Saturday, March 1, 2014

Continuing the Journey

Thanks for sticking with me here. It's hard to find time to write anymore, which is a bummer, but fortunately by this point in our journey with our little Ukainian princess the steps tend to take place over longer time periods. So I'm not really as behind as it may feel. At least to me.
That said, we have come far along the path down which God is leading us. It is...a hilly path. Lots of ups and downs. Galyna continues to improve academically, and we have (finally!) had our first parent-teacher conference where we were not told she needed to work on her propensity to chatter with her neighbor! Her grades are solidly at the level of her classmates. This is no small feat, and we're proud of how far she's come since being put into an American school speaking no American English. She is looking forward to middle school next year, and while nervous about the change in expectations - it's hard going from the "top class" to the "bottom class" in a school - Galyna is excited to be picking her electives. So far it looks like she wants lots of art classes, which also seems up her alley. She's also continuing to take dance class. This year she's stretching a bit, taking hip-hop instead of ballet. I think she wants to go back to ballet, but it's good to see her step outside her comfort zone and try something new. That's not been a forte, so small steps are good. Beyond dance and school, Galyna is involved in the E.D.G.E. group at church. She loves her teachers (we have the best "evah" at our church) and playing the games. Not sure how much she's absorbing about the lessons as getting her to tell us what she learned is usually an exercise in confusion, but she is starting to come up with some awesome questions. As long as she keeps that curiosity I'm a happy papa.
Beyond the day-to-day, we had another adventure this summer, taking a trip out to the west end of the country in the form of a two-week family roadtrip. We spent a few days in Yellowstone and a few days with my brother & his girlfriend in Seattle, surrounded by a lot of long, yet fun, days in the car. Galyna handled it with aplomb, and even was happy to participate in our family activity. I created a daily game book for the girls which included research (they had to study 10 facts about whatever activity or location we had planned for that day, and got points for uniqueness) and creativity (each day had a picture or poem or photo story they had to create related to that day's activity, with points granted for creativity). The prizes were first, second and third pick from a list of daddy/daughter dates (so I had something in it for me too!) She had fun with that, although the research got her stuck enough that she got the 3rd pick. That was fine as our day at the zoo was good quality time. She also enjoyed our little drive with Dude the Buffalo, seeing the geysers, hanging with Uncle Chris and Aunt Kristin, and all the other site-seeing activities. It was good times all around.
Looking back, we've come a long way. But the journey is not over. We're past some of the worst of the RAD issues, but it will be awhile before we get through the rest. Our therapist says Galya is the 2nd most traumatized adoptee she's ever worked with, which says a lot. The latest is dealing with a lack of trust she has in very many things, from our motivation in adopting her to the permanence of the relationship, as well as a still undeveloped understanding of what a healthy relationship is. Then again, she has taken strides with her sisters so we trust we'll get there with the other things. We're finding that much of what we have to deal with is not unique - which is encouraging in a way. It is comforting to know that there is an end to the tunnel that others have found, and you're not alone. So thanks for your prayers and encouragement; they do mean a lot. As we continue to work through the challenges which remain, we are grateful for the growth we've seen. Looking back is always a gratifying experience as we can see the many ways in which God has used this little girl to grow us as much as we grow her. Your part in that can't be overstated. Thank you! God bless, Ron

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Four years in...

Holy long time no chat Batman. As I've asked my wife myriad times of late, where did 2012 go? I don't recall prior years moving this quickly.

So I guess it's time for another update. The summer went fairly well, all non-eventy and such. A family trip to Chicago was the highlight, visiting family & the coolest museum in the world while they had a storm exhibit. We all loved it, and Galyna was a touch overwhelmed by it all. We also hit the beach, letting her see Lake Michigan up very close rather than just from the coolest urban roadway in America (yeah, I'm kinda something of a Chicagophile. Sue me). (Rather, don't. In today's litigious environment I oughtn't tempt fate).

We also had our traditional camping stop at Jellystone Campground for some relaxation & silliness before closing out the summer at the coolest state fair in the world. As much as I love Chicago, home has some cool stuff too.

School - Galyna's now in 4th grade for those keeping score - has been another step forward. Her first report card showed continued improvement, and she is liked by her teachers.

Galyna also took part in the annual Christmas kids program at church, and signed up once again for dance. This spring, she & I will take part in a father/daughter dance number at the dance school's recital. That should be interesting. I've only done this once before (with eldest daughter Tierney) and they didn't put too much stress on us poor dads. This one sounds a bit more upbeat though; I need to stop agreeing to things like this!

