Thursday, March 15, 2012

2 months and 9 days later

Well it has been exactly that long since we arrived home with Victoria.  After making the long trip with 3 kids under 5, we were obviously exhausted yet had a rush of energy once we arrived at our final destination and were greeting by an amazing crowd of friends and family members with signs, balloons, stuffed animals and plenty of hugs.  It was truly an honor and a blessing to be loved by so many folks that they would give up their time just to see us arrive home.  The following Sunday was the same scene at our home church.

Since then, we have been adapting to life as a team of 5.  The girls are learning to share and have a love hate relationship, meaning they are pretty much acting like family already.

Victoria has made several trips to different doctors and specialist, getting things checked out checked on.  God has moved in these visits.  One concern that she had in Poland, disappeared somewhere over the ocean because when we arrived home, the doctors, based on what we had told them and they read about her, were baffled when test showed no issue with her bladder and kidneys.

Our family friends and church continue to be a source of encouragement and blessing to us.  Free childcare, cards, and continued financial support are tremendous blessing as we continue to travel to doctors and therapists.

Look us up on FB if you want to see pictures or have any questions.

Friday, December 30, 2011

One week to go!

Well it has been a few days since we last posed on here.  Not a whole lot to share right off hand, so I’ll give it to you in a list and see what I can remember that someone, not everyone, will care about, find amusing, or maybe just tolerable.
·         We have moved to a new apartment in Warsaw.  It only has one bedroom, but the overall apartment is bigger and has an elevator, washer/dryer, bathtub, microwave, and is closer to things that the kids like as well as being cheaper.  This is the group of apartments we originally asked to stay at, but that’s water under the bridge.

·         The other day, after 4 weeks of struggle, we discovered that Victoria will ride in the stroller without dying as long as we do not strap her down.  This is a great discovery.  However, it does not come without its bumps and bruises as she flops around and occasionally will fall out while we are walking.  I can handle a cry of pain better than a meaningless, temper tantrum cry.

·         The Hard Rock Café was the scene of the latest chicken leg massacre.  We ate there for reasons such as it tastes American, they speak English, and they have free refills.  Ryleigh ordered 2 chicken drumsticks that we were told would come out fried.  That was lost somewhere in translation because what showed up was a plate full of 6 baked and BBQ’d chicken legs.  She was thrilled.  She left with BBQ sauce on her mouth, her shirt, my shirt, her eye, and the booth we were sitting in.  I can’t wait to see her with a rack of ribs.

·         Etihad airways have THE most overplayed, annoying commercial.  It is a strong word, but I think I am beginning to hate that airline.

·         Robert, the missionary, and I have been out doing some more preaching and tract distribution.    We have been able to put the Gospel into the hands of thousands of people since we have been here.  Maybe just one will be reached and seek out God.  Robert has been in Poland preaching and teaching for 13 years and says he has seen very little fruit.  He is bold for doing what he does.

·         Ryleigh has been able to play several times with Robert’s boys, who are 5 and 7.  She calls them her “best friends in Poland.”  That is sweet and all, but they are her only friends, yet she means it genuinely.

·         This past Saturday we were fortunate to have a big Christmas dinner with the preacher from the English speaking Baptist church we have been attending on Sunday morning.  It was delicious and just like home.  We also spent the night and went to church with them the next day.

·         Have you ever sat in a church service and felt like the preacher was preaching the sermon right to you?  Well I have while we have been here.  This past Sunday, there were only 10 people at church and we were 5 of them. The preacher and his wife and then 2 folks from the community.  Leigh, the wife and our kids were upstairs, leaving 4 of us in the service, the preacher, the translator and 2 Poles.  He preached in English despite being fluent in Polish.  The sermon, in English, was just for me.

·         To get more minutes on our Polish phone, we had to go to the Plus store.  The lady at the desk shook her head when I asked if she spoke English, I responded with “Oh no, I don’t speak much Polish.”  She then responded in Polish something about being in Poland.  How did she give me a snide remark about being in Poland and not speaking Polish, if she did not understand English?

·         Mama mama mama!  Everybody’s mama around here with Victoria.  Me, Leigh, and even herself.

·         We have been able to battle the loneliness here by being fortunate to Skype with the Lawrence, Bowlin, Mullett, Corbin, Hyatt, Landrum, Hombirg, Jameson, Cawley, Phillips, Slade, and Tackett families.  Thanks to you all for making time to chat with us.

·         Victoria, who at times is the most loving child here, decided to give Ryleigh a kiss.  I mean open mouth, several second rubbing and gnawing of the chin and cheek area. It was funny.

