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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Appointment At Embassy This Morning

Yesterday we finally got to walk around Kiev. It was still raining, but with the purchase of umbrellas we decided to give it a try. We dd our own walking tour and it only rained on us 3 times during it. The rest of the time the sun was actually shining.

The pictures above are from a train at the bottom of a hill that take you to the top of the hill for a total of 25 cents US. It was a fun little ride. We walked over to the famous Kiev Arch, Mikhailivsky Cathedral, St. Sophie's Church and back to the apartment just steps away from their version of Time Square.

At St. Sophie's Church, they have a large bell tower you can climb up so we did. Karina didn't quite make it to the top. She got scared and ended up staying in the middle. I don't blame her it was a bit scarey for me also.

Yesterday was Ukraine's Constitution Day so the Embassy was closed. Today, however, we have a full day of medical exams, Embassy interviews, and then waiting around for Karina's passport.

Faithfully, I already purchased our return tickets for tomorrow because with 4th of July approaching, airfare was becoming unreasonable and the flights were filling up quickly. We were able to get tickets but our seats are all over the plane. I am praying that I will be able to communicate with the airline personnel enough to have them correct this problem at the airport. I am sure they would not split up children and a parent if at all possible.

We are in count down mode right now. The kids, including Karina, can not wait to come home. Please continue to pray that all goes well today at the Embassy and the airport with our seats.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Finally Back in Kiev and a Depature Date in Sight

Thankfully, we are now in Kiev. Our first dinner of choice once we recovered from our 4 hours bus ride that left at 4:30 am was - CHINESE (cooked by Ukrainians). It was actually pretty good but so not country prices anymore. We are in one of Ukrainian biggest cities. What a great time to be in Kiev also. They are celebrating their Constitution Day all week long. This is the reason for our delay. There are festivals and activities going on everywhere. To bad it's rained for the last two days. We are praying that the weather is better tomorrow and we can join in on some fun. We need distractions so we stop thinking about home.

After one night in an apartment that did not meet up to my standards (no internet), we moved into a new apartment today. Much nicer, two bedrooms, air conditioning, internet, etc. After no internet for almost two days I was going through withdrawals. I can't be without Skype for a whole week. That's my connection to the real world. That would not do so a packing we went to a new apartment. I am so glad we did. Everyone is so much happier, especially me :o)

After we were all moved in we walked to a great underground mall to hang out since it was pouring rain. We had McDonald's for dinner, walked around and just relaxed. It was great fun. Now if it would only stop raining so we can have some real fun tomorrow.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Our Return is Delayed Slightly ;o(

Well, so much for coming home on Friday the 25th. A bunch of Ukrainian Holidays and an extra day getting Karina's Passport delayed us for another week. But, considering that we arrived in Ukraine on June 7th I feel we are still ahead of schedule. I would have been nice to be able to have said we did it in 3 weeks but.....obviously not God's plan.

So, three more days of doing nothing but feeding the pigeons, walking to the supermarket, cooking food, buying food, walking some more, buying some more food, etc. Do you get the drift? Booorrrrrriiiiinnnngggg!!!! Angel and Aydan are on almost instant melt down mode. If I even look at Angel in a remotely off way, she starts to cry. The two of them sleeping together is getting really old. They will truly appreciate their beds and bedrooms when they get home. I mean, after all, this was suppose to be a growing experience for them also.

May God use this time to grow their love for each other and Him in a deeper way.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Week Away from Coming Home HOPEFULLY

Sorry for the lack of pictures but someone forgot to pack the camera charger and I’ve had an impossible job trying to find one.

So, if you haven’t heard, we have a new daughter, officially. We are so blessed to have three wonderful children. I am beginning to see the Pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow. Our adoption team is working overtime to get us home. Today we apply for Karina’s new international passport in her new legal name “Karina Gutekunst”. After we get her passport photographs we will send it off to get an expedited passport. On Wednesday we go back to Kiev to the Embassy. If all goes well, we will have her new passport on Wednesday so we can do this. We are trying to limit our time in Kiev so we can be home earlier. As long as the passport comes in on Wednesday we can go to Kiev Wednesday and Thursday and fly out on Friday for America. Lord willing, this is our plan and hopefully his. After we leave Kirovograd, I am not sure if we will have internet so forgive me for not facebooking or blogging. I am not sure if our new accommodations will have internet.

I am so thankful for the time we have had here. We have had such a wonderful eye opening experience. I have definitely grown an appreciation for some of our “American” conveniences. I especially miss English and my car. Though, as far as accommodations have gone, we have been blessed here in Kirovograd. We have more in this apartment then the average Ukrainian. It has been a blessing to be able to cook and have internet so I can communicate with family and friends.

