Thursday, April 29, 2010


HOME Chips for Breakfast or is it dinner?!? - yummy (thanks dad!)
HOME Drinking milk with daddy
HOME scary mommy and two little ladies (the other two littles are still sleeping)
Ana's so tiny her jammies don't fit (GOTCHA DAY)
Mr. Man in his jammies
Belly Bean
Before Bed fun

First Bath - Eli
First Bath - Ana
First Bath - Tatia
First Bath - Tatia - note the lovely color of the water (that's the color it comes out of the tap)
Apartment in Kiev - Gotcha Day
Paka Paka Kirovograd!
Beautiful Kirovograd
Big Sister - Little Brother - Gotcha Day
Gotcha Day - Crazy Ride to Kiev - Tatia sleeping with Daddy
Gotcha Day - More Crazy Car Ride Pics
Gifts for the orphanage - diapers, blankets for the kids, chocolates/champagne for director
Gotcha Day - new outfits / last few moments in orphanage
After more than 24 hours of travel we finally made it home. There is just so much to share but until I can get some more sleep, I will have to let the pics speak for themselves. This week found my husband, myself and my mom very sick with four toddlers (at least they weren't all throwing up too) and so much to do in order to make it home. God is good though and somehow, someway He got us home. Updated posts will follow over the next few days.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Last Day in Kirovograd

Here are some pics from our last visit with the kids. Tomorrow morning our taxi bus will arrive at 8 am. We will then load up all of our stuff and head to the orphanage for the last time! We have all their outfits laid out and ready to go. Our children have spent the last few years as orphans, so they have absolutely no belongings. Everything from hair things to socks must stay with the orphanage. The plan right now is to be on the road by 9 am headed for Kiev. The drive back should take approximately 4 hours. Please pray that all of the kids (including Gianna) handle this transition well and that no one gets sick on the extremely bumpy, swervy and fast ride (last time poor Gianna had it rough). Please also pray that we will be able to get everything done at the Embassy quickly and that we will have no issues with the children's visas and medicals (we are a little concerned with a detail in Eli's medical history so please lift him up in prayer that we will not have any additional hurtles). Our flight is scheduled to leave Kiev on Wednesday morning at 5:35 am and we only have a one hour layover in Frankfurt, so there is no time to lose! Unfortunately there were no other available flights out until the 3rd of May. So we are doing what we've done this entire trip - completely trusting in God and His perfect timing! Thank you all so much for your prayers and words of encouragement. Please continue to lift us up as we enter a new chapter in our lives as we travel home and become one big family together. We will try our best to update our blog once we get to Kiev but we may not be able to...obviously our four little ones and trying to get home will take precedent.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Busy Saturday

one of the lovely carpets George got yesterday

We missed our morning visit with the kids today because we just had so much to do. Katia met up with us and we hit the town! First stop was a children's store to pick up diapers (for us and for the orphanage - as our gift), wipes, shoes for the kids, and porridges. We then loaded back into the taxi and went to a different children's store in search of sippy cups, spoons, and "teas" for the kids. We also picked up another "leash" for Tatia - we have one for Gianna (thanks Auntie Joey!) and we thought it would come in handy at the airport (this way they can have some freedom and walk around but can't get too far!) After getting stuff for the kids we stopped at the photo store to get a picture of us as a family developed to leave with the orphanage (they have a book of all the adopting families) and then we stopped at the pharmacy to try to pick up some meds for little Eli. After speaking to his doctor yesterday, we found out he is on an antibotic that we need to keep him on until we can get him home and to our doctor. Strange thing about the Ukraine is that you just go to the pharmacy and ask for what you prescription needed! There was a question about liquid or pill so Katia had to put a call into the orphanage doctor (so we have to go back to the pharmacy tomorrow) - Next we grabbed something to eat for lunch. Yummy pizza, borsch and beer! Last stop was the market to pick up some food and then we headed home. Gianna was DESPERATELY in need of a nap at that point. She crashed as soon as we got home and didn't wake up in time to make the afternoon visit with the kids. George and I visited with the kids and we came home to eat chicken nuggets, mac and cheese and peas....yummy! As I am typing this Gianna is busy packing up all of her stuff - too cute! I guess she has heard us talking about how we have to pack everything up tomorrow for our trip back to Kiev early monday morning! Here are some random pics from today...

this is pretty much what all the apartment buildings look like from the outside
I think this is a garage?!?
Ahhh...home sweet home!
Please tell me this is NOT an ambulance :)
Driving home from the orphanage

Friday, April 23, 2010

First Family Meeting!

