Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kiev!!! And Almost Home!!!

Here in Kiev tonight after dinner On the way a few nights ago...they were so cute!!
Today we finally got to meet our great friends (via blog for the past 6 months) Kevin and Pam. They are on their way to their region tonight! Great to finally meet you in person guys - in Kiev no less!!
Yummy desserts tonight!

We made it to Kiev late on Wednesday night. There was some crazy running around in Zhytomyr to get passports finished. Basically we waited ALL day and had yet one more tearful goodbye from the orphanage... We kept thinking that any minute it would be time to pick up the passport. Then all the sudden it was time and we had to rush, rush, rush!!! Basically Ukraine seems to have two speeds - whirlwind fast or wait, wait, wait! You think you are waiting forever and then all the sudden you want to beg to slooooow down just enough to catch your breath! After the slow long wait of the past 10 to 14 days, the last three days have been nonstop - therefore no time until now to post!

We got to Kiev at 10:30 Wed. night, had our medical yesterday morning and then barely slipped into the Embassy before it closed. My hand ached from all the forms I had to fill out :) The Embassy is closed technically today but they are reopenning for us so that they could process the girls' visas! How nice - we were very impressed with the service that they gave to us. So after many more hours of sitting at the Embassy today (which we were more than happy to do) - we walked out with visas in hand!!! Wooo-hoooo!!! America here we come!!!

We are so thankful for all the people who have worked overtime to pull all this together with such a tight timeframe to get us on that plane Sunday. Not the least of which is our facilitator. Thank you N!!!!

We are settled in a nice apartment in Kiev and are actually sleeping good now!!! How nice to be in an actual bed!!! And while Kiev is about triple in prices, we don't even care - it is so great to be here. One more day in Ukraine and we come home!!! We plan to do some sightseeing tomorrow, some souvenier shopping, and maybe go to Hillsong Kiev church service tomorrow night.

We will practically not sleep tomorrow night since we have to be at the airport by 4:00 am which means we have to leave by like 3:00 am. Who needs sleep anyways?!? We can sleep on the plane and hope the girls will too!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bittersweet Goodbyes...

On Sunday we finally were able to take the girls with us. It has been wonderful to have them with us but a very emotionally hard time for them (and us) to say goodbye to their lives here. They keep asking if they can come visit for their birthdays or something like that. Nastya wants us to buy a second house here :) If only it were so easy.

It is a blessing for the girls that it has been so hard to say goodbye to their friends and to caregivers.

A blessing because it means that the last two years they have had deep, loving relationships with each of their friends and several caregivers - especially Alla. But it makes it harder right now. They are actually doing pretty well. They want to go home. What has made it harder is that we have had not one, not two, but three emotional goodbyes at the orphanage. We keep thinking that we will be laving tomorrow and then having more paperwork delays. So of course as long as we are in the region the girls want to see their friends. I understand but I wish we could just say one goodbye because it is taking it's toll emotionally on all of us as well as the other children. I personally have had a rough few days. Emotionally I feel raw, and physically I have not slept well in five days. Those of you who know me well, know that I do not function well on lack of sleep, which is currently close to what I felt like when I had a newborn and didn't sleep. The difference is I am not lying aroung being waited on now in the comfort of my home!!! I am hiking all over town and my new children are a bit more difficult and sleep a great deal less :)

Today was one frustration after another - the girls broke my phone and I had trouble communicating with the phone store people to fix it. We locked ourselves out of our apartment all day. We bought a gift for one of the kids and lost it. We got stuck at the orphanage for at least two hours more than we planned and were all starving (another really bad combo with no sleep and my hypoglycemia). We have had a few confrontations (minor but still hard) with the girls - we are all on our last straws emotionally... And last and definitely not least - we found out that we were not going to be able to leave for Kiev today. Breathe in, breathe out. I need my little red shoes soooo bad!!! "There is no place like home, there is no place like home!"

Back to the goodbyes, the emotions have been hard to contain. I have had to constantly tell myself that I cannot break down in front of the kids. But it has torn my heart to leave these precious children. We love them so much. And they are so heartbroken. They are grieving in different ways - some cry, some retreat and shutdown, some get just overly hyper... It would be easier for all if we had not spent countless hours the past four weeks playing with them, talking, taking quiet walks, playing soccer, playing Uno, and just loving the children that will remain orphans. For four weeks they have embraced us, allowed us into their world, taught us silly games, taught us Ukrainian. We have wanted to bless them by showing them that their tricks on the monkey bars, their dances that they've learned, their goofy games, their songs that they make up, and everything else about them is important and precious and worthwhile. We have tried to hug and love and encourage every second that we are with them. But now, we have come to love them more. And they have come to love us more. So while we are thankful that we had this time with this precious group of children, it makes these goodbyes indescribably hard. I love too many children that I cannot help. Oh Lord, please love these children. Please bless them. Please give them hope. Please hold them. And please comfort Zach, Katya, Nastya and I as our hearts break to say goodbye. It is hard to love and leave. Easier to close our hearts and not love. But that of course is not the answer. We are forever changed - our hearts have stretched bigger and the stretching is painful. Thank you Lord for this precious time with each one of these precious children, and even for the pain - because we can take it You knowing that You love them far more than we ever could.

If you are considering adoption or if you feel that tug at your heart, don't let it pass. Pray and see if this is how God wants you to love. He will show you and He just might have a child to bring home - to you. Or maybe there is another calling for you. But somehow each of us is called to in some way love the orphans and widows. Ask him how. One thing we can do is pray. If you would like a child to pray for, let me know and I will send you a name, a little info and a picture. I promised Tanya, Galyna, Masha, Tanya, Yana, Alena, Vika, Vera, Olga, Vova, and Oleg that we would pray for them regularly. I could use some help in this! (Sorry I have not emailed you back Anna - will do so very soon!)

As sweet, wonderful Vika tearfully told me as we got into the taxi tonight, "Remember me. Please remember me." Oh how could I forget. Lord, remember them.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Gains and Losses

With all the driving around yesterday (see post below) we were able to see glimpses of the struggle that Katya is in right now. One minute she was happy and loving but the next she was sullen and pouting. She said at one point that she wanted to stay with her friends and the next minute she was hugging me, begging to leave to go to America and saying how much she loved me. I gently tell her that I love her so much and understand how hard it is to leave. I tell her that we will help her write letters and to even sometimes call her friends. I grieve for her having to face yet another loss. Even because of great gain.

