Friday, October 14, 2011

Fundraiser Friday: FacePie

No, I didn't mean to type FaceBook.

FacePie: Pie specifically made or bought for the sole purpose of being smashed into some crazy orphan lovin' individual's face.

Um, ok.... let me start over.

When we were in Ukraine adopting Liza I got the chance to play with this little guy a couple of times.
Don't you just LOVE that smile!
His name is Andriy and he has a family waiting for a travel date to go and meet him and start the process to bring him home. His Mama, Amanda, has been working her tail off to bring him home and part of the last fundraiser she's put together has included several people taking a pie to the face once Andriy's ransom reaches certain dollar amounts raised.

Renee went first. See....
Mmmm, coconut creme.... hehe

Then it was Gretchen's turn.
Pumpkin pie IS one of my favorites.... :D
And the fun doesn't stop there. Wanna guess who's next?

That's Catherine. She says she's hoping for a chocolate pie. I think chocolate pie sounds pretty good.

But, I have really been craving a Starbucks Salted Caramel coffee. So, for my pie I think I'm gonna try to find a recipe that will taste similar to that. Wish me luck!!

AND, go and donate $10 or more to see me get FacePied, or whatever you wanna call it. You'll also get a chance at an Ipad2, or a Nook, or a Kindle, or a couple other cool prizes. So, if I've ever ticked you off, got on your nerves, or made you wanna choke me - here's your chance. You can see me get pied, you don't even have to tell me that you helped make it happen, and you feel better about whatever it was I did. I know my kids wanna donate, and my mom, and.......

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

One Year Ago Today: Elizaveta Collette Lorenz

One of the only pics I have of her as a baby.
On this day last year we went to court and a Ukrainian judge officially made us the parents of Elizaveta K and changed her name to Elizaveta Collette Lorenz. We still had the 10 day wait to get through but as of 10/12/10 we were Elizaveta's parents. One of the best and most exciting days of my life. Pretty much the same feeling as when I gave birth to my boys.

Liza has a family
Going to court in Ukraine was one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the whole adoption process. I was so scared that we would stand in front of the judge and she would say, "No way! You can't possible think I'm going to let YOU parent this child." But, she didn't do that. Thank God and Yulia, our facilitator, who worked hard to get us to that point and helped us to stay calm for court.

Yulia and Liza. I'm so glad I took this picture of them.

The judge did have some reservations about Liza growing up with two teenage brothers. According to her, "All teenagers are mean." She wanted to know how we would keep her brothers from making fun of her or mistreating her and I tried to assure her that my boys were not that way, but she just didn't seem to believe it. I'm thinking she dealt with too many juvenile cases in her courtroom. I wish she could see Liza with her brothers now. She lights up when we pick them up from school. Loves to wrestle with them on the floor. "Sings" silly songs that Noah teaches her and  is the only one that can bring Austin out of a "teenage mood".

He's so mean. Can't you tell? lol
I think they like each other. Whaddaya think?
In the end I guess the judge decided having a family with teenage brothers was better than not having a family at all and granted us a little Promise and Victory. Elizaveta = God's Promise and Collette = Victory.

The greatest gift we brought home from Ukraine.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

One Year Ago Today: Meeting My Dream

The very first picture I took of her.
Can you see the fear in those eyes? Poor baby :(
Early morning on Tuesday October 5, 2010 we rolled into Krivoy Rog on the overnight train from Kiev. I didn't sleep that ENTIRE night on that darn train. I'm sure it was just because I knew the next day I was going to finally meet the little girl from my dream for the first time. I was once again excited/nervous all at the same time. I did write a post last year, but it was a few days late due to computer and internet issues and I did leave a few things out.

This year, after being her mom for a year, I'm not afraid to say what I was afraid to say last year.

When we first met Liza they had taken her from her groupa, put her hair up and dressed her in pink, and had her playing with toys she probably didn't get to play with that often. We walked into the room and I was just immediately in awe that she was actually there in front of me. I remember having my camera ready, walking in and saying "There she is!" and then totally forgetting to take pics or video for a bit. But, after just enjoying watching her for a few minutes I caught her interaction with her baby doll. It's so nice to have this to look back on now.

