Med Clinic, U.S. Consulate … Busy Day!

Hello, friends!

We have been on-the- go most of the day. It has been a whirlwind of going here and there.  Poor Elliott missed his morning nap today because of our appointments, and it occurred to me that he has never in his little life missed a morning nap!  His caregivers at the orphanage always put the children down for nap in the morning and then again in the afternoon.  I do not think Elliott knew what to make of how tired he was!!

We get to go to the Embassy tomorrow for our interview and for Elliott’s visa.  That is the last os our official appointments before we head out on Saturday morning.

We have been watching CNN World here in our Kiev apartment since that is an english-speaking channel.  They were just reporting on all the snow in Germany and the delayed and cancelled flights.  We are praying that we will not have cancelled flights in Munich and that our delays would be short-lived or not at all.

We met a couple of other families today at our appointments.  After talking with them and hearing their adoption journey here in the Ukraine, we realized again how much God orchestrated the events of our journey in a way that was perfect for our family.    It was so great to talk with them.  First, it was great just to speak english with them!  Secondly, though, it was wonderful to hear how God had worked in their adoption journey in a way they said was perfect for them.  One mom we spent some time talking wth while waiting at the clinic told us how she kept hearing God tell her about snow before they left to come here.  She said she told her friends before she left that she just knew there would be feet upon feet of snow.  When they arrived, however, they meet their new daughter and found out her name in Russian means snow!  The mom started crying about what a confirmation is was for her to know that God had chosen this little girl for their family and He was gracious enough to confirm it with the word snow!  That family is on our same flight from Kiev to Munich, so we get to enjoy talking with them for one more leg of our journey before we part ways.

Please join us in prayer for Jon’s eye.  As some of you know, Jon has been battling a recurring eye infection since July.  It has flared up again and he is in extreme pain.  He brought some prescription eye drops with him, but they do not seem to working this time.  The doctor at the clinic was very concerned about Jon before she examined Elliott and referred him to an opthamologist at the clinic who gave Jon two different prescriptions for his eye.  Our concern is whether he should take these drops in conjunction with the others he is already taken.  For now, he has decided to tough it out, if possible, until we are home.  His eye is somewhat swollen, very irritated, and is interfering with his ability to do any of the required paperwork or even to see to go to the store and get some water for us.  We both feel like his eye issue is spritiual warfare.  We have felt that way since it began in July and kept coming back.  Please pray for God’s healing and for a relief from the pain for Jon.  Also, pray for wisdom in taking the new medications.

We are growing more and more excited and ready to get home the closer it gets.  We cannot wait to get Elliott home and to get our whole family of five together.  We are so ready to hug and kiss Anna and Ryan as well!

Thanks for your prayers.

Back in Kiev!!

Thankfully, we all survived the 10 hour overnight train ride back to Kiev last night.  Upon our arrival to our new apartment (you really appreciate traveling light when you move so many times in one trip!), Elliott got a good two hour nap, Jon got a good 1 hour nap, and I got to enjoy the LUXURY of a washing machine and did 2 “loads” of laundry already!!  We got a rare privilege this afternoon for lunch as well.  We got to eat lunch with a precious, beautiful missionary family, the Cliftons.  It was great to talk with their three children and to speak English with all of them!  I even got to enjoy a cheeseburger at the local TGI Fridays!

Elliott seems to be doing well as we learn his eating and sleeping patterns.  He’s tinier than we thought, now that we’ve gotten a good look at him.  We cannot wait to watch his growth take off during the next year.  We have our embassy and med clinic appointments tomorrow and then we return to the embassy on Friday.  We should be traveling home this weekend!  Please continue to join us in prayer over the next few days as we finish up and especially while we travel.  18 hours of travel with a 17-month old is challenging under any circumstances!  That’s all for now.  We’re going to let Elliott take a nap in here where the computer is.  Have a wonderful day!

Melinda, Jon and Elliott Parks

Elliott is With Us Now!

What another whirlwind day!  We have been all over this region gathering various documents and signatures!  We got a new official birth certificate for Elliott, closed his bank account, and got his passport.  Elliot took his second car ride ever (his first being from the hospital where he was born to the orphanage.) He was very freaked out about getting in a car, but then he was so fascinated by the sights going by as we were driving, that he forgot how freaked out he was:)  He will experience his first train ride tonight as we go back to Kiev and then he will have his first airplane flight on Saturday…yes, Saturday! We have been cleared to book our return flights for Saturday.  We can hardly believe we  will be home just shy of three weeks after we left.  We really cannot believe that Elliott gets to come home with us.  Only a month ago we were not sure we would even be traveling before Christmas and we thought it was not even a possibility that Elliott would be able to come home with us in only one trip!  God has moved mountains in our lives.

