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.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kharkov Ukraine Day Two: Playing Cards

James is at the keyboard for today's post.

So, for the first time during our Ukraine adventure, Mary ventured out on her own to get lunch. The target was McDonald's which is not too far from our apartment in Kharkov. After ensuring that our cell phones were charged and ready, Mary set out on her mission. Success! Mary was able to get our lunch order through despite the language barrier and the difficulty that the cashier had with the word "McChicken" even though it sounds the same way in Russian as in English. I guess it must be the accent...

This afternoon, we were able to have another visit with the children. For now, we will refer to them as M (a twelve-year old boy), K (an eleven-year old girl), and R (a ten-year old girl). Since they are in school the Orphanage Director requested that we arrive later in the afternoon so M, K, and R could have a few minutes after school to get ready. When we first arrived, a District Social Worker wanted to meet with us and ask a few questions. We were happy to comply and I spent the next twenty minutes telling him about our family and answering his questions. The interview went rather well and we were then able to meet with the children.

Today, we went outside to visit in the yard. At the Director's request, K started to show us around the yard and explain the different items the children had built. R followed at a distance. They had a frog, pig, bear, elephant, turtle, etc. all made from different items such as tires, wood, and garden hoses. It was all very creative and the yard is well kept. We found a small table with five seats and decided to try and break the ice with a game of UNO. K and M sat down to play but R was reluctant until we started dealing. K moved to sit next to Mary which left an open seat for R between M and K. Evidently, that worked for her so she sat down to play. Of course, she promptly won the first game. They were excited to play again and M won the second game. The children started to open up a little as the game progressed and we were able to learn more about them. It was a good visit and the children said that they would like us to visit again tomorrow. We are looking forward to that. These are great kids!

After our visit with the children, we met with our facilitator Tatyana. We had a great discussion and have some good approaches for our way forward. Tatyana has been a great help so far and we are very grateful for her ability to listen to our concerns, understand them, and help us find solutions. So far, things are looking positive.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kharkov Ukraine Day One: We met with the kids.

Mary is posting today.

James and I left our apartment this morning around 5:30am to catch an express train to Kharkov. The train car we rode in was made up of maybe 10 rows of two to three seats on each side of the train with an aisle in between. James and I sat in a row with only two seats. The train ride was about 4 1/2 hours long. Our new facilitator, Tatyana,  and her husband met us at the train station in Kharkov and took us to our apartment. They left us for about 30 minutes to settle in and then picked us up again and we headed out to the town where the orphanage is. The drive is about 50 kilometers away or just over 30 miles. During the drive to the orphanage our driver pointed out the window and said, "There is Russia"! We were driving about 2 miles from the border of Russia a lot of the way. We stopped at the District Social Worker's office and Tatyana gave them our Referral and a representative got in the car with us and we drove the rest of the way to the orphanage. The roads were a little rough and the orphanage was located pretty far out near a bunch of farms. The grounds of the orphanage were very beautiful. We got out and headed into the orphanage. When we entered we were asked to put shoe covers on to protect the pristine floors. Everything was very clean! We were lead upstairs where we met with the Director of the orphanage along with the Medical advisor and a couple of other people who worked at the orphanage. They all were very kind to us and let us ask all of the questions we could think of about the kids. They were very good at answering our questions completely and if they didn't know something they told us instead of guessing. It was a very positive experience. One of the many questions we asked was if the kids knew we were coming. We were told that they did not know that we were coming. After we were done asking questions the Orphanage staff asked us a lot of questions too. We were then shown a little bit of the orphanage. We were shown a lot of bedrooms. Each one had anywhere from five to seven beds in them. Each child had a small cabinet and a shelf in a wardrobe. I couldn't believe how neat and tidy the kid's rooms were! Each bed was made identically down to the placement of their pillows near the center of the bed. After our small tour, the 3 kiddos arrived at the orphanage. They were taken out of school early and picked up by a car so they were really confused why they were there early instead of riding back on the school bus with the rest of the kids. When we were introduced, they seemed pretty reluctant and shy to find out that a couple had come to see them about adoption. We were the very first couple to come to see them. They were really cute, but again, extremely shy. We sat down and showed them our books that told about our family and they patiently listened. After we were done we asked them questions to get to know them better. We found out that they had all traveled to New York last summer as part of a hosting program. They showed us a book that their host family had made for them. Most of their answers were really brief. After that we gave them some gifts that we picked out for them yesterday, a hat for the boy and small jewelry boxes for the girls,  and they put them away in their rooms and then they showed us around a little bit. We finished our visit and asked if we could come back again tomorrow. They seemed okay with it, but not super excited about it either. I'm not sure what to think about that. The Director showed us outside and told us that the kids are probably just being shy, etc. I guess we'll see tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kiev Ukraine Round Two Day Thirteen: Because we are in Ukraine!

Mary is writing the post today.

