Thursday, June 21, 2007

We are home!!!!

We are finally home! We got in late last night and are quite tired, but glad to be home. Our next few days will be spent getting acclimated to the time zone, grocery shopping, doing laundry, buying clothes, and working on English. I promise that one of these days I really will get around to updating the blog...It just might not happen for a week or so! Thank you all for your prayers and support! It has been great sharing this journey with all of you!

May God richly bless you all!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I'm still behind....

I know I'm still a few days behind, but I'll catch up! In the meantime, please pray that will be able to find reasonably priced airline tickets home. When Fred called Northwest to see about changing my flight and getting flights for the girls, the flights were pretty full for next week and it would be over $6000 to fly home on Wednesday, there are no available flights on Thursday, and over $5,000 to fly home Friday. We may end up having to buy tickets on another airline. Please pray that we'll be able to work something out!


Saturday, June 9, 2007

Today was a very good day. It’s the first day we’ve done something completely different in quite a while! One of the drivers picked up Mark, Christine, and Kseniya and then headed to my apartment to pick me up. We all headed to the orphanage where we would meet up with the girls. Kseniya was teaching us how to make borsch and so we all headed for Amstor to pick up some ingredients. Amstor has a DVD/CD store in the front section and since Mark and Christine are leaving on Tuesday, they wanted Masha to have a chance to pick out a DVD and some CDs. I told Amina and Khrystyna that they could each pick out one DVD and one CD. I also let myself pick out a DVD and CD. We ended up with Happy Feet, the box collection of Cinderella (1,2, and 3) and Maid in Manhattan in Russian. We also ended up with some great CDs. After listening to the radio stations in Russian for the last 4 weeks, I can hum along with a lot of the songs and I had some favorites that I wanted to get. We were all quite pleased with our selections. The girls had only been to Amstor twice before and both times were with us and we hadn’t taken them to the food section. They were quite overwhelmed with all the food and they wanted it all! We started off in the fruit section and the girls wanted tons and tons of fruit! I ended up buying 6 apples and 2 pears for Amina and Khrystyna. They asked about oranges, peaches, strawberries, and kiwi too, but we had already put the apples and pears in the cart! We next headed over to the deli to pick up some salads for the girls. Amina and Khrystyna told me that they didn’t really like borscht very much so I wanted to buy some salads for them. Amina and Khrystyna initially picked out the same salad and then Khrystyna changed her mind and decided on a different salad. I figured that we would get a big container of the ham salad both girls liked and a smaller container of the crab salad that only Khrystyna liked. I ordered a big container of the first one and then Masha jumped in and ordered a container of salad for herself. Khrystyna jumped in next and pointed out the salad she wanted. I told the woman that we only needed a small container of the crab salad. Khrystyna and Amina started talking to her in rapid Russian and she pulled out another big container. I didn’t want to end up with too many big containers of salad, so I told the woman we only wanted a small container. She scooped up the same type of salad we had already ordered a large container of. By the time we left we had 5 containers containing 4 different salads. I guess that is what happens when your children speak more Russian than you do! While we stuffing our cart with salad, Kseniya was stuffing our cart with meat and produce for borscht. We finally made it to the checkout counter, paid for our purchases, and headed to the car. When we got to Mark and Christine’s apartment it was decided that Mark would entertain the girls while Christine and I watched Kseniya and took notes. I was a little unsure about how I felt about borscht. Actually, I didn’t think I’d like it, but I thought I should learn to make it so I knew how to make some type of traditional Ukrainian/Russian dish. We have been told by many people here that Ukrainian borscht is much better than Russian borscht. It took us about 2 hours to make the borscht, cut up bread, and serve it. During that time, the girls looked at pictures on Mark’s laptop and watched a DVD. The girls and I also talked to Fred on the phone while the borscht was cooking. They got huge smiles on their faces when they talked to him. I can tell they’re both going to be “daddy’s girls.” When it came time to eat, I took a very small portion of borscht. I took a bite and was very pleasantly surprised. It was delicious!!!!! We had picked up a few loaves of bread at the store and the fresh bread and borscht were fabulous! It is the best meal I’ve had on this whole trip! When we finished eating, we cleared the table and washed the dishes while the girls finished their DVD. After the DVD was over, we let them have ice cream before heading back to the orphanage. I had the driver drop me off at the internet café on the way home so that I could check my e-mail. It didn’t take long to check my e-mail and I then headed back to the apartment. By the time I got home, it was 8:00. I decided to catch up on my journaling before heading to bed. It’s pretty quite here in the apartment without Fred and since phone calls to the US are pretty expensive, I try not to make too many phone calls. I talked to Fred a few times today and will be glad when I’m back home with him. I miss him already and I still have a couple of weeks to go! ☹

