Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Home Safely

We are safely home and making up for the lack of snuggling over the last 2 1/2 weeks!

Weeding, too.  :)

Thank you for your prayers, thoughts and wishes.  We'll keep you posted on our court date and any news we receive.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 15.2.2--SDA and The Open Market in Kiev

The SDA appointment went very well.  Everything was in order and the ladies laughed when they asked the mandatory question, "Have you changed your mind about adopting this child?"  After thousands of extra dollars and probably the equivalent number of hours spent on making sure we COULD adopt her, we also laughed when we nodded our heads and signed their book. 

The woman called the orphanage to make sure nothing had changed and both children were still okay to be adopted and we were done.  In about an hour from this writing, we will pick up the referral paper and be on an overnight train back to the orphange city.  We'll sign papers there Saturday morning, spend as many hours as we can with Ruslan and Nastia and hop back on an overnight train to Kiev.  We'll be on a plane home at 2pm Sunday.  This will be my last blog post until we have word about when we can return.

I just had to share our WONDERFUL day yesterday.  The Lord continues to find little ways to spoil me and show me He is interested in all the little details of my life.

After the SDA appointment, we settled back into our good ol' Kiev apartment and then went to the open market in the area.  We had no idea it was as extensive as it was.  I managed to walk around with my iPod on video camera mode...not sure what I got but I can't wait to show it to my kids!

We found, of all things, HUCKLEBERRIES for sale!  Now, if you know anything about us, you might know that we go huckleberrying in the Idaho mountains every summer we can and then hord our spoils in the freezer for the entire year.  It's a tradition from Marsh's childhood.  We spend hours upon hours swatting bugs off our arms and heads, carrying used milk jugs on our waists and breaking our backs picking huckleberries.  If you want to just purchase them already picked, you can plan to pay around $60 per gallon.  Imagine our total shock when we found them available at the open market at 2 cups for about a dollar!  We had to take pictures.  THIS was monumental!

The huckleberries are just there at Marsh's right
They are for sale at just about every fruit vendor's space!

We couldn't help ourselves, so we bought the cupful of huckleberries and a cupful of raspberries...also favorites from Marsh's childhood.  We came home with all these berries and had no idea what in the world we were going to do with all of them...those cups are tall and hold a LOT of berries!  We knew we were leaving today and wouldn't have a way to really carry them, but we did it anyway.  It was just one of those things you HAVE to do.
We continued walking through the open market when I saw a little cross-stitch shop.  I was so surprised to find a needle work place because I had been wondering where I could get some of the traditional Ukrainian patterns for cross-stitch...a very common thing to find on traditional Ukrainian dress and tablecloths.  We would like to have traditional Ukrainian shirts for all ten of us for a family picture, but it would break the bank to purchase them already made.
We walked in and I was disappointed to see only modern stitchery sets on display.  We started talking to the sweet ladies who owned the shop (a mother and daughter) and became fast friends.  It felt like we already knew each other and were bonded from the moment we met.  We talked and laughed and cried together...and then I asked if they had what I was looking for.  They just happened to have a table runner set with two different traditional Ukrainian patterns included....for less than $10.  I was thrilled!  Then they pulled out patterns for doing the stitching on shirts and dresses...less than a dollar each.  Then I saw the ribbon...yards of Ukrainian pattern already stitched on ribbon that could easily be sewn onto a shirt.  I was so thrilled...not only had we found what I was hoping for, we made friends that are already precious to us!  We walked out after saying goodbye, promising to visit again today and I said to Marsh, "That was a gift."  He agreed.

With Gallina and her daughter, Irina.  Fast friends!
Because I need to post this before hopping a train, I'm going to do the rest in picture caption form....

Cherry verinky (cherry and farmer cheese stuffed in dough and boiled), smetana (sour cream), ice cream, raspberries and huckleberries.  Yum.
We called our friend, Nastsha (next to Marsh in the picture) to find out if she could ask her friend to do some special painting for us.  They live in Kharkov and we visited them during the last trip.  Turns out, they were in Kiev!  So, we invited Natasha and her wonderful friends over for dessert.  We were suddenly SO glad we had all those berries!  We picked up some ice cream and boiled up the cherry veriniky we bought (I wanted to know what it tasted like so I can make it at home) and had a GREAT dessert!  It was wonderful to be able to host them and make even more new friends!

It was the perfect end to a wonderful day!




Day 15.2.1--Thursday's Train Ride

There is too much to write about today so I'm breaking it up into shorter posts...well, as short as I can make them which just isn't very short, let's face it.

Our sweet facilitator spent the night in our apartment last night and we were all three picked up at 4am to drive to a larger train station almost 2 hours away.  (It can be difficult to get tickets on short notice, especially in the smaller stations...facilitators have connections and can get around in this system in a way no traveling American could ever hope to.)  Since the facilitators usually don't live in the region the families are adopting from, they often live with the families in the apartment during the process to save money.  Families do, however, have the option of renting a separate apartment for the facilitator, but it's then twice as much money per night.  Just interesting info.  :)

Our drive was so beautiful.  I loved it last time we traveled it, too.  This country is just so, so beautiful and fertile.  I've never seen anything like it...the soil everywhere is rich and dark.  There are fields and fields and fields of corn, sugar beets, and other crops.  The morning mist gathers in the little valleys between the hills and rests on the green crops until sunrise.

We experienced a sunrise that can only be compared to something you might see on a National Geographic program about the African savanna.  Here is a very out-of-focus picture because we were traveling quite rapidly down the road, but I'm posting it so you can use your imagination!  It was one of the more spectacular things I have ever seen.


We arrived early at the train station and waited for a little while.  We were AMAZED at the changes that had been made since we were here just a few months ago.  The whole country has been turned upside down because they are hosting the Euro soccer championship and all the games leading up to it. (Ukraine is out of the running, by the way)  Train stations and airports have been added onto, revamped and redone.  There are flags and signs and souvenirs for the championship everywhere. One other thing that was done was the addition of two brand-new express trains.  Just two.
This blue train is what we're used to riding on.
Notice the Euro 2012 signs...they are everywhere in the hosting cities.

Upon arrival at the station, we went to wait under the new, glass pavilion area and found this beautiful, silver, shiny train outside.  We didn't imagine it was ours, but it was!


There was more leg room than an airplane, it had reclining seats with headrests that curve around and let you rest your head for real.  Each seat had it's own retractable food tray and foot rest, several different cup holders, reading light and OUTLET!  *gasp!*  There were TWO bathrooms in each car with actual flushing toilets, water and soap dispensers and an electric hand dryer...you know the wave-your-hand-in-front-and-it-turns-on kind?  The doors between cars are all glass and slide open when you push the Star-Trek-like button on the side.  There is even a refreshment car and movie screens that play a loop of pictures of different cities in Ukraine..no music videos or porn!  Best of all...A/C, clean windows and no smoking allowed!  Honestly, I kept saying "wow, wow, wow".  Our facilitator was like a kid in a candy store...giggling for quite a while.   If you've never been here, you're thinking I'm crazy for making such a big deal about this but you have to remember...we're not in Kansas anymore! Literally.
We've been asked to keep the identity of our facilitators off the blog, so just focus on the fabulousness of the right side of the picture instead. :)  See the cool sliding door back there?


