Sunday, January 15, 2012

I know a little peanut who loves...candy.

Our little Antoshka,
What a great visit with you today, really not unlike all the others. You greeted us with one of your ultra fantastic grins when you came into the visitation room this morning. You are really showing that you indeed know who we are and maybe, you might even like us a little bit.

Daddy and I brought you a piece of candy to try today. It was soft and gooey and rich and sugary and melt in your mouth- everything a kiddo could want in a piece of candy, I think. You were playing intently with Scout when you heard me undoing the wrapper. Your sweet brown eyes grew large with excitement and anticipation. Your face lit up the room- such a dazzling smile you have! You happily tossed Scout aside and while never taking your eyes off of my hands, you began to reach for them.

Your sweet little face filled with wonder as you watched me take a tiny bite off the end of the candy. That of which I bit in half one more time. We really didn't want to take any chances that I was going to have to give you the heimlich during our visit. (FYI- please make a mental note, AJ- Mommy and Daddy would prefer to NEVER have to do such a maneuver on your peanut body- ever. Thanks.)
You were like a baby bird in waiting. You knew full well the candy was for you. You opened your mouth and sat patiently waiting for that piece to hurry its way in.

The first little taste on your tongue and you...well, really no other way to explain it. You. Went. Nuts. Oh AJ, you squealed and squealed with such a delight and excitement. Surely your little cheeks had to be sore from all the smiling. You laughed and laughed and opened your mouth wide when you were ready for more. Daddy and I had to attempt to keep you from laughing so hard, afraid you would just choke on your own saliva. You did not care. Not in the least bit. You had a little piece of yumminess that was all yours and you had zero reservations about letting everyone know. It was, completely wonderful. If I didn't give you more fast enough, you were reaching for my hands. I thought you maybe wanted to feed yourself and let you have the gooey treat, but as soon as you realized I had let go, so did you. That was fine, we're more than happy to give you another bite and another and another.

I got the camera out to take a video of how incredibly awesome this candy eating experience was for all 3 of us, but of course, in true AJ fashion- the camera came out and you subdued your feelings a tad. We still got a few seconds of your beautiful smile and infectious laugh. Unfortunately, the last time I let you take the candy out of my hand in hopes you would try to feed yourself- it dropped....on the dirty carpet. Sorry kiddo, 5 second rule doesn't apply here, on this carpet. Ick. So, we said, "All done!" and washed you up. You knew I had it in my hand and I felt a bit heartbroken for you because I know you saw me throw what was left away. We will bring you another piece tomorrow my darling Antoshka. Trust us when we say, there will be MANY MANY MANY more days of treats to come.

On Sundays, during our visit- there is a Mama and Papa who come and spend time with a little boy named Danyl, their son. We aren't able to speak very much other than hello and goodbye due to our huge language barrier, but no words needed to be spoken to know how much this sweet little boy is loved by his parents. They come and bathe him, change him, play with him, feed him, give him his medicines, etc. Since you are so very much in love with your Scout and could really care less about the Paddington Bear we brought, we decided to give it to Danyl today. I walked over to them as Danyl was nestled in his Papa's arms and tucked Paddington under his little hands. Danyl's parents smiled at us and said thank you. It's clear that Danyl is very delayed. By his eye movements, I wonder if he may have some sort of cortical vision impairment. His body language told me he had CP, but it could be something else affecting his movements. Danyl's mother left the room and came back shortly after with a woman who spoke English. The woman introduced herself and said that Danyl's parents wanted to speak with us. They had figured out already that we were Americans and adopting you. They told us that Danyl was 5 1/2 years old and they wanted to know how to get him adopted. My heart ached for them to have to say those words, let alone be reaching out to complete strangers for help. They told us that Danyl's care, medicines, and supplies were very expensive and time was running out because he would be sent to the mental institution soon. They simply did not have the means to take care of Danyl at home and did not want to see their sweetheart be sentenced to hell on earth because of his age. We immediately got on the phone to Yulia and asked her to speak with their friend.
Rules rules rules. We knew what they were. We knew what would be said. We knew his special needs would not matter because of his age, but Ukrainian law dictates that Danyl would need to be on the adoption registry for one year- allowing Ukrainian families first chance to adopt or foster him. Then and only then, (along with Danyl's parents signing the necessary documents to terminate all parental rights to the boy they so desperately loved) would he be available for international adoption.
We cannot fathom being in that place. Knowing in your mind and in your heart that it would be far better to take the chance of never seeing your child again, out of pure love. We cannot fathom living in a place where families have no choice but to be torn apart because the system and the society do not deem your child to be worthy of life.
Danyl's parents did not seem upset over the details of what Yulia brought to them on how the system works. Which to us only says, they KNOW this is the only way their good and perfect gift can have any kind of chance, any at all. In Ukraine, there are no chances.