Friday, June 8, 2007

Our plan today was to have our driver pick up Mark and Christine along with myself at our apartment at noon. Mark and Christine had a driver bring them to my apartment this morning and then they walked from here to the center of the city. I spent some time around the apartment this morning and then walked to the center of the city to get some pictures printed of Sergey, Khrystyna, and our family. I wanted him to have prints of the pictures. Also, I want Khrystyna to be able to pick out a frame and we will frame one of the pictures to give to him. The photo place was a zoo today and so it took forever to pick up the pictures I dropped off last week and have them upload the new pictures I want to have printed. As I walked back towards my apartment, Mark called to tell me that he and Christine were running a little late. They wanted to know if I would ask the driver to pick them up at Vivat time instead. I said that wouldn’t be a problem and headed home to get all the things we would need for the day. I grabbed the necessary stuff from the apartment and headed down to the car. We picked up Mark and Christine and headed to the orphanage to get the girls. When we got to the orphanage, the girls ran over to hug us and say hello. After all the hugs, Amina said “Mom, dad is America. I am sad,” I said “Yes, Amina dad is on his way back to America. I’m sad too. Are you sad Khrystyna?” Khrystyna put on a very sad face and said “Yes.” The sad face lasted about 3 seconds, then she put on a bright smile and said “Lunch?” It totally made me laugh! We let the girls decide where we wanted to go to lunch and they picked Vivat Time. While we waited for Kseniya, the girls all got in one of the cars and pretended that they were driving. Masha pretended to be our driver Misha, Amina sat in the front seat and announced “I am Papa” and Khrystyna waws content to sit in the back seat and be herself.” After Kseniya came out and gave instructions to our drivers, we headed for Vivat Time. My girls picked out a TON of food. You’d think they’d never eaten before. Our normal lunch bill for Amina, Khrystyna, Fred, and I has been 55-70 grivnas. Our bill today was 67 grivnas and I only got a piece of chicken and some mashed potatoes. Khrystyna had 2 salads, a piece of chicken, a sandwich, a large bag of chips, a large glass of juice, and a bottle of water. Amina had a salad, a hug plate of pasta stuffed with meat, a sandwich, a large piece of cake, a yogurt drink, a box of juice, and a bottle of water. They both ate everything but the sandwiches and they asked me to put the sandwiches in my bag so they could eat them at the park. When the girls had finished most of their food, we went through the flashcards I made. I added another 70 or so and they did a surprisingly good job with the ones we hadn’t taught them. After a while, the girls seemed tired of the flashcards and we were all ready to head to the park. We hopped in the car and headed for “Crocodile” park. We decided to only give the girls 15 grivna each, but that we would pay for their ice cream. Amina tried to negotiate how much money we were giving her, but I stuck to the 15. They paid to go on a few rides and then they discovered a playground that was back behind the roller coaster. You had to pay 1 grivna to get into the playground, but it was large and quiet. The girls tried out various pieces of playground equipment before settling on a large row of swings. They were all having a fabulous time swinging when they decided they should swing AND sing. Christine and I were quite surprised when they started singing “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands” in English. Christine and I ran over and joined them and then began singing it in Russian. We had learned it in our Russian class earlier this year! The girls then went through their repertoire of English children’s songs. When they exhausted their knowledge of English childrens songs, they began singing Russian children’s songs. They sang a really cute song about 10 bananas and a gorilla. It was a really fun time. After a long time of playing, we headed out of the playground to hit a few more rides before heading out for ice cream. Masha and Khrystyna wanted to go on the roller coaster and Amina wanted to go on the castle bouncy thing. I’m sure the lady who runs the crocodile was completely depressed when we ran by without stopping. I think she was counting on us to put all her kids through college! Mark and Christine went with Masha and Khrystyna over to the roller coaster and Amina and I headed to the castle bouncy thing. I think Amina was totally enjoying the peace and quiet of being able to bounce by herself! It didn’t last long because Masha and Khrystyna came over soon after to jump with her! The girls jumped for quite a while before time was up and we headed to the ice cream shop. We went to the same shop we went to on the first day with Khrystyna and Masha We had all talked about the shop, but none of us remembered where it was. We discovered yesterday that it is the coffee shop across from my apartment. We didn’t have our bearings when we went there the first time, so we had no idea where it was! We all got small bowls of ice cream and when we were done with our ice cream, the girls were all still hungry. I had the sandwiches Amina and Khrystyna had left over from lunch and they ate those as well as each having a bag of pretzels I had in my bag! The girls can pack away an amazing amount of food. We were quite surprised when we got our bills. This café has prices like we’re accustomed to in America. Each of our bowls of ice cream was nearly $4 and our bottle of water was over a dollar. It’s not quite like the prices at the other ice cream shop we usually go to! After ice cream, we headed back to the orphanage. I had the driver take me to the internet café so I could check my e-mail and then I walked back to the apartment. I was tired and hungry, so I made myself a small snack/dinner, made a few quick phone calls, and headed to bed! I knew that Fred would be getting in around 5am my time and I wanted to be awake enough to talk to him when he called! He ended up getting in closer to 7am my time, called to let me know he made it home safely, and then he went home and crashed. His trip home was about 36 hour of non-stop travel!

