Monday, October 21, 2013

Our little lad has become an almost teenager!

     For any new readers, our story makes a lot more sense if you go back and read our previous blogs starting as far back as you can go so that you would then read it in order.  But either way, welcome to our blog.  Enjoy!
      It is so amazing to realize that this is the fourth anniversary of the month of Maxim's adoption becoming official in Kentucky and America. Yes, although we landed in The States with him on March 13, 2009, it took almost seven months to get that to be totally official here. Such changes have taken place in young Max.  One is the name itself.  He mostly prefers to be called Max though he never objects if someone calls him my his full moniker.  Max is a little bit tall for his age and very thin.  He is almost 100 pounds and about 5'4" tall.  Max loves playing sports so height is very important to him.
     Max is now in sixth grade and doing well.  He was exited last year from the ESL program at school which means he's proficient enough in English to get by. Does he still get words mixed up?  You betcha!  Same for grammar.  His math skills have been strong all along and continue to be so. And he reads well above grade level which is truly remarkable given that for his first eight years of life, he heard not one word in English. 
     Soccer and basketball are the two sports Maxim plays.  He would like to play them all, but there are only so many hours in the day!   On his soccer teams, Max plays mostly defense and is very tenacious in his position. He enjoys preventing an opponent from scoring; his favorite soccer move is a headball!  -- It about gives me a heart attack just watching all those headers!
     When we say Max has adjusted her well to life in America, we truly mean that.  He's a sweet, smart young man who we are very blessed to have had come into our lives.  Still, Is he a rascal at times?  Of course!  But aren't all 12 year olds?  ;)  Maxim is very much a typical American boy full of energy and a verve for life and for learning.  He loves reading every book he can get his hands on that are about history and geography and the planets, etc.  Fact books really give him pleasure, but he also is big into Fiction books too -- the kind one would see in a middle school library.  It was only about a year ago that he shocked me by not only checking out thick chapter books. It by actually reading and understanding them!   Sadly, I didn't believe he could really read English that well and almost didn't let him checkout the first book like that--I think it was called Conspiracy 365.   So I read it too so I could quiz him on it to see if he really could comprehend it. And he did!  That was probably near a hundred middle school level books ago.  Are we proud parents?  You betcha!  If you all only knew the hardships he had to overcome, you would be too. 
      Thank you all for reading our blog over the years and being such supports for us as we journeyed along.  As Max has gotten older, much of his story is his to choose to tell or not. To be such an outgoing young fellow, Max doesn't always want info about him shared or even sometime pictures out on facebook.  Still, we will try to update this blog a little quicker than the last couple of years.
      Good luck to any of you reading this who are pursuing adoption.  And if you're reading this wondering if you should pursue adoption, we would say a resounding yes even though we had such hassles as we tried to find out forever child in Ukraine what seems like such a long time ago now. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Double Wow! It's now been a year and a half since bringing Maxim home from the orphanage in Kyiv. What excitement, change, and yes, a bit of fatigue he's brought to us! But it's overall still a wonderful experience and one I would strongly recommend. Wish we were young enough and endowed enough to do it all again.

As you can tell from the picture, whatever babyfat that was left on Maxim is now completely gone. He's grown much, much taller and much thinner. We figure he thrives on the freedom to run about freely and it turns out he's a very active youngster, very interested in sports too.

On the school front, Maxim is proving to extremely bright, especially in math. English for Maxim has come easily, though of course, he still has a way to go to be totally fluent. But there are no conversations any more where anyone doesn't know what he's saying or that he doesn't understand what's being said to him. Some awkward phrasing to our American ear still occurs and he still maintains a bit of his foreign accent. The accent is rather cute so I kind of hate to see it totally disappear someday.

Max is still a very sweet natured youngster, but occasionally, he shows his "all boy" side and tries to let us know that he is the boss (NOT!!). He's still a bit lonesome for all the children he was surrounded with in the children's home; here our other children are in college or grown, though he does now have a new niece who he hopes will grown faster so she can play with him.