But no, it'll be a blast I'm sure. The fact that Galyna is looking forward to it is a wonderful sign. Since we last spoke (virtually, I mean - and I did the "speaking" - so maybe "since I last wrote" is better) we've have been working on getting Galyna to open up and share her feelings, and asking for help when she needs it. It seems to be working, and God seems to have brought us through the RAD issues. There is much in this area for which we are grateful, and in which we see growth. I look forward to looking back (how's that for chronological gymnastics?) and seeing how God brings us forward from here too.

Speaking of God, as I am wont to do, he is still greatly at work in our family situation. Thanks to the wonder of this whole Facebook thing he's provided, we have "coincidentally" made contact with two separate families who remember Galyna from her Ukraine days lo those many years ago.

The first is Vince, a man who visited the Good Shepherd Shelter about the time Galya was first brought there. Through our incidental contact on a Facebook group for people who've adopted from the Donetsk area, he put together 2 & 2 to come up with us being the people who adopted this girl he remembered. He sent us a DVD with some video of her he'd recorded, and for which we are eminently blessed, not having really much in the way of video or pictures from her going back even that far. Then, recently, another family in the same group said they remembered her, too, and are looking for more pictures & video.

Small world doesn't begin to describe it. (Another contact from the group, someone we met briefly at the Snowdrops orphanage has also come to a Facebook-related working of God in finding her adopted daughter's biological brother, and through us has contacted someone in the area working with kids his age to help him adapt to life after the orphanage. I find the "coincidences" to defy the category of "stuff happens." There are too many of late throughout this story, most of which I haven’t even brought up yet. God's at work, even using Facebook. Does this make Zuckerburg Balaam's donkey for the social media set? Hmmm).

But I digress. On this, four years after her Gotcha Day (seriously, where does the time go???) much looking back leads to many realizations of how far we’ve come in a very short time, and how blessed we have been to have encountered the people God’s brought into our world throughout the entire adoption/integration process. He is truly good, and these past few years, challenges included in the calculus, have borne that out for us again and again. I’ve even learned much about what it means to be a child of God by seeing how Galyna grows as our adopted daughter. The last thing I expected in all of this was to learn more about the gospel of grace, yet she teaches me time & time again lessons I thought I’d figured out at school and church years ago.

At this time, remember that. Jesus came, and we celebrate Christmas, because God is good. He wants to redeem us, bring us into his kingdom as adopted sons & daughters of the universe’s very creator. Let him adopt you and celebrate the new family life.

God bless,


Wednesday, June 13, 2012


School's out for the summer. Say, that'd make a good hook for a song...but I digress. Summer vacation brings with it more parent/daughter time. We don't put our kids in daycare, so the days Shannon works, I work from home - not to babysit; we're well past those years. In general I end up working quite productively while my eldest practices her babysitting skills, and all three girls learn to (a) entertain themselves and (b) get along despite being around each other all the time.

Needless to say, this is much easier to pull off now than it was a couple of years ago when they all shared a room. Nothing says peace like separate bedrooms (one reason I think I'm generally a pro-borders kinda guy).

It's been interesting these few days observing Galyna and ruminating on the changes God wrought in our family over the past few years. Her last few months have shown remarkable growth in quite a few areas: school (she's up to grade level), family contributions (she's by far the most helpful in regards to chores) and physical development (if it wouldn't violate the copyrights of the musicians who recorded the song to which she danced, I'd upload a video from her dance recital so you can see the difference between the girl who once fell while waving "hi" and the graceful ballerina she's becoming).

Even the space between the "acting up" episodes is increasing.

Yet the pain, fear and distrust learned at the hands of abusers remain. In therapy, we have had breakthroughs that include finding out she has a hard time trusting us, doesn't believe this family is "forever," and sometimes wishes she was in a different family. Today she said she feels like she's a "bad person" because she gets in trouble sometimes.

Makes it hard to forgive (again) the abusers, the neglectful who scarred this little child.

Yet even this is progress as she'd not been able to admit this much mere months ago. I take more encouragement in looking back than I do in looking forward to what (I hope!) will one day be. Much as God told the Israelites to remember His goodness by looking back to what He did for them, I see evidence of His grace by seeing how much Galyna has grown in a mere 3-1/2 years.

If I can offer any encouragement to anyone who has adopted a troubled child it is that growth can happen. Find a good therapist. Read about the needs of children who've gone through what yours have (we have learned from Parenting the Hurt Child: Helping Adoptive Families Heal and Grow). Talk to others who've adopted hurt children. Stay true to the love which led you to adopt in the first place. Be patient, even through moments of frustration and hurt. Remember that you are in this to help the child heal. He or she needs you, even if (s)he doesn't yet realize it. And you're not alone, even if you feel like nobody around you understands what you're going through because they don't see the day-to-day, hour-by-hour swings.