Thursday, June 7,2007

When we woke up this morning, we decided to go grab a quick bite to eat at the coffee shop across the street. We knew that Sasha would be coming today and he told us that it would take most of the day to sign paperwork, so we wanted to be ready when he called. We ate a quick breakfast and hurried back to the apartment. After an hour of waiting, Sasha called. It was 9:30 am and he told us he had to make a quick stop and then he would be over to our apartment. We waited…and waited….and waited. By a little after noon, we were hungry and we knew Fred wouldn’t have much of a chance to eat on the train in the evening, so we decided to call Sasha. Fred called Sasha and asked if we had time to get a bit to eat. Sasha said that he would be here in 20 minutes. We knew that wouldn’t give us enough time to get to the center of town to eat and we didn’t have much food here, so we ran down to the corner store. We bought a loaf of bread and rushed back to our apartment to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. After another hour of waiting, Sasha still had not arrived. It was very frustrating because if we had known that we didn’t have to do anything in the morning, Fred could have spent his last day with the girls! When Sasha finally arrived, it was 2pm. He asked us to pay him for train tickets and then we headed off to the notary to fill out applications for passports for Amina and Khrystyna. On the way to the notary, Sasha told us that we would be meeting Khrystyna’s brother at 4 pm. I was a little concerned about the time table because the train to Kiev leaves at 4:30pm. When I asked Sasha about this, he said that they would be taking the train from the capital of the city and that it leaves at 7pm. We got to the notary, spent 45 minutes filling out paperwork, and then got in the car to head to the orphanage. Mark and Christine were at the notary too and they got into a separate car to head to the orphanage. Unfortunately, Sasha had some things he wanted to take care of so we rode around in the car with him for an hour before going to the orphanage. I’m not sure why he didn’t have us ride with Mark and Christine, but who knows… When we got to the orphanage, Khrystyna’s brother was already there. When we got out of the car, the girls ran over to hug us. Khrystyna had been sitting on a bench outside of the orphanage with her brother and his girlfriend. It was easy to see just by looking at them how much they love each other. (I’m not sure if I’ve explained anything about Khrystyna’s brother, so let me give you a brief rundown… Khrystyna’s brother Sergey is 20 years old and moved in with the family of a friend when their mom stopped taking care of them. He is the one who arranged for Khrystyna to be placed in the orphanage because he knew they would take care better care of her their. Although he wished he could take care of Khrystyna, he is currently at the University on scholarship and is working 2 jobs. He doesn’t have the time or the money to raise a child, however, he has been encouraging her to find an adoptive family. She has turned many families down over the last few years! He visits Khrystyna regularly and makes an effort to always bring sweets or other treats to her when he comes to visit. Two weeks ago, he signed all the papers for court saying that he thinks it is in the best interest of Khrystyna to be adopted by us. Now, back to our meeting of Sergey.) The girls ran over and hugged us and said hello when we got to the orphanage. We decided to go introduce ourselves to Khrystyna’s brother. Fred and I both know enough Russian to introduce ourselves, so we introduced ourselves to Khrystyna’s brother Sergey and his girlfriend, Vika. They both don’t speak much English, but they were very nice. After a minute or two, we asked Sasha to translate and he came over and invited us all to come into the orphanage with him. Sergey, Vika, Khrystyna, Fred, and I all headed into the orphanage. We had to wait in the room with the loud bird until Ludmilla was ready for us to come into her office. We took some pictures of Khrystyna and her brother while we waited and then we headed into Ludmilla’s office. Sergey’s girlfriend, Vika didn’t come into the meeting. Khrystyna only stayed for the first part of the meeting and then Ludmilla told her to go play outside. During the meeting, Ludmilla told us more about Khrystyna’s brother and what a good kid he is. She also told us that over the years, both she and Sergey have really hoped that Khrystyna would find a good adoptive family. She said that they were always surprised when Khrystyna turned down an adoptive family and that they both kept praying that Khrystyna would find a good adoptive family. Ludmilla said that after meeting us in March and spending time in our home, she told Sergey that we had been handpicked by God to raise Khrystyna and she thought we would be a great family. She said that Sergey felt the same way. She then told us that now Sergey would be one of our relatives. At this point, he got up and came over and hugged Fred and then he hugged me. He hugged me like he didn’t want to let go and held on for a minute. It totally made me cry. When we sat back down, we told him that Khrystyna will be able to call when she wants and we got his phone number and address. We also told him to call us if he ever needs anything. Sasha suggested that he may someday want to come study in the states and we said that if that was what he wanted, we’d be happy to do what we can to help him. Sasha told Sergey that the most important thing he can do if he wants to come to the US is study English. Ludmilla also suggested that we give Sergey some money as a token of our appreciation. She had talked to us about this in March when she was visiting and she suggested we give him $100 USD. He was very appreciative. We wished we had more money with us to give to him! We had a few Master Spas polo shirts with us in Fred’s suitcase that were in still in the packaging, so we let Khrystyna give those to him after the meeting. She was so happy to have something to give him and he looked really happy to receive the shirts. After giving him the shirts, Khrystyna and Sergey started kicking the soccer ball around. We wanted them to have as much time together as possible. After a few minutes, Sasha came out of the orphanage and said “I’m leaving now. Fred, you are coming with me.” We told the girls that dad was leaving and to come say goodbye. It was the quickest goodbye ever since Sasha was already waiting in the car. After Fred left, Khrystyna went back to playing soccer with Sergey and Amina and Masha ran around acting silly. I have no idea what had them so amused, but they were both laughing hysterically. I was able to get some great video of Khrystyna playing soccer with her brother. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have to say goodbye to a sibling, knowing that it could be years before you ever see each other again. I wanted to have something to give Khrystyna so she could remember him and I thought video was a good idea. It wasn’t too long before Sergey said he needed to leave or he’d be late for work. Khrystyna hugged him and Vika and then they walked away. Khrystyna had the saddest look on her face as she stared after them! I can’t imagine what Khrystyna and Sergey are feeling. Today has probably been one of the hardest days of their life. After Sergey left, Mark, Christine, and I said goodbye to the girls and headed to Amstor for lunch. We were all starving at this point. We ate dinner, did some grocery shopping, and headed to the internet café. As our time at the internet café was nearing its end, total darkness and total quiet filled the room. The internet café had lost power. It was quite eery how quiet it was without the sounds of fans from 45 computers. The only sound to be heard was the shuffling of 90 feet heading toward the front counter. The front counter was directly behind where Christine and I were sitting. My laptop and Christine’s laptop provided the only light in the place. We quickly packed up and headed out of there before chaos broke out. When we got up to the street, we saw that the whole side of the street was without power. Thankfully, we were pretty much done in the internet café before we lost power. Our driver was waiting when we headed outside and he took us back to our apartments. I was completely tired and emotionally exhausted by the time I got home. I spent some time on the phone and then headed for bed.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Cirque de Satan…I mean Soleil