She had a bit of a pout when there was a misuderstanding about what type salad she ordered at the pizza place. We fully expected this turmoil of emotions - it is difficult to leave what is familiar and the friends who have become like sisters. I think it speaks of the great longing in her heart that she never really second guesses leaving. She wants a family and it is crystal clear that the odds are not good for her here. Very bad actually. The 'here and now' is not horrible. Their basic needs are met, they have good friends, at least some of the caregivers truly show them love, there are engagin activities with school, sports, music, and dance. Despite all of that, the children do not have their needs for family and unconditional love met. They beg for hugs and crave attention. There is a hunger in their eyes and actions that you would never see in children who are in loving homes. That part of the 'here and now' is horrible. But even worse is the future - at sixteen they will leave the internot. They will be on their own with no basic life skills to manage money, find jobs, or be taught how to handle relationships. They will have no guidance, no encouragement, no mom to call when sad, no home to go to on holidays, no lasting, significant relationships that they can depend on. Very simply - no family.
Dr. David's blog recently discussed the fact that there is a prevalent lie that these children believe about the reality of their situation. A lie so deep that many older children will turn away an offer of hope. All they see is a loss of immediate gratification and freedoms.
And it would be dishonest to say that there is not a true loss for these children when they are adopted. There are significant losses. Katya feels these now. We do understand. They loose yet more relationships, familiarity, culture, language, and great deal of freedom. Simple freedoms like eating as much candy as they want, playing with fire, watching whatever on tv, dressing in whatever way they like, coming and going from the orphanage freely. What they do not realize is that these (and much worse 'freedoms' as they get older), threaten to hurt them beyond measure. For the older children it is freedom to drink excessively, smoke, have hurtful relationships with each other, steal, etc. No real 'freedom' in all that. Unspeakable sadness and pain is the reality behind the lie.

There are many gains, and from an outside, parental perspective, they clearly outweigh the current loss. We can see the bleak future and the painful present. But from a child's limited perspective it is not so clear. We understand that. We are incredibly grateful that Katya and Nastya have enough perspective and awareness of their needs to see that they need a family and need hope. Nastya - perhaps due to personality, perhaps due to age, perhaps circumstances - is just ready to go. She wants to be with us so badly. She is sad to leave her friends but doesn't really struggle with it. It melts my heart that she is so ready to go. Her joy at joining our family and finally going home outweighs her pain of leaving. But the struggle that Katya faces doesn't mean that the need in her heart is any less. In fact it might be more - she has just had more time to be convinced of and to enjoy the ever important 'freedoms'. She is unable to realize the slavery that those freedoms lead to. Why? One because she is a child. Two, because she is a child without guidance and teaching from loving parents. Three, because she is a human being. I recently commented in relation to this subject on Dr. David's blog post "Unaware of Their Peril" and thought it appropriate to add those thoughts here as well.

We are all decieved by the 'freedoms' that the world has to offer. All of us at one point don’t realize the peril of our eternal future. We think that we are really okay, really good people, or just don’t think past the alluring pleasures that this world offers. And then somehow, by the amazing grace of God, that facade is broken, and we suddenly (or sometimes gradually) come to realize our deep need for a Savior. Why are so many hearts and eyes shut to the desperate reality that we all face, apart from Christ? Why were all of our hearts closed for sometime? Because we are all decieved and, if we know Him, then somehow by the grace of God He revealed our need and His hope to us. And why me? Why did I ever see and come to Christ? I don’t know except that He pursued me when I wasn’t looking for Him and He brought me to Himself. He quite literally saved me from myself. But it wasn't easy for me. On that side, there were great losses (at least percieved) and I grieved them. I did not surrender easily and was bitter when I could only see the pain that some poor choices and life circumstances were causing me. I thought that I had lost so much. I had thought myself very happy and with a bright future. Oh and perhaps it was a bright future by how the world might measure success. But inside I was not happy and headed for worse.

Little could I see that through those difficult circumstances and losses, I was gaining everything. Oh thank you Lord that you didn't let me continue in my blindness! I see the bitterness I had towards God even when He was working good in my life. I couldn't see the future and didn't trust Him yet. I had to learn to trust as I came to know Him, and now I look back and shudder to think of all I would have missed if I had things my way. Our new daughters are learning to trust as well, but in the meantime they have fears and frustrations. I must try to love them as gently and patiently as my Father has loved me. I must protect them even when they don't think that they need it and continually remind them that I love them in the process. I must say no to things that hurt them. I must love them when they are angry and rebellious. Oh how God has lavished this type of love on me and He shows me how to love my children. And slowly I am still learning that His ways are perfect and that I can trust completely in Him - I still fail often in trusting Him. My children and I - we will learn together. I will try to copy His unconditional, redeeming love for me towards my children. I can only do this by His strength. I imagine God pouring His love into our hearts and it flowing through to them.
Why would we expect adoption to really be any different for our children than it is for us? They are facing some loss now but one day - perhaps far in the future, perhaps sooner - we pray that they will see what they gained. And that they will see that it was not us but God who is doing and will do this work in their lives.
Throughout nature as well as human history there is rarely beauty without pain. There is no good without bad, no comfort without sadness, no love without sacrifice, no gain without loss.

Philippians 3:7-8 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ

More Big Steps Toward America!

Finally! Katya was released yesterday from the hospital. I can't imagine how great that must feel for her after 10 days of sitting in the same stuffy room. N came into town yesterday to do a gazillion paperwork things. Mid-morning we went to the orphanage and took care of some things there. We gave our orphanage donation and were once again struck by the humility and kindness of the director and the other staff members. He did everything completely by the book - recording the donation with several other members present to count the money and gave reciepts. The orphanage is clearly in need of more money than they recieve from the government and all the people who run it work for such small pay. We were happy to be able to help in at least a small way. They have had two fires in the past two days, started by a group of boys either smoking or just playing with fire. One was inside the school building on the second floor and the other was an outside storage building. Thankfully no one was hurt but there are now many damages for the orphanage to deal with...

So back to yesterday - we were given permission to go to the hospital to pick up Katya. And even better - Nastya was allowed to go with us all day! I had no idea we were going to get to spend the day with the girls out of the orphanage! So we picked Katya up and she was ecstatic - talking a million miles a minute to N, who loosely translated some of what she was saying. Zach, Katya, Nastya, and I cozied up in the back seat of N's car (her husband was driving and she was in the front). We had Nastya on my lap and Katya next to the window since the fresh air seems to help them not get carsick. Zach squeezed into the middle :) We literally drove in circles from one office to the next and back again. We had to apply for new birth certificates, have the new birth certificates legalized, and apply for new tax id numbers for the girls. Sounds simple enough except that we kept running into small problems that sent us in circles around the city. A typo here, someone having a late lunch there, a stop to get something notarized, oops another typo on one birth certificate - must retrace steps and get that fixed. But do it fast because if we aren't back in 30 minutes the person to legalize it will be gone until Monday! Unfortunately the tax id office would not issue the new number until Monday which means that we can't apply for the passports until Monday. We are still told that we can get the old, blank type (they recently changed the process) which will mean that we can apply Monday and pick it up Tuesday. If that is not the case, then it will take SEVEN days from Monday until we get the passports. Meaning that we cannot do the next steps in Kiev to get us home until then. Praying for the 'old' ones to truly be available.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'm Being Attacked!

