Saturday, August 17, 2013

Three Weeks

So...   we have been home for roughly three weeks.

Somehow we haven't had as much time to blog.  There are have been doctor visits and lots of errands.  School has started back; Elena and Katerina and Juliana and Andrew are all in school.  Life is slowly turning into a "normal" routine.

After a long journey, after being "TV stars" on both sides of the journey - it is good to be back in our own home, in our own town, and  returning to the threads of our old life.   And they lived happily ever after.........

Isn't that a wonderful ending?

The book "The Princess Bride" by S. Morganstern (William Goldman)  ends this way.... then gives a teaser two paragraphs later....

"They could hear the roar of Humperdinck: "Stop them! Cut them off!" They were, admittedly, startled, but there was no reason for worry: they were on the fastest horses in the kingdom, and the lead was already theirs.

However, this was before Inigo's wound reopened; and Westley relapsed again; and Fezzik took the wrong turn; and Buttercup's horse threw a shoe. And the night behind them was filled with the crescendoing sound of pursuit."


There are days when it seems the newsworthy thing is not adopting these children - the newsworthy thing is living with them and being parents.

The news cameras aren't here (thank goodness) when Andrew has overflowed his diaper... and his swing... with nasty, nasty, ca-ca.... and we are already late.   And Elena is pitching a fit.  And Juliana is misbehaving.  And Katie is crying because Elena is crying.  And the dishwasher leaks under the kitchen and the kitchen has to be torn up to repairs.  And the children need a bath after every meal.  And the tire has a nail in it.  And we have a doctors appointment.  And we got to the store and the children are throwing thing out of the cart or putting things in the cart or running away or bruising the produce or begging for ice cream.  And.....

And then we wake up the next day and start the whole mad adventure over again.

Who said anything about an ending?

"Remember: that in books, and ages, and in life, the ending can never truly be written. "  - Atrus


Enough talking.  Pictures of children.

Katie, Elena, and Juliana

Katie's first day of school

Did you know that markers are not ice cream?  Really?

Juliana being adorable.

Andrew's first day of school.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost!

We are coming home tomorrow!  We will arrive in Atlanta at 9:34!  Thank you for all the support, encouragement, and prayers  They were definitely a huge help and comfort through this long process.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Now 3 of our friends have gotten theirs and are heading home tomorrow!  Praise God!  We will miss them but are so happy they can rejoin their families at home.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The blog has been silent for a while.  Ezra usually does the updating, but since he isn't here, guess I will have to do it.  WARNING:  Ezra is a much more eloquent writer than I am.  I tend to stick to the facts but go on bunny trails.

Pretty much been groundhog day here.  We wake up, eat, sit/play/take a walk, eat lunch, sometimes nap, meet up with other families for dinner (usually).  We have pretty much exhausted our 3 dining choice (Puzata hata, McDonald's, and Domino's)  These are 3 of the cheapest places we found.  Yesterday, we did break the routine and did something fun.  3 of us families went to an indoor water park.  It was a fun adventure and I was proud of how we all navigated our way their by ourselves.  We first had to walk about 30 min to the subway.  We thought we found the subway a few times and went down the stairs(strollers and all) only to realize, "No this is just an underground mall."  So up the stairs again.  I was very grateful to have John (Ezra's brother) with me, because he did all the heavy lifting.   I have never used a subway anywhere (other than well the one that makes those tasty lil sandwiches), so it was a fun experience.  We bought our coins, and proceeded down the steep escalator (yes, strollers and all)  I wish I would have timed it because it was a LONG escalator. We found the blue line, of course, we took the long way with the most stairs, but it would not have been an adventure without all of that.  We quickly got on the subway successfully (well someone's backpack got caught in the doors but we were able to pull it through just in time.)  We knew the name and number of our stop from the subway map and fortunately I was able to understand which stops we were at so that when it came time we were able to be ready.  We walked up the stairs from the subway and found our destination.  On the outside it appeared to be a mall, not really fancy on the outside, actually kind of blah.  No huge sign with flashing lights saying, "Dreamtown!"  Just a small, not to flashy sign that told us we were there.  Honestly from the outside, i didn't have very high hopes of this place.  Everything around it that we saw , including the outside of the building was pretty "bland and kind of dirty" 

