Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Good to be home!

Here are just a few more pictures from the airport that my Dad sent to me.

                                               I missed my girls!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Home Sweet Home

We made it!  Home at last.  I can't believe that a month has come and gone.  The last few weeks were starting to melt together, and it was hard to keep track of them.  Thank goodness I kept a journal, because I wouldn't have remember any of it.  
We woke up around 6:00 am.  Natalie and Valdimir picked up the Hatches and us, and we headed to the airport around 7:30.  Everything was fine until I had to say good by to Natalie.  I completely lost it!  I loved Natalie.  It was extremely hard saying good by to a person that you so heavily relied on for a month.  Then Valdimir who was so amazing with getting all of our adoption stuff done without any problems.  I was so grateful for both of them.  It was very hard to detach myself from them.  
We got to the check in, and as I thought, our luggage was overweight.  Thanks to Kent for packing another bag.  We filled it, and just barely come in under the weight restrictions.  The Hatch's got through that just fine.  When we got to the check your papers place, Julie had packed her documents that she thought she didn't need, and had to wait an hour, before someone said she had to retrieve those documents.  She had to pull her checked in bag off the plane, and just made the fight in time.  Artem was so worried, that we kept losing him from the gate area, because he was going back to the check in area to see if they were coming.
We were worried too, but we had to get on the flight either way.  Sorry Julie!  We were praying hard for them, and it turned out fine.  The rest of the flight went well.  We knew we were back in the states when we saw organized lines.  The people in customs were actually nice to us, even in New York!   America Rocks!

We were an hour late getting into Salt Lake, but that was okay.  We were home!  Thanks to all of you who met us there.  It was so great to see everyone.  The boys were so happy.  
Today they got up like they had been here all of their lives.  "Good morning, Mom!"  I got from them.  I made them breakfast, they rode bikes, played x-box, then went to the movies with Cat and her cute friends.  Talk about throwing them to the wolfs.

Mostly, it is great to finally have them with us.  We feel so blessed to have them be a part of our family.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Last Post in YKPAIHA (Ukraine)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 - Our last full day in Ukraine and we're on our way home tomorrow morning!!

Today we hung around our apartment for the morning then found a local store and bought some meat and cheese. We gulped it down and went outside where Natalie had a couple taxis waiting for us to go to the Embassy. The Embassy was full of people waiting to get in and it was really nice as U.S. citizens to walk to the front of the line.

Before going in, an Embassy worker walked up to us and asked if we were the Utah group adopting. He was a young man that grew up in Utah, served a mission in St. Petersburg a few years ago and was doing a 3 month internship. Also, the gentleman that helped us, Dave Allen, was LDS from Josephville, AZ. One of his first questions was, "Are you blue or red?" When I answered red, he said that he wouldn't be able to complete our paperwork for another month! I think I'm the only Utah fan in our group of families although several graduated from the U. What's wrong with people's allegiance these days anyway????

Afterward we walked around Kiev, bought some souvenirs for the girls and had dinner in the underground mall. Walking home tonight we saw Kiev at night for the first time and it was very beautiful. It reminds me of other European cities with the old buildings, a lot of history, modern stores but not nearly the crowds as you find in Paris, Munich, etc.

It's also fun to see how car crazy the boys are. They kept taking pictures of cars they thought were cool. Most were Japanese "rice burners" that had silly paint jobs. They also think Hummers are cool. Sasha told me later that when he's 16, he's sure that's what I'm going to buy him. I think their expectations of America and being part of our family is going to be disappointing in some ways...
We were also running low on Greevnias so Arri and the boys succumbed to a little begging in front of McDonald's. They didn't get too much...

Overall, a great trip. We're getting out under 4 weeks and have met a lot of great people like Vladimir, Natalie, Tanya, Natasha, the branch members in Sumy. And of course, we had GREAT roommates in Brent and Lucinda Milne. It's hard to live with people for 3.5 weeks and they've been so easy and helpful to be with.

For those of you who want to come to the airport, our final leg is from JFK to SLC, Delta flight 97 arriving at 8:11pm on Thursday. The Hatch's will also be on our flight.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

So long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 - We lost our Internet access on Saturday so this will be a quick catch up. We went to church on Sunday and I met David and LeeAnn Luke who drove in from Romny just to go to church. Things are not going well for them and they have yet to get a court date. What a difference a good facilitator makes as well as the willingness of the orphanage people to let you adopt their children.

