Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Good News

This is the pathway to the orphanage--I think it is a grape arbor during the summer.

This is Kevin approaching the front door. I don't know what the name means.

I am happy to report that our children do indeed exist and are apparently alive and well :) Thanks guys for the messages. We appreciate them a lot. We plan to see you tomorrow night. We have our suitcases pretty much packed. I cannot believe how stuffed they are even without all of Steven's stuff in them.

Thankfully our visit with Steven went a lot better this morning. We visited in what I'll call the coat room. It's a good-sized room with adult coat closets along one wall and little cubbies with little coats in them along another wall. It's kind of the anteroom to what seems to be the main living area for this group of boys. There are benches along the other two walls. Anyway, we were mostly just with Steven except when the other kiddos would sneak in for a hug or a pat. Steven sat on Kevin's lap quite a bit. We sang 'Wheels on the Bus' and '5 Little Monkeys Sitting on the Bed' and 'Ring Around the Rosie.' And we got to sing 'Jesus Loves Me'--that was really special to me--I don't know if Steven has ever heard that sweet truth before. Kevin was trying to get Steven to roll the car back to him but instead he kept running off with it and laughing. We think he thought Kevin would try to take it away but we had already decided to just leave it with him this time. He also kept slapping at us and laughing and I kept taking his hand and touching it softly to my face or arm or whatever . . . AND HE ACTUALLY COPIED ME! He touched my face very softly several times. It may sound small but I really felt like that was a break-through. And when Kevin said "Daddy" it seemed like Steven was trying to copy--he was at least vocalizing in response and I heard a "d" sound. I also saw him using his car as an imaginery camera. I was encouraged by all of these things. Steven seems to especially like Kevin and enjoyed being tickled (tried to tickle us in response) He really giggled when Kevin would pretend like Steven was going to fall off of his lap.

Yesterday's visit I think was tougher because we were dealing with the whole crew and they were really feeding on each other. They were pulling decorations of the New Year's Tree over and over, climbing up on a chair and pulling decorations off of the wall, tug-of-warring over different things, one kiddo was biting ends off of markers. Also Steven was being real defiant: if the worker would tell him to come here he would go somewhere else; if someone tried to take his hand and lead him where he was supposed to go, he would drop to the ground. When he'd finally get where he was supposed to be, he'd take off again. I was trying to look at a book with him and he had such a death grip on it that I couldn't turn the pages.

I am majorly glad that today went better. I'm not writing this to discourage anyone from adopting but just to give you a realistic idea of how a visit might go. I kind of wish we didn't have to leave now when we are starting to make some progress. I pray that God will continue to protect his little heart and make it soft so he can receive and give love--that our leaving now won't make it harder for him to trust us later.

But it will be so wonderful to see our kids and family and friends again.

Next post will be from Idaho . . .

Monday, December 29, 2008


Happy Birthday to my mother!

If anyone has any news that would confirm the existence of our children could you please report it to CNN. We watch it -- and its innumerable reruns--until our eyeballs pop out. We have reason to believe that they have disappeared from the face of the earth due to total silence from our Idaho homefront. :) :) :)

Let's see, where was I in the saga of our Ukrainian adoption? Sorry to say I was such a dead-head on Saturday that we didn't make it to the orphanage. Good grief! All I wanted to do was sleep. Finally at a horrible hour that I don't have the face to admit online, I dug myself out of bed and we eventually headed out to walk and eat. We ended up back at the Potato House where I again enjoyed the baked potato with a cheesy broccoli sauce. I tried a different salad this time and was surprised to find that what I'd thought was pieces of tomato was actually raw fish. This reminds me of the surprise a friend of ours had when they thought a dessert had big chunks of chocolate in the bottom--they turned out to be prunes!