Prayer warriors please keep praying that we get our passport on Wednesday and our Embassy appointment on Wednesday. They are closed on Friday and if we can’t get a Wednesday appointment it will push our return off to June 28th or possibly later which is still great, but we reeeeeaaaaaallllllyyyyyy want to come home NOW! Mark needs us home now.

We really had a great weekend with Karina. Kate our translator took us on a walk around town on Saturday pointing out statues and places of interest than off to get some dessert and sit by the river to eat and hang out like a Ukrainian. The river side was packed. She said, with nothing to do, this is a normal Saturday evening activity. We had fun. Earlier, we went to an open air market. There are so many of them around here. This is definitely the place to purchase fruits and vegetables. We purchased some melt in your mouth strawberries and wish I could buy more veggies but we are leaving shortly.

Sunday, we spent the day with our lawyer Natasha and her family. She recently also adopted a daughter. Her daughter and Aydan played hard all day. It was great. Natasha took us shopping for some traditional Ukrainian gifts she wanted to purchase for us. That was so nice. She is really wonderful. At her house, which is gorgeous by the way, she cooked for us some wonderful Ukrainian food. She made us some wonderful Ukrainian soup called Borshcht. It is a beef broth based soup with potatoes, carrots, onions, maybe some cabbage. It was delicious. She also made a type of fried chicken pattys, pork, sausage and a plate of fresh veggies and bread. Then we finished with fresh strawberries, ice cream, cake, coffee and she even bought Aydan an ice pop so he wouldn’t be left out. Needless to say, we were stuffed up to our eyeballs.

After eating, the kids played in her rather large inflatable pool. Aydan and Natasha’s daughter were unstoppable. They also ran around the yard and played with her dogs and explored her beautiful garden. Man I wish I had a charged camera. What a beautiful garden! She has a pond and waterfall that I would die for. I think Aydan wanted to fish in it. After our wonderful day of playing we came home and passed out.

Now back to business. Let’s get our stuff done so we can go HOME!! Love you all. I am praying that I get to see some of you this weekend.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

One More Day Until She's Offically Ours!

Without Jesus, I am nothing. He is with us always. “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

We have been waiting and praying. We have felt encouraged and have felt His presence throughout the entire process of adopting Karina. I am so thankful that we have an awesome God. Without him this would not have been possible.

Tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. our time, about 2:00 am your time we go before the judge to make our request for Karina’s adoption official and final. Please continue to keep us in your prayers that everything goes smoothly, that they grant us the adoptions and they wave the 10 day wait. If they do, we could possibly be home by July 1st.

We had another great lazy day of waiting for our court day. Just hanging out with Karina, getting to know her, playing some Uno, putting together some knock off Lego's we found to make Aydan happy and playing at the Town Square (Park). We finally found out around 6:30 p.m. that court was scheduled for 9 a.m. tomorrow. So there will be no interference with Karina's Graduation. Praise the Lord for blessing Karina with this one last remembrance of Ukraine. How awesome it will be to be able to go as her official Mother. I have to say we have had nothing but welcoming arms from all the people of Ukraine when she introduces me as her "American Mother to Be". :o)

Everything is right on schedule. I can not speak highly enough about everyone God has put on our adoption team here in Ukraine. They have been over the top wonderful and bend over backwards for Mark and I in every way.

After tomorrows court hearing and graduation it's is back to waiting for Karina's Visa to be processed. This could take 5 days then it's off to Kiev to finish the process at the US Embassy.

I am so homesick it isn't funny. I miss America. I miss my husband. I miss my bed. I miss American Food. I miss everything American. I miss you'all. I feel it wouldn't be so bad if I could only communicate but without communication it's almost like you are in jail. Only 2 more weeks. Only two more weeks. I can do this. I cam this! With all you'all help and God's presence we will prevail.

Blessings and Love to all.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Another Rainy Day and Angel's Birthday

We got up today ready to celebrate Angel’s Birthday but the weather had another plan. We got ready for the morning and went to get Karina at around 10 o’clock. Our first plan of attack was to go to a local flea market to find some clothing for Karina. I brought some items but I wasn’t sure of her pants size. At this point I am guessing she’s either a 7/8 or 9/10. If you have anything that your teens or yourself have grown out of or don’t like we would really appreciate the donations.
Considering where we were shopping and the cost of living they seem to get a lot of money for their clothing. On top of that, the quality does not seem the best. An average price of a shirt was $20 and up. Now, Ukrainians, unlike American, do not have a closet full of clothing like we do. But $20 seems like a big chunk of change for a Ukrainian. I encourage Karina that we can get a lot more clothing back in American and to once again only get what she needs in order to get home. She picked out one pair of Capri’s and one shirt. That was it. She was trying to respect my frugalness. I like that. She is very sweet and appreciative. Happily, she was wearer her news today also.