I never posted what I wrote about the overnight train down to our orphanage region this last week.  It was one of those memorable experiences that just HAS to be written about.  It's not every day that a really conservative, modest LDS girl gets to sleep in a train car with two strange men who strip down to their underwear to climb into bed.  The best part, though, was when those boys stopped up the only air circulation vent because they were cold.  I fanned myself all night and didn't sleep very well, as you can imagine.   (Disclaimer: They were fabulous young men with whom we will correspond.  As you know, I can be a little dramatic. :)  The anticipation of what we might encounter sharing a cabin with who-knows-who was a LOT worse than the reality of the situation.  We were both SO grateful that our traveling companions were these guys instead of anyone else.  We couldn't have asked for nicer people to be with...even if Volodia kept us up until 11pm playing a million games of Uno...with Vegas-like strategy.)

I'm sharing pictures I was able to take out the window of the fabulous express train.  (Until riding on this, I have not been able to take any real pictures out the windows because they are so old and filthy...sometimes with condensation between the two panes.)  I spent way too much time and way too much battery trying to get a good shot of the one thing I covet here.  Their gardens.  If you look closely, you'll be able to see their little fence lines, their perfect rows, their vegetables in rectangular bunches.  They plant them everywhere...even between the housing area and the train tracks.  All of them are equally well groomed and well cared for.  They all look like they've been sprayed with Miracle-Gro since the plants were seedlings. Often, we'd pass gardens where little babushkas wearing their housecoats and scarves on their heads and standing out in their garden with a hoe.  I could never capture that on camera traveling at 140 km/hour, even if the windows were sparkling clean!  It's just something you're going to have to imagine  yourself.


Here is a picture of a babushka in our orphanage region so you can really apply it to this picture in your mind.  She looks like something out of photos from the early 1900s but she is literally here today.   These cute little ladies are everywhere.  When riding on the old trains, I feel like I've stepped back in time.  It's as if the country folk and the train line were frozen in the mid-1900s.
This cute babushka was overwhelmingly delighted seeing herself on our camera screen.  She asked if she could have a copy of it for herself.  We will, of course, oblige on our return trip!

We road and slept on the air conditioned express train for seven hours.  Upon arrival in Kiev, I realized how refreshed I was!  I don't know that I have felt that good since we got here.  No wonder people don't smile much in this country!  A little a/c and comfort can do wonders for a person.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Something To Think About

This is for all the families out there that have adopted or are considering adoption.  We are never really sure all our children have had to endure. 

As a matter of fact, it's really for all of us.  We all tend to judge people based on how they look, how they act, what kind of car they drive or house they live in.  The fact is, we can't judge anyone for any reason because we just don't know the story.  We're all guilty of it, even when we think we aren't.  The pain of others is usually invisible to our view, yet its effect can ripple through their lives, leaving heartache and loneliness that is impossible to comprehend.  Our judging only compounds the weight and depth of that pain.

This morning I received a sweet, personal email that literally left me speechless.  It was sent by one of my personal heroes, someone who has faced more than anyone I know and more than anyone should ever have to endure.  Though I don't know the details, I know the personal anguish this person has endured is real and unfathomable to most of us.  Through it all, this hero has remained faithful to the Lord...where many of us might have long ago cursed God and given up.


I do have permission to share this message, but will leave it anonymous.

I was reading your blog about Fathers day and how the children normally won't eat your snacks but this time they devoured them. When I was a kid I was hospitalized in a psychiatric unit. When people came to visit and gave me food or things I would always save them. We didn't have our own things only a cubby locked up that the nurses would let you get into based on good behavior. So I simply saved every thing for those special moments when I could piece a little and recall the comfort that the gift giver gave me. It was a way of feeling like I belonged somwhere. Those kids could be sharing those snacks or they keep them to remind themselves they belong with somebody. Its hard to be a kid and be alone in the world.

After reading this note this morning, we couldn't wait to give the kids the mini boxes of chocolates we've had since our trip in April as well as some Butterfinger bars.  We weren't going to because, after these last few days, it seemed that they didn't like the sweets and we figured the kids were just giving them away to other kids.  Then I read the message above.  I had a very different experience watching those mini boxes of chocolates, still unopened, go up the stairs in the arms of my kids after we said goodbye.

Saying Our Goodbyes...For Now


We left the digital camera over night with the kids after showing them how to work the photo and video options.  Ruslan was so diligent about recording the room he and all the other boys sleep in, their sitting room, the views out the windows, paintings on the walls that he likes and this...his self-portrait!  I am so glad to have views of their "inner sanctum" recorded, because it will help them make connections with their past that will otherwise be forgotten. 
Picture of Nastia taken by a friend last night.  They were quite the silly girls and took many funny pictures of themselves together.  The friend managed to get the video option going and recorded Nastia running from the camera, but in the process recorded their living space.  It was dark so I'm not sure how well it will come across visually, but it's better than nothing!


We found out, to our great dismay, that Nastia never did receive her birthday present from us.  It included all kinds of wonderful pictures and cards from cousins and grandparentsand soon-to-be siblings as well as a little cross-stitched spray of pink flowers that I did for her on the way home on the train last visit.  I even did her name in Russian in pink back-stitch.
So sad to learn she didn't receive it.  We went to a book store and found flash cards and curriculum for learning english
as russian children and also picked up markers, drawing paper and a coloring book.  Her eyes lit up and she said, "Oh,
hoh!" which means, "Oh, WOW!" (and is her favorite exclamation)when she saw these treasures.  She went right to work with her characteristic focus.
Here are the proud ship builders and puzzle men extraordinaire!  So glad we got the sails on the ship done
before we had to leave.  It looks quite spectacular in person!
Nastia and I took a walk around outside, reviewing our russian and english vocabulary.  She stopped to smell the
flowers and was willing to pose when I said, "Oh, kra-see-vuh!"which means, "Oh, beautiful!"  Once around the grounds was enough for her with her non-russian speaking companion.  We then joined the boys who were in playing War with cards.  She watched for a while, helped Ruslan with stacking his cards as they came in from his winnings and then caught the fire herself.  We played several times even though the boys were burned out and went outside to play soccer.  After a while, she decided it would be more fun to join them...
...and here we are!  Ruslan is quite a goalie and got Dad sweating pretty hard!  We cheered them on and took video.  Then, Nastia took a turn trying to score against Ruslan, but never succeeded. 
At one point, she said to the boys, "Watch out for the flowers!" as the ball flew this way and that.  Marsh said, "Oh, she'll fit right in at home!"
Nastia hung on the goal posts and Ruslan said she was a "monkey"...in english!
Cooling off after the soccer game and saying our goodbyes.
We took some great pictures yesterday that, after a night with kids having the camera in their possession, had to be re-created.  This was one of them. 
Just after this, we went inside and explained that Nastia's papers were signed (big smiles from her with that news) and we took out my handy calendar again to show them approximately when we think we'll come back.  We showed them a few cute pictures of Lucy and James at Pop and Nana's house (play house included, which I don't think Nastia fully understood but seemed excited about) and left them with smiles on their faces and WAY too many chips in their tummies. (We have also explained that we don't eat that stuff at home very often, but this is an exceptional situation!)
Then it was time for good bye...for now.

***
Just as a final note...we spent a lot of time today on english, using our flash cards and introducing the books that we will take home for them to work in.  We explained that the language will come more easily once they are home. 

While we played Uno and War, we all said the number and/or color on the card we were putting down so we could review those basic words.  It was neat to see how quickly Nastia was beginning to recall the numbers with the repetition whereas at the beginning, she was having to count up to get to the number she needed.

We have read scriptures together each day, too, and I am amazed at Ruslan's ability to read english.  I couldn't hope to dream of doing the equivalent in russian!

