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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Days 3 & 4 in Kyiv - and more mystery food

Here is a photo of Olga and I as we waited for Mark to exchange some currency.
This is the view of St. Michael's cathedral. The SDA building is right near by.

Last night, we ate at a Ukrainian buffet. Overall, the food was quite good. The dumplings (Mark's were cheese filled and mine were filled w/ meat) with sour cream were probably the best. I had a salad with cabbage, pineapple, chicken (I think) as well as a marinated mushroom dish - think mushrooms, onions, and cucumbers marinated in dill pickle juice. Mark tried 2 salads that weren't a hit. The one next to the cup of soup at the top of the pic had crab, horseradish, cheese. The one to the right of that, well.... I couldn't even begin to tell you. We thought it was similar to my cabbage salad. Ummmm..... NO! It had a texture unlike anything I have ever tasted before or hope to taste again! We stopped at the market and bought some amaretto ice cream and a little coconut cake (similar to a Hostess snowball but not sweet) for dessert.
We were again blessed to be able to meet up with some Reeces Rainbow families who are adopting as well. Below is Jeff Hannon and his girls. They are bringing home Matthew and Michael.

 And this is us with Jeff and Debbie's girls, as well as Jill and Pat Birschbaugh (sorry, if I spelled your name wrong). They are adopting Elijah.

Right now, we are waiting for Olga to arrive at our apartment. We will travel to the SDA where we will pick up our referral (permission to enter the orphanage) and then head for our overnight train to Sevastopol.

So.... today's prayer requests:
First, pray for me (Melanie). I am not feeling well today - body aches, GI symptoms. I haven't eaten anything yet and am trying to decide if it's wise. A 15 hour train ride in a very warm berth with other people when I don't feel good does not top my list of fun things to do. ;-)
Second, that our referral will be ready and waiting for us when we arrive at the SDA.
Next, pray for safe travels overnight and while this seems very minor, pray that our next apartment will have a soft bed. While we are thankful for our current apartment, the bed is like sleeping on a box spring.
And most important, pray that our first visit to the orphanage goes well. We will be seeing our little girl for the first time and meeting with the orphanage director. Most likely, will not be able to blog again until after this visit.
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers as we travel this journey. I wish that I had time to email everyone individually, but it just isn't possible.
Yes, Jeanne - this is a shared venture - lol!
God continues to be good to us each step of the way. He has brought us to Ukraine for a reason and we trust Him.

More as soon as we are able.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 3: SDA appointment and other things

Still adjusting to the time difference. Went to bed about 10:30pm last night. My body thought it was nap time (since it was 2:30pm back home) so I was wide awake at midnight. Probably fell asleep again around 4am.
Our driver Vlad was waiting out front for us at 8:30am. The snow was falling heavily, so pretty and wet! Unfortunately, packing light didn't allow for an umbrella, but no worries. As soon as Olga arrived, off we went to the SDA building. The entrance was quite non-descript and located in the back of a large building next to St. Michael's cathedral. We went inside and up the stairs to a small office where we met immediately with a government psychologist. She gave us the name and birthdate of our little one and asked why we were requesting this specific child. For those of you who may not know, yes... a certain child in our hearts has brought us here to Ukraine. We explained our journey to her and what we feel we will be able to provide. The psychologist then gave us some basic family background and medical information. Olga was wonderful about translating everything for us. We were asked if we had any questions and that was it. The meeting lasted about 15 minutes.

Afterwards, we went to the bank to exchange some currency and purchased train tickets. Tomorrow afternoon, we will receive our official referral document (allowing us to meet our little one and receive further information from the orphanage) at 4pm. Then, we will take an overnight train to Simferopol and hire a driver to take us to Sevastopol (about a 2 hour drive). We will rent an apartment and then go to the orphanage. Olga will travel with us and stay in our apartment for the first few days to get paperwork started. She has been wonderful and I am so appreciative of her!