James and I met our facilitator at the SDA office today in hopes of picking up our referral to meet the children we selected yesterday. It should have been an easy process of showing our passports and signing a ledger and then the SDA hands us a one page document that gives us permission to meet the children. Easy-peasy right? Well, it didn't go exactly like that. Our facilitator was told that there was a problem and she told us to wait outside while she tried to figure out what was wrong. She came out a little while later and said that the Director did not sign our referral because he was on a business trip. She went back inside to try to figure out how to solve this problem. We had already bought train tickets to Kharkiv leaving early in the morning the next day. James and I just looked at each other and basically we both said "of course there is a problem." It didn't faze us at all. I processed how I felt and it was so funny, I felt perfectly calm. A little annoyed, but we were getting used to all of the drama that goes into adoption. As we were waiting, an Italian couple came to the SDA to get their referral too, and then an American woman showed up hoping to pick up her referral as well. Lesya, our facilitator, came back out and had us come inside to wait for a bit. The other facilitators of the other people came inside too. After about an hour another American woman came by to pick up her referral that was supposed to be ready yesterday, but she ran into the same problem and was told to come back today. So now we were up to 4 groups of people waiting for referrals. It is a small area where we were waiting so it was getting a bit crowded. While we were waiting we started talking to the last American woman who came to the SDA. She said she asked her facilitator why there was a problem, and why couldn't someone else sign it? She was told "because we are in Ukraine"! After two hours of waiting and negotiating, our facilitators were able to get someone to sign the referrals so we can travel tomorrow! We showed them our passports and signed the ledger and they handed us our referral!

"Because we are in Ukraine!" stuck with me. The adoption process has been a very interesting experience working between our country and Ukraine. Our cultures are different in many ways and what we think should be an easy process can be very complicated out here. It started me thinking on just how different it is here in Ukraine compared to the United States. Not all of the differences are bad, not all our good, but some are just different. I started compiling a list of experiences with James that are unique or different than what we have experienced in the United States. Here are a few that we came up with:

1. The Elevators are awesome here! You get in, you push a floor button, and then push the "close door" button and the doors close immediately! I mean seriously, they close immediately! No pushing the button a million times to try to get the doors to close so you can get moving! Awesome! (Gotta love the little things, right?)

2. Cars drive ridiculously close to you when you are a pedestrian. You could be walking through a narrow alley way and a car will squeeze by you instead of waiting for you to get through before they go. Crossing in a cross walk, a car will turn their car and drive right behind you instead waiting 5 seconds to make sure they are clear to go. You could be walking on the sidewalk and a car will come up behind you or in front of you trying to park. That's right! they can park on the sidewalk here! They just drive down the sidewalk until they find a place to park. Here is proof:
3. The restaurants we have eaten at in Ukraine have been amazing! They have all been about presentation and attention to detail. They don't set out silver ware that was pre-wrapped in a napkin, they wait until you order, and then based on what you order, they bring out specific silverware for your meal. They usually put a placemat on the table and then napkins and carefully put out your knife, fork and spoon, soup spoon, butter knife, dessert fork, etc for what you ordered. Almost every restaurant has had a tablecloth and draperies everywhere. When your food comes out it looks amazing because they put so much effort to make it look beautiful. Compared to the States the food here is very inexpensive. Here are a few examples:

 Mashed Potatoes at Prego in Kiev
 Veal Medallions at Richelieu in Kiev
Ribeye Steak and Rice at the Opera House Café in Kiev
4. Ukrainians believe that cats with 3 colors of fur or more will bring happiness. There was an older kitten outside the SDA building yesterday and today. Our driver told us that everyone loves these cats and that they are nice to them. We shared our cultures superstition that black cats crossing your path bring bad luck and he said that Ukrainians think the same thing. Here is the cute "Coashka" we saw at the SDA:
5. Laundry! The machines here are tiny! The average load takes almost 90 minutes to run. Then you hang the clothes to dry. Some of our apartments have had these really awesome drying apparatuses that you can drape your clothes on. Sometimes we have had to spread the clothes out all over the apartment on all of the furniture. I will take a tiny washing machine over washing the laundry in a hotel sink any day though! (I really miss my super capacity washer and dryer at home...I am so spoiled!)
6. Parks are gorgeous out here and used!  Lots of flowers, fountains, walkways, and benches. Every time we have walked through the park there were a lot of people in it. Families, couples, old people playing chess, musicians, dancers, you name it. When it gets dark, it gets even busier! Such a pleasant atmosphere! In the states, most city parks close before it gets dark and you wouldn't want to go to them after dark anyways for safety reasons.
These are just a few of the differences I have seen here. There are many more! I will stop now because this post is getting long! "Because we are in Ukraine!" I have realized just how lucky (and spoiled) I am living in America. I have also learned to appreciate the many good things that we have experienced here in Ukraine too! We are excited to travel to Kharkiv tomorrow and meet those kids!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Kiev Ukraine Round Two Day Twelve: Second SDA Appointment

James is again wielding the virtual pen for our blog update.

After a long week of learning patience, Mary and I had our second appointment at the SDA today! With some experience under our belts, this appointment went much better than the first appointment and I kept much better track of our time. After looking through several files we found two good possibilities and, after some discussion of the two options, made a selection. We requested an official referral to visit with some children in Kharkov, a city to the north and east of Kiev. There are three children in this sibling group. Two girls (ages 10 and 11) and one boy (age 12). We feel really good about this opportunity. We should receive the official paperwork tomorrow and travel to Kharkov on Thursday. To say that we are excited would be a little bit of an understatement. It feels great to get past waiting and move forward again on this journey. We are looking forward to meeting these kids!

In front of the SDA office.
This evening, we decided to enjoy dinner at the restaurant "Richelieu". We pass this restaurant each Sunday when walking to church in Kiev and, with my fascination for European history, I talked Mary into eating there this evening. They served a mixture of French and American food. It was quite good. I couldn't resist getting a picture in front of the Richelieu portrait hanging in the restaurant.

On our walk home, we passed the main building of Shevchenko University. The building is painted red but they also light it up with red at night. All that red associated with a university is just wrong for a BYU fan but works out just fine for the Ute in the family.

