Thursday, April 30, 2009

Random tidbits

Mark installed the new toilet in the downstairs bathroom! Woohoo! This will make potty training at least a little easier...I hope. ;) He's still working on getting the vanity and sink in. The one that I loved, and that he went to two stores last night to find, and that he hauled into the house by himself...doesn't fit. So he's returning that one today and we'll have to go choose another one. This time we'll pay a bit more attention to where the pipes can go. :)

Dima is not going on his school field trip today because he ran off when they returned and got off the bus on his last field trip (on Tuesday). Several teachers yelled at him to stop, he turned around to look at them, then kept right on going--straight into the school parking lot. Um, no. Not safe. So until we know we can trust him to listen and obey at school he will not be going on field trips. I'm guessing missing one will probably be enough to help it sink in that we're serious about this.

Zhenya has developed a cough--again! This is the second or third cough he's had in the past several months. I'm wondering if it's allergies. The coughs always go away after a few weeks, and they don't keep him up at night so I'm not sure how much to medicate him for it.

A conversation with my son

Last night, a whispered conversation while tucking Dima into bed...

D: "I love you, Mama."
M: Looking him straight in the eyes, " I love you, too."
D: "And I love God and Jesus...(long pause)...I not want go to heaven, Mama."
M: "Heaven is a nice place. You get to be with God all of the time."
D: "I not want go to heaven...I stay here."
M: "Yes, you'll stay here for a long, long time."
Big, big smile on his face.

When he first said he didn't want to go to heaven, I tried to reassure him that heaven was nice. What he meant is that he didn't want to leave us, not that he didn't want to go to heaven.

He gets it.

He gets that this is home. That he gets to stay here. That he's not leaving.

That he belongs here with us.

We'll work on wanting to go to heaven another day. ;)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Unusual discipline

Mark and I are big believers in having the consequences match the infraction (more commonly known as having the "punishment fit the crime"). Lately we've been having a few issues that just have not seemed to resolve through our traditional discipline methods.

Dima decided he'd had enough towards the end of the day Saturday and had no desire to cooperate any more. Because of some of the things we did on Saturday, the boys had had a pretty substantial snack in the very late afternoon (at 4:30, and we usually eat dinner at 5) so that we could do one more thing and then come home, have a light dinner (really more of a snack), and put them to bed. Unfortunately, after the first snack and extra activity Dima decided he was done attempting to behave or obey. So he went to bed without "dinner". This is something we've never done with the boys before, and we wouldn't have done it had he not eaten already, but the fact that he thought he was missing dinner was enough to convince him to change his attitude the next day. And he was asleep within 10 minutes of crawling in bed, which convinced me that he needed bed more than dinner anyway.

Besides which, he didn't miss much. ;)

Zhenya lately has had a very difficult time chewing with his mouth closed. He can do it, and when he chooses to he has very nice table manners. But lately no amount of reminders have been able to help him keep his mouth closed while he's chewing. I was so fed up with it at lunch on Saturday that I told him the reminders obviously weren't working, and if he couldn't chew with his mouth closed I would mix up all of his food so that he didn't need to chew it. He apparently didn't take me seriously.

That was a mistake on his part. :) :)

For dinner, Zhenya had pureed cheese quesadilla with cucumber and carrots. It made for a very nice soup. Mark was a little concerned that Zhenya would like it and would want all of his food pureed, and at the beginning that appeared to be true. But after a couple of spoonfuls Zhenya decided he wasn't so fond of having his food all mixed together. That seems to have gotten the point across, as he has been doing a much better job of chewing with his mouth closed.

Now, before you fire off any nasty comments, let me add a few things. One, I would never do either of these with children who were not secure in the fact that they will always have food, or who were incapable of understanding what was being offered as a consequence. Two, I would never do this with children who were medically or otherwise incapable of doing what they were asked to do (for example, having a jaw or mouth problem that prevented them from chewing with their mouth closed).

Please don't bother commenting about how you would never do this to your child and you can't believe I would do it to mine. That's fine, and I appreciate that parents have different discipline styles. I only hope that your child is not the one at a community gathering shoveling their food in, talking with their mouth open, and spitting their food back out on their plate. I expect my children to have good table manners consistent with their age (my boys are not expected to be able to cut food that requires a knife yet, because they don't have the motor skills to be able to handle the fork and knife concurrently) and to be learning and attempting to mimic the table manners they see in adults (which, sadly, I often actually don't want them to mimic because they are so horrendous).

It is my job as their parent to be training them into the skills they will need later on in life. True, they may never need to eat off of silver or need to know how to use a table set with multiple knives and forks. But if they do, I want them to have had the training to be able to handle those encounters with grace and dignity and a confidence that they are well-equipped for whatever situations they end up in.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A busy weekend

Saturday morning we all walked over to the local doughnut shop. It's maybe a mile from our house and quite a nice little walk. We all got doughnuts then sat outside on the curb eating them. It was fun and may be something we try to do regularly as a family.

