Monday, July 30, 2007


Diana left a week ago. I have been out of touch with the real world. Many things in everyday life seem mundane and meaningless. The girls went to VBS at our friends' church the day after Diana left and that kept them busy and their minds occupied. They each brought home a prayer request card and each wrote the same thing: that Diana would find a home.

I've been processing. Bits of scripture have floated in my mind. I want to view this experience through God's eyes. It was exhilarating, exhausting, awesome and heart-wrenching all at the same time. I was thinking of the "theme" verse for our (now defunct) Bible study this year. "Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left..." Isaiah 54:2, 3. Each family that agreed to host a child stepped out of the comfort zone and ventured into scary and exciting territory. We enlarged our hearts to take in a foreign, parent-less child, opened our doors to allow God to do His work, and stretched our abilities to the limit. We did not know where God would take us.

Sometimes people pray for God to reveal his will for their lives. If we are waiting for God to answer, maybe we need to just look around and see where the river is flowing and jump in with both feet. The imagery of streams of water in scripture usually means a dry, desert place becoming alive and fertile and life-giving.

"I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. I will put in the desert the cedar and the that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this..." Isaiah 41:18-20. Let's see where God is working and let the current carry us to unknown waters.

So where is God and where is he working? I think of Jesus' words in Matthew 25:35-40: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." We would answer Jesus and say, "Lord, when did we ever do any of those things?" But he responds, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

A week later I am amazed at the miracle that took place among a small group of families. Let me tell you about these selfless, faith-filled people. The family from our church who coordinated this project with two adopted children already hosted a special needs little boy and have already begun paperwork to adopt him. Two other boys will be adopted by two other families. One couple, only married two years, hosted two boys, ages 13 and 8. They plan to adopt them both. An older couple with grown kids desires to adopt two 13-year old boys who are best friends. They did not host these boys, but participated in all our group events and were open to go wherever God was leading.

One girl who will turn 16 in September was in urgent need of a home. If paperwork is not completed before her birthday, she will never be allowed to come to America to join a family. Her host family is contacting congressmen and senators to move mountains so she can be their daughter forever. Pray for God to move the mountains.

I had pictures of three siblings on my desktop for weeks. They really tore at my heart: a 14-year old girl, a 6-year old girl, and a little brother only 4. We waited and waited for a host family to step up and take these beautiful children. Finally one did, a couple with no children. They specified they were only hosting, not adopting, but would try hard to find a forever family for these kids. This couple is now planning to adopt ALL these children! The little boy did not come as he was too young to travel. They will take him too, sight unseen by them--but known by God. What sacrifice and faith! I am humbled by this family.

Then there is 12-year old Sergei, hosted by our good friends. The father is very practical. The whole family loved the boy, but Dad wisely said they would wait a week and when the emotions died down, they would make a decision on adoption. In just a few days the decision was made. Sergei will also be coming back to America permanently!

Twelve children have families waiting. What a mighty work of God! Each of us who joined in this work, from the recruiters and paperwork-doers and those who tapped bank accounts, to VBS workers who cooked the meals or cleaned up messes, who planned the games and told the stories, from my friend who designed t-shirts to the van drivers and those who opened their homes to us, from those who supported us in prayer to those who just called to see how things were going--you ALL participated in a miracle! What a privilege and an honor to serve our wonderful God!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

On the road to JFK

We moms hung around awhile after the children left in the caravan of vans. We were commiserating and consoling each other and not yet ready to put all the emotions aside and move on. Then we went back to quiet homes to maybe catch up on laundry or have a peaceful meal. Some will begin paperwork to adopt. For us, we will begin again the lives we left behind when Diana came.

The phone rang. One of the host moms was activating the phone chain. The kids may miss their flight! They had left about 1:30 to catch the 6:40 plane to Moscow leaving from JFK. Plenty of time! What had happened? Traffic was at a standstill. Pray! she said. The children may be coming back!

Coming back?? We couldn't believe it. That didn't seem like a good plan. Surely there were other alternatives. Those poor kids--on the road so long only to turn around and come back, then do it over again tomorrow. I thought of Diana and how difficult sitting still for so long must be for her. She had refused to go to the bathroom before they left church. Thank goodness I'd let her take the bag of fruit. Right before we left the house she had packed up all the fruit we had in the house and put it in a plastic bag. Ripe bananas, mushy peaches, all of it. She had also wanted to take the "ar-boos!"--a big watermelon I had on the floor. I thought at the time what a mess it would make, but I let her take the fruit (except the ar-boos.) I'm so glad she now had something to eat.

We waited anxiously for a phone call to let us know what happened. No one knew the details but they did get on the plane. The next morning our coordinator sent this e-mail. She had been in one of the vans with the children:

"The adventure continued on the way to the airport! We got 13 miles from the airport and the traffic essentially stopped. We inched along for about 1 1/2 hours only traveling 2-3 miles. We were on the phone to Aeroflot and to anyone we could think of to pray...It looked hopeless at 6:00 when we were still 10 miles away. So we took an exit to rethink what we could do...We pulled back onto the road to JFK and in doing that we avoided the flooding that was holding up all the traffic. When we got back on the road the traffic was flowing without a problem.