We finished our day talking with our sons back in Virginia. Their support has been simply amazing and we are grateful for such great kids! I pray that we will be able to successfully complete this journey and see them soon!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Kiev Ukrain Round Two Day Eleven: Finally, Good News!

Mary is posting today.

This morning we received great news! Tomorrow we will have our Second SDA Appointment! We are thrilled to see more children's files and to finally move forward again! With hopefully leaving Kiev in the next few days, we decided to squeeze in a few more sights. We visited the Golden Gate, which is now a monument, but was originally built in 1037 as a ceremonial entrance into Kiev. In the 1980's it was renovated, but some of the original structure still stands today. We also visited St. Sophia's Cathedral as well. Both are beautiful places and worth the visit!
The Golden Gate (on the top of the structure there is a church that is capped with a golden dome)

 James in front of the Golden Gate
Mary in front of St. Sophia's Cathedral. Ukraine is famous for their painted eggs.
The Bell Tower at St. Sophia's Cathedral.
We are really looking forward to tomorrow! 


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Kiev Ukraine Round Two Day Ten: Gratitude

James is writing today's post.

Today marks one month since we departed Virginia on this journey. As I reflect on the past month, all of the highs and lows, there is one thing that stands out...the incredible support that we have received from family, friends (old and new), and coworkers. It has been simply amazing, the myriad of ways in which the people in our life have enabled this journey. Another example, perhaps small to the casual observer, but large in our hearts occurred today. A close friend sent Mary a message from the song "Oceans" by Hillsong United:

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior"

A truly beautiful reminder of faith and the blessings of the Lord.

It is hard to express the depth of gratitude that we have felt for all of these manifestations of support: thoughtful messages, countless prayers, support from leaders and coworkers at the office during the absence, help with our sons at home, a brother answering a call for help without hesitation, friends stepping in to lend a hand, and many others too numerous to list. Truly we are blessed and pray that, in some small way, we will find ways to show our gratitude to everyone supporting us and complete this journey in a way that proves worthy of that support.

We are hopeful that the next two days will bring concrete progress towards receiving permission to visit new children. Praying that tomorrow brings some much anticipated good news.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kiev Ukraine Round Two Day Nine

I can't believe we have been back in Kiev for nine days! We didn't really do much outside of the hotel today except go to dinner and the grocery store for tomorrow. We spent most of the day reading, writing, Skyping with family, and trying to follow up on a few adoption leads we received a few days ago. We are trying to be as prepared as possible for our second SDA appointment on Monday or Tuesday (we still do not have a firm appointment date). I am hoping the next SDA appointment will go better than our first. I feel we have learned a lot more since the first appointment. Hopefully we will be able to use our time more wisely with the experience we have gained. This quote says it all:

Friday, September 5, 2014

Kiev Ukraine Round Two Day Eight: Return to Maidan

James is at the keyboard for today's post.

No additional news on the adoption process. We are still hoping for an appointment with the SDA early next week. It will be nice to get this process moving forward again.

Today, Mary and I decided to go and visit Independence Square, also known as Maidan, again. It has been almost one month since our first visit, so we wanted to see how things had changed. The change was rather significant. All of the barricades and debris from the previous events at Maidan have been removed. The "Christmas Tree" has been taken down as well as the stage previously used for speeches during the protests. A series of placards depicting the protests, the fighting, and the subsequent struggle with separatists and Russia are now placed throughout the square. Other than the placards, the square bore few marks of the events of the past several months. We enjoyed listening to a Ukrainian folk choir and enjoyed the Friday night atmosphere on a stroll through downtown Kiev.

Monument to the Archangel Michael, considered a protector of Kiev.

Ukrainian folk choir performing at Independence Square (Maidan).

Mary in front of the Berehynia Monument (notice the placards scattered around the base of the monument) and James posing with the Cossack Mamay.

A street performer. This juggler stands frozen like a statue until a small donation causes him to start juggling. He is rather good.

With all of the turmoil and challenges that this nation faces, it is nice to see attempts to return to a more normal environment, at least in downtown Kiev. Mary and I enjoyed a cool autumn night but are looking forward to the beginning of next week with a good deal of anticipation (and a little impatience).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Kiev Ukraine Round Two Day Seven: We tried out the Metro.

Mary is posting today.

Still no news on our 2nd SDA appointment. Hopefully we'll here something soon. To get out of the hotel today, we decided to give the Kiev Metro a try. We decided to take it to a large open market to do some shopping. The closest metro station to us is up a decent sized hill. We walked there and went inside the station and got in line to buy tokens to ride. The tokens were 2 Hrivnya a piece, so for about 15 cents a person we were able to ride the metro! We put in our tokens at the turn style and then rode a fast moving escalator down a very steep decline. It was a long ways down. We got off and walked a little ways and then got on another escalator and did the same thing. I swear we were going to hit the earth's core! I was getting a little nervous, so James reminded me that the Metro Station was at the top of a hill so of course we would need to travel that far down. We went to our platform and got on a metro and it was pretty crowded so we had to stand. It was really loud in the car because a lot of the windows were open. We got off at our stop and switched lines and got on and then off again at our next stop. The way out of this station had just a couple of flights of stairs to reach street level. Once out of the Metro Station we started shopping in the open market. We found several DVD's to watch on our computer. James was also able to hunt down Russian language versions of the first two books in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. Shopping in Ukraine is very different from shopping in the States. I think Target will blow our Ukrainian kid's minds!

James on the Metro Platform

The Metro coming up to our platform. I love the Blue and Yellow! It is all over the city!