NEW DEVELOPMENTS
Yesterday, Ruslan's aunt was at the orphanage.  Just as we were leaving, the director introduced Ruslan to her and asked if he remembered her.  He didn't seem to and Marsh asked him quietly about it on our way out.  He responded, "I don't know her.  Like she [the director] said, I guess I was young."  Well, a relative just showing up out of the blue is a bit unnerving to say the least.

Today we learned that she was there about her own children who had been removed from her custody.  It just happened to be that we were there, in that room with Ruslan and Nastia at that moment.  Apparently, her husband (Ruslan's mom's brother) was an alcholic and abusive, causing the children to be removed from their home.  What we like about this is that there may be some information she can share with us as a relative.  There is absolutely no concern that she has come for our children.

LAST BIT...get this!
We just learned this evening that we DO need to return to the orphanage region to sign papers in front of a notary. 

It is Wednesday evening.  Tomorrow, we will leave at 4am to drive to the train station 2 hours away to catch an "express" train that will land us in Kiev at 1pm.  Our SDA appointment is at 3pm.  We will stay the night in Kiev, pick up the referral in the afternoon, hop another overnight train to our region and sign papers Saturday morning.  We will get to spend a couple of bonus hours with the kids, then take another overnight train back to Kiev and hop a plane home at 2 pm.

I don't know how much real "hopping" there will be after doing all that, but it's nice to use the word anyway. :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

THE PAPERS ARE SIGNED!!

We just got the call that the papers are signed and all is ready for our SDA appointment on Thursday!  Thank you for your prayers and faith!

We will have to stay here for a few extra days so we will not depart until the beginning of next week.  Because of the 10-day waiting period between the SDA appointment and the notice of a court date, we would like to allow that waiting period to occur while we are home, rather than making another trip just to sign a paper to begin that process and have to return again or wait here another two weeks just for court.

 There is a document that we must sign that will allow the 10 day waiting period to begin and continue while we are home, but it cannot be signed until Monday because the SDA appointment is on Thursday and we don't actually receive the referral until Friday afternoon. 

It's tempting to feel frustrated that this is taking a few more days, but I know this will save us huge amounts of time and money so we are just counting our blessings that we are where we are now.  There is such a weight removed from our shoulders, that we really don't have room to dwell on anything negative.

We also don't need to return to our orphanage region to sign the document...a possibility we knew we were facing.  We can do this right there in Kiev and leave as soon as possible after it is accomplished.

There is light at the end of the tunnel now.  With this scenario, Marsh and I will return in a few weeks and be able to go straight to court...no appointments in Kiev. 

One of the last big hurdles...almost there!

Days 11.2 and 12.2--Father's Day and Monday

The first thing I did on Father's Day morning was bring out the cards the kids made for Daddy before we left.  I snuck them into one of the suitcases and held them until that morning.  He LOVED them and the kids' personalities just poured out of each card.  Being away from them for so long and then to have that "contact" really pointed up the unique and wonderful differences between the children.

The next thing we did was check our email for pictures of our son's ribbon cutting.  His eagle project was the main focus while we were home waiting to come back to Ukraine and the ribbon cutting on his NBA-sized basketball court for our little town happened at our town celebration on Saturday.  As sad as we were to miss that much-anticipated ceremony, we were SO glad to have been home to help support him in accomplishing it!  We are also so grateful to the angels who helped him see the last details through in our absence. The timing worked out very well, so we are certainly counting our blessings in the midst of challenge!
The moment he (and everyone else) worked for!




Sure enough, there were pictures on our email.  It was Chris' Father's Day gift to his dad, Marsh said.
Fabulous Father's Day breakfast!
Then the phone rang...it was Chris singing "Happy Father's Day to you" to the tune of "Happy Birthday".  He got to talk to almost all of the children and then came to the glamorous breakfast I prepared:  cold cereal for him and cottage cheese for me!  I know, I shouldn't have...but, hey, it's Father's Day.  Why not pull out all the stops?  :)

Within just a few minutes of breakfast, it was time to leave to visit the kids.  We did our research on going to church, but found that the meetings happen only during the hours we had with Ruslan and Nastia.  So, we decided to forgo meetings so we could be with them.   We did, however, stop by the building and pulled a missionary out just after the opening prayer.  He came out and immediately said, "Are you the family adopting from the orphanage?"  We were kind of speechless as to how he could know that, but it turns out Kevin Radzinski (ukrainetoutah.blogspot.com) had met the missionaries on the street and told them about us.  We had a quick little chat, got their contact information and headed out the door. We now know where the building is and when the meetings are held.  We would like to take Ruslan and Nastia to a meeting in Russian so they can have a better idea of what is going on when they get home.

Our driver stayed outside and waited for us while we were in the church.  When we returned, she mentioned that she had seen a woman with a child in a wheelchair, with cerebral palsy, coming into the church after us.  She said both the woman and the child were smiling.  She was so impressed that under such difficult circumstances, they could smile.  It really meant a lot to her and sparked a conversation with Marsh about how important it is that we focus on what really matters in life.  It impressed ME that a smile, when it wasn't apparent anyone was watching, could be life changing to another person.  We just never know who is watching and what our actions will do to them...for good or not-so-good.

Upon arriving at the orphanage, we had a wonderful talk with the kids about what we believe and were able to give them each their own copy of "For the Strength of Youth:  Fulfilling Our Duty to God" (https://www.lds.org/youth/for-the-strength-of-youth?lang=eng).   We had picked up Russian copies on our last trip.  I was so grateful we had them!  They are perfect for giving them a clear, direct understanding of what standards they will live in our home.  Our standards not only differ from the world, but are light years away from what the overall culture is like here in Ukraine.

Over the last two days, Ruslan has studied it on his own and shared the parts he felt were most important.  We've read sections with them that we felt were most applicable:  modesty, media, friends, family.  They each have their own copy, but Ruslan being 15 is much more interested in these issues youth face.  However, it's great to help Nastia understand the importance of the sanctity of womanhood, modesty and respect for women since she has been raised in a culture that looks upon women as objects of desire and nothing more.  I am so grateful for this tool...it has opened up wonderful discussions with them and they will be much more comfortable coming into our home knowing how they are expected to live, dress and behave.

The most wonderful thing about it is that they agreed with these standards and recognized the value of them and the contrast between them and their current culture. After our first talk about these things on Father's Day, there was such a reverent spirit in the room.  Most of the children are gone to summer camps and no one but the weekend staff and security guards were on the grounds.  The weather was perfect and the room was so peaceful.  We opened up discussion about their mom and let them know that we want to know all they want to share about her.  We told them that we know she is aware of them and is working in their lives, that they will see her again.  They said they believed that, too, and shared with us that they missed her kindness.  Ruslan misses "everything about her". They miss the way she made their favorite foods for their birthdays.  We assured them that their memories of her were important and Marsh encouraged them to write down the details of their memories of her and their lives here so they wouldn't forget them as they come into a new way of life.
Smiling at Chris' eagle project pictures
Just finished reading a couple sections
of "For the Strength of Youth"










We decided, then, to pull out the Father's Day snacks for celebration (we noted on Father's Day that they never ate treats we brought, so Monday we got chips and nuts instead.  They devoured them!  Well, "devouring" is a relative term since they never touched anything else we brought.  They always took it with them, though, and I assume they shared with their friends.)  Marsh showed them the pictures of Chris' ribbon cutting and some pictures taken during the process itself.  Ruslan wants to be a Boy Scout, he said, so he was very interested in the project.   Marsh played our favorite Ukrainian violin music and then Ruslan asked about hearing my music.  We didn't have the CD with us that day, but brought it the next day.  He's so cute!  He gave me a big thumbs up, a huge smile and said, "Yes, you sing!"