So today, Chris, AJ, and I reach out to anyone reading this. We ask you to humbly go to the feet of Jesus and pray for sweet Danyl and his parents. Pray for grace to be over Danyl's parents. Pray for mercy for Danyl's beautiful little life. This little boy is literally living on borrowed time. If Chris and I could take him with us along with AJ, we would. Unfortunately there are many many bureaucratic mountains that must be scaled first. So, we do what only we know we can. We do with it what we do with all things big and small- we let it go and leave it with our Papa. Please keep this family on your hearts and pray for them. Thank you.

And for now sweet Antoshka, we will be seeing you tomorrow.
To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy

Saturday, January 14, 2012

One Less Orphan in the World Today (January 13, 2012)

Dearest AJ or as I have learned the sweetest name for you, Antoshka, (my darling Antoshka)

Happy Court Hearing Day my Love! It was a chilly rainy morning. Daddy and I walked to the subway station to meet Yulia who would take us to pick up the social worker from the Child Services office and then on to the courthouse.

Now, normally, our walk to the subway station is no biggie. We do it everyday. It's 15ish sneakers. Today, in the rain, I was wearing 4 inch heels. My nice tall black pointy toed boots, I reserve for "getting dressed up" for date nights with Daddy...and apparently court hearings. How hard can this be anyway? Ukrainian women wear boots like these everyday and walk much further I'm sure....navigating themselves with ease over 1000 year old brick and cobblestone paths as well as the cracked all to hell and severely uneven and potholed asphalt. I could do it too. The real question was not whether or not I could accomplish this feat but rather, could I accomplish this feat without tripping, falling down, rolling an ankle(s), breaking an ankle(s), etc, etc...
This morning I had curled my hair, makeup on, jewelry in place, ready to go....donned my ultra ugly Columbia parka and out the door we went. At that very moment I had wished I owned one of the many very beautiful fur coats I saw on every other woman that I passed on the street, or at least a pretty, long, streamlined coat with the big fluffy fur collar, instead of covering my court outfit with Iowa ski attire.  Ah well, I held my head high and tried to exude an air of confidence. In all reality and honesty, I'm quite sure I embodied the human form of a hippo on stilts in a Columbia parka. Better luck next time, Putz. (Oh, by the way- the walk to the subway took 20ish minutes and I made it, ankles and pride intact.)

Yulia called us to let us know that traffic was a mess and she was not going to make it on time to pick us up at 8:50AM. We decided we would just sit in the McDonald's and wait for her to call. Yulia made it to us at 9:15AM and we were on our way. She assured us that the judge is never on time and would most likely not be there when we got there, so it would be ok if we were late. (Daddy and I were still a bit nervous about that- but before we left that morning, we prayed and said no matter what- we KNOW this day is ENTIRELY in the hands of Jesus. So be it, whatever happens, we will rejoice in the Lord.)