This is very serious.

About a week ago I awoke in the middle of the night with my upper lip tingling and swollen to the point that it almost was touching my nose - no exaageration! I began to panic and thought - what kind of allergy attack am I having? What if next I can't breathe? I took a few deep breaths, decided that, while very strange and quite uncomfortable, my life was not in immediate danger. I thankfully went back to sleep. In the morning my lip was still quite swollen and kind of curled upwards (very attractive). I remembered then that I had heard a buzzing sound in my sleep and figured it was some type of insect bite - like a killer mosquito perhaps. I could see where he had bit me!

Well last night it happenned again - I was bit not once but twice. This time they got me on my right upper eyelid (I could barely open it when I got up and now it appears that I have a droopy lid) AND on my right ear lobe. The ear itches pretty bad and is hot and swollen. I thought it was too cold for these creatures to still be alive but I guess they are some tough cookies and obviously have it out for me.

I mean Zach was right there - why not him? I guess I smelled better...

A few other random things ~ We moved to a new apartment last night. We were spoiled and now we are being humbled. I have never slept on such a lumpy, small bed. It barely fit the two of us and caved towards the middle. Not to mention that it is in this wierd closet-like room. All that fits is the bed and it is more than a little claustrophobic! Don't miss that romantic photography hanging above our heads though! Ha! Let's just say it was not the best night's sleep... Why did I forget to pack more benadryl!?!? I think one of us will try the 2 1/2 foot wide couch tonight!
So we finally quit tossing and turning and drug ourselves out of bed this morning, feeling like we had not slept at all. I was looking out the window (through one eye) and, noticing the new roof that was being constructed inches from the window, I said, "At least they are not hammering away this morning right outside our window." Not five second later the banging began in earnest and hasn't quit yet!

It has been interesting!

Another crazy thing that happened yesterday - this on a more positive note!!

It is a small world after all!

We went to eat last night at this really awesome restaurant. We walked in and to our surprise the waitress said, "Sit anywhere you like!" - in plain english! She continued to talk to us in perfect english and we asked if she was from Ukraine. She said yes but that she has spent a year and also a summer in the US on student exchange programs. We told her that we were from Texas and she almost fell over saying that she lived in this little town - New Braunfels! Then we almost fell over! She lived with David and Cathy (I think) Stewart. We don't know them but it was such an amazingly small world. She even went to Canyon high school. It was so fun talking to her and she was thrilled. Seriously, what are the odds that we would meet one of the only people in Ukraine who lived in New Braunfels? Not good!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Enough Already!!!

Can you believe it? I didn't until I saw it first hand...

Katya is STILL in the hospital. Day 9. The girl is waaaaaay more patient than I am in this regard. First we were all told 5 days and she would leave and that seemed crazy. Then we were promised that today she would leave. So we head for a quick visit to the orphanage. It had to be quick because we have to move apartments this evening and I have come down with a cold - I'm sure from the hospital!! Don't worry - I won't be coughing in front of anyone at the hospital or they might keep me too :) But at least I have antibiotics (thanks Dr. Nelson!) and other good drugs! But I am getting off subject...

So we arrived at the orphanage expecting to see both girls but only Nastya comes running up (in a sleeveless shirt - we tried to tell her that it at best 55 degrees!) and says that Katya is not back. So we head to the director's office and Alla is there. Alla is also surprised and they call the hospital but the doctors have left for the day!!! That means that she wouldn't be leaving and we couldn't get an update. Nor could we send her a message. So we did what any good parents would do :) We took a taxi to the hospital knowing that she would be very disappointed to still be there and doubly upset if we didn't come visit. Unfortunately we didn't have time to run by the market and get food. All we had was juice and a little candy. We were so wishing that we had food because she says the food there is horrible (I can only imagine). But the market was very far away and we had to rush back to pack up the apartment. Tomorrow we will take her more food - she wants fried eggs and spaghetti?!? I'll just whip that right up :)

She was sad to be there but so relieved that we came. She told us that she thought we wouldn't come and that she was crying earlier :( I wanted to cry for her. And scream too. So she has a little cough. That's it! She is barely sick - certainly no fever and not feeling bad. But she thinks the doctor said that now she is staying until Friday!!! That will be 11 days and will only give her one last night with her friends before leaving forever. So incredibly frustrating and no one will listen to us or for that matter understand us. There is more than a language difference in this communication problem!!! We are going to call in the morning and see if we can request her release tomorrow afternoon. Pray that they will do that. She really needs to have some time to say goodbye to her friends. Maybe we will be able to let her stay until Sunday evening before the girls leave with us... We are ready to take them now but also feel that she needs some time with her friends who have been like sisters the past few years.

The good aspects of this hospital stay are still good - we have had a lot of bonding time, she has felt very loved by us, I have felt very compassionate and loving to her, and maybe this frustration will actually help her be even more ready to get home to America!!! It sure does help me!! We know that this time truly is working for good and can see that even in the frustrations!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Update on Katya...

Unfortunately she is still in the hospital but we have been promised that she will be released Wednesday. Only one more day - we can do it!! She does have a bit of a cold but nothing serious - no fever or anything. She just is slightly conjested and coughs mildly. She doesn't seem to feel too bad and has been a very sport about being in the hospital. I would be freaking out but I guess she is used to it.

It has not been fun but it has also not been all bad. The positives are ~ we get to show love to her by visiting daily and bringing special, healthy treats (fruit, yogurt, sausage, juice, some candy, vitamins). This has meant so much to her. At the beginning she begged for these things and then I think she started to realize that she doesn't have to beg - that we love her and WANT to give her good things. Today she began to give us her daily requests :) and then stopped and just smiled. I could just see her thinking,"Of course you will bring these things and I don't even have to ask." We usually brought her things that she asked for as well as a little something extra and it clearly has spoken lots of love to her. She has been very cuddly and huggy and tells us how much she loves us everytime we see her. We take picture flashcards (made by Trend) and learn english words. She has learned a lot and is building her confidence. We also just point at items and learn the names (watch, door, window, hair, purse, desk, chair, etc). Today when we arrived she was sitting on her bed doing math problems from her textbook even though it was not assigned. She just liked it!! And I actually got to see what kind of math she was doing.