We decided to try a little place called Potato House for lunch. It was recommended to us as a cheap restaurant with good food and some English speaking staff. Mark ordered a cheese burrito with vegetables and I ordered a "potato with meat, mushrooms, and green sauce." 2 Pepsi Lights and a dessert that looked like tiramisu. This cost 91 gryvnahs (sure the spelling is wrong on that) - about $12. The burrito was interesting... cold cubed cheese and Korean carrots (read: SPICY) in a flour tortilla. So... I traded with Mark. Mine was pretty much what it said... not sure what type of meat it was, perhaps lamb, beef, or pork, sliced mushrooms, and a cheesy type sauce with parsley over a baked potato. The dessert was similar to tiramisu although with less of the coffee flavor and more runny. Mark wasn't impressed - lol! He was ready to stop at McDonald's for a double cheeseburger, but they were packed so we just came home instead.

We're going to venture out in about an hour to meet up with 2-3 other adoptive families and have dinner at a Ukrainian buffet which is about a 20 minute walk from here. Hopefully, it has stopped raining. 

Our apartment is located right off Independence Square which is the site of large public protests right now - related to proposed tax legislation. Even though our windows are on the back side of the apartment (away from the square), we can still hear the protestors. Crowds were small over the weekend, but much larger today.

All is good. Thanks again for your ongoing prayers and please continue them. I can not tell you how much peace that I have had over the past 24 hours - it is truly a blessing! Also, two other prayer requests. First, Kullen and the Sharp family. They are in Kiev waiting to go home and Kullen (little guy with DS) has a respiratory infection. We hear this happens often after kids leave the orphanage. Second, pary for Pat - one of the adoptive dads who arrived yesterday and has a GI bug.

More soon! Love to all of you!

weather report

snow this am. it is about 8am here now (12 am at home)
today we see the childrens welfare guy to get permission to go down to Sevastopol and see the little one.
wish us luck.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Privyet from Kiev!

Here is the view from our enclosed balcony in our apartment. We have a drying rack for our clothes here. 

This is our bathroom and fancy shower. It has a fan, light, lots of jets (haven't tried them yet). 

This is our living/bedroom. 
 Last but not least, the kitchen.
Olga came to see us today and reviewed what we can expect over the next several days. She brought our cell phone and then took us out to get it charged (basically, it is a pre-paid cell phone). We walked through one of the underground malls which reminded me of the New York City subway. Many small shops selling glass trinkets, lottery tickets, beer, candy. She also took us to a small market. It was quite interesting... 4-5 small rooms with various items, in the basement of a department store. It seemed to be the same store, but we had to pay for the fruit in one room, the toilet paper in another, and all of other items in a different room. We bought some Nutella, ham, cheese, bread, yogurt, mayo, and mooloka (milk). I think we will spend more money on water than anything else. The tap water here is not drinkable (Montezuma's revenge is not limited to Mexico). And we drink a lot of water (voda). Trying to pick up a few more words as we go along. One challenge is the Cyrillic alphabet is so different than ours - so even if I can say a word, I wouldn't recognize it if I saw it. But, it's only day 2!

We were very blessed to be able to meet up with Mike and Meredith Cornish tonight and have dinner with them. TGI Friday's has a menu that is in Russian/English - the food was quite good. A little more expensive than back home, but not too bad. It is within walking distance of our apartment. Anyway... Mike and Meredith are bringing home 2 little ones, they are currently waiting for court dates. Spending time with them helped me to unwind a bit. I'm sure Mark would tell you that I've been a little "uptight." I know there will be many more days like that ahead, but my peace has returned tonight. So for those of you who have been praying, thank you!!

