Friday, July 30, 2010

Eliana Esther Bockisch

It is with great joy we introduce the newest Bockisch…..
Eliana Esther Bockisch
Eliana אֶלִיעַנָה
Hebrew name meaning “my God has answered”

   Born June 3, 1999 in Lutugino, Ukraine
Lovingly adopted on July 6, 2010

 Eliana at Saint Simons Island, GA beach

Some favorite activities: collecting sand dollars at the beach, dancing, swimming, gymnastics, jumping at Monkey Joe’s, drama (both acting and directing), reading and playing Uno!

Weight soaking wet:     67 pounds
Height without shoes:  4 feet 4 inches

Celebrating God’s Faithfulness
“The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness”. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I have hope in Him’.  The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him”.  Lamentations 3:22-25 

Eliana's Name Story

During the hosting period (December/January), we mostly used Eliana’s Russian name.   She has a Ukrainian and a Russian name, however she identifies more with her Russian name since her orphanage is located just 30 miles from the Russian border.  She agreed to being called by the name Elena for her new American friends since she liked it and it was very similar to her Russian name.   However, the first time that we heard she did not really prefer the name Elena was AFTER the court date in Ukraine.   That was most unfortunate since the name is official once the court date is complete.  All the documents with her new name were notarized and legally official at that point.  The only way to change it would require a lot of new paperwork and lots more money!   Jay and I decided that we would give her a list of names to choose from to pick as her nickname or the common name by which she would be known as.   Out of a list of names similar sounding to her Russian name (some starting with E and some starting with L), she chose the name Eliana.  However, before that happened, the Griggs’ family (whom were with us at the orphanage since they were also adopting an older orphan), called her Eliana by mistake several times.  That reminded me of how we have always loved the name, loved what it meant and gave us the idea to add it to the list.

What is most amazing to us is that our daughter did not know anything about the name Eliana or its meaning.   For us, we can see how perfectly fitting that name is for her and the entire journey surrounding her adoption!   We have cried out to the Lord time and time again (and continue to) on her behalf.  Eliana in Hebrew means “My God has answered”.  Indeed, He has answered our prayers in magnificent and mighty ways, and has answered the cries of our heart and her heart.  Additionally, He continues to answer our prayers.  Since He is outside of time, He has already answered our prayers for her salvation, complete restoration and healing on every level as well.   What a testimony for Eliana throughout her life and to all who know her!

The new name was chosen, however it would not be official unless we went through more layers of paperwork and paid a lot more money.   In God’s sovereignty He allowed that our last name would be incorrectly spelled on official documents thereby requiring the re-issuing of official documents including the notarization.  This allowed us to easily change the first name at the same time! Yet, by the time the mistake was realized it was very late in the day.  It was the very end of Lauren’s last day in the region where Eliana was born and where the orphanage is located.  It was only the grace of God that all the necessary changes were officially completed in time.  That is a story unto itself though especially given many of the typical attitudes, work ethic and corruption pervasive throughout the land and that particular region. It is clear that the LORD had His way in the selection of her name, accomplishing this name change and making it official from the start!  Praise and glory to His Holy Name! Baruch Ha Shem!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Now That We Are Home.............

 We know it is going to be a while for our family to get back into the swing of things. We are praying God will work in the hearts of each family member to unite us as one heart, mind and body centered in Him. As with any blended family, we know there is potential for division amongst the troops, but we are going to work through it all with the Lord's help and encourage all to be family. Elena will need to learn what that even means).

The Higgins' Family recently adopted a sibling set of 3 girls from Ukraine and also adopted an older girl from Russian prior to that (and they also have a girl near Hannah's age along with a boy near Micah's age).  They have equipped themselves over the years and have first hand experience with multiple adoptions.  They comprised a summary which we felt was so excellent that we asked if we could use it with permission which they granted us.   Please take the time to read this since it is so well written and so very critical!

"Our top priority from an adoptive standpoint will be bonding and attachment with Elena.  This will not be an easy process for many reasons including the fact that she is an older child, and she has been in an institution for about 4 years.  Hopefully, she develped the ability to bond as an infant, toddler and very young child.  If so, this process will be much easier for us all.  If you have parented an older adopted child, you probably understand what we are talking about .  If not, you might wonder why in the world would we make a big deal over this or you may even think we are crazy (I know I might have a few years ago)!.  We are not asking that everyone agree with us or even understand the process we're going through, but that as our friends and family you would trust our heart, respect our decisions and support our parenting.  If you would like to understand more about this, please feel free to ask us questions or for some books that can help you understand what we're embarking on.
So, what can you expect now that we are home?

- She will be very tired (maybe for a while as she adjusts to her new life).  Please greet her warmly with a hug, but do not be offended if she does not respond.  She might not hug you back or even speak to you.  She will be overwhelmed with emotions and might not warm up to you easily.  Please respect her boundaries.

- Keep in mind that our goal is for her to bond with us as Mama and's what life will be centered around her.  Please let us do all of the care-giving (offering food, consoling, disciplining, offering choices, helping with tasks, etc.)

