Thursday, March 31, 2011

Side Note to Court

I forgot to mention that the judge had asked if we had something from America that he could have. He apparently collects things from international adoptions. Well, all I could think of was money and didn't think that that would go over too well. Hubby was wearing his Heart of Scouting pin on his lapel so we gave that to him. Well, apparently he was very excited and loved it. So, for us, it was really cool to think that we left our Heart of Scouting - First Duty to God First - in the county of Ukraine in the hands of a court huh?!?

Day 20

It was COURT DAY!!! Our Petition for Adoption was approved! Yeah! We now are the proud parents of 10 children. Oh my goodness, when I said that out loud it sounded so crazy. The day started early for us. Up at six, out before eight. There was a lot of waiting around in the car today. Waiting for this person or that one. After we picked up the inspector we picked up the boys at the orphanage. They looked very happy to be going to court. On the way to court the facilitators were trying to get our younger boy to remember our names. Up until this point he only really knew us as Mama and Papa. He had such a hard time. Funny thing was, the judge didn’t care if he knew our names or not. We were asked many, many, many questions mainly about finances and the many children we have. No surprise there. But, they seemed satisfied with our answers. The court room consisted of a raised platform with three large and sort of prestigious chairs with the Ukrainian symbol and colors on the wall behind that. This is where the judge sat in the middle and an advisor sat on either side of him. There was a general seating area which faced the judge where we sat and a slightly raised spot with a podium and microphone between the two for each of us to get up, face the judge and answer questions. As we stood there, to our left was the secretary, inspector and prosecutor. The judge read through the court papers asking us our names, etc., and asked if all was correct. We were then asked to stand and state why we were there and what we were petitioning for. Then Hubby was up, front and center and answered questions from the judge, prosecutor and advisors. They grilled him on his business and finances and the children’s future education. He did very well and spoke with confidence. Then it was my turn and the focus was on the children’s education and how our biological children would mesh with the boys. Before I knew it an hour had passed. I suppose I was concentrating so hard on the translation of everything that my mind was constantly in motion and time went by quickly. Each of the boys was asked to stand up and they were asked a few questions. One of our older boys’ questions was, “You have family here, how do they feel about this”, his answer was, “I don’t care, I want to be adopted”. Our younger boy was asked about the names of all of our children. It was fun and special that the one name he remembered was “Michael”. That was a proud moment for Michael.

After all questions were asked we were read many more things and then asked to wait while the judge and advisors left the room to deliberate. About twenty minutes or so later they came back in. We were asked to stand and again state that we were petitioning for the adoption of these two boys, to have their names changed, new birth certificates issued with us listed as the parents, for their birth cities to remain the same and to issue passports and visas to bring them home. Many more articles and things were read and then he said that the petition was granted. On the eleventh day following court, which is April 10th, the boys will be officially our children. Because the 10th is Sunday, Monday, April 11th, the boys will be able to be in our custody as our children. We have decided, due to a lot of running around and other things, that I will pick up the boys the day we leave Zap to go to Kiev which will hopefully be the 16th but as late as the 18th. We will see. Then we will spend a couple days in Kiev doing our US Embassy work and hopefully be home right before Easter.

Today “K” and I moved into a new apartment with two rooms. We did this to share costs but mainly because this apartment had internet, or so we thought. From 8 to 10:30 tonight we had two Ukrainian strangers in our apartment messing up and then slightly undoing their mistakes and now we have internet…sort of. I sent Hubby off on the train tonight to Kiev and he will be on a plane back to the states by Saturday. I am really happy for him that he gets to go home….at least one of us does and that makes me happy. The kids need one of us at home. I will miss him like crazy but I just can’t think about that right now. I should have someone with me until I leave for Kiev, whether it is “K”, Lucy, or one other mom, “R”, who is coming around the time “K” is leaving. I hope that none of us will be here alone. It should all work out okay though.

Love you all!!! Thanks for your prayers…keep them coming….it’s working. I have to say for the most part today I felt calm in court. I have felt the spirit with me each and every day and have felt strengthened by the knowledge that Heavenly Father wants us here doing this…and what He wants, He gets!

Pictures - This is a picture of us outside the court house right after the hearing...the other two pictures were from the kids files taken several years ago. I think that they are so cute!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 19

Today was an orphanage day. But, we can’t go to the orphanage until about 3 pm because the kids have classes. After a late morning at the apartment we met up with our Hubbyless friend “K” and wondered around the area. Believe it or not there are several second hand stores in Ukraine. The other day Hubby and I went in one that was close by. Okay, for those of you who think that DI smells, you haven’t smelled anything like what a second hand store smells like in Ukraine! I just about gagged when I walked in! Today we found a larger one that was really nice and didn’t smell bad. It was fun to look around. They have a section where the clothing items are not marked and they weigh them. So, you pay by weight. Other items, probably the better ones, are priced. We wondered around a bit more and went back to our apartment and made lunch. Then off to the orphanage. Today all the orphanage directors, about 45 they said (don’t know if that is really accurate), were at our orphanage for a meeting. The teacher asked us to play with the kids upstairs rather than in the cantina. Remember, upstairs smells like dirty socks. And, seeing that they were keeping most of the younger kids inside, it smelled especially bad today. The sad thing is after about 15 minutes you don’t smell it anymore….ahhh!
When we first arrived, one little boy, jshenya, (not spelled that way but sounds that way) grabbed me by the hand and took me upstairs to where our younger boy was. Before we knew it we were surrounded by kids. Every once in a while their teachers come in and make them go do something, then they come back. We played cards, made friendship bracelets and did puzzles. Of course, our younger boy and Hubby managed to escape outside for some soccer. We have got to get that kid on a team. The first questions out of both our boys today were, “When is court?” Several of the kids have already gone to court and these kids just want out of there. Well, our court is officially tomorrow, Thursday, at 10 am. I am glad it is in the morning. I just want it over with. Another family, the “H” family had court today and all went well. We spent as much time with the kids as we could and left at 5:30 pm or so to go back. We ending up meeting with the “F” family for dinner and then their Ukrainian friend, Lucy, Hubby and I walked to the train station to buy tickets. We walked so, so, so very far, stood in a line that took FOR EV VER!!! Just to find out that we had to buy first class tickets. By the time we were done it was getting very late. We walked a ways to the nearest bus stop and took the bus the rest of the way home. We walked her to her apartment and high tailed it home because it was after 10 pm. As we were walking that late I thought of how in life we are told that the path of least resistance isn’t always the right path to take in life. I realized that when you are American, staying in Ukraine, walking through the city after 10 pm, the path of least resistance to your apartment, down the dark alleys, it the path to take!!!
On our way to the train station we passed a dead rat, or should I say the size of a small dog rat, on the sidewalk. I took a picture of it but will not post it. I will have it in my album at home though. It was bigger and wider than Hubby’s size 13 shoes.
Lucy, our Ukrainian friend, has told “K” and I that she will come back next week to stay with us and be with us while we are here alone in Ukraine. We are so happy about that. She is awesome, knows her way around, speaks the language, knows the missionaries well and she LOVES to go walking!!! That makes me happy.
I may joke about a lot of things we run into here, the sights, the sounds, the smells, but it really isn’t all that bad….just different. Hubby leaves tomorrow night after court, will be in Kiev until Saturday morning when he flies out. I am grateful that he is headed home to be with our children. By the way, our youngest boy asked today if our whole family could come out here and be with him while we wait for everything to be done and he looked disappointed when I told him they couldn’t. Hopefully it was some consolation to him to know that the next time he sees Papa after tomorrow will be in America with his whole family. The boys are so excited to get this over with and so are we. Another day down. Tomorrow will be a big hurdle and the rest should be somewhat downhill, a rather long downhill. Thanks so much for your love and support. We miss you all!

