Embassy Day Two

Jackson is starting to get into a routine with us and today was no exception.  Little does he know we are about to rock his little world in two days and throw him into a totally different time zone!  We woke up this morning and played.  Jackson is struggling with seeing Scott and I as the authority figures in his life.  I think he still thinks he might be taken back to the orphanage at any time and that the nurses are still in charge.  He just sees us as his playmates.  An example of this was at breakfast when he grabbed a spoon and banged it on the table.  I told him nyet (no).  Then he grabbed it with the other hand, and I told him nyet.  Then he stared at it for a while and very softly touched it with his pointer finger!  He’s testing us!

After all of the testing and because of our afternoon plans, it was determined that Jackson would take his afternoon nap a little bit early.  When he woke up, we ate lunch and took a taxi back to the US Embassy for Part II of our appointment.  We went in and signed the paperwork that we filled out yesterday and then swore that we had filled out the paperwork to the best of our ability.  Then we waited for them to print Jackson’s visa on his passport.

The US Embassy in Kiev is awesome, and they have a waiting room with toys.  We waited in there for about an hour.  Everyone at the Embassy was so friendly and at one point a guy came out to see how we were doing.  He shook our hands, and Jackson imitated us and shook the man’s hand, and he said that Jackson was very well behaved.  Of course we liked hearing that, haha!  We got the visa and we are finally able to leave the country, woohoo!  Can’t wait for the flight on Thursday!

We got back to the apartment and the testing continued with Scott.   We have observed that when we are out in public, Jackson is very well behaved and does not want to leave our laps, even when there are other children playing around him.  We think that he is being possessive and wants everyone to know that he is with us and that we are already taken as parents.  Add that into the fact that everything he is seeing is new.  When he is in our apartment he feels comfortable and is trying to figure out his boundaries.  Oh, the journey of adoption!

Dinnertime was interesting.  Someone told us about a cafeteria style restaurant across the street from our apartment.  We really like the one that we went to when we first arrived in Kiev a month ago, and it was easy to get over the language barrier because we just pointed at the food we wanted.  However, when we walked into the restaurant, it was clearly not what we thought it was, and it was not going to work for us to eat at a sit down restaurant with Jackson, so we left.  Then we had no idea where to eat.  We looked at a couple of restaurants and ruled them out for various reasons.

We soon found ourselves at the deli part of the supermarket.  The culture of Ukrainians is very cold and people keep to themselves and don’t smile.  This carries over into lines at stores.  We waited for a while to get our chicken and rice and people kept coming in front of us and shouting out their orders.  Finally this guy stepped in front of Scott and shouted his order, and then said something to Scott.  Scott just shrugged his shoulders and said “English”.  Then the guy responded in broken english and asked what we wanted.  Then he proceeded to tell the employee in Russian what we wanted and we got our dinner.  It was the strangest act of kindness from a stranger in a country where people just don’t do that type of thing.  It made us feel really good.

That pretty much sums up our day!  I’ve been trying to go over in mind what we need to get done tomorrow, since it is our last day in Ukraine.  Niko is going to pick us up for the airport at 3:30 am Thursday morning.  Can’t wait to get home!

Embassy Day One

Today Jackson woke up before the sun did, so we had to enforce the “no getting out of bed until the sun is up” rule again.  We put him in our bed and he proceeded to poke Scott’s face for the next hour until our alarm went off.  Haha!  It cracks me up thinking about it.

We had our embassy appointment at 10 am.  It was interesting going to an American embassy in a foreign country!  There is a huge iron gate around the building and a security building that you have to walk through before you go into the actual embassy building.  When we arrived there were about 40 people waiting in line outside, but Niko told us just to tell the security guard that we had an appointment for adoption.  As soon as we said these words, we were whisked away in front of everyone and taken exactly to the window we needed to go to.

At the window, an English speaking man helped us fill out the stack of paperwork that we needed in order to bring Jackson into the United States.  Jackson was just hanging out in the baby backpack on me while I filled out the paperwork and he was very quiet and calm.  However, at one point he reached out and ripped one of the papers… oops!  Scott took him to this waiting room that had toys and I finished the paperwork.  It took about 30 minutes and we were done!  We had to pay for Jackson’s visa and come back tomorrow at 2:00 pm for an interview.  Then we’ll be done!

