Saturday, November 29, 2008

Weekend Update

We spent all day today (Saturday) with Nadia & Kolya. Julia became sick and had to stay behind. We took them into Kiev and wore them out. Both kids slept in the taxi all the way home (1 hour due to traffic). We had another great day. We may be out of communication until Thursday because we are traveling back down to Kherson for a few days. We are in the 10 day wait, we didn't get it waived. A week from Tuesday,we will take custody of the kids for good. We had planned long ago to do our mission work a few days during this period and Rimma will be leaving for a singing concert in Crimea next weekend. We want to spend the afternoons with her and during the day we will be visiting the SB kids that came on this year's UOO camp. So it's another chance to do God's work and leverage UOO's prescence into the Kherson orphanages. Besides, I gotta get rid of the four giant bags of goodies that all of our wonderful volunteers sent with us. I've not had to lug it around but a couple of times. But, it has been sitting in the corner of our room, reminding us of it's existance everytime I trip over it.

Love to all. Thank you for your kind comments. It is a comforting blanket to us. We will be home soon. I'll talk to you late next week if we can't get on-line in Kherson. ~ Felix ~

Friday, November 28, 2008

Love Fest!!

I'll explain the title later, it was Heidi's idea. But it is fitting of the day we had! For those on the edge of your seats, we are officially the parents of Nadia Isabella, Julia Grace & Nikolai "Kolya" Daniel! It took only 15 minutes and we were outa there! Our facilitator wrote up a few letters waiving our rights to have the event recorded. You see, we found out that they are required to record the reading of everything, dossier, adoption papers, SDA stuff, etc, and this is what takes 1-2 hours in most cases. In our case, we waived it and got down to business.

We went to the courthouse building where, on the second floor, there were these sets of doors. Behind each door was a courtroom which resembled more of an office than a court. In our "office" was a female judge wearing jeans, a prosecutor wearing Gucci boots, and two court "witnesses" . The witness closest to me (just two feet away) was surfing the internet the whole time. I believe he was looking for a pet, perhaps a dog, but I digress. Accompanying us into the hearing was Galina the orphanage director, Olga our facilitator, Anna the district social worker (who I won over two weeks earlier) and the three kids.

They asked me to stand, state my name, state my address, state my occupation and my year of birth. Heidi stood next and they asked here the same questions. Next, they asked us why wanted to adopt and we told them. We were next asked if we were made aware of the children's medical conditions (which were none, except the outlandish stuff in their files). Next, they asked if Galina and Anna approved of the adoption and they said yes. Our kids were asked to come over and stand next to the judges desk (desk, not a big podium thing like in the US...did I mention that we were in an office?) one at a time. They were asked questions like, "Did your birth parents ever come see you?", "Do you want these people to be your parents?", "Do you want to be adopted?" The kids all wanted to be with us and the judge joked with Kolya "What if the the girls go and you stay" He smiled and said he was going, too. The judge had a sweet tone of voice with him and you could tell that all the ladies in the room adored him. The prosecutor never said a word!

The judge said a few more words to us that Olga translated, but I don't remember them now. I was too caught up in the moment and I was enjoying the glowing smiles and hapiness of our children. Just like that the witness settled on the black labrador, the Gucci boot girl collected her papers and the judge said, "Congratulations, you are now the parents of these three children."

Everyone went outside and we took a few photos, sorry I haven't downloaded them from the camera yet. We loaded up into Sasha's BMW and Olga's Skola and off we went to lunch. Everyone enjoyed a great meal with salads, a maincourse (I had Chicken Kiev) and soda. Galina ordered a bottle of champagne and she toasted to our new family. I told ya she rocks!

Next, we were instructed that a celebration party was in order back at the Diestski Dom with the staff. We needed to stop and get three more bottles of champagne and three boxes of various chocolates. We did and we were show into the directors office for the bash. The entire staff (I counted 11 ladies, caretakers, cooks, nurses) with Heidi and I and our three kids were treated to a little party for the next two hours. Males in this country are expected to pour the drinks, a lesson I learned at last night's Thanksgiving party. We popped a few corks and I filled the glasses. That's where the LOVE FEST started!!

It seems that we are Diestski Dom favorites around here. Galina and her whole staff have been incredibly kind to us the whole time we have been here. They made toast after toast to us and said that they had always hoped that a family would adopt these three, but that they had honestly given up and hope that this would happen. They were teary-eyed as they explained that noone had ever shown children so much love as we have and that these three were lucky ones, we explained that were the lucky ones instead. Nadiya said that she was happy, Julia snuggled with her mom and "Little Man" Kolya sat with me. Everyone took turns thanking us for giving these three a chance. They said that they were impressed that we loved them the minute we visited them and that we didn't ask many questions and never took them to a doctor to have them examined. They were happy that we accepted them as they were. I explained that we knew we wanted them during our SDA appointment and we fell in love with them at first sight. More tears emerged as a told them that my children will be brought up to be proud of who they are, proud of their former culture, never ashamed of where they came from, and encouraged to keep all three of their present languages. I made the same promise to the staff that I did to the children when they decided on us: We will always love them, we will always protect them and we will always take care of them. Love Fest was in full swing!

By the way, it seems that the last post about the "Mama & Papa" thing was not needed. When you're bored and evaluating every circumstance you can analyze every silly detail about everything. I should have waited, the kids surely were. After court it has been "Momma this" and "Papa that". In fact, Kolya calls me Papi and Heidi, Momi...all the time. I have been told that this is endearing terms to them. It's like Daddy and Mommy instead of Mother and Father. (Perhaps my Russian speaking friends can tell me if I'm correct on the Momi & Papi explanation.) In any case, it feels great and is way cool!

~ Felix ~

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Court Date!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. It is already Thursday here as I type at my ole internet cafe! Currently it is about 1pm (3am Colorado time) and I'll need to be quick because I need to leave and pick up the kids for our daily 2pm roundup.

