Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Our Journey for an adoption in Ukraine has ended.

Mary is posting.

The last couple of months have been hard. M decided he was not ready to be adopted. His sisters, K and R still wanted to be adopted, but decided to stay as well because they didn't want to be separated from their brother. I don't blame them at all. We never wanted to separate the siblings either. All three of the children came from an abusive environment and had only been in the orphanage a short time and finally felt safe. Leaving that safety and going to an unknown was just too much for M. He wanted his sisters to go with us and for him to visit next year in the U.S. to see if he liked it, but unfortunately it doesn't work that way. Again, it was devastating, but we had guarded our hearts a little more this time. I still think about these kids, and Katarina and Bogdan, every single day. I've had to distance myself with the news from Ukraine so I don't stress out too much. All five of these kids deserve better.

Ukraine's program just wasn't working for us. We have had to be very careful with what we have shared on our blog so that it wouldn't hurt our chances in Ukraine. There is a LOT more to our story that we have not been able to share. If you are a couple that is trying to adopt in Ukraine we would be happy to share what we have learned through this process and what to do or who or what to avoid if you are interested. Feel free to contact us in the comments. We learned a lot from other couples while we were there and wished we had known some of this information before we traveled. We have decided to stop pursuing an adoption in Ukraine even though we still have an opportunity for one more SDA appointment. I can't see putting our family through another 6 week trip to Ukraine. The program has changed drastically over the last couple of years, and we have gone through too much over there already to start over.

For the last couple of months we have been talking with our adoption consultants here in the United States and they have been working really hard to get back some of the money we spent in Ukraine. Thankfully they were able to work out a deal to transfer a large sum of the Foreign Program fee we had to pay in Ukraine to a new program in Eastern Europe. I have been impressed with what they have been able to do for us. I thought for sure we had lost everything. A couple of days ago we signed a contract to pursue an adoption in Bulgaria. Hopefully we will have better luck there. It is a Hague country, which means it has to follow strict regulations and everything is backed up with paperwork and is clearly spelled out. Unfortunately we will have to update our home study again, but the dossier is a lot less intense.

James and I just want to thank all of you who have supported us through this crazy process. We really felt your prayers, and your words of encouragement have strengthened us immensely. I haven't logged into the blog for several months and was so surprised to see so many of you still checking it. We have had over 11,000 page views and our audience has reached every continent except Australia. Amazing! I didn't think our story would be that interesting to people other than our family and close friends. We will start a new blog for our new adventure if you would like to follow that process as well. To close out this blog I will update our "Timeline, Fees, and Paperwork" tab too.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Update after a week at home.

Mary is posting today.

We arrived home on Thursday evening to three smiling boys after over 30 hours of travel: two train rides and three flights. It was so great to see them! We have loved spending time with them this past week! Jet lag and trying to keep up with the kids in Ukraine and at home has made our sleep schedule a little crazy this week, but we are managing okay.

We were finally able to arrange a Skype session with the kids in Ukraine at 2am Sunday morning our time, and 9am Ukraine time. We were thankful to talk with them again! Towards the end of our session we explained to their caretaker what time it was for us in America and she quickly agreed to let us Skype again the same day at 1:00pm our time (8pm Ukraine time) so our boys could talk with the kids in Ukraine too. It was nice to have a chance for all the kids to "meet" each other.

Monday was my birthday. I was so thankful to be home to celebrate with my family. My mom is still in Virginia with us, so it was great to have her here. James went back to work on Monday too. Unfortunately, Monday also brought some bad news. M decided he was not ready to be adopted. It was hard to hear, but I understand and respect his decision. He was told that he had until early next week to change his mind. He still wanted to talk to us on Skype until then so we have chatted a few more times since then. So far his decision has stayed the same.