I always hope that I will update this every six months, but time gets away from us, and we get absorbed into life with Maxim. I suppose, too, that one day he will ask me to stop writing about him. So life will tell when we will have another post.

Good luck to all those reading this who are on their adoption pursuits.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Life Is Finally Back to Normal. . .

Here we are at home in Kentucky on a Friday night March 27th, a mere two weeks after our chaotic exit from Kyiv, and it seems like it was so much longer ago than that since we were living in Ukraine and wondering if we were ever to be back in America again. Believe me, though, it is still fresh enough on our minds that we thank God daily that we are now safely home, back to our loved ones, and with a special young fellow now as an integral part of our family.

Things have gone amazingly well for Maxim since his introduction to life in America. H
e still thinks that food is extremely important and he gets very concerned if he sees others have food and not eat it. It's cute but saddening at the same time to observe this. Those of you who have seen Maxim in person know he has been well fed, but still, food must not have ever been readily available before. John and I took Maxim to Kroger for the first time last weekend. My, was he awestruck by all the foods available, but he was even more impressed by the fact that our shopping cart just kept getting fuller and fuller until it was almost full. He looks very healthy and acts very healthy too. Hopefully, the pictures are currently uploading so that finally there will be new photos this time along with this update.

Photo is of Maxim's McDonald's meal in Kyiv. The Coca-Cola light was not my idea!!

Everyone who has met Maxim here has commented on his outgoing, almost gregarious nature. A
nd the family all seem to love him. From Aunt Bonnie (whose name he can now say correctly) to Mamaw and oldest brother Jonathan to the youngest of the older brothers, Kevin, who just spent his spring break from college home with us, to Kelly, who gives up part of each of her week to help out with him, every one of them seem comfortable with Maxim. Now, if we could only get our long distance children, Eric, and Andrea, to get a break from their jobs and come get to know him as well. . .perhaps this summer will offer some kind of opportunity.

Maxim has acclimated himself very well to school. The fact that he can read so well in Ukranian and sound out our English w
ords in Ukranian phonics is of great value. The Ukranian/English picture dictionaries we brought home with us from Kyiv have turned out to be very helpful for Maxim's first grade teacher as well. For me as well, school is almost back to normal. There are of course the usual extra work to deal with when one has been gone from her job for so long, but overall, it feels like I wasn't gone quite so long. Still though, it's probably a good thing that next week is spring break so that both Maxim and I can have a little breather.

The weather here is chilly and to be downright cold this weekend unfortunately. I had hoped to take Maxim to some of the bigger parks around here and just do some simple fun things with him. Maybe we'll try a new kids movie that's coming out. We're also trying to work out a play date with a friend or two who have kid
s about Maxim's age. Maxim loves all the attention he gets from the adults around us. He has really taken to one or two folks from our Sunday School class as well as from our circle of friends. This class is also hosting a potluck/shower for us this weekend which is very kind of them.

We have blogged before about our new friends from Minnesota that we met in Kyiv, Gail and Craig and their new two year old daughter, Briley. We have now heard from them that they are happily ensconced back at their home with their two boys too. All of us hope that our friendship will continue over the years.

Meantime, we are working on scheduling a time for the adopt agency to do their home visit now that we're home so we will only have one more visit to deal with this summer before we should be able to do the Kentucky adoption.

We also have gotten Maxim's teeth removal I talked about last week scheduled for the end of the week after this one.

The only other thing that I simply must journal about here is about how much Maxim loves soccer or "football" as he still mostly calls it. His team practices once a week, but he asks every single day if he can go to "football." Since this sport is so popular in Ukraine, Maxim is quite familiar with it. He is very interested in scoring a goal, not so interested in passing the ball. Here's a picture of him in Shevchenko soccer outfit I found for him at a street vendor's in Kyiv. For you non soccer fans, he's a famous soccer player from that area.

