Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Meet Cha Nebraska!

Heidi and I spend a weekend or week every summer with her sister Sally and family. Before we had kids, it was our way of having kids in our life and watching them grow. Some of my fondest memories are with Sally and Gary's kids; Shannon, Drew & Jessica. Some years they come to Colorado, other years we go to them in the Chicago area. Also, they own a nice cozy cabin near the Dells in Wisconsin...a great time to swim, boat, fish and catch up on summer reading. The kids are a blast to hang out with!

This year, neither family could make the entire trip to one another's state of residence. Due to other things going on, we had only a four day weekend available to us this year. So, the wives put their heads together and came up with a plan to meet each other half-way. One family would go west while the other would travel east. The half-way point for us all happened to be Omaha, Nebraska! The ladies reserved tee-pee camp sites for us at a very nice state park just outside of Omaha on the Platte River.

All-in-all, it was a great time. Anytime our two families get together is a great time. This was the first time that the new cousins met each other, too! They loved each other!

Our numbers are bigger now and when you factor in Jordan & Holli, we swelled to 12 this year. Our friend, Mayme, came down from Iowa, so we were 13 total. Imagine packing food, clothes and sleeping bags for 12 for four days! The girl's did a great job and we only ate out the one planned time, Saturday night. Amazing! The 12 passenger van we bought a couple of months back is turning out to be a wise move. It was a lot of fun to transport everyone together, everywhere we went. Gary joked that all we needed now was to mount pop-out stop signs and flashers to be a school bus.

When Sunday came and it was time to go, everyone was sad. The kids really bonded well with their new cousins and of course, we never want to leave the Gary & Sally +3 bunch. But, all good things must come to an end and we pointed Fred (the 12 pax van) towards the west.

On the adoption front, most everything is done for our adoption of Rimma +1. Yesterday we were interviewed and we submitted out I-600's to the USCIS. They sent us to get fingerprinted so all is completed now. All we are waiting on is the 171 as a result of yesterday's work, sending the whole dossier to Ukraine, and Rimma's one year wait period to be over. Our first adoption took a year and a half from start to finish. We got the paperwork done this time in two months. It's amazing what a little experience and a cooperative adoption process can do. We are definitely on the fast track this time. We may even have to slow everything down to wait on Rimma. Our facilitator has instructions to have our SDA date on the day she becomes available. Pray for this to happen for us all. And, continue to have Zina in your prayers and thoughts.

All photos courtesy & by permission of Mayme B.

~ Felix ~

Friday, July 17, 2009

Our Kids

June 25 was our 6th month home as a family. We have grown as a family and love and trust has been firmly established as the kids have realized that we will never abandon them and that we can fulfill every promise that comes as being their parents. Each child has made remarkable progress, too! So what have we learned, and what have they learned?

- Loves his dad and the times we go fishing, but he's definitely a Momma's boy!
- He goes to her for comfort or questions before going to Dad
- Can read, write and speak the English language
- Encouraged to use his Russian, Ukrainian and Spanish languages, too
- Has the best English of the kids and routinely speaks "big words"
- Adds 10-20 words to his vocabulary, weekly
- Is very funny, a born-comic
- Very, very smart! Went from no English and caught up to his 4th grade's reading level
- Very smart in all other school subjects and life matters
- A pleaser by nature. Does everything you ask him with no hesitation or arguing
- Has a heart of God and a possible Pastor one day. Reads the Bible every night at bedtime
- Neat & tidy with everything
- Has gained a few pounds and grown 2 inches since being home
- Heidi always says, "I'd take 10 of him"

- Loves Dad, especially for "roughhousing", prefers "girly" things when with Mom
- Has made remarkable, REMARKABLE progress with her Sensory Integration issues
- Reads, writes, and speaks the English language
- Speaks Russian, Ukrainian, and Spanish
- Watches way too much TV when not supervised!
- Very, very funny at times, another comic
- Very artistic, has the best artwork and sits quietly for hours doing it
- Left-handed, flourished when allowed to write left-handed after arriving home
- Sweet, sweet girl who wants to give gifts to everyone she likes
- Pure-hearted, honest and compliant, another pleaser
- Stunningly beautiful, I'm gonna have to fight off the boys one day!
- Has gained 10 pounds or so, grown a couple of inches
- Fits into some of Nadia's clothes from back in Jan/Feb
- Promoted to sixth grade