After the Market we walked over to the amusement park. Everyone was complaining they were hungry so we went into the park to a recommended restaurant to have some lunch. The menu was completely Russian. Thankfully, Karina is doing well on her English lessons and was able to help us muddle through the menu and order items for everyone. Aydan has fallen in love with a Ukrainian dish called Pelmeni. They are small tortellini shaped pasta with meat inside usually served with sour cream. We have practically had them every other day. I am getting a little sick of them. Since Aydan is allergic to dairy he has them with sauce or ketchup was available. It has been difficult to find food he likes so I have given in and made he him dish every other day. Oh well, anything to keep the whining to a minimum. Angel it seems is living on Ukrainian pizza though she says American pizza is much better. For her, I think the pizza is her comfort food that reminds her of home and she knows what to expect. I told Karina to order me whatever she wanted so she did. We had a Ukrainian dish called Blinechiki which are thin crepes stuffed with cheese and meat also served with sour cream and she ordered me a amazing rice dish that reminded me of Indian food. Yum!

After lunch, it was off to the rides. It was still drizzling a little so we went to the bumper cars since it was covered. These bumper cars were fast. I am guessing I should have watched for awhile because after watching I would have realized they (in Ukraine) don’t bump these cars. Unknown to Angel and Aydan, they proceeded to get into the cars and immediately bumped each other……..hard and again……hard. At this point, after watching them almost launch out of the cars, I realized, hey, no one else is bumping and that seemed kind of violent. I tried to get their attention and once I did they stopped. I would have been nice if someone told us in advance. Oh well. Angel ended up getting a rope burn on her neck from the impact and the safety belt rubbing. Thank God for safety belts.
Another cool observation, considering how they drive here: crazy, fast, no traffic lights usually, no stop signs….I am quite surprised that I have not seen a car accident yet. I will pray I continue with this luck.

In the pictures above, I should have gotten a before and after shot because they were dry when they got on but during the ride a torrential down pour occurred. Surprisingly, the ride attendant did not stop the ride. Karina, Angel and Aydan were soaked to the bone. At this point, we decided to call it a day.

Karina needed to get back and study for her last final exam and we were all wet. So we dropped off Karina and went back to change and chill.

It’s amazing how much time you have when there is no TV to watch. I have already read 3 books. I am loving the down time if nothing else. It’s almost a little too much down time.

We did get a phone call at around 4:30 to run down to the court house to sign some papers so off we went for our 20 minute walk down the road. It was sunny at this point so it was a good walk. On the way back I decided to pick up a few things at the supermarket. I felt that we have three willing able bodies. We can do this. Oh my goodness, what a bunch of spoiled kids. I carried the 2 gallon bottle of water (cost less than a dollar), they carried the groceries complaining every second of the way. Why can’t we get a taxi…….whaaaaa…….whaaaaaa. I told them I’m the one carrying the water. What’s the problem? Mark told me before he left he wasn’t going to carry the water all the way back to the apartment. Well, :oP I did today, muscle man, and I’m still alive!!!

All in all these past couple of days has truly made me appreciate all of God’s orchestrating and his planning. It is truly amazing to have a God who cares enough to go through so much trouble for a girl named Karina. God exercises His sovereign right to floor us with his mystery. We cannot know or even begin to fathom all the in and out of his plan or even wish to come close to understanding them. No matter what desert we are in or how far we have come……. through God we will survive to reach the other side. I know there are many evils that God delivers us from and some that he may not. Other times he parts the raging sea and moves mountains. No matter where we are, he is with us……”Do not be afraid, for I am with you: I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west” Isa. 43:2, 5

Well, we were in the East and Karina was in the West. Thanks be to God for bringing us together, parting the waters and moving mountains. We are honored that you care and are with us always.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rainy Day in Ukrainian

We didn’t get together with Karina until the afternoon today because she needed to study for her geography final. When we picked her up, even though it was raining, we set out on a mission to find a pair of shoes. Even though we looked a little yesterday, I had no idea how difficult this would turn out to be. It turns out that Karina has a rather large foot for a Ukrainian woman. It’s a European size 40 or I am guessing about a 9 or 10 American size. 40 is the largest size a woman’s shoe comes in here and when you get into this size, there are not many choices. Karina grew increasing discouraged. Since our wonderful translator was with us, Kate, she explain to Karina that this will not be a problem once we get to America. American woman have large feet because, well…….basically we grow them big in America. We finally found a pair to tied us over until we get home. Then we will have to go shoe shopping in the US. This should be fun since shoe shopping her is stressful for her and not enjoyable. Plus because it was raining, we were going inside and out and even though we had umbrellas, the roads had puddles everywhere (Potholes) and literally gushing streams of water running down the roads. Thankfully we were all wearing sandals because our feet were soaked.