We hope to continue these sporadic updates for a several more weeks because it will be such a nice history for Maxim some day as well as a facile way to keep everyone updated on our progress here at home with our new son.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Rest of the Story

Sorry not to have finished this segment sooner, but no wonder I was fatigued. I ended up with what seemed like every virus and illness around, but thankfully, I am feeling better today, though still very tired. Good thing since I am slated to return to teaching on Monday. Maybe my students will take pity on me and be extra sweet the first few days I'm back. (Hope you all are reading this!!) Now, back to the story: After the disappointment of not being able to fly on Thursday as attempted, we were put in a hotel for the night and shuttled back to the airport the next morning. After a few hours we were finally on the plane and in the air headed to America! I must mention again how very good Maxim was at the airport for those several hours we just had to stand around waiting to find out what was happening. He was very good at the hotel as well, even sleeping in his own little cot which the hotel staff set up right next to my bed. We are still working on the sleep issue here at home. Maxim is doing better, but we still have a ways to go for him to stay a whole night in his own room. Meantime, I have a pallet on the floor of our room, right next to our bed. It is a method of gradually getting him to spend the whole night in his room. It's making him and me both too tired as it is. But I realize from all the other blogs I've read that this is very normal and very short-lived.

Since landing in JFK and making it onto Louisville where we were met by John's son and sister, we have pretty much kept it low key, not only for Maxim's sake but also for ours. Well, that's not exactly accurate. John did make the long drive to Georgia for his niece's wedding. Maxim and I stayed home to get him acclimated to Kentucky as well as to get his physical and him enrolled in school. We also went to the dentist. Oh, my! That's where a major expense will come into play. His teeth have not been well taken care of at all and we've already had to schedule dental surgery early next week. Poor little guy. He probably does not even know what a pain-free mouth feels like. Again, Maxim was very good at the dentist though. He had to go ahead and get one filling with more still to do. He wasn't happy about the numbing shot, but he handled it like a trooper. Can't say the same for how he reacted for me when I only had to remove a small splinter from his finger! Goodness, is this young fellow strong! He weighs 75 pounds and judging from how hard it was to get him to hold still for the splinter removal, most of that weight is pure muscle. I guess that means he'll do well at "football" or soccer as we call it here in the U.S.

We have Maxim on a little U-8 soccer team called the Kickers. He is so excited by this. He has only made it to one practice so far, but he asks each day to go to "football." He took to it very well; ran after the ball, kicked it far, did great throw-ins. He wasn't so great at passing--he wanted to shoot the ball toward the goal rather. : ) Kelly has been home this weekend and so she's been out practicing with him. Maxim is in heaven with all the attention showered on him by her.

This week my school friends and co-workers showered Maxim with some toys and clothes and some gift cards to help us get him better outfitted and to let him have some of his own things to play with here at home. We are very thankful for their generosity.

Sorry to still not have pictures to post, but hopefully in a few days. There just has been no energy for more than the bare necessities, and the pictures take a long time to download and then upload.

But Maxim is doing very well--he's getting too used to us, meaning that he the honeymoon period has ended. Oh, he's still very good, but he is showing a stubborn streak and tells me no sometimes. He gets mad at me when I tell him no and when I tell him it's time to take a rest or to go to bed. Typical little boy stuff, but I need to figure out some more Ukranian words so I can make it plainer to him that there are consequences for disobeying. . . I might need a little luck to make that clear.

Maxim went to school a few hours two days last week and will try his first full day on Monday. So far, so good. He was curious and did some "exploring" of the classroom when he shouldn't have, but the teacher is very kind and understanding. We are very fortunate to have found such a warm, caring environment for Maxim's introduction to American school.

Wish us luck with all this,


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Flying Saga continued

After being told we could not fly out on Thursday as we'd so hoped and prayed, we were told that if we were going to need a hotel for the night, then we were to stand there and someone would come talk to us about it.  Five hours and fifty-six minutes after that final comment, a Delta rep. came out to tell a huge group that they had found hotel rooms and would start shuttling people to the various hotels shortly.  They took one group, then I gather someone complained because the next trip they decided to take people with children and the elderly first.  Once we got to the hotel, they decided they would also feed us supper but to spend no more than one hundred hryvna, but it turned out that the restaurant wasn't prepared for so many people, so they ended up just feeding us one of two dishes and so the cost wasn't a problem.  As usual, the food didn't agree with me, but John and Maxim enjoyed it.