When we discussed going to the circus, I have to admit, I had preconceived notions. I was thinking elephants balancing on small platforms, lions, tigers, and leapords jumping through fiery hoops, trapeze artists balance precariously high over a safety nets, and lots and lots of clowns all jumping out of a volkswagon. Even after seeing the tent the other day, I imagined the same type of thing only on a smaller scale…baby elephants instead of fully grown ones, 6 clowns instead of 12, and maybe only 1 lion, with no leapords and no tigers. Boy were we in for a surprise! When we arrived at the circus, we already had our tickets. Our seats were in the 2nd row! Our girls had saved some of their grivna from earlier in the day and we decided to give them a little more grivna for souveneirs. We decided that we would give each of them 20 more grivna, but that we would start off by giving them 5 grivna. Khrystyna also told us she had saved a grivna from the day before, so she had quite a few grivna. The girls each bought yo-yo like things (they were small bags of sand covered in cloth and held together by lots of rubber bands. It had a long piece of a rubber band with a small loop tied in it for your finger that hanging off of it) that could kill a person with the crazy way they swung them around. They looked through the other souveneirs and headed inside. There were sets of wooden bleachers that went almost all the way around the inside of the tent. The bleachers had numbers painted on them and we quickly found our seats. While we standing around our seats talking, Khrystyna asked if she could go on the swing. The swing she was pointing to was a porch swing like bench attached to a long piece of rope with a karabiner (I’m sure I totally misspelled that) that looked like it was meant to hold your water bottle while drinking. It didn’t look very sturdy. Khrystyna told me that it was 5 grivna and that if she went on the swing she would have no grivna left. I told her that we could go ask Dad if he would mind paying for both her and Amina to go. While Fred was trying to decide how safe he thought it was, we looked over and there was Khrystyna…slowly being lifted into the air on the “swing.” She looked thrilled and we decided that in the future we needed to make decisions a little more quickly. We decided to pay to let the girls go on together. Amina gave the lady the money, but before Khrystyna had a chance to jump on the swing with Amina and Masha, two other little kids got on. Khrystyna didn’t get to go up with the other girls, but she got to go on it by herself a second time and she was totally content with that. By the time the circus started, Khrystyna looked exhausted and not too thrilled to be there. I think she is feeling much more secure around us now because when she gets tired, she gets a sad pouty look on her face and isn’t as communicative as she normally is, but she doesn’t go into meltdown mode and she’ll still smile when we make eye contact with her. The circus began as I would expect any other circus to begin. The ringmaster was wearing a tux and introduced the first act…trapeze artists. There was no safety net under the trapeze and the man and woman began with some cool tricks. The girls were amazed and tried to take lots of pictures. It was a little difficult with the lack of lighting. At one point, the man on the trapeze was holding the women with a harness that wrapped around his head and that he held onto with his teeth. It was awesome! Then a young girl came out with a few hula hoops. She did a dance and began slowly picking up hula hoops with her feet while continuing to keep the other hula hoops going around her waist. She got to the point where she was hula-ing about 20 or 30 hoops at the same time. She had them going around her waist, around her arms, and with her feet.It was pretty amazing. What followed was not quite as amazing. A woman came out holding a large round tray full of pigeons. For what seemed like the next 3 hours (although, it was only about 15 minutes) she would pick up individual pigeons and have them do tricks…like fly. She had them fly to a certain stand and then one that sat on her shoulder. It was bizarre and slightly disturbing. When her act was finally over, she walked around the ring, coaxing the pigeons to get back on the tray and leave with her. She left one pigeon and it wandered around for a while during the next act. The next act was a clown with a cute little monkey on a string! The monkey did some tricks and ran around the ring. The next act was a guy who balanced on some large rolling tubes. I don’t even know how to describe it…you’ll have to check out the pictures. The balancing man was followed by the woman trapeze artist, however, she was not using the trapeze…she was using a long dangling rope. She climbed the rope and dangled herself precariously in all kinds of cool positions! I think she may have been the best act of the evening. The next guy out was pretty young. His act was pretty much an example of everything you don’t want your kids to do. He juggled with fire and ran it up and down his arms, he laid on the ground and had a woman drop sharp knifes on his stomach, he jumped on glass with bare feet, and then laid down in the glass while having a girl jump on his stomach. While jumping on the glass he managed to cut his feet. He also jumped on a board with a bunch of nails sticking through it and then laid down on the board and had a man stand on his stomach. If that wasn’t bad enough, they then brought out a boa constrictor that he wrapper around his neck and swung around. He walked around the outside of the ring…a foot in front of the audience holding the snake. He then picked a young boy from the audience and had him come to the center of the ring and hold his arms out from his side like a cross, then he placed the snake on the boys arms. The snake probably weighed as much as the boy. I was pretty horrified. I was pretty relieved when it was time for intermission. The girls were really hungry since they hadn’t had a chance to eat yet. I got some popcorn while the girls looked at other souvenirs. I noticed that the clown was outside with the monkey and that you could pay to have your picture taken with the monkey. I asked Fred to take the girls to get their picture taken with the monkey while I waited for the popcorn. The girls had no interest in getting their picture taken with a monkey. I also noticed that they were allowing children to get their picture taken with the boa constrictor. If you paid the money, they would put the snake around the child’s neck and take a picture. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. After getting popcorn, we headed back into our seats for what would be the most bizarre part of the circus. When the ringmaster announced the next act, they turned the lights way down and 2 men dressed as grim reapers came out pushing a cross. They men were completely creepy. They just stood by the cross after they pushed it into the ring. Then a girl came out in a hooded robe holding a candle and chanting. It was like being part of some Satanic ritual. We were totally freaked out. Next a man came out dressed in an old Roman centurion costume. He had the shinguards and breastplate and he had a bow and extremely sharp arrows. He shot them at the center of the cross and then the creepy chanting woman in the robe blindfolded him and spun him around. He was pointing the arrow at various people in the crowd before he finally shot it at the target. There were a lot of scary things like this for the rest of the circus. At one point when the woman in the robe was chanting and doing a strange dance, I was thinking I really don’t want the girls to see this. I don’t want them to think this is normal. At that exact moment, Amina leaned over and said “Mom, that woman crazy!” I was relieved that she realized that! We were so glad when it ended. We took the girls out to the pizzeria after the circus and the girls each got a salad. Khrystyna took apart all the souvenirs from the circus and put them back together again. She then began doing that to Amina’s souvenirs and managed to break it. Amina was very gracious about it. Fred and I told the girls that we would take it home with us and fix it. We were able to use clear nail polish as glue and we were able to get it fixed! By the time we left the restaurant, it was well after 9 and by the time we got back to the orphanage, the lights were out and all the kids were in bed. We quickly said goodnight to the girls and headed home!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