We also set out on a mission to find a “real” bible. We found a kids bible but not a real translation. Amazingly enough, when we went to that large bookstore the other day looking for translation books and dictionaries, THERE WAS NO BIBLE TO BE FOUND IN THE ENTIRE STORE. A bookstore!? This really amazed me. I am not sure what that means. We ended up going to a flea market of sorts but there was no bible there also. Finally Kate took us to a little store outside a local church. They had a fabulous full bible for approximately $16 US. Evan has been asking for this for awhile so I bought two, one for him and one for Karina. I am hoping they don’t throw my luggage weight over the top since they are rather heavy. :o) I might have to buy one more piece of luggage so I don’t have to pay a fine. :o)

Here are some interesting observations about Ukrainian I thought you might enjoy:

1. There must not be a dog pound because there are stray cats and dogs everywhere. This has been quite upsetting to the kids. We have decided to collect our straps and save them for the dogs as we leave for the day.
2. I am not sure if I mentioned this or not but having a washing machine is a luxury here. A luxury that I am happy our apartment comes with. However, there is no such thing as a dryer. We are doing laundry every other day and drying it on a rack. Spoiled Americans!
3. They have the best instant coffee I have ever had here. I might bring some back. It’s amazing.
4. The roads and sidewalks are an American Lawyers dream come true. It doesn’t seem to bother anyone. Even building entrances and steps are not what I would call up to American code. You really need to watch her step everywhere here.
5. There is no tax on anything so far. This might explain the roads and sidewalks. :o)
6. The woman here dress to the “9’s” all the time. 3 to 4 inch heels, dresses, hair, nails. Not sure where they get the money to do all of this.

That’s all the observations I can think of at the moment. I’ll post some more later. We are off to celebrate Angel’s birthday at a local amusement park. It should be interesting.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Shopping in Ukrainian

Karina and her friends at the Orphanage.

Another amazing day with Karina. At this point we are waiting for our court date. I misunderstand that it was this Friday. It has not been scheduled as of yet but it will probably be Friday the 17th. Since today and tomorrow are Ukrainian holidays we will not know until Tuesday or so when our court hearing is scheduled. I will remain hopeful and pray that it is Friday so we can be home sooner rather then later.

The 17th is also Karina's Ukrainian graduation of sorts. They graduate them out at 16. Sooooooo, we got to go shopping for a pretty dress. Karina, who I found out is not a dress person, went completely gaga over this amazingly beautiful dress. So, of course I bought it for her. It was a full length summer tunic sheer dress with a short slip underneath. So basically the best of both world, a short and long dress in one. Hard to example. It was very elegant. It cost a total of 170 Ukrainian dollars or just a little more then $20 American. I think I made her millennium. She was so thankful and appreciative. We are going shopping for shoes tomorrow, yeah.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Wonderful Relaxing day with Karina

Today we woke up fully revived from our crazy non-stop day yesterday. But of course it was all worth it. We had arranged to spend the day with Karina on our turf. I went to pick her up at 9:30 (the kids were just waking up, not normal for them). I walk into the orphanage and even though I had a tour yesterday I was instantly lost. I managed to find an adorable little girl who tried to help me but with the language barrier she was no help but still cute as a button. I wondered around on my own until, amazing enough, I found Karina. The orphanage is like a maze of stairs and buildings all connected by hallways. It’s quite old and in need of many repairs and items for the children.

As soon as I found Karina she was beaming and ready to go. She is so happy to spend the day with us. I could tell that most of her friends were happy for her though some maybe were not. We called another taxi to come get us and off we went back to the apartment we rented for our time in Kirovograd.

Karina speaks very little English. So, we started out the day just pointing at things and I would tell her what it was called and had her repeat. We did this most of the day. When we got to the apartment, two fully rested children were now ready to greet and pounce on her in a good way. Happily, she was not too scared of all the attention. We were told by the interpreter yesterday that Karina is basically a very shy girl. Amazingly enough, she is fitting in quite well with our family. We are constantly told how much she resembles us in a physical way as if she truly was our birth daughter.

We picked up this hand carved chess board in Kiev and Aydan has not wanted to do anything else. So, the kids and Karina played chess for a good part of the day. Try explaining the rules of chess to someone who can’t speak English. Karina is very smart. Through hand motions and eye contact she was able to understand all the rules of the game.