However, that impression could not have been further from the truth. The inside of the mall was pretty AMERICANIZED in look and feel.  Very bright and happy.  'Dreamtown' where we were going was located on the 3rd floor.  This was quite amazing to me to think of the engineering of this building with the amount of weight all of these water features on the top.  (We can save the ENGINEERING post for later because some of the apartments we have stayed in seemed pretty sketchy in construction.)  Let me just say "Dreamtown'  was so much fun and it was so nice to have something fun to do to get our minds off of the 'unknowns.'   I could not believe the size of this place.  It encompassed the entire third floor of the mall.  There were basically 3 sections, 1.a kiddie section with many slides and waterfalls and shallow pools and climbing thingies and games and such, 2. a middle section that housed a smaller wave pool for the whole family, water polo, and lazy river, 3. a more adult section with bigger slides (inner tubes, double inner tubes, and no inner tube slides), a huge pool with massage chairs in them, waterfalls, a bar in the pool, hot tubs, another lazy river and another bigger wave pool.  It was really unbelievable.  The decor was really neat.  The adult section had a dino theme, middle and kids more of an undersea theme.  The best part of this is ANDREW didn't scream the whole time.  He actually enjoyed himself.  He really liked the little wave pool and learned to splash.  He even got splashed several times in the face and didn't cry.  This is a boy that SCREAMS bloody murder when giving him a bath.  Praise be to God for helping my little boy not be so scared and upset.  Because he did so well I was even able to go down a few slides, while he let our friend hold him (another answered prayer because currently, I am pretty much the only one he wants to hold him)  Andrew enjoyed the lazy river which is one of my favorite things too.  We ended the day riding the subway back to town and eating at the Ukrainian buffet.  Katerina though she had fallen asleep on the way home, woke right up to the smell of borscht.  Katerina at first did not care for the water attractions and definitely not the slides, but uncle John helped her through this and by the end of the day she was feeling a little bit more adventurous and enjoyed herself.  They both slept pretty well after all of this adventure.  Even little man, slept for about 4.5 hours in a row.  Sorry I didn't get any pictures, because well cameras and water= not good.

No news on ours.  One RR family should be picking theirs up in the morning and flying home Saturday.  One RR family, adopting 2 kids, got 1 of 2 passports.  I am praying that they get the 2nd tomorrow morning so they can also go home this weekend.  Though it will not be the same without them, they have a wedding to attend next Saturday  (the bride is here in Ukraine helping her dad finish the trip).  The other 3 of us RR families are still waiting.  While 1 other family waits the dad is returning home tomorrow morning, thus the mom will be here alone.  I know how this feels and how difficult it is, so please pray for this family.  The other family besides us are just hanging in there.  Fortunately, she brought her other 2 children with her so she is not separated from them, but it is hard for them to be far away from home. Her husband is also in the military so he is not with her, but she does have her brother in law to help her too.  Please pray that she gets her 1 passport soon so that these children can get back to their routine and a familiar place.  I will also note that one of the little boys has been a prayer warrior for Andrew.  He would often ask his mom to see Andrew's picture on RR and pray for him to find a mommy.  Such a little sweet man. 

There are other families waiting or soon to be waiting.  One family was able to go home and wait while their daughter got to stay here for a little longer.  I know this is hard for this momma and we pray they are able to come get their sweet lil princess soon.  This family as well as those mentioned above have been a huge encouragement to me, especially when I have been feeling down.

Several have asked how you can pray for us:

1. Obviously passports soon
2. Elena-tomorrow Elena will have her CT scan to see where we stand with surgery.  The original plan was to have surgery at the end of June, when we should have been home.  I am hoping that she can have surgery next week, and that I can be with her.  It is hard to think she could have this surgery without me there.  But, I don't know how long we can continue to wait.
3. Andrew-  he doesn't sleep very well at all.  He screams very loudly at night.  I really think it is because he can not get into a comfortable position.  So when he tries to shift in the middle of sleeping, he can't get to how he wants and screams. 
4. Katerina- I am sure it is pretty confusing for her.  Take her out of the institution where she has many friends and caretakers catering to her every desire, to a mom and dad and (2 grandmother figures), grandmothers go away when we come to kiev, bond with daddy, Daddy leaves. 
5. Ezra- as he works, takes care of the girls (with my moms help), and worries about us here.
6. Juliana-as she tries to figure out why her mama lives in the computer and isn't there to hold her.
7. Kelly-rest, school work, worrying when will I get home, worrying about kids at home and kids here, worrying about how I will get everything done that needs to be done before going back to work on August 2nd.  LOTS and LOTS of worry. That I may trust that God has all this worked out for our good and His glory.
8. And ultimately, that God be glorified in all of this!  