Sunday was a great day. First, we went to church and it was neat to see familiar faces. This is an international church and they had a large group visiting from San Diego, California that did a song, drama, and gave a couple testimonies. If I understood it right, they are going to be working in orphanages in other regions of Ukraine in the upcoming days. The regular pastor was out of town but I really appreciated what the speaker had to say: at New Year's we tend to think of making resolutions and making huge decisions that are going to have a major change in our lives. But he was pointing out that life is really made up of lots and lots of little decisions whether we are going to obey or disobey God. After service I got talking to a lady named Carol who is with YWAM (Youth With A Mission). She is in her 60's and she and her husband Joseph have moved to Ukraine to work with orphans in some yet-to-be-determined way. Another friend, John, is here in Kiev from Egypt studying Russian before going to medical school. We stood aroud chatting for quite awhile before getting on the bus and metro.

At about 4:45 Nastya and Alexi picked us up to go to their American friends' house for a belated traditional Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, potatoes, gravy or sour cream, mixed vegetables, pumpkin pie and cheesecake.

I think about 7:30 Alexi drove us to the Metro which we rode clear across town and were met by our new friend, Tania. She welcomed us to her home where we spent a continued, delightful evening with 3 adorable little boys with Down Syndrome and their brave and courageous parents who have chosen to keep their children at home and are working hard to provide them with the educational opportunities they deserve. It was so exciting to see their devotion to their children, to hear their concern for the children with Down syndrome in orphanages here in Ukraine, to hear their desire to see doctors here be better-educated about the great potential of children with DS, to observe their excitement that many people in the United States are interested in adopting children with DS. It was just a wonderful time for me. I really cannot believe that we had such an amazing opportunity. If you as a reader of this blog are a praying person, PLEASE pray for these amazing people.

Monday morning we met Nastya and her little daughter at the Metro and rode to a stop near the orphanage. Wow! the price of metro tokens there and back sure beats the cost of hiring a driver the last time we were here (little over a dollar vs. about $40) We met again with the director and Nastya let him know about our court situation and that we will be going back to the States for now (so he doesn't think we've just abandoned Steven) He was very gracious. Kevin let him know that we know other people who are interested in adoption and the director said that the kids here are registered with the SDA.

Kevin always brought his bag with him to visits and the little boys were always very interested to see what he might have inside. If the bag was left unattended, little hands would soon be discovering the contents for themselves :)
This is the tree in Steven's play area. The tinsel and ornaments were having a very difficult time staying in place.Steven and one of his roommates. I think it is so cool that the orphanage is decorated for the holidays.
Steven was showing us his bed. I still don't know whether his is the one behind him or in front of him.

Then on to visit with Steven. Kevin said that when Steven saw him he smiled and motioned for him to come in and pulled out a chair for him to sit in. That part of the visit was good but there was a lot about it that was pretty difficult to be honest. Maybe Steven was just showing off, maybe he was over-whelmed, maybe he was just pushing his limits but he was definitely behaving in a pretty wild and defiant manner. Actually the whole crew was pretty wild. (Please know, however, that there are some very cute little boys here!!) I know our presence upset their usual schedule and that there was only one worker with them, rather than the usual two.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Day After Christmas

Nastya-bless her heart-spent more time on the phone this morning and was told that the head judge was in another court this morning but would be back during the afternoon so we again took the chance to meet him right after the 1:00-2:00 lunch hour. And again we did not get to see him. His deputy, however, informed Nastya of the way cases are assigned to judges here. The deputy said that the court gets about 200 cases per day and the cases are assigned to the different judges in the order they are received. So there is no way our case can be pulled out of order and heard next week. (I didn't even think the courts were supposed to be open next week.) It was the deputy's speculation that a judge would be assigned to our case within 7-10 days. He said the head judge would NOT be hearing the case so there would actually be no benefit in speaking with him. But that it would make sense for Nastya or Alexi to talk to whomever IS assigned to our case. I have no idea how far out they are on actual court dates. So realistically I'd guess that it will possibly be toward the end of January. And yes, we are still planning to fly home next week--if there is anywhere we can land in the US that isn't buried in snow and ice :)

