Friday, July 13, 2012

Court Day!

We had an enjoyable and uneventful trip over here, first flying to Seattle, Washington then to Amsterdam and then to Kiev.  We were leaving home the day of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, so our travel agent had to be creative in trying to get us over here!   It turned out to be a great blessing to have to go to Seattle first.  We had to leave several hours earlier than usual, but it meant that we were traveling less of our "nighttime".  We arrived in Amsterdam around midnight our time and I was the only one who had slept at all.  That meant that the last leg to Kiev (which is about 2 hours of flying time) didn't allow for too much sleeping.  By the time we were on the train, it was around 6pm Ukraine time when we all zonked out.  We pretty much slept the night away and woke up mostly on Ukraine schedule!  Yay!  So we finally figured out jet lag...just in time to not do this again.  :)

Waiting for the train in Kiev
Our facilitator was on the train with us because she was also going to act as our translator for court.  She coached us on what would be asked and how we should most appropriately answer.  We also had to be able to recite the five steps we would need to go through with the Ukrainian embassy in the US:  register the children with the embassy, send a report on them once every year for three years and once every three years after that, allow a social worker to visit our home if requested, notify the embassy if we change our address and maintain their Ukrainian citizenship until they are 18 (at which point they will have to decide which citizenship they want...US or Ukraine).  We also had to be able to recite the three specific things we were asking the court to do for us:  give us permission to adopt Ruslan and Nastia, change their names on their birth certificates and list us as their parents on their birth certificates.  She also told us not to let on that Marsh knows Russian.  This is typical...all government people need to think we are just "American".  It is kind of nice, though, to have people not know he can understand everything because they talk very freely around us and we get to listen in.  :)  I woke up at 5am and started memorizing all of this just in case I was the one who was asked to give it!

We arrived in our orphanage city at 8:45 am and court was scheduled for 9am.  We awoke early and Marsh and I changed into our dressy clothes.  There is a dress code in the t-shirts or jeans.  As our facilitator said, "Look beautiful, very beautiful." We, of course, were sweating all over our nice clothes though.  It is HOT and humid here and our a/c and ventilation didn't work in the all...all night. We had two drivers because Chris and Patty were with us. One driver took them and all our luggage back to the apartment while the other took our facilitator and us to court.

Ruslan and Nastia were not there yet, but when they arrived they were dressed very nicely and Nastia was wearing one of the flower clips she made during our very first visit back in April!  We were so happy to see each other and there were hugs all around.

The courtroom has a metal cage in it for criminals and everything is very old and falling apart.  The worst thing about the room, though, was the lack of a fan! was a sweaty scorcher! The hearing was attended by us and our facilitator, the kids and one of the psychologists from the orphanage, a local government authority, the vice-director of the orphanage, a prosecutor, the judge and one juror. We all had to stand individually and tell our names, our address and our employment.  This is standard procedure. Even the children had to identify themselves.

The judge had Marsh stand and the prosecutor asked a LOT of a questions...including the ones I listed above.  Whew.  He did a great job answering why we wanted to adopt these children, listing their medical history (which we also had to memorize and practice), why we wanted to adopt from Ukraine specifically, how we plan to teach them English, etc.  I must admit that I was a little nervous about what my turn was going to be like and thought he had an unfair advantage knowing what the prosecutor was asking before it was translated for us.  He got double time to think about his answers!  Everything Marsh had to answer was exactly what our facilitator said we would be asked. It was so important that his answers were "correct", but he didn't have to do a lot of "off the cuff" answering.
Just after the court ruling

Then it was my turn.  I had prayed for the Spirit to help me through whatever it was I was going to need to say.  I was remarkably calm when it was my turn to speak and I was so grateful for the peace. None of the questions were the type we had been prepared for except for knowing that they might want to ask about this or that.  There was nothing left to answer that we had memorized, so I had no idea what was going to happen next.  

I stood and was asked, first, why I wanted more children when I already had six biological ones at home.  Our answers were supposed to be as brief as possible.  I testified that I knew this is what we women were created be mothers and to nurture children and that I was happy to have more children to raise. 

The prosecutor then said, "The burden of caring for the children usually falls on the mother.  How do you intend to take care of all the needs of so many of them?"  I explained that the older ones help take care of the younger ones and that I really don't have a desire to do anything else with my time.  It is what God gave me time for and I am happy and fulfilled by being with my children and being their mother.  I don't need to look for time outside this responsibility to relax or be diverted...the calling itself is so fulfilling that I would rather do it than anything else.

The local authority told me that, here in Ukraine, the parents help the children financially and in any other way they can with getting through school, buying an apartment, etc.  How did I intend to help so many children with this type of future? I explained that we felt it was very important for children to learn to work and save and provide for their future themselves as much as possible.  In America, there are jobs and scholarships to help them with their schooling if they are willing to work for those benefits.  We, as parents, feel that their education and other endeavors mean more to them when they work for it themselves.

I was then asked how I felt about Ruslan and Nastia when we first met and how they responded to us. (Our facilitator had told me specifically not to cry...oops...)  

I said that we loved them immediately.   Then got all choked up when I tried to answer the question about how I thought the children felt about us.  I said, "I think the children..."

I looked at Ruslan who was sitting to the side behind me.  (Nastia was directly behind me.)  He gave me a thumbs up and a big smile and whispered, "Yeah!"  Everyone laughed quietly as I said, "Well, I think they are happy with us, too!"

I was asked to sit down and the children were asked to come forward and stand to answer questions. They were asked if they were okay with having their names changed and if they wanted to join our family.  They said they were and did.  The prosecutor told them that they were going to have to learn English and that they would be Americans now...was that okay with them?  Yes, it was.