As I type, Elliott is playing with Daddy in our hotel room.  Elliott has already heard Jon talk about the finer points of Eurpeon football as they bonded over some eurosports on the television.  He is a handful in this hotel room, so it is probably a good thing we are going to have an apartment in Kiev…a little less fancy:)  Elliott will enjoy his first dinner outside the orphanage tonight with us before we board our train at 8pm.  I can only imagine the next several days!

We are thrilled to be connected, however, with some local missionaries in Kiev..thanks, Melanie Lenow! We hope to meet with them if time permits!

Hopefully we will have internet in Kiev and we will be ablet o check in as usual.  Please pray for our last leg of travel…that we do not encounter flight cancellations or delays as well as Elliott’s peace and trust that he is safe with us.

Melinda

Elliott Peter Parks is Our Son Officially!!

What an amazing afternoon!  I could not possibly explain our court experience here in this note except to say that I have not recently been so imidated in my life.  I kept thinking in my mind about Jesus when he said to Pilate that he has no authority but that which God has given to him.  I kept looking at the judge thinking that he has no authority in our case except that which God has given to him (John 19:11).  God orchestrated events in such a way that our judge today granted an immediate decision for us to be Elliott’s parents.  This was unlike either of my two previous deliveries in which I became a mommy again:)

We do not actually have Elliott tonight.  He will spend his last night in the orphanage tonight completely unaware of what has been decided in his life until we are able to go tomorrow and take him away from the orphanage forever.  Even then, we are not expecting him to be happy about leaving, in fact, we are fully expecting him to be upset when we get in a car and pull away from the only home he has ever known.  We’re completly comfortable with whatever emotion comes out from him because we do know that better things are coming for him in his life.  How true that is in my own life.  I think I know what is best and often for me that means sticking with what I am comfortable with and what I know, when in fact, God sees the full picture of His plan for my life, and I am sure He often is okay with my lack of understanding of His plan, but He does expect me to follow Him.  We are okay with Elliott’s reaction to leaving with us tomorrow, but we do expect him to find security in us…not in the events of his life right now…but in the fact that he trusts us and we are safe for him.  God is safe for me to trust anytime, regardless of what is happening in my life at any given time.

From here, we should be able to wrap up documents tomorrow and head back to Kiev on Tuesday night.  We will have a full day in Kiev with no appointments on Wednesday, and then should have our two appointments in Kiev on Thurdsday and Friday.  For now, we have been told we should be able to begin our flights back home on Saturday.  We will know more tomorrow and will clarify before we book our return flights.  We will likely book those on Wednesday!  My mind is spinning from all that has happened today, so I think I might cut my update a little shorter than usual!  Please give God thanks and glory for how He has worked in our adoption journey today and this entire trip.

One final thought for now…Jon checked and found that we “offically” began our adoption journey by registering with our agency last year on Dec. 9th.  We will be completely done with our process almost a year to the day from when we started…WOW!!!

Melinda

Update from Saturday!

Hello!

First, I want to say how wonderful it has been to hear from so many friends about Elliott!  It helps us feel a little more connected–and it is just plain fun to celebrate Elliott with our friends and family!

We had a great visit today.  The weekends are much quieter at the orphanage and we do not have very many workers coming and going through the hallway/mudroom where we play each day.  Elliott was playful and ready to have some fun.  Since the weather has warmed up here a bit, we asked if we could take Elliott outside again, but we were told the doctor said we could not take him outside.  A little disappointing, but we must follow the rules.  They did say we could take him to the music hall to play with him.  We were a little excited for a change of scenery, but the music hall is a larger room that has very dirty and somewhat dangerous floors..not good for a little boy who gets around by crawling everywhere.  We enjoyed the larger space by doing some dancing with Elliott and some flying around the room!  We also got some good airport layover practice by playing with him while sitting in some chairs.  As is the case with any child about his age or younger, the never-ending game of drop the toy from the chair to the floor so mommy or daddy can pick it up was a favorite!!  He did pretty well playing in the chair with us with just a few toys, so I have at least some hope that we might be able to survive the ariport time ( naive hope, but hope none-the-less).  We decided to head back up to the hallway where Elliott could crawl around and we could play with more of the toys. Well, once again by about 2:30 he began to get so sleepy that he nearly fell asleep while I was holding him.  I told him he had to wait about 30 more minutes before falling asleep, but he apparently did not agree:)  Jon and I held hands and said a little prayer with Elliot, for Elliott, and when we were finishing, his eyes were closed and his thumb had dropped out of his mouth.  About that time, however, one of his caregivers came out and brought his food and drink so we could feed him.  We were so thrilled to be able to feed him, but also so conflicted since we knew he was tired!  He did perk up when he saw the food.  It was some sort of meat and rice mixed together into an oatmeal consistency.  He had a bottle of some type of juice as well.  He slowly ate bite after bite.  He was so tired he could hardly chew and swallow, but we were not sure of the expectations or if he would get any food again before tomorrow, so we felt like we had better try to encourage him to stay awake and eat!  It was wonderful to be able to meet his need and get to feed him, but also heartbreaking that he was so tired and really needed rest first before food.  We did tell him that when he was in our care, we would be able to better meet his needs since we would see the full picture of what his needs really are.  Even as it was, he did not finish the entire little cup of food they gave us to give him.  I am praying that his tummy is not hungry tonight and in the morning because of us.

