Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Smooth Sailing On Bumpy Roads

Our flights back to Kiev went off with out a hitch.
A little turbulence and some motion sickness, but no delays.

Our first day in Kiev was spent catching up on sleep and checking out a few new sights downtown.
We stumbled upon this amazing little park filled with Easter Eggs.
This is part of their Passover celebration.

( Kaly and Ayla, you would have gone crazy here! It was so beautiful. There were eggs hanging from every branch. The pictures do not even come close to how amazing it was.)

Tuesday we began our drive to Olya's birthplace.
The roads were very bumpy and we darted in and out of traffic and around many holes,
both Jeromy and I got car sick. ;(
We survived the drive and truly the day was smooth sailing.
We had no driving issues, our time with our facilitator and driver was very nice and the best part.....
We got Olya's Birth Certificate!
It has her new name and we are listed as her parents!
It was such a special time, after a long and nerve wracking wait, we went in to sign documents. The woman in charge said to us that she knew Olya's birth family. She seems very pleased we were adopting her and left us with many blessings and well wishes. She and the other woman in the office both had tears in their eyes and hugged us goodbye.
We feel so blessed to have this small connection with Olya's past.
God has continued to bless us in this adoption over and over.

Vital Statistics Office
Today we again started the day at 7:30 am.
We finished at 7:30 pm.
What did we do all day?
Well, mostly we waited while our facilitator ran in and out of about 5 different offices about a hundred times.
That woman needs to wear some Nikes instead of heals ;)
We had to get things notarized, copied, new passport made so we could go get a new passport made ;)
Yep, two passports, long story.
We also had to go to the social security office, back and forth to the orphanage.
All of this only a few issues occurred, which were quickly remedied.
We are exhausted, I am sure our fac. is dead asleep by now.
Oh yeah, then we took stuff to over-night on the train and went and bought treats for the kids and administration so we can throw them a party.
Why a party?
Because tomorrow we are taking their sweet Olya away forever.
We don't want them to hate us, so we are giving them candy ;)
Yes, tomorrow is our official "gotcha day"!
We have more paperwork to do but tomorrow night we will all sleep either in a car or on a train together and begin our lives as a family.
No more goodbyes, no more needing permission to take her somewhere.
We should arrive in Kiev Friday morning, then we will start more paperwork.
We will be at the US Embassy to get Olya's Visa.
They said they would do their best to process it on Friday!
For those that do not already know, this is the LAST STEP!
We are planning to fly home on Sunday!
Yes already!
We praise God for allowing this process to go so quickly.
In many ways it has been harder than I ever expected, but in other ways it has gone so much smoother than we could have ever imagined.
The hard stuff has been overcome through lots of prayer.
Why prayer is often my last resort on some things , I do not know, but get this, it works. ;)
He is changing my heart and attitude and all of a sudden the hard doesn't seem so hard anymore.
Now we can just focus on the excitement of being parents to the sweetest 16 year old and enjoy our time getting to know her.
Praise God we will soon say goodbye to this long journey of adoption, and begin a new journey as parents of FIVE!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The rest of the story!

The day before court our visit with Olya was a little different than the rest. She seemed more quiet. Less interested in doing anything and nervous.

We weren't sure if she was getting teased by a couple of the girls or if she was just emotional. It really stinks not being able to understand what is being said right in front of you.

As we were heading to court the next day, our facilitator mentioned that she thought Olya was struggling. Olya had called to see if we would be coming for a visit. We all new Olya was working through her emotions, but it is so nerve wracking waiting to see if she might change her mind. When we arrived to pick her up she had not eaten yet and was very nervous. We were all very nervous and each of us had a hard time eating before court. It is a little scary waiting to get questioned. And for Olya it is a huge day! Saying hello to her future, but goodbye in many ways to her past.

We honestly are very thankful for this time for her. I never want to see my kids hurting or emotionally upset, but it shows us that she is making this decision knowing the consequences. She is facing reality and she knows what she is giving up. It also shows us she has bonded to her friends and care-givers and we know she knows how to love and be loved. In the world of adoption, this is a big thing.