·         Getting from our apartment to the mall means we have to go under the highway and through the tunnels, which lead you to a whole new underground world.  It is well lit and clean with plenty of nice people, and some helpful scary guys, that are willing to help out a struggling American family for a small donation to the beer fund.  It’s worth it to help get the stroller up and down stairs.  Nothing like you hear about the underground subways and stuff in NYC.  However, the elevator back up to the main level, smells of a delightful Polish urine aroma.

·         Why is it that most every escalator in this city is out of order the day we need to use it?

·         Smyk is the name of the toy store with indoor playground.  It is interesting that most kids, both boys and girls, come to the playground and take off their pants and play in tights.  Not long johns, pretty sure they are tights.

·         Here in the apartment, we have one machine that is both a washer and a dryer.  Fascinating and awesome that we don’t have to wear drying rack jeans that stand on their own.

·         KFC has been a delicacy here.  I wonder if we are just hungry or if the one in Cynthiana, which we hardly eat, would taste good here?

·         Keeping true to our form, the National museum we went to visit was closed.  That is 3 museums, and 2 out of 3 closed on the day we go.  However, they did have lost of military vehicles and helicopters and more outside to look at. 

·         Tonight, we had Dr. Pete come over at the recommendation of Robert.  Dr. Pete brought his table to the apartment and provided a massage and back crack to Leigh and I.  It was my first time so it was probably more enjoyable to someone who can relax.  But having foreign men rub all over me tends to make me tense up.

·         Today, Friday, we went to an indoor Aqua Park.  It was a fun time and not too crowded.  Our taxi driver took us there and went in with us to make sure we got where we needed to be despite his limited English proficiency and our even lower level of Polish.  They had a pool side for swimming laps, a kiddie pool and some other kid friendly areas.  There were 2 hot tubs, but only big enough for 3, maybe 4 if you really liked them.  The best part was a twisting tubes slide that started upstairs, went outside and came back in.  I had not been on a water slide for years and it was Ryleigh’s first time.  She was excited and we went several times together.  With a nervous scream we set off down the tube, sitting up with her in my lap.  So, not being in the official position on your back, riding down on heals and shoulder blades, speed was not a factor.  We actually went about 5 feet and stopped.  I had to push my way down through it a couple times before she realized it was not too scary and she could trust me.  Time after time we went a little faster and faster.  At the end, you splash into some water where I would pick her up to keep her from getting a face full of water.  She is still pretty protective of her ears since the tubes and ear issues she has had in the past.  Leigh decided she wanted to go down the slide with Ryleigh.  Not knowing the routine she and I had going, Leigh gets down to the end, after screaming the whole way, while she was sitting up and holding Ryleigh.  Instead of holding her up, she lets her take a face full of water, thus propelling me into the #1 fun parent position.  Quote from Ryleigh in a sad, crackly voice, “Momma tried to drown me.”

·         Layla and I went down the slide as well, with no tears.  She got in the baby pool and ducked her head under the water, shook around, and popped right back up.  I think she will love the water.

·         Victoria was a little uneasy with the pool but gradually loosened up and had a good time.  Pretty sure it was her first experience with a pool that did not inflate.  We also forgot to bring floaties, so it was pretty hard to have a whole lot of fun since we both had a child to hold.

·         While waiting our turn to go down the water slide, we had to wait for a light to turn from red to green so that we knew the slide is clear.  While I was waiting for Ryleigh at the bottom of the slide (she went twice by herself), a pudgy little fellow came crashing through the water and hit her from behind about 3 seconds after she arrived at the bottom.  In a country with so many non-practicing Catholics, what she said to me struck a chord.  She said, “Daddy, I guess he didn’t know about the light.”  The light was there, right in front of him with a sign guiding you towards it, yet he did not pay attention to the light and ultimately make his decision based on the lights guidance.

·         The only time I see a man in water in Speedos with a swim cap on, it is because I have decided to watch swimming on TV because the Olympics are on.  Today, I had/got to see them up close and personal.  I believe that swimmers who wear them in the US tend to be groomed and whatnot, not overly hairy with a done lap.  Picture Bobcat Goldthwait from the Police Academy days, in a speedo, standing in front of you, facing you, while you are about waist high to him.  Yeah, it was nice.

·         As of this past Tuesday afternoon, the paperwork was competed officially changing Victoria’s name to Hombirg and thus disappearing out of the Polish system as her birth name.  They just wipe it clean.  She is officially ours and we have applied for her social security number as well as passport so that we can come home on the 6th on January, at 9pm to Lexington, Ky.  Come on out!