- Loves Mom, but she will tell ya, "I'm a Daddy's girl!"
- Reads, writes and speaks the English language
- Reads, writes and speaks Russian, Ukrainian & Spanish
- Has finally put her love and trust into us as her parents
- Still can be bossy and want to take charge from time to time
- Hears the phrase "WHO'S THE BOSS!" 30 times a day
- Hears the phrase "Can I be in charge now!" 30 times a day
- Hears the phrase "Those on charge, raise your hand!" 40 times a day
- Rolls her eyes after those phrases 100 times a day
- Very loving and caring, learning to be a kid for the first time in her life
- Actively wants to change her attitude and compassion for others for the better
- Gained 20 pounds and 6 inches in 6 months!
- Was 2" shorter than Heidi, now 4" taller
- Grows before your eyes, catching up to Dad
- Graduated "New Comers" ESL program 6 month ahead of schedule
- Promoted to 7th grade

So you see, we have had a lot of changes in the past six months. It's a lot of fun seeing them grow and experience new things. The UOO camp helped them gain compassion for others and realize the immense opportunity that they have now living in a family. They can't wait to have more brothers and sisters and have been actively talking about it for weeks now. On our first adoption, Heidi and I didn't have very many people to talk to about it. Now, these three are seeing the huge amount of work and effort that goes into adoption and they are part of the process. They know Rimma and Zina will be their sisters and have already staked out their claim as to who will be partnered up with them in who's bedrooms. Kolya knows that we will try and bring a bother home for him to share a room with, too. Fun and excite will surely follow as we grow to eight. And who knows, we may not be done when we get there!

~ Felix ~

Thursday, July 16, 2009

UOO 2009 Camp - Arrived Home Safely

I received the following e-mail from Clarke last night:

I got word early this morning that all the kiddos arrived safe at home, and couldn't stop talking about their experiences. Tatiana is convinced that Colorado is the Best State of America!Thanks everyone for such a great camp!

- Clarke Stoesz

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

UOO 2009 Camp - Homeward Bound

We left the Stoesz house in the van and headed to Denver International Airport this morning. It was a sad day to see them go. The Roge's and Volf's watched from the glass as Amanda Stoesz and Arie Pals escorted the kids and chaperons to their gate.

I will post again soon, but as of now I need some time to recompose, get over the missing space in my heart, and get back into the "groove". We signed the I-600 paperwork for Rimma +1 today, so that lifted my spirits a bit. We are all done with our dossier, the hiring of the facilitator, and our home study has been submitted. The only thing left is our USCIS process. So, this work will be a good distraction from missing the children.

Also, we have that time scheduled with a family that is thinking about Ukrainian adoption next week. So things are looking up.

~ Felix ~

Monday, July 13, 2009

UOO 2009 Camp - Day 20

The kids’ last full day with us would be spent completing arts and crafts, some more scrap booking, and just riding bikes and being a kid. We did this at my house and opened the house to all who wanted to visit with the kids one last time. They enjoy being in a family environment the most and we wanted to send them off with this last memory fresh in their minds.

Around five o’clock or so, we prepped dinner, which was left-overs from the Ukrainian Dinner the day before. The kids really liked the American-made Ukrainian food and commented on our ability to make it just like they have it back home. Cabbage rolls and Varenyk were served up and I’m happy to report that I won’t be eating this food for the next three weeks like I thought I would! We finished the whole thing! There were plenty of tears as everyone knew this would be the last that they would see of the kids. Heidi is going to Ukraine in September for Rimma’s birthday and I know that she will probably have some calls from people wanting to accompany her on that trip now. I hope to see the kids again at the end of the year when Heidi and I return for Rimma’s adoption.