- Please do not give her anything she asks for without first telling her to "ask Mama or Papa" - don't ask for her.  She needs to ask!  This applies to food, permission, help, anything!  She is learning English and can do this herself.

- Back us up.  If we direct her to do/not do (or eat/not eat) something, please go along with us even if you would do things differently.  When she sees you respecting our words to her, she will learn from that example.

- Please do not allow her to hang on you or cling to you.  She might want to sit in your lap, hold your hand, or just lean on you, but she must learn to cling first to Mama and Papa.

- Gifts:  If you have something to share with her, please give it to us first so that we can hand it to her for you...or ask her to "ask your Mama /Papa" if you can give her something.  It's important that the permission always comes from us.

- While she is learning to be a part of a family and follow rules and respect our authority, she will have days she is frustrated with us.  We will be the ones saying "no, you can't do that" or "I know you don't want to go to the store, but we are all going as a family."  In times like these, she may turn to others outside our immediate family as a way of pushing us back.  Please do not allow this.  It might seem mean, but you need to push her back towards us!  For her sake, she cannot bond with people outside of Mama and Papa right now.

- Bearing these things in mind, please do not ask her if she would like to go places, do things or attend events.  You can ask us about these things, but do not be offended if for the next several months we don't attend much -- we will be staying home a lot!  Also, she will not go anywhere without us...not until she has attached to us as her Mama and Papa.  We do look forward to the day that she can attend parties and events just as other "normal" children can, but that will have to take a back seat right now.

She is learning what it means to be part of a family, to trust and obey us as her parents, to rely on us for everything she needs (emotionally and physically), and to bond with us as her Mama and Papa.

It is imperative that she learns to seek all permission, affection, guidance, attention, provision (for every basic need), affirmation and acceptance from us first.  Only after she has truly bonded with us as her parents will she ever be able to develop healthy relationships in the future.  Right now, think of her as in the "infant" stage -- she has just come home to our family.  Only with her, she NEEDS to LEARN to rely completely on us just as an infant relies on his or her mother.  This is not something that will be instinctual for her.  Our desire is for her to come to know God's love and to develop into a healthy adult who has healthy relationships with her spouse, children, friends and family.  Thank you for supporting us in this!  It will help us all transition smoothly as we become a family."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Home Sweet Home!!!

We are overjoyed to be home united as a family!  Slavabogu (Praise the Lord) for His tender mercies toward us all in every way!   One way includes a safe 23 hour total journey (including time in the airport and time in the air).  Another way, includes no jet lag once again (that homeopathic remedy really does work)!   The time in the Frankfurt airport was not what I expected.  On our way TO Ukraine, the Munich airport was relaxing and delightful. On our return home, in the wing of the Frankfurt airport there was virtually nothing but a couple of food stands, one very crowded and small restaurant, duty free stores and tiny restrooms, waiting areas that were not large enough to host all the waiting passengers, etc..  Those 5 hours were very long but His grace sustained us through it all! 

 Our first full day together we went to church in the morning and then went swimming in the afternoon at the YMCA. It was a great time of fun together.  Next to us was a Russian family who has children similar ages as our children and Eliana enjoyed conversing with them in Russian.  They plan to show us around the Russian community in Atlanta.  They also already invited us over to their home so in time we look forward to getting to know them better. 

Just a few snapshots of our reunion and time swimming during our first full day together:

  All together again at last!!!

Hannah and Micah wearing their Ukrainian soccer jerseys for this festive occassion!

Time at the pool together (notice Hannah's new missing bottom tooth)

Just off the slide

Papa and Elena

Elena standing up on Papa's shoulders

The glare from the sun was intense

Friday, July 9, 2010

Lauren and Elena Are Traveling to Atlanta

In a few hours, Lauren and Elena will be getting up and traveling to the airport in Kyiv.  They will have to go through immigration, which is not always easy.  They catch a 5:30 am flight to Frankfurt, Germany and have a 5 hour layover.  Thankfully they have a direct flight from Frankfurt into Atlanta.  If all goes as scheduled, they will arrive at 4:25 pm and then have to go through immigration and customs before traversing the Atlanta airport to get to the main terminal.  Hopefully by 6 pm Saturday we will all reunited as one family.  We will keep you updated and take pictures of their arrival.

Photo Gallery of Last couple of days in Ukraine

Lugansk Airport

Oleg our loyal driver throughout much our stay in Lugansk

Unloading at the airport

Kiev from the car

Looking down the street toward Independence Square

The cars parked on the street of our first apartment

Mama and Elena

Two very tired girls -Emilee and Elena (both adopted from the same orphanage at the same time)!

Sleeping beauty!

Last few days in Ukraine/Departure Day Tomorrow!!!

Elena sitting at the photo studio while waiting to pick up her passport photo

After a very hectic past the past three days, we are now getting ready for our departure day!  Slavabogu!!!  In just a few hours, we awaken at 2:15 am and leave at 3 am to fly out of the Kiev airport to Frankfurt, Germany and then home to Atlanta!  Hallelujah!!! 

The past 3 days have been full of rushing all over Lugansk applying for her passport, getting the passport photo, etc, and flying out to Kiev and running to the American Embassy twice, the children's hospital for Elena's medical exam and moving in a new apartment, moving out the next day and into another apartment (yes, it was that awful)!