Playing with Elliott in the Music Hall
Playing with Elliott in the Music Hall

I do know, however, that as much as I already love Elliott, I know God loves him more and has taken care of him his entire life.  For months, Jon, Anna, Ryan, and I have been praying that our children in the Ukraine were not scared, were getting loving care, were not going hungry, and were laughing and having some joy each day.  Jon and I talked several days ago about God had answered every one of our prayers!  Elliott does not seem scared at the orphanage, he is not going hungry, he is receiving loving care, and he is getting to laugh and have some joy with his caregivers!  My faith is so small sometimes.  I cannot get my mind around just how much God cares for the fatherless and the least of those on earth.  God will meet Elliott’s needs for us tonight and in the morning.  God may even be preparing Elliott to accept our care more readily when we get to be his sole providers and his forever family.  In much the same way, God provides for me each day.  I am in awe of God’s provision for me the longer I spend here.

Please continue to join us in prayer that the court decision on Tuesday would be favorable and that Elliott would be given to us and in our care by Tuesday night.  Pray  for the legal logistics to go in our favor so we would be able to head back to Kiev for our offical documents, etc…as early as Tuesday night or Wednesday.  Although spending some extra days in this region have given me more experiences to share with Elliott when he grows about his hometown, I am certainly ready to head back to Kiev and be one step closer to heading back home. I cannot wait to hug and kiss my other little ones, Anna and Ryan.  I am also anxious for our new family of five to begin the process of getting to know each other and bonding and adjusting.

One final observation for today..kids are kids no matter the region or language.  Earlier this week after it snowed, Jon and I were headed to a very early dinner and we came upon a handful of middle school girls and boys who gotten off the bus from school and were either waiting to catch the local bus home or waiting to go in and eat.  The boys were boisterous and were all making and throwing snowballs at each other and at the girls.  The girls were all huddled together giggling and making a pitiful attempt to make one snowball and toss it at the boys.  I almost laughed out loud as I realized that God created people who are similar in so many ways…regardless of language, culture, environment, etc…  It was a good reminder to me that every person I see was created especially by God for His glory and for His purposes!

Melinda

Friday’s Latest

Hello, friends!  We had a fun visit with our little guy today.  We are not sure if the caregivers feel sorry for us or think we are less than “bright” but they had pity on us and our same few toys in the hall each day and they gave us 3 new toys to use while we were playing!  It was tons of fun for us.  Little Parks LOVED the one that was a dump truck.  It made plenty of sounds and played music.  It was a shape sorter in which each shape went through the hole in a different part of the truck.  Let me just say, our little guy spent nearly an hour just playing intently and trying to figure out how the shapes got in and how to get them out.  He was very involved in his playing today and was not very interested in much guidance either.  By the end of that little marathon playing time, though, he definitely knew how to get them in, how to take the driver out, and sometimes he remembered how to get the shapes back out again!  It was so wonderful for us to be able to be with him, but mostly for us to watch his little brain working hard and watch him as he kept working to figure it out.  I certainly take for granted how many times I get to see Anna or Ryan work hard at learning something new.  This was the most intense learning we’ve been privileged to watch him do.  He is so adorable about the music.  His caregivers had said through the translator when we first met him, that he loves music.  Today, each time I pressed the music button on the truck, he would begin to sway his little body while he worked on firguring it out.  I also had some fun today with mirroring he moves.  He was playing with a ring from some stacking rings they loaned us, and I copied exactly what he did with the ring.  It only took him an instant to catch on to the fact that I was mirroring him, and he began to laugh out loud each time I did what he did!  He loved it.