So we decided to head for the orphanage and take our chances of getting to visit with Steven. We ended up getting to watch another holiday celebration first of the older children and then with the younger ones. And as usual at such impromptu times, my camera phone was dead--totally aggravating. When we entered the room where the little guys were there was a decorated tree and a big stuffed bull with tinsel draped over it. Steven's group was seated in little chairs along the right side and another group of 7-9 little guys on the left side. Several in Steven's group, including him, were dressed in white shirts, off-white skirts (yes, you heard me correctly!) white shoes that almost looked like ballet slippers and had sparkly garland tied around their heads and wrists and waists. Several in the other group were dressed in animal costumes. I saw a chicken, a cow, a pig, a sheep, etc. One kid had a red outfit and a red hat with a white band that had 2009 written on it in gold numerals. After we waited in there for what seemed like a very long time, people started coming in bringing keyboard, speakers, bags of stuff, even a machine that said 'Bubble Maker' Finally a lady gave what I assumed to be a speech of some kind. A teenage boy dressed in a tall blue pointed hat and a blue cape recited something. The music began and the boys and their workers moved out on the floor dancing and swaying. Part of the time they seemed to be speaking/singing about the tree which I understood to be a New Year's Tree. Eventually they welcomed in a tall guy dressed in a red suit and red hat whom Nastya said is kind of like Father Frost (not Santa Claus or St. Nicholas) and a young lady dressed in light blue who is supposed to be his granddaughter. With his entrance Steven again started crying. Father Frost did various things with the kids--showed them a variety of animal puppets (which also scared Steven), led various songs and dances, turned on the bubble machine and handed out candies. Steven was popping them into his mouth paper and all and was not at ALL pleased when Kevin was trying to unwrap them first. Steven had a death-grip on the candies and I think he really thought Kevin was trying to take them from him. He does the same thing when he gets hold of anything--whether a glove or a kleenex. I hope no one will be offended when I say it is kind of like jungle-behavior but it really makes sense if you think about it from his point of view. He also sticks thumb and finger in his mouth when he is stressed. Today we were trying to teach him about soft touch because he kept hitting at us and laughing. I would softly take hold of his hand and touch it softly on my hand, saying 'soft.' Our nyet didn't seem to have much effect. I think part of the behavior today could also have been influenced by the extremely stimulating environment. (One little guy in a lion suit was having a meltdown most of the time.)

We found out it is a fairly short walk to the Metro from the orphanage so we are hoping to go back tomorrow on our own.

When we got back to the apartment I was stunned and excited to see that one of the moms from the Ukraine DS group here in Kiev had actually responded on my blog and wants to talk to us!! I am certainly no expert on DS but maybe I can be encouraging to other mothers. I certainly would never have imagined such an opportunity.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Usually I do my Bible reading from the New International Version but at Christmas time I love the familiar reading of the King James Version from Luke Chapter 2 "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree, from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. . . . And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." And with that birth the history of mankind was slashed into two parts. God moved into our neighborhood. And now even I can have a personal relationship with him. And so can you. That is Christmas.

Today Nastya tried and tried and tried and tried to call the court. She said she had 3 different phone numbers and was calling about every 5 minutes but no one was answering the phone so we decided to just go to the court and take the chance of meeting the judge. We met her in the metro station and rode several stops way out on the red line. From there we rode a bus with her to the court. There we were told that the judge was not in today at all but would be in all day tomorrow. So we'll try again tomorrow.