These pictures were, for the most part, taken by the kids.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 18

It rained again today. We didn’t go to the orphanage today. We are trying to go every other day now. It saves on costs because the driver can be expensive. We went out for our daily walk and headed toward the outdoor market. Hubby really wanted some cookies that they sell there and it is a great place to buy candy to bring to the kids. It was raining pretty heavily by the time we got there so we had to buy an umbrella too. On our way there we saw three undercover cops handcuff and take some guy to a car. We are assuming they were the police but it’s hard to say. We stopped at the indoor market on the way home for some groceries and ran into family “F” with our friend whose husband left last night. We are making sure to keep her company because she is staying alone until Hubby leaves and then we will share an apartment. It was fun running into them at the market. We walked around with them and bought a Russian to English/English to Russian dictionary along with keyboard stickers for our computer at home. Hubby and I headed back home and watched a movie.

We all met at our favorite café for dinner later. It was a fun adventure to get there because we took the bus for the first time. It wasn’t a real bus as you would think it was one of those oversized Mercedes’ Vans converted to a mini-bus. We had to stand in the center aisle and you couldn’t see out of the windows because of the moisture from so many people. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it. Luckily the “F” family as a Ukrainian friend with them so she helped us get off at our stop. Some of these pictures were taken on our walk there and the pictures of the apartments are the neighboring apartment buildings to us. Our current apartment is in the blue building. It is the one (two windows) that is on the second floor to the right of the front door if you were standing facing our building. We had a great dinner with the “H” family and their five children that flew in this week, the “C” family, the “F” family with their two children and friend and our hubbyless friend along with the interpreter that goes to court with each of us. She was preparing the “H” family on their court hearing which is tomorrow. At this point we are 80% sure that our court will be Thursday. We should know for sure by tomorrow.

Hubby and I, along with the Ukrainian friend walked home from the restaurant. It was about an hour or so walk but we needed it after that dinner. We were home by 9:15pm just as the fog rolled in. Walking to our apartment, especially at night, is like right out of a scary movie. It doesn’t look safe and it especially didn’t seem that way with the fog. Every night you can hear packs of stray dogs fighting. My friend said she witnessed that during the day once and it was an ugly sight. We feel safe enough, though. Another day down!

As always we miss you all so much. I will feel a little better when Hubby is home safe and sound with the kids. Once he is gone I will be able to stay with our friend. She should be here another week but at that point everyone will be heading back to the states. I should only be alone in Zap for just over one week and then I can get the boys and head to Kiev. I feel much more secure in Kiev. It’s all good and I am looking forward to the day when all this is a memory to share. Thanks for your love, support and comments. We love you all!!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 17

We went to the orphanage today. There were so many kids there today. There were so many teenagers that I had not seen before. We have gone there before and saw barely anyone but today they were coming out of the woodwork. When we got there our younger boy was upstairs. Classes had gotten out not that long ago and his class was cleaning their common room and their bedrooms. They were putting things away and making beds. Most of the older kids, including our older boy, were hanging out here and there. Of course, our younger boy went out to play soccer (football) with Dad but I didn’t want to freeze so I stayed inside with the other families and our older boy. We made friendship bracelets and talked for a while. I asked him if he had his English class today and he said yes. I asked him what he did in English and he said they watched a Russian television show. I asked how is that studying English? He said he thinks his teacher just wanted to do her own thing and keep the kids busy.

We didn’t stay too long at the orphanage today. First off, you start to run out of things to do with the kids. Secondly, one of the husbands had to take the night train back to Kiev and we had to go with them because we are sharing a van. She will be without her husband now until this is all done so as soon as my Hubby leaves, we will be sharing an apartment to make things easier and safer. We still seem on schedule for court on Thursday but that is not set in cement yet and could change. If it doesn’t change, Hubby will head out to Kiev Thursday night, spend Friday night in Kiev and to the airport Saturday. He, along with our friend, is not happy about leaving us here without them. We aren’t happy about it either but time will eventually go by and this will all be behind us. The weekdays are definitely easier than the weekends.

I would love to post more pictures but it takes at least five or so minutes to download to the site so I am just posting this one today. We are in the cafeteria or cantina as they call it and we were sitting at one of the tables. This is a picture of Hubby and I, obviously, our translator, Natalie, and our boys. I should tell you that each class (or age group) has a scheduled time to eat in this room. Certain children, on some sort of schedule, are designated to set the food out and serve their classmates. They have three meals a day and three snacks. Once Natalie and I were offered the drink they have with their snack. It was such a nice gesture. I thought that it was milk and I cannot drink milk so I politely accepted it and just held it for a while. I smelled it and realized that their drink snack is a coffee and milk drink. Healthy, huh?!? I told Natalie that in America we do not allow our children to drink coffee and she was shocked! Why not, she asked. That was interesting to explain but I did my best to explain that coffee has caffeine and other acids and things in it that we do not consider healthy. And, honestly, do we really want children to have more energy than they already have!

Another day down. We are gearing up for court. We are praying that the judge will have a soft heart and we will be blessed with the words we need to answer questions. Thanks as always for thoughts and prayers. Thanks Garth for the update on our family. We ask the kids what they are doing and they didn’t mention any of that so it is nice to know what is really going on. Love to everyone!!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 16

Sunday is my favorite day of the week. They had daylight savings here last night so we jumped ahead an hour. I’m all for jumping ahead in time right now. We walked to church today. It was a 45 minute walk downhill to get there, and, it was very cold this morning. We met one other couple and we walked together. I may have mentioned this before but there is a bridge (or overpass) that is very long that separates one side of Zap from the other. The bridge was built many years ago by children with little or next to no tools. Our old apartment was on the other side, in fact, right by church and our new apartment is way down on the other side. We walked down the street, toward the bridge, across the bridge, down several blocks, turn right for four or so blocks, turn left and enter at the door with the very large “Tide” box sign sticking out of the wall. The sidewalks are very wide but in very bad condition so every step is taken with caution, especially in heels, so you don’t fall and break your ankle. Some of the sidewalks are asphalt with many, many potholes and other parts are made with brick or cobble stone. It rained last night so there were a lot of puddles.

When we got there we met the other family that brought their two children, I will call them the “F” family. We walked with the “S” couple and met one other man Mr. “D” with his adopted son. They are waiting to finish paperwork so he and his son can go home. There were three Elder missionaries there, two from Utah and one from southern California. They sat strategically around us and interpreted the meeting. On my way to Church I was thinking that I wouldn’t have much to say about today in the blog because we were just going to Church, but there is a lot to tell. The first wonderful thing I saw, of course after the large Tide box, was a picture of Christ at the top of the stairs. Now there are many pictures of Christ I have seen here but this was a familiar picture of Christ surrounded by children that I have seen in many ward buildings and in the distribution center. It was a welcomed sight, like coming home to something so familiar. The meeting of course started with an opening song, “Teach Me To Walk In The Light”. The words may have been different but the song meant so much to me to hear. The Branch President’s announcements included an upcoming service project and just the normal things you would hear. One man turned around when hearing the translations going on, smiled and gave us a thumbs up! I thought that was cool.