Notice that the Pringles are the only things
being eaten!

Over the last two days, the boys have built a ship and worked a 500 piece puzzle while we girls have made jewelry, a paper mosaic and painted our nails.  Ruslan would break away from his intense concentration on their projects to admire Nastia's nails or comment on her jewelry.  He always wanted to see what she was showing off to me.  I LOVE how supportive he is of her.  No wonder she loves him so much.

The ship is almost finished!

We've offered to go outside with them, but they always kind of shake their heads or scowl and say, "No, we like what we're doing." Monday, though, we did take a walk around the orphanage and practiced english.  I had decided it might be best to start with the most useful phrases like, "What is this?" or "How do you say...?"  That way, they can get information they need to learn to communicate more easily.  We walked around practicing that phrase and learning vocabulary of things around us like "car", "tree", "flower", "child", etc.  They taught me the russian (and I had to ask "What is this?" in russian) and then we'd do the english.   On our second trip around the orphanage, we played "Find the..." and reviewed the vocabulary:  "Find the flower", "Find the fence", etc.  It was good and we laughed at each other a lot.

Later, at the apartment I was washing the dinner dishes and russian phrases were running around in my head.  I realized that because I am listening to it so much, I'm picking it up without really trying.  I can even pick words and short phrases out of songs on the radio.  I suddenly realized that the best thing for their language will be to get them home.  The other kids will do a great job teaching them and reviewing and practicing.  They will enjoy it, too.
Nastia showing off her creations

We've had several hours of completely uninterrupted time with these kids over the last few days. We've had almost three hours a day since Saturday which computes to almost 9 hours together so far.  By the time we leave, we will have spent 15 hours of one-on-one time with them.  Since our daily lives at home will not allow that, I told Nastia on Monday that at home, she will get to make jewelry and do nails with her sisters more often than with me.  I worry that we will get home and she'll feel neglected after all this attention.  Ruslan just smiled and nodded at my comments.  He knows what it's like at home!  But, being homeschooled, they will all have more time with me than they otherwise would so it will be okay.

I am trying not to feel overwhelmed for them and all they are facing coming into a new culture and language while fighting my own concerns about being overwhelmed.  While I've pondered on these things, I've considered that the real problem with "being overwhelmed" by the needs of several children is the attitude that we deserve our "me time".

This is contrary to what our culture tends to think about the concept of "me time", but I'm putting it out there for consideration.  In my pondering, the thought has come to me that it is better to consider ourselves (as parents, wives, mothers, fathers, husbands) as vessels and tools of the Lord rather than individuals with personal needs.  Of course, we need time with God, time to study His word, time to be inspired by His Spirit, but unless that is all done with the purpose of serving Him, it is useless.

My service to Him, at this time in my life, is the care and teaching of the precious children He has given to me.  If my focus is that "my time" is time to grow closer to God for the purpose of bringing these children closer to Him, then the time, energy and effort I spend on them will be building and rejuvenating as I do His work, rather than draining and a sacrifice of personal needs. 

On the contrary, if my focus is "How am I going to have enough energy and time to give them all that they need?  When will I have time to fill my own cup?  When will there be a moment for my needs?", then the work becomes a draining sacrifice of self.  It is in submitting to God's will and acting as His agent that it is His effort, His strength, His spirit, His grace that comes through me to others, rather than my effort, my strength and my spirit that is taxed.

"...he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."
Matthew 10:39

Saturday, June 16, 2012

All the Good--Our Adoption Agency

With all the adventures that we've had here in Ukraine, we wanted to point out some great things that we have experienced through the help of the agency, coordinator, and facilitators that we're working with.

Back in the USA, we have a wonderful coordinator who has been very encouraging, positive and helpful throughout this entire process.  He is a man of faith and has often expressed his view of things and their relationship with God.  He and his wife have adopted as well, so he is more than just a coordinator, but a fellow parent in adoption.  We have been glad that we could go to him with any concerns and questions throughout this process.

Here in Ukraine, we have had two great facilitators who have made sure we were met at airports and train stations with door to door service to our apartments, coordinating pick ups for appointments or trips to stores, etc.  At the train stations, our drivers have helped us with our luggage all the way to our cabins, making sure we are comfortably inside before leaving. 

Our facilitators have braved the crowds to search out and purchase train tickets (something that is no small feat in a country where most intercity travel is done by train).

Our drivers have been so kind and helpful, often taking the largest bags and offering hands in and out of vehicles and train cars.  We have come to know each of them by name and they too offer words of encouragement.  They are usually quite surprised to learn that Alisa is not Slavic, since her name is Russian and her beauty is similar to Slavic women (according to them).

We got a chance to see our main facilitator in action a few days ago, and were amazed at how much he juggles and oversees to allow all of these families to get through, what we all know, is a not-so-logical system.  We were glad he was helping us through the remainder of things and confident he is doing everything he can for us.

We would definitely recommend them to others.  Though we've had some hiccups in our process, we would use them again, because we are familiar with others' experiences with different agencies and can see that what we are getting is much better.

We have always felt looked after and safe while here in Ukraine.  Our living situations have been comfortable.  And, we have been welcome to discuss concerns and questions with our team throughout our experience and have felt listened to.

Written by Marsh

What a Reunion! Day 10.2

You know, I had kind of felt sorry and even worried for a while.  We have become dear, dear friends with the families who have adopted, and are still in the process of adopting, from our hosting group.  We also had the privilege, at our first SDA appointment in April, to meet and become good friends with a wonderful couple from New York who were adopting out of another region.  In all of these instances as we have kept up on the progress of all these families, we were reading about how their children were running to them and throwing their arms around them.  Or how they would snuggle up to their new found parents and not want to let go.  Our kids just weren't like that.

Honestly, they are more like our own biological children, as Marsh pointed out.  Our kids are so loving, but somewhat reserved and are not comfortable just throwing their arms around people they don't know very well.  However, when our kids are comfortable, they are very demonstrative and affectionate.  Marsh, always the cool head, reminded me of this similarity when I was unwisely comparing our situation and our children and ourselves to everyone else.  Good thing he's around.

Well, today, after arriving at about 9:30am in our orphanage region via an overnight train, we were taken to our apartment to kind of settle in.  Our driver came for us at 11am to take us to the orphanage.  Since it is Saturday, the gates were locked and the normal staff wasn't there.  However, we had been given permission to visit and we were able to walk through a gate onto the grounds.

Our driver started talking with an adult orphanage worker who was nearby with some toddlers while Marsh and I stood on the path.  Suddenly, there was Nastia literally running at us with open arms and the biggest smile on her face that I have yet seen!  She ran right over to me and threw her arms around me.  We hugged and hugged until she ran off to get Ruslan.  I was so thrilled and I thought about how concerned I had been for no reason.  Once she had run off, I couldn't decide if I wanted to cry over her hug more than seeing those orphaned toddlers or the other way around.

Ruslan was inside so we ended up walking to the building, me sniveling and Marsh trying to remind me that I need to pull myself together.  He was so happy and talkative and Nastia looked like she was just going to burst.  I think Marsh and I were both surprised at how happy and excited they were to see us.  It's not that that weren't happy before, it's just that this time there didn't seem to be any barriers. 

A couple of weeks ago when we were realizing that things were not working in the timeframe we had hoped, I wrote the kids a letter.  I wrote it using Google Translate and sent them both the English and Russian versions...both two pages long...and sent each of them a copy so neither of them would be left out.  I pretty much dumped out the kid-version of the details of what we were going through and let them know we were anxiously waiting to be able to come see them again.