I had bugged my husband Bill to call 911 so we could get a police escort. He said that was silly as the NYPD wouldn't respond to that. When we got back on the road to JFK, an unmarked police car came out of nowhere in the 3rd lane with his lights flashing. Bill called the other drivers and said, 'Follow me!' We all fell in behind the police car going 80 mph. All the traffic moved over and we passed through like Moses parting the Red Sea. God provided the police escort! Someone later asked if the person driving the police car had a halo and wings! We raced to JFK and practically threw the kids out of the cars. It was now 6:20. The flight was supposed to leave at 6:40. At 6:40 the kids were still in the security line but the flight was delayed 30 minutes due to high winds." They got on the plane. "The boys in our car thought that driving at 80 mph behind a police car was one of the coolest things on the whole trip!"

After their long, long ride to the airport, those kid had an even longer flight to Moscow and then a long, long train ride to Chuvashia. I hope they are safe and in their familiar surroundings tonight. What brave children they are.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Day 11, Monday

Diana and all the other children are on their way back to Russia. We had a peaceful morning. Arielle and Diana played a TV video game. I took all the girls to Target to pick up the pictures I dropped off yesterday. Diana wanted a headset and CD player that cost $139. I said no and she gave me a look, as usual, like I am so mean. I did let her get some candy and gum for the trip and I bought her a jacket. It is rainy and chilly today. At first she refused a jacket, no, she didn't like any of them. I thought, I can't send this child back on the plane without a jacket! But finally we found one she did like, a sporty black one with a red stripe. She looked pretty today. The allergy on her face has cleared up and I combed her beautiful blonde hair one last time and put a red scrunchie in it.

I wrote on the translation site that we loved her and we would miss her. She read it and went to sit on the couch in silence. I came and sat with her and held her for awhile. She had fun packing her backpack with lots of candy and little junky toys. I put together a photo album with pictures of all the things we did together. On the one family picture we had taken with her, I printed up "We love you" in Russian and taped it on.

We met with the other families at church at 1pm. Diana at first was clingy, wanting lots of hugs. Then the other kids came and she was excited, showing them her candy and her photo album. All the kids were excited, running around and talking to each other. Diana wanted some paper money. I gave her two bills and then she went and asked Fred for the same! She was pleased with herself that she ended up with $4. At this point, we would have given her anything. Except a home. It still tears me up we can't take her.

It was time to load the vans headed for JFK. Suitcases first, then children. Anastasia, the 15-year old we worked so hard to find a family for, was sobbing. The other kids were just jumping around not knowing how to act. I held Diana a long time and she didn't pull away. I told her I loved her over and over in English and in Russian. She said, "Papa," and turned to Fred and hugged and kissed him too. The girls hugged her, and then Diana climbed into the van. Her little face kept peering out the open door, never taking her eyes off of me. I got in to give her one last kiss, trying to smile at her and not cry. But she knew I was upset. The van didn't leave for a few more minutes and I got back in a couple more times to hug and kiss her again and again. How do you say good-bye to a child you love and know you will never see again?

As difficult as she was at times, Diana knew how to give and receive love. She knows we love her. And I know she loves us. I am so grateful I got to be her mother for these past 10 days. I am so sorry for what has happened to her, and so sorry we cannot be her parents for the rest of her life. She so much needs a loving family, one who has a lot of time to focus on her needs and help her reach her potential. She's a good girl with a kind heart. Das-vi-danya, Diana. I will never be the same after meeting you, precious child.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Day 10, Sunday

We had a difficult morning. We planned a special program at church to bring attention to this hosting program and we really needed to be there on time. I knew getting Diana dressed appropriately would be an issue too. I had to use a little child psychology to get her to wear what I wanted her to wear and it worked! Okay, that hurdle crossed. She had some pennies and wanted a purse for them. We searched high and low and nothing suited her. Finally! I found one. Then there was an issue with underwear. We were already buckled in the car and a little late and from what I could tell, she still had on her night underwear and wanted different ones on. But too late, we had to go. So off to a bad start.

Diana cooperated in church, thankfully. There was a slide presentation and then all the children and families came to the front and our pastor prayed for us all. At the end of the service I met a woman who was deeply touched and with tears in her eyes said that she was considering adopting an older child. She was invited to our closing picnic today and may be interested in one of the boys who does not yet have a home.

We had to rush from church to the picnic. I had to feed the kids and make a potato salad. Diana doesn't understand rushing. She found roller skates in the basement and wanted to skate right then. Then she got up into the crawl space under the kitchen and I had to speak harshly to her to get her to come down.

We made it to the picnic and kids and adults alike had a wonderful time. A generous, loving couple with grown kids had hosted Larissa and Vladimir the whole time, driving them around and entertaining them. This couple participated in all our events and decided they want to adopt one of the boys. They had all the host families and all the children at their house today for a cook-out. The kids enjoyed playing badminton, riding bikes and throwing balls around. The adults shared their adventures, along with a few miracles, and it was an emotional time. Like the families we traveled with to China, we have all participated in a life-changing event and we are bonded together in the memories of this week.

Diana and Sergei were riding the bikes up and down this dead-end little street. Then we noticed they had disappeared. Fred went out in the car looking for them and couldn't find them. Finally they came back, but Larissa was upset with them. She probably thought we should have been watching them better too.

When we got home we packed Diana's clothes and toys for the trip back home. It is hard because everything has to go in one backpack. That remote control car takes up a lot of space too! I took my compact flash to Target to get pictures developed so I can make a little album up for Diana. No one wanted to go with me until Diana realized Arielle and Liana were staying home. Then she wanted to go. While I was ordering my pictures, she found a cell phone and cried when I wouldn't buy it for her.

