Thursday, March 28, 2013

Roller coaster

I've officially earned my mom title over the past 48 hours.  No, I didn't go out and buy mom jeans or a mini van.  Although those things actually sound pretty good right now.  Let me start from the beginning.

We went to the orphanage early Tuesday morning to finally break our girl out.  It was a surprisingly quick event--she hugged each of her groupa members and said goodbye, changed into an outfit we brought her, and said goodbye to the director and lawyer who were both visibly sad to see her go.  We were rushed out the door before any tears were shed and we headed off to Kiev.  Ruslana was a little more quiet than normal during all of this, but she did great. 
Ready to go in her new outfit!
Saying final goodbyes with lawyer (left) and director (right)
Before we left the orphanage, the director told us that in order to prevent her from getting car sick, they had given her car sickness medicine and didn't feed her breakfast.  I wasn't thrilled that they didn't feed her because she was hungry during the drive.  We arrived in Kiev--aka snow city--and she hadn't gotten sick once.  She wouldn't have gotten car sick even without the medicine, I thought. 
Most snowfall in 100 years...lucky us!
Killer icicles
After getting into our apartment in Kiev, we told Ruslana we'd go out for pizza, one of her favorite foods.  Our favorite restaurant in Kiev, which has the best pizza in Ukraine in our experience, would be the perfect place. We hopped on the metro and I'd never seen someone in such awe.  Every little thing was new and intriguing.  We had to grab on to her or she'd wander off, mesmerized, and look at something.  Even on the world's longest escalator down into the metro, she wanted to run down the steps.  This girl has no fear.  After a couple of train changes, we arrived at the restaurant.  The food was great, but we could only get her to eat one slice of pizza, which wasn't what we were hoping for in light of her skipped breakfast.  I think she was too busy taking everything in to focus on eating.  We could barely keep her in her chair--she wanted to walk around, look at people eating, and check out the pizza oven and the lobster tank.  We had a crazy woman on our hands.  But a happy one at that.
Metro escalator
Eating pizza at Al Fara
On the way back from lunch we somehow got off at the wrong metro stop, so we had to walk a ways to get back to our apartment.  She was either trying to run through the snow or, when the trudging became difficult, she'd get a piggyback ride by papa.  Now that's fatherly dedication.

Once we got back into our apartment, we displayed her new clothes for her enjoyment, and then she discovered the bath tub.  The orphanage only had a shower, so she had never taken a bath before.  She was amazed by the bath tub, and started stripping right away to give it a whirl. She had the funnest time taking a bath--it's something I'll never forget!  I sudded up her hair, showed her how to use body wash (she's only used a bar of soap), and most importantly, told her to lay down and relax her head on a towel.  She was in heaven.  She also got to use conditioner for the first time, which was super fancy to her. She liked the bath so much she ended up taking another one a few hours later! 

Checking out her very own new clothes
Every bath deserves a blow out!
She left the orphanage with a few personal items, including a diary containing the phone numbers of teachers and some of her friends in the orphanage.  She asked us if she could use the telephone to call her groupa.  We thought it might help the transition so we said ok.  Wow, this girl can talk.  I mean the "I'm a little teenager and all I want to do is talk on the phone" type.  She yapped away like we'd never heard before.  All we could decipher during her conversations was mama/papa and pizza.  At some points, she'd even go on the balcony to talk for "privacy," which is hilarious because we could still hear her perfectly but we had no idea what she was saying anyway.  She seemed to smile the whole time, and it appeared like she was telling everyone about her eventful day.

Talking away on the balcony
The rest of the evening consisted of us taking a walk per her request (which turned into a piggy back ride for most of the time) and eating dinner.  She told us several times how much fun she was having.  We thought we had the first day in the bag.  Or so we thought.
Walking with an Apple
Her bedtime at the orphanage is at 9pm.  We thought she'd go to bed easily in light of her incredibly exhausting day.  We tucked her in her bed, kissed her goodnight, and went to our room to work on paperwork for the next morning's embassy appointment.  About two minutes later she came in acting out that a monster would come in her window.  Papa explained there were no monsters and that he'd protect her even if there were, but she didn't buy it.  We decided we'd go in her room and sit with her until she fell asleep.  Well, that didn't work either. Next, we tried having her lay with us in our bed.  Another fail.  The next five and a half hours ended up being a total disaster.  She was hyper out of her mind--opening all the drawers in the apartment, asking for technology every two seconds, going through luggage, watching late-night TV, and messing with anything she could get her hands on. 