We can hardly believe we only got to meet him for the first time one week ago today.  It feels like we have known him forever.  Really, I feel as though I have studied his face, his smile, his mannerisms so much this past week that I could recreate them all in mind simply by closing my eyes.  With that said, we are doing a little countdown each day ( just the two of us) to when we are praying he will be declared our son.  We are down to only three more days of regular visits at the orphanage.  I am already prepared to break down in tears when we actually get to take him away from the orphanage and he gets to be in our care!!!!!  On that note, Jon and I have been selecting a few favorite pictures and few favorite short videos (about 30 sec each) to post and share once he is offically ours.  Just the excitement of choosing them and setting them aside is fun.

We got to spend about 2.5 hours this morning “touring” our region and the sites.  It was incredible the history here as well as the museums.  We have seen several artifacts today during our tour that were older than our entire country!  Even though we are here in winter with snow around and cold weather, our drive stopped and showed us several large fountains that are turned on during the summer months.  I could picture how beautiful this area is during that time.  I am glad we got to tour and that I can honestly tell my son in the future a little more about his hometown.

We also got to talk to our case manager by phone today (from the USA).  She said we have blessed with getting th youngest referral from Ukraine this entire year.  She could not believe we were able to get a referral of such a young son and that things have been moving along so quickly.  She said that we should be so thankful that God has poured his blessing on our case so far.  I whole-heartedly agree, but I thought it was interesting that she would say that to us.  She sees and manages all eastern european adoptions for our agency.  For her to say that made me keenly aware that I am not sure I even realize right now how much God is blessing our process.  What a great reminder–in case I needed another one!

Thursday’s Latest

Hello, friends!  First, let me say thank you for all of the wonderful birthday wishes!  It has been unlike any birthday I have ever had!  We did get to visit with our little Parks today for almost three hours.  He was very tired today from the beginning.  It makes me a little sad that we get to see him at a set time each day, regardless of whether or not that is a good time for him to see us on a particular day.  My thoughts today kept thinking about how wonderful it will be when we can actually meet his needs accordingly rather than trying to play with him and keep him awake when he so clearly needs a nap!  I want to be able to let him sleep when he really needs it and play when he is ready.  I did not realize how difficult it would be each day to give him back to the orphanage workers when we leave.  I want to just take him with us and that feeling only gets stronger each day.  He is receiving amazing care in general at the orphanage and especially compared to some other orphanage situations we know about over here, but it is still not a family.  He is still not getting the experience of one mommy and one daddy and one forever family meeting his needs.  I am so thankful he has not gone hungry and seems to get some loving care, but he still gets workers rotating on different shifts and an overcrowded setting.  My motherly instinct is in overdrive and it is a struggle each day as I pray for God to meet his needs while we are apart from him.

Please join us in specific prayer that in court on Tuesday they will waive the 10 day bonding period and will legally decide we can be his parents.  We are so anxious to have him in our care and are praying that God allow the court to decide in our favor and that we can take him out of the orphanage on Tuesday and begin the process of going to Kiev for official requirements and then coming home!   We are earnestly clinging to God and like Jacob when he wresteld with God in Genesis 32:22-31 ( v.26) we are not willing to let go of God until he blesses our court on Tuesday.  We are trusting His provision and His will completely as we continue to stay where He has brought us!

I cannot even put into words in such a brief note all of the lessons God has taught me in the last week and a half.  It is uncanny how much He has opened my eyes and changed my perspective.  My prayer now, is that I will continue to be as changed once I return home and return to some of my comforts and routine.

It has been a fantastic birthday full of adventure, love, mommy moments, and more sweet time with my incredible husband.  I am so blessed!

Court News and Other Odds and Ends

Hello, friends!  Well, we found out today we will have our court date on Tuesday rather than this Friday.Although we are a bit disappointed, we are sure God’s hand has guided this decision.  We are trusting that God knows which judge needs to be presiding, etc… and so Tuesday is for our benefit.  We are now going to take a few excursions on Friday for about 2 hours to tour and see this region a bit.  We hope that will be a great experience we can one day share with our son and tell him how much we enjoyed seeing his hometown.

As for our little guy, he is definitely comfortable with us now.  He loves playing games with us like crawling fast and laughing just waiting for us to stop him from reaching the door. He just giggles and giggles!  We are going to have to be VERY creative in order to keep him entertained and out of trouble the next 5 days while playing with us for 3 hours in the little hallway!

