Journey to Julia Video

James 1:27 – “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction”

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Visit 5 - Groundhog Day!

We visited the orphanage for the fifth time today.  Although it can get repetitive visiting the same building, playing with the same toys for two hours at a time, I don't think we could ever get tired of playing with this little angel.  We had a nice, quiet indoor visit today.  It was good just to be together.

After the visit, there was a brief patch of clear, sunny weather and we walked around the neighborhood near our apartment, doing a little shopping for family back home and seeing a couple more churches and sights we wanted to see.

If you are wondering why the last shot has a tank in the foreground, it is because right outside the church and monastery gates, is a square that includes a war memorial complete with tanks and artillery.  It makes for an interesting contrast to say the least.

Then the weather turned cold and cloudy quickly and alternated between hail, snow and freezing rain.  Good time to stay inside organizing pictures and videos.  Those of you viewing the full Picasa photo album will notice it has been reorganized:  Jenny visits first, then all other sites and scenery of the country second.

Tomorrow our facilitator is joining us at the orphanage and we hope to get a chance to observe Jenny drink and eat so that we know how best to replicate her current mealtime routine.  We don't want to confuse her with cups, utensils and food that are drastically different then what she is used to.  The poor little kid will have enough to adjust to as it is.  Kind of like what we are dealing with right now, but we know enough to know our changes are temporary.  She doesn't know what is coming, and her changes will be of a more permanent nature.

Happy Tuesday everyone!  Talk to you soon.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Escape from the "Turtle Room"

We need to begin today's post by wishing a Happy Birthday to a very special young lady who is 14 today, our oldest daughter.

Back at the orphanage, it was a big day. We were released from the turtle room described in a previous post, and allowed to visit with Jenny for close to two hours in what appeared to be a nurse's office, a lovely, clean room with a desk, two beds and plenty of room for a little girl to wander around.

With this extra space and time we were able to see a lot more of Jenny and her abilities. For example - Crawling:
Standing by herself and walking:
Playing with her toys:

She has the cutest giggle and laugh which we captured in some video - here it is!

Giggling Girl from Tom Lococo on Vimeo.

And then there was this priceless mother and daughter moment.

Lest you be mislead by our pictures of the major cities we have passed through, wanted to share some shots of the small town around Jenny's orphanage, and the way people live in the country.

Here is the local "grocery store".
And what we believe is the school.
In amongst the small brick and corrugated steel homes is the contrast of new commuter homes that are being built.
Back in the city, here is what the front of our apartment building looks like.

Today was the first significant snowfall we have seen, although it is switching back and forth to freezing rain, so not much sticking yet.

That is all for today.  See you all tomorrow.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


As I sit in our apartment in EE today and think about all that has transpired in the past year, it is a little overwhelming.  It has been a year since I “happened” upon Reece’s Rainbow.  I was reading an adoption blog that mentioned RR, so I clicked on the link.  That is how it all started…..  I couldn’t stop looking at the pictures of these children, these “hidden treasures”.  I received a lot of good hearted teasing from my family.  “Oh, no, Mom’s looking at RR again.”   Then, wouldn’t you know it, my children started looking at the RR kids and we were all following the journeys of many of the families who were in the process of adopting.  We had just brought our son home from Ethiopia in July 2009, so I assumed that another adoption was out of the question. 

In May 2010, my husband told me of his interest in bringing another child into our family.  We had some rough patches at the beginning of the process, but we persevered and in June 2010 started the process to bring our “Jenny” home.

Adoption is an amazing, scary, wonderful, emotional process.  It stretches you spiritually, mentally and physically.  We ask a lot of our children at home, of our relatives who are taking care of our children, our friends, and our church.  We have been blessed that we have received their help, support and prayers.

Back in December 2009, I came across a blog post that told of a man, who was a champion of orphans, named, Derek Loux.  Sadly, he had passed away due to a serious car accident.  He and his wife have adopted many children and run a ministry for orphan care.  Derek and his wife had been in EE in December of 2008 to adopt three special needs children.  He wrote a post about their adoption experience and his emotions at the time.  I read it in December of 2009.  It had a great impact on me.  Just yesterday, I felt compelled to find that post on the Internet so that I could read it again.  After searching for about an hour, Tom found it and we read it together.  Powerful!  God truly spoke to Derek and I’m so glad that he shared it with the rest of us.  Here is the text.  I hope you find it as inspiring as I did.  Please keep the Loux family in your prayers during this Christmas season.  I’m sure Derek’s absence is still strongly felt by all of them.  Thank you, Derek, for your words of wisdom.