Then her hyper spell turned into a total breakdown.  We had told her to close her eyes and go to sleep.  A couple minutes later, when we checked on her, we found her laying under the covers, sniffling, looking at a small photo album of maybe 15 pictures, which represented her entire life.  After 10 years in orphanages, that tiny photo album is all she has to remember her friends and the highlights of her life to this point.  She told us she missed the children in the orphanage, and that she was nervous to go to America.  But she also told us that she was happy to be with us and didn't want to go back to the orphanage.  The entire thing was incredibly heartbreaking.  Ten year old girls should not have to experience this kind of emotional trauma.  She has been so brave and tough over the past two months, and now all the emotions were hitting.  Having never slept away from her friends, I can completely understand why she couldn't or wouldn't sleep.  Poor baby. I hope she truly knows how much we love her, and that her trust and reliance on us continues to grow.
Tough Night
Going on only a couple of hours of sleep, we woke up yesterday morning for an appointment at the US embassy.  Despite the long, traffic-filled, bumpy car ride, everything was going well.  But just as we were pulling up, with absolutely no warning, Ruslana bent over and threw up all over me.  I'm talking all of the contents of her stomach since she was born type of throw up.  It was all over my coat (even inside my pockets) and drenched my pants.  Feeling nauseas anyway, I was struggling not to lose it too.  With only a couple minutes until our appointment, we couldn't do much cleaning up because we had only a couple of tissues, and there were no bathrooms or facilities outside of the embassy.  And to top it off, we could only reach the embassy bathrooms after we went through security. There was literally nothing I could do but enter the embassy covered in vomit.  Lucky me and lucky security guards.  When we went through the screening I opted out of the x-ray due to my pregnancy, so a poor guy had to scan me personally.  He didn't speak English, so I couldn't even explain that my daughter just threw up to me.  I was just a stinky American, I guess.  After the security check, we met with an officer to turn in documents and answer questions.  Then we had to drive across town in traffic to have Ruslana's medical exam.  After that we were asked for lunch, so it was a good four hours before I could change.  And seeing as though I only have one coat and barely packed anything, I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do for the rest of my trip. Oh well, such is life.  And that of being a mom, I'm learning.  Blessings comes with responsibility, right?

Well, we finally got back to our apartment.  After I got into some clean clothes, I told Ruslana that mama and papa were going to take a nap, but that she could play a game on the iPad or watch TV.  That should entertain a kid for a bit, right?  Nope!  Our "nap" consisted of her putting her fingers in papa's ears, turning the lights on and off, begging for the telephone, yelling at us, tickling papa's feet repeatedly, wiggling into bed to pull off our covers, and my favorite...splashing papa's face with snow (apparently from outside one of our windows).  Having only had a handful of hours of sleep combined over the past few nights, this was less than thrilling.  We've tried so hard to remain firm and consistent while being loving at the same time, but the language barrier has made it difficult.  I'm trying to remain patient and remind myself that all of this is brand new to her.  She's never been taught anything and it's our job to do it.  It won't come overnight.  Like Mark said, she's a wild mustang and we just need to break her in!

Despite the difficult last 48 hours we've had, I've loved spending time with Ruslana (well, except for the throw up).  She is a spunky spitfire who loves life.  For better or for worse, that's exactly why I love her so much. Running on virtually no sleep, dealing with meltdowns, and getting thrown up on...I think I'm on my way to earning that coveted mom title. 


  1. Ah, yes. Throw up. Both my Russian boys threw up in EVERY taxi ride we took from the orphanage to when we flew home. My Ukrainian boy threw up 3 times on the airplane when we flew home. Not so fun. The meltdowns are to be expected. It will continue for a while, because she is grieving her prior life. It's hard to watch it, but you're doing a great job. Give plenty of affection and be patient. Hang in there, mama!

  2. We know this roller-coaster ride well. Not sleeping, Cava getting into everything he could get his hands on int he apartment, etc. His boarding school was in an extremely rural village so when he got to Kiev, he was wide-eyed over everything. Like your daughter, he knows no fear. Cava still talks about the flight to America. At first he kept saying he was going back to Ukraine with his puzzles, but recently he told me her prefers America to Ukraine and he's even told us that he's "American not Ukrainian." Praying for you guys as your real journey will begin once you get home. Love reading the blog.

  3. My goodness did I have flashbacks while reading your post. :) Our daughter who was nearly 9 when we brought her back from Kaz was EXACTLY the same way. Just be prepared for when you wake up in the middle of the night and shes quietly watching you sleep from mere inches away from your face. (Yes...alarming but she just making sure you're actually real and there from what we figured out.)
    She sure sounds like a happy girl with very proud parents. :) Can't wait to read that you're safely back home again and she begins to settle in her new home. Have a safe trip!!!