We decided that we would spend our morning getting some new 5 x 7 cards, getting Khrystyna’s sunglasses fixed, and spending whatever time we had left at the internet café. Kseniya called and told us our driver would pick us up at our apartment at 12. We told her that our cleaning lady was coming and that we were planning on heading into town when she got there. We asked if our driver could pick us up at the internet café at 12. She said she would call him and then call us back. She sent us a text message telling us that our driver would pick us up at 10 at our apartment. Unfortunately, we were out of minutes on our phone (all phones in Ukraine our pay as you go) and we had no way to call her back and tell her that we didn’t need a driver until 12. Our driver took us to the internet café and then we walked from there to get flashcards and to get Khrystyna’s sunglasses fixed. By the time we made it back to the internet café, we didn’t have much time left before our driver would be arriving to pick us up. We quickly checked our e-mail and uploaded some more photos to Picasa. When we arrived at the orphanage, Kseniya told us that we needed to have lunch somewhere in the center of the city (either vivattime or Papa Karlo) and then we would walk from there to the park in the center of the city. When we asked the girls where they wanted to have lunch, Khrystyna and Amina both said “Amstor.” Kseniya told them they had to choose between vivattime and Papa Karlo and they chose Papa Karlo. When we got to Papa Karlo, Amina and Khrystyna were able to translate what was in certain foods to us. We’re always curious as to what different foods are…is it chicken, potatoes, fish? They now have been telling what each item is in English. We’re so proud of how hard they are working on their English. After lunch, we headed to the park. We told the girls that they needed to play at the playground first and then we would let them go on one of the inflatable bouncy things. We decided that we would give them money again today since they did so good with it yesterday. Also, there was a vendor outside the playground who sold necklaces, blow up Scooby Do and Shrek, and various other inexpensive toys. The girls have asked many times if they can get one of the toys, so today we told them that if they wanted to use their money on one of the toys they could, but that money had to also pay for the bouncy thing and ice cream. The girls went on the bouncy thing first, then bought ice cream, then headed for the vendor with the cheap toys. After spending a while asking about the various prices, the girls walked away. I asked Amina if they were going to buy anything and she said “No mom, these 10 grivna, that (and she pointed to the bouncy thing) 10 grivna. We go that.” Although we still have some work to do on her grammar, we have been pleased at how well she has been able to communicate what she is thinking. After one more time on the bouncy thing, it was time to head home. We headed back to the orphanage and dropped the girls off. Then we decided to share a driver with Mark and Christine and go get circus tickets before heading to Amstor. After doing some grocery shopping at Amstor, Mark and Christine were going to go back to our place with us and then our driver would come back later to pick us up. The only flaw to our plan was that after buying circus tickets, we only had 20 grivna on us…$4.00. We were able to buy crackers and pretzels for Fred’s train trip back as well as bottled water. Mark and Christine only had a few more grivna than us and we were all thrilled to go back to our apartment where we could walk somewhere to get some money changed. I’m at the internet café now and I haven’t had a chance to write about the circus, but it deserves it’s own space. I’ll update tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The weather today was perfect! Thank you everyone who has been praying! We decided to try to get some time in at the internet café before heading over to the orphanage. We only had a few minutes, but it gave us enough time to update our blog. We rushed back to the apartment to grab our bag of Frisbees, racquets, balls, and other fun toys that we play with at the park and headed over to the orphanage. Mark and Christine arrived shortly after us and we decided to go to Amstor again for lunch. Amstor is definitely the favorite lunch spot of the adults. Amina likes it, but Masha and Khrystyna didn’t seem to be too thrilled about going there for lunch. We headed to Amstor for lunch and then went to the park with the crocodile. On the way to the park, we discovered that we weren’t the only creatures riding in our car…there was also a large fly. It was about an inch long. Mark, Christine, and Masha were able to see the fly from their car behind us. It had Amina totally freaked out. We first tried to swat it with a book, but we didn’t think our driver would appreciate bug guts smeared on his seat. We then decided to try smooshing it in a wet wipe. This was Amina’s idea, however, when it came time to implement it, she was too scared to get near it. There was a lot of screaming and jumping onto each other’s laps before I finally got brave and smooshed it. It was disgusting. Unfortunately, Khrystyna’s glasses were a casualty of our fly swatting endeavor. We somehow managed to sit on them and they lost a screw. We searched the car but couldn’t find the missing piece so I decided I would hold on to them and we would either get them repaired or replace them. When we got to the park, the girls immediately started talking about all the rides they wanted to go on. We decided to start working on responsibility today and gave each of the girls 20 grivna to spend for the day. This money was for rides and ice cream. All 3 girls decided together what they wanted to spend their money on