My first real question to them was whether they had gotten the letters.  Yes, they had.  Did they understand them?  Ruslan smiled and said, "The translation was funny!"  I figured.  But, at least they knew we were coming for them.

During the course of our conversations, we helped them understand what we are dealing with, showed them on the calendar what our schedule looks like, explained that we had to go back home again (that made Ruslan very sad...I think he thought this was it, that we would be here until court and then everything would be finalized), found out from Ruslan that two of his three best friends were adopted away...one into Washington state...and helped them mentally prepare for saying goodbye to friends about mid to late July. We also discussed their goodbye gifts and will be making photo albums to leave with their friends.  They liked that idea.

I think, overall, I was wrong.  I had been saying to Marsh that I didn't think they would be too anxious, that they are pretty well settled into their lives there and aren't pining away for us.  I tried to imagine what it would be like to be in their situation and I just assumed that, as kids, they would find it more uncomfortable to think of leaving than staying.  But, seeing their reactions to us today, their deep disappointment at the fact that the waiting isn't over yet, their joy in our reunion and the obvious bond that is forming and has formed, I was wrong.  It hurts my heart to know that it is hard for them...harder than I realized...to wait and hope just to have things put off again and again.  It's hard for them in a different way than it is for us...and yet it is also the same.

It's hard for our children at home, too.  Hard in different ways than it is for all the rest of us and yet the same.  We all share the same, aching desire to be home together moving forward with this new way of life we are all anticipating and have been looking forward to for a year now.

Ruslan was in our home a year ago this July.  By the time he's home for good, it will probably be at about the year mark.  We have a lot of time to make up for.

We spent the rest of the time doing our boy/girl things.  We girls making fabric flowers and designing headbands and the boys building a ship that, luckily, doesn't require glue, nails or hammers.  :)  It was something I had hoped to send to Ruslan for Christmas, but the family who was going to take it ended up not going.  I think it served a much better purpose today.  It was much more fun for him to do it with his new dad than to do it alone, I'm sure!

It was a lovely day and a wonderful reunion.  Tomorrow we will have the same privilege.

I will post pictures as soon as possible.  Our internet is unreliable right now and Marsh needs to spend the rest of the day writing on this computer.

We love you all!  Better publish this while I can...it's taken three drafts to get to this point!  :)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Clarification on the Signing of Paperwork

A good friend emailed me last night and said, "I'd sure like to get into the mind of that woman and find out why she hasn't signed your paperwork!"

This comment made me realize that I haven't been clear as to what the situation is that has caused the paperwork to remain unsigned, so here it is:

The director of the SDA doesn't work every day of the week.  Fridays are typically government days off (no news to all of us, right?).  There is a stack of these papers, including those of other families like us, sitting on her desk awaiting her signature.

Nastia's paperwork arrived on Monday the 11th.  For whatever reason, she didn't sign the papers that day.  She may have been in meetings, gone by the time it arrived...or it just wasn't her priority to do that for the waiting families.  Again, they don't care about the difficulties adopting families face.

This woman had seminars the other days this week and, of course, doesn't work today (Friday).  So, it just wasn't on the top of her personal priority list to make sure she came into the office or made sure to sign the papers while she was there, if she was there.

It's as simple as that.  A scheduling conflict or however you want to see it.  This is not a personal vedetta against us because she doesn't want us to adopt Nastia, it's not because there is a question about Nastia's adoptability or whether or not we are approved to adopt her.  This is just one of those red tape situations of government bureaucracy that is maddening.

It is no different than the bureaucracy of our own government.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Why We Are Where We Are...and other details

Nastia's paperwork was mailed from the regional office to the SDA on May 23rd.  Our coming here the 6th was suggested weeks before by our facilitator based on the time the papers were mailed and the suggestion of people at the SDA office.  Though we were aware on the 5th that it was looking more like we would not be able to receive her referral until the 11th, it wasn't worth the thousands of dollars it would cost to change the flights to two days later.

Her papers did arrive on the 11th, but apparently no one thought it would take this long for the director to sign them.  It is now the 14th and the papers are still waiting.

See, we came here with a timeframe that we had to accomplish everything within.  Marsh has to be home for work responsibilities.  As the days wore on, the window of opportunity began to close and our plans were changing by the day as we were trying to figure out how to handle everything.

A few days ago, we were given two scenarios from our facilitator, both of which didn't suggest that we would have to wait beyond Monday for her referral.  I feel a bit like a yo-yo.  Every day, the outlook changes.  Every day, the possibilities come and go.

At the SDA office today, I was pretty nervous.  It was that "woah, this is the hinge everything hangs on...I wonder what is going to happen" kind of nervous.  I thought we had two options.  In a matter of minutes, the best option was gone and there were more scenarios to consider.

No one anticipated we would be pushed this far out.  Our facilitator was agitated and the SDA office staff were incredulous.  At one point, the SDA official said to our facilitator, "Why did you have them come when this wasn't in place?"  

Our question exactly.  It is the reason we are going through what we've been through...both trips.  It was unwise to submit our dossier to the SDA without confirming that BOTH children were on the SDA's registry and we hope other families adopting more than one child will be aware that this is a possible scenario and will confirm that with their facilitator.  That is where our problems stem and is the reason for two trips to Ukraine with literally no real progress. 

Here are some details I have left out until now (yes, it does get more complicated) because we were not aware of them until today when we were faced with choices.  See, we have only three tries.  Yes, three tries to get Nastia's referral.  Three strikes, you're out.

Apparently, our first try to adopt Nastia was the original SDA appointment back in April when we picked up the referral for Ruslan.   One strike.  Why?  Because it was not confirmed that she was on the SDA registry prior to submitting our dossier.

Upon our arrival here this time, and everyone's anticipation that we would be able to have the SDA appointment in a reasonable period of time this trip, our facilitator submitted a second application for an appointment.  That was supposed to be today.  When the appointment didn't happen because the papers weren't signed, we were given the option of trying again on Monday or Thursday (the only days the SDA office takes appointments).  If we didn't take one of those options, we would risk having them toss out our dossier and lose our ability to adopt at all.  Once the formal application is submitted, you must follow through or forfeit your option to adopt.  Our options were Monday or Thursday.

However, if we chose Monday (which seemed the most reasonable because then we could just hop the next plane home) and the papers still weren't signed, that would be strike two.  If we chose Monday with a strike two, we could try again Thursday.  If it wasn't ready Thursday...you guessed it...strike three.  You're out.

I'm sorry...I thought we came to Ukraine, not Vegas!

Try to understand our state of mind:  First of all, our hopes for being able to complete this adoption this trip, or even get to court, were completely out of the question.  Secondly, each day we're here with no real progress is a waste of time, money and energy on the part of our parents who are taking care of all our kids and farm while we are gone and the angels who are helping us financially, let alone days we are away from ALL our children...in both countries.

Marsh was pretty upset.  This man doesn't get upset about stuff like this.  He is the perfect "go with the flow" kind of guy who sees most challenges as an adventure.  However, the experience has worn on him.  Standing outside the SDA office, me with my calendar in hand, our facilitator discussing the situation on the phone with our other facilitator and other facilitators (all there for their own work at the SDA) standing with us giving us their opinion, my cool, calm, adventurous husband put his water bottle to his head and made a shooting sound.  So much for adventure.