We got our court date notification this morning! We will go to court with all three kids for a 10:30am hearing this Friday, November 28th! Then starts the 10 day waiting period. Things kinda slowed down for us the past two weeks, so we have been using this downtime by spending time each day with the kids. I mentioned earlier our daily 2-6pm routine.

We are growing closer together as a family. At first the kids would "umm"at us or clap their hands to get out attention. They aren't ready to say Momma & Papa just yet. Heidi and I quickly nipped this in the bud the first day by telling them that they could call us Heidi and Felix or Mama & Papa, but call us something. We didn't like the initial "umms" and clapping. Kolya resorted to whislteling at me the first couple of days. That boy can do the "hail a taxi" whistle, something I have never mastered. But, I thought it a little disrespectful, even if he didn't see it that way. No whislteling at Dad!

The past week, however, the kids refer to us as Mama & Papa when talking to each other about us or when refering to us with other adults. Little Julia has started calling Heidi, Mama. She still calls me Felix, as do Nadia and Kolya. Nadia slipped a couple of times and called me Papa one day. So, they are adjusting. Just a couple of weeks ago, they never dreamed that a family was coming for them. We were the first parents to see their files and the first to ever visit them. So, they had no idea of Ukrainian adoption timelines.

I agree with Heidi about their use of Mama and Papa. She reasoned that they are a little hesitant perhaps because when they do, they will have let go of the only parents they knew before. It can be hard for an orphan to make this transition. Rimma and Zina have done it and they call us Mama & Papa, but they have had time, and both have spent time in our home. A little time will help and before long I'll get tired of hearing them say, "Dad, can I have some money" or "Dad, can I borrow the car"! Until then, Heidi and I do secretly yearn for those titles to come from their voices. Those are words we have waited since our wedding to hear.

We have a family to spend Thanksgiving with and we have lots to be thankful for. We will write to you all post-court. Have a blessed holiday. Happy Thanksgiving from Ukraine.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Exceeding Capacity

OK, I know I promised you a little story about each kids personality this time, but I am in the Kiev train station again at the internet cafe. We are here to see Zina as she and several orphans come up to practice the Russian shoemaker play. They will leave at 3 am this Friday and perform this play at several Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and New York locations. We will take the train into Kiev each morning then jump on the Metro to the CBN offices for the next two or three days to see her. At around 1pm or so, we will repeat the process to get back in time to pick up the three kids.

My title has to do with the phenomenon of Ukrainian travel. I have ridden the Metro and at rush hour, you can be very close with people you have never met. But nothing compares to this morning's train ride. WOW! Now I know how sardines feel! We were quite literally squeezed into the train by the mob of people getting in the door. I spooned with several babuskas and honery men all the while not knowing what to do with my hands! If I left them by my side, they were definately stuffed next to someones "nether regions". If I raised them, I groped some poor babuskas "blouse area" in the process of getting them out of the previously mentioned "cracks". I told Heidi what was going on during this time (she was somewhere under my arm pit) and we both laughed histerically as we went bumpty-bump down the tracks. Great time!

The same kinda thing has happened to us on the Metro if and when we went during rush hour. One has to let go of personal space in this country. You are expected to participate in this version of personal closeness if you want to traverse the city with 6 million of your closest friends. Don't think that the little Marshukas (small city buses that take people from town to town, not to be confused with city buses) are any different either. I counted 45 people getting into our 35 seat marshuka from Kherson to Odessa last April.

It should be noted though, that I actively participate in the exceeding of capacity with our taxi driver. Who wants to pay double for the same ride? I have learned from the driver that the car is a 1965 Russian auto and that the right side brakes do not work. This car and I were "born" the same year! When the driver stops, the car veers left and he steers right. We repeat this overloading everyday with three adults and three kids in a car built for only four people. Do you guys remember the Datsun B210 (I had one)? This car is about that size. I wonder everyday if we will stop at the next intersection or if the left side brakes give out. Luckly, this driver is a kindly old man who I know can use the grivna we are paying. He drives slow and the price is right.

It only costs about $5 per trip for the taxi, about .40 cents for the metro, and .50 cents for the train to Kiev. For those prices, I'll gladly spoon with my buddy Igor, Ivan, Sasha.....

~ Felix ~

Monday, November 24, 2008

Roge' Cinco

Someone used the phrase "Roge' Cinco" on a comment the other day and I think it fits us well. We had a great weekend with the kids on Saturday. We kept them from 9am until 6pm. Saturday, we bought some clothes for them. Sunday we went to Kiev in the morning for service at the international church, so we didn't get back until 2-ish. Karen came back with us to Boiarka and took this picture, out first family picture. This is not the only shot taken, but it is the only one where all five of us are looking at the camera, smiling, or not picking our nose (OK, i'll try not to do that in the future). BTW...what is it with Ukrainian kids and the peace sign/rabbit ears pose? I couldn't stop Rimma and Zina, I couldn't stop Tanya and Luba, and now this bunch. Everytime we had a good shot, someone would throw it up. Oh well, here's your obligatory rabbit ears photo.
We are in the pre-court phase of our adoption. We had hoped for this to go quickly too, but we are on pace for an average SDA apointment to court date timeline. I call it the pre-court 10 day wait (you all know there is a mandatory 10 post-court wait). If all goes well, we should go to court this Friday. Our judge is waiting until the SDA sends all of their paperwork to her and the SDA said that they will be done on Wednesday. Olga hopes that the judge will stick to her earlier prediction of "court on Friday".
We spend everyday with the kids and they are wonderful. We have English lessons everynight and then we eat dinner together. The kids are cute as the have come to expect us to do certain things at certain times. They know to hold hands and bow heads during dinner prayer and they know to wash hands everytime the come in from the outside (a Kari lesson we learned) and before and after dinner. There are so many of these Roge-isms that they are picking up...and that's great! Part-time parenting is breaking the ground for all of us as we all learn what it will be like in the full-time future.
I don't have much time today, so I need to be getting back to our apartment to catch our routine 2pm taxi to the Detski Dom to pick up the kids. It will be another "down week" until court so in the next post or two, I'll tell you a little about each child's personality, likes and dislikes. See you then!
~ Felix ~

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Date with a Princess

So I will dance with Cinderella, while she is here in my arms
‘Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don’t want to miss even one song
‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone …
- Steven Curtis Chapman

This past Saturday, I had a date with a princess, two in fact. Heidi and I spent Friday with our kids and we told them that we would return on Sunday to see them. We explained that we were going to see two girls that lived in Kherson that we wanted to add to our family one day, girls that would be their sisters once a few big hurdles were removed. So, we said goodbye around 6 pm and took a cab to the Kiev train station for the overnight passage to Kherson.

