Thursday, December 31, 2009

Greetings from Chi-town!

After a long over-night drive, we made it safely to the Chicago area for a late Christmas & New Year's celebration with Heidi's side of the family. The kids haven't met most of their aunts, uncles, and cousins from Mom's family. Seeing that we would be leaving soon for Ukraine and the fact that we didn't travel anywhere for Christmas, we planned this trip a few weeks ago.

We loaded up the brown "Fred" van and headed out at 2 pm on Wednesday. Heidi drove during the daylight hours due to her night vision issues and I pulled the overnight shift. I had purposely slept late that day, too. I must have downed a six-pack of Mountain Dew to ensure that I was fully awake for the task. I'm used to pulling the occasional 12 hour midnight shift at work, so staying up all night is an art I have perfected. We arrived this morning at 5am. We all snoozed until 9 am and I took a 30 minute nap this afternoon to get back into the swing. We will be here until Sunday morning when we will repeat the process, in reverse.

Some observations from the trip:

  1. The 12 pass van makes for some comfy sleeping, the kids didn't really miss a beat.
  2. Those Nebraska folks sure love their "Big Red" football team! The game was on seven radio stations.
  3. The Nebraska state slogan is "The good life" Not so much so in the dark of night at 75 MPH. (That one's for you Jim!)
  4. From 1 to 4 am the AM radio conspiracy theorists are in full swing.
  5. Eastern Colorado should be Western Nebraska.
  6. Through the magic of AM radio signal reflection off the curvature of the Earth's atmosphere, it IS possible to listen to a Cajun radio station in Louisiana! Wayne Toups and Clifton Cheniere were in rare form.

We leave for Ukraine in TWO WEEKS! Whoo-hoo!

~ Felix ~

Monday, December 21, 2009

Seeing Christmas through their eyes

I had the extreme privilege to do God’s work this weekend. Kari Volf and Heidi had been talking to each other about a group of 10 orphans and two chaperons that were traveling to Texas for a Christmas Holiday Hosting trip. It seems that Kari had received a call from Stephanee Potts who had put the trip together. She said that the orphans and their chaperons had been weather delayed out of Frankfurt and would miss their connecting flight to Texas. Enter me. My daughter, Jordan, was flying in from Louisiana that evening and I would be at the airport anyway. I quickly loaded up “Fred”, our big brown 12 pass van, and took off to the airport. The mission was to get the 12 Ukrainians rebooked on a later flight out to Texas or get them to a hotel for the night and a flight out in the morning. I thoroughly enjoy using God's 12 seat vehicle for His purposes!

While enroute to the airport, I learned from Stephanee that the group was split into two smaller groups by the airline. One group got routed through Chicago while the other was coming through Denver. In addition, the “certain German airline who will remain anonymous”, had routed one of the chaperons on a flight the next day on a different airline. This airline had also placed one of the teenage girls on a separate and later flight. Not good!

I went to work at the ticket counter with an agent, explaining the fiasco and the need to keep all of the children and chaperons together. The agent explained that all further flights that night were booked and that there was no way that they would be flying to Texas tonight (she had to tell the guy in front of us that his rebooking was for two days later). With a little work, she found seats on the first flight out in the morning to Austin for 10 of the 12. She booked the one chaperon and the teen girl for the next flight out to Austin but told me to show up early and get those two on standby if at all possible. You got it sister!

Having the rebooking complete, I ran down to the customs & immigration gate and waited for our guests. In no time at all they arrived. They are all very cute, but were very tired. I had brought along Nadia to translate and help with the kids. The orphans warmed up to her and asked a few questions about her, “was she adopted”, “was she Ukrainian”, “was I her father”, etc. Meanwhile, Jordan had landed so I sent Nadia to go get her at our usual rendezvous. The kids took turns going to the bathroom, drinking from the fountain, and asking many questions. Soon enough Nadia & Jordan were back and off we went. Stephanee had arranged for a hotel and pizza delivery and I loaded 15 people “Ukrainian style” in a 12 pass van (don’t ask). Thank goodness the hotel was a short drive off the airport grounds.

The fine folks at the Holiday Inn looked the other way as we roomed 12 people in two rooms. They even threw in extra blankets and towels. (I’ve been known to shamelessly use the poor orphan story from time to time). I left the two chaperons, Denis & Zhenya, with instructions to be ready to roll by 6:15 am and I gave them my extra cell phone. “See ya in the morning”, I told them.

The next morning I rolled in around 6 am and found the girls already dressed and ready to go. The boys on the other hand were iron-drying their underwear. It seems they felt the need to wash their underwear in the sink that night and had laid them out to dry. I didn’t ask what they had slept in. A boy was finishing up ironing a pair of cotton tights and in quick order, we were ready to go. Heidi had put together a care package of string cheese, apples, oranges and chocolate chip cookies for each of them. I had stopped and picked up a sausage McMuffin for everyone, too. As they loaded into the van, I handed these out to all the kids. Denis asked to lead a moment in prayer when we arrived at the parking garage. It proved to be the big difference as you will soon see.