Here are pics from our first family meeting! Gianna and Tatiana immediately gravitated toward each other. It's like they knew that together they could rule the world...well at least our house ;) Anyways, Gianna enjoyed spending time with the kids but was slightly disappointed that they wouldn't follow her direction. We had to keep explaining to her that Tatiana does not understand English yet and that Eli and Ana can't walk around yet. We also finished up signing all the paperwork and spoke to the kid's doctors, so that Monday morning we can just pick up the kids and go. Tatia's doctor was really nice, however Ana and Eli's doctor just gave us a lot of attitude. You could tell she thought we were crazy and seemed mostly put out to have to

First Trip Out

Anastasia and Tatia
This morning the kids took their first ride in a car since being dropped off as newborns at the orphanage. Katia, our translator, and Nick, our favorite taxi driver here, helped me take the three little ones for their passport and visa pictures. The orphanage had them dressed in all their winter gear. One would have thought it was snowing outside, not 60 degrees. Poor babies were sweating in the car! The kiddos did so well, but you could definitely tell they were trying to take it all in. I was so thankful to have the help of Katia and Nick. I've never seen a taxi driver be more helpful. He ended up with an armful of kids as we navigated down the stairs and in and out of the orphanage/car. He even helped hold up each child for their pics while Katia and I tried to corral the others. On the way back to the orphanage, despite our very best efforts, all three littles fell fast asleep. Since Gianna is NOT a sleeper, I must admit I was a little excited to see how soundly these three sleep!
While we were off doing passport/visa pics, George and a representative from the orphanage were at the bank closing out the kids bank accounts. Each child has a bank account that the government has been putting money into since they became wards of the orphanage. The thought is that if the child is not adopted, they will have a little something to live on once they become of age and leave the orphanage. The sad reality is that most children who never find a forever family later turn to drugs/alcohol and/or prostitution once they hit the streets. But nevertheless, it is nice that the government sets these accounts up. There is just no way of knowing exactly how much is in each kids account, but we agreed early on to give this money to the orphanage as a gift. This is standard for all Reece's Rainbow families adopting. Not only does it help the other children who are left behind, but it facilitates a better relationship for future families adopting those with special needs. And most importantly, it tells the orphanage that we truly value our babies for who they are. The interesting part about this orphanage is that they didn't just want us to hand the money over as a donation, but they had a list of things they needed. So after withdrawing the money, George has spent the afternoon riding in a large taxi bus with the representative of the orphanage, picking up all the things that they need. I'm not sure what all was on the list but there was some mention made of carpets (hence the large taxi bus!) In addition to this, we plan on buying a bunch of diapers over the weekend as our personal gift to the orphanage. We have noticed that they have a GREAT need for diapers.
Oh and as I was leaving today, I got to see another little groupa of little ones outside for a "walk" around the big green fence. Alysha, you are so right, they just stop and stare at you and it is SO heartbreaking. With the way they stop, you would think that I am a celebrity. One little boy said something to me as I smiled and walked by with Eli in my arms. Once again, I saw that little angel girl that is forever imprinted on my heart. She was not walking with the groupa, she was all by herself with one of the workers. She was closest to the gate and she just stared at me with this expression that said, please, please take me outside the gate! Oh how I wish I could save them all :(