While at the station we ran into Vika, who is also in Rimma and Zina’s groupa. We knew that we would see her because we had talked to Karen Springs and she explained that by coincidence, Vika and a chaperone would be there. Vika had traveled to the US embassy for a Visa appointment. She, along with Zina and a few other orphans, will travel to the US for a few weeks to do the Russian Shoemaker play. This was something that we had already known about as well. Our window of opportunity to see Zina would be but a few short days, and it was her birthday on Saturday. Our little angel turned 13, only three more years before all will be lost on her chance to be with us.

We had hoped to meet up with Vika and her chaperone Saturday morning in the Kherson train station, but we somehow the issue got lost in translation. So, at nine-ish in the morning, we stood at the station hoping to go with them. After awhile, we decided to get a taxi to the internat, but we didn’t have the address in Russian. By memory, Heidi transcribed the address into Russian and we explained to the driver that we wanted to go to the internat on Pugachova St. He understood us and off we went. I immediately recognized the route and helped direct us straight there. As we pulled up I saw two girls hanging out by the front gate, watching every car pass by. When I exited, Zina saw me immediately and began running at top speed into her Daddy’s arms. Vika was close behind. Zina knew we were coming, had received permission to go “out on the town” with us, and was waiting for her family. Not a minute later, Rimma came running from the the corner of the building, straight into Heidi’s arms. A family had been reunited.

The girls took us up to their rooms to introduce us to their English teacher, Katya, who would be their chaperone for our trip. She is a very nice young blond Ukrainian woman about in her mid-twenties and she is the girl’s favorite teacher. Upon meeting us she said that we would have a special meeting at four o’clock at the orphanage. We would need to be back in time for it. There, we would be presented with some good news.We didn’t have time to waste hanging around the internat, we had girlie-shopping to do. We had preplanned a little shopping excursion, so it came as no surprise that Dad’s wallet would get a workout. We also knew that we would have a pizza party for Zina at a restaurant of her choosing, so you see, we had to get going, I was told!

The first order of business was a dress for Rimma’s singing concert in Crimea that was coming up. “I have to have a dress, Papa!” We stopped at a bridal dress hop and I immediately knew this was gonna cost me! They brought out a few formal dresses for my sweetie to try on and I enjoyed watching four Ukrainian store assistants dote and cater to an orphan, as if she were the president of the country. Dress number two captured the attention and hearts of everyone and there was no sense even trying on the rest. For a mere $75 USD, standing before me was my first glimpse of a real-life Cinderella. Plucked from her bane existence as an orphan and shining like the diamond that she is, I teared up.

I composed myself, paid, and we left with the dress. Next up, jeans for Vika that the Carman’s had sent money to buy. Vika was on a mission, she knew where and what kind of jeans she wanted and with the leftover money we were able to buy her a belt, too. Her ensemble completed, we moved on to the next task.

We took a break from the shopping to have the pizza party for Zina. She chose a very nice Italian restaurant and we ordered four pizzas with salads. Our friend and interpreter from our April trip, Sergey, joined us for lunch, too. We had a pleasant lunch with the three girls, Katya, and Sergey. Rimma discovered our video camera and started shooting footage. The camera is new, I don’t know a thing about it yet, but Rimma worked it like a pro. These kids are so smart!During dinner I leaned over and asked Zina if Ukrainian birthdays were like American birthdays…where there would be a cake and she would blow out candles. She told me, yes. I asked her if anyone had made the cake, yet. She said no. I asked her if a cake could be purchased from a local store. She smiled and knew where I was headed with my questioning. I told her, “Let’s go find that cake!”

Four o’clock was approaching and we needed to get back to the orphanage for our important meeting. We had our cake and candles in hand when I asked Zina if there were anything in the market she needed. She “hemmed and hawed”, being the typical “I don’t need anything” Zina that she is when Sergey translated, “I need a school bag, a cool one that hangs like a purse”. A new blouse and a school bag later, we made our way to the internat. My wallet was smoking, but still intact. Overall, it was less than a $200 day. Not bad considering I had been shopping with five females!

Next, we had our important meeting at the orphanage. Right on time at four, the girls dismissed themselves and we started our talks. We learned some great news! Rimma has finally been registered and has in fact turned down two Ukrainian families that came to adopt her because she wanted to wait for her Mama and Papa in Colorado! We did not tell her to turn down opportunities, rather, we prayed and decided to leave it up to the girls whether they wanted to go to a home or wait for us. This shows Rimma’s commitment to us as her family and in fact, she calls us that all the time. You may remember that she had doubts after she returned to Ukraine after she stayed with us. If she will wait, we will return for her.

That was the good news; unfortunately, Zina’s case continues to wait on a decision from the courts to decide if she should be put on the adoption registry. We found out in the meeting that the courts have had three years to make a decision about her status, but still they have not made a decision. We have the support, no doubt, of the orphanage to have both girls and they want us to have them. This however, doesn’t help the fact that Zina continues to wait for an unexplainable bureaucratic process that has her locked out of adoption. This makes no sense! We again received promises that they will do all that is possible to get her through the courts. I worry that we will never have the opportunity to adopt her. I explained to them that the US will not allow us to adopt her after she turns 16. This perked some attention as this was not common knowledge to them. Heidi cried as I pled for them to take charge and push the issue. “Time is running out for Zina and it is breaking her and our hearts”, I told them. I told them that I was tired of disappointing my daughter, they needed to look her in the eye and see the hurt. They agreed to sit down with Zina and discuss her situation with her.