We got so much done this weekend I hardly know where to start! I guess I should back up a little...several months ago (maybe even a year ago or more!) we picked up a dining room table off of Craigslist for $20. It didn't come with any chairs and could stand a good refinishing, but it could easily seat four or six, plus it has the mechanism to pull apart and put leaves in (the leaves were not included when we bought the table) to add another 30" to the length. We never used it in our old house because we didn't have space to set it up, so it stayed in our basement. Now we have a dining room, and room for a real table! Unfortunately, the chairs we had would not work for Emily as they are folding chairs and we couldn't safely put a booster seat on them for her. Thursday we found two wooden (non-folding) chairs on Craigslist for a great price which will work for Emily. Mark and Zhenya picked them up while Dima and I were at therapy.

Friday night Mark and I set the table up with the new chairs plus the folding chairs. Saturday we went to Walmart to pick up a booster seat for Emily. While we were there I decided we might as well get boosters for all of them as I though it would help the boys to be a little higher at the table too. Saturday night I put the boosters on the seats for the boys and they are great! I love the extra lift it gives the boys plus they can't slide back in their seats and slouch now. ;) The boosters do work with the folding chairs, but not in a way that could have been used for Danielle and Emily (I don't have the back strap around the back of the chair) but the boys are stable enough in their chairs that it's not a problem. The girls will be using the boosters in the new non-folding chairs.

We also went to Lowes and picked up stair treads for Mark to make leaves for the table and snagged a great deal on a dishwasher. Energy Star appliances were 10% off this weekend and had no state sales tax, plus we had an additional 10% coupon for our entire purchase. We also bought a manual lawnmower (you know, the ones without a motor? :)) and a medicine chest for the upstairs bathroom since Mark's been shaving without a mirror for a few weeks now. ;)

Today Mark installed the dishwasher (his first time doing that--and it works!! Isn't my hubby awesome?!?), mowed part of the lawn, and hung the medicine chest. I helped where I could but mainly did laundry, vacuuming, and other necessary cleaning. :)

It was a busy weekend but we got so much done and a lot of the little "to-dos" off of our list. Tomorrow Mark's going to be demolishing a wall in the downstairs bathroom so that he will hopefully be able to put in the toilet and sink this week. I really want that toilet in before we get the girls home--I'm thinking potty training while having to run the girls upstairs will be no fun! LOL

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The search for a van

With the addition of two more little ones, we have officially run out of room in our car (or will, as soon as they're home). In the decision for what type of vehicle to get next, it was decided that our best bet was a minivan. While some of the SUVs seat 6 (4 of whom are in carseats!), most of them do not then have any room for the 2 dogs that travel with us on many of our road trips.

Thus, the minivan search began.

We (really, Mark) researched several different vans, test-drove a few, and decided our top choice is a Toyota Sienna, with seating for 8 (just in case, you never know ;)). Since our decision, we've been hounding dealerships and Craigslist looking for our new van (which will not actually be new, but new to us). We've found a couple of good candidates (one of which sold yesterday and we were supposed to go look at it tonight! :( ) but have yet to find the one.

If we can find an older one at a good price, we can buy it before we go back to get the girls. If we have to buy a newer one (2007 or 2008) we'll need to wait until we get back since we're not willing to shell out the cash before our second trip. While we're pretty sure we know about how much money we'll need for the upcoming second trip, it would be horrible to get to Ukraine and find that we are a few thousand short because we bought a car!

We're not completely limited to the Toyota Sienna, but it meets our needs, plus it has a few bonus features, one of which I'm in love with. :)

It has blue dashlights.

What?!? I can hear all of you saying that, by the way. See, the problem is that I've gotten a little attached to the Volkswagens which have blue dashlights. Now I'm a little too partial to that feature, and since I look at the dash quite regularly when I'm driving I'm having a hard time reconciling myself to another color of dash lights. But hey, if it drives and it fits our family, I'll adjust.

I have been highly amused by some of my calls to the dealerships regarding postings on Craigslist. I called two different dealerships yesterday to find out if the vans they had were 7 or 8 passenger. Both of them had the same response:

"How can you tell if it's 7 or 8 passenger?"

In general, you can count the seats. ;)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Speech therapy

Yesterday was Dima's first speech therapy session. I loved it! Even more importantly, HE loved it!

His speech therapist has picked a starting sound for him to work on--"t". He can say the "t" sound, and he can say it in words, but it tends to get lost in conversation. So for example, Dima can say "cat" but a phrase like "Where is the cat?" comes out "Where ca?" This is part poor motor planning (being able to get the muscles of your mouth to work the way your brain is telling you to) and part poor speech habits developed most likely through neglect at a young age. Speech therapy is going to work on strengthening and training his mouth muscles as well as helping him listen and plan his speech correctly.