Around 12:00 we decided to stroll around the town. It was a beautiful 70 degree day. Our apartment is right in the center of town so this is very convenient for us. We wanted to go to a bookstore to find some translation books and some batteries for our camera. While walking through town Angel saw the big Energizer bunny sign so off we went into the electronic store, Before our walk I was using Google translator to talk with Karina. It was great fun but I quickly realized that she could not communicate back to us because the Russian language has 33 letters in their alphabet. Well, thanks to that Energizer bunny, Angel and God we found a solution. I started to look around the store and became aware of the computer keyboards. Quickly I pulled Mark over to the keyboards and said, “Look at these keyboards. They have both English and Russian letters. We need to get this.” We purchased it for $12 US dollars. What a blessing.

Then we continued down the road to the book store. Once in the purely Ukrainian store we quickly realized we needed help. God heard. In the store was a wonderful sales person who spoke fluent English. She happily helped us find the Russian-English dictionaries we wanted and a simple phrase book.

Here’s a funny observation. For about 5 days now I have been looking for a normal size school notebook. Can’t find it anywhere. All the notebooks I have found have graph paper in them. Funny!

After the book store we went to lunch….yes you guessed it….PIZZA again. We saw a sign for a Pizza restaurant like the one we went to in Kiev. We assumed it was a chain but we quickly found out it was not. The restaurant in Kiev had an English and Russian menu but this one did not. We were able, with Karina’s help to muddle through the order. We got 2 pizza (small by American standards), 2 Calzones (single serving), 3 waters and 2 large beers for $15 US. Not a bad price for 5 people to eat. There was some confusion in our order but the kids were able to deal with the mistakes and go with the flow. This has been a great eye opening experience for them. They understand we are not in the USA and when mistakes happen there is no sending it back because we cannot communicate the problem.
After lunch we went back to the apartment for our schedule Skype with Evan. This was the first time Karina has seen her brother in a year. Julie worked through the night setting up Skype so we could surprise Evan with the phone call. They were so happy. Smiling ear to ear they talked for 30 minutes at least. It was great to see them connect. We ended up buying a keyboard for Evan too so he could continue writing Ukrainian and not lose his heritage.

Afterwards we hooked up our new keyboard and then the fun began. We used Google translator for about 2 hours and just talked and talked. Karina and I talked for an hour and then Angel and Karina talked about girl stuff for a hour. Then they logged on to you tube and pulled up videos of musicians that Karina likes. The girls had fun connecting.

During our conversation it was clear that Karina wants to spend every minute with us. It really warmed my heart when she said this.

Sadly, Mark is heading back to the USA tonight. It was really sad and scary to see him leave. Knowing that our time here is shorter than I expected will pull me through. It was a sad good-bye. After he took off for the long journey home (5 hour train ride and 16 hour flight with about 10 hours of waiting in between) we took Karina back to the Orphanage. Aydan informed me that was his first hug from Karina since he was so grumpy yesterday.

Then back to the apartment for some rest and relaxation.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Crazy Couple Days But God Was Definitely With Us

What an amazing two days we have had. We started out on Thursday completely refreshed and ready to enjoy Kiev while we waiting for our facilitator to meet with us at 1:00. We went down to the city center, which is like their time square, and had a great time exploring and walking around. We had “another” pizza lunch and then came back to Karen’s wonderfully apartment, packed and waited for our facilitator to take us to the US Consulate to fill out some documents before Mark has to go home. One O’clock came and went and no facilitator. Then 1:30. Our appointment was at 1:45. Mark asked me, should we be concerned. I told him it was not in our control so go with the flow.

At that point our facilitator drove up and asked us, “Where have you been? I’ve been trying to reach you.” Yesterday during our SDA appointment they told my facilitator that we needed a special letter from the Embassy authorizing in advance Karina’s adoption since she has turned 16 already. The SDA (Ukrainian Adoption Department) would not issue our referral unless we received this letter. We needed this letter by Thursday or we would be held back another week in Ukraine. The SDA also needed the letter by 12:00 in order to process it or no referral on Thursday. When our facilitator pulled up she informed us the Embassy issued the letter (AMEN) but the letter had a mistake and the SDA would not accept it. It was now almost 2:00 and there was no guarantee that the letter would be accepted by the SDA in time to receive our referral. Needless to say so much for our nice relaxing morning being a tourist. :O) We ran over to the US Consulate building, got the forms signed that we needed to get signed, picked up the corrected letter for the SDA, ran back to the SDA and waited and prayed and waited and prayed.

God answered our pray. He has a plan for Karina. Somehow, Lord willing, the SDA DID accept the letter and DID give us our referral. Thank you Lord!