After the meeting concluded we left for Zina’s room to continue her birthday party. The girls were waiting for us and we shared the news with them. This is when Rimma told us that she had turned down two families. Heidi had asked me if she could speak to the girls alone, one at a time with Sergey. I knew this was the “big elephant in the room” talk that they would have to hear from us one day, and that day had arrived. All along we have told the girls that we would be adopting more children and they have been ok with that, even encouraging. We don’t keep secrets from each other in this family, but it is hard to get explain things to someone who is thousands of miles away and who doesn’t completely understand your language. We knew we would need to look them in the eye and tell them in person that they would not be the first children to be adopted and that we were in fact in the country to take home their new brother and sisters.

Heidi said that they both accepted this fact and she told them that we would be bringing them home now if it were up to us. They asked a few questions about the other kids and things seemed to go well. Heidi also explained that Rimma was registered and Zina was not. Zina said that if we got the opportunity to adopt Rimma, we should come and take Rimma home first because it would be good for her to be in our family and start learning English. Zina said she knew that we would come back for her, and she had Vika and other friends to keep her company. I almost lost it when I heard this. Heidi told Zina that it would break her heart to bring Rimma home and leave Zina behind. It would be hard for all of us to make that decision, one I’m not sure I could make, if it comes down to that. Please pray for Zina’s registration and keep it at the top of your prayer list. Rimma was registered due to our prayers, and Zina needs our help now.

Time came to light the candles and sing happy birthday. The lights were dimmed, the candles were lit, and right then I saw it again. In the soft hue of the candlelight I saw my second Cinderella with a smile on her face as her friends and family paid homage to her day. She looked ecstatically happy and I wondered if this was her first ever birthday party of this magnitude. I said a little prayer as she blew out her 13 candles and I thanked God that I got to witness this special day. I asked her if she made a wish and she said yes, of course! I was smart enough not to ask and she knew wishes kept secret come true.

What do you think she wished for?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Back in Cyberspace!

Whoo-hoo, we're back on the internet. After searching for days here in Boiarka (yes, I misspelled it earlier with a Y in it) we found an internet cafe! Our gracious Boiarka guardian angels, Becky and Nadya (not our Nadya), let us use their internet at home to post once or twice. Now we can walk just 15 minutes down the road to get on-line at the internet cafe. We will post daily if we have down time. When adoption work happens, we will of course be working that day and we will get back to ya.

We should find out soon when our court date will be. This whole week has been a blessing. We have a fabulous place to stay, American missionaries to talk to, a cooperative director, and 500 channels of TV! Every single middle eastern, African, Slavic, or Latin country is represented...several stations each! And yes, we are getting some good English stations too! The school we where we are staying has class during the day. Today, Heidi and I were guest speakers during a "middle school" English class. The children were adorable as they used their English skills on us, asking questions and answering our questions. Two nights ago, we were guest speakers during two different adult English classes. One was advanced and the other group was intermediate level. So, we are having fun, passing the time, enjoying good company and good food. We may move here! Just kidding!

Here's our present schedule. Most mornings, Heidi wakes up and starts breakfast for us while I snooze another hour or so. We then run errands or walk around the town looking for things. We have instituted the "Twyla Barrett" method of shopping when we don't have Becky. We open a door, peak in, and if it has what we need, we stay! Kudos to you, Twyla, we learned from the best! We have been to the bank, the open air market(s), the grocery stores. We usualy return around noon and we hang out until the kids get home from school, which is around 2:30-ish. Becky has been gracious, serving as taxi driver in her nifty Daewoo, for the past few days. But, we need to wean ourselves from doing that. We will start using the taxi today, but it has been nice finding out about the kids as Becky translates and has a way with kids...they open up to her and us and we have learned a lot. We have to pick up the kids from the orphanage at 3pm everyday. It's kinda like being at home with kids, except we give 'em back each night! We have the kids everyday from 3-6 pm at which time we reverse the process and drop them off. During family time we always have dinner together and then we do English work together and have a little play time. Heidi was exhausted last night so we watched "The Incredibles" in English with them and we got halfway through it before we headed back to the orphanage. Hey, American movies are English lessons right? All work and no play... A few minutes to 6pm we load up and drop off the kids and it is hugs and kisses all around. We have complete trust from the director and she agrees that we need this time to bond as a family. The kids go upstairs to do their homework and get ready for bed, we leave and usually head home where I watch a movie (we brought 20 or so). Heidi usually falls asleep during it which is why she always wakes up before me...or maybe it's because I'm being lazy! We get up the next day and repeat the process. Each day we get an update from Olga, our translator/facilitator, on where we are with the adoption. So far, so good!

For those of you have asked, the kids go to school outside of the orphanage during the day and return home to the orphanage every afternoon around 2:30. So it is an Dietski Dom (children's home), not an Internat (boarding school) like Rimma and Zina's school.

Monday, we had to come up with the names of the children for the court documents. They will be:

Nadia Isabella Roge'
Julia Grace Roge' (Yoo-lia sound at home, Julia in school)
Nikolai Daniel Roge' (Nickname Kolya at home, eventual shortening to Cole perhaps)

We don't know what the director will allow for the weekends yet, but I assume that it will be more of the same, just that we will have all day instead of three hours. We will "Metro" it into Kiev for church with Karen on Sundays before kid pick-up.

I had a post ready for this past weekend with Rimma and Zina ready to go. I used our laptop to compose it and put I put it on a thumb drive to upload. I was eager to tell you about it and since we hadn't found internet yet, I wrote it on MS Word. Well, for some reason, it won't open here. They have Word and these are new computers, but for some reason, I can't figure it out yet because the problem pop-up window is in Russian...hmmmnn. I knew that I should have saved it as a text file! I'll work it out and post it up for you along with a picture of them. Be warned though, grab you tissue! I can get mushy when talking about my girls!