Oh, and a clear answer to prayer that I forgot to post about last week. One day we were sitting in the girls bedroom at the internot, playing Uno. Katya all the sudden asks about school in America and explains that she is so worried that she will not understand anything and that she is scared. She and Nastya were also very concerned about being put into separate classes.

Well, we have been praying about how to tell her that she will be homeschooled in America and expected some initial resistance to this announcement... We had prepared our speech to have through the translator- complete with a list of pros for why it was good and how fun it would be. When the girls were in Texas this summer, Katya kept saying that she wanted to go to American school so bad, and she wanted to be in any kind of social situations. We are certain that this is the right thing for the girls to be homeschooled this year to have time to bond with us, to learn English, to build confidence, to learn what it means to be in a family, to be sheltered until they are better able to make wise decisions in difficult social situations. It made the decision even easier that we are not in a great school district and the only private schools nearby would not be equipped to meet the specific needs of language and other things that they will need. So being confident in this decision we were concerned about how to present it to the girls.
So it was great that all the sudden, with no warning, we had this open door to discuss the homeschool plan. We looked at her and Nastya, and Zach told her that I would be her teacher at home and that he would teach sometimes too. They both smiled. I told her that I would help her learn English and that she would also learn on the computer (she like Rosetta Stone this summer and made great progress). She was amazed and kept saying, "Momma, teacher?!?" All with a big smile on her face. So, the cat is out of the bag with a good first response. All I can say is, "Thank you Lord"! I thought this was going to be a much harder issue. She may feel differently at times when Allee is doing neat stuff at school but this is a great start.

Now if I can just figure out exactly how I am going to teach two girls who don't understand 90% of what I am saying... I have lots of ideas (great ones from some of you blog friends!) but just need to put it together... Any ideas from any of you who have homeschooled older internationally-adopted children are welcome! I specifically would love ideas for how you got started the first few weeks - like what type of schedule you had and what you did other than math and english...

A Few Favorites!!!

Adoption Resource Favorites
These have helped prepare us in so many ways and have been a joy to read/listen to. We just want to share for those who are in the process or considering adoption. These are worth the effort and money to order them.

The Barrett's: An Amazing Adoption Story - This is a broadcast from Focus on the Family. It is an amazing story of a family that adopted four very difficult children from the US foster care system. Several of the children had severe RAD and lots of other issues. This story makes mine seem like a cakewalk and at the same time it is a story of hope and restoration. It really is a story of a very extreme case and most stories I hear of are not like this. The children that were adopted (many years previous to this broadcast) are interviewed as well. I remember listening over and over to it in my car and thinking, "Wow if God enabled these people to withstand these trials and has brought healing into these kids lives, then there are none without hope." And of course that is true but this brought it home in a tangible way. And they give very specific descriptions of how they responded to some very tough situations in the early years. It helped prepare us to parent older adopted children - especially not knowing really what we might face. I am fairly confident that we will not see the extreme issues that this family saw, but we may see similar root issues in much lesser intensity - if that makes sense! So, the link to order this is

If for some reason that doesn't work - go to the first part - - and then search for barretts. An amazing story - worth listening to even if you aren't adopting!!! Only $9.00

Carried Home Safely by Kristin Swick Wong This book just does a beautiful job of capturing the beauty of our adoption by the Lord and how our adoptions of difficult, lonely, but precious children gives a small reflection of what He has done for us. I hope to devote a post to that topic more later... But it is well written and so very encouraging. You can find it on Amazon.

There are several other resources I want to mention but I will leave you with these for now.

A few other very important favorites!!!

This chocolate is amazing!!! Dolci and Roshen. And coming from me - a girl who doesn't really like chocolate... If you are really lucky I might bring a few extra boxes home to share... If you come to Ukraine don't miss it. Actually there are lots of good chocolate and foods here - we are happy. And they really practice portion control here :) Hard to get used to but very healthy! The hardest is when you order coffee - it is good and strong (just like I enjoy it) but very small (like maybe two ounces for an Americano)!!! I make Zach order one as well so that I can have both!

We love a soup called Sole-yanka. We also like their Greek Salads with white cheese, ukrainian pizza (it really is better than american pizza), fried potatoes with mushrooms, veal steaks, chicken steaks with cheese and mushrooms inside, roast beef with yellowish rice, roast beef with potatoes and cheese, buckwheat, chicken with prunes and cheese on top, and lots of other things that are so yummy!! As you can see, we are not hurting in the food department! It really is a good thing that the portions are small and that we walk about six miles a day or we would seriously be gaining weight. ****One disclaimer - we are in a nice city of over 600,000 people - if you travel to a smaller village or even another city (I haven't seen any others) there may not be the same choices of restaurants or food to choose from - just so you know!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Eye of the Storm

We are now officially in the waiting stage. Today (Thursday) is day 3 out of 10. After that we apply for new birth certificates and passports and maybe something else. It is possible that they still have the old passports or something like that here in Zhytomyr. If so, apparently it could save us several days - maybe even more when you consider weekends getting in the way. I don't really understand it except that it may mean we will go home a few days sooner than later. So I hope it is true! We will not know until it happens (this is becoming a familiar theme).

So our schedule lately goes like this.:

Wake up around 8:30 in the morning - I know we are such slackers but we stay up late because we just can't go to sleep - it still feels like the middle of the afternoon. Oh and we are completely hooked on watching 24 - this from two people who never watch tv. It's bad. We have fallen hard...

So, then we get ready, eat breakfast (usually a boiled egg and toast), do some bible study and reading and return a few emails.

Around noon we leave to eat lunch - which sometimes is a slow process. We stop at a market and grab a few things that Katya has requested. We take her some food and entertainment, hang out for an hour or two and then head to get coffee and on to the orphanage.

At the orphanage we just follow Nastya around to whatever the afternoon class of the day is taking place (soccer, dance, music, or homework time). We talk to her during all this because it is fairly laid back in the afternoon. For example if a child doesn't feel like p.e. then he or she just doesn't show up or just watches the other kids. This would never fly in America but I guess in the orphanage there is no one really to enforce involvement. So after some time with Nastya, we call a taxi and return to the city. We eat dinner, return to our apartment, blog (like now), email, skype, and watch 24.

Hard life huh?!?