We immediately started to make plans to get to Kirovograd. Trains were sold out, buses not an option so off we went with a high dollar taxi ride to Kirovograd. We had to get there as soon as possible because of the next hurdle.

If we didn’t submit our petition for adoption on Friday morning, we would have to wait a whole week before we could petition the court. We didn’t get to Kirovograd until 12:30. In bed at 1:00 am and up at 6:00 am to meet with Karina at 7:30 because, by Ukrainian law, she needs to accept us before anything can be completed. The amazing lawyer arranged a 7:30 am meeting (before work hours) with Karina so she could accept us. It was so wonderful to finally meet her. You have no idea how happy I was to finally hold her in my arms. But no time for this. Paperwork needed to be expedited.

So off to the notary to fill out the request for the petition that needed to be in the courthouse before 9:30 am. Are you feeling the time crunch! Poor Aydan was falling asleep everywhere. Both the kids were exhausted but not me. I was too excited. After the notary, back to the courthouse for my formal meeting to be approved for adoption. I was so nervous. My interpreter gave me the low down on some possible questions they might ask me. When they finally brought me in, they asked me three questions……three questions……that was it. They had already approved us. They were all in the meeting with Karina at 7:30 and I guess they had decided at the point. The questions were just a formal acceptance. God was surely with us today. Then back to the notary office, lawyer’s office and grocery store for some much needed food and finally some lunch by 12:30.

After we started preparing lunch our interpreter called us and Karina, who had a final exam in Biology, was done and wanted to know when we were coming. So shoveled down some food and we were at the orphanage by 2:00 for some quality time with Karina. We talked for 2 hours (with the interpreter of course). It was a wonderful happy 2 hours. We had to go back to the lawyer’s office for one more form at 4:00 so we parted ways until tomorrow.

Here’s the kicker, the lawyer got us a June 17th court date and she is 90% sure she can have the 10 day waiting period WAVED!!!! Please pray this happens. If this happens we can be back 7-10 days after our court hearing. God you are AMAZING! Your love for KARINA never stops amazing me. Karina keeps asking how Evan is and how far he is from our house and is super excited to reunite with him. She was very excited that he lives so close and can not wait to see him. It will be a glorious day to see them together. Evan, HERE SHE COMES!

Thank you everyone for continuing to pray for us and support us. We miss you.

Blessings to all,

Yeah, what she said.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

SDA Appointment and Fun Tourist Stuff

Today we started out with our SDA appointment at 10 am. It went great. It was a piece of cake. We should have our referral to get Karina by tomorrow. Then it's off to Kirovograd and a new surrounding. Just in the nick of time because we are kind of getting over the city of Kiev. I am guessing it's normal as far as cities go but, well....we are definitely not city people.

After our appointment, we managed to get in a visit the number one tourist spot in Kiev, Kievo-Pechersky Lavra. It is an enormous ensemble of white church halls with green and gold rooftops. It supposedly represents the spiritual heart of the country and symbolizes Kiev's survival throughout a millennium of adversity. It's basically a shrine. Girls have to cover their heads in respect to the Orthodox Church. It was fun but HOT. The kiddo's got tired of the heat and walking quite quickly. Grumpy heads.

Then back to the apartment to have some lunch, walk to the grocery store to get some snacks for our train ride to Kirovograd. EXCITING!!! We can't wait to leave tomorrow evening after we get our referral letter. We will officially meet Karina on Friday. Yeah!


First to start-jet lag stinks. It hit me last night. We sleep with the windows wide open as that is the air conditioning. Therefore, between the heat, noise (remember the clank clank of the manhole cover-i swear I will find a welder and weld that thing down) and the jet lag, I did not sleep til about 4am and woke up at 8am. Very grumpy. Looking forward to leaving the city. SDA appointment today at 10am. Picked up by the facilitator and her husband. On the ride I am remembered why it was recommended I not rent a car and drive in this city. Most intersections have no traffic lights and it seems every man, woman, and child for themselves. That includes pedestrians. If you cross the street you had better be sure the car coming at you sees you otherwise you may become the fresh new Ukrainian hood ornament. That is no joke. The people of the city are very proud but very aggressive. And I thought New Yorkers are rude and obnoxious. I am sure it is normal for them but not what i am used to. For example, when I go to pay for an item at a cashier and she finds that I do not speak Russian/Ukrainian there is an obvious disgust and eye-roll. The type of eye-roll that if my kids did I would jerk their leashes quickly. Oh well. When in Rome...... Never the less, I am ready to leave the city. Even though I grew up in New York, I was never one for the city. So maybe the country and smaller towns will be more my speed.

