Friday, May 29, 2009

Temporary Insanity

First, some pictures: James and his ever-growing Play-Mobil collection
Here are two of our boys with 3 of Kevin's nephews: Caleb, Brandon, James, Tyler and Andrew (who is graduating from high school this week)
Getting that last document apostilled before heading to Ukraine

Celebrating 3 June birthdays prior to traveling to Ukraine: Caleb will be 5 on June 14, James will be 11 on June 8 and Billy will be 15 on June 18.

Here's James and his dinosaur cake

Caleb and his Winnie-the-Pooh Cake

Billy chose dolphin decor

Caleb enjoying the party

Escavating for dinosaur bones on our coffee table

Teresa was the first to get her dinosaur put together

Some of the presents

A lady in our church was so excited about Teresa going to Ukraine that she brought her a suitcase with all sorts of goodies, clothes and just fun stuff for the journey

My wonderful parents

I'd better put some news on here since it's quite relevant to our adoption.

Monday night we got home from an overnight trip to visit relatives in Boise. (Note: this turned out to be our last time to see Grandma Bryson alive) Imagine my total shock when I read the following note from our facilitator:

Hello Joy, We just found out today that Ukraine might impose moratorium on international adoptions next week. Alexey talked to the judge about it and she told him he needed to provide proof by the end of this week that I-171 is truly the document that allows the adopted child to enter USA (it is Ukrainian law requirement). If we can get it to her by the end of this week she will reschedule court hearing to June 1, next Monday. It will be the main hearing and you have to be present. Please, check and possibly book tickets to be in Ukraine this coming Monday and we will try to get the judge proves she needs tomorrow as well. She wants papers from US Embassy and SDA. We need to work together to work all of this out, even if Ukrainian Parliament closes adoptions next week. It is very unexpected and we all are in total shock. Best wishes, Nastya

Oh my! First, because here in Idaho--perhaps this varies from state to state or country to country??--there are only 5 days from Monday to Saturday when my husband, myself and our daughter, Teresa would need to be taking an extended international trip and when the kazillion details of providing for our other 4 children's care in our absence would need to be completed. I guess you'd think with waiting so long for this adoption to actually happen that I'd have all the details taken care of and would be ready to just throw my toothbrush into my already-packed bags and travel with great dignity and poise to the airport. Any of you who actually know me are now laughing hysterically because I do not really operate at my full potential until the last minute. Absolutely true story. I could also imagine God laughing because of all my whining and complaining about how long this adoption has taken--He's probably up there cracking up and saying, "OK Joy, is THIS fast enough for you?" Yep. I'd have to say this is definitely fast enough.

And OH MY! secondly because the thought of adoptions possibly being stopped--even temporarily--in Ukraine is just too awful to consider. I have so many friends who are also in the midst of adoption right now and I have no idea how this could affect any of us. Apparently a very important vote is supposed to be made on June 2. All you prayer warriors--please keep praying!

So anyway I have been bustling around all week trying to get something crossed off of my mile-long list. Yesterday was especially goofy with a trip to Boise to get a Power of Attorney form apostilled so I can complete adoption paperwork even after Kevin comes home, then stopping at WalMart, ShopKo and K-Mart looking for birthday presents for my 3 boys who all have June birthdays, picking up the 3 cakes and 3 kinds of ice cream and getting to our house about 40 minutes after the joint birthday party was supposed to have started. My Dad who had been watching the kids was ready to admit himself to the funny farm, the house was a disaster in spite of my directions to have it all cleaned up and vacuumed . . . BUT the party turned out to be a lot of fun. The two friends of James who were able to come were very well-behaved and fun to have around. Everyone-including a friend of our daughters who joined in on the party-enjoyed the activities James had selected: trying to excavate these tiny plastic 'dinosaur bones' out of very hard "dinosaur-egg"- shaped clumps of plastery stuff and also putting little capsules in warm water and watching foam dinosaurs 'grow' We also had dinosaur-decorated drinking straws but forgot to use them. As you might guess James had dinosaurs on his cake; Billy had dolphins and Caleb had Tigger and Piglet. Crazy day that ended well.