The first talk was by a Sister Missionary who is going home soon. She talked about going forward with faith and not fearing or doubting but trusting. The second speaker was one of the Elder missionaries from Murray who is going home in two months. He talked about love and faith. One thing he said that stood out to me, and I wrote it down, was that there is always room set aside in everyone’s heart where God is meant to reside. I just loved that. Three sister missionaries got up next and sang a hymn. I can’t remember which one but every hymn brought tears to my eyes. Of course before the talks the Sacrament was passed. As they recited the Sacrament prayers in Russian, I repeated it in English in my head. I thought that was a neat experience. A Branch member gave the next talk and he talked about how we must stay focused on the gospel, the scriptures and the good things and not let the distractions of the world pull us away from those things that keep us focused on our responsibilities to Heavenly Father’s gospel. They closed the meeting with another beautiful hymn. One member came up and gave us hugs and talked to us in Russian.

We were going to go to the other classes but instead we stayed in the “foyer” area and visited with the missionaries and had basically our own testimony meeting. The “S” couple and Mr. “D” had to leave so it was the “F” family and us and the missionaries. I love the Spirit of the missionaries. They were amazing to talk with. The Elders are actually in our building or the one next door so we may try to see them tomorrow on their Preparation Day.

We walked the 45 minutes home, although it didn’t seem long, and talked about our life together with our family and children. It is a blessing to us to know how many of the people we care so much about are reading about our adventure here. We talked about our future together with our new family members and about how we need to do this, that and the other to make everything work out right. I feel very well aware right now of the challenges we will have in our future but I am optimistic of how things will work out. After all, I never thought we were capable of what we are doing right now and I know the Savior is our stability as we face each day here. I feel confident that if we stay focused, His strength, love and support will continue to be the stability that gets us through the next challenge. We love our family and friends so much. I love the gospel and I am grateful that I can be 5800 miles from all that I love and is comfortable to me and find the comfort of home at the doors of Tide box!

Love you all so much and love your support and prayers. The place in my heart that is reserved for the love of God to reside is overflowing with gratitude for each of you!!!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 15

Today was a simple day...have to have those sometimes. We did not get up early, we just got up when we woke up. That was really often does that happen. I actually exercised today, just a little. This is the first time in two weeks and for those of you who know me you know that is not the norm. We showered and went out for a walk. We are staying just off Lenin Street so we walked 35 minutes up the street and then back down. We stopped at some stores on the way back. The clothes are so expensive here. Just a simple white nice blouse was like 70 to 80 dollars. It is so odd to me that the clothes are so expensive. The shoes too. We found a store that sells Vans shoes and they are way more expensive than at home. We have been told that people will save up their money and buy a really nice outfit and go without food all for the sake of style. I believe that because I have never seen so many skinny women in one place before. They are all dressed really nicely and wear fancy coats. They never take the coats off even inside the store. Then I have been told they go home, put away their nice clothes and put on their home outfit. They seem to wear the same one or two outfits always. Anyway...just interesting.

After our walk we came home, made a quick lunch and then we were picked up to go to the orphanage. We shared a van with another couple which is helpful with costs. Hubby and I played soccer with 9-10 boys for about an hour and a half. They just love playing with him....he is tons of fun! We had found our younger boy first and we started to play outside with him. After yesterday's little talk with the older one I was slightly reluctant to call him when I couldn't find him. So I finally did and when he answered he said..."I want to be with you". He found us right away and hung out with us the whole time we were there. Apparently he took our talk to heart. I was glad and relieved. I took a few pictures of us playing soccer but really can't post the pictures until we solve our internet problems so it will have to wait. After soccer we put together some puzzles. Today we hung out in the cafeteria area and not upstairs so we were not surrounded by little kids. Our older boy liked this but I did miss the other children. Our friends were up their and they were smothered with kids. We did have that same boy from the other day hang out with us. He really likes us and insists on carry our bags and walking us to the car every day. He wants a family so badly and I wish we could bring him home too. I hope someone will come for this boy because he is the sweetest kid and loves to interact with us. He is 13 years old with slightly red hair and freckles and has no siblings if anyone is interested. I want to make a big poster and share his picture with everyone...but...I'm not allowed.

I received a lot of comments and some emails and we loved reading them. I enjoy reading your comments and emails as much as you all enjoy our blog. It's great to hear from home. We decided to stay home from the orphanage tomorrow but we will go back and see the kids on Monday. It is hard to come up with activities everyday and we are going to take the day to recoup, go to church and gear up for what we are hoping to be the week of our court hearing.

Thanks for you love and comments. Keep praying for us. We will keep you posted on everything!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Day 14

Today was a day spent with the kids. Nothing beats this. We did some typical kicking around town before heading to the orphanage. We went to an outdoor market and bought candy and goodies to pass out to the kids. When we got to the orphanage we went upstairs to the common room on the top floor. It smells like dirty socks up there. It gets worse when you have 20 to 30 kids running around without their shoes on! It didn’t take long to get swarmed with children. There were four or five adults sitting on the floor playing different games like UNO, Old Maid and other games. Around each adult were six, seven or more kids. They LOVE to be played with. This is the best part of the trip next to, of course, the adoption. The kids want to play with your hair, hold your hand, carress your arm or something like that. They just want to be with you because they know you want to be with them. There are, of course, your favorites who track you down wherever you go and sit right by you. They get very defensive when other kids come by and want to play with you. This happened with our younger boy the first few days. I think he feels more secure about us now and is willing to share. It also happens with our older boy. If I decide to hang out with another teenager, he comes out of nowhere and joins in. Teenager are funny! I mentioned in a comment back to my mom that I was able to have my first Mother/Son talk with our older boy today. We had to straighten out a few attitude issues. This is a delicate subject seeing that I am not really his mother yet. I used our interpreter and we had a serious heart to heart about feelings, attitude and respect. It went very well and solved the problem. I felt a lot of added help from the Spirit as I did this. It made a difference and honestly I think it helps that he understands my feelings and position in the family along with his soon to be father’s feelings and position. It also gave him a chance to feel as though he was able to express his feelings in a healthy way.

More good news today… our younger boy is officially separated from his siblings and the final paperwork is being completed for our court date. I haven’t said much about any of this because there were times that were touch and go and I decided to wait until things were settled. We are hoping to have a court date by the end of next week which puts us on schedule as we had hoped. The next critical thing to pass is court. We are a family with eight children and are adopting two more. This is a bit unusual and I am concerned what the judge will say or do. So, please continue to pray for us, we need it.

I really enjoy the comments left on the blog. It is all I have from home and I love to hear from you all through comments and email. It is hard being away from home, family and friends. I feel as though I have to emotionally disconnect sometimes just to avoid how hard it really is. So far time is moving quickly and I hope it keeps moving fast. We love you and miss you! This is a great experience. An experience I will remember forever.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 13

We ran like crazy today. We were off the train at 6:45 am and straight to work. It was Hubby and I and our friends. We picked up the inspector and headed to the orphanage to our appointment with the director at 8:30 am. This appointment was for our younger boy and our friend’s youngest boy (they are adopting three siblings). We had a great reunion again with our youngest. I posted a picture I took of how he holds Hubby’s hands every time he sees him. The boys wrote their letters, which took a little time because they have to write it just so and they are both younger.

After that our facilitator had to take the papers and drive all over the place to be signed, notarized and who knows what else. There is still an issue with our youngest separation but should be worked out soon. Soon is the issue right now because Hubby’s flight depends on getting a court day at the beginning of next week. For work purposes we are hoping and praying for that so please help us with your prayers on that one.