Redemption by Derek Loux - Friday, December 12, 2008

"Renee’ and I are sitting in the office of a telephone company in Novograd Valenski, Ukraine, using wireless internet.  We are in the middle of adopting three special needs boys from an orphanage here.  Two of the boys have Down Syndrome.  Roman is high functioning, energetic and happy.  Dimitri has serious mental retardation, failure to thrive, and though he is five years old, he is the size of a 1 year old.  He has sores on his face, a distinct smell of death on him, and yells out if we try to do anything with him other than hold him. Because he has less ability to respond and learn, he naturally gets less attention and care from the orphanage workers in this world of limited resources.  The harsh reality of the “survival of the fittest” principle is a life and death struggle that this little boy is losing fast.  Our third boy Sasha, is a brilliant six year old who has Spina Bifida (the condition our son Josiah died from in 1996). He is like a learning sponge that can’t get enough! He is happy and alert and thirsty for knowledge and experience.  So with two of our boys, we get an immediate return on any investment we make.  With Dimitri, there’s not much immediate gratification. In fact, it’s unknown when and if there will be a return at all. This is the kind of situation that makes the carnal, fallen, human reasoning think, “Why try?  What’s the point?  What will this produce?  What good will this do?  Why not select a boy who has more potential?  This looks like a lost cause.

Two days ago we drove for hours into the Ukrainian countryside to the village where Dimitri was born. We met with officials there and signed papers and answered their questions. We also went and saw Dimitri’s house. The day had been long, we were still recovering from jet lag, I was beginning to really miss my six daughters at home and all the familiar things our fragile human hearts entangle themselves with in feeble attempts to feel secure. Sitting in the dark on our very long drive back to Novograd that night, the Holy Spirit began to whisper to my heart, and new understanding about redemption began to take shape.

I was thinking, “Man, adopting this little boy has been so much work. This is exhausting, expensive, uncomfortable … and it doesn’t feel very rewarding right now.” What am I doing in some little Soviet car in the dark, in the middle of rural Ukraine in frozen December, as the driver dodges cats and potholes? What if Dimitri doesn’t improve at all? What if we get “nothing” out of this? … Ahhh, there it was; that dark, fallen, unreedemed, selfish human love, rooted in the tree of the knowledge of “good and evil”. The love the Greeks called “erao” love. The love where we treat someone as precious and treasured for what we can get out of it. This is unlike “agapeo” love, the God kind of love that treats someone as treasured and precious for their good, not for my good. It’s when I love a person in order to meet their needs, having no expectation of them meeting any of my needs. At a whole new level, God is working His kind of love into my weak heart, and He’s using little Dimitri to do it.

On the drive home that night, the Lord whispered in my ear, “This is Redemption. Derek, do you know how far I traveled to get you and bring you back? I had to be separated from my Son, in order to get you, just like you are separated from your children in order to get these boys. Do you know how expensive it was for Me to purchase you? It cost me everything. Do you know how broken, sick, damaged, twisted, dirty, smelly, and hopeless you were? And at the end of it all, you had nothing to give me or add to me. I did it for you. I emptied myself and became nothing so that you could have it all. This is redemption.

My friends, adoption is redemption. It’s costly, exhausting, expensive, and outrageous. Buying back lives costs so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him. And when He redeems us, we can’t even really appreciate or comprehend it, just like Dimitri will never comprehend or fully appreciate what is about to happen to him … but … he will live in the fruit of it. As his Daddy, I will never expect him to understand all of this or even to thank me. I just want to watch him live in the benefits of my love and experience the joys of being an heir in my family. This is how our heavenly “Papa” feels towards us.

Today, settle your busy heart down and rest in the benefits of redemption. Enjoy the fruits of His goodness, and stop trying to “pay Him back”. You’ll never get close you goofy little kid."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday's Visit

We had a fun visit with Jenny today.  She was very active and showing a lot of personality.  It was a real joy for us to hear her first giggles.  She loved when Tom would play "airplane" with her or bounce her.  She definitely knows which of the toys are her favorites.  She loves the toy camera that plays music and has a flashing light.  Tom and I were both giving her kisses on her hands and soft, little cheeks.  She caught right on and started giving Tom kisses on his cheek.