The water bottle must have had a shot of inspiration because it was moments later that he came up with our current plan.  He suddenly suggested that we take the Thursday appointment (our flights are on Saturday anyway) as our possible strike two and spend the days between then and now at the orphanage (an overnight train ride away).  Marvelous, really.  We get to see our kids and we don't get anywhere near a strike three.

The other silver lining here is that IF that paper IS actually signed on Thursday, our facilitators take that to our orphanage region and begin the process that allows the SDA to give clearance for a court date.  When we arrive back in Ukraine, the 10 day waiting period for court will be over and we will come without having to stop in Kiev or wait for that important appointment.

IF that SDA appointment does actually occur on Thursday, we will have spent only a few more days achieving this progress point than the other families we have watched breeze through this process in the last couple months.  Ours will just have required a LOT more drama, less time with our Ukrainian kids and several more airline and train tickets.  

Sorry, angel helpers.

What Has Been Done

Just to make sure people don't think we are just trying to sneak in some vacation time over here, I'd like to document what has been done and give some explanation as to why we are going through this experience this way.  I will do this in two posts because it will get too long otherwise.  This will also help you see what we have yet to do.  These will be those informational posts that may not be of any interest to anyone but us, so feel free to tune out.

IF, however, you choose to read on, refer to the timeline a post or two ago for clarity on what I'm about to say.  You may want to bring up the blog in two separate windows and have them side by side so you can refer to the timeline and this post at the same time.  This is, of course, for people who really don't have anything else to do right now...like me!  Yes, I know it's 2am here in Ukraine.  Stop nagging.

What has been done:

1.  Ruslan has been through steps 1-5 required for adoptability and we have been able to complete steps 1-3 of his official adoption process.


2.  By our first trip back in April, Nastia had only completed steps 1 and 2 required for adoptability.  As a matter of fact, she was not even completely off the local registry (step 1) until just after we arrived back home.  She was required to be on the regional registry for the 30 days (step 3 of her adoptability process) and we chose to wait this out at home.

*It should be noted that the reason she was so far from being ready on the SDA registry was because someone dropped the ball back in October 2011 when it was required, by law, to have put her on the local registry.  She wasn't put on until March 2012.*

3.  Step 4 of adoptability is not required for Nastia, therefore she is available after step 3.

4.  In April, the orphanage staff allowed us to complete step 3 (of their adoption) for Nastia along with Ruslan because they knew we had come for them both.  So, we have accomplished steps 1 and 3 of the official adoption process for Nastia.

5.  It is step 2 in Nastia's adoptability process that we are waiting on.  Until this step is complete, the official adoption process is in a holding pattern and nothing can be done until we catch her up to Ruslan. In order for us to complete step 2 of the adoption process for Nastia (obtaining of her referral) the SDA department director has to sign the paperwork.  After her signature is received, we can sign for the referral, take it to the orphanage region and complete steps 4-10 for both children in tandem.

Now, IF you are still with me here, you can understand a little better what I'm about to explain in the next post...and, by the way,  if you ARE still with me, I don't know if I should be impressed or apologize...

Day 7.2.1--Off to the Orphanage Tomorrow

I am going to start by giving you exactly what you have tuned in today to know, but then I'm going to make another post to give a more detailed explanation of...well, everything.  The details are for people like me, with currently too much time on their hands, or for people who want to understand the process we are going through.

Also, we have a lot of people emotionally and financially invested in what we are doing here and you deserve to know exactly what is going on and have hope that this will finally resolve...and soon.

What you want to know is whether or not the director signed the papers.  She did not.

Thank you for your prayers in our behalf.  The fact that we wanted that and prayed for it but didn't get it does not shake my faith in the Lord, prayer, or whether or not we should adopt these children.  So, please don't let it shake yours.

The reality is, we all look at our lives with as much vision as we would receive by looking at the universe through a straw.  There is vastness we are unaware of, so we can't let the small things make too much difference...however gigantic they may feel at the time.

Please know how much we LOVE and APPRECIATE all the prayers and thoughts.  We feel you and know you are out there caring about us.  We pray for you in return!

We will, hopefully, have our SDA appointment for Nastia's signed referral this coming Thursday the 21st.  This is assuming the director finds a little time to put her John Hancock on a piece of paper.  Sorry...I'm being rude.

We will be leaving tomorrow afternoon for the orphanage because we would like to spend that waiting time with the kids, rather than holed up in an apartment in Kiev when we don't need to be!

We will return home on the 23rd. If all goes according to plan and she actually signs before Thursday, we should be able to see our return home as the 10 day wait for the court date.  Our hope is to return in July when Marsh can do it and have our court appearance.

The rest of the process is a little iffy from there...in terms of our plans...so that is it up to that point.

If she doesn't sign before Thursday, well, it's not as beautiful a scenario so let's not even bother to go there.  :)

Thank you again for all of your efforts in our behalf.  Many people were asking me to tell them specifically what to pray for. In my limited view, I thought we needed the director's signature.  Our prayers only need to be "Thy will be done."  We are in mighty good company with that request!

Ukrainian Adoption Timeline at a Glance

In order for you, dear reader, to have a better understanding of this process, and so you can understand what we are dealing with over here, I am giving a timeline of the current requirements for the process of adoption.  I say "current" because things seem to change rather rapidly around here.

*Disclaimer:  I am only sharing information I know from this experience.  Just from this trip, I have learned that some of the things I was told about this process were inaccurate and even after today's experience we are questioning some of the things we thought we understood before.  This is only meant to give future adoptive families a clearer picture of what is required and to help our friends and family understand our situation based on this timeline.*

A Child's Journey (to Adoptability)

1.   Parental rights revoked (for various reasons and after a timeframe that is decided on a case-by-case basis.

2.  Child's paperwork submitted to the local office --remains on the local registry for 30 days.

3.  Child's paperwork submitted to the regional office --remains on the regional registry for 30 days

4.  Child's paperwork submitted to the SDA (State Department of Adoptions) national registry --remains on the national registry for one year

5.  After that year, child is then available for adoption

A law applies to our case.  Because Ruslan and Nastia are half siblings, raised by the same mother, this special law allows her year-long wait on the national registry to be dismissed because Ruslan's waiting periods were complete in December of 2011...including the year wait on the national registry.  She rides on his coat-tails and is adoptable without that waiting period.  However, the local and regional registry waiting periods still apply...thus our delay.

The Family's Journey (of adoption)

1.  Paperwork at home:  completion of dossier 
--a large, time consuming stack of applications and forms that are notarized by your local authorities first and then notarized at the lt. governor's office.  
--packet includes the following as well as other requirements:
  -homestudy
  -doctor clearance for both parents
  -tax forms from previous tax year
  -blood work and testing
  -criminal record
  -employment status information
  -interpol
  -immigration (done nationally and within the state)
  -fingerprinting (both locally and state)
  -various applications
  -marriage and birth certificates (not copies)
  -currently, known child application if you know who you want to adopt
  -etc.
This packet (more like a stack) is completed and submitted to the State Department of Adoptions office in Kiev.  

2.  Receiving the referral:
--Once they give approval of the family to adopt the children they are requesting, they offer an appointment for the family to come pick up the referral for that child.
--With the referral in hand, the family has permission to visit the child and the orphanage.
--This meeting usually takes two days...one day to have the meeting, the next day to pick up the referral paper.

3.  Visiting the orphanage:
--Families are given time with the child
--Orphanage staff gives all the medical, psychological/emotional, academic, personality information about the child as well as their family history and information regarding living relatives and the death of parents or the removal of parental rights.
--Local authorities finish paperwork.

4.  Local authorities request clearance from SDA to allow the families to have a court date.
--This takes a few days because paperwork has to go from the region, back to the SDA in Kiev.