It was hard, as it always is, to see the tears and hugs from children that want to stay and from Prospective Adoptive Parents, or PAPs, letting go of the children that they have come to love as their own. This is the major goal of UOO, to raise awareness of the plight of older orphans and perhaps to start a family or two’s adoption process to Ukraine. It’s all in God’s hands now for these families and these 8 little representatives of the thousands of children-in-waiting in Ukraine and around the world. We will meet next week with one such family and answer any questions that will help them make a decision to pursue Ukrainian adoption.

~ Felix ~

Sunday, July 12, 2009

UOO 2009 Camp - Day 19

We started Sunday with a church service at Rocky Mountain Christian Church. This is where the Volf’s attend service. I could not go because I was prepping for the big day ahead.

Ah yes, the big day for me was finally here! A lot of planning and volunteers went into making our 3rd annual Ukrainian dinner a success. At long last, the facility was decorated by my wonderful volunteer staff, the food prepared by a hard working kitchen crew, the bands reminded of their show times, and Heidi’s annual Silent Auction items placed. Everything went off without a hitch and despite the fact that I was concerned about the attendance and food count, there were plenty of people and way too much food. I think we counted around 150 people and we had enough food for the next day’s going away party. Not too shabby, crabby! We brought in a nice sized donation from the ticket sales and silent auction, too! Everything sold and nothing had to be carted back home for next year.

Many thanks to our musical entertainment, Peregrin Road and The Luke Ham Sandwich Family Band. PR provided nice background dinner music while LHSFB was the main attraction. If you’ve never heard these guys, you’re missing a real treat. A few kids with their Dad & Mom put on a great fiddle, mandolin and singing concert. See their website for concerts this summer. Since they have three international adoptees in their family, their entertainment style and our mission is closely intertwined. I hope we can get them back next year for another great night.

Thanks, everyone!

~ Felix ~

Saturday, July 11, 2009

UOO 2009 Camp - Day 18

Saturday had us at the Carmen’s lake house again. Most folks have to work Monday through Friday, so we schedule a weekend on the lake in hopes of getting these beautiful kids in the community’s eye. Besides, the kids can never get enough of the water and the tubing and I love to drive Eric’s speed boat. Nothing says power like a V-8 I the water! We even got a few of the kids up on water skis for the first time in their lives. Unless they are adopted internationally, most of these kids will never do this again. It is truly a once in a lifetime achievement for them, literally!

After I drove the boat for what seemed like forever, we got the kids cleaned up for a church service at Timberline Church in Ft. Collins, CO. You may remember a post about a year ago when Heidi and I traveled up to TL for an adoption seminar where Tom Davis, author of Fields of the Fatherless, was the quest speaker. We set up our UOO booth and got a lot of response from the audience. Timberline is home to a couple of our newest UOO volunteers that we met during that visit. We are always expanding our church base and we are happy to have new friends there. The kids were special guests at the children’s church and were recognized on stage. They played a few games, participated in a relay race of sorts and listened to the message presented to them on Forgiveness.

We ended the day at the Stoeszs house for dinner where a lot of new faces were on hand to meet the kids. That evening, the Stoesz’s held another bon fire and worship service for the kids.

Friday, July 10, 2009

UOO 2009 Camp - Day 17

On one day of each year’s camp, my sweetie Heidi holds a scrapbook party with the kids. Today was that day. All of the UOO members forward their pictures to her and she combines these with our pictures. All-in-all, there are hundreds of electronic photos to go through and send to the printer. Heidi likes to group the pictures so that each kids gets a specialized stack of photos of themselves, another stack of the UOO folks, and a stack of the group as a whole. It’s always interesting to see what the kids will do and if they will select pictures of themselves or pictures of the UOO folks. It’s usually half-in-half and this year was no exception. The kids liked the stickers and cut-outs, too.

Later that evening, we went out to yet another delicious pot luck dinner at the Stoesz house. I did mention that I like pot luck’s, right?!