We found out a bit about our little one's personality today from Olga. Olga's description was "very aesthetic, likes things just so." On a recent trip to the orphanage, Olga attempted to take a picture of "little one" who had just got a hair cut. "Little one" was unhappy with how the bangs were trimmed and refused to have a picture taken. So, we are anticipating a stubborn streak - but I could already get a little sense of that in the pictures we have seen. :-) 

Continue to pray for us and our process. Our immediate prayer request is for our SDA appointment tomorrow. It will take place at 9am Monday morning (1AM CST). The SDA is basically the Ukraine governmental authority on children's welfare. They will give us initial information about "Little One" at our appointment, but most will come when we get to our region. Please pray for a favorable meeting and that we have peace with the information we receive as we move forward. Each day brings us closer to meeting our "little one!"


Weather report, Nice day. 10am and about 45 with mostly cloudy skies.
McDonalds is just across the street. We need to buy water to drink and cook with.
So far we have had supper and breakfast (although we missed breakfast @ Mcdonalds
by a few minutes). So Melanie had a salad, I had a cheese burger for breakfast.

No cell phone yet but Olga left hers here last night and she has called us on our phone
(the one we will use) to tell us she is coming at 11am today and will give us the phone.
We tried to get the number from her phone but the phones here are not set up the same way
as the phones in the states. 

Melanie will write a better post soon (from a womans point of view)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

We made it!

Left home yesterday morning at about 6am -thanks to Mom and Dad H and Gavin for the ride to the airport! Overall our flights were really uneventful. Our flight from Chicago to Frankfurt was delayed by about 45 minutes which was probably good because we didn't realize right away that we had to go to an entirely different terminal to report to US Customs and Immigration. That also meant we had to go through security an additional time. I have to say that the security people in Minneapolis were AWESOME! I was very impressed with them, Chicago was ok, Frankfurt wasn't bad. The overnight flight was long. Poor Mark didn't get much sleep at all. I managed to doze on/off for a couple of hours which helped.

As we were waiting for the bus to take us to the terminal in Kiev, we started visiting with a woman who is an adoption facilitator here. She was bringing a young boy home from a trip to the US where he had been visiting a host family. There was another group that we had noticed, woman and 3 girls. Struck up a conversation with them while waiting in line. The family is bringing home Nadya from RR!

Olga, our facilitator, was waiting for us as soon as we walked through the exit. She brought us to our apartment which is very nice. I was going to try to post pictures, but they are taking a while to upload. I may try later when I have more patience. It is right off Independence Square which is the "hub" of activity. On the 5th floor (thank goodness for elevators). We have a entry, bedroom/living area, small kitchen, and bathroom with a washing machine (YAY!).

Internet is hooked up (obviously) and we were able to exchange a little bit of money. Olga will be back later this evening with our cell phone. She said she will show us where we can buy a few things for breakfast, etc. There is a Mickey D's right outside the front door and a restaurant called the Potato Hut about 1 1/2 blocks away which is supposed to be cheap and very good. I think we are going to try to venture out because we're both hungry. Should be interesting!

Looking forward to a day of rest and relaxation tomorrow. Our SDA appt is actually Monday at 9AM - not 1pm. We will leave for our region on Tuesday evening. Getting close!

Thanks to everyone for your prayers - they are felt!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

here we go

Well we are off. In a few hours we should be in kiev and starting the paperwork to bring home our little girl.


Monday, November 22, 2010

7 days (not that anyone is counting)

Well, it's not actually seven days until we leave. But it is 7 days until our SDA appointment. We're busy getting things ready. Packing is proving to be a challenge. I have a tendency to over pack and I am really limiting myself. Just a couple pairs of pants for each of us, 4 shirts, socks, underwear, etc. My goal is two carry-ons and one checked bag, but not sure I am going to accomplish that. UGH! I never thought I would be packing toilet paper, but sounds like I probably can't pack enough of that. We're taking a few toys for our little one, travel size magnadoodle and etch-a-sketch, toy cell phone, coloring books. Oh, and a couple of outfit options for our little one's Gotcha Day. Now... it could be really interesting if we come home with a child of the opposite sex than what we are anticipating.  :-)

For all of our friends out there, I'm going to apologize right now. There are quite a few of you that I just haven't caught up with and I don't know if I am going to have time to call everyone before we leave. So... if you don't hear from me, it isn't anything personal - there just aren't enough hours in my day, but I will try to touch base with as many of you as I can.