Cho-Cho (Marissa) came over with ice cream. Diana really likes her and showed her affection by wrestling and being rough with her. She also hugged and kissed her. We had our last bedtime prayer circle, but Diana was laughing and acting silly. I think she is stressed about leaving tomorrow. She even asked me if Arielle and Liana were flying on the airplane too. No, Diana, they get to live with us forever. Of course I didn't say that. But the fact seems cruel. Arielle and Liana, our precious Chinese babies, get to stay. You don't. What a terrible reality.

For the first time Diana would not settle down and go to sleep. I don't know how many times she's been back up. The girls were playing with the glowsticks Grandma sent and that got them fired up and excited. I wanted tonight to be special for Diana, but instead I am becoming impatient because she won't stay in bed. She slept in the bed last night, but just now when I went in to put her back to bed AGAIN, she decided to sleep next to Arielle for the last time.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Day 9, Saturday

We were off to the beach early today. It was great having my brother here overnight and having breakfast with him, but he had to leave early too. The two hour drive to the shore was uneventful except for tears from Diana a couple of times. It's so hard for her when we don't understand.

She was exuberant in the water, rough and wild with the boogie board. The long drive was worth seeing the joy in her face. We joined a few other families and Vladimir and Larissa. Diana mostly played with the Russian children or talked with the Russian adults but at one point she ran to me, grabbed my hand and pulled me over to Vladimir. He supposedly doesn't speak English but he told me in pretty good English that Diana wants to know when she's leaving. I thought, we just got here! But she meant when does she go back to Russia? Diana was upset. I got Larissa and asked her to interpret. Diana said the visit had been too short. Larissa said she would explain later and not to think about it now.

We stayed on the beach most of the day, Diana mostly in the icy water and only out on the beach for short periods of time. Fred held her hand and took her into the deeper water and showed her how to jump the waves. She absolutely loved that and wanted Fred to do it over and over. He was a good sport and nearly froze to death but wanted to make her happy.

We went to the boardwalk for dinner. Another meal battle. No, Diana did not want anything. We chose a pizza place because everyone was hungry and it would be quick. The waitress even spoke Russian! She interpreted for us that Diana did not like the food and wanted nothing. Okay, well, the rest of us needed to eat. We ordered Diana "saus-eej" just in case she would eat. She saw someone else eating pizza and yelled, "Pizza!" Great! So Fred ordered a pizza too. She ate one bite only. But she did eat two hot dogs. Afterward we took the girls on the rides and everyone was happy. Diana did not even protest when we said only one more.

As we walked to the car Diana asked me if we were going to church tomorrow and if the day after that she would be going back to Russia. I told her yes. She was clearly unhappy. I was surprised she knew the sequence of events and even what day of the week it was. I guess Vladimir told her. Now are you wondering how I understood what Diana was asking me? I guess I'm learning Russian!

It is sad that Diana's trip here was mostly lived out in isolation due to the language barrier. She can't share her feelings or express her desires. She hears us chattering all day and can't join in. No wonder she enjoys being with the other Russian kids so much. How different her behavior might have been if we had been able to understand each other.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Day 8, Friday

This was a difficult day that ended peacefully. Fred had to go to the hospital for injections in his neck, so we had to be available and nearby to pick him up. He is not allowed to drive home because of the anesthetic. Diana clearly was not happy about killing time in the mall. Nothing was open and I'm sure she wondered why we were there.

Finally the stores opened and we wandered around the toy store. I planned to buy her a little something. She was not as interested in toys as I would have thought. She picked up a few things, boy toys. The girl things did not interest her. Then she found what she wanted--a Pirates of the Caribbean figure holding a sword. When you pushed a button it said something about killing someone. No, Diana. She either found some kind of weapon toy or something huge that would never fit in her suitcase to take back. She started to cry because nothing she chose was suitable. Roller skates--I had to reject that too. Then she saw the remote control cars. Her eyes lit up. That was exactly what she wanted. (Only $14.99 too!) When we were at one of the other host family's home she had played with one. I reminded her of that but all she understood was "Sergei." She clutched the toy to her chest and said, "Nyet!" She would not give this to Sergei. I assured her it was hers. After the toy store she rode the carousel in the mall and was delighted and happy.

I had hoped for a quiet afternoon. I needed to cook and clean a little before my brother came tonight. Diana didn't quite know what to do with down time. She rode my bike, but said over and over that she wanted the roller skates. She swam in the little pool a short time. She watched TV awhile. She was bored. It must be so hard not being able to communicate with anyone. Then her friend Nadia called and she enjoyed the conversation very much. I wish I knew what she was saying to her.

My brother came at dinner time. Diana refused to sit at the dinner table with us. She wanted a "saus-eej" for dinner, but then wouldn't eat it. Marissa also came over and Diana really acted out. Out of frustration because we all seemed to be having a good time and she couldn't join in? Because she was jealous I wasn't just interacting with her? I don't know. I surely did enjoy having my brother here. He always brings much laughter and love and joy to our home.

Then came magical bedtime. Diana took her shower and transformed into this quiet, gentle little girl. She discovered the magic doodle Grandma gave her for the trip home and wanted me to pose so she could draw me. I asked her to draw me a picture on paper I could keep. She sat peacefully at the table and drew me, Fred, Uncle Rene, Marissa, Liana--when Liana squealed when she saw it, Diana wadded it up. Then she drew Arielle. She wrote "Papa" on Fred's picture, "Uncle" on Rene's, and some Russian letters for something that sounds like "Cho-cho" for Marissa. Not sure what that means. So I have many drawings to keep. I will treasure them.

