Wednesday, April 25, 2012
It is required that her paperwork remain on the regional registry for an entire month, then the SDA has to invite us over. We'll keep you posted on things when we get a firm date.
I have to admit that I'm sad that it's later than we'd hoped for. But, I just got off the phone with a friend. Our conversation was about faith and letting the Lord guide. I had just testified to her that I knew the Lord is in charge...and then the word about needing to wait came. Oh, how the Lord knows I need practice in faith!
Anything that happens to us presents us with opportunities to practice all we are supposed to know and all we are supposed to be. It helps to remember that when the disappointments occur. Wish I were better at it, though!
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Upon our arrival in this region, our facilitator helped us understand that there was no way around the fact that Nastia would have to remain on a certain registry for a month before her paperwork can be sent to the SDA so we can obtain a referral to begin the process of adoption for her as well as her brother. I'm glad we had the heads-up earlier that there was a problem because I'd cried all the tears I was going to cry and had to leave it up to the Lord.
Now that we have all the information, I believe the miracle we needed occurred several months ago. I don't feel comfortable sharing all that information in this public of a setting so it will have to be sufficient enough to say that I can see now the Lord's hand in this, even though it's hard to go home. I know He is orchestrating this down to the detail and it is for the best...both what happened in the past (which I can already see the benefit of) and what will yet happen (which I will understand at a future time).
So, we went today to visit the kids knowing we were going home tomorrow and wouldn't see them again for at least a month. That's the update...now back to the day...
When we arrived at the orphanage (which was colorful, clean, organized and displayed children's artwork for Paska and other projects), we were asked to sit on a big, green couch in a front room area. In this room, there were birds in cages, a fountain, life-size tortoise statue...it was quite amazing and interesting!
We sat and waited for some time while one of the directors went to get the children from school. We were nervous and the anticipation was mounting! We were about to meet Nastia for the first time and we just had no idea what that would be like or how she would respond.
While we were waiting, the psychologist came over and had a conversation with our facilitator. I can't tell you how many times I have been SO grateful for the fact that Marsh knows Russian!! This was definitely one of them. She was discussing our children and saying the most positive things about how wonderful and sweet and good they are...even when she didn't know we could understand her. It was then that I felt sure of what I had been feeling impressed about for so long...that these children were to be a blessing to us and that the best ones are the hardest to get. Our challenge in having to come home is part of the opposition that is necessary because of the blessing they will be to our family. You get what you pay for.
Just a few minutes later, I heard a car door and saw through the curtain that people were coming up the walkway. I peeked through at an angle I could see from the couch and saw Nastia. She was so small, I had no idea it was her! We had only seen one picture of her and it looked like her hair was long but pulled back. This little sweetie had very short hair (which we learned later had been cut because of lice) and was so much smaller than we had been told she would be.
Then, there was Ruslan, towering behind her (he had grown a few inches from last summer) with a sweet little grin on his face. We hugged them both and were led into a room where we could visit and do things together. As were standing there before we sat down, one of the women said to Nastia and then to Ruslan in Russian, "So these are your parents now. Are you going to let them adopt you?" They both said yes and they told us to sit down. I was surprised at how soon they were asked something like that considering poor Nastia had just met us two minutes earlier.
We sat down and at first, Marsh just talked to them in Russian (I'm sure he told me what he said but I can't remember now because I was so focused on my thoughts about the kids). Marsh and I kept looking at this sweet little girl in front of us and giving each other the "can you believe her?" look while we all talked. He helped break the ice a bit and then had me bring out the picture album we'd made for Nastia since she had never seen our house. We showed Ruslan his new room, our new car (which in Russian sounds like "auto bus" which is exactly what it is!) and our new dining room table that will accomodate all of us. He was intensely interested and Nastia just kept smiling this peaceful little smile as she studied each picture up and down.
Then I took out my ipod and showed them the videos the kids had made for them. THAT was fun! They loved that and laughed at Lucy's antics!
We then played a couple of rounds of Uno which also was GREAT for laughs, language and smiling at each other. Nastia was still a bit reserved but would smile when I smiled at her. She seemed to be enjoying herself.
