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Monday, November 17, 2008

Update (guest post by Tyler)

Jill has been away from internet access for almost a week now. She has commissioned me to update everyone on the status of the journey.

TUESDAY (11 Nov):

Jill and translator traveled all day long, going from one place to another to get new birth certificates for the children as well as passports. In the middle of the day, Jill ran out of money and found out that she was limited in the amount that she could withdraw from the ATM (~$300 per day). This normally isn’t a problem, except that she had to buy train tickets, pay the hotel, and pay the taxi driver for the entire day of driving. Her stress went through the roof. I saved the day by sending her more money via Western Union. They happily facilitated the resolution of our dilemma; charging a pretty penny for doing so of course. [You know, I am generally very detached from money. As long as we stay above water, I am usually pretty content. However, I am ready for the financial hemorrhaging to stop.] They were able to get all of this done in one day, leaving them exhausted.


This morning marked the day and time when Jill became the official full-time provider of all things necessary for Keith. What a thrill it was for her to pick him up and assume that role. It became apparent almost immediately that lack of communication was going to be a big challenge. Keith does not understand English, and he does not speak anything nor does he use gestures to communicate his needs. Rather, his one means of communication is to throw a fit. Jill tells me that this occurs at least hourly. Whether he is hungry or needing a diaper change or just plain discontent, he fusses and throws his body about. He is like a 4 ½ year old infant. Jill is fine with this. She has been longing for a baby for SO long. Though he is older, his snuggles and complete dependence on her serve to fill that void.

It took some time before he would eat. Eventually, Jill had to essentially shove the food down his mouth. After the second bite, he dropped his resistance and polished off the meal. Jill has discovered that our little boy is a food snob. He frequently will take one taste of a particular food and then turn his head to the side and fight against being fed. Jill is however winning this battle of wills. She says that it usually takes a few forced bites before Keith accepts the inevitable and eats the food that Jill is giving him.

They then made the trip back to Mariupol just in time for Jill to attend her singing performance at the university. She was delighted to find that they had arranged for her to be accompanied by a professional pianist. She sang 10 songs to a room completely packed with both music students and faculty. After she finished singing, a professional translator facilitated a question and answer period between Jill and the audience. This experience really thrilled Jill.

Our trip to Ukraine was obviously of singular purpose: find and adopt our children. Just prior to leaving, Jill asked for a priesthood blessing, which I supplied. I felt inspired to encourage her to share her talents with the people of Ukraine. She has been able to sing for the orphanage, the missionaries’ English class, in church, a concert after church, and a concert at the university. Neither of us had any idea of the opportunities that God would provide for her to fulfill the counsel to share her talents.

After the music recital, they went to Kristina’s orphanage to pick her up. They proceeded to Mama Bigoon’s house, where they stayed the night.

THURSDAY (13 Nov):

Mama Bigoon and her daughter, Galia, absolutely loved spending the day with Jill and our two new children.

Moment of pure sweetness: Kristina was given a plate with 4 small cookies. She took 2 of them, placed them in front of Keith (not realizing that he is not accustomed to eating solid food), and then returned to eat the remaining 2 cookies. How amazing for a 4 year old to share so selflessly, especially given the facts that she had never met Keith until the day before and that she is coming out of an orphanage where food (particularly treats) are not supplied plentifully. I hear of orphanage kids who hoard food, not share it with helpless strangers.

Jill, Keith, Kristina, and translator then travelled to Donetsk, where they boarded the overnight train headed for Kiev.

FRIDAY (14 Nov):

Jill did not rest well on the train. She woke up about a dozen times before arriving at Kiev early the next morning. Keith and Kristina, however, slept the whole trip. This set up a tired Mama with two energetic kids. This should have been the first clue to a day that was destined to be one of those that you just wish to end.

They went to the doctor for an evaluation of the kids. Jill was sent into the office alone with the kids and was told that the visit should last about 30-45 minutes. Jill found herself in the waiting room for more than 2 hours trying to corral Kristina while dealing with Keith’s constant fits. Kristina would frequently run out of the room, down the hall, and then return. This was great fun for her. Then one time, she didn’t return. Jill had to gather up her stuff, pick up Keith, and go in search of our energetic, adventurous girl. She found her a short way down the hall. An elderly man, who was also waiting to see the doctor, was playing with her. This nice man kept Kristina entertained for over 30 minutes. His help was a great boon for Jill’s ability to cope with the situation. Then came the visit with the doctor.