This morning I am kind of bummed to get this message from our facilitator:

Hello Joy, Alexey is just back from second preliminary hearing. The main hearing is 100% scheduled for next Wednesday, June 3. The judge said she needed to find out one more thing from SDA, but the hearing is already scheduled for 3 pm on Wednesday. You can decide whether to come on Sunday as planned or postpone until Tuesday. Have a good weekend, Nastya

I, of course, emailed my concern about the vote being on June 2 and our court on June 3 and she responded:

Even if the vote is positive, it is very unlikely the president would sign it the very next day so you should be OK time wise

Please don't stop praying--not just for us but for Ukraine and for all adoptions. We are still planning to fly out tomorrow and arrive in Kiev late Sunday night.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The McClains

Sorry, I formatted this wrong so the pictures are a mess. The group shots here at the top are a very proud Momma (me) with our 5 kiddos in front of Arby's on Mother's Day.

Next there's a picture of Billy with his volcano project complete with plastic soldiers implanted in the mud

Here are Teresa and Scheri all prettied-up sitting on our piano bench.

Here's Caleb inside a roadway of blocks that he and I built.

These next pictures are from a special presentation Billy did for a Social Studies class on Native Americans here in Idaho. His special education teacher is seated at her desk

Then here is Scheri with the lovely Viceroy butterfly model she made for Science

And finally a shot of Papa (my dad) and Caleb drinking chocolate milk in Papa's kitchen while Mom and I worked on anniversary invitations

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bah Humbug

I was sure I would have a message waiting for me from our facilitator when I woke up this morning but there was none--and there was still no news when I had to leave the house a couple hours later to go major grocery shopping.

When I finally got a chance to get to the computer here is the disappointing message I found:

Hello Joy, the hearing went OK. The judge did ask for couple of other papers that we are able to get from US Embassy. Alexey will be going to the second preliminary hearing on June 4th. You don't need to come then. We are happy it is moving and we are getting there. God bless, Nastya

I wonder how many preliminary hearings we can have? At least no one can say that this case did not receive due consideration!!!

I am bummed because I was so ready to be jumping on a jet plane in about 10 days. I think this pretty much leaves early July as the soonest we can travel. Bah humbug!

I know, I know . . . I said I wanted to accept however God let it turn out today. Did I say I would do it without kicking and screaming?

Another fascinating bit of news:
Today we received 3 of our kids' passports in the mail: the expedited one (for which we paid an extra $60) and 2 others (for which we did not pay the extra $60) We received no passport at all for Scheri. Instead we got a letter saying something like "since she wasn't born in a medical facility we need these other proofs of her US citizenship" What??!! I have never heard anything about her not being born in a hospital. Even if that were true, I thought being born in the US to US citizens made a child a US citizen automatically. Besides that, Scheri is adopted so I do not know how I am going to obtain the kind of 'proof' they want. I will have to deal with this another day.

17 Minutes

It's 12:43 am here which means our preliminary hearing is scheduled to begin in Ukraine in 17 minutes!! We have a 9 hour time difference. (9:43 am there) I am trying to pray. Our facilitator said she has errands to do after court but will email as soon as she can.

Oh God, please have your way in these court proceedings. Please forgive all my doubting and fretting and fussing. I know you love Steven even more than I do and you will do what is best and what is right. Please help me to accept your will.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Walk and Not Faint (Encouraging Bible verses)

As many of you know, we committed to adopting Steven on May 31, 2008. At that time I believed that we would be able to hurriedly assemble another dossier and quickly rescue him from the institution to which he had just been transferred. But that was not to be. Though we had our SDA appointment back in December 2008 we have not yet been assigned a court date to finalize our adoption. We are quickly approaching the 1 year mark.

2 or 3 days ago I opened my NIV Study Bible and it opened--as it often has in the past--to Isaiah 41:10
"So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Wow, I could just put a strangle-hold on that verse.

I was also reminded that Isaiah 40:31 is on the opposite page:
"But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and
not be faint."

I was thinking there is a time to fly, to run and to walk. I love the soaring times when God just flies me over the troubles and zooms me through the obstacles. But maybe the epitome of showing His strength is when we walk and don't faint. Not exciting. No applause. Pretty monotonous and slow. But we just keep trudging along, trustingly putting one foot in front of the other. The only way we lose is if we quit. If we just keep going, we will win.