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

We are back on the grid

So, it’s Tuesday night here in beautiful Warsaw Poland.  By night time, I mean it is dark outside, which could mean it is anytime past 3:30 in the afternoon.  I could see how easily a person might go mad here before getting use to the short days, filled with maybe a spot of sunshine here or there, intermingled with a breeze that can chill your bones and gray, cloudy skies that look as if they could unapologetically spit rain or drop snow at a moment’s notice.
Last Tuesday, we arrived here into our apartment.  Although they have recently been renovated, it still lacks various creature comforts and kid friendly aspects.  However, in an effort to not be whiny Americans, that are admittedly spoiled beyond measure compared to most of the rest of the world, we are “roughing” it here without the convenience of a microwave, an elevator, clean smelling air, a bathtub, reliable wireless internet, a dishwasher, and any form of enjoyable television.  For those of you in the adoption process, this is written for you for informational purposes only and not a reflection upon anyone or anything.  Just info.

We had the girls eating instant oatmeal and we were all eating leftovers, heated up in a microwave so that we could conserve some money and not be broke when we arrive home.  Without a microwave, there are no more leftovers to enjoy and yes, the oatmeal can be cooked still, but other, smaller apartments in this complex have a microwave.

Our next missing luxury is an elevator.  Knowing that we are coming with 3 children, and staying here in an apartment where we have to get groceries and go out and about to stay sane, you might would think an elevator or a first floor apartment would be a possibility.  Not with us.  Picture us, going up and down 3 flights of stairs, multiple times a day with 3 kids, a stroller, and anything we have accumulated in our journeys, such as groceries.  Again, this is just info.  We are making it work.

The aroma of whatever your neighbor is doing is not quite the equivalent of fresh air.  I have never lived in an apartment, but smelling what the neighbor is cooking can be quite the tease or turn off.  Other smells we are welcomed with include the repugnant odor coming out of the toilet and sinks as well as the occasional cancer causing second hand cigarette smoke, regardless of the no smoking signs posted around.  They talk, we hear.  They cough, they walk, tap on the wall, whatever, we hear.  However, we pay them back with the crying and sweet music of American and Polish temper tantrums.

As many of you read and had been praying for, bath time with Victoria started out as quite a struggle.  For about 2 weeks we dealt with the painful and torturous cries at bath time before finally getting her into the tub with her sisters for a fun bath.  We left with bath time in good shape, arrived here and lost the 2 weeks of progress we had achieved.  Here, we have a stand up shower, barely big enough to bend over and pick up a shampoo bottle in, in which we attempt to bathe a 5, 3, and 1 year old.  We are back to screaming and crying.  But, then again, we are not on vacation. 

Reliable wireless internet is another creature comfort that we have become all too reliable on.  Having had free reliable internet in Katowice, we easily kept in touch with friends and family at home.  Thus relieving any homesickness we or the girls had from being gone for such a long time.  We were able to update our blog and Facebook pages and share what is going on in our lives 5000 miles from home.  Now, we have a stick that allows one of our 3 wireless devices to connect to the internet, sometimes.  It is a pay to use deal and after using it sparingly the first few days, we ran out of minutes or KB’s or something.  We now have to take a 50zl ride to the mall to a store to get it refilled or recharged or something so that we can keep our kids from crying at night because they are homesick. 

Now on to the dishwasher part.  I grew up without a mechanical dishwasher and the dishwasher we had at home also cooked all my meals for me growing up.  She is not here and I am equipped with 2 arms that are capable of washing the handful of dishes that we have available to us in the apartment.  We have water, soap, a tiny sink and 1 towel and that is all we need.  Not a complaint, just info.

The television here, opposite of Katowice, which was satellite and fairly international, is made up of a handful of channels with CNN, international version, as the only English speaking channel.  So, as all of you were sleeping, I, for a couple hours, learned before you that Kim Jong Il had a heart attack Saturday.   I know his past, his likes and dislikes, his achievements as dictator, his family, his love of fine wine, movies, and foreign prostitutes, and that his 28 year old son will now be moving into power.

On now to the non-informational parts of the update.  On our first full day here, we were blessed with a guided tour by the girlfriend of Magda’s son.  Some called her Ola, some Yola, and even one Olga.  No matter the name, she was great and quite the blessing to us as we explored our new home and surroundings.  She went with us through the Royal Castle and the Warsaw Rising Museum.  Though Cinderella was not there, Ryleigh enjoyed the castle and seeing the throne, bedrooms, ball rooms and such.  After that, we enjoyed some traditional Polish cuisine and learned that Ola/Yola/Olga and many other Poles enjoy a nice cup of sour milk.  The trip to the museum was about enjoyable as a trip to Auschwitz.  The reminder of what happened here 60 years ago is heartbreaking.  To see what evil deeds man is capable of when absent from God is deplorable.  The names and faces of so many innocent people in front of us serve as a reminder to stand up for those who cannot stand themselves, speak against injustice, and love our neighbors as written in the Bible.  Sadly, we often think of those immediately around us as our only neighbors.  