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Change of Plans

We just spoke with our facilitator, Yulia, and there has been a few changes in our schedule. It looks like we will not take the kids out of the orphanage until Monday morning. Tomorrow will be another day of paperwork and passport photos for the kids. We will continue to have visits with them over the weekend and then spring them from the "joint" on Monday. We will then head to Kiev for our Embassy appointment and the kids medicals. Still on schedule to fly home Wednesday :)

Court (out of order post...scroll down to read first)

At approximately 9:45 am (Ukraine), we officially became the parents of Anastasia, Tatiana, and Elijah!!!! We were picked up this morning at 8:30 am and taken to the court house in Kirovograd. Our favorite taxi driver in region, Nick, took us along with Katia our translator. Natasha, our lawyer, met us at the court house for our 9:00 am appointment. We entered a rather old building with huge ceilings and filed through a metal detector that I'm fairly certain hasn't been working in years. We then were stopped at the entrance to a stairwell to show our passports and write our names in some rather ancient looking book. Of course, in Natasha fashion, we were waved right through. I love being with her! She thinks certain things (like wearing brightly colored booties at the orphanage) are beneath her and so when you are with her formalities fall by the wayside. We were led upstairs and told to wait outside of a door. We stood there with our translator for about 15 minutes prior to being called in. During this time, our translator briefed us again on court, told us to expect lots of questions (because nobody understands why a young couple like us would want to do this ), and told us to be prepared for some strange, off the wall questions, like what kind of dog do you have? or why do you not just have biological child...are you too lazy? Apparently this judge had even told one couple that medically could not have children that the wife was just not trying hard enough! We find that being in the Ukraine never disappoints :) She also told us to hope the judge was in "good humor". Katia also prepped us for the fact that the prosecutor would probably come and that she would most likely say no to our adoption. Apparently she is known for saying no. No worries though, we were told the judge had the finally say. I must say that standing out in front of the judges chambers listening to all this made me really nervous! Finally our lawyer called us in and we all took our seats. There were two ladies sitting next to the judge, who didn't say a word the entire time. The official from the orphanage was there to read the verdict of the council and of course Natasha and Katia. Much to our surprise and delight, the prosecutor was a no show. Another lady from the orphanage was there as well, to state whether or not this adoption was in the best interest of the children. Court began with lots of sitting and standing (each time you are asked a question you must stand) and lots of formalities. Our petition was then read before the court and all the evidence showing that the children were legally free for adoption began. Again, it was so sad to hear how the children were abandoned and we even learned that Tatia's mom left a fake name, so that no one would know this was her child. Finally the part I was dreading began....questioning! Surprisingly, the judge only asked us a few questions. Why? How old is our biological daughter? What did my husband do for a job? What kind of medical care would the children receive? Then came our final question....The judge looked at us, paused and you believe in God? A loud resounding yes was out of both our mouths faster than anything. After all, He is the reason we are here. I think our judge could feel that this was not really his decision to make, but yet a much higher Judge was in charge. Definitely interesting! After the questions, Natasha showed him our photo book. I'm sure he didn't think I'd notice but I caught a few smiles out of our judge. Once he had looked over our book all of our dossier and paperwork (bound together by some sort of heavy string) was brought out and gone through. Every single agency (interpol, SDA, homestudy, medicals, orphanage etc.) was read through to ensure we had approval for "positive adoption." Both ladies from the orphanage