Of course, I'm thinking of Steven's never-ending adoption. I haven't soared; I've done very little running. And honestly, there have been plenty of times when I haven't trusted (I am so ashamed to say this.) I've moaned and groaned. But we haven't given up.

I'm reminded of the verse that says: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we'll reap a harvest if we don't give up." (Galatians 6:9)

Here are some other related verses that also encouraged me.

2 Corinthians 4:1 "Therefore since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose

Hebrews 12:1-3 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us
throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with
perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and
perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such
opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

I Corinthians 15:58 "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always
give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord
is not in vain."

So tomorrow is preliminary court!! Truthfully, I have such mixed feelings. I am cautiously excited. On the one hand, I can't believe the day has (almost) finally arrived. On the other hand, I'm afraid something will happen to postpone our hearing. I HOPE our actual adoption court will be set to take place very soon afterwards but nearly everything else has moved at such a snail's pace that I know further delay is possible. Once we get that court date we can make travel plans to be present. (Please remember this is not the usual way that the Ukrainian adoption process goes, so please don't let our experience worry anyone.)

However, in light of all the above verses, I have to remind myself that God will be with us no matter what. I strongly believe that adoption is a "ministry" that God has called our family to participate in. It is a vital part of the "race marked out for us." It is a portion of our personal "labor in the Lord." So at some point we WILL be excitedly scrambling for airline tickets, breathlessly emailing back and forth making an apartment selection, joyfully packing suitcases--IF WE DON'T GIVE UP.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and encouragement during this long, long process. They make all the difference in the world.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Just A Mom Again

I am very glad to announce that the Department of Homeland Security has rescinded their report on "right-wing extremism" and I am no longer a threat to national security!! (See May 7 blog entry) I can't quite buy the excuse that the report was disseminated without the director of the department's approval (pul-LEASE!) but I do believe that prayer and a grassroots outcry had a lot to do with the change. Praise God!

Anyway, I am back to laundry and vacuuming and school projects [though two of those did involve delivering ingredients for making explosive devices to our school: both Billy and Teresa are doing volcanoes in class this week :) ] Once a terrorist, always a terrorist!

Slightly Adoption Related

On May 4 we started working on passports for our 4 older children. As we told them, passports will be required for all of us next spring when we go back to Mexico. As we didn't tell them - - - and still haven't so 'shhhh' :) :)- - - we are thinking about taking one (possibly both) of our daughters with us to Ukraine since school will no longer be an issue. I am really excited about the possibility. I want to show her/them the sights of Kiev. I want her/them to see Steven on his turf and meet some of the other kiddos as well. I want her/them to expand their worldview and further develop Jesus-hearts. There is so much more to life than me-me-me.

Anyway, I'd never been through the passport process with minors before. First, on Monday (4th)I went to the post office and got two forms for each child: one was the regular application and the second was the form Kevin had to fill out and get notarized saying he was agreeing to our children getting passports (since he would be at work when we returned with the completed forms). Next we went to Costco and got 2 pictures of each child for $5 (the nice postal clerk told us about this savings--at the post office the pictures would have been $15 for each child!) On Tuesday Kevin got his forms notarized at the bank where I picked them up, put each one with the proper application form and proper birth certificate before heading to the post office with our crew in tow. (I also took their adoption decrees but didn't need them) There I had to present my photo ID. The clerk went through each application, attached the pictures in the right spots with the appropriate number of staples (I'm serious!) for one and a paper clip for the other photo. Then came the checkbook part: $60 apiece plus an extra $60 for the passport we needed expedited PLUS $100 to the Postmaster for execution fees. Quick way to get rid of $400!! (Gulp) Along the way I was told that it would be best if we also included a photocopy of Kevin's photo ID with each application so on Wednesday I photocopied his passport and took 4 copies to the post office where they joined the rest of the stuff already accumulated there.

This Tuesday (12th) Caleb and I went to Barnes and Noble where I looked through numerous volumes about Idaho that I had already seen a few months ago. I have so enjoyed the books about Kiev that I have purchased in Ukraine and am hoping that our facilitators, the orphanage director and the inspector will enjoy these beautiful photos of Idaho equally. I hope they will be glad to see the beautiful place that Steven will live.