Tatiana, the orphanage director/attorney from your orphanage met us at the court house. We made it inside at 10:03AM. So, we were late. Our hearing was scheduled for 10AM. Yulia spoke with a few people and let us know that the judge was not even in the building yet, so we were fine. Whew! Fine with us.

Daddy and I were ushered into an empty courtroom. It was 10:15AM. The room was old. Peeling layers of paint decorated the walls. The symbol for the country of Ukraine was stenciled and painted above the judge's seat on the wall we faced.  Bare lightbulbs, dull lightbulbs, hung from the ceiling, some sockets were missing their companions. Grime streaked all of the windows. The linoleum was bubbling up from the floor and appeared as though it had not been scrubbed in years. We sat on the covered plywood benches and waited for instructions. It was silent. I could hear the tick- tocking of my watch and I became somewhat hypnotized by an older man standing in an open window in the building across from where we waited. I could see him clearly through many seasons of dirt left on the window. He looked tired. The lines on his face and the salt in his pepper hair said times in Ukraine, they are not easy ones.  I watched him smoke a cigarette, and maybe for a minute, I wished I had one too. I was jolted out of my own little world I'd created out of necessity when Daddy asked me what time it was. Surely, it was almost 11:00. I looked at my watch and with a heavy sigh, I told Daddy it was 10:20AM.

Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock....

Daddy and I spent time trying to make eachother laugh, alternating with prayer, alternating with words of encouragement to eachother, alternating with complete silence. Tatiana came in to check on us and gave us candy for sustaining nourishment. Though she doesn't speak much English, she said: "This is crazy." Shaking her head and saying too, "I vant to eat. I vant to sleep, but....vell, ve vait." Yes, yes we most certainly vill vait all day if we have to. As long as this day ends with a judge deciding in our favor that you would become our son. I would sit on that bench and wait for as long as was needed. We've come this far, we're not leaving this country without you.

Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock....

I shifted back and forth from taking my coat on and off. It was quite cold waiting in that dimly lit, bare bones, rather sad room. Tatiana came back in, "Maybe time now?" And she motioned us to follow her. We stood outside the courtroom and face 3 closed doors. The only word I could make out was the name Tatiana on the middle door. None of the other words came to me as easily. Yulia was in that room. She walked out and immediately made a phone call. I watched her every step as she spoke rather quietly and paced back and forth. Daddy rubbed my arm to let me know everything was ok. Tatiana must have felt my anxiety starting to rise. I didn't realize I was standing board stiff, shoulders up, hands clenched, knuckles white. Yulia concluded her phone call and spoke to the social worker and Tatiana in Russian. Tatiana motioned to Yulia about how I was standing. Good pick up, Tatiana. Good pick up. Yulia smiled at us and let us know everything was ok. This particular judge was the only one who took adoption cases and seemed to enjoy making parents wait...and perhaps sweat a bit. She was late in coming and took all of her other cases ahead of us simply because, she was the judge and she could. We were told that she does not smile and will have a very flat affect when we speak to her. "Don't be scared," Yulia said, "You'll be fine. This is normal procedure for this judge. It's just the way she is, so we deal with it. It will be all worth it when it's done." Fine by us. As long as her last words were, take your kiddo home or something to that effect, we were good.