Back at Independence Square we went with Nastya to a gallery on the street that heads up toward St. Michaels. She has been telling us since the day we arrived about an up-coming exhibition showcasing children with Down syndrome. This was the coolest thing. If I got the story straight there is a group of families here in Ukraine who have chosen to keep their children with DS and are working on a way to set up education for them since they cannot be admitted to the regular schools. So SEVERAL people who are very famous here in Ukraine--singers, a heavy-weight boxer, radio announcer, rock band, soccer player Schevchenko, etc. had pictures taken with these adorable children in an effort to raise funds for this charitable cause. It is called "Ukrainian Stars for Children with Down Syndrome" and a slogan is "They are just children, only with Down Syndrome." We purchased a calendar that has 12 of the pictures on it. Here is a quote from the calendar: "Every year in Ukraine up to 400 babies are born with Down Syndrome. Only one third of them stay with their families. Parents abandon most of those babies due to a lack of complete and truthful information about their children's potentials. Making a decision to give up one's child with Down Syndrome is often based on erroneous and out-of-date information which continues to be wide spread in our society. The birth of baby with Down Syndrome is a genetic accident. Probability of a birth of such a baby does not depend on the parents' way of life, their health, bad habits, nourishment, prosperity, education, skin color or nationality. In many countries around the world people with Down Syndrome are rightful members of a society: they can attend regular kindergartens, study at school or in college, find a job and get married. Let us together build a happy future for children with Down Syndrome in Ukraine." The calendar also gives two addresses which I haven't checked out but which might be interesting: downsyndrome@ukr.net and http://www.downsyndrome.com.ua/ Personally I am very excited to hear about this organization. I am delighted that people right here in Ukraine are seeing the value of children with DS and realizing their potential.

I know that by this time our children have opened their presents and are enjoying a day with my parents. We love you all soooooooo much and will see you next week.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve--the good, the bad, the UGLY and Jesus

Too bad Kevin didn't have his guitar with him!
This is the final hallway leading down to Steven's room on the left. I liked the big windows and all the green plants. There's also a little jungle gym right after the plants.

We waited in the hallway to visit with Steven. The pictures below show Steven playing with Kevin. It was so great to see him smile and hear him laugh.

First to our children: see the note on comments on the previous post.

What a day this has been. At 8:30 am we dashed away from here on our way to the inspector's office to pick up our paperwork. Well, it obviously wasn't quite finished but after waiting in the car for awhile Alexi came back out triumphant.

Next stop: the orphanage. We got to see Steven for the 3rd time. We were sitting in the long hallway with a row of tall windows all down one side and a row of healthy green plants all down the other. After about 15 minutes we heard giggling and laughing and along came 7 little boys and a couple workers. Steven stayed to play with us while the other 6 headed on to their next scheduled event (their whole day seems to follow a set schedule) One worker stayed close by. Kevin got out the car we brought and sent it rolling down the hallway and Steven laughed and giggled as he went chasing after it. This was my first time to see him smile/hear him laugh and I enjoyed it a lot. He rolled the car a few times and did try throwing it a few times but thankfully didn't keep that up too long. After awhile he and Kevin were rolling it back and forth to each other. Steven was really bummed when time was up and he had to give that car back to Kevin. I also got to see that he is a bit of a tease--he would run for the door laughing and giggling, or hide the car behind his back or even stick out his tongue in a teasing way. At one point I had to disentangle him from my camera because he was pushing so many buttons in the process of pretending to take pictures. The only sound I heard him make was "b" Oh and at the end of the visit he was doing high fives and knuckles with Kevin. After Steven left we still had to wait what seemed like about an hour for Alexi to rejoin us with the paperwork from the orphanage. And then Alexi took off like a hornet toward his car and we actually had to run on the slippery sidewalk to keep up with him but we knew we were in a huge hurry to get all this paperwork back over to the SDA. First though we had to stop back at the inspector's office to sign a document verifying the receipt of all the needed documents from her office. She is a very nice lady, you could just tell from her smiles and her tone of voice that she wished us very well in our adoption pursuit. She shook our hands, gave me a booklet off of her desk that Nastya and I had looked at a few days before about foster care in Ukraine and walked with us all the way to the stairway talking all the way. It was very sweet AND kind of funny because Alexi was trying to be very polite but you knew he was under a huge time constraint and just itching to fly down the stairs. Well, we did get to fly within moments -- that Alexi can stroke (even if he's not yet feeling top-notch) We sped toward the SDA as fast as possible. But the traffic in that area was absolutely unbelievable (we are told it gets worse and worse up until Christmas). Seriously I think Alexi would have got to the SDA more quickly on his own two feet. But we did get there.

