JUST A (NOT SO) NORMAL FAMILY

JUST A (NOT SO) NORMAL FAMILY

Monday, December 29, 2008

Settling in

Ummm, they were supposed to be doing dishes....

This is the definition of brotherly love!

The Bears were playing (we won't go into the outcome - but the first quarter was GREAT!) We'll make a football lover out of Joseph yet. Football is with a brown oblong ball, soccer is the black and white one!

The sand box is fun even in December!


I know many of you are wondering how things are going now that everyone is home. I can only tell you that we must still be in the “honeymoon” phase because it has been absolutely wonderful. The boys both love playing with Michael and Charity. They are helpful and polite but not TOO polite. (We have our fair share of “bathroom humor” at the dinner table.) They make jokes and tease each other and all of us too. They basically are fitting in very smoothly. I’ve had lots of people ask me about their English skills. To begin with, they don’t speak any English. They are starting to pick up on what I call the politeness phrases: please, thank you, hello, goodbye and excuse me. Michael and Charity go back to school on the 5th and we will begin working hardcore on English with Joseph and Jonathan after that. If anyone has any brilliant ideas or sources of info on how to make this happen feel free to let me know. I’m hoping to have Joseph ready for 2nd grade by the fall and Jonathan should be ready for Kindergarten by then as well. I think it will be helpful to have both of them working on the same things at first. Nothing like a little healthy competition to move things along. We’re able to get around conversationally pretty well. Luckily we know the words and phrases for taking care of basic needs – eat, toilet and sleep. Everything else is taken care of by pointing and trial and error. Luckily we haven’t had any major issues or needs. If and when those come up we’ll just have to rely on our Russian phrase books and the online translating sites. Today we have stayed home and played, well the kids are playing, and I am doing laundry and dishes and all the other fun stuff that gets backed up whenever I’m not looking. I kicked the 3 oldest kids outside while Jonathan took his nap so that gave me some time to work on the blog and check up on some of the other ones I like to follow. I found a new one today of a couple that adopted 2 brothers about a year ago. I was reading about some of the attachment issues they were dealing with from day one and feeling very fortunate that we aren’t having any of those. Both boys have loved us from the near the beginning of this process and seem to be getting more and more comfortable and thinking of this as “home”. Joseph is fairly comfortable around strangers too which could be a sign that we are in for some rough waters in the future but Jonathan does not warm up immediately to strangers. He does very well when his brothers and sister are around but if they aren’t there he is VERY hesitant. We saw it come out in full force this weekend. He absolutely hated church on Sunday. Eric thinks it reminded him too much of the orphanage – all those kids and no parents, just teachers - and he was having NONE of it. Eric and I had planned to tag-team it that morning and each spend an hour in his room anyway so it really didn’t change our plan much but it will be interesting to see how much time it takes him to figure out that Mom and Dad always come back. Joseph didn’t have any trouble. He is in the same room as Michael and Charity so they showed him the ropes and made his morning down right fun. (Miss Lisa and all of her volunteers had a lot to do with that as well.) Time will tell us how this is all going to play out. The more time we spend as a family the more we are convinced that these little guys were meant to be in our family. They had a rough start in life but they are home now and we are absolutely thrilled. Keep praying for us and for their transition.

Friday, December 26, 2008

They are home!!!

Waiting patiently for the luggage to arrive. (Michael, Joseph, Jonathan, Charity)
We begin the festivities with stockings.
Our first breakfast together.
Yes my boys are in matching/coordinating pj's.
The happy family!



I know you all have been anxiously waiting for this post – everyone is home!!!! Eric and the boys got in on Christmas Eve at around 7 pm. They were met at the airport by Michael, Charity and I, of course, but also my mom and step-dad (Roger) and Eric’s dad and older sister. The meeting was a long time coming but it was definitely worth it. Eric had taken an earlier flight from Chicago and so we had to wait for his luggage to arrive on the later flight. It gave Joseph and Jonathan some time on neutral ground to play with MJ and Charity and to warm up to everyone a little bit before heading home. Joseph was ready and willing to love us but it took Jonathan about 20 minutes to look anyone in the eye. Eric eventually took him away for a few minutes and then brought him back and played with him and that did the trick. He has been on “go” ever since. Coming at Christmas has really been great timing. They are completely overwhelmed anyway so we might as well pile it all on at once and get it over with! : ) Christmas morning was great! Michael and Charity were up at about 7:30. Joseph was up at 8:00 and we got Jonathan up about 15 minutes later. (Michael and Charity couldn’t stand the waiting anymore and we knew he would get a nap later anyway!) My mom and Roger and my brothers arrived shortly after everyone was up and we let the kids start the madness that is Christmas morning. We don’t do HUGE Christmas in our house (many of you know our theory on Christmas presents – if 3 presents was good enough for our Lord and Savior then it is certainly good enough for my little sinners) but by the time you get those 3 gifts plus stockings plus gifts from each other, times 4 kids it gets crazy nonetheless. But, it was the best kind of crazy I could ever wish for. Definitely a once in a lifetime kind of morning. We spent the day at home and then joined my dad’s side of the family for the evening festivities. The boys got to meet most of their new cousins and seemed to fit in quite seamlessly. They got their first taste of “dirty Santa” which is a traditional game in our family that involves cards, stealing of white-elephant style gifts and making small children cry – always good Christmas fun. Today we are taking it easy. Eric returned to work and the kids and I are lounging around, eating candy and watching movies. I’m such a good mom. But what else would you do the day after Christmas, especially when it’s raining outside. Tomorrow and Sunday will be filled with more Christmas fun, so the downtime is appreciated.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On their way!

Eric and the boys will be starting their journey home in 5 short hours!!! I know I said I would post as soon as I knew something but when it came right down to it – I had to Christmas shop for a couple of extra kids and figure out how we are going to fit all their new stuff in “the dorm”. We’re also going to be sticking pretty close to home for the next few days so getting it picked up is a necessary evil. I talked to Eric yesterday morning and he had received the passports and was flying out to Kyiv. When we talked this afternoon, he had finished all the stuff at the Embassy (took about 4 hours) and was getting ready for bed. He and the boys will be picked up at 2:45 am (That’s 7:45 pm tonight local time) to take their 5:30 flight from Kyiv to Frankfurt. From Frankfurt he will go to Chicago and then to Indy. The weather is looking okay for tomorrow evening – not great, but definitely okay – and hopefully there will be no delays. We’re all so excited it’s hard to even think about anything else, let alone form coherent thoughts on my blog. Everyone have a merry Christmas. I can pretty much guarantee I won’t be posting for a few days but keep checking up on us. I’ll try to keep you posted as we transition to a family of 6!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Still Waiting

Another day, another morning of facing jet lag. I’ve also figured out the downside of not having to share my bed with my husband – Charity! It’s been very windy at our house the last two nights and she has come in wanting to share my bed because “it’s scary and the tree might fall in my window and Olivia is licking me!” I have been too tired to argue but I warned her that this was the last night this was happening. It sounds like I just bought myself a rough night tonight. Maybe we’ll go stay at mom’s. On today’s agenda – Christmas shopping. I had everyone but the two new boys finished before we left so I don’t really have much to do but it’s so stinking cold out that I’m not really looking forward to it. On the plus side – my van has been parked right behind the house since we brought home the loft (too tired or too cold to move it back to the garage) so I don’t have to go far to warm it up. Eric will not be very happy when he reads that. I promise I'll put it back in the garage today, honey!

Talked to Eric yesterday. Things with the boys are still going well. Jonathan is singing instead of sleeping but I guess that’s better than screaming! (It also sounds hilarious. I can just imagine this little 4 year old singing away in Russian while his older brother tries to sleep and his father tries not to thump him!) Eric is also figuring out the leg braces. We knew Jonathan didn’t like wearing the new ones but thought it was just because they were new and not as comfortable as the leather ones. Not the case. Apparently there is a spot were the plastic rubs against the bone on one of his feet so the new ones are actually painful. Poor little guy. I’m ready to get him home so we can get started figuring out how best to proceed with his care. We will know this afternoon if they are going to make it home on Wed. I didn’t realize that Eric had already booked his return home flight. Apparently Angelina told him to, so he did. Then she started back tracking a little bit and has him really nervous that he’s going to have to pay transfer fees – again! I’ll let you all know what the latest is as soon as I know myself and have a chance to log on.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Our little house in the country

So another day back in the good ol’ USA is complete. Eric’s sisters came over on Saturday to help me get Michael’s room ready for an additional two boys. For those of you who have never been to my house I should tell you – small is an understatement. We love living here though. The location is ideal and we have the best landlords ever. The layout of it is great and it doesn’t feel like any of the 950 sq. ft. is wasted, however – fitting 6 people in this house is going to take some maneuvering. MJ’s room - from here on out to be called the dorm ; ) – already had bunk beds so yesterday Teri (Eric’s older sister) and I braved the shopping crowds and ran into town to see if we could find a loft to finish off the sleeping arrangements. We lucked out and the one we found was not only the perfect size but it was on SALE. With the help of some of the boys at Meijer we were able to load it up. A stop at the mattress store – where again, SALE – and we were on our way home. (I’m just kidding about the sale thing; I would expect nothing less than for everything to be “on sale” 5 days before Christmas!) My brother and cousin were kind enough to come over later that evening and unload the van for me and hopefully today we will have it set up and ready to start figuring out how we are going to make this work. The highlight of my day today will be going to church. I always miss my own church when I’m away but the nature our adoption – being in a VERY foreign country with no real access to transportation – didn’t even allow us to attend someone else’s church while we were away. I’m excited to feel that connection again and see some of the many people who have been praying (and I hope will continue to pray) for us during this journey.

I talked to Eric again yesterday. He and the boys are settling in to each other. Joseph is a big help with Jonathan. He’s apparently a good translator too which makes me laugh. The boys don’t know any English so the fact that Joseph is able to communicate for Jonathan to Eric is hilarious. It sounds like they are sticking pretty close to home which I’m sure is driving Eric nuts but I know they have ventured out a couple of times and seem to be doing very well. Eric confessed that he will be ready to “thump” Jonathan before they come home so that’s a very good sign. Let me explain myself – first of all, we would never “thump” our children, it just sounds funny and we say it often around our house and secondly, I figure if he is attached to him enough to want to discipline him then we’re in a very good place. Jonathan is going to be high maintenance. He has been in the orphanage since birth and has been doted on by all the staff there so he’s very spoiled. He’s very smart and has elevated manipulation to an art-form. He also hasn’t had a lot of freedom. This first taste of it is thrilling for him and so he’s testing the limits. Bedtime is especially a struggle – Eric compared it to the issues we had with Andriy (the little boy we hosted this summer) and equates it to the same reason, newfound freedom. We’re very thankful that Joseph is setting a good example and is able to communicate with him. I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about Jonathan. He’s only 4 years old so all of this is normal and not overly concerning to us. A lot of the characteristics I see in him are also evident in Charity (feel free to laugh out loud) so we know what we’ve taken on and also hopefully have a little bit of wisdom dealing with the issues and blessings that arise with a strong-willed child. Being so determined will serve him well with the physical limitation he faces so as long as we can harness this quality for good instead of evil we will be in good shape.

I'm going to beg you all now to pray hard that everything works out and they are able to get home as planned. Not only are we anxious to have our family together again but we really need Eric to get back to work. Lawyers don't make money when lawyers don't work and stay-at-home moms are priceless but they don't bring home a paycheck! : )

I’m going to finish off today by sharing a short list of things I’ve missed or will miss, just random things I’ve noticed in the first 48 hours.

Things (not people – that goes without saying) I’ve missed in the States:

  1. tucking my kids in to bed at night
  2. fitted sheets
  3. clothes dryers
  4. being able to read labels on food packaging
  5. cooking my own meals
  6. hearing the words “merry Christmas”
  7. driving
  8. being smiled at by nearly everyone you come in contact with


Things I will miss about Ukraine:

  1. my friends there
  2. Jenia's ringback tone on her cell phone!
  3. Joseph’s friends there
  4. the market – more specifically the prices of the fruit and veggies IN the market. I had sticker shock in the produce department when I went Krogering on Friday.
  5. high speed internet – even if I had to walk 10 minutes to get to it
  6. eating out for much cheaper than I could cook a meal in the States
  7. Greek salad and blinis
  8. the Black Sea - it’s a shame Indiana is land-locked, I really love the view and the smell of the air
  9. the time spent just hanging out with Eric – a month is way too long but a day or so here and there would be nice, heck an hour during daylight hours would be nice!

Things I won’t miss:

  1. figuring out what things actually cost based on the exchange rate that day
  2. the dog at Roma’s orphanage - she’s MEAN; I don’t care what any of the workers say!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sorry for the long silence

I'm sorry that I haven't been posting for the last few days. Rest assured, we are all well and things are still moving along across the pond. I've been super busy since Monday evening and haven't been able to make it to an internet connection - mostly because I've been flying home!!! Eric and the boys aren't home yet but we decided that one of us really needed to get back to ensure that there was someone here with Michael and Charity on Christmas. I didn't tell anyone that I was coming home - except my friends in Ukraine who had to help me finish up the stuff I needed to do there in order to be able to leave and 3 people state-side (thank you LeAnne and Melissa for listening, praying and being supportive and Heather for being the means of pulling this off). So here's the play by play of the last few days. One week ago we found out we weren't going to be able to get the birth certificates for Joseph and Jonathan on the following Saturday, we were going to have to wait until Tuesday. Now I know this sounds like only a 2 or 3 day delay but what this meant was that we couldn’t start the passport paperwork over the weekend like we had planned to be able to submit the passports on Tuesday. It really set us back by about 6 or 7 days. With our return flight getting so close to Christmas anyway and now this week delay I completely lost it. This was the first time I cried the whole trip but let me tell you – I made up for lost tears. After a nap and a few hours of playing with Joseph I was able to get some perspective and we began to formulate a plan. We decided that one of us would go home. Since our main concern at this point was Michael and Charity (and because their mom was beginning to lose her sanity) we figured it would probably be best for me to be the one to come back. Our original flight home was scheduled for Dec. 18th with arrival into Indy at 5:44 pm so we started making plans for me to just take that flight home so we wouldn’t have to pay any transfer fees. Shortly after coming to this decision I realized how much fun it would be to just show up at the airport and have Mom and Roger pick me up with the kids but just tell the kids they were there to check out the new airport and see where mom and dad and the brothers would be flying into. Good “Plan A” but then an even more fun plan popped into my head. We’ll call this one “Plan A+”. What if I didn’t tell anyone I was coming home (except the necessary few who were sworn to secrecy) and just showed up on Mom’s doorstep on Thursday evening with no warning. HAH! How much fun would THAT be!!! So that’s exactly what I did. I talked to my cousin Heather and she was commissioned to meet me at the airport and take me to my mom’s. I flew up to Kyiv on Tuesday night. Wednesday was spent going to the US embassy to sign some paperwork and a notary office to get a couple of power of attorney’s done for Eric to be able finish things up in Sevastopol. Thursday morning (or Wednesday night “home time”) I began my trip home. Before I tell you about that day let me just pause to let you know how much I was able to see God working to get me home. There were SO many instances on Thursday when I should have been delayed by MAJOR blocks of time but that did not happen. I am so grateful for His faithfulness in the small things. Okay, so my flight was scheduled to leave for Frankfurt from Kyiv at 5:35am. At 5:36 we had not boarded yet, hmmm. A minute later the flight board showed our flight leaving at 10:00 am instead. Since my connecting flight to Chicago was supposed to leave Frankfurt at 9:45 am, this was a problem. While I had been waiting to check in for my flight from Kyiv I had noticed a girl who looked like an American – the shoes gave her away – and so she and I started talking. She is a Peace Corp volunteer and was going home to Chicago for Christmas but on a later connecting flight out of Frankfurt. When our flight got delayed she and I and some of her other PC friends who were also on that flight started figuring out what to do. Eventually the airline made a list of who was going to be missing their connecting flights in Frankfurt and sent it ahead so that they could be working on it there. So, we board our original flight to Frankfurt which ended up leaving at about 9:30. When we got there I was one of the first one’s off the shuttle from the plane by some minor miracle and the first one to the gate personnel to see what my plan was. She told me I had been rescheduled but needed to get it finished up through the ticket desk. So – off I go to the desk – only about 4 people in front of me. I looked behind me 3 minutes later and the line was about 30 people deep – yikes! I got to the ticket desk and the lady had my flights completely rebooked. I just had to re-check in at the desk and I would be leaving for Chicago in less than an hour (this was PC girls original flight) and would arrive in Indy only 2 hours later than originally scheduled – AMAZING. Now if I could just make it to the gate on time. Frankfurt is a fairly large airport and I had to switch terminals on a tram and then go through security. You know how it is when you are in a hurry in the airport – everybody and their brother is setting off the beeper at airport security and they only have 2 stinking spots open one of which they keep sending the wheel-chair line cutters through (just so we're clear, I do not begrudge them that service at all, I'm just letting you all know how slow security was running). It was getting very close to take off time but I did make it through and got to my gate just as it was completing boarding. I cringed when I got on because it was a 2-5-2 seating arrangement and with my late booking I was sure I was in for a ride in the middle of the “5 row”. (I hadn’t taken time to study my boarding pass to check out seat assignment.) But – miracle upon miracles – I was a window!! When I got to my seat the girl on the aisle asked if by any chance I wanted the aisle because she preferred the window. Umm, let me think about this - 9.5 hrs with the aisle for extra leg room - DEAL! I also noticed that our seats had the personal TV screens which for a TV addict like me meant that I could pass most of the flight away in a headphone secluded bliss watching American made movies with NO Russian dub-overs!!! So off I fly. Turns out the girl next to me works for NATO somewhere in like Belgium or something and was going home for Christmas to meet her niece and baby nephew. She was very nice and I enjoyed talking to her between movies. (Side note – for those of you who know me, you realize what a nightmare it could be to sit next to me on a plane when I haven’t had anyone to talk to for a month except my husband. Luckily she didn’t mind the conversation either and had all kinds of questions about our adoption.) Anyway, uneventful flight. I talked to one of the flight attendants during the flight to see what I could do to make the process on the ground in Chicago go quicker because I only had a hour and 15 minutes to get through Passport Control, retrieve my luggage, go through customs, re-check my luggage, switch terminals, go through security and board my flight for Indy. He was incredibly helpful (read with sarcasm) and informed me that it probably wasn’t going to matter because the weather was awful in Chicago and Indy and my flight was probably cancelled anyway. NOOOOOO! So we approach Chicago and imagine my joy and surprise to find it sunny and beautiful, a little snowy but not too bad. So I start the process mentioned above. My luggage didn’t arrive so customs was no problem and by running through O’Hare I made it to my gate 5 minutes before the plane was scheduled to leave and found that it had just started to board. Apparently it was leaving about 15 minutes late. I also found out that my original flight out of Chicago (which I had missed because I had missed my original connection in Frankfurt) had been cancelled and I would have been put on stand-by for this flight anyway. So we take off and the captain informed us that we would be in the air for a little under 30 minutes and would be landing in Indy very close to on-time. Amazing! Heather met me at the airport. We filed my lost baggage claim – which had been sent ahead of me by Chicago so I only had to give the guy my phone number and get out of there! We then went to mom’s and it was priceless. Heather called mom from the car to let her know she was coming out and hoped the kids could stay up a few minutes extra because her girls had something they wanted to show Michael and Charity. I know it was a lie but it was for a good reason! It was icy so Mom and the kids met Heather to help her in as she was about to enter the garage. I was a little behind her and it took about 15 seconds for it to register with them who was with her. It was great! Homecoming is sweet anyway but the added surprise made it that much sweeter. Charity couldn’t stop talking and Michael was glad to see me too but the Colts were playing and so he was soon back in front of the TV. Welcome home mom! It took about an hour for Charity to calm down enough for her to be able to go to bed and the promise that I would share a bed with her that night did the trick. She went to sleep and MJ followed shortly - at the end of the 1st quarter. You can imagine my gratitude yesterday morning when I saw on the news that Chicago airports had pretty much shut down not very long after I left it because of the nasty weather. (I'm sad for NATO girl who probably didn't make it out - she had a 5 hr layover before heading to Tennessee.) Yesterday the kids kept it a secret that I was home and I was able to go in to school and surprise their teachers as well. Mom and I spent the morning helping making gingerbread houses in Michael’s class. She ran me to the post office to pick up a months worth of mail and to the grocery store because obviously there was no food at my house. We went back to school for the afternoon to attend Michael’s Christmas party (I went to Charity’s Halloween party so it was MJ’s turn) and then mom took me to my house. The kids were riding the bus home because they wanted to give their bus driver her Christmas present and they had heard that she gives treats at Christmas time and wanted to make sure they got their Coke and candy cane! Mom hung out with us for the rest of the afternoon. Roger came later and my step-sister (Stephanie) joined us as well. We ate homemade pizza, looked at Steph’s wedding pictures and decorated the Christmas tree that my mom and Roger had set up and been watering. It was a wonderful first day back. Michael decided he wasn’t quite ready to leave Grandma’s house (I think/hope it’s because his Wii is there) so he went home with her and Charity and I quickly hopped into PJ’s, read a couple of Christmas books and went to bed. I am apparently a little jet-lagged because I woke up at 4am and my brain started composing this blog so I just decided to get up and dial-up and let you all in on the latest news. Still no luggage, but I'm sure it will get here and I'm just happy to be home!

On the status of the Eric and the boys – he picked them up from their respective orphanages yesterday. They appear to enjoy each other and Eric was in high spirits even after all the hard work of getting them back to the apartment. He and the boys and Angelina went out to lunch before going home. They went to our favorite place there. It serves good Ukrainian food and was close to Joseph’s orphanage so we ate there quite a bit (thanks Jenia for translating the menu for us). Apparently when they asked Joseph what he wanted to eat he told Eric he wanted french fries, ketchup and coke. I’m telling you, this kid is an American kid who just happened to be born in Ukraine! We’re hoping they will all fly home Christmas Eve. It all depends on passports now. If Eric can pick them up Monday then they will be able to leave on the 24th. Pray with me that the passports come in and that Eric is able to get a return flight. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for being faithful readers!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The countdown continues....

Another uneventful weekend in Ukraine. Eric and I ventured out on our own to do a little shopping yesterday. There is this huge outdoor market called 5th km that Eric heard about from an American pastor who lives here in town. Eric called him to see if their church was close to us by any chance and while they were talking he asked him about second hand clothes stores in the city. We hadn't come across any yet and the kid's clothing is very expensive and not of very good quality in general. 5 km has all kinds of new clothing as well as hundreds of booths that are what I would call a perpetual garage sale. We took a bus out from near McDonald's and did our shopping very successfully. With the help of our few Russian phrases, my handy dandy notebook and a lot of patience on the part of the vendors we were able to get 2 pairs of NWT fleece lined pants, a NWT sweat suit, two sweatshirts, new undershirts, pajamas, and new socks for less than $40. I think we did pretty well. I'm sure we could have gotten better deals if we would have had a russian speaker with us but I'm happy with it and the fact that we made it there and back without incident and can now mark "buy clothes for Jonathan" off our list is a great feeling. We spent the afternoon at Joseph's and got to meet his godfather. This man - Andrey - became his godfather on 12/6/06 when he was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church. Andrey is a doctor with three young children of his own. He speaks a little English and we were able to communicate pretty well with him. It was obvious he loves Joseph and we exchanged addresses and email so that we can keep in touch. We were a little nervous when we saw Joseph run up to this guy and give him a big hug and we are pretty sure we were a surprise to him as well. He handled it very well and seems genuinely pleased that Joseph has gotten a family. We also learned that his godmother was his nurse when he was in the "baby house" on the orphanage property. Today we will be doing some grocery shopping, visiting Joseph and working on paperwork. It looks like I will be going up to Kyiv on Tuesday to do some paperwork that needs to be done. We still aren't sure when the family will be coming home but every day that passes brings us one day closer!!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Quick Update

Not a lot of time today but I did want to let you know that one of the families I had asked you all to pray for had court yesterday. They were approved for the two girls they were hoping to take home. They are actually now leaving to go home and will come back mid-January to finish up and bring the girls home. The government here shuts down for the first couple weeks of January and so there is nothing they can really do to get the girls home before then. The other families were not able to have court yesterday - paperwork snafoo's - but hopefully they will have their day soon. I guess this is really taking a toll on the kids (they are all older and have a pretty good idea of what is going on) as well as the families. They haven't had as much freedom as we have and there isn't anything to do in the "city" they are in. Sitting around and waiting and worrying is the worst.
We are going to go get pictures taken for Joseph's passport this afternoon. Apparently the ones we had done are the wrong size or something. Hopefully we'll be able to communicate what we need to the people at Kodak. Angelina will be taking care of Jonathan's and trying to finish up stuff so that hopefully we can get the birth certificates tomorrow. We are going to get the boys now on Tuesday instead of Saturday. With the amount of running around we have to do for the passports between now and then it seemed silly to get them. They would just be spending all their time crunched in the car with us. NO FUN for anyone involved.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Playing Hookey

I'm not sure what this guy was advertising but everybody on the street was in awe. We all looked like Asian tourists - snapping photos left and right!

On the boat

Eric and Joseph at Balaklava




The whole area was this pretty!

The submarine yard is in this hill. Entrance on lower right.


Tunnel leading into the submarine yard. Secret exit into the Black Sea.



Secret entrance into the yard.


So today we took Joseph out of school so that we could take him to Balaklava. This is the port right outside of Sevestopol that housed the "hidden submarine yard." Apparently Stalin had this place built in order to protect the submarines from Atomic threats. There is room for 8 submarines to be hidden and repaired inside of the hills surrounding Balaklava. In the summer of 1957 the town disappeared; Balaklava became secret. Its name was erased from every map. All entrances and exits to and from the town were closed and carefully protected by KGB officials. The only people allowed in were those with proper credentials. It took 4 years to get the place built and apparently it is just huge inside. We didn't actually get to take the tour inside the yard but we walked around the town, took a boat tour of the area and went out into the Black Sea a little ways and then took Joseph out to lunch. We basically got to spoil him rotten for the day. It was fun. Angelina was with us and so we were also able to ask him all kinds of questions about what he likes and doesn't like, who is friends are, how he does in school, etc. When we took him to the restaurant he was overwhelmed by the choices but Angelina helped him pick what he wanted (Fried Chicken, french fries - with LOTS of ketchup and Coke - are we sure this kid isn't an American?!) He happily ate everything in front of him including the tomatoes, cucumber, and peppers that he had just gotten through telling us he didn't like. He even ate the parsley and the lemon! I don't know if our food budget is ready for this kid! After we ate lunch we grabbed a few things at the market for Jonathan and then headed back to town. As we got close to our bus stop we saw these huge panda and brown bears - the blow up ones with people inside. We walked Joseph up the street to see them. He couldn't get enough of them. I'm not sure what they were advertising - since the flyer was in russian - but he was sold! All in all it was a great day. It was sunny and warm and we weren't on any time schedule so it was very nice.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Eric wanted me to show you all this picture. On the left is your normal 20 oz bottle of Coke. On the right a big 'ol glass of beer. The coke cost's about $1.50. The beer - about $.90!! A bottle of water is more than either one of them. Hanging out with Joseph (he decided to use his "American" name). We are sitting on his bed. There are 8 beds in the room, 3 bunks and 2 singles. They are all full and yesterday they added another boy. The poor thing has to sleep on a cot until Joseph leaves.
We took Jonathan to get his passport photos taken. He talked the ENTIRE time we had him! We think he might be able to out-talk even my step-dad!


When we took Joseph to get his passport photos we made a quick stop at McDonald's. We asked him if he wanted ice-cream and he adamantly declared he wanted French Fries. Hey Michael - your brother loves ketchup as much as you do - maybe more!!



This is all the gang playing - what else - Legos!!






So yesterday was a crummy day weather wise. It rained and it was cold. When I'm at home I kind of look forward to those days but here where we walk everywhere we want to go, it made for a miserable day. Today is a little better. Eric is getting stir crazy and wants to try taking the public transportation somewhere. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Actually I'm sure I don't like the idea but I'm not sure if that is wisdom or being scared. We'll see if I'm able to keep him at home today or not. Tomorrow we are taking Joseph out of school and going to visit a local "hidden" submarine yard. We are also going to an open air market where we will hopefully be able to find some clothes for Jonathan. Right now the plan is to take the kids with us as soon as we get the birth certificate. Hopefully that will happen on Saturday but it all depends on the what the judge says. She doesn't want to give us the court order early so that we can have all the paperwork done and pick up the birth certificates on the 10th day. Angelina was going to speak with her again about that. If we aren't able to get the birth certificate on Saturday then it pushes us back another 3 or 4 days because we won't be able to do the passport paperwork over the weekend. We're praying that Angelina can convince the judge that we aren't going to USE the court order before the 10th day we are just going to show it to the birthcertificate people so they can have everything ready for us. It's all a little confusing and more than a little frustrating. We are past being ready to come home and every delay at this point is enough to make me lose it. I know the kids are ready for us to be back and I know my mom has been ready for us to be back for about 3 weeks now. There's really nothing we can complain about, the process has been exactly what we were told it would be, it's just living it is different than knowing it. Our friends here who came the same day we did and have been having so many problems have a tentative court date for tomorrow. There are still hurdles to cross to get their kids home and there is no way they are going to get them home in time for Christmas and the parents may not be able to make it home for Christmas themselves at this rate.(You can leave Ukraine and come back to get your "new" kids after the 10 day waiting period is up. For us this wasn't a very sound option because of the timing of things but the Ukrainian government shuts down for the first 10 days of January so if these families 10th day is during that time then it would be silly to wait around here for essentially another month.) Their kids at home are older but I know it's still very hard on them. Please continue to pray that God will work miracles and open doors all over Ukraine to get us and all these families home as quickly as possible.

Monday, December 8, 2008

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICHAEL!!!

We got to talk to the Michael and Charity this weekend. Michael had his "friends" birthday party on Saturday. My cousin Heather was nice enough to host it for him and she called a couple of times to let me know how things were going. It sounds like they had a perfect day for it - snow, football, sleds a "1st years" roller coaster and 8 year old boys! Let your imagination run wild. Hopefully I will be able to show you pictures of that day soon. Today is actually his birthday. It's hard to believe my baby boy is that old! He's such a sweet kid and an excellent big brother. We hit the jackpot with this one!! Love you Michael!
We are at the internet cafe early today. Angelina called at about 8:45. She was already at the courthouse and was expecting to pick us up in an hour or so. No such luck. We were ready so we decided to come and check the news of the day. I check email, facebook and blogs. Eric checks Drudge, the Star, the Tribune and the county paper. We are so incredibly predictable. It works out well though. He can tell me all the latest headlines and I can fill him in on our friends and family! The plan today is for Angelina to pick up the court order (I believe it is post dated for our 10 days) so that she can begin the paperwork for the birth certificates. She is hoping to pick those up on Saturday morning. This is hard for my American mind to comprehend - government working on Saturday?!
We spent the weekend just hanging around and trying to find something to watch on TV. There are several shows that have the English still in the background but they tend to run in the morning. (I'm catching up on my CSI Miami.) Saturday night we watched our first Bond movie. I know it's criminal, we are 31 years old and never watched 007. Well Saturday night our choices were Golden Eye or Ghost Busters. To me this is an obvious choice but apparently I was wrong. While I would have rather laughed at the antics of Slimer and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, I was vetoed and we watched Pierce Brosnan subdue bad guys, avoid death at every turn and seduce every woman in sight. Sunday night our choices were very limited. Eric flipped for about an hour. He lucked out and got to see the Beastie Boys "Sabotage" video and then left it at Myth Busters on Discovery. It was the one where they were testing the claim that water heaters can basically turn into rockets when the pressure builds us too high. It was pretty cool. They blew up a "house" and the water heater took like 20 second to fall back to the ground.
We also spent time with Roma and his friends on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday Roma had to go to church so we were only there about 2 hours but on Sunday we got to spend about 3 hours with him. The boys at one point got so rowdy that one of the teachers came in and scolded them and everybody but Roma left the room. Lucky for us Roma was busy playing with the pirate ship and wasn't wrestling, jumping and yelling. It's a hard spot to be in because we can't really do a whole lot to stop them from rough-housing but when they get rowdy while we are there we look like the evil Americans who love anarchy and just want to cause trouble (which of course is really our goal!)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pictures FINALLY

Roma and 2 of his friends show off the pirate ship it took them 2 days to finish! More friends and more Legos!

Boys will be boys!

Roma and Dad take a break after working up a sweat playing "football" aka soccer!!




So apparently there is a certain computer you have to use in order to upload anything in this internet cafe. I tried using my disc yesterday and it didn't work but today we asked and she pointed me to the computer right by her counter. So - scroll down and see pics of our stay here. There aren't a lot of them but I will try to keep them coming. I've spent most of my time today updating and posting the pictures so I will be short today. I really want to request prayers for all the other families that are here right now from our agency. Each family has run into so many obstacles and road blocks. Yesterday we got a call from one of the families that we stayed with in Kyiv. They were supposed to have court on Monday but that has gotten postponed. Their translator is in the hospital and they are getting very discouraged and afraid that they won't be able to bring their kids home. Please pray that God would give them peace and that he would begin to open doors for them. We are certainly grateful for God's hand on us but it's hard for us to rejoice in our good fortune when all of these families are going through such hard times.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Dinner with Italians

So last night Eric and I went to McDonald's after visiting with Roma. (We actually had ice cream there before going to see him too!) Don't ask me why we go there. The food is exactly the same as at home - except for the pies, those are actually pretty good. We don't eat there when we are at home if we can help it but every once in a while we just get the urge for a cheeseburger and that is our only option. We regret it everytime. Anyway, so we are sitting in McDonald's and the Italians walk in. This is a couple that is adopting a brother and sister from the same orphanage as Roma and we see them there quite a bit. Now all of you who traveled to Ukraine with me in October know how I feel about Italians adopting Ukrainians and why I feel that way, so the fact that I went up to them and said hello and basically invited them to sit with us should tell you how far I've come on the forgiveness front. : ) We figured out as we tried to talk to them that the easiest way to communicate was for both of us to use the little bit of Russian we know. It was absolutely ridiculous, an Italian couple and an American couple conversing in 1 to 2 word Russian phrases in McDonalds. We were able to find out though that they arrived in Kyiv on November 1st and plan to return to Kyiv about the same time we will. I can not even imagine being away from home that long. They have been in the country 18 days longer than us and only had court a day or two before us. I'm so glad Angelina worked so fast for us and God opened so many doors to get us a court date quickly. I know for our family at home this hasn't seemed like a quick process but we are being shown every day just how fortunate we have been. We are going to go to visit Roma in a little bit. We've figured out when the good times to visit during the week are but haven't spent much time there on the weekend so we'll see how today goes.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Day 2 of the 10 day waiting period - but who's counting!

The harbor There are several of these cannons in a park on top of hill in the city. There has been a lot of fighting over this city and so there are a ton of monuments around.

We get to see this view every day!!!

Another of the many monuments. This one is along the sea. Look how huge the anchor is behind Eric.





Today Eric and I have spent the day wandering around the city. Now that we've gotten to know our surroundings a little bit we fell a little more confident about getting ourselves home. It's another beautiful day. A little overcast and windy but still in the 70's. I'm not missing snow and stuff. It's really nice to be able to leave home without the bulk of a coat : ) Yesterday' interview went well (for us). After discussing it a little more Eric and I decided that we would not be in the TV shots. The news people weren't very happy about that but since we are still in the 10 day waiting period we thought it would be a wiser course of action. (Eric's lawyer mind was thinking of all the ways an interview could go wrong : ) ) They still got our story and plenty of video or Jonathan and his classmates. We agreed to have our pictures taken from the back and they could use our first names and what country we were from. We also talked to the newspaper reporter who had done several articles on Jonathan and we got to see the articles she had done in the past. It's amazing how far he has come in 9 months. Jonathan has had 5 surgeries in the past few years. He was born with AMC and his legs and arms were crossed around his body. Before the latest round of surgeries we was unable to even feed or dress himself. Now he can do both those things. He can also walk and kick and throw a ball. He does all the things the other kids in his group are doing. It amazes me how he has managed to manipulate his body to accomplish the things he wants to do. He is so determined and very smart. There's no telling what he will be able to accomplish, especially once he builds up a little muscle. The director of his orphanage laughed when she found out Eric's occupation because apparently Jonathan has been saying that he wants to be a lawyer when he grows up - just what I need, another lawyer in the house!!! We are hoping to take Roma to meet Jonathan on Monday or Tuesday. It's hard because they are on opposite sides of the city and Roma is in school all day. (We haven't asked Roma if he wants to use his American or Ukrainian name yet so for now we'll still call him Roma.) I think Roma knows that we are adopting a second boy but sometimes the language barrier is more difficult than others. We spend most of our time with him and his friends so we don't want to say a whole lot around them. It's difficult because they are such great kids and they all want families. I don't want to say anything to make them more sad than they already are.
That's about it for today. Eric was hoping to attend the Rotary meeting here tonight but the language barrier was an issue so I don't think he's going to be able to do that. Looks like we'll spend the afternoon hanging out and waiting for Roma to get home from school so we can go visit. Exciting stuff. I'm working on a new plan to get pictures uploaded. Apparently USB ports do not exist in this city : ) but there is a Kodak place down the road from us. I'm going to see if I can get my pics put on CD and then add them that way (that doesn't help my poor dead batteries on my MP3 player though, it needs a USB port to charge it!) What I've learned from spending time here is that I am incredibly spoiled!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Local Celebrities?

Jonathan and Mom. Jonathan and Dad.
Here you can see the braces that he wears to walk. He has actually grown out of these but he doesn't like the new ones - he apparently has these all broken in.




Okay, so apparently it is BIG news that Jenya has been adopted. Our facilitator called last night to let us know that the local TV station was "requesting" an interview with us. Apparently he has been a news story for awhile because of all his surgeries. He has been the object of quite a bit of charity and so they want to let the people know the latest on this little boy they have been taking care of. We will be meeting at Jenya's orphanage this afternoon. The interview is supposed to take place at 3:00. What have we gotten ourselves into? We have tried to keep all of this fairly low key while we have been here - trying very hard not to draw attention to ourselves if we can help it (although I don't dress Ukrainian so it's pretty obvious I'm foreign. I don't wear thigh-high high-heeled boots and short skirts and I don't wear a stocking cap and fur coat when it is 68 degrees out like it is today!) Anyway, now we're going to be on TV. God certainly has a sense of humor!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The results are in

Roma playing Legos outside his orphanage.Jonathan showing us what a star he really is!


We had court today. This morning when we talked to Angelina she said there was a possibility we wouldn't get to have court today because there was a snafoo with the paperwork. They had us scheduled with each kid in a different court on different days. Luckily we went today and they were willing to take care of both of them at one time. After 45 minutes of instructions and questioning by the judge and then 30 minutes waiting for her to come to her decision - we are now the proud parents of 2 more boys! Joseph Roma birthdate 1/2/01 and Jonathan Jenya born 1/7/04 (Ukraine Christmas!) Thanks to all for your prayers. I'll try to find a place to post pics tomorrow. I'm really excited to show them off.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sunny and 55 degrees

The view of the mountains and sea around Yalta. It was overcast but absolutely beautiful! Me and Angelina along the Black Sea in Yalta. Nothing makes you feel short and round like standing next to a 22 year old Ukrainian!!

Angelina and I outside of the Palace that hosted the Yalta conference in 1945 and was the home of Nicholas the second - Anastasia's dad.


Eric and I looking like the tourists we are!






It is a beautiful Monday morning here in Ukraine. I'm loving the this weather. I just looked at the forecast and it's supposed to be in the high 50's and low 60's through Saturday. Eric and I left our coats at home today! It's kind of nice to be in the warmer weather. I can usually forget that Christmas is approaching and I'm not at home to enjoy it! : ) Yesterday Eric and I went to Yalta for the day with Angelina (our translator). We walked along the sea and she told us about the history of Yalta. We then visited the palace where they held the Crimean Conference in 1945 with Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. It was also the vacation home of Nicholas the II and so there were tons of pictures of his family. The palace is wonerful and the grounds are beautiful. We also visited a winery in the area before heading home. This winery is one of the biggest in Crimea. Today it is back to work. Angelina is running around finishing up paperwork for us and later we will go visit the boys. We spent several hours with the older one on Friday and Saturday. He seems to be excited about coming home with us. I assume he'll get a little more nervous about it as the time approaches. The 4 year old is still very shy around us. We haven't been able to spend a lot of time with him because his orphanage is on the other side of the city but the plan is to be there for longer today. Pray that he begins to get comfortable around us. His heart has been broken a few times before and even though he is young I think he's afraid to trust that we really want to take him home. It breaks my heart!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Moving Day!!!

Old style water heater - notice the flame!Our lovely kitchen

The room we used as a living room

The scary bathroom - watch out for the water, there is no conisistent temperature. You will burn or freeze!
We got a call from our facilitator about 15 minutes ago telling us that we get to move today!! We have been staying in an old Soviet Style apartment and it has been less than stellar accomodations. I took some pictures but again - no USB port. Just use your imagination. High ceilings. Little to no bug control. Plaster walls. It's warm enough but very loud. To get hot water in the shower you have to turn on the kitchen sink as well as the tub and then turn the flame over the sink up so that there is enough pressure to send hot water to the shower. You have about 3 minutes before the hot water becomes scalding water. We have not figured out the trick to this yet so we just take very fast showers. Our new apartment is a renovated one. I'm interested to see what "renovated" entails. The price is right though. We are paying 150 greevna a night which today is about $22. (The exchage rate is about 7:1 today! Bad for Ukrainians, good for Americans.) After moving we will continue the paperwork process. Our court date is scheduled for Wed. Dec 3 at 2:30. We have a lot to get done before then and many medical documents to gather for the youngest boy. Keep praying for us. God is working so clearly in this situation. The early court date is a real blessing and we are pleased that so many doors are opening!!! We miss our family and friends. If you see my kids please hug on them for Mom and Dad!!!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving in Ukraine

We are beginning to find our way around and found not one but 2 internet cafes. This one doesn't have a USB port for me to post pictures but the other one is closed today so... no pictures today. I'm not going to post any pictures of the kids until after our court appointment. That's right I said "kids". At our SDA appointment we were given a referral for a second little boy. He is almost 5 years old and has some special needs that we will be helping him with. Mentally he is above his age but he will need some physical therapy and such to help with his movement. After court I will be able to give more specifics. We haven't gotten to spend much time with him yet. Hopefully today we can play with him for awhile while our facilitator is finishing up some paperwork for us. We will spend today continuing the paperwork process. The past two days have been spent running from place to place getting the necessary documents together and shuttling them back and forth. Our translator appears to be very efficient and is hoping that we will know our court date by Friday. Yesterday was a beautiful day. It was in the mid-60's and sunny. A little windy but I wasn't complaining. We got to play outside with the 8 year old boy for over an hour. He LOVES soccer and enjoys scoring on Eric and I. He's hilarious and loves teasing us. I think he's going to be a great fit in our family. I'll post more as I have a chance. Enjoy Thanksgiving. Eat plenty of turkey for us!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

In the region

Jenia (a friend and translator) had the exciting job of escorting Eric and I to the region and getting us started on this wacky journey. The train was SO hot!! This was our train compartment. 4 bunks and we bought all 4 so we wouldn't have to share with someone we didn't know. The luggage was stowed below the seats eventually.) We made Eric sleep on the lower bunk so that if someone broke in he could protect the defenseless women!


We traveled by train all night to arrive in Sevastopal. We got in at around 6:30 am, went to the apartment and then started the paperwork process. Got to meet the child and had fun for a few minutes with him. Hopefully there is an internet cafe that we will be able to find. I'm on a borrowed computer right now and really need to hurry but wanted to update you all on the latest. With luck I'll be able to let you know more details soon.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Down Day

Sorry about the sideways pics. I can't get them to stay turned and I can't read the instructions - they are in Russian. Eric's suggestion is to just turn your head!

This is our apartment buildint in Kiev.


This is Eric's favorite feature of the apartment. He says he's installing one in our house!
This is the pull-out sofa that doesn't go back in.
Our teen tiny kitchen. Notice the laundry hanging behind the bar area.
Eric and Kathy in front of one of the many statues. This is Kiev's founding family. There were 3 brothers and a sister. The oldest brother was named Kyiv.

Today we have basically taken it easy. I didn't get out of bed until 11 am. and my early rising husband slept until nearly 9 am!!!! I guess traveling caught up with us. We will be leaving on the train for Sevistopal tomorrow evening so we re-packed this afternoon and got our fill of BBC. We have 4 stations in English - CNN, BBC, BBC Prime and VH1. I'm thankful we have even one. The quiet would drive me nuts. Plus it's just nice to hear our own language once in a while - even if it is the "queen's english". We were afraid last night was going to be a long night - when we got back to the apartment we realized the building had no power. It gets dark around 4:30 here so we had several hours to wait out until bed time. Luckily the power kicked on a little after 6:00 and we were able to enjoy the rest of the evening (watching BBC of course!) We're planning on grabbing some McDonald's and heading back to the apartment. It's snowing today and has been for awhile so everything is soggy. Sounds like a good day for a nap!!

Oh - if you want to hear an extreme adoption story check out this blog journeytokyiv.spaces.live.com We met this couple while we were waiting for our SDA appointment. Neat people!