Dima's speech has already been improving remarkably over the past few months, and I know the social environment at school is a big factor in that. While I'm not fond of all of the behaviors he picks up at school, the sheer amount of verbal interaction is a huge help to him. In fact, this week at dinner was the first time I have ever heard him use the word "the" correctly in a sentence, unprompted.

Most of Dima's speech is hard to understand because he leaves out so many articles and other words that to him are minor but make a huge difference in the clarity of his communication. We are, in many ways, somewhere around a 2-3yo speech pattern. "Mama, cat!" "Look, truck red" He has made tremendous improvements, and when he's paying attention and not tired he's getting closer to a 3-4yo in his speech. But we've still got a long ways to go.

I think that most likely without speech therapy he would eventually have normal or near-normal speech. But why would we withhold a resource from him that can do nothing but help him? So for the rest of the school year, he will be doing speech therapy 1x per week, and once school is out he will be going 2x per week. Pray for me, if you don't mind. I'll have 3 kids in the waiting room with me during one of those sessions. ;) Perhaps I can get Danielle's and Emily's therapies scheduled at the same time. :) :)

Which brings me to a question. How do I explain to Zhenya why he doesn't get to go play at therapy like the other kids? He already asks why he doesn't get to go like Dima, but it's only going to get worse when he's the only one not going. He's going to think he's being punished. :) :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The important things to know

Dima's (kindergarten) class has been doing the Stanford Achievement Test this week (nice going...we bring him back after a 1.5 week vacation to a week of testing!). His teacher said he's done really well, but he struggled a little bit with the "Environment" section. Being that it's been awhile since I've been in kindergarten, I wasn't quite sure what "Environment" meant. So I asked.

Sample questions from the "Environment" section of the kindergarten test:

"Who was the first president of the United States?"
"Which is farther from the Earth: Jupiter, the moon, or the stars?"

I had a hard time controlling my laughter. son has only been speaking English for a year. I'm not even sure he knows (okay, I'm pretty sure he doesn't know) what a president is. And I'm absolutely positive that he has no idea what Jupiter is (he does know what the moon and the stars are, but I don't think he's got a grip on their distance from the Earth yet).

Thanks, but I think we'll keep working on his reading and math and let the science and history fall into place later. ;)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ice cream and school

Yesterday we took advantage of Ben & Jerry's "free ice cream cone day" promotion and took the boys for ice cream after school. They had no idea where we were going so it was a complete surprise, and they loved it (of course). We picked their flavors after they told us what kind of ice cream they wanted. Dima wanted chocolate ice cream so I ordered him Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Zhenya wanted banana ice cream (huh? since when?) so Mark ordered him Chunky Monkey. Both the boys liked their flavors and that was the fastest I've ever seen Dima eat ice cream. He's usually our slow "sweets" eater.

We're still working on the flights back to Ukraine. I think we've got flights booked on Lufthansa through Golden Rule travel, but I don't have a confirmation on that yet. The flights we booked will have one extra stop but they'll work and they don't have any crazy layovers (several of the flights we were looking at had over 20-hour layovers in various airports, and all of those were on the flights back).

Laundry is caught up and I think we're all back to a normal sleep schedule. The boys have had a couple of really good days at school which has really surprised Mark and I. After a week and a half off (in another country) and jet lag, we figured we'd be in for some behavior issues. It's been a pleasant surprise to have them readjusting to school and a normal schedule so quickly. I can only hope it will continue while Mark and I are gone. ;)

In other news, we're a little unsure what to do with Dima for next year. He's quite capable of doing the kindergarten and (next year) first grade level work, but he's figured out that if he begs for help people at school will help him so he's not doing the work on his own. I finally laid it on the line last night and told him that if he could not do the work on his own that he would not be going to first grade next year. From his perspective, you are always moved up into the next level class (same as in the orphanage) so I don't think it had occurred to him that there was a possiblity he wouldn't be going to first grade. He's excited to go into first grade, so I'm hoping this will help motivate him to change his behavior and do the work. He's only got a month left of school so I'm hoping we can see some improvement in this area before summer. AND...he starts speech therapy tomorrow!! WOOHOO!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A few more random pictures

I apologize to those of you who think you are going crazy because all of sudden there are pictures in the posts! :) :) I went back in and edited the posts over the time we were in Ukraine to add some of the pictures, so if you haven't checked you may want to skim over the last couple of weeks' worth of posts.

And a few more pictures that didn't quite make it into the old posts:

Blue skies in Kyiv

One of the results of my infamous pizza-ordering skills

A large playground in Khmelnitsky

The boys outside the SDA appointment door
(they have no idea of the significance of the door; we just asked them to stand here and get a picture)

Okay, this last picture needs a little explaining. Those of you who followed our first adoption journey may know that we spent some time at a playground in Kyiv close to our apartment while we were waiting for our flight home. At this playground Zhenya launched himself off of a playground tower apparently expecting to be caught (even though no one was waiting to catch him). It was our first parenting experience of "oh no, we just injured our child" although he wasn't actually injured (although pretty shaken up, as were we!). Here is Zhenya a little over a year later, going down the exact pole that he had tried to go down (but neglected to actually grab hold of) the last time we were in Kyiv. This time he didn't fall. :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Home again (even if only temporarily)

We made it home late Saturday night. Many thanks to our friend Trent who was able to pick us up at the airport, especially since our flight arrived about an hour late.