Also I finally unloaded the sweaters, thermal underwear, hand warmers, toe warmers, gloves out of the suitcase since it is quite obvious we will not be needing them in June in Kiev. Of course, I came across the toothbrush that is in there for Steven. Caleb saw it and claimed it as his own. I told him, "no that is STEVEN's toothbrush." Then followed the longest 'conversation' I have had with Caleb concerning his new brother. I have talked to him about Steven lots of times but this time he seemed to be paying attention. I showed him the pictures of Steven on the cell phone. You could tell he was a bit confused about how this stranger got in pictures with Mommy and Daddy. And, of course, I showed him pictures of himself with Mommy and Daddy. It will be interesting to see how future discussions develop.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

You Guys Are Too Sweet

If you want to read some of the sweetest messages in the world, read the comments on the last post. So precious. Thank you all.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


A couple days ago I had one of those 'grieving' experiences that come to parents of kids with special needs from time to time. I guess many of you can relate to what I'm saying: when you first receive a child's diagnosis--like when I found out our oldest son is on the autistic spectrum--there is a very definite grieving time (sadness, anger, denial, etc) and then life just kind of evens out and you go along fairly reasonably for awhile and then something comes up and it's just like another kick in the gut. Anyone else experience this?

Well, this time had to do with Caleb who of course has Down syndrome. I have been sooooo tickled with his progress (AND really wanting to brag about it, too) He's enjoyed playing with scissors for quite awhile--just most snipping along the edges of pages--but I was impressed when several weeks ago in Sunday School he actually cut the 4 figures (Jesus, Lazarus, Mary, Martha, I think it was) into 4 separate pieces. No he did not cut straight on the line but he did cut the paper from end to end and he didn't cut anyone in half. With jumping he's gone from bouncing on the trampoline to being able to jump repeatedly on a level surface to even trying to jump off a small incline (he fell on his bum the first time so he's been scared to try it again without holding someone's hand) With praying before meals he can do the whole thing himself: "Thank you . . . Jesus . . . food . . . amen." And his speech and language have just been blossoming--he's putting the ending consonant on several words (like "I did it!"), he's stringing words together, he's labeling things spontaneously rather than just copying. He can trot (he doesn't really run yet) the length of the gym without tripping. I am just so proud of him.

Then Thursday I took him to his first T-ball practice and was hit in the face by another side of reality. Though I often feel like Caleb operates at about a 2 year old level I had forgotten how much more advanced 'typical' 4 and 5 year-olds are. Part of me thinks 'surely there is some mistake-- these kids must be 1st graders'--they're so tall, coordinated, can run and throw, know where the bases are . . . they seem way more advanced than when my other kids played T-ball. Caleb really enjoyed batting the ball but was pretty disgusted at the idea of having to run to 1st base and totally uninterested in running any further, though he did with the coach holding his hand. When practicing outfield, he'd stand in his place awhile and then just walk toward me. I know much of this will improve since he has basically NO baseball experience at all--barely even watching any games, let alone participating. I know he will gain from being around typical kids.

But part of me just wants to grab him and take him home where he is safe and protected and celebrated--rather than so obviously different.

Just being honest.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Letter to the Editor

I do not consider myself to be a political activist but in April I wrote the following letter which was published in the Times News (Twin Falls) yesterday, May 6, 2009:

Letter to the Editor of the Times News
A couple days ago I was just an ordinary Mom; yesterday I found out from my husband that I was officially listed as a threat to national security. I couldn't believe he was serious. I've mentally checked through the list of "subversive" activities I--an adoptive mother of 5--had been engaged in: let's see . . . laundry, vacuuming, helping kids with Pinewood Derby, shopping, running errands in Twin, taking my kids to church, going to Family Fun Night at the school . . . pretty dark and sinister activities, wouldn't you say?

No, these are not the activities that make me a supposed threat; according to the Department of Homeland Security, it's the fact that I--and many like me--firmly adhere to the veracity of biblical end-time prophecies and I--and many like me--strongly uphold the value of all life from conception to the grave. I believe there was a time when love of life and reverence for the Good Book were widely-held convictions in our country but-- whether my beliefs are now common or rare-- they provide no basis for any U.S. governmental agency to label me as dangerous. As far as I know, freedom to follow the dictates of one's conscience is still a foundational principle in our country. As far as I know, the Constitution of the United States is still the Supreme Law of the Land. As far as I know, it still contains the Bill of Rights which guarantees not only the freedom of speech but also the freedom of religion and specifically forbids "prohibiting the free exercise thereof." As far as I know, you and I are still "endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." As far as I know, we still live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I hope I don't find out differently tomorrow.