We played with some of the kids at the orphanage today. The younger kids love the game UNO. They are very sweet and fun to play with but they are very territorial. Our youngest gets really made at anyone who gets too close to Hubby and I. Our oldest was being a bit of a pill today and didn’t hang out with us much which was pretty annoying but as soon as we started hanging out with another boy his age he just happened to show up and join us. I am starting to feel the beginning of our next challenge in life and it doesn’t look like much fun. Life is full of trial doors closing and others opening up isn’t it!

We finally stopped running around at 6pm. We hadn’t eaten or drank much of anything all day. We were tired and hungry so we took our facilitator to dinner and then we went to our apartment. It is a very nice apartment with a kitchen stove that works and I heard it has a good shower. I am looking forward to that. We met our other friends at the store and went to their apartment for a visit then we walked home. I hope to skype our kids and go to bed. I miss home and I miss my family. I look forward to the end our journey but I am trying so hard to enjoy the ride. Love you all!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day 12

Did I mention how beautiful Kiev is! We actually started our day early by Skyping our kids, that was great. We checked out of our apartment by noon and headed to a World War II museum. It was actually more than that. It was a huge outdoor plaza area with tanks, helicopters and other old military war pieces. I wish I could put the pictures on tonight but we are on the night train and we left our camera cord at an apartment in Zap. I can add pictures tomorrow night. There is a huge titanium statue of a woman about 300 feet or more on the top of the museum. She represents the Mother Country. She has both hands in the air, one holding a sword and the other holding a shield with the soviet symbols on it. It is magnificently huge and amazing. We were told that at one time the statue was leaning and they were afraid it was going to fall so they had to reinforce and fix her. They apparently have to do that every so often. When you look up at her you can see the blue sky and the white clouds moving, it is an awesome sight. At the base of the Mother Country statue is a museum all about the war. We didn’t go in there. In the center of the plaza are two tanks, one painted blue and one painted yellow. Yellow and blue are the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Blue represents clear, clean skies and no war and yellow represents the plentiful wheat. The two tanks face each other and the barrels of their guns are crossed. They are supposed to represent first peace in Ukraine and then peace in the whole world.

Before reaching that museum you walk up a wide and beautiful plaza. There are two huge black stone statues on either side of the plaza with soldiers representing the 300,000 soldiers that were killed at that location in WWII when fighting against the German army. As you walk toward those statues, there are plaques with names of war heroes on them to honor the heroes of war. As you head out of the plaza you walk through what looks like an overpass. To me, this was the most amazing part of the day. The walls of the pass are lined with the same style black stone statues carved in the walls. They are of men, women and children of the war and of the holocaust. I felt the spirit so strongly as we walked through there. They had piped in music which those soldiers had sung as they went to war. You could see the stories and the suffering and the anguish on their faces and you just knew at that moment that no matter what our individual trials are in life, they are nothing compared to what those people experienced. It was powerful! It brought tears to my eyes. You could feel those people and could only imagine the horrors they had to endure in their lives. I can’t wait to post the pictures for you all to see. We left there with such a feeling of awe. We were walking on the same grounds that so much of our ancestor’s history took place. I would like to take the boys back there before we bring them home. When we were out in Zap with them I was trying to take pictures of them by important monuments and things so they can look back to the country they were from and remember that they were a part of that land.

After the museum we walked to the Lavra. The Lavra is a very old Church monastery. There is a museum and the underground caves where the tombs of the saints are. We only had time for one or the other so we chose the tombs. These are actual not buried tombs so you see the remains of these sacred saints. To many it is said that they have a healing power and people go there to receive healing and peace. The women must cover their heads with scarves and you take a candle with you because it is dark. We started down the narrow stairways. I got down the third stairway and it kept getting smaller and narrower. I started to feel like I couldn’t breathe. I kept thinking that the space would widen up but it didn’t. I told the others I couldn’t and Hubby and I turned around and went back up. By the time I got out I couldn’t breathe very well and my legs were shaking. Apparently I am claustrophobic. I really didn’t know that. Mom, you would not have liked it either! Hubby and I sat outside and waited for the others. We sat on a park bench and watched two young boys feed the pigeons. It was peaceful there.

When the others came out we had an hour to take the subway or as they call it, the metro back to the SDA to pick up our referral letters. We walked through a park with some more monuments and headed toward the metro. This particular metro holds the record for the farthest underground subway. It took three very long and very fast escalators to go down to the platform. I was not having issues with this because it was a nice open space, even though it was very underground. There was a train pulling out just as we got there and it was very, very, very fast! There were so many people. Our guide told us we need to get on the train quickly because those doors will shut and that’s it. We squeezed on the next train. Hubby held on to an overhead bar and I held onto Hubby. Then we took off like a bullet. We got off at the next stop. We walked through areas that were like catacombs and they finally led to some escalators heading up. We really enjoyed going on the metro, it was fun! We hightailed it to the SDA, got our letter (the girl there was actually very friendly and personable today) and we were done.

We decided to have some authentic Ukrainian food, which by the way is excellent. We ate at kind of a posh restaurant and the food was wonderful. We were with one of the attorneys and he told us to make sure we used the bathroom and took our cameras with us. He said it was unusual. I was a bit nervous, you never know what to expect, but we went. It was really, really nice. Each stall was a little room with curtains on the door. The toilet seat was covered with a clear plastic cover and when you pushed the blue button the plastic cover revolved around until there was a new cover for you to sit on. It was quite upscale for the region. I will post of picture of that also. Dinner was great and we headed to the train station. We are now on the night train heading back to Zap. I will let you know how things go. I send my love to you all. I have found out that a couple of my kids are sick at home including my youngest. For those of you in the neighborhood please check on him for me. It is hard to be so far away from home, I am worried about him. I love you all. Thanks for your comments and prayers, we need them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 11

We arrived this morning on the train from Zap to Kiev at 6 am. I really do enjoy the night train. We had first class again so we had two beds and it was almost smoke free. Every once in a while you smell someone smoking. Apparently that is better than second class though. We will also take first class back to Zap. It is worth it to pay extra for that. I don’t remember if I said it yesterday but we stayed up talking with our friends in our compartment and then we went right to sleep. The rocking of the train makes it easy to sleep but when the train stops, I always wake up. Doesn’t matter though, it’s a fun ride. We were taken right to our apartment. We are sharing an apartment with the other couple. It is a two bedroom, oh my goodness, beautiful apartment. It is all new inside. There is a washer and dryer (don’t get too excited, they don’t work at all as well as those at home), a dish washer, new windows, floors and a big tub. Of course, just because Hubby and I carry a “your bathroom has to have something wrong with it” curse, the shower head is pathetic. But, at least you feel clean after a shower. The bedrooms are on opposite sides of the large apartment so it is pretty private. We have to climb eight flights of stairs to get to the apartment and it has a heavy door with many locks. One of the facilitator’s was helping us with the locks and we couldn’t get in. She tried, hubby tried, friend’s hubby tried and finally the door was opened from the inside by two men. No one, but us American’s anyway, thought that this was odd and we were told to go inside. We were later told that these were workmen in the apartment. We really have our doubts about that, but oh well. Like I said the apartment is incredible.

Hubby and I took showers while the other couple went to bed. We then went out for a two hour walk and stopped at McDonald’s for pancakes (really crepes with strawberry jam…YUM). I was so tired when we got back. We took a short nap and then got ready for our appointments. Can I just say that Kiev is really very beautiful. I can appreciate it so much more after being in Zap. Zap is a very run down, dirty and gray city. Kiev has old buildings but is very alive with activity and it is definitely kept up better. I still feel very comfortable walking around both cities, but Kiev is really beautiful.