Our last apartment in Kyiv is better left unmentioned (small mosquito infestation!) but we did have a great day on Friday wandering around Kyiv...and I do mean wandering. We had no idea where our apartment was located other than that it wasn't close to the city center. But we could see tall buildings and we knew we'd be on a plane all day Saturday so we started walking. We wandered into a small market and exchanged some money, then we walked past the circus arena and up a big hill and found Kreschatik Street and Independence Square. It was a good 1 hour+ walk from our apartment to the square.

We ate at Mister Snack for lunch, then hit the internet cafe and took the time to check in for our flights. We walked back to O'Panas and visited the playground where there were a whole pack of kids speaking English. On the way back to our apartment, we found a pizza place underneath an English school (close to the University metro stop) and stopped in. Nope, no one spoke English, but they did have an English menu. ;) I swear I'm going to perfect the art of ordering pizza in Ukraine by the time this adoption is through, because yet again I didn't get it right (two pizzas, each with one topping turned into two pizzas each with two toppings). There's apparently some phrase or word that I'm getting wrong (huge surprise, I know!), but the pizzas are all still yummy and we eat them regardless.

We finished the walk to the apartment with a stop at the little market again to pick up some snacks for breakfast in the morning. Saturday we were picked up at 7am so that we could get to the airport in plenty of time, which we did. Even without a printed e-ticket itinerary, they sent us straight to the check-in counter since we had already checked in online. That was when we were told that Mark and Zhenya were on standby for our flight from JFK to STL. :) :) We had a 4-hour layover in JFK, so we figured we'd work it out when we got there.

We were in the airport for a little over an hour before our flight started boarding. We had seats all the way in the back and I loved it. We were close to the bathrooms so it was quick and easy to get the boys there. We watched Quantum of Solace, something else that was obviously very memorable since I can't remember what it was, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua (cute). Thankfully the boys don't watch the movies because I don't think I would have wanted them watching the first two. The food was okay, although on the flight over to Ukraine they served chicken or pasta and ran out of chicken meals, and then on this flight they served chicken or pasta and ran out of pasta meals. Weird.

We made it to JFK and got to our gate to sit and wait out the next 4 hours. We got everything straightened out with regards to getting all of us on the flight (which Mark was particularly happy about). We made a few friends along the way, including a newly adoptive dad and his son Mitchell (hope the Dramamine worked!) and a guy who works in the Donetsk region with the kids who are aging out of the orphanage system. We let the boys sleep for about an hour in the airport. They were wiped out (it was a few hours past their bedtime on Ukraine time at this point).

I didn't manage to sleep on the flight home so I ended up being awake for 24 hours straight, but my amazing husband managed to fall asleep before our plane left the gate! We sat on the runway for about an hour as we were 30th(!!) in line to takeoff. Our flight attendant was fantastic and passed out food and drinks and let people get up to use the restroom as needed. As soon as we were in the air I told the boys to "lay back and rest" and they were both asleep within minutes.

Yesterday we all stayed up all day to try to avoid jet lag. We stayed out and about with grocery and miscellaneous shopping (by the way, Steak and Shake is having a kids-eat-free promotion on the weekends in the St Louis area--the 4 of us ate for $6 yesterday! It was like still being in Ukraine!) and the boys went to bed at the regularly scheduled time last night.

We're having a hard time finding flights to get back to Ukraine (around May 4) so please pray for that. We need to get those set up as quickly as possible to go get our girls!!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tips for other prospective adoptive parents

If you are going to be making a critical phone call, such as changing your flights, be sure you have enough grivna on your phone. Otherwise, you might end up getting cut off in the middle of your conversation with Delta. You might also not be able to call anyone since you don't have any minutes on your phone, leading you to make a long-distance phone call on the hotel phone. Which in turn connects you to your facilitator who has to give you directions on how to get a phone card to add minutes to your phone. You then have to run down to the market, buy a phone card using broken Russian and pantomime, rush back to your hotel, and add the minutes to your phone.

If you shop enough times at the local market, they will give you a frequent shopper card, complete with registration packet, even though you clearly don't even know enough Russian to fill out said registration packet.

If you stay at Hotel Podillya, you do not need to bring any soap or shampoo. Because no matter how many you leave on the counter, you will always get two new soaps and two new shampoo packets every day.

Hotel Podillya makes up for their excessive use of soap with internet that costs 5 grivna per hour from 9am to 9pm, and 3 grivna per hour from 9pm to 9am (yeah, that would be like $0.25 per hour).