Me smiling going up the Escalator knowing that we will be out of the center of the earth soon!

 While typing this, our facilitator called and said she might have a few leads for files of children she wants us to see at an appointment next week. She is still trying to get us in for our 2nd SDA appointment on Monday or Tuesday next week.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Kiev Ukraine Round Two Day Six

James is the author for today's post.

It is challenging to find things to write about today. We have received no new information and are still waiting.

So, today we relaxed. We found some Studio C episodes on YouTube and Mary found an old movie of "Great Expectations" to watch. We had a good chat with our sons before they headed off to their second day of school. Yesterday, each of them had positive experiences on the first day back in school and seem excited for the year before them.

After chatting with our boys, we took a little walk and found a nice little Ukrainian restaurant for dinner. A nice way to balance our trip to McDonalds yesterday. We enjoyed Vareniki, Durini, and Chicken Kiev. We had the restaurant pretty much to ourselves so it was a nice chance to be out and talk with each other.

So, the wait continues. It is amazing how patient you think you are until faced with an opportunity to exercise it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Kiev Ukraine Round Two Day Five: Trying to Make the Best of Our Wait

Mary is posting today.

We talked with our Facilitator again today and she was not able to get our second SDA appointment scheduled yet. She will check back tomorrow, but it looks like the lady who usually handles international adoption SDA appointments is on vacation this week. She should be back on Monday, so our facilitator will check in each day to try to get us on the schedule. She said most likely it will be Tuesday of next week. Not exactly what we wanted to hear, but we are trying to make the best of it. We got out of the hotel room today and went to Pecherska Lavra. It started as a Monastery made of caves in the 11th Century. It has grown into a large place where people come to visit museums and worship. It was great to walk around and see some of the museums on the grounds and enjoy the beautiful buildings. We even got to go in some of the caves where Monks were laid to rest. When we came to the entrance, a women let me borrow a head scarf and an apron to cover my pants so that I could enter the caves. It is a very holy place for them. We followed several people into the caves and watched them light candles and pray in front of the Monks bodies specially preserved and laid to rest in the caves behind glass. It was a very interesting experience. There were certain places in the caves that were set aside for people to say Orthodox prayers, that we did not go in. We tried be respectful of the sacredness of their religion to them. It was fascinating to see. Here are a few pictures of the beautiful surroundings in Pecherska Lavra:

Gate Church of the Trinity. We went through this gate to enter Pecherska Lavra.

Great Lavra Bell Tower.

A nut that fell from one of the trees inside Pecherska Lavra.

This is what it looked like from the outside.

Dormition Cathedral from the front.
Dormition Cathedral from the back.

A view of Kiev from Pecherska Lavra.
After Visiting Pecherska Lavra, we went back to the hotel to Skype with our boys in Virginia. Today was their first day of school and we wanted to catch them before they left for school. We had a good chat with them and we were able to have family prayer with them before they left. It was really hard today not being there for them in person. Today is the first day of Kindergarten for our youngest. Our next older son starts 5th grade so he will be able to help our Kindergartener find his way around. Our oldest is in 7th grade. I can't wait to hear how their first day of school went when we Skype with them tomorrow.
After our Skype session we hung out for a bit reading and I studied more Russian. For dinner we decided to try out McDonald's in Ukraine. I don't particularly like McDonald's in the states because my kiddos love to go there all of the time on road trips. I've gotten completely sick of it. We were told to give it a try at least once on our trip to see how it compares so we gave it a shot. I have to say it was pretty good and it reminded me of home. Everything tasted similar, but the sauces are a little different. They didn't have Ranch, Honey Mustard, or Barbeque Sauces, but they did have a cheese sauce that was pretty good! The fries were good, but they didn't have very much salt on them at all. Just a few changes to match local tastes here. The restaurant, which was a two story building, was very busy. It was hard to find a seat right away, but a nice young man tried hard to communicate with me to try to find us a seat while James was ordering our food. I didn't understand his Russian very well so he tried out his English. I swear he was asking me if I had a VISA. I told him no that I didn't have a VISA, but I did have a passport. He looked at me kind of funny and then showed me two seats. I guess what he was trying to ask me was if I needed two seats. It was a fun experience overall and brought us back to "America" for a bit.

With a long week ahead of us, we are trying to plan an outing everyday to make the most of our time here. Hopefully it will pass quickly and we will meet our kiddos soon!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Kiev Ukraine Round Two Day Four: Cast Not Away Your Confidence

James is at the keyboard for today's post.

Today is Labor Day back in the USA. In Ukraine it is the Day of Knowledge, or the day that all the children return to school. It is treated as a holiday of sorts with parents seeing their children off to school and enjoying special programs to start off the academic year. In my opinion, it is a pretty good idea to celebrate the start of school with parents, teachers, and students in a holiday atmosphere. A good way to start the next year of learning for the kids.

To be completely honest, today started out to be difficult for us. Yesterday, my feet did not agree with the shoes that I wore to church. Usually, this is not a big deal. However, since we walked a little over a mile each direction, my feet decided to inform me of their discomfort by creating a rather large blister which promptly burst. Needless to say that any form of walking has been rather uncomfortable for me today which kept us in the hotel room instead of heading out to visit some of the wonders of Kiev. I am very grateful to Mary for her patience with my foolish choice of footwear. The blister has healed throughout the day so tomorrow should provide more opportunities to get out and around while we have spare time waiting for paperwork.

We contacted our facilitator this morning to find out how things were going. She said the paperwork has been submitted and we are waiting for the bureaucratic machinery to do its work. Her best guess was that we would know more on Wednesday. So, more waiting.