Enjoy the good times, and as you see those multiply, rejoice and celebrate them with your child. After 3-plus years, we're getting to do this more often. As summer vacation follows a year of school, healing often follows pain. Not always as quickly as we'd like, and not always visibly or sans backwards steps - but it comes. At least that is what we're discovering, and lord knows, with the mistakes we've made along the way, if we can do this there's hope for anyone.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Skipping ahead in our story...

So, it's been about four months. I'm guessing that's about right for an update, eh?


It's been an interesting 2012. School is going well. Compared to last year, she has improved academically, socially and behaviorally. As noted last time we chatted, steps are being taken. In '12, there have been a few more steps forward than backwards.


In terms of family relationships, there has been some growth too. Her Reactive Attachment Disorder has diminished to the point where she no longer hugs strangers indiscriminately, and her affection toward the family has taken some steps. She is more likely to snuggle & cuddle like the other two, although she is still somewhat tentative about it.

Odd as it seems, her relationships with her sisters have also improved - by becoming more "normal" in terms of sibling rivalry. There are many moments of good playing and getting along punctuated with squabbles & jealousy. Much like between Tierney & Amissa.

Therapy has been a blessing. Our social worker is amazingly patient as we work through issues of trust, honesty & openness. It's sad what abuse & neglect can do to a child. It's joyous, though, what therapy can do to heal. One of the interesting exercises we've done (besides trust falls & story telling) is "re-documenting" her childhood. This consisted of Galyna creating her own baby book which tells the story of her life to date - and which has many pages left for filling in as we go forward. We (Shannon & I) also wrote her letters which described what it would have been like had she been born into our family rather than being adopted into our family. It was rather cool to go back through the girls' scrapbooks to remember the little things we did for them (poems, silly "newspaper" announcements, etc.) and tell Galyna how that would have happened for her. And then to plan to do them retroactively. It seems each session helps us reveal another small adjustment or thought or reason. There is a ways to go, as I always say, but we've come a long way.


One of the other big steps for Galyna was our first family cruise this past March. We surprised the girls with a Disney Cruise to Mexico, stopping at Puerta Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. It was quite the adventure. From Las Caletas and a dolphin swim to the food, shows & characters that make a Disney experience a, well, Disney experience, it was a top 3 family vaca. We even got to spend time with some friends who live in L.A. the day before the cruise departed, visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific.

It was touristy - and I can go on evangelizing for the entire trip ad nauseum. However, for the purpose of this blog, I'll stick with talking about how Galyna handled it.

She handled it pretty well. We did allow some spoilage - dessert too often, staying up late a few nights - the usual. But she got along well with her sisters, and made friends. She met a girl from New Mexico and stuck close to her whenever she could. She was patient in line to meet the characters, and didn't argue or complain when it was time to shut down for the night. Galyna wasn't afraid to interact with Shelly (our dolphin) and stuck close by when walking around the various Mexican tourist spots we visited.

In short, I think this was one of the first times she allowed herself to relax a bit and enjoy the "normalcy" of family life. For that alone the vacation was worth it.


As always, I can't promise whether the next update will be tomorrow or in another four months. But I will come back. Subscribe to the RSS feed or follow the blog for updates.

Until next time, thanks for your prayers, support and encouragement. We appreciate you all!


Friday, December 16, 2011

The Plan

Today was "gotcha day" for Galyna. Three years ago today she legally became part of our family.

What an adventure it's been. I posted some updates of late you can find on the blog, but in summary the last three years have been an adventure for the five of us. Steps forward, steps backwards, steps sideways: always movement somewhere. In three years I think Galya has gone through about 18 phases, and I've gone through about 29.


I see our lives, sometimes, as being like climbing a mountain. There is a peak (often too short, but that's for another blog) toward which we climb. We encounter switchbacks and boulders - but see astounding views, and looking backward we often are surprised at how far we've come (or changed) through the hard work of the ascent.

It's not a perfect metaphor, but then I'm not a perfect guy.


The climb with Galyna is more challenging than with our other two daughters. Yet looking back I see how far we've come. Or, how far God has brought us. I am learning to be a better father, Shannon a better mother (as if that's possible!) I have seen my daughters struggle to adapt, yet shine brightly in those moments where they "get it." There is sometimes now unguarded joy in Galyna's countenance as she's starting to relax. She has stopped hinting at wanting to know how long she could stay. We have encountered situations where it feels like she's been in our family all along.

Which, although it's for another post, she has been in a way.

This is the word of God to exiled Israel, through Jeremiah. It was not spoken specifically to Galyna, but it still brings hope.