Which leads me to the 'eye of the storm'. Before getting here I think things were about as crazy as they have ever been in our lives. Just for an idea, we hosted the girls for a month - during which Zach's grandpa died, my sister and parents traveled to Ethiopia to adopt my nephew and we kept my niece for a few weeks; we moved our business office; we moved much of our household items (we are kind of in between houses now); before moving our things we completely remodeled our new home and developed the land around our new home, including Zach putting in the septic pretty much himself; my Dad had a heart attack days before we left; the kids started school; and if there were other major events I honestly have blocked them out!! So then we arrive in Ukraine and the first week or so was pretty busy. But now for at least 10 days we are alone with time to talk, take walks, eat out, watch movies, pray, read, make plans for when we get home, and just love on tons of kids. Of course we miss our children at home and the rest of our family, but I would be lying if I didn't say that this is truly a vacation for us and we are loving most every minute.

Shortly after we arrived here, Zach and I were talking and he said, "You know our lives are like a hurricane lately but right now we are in the eye of the storm and it is sure peaceful - although deceptive!" It feels very strange, having come out of an incredibly busy time and about to go into unchartered terrirtory with two new children and homeschooling them, to have such a quiet few weeks. We fear that we may be getting a bit spoiled! But we just know that it is God's grace to give us this time to refresh, to enjoy one another, and to prepare our hearts for the next chapter in this exciting journey. It will definitely be the hardest but we are not afraid. After all God has carried us through so far, we have no doubt that He will continue to do so, one day at a time.

Update on Katya: Thank you all so much for the encouraging comments and prayers. Melanie thank you for the encouragement about sometimes being right where you need to be even when it seems otherwise. You know we have been praying that God would help prepare her heart to leave and maybe this is what she needed. Just to clarify, she says daily that she wants to go to America and is so happy about it all, but there is definitely going to be a loss (especially for her) when she leaves her country, culture, language, friends, and caregivers. As far as her health - she is still fine today and we hope she will be back by Saturday or Sunday. We have had some nice alone time with her in the waiting room of the hospital at least! Our hands are just about dried out and starting to crack from all the Purell we keep using!! No paranoi here!

Hospital Stay...

Katya is currently in the hospital. Nope don't be too concerned. That sounds bad but actually it is quite ridiculous. Almost all the kids in her group/class had coughs and a general head cold when we got here. Nastya seemed like she really felt bad. Katya complained of a sore throat and coughed some. But she didn't have a fever and was dancing, running, laughing, and acting like she felt great. No signs of being very sick but still complaining. Well, the day of court she told us that the nurse was sending her to the hospital the next day to be 'treated' because of her sore throat. She still seemed fine. So not only did she get sent to the hospital but she has to stay for 5 to 7 days. We are pretty frustrated about this. Not only is she stuck in this creepy hospital in a room with over 7 over girls (most of whom do appear quite ill and will probably give her something), but we have to go up there everyday. It is quite a far walk and adds several hours onto our daily travels. And it is not a fun place to visit - smelly, diseases floating around, just wierd - it almost feels like being in the twilight zone or something. And I actually really like to go to hospitals in the US.

The worst part of it all is that she does NOT need to be there but now that she is there they won't let her leave until her 'treatment' is done. I shudder to think of all diseases she is being exposed to! I think the rest of the kids have figured out that this is what happens if you complain too much, but I guess she didn't realize that this was what would happen. I can't even imagine how long they would keep you if had something seriously wrong like surgery or having a baby. One person was shocked when we said that even when you have a baby in America you only stay one or two nights!! It is pretty crazy. Praying that they will let her out soon so that she can spend a few good days with her friends and can say her goodbyes before we leave. We really wanted this week to be a time of closure for her as she prepares to leave this chapter of her life behind. All venting about the hospital aside - the only thing that really saddens us is this lost time for her to spend with her friends.

Monday, October 13, 2008

"There's No Place Like Home!"

This is what Nastya said just after the girls were proclaimed our children!!

Kateryna Grace Potts


Anastasiya Joy Potts

What an amazing, beautiful, glorious day this has been! Court went great although I must admit that we were both very nervous :) We couldn't help it - we suddenly realized the magnitude of this moment and couldn't help but being nervous. It didn't help matters that we couldn't understand what was being said until after N translated it for us. And we weren't completely sure what should be said or not said... But I guess we did alright! The judge was very kind and even cracked some jokes. In other cirmcumstances we might have cracked a few back but we were too worried that a wrong word might send a wrong message or be offensive.

So, an overview: We sat outside the small courtroom awaiting our turn for about 20 minutes. We were called in and told where to sit (one row up and to the right of the girls). N sat behind us and the orphanage director and adoption inspector sat behind her. There was one judge, two jurors (normal citizens), and a court reporter. Official things were done like looking over passports, verifing the the identy of us, N, the Orphanage Director, and the Regional Adoption Inspector. The judge then orally reviewed our case file, including our entire dossier as well as local reports about the girls. Then Zach was asked to stand and present to the court for why he was willing and able to adopt these girls. He stated that were financially able and physically able to provide a loving home for these girls. He discussed that we love them and that we desire to provide them a loving family. He talked about our great extended family support and expressed our commitment to maintain the girls dual citizenship and file yearly reports. He ended with saying that we planned to help the girls maintain their use of their language so that they can one day return and visit if they so choose. I think everyone really appreciated that. Then it was my turn. The judge jokingly asked me if my husband forced me to sign the paperwork :) I said of course not. He asked what else I had to add and I talked about what a blessing these girls were to us and how thankful we were for the opportunity bring them into our family. I got a little tongue tied for a minute and continued with our plans to educate the girls and care for their needs. The judge asked me if I wanted girls since we already had two boys and only one girl. I took him seriously and said that we would have been happy with boys too but just love these girls. Then I realized he was joking when he asked when we were returning for another boy! I felt kinda silly :)

So as we are sitting here writing this post, I am saying, "Man we really should have prepared more last night and had better answers - we were kind of unsure about what to say." Zach responds, "This is just like in college - when you made a 90 you wanted a 100 and I was just happy to get the 89.5 needed to ensure an A!" Okay so maybe I am a perfectionist and he's a slacker!!! Ha!

Back to court: The judge and the jurors leave to discuss the verdict. Don, ton, ta, don... They return!! Okay, I know in my head that it will be fine but I'm still thinking, "What if we gave a wrong answer and they don't like us!" So, he begins to read the court judgment. It goes through all the same stuff again - our family, our finances, our application to adopt, etc. Then, and this was the hardest part where I began to really tear up, he said things about their family history and ended with, "And no one in Ukraine wants them." My heart broke completely and I cried out silently, "We want you!! We want you!!"