At that point he gave us the option of waiting or walking back to our apartment. We took the 2nd option because we had more shopping to do (Souvenir Alley-Andrevsky Street- is right there by the SDA. First we grabbed some yummy pizza-bread stuff from one of the roadside vendors that cost a little less that $1 apiece--one must not shop on an empty stomach :) We couldn't find the nesting-doll guy we were looking for but did find plenty of other opportunities to part with our grievnas :) When we eventually got to the bottom of the hill we tried out a new place that Kevin calls Kaptain Potato. We had a baked potato with a scoop of shredded cheese and a spoon of diced dill pickles and pickled mushrooms on it. It sounds weird but it was actually pretty tasty. AND I tried my first borsht. I don't know if fast-food borsht counts but for the record I thought the red soup was good.

After I took a nap it was about time to head for the Candlelight Christmas service. First though we got a call from Nastya saying that when Alexi took our paperwork to the court this afternoon, they were totally shocked. Even with paperwork from the SDA, the orphanage, and the inspector, they were questioning whether international adoption was even legal. They were getting out law books, etc. Nastya said that usually when adoption paperwork is presented at court that the court schedule is checked right then for a judge who has an opening in his schedule. However, that was not done today. Instead I understand that the head judge of this area is going to be questioned about the legality issue. Nastya is hoping to arrange a meeting for us with that very judge to present our case before him personally (not to grant the adoption but to explain WHY we want to adopt a child with Down syndrome in the first place) PLEASE pray that this meeting can be arranged and that God will give us great wisdom in our words and the way we conduct ourselves.

We made it to the church without trouble and only 7 minutes late :) I was kind of tickled by the fact that the bus has seating for approximately 20 people but there had to be nearly 40 of us on there. I definitely did not need all my layers of clothing right at that moment. Good grief, it was toasty in there and of course it felt like we were crawling along at a snail's pace through all the jam of buses and cars. The service was great and the sermon very encouraging--reminding me that God can do anything. Also reminding me of the example of Mary who gave herself freely to the will of God. There was another adoptive couple present that Nastya had told us about but they ended up slipping out before we could talk with them.

We got back to 'our corner', went to exchange money, picked up a few things at the grocery store and were heading for our apartment when the guy in front of us drops what looked like a wad of money in a plastic bag. So of course, we pick it up and start yelling 'sir! sir!' He turns around, takes his money, thanking us profusely and we walk on toward our apartment, me feeling the glow of having done a good deed. Just then the guy comes up behind us saying he actually had two packets of money. Did we see another one? Where exactly did we find the first packet? We follow him back out to the sidewalk. Then he starts asking us whether we took the other packet. So this guy comes up showing what looks like a badge, tells us he's a police officer, asks what the problem is, etc. So the guy tells him his story and the policeman asks Kevin to empty his pockets, inner pockets, wallet, passport holder, etc, etc. Well as you have probably already guessed it was a big scam. Supposedly all the money was returned to Kevin when the policeman decided we were honest people but when we got back inside our gate and Kevin actually counted what he had in his wallet and passport, we discovered we had been ripped off through some well-practiced sleight of hand of 350 grievnas (in 50's that we'd just got at the exchange) and $120 in twenties. This is definitely aggravating and I doubt there is any legal recourse. One thing we are SOOO grateful for is that we gave Alexi the adoption money just this morning AND that we didn't have the money for medical exam and visa nor for Caleb's new birth certificate with us. That is such a praise the Lord! But good grief, here we had been remarking how honest everyone around here seems--people get on the bus and just hand their money to the front after the bus is already in motion. We are pretty bummed.

It's midnight here and we just found out we're on the same time zone as Bethlehem in Israel where they are televising a midnight Christmas mass at the Church of the Nativity right now. Isn't that cool! Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to Jesus!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Things I'm glad I brought

I thought it might be fun to start a post I can add to as I think of more things.