After the embassy appointment, Niko took us to the Immigrant Doctor’s office for Jackson’s medical exam, which is required for him to enter the United States.  He did very well at the appointment and did everything that the doctor told him to do in Russian.  The doctor was so nice and calm with Jackson and us.  We also received Jackson’s immunization record, which he is up to date on.  It’s awesome that the orphanage kept him up to date on the shots and didn’t let any of them slip away.

After Jackson’s nap, we ventured out into the city again.  We finally went to the mall across the street.  There are lots of fun shops!  Then we walked to an Italian restaurant that we found.  When we went in and told the waitress that we spoke English, she was able to say a few words to us, but then she brought us English menus!  It was so crazy to be able to sit and read a menu!  We are so used to just pointing at a picture, or randomly picking something on the menu, even though we couldn’t read it.  We had an awesome BBQ pizza and focaccia bread.  Jackson was good during the meal, but he got restless towards the end.  We left a large tip (to make up for all the crumbs on the table and floor) and headed to the grocery for some essentials.

It was a good Monday.  Here are some pictures from Jackson playing on the playground by our house, sleeping, and a picture of our little Cookie Monster!

Lions and tigers and alligators… Jackson goes to the circus!

Today was a fun day with our son!  We learned the hard way that Jackson is no longer scared when he wakes up in the morning and he feels comfortable getting out of his suitcase and exploring the apartment by himself!  Oh my, haha!  We also had to institute the rule that if the sun isn’t up, then neither is Jackson!  Jackson ate more than I did for breakfast.  He’s a growing boy!

We were having trouble getting Jackson to go #2.  He hadn’t gone since sometime before we got him on Friday.  We have him in a diaper all the time, but he’s never dirtied one.  He’s really good at holding it!  We tried a variety of food and tried sitting him on the potty (on which he’ll go #1), but he would just cry and cry and cry.  I think its because he hasn’t used a toilet before and Scott and I are in his face trying to hold him up so that he doesn’t completely fall in.  Just not the best pooping environment.  Finally this afternoon we just sat with him in the bathroom and waited it out with him.  He cried for a while and tried to distract himself with other things in the bathroom, but after a while he gave up.  He took a look at the thing we were trying to get him to go in and then looked back at me and sat down and did his business!  We were so proud of him!

After that, it was about 4:45.  There’s a circus literally across the street from our apartment, but we didn’t know what time it started.  We heard 5 pm, possibly, but we couldn’t verify. on the internet or anything.  We ventured outside to see lots of cars parked all around the building, so we went inside to the ticket window.  It’s really funny that we end up in the places that we do because we have no idea what is being spoken around and to us because of the language barrier.  Somehow we bought tickets and somehow we figured out where our seats were.  We were in the third row!  And it was a sell out crowd, so I’m not even sure how we ended up getting tickets.

Jackson did so well at the circus.  I’m not sure if he really understood what was going on since everything is so new to him.  He just kind of stared at the center of the circle and laughed when everyone else laughed.  Sometimes he would point at things going on and he definitely got his groove on with the music that they played.  We usually put him in the baby backpack whenever we go out.  He likes to face forward in the front and hang there.  I kept in on when we sat down and he never wanted to get out of it.  It was a lifesaver for keeping him in my lap for the entire 3 hour show!

Oh, also, we must have really over simulated him today because he put up no fight to go to bed.  The past couple of nap times and night times he would cry and cry, but tonight he went into the bedroom and laid down in his suitcase with his blanket and book.  Scott was walking out of the room and Jackson blew him a kiss and waved bye!  What a little cutie!

Tomorrow morning at 10 A.M. we are off to the U.S. Embassy. It’s pretty routine we think, so we’re not too worried about it. Off to bed for the night.

‘Twas the Night Before..

Tomorrow is the big day!  Scott and I officially become parents and we take Jackson out of the orphanage for good.  We are so excited, but it seems bittersweet at the same time.  He has been in this place for two years and the nurses have cared for him for two years.  We have a cake and balloons and juice to celebrate his going away with the other kids and nurses.  We also have to remember to pack the little gifts that I made for the nurses, and also a change of clothes for him.  They need to keep the clothes that they have at the orphanage for the other children.  No more blue painter bear shirt for Jackson!

We are off to bed.  I’m sure we’ll need the rest for tomorrow! Also, we booked our flights for next Thursday! We will be arriving in Columbus at 7 PM on the 18th if all goes as planned! We are extending an open invitation to anyone available to meet us at the airport to meet our son and newest American citizen!