5.  Waiting period for court date
--Once the SDA has this region's paperwork about the adoptive family, they have 10 days to give clearance so a court date can be assigned.
--They used to have 3-5 days, now they have 10...and they take it.

6.  Assigning of court date
--Once clearance has been given by the SDA, a court date is assigned which is usually a couple days away.

(Note:  I hope you're calculating how many days this has taken by this point...remember to acknowledge that flying here can take about 2 days of travel.  Travel to the region can take a day as well, depending on how far that region is from Kiev.  Our region is a 16 hour train ride away.)

7.  COURT
--This is a landmark.  It is the last required time both parents must appear together and in person.  (All the paperwork and signatures in Ukraine up to this point have required both parents in person as well.)
--A judge, two jurors, a prosecutor and the adoptive parents and facilitator appear in court.  If the children being adopted are old enough, they are there to testify, too. (We know the 13 year olds we have seen adopted recently were both required in court, but the 6 year old was not.)
--The prosecutor can bring up any reason the family should not adopt or require the family to prove anything he/she thinks needs to be discussed.
--Parents, facilitator and children are all asked to testify to whether or not the adoption should take place and why.
--Judge makes a judgment.  It is my understanding that it is very rare for a judge to make a negative judgment.

8.  10 day waiting period
--Once a positive judgment is made, there is a 10 day waiting period before the child can be removed from the orphanage.
--MY understanding is that this waiting period is for a few reasons:
  -for the adoptive parents to back out
  -for the child to back out
  -for the prosecutor to review the process and see if anything illegal or improper has been done to     the paperwork along the way.

9.  Final steps
--child is removed from orphanage (parents must provide all shoes, clothing, underwear, etc since the child does not own anything)
--new birth certificate is printed in region
--passport issued to child (this can take up to 5 days, depending on several factors and can be issued in region or in Kiev, again depending on the region you are adopting from.  In our situation, we have passports issued in region and have the option of paying an expediting fee that gives us the passports back the same day.  Hallelujah.
--bring child back to Kiev for medical exams and immunizations, immigration and US embassy visit, issuing of Visa

10.  GO HOME...and make sure you don't have to disembark in a foreign country because your precious documents cannot be opened by anyone but the good ol' US ofA.

Got all that?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Day 6.2.2--Kiev

Oh, this was good.  It is so good to have information!!  Here was what happened and some of what we know now:

We did not get to sign the paper we were going to sign.  As a matter of fact, when we arrived at the office and our facilitator brought up Nastia's name the woman's response was, "Oh yeah.  I forgot."  Glad Marsh speaks Russian so we can know just how much they love and care about us at the SDA.

However, we did learn that we will go sign the paper tomorrow and that the director of the SDA will need to sign the papers, too, so we can have the appointment tomorrow.  If she doesn't, we will have to wait until Monday. 

After leaving the SDA office, we got to sit down and really discuss our situation with our facilitator.  I brought out my trusty purse calendar (thanks, Mom!) and showed him exactly what we are dealing with schedule-wise.  This was SO USEFUL.  He was then able to work through the timeframe and give us a pretty accurate, reality-based prognosis about what we can expect depending on the variable of the director signing the papers.

We prefer not to discuss the confusing possibilities and details at this point, but suffice it to say, we would much prefer that the director sign the papers today or tomorrow and let us have our appointment tomorrow.  We are blatantly asking for prayers in our behalf to make this occur.  Our chances are not great that it will, but I believe the Lord can move her to do that.  But if not, we will go with the flow and do have a Plan B.

One thing that is important to understand about the SDA (State Department of Adoptions) in Ukraine is that they do not care in the slightest what inconvenience or cost (in time, money, emotion, effort or otherwise) we adopting families face.  I have had so many people say to me, "You'd think they would work with you to get those kids out of there because they will have a better life here!"  Well, you'd think...but you'd be wrong.

They don't really like the idea of their kids leaving the country.  I guess they'd rather they were adopted by local families, but people are just not able to feed and house them let alone be interested in older children.   Adoption here really only takes place if couples can't have children of their own.  They then are much more interested in the younger children.  Kids Ruslan's age have such a slight chance of being adopted that it is miraculous when they are.  Ruslan and Nastia are fully aware of this, too, which is why they had determined they were going to stick together and not let anyone separate them.  They had to have understood that making that commitment to each other meant turning down any adoption for Nastia.  She was choosing to stay with Ruslan, knowing that the decision would seal her fate.  I am so moved by her loyalty to him.  It's remarkable.

So, back to my point...the SDA has absolutely no desire to see us (or anyone) have an easier road.  They will not do anything to make concessions, bend rules, show compassion...you get the idea.  There job is NOT to help these children find homes.  There job, I guess, is to push papers and make sure they never do things to be accused of corruption.  They also have the power, and aren't afraid to use it, to put your papers aside or in the bottom of the pile if they feel like it.  It's better not to rock the SDA boat.

The local authorities are very different.  They work with the orphanages and facilitators and seem to care much more about the efforts to get the children into loving homes, wherever they may be.  We know from our discussion with our facilitator today that our orphanage staff is compiling papers and making sure everything is prepared for us to come and get things moving.  They want to see those kids in homes and they are constantly working toward that goal.

We also know that Ruslan has been asking, "When are they coming?"  The director said he's been asking and they are anxious for our arrival...it was her first question when our facilitator talked to her recently.  THAT made me so happy.  Without much communication with them and being isolated from our kids at home, it's made me wonder if anyone really cares about this or not.  It's so painful sometimes.  That knowledge gave me a much-needed boost!

Bottom line, hoping for the SDA to do anything to help us is fruitless and a waste of time, energy and creativity (trust me on that one).  However, there are miracles on other levels that could possibly occur.  Our facilitator gives those a 10% chance.  So we've decided to plan for realities and pray for miracles!

Tomorrow is the deciding factor on how the rest of this story plays out.  Pretty big hinge that director is sitting on...and she doesn't even know it!  (Trust me, I already offered to track her down at her seminar, send her flowers, whatever was needed.  Our facilitator's response was, "She is the perfect bureaucrat.  It won't help."  The rest of his comments were...well, ask me how I know all that you just read about the SDA...minus our personal experience.)

Without overwhelming you with details, I can tell you that we will be able to visit Ruslan and Nastia either this weekend or middle of next week, depending on tomorrow.  We'd like to see them this weekend.   All but our faith and prayers are out of our control, so that is what we will be focusing our energies on.  We invite you to do the same!

I had a friend ask me why we can't see the children now since  we already have approval and the referral for Ruslan.  I would like to address the entire process in a separate post so anyone who would like to have a clear picture of expectations can have it.   Short answer:  they are a 16 hour train ride away from Kiev.

I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with all I've learned regarding the ins and outs of adoption in Ukraine, but perhaps the information will be of use to someone...somewhere...some day. All I know is...I want all my kids home together ASAP.

Thank you for your prayers.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Day 6.2.1--Kiev

I don't know if my numbering system is working for any of you, but I like it!  Today is day 6 of our stay in Ukraine, our second trip, the first post of the day.  Am I the only one this  makes sense to??

I figure I'll write another post later today.  I'm up early after a not-so-good night of restless sleep and thought I'd share what we are doing today. Late last night we got a call from our facilitator that we needed to come to the SDA office today to sign a paper requesting an SDA appointment.  That's right, go there to sign a paper..an activity that will take as long as the appointment itself which will, hopefully, happen tomorrow.

