it all, she gets overwhelmed and hits/pulls hair. As hard as it is, pull back on the excitement and keep things very calm and connected. Hope this helps! She's darling as is your son!