An orphan no more! Official Adoption Day.

Well, this day went NOTHING like I imagined it would!  Tatyana said that she would pick us up this morning at 9:15 to sign some papers.  I had no idea that we were going to sign ALL the paperwork today to make Jackson ours!  It was a full day and we didn’t get back to the apartment until dinnertime.  Here’s how the day went down in photos:

This is the courthouse.  Tatyana ran inside and picked up our packet of paperwork from the court.


Next we needed to get the court papers notarized and we went to three different notaries before we found one open.

This is the building that we got Jackson’s new birth certificate at.  The new certificate lists Scott and I as the parents.  What’s interesting is that it says Scott and Lindsey Howell, although that wasn’t really my name on July 28, 2008… oh well!


Then we went to this building to get the birth certificate legalized for the US Embassy.


Then we drove to this building to sign a paper saying we wanted to expedite Jackson’s passport.


Then we stopped at this building for lunch. 🙂


After lunch we went on a joyride.  When I say joyride, I mean that the driver literally drove on the sidewalks of a park to get to where we were going.  I’m not talking about a small park, we drove for about 3 minutes through this park while people scurried out of the way.  Tatyana’s comment was “We have no time to drive by road”.

Then we went to this building to apply for Jackson’s tax identification number.  This is like the Ukrainian version of America’s social security number.  There were a lot of people in this little office filling out forms.  The lady asked to see one of our passports, so I gave mine to Tatyana.  I saw her slip a bill into the passport and she kind of smirked and went along.  Interestingly we got out of that office before the other people waiting before us.  Hmmm…


Next we drove to this office, which is the citizenship office.  We just waited in the car for a long time.


Then we went to our favorite spot in Kharkiv- the orphanage!  We needed to pick up Jackson so that he could get his photo for the passport.  We were very weary about how the car ride would go and if he would get motion sickness.  They brought him out and a nurse actually got in the car with us.  So, imagine there’s three adults and a baby riding in the back of this car.  It was kind of ironic since we went through all of the training and safety inspections back in the States, only to have a kid sitting on our laps!

Jackson really enjoyed the car ride!  He looked really stunned when the car started driving and we pulled away from the orphanage.  So many new things!  We pointed at all the trees and machinas (cars).IMG_1237

We went back to the citizenship office and waited in the car for Tatyana… for a long time.  It’s kinda hard to keep a toddler entertained while being cramped in the back of a car with three adults.  And it was about 90 degrees in the car and we all had our winter jackets on.

The last place we went was the passport office.  It looked like a regular government building on the inside with wooden floors and a big chandelier. Jackson waited patiently for about 20 minutes.  The nurse was there with us and she had crackers for him and also let him play with her keys.  We were finally called into the back and he sat on a stool and they took his picture.  It was good on the first try!  Good job Jackson!

We took Jackson back to the orphanage and he did the funniest thing in the car.  The sun had set when we were in the passport office, so it was dark on the way home.  He sat in the middle on Scott’s lap and as soon as the car started, he yelled “Maaaaaaaaama!”  We all snickered!  We took him back to the orphanage and our day was over!

So now we can officially announce that Jackson is ours!  We are so happy to officially be parents and can’t wait to take him out of the orphanage on Friday!

Seeing Jackson’s Room

Tomorrow is the official day that we get custody of Jackson, but we won’t be able to take him out of the orphanage until Friday, which we just learned, because something about the need of the main doctor of the orphanage being present before we take him out. Another two days of waiting which is so hard, but at the moment our Embassy appointment back in Kiev is still tentatively scheduled for Monday or Tuesday of next week. We are anxious as ever to break Jackson out, but we are excited things are wrapping up!

Here’s a quick language barrier story for you:  When going to the grocery store, Scott and I try to not stand out as best as we can, but its not always possible.  The biggest trick is getting through the check out.  Today I was bound and determined to get out of the store without having to explain to anyone in the form of charades that I don’t speak Russian.  So, we go to the checkout and the lady asks a question, like she always does.  I always say “Nyet” (no) because I assume she is saying, “Do you have your Kroger plus card?”  Usually after this the cashiers don’t say anything and continue checking out our items and then I glance at the cash register to see how much money to give them.  Today though, the lady kept asking question after question.  I kept saying “Nyet” and finally after a few minutes, I gave in and shook my shoulders and said “English”.  She started smiling and laughed (very unusual for the culture here!) and we left the store.  Scott and I keep laughing about what she was could have been asking me and how she reacted when I answered each question with “Nyet”.  🙂