On 2 occasions we attempted to go to the Copernicus museum and had our efforts stuffed by the Polish president, whom we saw on the road 3 times.  There are only 2 police cars in the motorcade, one in the front and back with 2 cars between.   All we had to do was pull off the road.  If we were at home, the city would be shut down and security everywhere.  We did make it to the Polish science and technology museum.  It was filled with various things from old radios and computers to a space section, a coal mining section, and more.  The rest of our time with Leigh’s parents was spent walking around old town and just hanging out, enjoying time with Mimi and Papaw.  They would leave us early Saturday morning and a tearful goodbye led us to a renewed spirit that our journey was now one week shorter and the blessed visit we received from them helped us feel a little more at home.

This past Sunday, Leigh and I took an expensive taxi ride to an English speaking Baptist church we searched out on the internet prior to getting here.  The pastor is American and turns out the 5 of us comprised nearly half of the attendance.  We learned that many people are travelling for the holidays.  We were able to partake in their Christmas lunch afterwards and met some new folks.  One such fellow we met is Robert, who is a missionary here from California.  He has been here several years and works as an ESL teacher and street preacher.  His boldness and love for the Lord exudes.  It is my prayer, that one day my faith is such that it is the very thing that makes me who I am and what I am about.  He took us to another English speaking church that night that was full of young and old English speakers.  We met folks from all over who graciously mingled with us and made plans to get us out and about and not waste away here in the apartment during the upcoming holidays.

Today, Tuesday, Leigh and the girls went to an indoor play place while Robert and I went to the main Subway station.  While there, he preached in Polish and I handed out 2 different tracks.  We were able to put the Gospel in the hands of many people today.  Some read it, others threw it away.  Regardless, they had the Gospel in their hands today.  Robert stood on the sidewalk, boldly proclaiming the name of Jesus to those that passed by.  In a predominantly Catholic country, home of the former pope, and over 2 million people in this city alone, it is staggering to think how many wander this city lost.  Lost because they are trapped inside a traditional, ritualistic religion that many believe requires prayers to a man while neglecting the relationship that can lead them out of the darkness.

Other random things that we have done since we have been here:

-On the way home the other day, we are packed in a taxi.  Picture it: 3 kids, no car seats with a driver who speaks no English.  Layla and Victoria are restless, not enjoying the death grips that we have on them so that the aggressive driving, that is the norm here, does not toss them about the car.  They begin to cry.  Crying turns to the occasional death scream and all at once, the driver pulls over and says “here”.  We look out the window and see that we are not home yet.  We are in old town, but not home.  He evidently had enough.  It was the cheapest taxi ride we have had because we never finished the trip.

-Layla, who is perfectly capable of saying, “Toria” for Victoria’s name, has decided to call her “Goggi”.  She responds to “Goggi” and they have on frequent occasions had conversations with one another about who knows what and seem to understand one another.  Then, they either hug or hit one another and both respond with crying in the most overly dramatic way.  Goggi, not Gaga as in the Lady.

-Some Polish people, despite our initial response of not speaking Polish, will continue to talk to you a hundred miles an hour in Polish.  One lady in a restaurant told us in perfect English that she did not speak English, only Polish.  She turned out not to be the nicest person and had a gentleman translate our order to her through the Google translate app.

-Victoria will, in a moment’s notice, take a head first dive towards you or in your direction.  Be ready.  Someone may have to get her a helmet for Christmas.  She is fearless.

-Ryleigh has developed a new love for “twigs”.  Translated into English, that is Twix.

-Layla has started eating vegetables and drinking any kind of vegetable or fruit juice or tea in front of her.  At home, not so much.  Victoria eats like my mammaw.  Fruits and vegetables and traditional Polish cuisine are her favorite for obvious reasons.  She will only eat fries and ketchup at McDonalds.  We will probably ruin her when we get home.

-Just like in Katowice, we are stared at a lot.  Maybe we look American?  Maybe it is because we have 3 kids?  Maybe it is because 2 of the 3 are crying when strapped into the stroller?  It is probably all 3.

-I am no taxi expert, but I noticed how the fare went up the other day while we were not moving and sitting at a red light.  Of course, there was some crying in the car.

-Flush the toilet, hear the sink gurgle.  Nice.

-I used a toilet the other day that had a duct taped seat.  101 uses, even worldwide.

-Layla can open up childproof cough syrup bottles and dump them on the couch now.

-Pizza here is not quite like American pizza.  It is much thinner.  Nevertheless, I ate 6 pieces the other day and was stuffed.  Ryleigh ate 5. 

-The refrigerator has 5 temperature settings.  The milk has frozen at 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1.