On an adventurous note, we asked our driver to drop us off at a local pizzaria tonight for dinner.  We have been eating in the hotel restaurant and in the local cafeteria where you just point to what you want, so this was going to be a whole new experience.  Of course the entire menu was in russian.  We were told we could call our facilitator and ask her to place our order by phone with our waitress, but she did not answer this time when we called, so we were out of luck with that idea!  We used the roughguide russian phrasebook and were able to order cheese and meat pizza.  We got a delicious chicken and mozzarella pizza that was great!  We were even able to ask for a chocolate dessert!  It was a whole new adventure for us.  We may go back again since we will be here for several more nights.

One other discovery for me–I finally realized why I was waking up in the middle of the night because my hands were asleep.  The mattresses here are much, much,  much firmer than the ones I am used to sleeping on:)  I realized that if I slept at all with my arm under my head, etc… my arm was getting trapped between me and the mattress and the mattress had no “give” in it so my circulation was getting cut off!  At least that solves the mystery and teaches me to sleep completely flat on my back while I am here.  I just thought I would pass along that fact in case anyone encounters something similar in their own future travels.

Have a great night and watch out for sleeping hands,

Melinda

Update from Tuesday

We wanted to send out another quick update!  Our visit today was the best yet.  He smiled when he saw us and engaged in playing with us very quickly.  He also “babbled” much more than any other day–he just says his sounds and looks at us and then smiles.  He and Jon got a little snuggle time today as well.  He is quickly learning how fun and adventurous daddy is as he got flown around the tiny room like an airplane and got several rides on Daddy’s shoulders!  The more comfortable he gets, the more adventurous he gets as well.  We spent much of our visit today chasing him as he crawled toward the door just laughing and looking for Jon to come and grab him and move him away.  He is still not at all sure about being outside.  He acts very differently when we take him outside.  We took him out again today for about 10 minutes and he just looked scared the entire time.  He did not smile and did not seem to enjoy it.  Once we got to the little hallway where we usually play, though, he was all smiles.  He has also “learned” about the few toys we brought.  He can do the stacking with the pots and seems to grow tired of them more quickly…so we introduced an empty water bottle–every child’s dream toy.  Like every other child we know, he loves it!

We signed a few more papers for the lawyer today.  We still do not know anything yet about our court date, but are praying each day that the details fall into place for a Friday court date.  We would love for you to join us in that prayer.

We watched a great teaching today on financial stewardship and it was a good reminder for us.  How blessed we are to be able to be in God’s word and hear sound teaching so far away!  We hope to listen to the sermon from WCRBC sometime tomorrow as well.

Well, we are about to watch our nightly movie here and do some laundry in the sink!  We will update again tomorrow.

Latest From the Ukraine!

We thought we should give the latest from our neck of the woods!  We had another great visit with our little Parks today.  He smiled today when his caregivers brought him out to play with us.  At one point, he also just easily crawled up into my lap!  I was so excited.  He is laughing more and even babblling a bit while he plays with us.  His brain is working so hard each visit, though.  I cannot imagine all the new things he is processing for each 3 hour visit.  Today, 30 minutes before our time with him was up, he just crawled into my lap, sucked his thumb for about 30 seconds, and then fell asleep.  Jon and I looked at each other and thought “Oh, no.  They will not be happy if he sleeps now!”  My heart, however, just wanted to watch him sleeping so peacefully right there in my lap.  The end result, however, was that one of the one of the ladies came out and saw him sleeping and took him to lay him down, which ended our visit about 30 minutes early.  Even though I know for now that was best, I almost cried that we lost the 30 minutes with him today.  I am looking forward to letting him catch a nap on me sometime in the near future when he “officially” becomes our son.

As for other news and notes, I have somewhat successfully done laundry in our bathroom sink, eaten twice now at the local Ukrainian cafeteria, and can very successfully purchase water -no gas- at the supermarket on the first try!  Believe me, after a few unsuccessful purchases of seltzer water, this is quite amazing.

One other unexpected thing is all of the stray dogs here.  They are dogs just wandering around everywhere.  We hear them barking all night and see them wandering around along the streets.  For the first time in my life, I can actually better understand the Lady and the Tramp movie.  I realize that was not set in the Ukraine, but the dog issue must be very similar.

Finally, thanks to all who loaned us some dvd’s.  We have watched one each night so far.  It feels alittle like the movie Groundhog day for us after a few days with the same schedule, scenery, etc… but we are enjoying our nightly date night with a movie each night!

Once we have our court date completed, we will be free to share our exact region, our little guy’s official new name, and even some photos and videos.  Until the court declares him a part of our family, however, we are not able to share those things.  I will at least share that he has bright blue eyes like his big sister.  The two of them will be quite a pair in our family with those crystal clear blue eyes!