I then painted her nails...her first choice of activity! Pink is her favorite color so we did the pink and she chose a glitter to go on top. She obviously likes sparkly things! It seemed to make her very happy. I made sure to talk to her in simple english, repeating phrases so she could catch on. I certainly don't expect her to speak english right away, but I need as much practice teaching it as she needs learning it so I might as well start now! :)
At that point, the head mistress of the orphanage came in and started talking very strongly at the kids...all in Russian, of course. Our facilitator translated for me. She first asked Ruslan who we were. He introduced us by name and she corrected him and said, "Say Momma and Poppa". Then she told them that we are their parents now and they need to respect us and be on their best behavior. She told them it was very hard on us to take TWO of them (yeah, right!) and they needed to be good children. Then she turned to us and told us that Nastia's dad had come to the orphanage and wanted to take her. They had given her a choice between her dad and staying with Ruslan. She said, "I want to stay with my brother." This response speaks volumes into their lives up to the point of their mother's death.
No one forced her or even tried to convince her to change her mind. Then the woman went on to explain that for Nastia, Ruslan has been the man, like a father, to protect and take care of her. She explained that Nastia never wanted to be separated from Ruslan and that she loves her brother very much. (K, so I was tearing up at this point and staring at Marsh with a "I'm sorry, I'm going to lose it...don't be mad at me" look.) A few tears fell while she finished talking and then they all left us alone.
I had to get out a tissue so I felt like I needed to explain myself to the kids. I had Marsh tell them that I it makes me cry to know that Ruslan is such a good brother and that we want them to have a happy life with us. I also had Marsh tell them that Heavenly Father wants them to be happy, too. He was so sweet in his communcations with them.
Marsh then suggested we lighten the mood by doing another project.
Nastia chose to decorate foam book marks. I explained that there was plenty of material for her to make some for her friends. She watched me for how to do it and then started making one. Ruslan, even at 14, was happy to do it. I love teenagers that don't know they are teenagers!
Nastia decorated hers with a heart, as you can see in the picture. Then she started to put a name on it. I just assumed she'd put her own, but she didn't. She spelled "Ruslan". Of all the people in the world she could make something for, including herself, she made it for her brother.
I suddenly realized the necessity of the way this has all played out. The fact is, because of the way things have happened, Nastia was able to stay with Ruslan. If any of the other factors had changed, they would have been separated...especially with how cute, sweet and small she is. This was necessary, even vital, to keeping these two kids together. Having to come back is just part of what we need to do to carry it out. We needed to be here now to ensure Ruslan would be adopted and we needed to have his process started to find out that Nastia wasn't where she was supposed to be in that process. We have now secured both of them because of what we've done here. I also feel like the relationship we now have with her is an important foundation.
The next thing she chose to do was to make flower hair clips with needle and thread. She loved this so much, she asked if we could make more tomorrow. She, of course, chose the sparkliest button to go into the center of her flower. I think I know what I'm bringing back with me in May...!
- If you struggle with the language, bring something to do with your child that is age-appropriate and can be done with your hands or by demonstration.
- Bring card games or other activities that can be done together and can stimulate conversation in english.
- Uno, for example, is a game that is loved by children here and they have different ways of playing it. But, it is also good for practicing english as you tell them the names of colors and numbers. They can teach you those words in their language, too.
- Bring pictures of your family and home, including the living space the child will be in once they arrive.
- Bring books to read together, pictures to color, anything that will stimulate conversation.
- Buy a ball or other outdoor activities to do together, but plan to leave it/them at the orphanage.
- Don't bring anything you want back. It is very possible the children will not be able to keep anything or it may be taken from them by another child.
- Pay close attention to the body language of your child. You can tell if they are scared or uncomfortable or happy and peaceful. Respect their feelings and look for other ways to interact.
- Watch their body language and facial expression to see if they like or dislike what your activity is. A child who seems to not be paying attention may be bored. Bringing a variety of age-appropriate activities will help you zero in on your child's interests and likes/dislikes.