Sunday we had 3 new elders there. There was an Elder Anderson from Norway who trained the son of a good friend of mine (Elder Devin Shumway). They asked Neil Milne and Todd Heiner to give the sacrament meeting talks and Tanya did the translating. They both did great jobs and there was a great spirit in the meeting.

Sunday we said good-bye to Valeria, fixed lunch back in the apartment and met the boys' Grandma and brother Maxim one last time. Artem and Maxim had a bet that if one of them cried, they'd owe the other $200. So both stayed strong. Grandma and Arri both shed some tears and I was holding back some emotion. We've asked Maxim to come see us in a couple of years as we would like to keep the boys in contact.

While eating, the boys started telling stories about growing up. They were laughing so hard it was really fun to watch. When Natalie translated, it was just silly stuff. They talked about the time they walked to their granmother's house, 30 km away and how during the walk they laughed and joked the whole way. They also talked about the time they had 10 Greevnias (their money) to come into town. When they discovered that only 2 of them could make it, they left Sasha at the village. I'm glad they all could laugh. I think they were trying to hide some sadness of parting.

We left grandma but Maxim walked back to our apartment. They acted like it wasn't a big deal but we could tell he was uptight about the parting.

On Monday, we picked them up from school around 3:00pm and they said good-bye to their friends. It was classic boys. They looked at their friends and said, "Bye!" and walked away. We walked over to Sasha and Austin's teacher's house (Maria) who had the day off. She came out to greet us and she shed some tears. She's a wonderful lady.

The boys just want to play games on the computers. We didn't have enough bed space in our apartmet but we made due (without blankets) and got up this morning around 1:30am to be ready for the bus at 2:30am.

We drove to Kiev and met with the Doctors at 8:00am. We joined the Hatch's and Alan Morgan. The exams took longer than we had hoped and depending on which doctor did the examination, a different requirement was given to each boy. No rules and no consistency. We then rushed to the US Embassy to meet the 12:00noon deadline and hit horrible traffic in the city. At one point, Vladimir hopped out of the Van and was directing traffic. The guy knows how to get things done!

So, we submitted our papers, took finger prints and we go back to the embassy tomorrow at 2:00pm. We all hope that it goes well and we're able to jump on our flights on Thursday morning for the U.S.

By the way, the apartment we got here in Kiev is a large 3 bedroom (they count the front room with a fold out couch as a bedroom) and they have free Internet! Nicest place we've seen here yet!

We're anxious to get home!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hoppy Beerfday to Juu!

Saturday, September 20, 2008 - Artem's 15th birthday! Seems like it was just a year ago when we first saw and met our son! :-)

Today we picked up the boys and gave Artem his choice of where he would like to go eat for his birthday celebration. And to our great surprise he said, "McDonald's!" I don't think I'll eat at another McDonald's back in the States for a long, long time. It was packed as usual and took about 30 minutes or more for everyone to order and get their food. I've never seen a McDonald's busier than this one. Artem ordered a coupe of items including fries but Sasha ordered a Big 'n Tasty, Chicken Wrap, 9 piece McNuggets, Fries and a large Sprite. Of course, he had to chase all of that with a Sundae.

We brought the boys and Austin back to our apartment with Natalie and the boys had fun playing on the computers. Arri had brought Artem's gift from the States which was a Nintendo DS Light. He and Sasha both seemed to enjoy it quite a bit.

After, Arri and Lucinda made a Top Ramen soup and added some other vegetables including peas and we were amazed that none of the boys liked the peas. They all made faces and pulled them out of the soup. Then Arri placed matches on Artem's cake (couldn't find candles) and he blew them out very quickly.

Natalie asked Artem if he had a nice birthday and he said, "Yeah. It was a lot better than my 5th and 6th birthdays."

When she asked him why, he said that everyone in his family was drunk on those birthdays. He didn't really laugh and it gave us a little more insight into what he can remember. It will be really good when he learns english and we can talk to him and Sasha better.

The weather warmed up today and all in all another good day. We've learned that we cannot leave Sumy until early Tuesday morning about 3:00am. We'll drive to Kiev to get their medical work done and if all goes well, we'll get to the embassy to get their Passport work started. If we can't get there by 12:00 noon on Tuesday, we will have to postpone our Thursday flights. Keep us in your prayers that we can all get done on Tuesday.