Friday, November 19, 2010

10 days!

10 days from right now, we will be in Kiev (hopefully somewhat recovered from the time change). If all goes well, we will be finished with our SDA appointment in which we will receive the referral for our child. It's hard to even imagine and AMAZING!

Am I scared? Yes. I would be lying if I claimed otherwise. I don't think it's any different than if I was becoming a parent through pregnancy. Will I be a good parent (I already know that Mark will be the "fun" parent and I will probably be the strict one)? Will I be patient enough? How will I cope when my child is having a melt-down and I can't even understand what they are saying? How will our financial picture change? The expenses are adding up and we haven't even left yet. How will my relationship with Mark change? So many questions...

My daily devotion helped me to refocus. It was talking about how often we start looking at things around us and what others have/are doing. We start to make comparisons and feel inadequate about ourselves. We need to put on "soul-blinders" that help us to focus on God. Deuteronomy 5:32-33: "So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess."

God travels this path with us. Throughout this journey, I have asked for His guidance and prayed that if adopting from Ukraine was NOT part of His plan, that He would make it perfectly clear. Did that happen? Nope! Instead, God showed us this path to our child (who just happens to be in Ukraine) and has continued to clear the way for us. I need to remain focus on Him and following where He leads, doing what He commands. That is what matters. He is constant, reassuring me that even though I will not be a "perfect parent," He has chosen Mark and I as perfect parents for our child.

So... am I still scared? Yes. But, am I excited? OH, YES!! Let the countdown begin!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Situational ADD?

I'm pretty sure I have it!  Now before anyone blasts me about what's like to have ADD or a child with ADD, no... I am not trying to make any comparisons or make light of a challenging condition. So, take this post as it's meant to be - a little bit of poking fun at myself.

My mind is going in about a thousand different directions right now. I start on one project and in the middle of that, think about something else that I need to and head off to tackle the next task - leaving the first one uncompleted. Things to add to my packing or "to-do" list come to mind when I am nowhere near a piece of paper to jot them down. Do you think I can remember what they are when I have access to paper? Nope!

I am emotional. (Ok well, Mark will tell you that I am always emotional - lol), but I find myself thinking about our little one and the tears start to well up. Realistically, I know that those first few meetings will not be the utopia we see in greeting card commercials or happily ever after movies. But, I can't wait to see their face, touch them, laugh, play - KNOW that they are coming home with us - now part of a forever family that already loves and cherishes them. If all goes well, in less than 2 weeks - we will have met our little one and the precious people who are caring for them. It is amazing!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The power of prayer - wonderful news!

We received an email last night from Amanda (our agency coordinator). As of right now (always possibility of change again), it sounds as if the Ukraine parliament may not vote on adoption legislation until after the new year! We anticipate our court date in December so hope to be wrapping up our process and travels by that time.

Thank you for everyone who has uplifted us in prayers. They have made such a huge difference - even before we received this email. I was able to calm down, have a little peace, and remember that God is in control. I know that He loves our little one even more than we do (which is really quite a bit - lol!) and wants forever families for every orphan.

I ask that you continue to pray because even though this vote most likely will not affect us, it will affect others. And while I am glad that we are able to breathe a little easier, I hate to think of other families feeling the way that we have over the past week.

Hope to have a few fun things to share about getting our little one's room ready soon! Hard to believe that in just over a week, we will be on our way! 

Sunday, November 14, 2010


In spite of our concern about the upcoming vote, we are continuing to make preparations for our trip. It's getting close. I am just aching to put my arms around our little one.