They were asked to sit down and the judge went through every page of our paperwork, listing all the documents in the dossier.  The prosecutor and the vice-director of the orphanage were chatting during this time.  Marsh turned to the kids and asked Nastia if she was bored.  She nodded.  I pulled out my trusty purse calendar and a pen and handed them back.  Ruslan took them and wrote this on it:

Several different times during the hearing their new names were read by authorities or recited by us.
After she finished reading, we all stood so she could leave and "make her decision".  We got to hug the kids and talk to them.  Nastia gave me the hardest, biggest hug EVER! Within a couple of minutes, the judge was back.  We all sat while she read a document that gave permission for those three things we requested of the court, which included the right to adopt Ruslan and Nastia.  Their place and dates of birth would remain the same, but their names would be changed and ours would be listed as their mother and father.  Court was over.  The 10 day waiting period had begun.


During court proceedings, the authorities in the room had said things like, "No one in Ukraine wants to adopt these children", "They have been in the orphanage for two years and no one has come for them", "Your application says that you wanted to adopt two boys" (which shocked us, even our facilitator, and I was not supposed to look surprised at anything...oops, again).  All I could think of was what was going on in the minds of these sweet children.  It seemed like it was just being recounted over and over that no one wanted them.  And to Nastia, with the mistake in our application about only wanting to adopt boys being read publicly, I wondered if that was just another blow...that we didn't intend to have another girl.  

After court was over, the prosecutor pulled the children aside and said, "You must learn English and behave and be obedient to your parents or they will send you back to Ukraine."  At that point, I had had enough.  We hugged them hard and Marsh said to them, "We are never sending you back.  You're stuck with us forever!"

While the children had been answering questions a few minutes earlier, I had looked at the two of them standing their together, so small for their ages, so frail.  Their history is painful...these children of God have suffered more in their short lives than I have in my long one.  They have lived through things I spent my childhood fearing.

I suddenly thought of their mother and how she must feel today.  I felt she most likely was in that room, witnessing this page turning in their lives.  As my name replaces hers on their birth certificates, I hope she has the perspective only heaven can give on something like that.  I am fully aware that it was her suffering, her pain, her devotion to these children and her love for them that made it possible for us to enjoy them now. And I know she never wanted to leave them.

I hope someday Ruslan and Nastia will come to understand that it was only through the suffering they have endured that they will be able to have a family forever, with siblings and support they wouldn't have had any other way.  Perhaps someday they will realize that it is through the most difficult challenges that the Lord brings the sweetest blessings. 

After court, Ruslan and Nastia were taken back to the orphanage and we picked up Chris and Patty and signed some more papers at a notary.  We then went to the orphanage and met with the director. Then it was time for them to meet Nastia for the first time and to see Ruslan again...something all six of our other children had been anticipating and praying for for an entire year.

The director had told us that Nastia was very worried (she was wringing her hands while she recounted this...) that her sisters wouldn't like her, that they wouldn't accept her.  When Marsh had translated this for Patty, she sat back in her chair and said, "Oh!" and I could tell that within a few minutes, Nastia was not going to be worried anymore!

Siblings meeting for the first time!
Hey Bro!
The kids came down the stairs and Patty immediately hugged Nastia and after the boys hugged each other they started comparing who was taller and who had grown more.  Chris also greeted Nastia and was so very sweet to her. We spent a little time playing games in the visiting room and then headed out to lunch.  The director had come in and said to the kids, "Enjoy this day.  This is a special day for you" and congratulated them.  

The infamous hole-in-the-floor toilets
Pizza time!

We went to pizza (Ruslan prefers American pizza, he said...I agree), found traditional Ukrainian toilets that I had only heard about from Marsh and then headed back to the amusement park we went to last time (which I didn't blog about because I didn't want any other families to be jealous!!)...much to the intense joy of ALL four children! It was raining off and on, but we had a FABULOUS time.

We are not having ANY all.

We even met a young man who drives the missionaries around.  We invited him to church and were able to tell him what time to come, which was something he was wondering about, and told him we'd be there and looking for him.  

After just a little while at the amusement park, Nastia was preferring to be with Patty instead of me.  She was holding her hand and hugging her, much to Patty's joy.  They went on almost all the rides together and every once in a while, Nastia would come give me a big squeeze.

All in all, it was a wonderful, memory making day!  Our 10 day waiting period will end on July 23rd, but we will get to take them out of the orphanage on the 24th.  Marsh declared that though we will celebrate Utah's Pioneer Day on that day, we will also celebrate it as the day Ruslan and Nastia joined our family.


  1. Congratulations!!! Thanks for sharing this journey with us. I'm grateful court went well. We love each of you and continue to pray for you. I love the pictures especially the big smiles. Give Ruslan a extra big hug for me.

  2. After all the work, tears & time to get to this point, forever doesn't seem like it will be quite long enough! LOVE YOU!!!

  3. Catrice says she can hardly wait to see Ruslan who loves cookies and who thinks she is crazy. I also can hardly wait to meet my new cousin Nastia.
    Caden says I am looking forward to wrestling with Ruslan and meeting cousin, Nastia. She is short like I am!
    Grandma Jane says, "Welcome to our family!" Glad most of the process is over. Safe Journey!

  4. WOW what a story! Thank you so much for keeping a runing blog it is so neat to be filled in on your journey. The kids will one day cherish this story of your union together! I am so glad that Patty and Chris can experience this with you, it must help Ruslan and Nastia too to feel comfortable with this change in there lives. You are great examples to me of Christ like love and service. I specifically liked your answer, Alisa, in court when asked why you wanted more children. It is a wonderful calling in life to be a mother and where our time and priority should be!

  5. Court sounds nerve wracking! We have no idea what to expect when we go to court (many months from now!)but I'm so nervous we'll do or say something wrong.
    Congratulations on your two new additions! Hope this 10-day wait flies by for you all!