I really enjoyed reading all the questions! Some of the questions were worded differently, but had the same answer, so I combined them.
****I added a few more questions at the bottom.
1. How is communication going as far as the language barrier?
This is probably the hardest thing for us all. Andrew knows a little English and we know very little Russian. We have a Russian/English dictionary, we use Google translate and iTranslate. We use all kinds of hand gestures and charades. We have a close friend in Ukraine we Skype with when something important needs to be spoken and Andrew is not understanding. We also have people here in Elk Grove, we just haven’t called on them yet.
2. Did Andrew agree to his name change?
Yes! He had asked our facilitator if we had a name in mind for him and we told him he could keep his name or change it to Andrew. We thought Andrew was only one letter off from Andrey so it was very similar. Right away he was writing Andrew on everything! I’ve heard that some, not all kids, who are adopted from other countries want to change their name to an American name. We were fine with whatever he chose.
3. Does he stay in contact with his friends in the orphanage?
Yes! He calls them on Skype daily.
4. Does Andrew know about the blog and the posts concerning him?
I have shown him the blog and told him all about it when we were in Ukraine. He’s even looked at it since we’ve been home.
5. What are the ages of all your children?
Madison-15, Morgan-14 in ten days, Zach-11, Nate-9, Millie-5, Mackenzie-3, John-David- 3 in six weeks.
6. Does Andrew get any outside support or counseling to help with his transition.
We have our therapist lined up ready to go when we need her. She has been my son, Nathan’s, therapist for years. She is amazing! She knows all about kids who are adopted and how to help them in their transistion.
7. What is his personality like and is it similar to your other children?
Yes and no. Andrew is like the other kids with his compassion toward others and seriousness about playing an instrument. The one thing that is different is, he is a comedian. He makes goofy faces and acts very silly. I believe that is a mask for something much deeper. My prayer is that one day he’ll be able to talk about his hurts.
8. Has Andrew had any doubts since he has been home?
I don’t know. He has not vocalized that he has had any doubt about his decision.
9. Has he vocalized any home sickness?
Not verbally, but I can tell from his body language and quietness sometimes. I just go and put my hand on his arm and let him know I love him and it’s going to be okay. It takes him about 30 minutes and then he’s bouncing around the house again!
10. What has been the hardest thing he has dealt with since home?
Letting his parents teach him good habits.
11. What has been the hardest thing for you and the other kids?
Dealing with the negative attitude of a teenage boy from another culture.
12. Do you know or have sought out anyone in your area that also speaks his language?
Yes! Sacramento has one of the largest Ukrainian and Russian populations in California. We have several churches close by and several friends who speak it.
13. Does he seem homesick for his old country and friends?
Yes, he has told us he is not missing Ukraine too much, but he does miss his friends.
14. How is he doing learning English?
He tells me all the time how he took five years of English at the orphanage, but he slept through it! I met his English teacher and she said he was lazy and never wanted to learn. He tells me now that Ukrainian is okay, Russian he likes, but he loves, loves, loves English! He is determined to learn it. Always asking one of us what this or that is in English. He has a notebook where he writes it all down. A close friend of ours bought him Rosetta Stone. I’m going to start him on that this next week.
15. Will he be enrolled in an ESL class?
Mark and I are looking into this, so we are not sure yet.
16. How does Andrew get along with the little kids?
The four youngest he did not pay any attention to when he got home. He likes the bigger kids. For the first time yesterday he was carrying Millie. She is wanting to be by him all the time, so how could he not notice her.
17. Does he seem to accept all the kids as his siblings yet?
Slowly he seems to be accepting them. The younger ones are taking a little longer.
18. How is adopting out of birth order working out so far?
This is a question I’ve been asked many times even before we adopted. We thought of this too. How is it going to affect everyone involved? We sat down many times with our three oldest before the adoption to talk about it. Madison (15 years old) has always wanted a big brother. So for her, it worked. The other ones didn’t know what to expect. It was a question on everyone’s mind.
Then a good friend of mine reminded me that it is God’s order and it would work. She was right. I will give you an example that just happened. My biological son, Zach, was the oldest boy. We thought he would be affected the most. Last night the kids went to the water slides. Zach came in with Andrew and they were so
excited. The two of them had spent time together almost the whole night. There was one slide that Zach wasn’t too sure about going down. Andrew told him, “Come on! Big brother says let’s go!” Zach loved that! He said what a great time he and Andrew had.
I believe when the Lord orchestrates something, He does it well. Birth order… God’s order!
19. Has Andrew been able to Skype his friends in the orphanage so they know he is okay?
Yes, he Skypes with friends in the orphanage and one’s that have been adopted that are here in America.
20. Is he getting used to being around kids with special needs?
No. We know what the culture is in Eastern Europe when it comes to special needs. I don’t know what he’s thinking, but he stays clear of the babies, for now. They are the most precious, loving little ones. He won’t be able to stay away forever!
21. Are you learning Russian?
When I came back from Ukraine last summer after adopting Mackenzie, I bought Rosetta Stone Russian. I figures we had made several trips to Eastern Europe, might as well learn the language. I’m not good at speaking it, but I try. The three older kids have been doing it throughout the school year and speak it better than I.