All for now, we'll let ya know something as soon as we do. It is going well, though, so don't worry about us. I had hoped to drop a few lbs here but there is abundant good food on every corner. Pass the Chicken Kiev, bashalsta!

~ Felix ~

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Boyarka Thus Far

Backtracking to Monday, we packed our bags and moved from Karen’s apartment. Sasha our NASCAR driver and Olga our translator picked us up at 9:00. It took us 75 minutes to get across town to the District office to drop off documents…another step in the process to obtain a court date. From the District office it only took about 20 minutes to get to Boyarka. Yep, the town we are staying in is called Boyarka. Sasha and Olga dropped us off at our new home. Karen arranged for us to stay in a private apartment above a Christian school. The school’s English teacher, Becky, is from Mississippi and she has a huge heart for orphans. Becky explained to us that the school’s founder is a local Ukrainian home builder. He created the Christian school as a tithe. Each year he donates 10% of his business earnings to the construction and operation of the school. Folks, it’s a really nice place, God is taking care of our needs!

After the kids got out of school, Becky drove us to the orphanage. She was excited to meet the director, Galina, so that she has more opportunities to serve and help those in need. Becky could tell right away, too, that this orphanage was not the norm. It is clean, well-kept, and filled with a caring spirit. As we were headed out with Nadia and Kolya, Galina told us not to hurry back. She added, “See you this evening!” Wow! More freedom with the children! So we made a quick plan to pick up Julia, take the children grocery shopping and head back to the apartment.

We asked the kids their opinion of whether they liked the plan, and none of them had a strong opinion. I asked if they would like me to cook them dinner, and if they liked eggs, but again, they didn’t have an opinion. The only thing they were firm on was “we don’t want to go back to the orphanage!” Becky asked Kolya specifically if he wanted to eat dinner at our home, and his answer was, “Whatever Nadia decides is fine for me.” He tends to defer to her on most things.

While the girls and I started grocery shopping, Felix experienced one of Kolya’s “firsts.” Felix and Kolya walked to a bank down the street to change dollars to grivna, and Becky translated for Kolya that that was the first time he had ever been in a bank!

Nadia was very helpful grocery shopping. I gave her my English grocery list, and she looked for each item. She could read the words milk, bread, fruit and sausage on her own! Nadia also helped me select the right brand of each item when I could not read the label myself. She is quite the little mother hen for the children, and she really enjoyed taking care of me, too, at the grocery store. One of our early challenges will be to wrestle the role of Mother from her as she has had to be their leader and Mom for their whole life.

Next stop…home! When we arrived back at the school, the building was empty. The children insisted on lugging the groceries upstairs for us. I cooked our first family dinner and Felix worked with the kids on a short English lesson. Julia kept drifting back into the kitchen, though, to sneak cheese and sausage and to try to help me. Nadia wanted to help, too, but I kept shooing them out of the kitchen. I told them, “Mama cooks!” over and over again. These children have had to fend for themselves for so long, so it is important that they learn to allow someone to take care of them.

We've been blessed to find these wonderful children!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quick update

Just a quick update on our happenings. We are working on a long term solution for internet. So be patient with our posting. We should have it worked out tommorow. The reason for this is because we have moved to the town where the kids are located, just outside Kiev. It's like Broomfield/Superior is to Denver. We live at a super-clean, very nice third floor apartment with 4 bedrooms over a christian private school that is very near our kids..

We are fine, in fact, blessings continue to flow! Tonight, the director sent the kids home with us and we had family time and dinner together at our apartment before taking them home after a few hours. Did I tell ya the director is great! We have had the kids alone a few times before, but not at home! A mutual friend here has told that the director may be letting come home for weekends soon!

We went to see Rimma and Zina this past weekend. We had some very excited girlies! They ran at top speed to see Mama & Papa! I will blog seperately about this later. We need to leave our gracious host's home so they can go to bed and we can get home too.

I promise not to leave you hanging so long for the next post. We will also post some pictures soon to the photo link over there on the right side. Thanks everone, Dobre Noche (Good night).

~ Felix ~

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008


We went to see the kids again today with high hopes that they made a decision. We were given the library of the orphanage with blessings to keep the doors shut and be together in private. This is another blessing because usually when you show up at an orphanage, you get an audience. One by one the kids showed up and they drew some pictures for us to break the ice. We were getting good indications that they wanted us too, but our translator/facilitator had left to speak with the director and to give us time to be alone with them. When she returned we “popped” the question and we got a resounding, “Da!” Therefore, we have started the paperwork process and will start on the court date.

Hence, I feel confident enough to tell the kids names. Our oldest is Nadya (12), next comes Julia (11), and the caboose is Kolya (9). Each child opened up to us and showed their true personalities. We had each of them pegged except little Julia. She isn’t as quiet and shy as once thought, although she is the quietest of the bunch. In fact, she won the question competition with a total of 7 good questions for us. A couple of the questions were, “Are you still interested in adopting me and my brother and sister” and “Do you like me as a girl/daughter”? We of course said that we would be honored to be their parents.

I told them that I had three questions for them and each of them had to listen and give their answer. First, I asked them, “Do you promise to never use drugs?” Da! “Do you promise to never abuse alcohol?” Da! And finally, “Are your hearts open to having more brothers or sisters (Rimma & Zina) in the future?” Da! I watched them as they answered and I think it made them happy to know that drugs and alcohol would never break up their family again. Since the children have a church in their orphanage and regularly attend, I knew that they would be receptive to a Christian home, too.