-Leigh’s parent’s smaller apartment had a combined washer and dryer.  We have the bigger, more expensive apartment and have a drying rack.  Luckily, the knob to the radiator in bedroom is broken, so clothes dry faster due to the unstoppable heat.  The heat in the rest of the house is off.  That room heats the entire apartment. 

-Wii is a life saver.  Ryleigh is quite the sword fighter.  Her erratic style is nearly impossible to beat.

-We were told Sunday that our accents remind someone of watching Hee-Haw growing up.  We took that as a compliment.

-As I type this, the snow has started to fall.

-Kielbasa tastes so much better here, whether grilled, fried, boiled, or smoked and a squirt of mustard will cost you about $.33.  Nothing is free hardly.

-Layla has made it an entire week without hitting her head on the floor.  Knock on wood.

-We have cabinets in our apartment that only Patrick could reach.  I have to jump just to touch the bottom of them.  Unfortunately, he is not here and we did not pack a ladder in our luggage.

-“That man is not very nice.  He must have the devil inside him.” – Ryleigh

-While passing out tracts today in Polish, I asked Robert what it said on the front.  He smiled and walked over to me and said, “The pope is a Nazi” and walked away.  I hope he was joking.

-Please pray for us as we are dealing with some homesickness as well as some physical illness.

-Pray that Layla and Victoria continue to bond and realize they are on the same team and do not have to be opposing forces 24/7 or at least 14/7, assuming they sleep 10 hours.

-Pray that our paperwork moves quickly and that we can afford to change our plane tickets to get home sooner.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

We made it to Warsaw

Just a quick note to update everyone on the events of the past couple days. Leigh parents arrived safely and have been a huge help with the girls despite the jet lag. Ryleigh and Layla were happy to see them and Victoria did not take long to warm up to them. 
On Sunday, we attended church one last time in Katowice at the Baptist church. This week, Dan was preaching so we were able to enjoy an English sermon. However, the most powerful part of the service was them music beforehand. Last week they had a small praise band with guitars playing familiar music. This week they had a young lady and gentleman. She was sitting at the piano playing and singing and he was playing the violin. It was the most beautiful music we have ever heard. No idea what the songs were, though I may have recognized one of them, but the beautiful sound of worship in another language was powerful. I looked down at Ryleigh during one of the songs and she was just singing out loud and praising God the best a 5 year old knows how. Little did I know that she was about to teach me something. I said, “Ry do you know this song?” She answered, “No daddy. I’m just singing my own words. It doesn’t matter.” What great wisdom from a little girl, who is not concerned with those around here, the fact that she does not know the song or the people singing beside her, but she does know that God doesn’t care if she knows the words. He cares about the heart and just loves the fact that she is praising Him. Wow. After church we again had a quick lunch with the pastor and said our goodbyes and thanked him for his kindness in showing us around a little and taking us in while we were there. Our next pastor to meet here in Warsaw is Paul Sock, another American.

Much of Monday was spent at the house with Leigh’s parents resting up and getting their energy back. Monday night Leigh and I were treated out to dinner with a couple we met at church, who also have 2 daughters, speak English, and he is a stay at home dad. It was the Polish version of us. They took us out and we had a great time with them and their daughter Sonia was great with Victoria. They were instant buddies.

Tuesday was the big day that many of you had been in prayer for. We headed out to court around 915, only to learn that court did not start officially until 1050, which, as those of you who have been here know, really does not mean it will start then. It starts when everyone is there and they are ready. Joining us at court were the lawyer, Magda our translator, the legal guardian of Victoria, and Basia, our social worker and then some pretty intimidating women along with the judge and a couple other folks. It was quick and easy. All the polish folks laughed a few times while we just stared and smiled. Hopefully my pants were zipped up. The hearing went well, just a few questions about us, our home, medical care, and Victoria’s needs and we were out of there. Our driver Tom said it was the fastest hearing he has been a part of. Thanks to Kim for scanning the paper for us again yesterday saying the US approves us to adopt. Turns out it was pretty important today. At the end of court, we learned we were approved and that in 15 days, Victoria’s paperwork should be in our hands and she will be officially a Hombirg. This makes her middle name of Noel even more special and appropriate. Thanks Heather! Our stay also was shortened by a week, meaning we should be home close to the first of the year. Probably the first week of January is the way it is looking.

The best quote we heard today at court, which comes from all of the prayers, was, “Leigh and Greg, God must really like you.” Supposedly things happened today that normally don’t. We don’t know what all took place, but people have talked about how weird the weather is for this time of year, things are getting done faster than normal, Victoria is doing well, and many other things. We learned that at this time last year there were feet of snow and below zero temperatures. I really believe that this trip has been and continues to be bathed in prayer and we are living out these answered prayers every day. We are grateful to our family and friends and church family for your love, support, and prayers. We could not have done this without you all. Thanks to our pastor at home for lifting us up as a congregation.