22. What about the risk of bringing an older boy into your home with your teenage girls?
The question that is burning on everyone’s mind! My favorite question! There is a risk in adoption. It doesn’t matter if it is an older child, special needs, healthy, whatever. There is a risk in a lot of things we do, but when the Lord says, “Go!” Get ready to be obedient and go no matter what the risk.
Andrew, Madison and Morgan were meant to be siblings. God knew it before we all did. And that is exactly what they are! When my 15 year old comes down the stairs into the kitchen with some sort of green cosmetic mask on her face with Andrew standing there and she could care less, I call that siblings. When I see Andrew walk away disgusted at the girls, that is a typical brother response.
It’s amazing how the Lord weaves this all together. Are Mark and I still on our guard? Of course. We are there to protect and watch over all our children. Are we concerned about it? No.
23. When are you going to update the picture at the top of the blog?
I’ve been wanting to do this! We are getting family pictures done this Sunday! It’s a fundraiser for families who are adopting through Reece’s Rainbow, so part of our money goes to these families. Hopefully, we will have at least one good one to put at the top of the blog! I would like to keep it just of the kids.
24. Any words of wisdom to those of us who are thinking of starting an adoption?
Be prepared for anything. You are stepping on the toes of Satan when you adopt a child and bring them out of the darkness and into the light. He will not put up with that. But greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world. God will not let you down. He will be with you every step of the way. When you feel you are at the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on. The adoption road is not an easy one, but it is a fulfilling one. It is work even when you get home, but the joy that comes from it is immeasurable. The growth that takes place in you as a person, the strength you never thought you had, the redemption of a life without hope is worth it all!
25. Anything you would do different with the adoption?
No, I can’t think of anything.
26. How did you and your children deal with the travel?
Skype really helps! Mark and I were able to see the kids several times a day. The hardest for me are the days leading up to our departure for the country and the day of travel. Oh, boy do I cry! But before you know it, you’re home. And the first thing the kids and I say to each other is, “That went fast!”
27. Does Andrew swim well?
Yes, he loves to swim! I don't know how or where he learned, but he loves the pool and he loved going to the water slides.
28. What instrument does he enjoy the most?
He plays piano, guitar and French horn. During our communication of charades, I understood him to say the French horn is his favorite and he has asked if he could join a marching band. Mark LOVES marching bands! So we are going to get Andrew involved in one.
29. If you could guess now, what will he be when he grows up?
He loves music, so I am going to say a musician. I would like to see him be a worship leader and take Jesus to the people of Ukraine.
30. Many families that have adopted say their kids eat a lot. True?
Oh, my goodness....I have to go back to our first adoption almost eight years ago. That would be Nathan. He would gorge! He didn't know when to stop and when he was full. Andrew does eat a lot, but he is older, skinny and truly hungry. Last night he ate his first cheese burger along with two tacos and a burrito. When he came home from the water slides, he had a cup of soup with some crackers. He usually asks for seconds, but never thirds. Is he eating us out of house and home? Yep! ;)
31. Has he seen the welcome home page and does he understand it?
He has seen it and has read a few of them. He does read and write English better than he speaks it. I have taken every comment from the welcome home page and put it in a file for him. We thought when he is feeling a little down or missing his friends, we would give him several of the comments. Let him know how much people have been praying for him and love him.
32. Does your church have a praise band and is it possible he could practice along with them?
Right now we are live streaming church in our bonus room with Jentzen Fanklin at Free Chapel. But we are wanting the older kids to get involved with a Russian/Ukrainian church near by. They have a youth group that our girls are interested in. They might have a praise band!
33. Any exchange student traveling to the US experience a so-called culture shock after a few weeks. What about adopted children, do they feel the same?
Yes! We took him to the California State Fair yesterday. Talk about culture shock! So many nationalities represented that he's never seen before. They way people dress, have tattoos, piercings, hair styles, you name it. I was watching his eyes. It was almost as if he couldn't believe what he was seeing. I said to him, "crazy Americans?" and he said a very loud, "YES!" with eyes as big as saucers.
34. The idea of homeschool seems so incredibly weird and restrict. What does he think about it?
In the orphanage, Andrew would wake up in the morning and go downstairs to school. It was all in the same building just like we do here at home. He knows I homeschool all my kids and he hasn't really said anything about it. I personally would like to keep him at home for the first year. Then we will see where he is at for his senior year of school. I am definitely open to the best for him whatever that may be.
35. Is Andrew pleased with his room?
Yes, he seems to like it very much. He asked for more picture frames and after a week, he decided he didn't want the pillows on his bed. I'm going to buy him a bulletin board to put things up. He has pictures and postcards he wants to display.
36. I was wondering if he was thinking of going back to Eastern Europe for college or is he thinking of staying in the states?
We did talk about that when we were in Ukraine. At that time, he was thinking he'd like to go back for college, but the other day he told me he wanted to stay here.
37. Faith is obviously a huge part of your family and from the sounds of it Andrew has not yet come to Christ. Does he find that a difficult part of the family dynamic?
Actually, no. He has picked up on praying before meals and has even volunteered to pray in Ukrainian. He doesn't come to the bonus room for church, but I believe that will happen. He likes to listen to our Christian music and even tries to sing the songs. We did buy him a Ukrainian Bible and he does read it. No Jesus in his heart, but that will come with time. I'm not the one to convict, the Holy Spirit is. Mark and I will show him more through the lives we live than we can ever say in words.