Now for the kicker, we’ll call it another example of God’s work at hand. All of the kids know Spanish! Heidi knows enough Spanish to get by and I understand a little. The kids have spent some time on hosting trips to Spain and learned it there. It aids communication and since they know very little English and we know very little Russian, we speak in Spanish. How cool is that! Perhaps we will adopt some Russian speaking children from Mexico next time!

The children asked us to take them outside so we toured the grounds hand in hand. It was pitch black outside as we walked the grounds, but it didn’t matter. We had our kids and they had us. Each took turns snapping a few pictures before calling it a day. The director met us at the front door and asked us if we would like to take Julia back to the sanatorium ourselves. We walked over to the car and put Julia inside, but the director insisted that Nadya and Kolya accompany us as well. So off we go with three kids and no staff to who knows where. Did I mention that this director is great? She had all the documents ready to go for us to get the court date rolling, before the kids had agreed. She is very pro-adoption and family oriented, telling us that these kids need to be in a family rather than any orphanage. I can foresee her letting us take the kids on our own very soon. I let her know that I appreciate her trust and will not do anything to lose it. She likes us a lot. We will move to the town after we get back this weekend to be closer to the kids, although we are pretty close now. Karen found us a “deal” close to the orphanage.

We returned our angels to their temporary home and kissed them goodnight for the first time. They hugged us, confident that we would return the next day. We consider ourselves blessed to have had such a smooth process so far. Clearly ours and your prayers have been heard. Jesus is most certainly walking right next to us and these children.

I am considering a picture of them on the next post. Let me know your thoughts on that. I don’t think anything can halt God’s amazing work, so I have no fear of it now. The “Big Reveal” may come sooner than expected. God bless you all for staying with us and praying for us!

~ Felix ~

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

3 Angels - Revisited

So, it's 2 am here and I can't sleep! I thought I'd make myself sleepy by writing some more info about the kids. We didn't take the camera or video recorder on our first day, we wanted to make the situation as less stressful on the kids as possible.

Girl, 12, is the leader of the pack and playfully told us that the other two are the "naughty" ones. She has a quiet strength about her. She may be this way all the time or just during the meeting. If she says yes to us, the other two will be sure to follow suit. She is absolutely beautiful and smart too. She definately looks out after the others, as a big sister should. She became excited when we told her that we coach volleyball. She likes volleyball! Heidi has found her VB girl after all! She seems athletic and she is the size you would expect of a 12 year old.

Girl, 11, is darling too. She was the most quiet of the bunch and I heard her voice only once. She's a bit mousy and lets the others do any talking. However, in her defense, she was brought to us from the sanitorium because she felt a little under the weather. The director explained that the sanitorium is very close and is actually a hospital used by everyday citizens, but that the orphans go there free and have preference. If any of her children feel just the least bit sick, they go right away. The middle girl's hair had been cut shorter than her SDA pictures showed, but that's ok. I sat nearest her and occasionally I reached over and patted her on the knee, she smiled a little and responded correctly. When I wasn't looking at her, I could see her staring at me with my peripheral vision. We learned that she is an artist and has competed with her drawings and paintings, having won a recent international competition! (I already feel like a proud Dad, bragging on his kids). Lookout, we have an artist on our hands!

Boy, 9, is a favorite of the orphanage and staff. They say he has a comical side but is very obedient, calm, and smart. He excells academically and enjoys Math, he says. He too is an artist of sorts. He recently performed locally at a dance in Folk dance and some kind of "sport" dance thing. We weren't sure what that meant, but our translator said it was like a hip-hop routine. How is he, quite a cutie! He may perform for us tommorow, we will see. He smiled a lot and did the most talking, asking good questions. Bonus, he likes cats better than dogs, so our two Koshkas can stay.

The director told the kids that they should see us off, and they did. It was a good sign that The oldest girl and the boy stayed at the door while we drove away. (middle girl returned to the sanitorium). The girl waved to us as we left and kept doing so until we were out of sight. All in all, it was a great day!

So that's all for part deaux. Thank you for all of you encouraging comments. It is very important to receive those, so far from home. We are still staying with Karen. We will do so until the kids give us a yes at which point we will try and move closer to them. We promise to let you in on their names and post their pictures once we move through court. We will have the BIG REVEAL that day, so stay close!

P.S. We bought train tickets to travel down to see Rimma and Zina for Zina's birthday on Saturday. We will go on Friday night and come back Saturday night, spending only one day. We will return a couple of weeks later to go to the SB orphanage and deliver all the gifts from to the children of UOO's 2007 & 2008 camps.

~ Felix ~

Three timid Ukrainian Angels!

We met out kids today and we both teared up as we saw the face of Jesus in them. This is the awesome untalked about aspect of adoption and we experinced a feeling like never before, except when my bio children were born. We ran high on emotion during the whole visit and it was all we drempt of and more!

The day started with a visit to the regional director's office and they gave us permission to visit the orphanage. A social worker accompanied us as we made our way to the outskirts of Kiev. We were ushered into the director's office and interviewed by one the nicest lady I have ever met in Ukraine. She asked us lots of questions and was excited that Heidi was a professional "working mom" (she says doesn't meet many working moms). She occasionally held my hand and talked of her happiness that a couple would adopt three. She gave us a tour of the orphanage while our driver and a staff member went to pick up the kids from school (they go to school nearby, not at the orphanage). Folks, this is the nicest orphanage I think I have ever seen, and I've toured half-a-dozen or so! This lady spends every dime and nickel on the kids and in return, they have a pretty good life there! They even have a small stadium that was built by an Italian organization. Sorry, I digress. You want to hear about the kids! Here we go...