After dinner, went traveled over to our church’s youth center to put on our first ever UOO talent show, or as I like to say, the “lack of talent” show. Actually it was a lot of fun! We had everything from a family song & dance routine by the Stoesz’s to a play with an aria by the Pals family. I think the highlights of the show were the chicken dance and the marshmallow-mouth stuffing contest. The winner was Josh Volf with a total of 12 giant marshmallows. WOW!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

UOO 2009 Camp - Day 16

Swimming and haircuts was the order of the day. Every summer camp I request two special swim days at the Longmont Rec Center. The first one, last week, got moved to Sunset pool due to a chlorine level issue at our regular pool. No worries though, we made the move seamlessly and I knew that we would have a second day at the LRC.

The girls had to reschedule their hair cuts a few days prior to the swim day so the boys and I went on over without them. The girls showed up in due time and everyone had lots of fun. The LRC is a camp favorite due to it's twin sliding tunnels, the dive board, the lazy river, the kids pool with water pipes and the jacuzzi all in the same area. Not only that, the kids can be kids without too much correction. It's a freedom that they and we the volunteers come to enjoy. There are several lifeguards on duty and one young man even speaks Russian, so I tend to let them take charge while I oversee everyone. NICE!

The activity planned for the evening was sleep-overs for the boys at one volunteers house and the girls at another. I haven't heard about it yet, but I'm sure they had a great time. The whole camp has been a great time!

~ Felix ~

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

UOO 2009 Camp - Day 15

On day 15, the kids traveled to the big city! That's right, the big D, Denver. We were going to see critters!

Our first stop was the Denver Aquarium. Always a big hit, the aquarium has cool fish to look at and even a few "touch" tanks so that you know what a sting ray's back feels like, not that I ever had a desire to know. But, I joined in the fun. The kid insisted, really!

We next ventured over to a park next to the Denver Zoo where we had lunch. A game of capture the flag was started by Clarke right after lunch. I hear it tired out our weary campers and that they slept good that night. At 2 pm, the kids and chaperons headed over to the Zoo while I dismissed myself to take care of some UOO business. Besides, if you read my post a few weeks ago you'll know that I took my kidos to the very same Zoo, so we had "been there, done that".

After the Zoo, everyone gathered at a restaurant named Cinzetti's in north Denver. I'm sure everyone slept on the way home that evening. It was a long, event packed, hot day. But, everyone is still having a good time and dreading the day that they will leave us. We will have them with us until this Tuesday morning. I miss them already, so I will attend every event from here on out to spend as much time as possible with them.

~ Felix ~

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

UOO 2009 Camp - Days 13 & 14

I returned to work Monday & Tuesday, but the camp continued. The kids went to a Painting Potter event in Lafayette, CO on Monday morning. I haven't seen their creations yet, but I was told that they really had a good time! While they were there, they were treated to a BBQ lunch and some swimming and the host's home.

On Tuesday, the kids went on a dairy farm tour. We do this every year at Pickets Dairy in Berthoud, which happens to be a mile right down the road from the Stoesz house. They dairy folks also have a pool at their house, so you guessed it, they swam some more. You can never do enough swimming for kids in the summer! By the way, I would humor you with some cows jokes if I had time, but that would be udder-ly ridiculous!

~ Felix ~

Sunday, July 5, 2009

UOO 2009 Camp - Day 12

On Sunday, we went to Cornerstone Church in Boulder, CO. The kids went to Sunday school while the adults attended service. Afterwards, we all enjoyed a nice Sunday lunch at church. I grew up a Southern-Baptist and some of my fondest memories are having lunch in the church kitchen after service while enjoying the fellowship. I’m glad that I had the maturity to appreciate those moments, even as a child. The event brought back a flood of memories as I watched the happy faces of the children, the conversation of the adults and the interest in our UOO mission. I do believe we picked up a few volunteers for next year’s camp and fueled the fire for an interest in Ukrainian adoption. Mission accomplished!