Of course, when you have a lot of time on your hands with nowhere to go, you can only find so much distraction and your thoughts tend to reflect on what you are trying to do. With the adoption process slowed to a crawl for us and the experience of past weeks weighing on our minds, a rather somber mood hung around through much of the day. Thankfully, we also had time to review some of the messages sent by friends and family while we have been on this journey. So many times, those comments have lifted our spirits. Thank you!

Today, Mary and I read an article that my sister recommended a few days back. We had not had an opportunity to read it yet. It was a sermon given by one of the Apostles of our church many years ago entitled "Cast Not Away Your Confidence." Link ( https://www.lds.org/ensign/print/2000/03/cast-not-away-therefore-your-confidence?lang=eng&clang=eng ) Sincere gratitude to my sister for sending this link. The somber mood lifted with this timely reminder of the Lord's strength and purpose. We do not know where this adoption journey will lead. We do not know if it will end the way we expect or hope. We do know it is a journey that we must take with faith and confidence in His purpose. And so we will take it.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Kiev Ukraine Round Two Day Three: Still Waiting

Mary is posting today.

There is not a lot to post about today. We are still waiting for our paperwork to be turned in tomorrow. We were able to go to church here in Kiev. As always it was nice to meet with other church members. It is so awesome that our church is the same everywhere in the world, except of course for the language! Today the speakers spoke in Russian and Ukrainian. I am getting better at reading in Russian and was able to read the words enough to sing a few words in the hymns. I have spent some of the vast amount of free time we have had lately to practice learning Russian. I feel like a preschooler sounding everything out, but I am getting there. I still have no idea what most of the words I am reading mean though. The rest of the day we spent hanging out in our hotel room playing games, reading, and checking social media. We also had a great Skype session with our boys back home. I was able to Skype with one of my best friends and my sister too! I miss all of my family and friends! I have to say I miss America and I am looking forward to all of the modern conveniences and a routine again. I know it will take awhile to get a new routine down with adopted kiddos, but I am looking forward to it. Hopefully tomorrow we will have good news about a second SDA appointment.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Kiev Ukraine Round Two Day Two: Waiting

James is at the keyboard for today's post.

One of the challenging aspects of this whole process has been timing. Although we tried to return to Kiev as fast as possible, we will still have to wait several days for another appointment. The fact that we were only able to complete our request for another appointment on Friday means that we will have to wait through the weekend before there is any further movement in the process. It is well known what happens to the passage of time when one is forced to wait... Hopefully we can get another appointment by the middle of next week.

After the roller coaster and emotion of the past couple of weeks, today just felt odd. For one, I was able to finally shrug off all of the concern that has kept me awake through the night and get some solid sleep. It felt good. This morning we realized that we had no children to visit, documents to process, or places to go. So the day was filled with reading, writing, and walking. We took a long walk through central Kiev and enjoyed watching families at a park and students gathering at Shevchenko University for the start of class on Monday.

We also enjoyed a nice dinner at the restaurant "Prego" on Shevchenko Boulevard. Mary enjoyed Hawaiian pizza while listening to Mexican and Christmas music in an Italian restaurant in downtown Kiev, Ukraine. I just got strange looks from the waitress for ordering mashed potatoes with my lasagna. I guess some strange mixtures are just more acceptable than others. Or maybe I am still just too tall...

In all, today was a nice day to recharge. Hopefully, we will not have too many recharge days before we can get the process moving again.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Kiev Ukraine Round Two: Day One

Mary is posting today.

We arrived in Kiev today early this morning. The train ride wasn't too bad for me. I slept most of the way, but James has not had more than two hours of sleep at a time since Saturday night. Hopefully he will get some much needed rest tonight. I've tried to keep him up all day so that he will sleep all night tonight. We took a taxi to our hotel and got settled and then met up with our facilitator here in Kiev. She took us to a notary where we signed an official document that terminated our adoption plan of K and B and allows us to request another appointment with the SDA to look at new files of children. Unfortunately we finished this on a Friday so we will have to wait until Monday to turn it in. Our facilitator told us she will hand deliver it to try to get an appointment sooner. We will not know when the next appointment will be until next week. We didn't have anything else scheduled to do so the rest of the afternoon and evening James and I spent doing some research for our adoption. We used some of our contacts to try to get a head start of possible children's files to look through at our next SDA appointment. Hopefully the second time around will go a lot better. We ended the day with Skyping our family back home in Virginia. Being able to Skype with our kids has been amazing! We really miss our boys and we are so thankful for the awesome help we are receiving at home!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Nikolaev Ukraine Day Sixteen: Saying Goodbye to K and B