We are here for one night. Both of us couples had our SDA appointment today in the afternoon and they went smooth and perfect. They are very formal at the SDA. You have to wait until they are ready for you before you can go in. They couldn’t find our file at first and we had to wait on the stairway. Our facilitator said that it was normal and don’t worry. We were called in and sat down. She pulled out our younger boy’s file and there were two pictures in there of when he was younger. He is so adorable. She reviews his personal situation, siblings, health, etc, and verifies that this is the child we want to visit. The meeting is then over and we are told to come back tomorrow to get our letter. Simple as that. Before our appointment and while we waited for the second couple, we stayed at the pizza place across the street…again. It has great food. While we were there another family came in that arrived back on February 7th. They are headed home tomorrow…they are done. It was great to see her. Then another family came in. They are headed down to a more remote part of Ukraine in the very south to visit with a boy down there. We were having a reunion/party. It was fun. We were getting pretty tired so we left. We had walked to the pizza place from our apartment and decided to walk back. We didn’t have any groceries. We had gotten almost all the way back and couldn’t find a store. We knew there was one by our other apartment so we turned around and walked back there. This time I was in high heels and my feet were killing me. Hubby and I figured we had walked about 9-10 miles during that whole day. When we got back to the apartment our friends Hubby made us a wonderful dinner and we had ice cream for dessert. It was the most food I had eaten in a long time. We skyped home and our friends got to see our kids. It’s getting late and I am so tired. The day after the train ride is always hard because we just don’t sleep enough. We should sleep well tonight because we don’t have to get up for anything tomorrow.

It feels good to have crossed another milestone. We could possibly have our court date next week if we are lucky. I say lucky, but it has nothing to do with luck. We will get it when it is our time, I know who is in charge!

Coming back to Kiev was rejuvenating but I look forward to seeing the kids again. I cannot wait until we will be the ones ready to fly home. Thank you for your prayers and comments. We think about our friends and family at home all the time. It really keeps us going. We love you all. Again, things are going good, keep praying for us! Love you all!!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day 10

We didn’t have to get up too early this morning. We made sure everything was packed pretty much because we were waiting to hear if we were heading to Kiev tonight. Hubby and I took a long walk up and down Lenin Street this morning. It is still pretty cold, especially when the wind blows. There were many more people out today because it is a work day. Although, we learned today that many of the smaller markets are not open on Mondays. We stopped at the regular market to get some bread and cheese for lunch. Our regular lunch and sometimes dinner consists of bread, cheese, maybe a kind of meat, not sure really what it is, nuts and of course, chocolate. Their chocolate is very good. There is one particular brand that Hubby even likes in the milk chocolate variety, which says a lot. We did try this one chocolate. It turned out to be filled chocolate and we were trying to figure out what the filling was. I said, oh my goodness, its liquor! Needless to say, we threw that one out. No more filled chocolate. Did I tell you about our experience with Salmon flavored potato chips….not good….just saying!

We made it to the orphanage at about one. Our older boy was being a putz. He didn’t want to play games; he didn’t want to do anything. Finally, we dragged him outside with the younger boy and some other boys and we played soccer, sorry, football. We played for over an hour and everyone, including our older boy, had a great time. I was goalie because I really can’t play and I kick and throw like a girl. The boys were very good. I have some pics on my phone of them playing. I will try to get them onto the computer. As I ran, one of the many, many times to get the ball, I thought about how I was in a foreign country playing at an orphanage. I was running and playing in the same yard my boys have spent several years playing in. It felt good. The yard had patches of dirt and an obvious soccer field with two goal posts. There is playground equipment for climbing on and but the rest is pretty dreary. The longer we played, the more kids came out to join us.

We went back upstairs to the common room near our younger boy’s bedroom and hung out with the other families. There were some playing cards, some throwing a Frisbee style toy, and some playing with soccer balls. It was busy and noisy and reminded me of home. Again, it felt good. I just have to say that I dearly love the families that we are here with and I’m glad we are off and on together through this experience.

Let me give you a tour of the orphanage. You step through a green gate out by the street and walk up a courtyard between the two buildings of the orphanage. The main door is in the center of the courtyard and connects the two buildings. The building on your left is filled with bedrooms with ten or more beds in each room and each floor seems to have a common gathering room. The building on your rights houses the classrooms and offices and gymnasium. When you first walk in the door there is a table set up with a woman or sometimes older children to man it. We kind of check in with her or let her know who we are there to see and they go get them…sometimes. She is also there, I have just today learned, to pass out toilet paper to the kids when they need it for the bathroom. The dining area is straight ahead when you enter and consists of several tables and stools around the room. There are many women who work at the orphanage keeping it clean. They have mops that look like a push broom with no broom. They wrap wet towels around the end of the “broom” and mop the floor. There is always a need to mop. Staircases lead to each floor and the floors and stairs are made of painted concrete. For the most part I would consider the orphanage to be very clean. The common room we hang out in, though, does smell like dirty socks but I suppose that is to be expected. The director of our orphanage is an extremely hardworking woman who spends hours and hours taking care of business. She knows the children by name and they listen to her when she tells them to do something. She speaks to them firmly but you can tell she cares about them. I must add that our facilitators, all of them, work like crazy to help us in any way that they can. I think they are amazing people.

We really had a great day playing with the kids. I gave the director the rest of the stuff that was donated to the orphanage. She said she would save it to give to the children as they had birthdays. They already have the soccer balls but the rest will be given over time. I thought that was a good idea. The kids are wonderful. Some of them are so small and it’s hard to think that they don’t have parents or families. I saved the gum and have been bringing a little each time to hand out. They love the gum. We had a great time with the kids.

We are now on the night train to Kiev. We should have our second SDA appointment on Tuesday, if not Wednesday. If it goes as scheduled we will have our appointment Tuesday, pick up the letter Wednesday and back on the train Wednesday night. We have a first class (don’t get too excited, it is not amazing or anything) cabin next to our friends as they have an appointment when we do. We will share an apartment in Kiev with them and then we will get a new apartment in Zap when we get back. That’s a whole other story and I will tell you about it another time. We spent several hours together visiting, laughing and enjoying the evening and now it’s time to settle down for the night. I really enjoy watching outside as we chug our way along.