New York Street Pizza does not have any employees that speak English, even though all of their signs are in English. They do, however, have an English menu. And it is quite sufficient to order with, although if you are not good enough with your Russian instead of getting 3 pizzas, each with one topping, you will get 3 pizzas each with 3 toppings. Said pizzas will turn out to be so delicious you will return for 3 more the next day (this time with only two toppings, intentionally).

Friday, April 17, 2009

They're ours!

I am happy to introduce Danielle Bogdana and Emily Ivanna, new members of our family as of April 16, 2009! :)

I will post when we get home with pictures. I'm in an internet cafe in Kyiv and the boys are being occupied outside with ice cream. :) They've had a lot of that this trip. We're confirmed on our flights and will be home tomorrow night!

We will be returning in a couple of weeks, and in the meantime will get everyone resettled with school and work. See you soon! :) :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Coming home!

The paperwork issues are resolved, we have court tomorrow at 2pm, and we're flying home Saturday morning!

Yesterday was the boys' first visit with the girls. To minimize all kinds of potential issues, we left the boys at the orphanage playground outside with my mom while we went in to get the girls, then took the girls out to the playground. Dima is absolutely in love with Eve. He follows her everywhere and wants to hold her (nevermind that she's got to weigh 2/3 of what he does). Zhenya and Dana immediately hit it off and spent the entire time playing on the slides and swings. They are definitely two peas in a pod. The boys didn't seem to have any issues with the orphanage, so this morning we took them for a second visit with their sisters and took them inside to see where the girls live.

Zhenya went with Mark to get Eve and Dima went with my mom and me to get Dana (her room is closer to the entrance so it's a shorter amount of time to be in the orphanage) then we switched it to take the girls back, so that both boys have seen where each of the girls lives. Neither of the boys seemed to have any issues with the orphanage or being there. It has brought up some interesting discussions, but so far no negative reactions. In fact, this evening when Mark and I went to visit the girls again, as soon as Dima heard we were going he went to put his shoes on so he could go too. :) The three oldest spent the entire time today playing on the slide and going down together. Mark got some great video that I will post when we get home--right now I'm too tired to fight with the computer to get it on here. :)

We changed our flights today and will be coming home on Saturday, arriving in St Louis about 10pm. The flight change went smoothly enough except for a small hitch early on that I will rehash in another post. I'm very pleased with Delta's service and we only had to pay the change fees--no fare difference. Tomorrow we will get to visit with the girls in the morning, have court in the afternoon, and then be headed back to Kyiv. We'll have one extra day of sightseeing in Kyiv (we're planning on eating at Mister Snack and going to the Embassy). The current plan is to return to Kyiv on or about April 27. We should have about a week and a half of paperwork to wade through and then we'll be coming home for good--with the girls!

Pics from our afternoon visit with the girls (without the boys):

Pictures from today's visits:

Monday, April 13, 2009


We woke up this morning to sunshine, and it was very welcome. It still isn't warm yet, but it's getting there and it was a great encouragement to see the sun. We went to the playground twice and visited the girls twice. The second visit we went outside with Dana's groupa and spent about 45 minutes with her, then went inside and played one-on-one with Eve for about 20 minutes. It was great to get to spend time alone with each of them. We're working on teaching Eve sign to help her communicate, and she's picking it up pretty well for someone who's only ever used screeching to communicate. :)

Eve reading books with Papa

Dana had her second run-in with Mama today and once again, Mama won. The girl is stubborn and I have a feeling we're going to be in for a few good temper tantrums when we get home. However, she clears up pretty quickly and becomes obedient when she realizes we won't give in so I think she'll be a quick learner. ;)

Dana with our photo book

Tomorrow the boys will be going with us to the orphanage. The plan is to have them and the girls play outside on the orphanage playground so that they can meet before the girls come home. Hopefully it will be sunny again tomorrow and even warmer!

And, just in case you felt things were going a little too perfectly, we've come upon a small hitch. I'm not going to go into a lot of details, but we've hit a paperwork snag. Right now we're still scheduled to have court on Thursday, and if that happens we will be doing our best to come home this weekend (and will then come back in a couple of weeks and get the girls). But if the paperwork problem cannot be resolved, we might not be able to have court when it's currently scheduled. Our facilitators are working very hard to get this resolved (one office is holding everything up, and everyone else is okay with the paperwork from what we understand) and hopefully it will be taken care of in the next day or so.

Please pray for our visit tomorrow and our paperwork glitch to get cleared up! :)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Another chilly day in (the girls' region)

It was cold and rainy again today, but the weather is supposed to start picking up in the next couple of days. We had a good day today, and not much to report other than laundry is done. :)

I've shared a bit about our travels, but I haven't shared much about our adventures. Yesterday was a very adventurous day! Early on, we were coming back from a walk and Mark broke our hotel key off in the lock. Now you have to understand that it's not as simple as walking down and telling the front desk. We've got to get our translator on the phone, who has to talk to the front desk, who sends someone up, who has to call someone else....and we were told there might be a "small charge" for fixing the lock. Yep, all of 18 grivna (yeah, a little over $2). I'll take that little charge any day of the week!