The whole family, Marissa and Rene included, joined the bedtime prayer circle. Diana so much loves this time. She likes for us to pray in the dark, but she wants the lights on for hugs and kisses. Many, many hugs. It's hard to tear away, even more so now as the time for her to return to Russia draws near.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Day 7, Thursday

We planned a trip to the dentist (who is treating all the Russian kids for free) and a picnic in the park tonight. The girls slept late again and I had a few minutes to read Philip Yancey's book on prayer this morning. He related a story about a woman he met in a rehab center for people with leprosy in Nepal. That got me started crying again. (I will tell that story another time.) Liana came and in asked why I was so sad. I pulled her under the covers with me and held her tight. I told her I don't think we can adopt Diana, that maybe another family would be better for her. "But she shouldn't be in an orphanage, right, Mom?" No. She added, "No child should be in an orphanage." Such profound truth in those huge brown eyes looking into mine. No, my daughter, no child should be without a family.

Our friend Kim called and invited us to her house to swim. It was a quick swim because we had that appointment, but it was nice Kim wanted to meet Diana and the girls had fun, of course, in the pool. Kim served us her fabulous homemade strawberry sherbet.

Diana was quiet and anxious on the way to the dentist, even though her friend Sergei was beside her. She didn't want to sit in the waiting room and went outside with a couple of the big girls. When it was her turn she grabbed my hand to go with her. She was truly very frightened and cried. She has many cavities and they will not be treated here. We don't have the resources for that, but even if we did, there is no time to do it since she leaves Monday. So I'm not sure why we even went to the dentist.

At home we had a little struggle. I was making dinner and Diana made herself a cheese sandwich with onions and cucumbers. But she wanted to eat on the couch. Fred said no and go in the kitchen. Diana said nyet. I wrote on the translation site that father said she must eat in the kitchen and that she is a good girl. She read it and went off to the bedroom and refused to come out. I checked on her and she was in bed. I told her "park." No, she didn't want to go. Maybe she thought it was the park from yesterday. I dug up a picture of the park we would go to tonight. It is very impressive and she was impressed. She jumped up and got ready. Almost like a toddler, I am heading off tantrums with distraction.

She still wasn't happy at the park. She wanted to go to the snack bar and couldn't understand why we couldn't get something. (It was closed.) She finally did eat her sandwich I brought with us. On the way home I stopped at the grocery store and bought her a box of the ice cream bars she'd wanted from the snack bar. Fred reminded her to eat in the kitchen and she did willingly. She wanted another and the other girls were done and had run off. So Fred and I sat in the kitchen with her while she ate it. She patted my arm, "I love you." She patted Fred's arm, "I love you, Papa." When we did our good-night kisses with all the girls, she pulled Liana into her arms and hugged her tight, then put Liana next to her on her bed on the floor and covered her up like she was one of the dolls.

Fred is dealing with this experience with anger at the world because there shouldn't be girls like Diana without a home and without hope, and anger that we can't step up to the challenge and take her. I just dissolve in tears.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Day 6, Wednesday

This picture was taken at bedtime last night. I went to bed weeping for this girl and woke doing the same. This is just too hard. To make it worse I was so frustrated with what was on TV this morning. Cosmetic surgery! Eyelash conditioner! This gadget, that gadget! Everyone wants more, we want bigger and better. All this when the children of the world are suffering. I'm starting to understand my son more, who has traveled the world and seen the poverty and need. I am disgusted with our culture of excess.

Okay, enough of that. Look at this precious girl. She is a big girl physically, but so much wants to be a little girl--nurtured and loved. She is calling me Mama now and sits on my lap, holds my hand, comes up behind me and hugs me. Today we got up late again. Everyone is so exhausted. The girls all swam in the little pool on the deck and then drew hopscotch lines on the driveway and played together. Diana knows the game. We all went into the garden and picked beans. Diana is like a bull in the china shop--no finesse, and I wished I knew the Russian word for gentle. I even tried kissing the bean leaves to get the message across. Later we went to the library. She found a Madeline book that really caught her interest and even carried it while we walked to the playground. Diana is a strong girl. She can do those bars where you go hand over hand while you are hanging in the air.

It started to rain so we came home for lunch. I had to make a bank run and my girls didn't want to go--too boring. But Diana did, not knowing what a bank is. She took a lollypop from the basket and I reminded her--Arielle and Liana. She took two more. I walked with her to the candy store next door and she chose three more things. When we got home she hid all the candy behind her back and I was afraid she was trying to hide it from the girls. But no, she wanted to surprise them! They all sat on the couch and watched a video from the library and ate their candy. But Diana was disappointed (and surprised) it wasn't in Russian.

This evening we went to the local pool club with two other families and had a cook-out and let the kids swim. They were all so excited and swam for hours. One of the Russian boys came without his swimsuit. No problem, he stripped down and swam in his underwear and didn't think a thing of it. Diana ate nothing at the picnic but when we got home she ate two hot dogs loaded with onions and cucumbers. Who knew?