Lastly, our internet here is a little sketchy compared to our last apartment, but hopefully we can get it figured out and e-mail, FB and Skype with those who want.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dragging on...

Well it has been a few days since the last post, and not much interesting to share.  It seems we are just sitting here.  No adoption business to take care of, no one checks on us or calls or really has any idea if we are alive or not.  Nevertheless, here are the past few days in a nutshell.
 Friday and Saturday were spent staring at each other in cabin fever madness.  We pretty much sleep as late as the girls will allow then head to the mall around lunch time.  The fresh air is nice at times, when it is not producing black lung.
Sunday was by far the best day we have had so far as a family of 5.  We went to bed Saturday night with anticipation of getting out of the apartment and going to church with our social worker Barbara.  She and her family arrived at 10 to take us to church.  As earlier posts explained, we meeting Barbara and her attending the church of a pastor I had emailed before our arrival were about 1 in a million literally.  The church has about 100 members or so, the area we are in has about a million people in it.  The odds of her being the social worker assigned to our adoption case is nothing short of a God thing.  We arrived at church and met the American pastor and what a joy he was to meet.  Leigh and I listened to the service through headphones where a local English teacher translated for us.  The girls made it through the service to the part where the guest preacher began.  At that point we went across the hall to room with toys where a couple other children were playing and the pastor sat with us and we talked while the kids played.  He has been here 18 years and has a heart for Poland, its people, and for seeing the Gospel spread through the country.  During this time, he asked if we knew about Barbara’s husband.  Other than the fact that he drives very aggressively, we knew they had a BMW and a Mercedes and that they weren’t hurting.   Turns out that her husband was a heavy metal rock star here in Poland during the 80’s.  The preacher said his band opened for ACDC back in the day and were pretty big here.  So there you go.  Adopt a baby, meet an 80’s celebrity.  After church we went with the pastor to IKEA for lunch and for the girls to play.  We had a great time eating and learning about Dan and his ministry here.  Turns out that we know a lot of the same people here in Poland.  For those who have been to Poland with us, Dan is the one that organizes the English camps that all our youth workers talk about going to in the summer.   During our talks, we also were invited to attend a meeting at church Tuesday night for a group that is heading to the US in a couple weeks and are taking some conversational English classes.  We are thrilled to have another opportunity to get out in the town and help some brothers and sisters in Christ in the meantime.

Monday brought about our first encounter with snow.  After preparing for a visit from the orphanage workers, we waited in anticipation of the meeting.  We had cleaned the house.  Actually Leigh cleaned while I was sick and in the bed.  There was a small Polish uprising in my GI tract Sunday night and into Monday morning.  That’s enough detail.  The house was clean, the girls were dressed in their Christmas gear, all dolled up, and there we waited.  Waited some more and then called Magda to see what was going on.  They ended up not coming and here we were with our whole day built around this meeting.  Our friend Leslie had taken pictures of our house and uploaded onto FB for us to share.  We were ready.  Not sure when they are coming but who knows.  Monday also brought about the need for a new shower hose.  Ours broke after Leigh and the girls had gotten ready.  So I was fortunate to be able to take a bath.  So there we were, its Monday at noon, we have nothing to do.  I am puny but pressing on.  So, we go to the mall!  We stay there to dark, which is about 4pm.  We grab some food and head home, only to be welcomed by a layer of snow and slush.
After a night’s sleep, we wake up back at full strength.  We had to leave the apartment long enough for the cleaning lady to come and tidy up the place.  So where do we go, the mall!  After having a nice lunch at a place called Jeff’s, we walked for a while and let the girls play in the indoor playground, which has been a big blessing.  Ryleigh made a change from her usual Happy Meal request and decided to go with the KFC.  She didn’t know the name of the restaurant but said she wanted to go to “the place that had the white man with the chicken leg.”  She can’t eat a chicken leg now without thinking of what Paul said this summer at the park to her after seeing her “destroy” a chicken leg. 