Not long after she fed her baby, and herself, I went over and tried to get her to let me play. She wasn't really having it but the Speech Therapist, who you see in the video with her, encouraged her to let me and gave me a plastic spoon (like the ones you use for picnics). Liza decided she liked my spoon better, which she still does by the way, took it from me and started "feeding herself" with it. Next thing we all knew she had taken a bite out of the spoon and the ST was frantically trying to get the piece out of her mouth. She ended up having to pick her up, take her out of the room, and bring her back once the piece of spoon had been removed from her mouth. It was kind of funny then and looking back now I'm still laughing, although I should've known from that encounter just how stubborn my girl was. Too bad I didn't get THAT on video!

In the room with the Speech Therapist, who she was familiar with, we were just a couple people who talked funny and she wasn't too worried about us. Once they let us go down to the visitation room with her it was obvious to us that she didn't care for us. In fact, I see now that she was scared of us. My poor Girl.
She was making what we called her "hissing sound".
It was like she was trying to scare us away.
The only way she would allow me to hold her at first
Poor girl :(
Obviously these pictures don't look like the ones that you hope to see on adoption blogs and that's probably why I never got around to sharing them. But, it's good to see that things don't always go picture perfect at first. For us, it took a little time for her to warm up, but she did and we knew that it might be that way because those who'd adopted before us weren't afraid to be honest about the hard things.

I remember after visiting with Liza for a while our facilitator, Yulia, coming in and asking us for our decision. We just looked at her cause we didn't know what she meant, and she said, "Do you want her? If you do I have to start the paperwork?" We just laughed and I said, "Yes! We want her!" I can honestly say that is one of the best decisions I've ever made.

After we visited with Liza that morning we left to get some lunch, do a little more paperwork, and do some grocery shopping for our stay in Krivoy Rog. We spent some time talking about how our morning went and I remember at one point Rick and I talked about Liza and how she met our expectations. I was honest and admitted that I was a little worried that she would never bond with us and I think I even mentioned the fear of institutional autism. I see now that she was scared to death of us and I was overwhelmed with all that we'd already gone through and was tired from not having slept the night before. Our evening visit was like a gift from God telling me not to worry. There was no night and day change, but things were better and maybe my perspective had changed a bit.

See for your self:
She let me play in her favorite toy with her. She didn't even
wanna let other kids in there, but she let me :)
She decided she kinda liked him too.
She's a fast learner and she let us know it by learning the sign for "crazy" and doing it on demand. Well, she needed to know what she was getting herself into, didn't she? LOL

Yep, I'm a little crazy. She's a little stubborn. We actually make a pretty good pair. I'm so glad that we stuck it out through all the stress and all the scares. She has been worth every moment. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

One Year Ago Today: We Saw WHO in Kiev?!


Credit: Naum Furman, News 4
After all the excitement of losing Liza, learning about Sasha, and then winning Liza back we had a few days to just hang out in Kiev. During that time we had to move out of the first apartment we were in to an area of the city a little closer to Kreschatik Street. At one point we got stuck in a traffic jam and our driver, Yuri, said that it was because former US President, Bill Clinton, was giving a speech on AIDS/HIV prevention at a rally being held on Kreschatik. We thought that was pretty neat but that was about it.... at the time.

The next morning, knowing it was our last day in Kiev until we came back with Liza, we went out to walk around a bit more. We found a nice Coffee House, I think it was one actually called "Coffee House", and went in to sit and have - what else? Coffee!!

We sat at a table by a window, ordered our coffee, and talked about what else we wanted to see before we left for Krivoy Rog that night. I stopped after a bit and looked out the window and saw this pretty large entourage of people heading our way at the corner across from my window. In the middle of this entourage was a tall gentleman with a handsome head of grey hair. My eyes grew big and I said, "Is that President Clinton heading this way?!" Rick looked and said something like "no way." then "Yeah, I think it is..." and then he said, "Wouldn't it be something if he came in here to get coffee?"