Zip-lock bags
Pocket-size kleenex
Hand sanitizer
Hand lotion
Small picture album
Cotton swabs
$1 watch from Dollar Store
Light-weight fleecy blanket
Puzzle books/books
Dental floss picks
Clean underwear and sweater in carry-on
Bottles of water in checked suitcase
Thermal underwear

Lip balm or chapstick or vaseline
Body lotion
Pencil sharpener
One more light weight turtleneck to wear under sweaters (I brought two)
One T-shirt



Thank you everyone for your prayers and your encouraging comments. I appreciate both so much. It is very interesting and uplifting to remember--as several have mentioned--the lengths to which God the Father went to adopt us as His own children through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. in love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:4-6)

And to my children: I love you more than you know. Thank you for your sweet messages--they are precious. And thank you, Brandi, for taking such good care of our kids. Thanks to Carol, Debra Joy and Julie as well.

I would so appreciate your prayers

This shot of St. Andrew's shows just a corner of one of the vendor's stalls (bottom left.) There is a lovely view of the city from the deck of this church. We didn't go inside this time.This view of St. Andrew's shows how close the church is to the SDA building (on right)

This was a beautiful tree we saw in our travels--same tree above and below at different points in the light-sequence

This is the entry-way to the funicular which is a tram-like mode of transportation up the hill to St. Michael's

Kevin bought me this lovely dried flower arrangement and a stuffed cow--in celebration of Ukraine's upcoming Year of the Cow.

Sorry not to have any exciting updates on our adoption. Yesterday our translator called to say that both she and her husband were sick at home. She did mention that the inspector was still working on her own paperwork so that particular paperwork would not be taken to the court as we'd hoped-actually no paperwork can be submitted to court until it is all complete. We were supposed to be ready by 9 am today so we could go visit with Steven (it is hard to remember to call him that . . . smile) and then do paperwork followed by helping make gingerbread houses at their friend's house. Well, Nastya called saying that both she and her daughter are sick today. Bless her heart--you can tell she is frustrated with not being able to do the things she needs to do. But Alexi was working on getting our stuff submitted to the court. It's now 1:15 so I'm assuming we aren't going anywhere today.

I keep reminding myself that God knows all about these delays and that they do not take him by surprise. You know though that we've been told that courts close for the year on Friday, Dec 26 and we've heard that many government offices don't open again until at least mid-January. There is just no way I want to hang around here until then. I knew we'd probably have to come back for a 2nd trip but of course was hoping to get court the first trip so our 2nd trip could be quite short and sweet (otherwise there's the mandatory 10-day wait after court) Honestly, being gone from my family when it doesn't seem like we're accomplishing much here anyway is getting to me--and the fact that Christmas is just 2 days away is adding to my kind of gloomy outlook. It's hard to be this honest in front of the whole world--because I really like to think I'm pretty tough and together--but I know I really need your prayers. The fact that we haven't been getting any mail from home also makes me feel very disconnected from my kids, family and church. Our inbox has received about 3 Reece's Rainbow digests in the last two days so that gives me hope that it might be working again.

Enough gloom. Yesterday Kevin and I went on a shopping trip. We started right down on Independence Square and then made our roundabout walking way to Andrevisky Street (I have no idea how to say it correctly little alone spell it, but you who have been to Kiev know what I mean) Thankfully we remembered to take hand and foot warmers--lovely. This is so cool . . . remember last time we were here I missed the opportunity to buy a set of nesting dolls that I REALLY wanted and hadn't been able to find the seller when I went back to make the purchase??? Well, we found him again and you can be sure I didn't make the same mistake twice. There is so much pride in this particular man's work and he puts so much detail into the dolls he makes-clothing style, hairstyle, instruments, foods, animals, etc. I have actually prayed for this man several times over the intervening months and am just in awe.

We have continued to see a big fluctuation in the comparative value of the dollar and the grievna. We have exchanged as low as 6:1 and last time was 7:1. We missed out at the 9+:1. The rapidly changing market makes it weird when you're purchasing something because of course you're trying to do the math in your head to see the relative cost in dollars.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday Morning Service & No mail

These are missionaries Paul and Christine and their children. You can also see some of the inside of the building where they meet for worship.
This is where the English-speaking international church meets. It doesn't look so fancy on the outside but it is very spacious and pleasant on the inside--we were told it was a converted garage. We later met a young lady who had actually been part of the team who helped with the renovation.