James is at the keyboard for today's post. We had some time on the train to write out more details of our experience on 28 August 2014.
When we first met K and B, Mary and I asked if it was OK to post their names and pictures on our blog. We were told that it was fine. However, with the sensitivity of the process, we decided to use initials and not post pictures until things were finalized. Well, today things were finalized. Sadly, not in the way we had hoped. Today we said goodbye to Katarina (K) and Bogdan (B).
Katarina and Bogdan on the day that we met.
We have also not mentioned that the relative trying to undermine the adoption was their grandmother. Their grandmother signed away her rights to the children and placed them in the orphanage after their mother died so that she could live with a man that did not want them around. Five years later Katarina and Bogdan are still sitting in the orphanage although we know that the grandmother and at least three other blood relatives could easily afford to take them into their families. They simply choose not to and prefer to leave the children in the orphanage/boarding school and let the state pay for them. The stories of what this woman did and said to these children to convince them to reject the adoption that they had accepted is long and horrific. All I will say about their grandmother is that she is the most selfish person that I have ever met and that I am sorely tempted to use words that I should not to describe her. However, I will refrain.
This morning we received a call from our facilitator Natasha that we would have a meeting at the orphanage/boarding school at 1PM to hear the final decision of the children. So, we had several more hours to wait. We tried to occupy ourselves with games and reading but it is extremely hard to distract yourself from thoughts and feelings that won’t let you sleep at night. It was a long morning but we did receive some news that truly brightened our day. Some friends that we met out here had their court day yesterday and officially completed their adoption of two wonderful children. We are so happy for them as they have been here for so long working towards this day.
At last the time arrived for our meeting. We arrived at the boarding school about fifteen minutes early. Katarina and Bogdan had not yet arrived so we sat on some benches outside to wait. I decided to read. This year I have a goal to read the Old Testament so I pulled out the tablet and opened to where I had left off reading yesterday in Psalms. For the next ten minutes, I read Psalms 123-127. Several of the verses touched me deeply in that moment. Psalm 123:3, Psalm 124:8, Psalm 126:3, and Psalm 127:3-5. I just finished reading “children are an heritage of the Lord” when the District social workers arrived for the meeting. Many times in my life, the scriptures have brought peace in times of greatest need. The Lord was again mindful of my need.
Katarina and Bogdan arrived with their grandmother a few minutes after the social workers. We were allowed to visit with Katarina and Bogdan alone without their grandmother. It was the first time since Sunday that we had that opportunity. We shared with them some of the concerns that our sons had about their situation, explained to them our feelings, and said that we would respect whatever decision they made. We told them that we love them and that none of this was their fault. Then our time was up. We were asked to leave the room while the social workers met with the children alone to hear their final decision. A few minutes later, Katarina and Bogdan came out with their refusals. They gave Mary brief hugs and we parted. We are very sad that they will remain in the orphanage and that they were convinced by their grandmother that she would come for them. They have already waited five years. Sadly, it will probably be many more. However, we understand that every child has a strong desire to be loved by those that should love them, so it is easy to believe the lie over and over again. We love these children and pray for the best for them. Perhaps, they will have another chance with time and see a little more clearly after this process.

And so, with heavy hearts, we say farewell to Katarina and Bogdan and gather our faith to move forward and find children that would like to be a part of our family. We are on a train tonight to return to Kiev and request another appointment to view children available for international adoption.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Nikolaev Ukraine Day 15: Our Plan to Move Forward

Mary is posting today.

James and I were able to talk yesterday and today to try to decide what we should do from here. We made a decision to try to meet with K and B one more time today to say goodbye before they gave their formal decision in front of the orphanage/boarding school Director and the Regional Inspector (Child Services) tomorrow. This meeting will be held at their school without their relative present. There is a slim chance that they might change their mind, but I doubt it. If they continue to say no we will most likely take the formal rejection for adoption with us on a train back to Kiev tomorrow evening, where it will be notarized, and we will apply for our second appointment with the SDA. Hopefully that appointment will occur next week.

We notified our facilitator of our plan this morning and she tried to set up the meeting with the kids. Unfortunately, the children were out in the country with their relative and a visit did not happen today. James was able to contact K by phone, but K and B's relative was on the line with her and it didn't go too well. We'll just have to say our good byes tomorrow at the formal meeting. We still love these kids and wish them the very best in their situation. It is still really hard to think about what their future might hold. We do not blame the kids in anyway, and we hate that they were put in such a terrible position.

James and I decided to go out to our favorite restaurant,"Stargorod", here in Nikolaev tonight. It was great to get out of our apartment and spend some time together in a beautiful place. We had sat down for about 10 minutes or so when the hostess guided some of our friends we met here, who are also adopting, to our table. It was great to see them! Neither James nor I or our friends knew that the other couple would be at the restaurant that night! We asked them to join us and we had a nice time together. One of the best things about being in Nikolaev, besides meeting K and B, is the wonderful friends we have made! It was great to just relax and enjoy good company.

View about two steps away from our table.
The name on the sign is pronounced "Stargorod". Can you see why I am having trouble with Russian? (Actually I am getting pretty good at reading Russian, I just don't know what anything means...)
I'm thankful for all of the sweet comments and messages from friends and family. I am also thankful for all those who have fasted and prayed for us. I have felt peace this whole time even through the sadness. I know we are supposed to learn from this experience and I still feel that coming to Nikolaev was part of the plan. A few blessings that I have been able to come up with are: 1. that we got to meet K and B. 2. I am capable of loving someone else's child as my own. 3. the many friends and children we have met here. I know that I will recognize more blessings from this as time goes on, but I am thankful that I have something positive to take from this experience.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nikolaev Ukraine Day 14: Broken Hearts

Today was a rough day. We were able to get the documents we needed from the orphanage/boarding school. We were elated! Just after we got the documents signed the relative brought K and B to the boarding school to see the Director. We were still there and had a chance to visit with K and B. Unfortunately their relative was able to convince them not to be adopted yesterday when we were prevented from visiting K and B or talking with them. K and B told us that they cannot come with us. The selfish motives of the relative are still clear - K and B will still be staying in the orphanage/ boarding school. This is the first time in all the times we have met with them that they have told us that they did not want to go with us. Every day for the last two weeks they have told us that they want to be part of our family. We are very saddened by what they told us today.