In the meantime, we picked up a dresser today from one of Mark's friends - it's the best kind - FREE! A little sanding, paint, new pulls and it will be perfect. I was looking on-line for one and came across an adorable dresser with Dr. Suess type colors. Mark thought that was a pretty neat idea. So... I am headed to the store to pick out paint. I ordered Dr. Suess dresser pulls. Can't wait to see what it will look like when it is finished. Yes... I will be posting pics.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us. It is reassuring to know that prayers are being sent heavenward on our behalf by individuals, prayer chains, church family/friends, etc. I know that we have more peace because of your prayers.

We are moving ahead with assurance that our little one will soon be home with us and trusting that we have an amazing God whose plan is to give us hope and a future!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Concerning News...

I think I have posted before that I don't like roller coasters. The ups and downs wreak havoc with my insides and leave me feeling somewhat battered and bruised. When we began our adoption journey, I knew that this would be a roller coaster ride. I thought I was prepared for it, confident in my ability to handle the unknowns, the highs and lows, I would be flexible, adapt to whatever was sent my way. But, my coping mechanism when a curve ball is thrown at me is for an initial time of decompensation. After I have had my little freak out, I am generally able to calm down, refocus, and move forward. So... it is my plan to be able to do the same now - I'm just not sure how yet.

Yesterday started the ascent of a roller coaster hill, thinking about our approaching trip and how close we were to bringing our little one home. Although I posted asking for prayer about the Ukraine's adoption legislation, I really didn't think anything would happen soon enough to impact us. Mark spent much of the day talking with travel agents who specialize in adoption fares, looking at options for our flights. He talked with Amanda (our agency's coordinator) yesterday afternoon and then purchased our tickets to Kiev. Another detail confirmed in our journey. Within just a few hours of Mark's first conversation with Amanda and shortly after he had bought the tickets, Amanda called again. She had received a phone call from Olga (who is the facilitator that works with us and on our behalf in Ukraine). The date for the second reading of the Ukraine adoption legislation has been scheduled for November 21. If it passes (which is a definite possibility) and is signed by the president, it will put a halt to international adoptions - even those currently in process. Amanda was calling to recommend that we not purchase our flights until after the vote.

So as of last night, I feel like we are stuck on the top of a roller coaster, waiting for November 21 when we plunge forward - either racing up another hill to travel and meet our child or perhaps it is the last descent of the ride and we will be required to get off and decide if we are going to take another trip.

I don't mean to sound melodramatic, but this is huge! Of course, my initial concerns are selfish. I am filled with sadness, fear, and uncertainty for us. But, it's bigger than just Mark and I - the little one who is to join our family. A child that we already love more than I ever thought possible, who has grandmas, aunties, and oh so many people waiting their arrival. There are so many other families who are in the same situation we are. The waiting children are the ones who will suffer the most. Those who have no chance of being adopted in their own country, but who have mommies and daddies waiting and dreaming of bringing them home to love them.

So...what do we do, how do we proceed? When I first heard the news, I immediately reminded myself that these circumstances are not a surprise to God. He is in control. And I keep telling myself that. It doesn't stop the tears from falling, it doesn't stop my heart from hurting. But, I will not let myself be trapped by the fear that Satan would have me wallow in. Just as our header says, I have to trust that God has a plan for my life. He has a plan for the little ones who need parents. He has a heart for orphans. And no matter what the outcome of this legislation, He is constant. I may not understand why things happen, but I have to trust that there is a reason.

In the meantime, we are acting "as if." It's hard... we can't just give up. That's definitely not a sign of faith. And it would mean that we could be scrambling to get things done at the last minute. The vote is on November 21 and we are set to leave on November 26. On the other hand, some of the joy I have felt in getting things ready has been tempered. I'm trying to protect my heart from the devastation I will feel if we have everything in place and aren't able to go. Someone who is sharing in this journey offered the following devotion last night and it really touched me as something to claim. I don't know who the author is so I apologize for not citing the source.