We first met the eldest girl (12) in the hallway and she is adorable! She was polite, a little reserved and of course quiet a bit nervous. A few minutes later, the youngest, a boy (9) was introduced to us. He was tthe same, quiet and shy, but engaging. After this, we were taken back into the directors office and there sat all three including the middle girl (11). We talked with them (well, we talked mostly) and they listened intently, looking us over and checking us out. It was a great experince. They shyly asked a few questions, then Heidi told them that they did not need to make a decision that day. She told them that we would return the next day and that there would be a "competition" . They should write down their questions for us and the child with the most questions would win a prize. They all grinned at each other and I knew that they would try and be the winner. (Actually, they will all get a prize, unknown to them). We ended the meeting with them after an hour and a half. I told them that we would always take care of them, always protect them, and always love them. Their eyes light up and they escorted us out to the car, waving as we drove out of sight. More next time...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Many thanks for all the kind comments! We're sorry to burst your bubble, but we are doing a switch-a-roo on ya! Clarifying information came to light and we are now going to see the three kids at the other orphanage, not the kidos at Zhytomer. The other three kids are right here, in an orphanage just 30-ish miles away. In fact, we may stay in Kiev and take the daily bus there! How cool! The town is a villiage just southwest of Kiev.

As said before, both sets of kids were equally pulling at our hearts, so we went with the two boys and a girl. We can't get into it right now, but we have switched to the other set, a boy and two girls. They will be a good fit and we hope that they are equally as excited when we meet them tommorow and that they say "YES"! They became available less than two weeks ago! I wondered why our dossier was going slow...Devine intervention, AGAIN!

I've got a quick, funny little story to tag onto the end here. Heidi and I met with Dr. Yuri on Sunday night to get a little information on Ukrainian medical diagnosis. We went to a little coffee shop right near the McDonald's in Independence Square (can you tell that this place is the center of the Universe for us) . He ordered coffee and asked for the same thing. Heidi ordered, I quote, "Hot Chocolate". After 15 minutes or so, the waiter brought out our coffee and Heidi's "Hot Chocolate". It was actually a cup of heated, thick, pudding-like substance with a spoon. Heidi glanced at me and I snickered and Dr. Yuri just kept on talking. It seems that here in Europe, they have hot chocolate (Heidi's pudding) and cocoa (which is what she really wanted). Karen explained this last night and we had a good laugh. On the train ride home, I was all "giddy, bubbly and bouncy" (my words). I couldn't understand why I couldn't stay still, stop laughing, and acting insane. Then it hit me, I don't drink coffee and I just had a huge dose of some form of Ukrainian speed! I've been quiet, resrved and even stoic like most of my fellow Metro riders (these folks never smile, talk, or look up while on the Metro). But on "coffee night" as it has become known as, I was the crazy smiling American. They probably thought I was drunk! Needless to say, I didn't get to sleep until way past midnight. I won't do that again.

We were told that we would get our referal this afternoon. We will travel to see the kids on Wednesday morning. Keep those prayers coming! Seriously, I feel the hand of God in all of this! Thanks, everybody!

~ Felix ~

Monday, November 10, 2008

SDA Appointment

Praise God! Our appointment rocked! The SDA worker, Maria, was very friendly and helpful. Olga was amazing during the appointment. Love her! But on to the reason you all are reading this post...

We've requested permission to visit three children (two boys and a girl) in the Zhytomer region. Maria tried to call the orphanage to find out whether anyone visits the children (which would hinder a successful adoption), but the right person at the orphanage wasn't available during our appointment. So we should hear this afternoon whether or not we'll get the referral. If not, we have a backup choice that we were equally pleased with. In fact, it was very hard to choose between the two sibling groups. Funny...we were only shown sibling groups of 3. I guess the SDA didn't want to let us get away with only 2 kids!

If all goes well, we'll get the referral tomorrow and drive to the Zhytomer region on Wednesday morning. We were hoping to get lucky and get the referral today, but that's ok. It was clear that God was smiling on us today. We could feel His prescense today during our appointment, as everyone was super eager to help us.

We also met Valentina, Alla and Kostya today - the whole team was there to root us on!

At yesterday's church service, the sermon was about God working miracles through people. The pastor said that we shouldn't pray for miracles, but that God works miracles through people who are open to hearing His word. Today felt like a miracle! Thanks for all your prayers.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ukraine Day 1

It is now 2:20 pm in Ukraine (4:20 am Denver)

Yep, we are here! We arrived safely with no problems. In fact, it was a breeze. There were only about 40 people on the flight from Munich, So when we arrived we didn't have a long line at customs. We had already filled out the paper on the flight and we were only four people deep in the immigration line. Next, we moved up to baggage claim. Heidi filled out the forms for customs while I retrieved the baggage. Our baggage was already waiting for us, just spinning around on the carousel. No one bothered us, no one tried to offer us services we didn't want, no one wanted forty dollars to help us, etc. We proceeded to the empty line at customs, a lady and a man said something to us in Ukrainian and Heidi offered them the forms she filled out. They didn't care, we were bothering their otherwise quiet shift at the customs desk. They handed the forms back to Heidi as fast as she handed them to her. In fact, they didn't look at them. No "let me see the bags", no "let me see the money" at all. We next moved onto the doors separating this area from the airport lobby area. Lots of people were gathered here and they were all looking for someone was dead quiet and I heard someone snicker and laugh at the Anerican with too much luggage. (We bought only two carry-ons for ourselves, but the gifts for the children took up three huge bags). In all, the entire"get off the plane and get to the lobby" took about 10 minutes...a record!

We met Olga (very pretty facilitator) in the lobby. She was a few minutes late because she too thought that we would take an hour getting through customs and immigration. She was there with Sasha our driver and he loaded us up in his nice swank BMW 500 series sedan. (Wow, i'm in the wrong business!). We sped through the streets of Kiev on our way to Karen's apartment. I wondered if we were late for something. I'm not sure how fast 180 km/hr is, but we were doing it at one point. We got to the apartment in fine fashion, though. The haul up five stories with bags like ours was the only hard part of the trip!

We met with Olga, paid her the balance we owed Valentina, paid Sasha for the Indy 500 experience and got down to brass tacks. She said we will do fine at the SDA and that she foresees us getting exactly what we want due to the nature of our request (1-3 kids, ages 4-14). We discussed a few aspects of the appointment and called it a night. Heidi and I went to bed at eight-ish Ukraine time and I slept until 8 am this morning. Heidi said she woke up at midnight and read for a couple of hours before sleeping again. Twelve hours sleep after missing a night's sleep was great!