God has known her since before she was born. He had placed her with us before I was born. Jesus died for her before Ukraine was a nation. God planned redemption for her before Europe existed.

He had a plan for Galyna.

We don't understand it. Why did Galyna suffer abuse and abandonment? We don't know. But we have hope because God had a plan. Through it we grow, and through it perhaps Galyna too comes to the saving grace of Christ. This is our prayer. We trust God's love.

We have this hope - and can trust God's love - because when we look down the mountain, we see how far He's brought us. It is certainly not in our strength or any special parenting skills we have that brings us this far. Ask anyone in our family and we can regale you with tales of parenting mistakes, sibling errors, childhood failures. Nor can we say it's purely because we happend to adopt a Wobegon child. Although between you and me, she is a special girl.

It's God. He has taken a family which was unknowingly incomplete and brought to us our missing daughter and transformed all of us in the process, sometimes painfully, sometimes joyously, always faithfully.

He is good. Always.

So as we congratulate Galyna on her third "other birthday" we really thank God most of all.

We also thank you for your prayers, your support, your interest and your concern. You are all most appreciated!

God bless,

Friday, December 2, 2011

It's not bragging if you can back it up

Just wanted to brag on Galyna. She came home today with a certificate for being a model citizen in her class. Apparently she was one of the top three in terms of the number of "you were caught doing something good!" "gold slips" in her class for the first trimester, so won the certificate.

Just a small slice of teh awsums, as the lolcatz would say.

[Adding this note on Dec. 14: Galyna also received her first report card which did not have any grade lower than an "S" - she is finally and fully caught up, school-wise, with her peers. This is a momentous occasion, and one of which she was deservedly proud.]
Blessings -

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Picking up from where I left off

Yesterday I started talking about what's been going on lo these past many moons. I'll pick up from there today.

Life in general:
Galyna got to experience a new side of life, too, this year attending her first two funerals. The first was a memorial service for Joe Szymanski, a family friend of Shan's family. Galyna had met him once or twice, but the somber nature of the service did get to her. Joe is one of a kind and is missed. The second hit harder - my grandfather passed away just shy of his 91st birthday this past August. Great Grandpa Joe was someone she knew a bit more, talked about quite a bit, and saw more often. This was also a full funeral, including visitation, mass and graveyard ceremony (including burial). (I'll blog more about that in a bit, when I'm ready...Grandpa Joe taught me a lot and is also very much missed).

These events were, while bittersweet (we know both are in peace) were also interesting to me as I watched Galyna - really all three girls - with their first taste of grief. We tried to explain what was happening, talk through the reality of life & death, and answer their questions. In some ways, though, it was most interesting to see Galyna's response. It seemed the sadness & grief drew her out somewhat more than we'd seen in the past. We weren't looking for encouragement at such times, but it was provided. She is finding ways to be open at times.


Galyna has also been continuing in her dance classes. It's been good for her coordination and motor skills, as well as giving her an outlet outside the home for gaining confidence. She enjoys performing as well as just the fun of dancing. Her recital is in the Spring...if you're local, let me know and I'll get you the 411 on the date/time.

She has also been taking swim lessons, which is also helping in the confidence and physical development. It's amazing the way her strength and coordination have improved - ahead of her other development, actually, which I guess I would have expected. She also likes to play outside, and is physical in her play. It seems to be working for her as she's by far the healthiest of the girls in terms of general illness.


We have been attending Grace Church since before we brought her home as long time readers know. Galyna has been doing well at church, taking part in Sunday School and enjoying the times my parents attend with us. She is very popular and liked - nay, loved - which has been a source of support & strength for us all. As far as things of faith, she is asking questions. As with all things, she is still working on understanding, and we're not sure how her background will affect her spiritual self as she grows. Needless to say, we just continue to pray she learns truth:)


At school & church, she is making friends well. Our only concern in that department is that she choose her friends wisely rather than indiscriminately. This concern is shared, of course, for all three girls. This is not a surprise as she is an outgoing girl who dislikes being alone. She has taken especially to a couple of girls, closing in on "bff" territory. Yay Galyna!

Looking ahead:
This winter we'll be looking at a potential 3rd round of surgery, which would be in all likelihood her last. More to come on that. We're also coming up on her third Christmas in the family (already? Time = flying, no?) and this is a naturally exciting time for all the kids. This spring we're planning a family vaca of a Disney cruise, and this will definitely be a first for Galyna which I'll report on here. Otherwise, we continue to grow, to take steps forward (and sometimes sideways or backwards) toward what we'll eventually be. But this is the lot of families, and I wouldn't change a thing.

Thanks as always for your love & support. Until next time -