stood, spoke about us and the children, our positive visits, and whether or not they felt it was in the children's best interest to be adopted. One lady from the orphanage almost had me in tears when she talked about how sweet the children were and how children with down's syndrome require love, love the orphanage cannot give them. Then the other orphanage official told the judge during our entire questioning before the council that we did not once refer to these children as "sick". Our lawyer then stood and raised the petition that our 10 days be waived due to the medical condition of the children and the volcanic situation. She really hammered it in that these kids need to get home! The judge then dismissed us all and said he would need to think about it. Back out into that old smelly hallway we went! Approximately three minutes later we were called in again. We stood in front of his desk as he read through "the verdict" - in the middle of reading it his cell phone started ringing with some really old bad sounding Ukrainian music and he couldn't find it to turn it off. When it stopped ringing he looked up at us and with this really funny face and said in english SORRY...ha ha I almost peed my pants!! He resumed his serious nature and announced that the children were officially ours and that our 10 day wait was WAIVED!!!! :) I must say, it was so very surreal! So, our babies are officially ours and we should, God-willing, be home on Wednesday. After court, Natasha told us that we were lucky to have her and this judge because they get along very well together. She has known him for years and this case to him was like going to the moon! I guess it was so strange to him that he just let us go! She said we were the quickest couple yet!!! Our God is truly awesome - thank you all for the prayers!!!
After our talk, George was whisked away with Nick, our taxi driver, and Katia, our translator, to drive 4 hours (2 hours each way) to get Anastasia's birth certificate. Apparently where she was born they have no heat (they burn wood) and no water...ha ha poor George!
Thankfully, Tatianna's and Eli's were here, in Kirovograd, so Natasha and I went to go pick those up and then we went to sign some other paperwork. The whole experience today was absolutely beyond words. When we picked up the birth certificate here, Natasha and I went into a really old building (that someone had to unlock and let us into), up the stairs (which I almost tripped on, but Natasha in her 4" heels managed just fine!), and then into a room that smelled like a nail salon. Apparently it must double as one, because on an ancient looking desk was even older looking nail polish and a lady doing okay?!? We went through a door, into a room with old children's wallpaper on the wall (patched with old flower wallpaper) signed a book, showed the court paperwork to a lady and then Natasha told me to leave and wait for her outside. We made one more interesting stop to sign paperwork and I was free to leave. One of Natasha's assistants (who doesn't speak english), drove me back to our apartment in a car straight from Soviet times, with a cracked windshield and a seat belt that was no longer attached and yet he insisted I put it on...strange, but who am I to argue with someone who doesn't speak English. He then drove me "home" while we listened to the Scatman (how old is that song?!?) and swerved to avoid potholes. I also got to see a dog taking a dump right in the middle of the road...nice! I must say that is much better than the dogs and cats we have seen getting "fresh" with one another all over town! I really think I will miss this's like being in some really strange movie! So tomorrow at 9 am we are going to meet up with our translator, pick up some things for the kids, and then GOTCHA DAY at 10 am!!! The plan right now is to head back to Kiev around 4 or 5 pm tomorrow night. YAY!!!!! Please pray that our little Gianna is completely better by tomorrow. She has been struggling with a stomach virus since Tuesday, and while the puke fest has subsided for the most part, she is still just not 100% herself yet. :( And we have had no wash macheenin - as our landlord calls it - we have been washing by hand! The drive back to Kiev is a very bumpy one and even a strong stomach finds it difficult! Well sorry for the long post but words just don't do it justice! We are excited to get the kids and get HOME!!!!