The Terrorist Next Door
Joy Mc_____

I wrote the letter in response to The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Extremism and Radicalization Branch who released a 10 page Homeland Environment Threat Analysis in April 2009 titled "Right wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment" In this report people who are pro-life and people who believe in end-time prophecies are discussed among the potentially-dangerous 'right wing extremists.'

Nope, He's not our Federal Dependent either

Good grief! I got the very low-key white envelope from the IRS telling me about my 'mistake' on my taxes. A person cannot be claimed as a dependent unless they have that beloved set of digits called the social security number. Blah. Blah. Blah. Actually I was too irritated to read the whole thing. And then they have the audacity to say that if I agree with their decision that I can do such and such and we will receive our (much reduced) refund in a few weeks. Excuse me, if I agreed with their decision I wouldn't have sent all that documentation proving that Caleb is our legal dependent in the first place!!! Yet I know that disagreeing will get me nowhere at all.

Do they really think I would send a yearly report to the government of Ukraine--with several pages of pictures--reporting on the well-being and development of a child that wasn't mine!! (Yes, I included copies of all those, too)

I wonder if there is a real live person sitting in that office or if the response is just computer- generated?

Shaking my head and rolling my eyes . . . .

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Aggravating--though expected--News

We got a note from our State Income Tax folks yesterday saying that they have decided we cannot claim Caleb as a dependent on our 2008 taxes since he does not have a social security number. And all the oldies to this blog go "I know, I know, I know" For those new to this blog, Caleb's adoption from Ukraine took effect on Feb 15, 2008 and his official new apostilled birth certificate listing us as parents was sent from Ukraine to us by Fed-Ex in April 2008. That precious, priceless piece of paper has never arrived. It was lost in transit. Fed-Ex has looked for it to no avail--and even prolonged their search because I told them the document is practically irreplaceable. One can well imagine how much grief and pain in the neck this 'oops' has caused. Without the original birth certificate I cannot get a social security number and without a social security number, the government apparently does not consider him to be our son.

Mind you, I sent with our taxes: a copy of the adoption decree in Ukrainian and in English with us as parents, a photocopy of the photocopy of the new birth certificate which we received while still in Ukraine, a photocopy of the passport and visa, photocopy of immunization sheet from Ukraine which shows his passport number, photocopy of his current immunization records, photocopy of insurance cards. I didn't send a copy of the Citizenship Paper--I took a very good, close-up photo of it--maybe I'll try that! Couldn't someone just step back a minute from their rigid rule-keeping and think: obviously this child is their legal dependent or they wouldn't have all of these legal documents in the first place. Do they really think I would make up such a ridiculous story. Good grief! if I were inventing a tale I could sure have come up with more adventurous and exciting details than "Fed Ex lost it" I could have at the very least changed my name to Elizabeth and manufactured a gigantic, red paper-munching canine!

We haven't heard back from the Federal government yet, but I'm rather expecting to hear the same verdict. If Caleb isn't considered a dependent, we not only lose the part of the refund that directly applies to him but the adoption tax credit as well. Bah humbug!

Do you know how many plans I had for that money??!!

And yes, I can file an amended return after we get back from Ukraine with the new birth certificate (hopefully) in hand--both of us personally traveling to Ukraine is the only way to get a new one, according to one of our facilitators. But honestly, RE-filing our taxes is not too high on my Fun Things To Do list. Filing them in the first place barely made millionth place. :) I'm just whining here. If I were one of my children that would cost me 3 coins from my behavior jar. :) Really as I think about it, I guess all I'll have to do is just resend the form as I originally did it, just adding those precious 9 digits. I guess that won't be too brain-taxing. But it does really, really, really annoy me.

But on a good note, isn't it just handy-dandy that we both just 'happen' to be heading to Ukraine in the fairly near future . . . as in just NEXT MONTH, the Lord willing! Will that make Steven and Caleb twins if we get their birth certificates at the same time?!?!?!?!?!

I actually feel a bit better after writing this.