Because our SDA appointment was on a Thursday (Mondays and Thursdays are the only possibilities), we had a weekend to wait until we could submit our referral to the local authorities and visit the orphanage. Not only that, but Easter (Paska) was Sunday the 15th in Ukraine which, because it is such a special holiday, gives everyone Monday off. We had from Friday afternoon until the next Tuesday as days we couldn’t to anything to progress in the process of adoption. We counted it a blessing and used the days to visit Kharkov (pronounced HAR-kuv) where Marsh spent 14 months of his 2-year mission.
- So now that we've been to Kharkov (pronounced "HAR-kuv"), I am recinding my comment about jeans. They do wear them...even in the smaller towns. So, feel free to wear jeans because you'll fit in just fine.
- Older women wear longer skirts and the younger wear the shorter ones. Someone asked if we had grandchildren. Ouch. I'm hoping it was my long skirt that gave the impression I was older!
- Coats are worn even in nicer weather. It is still colder at night and the wind does seem to blow pretty much everywhere, but even during the day they wear their coats because it is believed that when you get cold at all, you get sick.
- I found Downy Wrinkle Releaser in the Walmart travel size isle before coming here. It's a small bottle and cost less than $2 but we have successfully used it to release wrinkles! :) I have found that rolling clothes seems to keep them less wrinkled and between these two techniques, I'd say an iron isn't necessary.
Friday, April 13, 2012
Thursday, April 12, 2012
- Just as Christmas is the most involved and anticipated holiday in the US, the celebration of the New Year and Easter are the most anticipated holidays in UA.
- The New Year was the most anticipated community holiday during the time of the Soviet Union when religion was not allowed. Since there are now various religions in the the former USSR, Easter is the biggest religious holiday.
- Christmas here is really more for giving a gift to, and visiting, god parents. Sounds like it's fairly low-key.
- Easter traditions:
- The week before Easter is a type of Lent. People eat only fruits and vegetables and abstain from other foods.
- On Good Friday, there is a fast for the whole day.
- The women try to make Paska (Easter bread) and something made by hand to give to others.
- On Easter Sunday, the Easter basket (which includes bread and other homemade items) is taken to the church to be blessed by the priests which includes the sprinkling of holy water on the bread/basket.
- People can stay for a sermon and music if they so choose.
- After the blessing, people go home and gather with family and friends for a feast including the Paska. Here are some pictures of different Paskas so you can have an idea of what they can look like:
- May 9th is Victory Day. This is in celebration of Ukraine's victory over the Nazis who had taken over all of Ukraine and came through Kiev killing 100,000 Jews. There is a forest where those 100,000 Jews were massacred and it remains as a memorial to them.
- August 24th is Independence Day. It celebrates Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union which just occurred in 1991.
- Each of these holidays are very important to the Ukrainian people. What a great opportunity to honor our childrens' history by including these traditions and celebrations in our families and using them as an opportunity to teach what these people have been through!
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
- Here in Kiev, some people wear jeans. In the outer towns, that may not be so.
- A lot of fur...fur lined coats with huge furry collars are the most common.
- Dark colors. Occasionally I'd see a woman wearing pink or cream, but that was very rare. Most people wear black or gray. Same goes for both genders.
- Shoes are usually black with a pointed toe (rounded point is most common)
- High heeled boots are most common among younger women
- Women always carry bags, not back packs. Their bags are usually dark and often made of faux alligator skin.
- I did not observe one woman wearing earrings. In the US it is a fashion to wear big ones...I wouldn't do that here. It's too uncommon.
- Ponytails are often worn low on the neck
- Gloves and scarves are common in these colder temperatures.
- Things seem to be either really plain or really gaudy. Women will wear Stilletto-type heels, mini skirts, black leather and jewels on their clothes and shoes...or their clothes will be rather plain and dark. I felt like I fit in alright with my black skirt and shoes and my brown faux fur lined skirt and black scarf and gloves.
- Dark colors...blacks, greys, browns
- Men rarely wear jeans.
- Men do not carry backpacks...they use bags that are usually black, too. A computer bag would work fine.
- Black coats are most common.
- Everything is pretty non-descript on the men...not many name brands or designs on clothing.
- Do not look anyone in the eye unless you have a reason to converse with them
- Do not smile at anyone
- Men give up their seat on the metro and the women just take it
- Shove your way on the metro with no concern for anyone else...getting interesting, isn't it?