Now, with all the official documents in hand and Elena officially being our daughter, we are packing and preparing to fly home!  Oh my, I am really looking forward to going home! 

I don't have any pictures of our past two days in Kiev since my batteries ran out and we were rushing around so much and never found a store with batteries.   We have been in 3 different apartments the past 3 nights and 2 different regions of Ukraine (Lugansk and now Kiev)!!!

Praise God for His sustaining grace, under girding us, overseeing us, and for His constant kind care. He is SO good!  Praise Him for the way, things went smoothly especially toward the end.  Now, I am ready to finish packing and try to get a little sleep before awakening in a few hours!

Elena and Rita (now Emilee) have enjoyed one another these past few days.  Now Elena will be leaving her last connection to her past few years at the orphanage so please remember her in prayer as she transitions to a totally new life!

Getting Elena's completed passport

Passport office in Kiev where we picked up Elena's passport

Alexey ready to enter the passport office in Kiev.  This is Nastya's husband

Leaving the passport office along the walk back to our apartment

We spent nearly 2.5 hours at the travel agency's office-still not sure why!!!

Landlady in Lugansk and Elena -our last day there

Out in the rain

Elena ate exactly one rice chip and nothing else- by far the pickiest eater I have ever met! 

An old buggy

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Our First Day Together

We spent the  morning of our first day together going to the market area getting money exchanged and looking around for something Jane wanted me to buy for her.  It was fun to see Elena enjoy this time out together and trying kvass for the first time.  Later today we plan to go to the Passport office. Elena also enjoyed making bracelets with a beading kit.  I got caught up on laundry today also.  The little washing machine fits in the corner of the bathroom and has very long cycles.  The dryer is a rack that is outside on the balcony.  Since it is about to rain, I plan to hang all the clothes all over the inside of our apartment.

The  front area of the outside market

Where money is exchanged

A woman who has a booth at the market and who has been to America before

A Kvass stand (a cultured drink made out of rye bread)-one of my favorites

Elena decided to try it for the first time and wanted to buy it herself

Lots of flowers

Elena wearing her clothes Mama brought for her and drinking kvas

A view from down the street

Elena eating her favorite sunflower seeds (cyemyechi in Russian)

Our little washing machine

Our drying rack

Elena is Officially our Daughter Now!

Hallelujah and Glory to God!  Elena is officially our daughter now!  Look for an announcement in the future with her new name.  : )

We started at 8 am yesterday and ran non stop for 12 full hours  before we were able to go pick up Elena at camp.   Over 95% of the running was by foot in the heat with very little water and no food.  I didn't want to drink much since it is very challenging to find a toilet (especially one that isn't a "squatty potty").  We went to the orphanage and then from office building to office building  all over Lutugino and then back and forth to make unexpected changes (including the mispelling of our last name).  Then when a storm blew in and the wind was blowing the dirt and dust from the roads and pollution we finally took a taxi late in the day.  We were able to make the change to the wrong spelling of our name just in the time before the notary office closed.  An official at another government building waited for us after hours for us so we could complete our paperwork.   What a blessing and mighty answer to prayer!!! 

We had gone without eating a single meal when it was time to finally pick up Elena from Nevertheless, I was abounding with energy and excitement!  It was incredible to reach this moment by God's grace!  The director of the camp, counselors, and all the other campers were huddled around us saying goodbyes with tears!   Elena didn't have many friends left from her orphanage and age group but there were several older kids there from the Lutugino orphanage.   It was a bittersweet moment for Elena and the other girl being adopted by the Grigg's.  

After a tearful parting with lots of hugs, Oleg drove us back to Lugansk city.  We dropped off our things at the apartment and then walked back to the city center to try to find something to eat however it was already 9:30 pm by then!  Nothing was open except for Mandarin Market (a large grocery store) so we bought some food and then went back to eat and then call our families!  It was so much fun watching Elena look with such childlike wonder at so much for what seemed like the first time.  Going shopping and walking the streets in a bigger city isn't something she has done much of in her life and especially without a large group!

Today we are going to get Elena's new passport and then book our airline flight to leave very early tomorrow morning for Kiev, God-willing!  Then we will have 2 more days of paperwork and medical examination in Kiev and hopefully be on schedule to leave Kiev to go home early Saturday morning!  We are very eager to return home!!! 

Mama and Elena after a LONG day finally leaving Elena's camp.  Looking weary but elated!

The children walked us to the gate to say goodbye and exchange more hugs (tearfully)!

Just a few of Elena's peers (most are away somewhere else)

 The birth certificate office

Building after building in order to complete documents (some of the buildings didn't look like government offices like this one).

Alexi entering the building where the government official stayed late for us to complete a very important document with the correct spelling of Elena's name (we went back here 3 times)


Little elderly woman with a cart full of vegetables

This went on and on for 11 hours in Lutugino (there was some in between waiting time also of course but not time enough to stop to eat)

Finally on the way to  the market (Mandarin Market at the Lugansk City Center)

Elena and all of us finally able to eat dinner at 10:00 pm!