While this was just a single, overall evaluation: the doctor had some very encouraging things to share.

KEITH: the doctor expressed his opinion, which echoed my own feelings, that he does NOT have cerebral palsy. This could be wrong, but he does not exhibit any behaviors or symptoms indicative of cerebral palsy. The main issue is that he is extremely malnourished, leading to very low energy levels. His little body is so scrawny, his appendages are like little twigs, his ribs are all exposed, while his tummy is large and protruding. Jill does not like to see him without clothes because of the extreme image. The doctor thinks that with proper nutrition and ample attention and stimulation, he should be just fine. My worry is that he has a problem with his digestive system. Why? He eats as much or more than I do. I have seen his feeding in the orphanage, and he was not being underfed. When we first met his primary caregiver, she expressed how Keith was her favorite child and how he was a great eater. I am concerned that he lacks the ability to absorb and/or utilize the nutrients from his food. Only time and further medical evaluation will tell.

A quick note on Keith's progress. First, He is more engaging. It used to be very difficult to get him to look directly at us. He would turn his head and stare off into space. He now looks at Jill more readily and is more responsive to her voice. Second, he is vocal. Immediately after picking him up from the orphanage, Jill began feeding him a steady diet of, “Mama…Mama.” He is now saying it as well. Third, he is mobile. Jill put him at the head of the bed in the apartment in Kiev. She left the room for a time. When she came back, he was on the floor at the foot of the bed. She did not hear a crash, which would normally accompany a fall. Fourth, he can eat solid food. He has a very pronounced overbite, which causes most of his top and bottom teeth to completely miss each other when he closes his mouth. For this reason, he was only fed pureed mush in the orphanage. The doctor told Jill that his back teeth do meet up and that there is no reason he can’t chew back there. Since then, Jill has been slowly implementing some solid foods. He hates it, but Jill is again winning out in this battle of wills.

KRISTINA: She is also malnourished. Similar body as Keith’s, just not as severe. Also, she is delayed in both mental development and fine motor skills. Based on my personal observations of her and some independent research, I believe that she has sensory integration dysfunction (or sensory processing disorder). When I read the description of SID, it was like I was reading a detailed description of Kristina’s daily activity. Occupational therapy can help overcome many if not all of the symptoms of this condition. I was visiting with a co-worker about our adoption in general. He mentioned that his wife is an occupational therapist and that they would be happy to come over to our house to see the kids after they get home. When I mentioned that I think that Kristina has SID, he commented that his wife specializes in pediatric sensory integration problems. What a blessing to have such a resource right when we bring them home.

A note on Kristina: First, she is very happy. She gets excited about everything. When Jill turns on the water for a bath, she runs to the bathroom and begins tearing her clothes off as fast as she can. Keith, on the other hand, begins crying when he hears the bath water. He continues to cry all throughout the bath. Poor little guy. Second, Kristina is very sweet with Keith. I already mentioned the cookie episode. On another occasion, Jill had left both of the kids on a bed watching a cartoon. From the other room she heard Keith laughing. She peeked around the corner to see what the excitement was. Kristina had discovered that whenever she pulled her sippy cup out of her mouth really fast Keith would laugh. He found it very funny for some reason. Seeing his amusement, she proceeded to do it over and over, much to his enjoyment. Third, she is very smart. She is picking up sign language and English words very quickly. The first time she was given a bath; she sat in the tub with a big smile and made the sign for “more” over and over. Yeah, she likes taking baths.

After the doctor visit, Jill was taken to the U.S. Consulate. Again, she ventured inside alone. Fortunately, this visit was shorter. I had already filled out all of the paperwork before she arrived. All she had to do was sign the documents.

I mention this next part only to give some insight into Jill’s emotional state at this time. Personal relations with the translator had deteriorated. Our relationship with our facilitator always felt rather cold. We never doubted their ability to get the job done. In that regard, they never did fail. But the human touch in what is a very emotional and life changing experience was not there. Consideration for Jill’s feelings went out the widow. Snide remarks were made toward her on multiple occasions. No apparent sympathy was shown when she broke down in tears from being overwhelmed. Needless to say, contact information with the hope of staying in touch has not been exchanged.

Then Kristina threw up in the taxi. After a stop at the grocery store, Jill and the kids were dropped off at the apartment.