- Dicker down on prices at the tourist shopping areas
- Don't small talk with people
- Walk fast and act like you know where you're going
- Don't take pictures unless you want everyone to know you're a tourist.
- Wear your passport in a pouch around your neck and under your clothes (these can be found at Walmart or anywhere)
- Wear your cash in a money belt under your clothes
- Don't use public transportation in Kiev unless you have a native or former missionary with you!
- Don't expect people to smile at you or feel offended when they don't. That is just how they are here.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
For those not planning to adopt, please go beyond the list for pictures and accounts of our experiences on Day 1.
For the flight:
- CLOSE QUARTERS! Bring very few things to do so you don't have much to carry. The ipod/ipad/Nook/Kindle things are a REALLY good idea. You can take a bunch of books and movies and are carrying almost nothing.
- Pack some snack bars/meal bars for when you need a little something extra to eat.
- Overseas flights are now equipped with movie screens, blankets and pillows free of charge. We were really happy to have our neck pillows, though. Those little pillows they give you aren't quite enough padding for a 10 hour flight. :)
- Check that your bags do not weigh more than the limit imposed by your airline. Luggage scales are available at Walmart and other stores for around $10. Take the scale with you so when you have purchased souvenirs, etc. you can still make sure your weight is correct.
- Pack lightly. Unlike a couple of decades ago, the stores in Kiev are very well stocked. You can find anything you need here except your prescription medications. You will not want to be hauling a lot of stuff around because...
- Everything is small here! The cars are small, the elevators are TINY, the apartments are small...like being in a large motor home. Be as simplistic as you can in your packing...bring matching clothes that can be interchanged rather than several different outfits.
- Clothing can be washed, but will need to be hung to dry. Consider how often you will wash your clothes and plan accordingly for drying times and needs for clean clothes.
- In your carry-on, bring pain killers or other OTC medicines you might need in flight. Long flights and lack of sleep can cause headaches, etc.
- If you like your technological devices, here is a list for you! (Thanks, Dad! It has all been SO necessary!)
- Bring a convertor that has different converting capabilities. They are little attachments that go onto the outlet portion and can be used in different countries. Though the one we had was correct, we needed the matching attachment to extend the length of the converter so it could plug in.
- Bring an extension cord. If you only bring one convertor, you will only be able to plug in one thing at a time. An extension cord allows you to plug in three devices.
- Bring the grounding converter pieces. Your convertor will not allow you to plug in some devices...like my computer!..that have a grounder (the third prong). There are little attachments that will convert your three prong plug into a two prong plug. Check the plugs on your devices...you may need these!
- Hair dryers and curling irons have melted converters. Buy those things here if you end up needing them. They are available for about the same price you'd find in the States.
- If you are staying in someone's apartment, they probably have a hairdryer already.
- If you have an ipad/iphone/ipod, a remote keyboard is the best thing to use for typing. You can even avoid bringing a laptop if you have the keyboard and device to go with it.
- If you are staying in someone's apartment, be ready with an idea of what you will cook. We were taken to a store today to purchase what we needed for meals for the next few days. We had to stand there and figure out what we were going to eat, then find the right ingredients (which can be challenging labels are in another language). Planning ahead of time will help you save time.
Luckily, I didn't wear makeup today...or was that yesterday? I knew I shouldn't because I had already been shedding tears off and on so it wasn't any use. Boy, am I glad I didn't bother.
Remember when I thought I had reached my Gethsemane? I was wrong. It was the first night away from the kids that was rock bottom for me. It was as if I needed to come to the realization that it was literally THE hardest thing I had ever been through (and I have been through some REALLY hard things) that made it possible to start working my way back up. The Lord was waiting there with outstretched arms, waiting for me to get to the point that I realized I couldn't be strong anymore and that I was at the mercy of His grace. Everything I thought I already knew in anticipation of the sacrifice, but didn't fully comprehend. And I realize now that I probably still don't comprehend it, but that's okay. It's all to be learned line upon line and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little until we are all we can become.