Please keep us in your prayers as we cross all our little bridges. Each of the families here has little hurdles and issues to deal with and your prayers are felt and they help so much. We love you all so much and look forward to a grand reunion when we are all done.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day 9

Today we were able to take the kids for the day and tour the area and other things. So instead of giving you the blow by blow of the day I want to fill you in on interesting things we have encountered here in Ukraine, just to give you a feel for what we are experiencing. As I have said before, this area especially, is very old. The buildings were built 60-70 years ago and were supposedly refurbished after WWII. The buildings look like they are falling apart. Apartment buildings are patched here and there with various building materials. The apartment buildings are rectangular and basically all look the same. Some more run down than others. There are light rail style buses and regular looking buses that are constantly running. Out the back side of our apartment is a train/light rail style train that runs probably every half hour or so. Those trains are older and the color of the former Soviet Union whereas the buses are the colors of the current Ukrainian flag. Most of the cars seem to be diesel and in this city most are not newer cars. There are still some newer cars. Most people here travel by bus and walking, lots of walking. Most of the buildings have stores or businesses on the bottom floor and living spaces on the upper floors. There are many clothes and shoe shops. The markets are small that are just in neighborhoods and there are the occasional large markets and they tend to sell clothing and other items. They have kiosk style booths here and there. They look like the snow cone buildings in Utah. The windows are wall to wall covered with the items they sell. This is called “fast food”. There are chips, soda, candy, cigarettes, beer and some have fruits and vegetables, including the dirt left on them from being pulled right out of the ground. These shacks are usually placed by bus stops. At some corners that are busy to cross there are underground passages that take you to the other side of the street. In the underground passages are shops that sell everything from food and drink to sleezy lingerie.
Here you do not sign up for a phone plan you just buy your minutes as you need them. There are several phone companies and when you want more minutes you go into the store, write your phone number on a list with how much money you want to pay and you initial or sign the last line. There are phone stores everywhere. We had lunch today at a café that sold Ukrainian food. We really enjoyed it. Our translator helped us to order. It was kind of cafeteria style and you moved your tray around. There was the salad section, meats and potatoes and breads. Once you decide they put that portion on a plate, weigh it and hand it to you. Juice is popular here, especially orange juice and tomato juice. We made a point to try foods that were different and they were very good. I have not been disappointed about the food, it is just that everything is different. When I say everything, I mean everything, it is a hard adjustment – not bad, just hard. One salad we tried was like cole slaw. I didn’t realize that there was fish in it right away, tasted good though. However, in the last bite of fish I realized that it wasn’t cooked. You do need to be careful if you are sensitive to that.

Bathrooms – let’s just say I plan well. Hubby took me to one because he thought it was awesome. Hard to describe but it was a porcelain area of the floor with places to put your feet on either side and a hole/drain in the middle. He thought it would be great in the basement at our house and I just laughed and know that I don’t care how bad I have to go, I will just wait! Basically, I don’t drink a lot and plan accordingly so I don’t have too many bathroom stories to tell, although you can use TP in your apartment.

One more thing to be aware of – cross the road carefully. Those cars will come right up to you and run you over if you are not watching. It is up to the pedestrian to survive crossing the street not the driver of the car (apparently).

I don’t want to paint a poor picture of the area. There are wonderful people here. People who are busy with their everyday lives and who obviously love their children as we watch them walk hand in hand down the street. There are many more children in this city than in Kiev. (on the street anyway). We have seen them bundled up in coats and hats and they are adorable! As I watched the children play at the so-called carnival we went to yesterday I realized that this is what they are used to and this is what they have. They make the best of it and give what they can to their children.

Tomorrow we will spend the afternoon at the orphanage. I really enjoy that because I like to play with all the kids. They are beautiful children and when it is our time to leave it will be hard to leave them behind. They love attention and to be loved. It is very comfortable to sit and hang out with all of them. A smile and a hug go a long way. (a pack of gum doesn’t hurt either).

Our oldest boy decided on a name today and we are just going to give one to the younger boy because he is happy with anything. We decided to keep their first names as is. The older boy’s middle name will be William and the younger boy we will decide on soon. Sorry kids we will probably change the one you decided on. Love to everyone at home. We feel your prayers. I believe that is what gives me my strength to press forward. Thanks for the comments, I love to read them!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day 8

We were told today that we could take the boys for the day as long as we had them back by 7pm. We thought we were being picked up at 11:15 am so we headed out at 10:00 for a walk and our driver pulled up. When we got to the orphanage some of the younger children were going to the circus. Our younger boy was supposed to go and I saw him right away with his coat on. He was so happy to see us and I asked if he was going to the circus. He said no he was going with us. I was relieved. He is so adorable! We sat down with him for a while and waited for the other families to show up. We watched all the little kids bundle up and head out to the circus. I would say a dozen or so kids went. One of our families was able to go with them and they had a great time. They said it was like going on a school field trip.

We headed out to McDonald’s to meet everyone. Well, McDonald’s is the place to be on Saturday. It was so crowded and you had to wait for a seat. They have a Ukrainian Hamburger on a wheat bun. Hubby had it and it was really good. They also had potato wedge seasoned fries. The boys had burgers and fries and I had a chicken, lettuce & tomato wrap. They have bottled water here. The most popular kind is water with gas, not just plain water. Water with gas is water with carbonation. When you go out to eat and ask for water, if you want regular water, you have to order water without gas. Hubby really likes it. I like to mix it with juice. All the families ate in the same restaurant, just not sitting near each other.

After lunch we headed to the “market”. It is basically a flea market with items like purses, clothes, shoes, etc. Many have American name brands although they are probably all fakes. The quality of the stuff is not that good and our translator said that many of these items are cheaper in regular shops. We walked around for a while and then we headed to a nearby park with one other family. We shared a van with them. The sun may have been out but it was really cold. Our younger boy rode a horse in the park and then we saw some carnival style rides in the back of the park. When I looked back toward the horses I saw a camel being led around…weird! One of the women in our group said the carnival rides looked like they were purchased from Lagoon in 1930. They were rusted and old, but the kids didn’t care. They rode the bumper cars twice and the Ferris wheel once. We had cotton candy and popcorn and the boys and men played soccer for a while in the very muddy grass. We stayed as long as I could handle it but the cold got the best of us.

We decided that in our last couple hours we would take the boys to our apartment and let the translator go home. We wanted to have some time with just them. At our apartment we talked with the internet translator and started a movie. We decided to go to pizza at a restaurant they also had in Kiev. We went to this one because it is a chain restaurant and their menu was in Russian and English. Well, when we got there we figured out that this one wasn’t. We ended up calling our facilitator and she talked to the clerk and translated for us. We had pizza and strawberry pancakes, which are really crepes drizzled with a strawberry syrup/jam. The food was wonderful! After dinner we stopped by the market for, of course, chocolate.

We met our driver and drove back to the orphanage. The director was there when we got there and she asked the kids if they had a good day and if they were hungry or not. Then she asked us how the kids were for us. Did they behave? Are we happy with them? Of course, we all were. She was very kind to all of us and told us we could come back tomorrow and pick the kids up for the day at 10:30 am.

We are looking forward to seeing them again tomorrow. We did miss visiting with all the other children at the orphanage today. Tomorrow the older kids go to the circus and some others are going to the cinema. Because we had the kids out on our own today it made me want so badly to get through with everything so we could take them home. It was nice to see how well our two boys interacted together today, much better than they did when we hosted them. The older boy is much kinder to the younger one now. Good thing.

I cannot believe we have been here a week. I hope time keeps going by quickly. It was another good day!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Just wanted you to see us with the kids, Hubby at the train station, Hubby in front of our beautiful apartment door complete with vinyl padding and us in front of the Kiev Temple. They are not in order, it just takes so long to load the pics.

Just some pics

Day 7 - I think???

I don't know what day it is anymore. But I do know that it was a good one! We slept good again last night. Well, hubby always sleeps good. I have to admit it was hard to fall asleep because it was so wonderful to see the kids I couldn't stop thinking about it. After we were up and dressed we went for a walk up and down the main street in Zap. It is not nearly as crowded as Kiev. It was cold, especially when the wind blew. It was great to get out for a walk though. We do not have internet in this apartment so we have to buy an aircard, which, by the way, you cannot video skype with. I haven't talked to my kids at home since before we left Kiev. I miss them but I feel their prayers. Hubby and I got brave and went to the phone store, because they are everywhere. We found someone who spoke as much English as I speak Russian and managed to get this phone card and more minutes added to my phone. By the way, I can take incoming calls without taking minutes from my phone here, it just costs you there. So kids, you can call me if needed!