My parents and sister decided that they would travel to Ukraine to help Jill in bringing the kids home [side note: all 3 of them have never been on an airplane before]. Their flight into Kiev was scheduled to arrive late Friday morning. This would have put them arriving at the apartment at roughly the same time that Jill was dropped off. This would have allowed Jill to take the nap that she was desperately needing. The only problem is that their flight into New York was delayed, which prevented them from making their connecting flight to Kiev. The next flight was 24 hours later. This left Jill all on her own for the next 24 hours.

Shortly after arriving to the apartment, Jill walked out of one room to get something from another room. She hears an enormous CRASH. She goes back into the room to find that Kristina had knocked over a large glass lamp, shattering it into millions of pieces all over the floor. There went any sense of safety in leaving Kristina alone. Not to mention the fear of not getting the floor completely picked up of all sharp glass. Not to mention the bill for the broken lamp (which will undoubtedly be priced at some ridiculous amount) on top of an already tight budget. Need I go on?

At this point, Jill called me on the phone. Her effort to share the difficulty of the day spiraled into uncontrolled sobs. This is the worst thing for a husband: to have your sweet wife in such a condition and to be unable to provide any real comfort. Telling her how Anna and I were having a great time back at home just didn’t seem to be an effective way of calming her troubled heart. I could only assure her that she is loved by her family and that she will be home soon. As I was trying to communicate this, Kristina interrupted the conversation. She had walked up to Jill in the living room, having come from the bedroom where she was laying down. I hear Jill say, “Why are you wet?” A few moments later I hear, “Oh no?... Kristina just threw up on the bed. I gotta go.” That was the end of our conversation and the end of Jill’s terrible day.

SATURDAY (15 Nov):

My family arrived in Kiev and provided Jill with the caring support that she so desperately needed. All of my family members are loving their time with the new children.

SUNDAY (16 Nov):

Everybody went to church. They attended an English speaking ward in Kiev. I am told that Keith and Kristina both were very well behaved.

Later in the day, my parents and sister went out walking around Kiev. They got lost and had to ask several people for help in finding their way back to the apartment (they did have an address). Perhaps I am the only one who fully appreciates this little vignette, knowing that these three have barely ventured outside of Oklahoma for their entire lives. Now they are trying to communicate with total strangers in a foreign language. When I was trying to prepare my dad for what to expect, I told him that Kiev is a big city. His response, “What, a few hundred thousand people?” “No, Dad. More like 2.7 million people.” “Oh.” I love my family!


MONDAY (17 Nov):

Go back to the U.S. Consulate to pick up the visas for Keith and Kristina and pay the immigration fees. Do some more sightseeing of Kiev.

TUESDAY (18 Nov):

Fly from Kiev to New York City. Pick up rental car and begin the drive back to Ohio. Stop at hotel.


Arrive home to the elation of all. After getting the children to bed, leave the men in charge and attend a midnight viewing of Twilight.

THURSDAY (20 Nov):

SLEEP!!!! Cook and share Thanksgiving meal with family before they return to Oklahoma.

Update on the homefront: Anna and I have been staying up late and eating pizza, macaroni and cheese, and junk food. On several occassions I hear the phrases, "That's not how Mama does it." and "Mama does this way better." For example, I tried putting her hair up into a pony tail for school. When I finished, she looked at it in the mirror and started laughing. So it was a little crooked. What more can you ask out of a dad. Bottom line, we not only want our Mama home; we NEED her home!


Diana said...

I'm so glad to hear Jill has some helping hands with her now. Oh, I remember so well that completely spent and overwhelmed feeling. We had a layover in Budapest, Hungary on the way home. Right by the waiting area for our gate was an enmorous billboard. I think it was for a cell phone or something. The gist of it was a woman with hair about the same color as mine lying face down in a field of green grass. She was wearing worn jeans, a t-shirt and no shoes. For all intents and purposes, she appeared to be passed out cold or and otherwise just completely exhausted - except she had some sort of logo symbol above her head - that made her look like she was completely cookoo and losing her mind.

I told my kids that was Mama and they'd better not mess with me! :-). Yes, I really was THAT tired. I took close up photos of that billboard. They're now the last print in our adoption trip photo album.

You all have been so blessed to have so much contact with the church during your trip! We had a little bit, which we absolutely relished every last second of, but the church was 70 km away from where we were staying and there were no members or even missionaries in our area.

It will be fun to see how much your kids change and grow and settle in once they're home. Best wishes for the transition...and don't forget to keep blogging!!!