Birth Certificate Day

Today we all went in different directions to get birth certificates. Each family needed a translator and a driver. We finally heard last night that Arri and I would be going with Vladimir and Tanya and we had to be outside the apartment building by 6:45am. I thought that was bad and then I asked what time Brent Milne needed to be ready. Natalie said, "At twelve."

I clarified, "You mean 12:00 noon?"

She said (in her Russian accent), "No-o-o! Twelve o'clock tonight!" Brent was sitting there, he really didn't want to make this 16 hour drive anyway and I just broke out laughing. "Sorry Brent, but you get to leave in a few hours!"

It took us 1.5 hours to get to the town. Another 2 hours sitting in the small Armenian car waiting for Vladimir to get it done and literally 2 minutes to sign the documents. They handed me the new certificates, congratulated us on our new sons and we dashed out of there to get back to Sumy in time to have them "stamped".

We thought our drive was bad but Brent didn't get home until 9:00pm tonight. 21 hours in a car listening to Ukrainian r-r-rock 'n r-r-roll (mostly Western songs remade in Ukrainian or Russian), trying to carry on a conversation with the driver who speaks no english and the young translator who's getting about 70% of the conversation. What a great day!

I'd have to say though that the town we went to was clean and quaint and the women were very nice to us. Most people rode bikes there because there wasn't a mass transit system and most people can't afford a car. I also had to use the bathroom while waiting. Mind you, this is in front of city government building in a town about the size of Midway. They didn't have an actual bathroom but directed me behind the building next to the government building where there was an outhouse. I thnk it was just the neighbor's facility. It was the oldest, stinkiest outhouse I can remember ever using. It didn't even have any toilet paper so thank goodness I didn't have to sqaut! I was afraid a rat was going to squeel out of the hole while I was standing there! :-)

Another great adventure!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Excellent Ukrainian Concert!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - Another cold, rainy day but another fun day with the boys. We met Natalie with the boys at McDonalds (all buses go by the McDonald's in Sumy -- seriously) and walked over to the Post Office to get pictures for their passports. All of the pictures came out really nice. Artem and Sasha saw one of their friends from the orphanage on the street. We assume he graduated and hope he is doing fine.

We then treated the boys to yet another fine meal at McDonald's. They must be getting bolder
with us because both Sasha and Austin Milne ordered Chicken wraps, double hamburgers, fries and a drink. Then, when they went back for Ice Cream Sundaes, they both ordered another hamburger as well as the Ice Cream. These boys can eat!!! We're used to our girls eating very little most of the time. Arri figures she's going to have to get good at preparing filler foods like pastas, potatoes, breads, etc. just to keep them full after a meal.

We had some time to kill before taking them back to the school so we walked through their mall. They have nice things in their stores but just a very "maze" type atmosphere. Then it was back on our favorite mode of transportation (buses!) back to the school.

We arrived at the school around 3:00pm so we went into the dormitory waiting room (T.V. room) and watched women's sand volleyball until the boys showed up with their wonderful teachers Maria and Sergei (the music teacher).

They performed a really nice concert singing several classical Ukrainian folk songs and a song they learned at camp when they were younger. Not all of the boys sang so we assumed that singing or playing an instrument is by choice. Sasha plays the flute and sings where Artem does neither.

Maria kicked off the meeting handing out some of the pictures and writings of the boys when they were in first grade. Logan said he wanted to be an airplane when he grows up. The boys were embarrassed but you could feel how much Maria cared for them. She's been their Mother for so many years.

She went on about how the boys will really be missed when we leave but that she is very happy for them because they will have a family. She told the boys to repay "these good people who traveled from the other side of the world" by caring for us and being good. It was very hard to hear her talk as if it's a Mother giving up her children for something she knows is better for them. She told them to please come back and if the school is no longer there, to come stay at her house. It's going to be extremely hard to say good-bye when we leave.

Afterwards, Sergei opened up the gym again and he ref'd a game of basketball. It was the Americans and Artem against Sasha, Austin, Logan, Artem Milne and Sergei's son Bogden (I think that was his name). It was fun and again, we were worn out. I believe that Lucinda was once again our high scorer!
Artem and Sasha got mad at each other during the game and Artem was very upset afterwards. Arri and I can tell that it's something we're going to have to work with and watch over the years.