The next day we were shuttled to the airport in plenty of time to get in the lines for baggage and customs checks.  I tried to get in the line for a voucher they were giving for a discount on future flights for our inconvenience, but just as I was about to the front of the line, the other line moved too much, so I had to give up on the vouchers in order to be sure we could get through all those checkpoints in time for the plane.  It's a good thing we allowed a tad extra time because John's passport not having a stamp again became an issue, much longer delay caused by it this time to the point John was saying Maxim and I should go ahead and get on the plane and he'd find another flight, but it eventually all worked out and we made it onto the plane that had been repaired from the day before.  We had been concerned that Maxim's adoption papers, visa, or some such thing would cause a holdup on our exit from Ukraine; who would have guessed it would be John?

No one could ever been happier to land in the U.S.A. than John and I were.  JFK aiport may be a pain to maneuver, but it was a welcome hassle for sure.  The guy who checked us in at customs was the nicest fellow.  It was such a relief to be able to understand every word he said!  Soon thereafter we were able to text or call family members and say we were back in America!

I tell you that until you live in a foreign country, especially one lacking in some of our conveniences, you probably just cannot have the appreciation for our country that we now have, and we've always been very patriotic.  Having said that, I will also say that we will sorely miss some of the folks we met in Kiev.  Sadly, probably the only one we'll keep in contact with is Alla, our bossy translator.  Bossy is a good thing most of the time when you have no idea what you're really doing.  She has been very kind to check on us both airport days as well as to e-mail us to make sure we made it all the way home safely.  I will try to send her some pictures of Maxim in his new home before too long.

Speaking of pictures, when we get some more uploaded from our camera, then we will put a few  more on here as well as on kodak gallery.

Today, Maxim and I met went to his new school and met with the principal and his teacher.  They gave him a short tour of school and introduced him to his classmates.  Maxim was all smiles as all this occurred.  I had been concerned that it would be too much for him since he had been in a cocoon like environment since his schooling has been in the orphanage, but no, he seems very happy still.  We are so pleased with how well Maxim has accepted us and adapted to the U.S. and the new environment.  He also started soccer practice this evening; the new coach was very kind to Maxim.  Maxim was very tired afterward but again mostly smiles.  He loves "football" so maybe he'll be a natural--that would make Kelly very happy.

For those of you still coming over:  it is all worthwhile, but you have to be prepared for the unexpected every step of the way and for delay after delay.  You have to learn to go with the flow and not expect what you thought you could expect.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

So it's home again, and home again, America for me!