We said our thank yous to the judge and others and headed out. We spoke for awhile to the orphanage director, who we found to be a gracious, kind man. We told him what an excellent job he is doing running the orphanage (and this is so true) and he responded with, "Thank you, but there is no replacement for a loving family." That's when Nastya chimed in, "There is no place like home." Oh how right you are sweet girl!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tomorrow, Tomorrow...

The sun'll come out Tomorrow,

Bet your bottom dollar,

That tomorrow

There'll be sun!

Oh, yes tomorrow is finally really here!!! We have court at four (our time). There are some last minute paperwork things that must come together in the morning but N is confident that everything will be in place. Can I hear an Amen!!! It is so surreal that tomorrow we truly go to court and legally become the parents of Kateryna and Anastasiya. I don't think they really realize what a big day this is - the big day for them will be when they leave the orphanage for the last time. That will be their tomorrow and in a way it will Zach's and mine as well. It is hard to have children that we literally have no control or protection of at this point. I can't stand many of the freedoms at the orphanage or the media (which thankfully isn't nearly as bad as some people have found in other orphanages) that they are exposed to. We can't wait to be able to love, protect, guide, and teach them as their parents. For now, we just get to visit, but it is their turf and it is counterproductive to give directives of any sort because we have no recourse if they do not listen. Suggestions and requests are usually met with willingness, but we know that requests such as - please do not walk to the market without an adult - will not be met with obedience. We feel that it would actually hurt our authority to tell them to do something that we can't enforce. There are teachers and caregivers with very different rules (or lack thereof) and we are not in a position to challenge the status quo. It is difficult though, to realize that our children are doing things that we do not think are safe or good for them. If all goes well tomorrow, then only 10 more days until they truly will be ours forever!!!

An endearing story to share... One sweet girl - Alena, who is Zach's spanish speaking translator friend - actually told him that she had prayed to Jesus about her bad hair cut and that He made her feel better (she was so sad that they gave her a bad haircut the other day). She then said that the music at the orphanage is 'no good' and that she would prefer the songs about God that they sing at Awanas and church. Wow! So awesome to see one out of many who has somehow 'gotten' it. This girl is such a gem. Pray for Alena's faith to continue to grow and for her future to be protected. Her faith seems very genuine and she seems much more confident and emotionally stable than most of the children. She longs to leave the orphanage and go to a real family. She has a 'host mom' in Spain, but since this woman is single, she cannot adopt her (as per the law of Ukraine). But obviously she has benefited from the hosting times and received hope and faith from her family in Spain.

Today we went to church (tserkva) again and what a blessing it was. Shortly after arriving (we were a little late due to taxi trouble), they sang "How Great Thou Art". What an incredible joy it was to worship with this church body in another language. Zach and I read our bibles during the sermons (yes, 2 sermons) and it was truly a refreshing, encouraging time! I prayed that this church body would truly be a light to the children of the orphanage and that they would not tire in their ministry to them. I sat behind two great foster families that we have been praying for and was overjoyed to actually see their families and their children. The world has truly become smaller!

And I was comforted by this verse this morning:

2 Corinthians 4:16- 18 "Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy Birthday Nastya!!

You are 10 today sweet girl. How I wish that I could have celebrated every birthday and milestone with you. How I wish that I had sung you happy birthday every October 10th and been a part of every one of your first 10 years. What was I even doing 10 years ago? Well I had a new baby but had no idea that another of my children was being born half a world away. I would not know you for almost 10 years. But we can both have peace despite the loss because God knew you. He created you perfectly and knew every day of yours before there was one. He was preparing me for you long before I knew you and preparing you for me. His plan was and is always filled with hope and a future. Never forget that. Your Father always has been and will be your father in heaven. He has never left you even when the darkness has overwhelmed you, He was there carrying you through it. And today Daddy and I celebrated your life and your future with you. I pray that your day was blessed and that you know how very much you are loved and cherished. We love you, Momma and Daddy

Today it took from about 11 in the morning until about 2 to accomplish buying two small chocolate cakes, some fruit, candy, bottled water, and finding taxis to the market and then to the orphanage. We traveled less than 8 miles in all! Everything takes 10 times longes here with long lines (one for fruit, one for candy, one for checkout) and humorous attempts to find and communicate with taxi drivers who speak another language. It goes like this - we flag a taxi, show him the written address (in Ukrainian) where we wish to go, offer him about 20 grivna and he says no 30 grivna. Well that is way too much - 20 is actually too much. So we start again. It is best to find a metered taxi but to do this we must call and that is interesting with my limited ukrainian. It sounds like "Preevit, Ya hochu taxi e dee tu dee hotel Ukraine, spa see ba." Translation, "Hi, I would like a taxi to come to Hotel Ukraine, please." Half the time it works and half the time they hang up. But we eventually get to where we need to go - usually just later than sooner. Today, we were tired and a little stressed by the time we arrived at the orphanage for the party scheduled in the girls classroom with their whole class. We were loaded down with goods that we had to smuggle in without other children seeing what we had. No easy task. But we were smooth! We made it just in time to set up and put candles on the cake before the kids came running in. It was fun and we had fruit, cake, ballons, pens and lipgloss for everyone. Big hits! Nastya shared her birthday celebration with a friend who also had a birthday today. I think it was better for all the attention to not be on her, as they are not used to being singled out. It all went well and then we went outside to play water balloon tosses. All in all a very fun day. But you know what?!? - Throwing a birthday party in Ukraine is just as exhausting for mom as doing one in America!!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Finally a few pictures!

A few of the girls took a short break during their soccer (fut-ball) game to pose for a photo. How cute are they!!
Here are the girls with their good friend Tanya. She is such a sweetheart! Is my suitcase big enough?!?

This statue of Lenin is right in the center of the city, in front of an old Soviet building. Why this statue is still here is quite a mystery...
A gorgeous Ukrainian Orthodox church first built in mid 1800s

We are still doing well - we will find out for sure today, but court is tentatively scheduled for Monday sometime... It seems we've been here awhile but really that is pretty fast. Nastya and Katya are enjoying us visiting everyday. We play hours of Uno, have Ukrainian lessons from some of the girls, give English lessons in return, play silly games outside (such as a Ukrainian version of duck-duck-goose and a shoe game where we all exchange shoes and chase each other), just hang out and talk, take walks (yesterday we helped their group clean up trash in front of the orphanage), hand out candy, and just whatever comes up.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Airing The Laundry!!

Here is what a dryer looks like in Ukraine. Oh how modern conveniences are so often taken for granted. Well, no more!!