Elijah Jacob Simons

Anastasia Hope Simons


Tatiana Faith Simons

Monday, April 19, 2010

A million little pieces...

My heart feels like someone has taken a hammer to it. This morning, while we were waiting to be handed our booties and taken to our room, a tiny little girl, maybe 2 1/2 years old walked by us with a caretaker. She had really short hair and just kind of a blank expression on her face. First she walked by the Italian couple waiting with us (they are the only other family adopting from this orphanage right now), and then as she walked by me I smiled at her, held out my hand and waved. Immediately, she stopped and a huge smile lit up her face. She waved back at me and then she reached that tiny little hand and grabbed mine. Ah, for a moment we just stared into each others eyes. I immediately felt my heart break into a million little pieces. I instinctively wanted to scoop her into my arms and whisper mama, mama to her. We held hands for only a brief moment and the caretaker tugged her back and away they went down the hall. I just have not been able to get this little angel out of my mind since. I wonder what her story is, how she came to this place. She was so small for her age and just itching for someone to take notice of her. How I have come to dread visiting this orphanage. I know that is absolutely awful to say because that is where I get to visit with my babies everyday, but I just absolutely hate it. I hate everything about it. I hate that it has to exist. I know in my heart that these children are fed and clothed here and that most of the workers seem nice, but I just can't explain the look on these kids faces. They look like orphans. If you put them next to a child that has known the love of a parent, you would be able to spot them in a second. Yes their basic needs have been met, but the very most essential, love, they know nothing of. It absolutely rips me apart inside. I knew that this part would be hard for me. I just cannot wait until Thursday!
Our visit with the kids this morning was much better than yesterday afternoon. Tatya seemed excited to see us and she spent most of the visit with papa. She just absolutely adores him. She did give me a big hug at the beginning and she will blow me kisses, so I guess we are making some good progress there. I know we will see a huge change in her once we get her out of here. She definitely needs some guidelines because she is VERY strong willed (hmmm, now who does that remind me of?!?) Ana did really well today too. She loves playing with the stacking cups and when I walk her around she will kick the ball. I am constantly amazed at her desire to learn and her attention span. She did seem really tired at the end of our meeting today but I had her up and walking quite a bit which is obviously not something they do with her. Eli is really starting to feel comfortable with us now. He definitely knows his mama! He is as lazy as ever and just wants to be held and loved on. He loves feeling different textures on his face and has the best belly laugh! Ana and Tatya also love feeling different textures on their faces, so I would imagine this isn't something they are used to. Sad :( We haven't heard back anymore about the events of yesterday or when we will be able to take Gianna in to visit with the kids. I hope soon because it has been really hard for me to leave her during our visits. She does fine with it, but I am not used to being away from my baby that much!

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Our big family visit today with Gianna and my mom did not happen. Instead we were told by the nurse "kinder no", this of course confused us so we had to make a few phone calls. We were told on Thursday by our lawyer, Natasha, and Serge, one of our facilitators, that Gianna and my mom could come to the visits. When we met with the council on Friday, one of their questions to us was if our daughter had met the kids yet, so we were completely surprised today to be turned away. We immediately called our translator Katia who spoke with the nurse lady and the doctor. They told her that we needed permission from the orphanage director and she was not available until tomorrow (they have a different crew on the weekends). Katia was very unhappy and told us that Natasha (our lawyer) was going to have a few words with the director tomorrow. We also called Serge and he was more than unhappy with what the nurse and doctor had to say, but unfortunately he couldn't do anything until tomorrow either. He also told us that they didn't want us to bring food for the children anymore. We don't know what that is about because the director told us on Thursday that we could bring bananas or large cookies for the kids. We think that maybe Tatya didn't eat her lunch because Daddy gave her a few more cookies than normal at our morning meeting (he just can't say no to her pouty face!), but who knows? So after our conversation, Katia called our taxi driver back to pick up Gianna and my mom and we went on to visit with the children. I must say that after all that drama our afternoon visit didn't go so hot. Tatya didn't seem very interested in us this afternoon and had a few temper tantrums when we weren't able to share our usual snack. She knows what I have in my bag and where I have it, so she was NOT happy with us when we had to snatch it away from her. Eli and Ana seemed pretty mellow and our time with them was shortened because we spent much of our visitation time trying to figure out why Gianna couldn't come in. Oh well, hopefully all will be straightened out tomorrow and we can have our first family visit soon. Gianna handled not being able to see Tatya, Ana and Eli well, which I was a little worried about because we had been talking it up to her. ;) Sometimes being here is just so frustrating!!! What we saw when we left was really disheartening too. An orphanage worker, who looked like she ABSOLUTELY hated her job, was pushing a double stroller around the orphanage yard (literally going in circles) VERY slowly. Inside the stroller were two absolutely precious little ones (maybe 10 months old?). They looked so sad just slowly being pushed around. No one to love them, no one to snuggle them, no mama, no papa. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Suddenly I was just so frustrated. What a very sick world we live in. People spend money on new cars, vacations, huge houses...we have SO much. But here these precious children are just waiting, hoping, praying for someone to sacrifice and come and find them. I guess it's just so much easier to pretend they don't exist. And it's so much harder when their faces are imprinted in your head. I just pray that God would stir up the hearts of His people to be mothers and fathers. People whose hearts would break with what breaks His. People who would not be content with what the world says to chase after, but who would chase after the real treasures of this life.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