Today we got a glimpse of Jackson’s room that he spends each day in.  It is about half of the size of the music room that we play in.  It is up the concrete stairs and down a few dark corridors.  The front part of the room contained lockers for each child and a small little bench for the kids to sit on to put on their shoes.  Inside the main part of the room were a few toys, a slide with stuff stacked on top of it, a climbing ladder on the wall, a little TV in the corner with cartoons on it, and two little square tables in the middle of the room with chairs.  There was a kitchen to one side and a bathroom to the other side.  I believe that the cribs were off in another doorway.  It’s hard to believe that this is where he has spent his life!

All of the kids in Jackson’s groupa were having their potty time when we walked in.  Each child has a bucket and they sit on it until they go.  It was cute to see these itty bitty kids pulling down their pants and sitting on their designated bucket.  I wonder how the nurses trained them so well!  When we walked in a was a little chaotic and at one point I saw one child grab the empty bucket next to him and put it on his head- yuck!  Also, I don’t know how well the kids do at aiming and not spilling the bucket- which would explain why some days Jackson’s clothes have a distinct smell of urine on them.

After that, our visit with Jackson was normal.  He cracked us up while playing Ring Around the Rosy because he kept falling the exact same way that Scott would fall.  He was saying “down” consistently and at the end of our visit we grabbed some stuffed animals and played Ring Around the Rosy with them and Jackson said “All fall down”!  We hadn’t heard him repeat that long of a phrase before!  He was also full of kisses for us and for the stuffed animals, and always made sound effects with each kiss!

We’ll try to get a video up tomorrow, it’s upside down so Scott needs to figure out how to fix it. That’s it for now. We’re off early tomorrow to get paperwork final and secure our custody as the new parents of Jackson Scott!

Reflections on Orphan Sunday, from adoptive parents

Today is Orphan Sunday and Scott and I wanted to take some time to explain what this means to us.  Scott and I felt like we were called to adopt our first child in July 2009, based on the Bible verse James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Here is a video we found and some statistics below it:

Orphan Sunday from Greg Buzek on Vimeo.

By population, orphans would be the 8th largest country in the world:
1. China – 1,321,851,888
2. India – 1,129,866,154
3. USA – 301,139,947
4. Indonesia – 234,693,997
5. Brazil – 190,010,647
6. Pakistan – 169,270,617
7. Bangladesh – 150,448,339
8. ORPHANS – 145,000,000
9. Russia – 141,377,752

Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms.  But once you do, everything changes.  (David Platt)

We are not experts in adoption, nor do we have all the answers, but we can only speak as to what we’ve seen and experienced with Jackson as an orphan:

  • Jackson has gone a long time without crying because when he was a baby and would cry, nobody fulfilled his needs.  He still has not shed a tear with us yet.
  • Jackson loves to be rocked and we can only imagine how many nights he had to rock himself to sleep.
  • Jackson has never met a “stranger”.  Everyone who he has ever come in contact with has been to the orphanage specifically for him- nurses to take care of him, doctors for check-ups, Tatyana and Serge advocating for his adoption, and visitors coming to play with him.
  • Jackson has only been in a car once- the time they transferred him from the hospital to the orphanage.
  • Jackson has never stepped foot outside of the orphanage gates.  Sometimes when we play, he’ll run up to them and just peer beyond the iron gates.
  • Jackson has never had two consistent people, like parents, take care of him.  He is used to nurses being on a schedule, changing every eight hours, and having the weekends off.
  • Jackson has never had anything of his own.  He shares the toys and even his clothes with the other kids.
  • Had Jackson stayed in the orphanage and graduated out of the system, there is a 10% chance he would have committed suicide within the first year.  If he did survive, he likely would have joined a gang or become a criminal.

This is just a small example of the lifestyle of an orphan.  Each child’s journey is different and things are improving in some of the countries.  However, there are still 145,000,000 million orphans throughout the world.  I don’t mean to get on a soapbox about adoption, but I do want to bluntly say that if you profess to be a Christian, then you need to be doing something about the orphans and the fatherless in the world.  Whether it is through adoption, supporting a family who is/has adopted, being a foster parent, or mentoring kids in your community, you need to be doing something.