Yes, we truly are home!  Finally!  And the lines from the poem by Henry Van Dyke describes how we've felt the past several days:    "So it's home again, and home again, America for me!  My heart is turning home again, and that's where I long to be."  As expected, we literally did not know until almost the last minute when we'd be flying out and even then, the flight got cancelled.  We raced and rushed the entire week just trying to get Maxim's new passport from the Ukranian government.  In addition to those lovely "expediting" fees, there was a bottle of brandy exchanged.  Why, we don't know.  Just while on an extremely tight time crunch and on our way supposedly to meet up with the man who was hand carrying Maxim's passport, suddenly the taxi pulled over.  Out hopped Alla saying something about she didn't know why but the guy had told her to bring a bottle of brandy.   So she returns with the brandy and we race on to the metro stop where she's been told to meet the man who was meeting the man with the passport.  We get there and surprisingly easily find the man.  Alla and he disappear for a few minutes and she returns to the car.  Then we head exactly back to where we had been before the "brandy" call came in.  The man we met there had to himself carry back the passport to his office and put an official stamp on it.  Finally, it was done.  I signed a piece of paper on the trunk of the taxi and we raced off again.  We were trying to get to the Embassy where John was waiting before they closed.  We barely got there before the Embassy closed, too late to get Maxim's visa printed that day (a bottle of brandy cost us dearly!), but they did agree to go ahead and do our interview.  They also promised to have the visa printed first thing the next day (Thursday) by around 9 a.m.  The plane was to take off at 11:10 so it was cutting it very close for us, but we decided surely luck must somehow be with us since it hadn't been for so very long so we packed all our belongings Thursday night.  We put everything into a minivan taxi Friday morning and rushed to the Embassy.  After sweating it out for thirty minutes I was finally handed Maxim's visa!!!  Yes!! That meant we could now leave the country.  IF IF IF we could just get to the airport and all checked in before the flight departed at 11:10 a.m.  It was a race to the finish line, literally, a race.  We were all three huffing and puffing by the time we finished getting our luggage checked, paying for the change of the flight, going through security checkpoint after checkpoint, getting the adoption documents scrutinized very carefully, and the best part of all, having John almost not be allowed to cross out of their border.  Yes, remember the lost passport incident a couple days after we arrived in Kiev?  Well, it came back to haunt John.   Turns out if you don't have the official stamp in your passport showing you entered the country, they are not going to let you leave the country!  Luckily, John had found the lost passport and was able to prove that he had entered legally into Ukraine.  So, finally, we were on board the plane.  We heard the safety spiel they always give.  We taxied down the runway, well, for a little while, and then the plane stopped.  We passengers all assumed we were just waiting for final clearance for take off, but after about fifteen minutes, the pilot came on and told us we were having trouble getting the right engine to start and that maintenance was coming out to check on it.  After a long wait with no definite decision made and all of us hoping that the plane could be easily fixed and would still fly, we were disappointed to learn that the plane would not fly that day.

There are many other details of the past week, but the fatigue has taken over again.  Our bodies went through so much our entire trip, especially that last week.  On top of that both John and I were sick the past two weeks.  I came home with an ear infection so the ascent and descent of the plane was painful.  The six hour time difference is not an easy thing to adjust to now that we're back home.  What I am trying to say is that hopefully there will be time and energy to blog more in a day or two, but this entry must be short.  I did want to let everyone know, though, that we're home so wrote even though the story must end abruptly for now.

Oh, don't mean to stop without saying that Maxim is doing great!


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Guess Who's Here!!!

We are very happy to announce that Maxim is now legally our son. It wasn't until another very grueling day was almost over on Thursday that we were able to take custody of Maxim. You cannot imagine how we were sweating it, since we'd been told that we might get to bring him home on Tuesday and there was even a slight possibility on Wednesday and no go. But that stress is now over because Maxim is now living with us here in this apartment in Kiev. We hope to be able to bring him home soon; the actual timing, as I've posted before, depends on how long it takes the U.S. Embassy to process the required paperwork there and issue the visa. That usually is a quick turn around, but we still are missing a vital piece of paper before we can go there as well as Maxim's completed passport, plus, remember we told you that Sunday is a big holiday here called International Women's Day. Some say it is similar to our Mother's Day, but it is far bigger. They get Monday off because it is a national holiday. There are always kiosks and stands and stands of fresh flowers for sale here in the big city, but that number has greatly increased because of this huge holiday. Needless to say, the Embassy won't be open on Monday since they get to close for both Ukranian and U.S. holidays. What a great job! That makes the schedule much tighter. We, and most others who go through this adoption process here, honestly won't know for sure which day we will be able to fly out of here until the very afternoon before. We all want and need to get back home for sure though! Maxim needs to get into first grade there and I need to get back to my students. John has a family wedding to attend and his job to return to as well. So it's not for lack of want or travail that is keeping us here.