and we had a very enjoyable time playing. After they had used up most of their money, they decided to head to the outdoor café tent in the park with the ice cream. Ice cream here is pretty expensive and they were each able to buy ice cream and have a little money left over. They used their left over money for fish treats (salted dehydrated fish…YUCK!) and lollipops. I think they each had 4 or 5. They were very willing to share their fish treats and I had a piece to be polite. It looked like shredded cheese, but it was disgusting. The girls all love them so we let them eat them! Also, in Ukraine there are stray animals everywhere. There was a cat who had taken up residence in the little outdoor café and Amina shared her ice cream and fish snacks with the cat. When the girls were finished eating, we ran through all the homemade flashcards I had made. The girls are really doing a great job of remembering English. They’re also starting to use it more regularly. Amina was pretty tired after all the rides today so after our English lesson, she stayed in the café and held the cat. I think the cat was narcoleptic because it stayed asleep no matter what Amina, Fred, or Mark did. It was the strangest thing. While Amina rested and Fred and Mark tormented the cat, Khrystyna and Masha played outside of the tent. After a while, Masha and Khrystyna decided they wanted to go to the playground. We all headed to the playground and stayed there for an hour. Amina and Khrystyna are getting very good at sharing. Since there is only 2 swings on the playground, Masha gets one and Khrystyna and Amina take turns on the other. When it was almost time for our drivers to pick us up, the girls decided they needed to head to the bathroom. Park restrooms in America are usually not my favorite, but they are nothing like Ukrainian park bathrooms. These bathrooms consist of a long stairway underground that ends in the restrooms…stalls with holes in the ground. I’ll leave it at that…it’s disgusting. I accompanied them to the bathroom, but waited outside. The girls all asked for wet wipes to hold over their noses while they are down in the bathroom. By the time we got back from the bathroom, our drivers had arrived and we headed back to the orphanage. We asked Kseniya if she would be willing to spend a few minutes translating for us. We wanted to explain what would be happening over the next few days. We told the girls that Fred would be heading home on Thursday and that I would be staying in Ukraine with them for another week or so. After we are finished our waiting period, I will take the girls to the capital of the region to get their birth certificates and other important documents, then we will get on a train and head to Kiev. In Kiev, each of the girls will have to get physicals done by the American Medical Center in Kiev and Amina will have to get some vaccinations. Children under 10 are not required to get these shots. When we explained this to the girls, Amina was horrified and Khrystyna breathed a very audible sigh of relief. Her sigh of relief was accompanied by a dramatic eye roll! We explained that we will be in Kiev for a few days and that we will have to go the US embassy to get their passports, but that when we have all of that finished, we will be able to head to America. We explained to the girls that we would work on English everyday at home, but that we will also have an English tutor that they will go to 2 times a week. We tried to explain as much as possible and then we asked if they had any questions or if there was anything they were afraid of. Amina immediately spoke up and let us know that she was fearful that she wouldn’t know enough English by the time school started in the fall. We told her that we thought she would be just fine, but that we would be happy to get additional help for them if they were to need it. Khrystyna didn’t have any fears…she just wanted to know if they would be able to go to camp. We told them that they could go to daycamp for 2 weeks this summer. Khrystyna told us that she wanted to go to camp for 5 weeks. We’ll probably have to work out some kind of compromise. After our talk with the girls, we headed back home. The weather had been cool all day so we weren’t as exhausted as we usually were at that time of day. I had been hoping to buy more of the 5 x 7 card stock I had picked up the other day to use as flashcards. I really wanted to make more flashcards. Fred and I walked over to the store that had the flashcards, but they were already closed. We headed to the mall next to see if we could find any good Russian/English phrasebooks for the girls. We didn’t find any that we really liked. We decided that we should probably grab a bite to eat on the way home since it was already almost 7 pm. We stopped at the pizza place that has American style pizza and split a pizza and got juice and water. All of our food was under $3 USD. We were pretty impressed. When we finished eating, we headed back to the apartment to re-evaluate what we needed to send home with Fred. When we packed his suitcase the other night, I packed all my pants and long sleeve tops, but since we’ve had some cooler days, I thought I should probably hang on to some of that stuff. Also, we called Sasha to see what time we would be meeting to sign documents. He said that since Fred’s flight wasn’t leaving til Friday and since Fred was staying here until Thursday, he decided to come on Thursday morning instead. He also said that a woman would be coming to clean our apartment tomorrow morning at 10. She had to come to clean last week and while she was cleaning we had to be out of our apartment. After talking to Sasha, we did some laundry, started planning for tomorrow, and are now getting ready for bed.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Prayer requests and praises