Lately, my mom and I have been doing the grocery shopping for dinner at night. I go by default as I have the most (and it's not very much) Russian, and then Mom usually comes since she has the boys in the afternoon during our visits with the girls and she needs a (well-deserved) break. Last night, when we got to the deli they had pre-cooked pizzas available for I got 7 (they were small, about saucer-size). They had chicken, and cheese, and bacon, and...mayonnaise! I thought they were fine, but apparently I'm the only one who likes mayonnaise on my pizza. :) :) They did not send me grocery shopping for dinner tonight. LOL We went out to a pizza place instead, and I was instructed to ask if they had mayonnaise on their pizza (I didn't ask, but it didn't).

We walked back from the orphanage once, and it wasn't bad but it's been pretty cold and it makes for a very long walk. So we decided it's worth the 11 grivna each way to get a taxi. We call our facilitator and she calls a taxi for us, then calls us back to let us know what car to look for. Today when we got in the taxi, we handed the address to the guy and he gave a dismissive grunt. He seemed a little put out to be hauling two foreigners around. Then he couldn't find the orphanage, and we had to show him where to go. :) :) He was laughing by the end of the ride and a good time was had by all.

Our hotel overlooks a soccer (football) stadium, so last night Mark and the boys got to watch the end of a local match from our hotel. The home team lost, 2 to 1, but it was pretty exciting as it was tied almost until the end of the game. The boys loved it and have gone around talking about the green and white team all day.

Dramamine works wonders on Zhenya--as in, it's the only thing we've ever found that can make him stop talking. However, there is a small drawback. Apparently Zhenya has a word allotment per day, and when he doesn't use it up in one day it gets transferred to the next day. The child did not stop talking for a solid 14 hours. It was amazing.

Our visit today with the girls went really well. Eve is starting to interact a lot more, and we're beginning to wonder if she's not just really delayed. She is the highest-functioning child in her groupa, so she has not had a lot of peer interaction or age-appropriate stimulation. She was "talking" and asking Mark questions today which was a really good sign. We got some good video of her running and also going down a slide. The concerning behaviors we've observed the past couple of days seem to be diminishing and hopefully that will continue with increased interaction.

Eve playing with Papa

Dana playing with Mama

Eve mimicking Papa's silly faces

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Today...we all way overslept. Mark was the first one up at 9am, and I dragged myself out of bed at 10:30am. Thus, we missed our morning visit with the girls. Instead, we wandered around in the rain (it is raining and cold at the moment, but it has been nice and sunny most recently. If you're coming soon, bring a few light layers and an UMBRELLA.) and visited an outdoor market and then stopped in to warm up and have lunch at a Ukrainian cafeteria. We are eating a lot for very little money here--lunch for 5 of us today was less than $10 and that included desserts. This was the first meal we've eaten out since we got here. We've just been buying food in the stores and eating in our apartment or hotel, which has saved us a lot of money.

This afternoon, we left the boys with my mom and went to visit the girls. We were a little more prepared for Eve this time and were able to really interact with her. We played with both girls for about an hour, and it went really well. Both girls seem to have good attention spans and good motor skills. Dana is amazing with her ability to repeat English words--she can repeat new words better than our boys can. Dana loves to scribble and color and Eve's favorite activity today was mimicking Mark when he made faces--she's really good at it! Size-wise, Dana is about a 5T both top and bottom and Eve is about a 3T.

Eve getting ready to come play!

Right now the plan is for us to come home during our 10-day wait, if we can find flights home. From doing some checking on Delta it looks like we should be fine, but I will be calling them on Monday to see what we can make happen.


Yesterday we left our apartment at 4:30am and headed for the girls' region. It was not a bad drive, especially since I gave the boys Dramamine before we left and they slept most of the way there. ;) Serge drove and Marina and the rest of us pretty much just slept.

As soon as we arrived, Marina went to the social worker's office to get permission for us to meet the girls. We then went to the orphanage, knowing we wouldn't get to stay long as we had a notary appointment at 11am. The goal was to get all of our pre-court paperwork done in one day so it could be back on its way to Kyiv that night with Serge and Marina.

When we got to the orphanage, we ran into Dana in the hallway. She was a little bit shy but very cute and happy to see us. She was on her way to music class, so we went to see Eve first.

Eve was a surpise. While we were prepared for her cleft palate, we were not prepared for the neurological issues that she appeared to have in our very short visit. We played with her in her groupa for a few minutes and then went to see Dana in her music class. We didn't get any pictures of Eve today as we weren't in her room for very long.

