Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Happily Home

Five days have passed since we have come home. Five days. It's very surreal. To think that less than a week ago, we were in Ukraine, half way around the planet. We have blissfully adapted quickly.

Vala met our entire family at the airport along with a few close friends. It is very, very hard to not invite everyone that you know and love to meet you there. Many have covered us with prayers and well wishes throughout our entire process and it is a moment we long to share with them all. But sadly, this would not have been the right time for Vala, or frankly for us either. By the time we touched down in Idaho we had been up for some 30 hours. Sleep was evasive to all of us on the flights. The little we nodded off could barely be constituted as "sleep" and I would more categorize it as "rest" or the all favorite "cat naps."

Since we had the technology to Skype from Ukraine, Vala had the opportunity to see and talk to each of her new siblings before meeting them for the first time at the airport. She even got to talk to the dogs. :o) This was a wonderful blessing as she recognized each of them immediately and knew them by name. We worked on this often, going through pictures that we brought and ones stored on the computer. And then when they spoke via Skype, it just brought it all together for her. There was no hesitation in any of our kids and Vala enjoyed hugs from all of them.

We were also greatly encouraged to have a close friend and her daughter Rita join us at the airport. Rita came from this very same orphanage within this past year and lives nearby. Both girls were overjoyed to see each other and speak Russian. How cool is that to be speaking loudly and excitedly about people standing around you and they don't even know what you're saying????

Vala told Rita (who's English is very good already) that she doesn't understand why we were standing around talking, which finally progressed out to the parking lot before we finally got in the car to head home. But Vala was all smiles. I don't think she's spent much time doing anything other.

We have had our moments. She was top dog at her orphanage and being told what to do by just one Mama is an adjustment. Life in an orphanage allows situations where if one Mama says "No" they could always go to another. It's difficult for some parents to keep track of being played on each other, let alone having 6-8 parents trying to keep track of 50 kids! They did a great job in our opinion, but there is no way to keep tabs on every child. I am so thankful Vala has been a good girl and trying hard, even when she doesn't like the answer.

Our daughters have been excitedly learning Russian words and phrases while we were in Ukraine. Vala was delighted they were trying to communicate immediately in the airport. Vala's roommate, Joanna, is quite the linguist - we had no idea! How come she didn't do that well in Spanish??? lol! The two have hit it off very well and understand each other almost as well as we do. Our other daughters and sons also speak in their language of love, laughter, hugs and kindness that stretches beyond the language barrier. Vala feels very comfortable with them all.

We broke several "no-no"s of adoption 101 this past week and so far have suffered no ill effects. Mind you, we watch Vala like a hawk to see if we are overdoing it, but she is adapting well to our family already. Thankfully we were able to translate while in Ukraine that our active family rarely sits at home playing video games and watching T.V. (we don't even own video games!) She was mentally prepared and even though she couldn't really grasp what our lifestyle is like, she was ready to follow along.

On Monday we popped into the school who has been preparing for her arrival for 10 months. They knew we would be adopting a girl that would be in Middle or High School and spoke Russian. We have a nice small community located outside the larger cities. This allows us to have a smaller feel school, but live next to the major amenities. The Principals were waiting for us and so were lots and lots of kids, excited to meet her. We kept it very short and Joanna was pulled out of class to take Vala for a quick tour around while the halls were empty.

After our school visit, Vala got to go to work with Papa. Before leaving to Ukraine we were setting up an office and display space for our business in a friend's furniture store. Vala had a wonderful view of our country as they headed to the city. We do not have the buildings packed upon each other, 14 story high rises and masses of people crowding the sidewalks and streets. It was a view she had never seen before. We have so much blue sky, such an unobstructed view of the heavens. Ah, we missed it so.

Every day since, Vala has joined her sisters eating lunch with the other High School students. These gatherings allow the "interest" to wear off a bit and for our daughters to introduce her to some potential friends. She will start school next Monday. We are fortunate to have some contacts in our community, including the staff, with knowledge of the Russian language. They are so excited to have her here.

So looking back, it is amazing, simply amazing to me that it has been such a short time since we've arrived. She has adapted to the time difference as well as we have - Slava Bog! She relaxes more and more when we meet friends at church or head to the school for another "event". She is fitting in very nicely with our family. We told her we love to joke and tease - she has picked up on this very quickly. She loves the dogs. The dogs love her. (I have to keep watch of her as she sees their pleading eyes and tries to slip them treats! Thank goodness she asks first or I'd have two very overweight dogs!)