We Praise God our process has gone so quickly. Being in and out of court in 10 days is really quite amazing. I think Olya thought she would have much more time before this day.

Once we got to court and had some time to hang out, she bagan to relax. She was very confident in court and gave me many sweet smiles as the court proceedings continued.

Our facilitator sat with us and we all debreifed after court. Olya seemed very happy and shared she would miss her favorite teacher.

Yesterday was our last day to visit and it was amazing. We had a wonderful time and she tried very hard to connect with us. We played checkers and took silly pictures. We "played" do you like, and just had a wonderful time together.

We are now packing to head back home for a short time of regrouping and reconnecting with our other 4 treasures.

We arrive home Sun. afternoon at 3 and will be heading back to finalize the adoption paperwork April 22.

We are looking at 1-3 weeks of being gone. Things could move very quickly again, but we have a couple of things that could hold us up for a long time. One is the passport. It is possible to get it in one day, but there are no promises. The other is a 5 day weekend. If we hit it just right, we may be hanging out for 5 days waiting for the offices to reopen. We have seen God move in a mighty way and we trust He will do what is best for the family.

We do not really know what Olya needs right now. If she needs more time then we would rather spend another 5 days here touring her country. We desire as healthy a transition as possible. Though we would love to rush back home, we trust God will do what is best. The timing is, as always in His hands.





Thursday, April 12, 2012

Proudly Introducing...

We are proud to introduce our new girl, please meet...
Olya Naomi !

Our court date was a success yesterday! Olya is ours!

Our wonderful facilitator - far right and the children's services workers.
A huge thank you to them for making this day possible, and so soon.

Here is Olya at the puppet show in the orphanage. She did a great job writing and reciting a poem as well as being the voice for some of the characters.

A little crazy time with the I Pad!
Please don't judge our maturity by these photos. ;)




We love you Olya!

Welcome to the family.

You are truly a wonderful girl and we are so thankful

God has blessed us with you as our daughter.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Getting to know you!

Today part of our visit was joining a group of 7 kids and their teacher for a little spontaneous art class.
With tons of excitement all the kids quickly covered the table with news paper, pulled out the supplies and got to work helping our girl make a masterpiece.
It was truly a group event. Everyone helping to choose the colors. One dear friend assisting with holding the iron. The teacher giving her input and adding the details to the final product.



Then it was my turn, I too had everyone giving input as to what colors to use. Every blue was considered for the perfect sky. Some teacher touch ups on the crashing waves and I had an identifiable ocean scene.

Then it was Jeromy's turn. I tried to make it hard on him and jokingly showed him a challenging picture to copy, but with a lot a little help from the teacher, they got all the perfect details added to make a beautiful mountain scene.


We finished off our little painting party with a bag of candy and some English practice.

We have had a wonderful mix of time alone with "Our Girl", and time getting to know her in her world.

It is so nice to be alone and just get to know each other, but we also learn so much about her seeing the interactions with her classmates. She seems to have very loving and caring friends, teachers and caregivers. Everyone has been so welcoming to us, loving on our girl and very willing to let use part of their lives.

We have seen our girl really working hard to connect with us.

She asked about our hobbies. I told her I like to garden. Later out on a little walk she stopped, said Stacy and pointed out the garden.

She knows Jeromy likes to run and now whenever we stroll the long hallway she turns it into a race. I tell you what that girl can really move in that chair. I have to jog to keep up with her.

We are seeing more and more how God is knitting our family together. We always knew she was a perfect fit with our family but the more we talk about the future the more it seems she is the missing piece.

We can't wait to have all the pieces together.

(a little Easter Skype session)


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Painted Trees, Blunders and Updates

Spring is in the air and the trees are being painted!


Apparently, painting the trunks of trees white helps prevent sun scalding, splitting, bug bores and animals feasting on the bark. It has been fun though to watch groups of people in the community painting trees for spring clean-up.