It was tough getting the girls to bed tonight. Everyone was overstimulated. I hope they sleep well. Old Mom and Dad are ready to fall over, we're so tired. I am more at peace tonight. My friend Helen called at one of those desperate moments and said she would be there for us to see us through no matter what decision we make. I talked to one of the other host moms at the pool who reminded me we are not responsible for the destiny of these children--God is. Maybe his plan is for us to be part of their future. Maybe not. We just need to be willing to do what he asks. This woman is adopting two of the boys.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Day 5, Tuesday

My heart is heavy tonight. We're halfway through Diana's visit and I'm grieving the loss of her. I love her but I don't think I can parent her. Fred says we are too old and we are concerned about our other girls and the impact on their lives.

The girls slept late today. Diana has decided she doesn't like any of our food and only ate apples and barbeque potato chips today. I took her to the grocery store but the only thing of interest to her were the lollypops at the bank inside.

Another family is here from out-of-state and hosting another girl from Diana's orphanage. They are cooped up in a hotel room so I invited them to come over. Their girl was fine here but the mom says Nadia is extremely difficult. Nadia and Diana were very aggressive with each other. I have never seen any of that from Diana with Arielle or Liana though. When this girl was here, Diana called me Mom. She is very affectionate. She's noticed that I hold my girls' hands when we are in a parking lot or on the street and she wants me to hold hers too.

We went to church again for the VBS. I told Diana through the translation site and she didn't protest so she must have had fun the day before. She seemed to have a great time tonight too. I was mistaken about the t-shirt. She did make one and it was hanging with the others. When I asked about it, I guess she didn't understand.

We had an issue with some half dollar coins Diana had. She wanted me to hold them for her for awhile and then came and got them later. I asked where she got them but of course we didn't understand each other. Then another boy ended up with them. Larisa, the translator, found out somehow and came to me. I had no idea what was going on. It turns out the coins belonged to Arielle! After much discussion the story came out. Arielle had opened her piggy bank and showed them to Diana. I don't know when they ended up in Diana's pocket. She told Larisa Arielle gave them to her. Arielle said she did not. Larisa talked to Diana a long time about trust and lying and how no one in America would like her if she was not honest. She was crying in the middle of craft time at VBS. She was so afraid Arielle wouldn't like her anymore. But of course, Arielle still likes her. Arielle is a good girl.

All the girls just had their baths and again, Diana wanted bedtime prayers in a circle with Papa. Lots of hugs and kisses followed. Diana found a baby doll, wrapped it in a blanket and it is lying between her and Arielle on the floor. She is really a loving girl.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Day 4, Monday

This has been a hectic day. I had a million details going on in my head and I'm not sleeping. Organizing VBS is overwhelming, but tonight was the big night.

The girls slept together and woke together. They filed out to where I was sitting at the computer and all three got their morning hugs. I had work to do so they kind of just hung out together. Not much fun, but that's life. Our normal life is not going places all the time. They rode bikes a little and Liana tried to get Diana to play Polly Pockets or do crafts, but she is not interested. I really think she does not know how to play with toys. Fred took them all food shopping and he came home exhausted. Then they all left for the park and I stayed home to try to get my act together for tonight. When they left in the car Diana gave me a huge hug. She squeezed the breath out of me. I think she is really an affectionate girl but just needed to warm up to us.

Fred came home and said one of the other Russian boys took away Diana's disposable camera and she tackled him. The girls wanted to swim again and put on their suits. Diana decided she wanted to ride bikes instead. I said no, we were leaving at 3:00 to go to camp. I typed this in the translation website. She was angry and went in her room and pouted and took off her swimsuit and didn't swim with the girls. She had an attitude the rest of the afternoon and gave us trouble at church by running outside and wandering the grounds while we were trying to cook. Arielle, the voice of authority, kept track of her, following her around saying, "Nyet! Nyet!" Diana did not want to eat dinner with us but instead ate with the boy from her orphanage who was eating with his family.

The kids received t-shirts designed by my friend Bonnie with the verse, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." There is a big lighthouse on the front and Russian and American flags. They are really nice. During our craft time the kids stepped into a plate of fabric paint and put their footprints on the back of the shirt. They had a great time doing this. After they stepped in paint, of course they had to get their feet washed and my job was to dry their feet with a big towel. All these feet, big ones and little ones, brown Chinese feet, and pale Russian feet. So many children, many adopted, and then here are the ones so in need of a family. After we finished the t-shirts, I realized I had not seen Diana. I don't even know what happened to her t-shirt. She went home without it.

By the time we got home, she was back to the sweet little girl we had a bedtime last night. She played cards with Arielle, wanted to sleep with Arielle again, and wanted to hold hands and pray together and get hugs and kisses again. She called Fred, "Papa."

I don't think we have the energy for this girl. If we were younger. She is deep down a good girl, I believe, but needs a lot of guidance and a firm hand.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Day 3, Sunday

I had to wake the girls for church today. They were so tired. I left Diana in Arielle's Sunday School class and she was not happy, even though another boy was there from her orphanage. She is a very obedient child, but her face expresses how she feels.

Diana knew we would be swimming at 2pm so she was patient and excited. She told me she knew how to swim. We had been invited to the home of a woman I met on-line who has a girl adopted from the Ukraine. Her daughter Olia has only been home a month and was really wanting to speak Russian with someone. Earlier I had talked with the mom, Colleen, and she was so nice and down-to-earth, I liked her immediately, and even more so after I met her in person.