This is the theological seminary next door. I believe there are also church services held here in languages other than English.

We did make it to church this morning without too much problem. It is an international church and we were told there are people from about 40 countries who attend. It was great to sing the familiar Christmas carols. The Assembly of God missionaries who are the pastors are from Wisconsin. We are looking forward to a candlelight service on Christmas Eve.

I apologize to anyone who has tried to email us--for some reason we have had no mail delivered to our inbox since Tuesday. To our kids: we really miss you and miss hearing from you but please know we love you and are praying for you. You can just leave comments here on the blog--we do get those. If I remember right, Debbie Joy was taking you guys to the Christmas program in Hazelton--I sure hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holidays in Ukraine

Yesterday we had quite an adventure after finishing up at TGI Fridays. There was an icy surface under the beautifully lit archways along Kreshatyk that made walking upright a bit of a challenge. We got to the Metro entrance and again headed for the end of the blue line. We had been told we needed to get on bus 38K, look as much like Americans as possible and try to stay toward the front of the bus after telling the driver which stop we were looking for. The driver nicely let us off at the Meer Hotel as we'd asked but I really didn't know where we were supposed to go from there. We had the written address of the church we were heading to so tried to find that building number. Finally we passed in front of a fire station and found out from the guy spreading de-icer that we weren't actually on the right street. We were supposed to go the other way at the intersection at Meer Hotel so we precariously headed and slid in the right direction. Sure enough we eventually ended up at the right place and had a very enjoyable visit with a Ukranian young man and two men from Egypt. I asked the first young man about Ukranian Christmas traditions and he told me how many traditions have been lost due to the years under communism--many people know about the traditions from books but do not practice them in their homes. He seemed very excited about what God is now doing here in Ukraine.

Today our apartment's location turned out to be a great benefit because there was a HUGE Christmas celebration over at Independence Square. (Note: We later found out it was a New Year's Celebration) I cannot estimate how many thousands of people were over there. There were many Grandfather Frosts and Granddaughters among the crowd and people could get their picture taken with them. There were balloons in a variety of shapes--I saw fish, parrots, bunnies, hearts--for sale, as well as lighted sticks and swords, and pony rides. On stage there were a variety of acts: some guy that Kevin said the girls in the crowd were sighing over, a group of young ladies in red suits and Santa hats doing dances, etc. I actually heard one carol I recognized--Silent Night. The pole of the Maiden statue was lighted half in blue and half in yellow--Ukraine's national colors. Finally after about 5 hours of music, a person whom we were told was the mayor of Kiev got up and gave a speech followed by the official lighting of the gigantic tree out there and then a very lovely fireworks display.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I couldn't get up the energy to walk across the street--I am just washed out from our adventure last night, I guess. But I enjoyed getting to see so much from our window and on the TV.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The New Year's Tree and St. Nicholas

These are pictures of the huge New Year's Tree standing in Independence Square with some close-up shots of some of the panels around the bottom. I assume the pictures on the panels come from stories well-known in Ukraine. I really don't know why the tree was lit for awhile tonight because the official lighting was on Dec 20.

First off I want to say a big thank you to each one who has left a message. You really cannot imagine how much I appreciate every comment-it lets me know that I am not just talking to myself and reminds me that we are not alone. The success of our adoption will be the result of the prayers of many, many people. Also I want to let everyone in Hansen know that we are not having any more problem with our email so we would love to receive any and all notes (hint! hint!) And to all my Reeces Rainbow friends, you do not know how it is killing me not to have internet time to follow all the digests and blogs. So I am sending out congratulations for any and all good news that I will read about when we get back to the States and am asking God to help in all the difficult situations that may be going on with anyone.

Unfinished business: to any who are wondering, yes, Kevin was able to fix the zipper on my coat. And the clothes-even the jeans--dried very well so I didn't need to worry about that at all.