12:30PM. Two and a half hours after our court appointment, we watched a raven haired beauty step out of the judge's chambers. Tatiana's chambers. Our judge's name. Her chambers. That's what was hidden behind door number 2. "Pootz?" Yulia, Tatiana, and the social worker stepped forward and ushered us into the little room with them. Judge's chambers? It was more like a principal's office. But, then again, I guess I didn't really know what to expect. As we entered, the judge looked me up and down as I took the seat nearest her but kitty corner to where she was seated at her desk. She cracked a quick smile at me when our eyes met, then turned away toward her papers. Her smile back to an expression of all seriousness and authority. Yulia began translating a lot of judicial language to us. We heard a lot of  "The court" and "This petition...." Daddy was asked to stand first and answered questions, simple ones. His name, year of birth, address, yearly salary, why did we want to adopt from Ukraine, and what our motives were to adopt you. My turn came and I was asked my name, date of birth, place of employment, other available resources that we have available to care for you and give you a proper life. Very easy. The social worker stood up when asked and expressed how she felt our petition to adopt you was reasonable as you had been registered for adoption for the required length of time and that no one had previously inquired about fostering or adopting you, including Ukrainian families. Tatiana then stood and said that you were a true orphan as your birth mother had passed away and according to her words in the maternity records, your father was unknown. She said that you had lived in the Boyarka baby house since you left the hospital as a baby and no one had ever come to visit you. No one had ever asked about you. She also said that it was nothing short of amazing to her to see how much you had already bonded with us and were opening up to us. She never expected to see this happen between the 3 of us in such a short period of time.  All of those words, though working in our favor to become your parents, cut right through us. But, to survive this game and come out breathing, you have no other choice than to save those wounds for debridement and bandaging at a later time. For right now, we had to tie them off in the far recesses of our brains to stop the bleeding and wrap them up the best we could with the dirty rags of what we knew. Daddy and I were asked to stand before "the court" and state we both were completely aware of your medical diagnosis. "Yes." We were asked what we were petitioning the court for? "We ask the court to allow us to be named the parents of Anton Anatolyovich Kremanchuk. We ask the court to allow Anton's patronymic name to be removed from his birth record and that his name be legally changed to Anton John Putz. We ask the court to keep Anton's known birthdate and place of birth. We ask the court that we, Christopher John and Leann Carolyn Putz be named parents of Anton John Putz." The judge said at that time, Yulia translated to us, "At this time, the court will recess and will reconvene with decision of this case." As she was stating this, we were being shooed out of her chambers with a rather wanton wave of her hand. She did not look up. Tatiana smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up. "Is that it?" I whispered as I stepped through the doorway. I really don't know why I felt it necessary to whisper that to someone I knew full well did not speak English. Yulia was grinning from ear to ear when we were back in the waiting area. "Congratulations! That's it. You wait 2 and a half hours for 10 minutes." The social worker and Tatiana were beaming at us. I couldn't contain myself. In 4 inch heels, I jumped up and down a few times, clapping my hands excitedly but softly, and whispering "YAAAAAAAAAY" with much exaggeration. If it would have been okay to yell "YES!!!" from the top of my lungs, and throw in a few fist pumps, I would have. I decided against it. Daddy had the biggest, proud Papa smile spread across his face. His entire face was glowing. His eyes, and mine as well, were hot and reddened. We linked arms and followed our fearless crew out of the building. Stealing quiet glances from eachother, marked with knowing grins, I heard Daddy say, "Thank you Jesus. Thank you."

Yes, Thank you Papa. What a glorious day You've given to us. We are forever humbled that You chose us. From before time began, You already chose this for us. And we are forever grateful for this most good and perfect gift.

To the moon and back we love you, AJ.... finally,though always in our hearts, but now on paper, our son.
Mommy and Daddy

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Dear AJ,

Mommy and Daddy received the sweetest telephone call a little while ago. Yulia called to tell us that we officially have a court date for you to become our son! Our court hearing is this Friday, January 13, 2011 at 10:00 AM. We won't be able to come and visit you that day sweet love, but we will be back to you on Saturday for sure!

To the Moon and Back,
Mommy and Daddy

Day...I seriously don't even know right now. (January 11, 2012)

Dear AJ,

Well, Little Darling- Daddy and I have finally made it to the other side of sleeplessness and horrible snotting colds. We saw you again for the first time in 4 or 5 days, on January 7- Christmas Day in Ukraine.