Dana's class was preparing some sort of musical program and they were dancing to music played by one of the caretakers (at the piano--she was quite good!). Dana was dancing and running around with the rest of her class. Although her gait is a little off, she is very functional with both walking and running. We got some great pictures and video of her and her class (and no, I won't share them until after court ;) ).We were in there for a few minutes and then headed out to the notary. Even though Eve's issues are more than we were prepared to handle, we feel that we are already committed to her and Dana and that God has chosen us to be their family.

Dana and her bed

After the notary, Marina ran across the street to the social worker to try to get that paperwork moved forward, and then after a few more stops we headed to the hotel to get our rooms. Unfortunately, we had to get two rooms because they would not allow more than 4 people in a room, but this turned out for the best. We got settled in our hotel room, only to be told that we needed to move because they had accidentally given us a room that was already reserved. We moved up two floors and shaved 200 grivna off of our bill in the process. :) Two rooms are costing us 600 grivna per night, and the exchange rate right now is 8 grivna/dollar (so about $75/night for two rooms--not each, total). We got settled in our new rooms and got a call from Serge and Marina that they were outside and wanted to show us to the cafeteria they had mentioned earlier in the day. While we were driving around, they got the call that our last document was done so we went and picked that up and then they dropped us off at the playground. I feel like we have a new goal of playing on every playground in Ukraine. :)

Along with that phone call we got the news that our court date is next Thursday, April 16! :)

We let the boys play at the playground for awhile and then went back to the hotel rooms. We've got a couple of stores right next to the hotel so we're able to pick up groceries easily, and they have precooked meats so it doesn't matter that we don't have a kitchen. We're pigging out on great chocolate, my favorite soda (Schweppes Bitter Lemon which I can't find in the States), and lots of different types of cookies (we just found the cake section today--be prepared for some cake reviews over the next few days)!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

We're here!

Thanks for all of the prayers!!

We arrived without incident (more or less) yesterday. So far the "only carryon luggage" has been a great thing. We had our appointment this morning and will pick up our referral for the girls this evening, then drive to their region tomorrow morning (very early!!). If everything goes as planned we will get all of our initial paperwork done tomorrow and will be staying in their region over the weekend.

Our luggage

The boys are doing fantastic and are loving being in Ukraine! Their favorite part is the playgrounds that are everywhere in Kyiv. Tami, yesterday we walked to O'Panas and the boys played at the huge playground there. :)

The playground outside our apartment
Having my mom here has been great. She was able to stay with the boys this morning while we went to our appointment so they got to sleep in. We're all pretty sleep deprived after the craziness of the past few days, so the extra sleep for them was wonderful. We are headed to their favorite playground (at O'Panas) next so they'll sleep well again tonight.

Before our SDA appointment

Sorry if this is a little disconnected. I'm typing fast and trying to use as little time as possible. We don't have internet here in Kyiv so I'm using an internet cafe. We should have internet in-region and I'll do my best to catch you all up on the past few days.

We're really excited to meet the girls!! :) :)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tuesday, April 7

Last night my mom drove up and stayed with us so we'd be ready to head out in the morning. Mark and I stayed up most of the night finishing the beds and setting them up and finishing up packing. In the past few days we painted our room and the girls' room, and Mark has been working like mad to finish the beds. I'm happy to say they are DONE and they look great. I think he wishes he'd had a little more time with them, but they really are nice. We slept about three hours then were up to get ready to leave.

Monica picked us up bright and early--I think she might have been at our house before we were awake. :) She took Mark to pick up some McDonald's for breakfast while I got the boys up and dressed. They were very excited to be leaving and get ready even more quickly than usual.

We made it to the airport and Monica took a family picture of us on the way out. I'll try to get a copy of it on here when I get a chance. All of our flights were on time and went great.

Friday, April 03, 2009

I feel like I'm doing something illegal

If you've been reading our last few posts, I've talked repeatedly about the "new" money we were trying to get. The money doesn't actually need to be new, it just needs to be "new"--no marks, or tears, or significant folds, or anything else that would make it appear used and worn--thus the use of the quotes around the word "new."

Yesterday, Mark and Zhenya went and picked up the money. I didn't know at the time I posted, but apparently our bank ordered NEW in, we now have a very large chunk of cash in sequential bills. LOL We're going to sit down and mix up the money so we're not handing over sequential bills to people. It's just a little weird to have this many NEW bills on hand.

Mark started the girls' beds last night, and I primed our bedroom. Whoever commented and said painting is therapy (Amy B?), feel free to come over for some at my house. I've about had enough of this "therapy." ;)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

We have the money!

You guys are really amazing at these specific prayer requests!

I got a call from our bank today that the "new" money is in. I set up a wire transfer (long story) to get the money to the account it needed to be in. Mark and Zhenya picked up the money this afternoon so we're all ready to go! Right?

Personally, I can live in the same clothes for 3, 4, even 5 weeks, but we couldn't go without the money, so yes, we're ready to go.