Anyway, our ride showed up to take us to the orphanage right after that. We have an amazing facilitator. She works from sun up to sun down without stopping for anything. I keep trying to get her to eat. We went and signed more papers and then were able to go the orphanage to see the kids. They were very happy to see us. We brought the soccer balls today and they loved them. We also brought some gum to pass out to everyone. They really enjoyed that also. There was us and four other couples upstairs in a gathering room and our kids were with us. Other kids were coming in to hang out and some would come and go. Some kids were playing with our ipods, games, phones and cameras and some were getting their nails done, some were playing cards. I felt like we were sitting in this family room just hanging out enjoying each other's company. These children love to be loved. They are so sweet and so fun to be with. Time just went by so fast. The kids would come up and just start talking to you. Love is a universal language and it seems you just know what to do. I wish we could take them all home. There are so many of them.

Our kids stayed with us the whole time we were there. We had to leave once to sign something else so when we came back we just called the older one on his phone and he found us and the younger one just seemed to know that we were there. I have to say that our kids are even more affectionate with us then they were when they lived with us. It was a WONDERFUL day with them!

Before I knew it it was time to go. We said goodbye and told them we would be back tomorrow. After we were dropped off at our apartment we walked to the store to get some food. I love the fact that we have to walk everywhere. Shopping is actually alot of fun. Even though I cannot read the labels I habitually keep looking at them like I can. It is really a fun experience. I am enjoying this trip. Can't wait to come home though.

As far as our situation is concerned things are looking very, very good. I will give details

Day 7 Just a Note

We just got internet and added our posts. We are at the orphanage and will post todays along with pics from the last two days when we have time later. Love you all!
I have to say again, last night’s train ride was really fun. As long as the train was moving it was easy to sleep. The movement of train seemed very soothing. We arrived at 6:42 am in city that starts with Z. We made it off the train quickly and easily and our facilitators and drivers were right there to greet us. Hubby and I were introduced to our facilitator who directed us to the parking lot and to our car. We managed to squeeze our luggage and ourselves into a little econo-box. We were supposed to be able to get to our apartment at 7 am but found out it wasn’t going to be ready till 8am. We stopped at McDonalds for breakfast and ran into another one of our friends with the two children there. After breakfast we headed to our apartment. Once inside, the apartment is nice but honestly the outside looks and feels like the slums of New York. We are happy here, though. We had maybe thirty minutes to shower and get dressed and run downstairs. On the way to the orphanage we had to stop at the inspector’s office to pick her up.

There was a huge difference to Z town compared to the city of Kiev. People were not dressed to the hilt, they did not drive expensive cars and for the most part, they had more worn out looks to them and their expressions. It is a very poverty stricken looking community. There are little houses on the way to the orphanage that are barely holding together. There were many stray dogs running around and several people walking. Not nearly as many cars as in Kiev and the cars were definitely not high end like in Kiev. The people we saw looked more like the kind of people you would imagine seeing in this area. It definitely gave you the feel of a depressed community. Still, the people were very nice and friendly.

I recognized the orphanage from pictures I had seen on the internet as we drove up to it. It was exciting to walk up to it. I couldn’t believe after all this time that we were going to be able to see the boys again. We walked in and headed for the director’s office. I recognized some of the kids that we passed by and others that we saw on the wall in pictures. The director welcomed us warmly. She is a busy woman, but very nice. She asked us a couple of questions about where we live and then I could see her look startled and I knew that our facilitator just told her how many biological children we have. She told us that we have good hearts and kind eyes.

I didn’t expect it but our oldest boy walked in the room. I turned and saw him reach for Hubby and give him a hug and he had a great smile on his face. He gave me the strongest hug and it was amazing, a moment to cherish forever. He looked so happy and I know we were. He sat down and the director asked him questions and told him that this was his decision to make. She spoke with him matter-of-factly so he could make a good decision. His decision was already made though. He just wanted to sign that letter. Then very unexpectedly, our younger boy was brought in and I will never for the rest of my life forget that scene! He was so very, very happy. I will never forget it! He reached for Hubby’s hands and just touched them like, “you are really here! You are really here!”. He gave each of us unforgettable hugs. I can’t really even describe to you how wonderful it felt to be with them again. We had been told that the younger one had been asked by four families if he wanted to be adopted and said no to them all. But to us, it was “Da, da, da” over and over. (which, of course, means, yes, yes, yes). He was obviously so happy to see us, they both were.

After a while they were told to go back to class and we had to run to the notary, inspector, notary again and several other places. I really just stopped asking and let her do her thing. We sat in the car for a long time and finally took short naps in the car. We all went back to the orphanage and were able to spend the rest of the afternoon until almost six with the boys and the other families in our group. Occasionally, other children would come in and many of them we recognized from hosting. We didn’t have a translator with us, but it didn’t matter. The younger one sat on Hubby’s lap and played with the ipod for a while and the older boy and I worked on communicating with each other. Tomorrow we will bring some of the donated items to them and each day we come we will continue to bring them all those things. They will all love it. Another great day! Please continue to pray for us because not everything is smoothed out but things are looking promising. We love you all and miss you all!

Day 4

We needed to be out of our apartment and our luggage to one of the other apartments by 9 am. So we were up early and headed out. All the couples luggage was stored at one apartment so we could share the cost for the day seeing that we would be heading out of Kiev tonight on the train. After dropping off our stuff, we headed out early to go do a session at the Kiev Temple. That was a wonderful experience. Hubby and I were asked to participate, if you know what I mean, and that was even more special. It was a temple experience from a whole different perspective seeing that we were the ones who spoke a different language. What a beautiful temple.

We were supposed to make it back by 1 pm for a tour but we left the temple by 1. We realized we didn’t have a ride back from the temple but managed, with the help of an English speaking temple worker, to get two cabs to take us back. We were all, meaning four couples and two children, hanging out in the one apartment until we went out for a short tour. We needed to get back to the SDA to pick up our referral letters. So, we took a short tour. Today was much colder. The sun was out but misleading, because when the wind blew it was very cold. We stopped off at the Pizza place across the road from the SDA and ordered a quick bite. It has become a hang out for us. We had to wait for an hour or so at the SDA but finally got our letter. We dashed back to the apartment to get our things together and head for the train station.

I have to say a bit about our cab experiences. The drive to the temple was pretty good. But remember, the driver speaks Russian and we speak English and then he gets lost. Apparently cabs have a hard time getting to the temple. It is on the outskirts of Kiev. He said something, one of the men said something, it sounded like they understood each other, but they didn’t. A phone call fixed the problem. We went to fish for our seatbelts when we first got in and realized that the buckle part was way down in the crack of the seat and one of the women and I looked at each other and realized that taking our chances without a seat belt beat fishing out that buckle!

I watched several times as we were in traffic that people walking on the street were beating us everywhere we went. It is so stop and go that you literally could walk faster than you can drive. Our driver on the way home from the temple was really nice. We couldn’t understand him either but he was really a nice man. Everyone we have come across has been great.

I am actually writing this on Word with the laptop as we are traveling on the night train and will post it the next time we have internet. The train station looks like Grand Central. It was big, beautiful but incredibly filled with people. So, we have two large suitcases, one large duffle bag and three carry on bags, Another couple had two large suitcases, one smaller one and carry on sizes. Another couple had at least that and last but not least I heard my friend tell her son, count our bags, there should be twelve of them. So, picture us herding our way through a very busy train station, up a huge escalator, across the building, past a train platform, down three flights of stairs and onto the platform we needed to be at. Think about it! It was slightly nerve racking but at the same time fun.