 Fun things from the last couple days:
-Upon leaving the playground, they gave us a piece of chocolate and a wrapped ornament.  Not 2 pieces of chocolate Layla.  But to her credit, she tried to eat it multiple times.
-Victoria screams “momma” all the time.  Even the smallest thing we take for granted is so exciting to her.
-People at the IKEA playground did not believe Victoria was 3 because she is so petite.
-The large balloons given out at the mall sound like gunshot when they pop.  Making Leigh and I jump and Ryleigh cry.
-Polish wasabi is no joke.  Just a tiny investigative taste gets your attention.
-Not a good idea to run out of baby wipes and paper towels.  Otherwise, you have to take a girl with a dirty diaper all the way to mall to buy wipes and then change her.
- The newly European powered Wii we brought is a life saver.  Ryleigh is undefeated at sword fighting.
Prayer requests:
-Our upcoming court date next week and that the judge will rule in our favor for the trip to be shortened.
-Leigh is battling an approaching migraine.
-Ryleigh is starting to get homesick.
-Everyone seems to be sleeping well.  Layla included.  Prayer answered!
-Please pray for travelling mercies for Leigh’s parents who leave Lexington this Saturday.  It is their first time overseas. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

5 weeks, 2 days 2 go!

Well it is Thursday in Katowice, the sun has been missing since Tuesday, the air has a hint of Christmas coal in it, the cars that sit a while have a small covering of Advent ash on them, and we are a bit cabin feverish as you can probably tell by the beginning of this update.  Since the untimely death of our Wii power cord, our plans for passing the hours after dark, which begins daily around 4pm, are shot and we have pretty much played on the iPad, iPhone, ran wild in the house throwing a $1 ball of fabric from Wal-Mart at each other to pass the time.  So, at this point, whatever form of enjoyment we have had inside is credited to Steve Jobs (FYI, who was adopted, click here to read the article) and Sam Walton.   

It has not been an eventful 2 days, other than a few wrestling matches between Layla and Victoria.  Layla is bigger, but Victoria is more agile.  Think the Big Show versus Rey Mysterio.  Definite size advantage, but agility balances it out.  We played in the mall playground for a while.  Layla has now been a bully to kids on 2 continents.  She is still working on the concept that she is not the center of everyone’s world. Ryleigh had a great time and seems to play well with others despite the language barrier.  Victoria does a lot of watching at first, but does play well.  For 3 years, she has hardly left the confines of the orphanage, maybe out to a doctor’s visit once and again, but for the most part, everything we do with her is the first time for her.  It is hard to imagine.  First time for her in the mall, first time to McDonald’s, first time in an elevator, and so much more.  We are working with her on some of the characteristics she has that show up often in institutionalized children, nothing major thus far, but they are there.  That is a sad sentence and phrase that I just typed; “Institutionalized children.”

Today we ate at home for every meal.  It was nice to not be in the mall food court, but a challenge to round everything up at the store without the help of translation.  You just hope you are buying cow’s milk and not goats, the same with cheese and butter, hoping that the sausage we bought was not for a dog, because that is in the meat section as well and other minor shopping issues.  I praise God that we have these “problems” while many others around the world would love to have my “problems.”   Another thing we have noticed is that we catch a lot of looks in the mall.  Maybe because we have 3 kids, 1 that speaks English and uses that as her opening line to everyone she meets, 1 that screams in English, and then 1 that screams and says who knows what in Polish as we travel the mall corridors.  She could be screaming “These are not my parents, help!”  Who knows?

Yesterday we had a visit from the Polish social worker, though she probably has a different title here, and it went well.  It was very laid back and we spent a great deal of time on Facebook with her and our translator, Magda.  She was interested in what life will be like for Victoria when we get home.  She wanted to see pictures of church, family, and the house.  We then drifted into another tangent and looked at other adoptive families from Poland that we have connected with through this process.  The saddest part of her visit was when she asked us if it was okay to speak with Victoria in Polish about us.  She explained to Victoria that Leigh and I were her mommy and daddy and what our roles in her life were and would be.  It is heart breaking to think that Victoria, and so many other children around the world, have no concept of what a mommy and a daddy are or what we will mean to her and how we can and will impact her life.  Yet, many of us take this for granted. 

Stats for the past few years say that only 50 or so children are adopted out of Poland to the US a year.  Just think of all the other children that never make it out of the orphanages around the world, never know what it means to have an earthly father and, because of the unwillingness of a vast number of “Christians” to reach out to the least of these, and not defend the fatherless, many of the children will never know what it is to have a Heavenly Father as well.  Just think, our delayed obedience, which is disobedience, could be a factor in someone else spending an eternity separated from the love of a Father, all because the love we claim to have for the Heavenly Father was not real enough in our lives to change the way we live and do something radical in our lives so that something radical can happen in someone else’s life.