The kids participated in a Field day at the church. There were many games; one included a water-balloon toss. It was like the egg toss, just water balloons instead. I couldn't stay, but I hear it was a great day and a happy event for all.

That night, everyone gathered back at the Stoesz house for a Bonfire and Gospel message presented by our Grace Place children’s minister, Kim Land. The glory part of this is that one young man, Dima, is close to making a decision for Christ. This has long been another goal of UOO. It is amazing to see the Spirit working in these children, despite their seemingly insurmountable futures.

~ Felix ~

Saturday, July 4, 2009

UOO 2009 Camp - Day 11

It was an early rise for the Greeley Stampede parade for our Saturday! The kids got to see a real, authentic cattle drive, which is how the Greeley parade starts. There were lots of cowboys & cowgirls, bands, floats, old cars, etc. Everyone commented that they had never seen a parade. This was a real treat and something that they would never forget.
"Holy Cow!!"
I took the kids to a local Greeley park to wait while our other UOO members went to KFC to get food for our park lunch. While they were in line, a nice lady asked them what the t-shirts meant and our UOO president, Clarke, explained. She donated $20 on the spot for our lunch! God’s hand is always looking out for us no matter where we go and He routinely causes these kinds of things to happen regularly. Thank you to that person and may God bless you.
No Bull! It's a bunch of "Bol-shoy Ka-ro-vahs" (Big Cows)
We left Greeley behind to travel to Berthoud, CO for more horseback riding. The kids can’t get enough of this and we had a second gracious volunteer give her time and horses to us for a couple of hours. Needless to say, there were smiles all around!

Fun in the sun

Did I tell you that I love a good potluck dinner? Well I do and we’ve had two of them this week! That’s what we did next. Everyone gathered back at the Stoesz house for dinner and conversation. I snoozed for a few minutes on the couch until sweet little Olya sneaked up on me. I was OK with it, time spent with them is the most treasured and I will miss them once this is over.

Our group was invited to Lake Loveland for the Fourth of July fireworks show. The kids have seen fireworks before. Actually, when we were in Ukraine last winter, there seemed to be one big boom every night from a fire work. No explanation as to what was being celebrated, though. The kids, however, had never seen so many at one time and all the brilliant colors that a Fourth of July celebration entails. We had spread out a big tarp by the lakeside and it was a treat to cuddle-up with these sweet kids for an hour. Another fine ending to a fantastic day!
~ Felix ~

Friday, July 3, 2009

UOO 2009 Camp - Day 10

Our Friday started with the much anticipated Wal-Mart shopping trip. Each year, our generous sponsors provide us with $25 gift cards to Wally-world. This is a unique event that pairs an orphan kid up with a volunteer, not a UOO member, to purchase something themselves with their own money. The fun is seeing how a child will choose to spend the card. Some go for that one thing they have wanted; others get the most items that can get with $25. Sometimes the kids buy not for themselves, but for their friends back home. This year’s purchases ran from a single kid getting an MP3 player to another getting a couple of shirts (with a toy attached) and three or four small toy items. Another successful Wal-Mart trip!

After shopping, everyone went to a nearby park to have lunch and await the time for our next event, a movie at the theater. As usually is the case, when a soccer ball comes along on the trip, a game is sure to break out. We played a game of “Four-square” in our down-time.

Ms. Yulia, our CBN chaperon
It came time to go see the new movie, Up. The theater was a short two-mile trip from the park, so off we went. We budget our donations accordingly for all the camp’s events, so we were prepared to use funds that have been donated for this event. Imagine our surprise and gratitude when we were told by the movie theater manager that all the children were free of charge for the movie!

The kids loved the movie, even though it was in English. A great deal of it didn’t have dialog anyway, so it was a great choice for them! I love movies, so I watched the whole thing. But, I did look around and I caught a few of our UOO members catching a snooze. The dark theater with the nice air conditioning was the perfect catalyst for some weary but happy UOO workers!