James and I will wait until next week for M's time to change his decision to expire, but we have spent this week looking into options of how to proceed from here if his decision stays the same. It honestly has been a tough week of ups and downs. We have been working closely with our Adoption Agency Consultant and our facilitators and caretakers of the children in Ukraine. There have been many emails, phone calls, and Skype sessions during all hours of the night and day this week. Even though we are not in Ukraine we have been kept very busy at home.

We are so thankful for all the support we continue to receive from friends and family. Your thoughts and prayers have strengthened us and humbled us. We will try to update again when we have more news.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Kharhov Ukraine Day Seven: Heading Home!

Mary is posting today.

We are posting a little bit early because after our visit with the kids today we are heading straight for the train station to start our journey back home! Tomorrow will mark six weeks for us in Ukraine. That is a very long time to be away from our boys in Virginia and for James to be away from work. We have worked out with our facilitator to sign our agreements for the adoption today, and if M signs his agreement to be adopted in the next couple of days then we will return in a couple of weeks for court to finalize the adoption. From there we will work on passports for the children, medical appointments, and then work with the US Embassy to get the kids ready for America! Normally, adoptive parents are encouraged to stay in country until the court date, but with the length of time we have already been in Ukraine we were able to work out coming home in between adoption agreements and court.

We are beyond excited to see our boys! It might be awhile before we post again. We'll try to post again after we get settled back home. Thank you again for all of the support and prayers! Please keep those prayers coming, it is not over yet!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Kharkov Ukraine Day Six: Agreements for Adoption

James is at the keyboard for today's post.

Yesterday, Tatyana told us to be ready by 9:30 AM for a potential meeting with the District Administrator in the town where M, K, and R live. He said that he wanted to meet us since we were adopting children from his district. We were more than happy to oblige so we awoke bright and early to make sure that we were ready. Turns out that he was called to a meeting with the Regional Governor on short notice. Unfortunately, lines got crossed and we did not get the message until we arrived at his office. So, we enjoyed an extra drive through the Ukrainian countryside.

The Ukrainian flag has a direct connection to the landscape of Ukraine. The gold on the bottom represents the wheat fields and the blue represents the sky. Over the past week as we have been driving around near Kharkov, I have seen just how accurate a representation it really is. Today, I asked our driver to stop for a minute and I grabbed this snapshot of the Ukrainian flag.

There is genuine beauty in this country.

Today, we also received some outstanding news! K and R have signed their official adoption agreements. Most surprising of all is that R was the first one to sign! We are very excited and look forward to working through the rest of the process. M still wants some more time to think it over and we are happy to give him some time. This is a big decision in their life but we are very happy that K and R want to be in our family. All three need to agree for the adoption to take place. We feel very blessed with today's news and pray that M will agree to join our family as well.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Kharkov Ukraine Day Five

Mary is posting today.

Today we ventured out of the apartment and went shopping for the kids. We bought K and R each new shirts and M a jersey for his favorite Football (soccer) team, the Metalists. I have to say, it is hard shopping for kids clothes when you don't know their size and they are not there with you to have them try them on. We also bought each kiddo a LEGO set.

We arrived at the orphanage for our visit with the kids at around 4pm. We were about 15 minutes early. This is usually when they return from school and then they get changed and have a snack before we meet with them. It was chilly outside so the Director let us wait inside. The kids got back from school a little late, so we waited about 45 minutes for them before we could start our visit. The Director let us use a room with two desks and several chairs, perfect for our plan for the day. We started out with several games of UNO. It has been fun to see the kids get into the game. Laughing when playing a trick card, groaning when the trick card is played on them, and sometimes high fives or knuckles when they win. After UNO, we pulled out the LEGO sets and the kids got right into them. These are the first sets for the girls and they loved them! Such concentration! James was able to help M and K, and I was able to help R. It was nice to have her ask me for reassurance that she was doing it right. I think this was the most I was able to communicate with her without assistance. I know my colors and numbers in Russian and the word for "this one" so I did quite well helping her follow the directions. All through the visit I tried to just talk even though most of it was in English. If these kids decide to be adopted they will be hearing a lot of English so I might as well start now. In the past I have tried to talk through James or I just didn't say anything thinking they wouldn't understand me anyways. I figure it is better to just be myself and say what is on my mind and have James translate if it is important. All too soon our visit was over. The Director came to say the kids needed to do their homework. I think it was a good visit. I'm still not sure about what the kids are thinking, but they seemed to have a good time with us and said thank you at the end.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Kharkov Ukraine Day Four: Progress

James is wielding the virtual pen this evening.