We made it to our platform and to our two cars. Now, this is not the kind of train you see in the movies today. This is the kind of train you see in old, old, black and white movies. This was a real, oh my goodness, choo-choo train! We had to buy in first class because tickets were out for the four sleeper compartments. There were two compartments in one car and one couple would have to have a compartment in a separate car. We drew for it and Hubby and I ended up in our own car away from the others. It really doesn’t matter though. We spent the first hour or so sitting with the lights off and watching everything go by outside. We sat there and said to each other “Did you ever in a million years think we would be on the other side of the world riding a train in the middle of the night!” No we didn’t but the train is actually really fun. I have made an oath not to use the bathroom though. I can wait.

It has been a fun and successful day and we know more than ever that we are in the right place at the right time being led by the right guide in our life! So, goodnight to all our friends and family as we ride across the countryside of this beautiful world we live in. Life is good! We love you all! Thanks for your comments, prayers and messages they mean everything to us!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 3

Well, I couldn't sleep again last night. Fell asleep close to 5 am. I thought the night would never end. We skyped our kids before going to bed but our oldest wasn't home so I promised to skype her at our time 8 am. Then, I couldn't get skype to load. It took about an hour and then we were able to talk to her, that was nice. We were scheduled to be picked up for our appointment at 11:45. Our appointment was at 12:00. We made it there. It seems that office has been a revolving door for our group for the last two days. We met one of our friends coming out. The appointment took all of five minutes and we were done. It was only for our older boy because we get one appointment, have to take the overnight train to visit him with witnesses, take the overnight train back, go to another appointment, wait a day to pick up the letter, take the overnight train back again and visit the second boy. Then we should be able to stay there for a while. We will probably be the only family here when we come back. It should be fine. We really didn't learn anything new from our appointment but they did show us the kids pictures when they were younger and that was great. They were so cute!
We all met at a pizza place accross from the office two different times today. We had pizza at lunch time and hot chocolate (which is chocolate syrup in a cup) and shared a strawberry filled crepe (or pancake as they say). It was a great place to eat.
Between the two times at the pizza place we drove to the notary. Can I just say that driving here is an experience all in itself. The streets are filled with very nice's, bmw's, etc...but the driving is CRAZY! We couldn't find the seatbelts in the taxi. That guy could really drive though. I felt safer with him than I did with a woman who drove us. There are no lanes...there are no speed limits....the horn is used very, very often. It really isn't necessary to use it either. The light turns green and the cab driver immediately hits the horn. Now I know whose honking all those horns every night. We did make it safely to our destination. But, we are taking a cab to the temple tomorrow and it is farther away...that should be an experience.
We went to the notary office. It is a hole in the wall place very interesting decor I must say. There were several small offices, some with kind of a quilted vinyl on the doors. Very old inside. We signed where we were supposed to. Then all of a sudden the doors opened and all these people came in. I have no idea why they were there. There really were not the nicely dressed people I have seen on the streets. I am sure they were nice enough, they just looked different. One woman sat next to me and I was overcome with an interesting smell. Couldn't quite place it but I had to turn my head and try to get fresh air. Still can't place the smell but I was grateful when it was her time to leave.
It really was a pleasant day. We enjoyed being with the other couples here and there will be more tomorrow. We are going to watch a movie and hopefully be able to fall asleep tonight because we are meeting earlier tomorrow morning.
Please continue to pray for us because we do have issues with our second (younger) boy and we will need prayers to make it all work out. We miss home, family and friends!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 2

This is the living room of the aparment. It is my favorite room. The ceilings in the apartment are 12 ft and very cool.
This little table is in the kitchen. It is very quaint.

This is the kitchen. It is very funcitonal.

The bathroom....Obviously!

Again, the bathroom.

Our bedroom. 12 ft ceilings. The windows in the living room and the bedroom face the street. It is quite a busy street. The living room has the balcony that you can go out. We have sometimes stood out there talking to one of the other couples until they find us.

This is a picture of the front door from the inside of the apartment. It has a massive amount of locks on it.

This is the hallway that leads to our door. We are on the right hand side.

I thought this was a cool picture. It kind of gives you a feel for the streets that we walked down all day. People are everywhere.

This is a cool looking building. It is apartments on the upper floors and retail on the bottom floor. There are many like that.

This is the side of the Golden Gate and this is a statue of a famous man. I heard about many today and couldn't keep them straight. Obviously, he had something to do with the Golden Gate.

Very busy street. You do have to be careful crossing the street. There does not appear to be any speed laws and you hear a lot of horns honking.

This is the Great Golden Gate which was the city gate into Kiev.

We thought this was a neat looking cafe.

Another cool building.

This is a picture of a famous founder of Kiev. His name is Bogdon. I took this picture for a special friend who knows someone even more special with that name!

Again, they park on the sidewalk. Really don't know how they get out though. I really don't want to know. I do know that if you want to total out your car for insurance money....bring it to Kiev!

Department of Foreign affairs. This is a HUGE building.

This is Andrew and I in front of St. Michaels which is to our left.

This is St. Michael's. It is very ornate and beautiful.

Yesterday, well really Saturday and Sunday, felt like one very, very long day and not two days. It was very hard to go to sleep last night. Especially since we skyped our kids before going to bed. We miss them so much. We finally went to bed sometime after midnight and woke up at 3am Hubby was able to go back to sleep but I couldn't. I didn't fall back to sleep until after 5 am. Then we were startled away by an unfamiliar sound. It was the sound of our doorbell. I looked at the time and it was after 1 pm in the afternoon. We couldn't believe it! To top it off, I did not feel rested at all today. I felt like I walked around in a fog all day.

We were taken on the tour by an interpreter named Andrew. Very nice young man. Very polite. He is going to two Universities to study linguistics and film producing. We walked around the city for three hours. It really was great exercise! The city is very beautiful. It is filled with all buildings and a lot of history.

The woman are all dressed up. Most of them wear skirts and at least dress pants. I saw very few woman wearing jeans. They all wear high heel shoes or black books and very nice coats too. I felt very under dressed in my jeans and sweater. The men dress nicely too. Usually we saw them in nice slacks and black jackets. Black is definately the choice of color for most everyone. There were a few people who wore animal print clothes and others that I really just don't know how to describe. Everyone seems quite pleasant. They don't walk around saying hi or anything, they just seem fairly pleasant. There was one mother who was on her knees holding a sign and her young son, probably 6-8 followed us asking for money. We were also approached later on in the day by a teenager asking for money. The waiters and waitresses we have seen have been very, very nice.

The city is very busy with people walking everywhere. People are everywhere. It kind of reminded me of San Francisco. The buildings here are shorter but some of the architecture is the same. We came back to our apartment to rest and then met everyone for dinner. We walked several blocks to dinner which was really great. The whole group of us were there and it was really nice. We ate at an italian place and the food was great.

Our appointment is tomorrow noon. We are looking forward to that. Everyone's appointments went well today. We finished dinner kind of late. There seems to be no rush at mealtime. It seems to be a nightlong event we have been told. You are seated right away but the whole process takes about two hours. It is supposed to be a time to get together and enjoy an evening, not just a meal. It worked out great for us tonight. It was a nice walk back to the apartment. We are all scattered here and there within several blocks, but we know where everyone is.

Here are some pics we took today.