We were very much afraid that you would be afraid of us again and not remember who we were. Just the opposite really. You have been showing us more and more of your HUGE personality everyday. Laughing and smiling at us. Jabbering away to us- happily filling us in on all of your smiley secrets. You are very ticklish and we are learning all of your sweet tickle spots. You like it when Daddy reads the book, Are You My Mother? but always start to get a frowny face when we read, That's When I'm Happy. You don't like it when we say Mama and Papa, it has so far, just made you cry. (Really makes me wonder what has been told to you in regards to those two words.) So, we only call ourselves, Mommy and Daddy.

We've brought you some watered down apple juice to try- it's become clear to us that you are being spoon fed your liquids. I've tried to give you sips with a cup and am trying a bottle now. You're not digging either one. We have snuck you in a little bit of chocolate muffin and yesterday, a vanilla muffin. Both of which, you were more than delighted to have nibbles of.

You have a fond attachment to your big brother's LeapFrog puppy, Scout. You have grown in leaps and bounds from just staring at it, not even trying to touch it, to squeezing it, biting it, chewing on it, smiling at it, and smiling to yourself when you make it sing and light up. So proud of yourself- and we are so very proud of you! You're at the point now, that when you are brought to us, you will stare at Daddy's backpack until we get him out. We love that.

We work on stretching out your legs and hips everyday. You seem to enjoy doing some range of motion exercises and having your hamstrings and calves massaged. Your little ankles are moving better too now. You are very strong and love showing us how big and strong you are everyday. You like to sit on the floor between my legs and stretch forward to grab your feet. I let go of you every time, and there you sit- completely unassisted.

At today's visit (Jan 11)- you were stretched out on the couch with Daddy lying beside you. I was working with your legs and hips, while you laughed and merrily jib jabbered away. Daddy and I kept telling you how silly silly silly silly you came back with a big smile, shaking your head from side to side saying, "Illy illy illy illy illy illy!" It was completely awesome. You were in quite the talkative mood until two other families came into the small visitation room. When they came in, you grew very quiet. You stopped looking up at us as much. You stopped smiling, except for a couple tiny ones here and there. You stopped talking to us. You stopped laughing. I don't know if it was just too much going on then with all of the other activity and you were getting a bit uneasy with it all, or what it was exactly. Maybe getting a tad overstimulated with the little girls running around. I guess it may be something we'll have to be careful with when we get you home, for a little while anyway.
When the two families left and before another family came in, you started to emerge once again from your frail little shell. I looked at your dumpling face and said, "There you are!" You cooed at me and smiled.

Here are some photos and a video clip from over the last 4 days.

Unfortunately, we did not get a picture of you from yesterday. The nanny brought you to us wearing a pepto bismol pink stocking hat, complete with flowers to match the pink and purple snowsuit you were stuffed into. (not to mention the too small footie jammies, tights, 2 pairs of wool socks, and not one, not two, but THREE shirts under the jammies.) We had to call the facilitator to translate for us because being dressed in a snowsuit and such, we wondered if you were leaving or had just come back from somewhere. (Daddy and I waited in the visitation room for an hour for you to be brought in to us- which was very strange and truth be known- made us very anxious.) But, This is just how you were dressed for the day- girlie snowsuit and all. I think we are finally being trusted a bit. We were asked to bring you back to your groupa by ourselves when we were done with our visit. We were pretty excited to see where you spend your days and nights. But, alas...the nanny came back for you before we were done, so you had to go with her. Today, we got the opportunity to at least see where your groupa was and made it only steps away from the door, but interception by way of nanny occurred before we made it to goal. Dang. Better luck next time.

See you in the morning Sweet Love. To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 17 (January 3, 2012)

Dear AJ,
My mommy heart hurts today. Daddy and I are both sick- headaches, achey bodies, scratchy throats, runny noses, congestion, yuck. So, we won't be able to see you today. Hopefully if we rest up all day today, we will feel better and able to come see you tomorrow. You're starting to feel better so we don't want to pass thing back and forth.