And then that's exactly what happened! I remember Rick and I just looking at each other in disbelief. I mean, really! We LIVE an hour from DC and go there all the time and have never run into any famous Government folks or famous folks period. Then we fly half-way round the World and end up sitting at a table less than 10 feet from a former President and the husband of our current Secretary of State. Crazy, right?

Of course, we have NO proof of this because that was the ONE time I forgot to bring the camera and we were too nervous to actually go up to him and try and talk to him. Besides that one of his security folks came and stood right behind me! Talk about feeling nervous! I was like, "I'm probably the smallest, quietest person in this place but apparently this guy thinks I'm the biggest threat?!" There was no way I was making any moves to even try to approach Mr. President with Big Scary Security Guy at my back. Of course, he could've just chosen the spot behind my chair because it was in front of a pretty large window. Eh, who knows?

In hind sight I wish that I had plucked up the courage to go and try to speak with him. He seemed very friendly and approachable, quite a few young Ukrainians did go and speak with him. I wonder if we might have mentioned that we were there adopting, and that we had chosen to adopt a child with special needs. Maybe even mentioned Reece's Rainbow. Maybe a door might have even been opened to talk about the adoption of children with HIV and Project Hopeful, especially since President Clinton was in Kiev specifically to talk about HIV/AIDS.

Despite the fact that Rick and I both chickened out on our chance to talk to President Clinton I still think it was one of the coolest things to happen on our trip. Who knows? Maybe on one of our trips to DC we'll run into him again.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sasha's Story

Almost exactly like the SDA photo.

Sweet, sweet Sasha. I am so glad that our lives got intertwined with hers. Even though I never met her and I was afraid I wouldn't love her like I loved Liza, somehow I developed a fondness for her after all. I remember asking Andrea if there was anyway that she could be added to Reece's Rainbow when we knew we would be going to KR for Liza. I felt responsible for her once I knew she was there and I was "leaving her behind".

After we came home I would find her picture on the Ukraine photolisting website and pray that a family would come for her. Eventually life took over and I never did know what became of her being added to Reece's Rainbow. Then one day we went to help another family in our area with a fundraiser and found out they were going to the region that Sasha was in. I asked her about any other children available in that region and she said that she didn't know of any that fir Sasha's age. When I got home later that day I checked the Ukraine site again and there she was. So, I emailed Andrea and asked her about Sasha and this is what she said:

"This little Sasha is our Josephine, she is being adopted by the Cutler family." 
Wow! What a difference :)
I was so happy to hear that news!!! Sasha has a family and will be going home to Texas just as soon as her Mama and Daddy can get to her. I can't wait to see photos of her with her family. Growing and changing even more. Learning what it means to be a sister, a daughter, and a cherished treasure. I am so glad Sasha's story didn't end that day we won Liza back, even though it looked like we had left Sasha behind. She was only waiting for the family that was really meant to be hers. The Cutler Family.

One Year Ago Today: Winning Liza

September 30,2010
(read the previous post first)
On the morning of September 30, 2010 Rick and I prepared to go to our SDA appointment. We had thought we would be going to get the referral of a little girl we had known as Liza K for almost 20 months. But the day before we had been told that she was unadoptable and there was almost no way that her status would be changed in order for us to adopt her in 2010. Sometime that morning, or maybe even the night before, we had decided that if we really had to give up on Liza we would come back for her as soon as she could be made adoptable by the courts. Serge had told us that a judge could do that but it would take about 6 months. I knew how to put together a dossier and get through immigration by this time and I figured the next time things would go a LOT faster!

When we got to the SDA office we prepared to go in - trying the whole time to keep a positive outlook. Eventually it was our turn and Serge went in with us. It was obvious that he was well liked and well known by the ladies in the office and that made us feel a little better. We didn't understand what was being said at first but the next thing I knew they had a folder out with our name on it and there were the CSPs I had sent months before. Then there was a picture of a little girl taken out of that folder and laid aside. It was "my" baby girl's paperwork being laid aside because of a paperwork error. It broke my heart and that's when I started to cry. We were told again that because of the paperwork issue Liza was not adoptable and we would need to choose another child, then Serge said something to the SDA lady and she brought out 3 more folders. Inside these were the little girls that fit our parameters. I only remember two of them and only because one was almost our daughter and the other was being mourned just a week later when news came that she had passed away. Her name was Anne-Marie.