Leigh and I were those people.  The more we prayed about adoption, the more real the orphan crisis became to us.  For the first time, James 1:27 was real.  It was not just words on a page in a book.  Psalm 68:5-6 became a real thing.  It says God is a “father to the fatherless.”  I want to be like God.  He wants me to live like I believe what I say I do, so…… The thought of adoption was scary at first.  The most popular defense mechanism I used and we still hear from people à “It costs too much money!  We’d love to adopt but we just can’t afford to.”  Just slap God in the face why don’t you and tell Him that your obedience depends on your finances, and that your current uses of His blessings prohibits you from being obedient in this area.  You know, we’d rather not have our lifestyle impacted by this issue.  Leigh and I are examples of this being a lie straight from the devil.  As many of you know, I lost my job in June.  We could have quit the process or even postponed it.  We prayed about what to do.  God told Leigh to press on.  Meanwhile, I am crunching numbers in the corner thinking, I am not so sure.  I carried that burden for weeks.  One weekend we travelled to Michigan and listened to Russell Moore’s “Adopted for Life.”  That weekend I gave that burden to God.  It was out of my hands at that point.  There was nothing that I could do in my own strength to fix the problem.  If we were to continue, He would have to sustain us.  He would have to provide.  As my buddy Josh says, “God’s will, God’s bill.”  The Monday after we returned from our weekend trip, we are working VBS at our church and we get the phone call.  The agency was offering us this precious little girl, whom we now hold in our arms, and are madly in love with.  Would we have been blessed with this little girl had we not released our doubt and worry and lousy excuses to God?  I don’t know.  But praise God we did. 

Victoria is blessing us daily.  She is a reminder of what the Gospel is.  Not what the Gospel looks like, but what the very core of it is.  Never before has the reality of salvation, being adopted into the family of Christ, loving the “unlovable”, and my unworthiness been so real.  To experience the Fathers love and then to be blessed by this little girl, it is amazing, it is humbling, and it is beyond words.  God is blessing us far more than we are blessing Victoria by being her family.  Our prayer now is that through the experience of earthly love that she may one day come to desire and know a supernatural heavenly love of another adoptive father.

Where do you stand?  If you call yourself a child of God, you are adopted.  We as believers are called to care for orphans, no two ways about it.  The Bible speaks numerous times on the subject.  Are you caring for the orphans?  Are you called to adopt?  Foster?  To support an adoptive family?  Are you praying urgently?  Not the “I’ll pray for you” prayer, but the prayer that you would pray if you really and honestly believed that the only thing that could change the circumstance was your prayers.  Are you using the excuse of money as your reason not to adopt?  Please pray about your role in the lives of orphans.  They are 163 million strong worldwide.  You could change a life, and possibly an eternity.  Jesus gave the command, the response is yours.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 2 of a fam of 5

Today's note will be much shorter than the last.  Not much going on today.  We awoke several times to a crying baby last night; however, it was the one we brought with us from Ky and not the one from here.  Layla is having a rough time adjusting still, some sharing probs, which we already knew and a little jealous at times.  On the other hand, Victoria had a great day.  She slept through the night and put up very little fight in going to bed.

Today began with a visit from Magda, who told us about our schedule and travel plans and lodging plans while in Warsaw.  We then took a taxi ride to the mall, which we have walked to several times already. While hanging in the mall for a while we learned that our camera can’t withstand 2 toddlers, Victoria loves McDonalds French fries and strawberry ice cream, Ryleigh will approach the record for most Happy Meals consumed in a week, Layla would rather break a cone into hundreds of pieces than eat it, Victoria fell victim to negative sibling peer pressure and decided to break her cone too, you can drop your kid off at the supervised play place for cheap and leave, and our first attempt at cooking proved to be filling, yet not real appetizing.  The burnt coal smell in air smells good in a weird campfire way.

One of the best things that happened today was strictly because of the iPhone.  At nap time, Victoria was unhappy and not wanting to go down easily.  She cried for a few minutes before my light bulb came on.  I remembered I have the Google translate app on my phone, which can translate English to polish and then say it audibly.  I typed in, “Victoria, it is time for a nap.  No more crying.”  I played it a couple times standing above the crib and nothing.  I then hid where she could not see me and played it just inside the door of her room, where she could hear it but not see me.  Not another peep.  Went to sleep and had a good nap.  Maybe the app voice sounds like a lady from the orphanage.  Whatever it was, we are grateful for the iPhone and that app.

Tomorrow we have our first visit from the adoption officials.  Hopefully all goes well and there are no Lay vs Vic battles between now and then.  Our court date as of now has been pushed back to the 13th.  Leigh’s parents are planning to arrive the Sunday before court to help with the kids while we are gone and to help us transition to Warsaw.

This evening we talked with Kim and Camden.  It’s always nice to see a face from home and keep plugged in to all the happenings in Cynthiana, which apparently in almost under water.

Specific prayer request(s) are:

1.       Please pray for Layla and her adjustment and sleeping habits as well as Victoria.

2.       Pray that the judge decides to shorten our bonding period, which brings us home sooner.

3.       Pray that Victoria does better with bath time.