Friday, July 12, 2013


Life continues to plod along with us.  The children are adapting to their new family.  Katerina started off not wanting anything to do with Andrew, but she has recently been helping with his bottle and kissing him and trying to pick him up and so forth.  Katerina is very funny and has a great sense of humor. 

Andrew is not screaming as much as he did at first.  When you've lived your whole life in a box, everything is new and potentially terrifying.  He is also cutting multiple teeth, which does not help. It doesn't help that he was a favorite and used to getting his way.

We have had our first embassy appointment.  The children passed the TB test.


We went to the zoo in Kiev.

We went with another family who was adopting.  They were leaving for their region and a first meeting with their daughter that day.

The most pressing issue is passports for the children to immigrate to the US.  Ukraine changed passport companies.  For three weeks, no-one has gotten passports (in Ukraine, they use passports as a primary form of ID).  There are 120,000 people backlogged in the system along with us.  They finally printed some passports early in the week, only to have the equipment be faulty and 80% were misprinted.  They are still negotiating contracts for delivery of the passports once they figure out how to print them. 

What this means is that we have all the documents listing us as the parents of the children.  We have the children in our care.  And yet - we can't actually leave.  Or rather, we can leave but our children can't.   We had expected the trip to last about five weeks.  We have been here for eight weeks.  There has been one government delay after another.  This is just icing on the cake.    There are many adoptive families who are stuck here like we are. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Leaving Ternopil

Saturday we had planned to travel from Ternopil to Kiev on the 13:00 (1:00p) train. However, we could not get tickets, so we were switched to the 11:00a  train. This posed many problems as we had told all of Andrew's friends that we were leaving at 13:00.  We were frantically calling people who speak very little English and then passing the phone off to people who spoke Ukrainian.  It was a frantic morning packing - we had suddenly lost a couple of hours.  All of our plans were in disarray.

Andrew's grandfather had agreed to pick us up and take us to the train station.  Maria had one of her friends (who had a van) bring us to the train station instead.

We made it to the train station on time and got our tickets. Five minutes before the train arrived, Andrew's godmother and godfather arrived. They brought us many gifts. The train arrived, and they helped us onto the train.

The next part only happens in movies. Three minutes before the train left, Andrew's other godmother arrived. She is very attached to Andrew. She ran onto the train and held kissed us all goodbye. It was a very tearful goodbye.  We are glad that she was able to say goodbye - she would have been hurt the most about not getting to say goodbye.  She and her mother had stayed up all night sewing a picture for us.  We are very touched by all the love and support they have shown us.  

 We stood at the window and Andrew waved "goodbye". Katerina waved goodbye also. We cried; they cried. It was a sad goodbye. We leave good friends behind. We have been blown away by the generosity and hospitality we have found in Ternopil.  We are very grateful for all the help we have received in Ternopil. We are thankful that so many people have loved Andrew and Katerina.

It is such a stark contrast to last time. When we left Lugasnk with Elena and Juliana - there was no sendoff. There wasn't anyone in the town that actually cared about those little girls.
Juliana and Elena have enjoyed talking with their new siblings over Skype in the last few days.

We have arrived safe in Kiev.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Gotcha Day #2

Today was Gotcha Day for Andrew.   He is out of the orphanage for good!

He was terrified when the car started up.  He was terrified when it started moving.  Fortunately, he got over this quickly and even started fussing when we stopped at a red light.

Katerina started the day by moping.  She has a lot of friends in the Institution and misses them a bunch.  She was depressed and clingy the whole day, but we started seeing her lively self again around dinner.

Today was a paperwork day.  We started paperwork around 10:00a - and we did not get back home until around 8:30pm (then dinner).  We spent huge amounts of the day waiting as our facilitator argued with people about the forms we needed to fill out.  There have not been many adoptions here.  At one point, there were five people clustered around the table trying to decide what needed to be filled out.  Our day was more or less composed of walking and waiting.  We did manage to poke some food and water in the children during the day but we really didn't get anything ourselves.

This is one of those days where there is no time to eat or go to the bathroom.