Thursday we got Maxim and got to see his groupa--they live in family style units sort of in groups of eight children when they are around his age. There is a teacher during the da, and an aide pa
rt of the time; at night someone is there who sleeps in the room with them. There were eight tiny beds that they made up and put cushions on so similar to what we'd call a daybed maybe. The set up was like a small apartment except no doors into the two rooms. You enter into a living room kind of area which didn't look like they much used it. It did have an aquarium (kind of dirty) that Maxim seemed to really like. Then there was the sleeping room that I described. Other than those two, there was a room with desks adjoining each other with storage under the top of the desk as well as a storage cubby for each child around the room. There were a couple others in Maxim's group who looked to us as if anyone would want to adopt them, not that we know if they were adoptable. One girl told us she was also being adopted to the United States, but we have no idea if that is true or not. And of course, we think we got the cream of the crop. : )

How proud
Maxim was and is of his new clothes. He is bigger than he looks because the size 8's we got him barely, barely fit him. He is very solid. We are very lucky that he is so physically healthy as well. Most people say there child/ren are underweight and under height when they get them from an orphanage. We found him a denim jacket and denim jeans set that he thinks he looks just, oh, so sharp in! Today Maxim got to wear the jeans and sweater he helped pick out last week and he again was very, very happy. John was asleep when Maxim got dressed; as soon as Papa got up, Maxim ran to him pointing out his new clothes and grinning and grinning. Maxim has been great since he came with us. The only kink that is not worked out is sleep. We have to remember that he's used to sleeping with several other people in the same room with him, so to expect him to be able to sleep in a strange apartment on a sleeper sofa in a room all by himslef was, well, just not a good idea. I stayed up until he went to sleep, but he didn't stay that way. The first night we were all up and down so many times, I don't think any of us got much sleep. So last night we started out the same way, but before long, there was Maxim standing by the bed telling me something so earnestly with such a sad look on his face. Of course, I don't know exactly what he said, but when I motioned to climb in beside of me, he about barreled me over, he was in such a hurry. I did get him to move to the middle of the bed; he went almost immediately to sleep. I figure for the few days we're here, what will it hurt? Poor kid, his whole life has been turned topsy turvy, and I can pretty much guarantee that he'll like his own bed in his own room not very long after we get back home. Yesterday, we took Maxim back to that indoor playland I wrote about last week. He had asked us to go there every day since. He had a great time. We figure he earned it because so much of yesterday and part of the day before were spent in a car and some in a diner just waiting and waiting while Alla ran in and out of several places; sometimes with me, sometimes not. The first night after we finished what paperwork we could, we stopped at an outdoor park to let him run and play. So what if it was flurrying and had mud puddles galore? The kid was in Heaven being let loose like that. Then we celebrated by going to TGIF. One thing we can say for certain about Maxim. The boy LOVES to eat. I had heard from others that they eat like they'll never see another bite for about six months after they leave the orphanage, but since Maxim is such a good size, I was surprised that he, too, is so happy to have plentiful food. It makes us feel good to see him eat like that as well as sad to think what young children must have to worry about when they are orphans.

On a more upbeat note, we finally got
tickets to the circus which is just a short bus ride from here. Today we stopped by there to get the tickets because last time we tried (with Gail and Craig sans Maxim) they were all sold out. Try explaining to a young child who does not speak English that we aren't going in to see the fun circus today but will come back tomorrow! Then we tried to take him across the street to a movie in Ukranian, but they do not show children's movies on Saturday! So we went to a toy store instead that had a small play area. Maxim is so very sweet that he just nods his head when we say "tomorrow." But when tomorrow actually comes, we think he will be thrilled to see an actual circus; we certainly will be as it's been years.

We also want to take this opportunity to thank so many people that we'd leave some out accidentally if we tried to mention each one by name, but in general, we want send out a thank you to all of you who read this blog so faithfully, to all of you who picked up the slack at work (including my principal Kathy, my co-worker Heather and John's supervisor Damon), Karen JS who wins the prize for e-mailing me every SINGLE day of my journey, to Becca and Jeanette for helping with the cats and various other items, to all of you who've sent a prayer up for us, to our Family Life class, to our family and friends, and to our children (Jonathan, Eric, Andrea, Kelly, Kevin) for allowing and encouraging us to make such a drastic change to all our lives, especially to Kelly, without whose help back at home with cats and bills and doctors and extra documents we couldn't have done this--we certainly couldn't have stayed the extra time this adoption has ended up requiring.

We know you all will join us in welcoming Maxim Christopher to our family.