"King" of the Gladiator Joust, Dima

The final event of the day was at my house. That’s right, the annual Rogé Open House. I had rented a blow-up gladiator joust toy to act as a way for adults and children to interact and get to know one another. I learned a valuable lesson in the past from orphans that didn’t have anything to do but eat, watch TV and ride bikes. The idea is to put them and their plight in the spotlight and hopefully raise awareness and interest in adoption of older, at-risk orphans in Ukraine and in the world. Not to have them riding down the street, out-of-sight, while me and our guests talk about the weather. The plan worked and Ms. Heidi & kids did a great job preparing the food and decorating the house. It was a complete success and everyone had a great time. Thanks to everyone who was there physically and in spirit. We hope to see you again next year.

Rogé open house

~ Felix ~

Thursday, July 2, 2009

UOO 2009 Camp - Day 9

After a hiatus for three days to catch up at work, I rejoined the camp kids for a four-day weekend of excitement. It was hugs all around as I rounded up and loaded all the kids into the big brown van.

First stop, Horseback Riding! Our good friends and yearly volunteers, the Welzigs, have us out every year to ride their tame and child friendly horses. This is a big hit for them as most of them have never touched a horse, much less ridden one! The Welzigs grilled burgers and brats for us before we had to leave for the next event. Thanks Welzig's!

Pool Day at Sunset pool was next. Sunset is an outdoor pool with three spring boards of varying sizes and two water slides. Sunscreen was applied and our spot was set up. Soon, all of our campers were jumping of the high-dive board! Wow, what brave kids! They had a lot of fun as the weather threatened. It held off for an hour and a half while we got in some quality swim time. However, all good things must come to an end as we were chased inside a cold rainstorm.

We loaded up the van for our next event, a Potluck Dinner at the Stoesz house. Thanks to all of our generous volunteers, we had lots of leftovers from the previous two days, so there were a variety of yummy dishes to chose from. We said "dobre noche" (goodnight) to the kids as my family retired to our home for rest and sleep. We had a big day and an early wake-up for Friday's events!

~Felix ~

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Late-Breaking Adoption News

We interrupt our regularly scheduled UOO camp activities to bring you this late-breaking message. As of today, we passed our clearances for adoption. We immediately hired our facilitator in Ukraine and the homestudy is completed and being written. Next up is the USCIS stuff. We are on our way to bring Rimma home by year's end. We hope for something to break loose soon for Zina as well and I won't hesitate to petition for her, even though her one year clock will be ticking. The power of prayer has the strength to overcome all obstacles!

~ Felix ~

UOO 2009 Camp - Day 6, 7, 8

Due to the fact that I expected the camp kids to be up in the mountains from Sunday to Wednesday, I had decided to put in some work at the office rather than burn through all my leave and vacation. So, that's where I've been for the past three days. Remember on our last post I told you that the camping trip was cancelled due to complications with the weather, the camp site and stuck equipment. The UOO team immediately implemented Plan B. I don't have a detailed account of the goings on because I wasn't there, but here's the low-down of the past three days events as told to me.

On Monday, the kids went to Estes, CO and to the Rocky Mountain National Park. They got to drive the trail ridge road, hike in the mountains and scramble up a few huge boulders. The highlight of the trip was the gondola ride up to the top of Prospect Mountain. Once there the got to take in the wonderful views and feed the chipmunks.

On Tuesday, the kids went to a metal museum in Ft. Collins, CO. I hear it was a lot of fun and they saw sculptures that were unbelievable. They then ventured over to Fort Fun, also in Ft. Collins. I hear that the place was a blast.

Wednesday was a down day for rest and swimming at the a volunteer's home. The kids wanted to help and give back to their hosts. Here they are washing the 12 passenger van and having a fun time getting wet.

I'll be back in the fun starting tomorrow. We have Rec center swimming, horseback riding, dental visits, a Walmart shopping trip, a matinee movie, the Rogé Open House, the Greeley parade, a fairgrounds tour, fireworks, a BBQ or two, and Field Day all coming up through this weekend. Visit the UOO website for planned activities and do come out and participate. It's never too late!

~ Felix ~

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.