We finally got home.  Katerina ate four bowls of borscht.  Andrew drank three bottle of baby tea and a half bowl of borscht.  Everyone was exhausted and hungry and thirsty!  The children went straight to sleep after their bellies were full.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Gotcha Day #1

Today was "Gotcha Day" for Katerina.  We spring Andrew loose tomorrow.   It took a long time today doing paperwork because adoptions are so rare here; none of the officials were comfortable doing the paperwork because they had never done it before.

There were many tearful goodbyes from the older girls at the Internat.  Katerina did very well all afternoon, even though she skipped her nap.  She was drinking in all the sights, sounds, smells, and experiences of the city.   She ate a good dinner of borscht and carrot/garlic salad.   We rode the bus to our host family's house. 

This is when Katerina finally broke down in sobs.  The poor girl - she is separated from her "older sisters" and her world is turned upside down. 

We Skyped later with Elena and Juliana.  This was there first chance to see their new sister.  Elena was only briefly interested.  Juliana waved and waved and was very excited.  Juliana blew Ezra a kiss and Katerina responded by kissing Ezra all over the face.  I sense some sibling rivalry already starting.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

An Awesome Day

We had a great day meeting with our new children.  Or rather, we didn't spend much time with the children.  We spent a lot of time with the entourage.

When we adopted Elena and Juliana - they had no supporters.  There was no fanfare or excitement.  They had nobody who was interested in their lives.   We adopted naked children.  They were not even allowed to take a diaper with them.  We had to provide everything.

This time is different.  Katerina has many surrogate mother/sister figures at the orphanage.  Andrew has a network of people in many countries who have been fighting for him.  He also has godparents who have been helping supply him with food and supplies.

We first went to Katerina's orphanage.  Many of the older girls had gone shopping at the bazaar.  They bought many clothes and outfits for her.  They gave us a bag of clothes she had at the orphanage.  Her favorite teacher bought her a dress also.  Katerina's grandmother also came and gave us a lace doily she had made, as well as more clothes for Katerina.  The girls had even bought an outfit for Andrew, and hair accessories for Juliana and Elena. 

Mmmmmmm........   apple!
Katerina, Kelly, and Katerina's grandmother

At Andrew's orphanage, his godmothers (and one of their sisters) came to visit Andrew.  They brought an outfit for Andrew, including a traditional Ukrainian shirt to match his eyes.  They brought a book of traditional folk stories in Ukrainian and English.  They brought some bubbles and a toy and told us to take his walker when we left.  

The climate is so completely different.  These children have had people loving them and caring for them.  It makes such a tremendous difference in the lives of these little ones to have had the care and sponsorship that these children have had. We are blown away by the generosity that all these people have shown to our children (and to us).

Nurse feeding Andrew
Helena (one of his godmothers) holding Andrew
Andrew looking cute

Oksana (sister of godmother) playing with Andrew and bubbles

 Stuffed animals are everywhere in Ukraine.  The buses and taxis each have one as a talisman / good luck charm.  Given the state of some of the vehicles, the plushie talisman is the only thing keeping the thing together.  The orphanages have many plushies in the play room.  Some even have the neon plushies the size of a grown man that usually inhabit carnivals.    Anyway - the plushies range from "Ohh.... so adorable"

to slightly creepy....

to more creepy knockoffs of trademarked characters.....

to the run-away-fast creepy thing below.  Would you let this thing babysit your child?   Thought not.   The flash actually makes it a LOT cuter/less creepy.  Seriously - this thing weirds us out every time we visit the playroom.  

The icing on the cake is some of the pavilions at the orphanage. They get the toys down occasionally so that the children can play with them.  When not being used - the toys are hung from the roof in a macabre display.  We like to imagine the town drunk staggering into the pavilion at night only to wake up and see all the beady eyes staring down at him. 

We will  end with cute.  Andrew fell asleep in the swing today with a hedgehog plushie.  


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The calm before the chase

We sat and watched the cars again today.  Andrew made the "tbbtbthhht" noise when he saw a car.  One time I was not paying attention and he said "tbbttbbtt" - yep, there was a car that he had spotted.

He especially liked the yellow city buses.  He started saying "buh" when he saw a bus (or also a delivery van), but not saying it with small cars. 

Tomorrow we start the paper chase - racing all over town doing paperwork.  Hopefully "Gotcha" day will be soon.
Here Andrew is practicing the dance move "The Sprinkler". Sadly, we are not making this dance move up.