I feel so badly that we can't see you. Daddy and I both feel like we were making some progress with you and you were just starting to trust us. Now, we can't help but ask ourselves- does this mean you'll be wondering where we are? Why we didn't come? Will you wonder if we are going to come back? You've started to respond to and want to hold the stuffed musical toy we brought for you, now you won't see him today either. I'm sorry, Love. I really really am.

Ugh. I hate this. I just hate it. Why did this have to happen now? And really, you may be really indifferent to us being there, I get that. This may all be in my head. I get that, too. We've waited so long to see you and be with you and now we can't. We'll call one of the facilitators today and ask her to call the orphanage and let them know why we are not there and to tell you why as well. As soon as Daddy and I are feeling good again, we'll be right back to our daily morning routine, promise.

We love you to the moon and back.
Mommy and Daddy

Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 16 January 2, 2012

Dearest AJ,
What a blast we had with you today sweet boy!! You are feeling better, that's pretty obvious.
I wish Daddy and I could say the same. We think we caught your oogies. We still both feel alright, but can tell something is in the works. We are praying that the Lord would heal us up and stop whatever this is in its tracks so we don't miss any time with you!

You made our day today with this:

THAT is the little boy, we've been missing the last couple of days because of your horrible cold. Prayer certainly does work though- you had one heck of a horrendous cough and were having a heck of a time breathing well. You were a little raspy yet today, but much better overall. Thank you, Jesus!

Daddy and I just spent a lot of time watching you smile and listening to you laugh. Such sweet sweet music to our ears and our souls. You have a smile, AJ, that could light up the dimmest of rooms and warm up the coldest of hearts.

We left when a nanny came to get you for lunch time. It was about 12:45pm, so we got about 3 hours and 45 minutes with you today. 3 hours and 45 minutes of a little piece of Heaven for us. We can't wait until the day comes that this little piece of Heaven happens all day long, everyday!

Have the most wonderful night. Think of us, we'll be sure to do the same. See you tomorrow, Love.

To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy

Day 15 (January 1, 2012)

Dear AJ,
Happy New Year Sweet Little Love! You are the best part of our day and today it's been one week since we met. And what a great week it's been.

We so look forward, with eager anticipation, for the morning to come so that we can make our way to you! You are doing very well and seem to be feeling better. You're not coughing as much, if hardly at all, and when you do it doesn't make you cry out in pain anymore. You're still congested and your nose is runny, but I believe you're feeling better. Daddy and I were able to get some smiles and laughs from you today.

We're are pretty sure that when the nannies bring you to us each morning, it is the first time you're up and out of your crib since the day before. Everyone always feels yucky in the morning time when sick, you're clearly no exception there. It takes a bit of time for you to get the gunky junk out of your nose, throat, and chest and you're tearful during that time. Afterwards, you seem pretty relieved and start warming up to us rather quickly.

Here is how you were brought to us today:

Daddy was not too keen on your knitted hat. I, on the other hand, thought you made it look good. You were also wearing your standard issued attire- 3 shirts, one heavy sweater, tights, socks, slippers, and head covering. You were pulling at your cap today so Daddy took it off and I had removed your slippers while I was stretching and doing some range with your legs. Note to self: Self, DO NOT and I repeat, DO NOT FORGET to put cap and slippers back on before one of the nannies comes back in to retrieve AJ for lunch, lest you get scolded by a hefty little Baboushka in Russian. Whoopsies. My bad. My bad.

We were able to get a few more pictures of you today. We didn't the last couple of days since you were really feeling miserable, the last thing we wanted to do was shove a camera in your face. You really showed off on how big and strong you are! During tummy time, you had no problems raising yourself all the way up on your arms over and over again. You are such a big, strong, handsome, strapping, little boy!

Here are a few videos we were able to take of you on this Happiest of New Years! (If only your big brother were with us. We miss you Anthony!!)

And before I forget- here are a few pics of the orphanage:

Have a wonderful New Year's Day, Little One! We'll see you tomorrow.

To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy