Monday, February 25, 2008

Everything is OK

After sending out my emergency plea for help to my online friends and to my up-line Friend, Dima called me! So everything is taken care of with the driver (I could just envision myself stumbling out to his car at 4:30 am just to tell him neither he nor I needed to be up yet)

So many cool things happened today--I just know God heard the prayers of everyone. I am humbled and so majorly excited.

The first stop was at the American embassy to drop off paperwork. It's interesting because Dima walked me as far as the security shack and reached inside the door to place the paperwork on the desk but that was as far as he could go. Dima's very nice and pretty wife was with us (because Dima had to leave around noon to go to Odessa and she was going to help with paperwork if it became necessary) so I just left Caleb in the car. I made the beeper go off again--this time because I had a bunch of change in my pockets. At least this time I knew where I was going so it wasn't so frightening. I was seated in a chair in the waiting area of Room 14 at the end of the hall at 8:25 and at 8:30 was waited on. I was the only one sitting beside that particular window though the other window had some business. I handed the nice young man a bunch of paperwork, he looked through the stack, had me sign 2 or 3 more places, noticed that Kevin and I had already signed a couple spots, had a brief questionnaire about the adoption process, sent me down the hall to pay for the visa, accepted the receipt when I returned a few minutes later. I told him I had heard that sometimes they can issue the visa the same day and that my flight is tomorrow morning. He said that is not the normal procedure but they sometimes do it in case of emergency and they would do their best. That is all I can ask for.

I headed back up the hill to the waiting car and we scurried off to the building where the medical exams are conducted. There's a long hall with low seats on one side and door after door on the other side with various doctor's names written on each one. The area was crowded. Dima hurried to get a place in line. After several minutes it finally occurred to me that I was hearing English. Come to find out, quite a few people in there were Americans who were in the same adoption boat. Finally, it was our turn to enter one of the rooms. And when it's your turn, you'd best be trotting fast into that room. I think all we did in that office was height and weight. I sure hope they wrote these vital measurements down somewhere. For some reason, when I'm nerved up my mind really does not compute well. Then back to the seats. After some while it was our turn to pounce into another room. This lady doctor performed the actual physical exam, told me how children with Down Syndrome are very, very, very, very limited mentally but are very nice, that Down Syndrome is a family disease, etc., etc. I know she just felt like she was doing her duty and she wasn't being purposefully mean--I just think she was relying on outdated information. I tried to memorize her name so I could send her a picture when Caleb graduates from high school or something. (But in my emotional state I wasn't able to retain it) Dima had warned me earlier that if the dr. requested blood work that would delay things several hours so we both did kind of a quiet thumbs-up when she said she didn't feel it necessary to repeat HIV, syph, etc since they'd already tested negative nor do a chest xray since he had no history of TB nor have a psych eval because the diagnosis of Down syndrome was already known. She seemed to feel better when I told her I already had a son with autism that was talking, reading, etc. Back to the magic seats to wait for a sealed packet of information. I wished the doc could have seen Caleb even out there playing with the finger puppets, mimicking the game I was playing, laughing and being silly, etc. because in front of the dr. he was absolutely dead silent.

Had lunch at our apartment and was then picked up by our main driver (his name is something like Svla, by the way) for our embassy appointment. This time both Caleb and I entered the sacred precincts. I took my notorious 50 pound notebook being absolutely positve that I had finally come to the spot in our adoption journey when someone would give a rip what was in it. I was mistaken--they didn't ask for tax forms, or pay stubs or deed to the house or any proof of residency or divorce decrees or birth certificates--not even for my original I171H. Nada. Unbelievable. I just handed them the sealed envelope I'd received after the medical exam. I visited quite a bit with a very nice couple from Minnesota with their adopted daughter while we both waited for visas. They even have another waiting area there at embassy with lots of toys and books and a table/chair set, etc. I was so excited when they were called to the window and given their daughter's visa that I almost cried. And ours couldn't have been more than 10 minutes behind. SO at about 4 pm our adoption process was complete. What an absolute WOW!

As we were driving across town I was actually feeling quite nostalgic--seeing buildings I now recognized, several of which I could call by name, for the last time.

As soon as I got in the apt I emailed Kevin that we were good to go so he could get our airline tickets finalized and then headed out on a little excursion to exchange grievna into dollars. Got back in and Kevin had already made the new arrangements (adding Caleb to my flight was actually more expensive than booking us both on a new flight) and I am all but sure it's the same flight my new friends are on. I know it's the same airline, and that the first 2 stops are the same!

Lin, if you are reading this, I tried and tried to call you tonight. I feel so, so, so bad that you lugged that stroller half way across the planet for nothing. There must definitely be somebody who needs it worse than I. I hope you had a good flight, that you are getting a well-earned rest right now, and that you have a smooth, successful adoption process. May God reward your beyond-the-call-of-duty efforts on my behalf and give you the desires of your heart.

Praise the Lord, again

Just a quick post to say, YES, we got the visa and we're flying out tomorrow at 11:55! Talk about exciting!

I need to reach Dima with the change in flight time but he's not home and I keep getting a recording when dialing the mobile number. Otherwise my poor driver will be here at 4:30 am! HELP!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Almost Done--And a Sunday Sermon!




Pictures: beautiful church not too far from our apartment; our trusty elevator to our 9th floor apt; our clothes dryer
Well as usual it is nearly 1 am here and I am on the computer. I guess my night-owl habits didn't change just cuz I came to Ukraine :) I've been falling asleep around 8 or 8:30 when I'm getting Caleb to sleep and then waking up around 10 or 11 or midnight to come work on the computer for a few hours.

We are to meet our driver at 8 am sharp for our last day of paperwork (!!!!) so I need to be up at 6 and back to the embassy we will go. And I'm taking my 50-pound notebook along because I really do think someone there is supposed to want to look at old tax returns or something. It is exciting to finally be at this place in the adoption process.

Today the weather here was absolutely gorgeous--so springlike and sunny that it just pulled me outside. It was great to just wear a T-shirt, pants and coat without twenty-five other layers underneath. First, Caleb and I went over to the market and got water, Cola Light and napkins and brought them back to the apartment. Then we headed the other direction in search of a pharmacy that sells babyfood. No fast-walking today just a nice Sunday stroll and no attempt to hide my being an American--I was chatting to Caleb most of the way. I had to just giggle when we passed what must have been a pet store and he saw this big picture of about 5 or 6 kittens-- he was going on and on and on, jabbering excitedly to them and moving his hands. We visited 3 pharmacies and found no baby food but thankfully did come up with more diapers and wet wipes. Finally, back to the market for bananas and oranges and yogurt. The lady at this particular fruit stand is just so sweet so I go to her every time. She knows Caleb loves bananas. She really likes him and gave him a tangerine. I don't know if people realize how wonderful their kindness feels to a person who is so far from home. She and another lady were talking and talking to me and I picked up the part about me being American but that was the only part I really understood. But tone of voice and smiles are a universal language.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved listening to foreign languages. For awhile I actually considered being a missionary with Wycliff and doing Bible translation. At home, when there's a sign written in Spanish I truly enjoy trying to figure out what it says. I remember one day at WinCo a guy behind me made some kind of slur about all the non-English-speaking people there and I said very honestly, 'I love it!' When I see someone obviously from another nation I just have this desire to make them feel welcome in my country. My year in Jamaica gave me a bit of an understanding of how it feels to be a different color than everybody else. And my time (I almost said 'year'!) here has given me added empathy for a person who cannot read or write or speak or understand the language. There is a feeling of being cut off, left out, kind of non-existant in a way. Simply going to the grocery store becomes a task that actually requires courage--not just time, money and gas (I'm talking about people in the States because I obviously don't need gas to walk across the street here) So since this is still Sunday for you guys who are reading this, my sermon for today is to be nice to 'aliens' -- another group that God wants us to look out for as He does the orphans.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fun and Interesting Things About Caleb




Pictures: Caleb being silly for the camera
Thanks again guys for the encouragement and for not telling me I'm acting like a baby. At least if someone who hasn't adopted yet reads this and then experiences it themselves later, they'll know they are normal. We did get Caleb's passport on Friday and his tiny little face is so cute. Dima called the embassy and was told there is still a chance we can actually get the visa the same day (Monday) so not to let go of my ticket for Tuesday yet. The scary thing is I can't get my airline agent to email me back to see if she got Caleb added for the same flight. Just please keep praying.

No matter what happens I'll get to talk to Lin on Monday night and figure out a way to see her so that is something to look forward to. And I'll be home in less than a week whichever way it works out. And God is still here in Ukraine, too.

Now to Caleb: He likes to help me around the apartment here. When I make the bed, he has to get his little hands in there and pull on the comforter and pat it. When I move the coffee table so I can vacuum the black and white zebra-striped rug (!!!), he helps carry it. He loves to get hold of the dish cloth and wash table, chair, even floor if I'm not paying attention. He gets a folded up piece of paper and sweeps crumbs with it. And he loves to pick up 'guck' which can be anything from a booger to a piece of lint to a crumb of bread. A couple of times he has thrown his guck in the bowl I'm eating out of!

We added a new food to the short list of things he eats: oranges! I was so surprised. He can't handle all the fibery stuff but really enjoyed the juicy part of the fruit. So maybe that will be something I can take on the plane, too. I always offer him whatever is on my plate and he always says 'neh' so I couldn't believe it when I got a 'da' instead. Yeah, a source of vitamin C!

He does not cry when he falls, or whacks his head--not even when he has fallen out of bed. Once when he knocked his face on the coffee table I thought he was going to cry but it was more like a sharp intake of breath but no cry. He did make a noise when he got his fingers pinched in the drawer tonight and he has a sound that lets me know he's stuck somewhere but not really crying. The only time he has cried was when I washed his hair and he also fusses when I wash his back and bottom (he still insists on standing in the tub so to get to his back and bottom I have to move him away from the edge a little bit so he probably feels less secure) Well, a time or so he has got a real sad look on his face out of the blue and had tears coming out of his eyes but that wasn't due to a fall--I'm guessing he's remembering Vorzel.

He wakes up so sweetly in the mornings. We haven't had any early morning schedule so we just sleep until we wake up. He's been awake first most mornings and is just sitting in the bed making cute little baby noises or this morning was laying there kicking me with his feet (OK, so the kicking wasn't particularly sweet but he wasn't squalling or screaming.) One morning he was looking into my face. Monday we have to leave at 8 am so that might be a different story.

He usually sucks his thumb when he's falling asleep or if he's trying to get back to sleep in the night. I think it's adorable. I never see him suck his thumb otherwise. (Now pick his nose is another story . . .)

He sits in a regular chair while I feed him and doesn't climb out and run all over the place. I found out tonight that he takes real liquidy things better with a bigger spoon than with the baby spoon.

He feels likes he's somewhere between 18 months and 2 yrs. When I play with him and talk to him and look at him and watch him playing on his own, I think of him as being around 2. He loves to open and shut drawers, open and shut cupboard doors, say 'no.' I am actually starting to remember signs and songs and fingerplays, some of which I haven't thought of in years. We've done 'Wheels on the Bus,' '5 Little Monkeys Swinging in the Tree,' '5 Little Monkeys Jumping On the Bed,' 'Where is Thumbkin,' '3 Little Kittens,' 'Eensy, Weensy Spider' and of course 'This Little Piggy went to Market.' (Sorry, I cannot make the quotation marks work on this computer.)

I wish I knew Ukrainian/Russian kiddo rhymes/songs because there are times I know Caleb is saying them just by the way he'll be dancing his toy around and the sing-song of his voice and even the rhyme of some of the phrases. So cute but I can't reinforce because I don't know the words.

In case anyone is into diapers, he is peeing AND pooping.

OK, you get the point--he's a keeper.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Life in Limbo

I had so hoped to tell everyone that we were able to pick up the passport today. Dima called the passport folks but no, it did not happen. Is it possible to get the passport and go to the embassy on the same day--ie, tomorrow? Dima says I will not know until Monday (25th) whether I can fly on the 26th :(((( I am bummed. I really don't know why 26th vs. 28th makes such a huge difference to me emotionally. And not knowing drives me crazy.

Little cutie-bug is sleeping across the middle of the bed again--I'll have to see which side I can squeeze in on tonight :) He is so precious.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Just to say thanks

I sure appreciate all the comments and encouragement. It makes me feel much better to know other kids has survived on bananas and yogurt and cereal. At least they are all things with good nutritive content. My potato 'soup' did not go over too well though he did put it in his mouth. Guess I just didn't shove it back far enough into his throat :( That sounds like a horrible way to eat. Thanks, Amy, for the heads-up about giardia. And thanks for the info about paperwork, Kris. Honestly, I was so excited about the problem today working out that I didn't listen particularly well to the rest of what Dima said. :( He was telling me what things were supposed to be done what days but I need to double-check with him. Maybe it was the extra day with the visa that was making him think that Tuesday would not work. Our flight leaves around 7 am. so that makes sense. And I don't think there are flights on Wednesdays. Well, then I can be OK with Thursday--since it is technically Thursday now (00:52) that's just a week away. I will still be home in time for my niece's wedding on Friday which is icing on the cake.

Gotta go back to bed. I fell asleep putting Caleb down and had to get back up to brush teeth, put food back in fridge, turn off lights and read everyone's messages.

God is Listening



I just got a phone call from Dima with good news. The other office that had to get involved because of Caleb's long name--I believe Dima referred to it as the tax office--turned out not to be a problem after all!! All I can say is Praise the Lord! I could really sense that people were praying. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Things happen when people pray. So if everything goes exactly right we could finish on Monday. I think Dima is a bit skeptical of it all working that smoothly. I've been praying that God will either make the system work quickly or give me the strength to hold on a couple days longer. But I know if He could make today's news turn out well--He certainly COULD bring it all together if that would suit his plan.



On the eating, drinking subject, thanks to all for your encouragement. I think I figured out part of the problem. Because Caleb is eating finger food like Fruit Loops so well I wrongly assumed he could also eat things like small cubes of cheese or bologna or small bites of soft things like potatoes. But the consistency he has handled well so far is baby cereal (thanks, Carol, for the recipe--it worked) and the thin kind of yogurt that a person could actually drink. For lunch I heated up some chicken and vegetable baby food and thinned it down and mashed it up as well as I could with a fork. He gave it a gallant effort but just couldn't get the little flecks of chicken off his tongue and couldn't seem to wash them down with tea either. So I need to find a younger level of baby food. And just now he took a few sips of tea out of his sippy cup without drowning himself so things are looking up. I'm planning to make real thin mashed potatoes for supper with butter and milk.



As far as the potty subject goes, I'd be happier if his diapers were a lot wetter--the one this morning had some good weight to it. The next one was fairly wet. When we got home from the orphanage on Monday he had 2 really squishy, goopy, poopy diapers. But none yesterday. I just hope all the bananas he's eating aren't plugging him up. He has smelled really REALLY stinky a couple times-once yesterday and once today but it must have been just gas. At the orphanage, I wonder if they usually go poo-poo on the potty?



And today we were looking at a book and I made the signs for bird and cat and he copied me. I'm sure he didn't know exactly what they meant but I thought it was cool.

I took him with me to the market for the first time. A couple people remarked how cute he is. Of course, I can't understand their words but I can understand the tone. I didn't see baby food or this soup powder that Dima was telling me about so we just got the stand-bys.

The sun was shining like crazy into our apartment today--I'm sure the people at the orphanage would have a heart attack that Caleb was running around only in his tights and a long-sleeve T-shirt. But going to the market I should have made all Ukranians proud by adding his heavy fleece-lined pants, sweater and coat. (I must admit, however, I did forego the gloves.) I did basically the same for myself and about sweated to death in the market.

Well, I'm just 'blathering' now so I'll close.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Please pray

Thanks again for all the congratulatory notes. Caleb is just a cutie-bug, there is no way around it. He has a great giggle, likes to tease and be tickled, and it's adorable the way he imitates me sometimes--like when I'm sitting with terrible posture on the couch and he sits exactly the same way. We got his passport pictures taken today.

My first concern has to do with getting him to eat and drink enough. I know other adoptive parents have faced this difficulty, too. I'm most concerned about liquids. When I give him a cup, he drinks a little but then either starts playing and spitting or just drowns his shirt. When I tried a cup with a sippy lid he holds the cups absolutely upside down and most of the liquid goes on his shirt. (The sippy cup I got is free-flowing) I tried just giving him a water bottle but he tried to put his mouth over the entire end of the bottle and ends of soaking himself or the floor. I finally got about a third of a cup of tea down him spoonful by spoonful. He liked the tea but that is such a slow method. I've got to ask what kind of cup he is used to. I wonder if he could use a straw? As far as food goes, he's had bananas, fruit loops, yogurt and bread and a cookie--wouldn't eat rice or potatoes or cheese or bologna. When Dima picked us up he was asking how Caleb had done, how he slept, how he was eating. He was insistent that he needs to have meat. Then he gave me the daily schedule from the orphanage with the list of kinds of foods he eats at what times and says he needs to eat more than bananas and yogurt. I said, 'Dima, I know that.' Probably if I weren't feeling so emotionally vulnerable right now, it wouldn't have been a big deal but I am just ready to be home where I can easily get the foods and supplies I want, where I can actually read the directions on labels for how to prepare foods (like the hot cereal that I bought) and where I'll be with my family and my friends and my supports. Do you know what I mean? I'm not usually such a basket case but tears kept rolling down my cheeks there in the back seat of the car and I kept trying to duck down and hide them.

And then Dima said we've run into a potential problem--well, he says he's pretty sure it WILL be a problem. On some vital computer form, Caleb's name is one letter too long to fit in the space (so it comes out Caleb Alexande, I guess) Without this problem, we would have Caleb's passport by Friday which I think would be just right for me to go home on Tuesday. With the problem, another government office has to get involved and Dima doesn't know how long it will take to resolve the problem. (I think Donna ran into a similar situation.) Please pray that either this won't turn out to be a big deal at all or that the Lord will give me strength and endurance to face a longer time away from home.

Thanks for your love and prayers.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Gotcha Day





Pictures: Caleb arrives in my apartment; Caleb enjoying the remote (recognize this sweater, Meredith?); eating a . . . banana
Guys, you all leave such sweet comments that I just sit here and say 'awwwww' Teresa and Scheri, those are very precious notes. I miss you so much and will hopefully be home next week. We're almost there. You know, God asked our whole family to do a very important thing. Right now, the hardest part of obeying God is having to be apart for such a long time. But it is almost over and then we will all get to enjoy Caleb the rest of our lives and know that we made GOD happy.

So guess who's sound asleep in the next room dressed in the cutest footie-pajamas from Meredith. Let's see: he has long light brown hair, blue eyes, a great giggle, chunky little fingers, adorable little toes, and is in my humble but right opinion the cutest little boy in all of Ukraine. (Now I didn't say in all the world because I just happen to have the other 4 cutest children already at home--hey! many of you have never seen pictures of any of us so how can you dispute) It is so hard to believe that Caleb is actually here after all those years of adoption dead ends and all those months of paperwork hassles and re-dos. He was who God had in mind all along.

The day started at 8 am with the usual driving from office to office and from town to town and sitting in the car most of the time. The funny thing was that it finally occured to me that my cell phone has games on it so what am I doing while all this momentous paperwork is being passed from hither to yon? I'm playing Snake and trying to play Bowling (a little too true-to-life since the ball kept going in the gutter) But finally the time came to go to the orphanage for the last time. We'd already dropped off the clothes so the workers had him all dressed. There were at least 6 caregivers in addition to the doctor who were gathered to tell him good-bye. He has obviously been a very well-loved little boy. I had written them a note of appreciation for all the good care he has received--I hope someone will translate it for them. For some reason, Dima seemed to be in a huge hurry to get out of there--maybe the ladies were telling him not to prolong their agony or maybe they didn't want Caleb to see them cry. My eyes were teary, I know that.

I had hoped to get to take a picture of his bed, where he ate, where he played. Dima asked but was told no. Dima said I was not supposed to see any other children and I guess other children would be in those areas. I'm kind of sad about that--because it would be so great for Caleb's baby book--but obviously it is not my call.

But I definitely was not sad about getting my son. He had no problem at all being in the car--just enjoyed watching the people and cars and scenery. He chattered for awhile and then ended up falling asleep on my lap which was very sweet. I was bummed to have to wake him up to come into the building. But he woke up without a problem, wasn't grumpy, came into the apartment and checked everything out--opening and closing drawers, opening and closing cupboards. He grabbed the phone right off the bat and probably called Zimbabwe but the bill didn't come to me. He had a lot of fun with the empty plastic water and Cola Light bottles-he whacked on various surfaces, used the bigger one to bat the smaller one, actually moved the smaller bottle all the way across the rug in this way. He played for quite awhile with the poseable bunnies (I remembered the sign for bunny so kept doing it when I said bunny and he was watching my hands) and finger puppets and Color Wonder markers we've had at visits. He wasn't particularly interested in the very soft stuffed puppy. I sang him 'Jesus Loves Me' and 'Jesus Loves the Little Children.' He showed me a little dance. I'd seen him holding hands and swaying with Dima so I tried it except this time Caleb showed me a couple more moves--he backed up a step or so, turned in a circle (so I did, too) and then came toward me to clap my hands. He ate a banana and quite a few dry fruit loops (which he seemed to chew well and swallow OK.) When I came near his bowl without food in my hands, he told me Neh-Neh--like he was afraid I was going to grab his chow. I kept giving him a few more and a few more and finally he just handed me his bowl so I assumed that meant he was done. And he got down from his chair and let me wash his fingers. He threw the little bite of colby-jack cheese I'd handed him earlier and later when I offered him some boiled potatoes he wasn't interested. So I guess he was full.

I gave him sort of a bath. He stood in the water without a problem but wouldn't sit down. He let me soap him up and rinse him off using the mesh scrubber so it worked but I was afraid he would slip.

At one point during the afternoon, I'd laid him on the bed cuz I thought he might need to finish his nap but he wasn't interested and got back up to play. But around 7 he started getting kind of whiny and started swaying back and forth in the bedroom doorway so I took him in and he was very content to help me take off his clothes and put on his jammies. I had him laying very quietly with me humming softly and rubbing his hands but I guess I quit too soon. I sat up on the edge of the bed and pretty soon he was sitting up, too. So I thought, I'll just lay down on my side of the bed and he'll lay down again pretty soon. Nope, he got out of bed. So I got back up, laid him back down and started in on my lullabies and rubbed the side of his face real softly and he fell asleep laying crossways right in the middle of the bed. I hope I can get in without disturbing him too much--if I can find a spot to sleep!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

My last day as a tourist






Pictures: St. Andrews; St. Sophia cathedral, St. Sophia bell tower; clothes for bringing Caleb home tomorrow; sacks of stuff to take with me tomorrow to the orphanage
First off, THANKS again to people who leave comments. It is such a touch of home.

Amy, thank you so much. It sounds like Ukraine and Russia must have similar climates.

Yes, Lin, I definitely hope we can meet the night of the 25th! Are you using Oleg? If so, his translator Dima could show you where I live on a map. My number once you get to Kiev is 529-7648. Do you know yet what your address will be? Maybe if I start hunting for it on my maps now I'll actually find it by the time you get here. As far as something from the USA: you wouldn't mind flying via Idaho and grabbing my stroller out of the back of our van would you??!!! (laugh here) Other than that, I'm fine. That is so sweet of you to ask. I was hoping to meet Sheila, too, but it sounds like she's trying to fly into another city rather than Kiev.

Kris, it sounds like you spent your time here doing exactly what I thought I would be doing a lot of. I keep a prayer journal but haven't made nearly as many entries as I planned to. And getting that extra bonding time with your daughter was a great benefit of staying close by the orphanage. The only plans I had to play tourist was to possibly do a one-day tour of the city that one of the apt rental sites advertised. But I am grateful for all the beautiful things I've been able to see. That would be so great if you could come back some time and see the sites--maybe when everything is green and flowering.

Scheri, I love you, too, honey. I am sorry about the weird-acting cat--sounds like Daddy has a good plan to fix her problem. Yes, I have been to lots of churches but no actual church services. I miss it so much but I am praying for you guys cuz I know you are probably in Children's Church right now though it's almost bedtime for me.

And now, my last day as a tourist . . . Well, the last time Kevin and I visited Andriivsky Street I saw this madroshka (I know I am murdering the pronunciation of that) of a Ukrainian family with 15 pieces nesting inside each other and since I couldn't get it out of my mind and since it would definitely be cheaper to get it now than to make another trip to Ukraine to purchase it and since tomorrow I will be taking custody of a certain little cutie-pie I decided that this was the day to go purchase it. Every time I was there on Souvenir Alley (my nickname) with Kevin I got hopelessly turned around so I was a bit nervous about making the trek alone but figured if I couldn't find the place, I'd just turn around and come home. I studied the map which helped tremendously in my understanding of the general layout of the land and how different important landmarks related to each other. (When I'm with Kevin I honestly do not pay any attention at all to where I am) So I stroked it down to my metro station (in my view of things, walking like you're late for an IEP meeting or a job interview or a day-after-Thanksgiving sale makes a person look more Ukrainian), pushed my token into the slot, headed down the escalator (if you're ever bored on an escalator here, try just planting your hands and feet in a comfortable position and then try not to move your hands--Kevin discovered that the hand rails and the feet portions move at different speeds so your hands will either pull way out in front or trail way behind after awhile), and headed for the Poshtova Pl. ('poshtova' looks kinda like 'nowtoba' in cyrillic) I'd forgotten that this stop is right by the River--beautiful view but icy wind. Traffic on the metro was light enough I actually got to sit most of the way. Then up the hill on the fernicular (sp?), past St. Michaels, down a street where I kind of had to watch out for the tree-trimmers overhead and easily to St. Andrews. This is the church right by the SDA and right by Andriisky Street but I'd never looked at it for some reason. There were quite a few people in it today--I guess cuz it's Sunday--crossing themselves, lighting candles, etc. I had my own private in-my-heart worship service thanking Jesus on the Lord's Day for giving his life for me. Again the artwork was beautiful and awe-inspiring. My eyes were teary from the wind but in that atmosphere teary eyes seemed very appropriate. Though I would have liked to take pictures, and though there were other people doing exactly that, it just didn't seem reverent. Finally I turned away and headed back outside, getting a beautiful view of the city. I was reminded of what I'd read in my guide book earlier in the day about the location of St. Andrews: '' The place for the church was not chosen by accident. According to the chronicle, the Apostle Andrew, standing on this hill, pronounced prophetic words: 'Can you see these hills? The grace of God will shine on these hills, and there will be a great city there, and many churches will be erected by God.' '' So be it.

My shopping quest didn't go quite as well as I'd hoped. I couldn't find the guy who had the madroshka I had liked so well. He wasn't set up in the same place he had been. I didn't go the entire length of the street but I did go quite a ways. I found one that was OK--less pieces, more money, not painted as cute--but OK. The moral of this story is if you find a souvenir you REALLY like, you better get it--that is, once you have a clue what an appropriate price is.

It was really easy to get back to St. Michael's now that I was paying attention. I'm sure it was as beautiful as ever except my glasses were so fogged up I couldn't see well. As I came out and actually looked across the plaza I saw another church that I recognized from the guide book so I headed over there (very straight, easy shot so no chance of getting lost). On the way I heard music and saw that there was an ice-skating rink set up with lots of people enjoying that activity. The church turned out to be St Sophia's and I had to pay 2 greivnas to get into the compound. It has a bell-tower that looks very similar to St. Michael's bell tower and they face each other across a big open area with nice, wide walkways. (There are intersecting streets but easy to cross) Apparently there was an additional charge for tickets to actually enter the church and possibly some museums on the site. (Being illiterate is a bummer.) But I walked around the compound and took lots of pictures. Of course, each time I took a picture I had to take my glove off to press the button--and boy, the air was absolutely frigid. It was time to go home.

After I had late lunch (bread, bologna and cheese that I sliced myself, oh great chef that I am) and got warmed up a bit, I did head over to the market and managed to make a few purchases all by myself including different laundry soap. Not being able to read all the settings on the washer (we did figure out white, color and wool) nor the directions on the laundry soap box make for some somewhat uneducated guessing. I don't know if I've been using the wrong soap or too much soap for the amount of clothes, or not setting it to rinse enough or what but it feels like my skin is a bit irritated pretty much everywhere my clothes touch and I generally do not have sensitive skin. I've been playing with a couple of the settings--one is temperature I'm pretty sure and I think the other one might be water level. Hopefully all this adjusting will help.

You would laugh at the number of bags I have grouped up by the door so I won't forget them tomorrow. There's a big bag of diapers and a couple boxes of chocolates for the orphanage. There's a sack of clothes for Caleb--including 2 pair of pants and 2 outer shirts because I'm not sure which will fit better--and coat, gloves, hat, inner shirt, diaper, sox and shoes. Another sack has bottled water, Fruit Loops equivalent, and will have bananas and sippy cup. My big-purse-turned-diaper-bag isn't even out of the bedroom yet but it is packed. Remember please, my youngest is 9 and the last little guy we fostered was in 2001. Please tell me I will remember how to do this.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Cold but Beautiful




Pictures: Nancy and Juan Gonzalez; view of the Dnipro River; church right outside the Kyiv-Pecherska Lavra
Thank you Amy, Shelley, Kris and Karen for your comments. They truly help me and encourage me so much. And you're right, my long-blog days are probably about to come to an abrupt halt.

Today Juan and Nancy Gonzalez met me at 'my' Metro station at 11:00 am (which by the way is the 'Ukraine Palace' stop--sounds more like 'pahlosh Ookryna'--and I never figured out until I got the tour guide book 2 days ago that the stop is named for this huge curved-front building we pass on the way to the Metro station where they have had 'solemn occasions and concerts for the last 30 years.' Today we were heading for Kiev-Pechersk Lavra down by the river which we found with the help of a map and several locals pointing us in the right direction. It was a FREEZING cold walk but our destination was so beautiful. According to my guidebook this monastery was founded in 1051 and the first monks there lived in caves. Over time several churches were built. On the map I count 12 churches plus gorgeous bell tower and lots of other buildings. We didn't see near all of it but the part we did see was very beautiful. Actually our first stop was at the ticket booth and then directly to a room where you could buy coffee or tea which they serve very hot in plastic, not styrofoam cups. Just holding the cup felt wonderfully warm. I don't know what kind of tea it was but there were at least 3/4 inch of leaves in the bottom of the cup. I didn't of course eat the leaves but the tea was very tasty. That room had brick walls that looked like they had to be nearly 2 feet thick plus a coating on the inside of cement or plaster that was 1 1/2 -2 inches thick. It looked like it had been there a LONG time. I was particularly impressed by the sparkling gold-colored domes and the multitude of pictures on the outside of one church in particular--if I'm following the diagram right, it is the Dormition Cathedral--a different picture under every arch and in every cubby around all the domes and spires. We went inside one church--it seemed like every bit was covered with artwork. When I saw the frescoes and mosaics in various places I was remembering how Teresa and I learned about those art forms when we were studying with the Idaho Virtual Academy. Nearly every woman there had her head covered--some with hats, some with scarves, some (like me) with the hood of their coat. A person could easily spend several hours at this site but we had to get back because we were very cold and because time was getting away from us.

We got back to Juan and Nancy's stop and they took me to a wonderful cafeteria-style establishment where I got what I think was a chicken patty with cheese and pineapple on top, deliciously-flavored potatoes, a Russian salad, a tubular-shaped bread thing stuffed with what tasted like cream cheese, maybe pineapple, some bits of something else-raisins? and then had sour cream over the top and tea. I was very hungry but still could not eat it all and I gave it a gallant effort. It was yummy but I was glad we waited to fill our tummies until after our long walk.

Then they took me to a pharmacy where I was finally able to buy wet wipes, baby shampoo, plastic dish, cups, spoons, more diapers, baby cereal, even a couple jars of baby food. It's still a little different because everything but the diapers, cup and spoons were inside various locked glass cases--like jewelry or watches in the States--and the nice lady had to get them out for us. She took all the stuff to a counter as I picked it out and wrote the price of each on a piece of paper. Then she sacked them up while I took the piece of paper to the cashier and paid for it.

And at the multi-level grocery store which they discovered near their house I even got something that looks like Fruit Loops and some chocolates for the ladies at the orphanage. I feel so unbelievably relieved to finally have this stuff.

I am going to miss Juan and Nancy. They are flying back to the States tomorrow while Dima resolves a paperwork challenge with one of the girlies they're adopting. Don't worry though, they really love Nastya and Sophia and will be eagerly awaiting Dima's call to come back for court to make them legally their own.

10 more days (hopefully) until I'll be headed home with Caleb to see Kevin and Billy and Scheri and Teresa and James. Though I have honestly enjoyed my time here, I am also glad that the end is in sight.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Day in the Car


Picture: While sitting in the car I could not figure out what the roundish shapes are in these trees across the street
You guys who left comments are so sweet to identify with my scared feelings. That makes me feel better. And Kevin and Scheri, thanks for your sweet notes.

I do think I could have taken custody of Caleb today-it's been 10 days since court!! How time flies!! However, our translator, Dima, advised against it because he said it would be a LONG day in the car. I'm glad I listened because we left at 8:00am and got back to the apt a little after 3:30. I really can't imagine how fun that would NOT have been with a toddler-particularly when we do not know each other well. This time today was nearly all spent parked outside of a courthouse and then two different registrar's offices (the one in Irpin-the area where Caleb now lives and the other in some corner of Kiev where he was originally registered) and some other official place while Dima was inside getting all this paperwork done. Two times I had to come inside with my passport and sign my name. (The rest of the time I just sat and listened to the radio and people-watched and tried to figure out what signs said, and looked through my Russian-English phrase book and dozed and sat. Did I mention, sat? I can't believe I didn't take a journal or a reading book or puzzle book with me. The most fun I had was when I took the words off the notepad we got at Inn America in Boise the night before Kevin and I flew here and tried to write them using the cyrillic alphabet-that was truly a kick!) I got to see the new birth certificate with Kevin's and my names written in cyrillic as the parents. It looks so cool. I wanted to kiss it but refrained. We did walk over to a little stand where I got a pkg of pretzels for the equiv of 13 cents. This would have been a great day to have a couple granola bars or salted nut rolls tucked in your purse.

So Monday is supposed to be the DAY of taking custody. It's supposed to be a big paperwork day, too, except Caleb has to be with us cuz we are getting his passport photos. I'm feeling a bit nervous about taking care of him for the first time in a car--snacks, diapers, toys and sitting and waiting. Bananas were suggested and I mentioned my concern about how messy they are with this gray (not black, sorry) Audi's spotless black leather interior but the driver has already given his OK. You are all witnesses. Honestly, I am nervous and excited about a week with a toddler in this apartment. I'm wondering how many things will end up being kept on top of the tall fridge for safety sake. I'm a little extra nervous about it because it's not my stuff--it goes with the apartment. My friend Nancy and I had planned to go shopping for wet wipes and baby food and diapers and baby shampoo tonight but by the time I ate lunch it was after 4:00 pm and it gets dark around 5 or 5:30 so it didn't happen. Why do I always get nervous about things instead of just being ecstatic that our son is finally coming home?

I'm not sure if I mentioned I was sitting in the car a long time today (laugh here)? At the first registrar's office the toilet was 'broken' but thankfully 4 hundred hours later at the second registrar's office, the toilet was working. Dima pointed me in the right direction. I opened the door and thought I was in the men's restroom because it was basically a porcelain hole in the floor with porcelain foot rests on each side. He must have seen my face because he assured me it was the lady's. I was so glad for my squat pot training with Food for the Hungry and for the handy tissues in my coat pocket. It did flush and there was a sink with soap and water in the adjoining room. The thrill of modern conveniences!

It was really cold here, too, and SLICK on the sidewalks. While I was sitting outside one office I noticed 3 different people pulling their child on wooden sleds. Then 2 ladies were walking together and had these push sleds for their kids--looked like the old wooden sled but had a handle that you pushed, kind of like a stroller. I thought that was clever. I saw a couple elderly ladies walking out there with their canes--thankfully they didn't slip. In another park I saw people pushing their big bassinet-type strollers (I can't remember what you call those) At home in this kind of weather we just really don't get out and walk, at least I sure don't. I either stay in the warm house or else dash to the soon-to-be-warm car, drive wherever and dash into a warm store.

Yesterday when I was going to the big underground malls I was dressed in my long johns (top and bottom) plus jeans, sweater, wool socks, gloves and coat. It was none too warm when walking outside but when I got inside the mall I was sweating like crazy--seriously, even my passport pouch that I carry next to my body felt sweaty. I wonder how people here adjust to those temp changes. I did notice at least one gal carrying her coat but I was reluctant to do that because I was using all my coat pockets as my purse and didn't want anything to fall out.

Donna, Wendy, Kris, Shelley, Charissa (I know I'm leaving someone out but I'm having a senior moment), I keep reminding myself that you guys have all been through this and lived to tell about it. Thanks for going ahead of me and giving me hope and courage.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Be strong and very courageous--Joshua 1:8,9




Pictures: maydan Nezalezhnosti -- Independence Square
You wouldn't think a simple thing like walking out of this apartment, locking the door behind me, pushing the elevator button and walking outside into the snow by myself would require so much courage--yet I procrastinated and procrastinated and procrastinated--we're talking I figured out excuses to put it off for like 2-3 hours. It was so obvious I was laughing at myself. Finally I made the break, actually quoting the biblical phrase above for strength.

First, I needed to exchange greenbacks for grievnas. This is something Kevin has always done but I honestly couldn't remember exactly where. I must have walked right past the spot because I know I was on the right street. So I figured I'd just keep walking and surely run into something. I was trying very hard to look like I knew what I was doing, to keep my mouth shut so my English-habit would not be obvious, not to gawk or try to sound out all the signs, and not to fall on my head in the slush. I did finally find a nice warm spot inside a Columbia Wear store where cash could be exchanged. I had it all figured out which pocket was going to hold what money so I wouldn't have to carry a purse. Then I made myself walk though the maze of shops below our apartment. My quest was to find wet wipes, baby shampoo and plastic cup/dish. This cannot be that difficult. I did find the candy store quite easily which was good because I think I want to get candy for the ladies at the orphanage. Unfortunately for me I can't figure out how the pricing works. The sign said something like 27.50 and then some letters so I didn't know if that was 27.50 per so many grams or what. And since this is Valentines Day--here, too--there were several people gathered around her booth anyway.

So back to the apt to de-stress, eat lunch, try to get hold of Juan and Nancy (no luck), procrastinate a bit more and down to the Metro station with the sun now shining brightly. I rode up to the Maiden stop, checked out all levels of 2 underground malls, walked past stores all around the square, even up a couple streets to no avail. I've found fancy clothes, fancy coats (we are talking gorgeous, full length fur-of-all-kinds coats), fancy boots, fancy underwear, fancy shoes, fancy jewelry, fancy watches, fancy furniture and other fancy household furnishings, music, food court, Valentine bears and hearts and balloons and candy and flowers. But where is good ol' Target or Shopko or K-Mart? Where is a store that sells just regular stuff? I have seen real living, breathing babies and small children here so there has to be someway their parents feed them and wash them.

I did manage to make 2 purchases: a McDonalds meal (interestingly there were 2 other seats at my tiny table and 2 other ladies asked to sit there) and tourist books about Kiev. (I do realize that eating at McDonalds is cheating because Big Mac, fry and Cola Light are the same in both languages but it was still scary to walk in there.) By the end it had turned bitterly cold and was very slick. I think those ladies with spike heels may have a little advantage because they can dig in and not slide.

Just in!! News flash!! Nancy just called and she's found a store that sells wipes and cereal and baby food. So the plan is to join her tomorrow afternoon after paperwork so she can show me where it is. Funny thing is her apt is down by the Maiden so maybe I was right by it and didn't know.

Thanks for your comments everyone. They make me feel like I'm still connected to the rest of the world.

To my Valentines



Pictures: my kids made this picture for me for Valentine's Day; Kevin bought me this beautiful LONG-stemmed rose about a week and a half before he left (don't you love the fancy vase!)
Since you guys are still sleeping (I hope) I just wanted to get the jump on you and wish you a Happy Valentine's Day! Kevin, marrying you was the 2nd smartest thing I have ever done in my life (right after asking Jesus to come into my heart.) I love you so much and miss you lots, honey. And adding children to our family--Billy, Scheri, Teresa, James and Caleb--comes next. I am blessed immeasurably. Many hugs and kisses and best wishes for a great day (and fun skiing for the girls.)

Thanks for the messages--they make my day.

Me

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's me again

Hi sweetheart, I was so glad to see your comment posted. I was praying and praying that you would make it all the way home safely. I don't know whether you are still planning to go to work today. I wouldn't blame you a bit if you just slept for several hours. I love you lots. Please give the kids lots of hugs and kisses from me. Carol Stephans was telling me about a free email account you can set up so I can email you.

BINGO! 50 points to the ladies who guessed that the driver I was describing was Sergei! Funny thing was that he told Kevin he has 'no woman' and no children. Hmmm . . . ??

Now see if anyone can guess who our other driver is. . . He's shorter, has dark hair, wears dark glasses, drives a dark-colored Audi with dark-tinted windows and for some reason reminds me of 'Joseph, Joe, Joey', the driver on Princess Diaries. Usually very quiet due to his limited English and my even-more-limited Ukranian--unless Dima is in the car and then they talk a constant blue streak. Very courteous. Today in the car he was giving his opinion on the U.S. presidential race and then later I think he was telling me he also has 2 Mitsubishis at home. Man! he must have Texas Tea in his back yard or something. Today it is snowing and if I understood him right, it's supposed to snow for 3 days. The snow is beautiful but now I'm even more bummed that I didn't get out and enjoy the sunshine yesterday.

Driver #2 picked me up at 9 am for a visit at the orphanage. The traffic is usually rather awful getting out of the city but today it was all backed up farther out of town for some reason. We sat there and sat there. If I had been with Sergei he probably would have found a shortcut through the forest or something :) I tried to occupy myself by studying my booklet of Ukranian and Russian phrases for children that is made especially for English speaking adoptive parents. I'm still trying to decide whether to concentrate on the Russian or Ukrainian because I really think I've heard examples of both at the orphanage. Of course, mostly I just speak English with Caleb and do sound effects.

Anyway I'm happy to say that we did eventually get to Vorzel. When Caleb and I first came into the room I wasn't sure what to expect. A worker brought some toys (a bus we have played with several times and some animals) and walked back out. I offered him a banana and he didn't want it so I just laid it to the side. Then he was putting the bus back in the box and waving bye-bye to it which is a little routine I've been going through at the end of each visit--and I'm thinking, he already wants to put the toys away and get out of here. He never did cry though. But before long I was holding him and he was sticking his fingers in my mouth and I was pretending to bite them and he was laughing and grabbing my glasses (I then just set them out of reach but every time I'd quietly put them back on he was pretty quick to take them off). Boy, he was alive today--climbing up in the chair, onto the bench, under the table, playing with the bus ON THE FLOOR like he'd seen Daddy do, pulling the plastic greenery off the wall, trying to answer the telephone, getting into the pots on the little stand, messing with some medical equipment stored in there, watching the markers roll, batting the pieces that fit inside the bus around on the floor under who-knows-how-many cabinets. But best of all he was chattering and laughing and teasing. And he snarfed that banana-peeled it himself, hid part of the peeling in my coat, gave me a piece of banana and we played the 'mmmm-mmmmm!' game and then he grabbed my piece and ate it, too. And he was really trying to fit the various shapes into the correct hole in the side of the bus. I took a couple videos of him. Even got a chance to use my handy-dandy measuring tape to measure his waist and length of pants and shirt. Now I'll have to measure the clothes we have to see if they'll fit. At around 11:40 I started picking up toys but he wasn't ready to quit yet so we played awhile longer. At 11:55 he still wasn't any help with pickup but when I reached for his hand and headed for the door he readily went with me and led me to his room where I could see some other little kiddos. One little girl was saying something about Momma and Poppi so I'm guessing she must have heard the workers talking to Caleb or the other Sasha about their Momma and Poppi. Very sweet--I just hope she has a Momma and Poppi coming, too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The American Embassy, Quick Visit, Flight





OOPS! These pictures actually go with the Feb 13 visit. Oh well, they're still cute: Caleb with banana; Caleb with the bus
Yesterday (Monday) our first stop was at the American embassy. I've never been to an embassy before so I kind of envisioned a dazzling white building, maybe with white pillars sitting on top of a grassy hill with limousines parked in front or something. I was surprised when our driver pulled into a narrow driveway between two buildings and then turned left down a steep and seemingly even narrower driveway. We got to the bottom of the hill where there were several lines of people already standing. The driver opened our doors for us and told us 'Go! Go!' Our translator was not with us for this one. I guess seeing our confusion the driver led us right to the front door and told the guard we were Americans. I felt very proud to be an American but also a little guilty for cutting to the front of the line. We opened the door into what turned out to be a very small building, like a security shack. There we went through the usual security check--emptied pockets, walked through the scanner thing that's shaped like a doorway and then they used the handheld device to scan me because I beeped when I walked through. I had forgotten about the little metal flashlight keychain in my inner coat pocket. They also carefully looked through my 50-pound notebook which contains every legal document which any person ever intimated there would be even the remotest possibility of needing in Ukraine (plus several photocopies of many of them!) I got to keep the notebook but all the other stuff had to be put in a little drawer and traded for piece of plastic which I believe had #82 on it.

We stepped outdoors on the other side, walked a few yards and entered the actual embassy building. Here signs were written in my native language. We followed the arrows for 'Adoption' all the way to the end of the hall--room # 14 or #15, I believe. This office also served people applying for immigrant visas so I was surprised to hear that most conversations in that room were still in Russian or Ukrainian (I really don't know which) One beautiful sight was Old Glory. As much as I like Ukraine, I had a strong urge to kiss the Red, White and Blue or at least touch it. I did neither but I loved our flag with my eyes.

When it was our turn, Kevin explained that he is flying out on the 12th and needed to sign the paperwork ahead of time. The lady behind the bullet-proof glass had us slide the papers and our passports under the glass, she looked them over, got our file from somewhere and compared the age and number of children which we'd been approved for with the child we had listed on the paperwork, though apparently she couldn't find the section in our file that gave that info. Anyway we both signed the papers and slid them back to her. She told us to 'have a sit' and she'd have us talk to someone else. When our names were called, we proceeded to another window where the guy (also behind bullet-proof glass) had us raise our right hands and swear that what was written on the form was true. He kept the forms, returned our passports and we were free to go. (It is surprising to me how valuable our passports suddenly are. These are documents that are stored in a metal box all the rest of the time but here we seriously don't leave home without them--usually we're wearing them in a pouch around our necks.) I will be returning to the embassy on Friday for something in regard to Caleb's visa. Then back down the long hall, out the door, back into the security shack to trade the #82 tag for our stuff, and up the hill to our waiting driver.

This driver is/has been (I can't tell which because of language difficulties) a history teacher and knows great facts about many buildings and monuments in Kiev. I get the idea that history teachers don't make a lot of money so now he is driving. I enjoy listening to him but I also get a kick out of riding with him because he is zipping from one lane to the other, riding 2 abreast in one lane, trying to get the nose of his vehicle in front of the next guy, talking about other drivers who 'sleep and drive,' beeping his horn if the guy in front isn't pedal-to-the-metal when the light changes--he even did a u-turn in the middle of the road at one point. I don't feel unsafe with him though I do keep prayed up :) There are areas of this city that have way more traffic than the streets are designed for and I guess agressive driving is the only way you make it from point A to point B. This guy was telling us there are around 4 million people registered in Kiev plus around 2 million who are not. (Sorry if I already told you that.) I don't know the current stats but I know that in the not-too-distant past the whole state of Idaho had just over 1 million.

So we raced out to Vorzel and had about 30 minutes with cutie bug. He was kind of crying again-particularly when someone he knew would walk out of the room and close the door. 2 good things: (1) when Kevin said 'shh' Caleb actually stopped crying for a couple minutes and this was repeated several times and (2) I thought he was getting tired of sitting on my lap so I tried to put him down and he wouldn't put his feet on the floor--so I guess he liked my lap.

We scurried back to Kiev for a quick lunch and met up with Dima who was just returning from the orphanage where Nancy and Juan's girls are so invited him up to eat with us. I told him I needed him to settle something: what is the correct way to say the name of this city. I have heard keev and kee-yev and kie-eev. According to him the Russians said it one way and Ukrainians say it another and he calls it kee-yev. So kee-yev it is.

The 3 of us got in with Dima's driver and headed back the same direction we'd just come from--but to Irpin not Vorzel. There Dima did some more paperwork, copied our passports and had Kevin sign a couple papers and then said Kevin was free to fly.

So Kevin was picked up promptly at 4:45 this am for his 6:50 am flight from Kiev to Munich. I'm hoping the 55 minutes between flights was sufficient. The longest leg will land in Denver, then Boise where he will get a taxi and pick up his car out at UPS Freight and drive the two hours home. He's supposed to land at 4:56 pm Boise time which is about 1:56 am Wed Kiev time. Please pray for his driving safety. I know he will be so very exhausted. Kids, Daddy is on his way home!!! I'm guessing he'll be home by 9 or so--he might have to stop along the road and rest for awhile. I know that's past your bedtime but I do hope you'll be able to give him lots of hugs either tonight or in the morning. Sorry I didn't get this posted before you left for school but you can read it when you get home. I love you guys more than you can imagine. Pretty soon it will be my turn to fly home with your new little brother. Don't let all his crying worry you. He will soon love us all. We just have to be very gentle with him because he is scared.

I went back to bed and was awakened by wonderful sunshine pouring through the windows. I've spent the day catching up on emails and blogs, doing some housework and reading--and never quite making it out the door into the lovely day. Now it's dark.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Our last weekend together for awhile


I think it is so interesting how each one of us here in Ukraine right now adopting kiddos with DS have such different stories to share. And each one is resulting in children having their own mommy and daddy (I may have mentioned that in Ukraine parents are momma and poppa but in my family Papa is grandpa), their own family in which to thrive and reach their highest potential.

Kevin and I have been having fun using the Metro system to explore Kiev and getting to know various other adopting couples. On Saturday we joined Juan and Nancy Gonzalez for brunch at a pizza place near their apartment that has English menus. I had a delicious mushroom and cheese omelet, Kevin had the same with the addition of smoked meat and onions. Juan and Nancy had some kind of strawberry pancakes with what looked like slivered almonds on top. Kevin got a little cup of coffee-flavored foam and I got 3 cups of tea from my pot. I'm telling you there is a definite advantage to being a tea drinker!

There are 3 metro lines here in Kiev--the blue, the green and the red. Nancy and Juan had been told that they could ride the metro all the way out to the orphanage where their girls are so the 4 of us set out to see if that was true. We made our way to the green transfer station and rode that subway all the way to the end of the line. It was 10 stops and included a ride over the Dnieper (pronounced kind of like Nipper) River. By the last stop there were only 2 or 3 other people left on the car. We got off and sure enough there was the orphanage. The place was built in 1964 and they were saying no one has ever adopted from there. (Hint! Hint!) This is only 40 cents for a round trip for 2 people for extra rides to the orphanage. Nancy and Juan said the place is well kept, there are bright colors, kids appear to be well fed and there are lots of kids of many ages there (You'd never guess they're trying to make a case for other people to look into the possibility of adopting from this place!)

We went back into the metro station and Kevin our fearless leader did not realize how far ahead he was of the rest of us. He jumped on the subway and the doors immediately closed with the other 3 of us still outside. This was a problem because none of us were carrying a cell phone and we hadn't agreed ahead of time on what we were going to do if we got separated. All kinds of possible scenarios were running through my mind. We decided to just hold tight and wait for 3 or 4 subways just in case he got off at the next stop and came back. He didn't. So we proceeded to the stop where we were originally heading and I was so relieved when he was there.

We transferred to the blue line and proceeded to our stop -- called something like Polash Ukraina, got some pineapple-flavored cream cheese- filled round bread things to munch on as we walked around and showed Juan and Nancy around 'our' market. Then we all jumped back on the Metro and sped across town to their apartment.

The next highlight was that across the street from Nancy and Juan's apt a snow-board jump had been being constructed during the day complete with manufactured snow and by the time we arrived so had a couple zillion teenagers with another zillion headed that way. We watched several snow-boarders and even a few skiers make their runs, splats or combinations thereof.

Next we ooed and ahed around the vestibule of the Dnieper Hotel, took the elevator to the 12th floor and took in the beautiful view of the city and the river. Unfortunately I'd forgotten to plug in my phone so couldn't take any pictures.

Then a trip to one and then another underground mall ending at the food court where the remaining zillion of Kiev's teenagers were lined up at McDonald's. It's funny because this food court has many more patrons than available seats. Kevin saw people seated on the edge of the fountain; I saw 2 guys with their trays poised on the covered trash receptacle. You walk around looking for people who look like they're about finished, hover around their table and swoop down on their chairs as soon as they're vacated knowing that other people will do the same when YOU are nearly finished. This time I tried a pot pie and some crunchy buttered toast. Kevin had sausages, potato wedges and a salad made with chunks of cucumber, cubes of cheese, pineapple pieces, corn, and bits of smoked turkey. We decided not to pay for the opportunity to use the WC (water closet/bathroom) though the WC sign made me chuckle remembering that old story about the peope who visited a place with the thought of renting the facilities or something but had forgotten to inquire about the location and description of the WC. Their written inquiry was received with confusion, the recipients finally deciding that WC must stand for Wesleyan Church. Their response is so hilarious I still laugh every time I hear it.

Anyway, by this time I was absolutely beat with a stick so we headed home where we found out that Dima had been trying to get hold of us. That guy must work all the time.

So this morning (Sunday) we met with Dima about 9 am. so Kevin could fill out some paperwork for the US embassy. Hopefully he will be allowed to sign papers at the embassy tomorrow morning prior to leaving on Tuesday. Otherwise he has to take it home, get it notarized and fed-ex it back. Dima stayed to chat for awhile which was a lot of fun.

We did some Bible study and devotions and then got layered up in tons of clothes and headed out for Souvenir Street. It's really called something like Anadresky Street (I know I'm not spelling that right nor probably even pronouncing it exactly correctly) It's cobble-stoned, quite steep and historic. It is lined with booth after booth of varied wares many of which are gorgeous. I wanted to complete this while Kevin was still here but WOW was it cold out there today. I do not know how those vendors survive out there day after day during the winter. The warmth of good old McDonalds, a burger and fries was MUCH welcomed. The food tastes the same to me as at home. One thing I notice is that the tables for two are tiny and there is very little space between tables. Of course, there were many tables outside but no one was fighting over those. But nearly everyone here is slim so they don't have any trouble getting around between the tables I guess.

We got back to our apt and enjoyed coffee and tea. A little later Kevin went back out in the frigid air and bought me groceries and then cooked pork chops, fried potatoes and veggies for supper. He's a good guy to have along on outings such as this! We're celebrating Valentine's Day early.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Our ride home and progress with Mr. Caleb






















Pictures: Caleb with puppets and camera; Orphanage Director's office; two views of Caleb's orphanage building; backyard playground area is a bit under the weather


It seems we have our return flights mostly figured out. Thursday when Dima called the airlines to get my return ticket changed he was told that unless I flew out by February 23 (one month past flying out of Boise) that my ticket would expire. And Dima said there was only 1 % chance that the process would be complete by then. So then Kevin and I started checking out one-way tickets home for the following week and I was horrified to discover they cost MORE than we'd paid for the original round trip ticket. Tickets originating here have a significantly higher percentage of taxes added on. To say I was not a happy camper would be an understatement. Kevin called the Lufthansa Airlines office here in Kiev and the gal there basically reiterated what Dima had found out but said her system was down so Kevin should come in on Friday. I believe it was Dima who suggested we get in contact with our travel agent so I sent them an email requesting assistance in our dilemna. By Friday morning I had about decided that if nothing had changed I would just join Kevin when he goes home on Tuesday Feb 12 and USE my ticket rather than lose it, kiss my kids and get back on the plane 2 days later to come back. We did not yet have any kind of reply from the ticket agent . But Friday afternoon when Kevin called Lufthansa back and gave the booking reservation number for me, their computer showed that the ticket had been changed to Feb 26, though they pointed out that was breaking the rules since it was a 30-day ticket, etc, etc. Kevin assured them HE was not the one who had changed it, that the agent had changed it and if they wanted to break their own rules they could. The airlines wanted confirmation from the agent so we just forwarded the message we eventually got from the agent to the airline's email address. I would appreciate everyone's prayers that everything continues to work out with the return tickets for Caleb and me and that we would have divine favor with all the offices that have a part in our final round of paperwork and that God would grant us godspeed.

Our visit Friday with Caleb started out with the usual tears and refusal to have anything to do with us--wouldn't even eat candy we had seen him gulp down a couple days before with a huge sticky smile on his face. The orphanage workers brought in one of his friends--the other Sasha that we have already met that the French couple is adopting. The room was instantly a much cheerier, busier, and louder place. This other little guy is a blond, blue-eyed, two-year old full of smiles, energy and mischief and Caleb was his willing cohort in all escapades. They got scolded a couple times by workers for rolling their cars on the window and rattling the lids of the pots. I was impressed that even the scoldings were in a low voice and certainly not mean. One thing we are definitely going to have to work on is the meaning of 'no' because when Caleb grabs my glasses and I firmly say 'no' he thinks it's funny and does it over and over. He did seem to like to look at my face with my glasses off. With his friend in the room, Caleb was absolutely willing to eat candy and cookies. Kevin was even on the floor playing with cars and Caleb was not freaked out. Caleb got all sad-faced again when his friend left the room without him but did finally look up when Kevin called his name over and over and did help us pick up the toys. Also when Kevin led him down the hall toward lunch he kept holding Kevin's hand and didn't push him away. Hey, that's progress.

A message to our children

We love you guys so much and miss you LOTS. I love it when you write to us and let us know what it going on.

Billy, hey buddy, what's going on with you? I haven't heard from you in awhile. I don't know what you are up to. I love you.

Scheri, thanks for all your comments. We decided to answer no to both questions: we'd rather you just stay with G movies while we're gone. Also let's not cut the game shirt. It sounds like you're going to be skiing next week. I hope that goes well and that you have a great time without bonking your head. I love you.

Teresa, I'm sorry about Mrs. C embarassing you. I don't like that. Remember that you are a child of the King. Good job being ahead at the first part of the basketball game. You can always be proud of doing your best. I hope you have fun skiing, too. I love you.

James, how are you doing my son? I heard you were writing a letter to the army recruiter or something. That sounds interesting. I love you.

Please pray that things go quickly here and Caleb and I can get home as soon as possible.

Mommy

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A little company helps





Picture: Globe inside the glass-domed underground mall


Today we had another visit with Caleb. It started out the same as the last few--big, sad, teary eyes; not wanting to eat any of the snacks we brought, not wanting to play with the toys we brought. One of the workers noticed our plight and brought in an electronic toy that--thanks to the extra batteries that Kevin happened to have with him--does the ABC's (in Russian), says the name of the pictured animal or item in Russian, maybe even spells words (you guessed it, in Russian) and plays music. It was great (I need to get one for myself!) Though Caleb refused to touch it he wanted us to keep pushing the buttons, especially the one for cat. He seemed to really like the meowing sound.

We who have packed Christmas boxes for Samaritan's Purse might be interested to note that the box which contained Legos was wrapped in Christmas paper and had a Samaritan's Purse sticker on it!

Anyway the whole scene changed when his little buddy came in (the one that the French couple is adopting) He had a cookie that he was determined to give to Caleb. It was adorable to watch his tenacity--and Caleb's equal determination NOT to take it. Anyway the room got much happier and much louder with both of them together. I think much of the problem is that Caleb just misses being with his friends. It's quite hysterical to have one couple speaking French, another couple speaking English, one little guy chatting away in what I presume to be Russian and another just da-da-ing. While I was out of the room momentarily I guess Caleb tried to thump the other little boy over the head with the alphabet toy so Kevin had to impose boundaries with his arm to keep the peace. Kevin said Caleb did all he could to move his arm out of the way but Daddy remained steadfast. By the time I rejoined the party Kevin had his arm around Caleb and Caleb was happily plunking away on a musical keyboard da-da-ing at certain intervals and kept looking to Kevin for reinforcement. I thought that was great. And seeing Caleb's positive reaction to other children lets me know how lucky he will be to have Billy, Scheri, Teresa and James in his forever family. He is such a copy-cat and will learn so much just by watching them.

After our 2 hour visit, we asked our driver (via translator) to drop us off by the Maiden statue at Independence Square and there met up with Nancy and Juan Gonzalez. We had a great time with them--eating, sight-seeing (ie, walking and walking), souvenir-shopping, and eating again in a great underground mall that they'd discovered. (They apologized for not having internet capability but did let us know their SDA appointment is tomorrow afternoon.) And then home again, home again, jiggedy-jig.

Oops! Unanswered questions

Sorry, I realize by a few comments that have been left that I have left some situations hanging.

Good job, Scheri, on your basketball game. That must have been an exciting one if Buhl only won by one point. How did Teresa's game go? Billy and James, I have to mention you as well. Love you so much. Daddy will be home in less than a week.

Yes, Kevin was able to find a tie--2 actually. He was exploring and came upon a second-hand store nearby. In the market across the street ties were running between 40 and 150 grievnas (or however you spell it) The exchange rate is basically 5:1 so that is the equivalent of $8 to $30. I guess those prices are reasonable but I'm a bargain hunter so was happy that he found some for something like $1.20 and $1.60. We also bought some clothes for Caleb there, too.

No, we did not get our 10 day wait waived nor did we get permission to proceed with the other paperwork during the 10 day wait. Dima said that the Donetsk region is the only one that permits these.

Thank you Roberta and Brandi for your offer of help when Kevin returns home. I know he will much appreciate it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

HEAR YE! HEAR YE!





Pictures: Proof that I actually used an iron; Kevin and I outside the courthouse where we became the legal parents of a certain little guy; Joy and Caleb; Kevin and Caleb who has no idea how much his life has just changed.
Just wanted to make an announcement that we are the proud parents of a bouncing baby (well, toddler) boy as of 9:55 or so this morning.

Billy, Scheri, Teresa, James: that little guy that we have looked at and prayed for so long is officially and legally your brother now. Isn't that great! James, I can hear you shouting 'I'm not the baby anymore!'

YEAH!

I was nervous about court but Dima prepared us on the way by asking the questions that would be asked and giving us tips about keeping our answers short and sweet. Court was held in Irpin. I don't think we were in an actual courtroom--maybe more like the judges chambers. Besides us and our translator, there was the judge (a nice lady), a representative from the orphanage (I think Dima said she was the orphanage lawyer), the inspector, the prosecutor (mostly to make sure all correct procedures were followed--not to oppose the adoption), a secretary, and a parakeet that kept making happy racket while the preliminary paperwork was being completed so the judge carried the bird and cage out before getting started on proceedings. The representative from the SDA did not come but sent paperwork giving their OK. Apparently jurors can also be there but none were present. Dima kept us informed of what was going on by translating quietly while each person was speaking. Most of the Judges's questions were directed to Kevin and then I had to state that I fully supported all he said. I was specifically asked if I felt mother-love toward this little boy, whether I wanted another child instead, whether I was going to change my mind (if medical problems arose, I think) Dima said we weren't allowed to take pictures in the courtroom but he did take a picture of both of us in front of the building. There was some more paperwork for Dima back out in the office where he needed our passports. Otherwise not one little scrap of paper was needed (not even pictures of my kiddos) out of the 50-pound notebook that I brought with copies of every legal paper I could imagine ever possibly needing. Well, we still have embassy stuff to do--maybe they'll want something :)

Then we headed over to Vorzel to see young Mr. McClain who was not in the mood to play with anything or anyone--not even for the caregiver or for Dima. He had the saddest look on his little face and tears kept sneaking out of his eyes. Finally I just held out my arms and he reached for me and I held him. It felt so sweet to have his little head on my shoulder. I think I got in a little bit of trouble because he actually fell asleep for a few minutes and he's not supposed to sleep until after he eats lunch. But I would have to say it was definitely worth it.

Joy

Monday, February 4, 2008

Taking it easy





Pictures: fresh veggies and fruit from the market across the street; yogurt and sour cream; milk; ketchup (it actually says that in Cyrillic)
Thanks again for the comments. They are wonderful. Scheri, I love you, too--and Billy and Teresa and James. Sorry, Daddy was going to email about cleaning the fish tank but I forgot to remind him. I really hope your weekend went well with Bob and Cookie. How did the basketball games turn out on Saturday? I know Grandma and Papa were planning to be there--wasn't this the week to be in Hansen? And how were church and CLUBS? I miss you guys, too. Daddy should be home on Tuesday, February 12 so that is just over a week. I have no clue when I'll get home--I'm hoping by the end of the month which seems like half of forever. You guys should see the adorable clothes my friend Meredith brought: so cute and so little. They remind me of some of the clothes we looked at, Teresa. I can't wait until I can give you all big hugs. We think of you all and pray for you often. And thanks again to Mom and Dad, Brandi, Mrs. Ratto, the Carols, Megan, Julie, Steve, Linda and everyone else for all you are doing to help us. We could not be here doing what God has called us to do if it were not for you.

Yesterday was pretty quiet. I finished the book End of the Spear by Steve Saint (Nate Saint's son for those of you familiar with Through Gates of Splendor which I remember as a young child) I was bawling. Man, I brought 3 big fat books that were supposed to keep me busy for multitudinous weeks--just one more to go: A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot. It seems a little tougher to read so should take me a little longer. Our new pastor has challenged our congregation to read the Bible through this year--so yes, Pastor Bruce, I am current on that. I'm just saying this because it is pretty weird for this pastor's kid (my dad is Pastor Wes) who is used to going to church ALWAYS and teaches Sunday School and Kids Clubs not to be in church--not even once--not even on Sunday. Thankfully we can have a relationship with Jesus outside of church.

Our emptying fridge drove us back to the market and I'm happy to say it was much less stressful for me than last week. Kevin said he was having fun. This time we even saw the tail of something at the meat market. I missed out on the tongues on display. It's kind of funny because a lot of the meat vendors are sitting down until a prospective customer chances by. Then they are up singing the praises of the chunks of meat on the counter in front of them--I guess telling you how fresh and red and juicy it is. Kevin was trying to figure out whether one certain chunk was pork or beef but the vendor didn't of course know what he was saying. We'll either have to learn the words or resort to mooing and oinking I guess. We did get to do taste tests of some pork fat, some honey and some sausage--all quite yummy. Kevin selected some meat and asked that it be sliced. The vendor dude called over the cleaver dude who seemed to barely touch the meat with that cleaver and it melted into slices. I was praying for his fingers!

We found spaghetti sauce and some very thick, zesty ketchup. (I didn't know I would miss ketchup) The cheese we have tried is absolutely fantastic. This time we also bought yogurt and what we think is sour cream. We bought a scoop of trail mix--with all kinds of dried fruits, nuts, and yummy yogurt balls. (I like it all except the big orange things and the big yellow things) We also bought 6 eggs. I was pretty worried about adding eggs to our already burgeoning bags (yes, I was keeping a separate one for raw meat) but the lady cut out the appropriate size egg carton and put the eggs in it then put another piece the same size over the top and wrapped it all with plastic wrap several times. Our last stop was for a big jug of water, a Coke Light and a Snickers bar for Kevin. Thankfully we live just across the street so didn't have to carry our bundles too far.

Before hitting the grocery store we had been going through the maze of walkways between all the storage unit shops outside. Kevin forgot to bring a tie and needs one for court tomorrow. We had found many to choose from. Well after we got our bags full of groceries I wasn't too keen on wandering back through to try to find the place they'd been the least expensive. I totally forgot that these shops are closed on Mondays for some reason.

Speaking of things we don't understand we were looking out over the city last night and saw fireworks going off--what we could see (beyond the tall apartment buildings) was very pretty.
Have I mentioned that most of the skyline here is multi-story apartment buildings. Even along the main streets, the ground level has stores, restaurants, drug stores, whatever, but rising high above most of them are apartments. Of course, there are also beautiful churches and government buildings and motels. Around the smaller towns, I did see some buildings that looked like single-family dwellings and some that looked like duplexes or four-plexes. I get the idea from our interpreter that land is very expensive here.

Now for all you football fans, the Super Bowl could not be found on any TV channel we had so Kevin found a place on the Internet where he could read a play by play account, see the position of the ball, read the stats, etc--the game began at 1 am our time and ended at 5 am so needless to say that messed up our sleep schedule again. I'm really glad he found it though and he was pleased with the outcome.

Please pray for us at court tomorrow that all will go well and that this process will go as smoothly and quickly as possible.