The statistic of 145,000,000 orphans might sound staggering.  It is difficult to imagine a number that big. It might make you wonder if one person really can make a difference, but I’ll leave you with my favorite adoption quote:

Adopting a child won’t change the world, but for that child, the world will change.

For more information on Orphan Sunday, please visit: www.orphansunday.org

Day 27: Scott Gets Head-butted!

Most of our visits seem to blend into one another since we are all wearing the same clothes and playing with the same toys.  But, I guess Jackson wanted to make this one memorable for Scott!  After playing outside and eating grapes inside, Scott was playing with Jackson on the floor and lifting him up in the air to be an airplane.  Scott brought Jackson down and for some reason, he head-butted Scott!  Hard!  I saw it all in slow motion and Scott starting bleeding from the mouth.  My first thought was that we were going to have to go get stitches and use our traveler’s medical insurance that we bought!

Scott jumped up and grabbed the first aid kit from our backpack and started cleaning up the mess, but luckily it turned out he just had a small cut on his lip that is healing fine.  I grabbed Jackson and sat with him on the corner of the carpet away from the toys.  We wanted to instill in him that what he did was wrong and that there would be consequences.  We sat on the edge of the carpet for about 20 minutes in “time-out” with no toys.

Jackson sleepingAfter a while, Jackson got restless and started getting cuddly.  He started rocking himself back and forth.  I think this is his way of self soothing.  Kids in orphanages aren’t allowed to have personal items like a blanket, stuffed animal, or pacifier, so they will find other ways to sooth themselves like sucking their fingers or rocking.  So, I let him rock in my arms for a few minutes.  Then I look down and Jackson is snoring in my arms!  It was cute to see him sleeping.  Also made me wonder if he’s ever been rocked to sleep, or just always set down in a crib and fallen asleep on his own!

So, that was our exciting visit.  Scott said that it was bittersweet because we finally got to see our son fall asleep, but it took a head-butt to get there!

A breakthrough in our marriage :)

When I was growing up, eating leftovers was a common occurrence.  No need to fix a new meal if there was still some left from the night before.  Right?  Well, after Scott and I got married, I realized that not everyone had this same outlook as I did.  Whenever leftover night would come up in our house, Scott would just kind of mumble.

Tonight here in Kharkiv, it was dreaded leftover night.  But, something amazing happened- not only did Scott happily eat the leftover chicken, he even finished the portion on my plate that I couldn’t!  This has NEVER happened before!  Maybe my cooking is improving here in Ukraine??  Or is he just getting tired of the limited cuisine and my special treat of mixing chicken breast, rice, and soup in a cup seasoning really enticed his taste buds!

Well, really, that’s all the news that we have for today- we are pretty boring people!  Jackson was his normal self today during our visit.  We were practicing saying “Please” when he was eating grapes, but then he regressed into whining for another one.  We took them away and he got really mad at us!  But overall, another nice visit. Just five more to go!

Mama’s boy!

Jackson must have known that I was getting jealous of all the attention that he shows his Papa!  Today he was definitely a Mama’s boy.  We visited him in the morning and he was wearing the clothes that we had given him last night, complete with last night’s baby food stain.  No painter bear shirt!  I got a few other shirts that I might take later this week for him.

Jackson is starting to expect a snack from us, especially the jar of baby food.  So, that’s how he started out today.  I also found a pail with a lid, so I stuck some small toys in it and took it to the orphanage today.  He latched onto it!  He loves new things and does not like to put them down!

Towards the end of our visit, Scott got out his iPod.  The two of them were looking at videos, and one came on of Jackson and I.  He looked intently on it and then pointed at it and said “Mama!”  Yay!  After a while Jackson decided that he needed to hold the iPod, so Scott carefully let him do it.  And- I kid you not- that kid opened up his pants pocket and put the iPod in it!  It cracked us up!

After he was done with the videos and pictures, he got really cuddly.  He hasn’t had much physical touch during his life in the orphanage, and I think he is enjoying cuddling with us.  Usually I’ll rock him like a baby and Scott and I will sing kids songs to him.  Today he came up to me and laid on my shoulder and we rocked for a long time.  Scott said Jackson’s eyes were getting heavier and heavier.  All of a sudden he jumped up and made a bee line for the door.  We soon learned why, it was because he heard the nurse in the hallway mention lunch.  So, he was a Mama’s boy for a little while, but still all boy at heart who jumps at the opportunity to eat!

Mama's Boy