We brought little cookies for her again.  She loves her snack time!  The time always goes too quickly when we are visiting her.  We won't be seeing her tomorrow :(  The driver needs a day off.  We are looking forward to Monday when we will see her again.

She was making lots of cute faces tonight.  Here they are...

We struggled through another day of not being able to communicate with anyone.  In general, people are very kind and try to help us the best they can.  Not many of us stop and think about how important being able to communicate with other people is.  We couldn't even order ourselves a pizza today for lunch.   Luckily, Tom saw the pizza man taking out a pie that looked good, so he pointed towards it to say "gimme one of those".  It ended up being really good, but it is still strange not being able to read the menu or ask for things.  Tonight in McDonald's the manager brought over a big laminated  menu for us so that we could point to things and the server just entered the order into the cash register.  I can't wait to get home and go to the grocery store and a restaurant and talk with every employee I see!

Tomorrow we are going to Mass at a Catholic church which is in walking distance from our humble abode.  Depending on what Mass we attend, we have the chance of hearing it in three different languages (none of which we will know).  This entire trip is an experience we will never forget for so many reasons.

We hope all of you have a peaceful Sunday.  We will post more Jenny updates on Monday.

Thank you all for following our journey and for the prayers that are sustaining us during this time.  We are most appreciative.

Editoral Notes:
  1. There is so much happening we are sometimes posting more then once a day.  Use the "Older Posts" link at the bottom of the page or "Blog Archive" in the upper left to see other posts you may have missed.
  2. The photo album of most of our pictures of visits with Jenny and views of the country and city are available at Adoption Trip 1.  The pictures in these posts barely scratch the surface of available cuteness and things we are taking in.

Using the power of music - Thanks to Mark Schultz

God uses the power of music to change hearts and minds. I know because I have seen it happen more times then I can count, and because it happened to me.

Besides my wife and children, I need to thank another person for making this adoption journey possible.  His name is Mark Schultz.  He wrote a song called “What It Means To Be Loved”.

This song broke down every barrier I ever built to prevent me from following God’s will to places I didn’t think I could go.  The song grabbed me by the heart, ripped me out of the selfish place I was in, and changed me forever.

It did so by reminding me so powerfully of a few simple things I should have known all along:

1. The value of life is not determined by the length of life, or by apparent “quality of life” in the world’s terms

2. It’s all in God’s hands and nothing we plan for, or against can change that

3. Things that seem hard at first are blessings in disguise – it is the only way to grow

4. Faithfulness to His calling is always rewarded – it is up to us to open our hearts and recognize how – or be satisfied realizing we’ll know when He brings us home

Mark – Thanks for opening my eyes.  Because of you a little girl will soon have a loving family.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A blessing each day

We met our little angel again today.  There are so many blessings occurring each day, I struggle with where to start, and what to share.  For those of you not familiar with the region we are in or where Jenny lives today, the orphanage looks something like this.

The visit started with a walk outside with the abominable snow baby dressed as follows.
If you view that picture in closeup you will see that Jenny (and probably several other children before her) like to eat the rubber padding on the safety bar.  Since we couldn't get her to stop, we lost the stroller and carried her little chunkiness ourselves.

After our time outside we went inside to a room known by adoptive families as the “turtle room”.  It is called this because the perimeter of the room is lined with a collection of orphanage “pets” including bunnies, many parakeets and yes, a turtle.  There is also a large vinyl turtle on the floor kids can sit or climb on.  This menagerie of animals leads to some interesting smells, but we won’t go there.

Once inside we unbundled our little princess.  She was dressed in the cutest little pink velour sweat suit.  We found out she is wearing about 18 month clothing sizes.  Let the wardrobe buying frenzy begin!
We spent the time playing with her with some of the toys we had brought, and a set of stacking rings she seemed to be very familiar with and loved pulling apart and putting together.

We also wanted to share a little snack with her to understand her eating capabilities.  They had warned us that she really likes to eat and that we would need to give her things in small quantities.  We tried a tiny bit of apple juice (which they had recommended) in a plastic disposable cup.  Her little hands, mouth and teeth latched onto that thing like it was pure gold and she slurped away with all her might.  It was all I could do to pry the crumpled cup out of her hands.  Then we thought we would try a child’s biscuit we had brought.  Patty said we should break it into small bite sized pieces and feed it to her.  I said “just let her hold the biscuit and feed herself”.  We gave her the biscuit and guess where the whole thing went in one piece?  You got it.  Luckily her little teeth made short work of it, and there was no choking involved.  Next time we listen to Mom’s instincts.