We have a lot to process. We are taking a day or two to do that so that we can decide where to go from here on our adoption journey. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Nikolaev Ukraine Day Thirteen: Missing K and B

James is at the keyboard for today's update.

So, we had our first day not visiting with K and B since we first met them. Their relative picked them up last night and we were told that they will be with the relative for the next few days and unavailable for us to visit with them. Yesterday, we left a phone with K and B so that we could talk with them while they were visiting with the relative. It seems that did not work. We have tried to call and text them throughout the day but nothing gets through. We have also tried to call and text the relative but no response. So, we are a little concerned and disappointed but hoping that we can get through soon.

This afternoon, we had our daily opportunity to visit with our children back home over Skype. We try to stay upbeat but honest with them. At the end of the call, J2, our oldest son, said he had a question. He started asking about K and B visiting with the relative and quickly guessed our concerns. J2's perceptiveness came as a surprise but also a comfort that he is thinking about this as much as we are. We are truly blessed with great children both here and at home.

As we were unable to visit or talk with K and B, we spent the day reading, writing, and talking between attempts to make contact. It was hard not to dwell on our concerns for K and B. This evening some of our friends out here invited us to dinner and we enjoyed a great evening at a Chinese restaurant. They were so kind to reach out to us today! Chinese is comfort food for Mary, so it was a good experience all around. We are so very grateful for the support of many friends here and all of our family and friends back home.

Since we had been in the apartment all day before leaving for dinner, Mary and I decided to walk to the restaurant. We looked up directions on Google and then set off through Nikolaev. About 45 minutes later, after several wrong turns and requests for assistance from kind locals, we found the restaurant. It was quite the adventure through some of the back streets of Nikolaev. Walking the streets of Nikolaev brought back memories for me of my mission. It was a good experience and we are grateful for the patience of friends when we get the crazy idea to walk instead of paying $2 for a taxi.

Tomorrow we visit again with the Director of the boarding school/orphanage. We are praying that we can make arrangements to visit with K and B again. We also pray that we will receive the needed documents to move forward in this process.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Nikolaev Ukraine Day Twelve: We were able to connect with ALL of our kids at the same time!

Mary is posting today.

Today we traveled to the Summer Camp to visit the kids. We brought jeans for B and nail polish for K. When we were shopping for the nail polish for K yesterday at the Central Market, we had an interesting experience. If I went up to the booth and started talking in English to James about the nail polish the price of the polish was very high, as high as 80 Hrivnya. If James talked to the sales person in Russian the price of the nail polish went down as low as 7 Hrivnya. So I learned to point to the polish I wanted to buy and James talked to them about price. We were able to get three bottles of nail polish for 20 Hrivnya! I will never shop here alone unless I absolutely have to!

B's jeans fit great! We were very grateful because we measured him at the camp and tried our best to find jeans based on that. The sizing here is very different than in the States. K loved her nail polish. We know the basic colors in Russian, but she wanted us to find her "salad green" nail polish. Uh, not sure what that meant when she first asked for it, but I did great in picking out the right color, which happens to be lime green in English. K painted my nails "salad green", haha, the only salad I've had out here! I got to paint her nails hot pink! So much fun for me! It was so great to do something girly with my soon-to-be daughter!

We hung out for a bit, playing UNO and telling stories about our family until it was 7AM Virginia time. Then we logged on to Skype and all of our kids got to meet each other! It was so awesome! I don't know how to explain my feelings about this other than I was one proud mama! All three boys in Virginia were ready to ask questions and interact, and our two kids in Ukraine were very responsive and had questions of their own. Thankfully James was there to translate! There were many sweet moments during the call. We had taught our Ukrainian kids the sign language of "I love you", and all five kids flashed it back and forth. J2 came prepared with American money to show K and B and Pokémon Cards. K and B had heard of Pokémon. B ran to get a walnut from the trees that grow at the camp and showed J2, A, and R. They made funny faces at each other which turned into different animal shapes with their hands, etc. These kids went none stop for over a half an hour! At the end our call the three boys in Virginia wanted to sing K and B a song. It was "I Am a Child of God", which is a children's song in our church. the words are:
I am a child of God and He has sent me here,
has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me
help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do to live with Him some day.
It was so sweet and I am so proud of my boys for singing it so well. I hope K and B realize that they are children of God and that God has sent them parents that will love them and guide them back to him. Skype ended with the kids back in Virginia saying good bye to K and B in Russian. K and B said good bye in English.
All too soon our time was up. The orphanage has given permission to K and B's relative to take them for a few days. We don't know if we will be able to see them during that time. We are saddened by this and we can really use your prayers for K and B and us as well.
After we got back to Nikolaev, we were blessed to have the Missionaries from our church, who are here in Nikolaev, come to our apartment to give us the Sacrament. We missed church this morning due to our visit with K and B before they had to go with their relative. We are grateful for the Missionaries' willingness to help us feel God's love at this time.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Nikolaev Ukraine Day Eleven: Heart to Heart

James is at the keyboard today.

This morning we received a call from our facilitator that our regular driver, Viktor, was sick and running a temperature. Viktor has been great to us and we were sad to hear that he was not feeling well. Thankfully, another couple that is out here for adoption had shared the contact information for their driving service. Natasha was able to get us a driver and we were able to get out for a nice visit with K and B this morning.

Today, we showed K and B some pictures of what our home looks like from the inside. Yesterday, when we had a video chat with our sons back in the USA, we asked them to take some pictures around the house and e-mail them to us. They did a great job! K and B were able to take a virtual tour of our home and they really seemed to enjoy it. After I explained the pictures to them, K took some extra time to look through the pictures again while B enjoyed playing some games on the phone.