We do have lots to update on but it seems that our blog would turn more into a book. So, here are a few highlights and to start, the top foreigner blunders to date:

Blunder #1 - So, in a previous post we mentioned that on our way up to our new flat/apartment, the elvevator went out or blacked out inside but our driver and facilitator somehow helped us through the mess. Well, on our first venture out of the flat, we decided to brave the elevator (envision a dark movie, concrete walls, iron clanging doors... something to that effect). We get inside, I put the card in the slot to give us authority to run the thing, and start scanning the wall for the correct button to push. The only problem is that the numbers were worn off. It was a guessing game until suddenly the dim light went out and it was pitch black. The only thing we could here was this nice pleasant calm voice through a speaker somewhere saying, "something something.. tri pozhaluista" which translates as "something something three please." Then it was quiet and very black. The only thing I could say was "were screwed". But alas, my wife came to the rescue. As I was pondering the situation, she began to frantically hit every button she could feel on the wall. The door thankfully opened and out we went. We laughed and laughed so hard all 7 flights down the old concrete stairwell until we finally made our way into the light of our blessed sun. Needless to say, we are now getting our exercise in.

Blunder #2 - So, after escaping into the sun we went to the market and back to get groceries. Upon coming back from the market, I turned to go into our stairwell to begin the journey up to the flat. Stacy, however, kept going down the road. But being a good and obedient wife, she saw that I turned and followed me. We passed a group of locals as we went through the iron door. They were all looking at us with peculiarity. Well, after about 4 flights of stairs we began to think that the stairwell had improved. There was paint on the walls and didn't smell too bad. It was the wrong stairwell. Again, we were laughing all the way down the stairs and into the crowd of onlookers as we had to pass by and just smile. So much for blending in :)

Blunder # 3 - The train ride. On our 12.5hr train ride through the night I had to use the restroom. Those things happen from time to time. So, I confidently went out of our cabin in search of the restroom. By the way, I never realized how challenging things can be when one does not understand the language let alone the foreign alphabet. Good times! Well, I found the restroom but could not find our cabin on the way back. I didn't check which number we were in. I would like to beleive that I would normally have noticed, for example, on our tickets which number we were in but I couldn't read the ticket and our facilitator just said " you go in here." So, I started to try to open doors and knock on doors. Didn't work... just weird looks. I then found the train attendant to which I had to humbly make hand gestures and speak my limited Russian... "uhhh, me no know where my own cabin is... you show me?... spaseba." Thankfully, she did not understand and just thought I locked myself out. She showed me to our door and how to unlock.

Blunder #4 - McDonalds. Yes, believe it or not, the golden archs looked pretty good after a few days of trying to find food (see blunder #5). Stacy walked right up to the counter and said "big mac, fries, coca-cola" the lady said "dah" and got her order. After looking at the lucious hamburger pictures with scrambled words on the wall I said, "whopper, fries, coca-cola" to which she looked at me with puzzled eyes. I thought, hmmm, whopper must not translate... bummer... then I looked at Stacy who had puzzled eyes too. Then Stacy informed me that McDonalds does not sell whoppers... that's Burger King. It all came flooding back to me.. ahh, yes.. Burger King. Dumb American does not know difference between McDonalds and Burger King. So, I just said, "big mac, fries, coca-cola." I got food and was happy.