By the way, we heard from Julie Hatch. They're traveling to Russia during this 10 day period and they couldn't get back over the Russian border so today they made it to Warsaw, Poland and hope to be back in Ukraine tomorrow. I'm sure they'll have a few stories!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Jungle Ball Anyone!?!?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 - Got to the orphanage at about 2:30 today. The kids were in with their music teacher Sergei playing the flute and just hanging out. Sergei is really good to these kids and we enjoyed talking to him. Come to find out, he has the key to the Gymnasium upstairs so he let us play basketball. It was fun to play with the boys and their gym teacher showed up and played with us as well. We had the height advantage and I believe Lucinda and Arri surprised them as to how well the Amerikanski women can play!

Then, they had a soccer tournament between the classes. The older class seemed to beat the others with our Artem as a defensive player. Sasha didn't play with his class but we sat out in the cold rain (after sweating in the basketball gym) watching a couple of the games. We finally got too cold and went inside and had some really good laughs with the boys (thanks to Natalie our translator being there).

We showed the boys the good ol' fashioned leg wrestles and they had fun with those. I think Sasha and Artem got a little tied up at one point and thank goodness Artem didnt have the need to relieve himself!

Then, since Austin Milne still had the key to the gym, we went up and played volleyball. We decided the boys could learn quite a bit about basketball and volleyball and they could teach us a lot about soccer. We also noticed that Artem and Sasha argue all the time whenever they're competitive or have to share something. I guess that's normal and something we'll work on.

We also had a good talk with the twins today for Julie Harris. Julie, just email Arri at arrirogers@comcast.net and she'll give you more details (she doesn't have your email address).
More rain but another good day with the boys.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The original "Bean Bag"...

Monday, September 15, 2008 - Today we shopped in the morning for food, made lunch and left a little early to walk through the market before taking a bus to go to the school. We saw what I would call the Ukraine version of a mall. It was a large building full of stores that you'd access via hallways. Nothing wide open. More like an outdoors market only indoors so we were out of the cold. They had nice clothes and things and all at about the same price as what we'd pay in the States. I also stopped by a bicycle shop hoping to find some type of Ukrainian bicycle jersey. Unfortunately, they didn't carry any clothing.

We jumped on a smaller bus to get to the school today and we had to stand but...we couldn't stand up. Kind of made for an uncomfortable ride and I think the locals got a kick out of the dumb American (that would be me) who couldn't stand up straight.

When we got to the orphanage, the boys still had chores to do so we followed them to help. We noticed 2 of the boys swinging sacks and hitting each other (Posha and Luis). The teacher didn't seem to mind and then they started kicking the sacks and beating them with a stick. We went over to watch and realized that the bags were full of beans that the kids had picked and then they put them in white, nylon woven bags and beat the crap out of 'em to separate the beans from the pods. Then they'd pour the beans onto a blanket and pull out the empty pods. We joined in to help and it was interesting. Then they'd raise the podless beans up in the air and pour them onto the blanket to let the wind take more of the husks out.

After, they lit the pods on fire and the boys took advantage and roasted apples on the fire at the end of a stick. Like something we'd do with marshmallows. When the apples were good and roasted, they'd peel the skin and eat the apples. They were really pretty good! Yet another great Ukrainian experience!

Later, we played more games and took the boys to the local store and bought them an Ice Cream. Not much else happened and I think we're all getting anxious to take the boys home. It's hard to be here everyday not accomplishing much at all. On the other hand, we are bonding with the boys and we probably won't get a chance to spend this much time with them once we get back to the States. So, I am and should be more grateful for that.

After the Bean husking, Brent set up a plastic bottle (you can find garbage everywhere) and the boys started "bowling" with the apples. Being boys, they got competitive and that kept them busy for a while.
Also, we pulled Tanya and Sasha (twins) aside for a short time with our translator and talked about a family in the States that would like to adopt them. Natalie, our translator didn't have much time to talk to them because she was due in court with Neil and Carolyn Milne. We'll talk to the twins more tomorrow. Also, Artem Milne's adoption was recognized and approved to Neil and Carolyn so our boys who had their court dates last week, can no longer tease him about being the "orphan" of our group.

By the way, they have fireworks EVERY DAY here in Sumy. Not sure why but the place next to us (we think it's a club) lit off a bunch tonight. And no Narci, Phil and Mia, when I heard them I did not yell to everyone to "Hide!", thinking it was somebody shooting outside!!! (a little inside family joke) :-)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rainy Days and Sundays...