"Go gently through this day, keeping your eyes on Me. I will open up the path before you, as you take steps of trust along your path. Sometimes the way before you appears to be blocked. If you focus on the obstacle or search for a way around it, you will probably go off course. Instead, focus on me, the Shepard who is leading you along your life-journey. Before you know it, the obstacle will be behind you and you will hardly know how you passed through it. That is the secret of success in My kingdom. Although you remain aware of the visible world around you, your primary awareness is of Me. When the road before you looks rocky, you can trust Me to get you through that rough patch. My Presence enables you to face each day with confidence."

I know that I asked for prayer yesterday, but now I ask again and even more urgently. Between now and November 21 (especially on that day), please be praying for a favorable outcome - one that will protect our adoption plans as well as allow continued opportunities for others to bring home these beautiful children who otherwise might never know the love of a family.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Please pray

I am not stressing too much about this yet, but I do ask you to pray that this bill does NOT pass.

Ukraine Adoption Notice

Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children’s Issues

November 3, 2010

The Ukrainian legislature is in the process of voting on a bill that would suspend all intercountry adoptions from countries without bilateral agreements with Ukraine, including adoptions from the United States. The bill passed a first reading and vote, but must still pass a second reading and be signed into law by the president. The second reading could take place in the next few weeks. If the bill passes the second reading, it may be signed into law as early as the end of 2010. The draft bill appears to include suspension of all adoptions in progress.

The Department is will post updates as information becomes available.
Source: http://adoption.state.gov/news/ukraine.html

While I understand the reasoning (steps to becoming a Hague country), there are too many children who will have to wait for families or may never get them if this bill passes.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

All of a sudden.... it hit me!

This morning, I went to work out and afterwards stopped at a children's consignment store. I picked up a couple of things for our trip - one outfit I am particularly excited about! Then, headed to the grocery store and it suddenly just became so real to me... I am going to be a mom! In 23 days, we are going to have information about our little one and meet them for the first time shortly after that. It's a very emotional feeling and I can't wait!! I know it won't all be smiles and giggles and hugs, but that's ok.

Figuring out airfare and a "to-do list" today. If anyone has suggestions for packing, etc - I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Guess what???

My cell phone rang shortly after 4pm today. It was Amanda, our coordinator with About A Child. And guess what? She had good news! If you didn't hear me yelling, it was because I was at work and didn't want to be too disruptive. But, WE HAVE AN APPOINTMENT! We meet with the SDA on November 29.

Mark was sleeping (short turn around time between runs) so I told him as soon as I got home from work. We called both moms (they're much more excited than dads - lol) and now we're telling you!

What a wonderful THANKFUL THURSDAY!! Nothing like the power of prayers!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Still waiting

No, I'm not holding out on you... We are still waiting for the big news. Every morning, I hope and pray that this will be the day that we find out our appointment date. I know, it hasn't even been 2 weeks yet. Doesn't stop me from praying for a fast response - lol!

For those of you who know me well enough, you know that my real panic will begin once we get the appointment date. Things still seem somewhat surreal at this point. Although I know there is a little one out there waiting for us (even though he or she doesn't know it yet), it's hard to imagine what our lives are going to look like very soon. I know there are similarities with a pregnancy, but then there is a tangible/physical change taking place to remind you. A few changes are starting to take place at our house to make it more real. We took the futon out of the office (soon to be bedroom) and put a twin bed back in - thanks Mom and Dad H! I'm looking for a dresser or perhaps 2 small sets of drawers for the room. Trying to decide what to do with the computer. Space is at a premium in our house so today, I'm working on sorting through some things and purging. Told Mark this morning that we should probably be thinking about safety latches for drawers, cabinets, etc.

Know we won't have everything perfect before we leave, but want to be organized enough that we can manage for a little while after we get home. Hmmm.... I should probably be thinking about freezer meals, etc. Does anyone have any good recipes to share?