Blunder #5 The first night we arrived, our driver took us around and pointed things out like, "grocery here, you get groceries her, McDonalds here, you get good American food here, TGIF here, you get good American food here." The whole time, I am thinking, whatever, we are going for the local stuff. We are adventerous, we can figure this out. When we arrived at our flat, the driver went over about a half dozen times how to get around outside. "You go through doors, down drive, turn left, turn left, grocery on left. You get food their." Oh brother, I thought, when is this overprotection thing gonna end. He left, we fell asleep, woke up and ventured outside. Everything looked different in the daylight. Hmm.. well he said go left, so lets go left. Then we came to a Y. I guess we stay left, I confidently told Stacy. Then we came to a T and we stayed left again. It worked! But we did not recognize anything. Foreign language and what seemed to be a lack of windows and pictures left us guessing what was inside these buildings. So, we just started peeking our heads in the stores occasionally to see what was inside. We eventually managed to find groceries and some toilet paper. But now we were getting hungry. We need to find a restaurant. After a long time of walking and looking around, we managed to find a place that had an appearance of a restaurant. We went in and what luck, it was a buffet! We could just point to food and they would dish it up for us. No need to speak! So, we saw some good looking dumpling stuff, pointed and they dished it up. We sat down, took a big bite and discovered that we picked out a cherry dumpling dessert! So, we unintentionally went for the dessert first. It was very good though.


It has been a great pleasure to get to visit and know our girl. We have had the priveledge of going to two orphanage events this last week. One was a spring festival available to the public in their "community center" where they had an open market for purchasing plants and trees. This was very encouraging and inspiring to see. The people, leaders, teachers, etc.. really do care for and love the kids.

Yesterday, the orphanage had their own festival or play for the springtime. We got to see our girl recite a poem and be a part of the play. After the play, we had lots of visiting time. At one point, while Stacy was with our girl, I got to attempt to communicate with one of her very close friends. After staring at each other for a while, I said "wow, I really wish I knew how to speak Russian" to which she said "wha?" but then she tried to tell me something. After the third attempt, she said in English very slowly, "do you love God?" to which I quickly responded "dah, dah!" (yes, yes). I asked her if she loves God to which she said "dah, dah!" This conversation spoke volumes to me knowing that our girl best and close friends big concern was whether or not her new parents loved God. It was very encouraging to hear.

Also, we got to talk to our girl a lot yesterday through our translator. We found out that she loves music. We asked what kind of music she likes to listen to and she said Christian music. She loves Christian music in Russian and she seemed very sincere.


Please be in prayer this week for some final paperwork to go through by Wednesday so that we can have our courtdate this Thursday. We have one document for clearance that is either missing or held up somewhere. Please pray that this gets resolved soon and that we can proceed.

Also, please continue to be in prayer for our girl. Pray that the Lord will continue to work in her heart as well as the hearts of her friends and children in the orphanage. They are well cared for but are without momas and papas.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Wow! Where to start!

So much has happened in the last few days.


While we waited for our referral from the SDA our driver Eugen took us on a tour of the historical sites in town. He is so knowledgable and gave us a great education about the history here. The buildings are amazing and the weather was pretty good.

Receiving the referral was, well shall we say uneventful, praise the Lord!

About six of us families crowded into a little space which did not smell good. We waited about 10 minutes. Went through a line, showed our passports and walked out with our dossier in hand.

It was so fast and no questions, yippee! (I guess all that worrying paid off. Lol)

We did get to visit with the other families, which again was a huge blessing. I (Stacy) was in great need of some girl conversation. The other moms are so sweet and refreshing, but we were all on our way to new things so our time together was short.

We then got ready for the train ride which I had been totally mistaken about. Thankfully I googled it before we got on. It was actually a 12 1/2 hour ride and yes it was hot and the bathrooms, ugh!


We survived the train and immediately started to work on paperwork. Our facilitator is amazing and very efficient. We ran to multiple buildings and got the paperwork moving then went to the orphanage. When our girl came in we were surprised, we didn't know she was coming so soon. We were very happy to see her, but it was a bit stressful. There was no time to talk to her. We had lots of paperwork to do, but she was so cute! She instantly grabbed a pen and quickly wrote her letter saying she wanted to be adopted by us. They asked if she had questions for us and she said "nyet"! They joked that she already knew everything about us.

We all said goodbye and she was off to lunch.

Honestly I was very disappointed and sad.

We were very tired and emotional and came back to our new flat feeling a bit defeated.