On the plane, taxiing down the runway, the tears started again. I went through a series of emotions that I only share because I think there may be others who will need to know that someone else has been through it. See, every time I started to think of Ruslan and Nastia, I felt better. I didn't cry anymore and I was not only at peace, but full of purpose and anticipation. That should have been a clue to me that that is what the Lord wanted me to be focused on. The fruits of the Spirit are peace, joy and love, all emotions I felt when I focused on Ruslan and Nastia. But, when I could start to feel that peace I suddenly felt guilty. I felt like I was betraying my other children...as if I needed to be sad to honor their sacrifice for this process. As if, by missing them and feeling badly about leaving them, I was taking the pain of our absence away. And if I wasn't sad, then I wasn't feeling what I should feel and I wasn't doing my duty as their mother.
I know, it all sounds crazy. I still have some thinking to do on this, but I do know one thing: the Lord wants us to be happy. Anything that keeps us from true joy and happiness is not of Him. My sorrow in leaving my children doesn't help any of us. Marsh wisely told me as I was tearing up for the millionth time, "Isn't it great that love is spiritual and not physical? Your love doesn't go with you when you leave. It isn't confined to physical presence. It's a spiritual gift you leave behind to bless them while you're gone. And anyway, Heavenly Father is there taking care of them." What a man.
Okay, enough about my emotions. Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what we've experienced during the last...well...however many hours it's been since we left home. :)
Bye, bye, USA! We flew Delta, which has a special adoption perk...they waive the flight change fee that you would otherwise have to pay if you change the date of the return trip. They apparently understand that you may need to return on a different day than you had originally planned. So, enjoy buying the round trip tickets and know you can come back whenever you need to!
The airport in Paris is so big, you need a tram to get you to your next gate! I can now say that I set foot on French soil...well, concrete anyway.
I had to have Marsh take a picture of me in the chandeliered perfume counter. It was the most French thing I saw! Oh, besides the little chocolate pastries and the chocolate vending machines EVERY WHERE. I wonder...is the chocolate everywhere because they actually take pride in their chocolate or because they think Americans expect it of them?
When we arrived in Ukraine, I made the mistake of trying to take a picture of the sign that read "Check In" in Russian. I know, how dare I! This angry female security guard, hit my camera and said, "Erase it!" in Russian. Marsh had to translate for me, of course. The people around me were laughing...as was I. I remembered reading the blog of someone who did essentially the same thing. I should have had my wits about me, but NO. I did as she asked. I turned to Marsh and said, "We're not in Kansas anymore!" Just outside the passport check was our driver with a sign with our name in it. Marsh whispered that I should say something in Russian, which I obediently did and our driver smiled and shook our hands. Good thing I can trust my husband to make less of a fool of me than I make of myself!
By the way, it's true what they say...people don't smile here. They kind of scowl all the time and don't look at each other. What a relief! I don't have to act happy and bubbly when I'm completely exhausted from flying across the pond! :)
People live in apartments here. I wish I had the patience to upload all the pictures I took of these, but this will have to do. These are EVERYWHERE. As a matter of fact, this is all there is here...with a store or two sprinkled in between. They all look like this, too...ju st rows and rows and rows of these apartment buildings. The schools are non-descript brick buildings in between them. There are children and stray dogs about everywhere in some areas. Thickly forested areas (one with a pet cemetery in it) are broken up only by the vastness of these apartment building areas. It took me a while to realize that this is what the residential district of Kiev looks like. It looks so much like our downtown/ghetto areas that I had to make a shift in the way I think. We are staying in an apartment on the third floor of a building just like this one. You'd never know from the outside that it was so nice on the inside. Can't judge a book by its cover.
The front door to our building. Marsh said we are staying in one of the nicer ones because this door stays locked from the outside.
Kitchen is behind Marsh, the dining room in front. :)
This is one way down the one hall. The toilet is on the left, the shower/sink/washing machine on the right. To the right is the kitchen/dining and to the left is the refrigerator...which can't be open without the toilet door being shut. And vice versa. To my right is the bedroom and behind me is the living room. To my left is the front door. And that, my friends, is what people live in here. Which explains why so few children are adopted within the country of Ukraine. It is smaller than the dorms I stayed in at college.
More of Kiev tomorrow!