Many of the trees at the orphanage look like they have eyes. "Hooom,  Hoooom". 

Here he is raising his arm for Daddy to kiss it.  Daddy has no problems with it. 

He turned his hat sideways all by himself.

Visting Andrew

It is good to have fluffy hair.  Father and son agree.

Andrew likes to watch cars.  He is interested in seeing all the different types of cars drive past the orphanage.  "Thhhhhbbbbttt" he says, imitating a car engine.

 We  couldn't visit Katerina today (Monday) because it was a holiday.  We did visit Andrew.  Andrew is starting to copy us on words.  Today, he said "Mama" "Dada" and "no".   We don't think he knows what they mean (except no), but he is copying the sounds when we talk to him.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Visiting Andrew

Here our pictures from visiting Andrew. Sadly, we can not visit Katerina on the weekends.

One of Andrew's supporters sent him a toy.  We thought it would be fun for him - it has a drum, and sliders, and a cymbal.  The first time he saw it, he was terrified.  And the second....  and the third....  and the fourth... Little by little we have introduced the toy to him.  He is no longer scared of it.  He now enjoys playing with the toy.  Life would be very difficult in America if he is scared of toys.

He loves playing on the tablet.  His accuracy is improving.  He especially likes watching Taylor Swift.

Andrew continues to improve in sitting up.  He has also getting much better at holding on to us with one arm.  He is making more and more "babble" talking sounds the longer we have been with him.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Successful Court

No more aliases.  No more "Bowen" or "Rini".
We are now the proud parents of Andrew Justice and Katerina Rose.
After a two hour court grilling, we have come out OK on the other side.  All of our requests were granted.
1) That we would be allowed to adopt Katerina and Andrew
2) That we would be named as their parents
3) That their names would be changed (slight Anglicizations and middle names).
4) That the 10-day waiting period would be waived.
We will not know this side of eternity how many people were praying for us.  We know that there was a network of hundreds(even thousands, if her English is right) of people praying for us in Ukraine and Russia, plus our friends and family back home. 
Everything went smoothly.  Thank you for your prayers and support.

When Andrew was born, his father gave his mother an ultimatum - "Choose him or me!" he said, and she left her baby.  He was named Andrew (by the hospital staff? (we aren't sure) after the recent commemoration of St. Andrew.  When he heard this, Andrew's father rushed back to the hospital.  "My name is also Andrew" he said.  "I will not have that (his son) sharing my name!  Call him "Arthur" instead!"    Before this day, Andrew was one of very few Ukrainians to have a middle name - Andrew Arthur.  Today - Andrew is like most Americans in that he has a first and a middle name.  This time, however, he has a name from parents who love him.

The funny moment was when the judge, at about the 90 minute mark, after having read the letters of recommendation from the orphanage and the Institution, indicated the 1.5" stack of apostilled and translated documents on his desk.  "There are a lot of documents here......    is everyone OK with skipping reading all of them aloud?" (They documents have all been read by the proper parties in advance).   He went around the room, everyone stood up, said their name and title, and "yes".  Otherwise we would have been there for another three hours.   And yes, we do know some families that have had the entire stack read in court - all the way down to the medical report (new parents' height, weight, eye color.......)

We can pick up the court decree on Wednesday because Monday is a government holiday.  We hope to get a lot of the paperwork done next Wednesday.  We don't know when Gotcha Day will be yet.    
Well, here are some pictures.  We can now post pictures of Katerina Rose.  She will probably end up as Katy or Katy-Rose.

Not to be left out in photos with his new name, here is Andrew Justice.

We also saw a hedgehog at Andrew's orphanage.  


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The best presents are those.....

 ...  that you make yourself.    "Bowen" marked his territory with Kelly today.

Here's a flower!

"Bowen" is back in the orphanage.   Yay!

We let him play in the sandbox.  He had great fun scooping the sand out.

We met with his two godmothers.  It is very encouraging to meet with them.  There is an entire network of people who have been helping buy clothes and food for him.  They have been praying for him and helping him when he has been sick.  It has made such a difference in his life.   He can't fight for himself yet.  He can not advocate for himself.  There is a world of difference between him and our daughters when we brought them home; no one advocated for them.  We are very grateful for all the work that people have put into this child long before we were involved in the adoption process.