Our girl was great, but the meeting felt very much like a business transaction.

Our apartment building seemed very questionable from the outside. We survived the black-out on the elevator thanks to our driver and made it inside our flat. Wow! The inside has been nicely remodeled and looks very fancy, but we were very shocked by the wall hangings. We won't go into detail but they we're all immediately covered with anything we could find. We asked to change apartments but it seems that isn't a good option.


After a wonderful nights sleep we headed off to do more paperwork, then we got to go hang out with our girl for almost three hours!

We had no translator and were in a room full of stuffed animals and board games.

We showed her through the picture book we made for her, gave her cards from the kids and her necklaces the girls made. Then she had us follow her to her locker and she showed us her picture book. She seemed so excited to show us. We asked if we could see her art (via Google translate). She took us on a tour, up the elevator to the different art rooms. I am not biased and not even over exaggerating. She is an amazing artist. It seems the teachers do a great job helping the kids to independently do many different kinds of art.

Here are just a couple of examples of her work.

She uses this red thing to bead necklaces.

After the tour we went back to the rooms and pulled out the maps we brought. And told her more about where we live.

Then her and I played a game of dot to dot. A fun and simple game to explain when you do not speak the same language. I was't sure how easy to be on her, but it seems she is one smart cookie. We took turns challenging each other and being too nice to each other. I think next time she will be up for a good mind challenging game.

Then she pulled out the UNO cards and taught us her rules. Just slightly different than we play. She was quick to keep Jeromy on track and ran the whole show. Dealing and keeping track of whose turn it is.

After about three games of that she pulled out a game we have never seen.

She seemed to have a good sense of adding and subtracting big numbers in the money game.

With a phone call from our facilitator, we were off - more paperwork then "home" for lunch.

Prayer request

We have been so blessed that all of the paperwork is coming together.

We have had a couple of major issues, but they got settled very quickly.

We already have a court date scheduled for April 12th, pending the next set of paperwork from the SDA.

If we get the paperwork, it will probably be the evening of April 11th.

Please pray we get it, if not we cannot have court until April 17th at the earliest. They will have a long weekend for their Easter holiday (Eastern Orthodox Calendar).

Thank you all for your encouragement, support and prayers!


Monday, April 2, 2012

Appointment success and touring

Our day started at about 11:30 last night when we woke up and couldn't go back to sleep. (We are still working on getting our days and nights figured out.) We skyped with the kids at 3:30 am and I finally fell asleep while Jeromy stayed up to read.

I have to say this Skype thing is pretty cool. It is so good to stay connected with the kiddos and blow them kisses and make funny faces with them.


As we headed off to our appointment Jeromy was calm as a cucumber and I was well more like a jumping jelly bean. Just a little nervous. :) We rode in with a wonderful couple also adopting here and had a chance to share a few stories. (Hi guys ;) The appointment was quite humorous since the files got switched. Our facilitator is a lively guy and kept us laughing the whole time. We were in and out in a very short amount of time and just had to sign one form agreeing that we wanted to meet "Our Girl". They did require that we recieve a letter from the US Embassy due to the fact that she is already 16, but we found out later that the facilitator that did all of our paperwork already had a letter. God is so good to have everything worked out before we even know there is a need.


Top picture: building across from our appointment, sorry I forgot what it is called.

Bottom picture: taken in the hall immediately after our appointment.

We enjoyed the mini tour through the city on the way to and from the appointment, but honestly I do not remember a thing Eugen said due to the fact that I was pre-occupied with my nerves. :)

After arriving "home" we crashed for a couple of hours and awoke feeling fresh and ready to hit the town.

We are so blessed to have a great contact here. Bogdan runs a wonderful ministry to make orphans smile and he was the one that brought "Our girl" to the states last year on a hosting program. He is a huge part of the reason we are here right now.

Bogdan invited us to join him at his orphanage for dinner.