Yesterday, Thursday, honestly was quite a frustrating day for me because it felt like so little was accomplished. The only thing we did on the adoption front was get in the car with Alexi and Dima, drive to a nearby notary, and change the wording on our petition to adopt for the court. The notary seemed very pleasant and she thanked us for adopting. Then back to the apartment we went. I need to realize however that a lot of other stuff was going on that we were not directly involved in: our case WAS presented at the guardianship council, and I think paperwork involving the orphanage was also done. I believe Alexi said that paperwork for the court will be submitted on Monday and some other paperwork on Tuesday. Courts close on Dec 26 so please pray that God's will and timing will be done. Of course, we would like to have court done before we leave.

We decided while there was still daylight to jump on the Metro and see if we could figure out the missionary's directions for getting to the church. By the way, the metro now costs 2 grievna per person rather than half a grievna. But the exchange rate is much different also: when we were here before, the rate was 5:1. It's been changing daily since we've been here and I've seen it about 9.5:1! We got to the correct metro stop without difficulty but couldn't figure out which bus to take from there. Christine, the missionary, told me the name of the street we were looking for and I tried to spell the first part of it the way I thought it would look here--but didn't see it. She mentioned giving us fuller directions so we'll have to take her up on that.

When we got back to our stop we each ate some yummy potato cakes, salad, fries and tea for less than $5 all together. We climbed up to ground level and were so tickled to see that the huge tree in Independence Square was all lit up with very colorful picture panels all around the bottom. Back in our room we listened to multiple repetitions of the world news on CNN (the only English channels are news channels so I'd have to say I'm way more up to date on what's happening on the planet than usual :) I did Sudoku puzzles (thanks, Mom), a load of laundry, and watched a Bonanza DVD.

Today feels better. Thanks again for your prayers. Alexi picked us up and we drove over to the orphanage which is in Kiev but quite a distance from our apartment. We got to go right into R's play area. The little boys were all dressed up because the orphanage was having St. Nicholai 'concert' and we got to watch it from the front row!! There are 7 little boys in R's group (including another little R that several of us know and love) They were the youngest boys in the auditorium. I'm not a great judge of numbers but I'd say there were around 150 boys in there of various ages all of whom it seemed were dressed nicely. The group of boys on the stage were mostly dressed in black pants, white shirts, black ties. They sang songs and recited quite lengthy parts. At the appropriate time, St. Nicholai appeared on the stage which scared R who was seated between us. He started crying. One of the workers came to try to comfort him which worked for a bit. Then R moved over by her for awhile before coming back to us. Then it seemed to become a bit of a game for him to move from her to us so Kevin just sat him on his lap. The program was very cute but as is the story of my life it seems, my phone camera was dead as a doorknob so I got zero photos.

When we got back to the playroom we tore out pages from our Color Magic book and let all the little boys color. They'd seen Kevin pull a furry paw glove out of his bag so were very interested in what else might be in there. R got hold of my camera and was pretending to take pictures. I posed for one. The main worker seems to like us. The little boys all headed to eat so we waited in the playroom until Alexi got back. I was pleased to see the cute wallpaper with kittens and puppies on it. We peaked into the bedroom (the door was open) and used the restroom so got to see the 7 little potties, the 7 towels, 7 toothbrush holders. I was glad to see each person had their own. Also there was a shallow (maybe 6 inches deep) maybe 2 1/2 to 3 foot square porcelain tub. I wonder if that is what they use for bathing the kids.

AND WE FINALLY HAVE CHOSEN A NAME: STEVEN MIKHYAL McCLAIN. The middle name is part of his paternistic name and we like it. Birthdate March 6, 2004.

Well, I'd better get off of here--we need to go find lunch.

B, S, T, J, and Caleb: we love you so much. Have a great time at Grandma and Papa's house tonight and please give everyone our love. We love you Mom and Dad, and Mark and Kim and Jessica and Brandon and Natalia and Justice and John and Kandous. I did get a head start on the cookie dough and on the butterscotch peanuts--just so you know! We will miss being with you.