I remember Serge kind of "helping" us to choose. He told us that one of the children had more needs than the others. Then when Rick showed interest in the little girl with the rosy cheeks and long hair Serge mentioned that she was in a region that he hadn't worked in before. One that they would like to get into because it would mean opportunities for more children to be known about and better chances for them to be adopted. We eventually chose the little one with the long hair and rosy cheeks. Serge told us that her name was Alexandra but she was called Sasha. Rick seemed to already be smitten, but I wasn't sure. I didn't think that I could love this little girl the way she deserved because my heart was so disappointed over the little girl I had loved for nearly two years. Serge had told us sometime during this whole procedure that we would have until about 5 or 6 THAT day only, for Liza's parents to be found and the paperwork to be fixed. Then we could get Liza's referral when we came back to pick up official referrals. Ok, whatever you say, but if it means there's still a chance for me to meet my dream face to face then okey doke!

We left the SDA trying to grow accustomed to the thought of traveling to a region we hadn't even heard of before that morning and, myself, trying to believe that I could give up my hopes for Liza to come home with us and fall in love with Sasha. I spent most of the day continuing to pray that Liza's parents would both be found in Krivoy Rog and making plans to return to Ukraine and adopt Liza in about 6 months if need be. I remember at lunch that day, where we were served pizza with peppers on it after asking for "pepperoni pizza", talking with the missionaries in KR who loved Liza and knew her personally and telling them that if we didn't get good news that day about Liza's parents we were planning to come back and adopt her in six months after bringing Sasha home. We would just have two little girls with Down syndrome to love!

Later that day after getting down again thinking about leaving Liza in Ukraine, even if it was only for another six months or however long it took to get her adoptable, I had the sudden thought that I should call Yulia. I knew that she was the facilitator who worked in Krivoy Rog for Serge's team almost exclusively and her number was already in our phone that the team had given us the day we had arrived. Hmmmm? Why hadn't I already thought of that?! So, I called Yulia and told her who I was and who we had come to adopt. She knew exactly what child I meant because Liza was one of her favorites from that orphanage and it had broken her heart to find out that she wasn' going to be able to be adopted. She had been busting her butt already looking for L's parents and was about to give up because, well, her boss told her we had chosen another child. Yep, Serge told her that we were giving up because we had chosen another child to adopt. Not that we wanted all options to be exhausted and then we were moving on, that we had given up. This did not make me happy.....

I still praise God to this day that I had that sudden urge to call Yulia. A woman I had never met and never spoken to. Never even exchanged so much as an email. Calling her wasn't an immediate end to our dilemma but it did set things back in motion. As soon as I told Yulia that we were not giving up until we had to she dove right back into the search and told me that she had already located Liza's dad and thought she might have a chance at funding mom too because as dad put it when told that mom had moved to Moscow, "That's sh**, she's right here in Krivoy Rog!"

I remember both of us crying at one point and Yulia saying that she was so glad that we weren't giving up. I also remember telling her that if it came to it we wanted to come back for Liza as soon as she WAS available for adoption. I remember her telling me that she would do everything she could for the next few hours that she had left in that day and would call me to let me know either way. I remember hanging up the phone with a renewed sense of hope that things would be alright. But, yet there was that picture of Sasha in the back of my mind. Because now, winning Liza meant Sasha losing her chance. 

Later that evening, a while after the time that I thought Yulia would call, she did. She called. I think you all know what her news was, right? She had found Liza's parents, they had signed all new paperwork that would allow Liza to be adopted, and everything was going to be ok after all. Except that now my heart knows of a little girl named Sasha in a region that Reece's Rainbow doesn't even work in who may never get another chance. 

Sasha's story isn't over yet, though. It's coming next.....