Oh, Taxis. Not like home where they are strictly regulated. When they know you are a foreigner, they may try to screw you. There are no meters in the cabs. Just a negotiated price. Thats right, "lets make a deal." We needed a ride from the church monastery place back to the apartment across town. Taxi driver said 100 hrivna (pronounced grivna). I said 50. He said no. I said good Nyat (no) and walked away. He said how much and I said 50. He said "nyat-traffic". He said 100 and I said no. Finally, after repeating this process a few times with other cabbies, I found someone to take us for 80 hrivna. Good enough. The traffic does stink and is better than the greatest roller coaster you could ride.

Money. Lets talk about that. Hrivna is their monetary denomination. Looks like monopoly money. At least that is the joke. $1 US equals approximately 8 hrivna. So that taxi ride was 80 hrivna or $10 US. So when you shop for groceries and the bill for a few items comes to 233 hrivna, don't freak. Just devide by 8 to figure US amount in dollars. they also give fractions of hrivna in little coins called "kopecs". Which, I think are useless as you need alot of them to equal 1 hrivna which is 1/8th of $1 US.

Time to stop typing. Have a great day. Til tomarrow, maybe. If the WiFi works.


Kids and Mark outside of SDA appointment.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kids at the airport.

Angel Found ice cream already.

Architecture, beautiful.

Karen's Apartment


Two Days of Travel but we are FINALLY Here

Monday, June 06, 2011

12:00 pm Drive to Norfolk International Airport early because the kids couldn't wait to get there.

3:00 Get on first plane to Washington DC.

4:00 Land in Washington DC and wait till our next flight.

6:45 Get on next plane to Germany for 8 hour flight through the night chasing the sun across the horizon. Arrive in Germany at 9:00 am

9:00 am- 1:00 Wait some more, eat, sleep, read, play DS

1:00 Get on last flight to Kiev. Arrived in Ukraine 4:00 pm

We have been here for less then a day and the best way I can describe how I feel is pure culture shock.
Thankfully we have a English speaking home to stay in for our few days in Kiev but after we leave here I am concerned. Now I know how all those immigrants feel when they come to America. We can't read the streets signs, names on the stores, names on food in the supermarket. Thankfully again Karen, our host in Kiev, took me to the supermarket but it was nothing like our supermarket. It started to occur to me why American have such a obesity issue. I bought pretzels for Mark and the kids and it was, what Mark would consider a single serving bag. There was no such thing as a big bag or family size bag of pretzels. Kind of makes you think. The largest juice I found was about a pint. That's one days serving for 4 people in our house. Eggs were sold by the 10 not the dozen. No such things as peanut butter. I should have brought some. Grape jelly….what's that. Bread in a package verses fresh….very rare. Turkey cold cuts….no where to be found….lots of ham and more ham and chicken.

Since we got here late we went out for our first Ukraine dinner, PIZZA. Funny right. It was actually very different then our pizza and they serve sushi everywhere, even in the pizza restaurant. After walking around with Karen last night I think we woke up a little shell shocked, afraid to leave the safety of her apartment without her. We laid around until 11:00 getting the will power to venture out on our own. We found a little playground that Karen told us about but the kids didn't want to play. Aydan enjoyed chasing the pigeons but that was it. No body seems to speak English. This is very surprising to me. I thought that since we were in a big city many people would speak English. Oh well, live and learn.

I started the kids on Russian Rossetta stone today just to see if they pick anything up while we are here. Why not. Our Ukrainian Facilitator is meeting with us today at 1:00 to go over our SDA appointment and other stuff.

Looking forward to what she has to say. Until then.


Ok. So that was Deb's version. Here's mine.

Flight out of Norfolk Sunday at 3:00. That part was easy. Easy flight to Washington DC Dulles Airport. 3.5 hour layover. OK, I can live with that. Expensive dinner at the airport at Max and Erma's. OK food. Leave DC on Lufthansa flight to Munich. Best flight I have flown on "hands down." Great plane, great crew and edible food. Landed about 3am EDT or 9am Munich. Flew in over beautiful country side. Would love to visit Germany one day. Had an expensive breakfast of croissant, ham sandwich, schnitzle w/ pretzel, a pretzel, coffee, 3 waters. Total $30 US. WOW. Was that just because of the airport or are those prices the norm? I hope not. 4.5 hour layover. Jump on another Lufthansa flight to Kiev, Ukraine for 2.5 hours. Land at their international airport. Norfolk is huge compared to it. Walked of aircraft down steps to tarmac and onto bus. Go to terminal and right through customs. No problems. My observation-you either have to hate your life, job or just be overly serious for a Ukrainian customs agent. Get luggage from ground transportation and find our ride. Constantine, the husband of our Kiev Facilitator. Very nice, enough English to get by. Drives a Ford-go figure. For some reason I was surprised by this. At least it had AC-LOL. Kids have been great up to this point. They are running on fumes. So am I but I will survive. Aydan had one mild meltdown in Kiev airport while waiting for Constantine. I quietly asked her what was wrong and got "the look." I am no dummy. Left it alone and went to look for Constantine.