Sunday, September 14, 2008 - Before you 70's Carpenters buffs get on me about the title, I know it's supposed to say "Rainy Days and Mondays" but it's Sunday and it's rainy. Got up for church this morning. Last week there were only about 20 of us there. Today, the place was filled. A lot of Americans and Natalie brought 5 boys from the school. Sergei who was baptized yesterday showed and several inactives showed up today as well. I'd guess there were about 50 people today. Great to see so many in the attendance.

The boys were pretty restless by the end of sacrament meeting and wanted to leave but we asked the missionaries to tell the boys about their experiences growing up in the church and specifically around the Young Men's program.

After church we came back to our apartment and Arri and Lucinda fixed a nice meal of Soup (Top Ramen with potatoes and carrots), liver-filled dumplings, bread and fruit. The boys ate everything we put in front of them -- and then

some! They found our stash of candy and kept running to that room to get more. It's AMAZING how much they can eat. After dinner, we were playing cards and Arri cut up a couple of peaches and a banana or two and placed it in front of the boys. Without exagerating, the bowl was gone within 30 seconds! We couldn't believe it! Then they found the cans of cheese whiz that I brought. They were piling it on crackers as high as they could and then eating it. Not too healthy...

The Milne's gave Austin (Ruslon) his birthday gift (a nice digital camera) and then Lucinda and Arri talked a few of the boys into getting their hair cut. They especially wanted to cut Yaroslov's (Hatch's son) because he was growing the beginnings of a mullet. He was reluctant but they shamed him into it as only mothers can do.

The boys didn't want to go home but Natalie our translator took them home at about 6:00pm. I was thinking, maybe we should bring Natalie home with us to translate and every evening we could hand off the kids to her at about 7:00pm...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

From the River, to the Table, to the Parlor...

Saturday, September 13 -- Early this morning Neil Milne called Brent to let him know that the local branch was going to have a baptism. Since Arri was sick and Lucinda had been up since 2:00am, Brent and I quickly walked to the Branch to see the baptism. It was a fairly young man named Sergei and when he saw how many people were there (most of the Branch (about 12 people) and 6 Americans), he wanted to back out. He is a very shy man but the Elder from Armenia who is also the local Branch President talked to him and then we all jumped in a small bus and drove to the local river. It's interesting that the owner/driver of the bus isn't a member but he really likes the missionaries so he drives them all over for free. His name was Sergei too.

At the river we had a little difficulty finding a good spot where there wasn't either a fisherman, someone bathing, lots of cow remains or a pile of garbage that someone dumped. We finally found a good spot, said a prayer, sang a hymn and one of the sisters gave a talk on baptism. Then Sergei and the Elder/President went back to Sergei's car and changed into white clothing. They stepped into the water and after the prayer when the Elder tried to submerge Sergei, he was fighting going under so the Elder really had to shove him down! When he came up, he had a big smile on his face and when the Elder hugged him, he dunked the Elder! First time I've been to a baptism in a river and the first time I've seen the baptisee dunk the Elder! We then sang some more hymns out in the cold (I'm guessing about mid '40's) while they got dressed, heard another talk from Elder Doorman of Washington and then returned to the church for a testimony meeting. Afterward we ate some cookies and Pepsi. Overall another wonderful experience here in Ukraine. I wish my daughters could have experienced it as well as the boys. Also, for those coming here after us, bring an english hymn book if you plan to go to church.

On the way back we met up with Arri and Lucinda who had been kicked out of the apartment by the cleaning lady. So, we ate a crepe from a street vendor and did some shopping for light bulbs (barely enough light in the apartment) and food for Sunday. We then went to the orphanage to pick up the kids and brought them back into town. The missionaries opened up the branch building for us and we played ping-pong for a couple of hours. We taught them chinese ping-pong and they had a good time with that.

Afterwards we went to the local pizza parlor and ordered several pizzas. The boys ate quite a bit and seemed to enjoy themselves. Then they wanted Ice Cream but mistakenly ordered what I would call a dish of flavored whip cream. I got a real sugar buzz from it and 2 hours later I still feel stuffed!

Arri continues to suffer with her cold but has been a real trooper hanging with us all day. She's back on Motrin tonight and laying on the couch with her "Twilight" series book. It's the 4th book in the series and I think she's read this one only 3 times!! Who cares about vampires? I keep telling her they're not real but she insists her "Edward" is...

So great to be with the boys and every day we seem to grow closer. We were working with them on their english pronunciation of "3" which seems to be really hard for them. They also were laughing at me as I've been trying to just count to 10 in Ukrainski. Such great experiences that I only wish Maddie, Lauren and Cat could be here with us.