Mary took an opportunity today during our visit to take some photos of the summer camp where we have been visiting the children for the last couple of weeks.

This is the dormitory where K and B live at summer camp.
This is the yard where we play soccer.

Today, we also had a heart to heart with K and B. Their relative has really been leaning on B to convince him not to get adopted but remain in the orphanage/boarding school. So, we sat down with them to explain why we came over to adopt children and helped them understand what their decision means as far as their relationship with us is concerned. This is certainly not easy for them but we hope that they see how much we want them to be happy and that we would love to have them in our family. We pray that the Lord will guide these children during this time. Our conversation was tender and, in some very real ways, we saw the children opening up to us even more. It was good to have a heart to heart with them.

Too soon, the time had come for us to go. Before we left, K brought out a picture she had drawn for me and B sewed a heart into a piece on paper with thread that he gave to us. These children are so awesome! We love them!

"To Papa from K"

B's heart.
After driving back to Nikolaev, we did some shopping and then relaxed a little in the apartment. As we were walking back to the apartment, Mary noticed this garden that used painted tires as planters and borders. She wanted to capture the local creativity that we are enjoying during this experience. 

This evening, we enjoyed dinner with some other couples that are here in Nikolaev for adoption. We decided to eat at the "Stargorod" restaurant that we have enjoyed for the last few nights. Previously, the restaurant had provided an ideal spot to enjoy dinner overlooking the river in a peaceful atmosphere. Tonight, however, there was a wedding at the restaurant. The groom appeared to be a rock musician and the music was very loud. As we were deciding to leave, the restaurant staff invited us to enjoy a private dining room away from the noise and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner and shared experiences. It was very nice to learn and share the journeys that we are on.

To end on a light note, Mary certainly knows how to bring smiles to our faces as she courageously embraces learning as much Russian as she can. Before traveling to Ukraine, Mary learned to say "I love you" in Russian. Yesterday, as we were walking through the summer camp, she heard some of the older children yelling at each other. She turned to me and asked, "did they just say 'I love you?'" They had actually yelled "I will kill you" but to those familiar with Russian verb conjugation it is understandable how the sounds can be somewhat familiar. We had a good laugh together and enjoyed another fun moment on this incredible journey.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Nikolaev Ukraine Day Ten

Mary is posting today.

We woke up this morning and packed up all of stuff and moved to a new apartment. It is near our old apartment building and we only have to climb five flights of stairs now! It is really nice. It kind of feels like I am staying at my Catholic Grandmother's house, if I had one. It has two separate bedrooms (with doors!), a living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom, and most importantly a washing machine! We moved to this new apartment so our facilitator can move in with us. We were having to pay for her hotel room so hopefully this option will help us save money. With all of the delays, etc. every penny or kopyeka counts! The reason why it feels like I am living in a Catholic Grandmother's house is in our living room there is a giant tapestry of the Last Supper. All of the rooms have Cherub pictures and crosses and we have all sorts of religious and non religious knick knacks everywhere. All of the furniture is nice, but kind of "Grandma style", for the US anyways. Here are a few pictures for you!

Our Hallway to the Front Door

Our Lovely Kitchen!

Our Fabulous Living Room!
Another Angle of our Living Room that includes some of the many knick knacks!

The Last Supper Tapestry in the Living Room.

Our New Bedroom.

Natasha's Bedroom, yes that is a pull out couch bed.
We are very thankful for our new home and we will be comfortable here.
After the move, we drove out to the Summer Camp to visit the kids. B was waiting for us at the gate again. When we got out of the car he took us over to where he had been waiting and showed us this:

Yes! Those are snails! B collected them while he was waiting for us. Yes, he is all boy! He was very proud to show them to us. After that he walked us into camp and he sat us down to wait for K. While we were waiting for K, B found one of his friends, which is an older, pretty teenage girl. He asked us for our camera and took a picture of her. He then went inside and grabbed the teddy bear we gave him on the first day we met him and put it in his bag. He then said he would be back in a minute and he took her off a little ways and gave her the bear. It was kind of adorable! When K showed up she looked really sad and tired. I asked James to ask her if she was okay and she said that she was sick. She has a sore throat and a cough. She said she had been to the doctor at the camp and they had given her some medicine. We all went over to the benches we often sit at and started our visit. We talked to K a little bit more about how she was feeling and we decided to have James take her back to the doctor at the camp so that he could talk to him. I hung back and stayed with B while James and K left. James was able to purchase better medicine for K and on the way back they were able to chat and K felt comfortable enough to ask about getting some farewell gifts for her friends. B found his friend again and James was able to get a good picture of B and his friend. I think it is starting to hit the kids that they will be leaving. After that we were able to get in some football (soccer) and some more card games. As always our visit felt very short. After we got back into Nikolaev, we received a call that the medicine was helping K and she was starting to stabilize, which is good! It is hard to know what to do in a foreign country when your kiddo is sick. I don't recognize any of the products here.

Later this evening, James and I hunted down some the items the kids requested: lip gloss, chapstick, shampoo, soap, etc. It was an interesting process. It isn't like you can just go to Target or Walmart to find these things. Everything is in separate shops and in foreign packaging etc. so it is really hard to tell what the product is or does. For instance it took James and I over a week to find nail clippers! After that James and I had a nice dinner where we were able to chat about the crazy process we are going through then we walked home and Skyped with the kids. I was also able to Skype with my sister! It was awesome.