Nevertheless, the excitement is killing me.  Anything that will move us as step closer to resolution is welcome. I'm sure there is a reason for government things to be so complicated and illogical.  If nothing else, I guess it is an opportunity to practice patience and charity.

Our day is just beginning and yours is just ending.  Sleep tight, my little ones.  Sleep enough for Mommy, too, since that luxury still seems to evade me.  I'd much rather have my little people keeping me from it than having to blame it on jet lag because I'm away from them.

More later!

Day 5.2--Housekeeping

I finally slept last night.  The night before, I had not been able to sleep at all.  I've never been through that before.  It was very discouraging to watch the sun rise and know that I would go through yet another day feeling groggy and sick to my stomach.  The phone call telling us that yes, Nastia's paperwork was in (hallelujah) but no, you can't go to the orphanage yet didn't fall on happy ears and a rested, strong mind.

Yesterday was a challenge for both of us as we had to swallow a pill we really didn't want to SEE, let alone TAKE.  This morning is a little easier as we are able to see some of what the Lord is doing in our lives and have a little more perspective.  I'm sure a full night's sleep helps with that as well.

Since we knew we were going to be here for a few more days, we headed back to the store to get  more "supplies" as we hunker down for a little while longer.  We had run out of water, but since it was the Sabbath we waited it out until Monday.

Marsh is having to just write and write and write so he needed some snacky food to keep him going and we didn't have replacement trash bags and such.  It's amazing what a roll of paper towels in one's possession will do for a person!

So, yesterday afternoon it was off to the neighborhood market.  We went after I had slept off a few hours of sleep depravation and we let the unwelcome news set for a bit. We picked up ingredients to make olivye (the modern version of Ukrainian potato salad--apparently the original olivye is nothing like todays' recipe...potatoes, carrots, eggs, peas, pickles, cucumbers, mayo), veriniky (dough wrapped potatoes...these are premade and frozen...just boil...yum!), smetana (think sour cream Ukrainian style...waaaaay better than sour cream, though...this goes on the veriniky), frozen veggies and pilmieni (dough wrapped meat...also premade and frozen, yummy with smetana and pepper).  It's weird to buy so much premade, frozen food!  Cooking and doing dishes for two is also very strange.

We also bought laundry detergent.  The cool travel laundry things my parents gave us for the trip were left in our orphanage region for when we returned.  I left everything I knew we'd want when we got back so we wouldn't have to haul it all over again.  I never counted on a week in Kiev before getting back to all my stuff! 

So, now that I've had an actual night's sleep, I've done laundry (it all has to hang to dry before we leave in a couple days) and made an actual meal (Marsh has been doing that since we got here...let's face it, he's a better cook and he loves it plus I've been a nauseated zombie).  Now I feel a little more normal.

When we woke up this morning Marsh, who had a harder night, suggested that we just stay on Utah time.  We ultimately decided against it, but I can see his reasoning.  It's really, really hard to deal with jet lag.  I'm not sure if it's because I'm getting old or what but the time change has been really hard for me both trips.  I told Marsh we would have serve our missions stateside because I will be totally useless overseas.  He laughed at me and said, "You poor girl!"  Just like his wife to worry about things that far in the future.

I have contemplated calling the mission home in Kiev to see how I can serve while we're here.  Marsh is really busy writing and I am otherwise just reading, studying and journaling.  I'm sure there are better things to do with my time. The president and his wife are about our age and have children at home!  Their story is quite interesting.  You can read about Sister Klebingat here:  www.mormonwomen.com/2011/04/20/embracing-a-culture-of-faith/   

Some of our thoughts have been occupied with why we are in the situation we are in.  We have watched three families (two from Utah, one from New York), all dear friends of ours now, go through this process pretty smoothly and pretty much according to plan.  It is our assumption that someone dropped the ball at the beginning of our process, forgetting to make sure Nastia's paperwork was in the SDA prior to us submitting our dossier. I hope that this slip up will help make sure other families with similar sibling situations have all boxes on the checklist marked before they fly half way around the world.

That being said, I do believe that our lives are orchestrated by God down to the detail for our learning and growth.  Hopefully our experience will save others heartache and difficulty later on, but in the meantime this has been an important learning experience for me. As usual, I am being shown where my weaknesses are, but also learning about aspects of faith that I didn't know existed and power in faith that I didn't know I had.

The challenges are simply situations we are given to practice the virtues we have been taught and exercise the power and knowledge He has given us through former experiences.  If we go through life forgetting to look for the lessons, we will be less prepared for the coming challenges.

Love to you all.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Day 4.2.2--More Info

Please scroll down if you didn't read the first installment on this day. I know how blogs can scroll and we lose posts when there is more than one per day. We got a call from our facilitator after he visited the SDA office in person. He said we can always get more information from them in person than over the phone. Apparently, they have to process the paperwork in the order it is received, but thankfully there are very few to process this week. It has to go through the proper channels including being signed by the director. She has some meetings this week so she may be very busy. However, it is hoped that everything will be ready for an appointment for us on Thursday, barring something getting in the way of it. We should know on Wednesday for sure if we have our appointment Thursday. This is yet another opportunity to exercise faith and motivate things to move along.

Day 4.2--Nastia's Papers Have Arrived!

Hooray! Nastia's paperwork is in the SDA office! We were really hoping to have them just bring us in and let us have the referral, but apparently there is some red tape to get through and signatures to be acquired. We will hope they will give us the referral this Thursday. Of course, this is a deep disappointment for us as we were counting on being able to go to Mariupol today. However, we know the Lord is in charge and will work it all out for the best. Thank you for your prayers. Look at what they've done! Please also pray for our little family back home. Nana and Pop have a lot on their plate. We have asked the angels to attend them all.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

SDA update--Saturday--Day 2.2

I figure since it's our second trip, our days should reflect that in their numbering! :) It is 3pm Kiev time, 6am Utah time. We just got back from the SDA office.  It was closed.  Our facilitator was given some misinformation, apparently, because he was under the impression that it was open today.  Our hope, then, is that it will be open Monday and Nastia's paperwork is there and ready for us to get going on it!   We will stay here in Kiev through Sunday and find the branch so we can attend church.  We are packing for departure Monday, however, exercising our faith that we will be able to get going that day. Love to you all!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Paperwork Update...Day 1

I need to correct myself...Kiev is spelled "Kyiv" not "Kyev".  Sorry...let's blame it on the jet lag, shall we? :) Just an update about Nastia's paperwork and the SDA since we are getting questions via email.  We do not have word today that her paperwork arrived.  It is now 8pm here so the possibility of that today has ended.  As of today, Friday, the SDA has decided to remain open for Saturday instead of Monday.  Yes, this is a flip flop (again) from what was decided last week...a few different times ago...some flip flops ago...a couple days ago and back again.  MAYBE they'll decide to remain open on Monday, too!  That would buy us necessary time, if we need it at all.  I highly doubt that, though.  I gather that Ukrainians really like their holidays.  I feel for the people who have their SDA appointment scheduled for Monday and are traveling on Saturday.   By the way, the holiday this Monday was called by Parliament to celebrate the Euro Soccer Championship, not Ukraine joining the EU as some had thought. The ideal situation would be to have Nastia's paperwork arrive tomorrow and let us have the appointment tomorrow.  We could be off to the orphanage and getting the court paperwork started by Monday!  That would be so nice.  However, though I have learned to expect miracles, I have not learned to trust the Ukrainian government to speed anything along or take suggestions.  I'm sure those two things have to sync up in order to move the mountains Nastia's papers seem to be under.   I'll work on that...while I'm waiting.