And here is what the washing machine looked like last night. We have been unable to find and apartment yet, so we are in a hotel and the washateria was closed for a few days. But even if it was open, there are no dryers! This clothes has been hanging for 24 hours and is still very wet!

Well, on another note, we went to the Baptist Church here today and it was such a sweet time. It was awesome to worship with people in another language. Worship has no language and there truly is a unity that comes from sharing hope and salvation in Christ. Zach and I felt such a bond with these people that we couldn't talk to and could hear their hearts if not their words. It was very sincere and the music was beautiful. The girls were there along with others from the internot. Some ladies from the church go and get them in a van. So they sat with us - or sometimes on us!! Some of the boys were pretty loud and I gently told one to quiet down and he looked at me and said, "You are not my mama" - valid point....

We were standing outside afterwards and realized that no one was still there who spoke English. We didn't know how to call a cab and explain to come pick us up. So, we went up to some young girls and they spoke enough English that we could ask them to explain to the cab to come to the church. I think they thought it was pretty funny that these stupid Americans were handing them their cell phone and acting out what we needed!!! Never a dull moment! Although crazy, it is really pretty safe. We feel fine as long as we stay in normal areas - just like any city.

Later this afternoon we went to the orphanage. Nastya was gone for quite awhile - they said that she walked to the market with some other kids and an adult but no one knew who. We were mildly concerned but figured a teacher was with her. Well after about an hour it came out that they went to a market very far away(like maybe five or more miles one way) AND that there was no adult with them. NOT OKAY!!! We were so worried but what could we do? No one knew which path they took or how to look for them. The caretakers didn't seem all that concerned. It was with a great sigh of relief that we saw her returning finally. She was in trouble with the caregivers, and was a little freaked out herself. I don't think she will do that again. Just pray for their protection - not just N&K but all the children.

It is hard to decribe what this does to my heart to be here with these children. I was told what to expect, but nothing can really prepare for the heartache that comes from spending time with these children that yearn for a family. I know that there are several others I could love. I will pray for them diligently and work to find them families. I know that the Lord loves them more than I ever could and that somehow, He will not forsake them. But what does that mean? I don't know - except that I believe that there is hope for each one. Today I kept hearing the song that goes something like this: "Everyone needs compassion, the kindness of a savior, the hope of nations. Everybody needs forgiveness, grace and mercy..." None of us are without need and none of us are without hope. I pray that each one of them (and myself more and more) 'tastes and sees that the Lord is good.' That they know the plans that He has for them. That they know salvation in Jesus. I thank and praise Him that at least at this orphanage they are told about Jesus and given the chance to go to church and bible clubs. I thank Him that He has sent loving people to be His hands and feet to some of these children. I praise Him that because of His work at least two are 'solitary that He is placing in a family'... It is the Lord who has done this in our lives and theirs.

Deuteronomy 10:18 "He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing."

Psalm 68:5"A father to the fatherless..."

1 Samuel 2:8 "He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor."

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Meeting the Girls...

Wow it is so hard to sit down and write about the past 48 hours. So much has happenned. So many emotions. So much driving. So little sleep. I will try.

Let's see. We woke up at 5:00 yesterday (Friday) and N picked us up. We headed to Zhytomyr - about 1 1/2 hours away. N's husband was speeding on the way - very common - and got stopped. One option was to pay 10 grivna ($2) to the police but the other was better, apparently. Her husband works for the governmentt - parliament I think - so he just showed his papers and off we went :) So finally we arrived in Zhytomyr and headed to the adoption inspector. She knew of the girls and were happy that we were here to adopt them. She signed the necessary papers and finally headed to the orphanage. It is about 10 minutes from the city. N had never been to this one before, so we got a bit lost. They just ask whoever happens to be on the side of road and will do a 180 in the middle of the road - no problem. You run into quite some characters asking for directions. We were all laughing hysterically during all that but getting weary as well. Finally we were there. N went in while we waited in the car and watched a few kids coming and going. Finally we were called in to the director's office. He seems very kind and very quickly gave his blessing for us to proceed and for us to visit the girls whenever we like. As we were standing in his office - totally unexpectedly - in bursts Katya! No warning. Amazingly Zach got photos! She lept into my arms saying "Mama, Mama" many times. She was nervous at the same time. I'm sure it was overwhelming for her. As quickly as she came, she left - to go get Nastya. So Nastya runs in a few minutes later and repeats the same thing with Katya right behind her. It was crazy but wonderful. So strange to be here - on their turf! They are so precious in their school uniforms and big bows in their hair.

After a short meeting with the nurse about their medical history, they immediately led us around the school area to tour their classrooms and meet their friends. Within minutes, they introduced us to Masha and Tanya and Galyna and Olya and asked us to adopt them all. There are no word to describe all my feelings - joy to see them, to finally be in this place about to bring home our girls; heartbreak to have to leave the other kids; sadness to take them away from what has been their home for a year and a half - to cause them more pain even though it is for much good - please read this post from another family that is here now; frustration at not being able to do more; intense pain for all they have had to endure much more.
So after touring the school, seeing them practice dance and music for a performance for teachers day (it took place after we left yesterday), walking outside on the playground area, and meeting so many children, we headed back to Zhytomyr to take the next step with the paperwork. While we had played with the kids, N had been working out paperwork with the director and orphanage lawyer. Now it had to be notarized and taken to the court lawyer to be processed before 4:00. Not an easy task since the first notary asked for Zach and my Ukraine tax id numbers?!? What?! Of course she knew we were Americans. So wierd. So then we looked for another with about a million attempts at directions and 180 degree turns in the middle of the streets. I was getting very tired and so was N (she has a cold during all this). Finally, we succeeded and even got the paperwork to the right lawyer on time. Whew!!

Now the next adventure...finding a place to stay. Not easy here. In most regions there are plenty of apartments for rent by the week but no one knew of any here. So we checked out the three hotels. The first - The Dodo (bird) Hotel - was extremely nice and the price reflected this. The next was medium but fairly full and the only rooms were one that reeked of smoke and another that was on the sixth floor. No problem except no elevator :) Well we said we needed to work out!! Also no fridge or kitchen. So then we checked out the last one - no words for that one, but we didn't bother to look at the rooms. We returned to the middle hotel and proceeded to carry the luggage up 6 flight of stairs. We will have to move out in a few days to somewhere else. Around this time it all hit me. I had been in a great mood and loving every second, but all at once the emotions of the past few days combined with extreme exhaustion hit like a ton of bricks. I started crying in front of sweet N. And she was so kind it made me cry more. Okay I sound completely crazy now. But I just can't explain it - it came out of nowhere and I was powerless to stop it. I assured N that I was not really upset - just needed some time to process and some sleep and some food. She took us to a great restaurant and then I went home and crashed.