15lbs! Can you believe this is what our sweet little Ana weighs?!? By the way, she is three and a half years old! I actually think she probably weighs a little bit less than this because when I hold her she has about four layers of clothes on her. How in the world does a three and a half year old weigh 15lbs!?! She is so unbelievably tiny and frail. Her hair is like a babies - super fine and super short. Her eyes and cheeks are sunken in and her poor tiny little mouth has only four tiny teeth, she also has a distinct smell about her. I just cannot wrap my brain around what the last three and a half years have been like for this sweet little angel. It just absolutely breaks my heart. We did have an amazing moment yesterday. We have learned in our short time with Ana that she is super smart (of course they have told us that she is the lowest function on the bunch)! She watches everything and then she tries to do it herself. I noticed this about her the second meeting we had - you just have to take the time to give her an opportunity to do it herself. So when the caretakers came in yesterday, the lady that came for Ana stopped dead her in tracks and her mouth just hung open. You see our little Ana was playing a little fisher price piano. And she was not just banging around on it, but she was carefully, thoughtfully playing it with her tiny little finger. This woman obviously never thought Ana was capable of doing anything. She just stared and stared. All three caretakers actually just stopped and stared and then shocked whispers began. You see we quickly picked up on the fact that Ana is not used to being in any of the rooms we have been taken to. She has spent the last three and a half years in a crib. I just cannot wait to see all that this little girl is capable of, the sky is definitely the limit. We just need to get this girl healthy!
Our little Eli also weighs in at a whooping 15lbs. He is two and a half years old and just a little little man. We think he probably weighed a little bit more than this before his bout of pneumonia in February based on a few of the pics we have seen. Eli is our lazy noisy little lovebug. We got to hear his big old belly laugh for the first time yesterday! He loves affection and attention but we have noticed he is super lazy!! He would much rather just be held and hugged then play or move around. Of course, I don't mind this a bit since the rest of my babies are movers and shakers. It just might be a little difficult for Miss Jan our kids soon to be occupational therapist. Of course, we also think some of this might be that he has not fully recovered from being sick. He's another little guy that will be headed straight for the doctors (actually they all will)!
Little Tatya weighs in at 22 lbs and by far is the healthiest of the bunch. It broke our hearts yesterday though when they brought her to us. Her shoes were probably 2 times too small. Those little feet of hers were just crammed into those shoes. I can't imagine how that must of felt. Every fiber of my mommy being wanted to rip those shoes off of her. Tatya is by far treated the best of the bunch. From what we have gathered she is in with "normal" kids. But there is something so profoundly sad about this little angel. I think it bothers me the most. You can tell she is used to getting attention, but it is sort of a sick kind of attention. They think she is cute and have taught her to wave, but in a way it's almost like going to a circus's really heard to describe, but it is definitely not normal or healthy. We did have a bit of a breakthrough with our Tatya yesterday too. I snuggled her up close to me, took her in my arms and started dancing around with her. At first she didn't know what to do, but after a minute she snuggled in next to my chest and just stared at me. This is something I used to do with my daughter when she was a baby. I couldn't help but feel so sad. This angel never got to feel that closeness as a baby. Heartbreaking really.
I think now we really just can't wait to get our kids home. Visits with them are much harder than I imagined. We have such a short time with them, we have no control over anything about them (they are just brought to us and then taken from us), and emotionally we are just drained afterwards. We can't wait to get them home, get them healthy, and start making some memories together as a family. Well I'm off to get ready for the morning visit. We have decided to bring Gianna to the afternoon meeting with the kids. It's a little bit shorter and since we will probably be stuck inside today, we thought shorter is probably better. Also our little peanut was up late and up early...just in Gianna fashion! So I think a long nap is in order for her! Here is a video that we took of the kids yesterdays. **Blogger is not cooperating so I'll have to try again later!**


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