James and Cari said...

What a crazy couple of days! You're almost there, Jill!!! Almost there!! :-)

nicole said...

Thanks for the thoughtful and detailed update. I'm so glad your family is there now to support Jill. I can hardly imagine how overwhelming that situation must have been for her. It must have been nice for her to see some familiar faces and helping hands! :)

Not too much longer now and she'll be home! We'll keep you guys in our prayers during this trying transition period. Miss you Jill!

Tami said...

Thanks for the update. (((hugs))) to Jill. The last few days in Ukraine can be SO rough. I'm glad your family is there to help support her.

Melisa said...

I'm so sorry that is has been so difficult! That sounds so rough. I'm so glad you will be home so soon!

Valerie said...

Thank you so much for the update Tyler! I was hoping to catch up with you after stake conference yesterday (were you and Anna there?), but there were so many people packed into the building I don't think I ever would've found you!

I can remember so well the overwhelming feelings of exhaustion from the last leg of the journey! I am so glad that your family was able to make the trip over to help her home. Jill and the kids have been in our every prayer and we will continue to pray that they make it home safe and sound!

Is there anything that we can do for you? Anything that you need? Maybe a meal or two that you can put in your freezer and pop into the oven whenever you need it?

Hang in there! The end is near!!!!

Kathey said...

Hi Tyler,

It was great to see you and Anna at conference yesterday! Your family has been so much on my mind and heart lately that it really felt good to see you. Anna has grown since we last saw her. ^o^

Thank you so much for the very thorough update and expected schedule. This too shall pass, and it's great that you have such a good record of everything--including feelings.

Keith could have parasites. Dr. Carol Loechinger, who is a member of Miamisburg ward, has a Bio-Meridian machine that could test for that, and give specific, natural remedies. (We have the phone number.) Something to keep in mind.

And Twilight sounds like a fun ending to the journey! --K

jennifer said...

Whew! What a roller coaster. I'm sorry you've had some rough moments, but am so happy for your joyous ones.

Jill, I'm so glad we are going to have our Twilight girl's night party when you get home - sounds like you are going to need it! ;D

Carrie said...

Yeah...I have been checking for an update. I am so sorry it has been so crazy for Jill! That was SOOO nice of your parents and sister to go and help her out! What a blessing. I can't wait for you all to be reunited....and TWILIGHT?! How funny! I gave in and started reading the books. I am almost done with the 3rd book! I wish we could go to the movie together Jill!!

MamaPoRuski said...

Yes, I remember sobbing into the phone to my husband as I was still in Ukraine and yet again the passports were delayed with no end in sight! Good man for not telling her how well things were going for you!
Can't wait to see the home reunion pictures!

Sarah C said...

Jill- I am sorry things are hard. I wish I could be there to help you. I am glad Tyler's family is there to help you now. I am more than happy to help in any way I can when you get home. We miss you. I am really excited to see you and your new children. I am so glad things went well finalizing the adoption. I think things will be easier when you get home. I am glad you have had the opportunity to sing a lot out there. I am sure you blessed the lives of many people. We love you. We are praying for you. Good luck traveling back to Ohio. See you soon.

schoolmother said...

Thanks for the update. I was wondering how things were going. I remember how fragile I felt emotionally after I picked up our son from the orphanage and couldn't get him to eat much and I felt like the translator was kind of blaming me. I'm glad Jill has help and is on her way home by now.

shannon said...

Thanks for the update Tyler! Oh Jill! The last post reminded me of what the Lord told Joseph Smith while he was in Liberty jail. (D&C 122: 7)
7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."

The Lord is mindful of us in the very details of our lives---He LOVES you and knows you can handle it, or He would'nt give it to you. I always find solace in that knowledge. I hope you can get some rest!
Love you!

Shawnie said...

I enjoy reading your blog. I hope your sweet wife is home safe and sound very soon! She is a saint to endure all she has by herself in a strange country. Don't forget to post pics when you are all together! I have been following Nick/Keith for a long time and I am thrilled he (and Kristina) have an eternal family! Awesome!
Shawnie RR

Queen Mother said...

Jill and Tyler,

I am so sorry that I am just now reading this. My Andrew has Sensory Integration Dysfunction (aka Sensory Processing Disorder), so if you need any help PLEASE do not hesitate to call. I'm well versed on the subject, as Andrew has been diagnosed for almost 5 years now.