This morning we went to worship service at Karen's church, navigating ourselves with the instructions left by Karen and our own understanding of the Ukraine transportation system. Boy, did that trip back in April payoff! We took trains and busses and made it to church just in time to see our friends from April. The pastor, Paul, gave a fine message from the book of John and Acts. We met Steve, Karen's uncle and he prayed over us and then he called an orphanage director he knew to see if she had kids that met our profile. How nice of him! We explained to him that we may use that info at the SDA tommorow.

Right now, we are in Independence square using the internet cafe right down the street from McDonald's. We are having fun and are very excited. Don't worry about us at all. We will try and post after the SDA appointment tommorow and let you know something. Oh, one more thing...Aimee, Heidi sucessfully negotioated the bathroom stall at McDonald's. Matt, I was on constant vigilence as my honey was there, noting the time in case I needed to jump to the rescue! All for now, bye!

~ Felix ~

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Arrived safely in Munich

Wie ghets, wos ist los? (forgive me, my German is rusty). We have arrived in Munich (about an hour ago) and it is 10:20 here but it is 2:18 back home. We both are very sleepy (I, Felix, do not sleep well sitting up). Heidi got a little more sleep than I did, but she is very tired too. We are at an airport restaurant called Weiners, Der Kaffee and I just enjoyed Viennese sausages with mustard for breakfast. Heidi had a little sandwich.

We met Heidi's family for dinner at a nice Italian restaurant outside Chicago's O'Hare airport. It was good to see Sally, Shannon and Max before we took off to the other side of the world. They gave us encouragement and hugs all evening as we spent time with them. Max took us back to the airport so we could catch our flight out.

We are gonna log off and find a nice quiet place to nap until our flight at 1pm. We will be in Kiev at 4pm (6am MST, Denver). No doubt we will snooze well tonight at Karen's place.

Aufweidesien!! (sp?)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ready, Set, GO!

We are heading out now, the big day is finally here! We will fly through Chicago and Munich en route to Kiev, Ukraine. We will arrive Saturday at 4pm. We will be staying at Karen Springs' apartment until we leave for the region which our children are living. As many of you know, we are going "blind", meaning we don't know the children yet. This is the case with most Ukraine adoptions. Rimma and Zina aren't registered properly and we will have to return in the future for them.

We will try and blog as much as possible. Of course, this is dependent on the region we are in and whether or not we have Internet service or an Internet cafe nearby. I'm sure we will be able to blog, don't worry.

We will visit Rimma and Zina when possible. Zina has a birthday coming up and she has already begged us to be there for it. We will visit the kids from Stara B. that came on the hosting trip this summer. I wish that I could adopt a few of them, but they have registration issues too. We hope to work with AGAPE and CBN ministries while we are there as well. We will keep you posted.

So, put your tray tables up and your seat backs in the forward position! We will be "wheels up" in a little while and on our way to meet our kids!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sweetly Broken

At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered
Jeremy Riddle
Sweetly Broken

Many of you know the chorus to the song, "Sweetly Broken". Heidi usually never asks for anything specifically for her birthday or Christmas, but this year she asked me for Jeremy Riddle's CD. She had found something that pinned down hers and our feelings on our faith and adoption.
Now, I don't want to alienate people who otherwise don't feel the same way or choose not to follow our path. We don't put people in different "stacks", Christian friends over here, non-Christian friends over there. We aim to be humble examples of our Father's Love to everyone. At our party on Saturday, our friends from many walks of life were present. And, I'm not above having a brew or two with friends. We love you all. I thought long and hard before naming our blog, but the truth is this is God's Plan. Heidi and I have struggles with letting go and following His plan, just like everyone else has struggles with aspects of their lives. We keep making mistakes, just like you do.
This past Sunday we ventured up to Ft. Collins to man our UOO booth for an adoption seminar and guest speaker engagement. Tom Davis, author of "Fields of the Fatherless" was the speaker. We set up the booth and answered many people's questions. We went solo because we were available that night (no kids, remember). It was a step out of our usual comfort zone, but it had to be done. It was an opportunity to advocate for the orphans of Ukraine in a forum that was geared towards caring for orphans worldwide. What better setting could you ask for, and it was fun! I met Tom, he signed my book, and we attended his talk. Tom spoke about his early struggles with not doing enough in his faith. He needed to do more than just sit in the pew on Sundays and he was looking for ways to engage his youth group in an affluent Dallas suburb. He took a group to a Russian orphanage and at that point he was "broken".
This is the case with Heidi and me. I appreciate all the nice comments, People say all the time that we are special, blessed people with hearts of gold. We thank you. The truth is, we are no different than you. We have been called to do this and we have been sweetly broken.
We leave in three days! Please continue to read our blog, think of us, and pray for a smooth adoption.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Our Last Hurrah

Last night we held our last hurrah party to celebrate our last weekend home without children! It was great to see everyone and catch up. The party was over by 9:00 p.m., so I guess we're already acclimated to life with kids! We made many promises to blog as much as possible during our adoption trip. Not knowing whether we'll have any or reliable Internet service, the promises all have a little asterisk* attached!

Thanks to everyone who brought gloves, hats and scarves for the orphans of Ukraine! More thanks to all the pen pals in Colorado sending letters and gifts with us for their UOO pen pals in SB. It will be a privilege to hand deliver the goodies to the orphans! Thanks also for the survival package from the Stoesz family! We'll try not to eat all the candy before we meet our kids!

Stay tuned...more coming soon about our evening at Timberline Church with Tom Davis (author of Fields of the Fatherless). Wow!

About Us

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Longmont, Colorado, United States
Heidi loves to play sand volleyball, sail and garden. Felix loves to fly at the local aeroclub, sail and fish.