So far, so good. When people comment how sweet she is and how wonderfully she if fitting into our family, I try hard not to let my eye wander far from the truth. She is doing great, but she is an infant. There are more "firsts" in the past five days than some people go through in a year! So far, we've not had much of a reason to say "No" to her - eventually that might create a head butting of wills. Also, sooner or later, there usually is a meltdown phase that no one can predict. We must be mindful of these to help Vala through the inevitable to come safely and successfully out the other side as she adjusts to her new life with a family in a new country.

Thank you for your prayers on our way home. Thank you for those who remember to keep us lifted up to the Lord during these first couple of weeks and months. She is adjusting well and has seem to accept the fact that she is now both Ukrainian and American. That she can gain one without loosing the other. Slava Bog. Praise God. It's a phrase I've heard from her mouth several times these past five days. It's a phrase we will continue to speak ourselves. Thank you Lord for all you have done. We lovingly follow You.

In His Name for His glory,

Friday, December 4, 2009

On American Soil

We are so happy to announce we have safely made it to our beloved American soil! We are in Denver awaiting our final flight home. Yahoo!

Vala cleared through Immigration without a hitch. She is safely on American soil with all the necessary papers in tact. At this point, we are so glad to be here, we don't care if we had to drive home! (not that we will pass up our flight, mind you!)

Vala is a pretty strong girl who is ready to start living her new life. We will be attending our normal weekly functions, but leaving open the possiblity that she might need to stay home occasionally. We can't wait to see you all. I know I've said that over and over, but we feel it stronger today than ever!

Slava Bog! We are almost home!

Much love to you and your family!
Jenn, John & Vala Brown

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Didn't we just fall asleep?

I could promise you I just fell asleep an hour ago - literally. John and Vala were able to dose off and get almost 4 hours of sleep before our phone alarm so nicely woke us up. But me..... I was too excited, I couldn't go to sleep.

You know how it is when you are a kid and it's Christmas Eve? You know tomorrow holds a big day, full of fun, food and family. And we can't forget the presents! You can barely sleep the night before. By the time morning comes you are tired and worn out from your imagination thinking of all the possibilities the next day will hold.

Last night was like that for me. Knowing I will finally see you, dear family and friends, has left me sleepless, tired and worn out. But no worries! I'm not driving! I can sleep on the way home to you.

It is 2:00am now here. Vala is softly stirring, and objecting to the hour. :O) John just finished with a quick shower to freshen up for the many, many hours we will be traveling. My turn next. Praise God for instant hot water tanks! We are so glad some Ukrainians have found these wonderful little devises! Most Ukrainians do not have hot water in their buildings this early in the morning. We could have had cold showers this morning. Slava Bog for instant tanks this morning!

I Wish you a wonderful day, full of the possibilities it still holds.
See you soon.
Jenn, John and Vala Brown

We are coming home

We obtained Vala's Visa from the US Consulate!

Slava Bog! Praise God! This was the last item on the list!

Tomorrow morning (this evening for all of you), we will be boarding our plane in Kyiv, Ukraine and heading to Frankfurt, Germany. We have a 6 hour layover before proceeding on our next flight bringing us to American soil - Slava Bog! We land in Denver, Colorado around 3:50pm their time. We have a short 3 hour layover where we must do all of the registration with Immigration on Vala's behalf. At 7:00pm we board again to head to home.

It will be so good to be home and see all of you. We will be exhausted but so happy. Our experience in Ukraine was a wonderful one we will not forget, but, again, we are so happy to be home with our family and friends!

All our love to you!
John, Jenn & Valentina Brown

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

We made it!

Dear family and friends,

I can't even go into detail or begin to explain our day yesterday. Our very first stop was met with problems that set us back nearly 2 hours. We all had to keep focused and John and I kept our eyes on God as the One who could still make things happen that day.

God was faithful. We miraculously made it through everything and even managed to eat at 6:30pm last night before we caught our train to Kyiv! God is good!

We have made it through today - to the US Embassy, across town to the medical center, back to the US Embassy, back to the medical center. We are here in our new apartment, which is nice. Vala is snugged into the bed. John and I are getting ready to go to bed as well.

We are all weary. Vala is in tears at the past couple days and the realization that it is all very real. She also is understanding that it is hard to try and communicate without having an interpreter.

We are ready to come home. This is an unnatural way to be a family here under these settings and more difficult that I thought it would be. This week, although it has been short, has been very, very long for us. The challenges have been many. We are looking forward to coming home.

Thank you all for your continued prayers. Lord willing, we will be touching down in the U.S. on Friday night. We are so excited.

See you soon,