Ride to Kiev was uneventful. Feeling good at this point. As we got closer to the city, started to see classic Stalinistic architecture. Buildings look like concrete bunkers, old and run down. Once in city, picked up Karen from Orphans Promise which is a CBN organization. She was kind enough to let us crash at her apartment til Thursday. Apartment is a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom that can best be described as utilitarian. Ukranians are not paid much so live extremely simply. This was the time culture shock began to reveal its ugly head to me. Apartment is on fifth floor. There is an elevator the size of a closet. Actually, correction, size of a small pantry. Our closets are enormous. Actually, apartments here have no closets. They have wards-furniture to store clothing. The elevator is probably 4 feet by 4 feet square. 4-5 people max. OK-no problems so far. Back to realization Americans have it all to well. Refrigerator, small(tiny) by our standards, has only what is necessary for a couple days. No frozen cows or pigs in the freezer. No gallons of milk or juice. No hen house of eggs either. This is normal I am told. Stove is old and gas. Instructions-turn gas main on that is located on wall, turn burner on and light with match, do not lose eyebrows in process. Oh, be careful not to ignite the curtains either. Dishwasher? Yup. His name is Mark-LOL. Clothes washer-Yes. Very small and in bathroom. Dryers do not exist in Ukraine. there is a drying rack in the bedroom. Shower? Of course. They are not barbarians. Oh-no hot water. Yes they have hot water, its just turned off for two weeks. Apparently every region has the hot water turned off for 2 weeks at a time. We were just lucky enough to hit the right week here. Funny. Cold showers. Never saw Aydan so rigid when I helped him. Air-conditioning consisted of opening windows, without screens, and hope for a breeze. Temperature is low/mid 80's during day. a little stuffy in the apartment but not to bad. Sleeping with windows open is a bit noisy with all the street traffic with includes cars obviously but also street trolleys (noisy) and one loose manhole cover that goes clank clank each time a car or the street trolley goes over it.....all night long. Since I was so exhausted anyway, I still slept through the night. Woke at 7am locally. By the way, the time difference is 7 hours.

Today, Tuesday, we woke up and said goodbye to Karen, our host, who was off to work. OK, now realization that we have no interpreter hits me. Karen did tell us of a park around the corner with some play equipment, so that is our initial destination this morning before we meet the lawyer, Natalia. Walked to the park and found a very small play area that is very much left to the habits of the people that use it as well as those that decide to use it for advertisement purposes, graffiti. Angel did not want to play and Aydan chased the pigeons for a while. So we left. Ended walking to what I call a local convenience store for a few things. Language barrier becomes and issue when she tries to ring up orange juice and has a problem. She takes the orange juice to the back, I assume to get the price or ask someone, and returns with.......nothing. HMMMM. I try to ask/sign/look like a fool to communicate about the OJ and get a curt 'nayt' or NO when she realizes I have no clue. So I say 'uncle' and buy what is there and go back to the apartment. Culture shock hits hard. We go back to the apartment to wait for the lawyer, Natalia. While there I confess to Deb that this is going to be more difficult than I had imagined. Mostly because of the language barrier. It occurs to me that out of everything I feel I am missing, lack of communication is the most difficult. Not being able to know what is being said, how to ask for the most simplest things, like the bathroom, is quite eye opening and is the thing that puts me the most outside my comfort zone. Thats it for now. Check back.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

We Leave Today For Ukraine

We finally got our SDA appointment and are scheduled to leave to get our new daughter today. The adventure is just about to begin. I say adventure because we can expect to be away for as much as a month. I say adventure because when my husband comes back before me and I will be in a country with my two children were I don’t speak a lick of the language. I say adventure because my son has food allergies. How am I to communicate that if I am to go out to eat. I say adventure because I hear the drivers are scary. But all this is good with God's help and guidance. So much planning and packing! It's almost surreal that we are actually leaving today. My kids in, in order of when it happens, have said they can't wait to get on the plane, they can't wait to play their new DS games and they can't wait to meet Karina. The inner workings of a childs brain are still a mystery to me. That's it for now. Still have many things to do before we get on that plane. See you when we get back. Everyone stay healthy and safe. Debbie