I do plan on packing some clothes over the next few days. :) :)

And...we have a dogsitter!! I could have told you we had one yesterday, but that would have turned out to be incorrect. Now we really do have one. She is very responsible and will love being so close to her work, since she happens to be Dima's teacher! LOL Yes, I called and asked his teacher if she would be interested in housesitting for us. She lives quite a ways away so I thought she might be interested in being closer for a few weeks. We've got a few people who are able to help her out if she needs some extra coverage (thank you Ryan and Thuy and DMAG family!!) so I am finally feeling some relief over that situation. It kind of felt like we were getting down to the wire with finding someone to help with the dogs.

I've only been a little stressed lately--to the point that Mark said last night "You know we leave in 5 days" and I turned away from him and very maturely said "I'm not listening! I'm not listening! I can't hear you!" and put my hands over my ears. No joke. :)

I just can't even think about the amount of time left before we leave. Every time I think about it I start to get sick to my stomach, thinking there's no way we can get everything done. And we probably can't. But we'll just keep plugging along, getting the things done that NEED to be done and letting the rest fall into place wherever God wants them.

Do you know that if things go as expected, one week from tomorrow we will be meeting our daughters? :) :) :)


This upcoming trip has stirred up a lot of memories for Mark and I, thinking back to the trip to bring the boys home. While it has been very stressful trying to get everything done between the move and the upcoming adoption, we have had a lot of laughter between the two of us over various things that have been happening. I love my husband very much and am so glad I get to go through all of this with him. :)

We've been doing a lot of the "Do you remember when..." in reference to bringing the boys home, and it's fun to think that soon we'll have those same types of memories for the girls. It's amazing how vivid the memories are of all of their firsts--first self-flushing toilet, first hand dryer, first drinking fountain, first baths (and then when they learned to enjoy them). They didn't like pizza the first few times they had it--now they ask for it once or twice a week. :) We found the sippy cups and containers we took with us to the orphanage and both boys commented on the things that they remembered having in them (juice, goldfish, and peanut butter crackers). Zhenya even asked why it was so hard to get the goldfish out of the container--which it was, and in the orphanage Mark and I got a kick out of watching the boys try to figure out how to either get into the container or get the goldfish to come out the little pour spout (they didn't want help, but inevitably ended up asking for it).

The preparations for the upcoming trip have stirred up some memories for the boys, too, which I think is a good thing. A few nights ago Dima was trying to tell me something about going on the plane to get the girls. He was getting pretty upset because I couldn't figure out what he was saying...something about the plane and not being able to sleep and not enough seats. Keep in mind, Dima claims not to remember anything from before he lived with us. I know this isn't true, but he has no desire to talk about any of his memories prior to joining our family. I think somehow he's afraid that if he talks about them they will become reality again.

So he was trying to communicate this thing with seats and a plane and it finally clicked--he remembers. He remembers the flight home, where he was sitting in the seat and didn't get to lay down to sleep (he actually did, on the seats, but I think in his mind he just remembers not being able to sleep in a bed). He was very upset about this until I told him that we would have 5 seats, and plenty of room to sleep, and that we could sleep on the plane. Then he was as happy as could be, content knowing that he would be able to sleep on the plane. Interestingly enough, he will claim that he has never been on a plane, but this reinforced for me that he does remember because his concern was specifically over not being able to sleep on the plane, so he did know we were on a plane before.

I know this trip is going to stir up a lot of memories, especially for Dima. However, I think it will be really good for us to be able to deal with a lot of the memories that I think he has negative impressions of--like the flight home (apparently) and some of the first few days we had in Slaviansk and Kyiv as a family. There are a few things I am interested to see if he remembers, but we don't push him to talk about any of his memories. We let them come out and deal with them as they do. I'm hoping that as some of these surface, we will be able to work through them with him and bring him some comfort and healing. This trip may help fill in a lot of gaps for him, and I'm especially hoping that it will solidify even further his status as a part of our family.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The little things

Slowly but surely things are getting done and checked off of the list(s) fact, some things are getting done which hadn't even made it on to the list yet.

One of the (many) things we were needing to get set up for the girls was their beds. Mark plans to make their beds, but now we're a little worried that we won't be coming home in between trips and we're going to lose out on a little preparation time. This has meant a little scrambling around here as we try to make sure everything is set up, ready to go for the girls, before we leave.

Yesterday Mark went and bought some of the lumber he will need for the girls' beds. But regardless, we still didn't have mattresses for them. I've been perusing Craig's List for awhile, looking for twin mattresses, but most people were only selling sets of mattresses with box springs...for way more than we wanted to pay.

Until this week.

Yesterday, I found a set of TWO twin mattresses (no box springs) for sale for $25 each. We drove out last night and picked them up from a parsonage. They've had minimal use and are practically new Serta mattresses. Now even if the bed frames don't get finished, at least the girls will have a place to sleep! :)