I was horrified at the 10 mile long line at the United counter when we arrived and I knew that they wouldn’t make it if we stayed there. It was as if I felt God say, “Felix move” all of a sudden. Denis sensed this too and he and I pushed our way to the front of the “special needs” line, or whatever they call it. We got to the counter eventually and pleaded our case. In what seemed like eternity, we waited and we waited and we waited as the agent meticulously worked each ticket that had been booked the night before. The one chaperon and teen were another full fifteen minutes of keyboard typing and I watched the minutes fly-by! The flight still showed full but the agent placed the two later-flight people on standby, just in case. “Felix, Move!” I gently and subtly reminded her that the flight was about to board. That got me a quick look, but I pulled out the shameless orphan story again. Whew, gotta watch how you handle those ticket agents!
Glancing at my watch, I now had less than 40 minutes to get said guests to the gate…and we still had to go through security. As we snaked around and around the security wait area, I felt it again, “Felix, move!” I spied an under-worked security guy standing around, told him my story, and we got through security in 10 minutes!

Of course the aircraft would have to be at the last gate in the entire B terminal! We didn’t run, but I bulldogged our way to the gate, walking as fast as the little legs behind me could run. I glanced at the departure boards every chance I got, nothing new, aircraft still at the gate, boarding to start immediately. We finally arrived at gate 80, Terminal B East (Kansas I think).
I actually ran up to the vacant counter before anyone could get ahead of me. Out of breath, I told the agent, “We are the 12 you have been waiting for!” The lady looked at me with a frown on her face and said, “I’m sorry, we have closed the flight and the aircraft is about to back out”. I said a few “pleases” and few “C’mon, pleases” a few “but we ran as fast as we could” all the while she was shaking her head NO! Defeated, I bowed my head, about to say a quick prayer when the agent said, and I’m not kidding, “Gotcha! I just love doing that to folks who run up to the counter! The flight is still here, we are slightly delayed and all these people are waiting with you!” I wanted to lunge across the counter, needless to say.

Instead, I went along with her joke and played nice. Did I mention that everyone waiting saw me and cracked up laughing? I thought it was Christmas, not April Fool’s Day! I told the agent that it was indeed funny (lie) but that she owed me a favor for that one; I needed my two standbys placed on the flight! She said, “Oh honey, we got plenty of seats, but they are scattered and middle rows”. I’ll take ‘em! What better way for fellow Americans to meet an orphan than to have one in a middle row seat!

A few minutes later, my guests got in the boarding line and high-fived “Uncle Felix” as I was nicknamed. A couple of the girls got teary-eyed when I told them that I would not be going. I assured them that they were in for the time of their lives and to have fun in Texas. Zhenya thanked me profusely and Denis exchanged information with me.

So I got to see Christmas through their eyes and to see the face of Jesus in these children as I do every day in my children. Thank you Stephanee! Thank you God for another chance to see your grace in action.

~ Felix ~

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ukraine in a Month!

One month from today is our SDA appointment. Yep, we will be sitting in front of the friendly folks there asking for R's referral and begging for Z's. All they can do is say yes or no, right?

My goodness, I think I would pass-out and fall on the floor if they agreed to waive the one year wait for Z. The poor child has waited long enough. It's all in God's hands now. I have prayed and pleaded my case to Him for two years, and will continue to do so until she is safe at home.

So, to celebrate, I promptly purchased our airline tickets. The fine folks at Golden Rule travel have been holding our reservation for a month and it was time to pull the trigger on that deal. We e-mailed our facilitator this week to make sure the SDA date was good to go. He assured us it was, but I was nervous. "Never go against a Ukrainian when adoption is on the line"! There's my obligatory Princess Bride quote for Richard & Cindy...hope it made you smile!

This month looks like it will pass quickly for us. I say that we have a month, truth is, we probably have less than a few days when you consider the following. Next week is Christmas week and Heidi and I will only work M-Wed. The following week is pretty much the same, Heidi and I will again only work M-Wed and then we will drive the big-brown-van to Chicagoland to see family on Th-Sun (most of Heidi's family have not met the kids yet). That Sunday we head back because I'm on orders with the Air Force the whole first week in January. The second week of January has me catching up at my civilian job. Then, Friday the 15th, we are flying out to Ukraine!

'Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again. Isn't that the truth!

~ Felix ~

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The calm before the storm

Is everyone still out there? (Cue the crickets chirping).

I know it has been almost two weeks since we posted anything. We have delved into work, family life, holiday preparation and getting ready for the eventual four to six week adoption process next month. Besides, there's not much to report on and I have been working 12-hour midnight shifts at work. Six pm to six am doesn't leave much personal time and I have to sleep sometime. Thank goodness that this schedule will come to an end soon, and just in time for Christmas and New Year's Day!

Before you know it, the next month will pass and we will be getting on that plane headed to Ukraine. The calm before the storm will soon be over. It became real to me this week. R will be home within three months! This process has taken what seems like forever to us. When parents are separated from their kids, it feels like forever! I can't imagine what it has been like for R & Z!

I had a dream a couple of nights ago that the government of Ukraine allowed Z to come home too! What a miracle that would be. I've never heard of them letting an orphan be adopted before their one year time limit is up, but stranger things have happened. I pray that prayer every night.

~ Felix ~

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Family Photos

It was a great week! Thanksgiving dinner was a huge spread and we haven't cooked all week since! Thanks, Bob! At the beginning of the week I asked the kids to think of something that they are thankful for and to share it after prayer, while we were eating. It's kind of a new tradition with us, one to be repeated through the years.

The kids answers brought us to tears. In this order they said...

Julia - I am thankful that I have a family.

Nadia - I am thankful for my Mom and Dad and for what they have done for us.

Kole - I am thankful to have a Daddy who took me fishing...(and some other stuff about his sisters not going...) He mentioned Mom, too.

The rest of us take "family" for granted sometimes, although we don't mean to. These guys never will!

~ 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.