He sent a student to escort us. ur trip included a 10 minute walk, then a 10 minute metro ride as far underground I think it is possible to go. The 2 sets of excalators were probably equal to about 20 at a mall. Then a bus ride. It felt like quite and adventure and was really a great way to get a true big city cultural experience.

Bogdan gave us a full tour of the most amazing orphanage I have ever seen. They are doing an amazing job helping the kids to feel at home and in a comfortable "home" environment. We ate dinner with about 10 kids and one worker. The kids seemed to love having us there and got a big kick out of us re-naming our dog Saboka (which means dog in Russian). The worker was so excited to communicate with us and ask questions. He spoke no English so Bogdan translated everything. I think it was great practice for us. We learned a few new words and some cultural do's and don'ts.

After dinner thankfully we were escourted home by the student, RRRR Chom, (how do you spell a rolling R?) and Bogdan. We took a detour to the downtown underground shopping area and got dessert.

I feel like we are young and newly married. So much here reminds us of our days in Alaska. Staying in an apartment, aka flat, walking to the grocery store etc. It has been a great day and we got to finish it off with another visit with the kids and mom via Skype.

Previet Kaly, Ayla, Gavin and Eli! We love you and so glad you are having fun.




Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sad Goodbyes, Toilet Humor & Other Travel Adventures

Tears of joy and sadness filled our house the night before our departure. It suddenly struck everybody that mom and dad will be gone for a good two to three weeks and so it all surfaced. It, honestly, caught me by surprise and it turned out that our goodbyes were harder than anticipated. In the end, though, the kids were excited, and so with many hugs, kisses and goodbyes, we set off.


..and off we went. The travel actually went really smooth! Praise the Lord! In Amsterdam, we kicked the new "morning" (actually the middle of the night for us) with some mighty fine cups of Netherland coffee. Yes, they know how to make the good stuff here. One of my favorite hobbies is pursuing that perfect cup of coffee. So, you have probably figured out now that this is Jeromy writing and not Stacy. Since we are both sitting in a "flat" (apartment) with little responsibility (compared to normal Idaho life) we decided to take turns with the blog updates. Anyway, we embarked on a train ride to Central Amsterdam (the old and now touristy part of Amsterdam). Wow, what a cool place... and the people and culture seemed so friendly and festive. Cool, classic type bikes are everywhere... and people actually ride them everywhere.


Uhh.. but yes it is perhaps a little more liberal in some ways as well.

For example, we (or I should say Stacy) almost ran into this before I redirected her in another direction


Yes, they have very convenient outdoor port a potties in Amsterdam on the corner of the busiest street. No need to worry about closing and locking bathroom doors. Just walk up and.. well anyway.. ya probably get the picture. Stacy mentioned this Asian couple walked by and as the "husband" explained to her what these contraptions were the lady, in disbelief kept saying, "no..nooo. nooooo!"

Truly, my apologies if this is offensive, but we found this more humorous and shocking than anything.

Well, after our 9 hour layover, we finally boarded our last plane to our "Eastern European country" and we made it right through customs without a hitch. Again, thank you Lord! All we had to do was show our passports. No, digging out documents, no interogation, just a couple of questions and we were on our way. From everything we have heard, this is not the norm. Perhaps the 1am arrival time had something to do with it. Anyway, we are here and resting up. We have a very nice and comfortable "flat" that we are staying in and everyone is most helpful and friendly that we have worked with. Here is a view from our flat.. Straight below our window is a flat roof with bottles all over. Apparently, a favorite pastime is to drink and chuck :)

Yes, it was snowing this morning. Just like Idaho weather around here. Raining last night, snowing this morning and now it is sunny! Yippee! Feels just like home.

Thank you again for your prayers and support! Please keep us in your prayers. Tomorrow at 11am, we have our first SDA appointment. This is our first official adoption appointment to which we find if we can receive an official referral which is scheduled to happen on Tuesday at 4pm. We then are scheduled to take a train to our region at 9:30pm, travel through the night and hopefully meet "Our Girl" on Wednesday!