Olia and the girls hit it off right away. Olia is a delightful girl, the same age as Diana. The girls splashed and played and had so much fun. Diana does NOT know how to swim. She is very reckless and fearless and asked several times if she could go in the deep end. Nyet!

Colleen had bought some velvet paint sets for the girls to do. All of them went to the table on the patio and started painting. Suddenly Diana was in tears. Good thing Olia was there to interpret. She said Diana said she loves America but will only be here 10 days. Her school is very bad, she said. I think maybe sitting around the table drawing reminded her of school. So back in the pool!

The girls talked us moms into swimming and then they had even more fun, but were very wild and soaked us. We had planned to just wade a little. I learned the Russian phrase for "Watch me!" because Diana kept saying it over and over. She also wanted the physical contact, me holding her up while she tried to swim. She is a big girl, but is really a little girl inside. The girls went inside and played Barbies a little and Olia did their hair and put perfume on them. Colleen and I talked. She is a special ed teacher and sees kids with RAD and all kinds of emotional problems. She said Diana does not seem to have any of those issues at all and everything she did was appropriate for her age.

Fred had a surprise at home. He had bikes out and filled the blow-up pool with water. The girls were thrilled. Diana rode one of the kids' bikes around the yard and then saw my bike in the shed. She was in awe and, of course, wanted to ride it. Around and around the house she rode with a huge smile on her face. "Watch me!" we heard over and over. Then the girls splashed around in the pool with Diana doing all kinds of silly things because Arielle and Liana were laughing at her. Fred says she was wearing him out just watching her. She is a high energy child. Not at all like Liana or Arielle.

Damien and his girlfriend came over to meet Diana and she jumped up from the dinner table and hid outside. She wouldn't interact with them at all. In fact, she didn't like me inside talking with them and wanted me to come out and watch her on the bike--again.

Finally we got all girls inside and bathed and headed for bed. Arielle is again painting Diana's nails. Suddenly Diana urgently wants to tell me something. She speaks louder and more clearly to help me understand. I'm so sorry I don't. She walked into the living room and began to cry. Poor Victoria, the host mom who speaks Russian, because I called her again. She is so gracious though and said she didn't mind. Diana was crying because she sleeps all alone, she said. She told Victoria there are two girls who get to sleep together and she wants to be with them. So easy to solve this problem!

We all sat together on the couch together in a big family cuddle. Diana wanted me to hold her. Then I let her choose where to sleep. In the bed or on the floor. She chose the floor with Arielle. As I was tucking them in, she motioned for Fred to come in too and we sat on the floor and said bedtimes prayers and kissed and hugged each girl. Oh no, we are falling in love.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Day 2, Saturday

What a day! So many things to talk about and it is so late and I'm ready to collapse! But I want to look back and remember this very special time in our lives.

Diana slept soundly until 9am. The girls couldn't wait for her to wake up and went into her room immediately. Arielle helped her look through all the clothes we have gathered for her and she chose an outfit. They didn't come out for breakfast though so I went to check on them. All three girls were in the bathroom and Arielle was doing their nails!

Diana loves fruit. I put a basket on the table and she eats a piece every time she walks in the room. She is so thin, but very tall for 10. Right after breakfast she pointed to the yard and she ran in and out all morning. I watched out the window and she was smiling as she was swinging.

Using the great website my brother sent, (I'll check out yours too, June), I told Diana we would go shopping for clothes and shoes. The flip-flops I bought her are too small. She got ready to go by doing more nail painting, applying all the little girlie things that Grandma sent--including red heart stick-on earrings, and then packed her little purse with it all.

We went to Kohl's and she chose several things, holding them out to me to see if it was okay to get. She stopped at a display for watches and picked one up. I let her get it and my two girls didn't say a word and never asked for anything. We had a funny moment when Diana was trying on a swimsuit. It was a one piece with a strap down the center of the back. She opened the door to show it to me and had it on backwards. The strap was down the center of her chest with everything else exposed! She knew it was funny and we all laughed and I showed her how to turn it around.

She seemed very agitated when we left Kohl's. I asked in Russian if she was okay. She said nyet and motioned for me to make a phone call. She is very frustrated when I don't understand and wants me to call someone. When we got home I called the translator. It seems Diana just likes to know what is happening next. The translator got on to her, telling her to go with the flow and not worry about what was going on. Through this woman, I told Diana we would go to see one of the other boys at 3:00. She is very anxious to be around other Russian speakers. She pointed to her new watch several times to remind me it was close to 3.

Helen came over with her girls to meet Diana and the girls again played in the yard. For the first time Diana was trying to make contact with Fred by pretending to ride a little bike into his legs, teasing him. I was enjoying Helen's visit and then remembered we would later have guests and my house was a mess! As she often does, Helen bailed me out--cleaning up and cutting up watermelon and frosting the cake. When we were getting ready to leave, I combed Liana's hair, then Arielle's hair, and then...I looked over to Diana and she got up and let me comb hers too. I had longed to do that. She has silky, pretty hair.

We went to our friend's house for a dinner with the Russian administrator and the translator. They turned out to be very enjoyable people. We first took them to a park and the kids had the best time picking wild raspberries. They ate so much we thought surely they would get sick. We went back for a cook-out at our friends house and the kids jumped on the trampoline and rode skateboards on their front porch. Arielle and Liana had their feelings hurt when Diana chose to ride with the boy Sergei in our friend's car instead of with them. Diana is very talkative and really needs to have people understand her.