It was another wonderful visit that ended too soon.  They whisked her away for lunch 15 minutes earlier then we thought they would, and we were left missing her once again.

The driver brought us back to the city, to a children's store so that we could get her some sippy cups and more mouth safe toys as that seems to be where most stuff ends up.  We found exactly what we were looking for, and can’t wait to share them with Jenny tomorrow.

Another wonderful visit all in all.

Stay tuned for more total cuteness tomorrow!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

We met "Jenny"

What a special Thanksgiving Day we have had so far.  This morning we were able to meet Jenny.  (We will reveal her new name after court.)  She was as sweet as can be.  She was friendly and playful.  She interacted with both of us really well.  We had brought a couple of toys and she showed a lot of interest in all of them.  We are planning on posting more later.  We need to get out around town a bit to find a church for Sunday, etc.  We hope all of you are having a blessed Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Another day, another city

We took the late night train to the city nearest to the orphanage last night.

They were out of 2nd class tickets, so we had to travel first class.  Oh darn!  The cabins were very comfortable.

We were not able to visit the orphanage today due to meetings going on.  We took the time to get some groceries and see a few sights near the center of town where we are staying.  Here are day and night shots of the main cathedral in town.

You should have seen us shopping in the local grocery store tonight like old pros.  Matching up Cyrillic words in our travel dictionary with words on packages.  On the way to the store someone from the agency called and said - "Make sure the milk bottle has a word starting with 'M'.  If it has a word starting with 'K' that is a yogurt drink.".  Boy - that info would have come in handy a couple days back.

After a fine dinner of cheese, fruit and a couple tasty mystery meats we found out that we have a concert pianist upstairs from us, right over our bedroom.  The extra entertainment makes up for the fact that there are no English language TV stations available.

So tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  We wish all our American friends a happy Thanksgiving.  There may be no turkey for us, but there is a little angel we hope to meet that we are quite thankful for.

Monday, November 22, 2010

And now for an added bonus

Tonight we had the added bonus of a wonderful Italian dinner with two other Reece's Rainbow families that are here adopting children - the Cornishes (Meredith and Mike) and the Parkers (Molly and Aaron).  Both families are working on bringing home two children each.  May God bless their courage and devotion to these children.  As many of you know Meredith is also the genius behind the wonderful adoption handbook and some of the electronic forms processing that makes this process that little bit more doable.  We were really glad and blessed to get to spend the time with these two families.

Through another step - Permission to visit Jenny

We completed our appointment with the adoption authority this morning and now have permission to travel to the region where the orphanage resides and visit Jenny!  It was a quick and pleasant meeting and we got to see a few pictures of our angel we have never seen before.  So cuuute!  Because we have adopted previously from Ethiopia and Guatemala the official asked us if we were trying to keep up with Angelina Jolie.  Thank you but no.  Jenny's description in the official file is "healthy and quiet".

The street where the government office was looks something like this.
From Adoption Trip 1

And this beautiful church was right next door.
From Adoption Trip 1

Last night we got to have dinner out, and stroll down the equivalent of Broadway in good old NY City back home.
From Adoption Trip 1

And now for some stupid American stories.

We have been getting groceries at a little store around the corner to eat some meals in the apartment.  We were interested in breakfast cereal, which our driver told us is just not normally eaten here.  We were so proud when we found a box with the familiar Honey Nut Cheerio bee, so we grabbed the box and marched off to the dairy section to purchase some milk to go with it.  There were some bottles that looked like milk bottles, and had percentages that looked like milk fat (1%, 2%,....).  Most of the label was in the native language, but in English there was a logo that said "Milk Life".  We figured we were golden, and went and paid for our groceries in local currency like real pros.

This morning we dished out our cereal and bananas and opened the milk ready to enjoy a familiar breakfast treat.  As we pour the milk we notice the consistency is something like thick yogurt.  We had bought ourselves a great vanilla yogurt smoothie type drink.  Very good for digestive health.  Not so good for floating your Cheerios.  We enjoyed our cereal and yogurt breakfast nonetheless and marched off to our appointment.  Later this afternoon we went grocery shopping with another couple, and this time we had our dictionary in hand to make sure we checked the label more carefully.  It's still a lot different then our milk at home.  Either it is not homogenized, or we bought coffee creamer.  Either way, it's going on the cereal tomorrow.

That is all for now.  Stay tuned for what happens when you lock two crazy Americans in a train compartment for twelve or so hours.