**PRAISE** Our court appointment went smoothly and we were able to book a return ticket for Fred
**PRAISE** The weather finally cooled down. Although I’m not a huge fan of cold rainy weather, I wasn’t specific when I asked for the weather to cool off! My prayer has definitely been answered. Maybe next time I should pray for sunny and low 70s! (I guess you can consider that a new more specific prayer request)
*Pray for safe travel for Fred
*Pray for Amina, Khrystyna, and Masha to pick up English quickly and to not be apprehensive about moving to America
*Pray for a smooth transition when we all head home!
*Please continue to pray for our previously mentioned prayer requests

Monday, June 4, 2007

Today is the day we have been waiting for. When we woke up this morning, we were both excited and nervous. We decided that we would pick up our girls and take them to an early lunch, bring them back to the orphanage, and then head to our apartment to change for court. We took the girls to the café at Amstor. We decided on the way there that we would let each of the girls pick out one DVD to take back to America. They really enjoyed looking through the DVDs and picking out DVDs for themselves! After picking out the movies, we headed into the café for lunch. After the girls picked out their food and sat down at a table, I left Fred to watch them and headed into the store to buy some laundry detergent and some hair stuff. Since it was cold and rainy outside, I also picked up a few mini puzzles for the girls to take to their group. Fred told the girls that they could have ice cream, so we each bought a scoop from the ice cream lady inside the door. Ice cream for the 4 of us cost 8 grivna ($1.60 USD) total. We thought that was a smokin’ deal! Our driver Mischa is wonderful and let the girls bring their ice cream in the car! They ate it on the way back to the orphanage. When we got back to the orphanage, we had Kseniya explain to the girls that we had a meeting in the afternoon and would not be able to hang out with them. They didn’t seem too disappointed. We said our goodbyes and headed home to prepare for court. We quickly got ready and were ready with 45 minutes to spare. I was so nervous I thought I was going to throw up! We spent some time praying together and I felt much calmer when we were done. Earlier this year, Fred and I memorized 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 and have been praying it since then. It has been a great reminder that God is in control. The verse says “Everything in the heaven and earth is Yours O Lord and this is Your Kingdom. We adore you as being in control of everything. Riches and honor come from You alone and You are the Ruler of all mankind. Your hand controls power and might and it is at your discretion that men are made great and given strength.” As we headed to court, I reminded myself of the truths in that verse over and over again. Since Svetlana was still in Kiev, we were told that we would meet Lena the official translator at court. When we arrived at court, we waited upstairs in the hallway with the orphanage social worker. She did not speak much English, so we had to wait patiently for Lena to arrive. We had arrived at 2:45 so we had a little bit of time to wait before court started. Lena showed up at 2:55 and we thought that court would start promptly at 3. Unfortunately, at 3:15, we were still waiting in the hallway. The judges for our case weren’t in the courtroom yet, so we continued to wait for them. When the judges finally showed up, it was 3:20. We entered the courtroom and had a seat. There were 3 judges presiding over our case. The social worker from the orphanage was there as a representative of the orphanage and the director of social work for the city was there as a representative for the city. There was also a prosecutor who was present to make sure all proceedings were legal. Court began promptly and Lena translated as the judges read documents. They weren’t pausing to allow for translation. They read documents quickly and Lena had to translate at the same time they were speaking. It was pretty impressive! After reading our application to adopt, the status reports for the girls along with their family history and medical history, they read excerpts from the letters the girls wrote requesting to be adopted by us. It was really cute. They then told us that they had questions for us and we stood up to answer their questions. They asked us if we would love Amina and Khrystyna and care for them as our own children, how long we had known the girls, if we felt we had adequate time to make a decision about adoption, and what our relationship was like with the girls. They also asked how we were going to help the girls with the transition to living in the US and learning to speak English. We were surprised that they didn’t ask more questions. They asked us to sit down and they asked for the opinion of the orphanage and the city. Both representatives stated that they believed that it would be in the best interest of the girls to be adopted by us and that they could tell by our interactions with the girls that we loved them very much. Next, they asked the prosecutor to stand up. He seemed very bored during the court session, but he stood up and said that he had been paying close attention to the proceedings and that everything had been legal. The judges then conferred among themselves for a minute before announcing that our adoption was approved and that after the 10 day waiting period, we could pick up our documents and begin the process of getting visas and passports for the girls. From start to finish, we were only in the courtroom for 20 minutes. We were not allowed to take pictures in the court room, but we took a few outside the courthouse to commemorate the occasion. We then headed to the orphanage to briefly see the girls. While we were in court, Mark and Christine met with Ludmilla and asked her if we could take the girls to the circus tonight. We wanted to take them before Fred left to head back home. She agreed to let us take them if we took an orphanage staff member with us. Kseniya agreed to go with us. When we got to the orphanage, Kseniya got the girls and we got a quick picture with them. When Kseniya explained that we would be going to the circus that night, they were ecstatic! Amina started jumping up and down! We told them that we were going home to change out of our dress clothes, but that we would be back to the orphanage to pick them up in an hour. When we got home, we changed into pants and long sleeve shirts…it has really gotten chilly! We have been amazed by how God has answered our prayers. After changing and eating a quick dinner, we headed back to the orphanage to pick up the girls. I expected the circus to be similar to the circuses in the US…big venue, lots of animals, and lots of space. Instead we pulled up to a small grassy area next to the cable car tracks that had a tent the size of our family reunion tent. It didn’t look very big and there were hardly any people there. When we got to the tent to buy tickets, there was a sign saying that