We went back to our house for dessert. It was a delightful evening. The Russian man, Vladimir, right away sat at the piano and began to sing and play. Then the translator played and sang and tried to engage Diana and Sergei with what I guess was a popular Russian song. Then all the kids ran outside in the near dark and caught lightening bugs in baby food jars. Even Vladimir walked around in the dark helping them. Larissa, the translator, is a lively woman who loves to talk and laugh. She seems to really love the children too.

Everyone left and without being told Diana took a shower and got into bed. The light was on though and she was playing music on Liana's toy tape recorder. After a little bit she got up and went into my room and motioned she was going to sleep. Fred reached out and gave her a hug, and I did too. She smiled, tentatively, sweetly. It was our first real connection. I put a band-aid on her scrape, put cream on a mosquito bite and checked her hair for ticks. Mom stuff.

The translator says she is acting like a tough girl because she has to protect herself. She doesn't want to let anyone close yet. I was thinking the same thing. Can she allow anyone in? We'll see.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Day 1, Friday night

We went to church at 7:30 to await the arrival of the children. They arrived about 10, bedraggled, exhausted, some in tears. We saw Diana right away. She looked like she wanted to be anywhere but standing in the gym at our church. The translator made introductions for each family and then each left with a child. We were last to get Diana. She didn't want to look at us. She didn't smile and seemed to want to hurry out of there. Not a peep out of her on the way home. We played a Russian music CD but the trip seemed so long. The girls took her to Liana's room that we prepared for her. She looked around it curiously. Liana gave her a Webkinz we bought, a little dog, and she said thank you to Liana in Russian. We took her into the kitchen. "Nyet," she didn't want to eat or drink. She did smile a little when she saw her picture on our refrigerator. I showed her the bathroom and asked if she wanted a shower. She said yes and took one. She got into bed. Immediately she got out and started asking me something. Of course I didn't understand. She seemed frustrated I didn't know what she was talking about so I chickened out and called Victoria, one of the other host moms who speaks Russian. Sorry, Victoria! It is 11 at night. Diana was concerned about tomorrow. She wanted to get together with the Russian kids. She's just so uncomfortable here. She's in bed now but I think I heard her sniffling. I hate she is crying. I went back in to say good-night and put an extra blanket on her. This is hard. Poor girl, she must be so frightened.

Day 1, Friday morning

I will try to write faithfully these next ten days so I have a record of this life-changing event in our family's life. My words will be unedited and uncut, so please don't expect much--except honesty!

Diana comes tonight. I talked to a friend of mine yesterday who was on our second China trip. We were talking about the day we met our daughters in a government office in Guangzhou. Early in the morning we gathered to wait for our babies who were coming by buses across the countryside. This was THE DAY we had longed for, the culmination of an almost two year wait. Finally we would have our precious new daughters.

Parents talked among themselves nervously, cameras ready to capture the very first moment when we would see our babies. In our group, the babies were coming from three different orphanages, so we didn't know which ones would be coming first. Suddenly there was a commotion in the hall and we all jumped up in excitement. The first group arrived! Our facilitator announced the name of the city. No, not our baby. My mom beside me, we watched the new parents meet their children. Crying filled the room, the silent tears of the happy families and the frightened screams of the babies. The parents with empty arms filled the time waiting by watching the new families, but our senses were heightened as we anxiously awaited the next group to come. More babies! A lot this time, all dressed in matching sweaters. They were adorable, but my baby was not among them. The thrill, the letdown, the thrill, the letdown! The last group of parents were so on edge we were practically shaking. Finally, finally, our babies arrived. We surrounded the nannies carrying our precious daughters, our arms aching to take them. I recognized my Liana immediately. But our first meeting was not as I imagined. Liana cried for two hours, not at all happy with her new mom. My friend and I shared our first impressions of that momentous day 6 and a half years ago.

Will this be the day I meet my third daughter? I'm reliving that first day with Liana and also remembering the day I met Arielle. I was in tears as I prayed this morning, as the joy and excitement of those memories washed over me. But today is sad in a way, because the difference is that in China there was no turning back. The baby I reached out to take was my daughter forever. This time I have to make a decision. This child will break my heart. She will return to Russia after 10 days, no matter what. I will cry because I know she is not right for our family and we will be sending her away. Or, I will cry because she IS my daughter but I won't be able to keep her yet.

Right now I am very anxious about our first meeting. All the host families will gather in our church tonight to wait for the vans bringing the children from JFK. What will happen? Will the children be scared? How will we comfort them when we can't speak their language? Will they like us? Will we like them? What will we do when we first get back home? It will be late yet we need to explain bathrooms and baths and feed them and show them their beds. So many unknowns!

One thing I do know. Our Father in heaven loves these children. He has purpose for them and we are privileged to be part of his plan. We will love them and care for them no matter what, because he does.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Diagnosis: NDD

The past few weeks have been focused on Diana's visit. We had plenty of other issues to contend with but always the imminent arrival of the Russian children has overshadowed everything else, in good and bad ways.

My friend Connie and I have shared our joys and our fears. We've laughed together trying out our Russian phrases and we've marveled seeing God's hand at work in this project. It's been simply amazing how we have connected with people who have the same passion for parent-less children around the world. So many of you have helped by providing all kinds of wonderful gifts for the kids to take back with them to the orphanage. My mom has supplied Diana with clothing and interesting crafts and toys and "girlie things." My mother is much more creative and thoughtful than I am. Many people, some I don't even know, have given bags and bags of clothing. And the reason strangers are donating gifts is because you are getting the word out!