So, today I awoke with a headache and simply did not feel so well. So, I went back to sleep for several more hours. That seemed to do the trick. I awoke in the afternoon feeling much better, thankfully in time to go with Mary to visit M, K, and R.

Today's visit went rather well. We brought a Frisbee with us as well as a bead craft kit and some Legos. I started throwing the Frisbee around with M while Mary sat down to do some crafts with K. Some of M's friends came over to throw the Frisbee around with us as well. Sadly, for the first forty-five minutes or so, R did not even come out to see us. We started to get worried since she has been so shy during our previous visits. However, when she did come out, she was not shy and closed off like she had been previously. R immediately joined Mary and K in doing crafts. After a while, M wanted to build the Legos and K joined him enthusiastically. While M and K started the Legos, R picked up the Frisbee and asked me to teach her how to throw it. That was a very pleasant surprise. Maybe I'm not so tall this round. Soon, R was tossing it back and forth with me and racing me to try and get to the Frisbee first when we threw it over the fence (accidently, of course). Mary says that we might have a Daddy's girl on our hands...

Near the end of our visit, we sat down with them and talked about adoption. We explained how our family works and some of the things that they can expect if they agree to adoption. When we asked if they had any questions, M and K said no but R asked a couple of really good questions. So, today felt like some major progress with R. She opened up to us far more than any previous visit and now seems genuinely interested. Mary and I pray that it holds. These are great kids and we would love to have M, K, and R join our family!

Tonight we rested a little, enjoyed a dinner of pelmeni, and talked with our children back home. Praying that tomorrow we can continue making progress and move closer to coming home.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kharkov Ukraine Day Three

Mary is posting today.

Today we visited with M, K, and R again. When we got to the orphanage the children were still eating breakfast so we waited outside for them. M and K came out with the UNO cards we left with them yesterday ready to play. R came out a few minutes later and she joined us for a few rounds of UNO.  After UNO, we played another game where one person had to guess the name of the color that the others drew out of a pile. The person who had to guess stood at the end of a line of 5 trees while the rest of the players stood at the other end of the five trees. The person who was it, asked each person one by one if their color was...for example blue. If it wasn't, the person got to step up to the next tree, if it was blue then that person had to run to the last tree without being tagged by the person that was it. If they were tagged then they were it. After that game, we asked the kids if they wanted to play a video game on the tablet. R came right over! The kids took turns playing on the tablet and we also showed them pictures of our children back home on my phone. Then it was time to go. M, K and R are great kids! M and K seem to be warming up, R is still a little reserved. We will keep trying.

James and I went to a store this afternoon and picked up a few activities and gifts for the kids for tomorrow. It was a four story building with tons of toys, clothes, and other children's accessories. The whole top floor was a children's play land! What a fun place for kids!

I wanted to add another "Because we are in Ukraine!" moment. When you go to the "grocery store" out here near our apartment you have to pay separately at each counter you go to. They are all in the same indoor store and a lot of the counters touch each other, but you still have to pay separately. Last night we bought some food and this is how it was given to us:
Everything comes in plastic bags. The bag on the right is Mashed Potatoes, the middle one is Chicken Kiev, and the one on the left is 10 eggs. Yes, eggs come unrefrigerated and in bags of 10. If you want a bag to carry home your groceries you have to buy them or bring your own, so James and I have learned to carry plastic bags with us.