they were closed June 4th and June 5th. We thought that was quite strange since all the signs in town say that the circus is in town from June 1-10. They don’t mention that the circus is town all those days, but not open on June 4th and 5th. The girls were very disappointed, but they handled their disappointment well. They asked if they could go to the park with the crocodile. We were a little concerned that none of the rides would be operating since it was cold and rainy and that the crocodile would be deflated, but we headed to the park anyway. When we got to the park, Masha, Christine, and Kseniya were waiting for us. Mark had headed into the park to scope out which rides, if any, were open. None of the rides were operating and the crocodile was deflated. We expected this to be the disappointment that pushed the girls over the edge, but they handled it in stride. They said they would play on the playground. The girls played on the playground for over an hour. The adults were all freezing. The playground only has 2 swings and it was interesting to watch the dynamics of who got to swing. Masha and Khrystyna got to the playground before Amina and took the swings. Amina handled it well and climbed on the jungle gym. Mark and Fred also played tag with her for a little while. After a while, Masha gave her swing to a little girl and joined Amina on the jungle gym. Masha and Amina then borrowed Mark’s camera and began taking photos of each other. It wasn’t long before Khrystyna joined in! Amina asked for our camera too and they all chased each other around the playground taking pictures. After a while, I noticed Khrystyna and Masha sitting on a bench with Fred. Amina was taking pictures of them and they were all practicing English…Ok, so it wasn’t exactly practicing English. One of the girls (and I have no idea which one it was) started using the phrase “Bad girl” They all began calling each other “bad girl” and chasing each other around the park. They were having a ball AND speaking English. It wasn’t the phrases we were hoping for, but it’s a start. Masha was also using the phrase “good job” tonight. We all enjoy it when they make an effort to speak English. After lots of running, the girls headed for the swings again. This time Masha and Amina got the swings. After a while, Khrystyna went over to Amina and said something while pointing to us. We were on the other side of the park so we’re not exactly what she said. All we know is that Khrystyna started running toward us and Amina followed. When Amina got close to Khrystyna, Khrsytyna turned around abruptly and started racing back to Amina’s swing. Amina beat her there and they both laughed quite a lot. I think Khrystyna tried the “mom and dad are calling us” routine and Amina fell for it! Khrystyna then began to poke Amina everytime Amina would swing forward. They totally behaved like sisters! It was really fun to watch. I think Amina eventually got tired of Khrystyna poking her because she got off her swing and gave it to Khrystyna. She played on the jungle gym some more before heading over and sitting dejectedly on the seesaw. Fred asked if she wanted him to go on the see saw with her and she said “No, Masha.” She then began calling for Masha and giving her sad puppy dog eyes. Masha eventually gave in and came over and climbed on the seesaw. When Masha was fully on the seesaw, Amina jumped off and stole Masha’s swing. Masha then sat on Amina’s lap on the swing. They spent the next 10 minutes trying to “share” the swing. While the older girls were carrying on on the one swing, Khrystyna was swinging her little heart out on the other swing. She had her eyes closed and she was smiling and singing to herself! It was quite cute. We think the girls will probably get a lot of use out of our swingset. Khrystyna used it a ton last summer and we’re guessing that Amina will enjoy it too. Although it was freezing, I could have stayed out there for another hour or so. I was thoroughly enjoying watching the girls play and it was fun to watch the dads play with them. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as fun for Kseniya and she eventually asked if we could go. We agreed and headed over to tell the girls that our time at the park was over. The girls then began telling Kseniya that they were hungry. Kseniya told them that there would be food for them back at the orphanage and that if they were really hungry, they could have that food. We finally got the girls in the car and headed for the orphanage. Amina and Khrystyna had bought chocolate bars at lunch today and since we are trying really hard to make sure that the girls don’t take anything to the orphanage that may create jealousy, we made the girls leave the chocolate with us. We allowed them to have some of it on the way back to the orphanage. After all, we don’t have much time left to load up the kids with sugar and leave them with someone else! Just kidding! When we got back to the orphanage, we made some plans for tomorrow before saying goodbye to the girls. When we got back to the apartment, we decided to take a walk outside. We found a little market on the corner in the opposite direction we normally go. I’m so glad I now know it’s there. They sell water and juice. We normally go to the grocery store that is 4 blocks away and walk home with our cartons of juice and gallons of water. I’ve been making Fred carry all the heavy stuff, so I’m glad to know that I can just walk across the street to get the heavy stuff! The store also sells minutes for our phone and that was one of the things we were looking for. All of our incoming calls are free, but it’s expensive to make outgoing calls and we were out of minutes. When we got back to our apartment, we loaded the minutes onto our phone and Fred called Sasha to find out the plans for Wednesday. We knew we would be signing paperwork, but we weren’t sure how much time that would take. Sasha said to not plan on doing much more than signing papers. He also said that Fred would be able to leave Wednesday night for Kiev and that he could go to the American Embassy in Kiev on Thursday morning. He told Fred that he could leave anytime after 11am on Thursday. Unfortunately, there were not any available flights on Thursday, so Fred will be heading back to the US on Friday. He will get into Fort Wayne late Friday night. We are going to talk to Sasha tomorrow to see if it will be possible for Fred to leave for Kiev on Thursday night instead of Wednesday night. I’d much rather him be here for an extra day than just sitting around Kiev doing nothing! Also, if he can leave Thursday night, he’ll be able to go to the circus with us on Wednesday. We should find out more tomorrow. I am happy to report that with our window open and the cold air blowing in, our apartment hit a record low today of 69 degrees…although we closed the window 5 minutes ago and the temperature has already risen to 73 degrees. In my opinion, that’s a pretty good temperature. It is now after 10 pm and I am more than ready for bed. Today has been a wonderful, life-changing, exhausting day! Thanks again for your prayers!