Others have stepped in to help me with coordinating the Vacation Bible School. It's become a monumental task because the people attending keeps growing. I'm feeling stressed and rushed and I'm having trouble sticking with a task because I keep thinking about something else that needs to be done. I have to prepare a Russian meal for 65 people the first night! I was trying to figure out how that was physically possible when my dear friend who manages a food service business made a spontaneous phone call. She just gave the word and now a professional chef will prepare Beef Stroganoff for us all. This is a huge load lifted from my shoulders. I am so grateful to her and to each of you who are partnering with us.

This summer we've also had some fun. Fred bought the girls beautiful bikes three years ago. Arielle and Liana were thrilled with the flashy colors, the glitzy streamers floating from the handlebars, and the matching baskets to hold their favorite stuffed animals. But actually riding the bikes was another story. These bikes came equipped with sturdy training wheels and the girls did not want them removed, even Arielle at age 9. But one warm day Fred took the training wheels off, never to be replaced. Arielle overcame her fears and rode down the path at our favorite park amidst cheers from the rest of the family. Now Arielle and I (on my new Christmas bike) fly around the park trails. What a joy to share this time with my daughter!

Liana is only 7, but more serious about bike riding than Arielle ever was. Fred, with infinite patience, methodically walks the circular track with Liana, around and around, stooping to keep her steady, pulling her from the grass when she veers off, righting her when she wobbles, reaching to place her feet back into position. He never seems to tire of it.

One recent day as Arielle and I rode, we were delighted with the sky, a deep blue with cotton puff clouds. The sun warmed our backs and arms as we passed fields of buttercups, black-eyed susans and Queeen Anne's lace. We practiced our Russian as we rode, "Be careful, as-ta-rozh-na!" I shouted. Arielle responded, "Yes, of course, da, ka-nyesh-na." We laughed at our silliness but I am thrilled with her skills in so quickly picking up a new language. We heard bird calls unfamiliar to us and craned our necks to see where these strange creatures were perched. The coolness of the woods beckoned and we rode on. The fragrance of wild roses washed over us at one turn. Deeper into the thicket of trees the din of the traffic faded like the din of our busy lives and time was of no consequence anymore. We were living in the moment. It's a great place to be. Then off in the distance we saw a tiny girl on a tiny bike riding alone. No, a man was trotting along behind to keep up. It was Liana and Fred! Liana was riding without help!

All of us returned home refreshed. In the Philadelphia Inquirer was an article by Michael Smerconish. He was discussing a book by Richard Louv called Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Supposedly, "there is a recent body of research suggesting that exposure to nature can be a form of medicine for afflictions such as ADD, stress or depression." He went on, "...children today are being raised disconnected from nature...gone are the days of forts in the children grow up shackled to computers and TVs."

Well, I believe it. Our bike hike was good medicine for the whole family. Every time we take the time to get outdoors we are transformed. Why don't we do this more often? I truly am afflicted with Nature Deficit Disorder. But it's easy to cure. God created this wonderful nature. It's medicine easy to swallow.

"You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." Isaiah 55:12.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Tragedy was left hanging in the air with my last post. But after our world gets shaken up, the pieces settle and life goes on. Here is an update on those friends.

The homeschooling mom with cancer? She recovered so quickly she amazed all the doctors. Her disease had not spread as far as was predicted. But she is now faced with tough decisions about her treatment plan. She is home with her family, getting stronger every day, and the church responded with love and tangible help.

My friend with the spot on her lung? After numerous tests and doctor consultations it was ruled insignificant. But she faced her fears and came to the conclusion that God is on his throne and in control of her life and she would accept his plans to go wherever he led.

Liana's little friend with Lyme? She is back to her sweet self. Liana adores her and will be so sad when this child returns to Colorado.

The young woman with custody woes? The baby's father insisted on taking his young son for a few days. The baby had an illness and that gave Dad second thoughts about his parenting skills. Maybe he will rethink what he really wants, a relationship with his son or retaliation against his former wife.

My conclusion is that events are usually not as bad as they first appear. Our fears magnify the problem. Yes, sometimes we have to go through unpleasantness or outright suffering before our lives get back to normal. Sometimes it takes a long time before the broken pieces fall back into place and sometimes they never land back into the same place. But people are resilient and for the most part, hopeful.

Where is God in all this? When bad things happen, we tend to blame God, because he could have intervened and prevented it. Some prayers are answered, some not. (Personally, I think more prayers DO get answered than not.) My favorite author, Philip Yancey says, "In answering prayers, God normally relies on human agents." He quotes another author in his book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? "A theist believes in a God in heaven whereas a Christian believes in a God in heaven who is also physically presnt on this earth inside of human beings...God is still present, as physical and as real today as God was in the historical Jesus. God still has skin, human skin, and physically walks on this earth just as Jesus did."

Have you ever been the answer to someone's prayer? When we pray, "God, please help my friend," maybe God is waiting for us to provide that help. Maybe our prayer should always be, "Lord, may my heart be broken by what breaks your heart." Then with our broken heart, we take action to help heal the hurts.

As I've learned from my son Dominic, we live in a country of undeserved privilege. Our personal problems are real but we need to keep a right perspective. Be thankful and grateful.