It did the trick. I felt great today and had a fabulous visit to the orphanage. We stopped by the market, via taxi, on the way and got fruit and candy and the shampoo Katya asked for. It was gorgeous outside today and we spent about 5 hours with the girls and their friends. We were allowed to go up to the girls' room and spend some time there. It is actually very cozy and has plenty of room. They have many of the things that we had sent back with them. That was encouraging to see. Then we headed outdoors and Zach played some basketball with some of the older boys. They were pretty impressed :) And the girls kept same, "Oh Daddy - bravo!" It was so much fun - just hanging out and playing and talking. Some of the kids know English quite well and translate for each other. One girl speaks excellent Spanish (she has been hosted in Spain several times) and so she translates through Zach with the other kids and then he translates to me. I'm sure nothing is lost :) They all want to show off their talents and just have approval. They want hugs and they want to talk. They also appreciate candy and fruit :) The boys want to wrestle. They all want their pictures taken. They are so precious it just makes my heart ache for them. I can't imagine how I will feel by the time we leave. What an amazing blessing this time is even if it is so emotional - we love every second (almost!)!!!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Kraseewee Daine!! (Beautiful Day)

Today was incredible. We went to a yummy lunch with N and her husband. The place was very nice with wood beams and granite rock throughout. I can't say enough about how impressed we are with her. She is so caring about the children and about our even insignificant needs. If anyone reading would like a referral for a great facilitator, email me and I would be happy to share her contact info. I seriously think we have one of the top facilitators in Ukraine. Thank God for leading us to her. Not only is she very enjoyable to spend time with, she is also extremely honest and well-respected at the SDA. She cares about getting us through the process fast and despite the fact that she was feeling sick today, she didn't complain a bit and went the extra mile to get us things that we needed. She speaks impeccable English as well as several other languages.

Okay, so on to what you all are waiting for...The Appointment.

So we arrived a little early and stood inside the iron gate in the courtyard and met another american adoptive couple outside. (Zach said in his best East Texan accent, how ya'll doing and the answered, so we knew they must be American) They had just had their appointment and we enjoyed talking about the adoption process. Finally after an hour or so it was our turn. N motioned us in and we walked up the narrow staircase to the small office. I suddennly felt a bit nervous that we were about to be ushered into our big court appointment. It turned out to be a small room with the SDA psychologist/social worker. She is a younger woman in her 30s with a warm personality who made us very comfortable. She asked us how about our hosting trips went and how the girls adjusted. We told her about Nastya missing Katya at Christmas and about how well things went this summer. We told her how much we love the girls. She asked for pictures and we showed her pictures on the laptop. We talked empathetically about each picture - with my parents, swimming, riding horses, family pics, etc. She said we were young to have three kids already. We agreed :) She commented on how small Nastya is and how fast she will grow once she goes home with us. She signed the referral letter right then and told us to adopt them fast and get them home :) And that was that! So easy!!! The SDA file had very little information about their background but N said we would find out more in Zhytomyr. We did see some younger pictures of the girls but not any younger than the first picture that we have of them. I was hoping that somehow they had a younger picture...

Okay so here are some of the pictures of the gorgeous city of Ukraine. We are loving our time here and our time together. And tomorrow we go to see the girls. We can't wait!!

We made it!!

After about 24 hours of travel we finally arrived in Kiev yesterday afternoon. The flights were awesome - big high five to Lufthansa airlines!! We had an extra seat on the big flight and the seats in economy were super comfy. The food was good too. We had a 4 hour layover in Dusseldorf, Germany and being the adventurers that we are, we decided to get our passports stamped and leave the airport for a quick taxi ride to the city. It was beautiful and we enjoyed a very yummy breakfast at a quaint little German coffee shop. We made it back with plenty of time to spare. When we arrived in Kiev, it was very crowded and not the cleanest conditions at the airport. Our facilitator, N, had run into traffic and was late but I had forgot to print her phone number so we couldn't call without getting to internet. It was a little nerve-wrackng for about 30 minutes as we tried to protect our luggage and looked for N. We couldn't find internet at the airport and were about to try again, when she came. It wasn't all that long and just part of the adventure :) We really like her a lot and she is very on top of things. For example, our appointment is today at 4:00, so yesterday we went to the SDA and she requested that they have our referral letter ready to go so that we could go on to our region right after the appointment. So they typed it up (since we already know who the girls are) and will sign it after our appointment. That will save us at least a whole day - maybe more due to the weekend coming up. Then she took us to several internet stores and helped negotiate this wireless internet card that I am now using in our apartment.

Oh, that brings me to the apartment. It is cute and quaint and roomy. I was singing the praises of it until this morning when I got up (after 10 lovely hours of sleep) to make coffee in the coffee maker that I brought. I connected it to the converter and turned it on. The lights flashed, I heard a clicking noise, and that was that. It blew a fuse in the converter. So, we replaced the fuse and tried again. Same thing. Those who know my love of coffee can imagine the panic I was now in. I mean just the fact that I brought a small coffee maker from the US gives you an idea... I thought I had it made with my coffee pot and converters.

So and I decided to take a shower. Bad idea. First there was no hot water b/c we didn't know to plug in the water heater last night. After freezing and jumping back out, I waited a bit for the water to heat. Then there was NO water at all!! Eventually it came back on, but there was no time to wait for heating, so I shivered through an incredibly cold shower. At least I was awake :) Who needs coffee when you have cold showers?!? Zach put his Aggie engineering to work and proceeded to boil water to pour through the coffee pot and I had my coffee after all. Day saved :) Yea Zach!!

So now we sit and wait for N to arrive and take us to lunch and to the appointment. I'm really not that nervous but I'm sure I will be once we are there.

A little about Kiev ~ It is beautiful!!! It is clean and the architecture is amazing. Independence Square is so impressive with gorgeous old buildings and cobblestone roads. Beautiful domes on buildings and lots of granite and rock arches. The streets are clean and nice and there is an abundance of nice restaurants and shopping. Besides the difficulties of this morning, we are certainly not roughing it!! Of course outside the main areas it is very rundown and the apartment buildings look to be in very bad condition with broken windows, ect. The two public bathrooms I have attempted to enter are more dirty than I can put into words here. People told me, but really nothing quite prepared me for that experience!

I will try to post pictures soon, but so far we have been pretty busy!