Monday, November 30, 2009

SDA Appointment

My turn...this is Tom. Amber is sleeping since our schedule is still a little wacky and she has no energy after running around all day.

We went to our SDA appointment today and it was much less intimidating than we thought it would be (Thank you Ellen, Andy, and Frank for the information ahead of time so we weren't worrying so much!). We didn't get much new information about Ana because there wasn't much in her file unfortunately, but was also expected. She has Down Syndrome (knew that), a heart condition (non-specific, also knew), and is near-sighted (that's new information, but sight problems are typical so we thought this would be the case). Ana was born in the city the orphanage is in so that will help reduce the time it takes to get her birth certificate and hopefully get us home faster. Her mother and father's parental rights were terminated when she was a baby for unknown reasons. Father is unknown. Mother lives nearby in a small village and "work's and is not an alcoholic".

We are very lucky to have the team we have here, they are doing an amazing job, and the lady at the SDA was great too. Their hard work allowed us to get our referral today too, only a few hours after our original SDA appointment. We can legally go see Ana in her region now! We will be heading to her region by mini-van tonight, it is about a 6-8 hour drive, depending on who tells us and who is driving! ;)

We also were given a baby photo of Ana wearing a onesie that says "Mommy's Little Alarm Clock". It was quite a surprise! (I'm pretty sure they weren't supposed to give away the photo because they told us to hide it.) We will post it soon.

We are not sure what the Internet situation will be like in region so it might be a little bit before we update again. Please continue to pray for our health (both of us still have runny noses and coughs, Amber is not feeling well at all and has low energy).

We finally get to meet our girl tomorrow!!!


Sunday, November 29, 2009


When we left home, we had planned to visit with another family or two while here in the capital that are adopting through Reece’s Rainbow. It was in the plans, but truthfully it wasn’t that big a deal to me. It would be nice to meet other people that were going through and doing the same things we were doing, but I just thought of it the same as if I were meeting new people at home.

We left our apartment at 3 in the afternoon to go and get some food and to look around a little bit. It is so very easy to get lost around here! The signs are all in another language and the buildings aren’t different enough to me that I felt confident in finding our home again. So…since there are a lot of places to buy food on our street, we were just going to stay on it. We decided to head for the big building with the TGI Friday’s that we had been told about. Our driver/translator Nicholay had told us that there was a Ukrainian place near it that had good food and very good prices, so we thought we would try for that.

Down the street we walked, not sure of how things work around here and noticing the differences from home. Here, as I would imagine big cities at home are like too, the people are more aggressive with their crossing the street and with their driving around pedestrians. You kind of start to cross the street and have to watch for cars to make sure they are not coming at you. It’s a bit scary at first. Then, there is that they park on the sidewalk, so you have to be watching the whole time you are walking to make sure that people aren’t trying to leave a spot, or park in a spot on the sidewalk. I should mention they are very wide though. It’s not a narrow sidewalk like at home, so there is still room to walk.

Once we got to the street we needed to cross in order to get to the building we were going for…well, we had a problem. We couldn’t cross the street. They had some fence type barriers that are permanently up and no crosswalk. We figured we would just walk up to the next block and cross there. Nope. Couldn’t cross there either. And now we were getting off of our street and I was getting nervous about getting lost. I wanted to turn back and go the way we knew, but Tom thought it would be a good idea to walk around the block and then back to our street that way. So, we decided to go his way. Only problem is that it DIDN’T go back to our street and we were getting lost. We were lost.

Just as we were turning around to go back the way we had come from and retrace our steps, we got a phone call. It was Ellen who is here with her husband Andy adopting a little girl in a nearby location. They have been in Kiev for a few weeks and we had planned on meeting them. I had left her an e-mail earlier with our Ukrainian cell phone number and so she called to see if we wanted to meet up with them. “Where are you right now?” was her question. “Ummm…well, we don’t know. Kind of lost at the moment.” was my reply. “Sounds pretty normal.” she laughed.

Okay, well I guess that getting lost is part of finding where you are. You can learn the area better if you get lost I suppose. So, she was at a coffee shop and described a store that we had walked by. I told her we could look for it- and then I saw that it was at the end of the street we were on. Yeay! We were going to be unlost! I noticed a big coffee cup on a sign in front of me, but the store was on the other side of the street and I thought that it was on the same side as the store. So, as I walked by the big coffee cup I told her that we should find them in a minute. We wandered over and didn’t see a coffee shop. Tom said, “There was a coffee shop back there…” and I told him that I saw it too and had thought about asking her if she was in that one, but then didn’t. Funny enough, when we were back to it and about to walk in- Ellen calls us. “Are you just walking in?” (Thank goodness for blogs =D. It sure helps when you know what someone looks like when you are trying to find them.) They had been right next to us while we were talking on the phone.

We sat in the coffee shop for a few minutes with them and talked plenty. When you have been only around people that don’t speak words you can understand, with signs that you can’t read (remember we were in the airport in Germany for a long time too…though they do know English enough that you can get around just fine), well when you have been in that for awhile there is instant connection with people who speak your language and are from where you are from. There were no awkward silences, there was no uncomfortable meeting time, it was just like meeting friends. It was wonderful! It was such a blessing to have people here to show us around and tell us the little things we needed to know. Things that people who live here might not think to tell us since it’s just normal to them. Frank, who is adopting a little girl at the same orphanage as Ellen, came in a short time later. He has been here for nearly a month and his wife got to go home awhile ago. He is already through his 10 day waiting period and is in the stages of getting his daughter’s paperwork in line to bring her home. Frank introduced himself as our tour guide =D. When Andy and Ellen got here he showed them around and told them the little details and they seem to have built a nice friendship. We left the coffee shop in order to get a meal. We were no longer in fear of getting lost because we had friends who knew where we were. AND, it turns out that Frank’s apartment is just next door. His apartment is in the next building.

So…do you remember how we couldn’t cross the street? Well, it turns out that the big stairs that lead to underground are NOT for the metro…well, at least not JUST for the metro. They are stairs that lead you under the street to the other side. And guess what? These people have a whole mall under there with shops all over the place. You can walk around under a big section of the city where it is warm and safe from cars, then just surface when you get to where you want to go. Now, it would take awhile to learn when to come up and when to go down, but it’s very neat. So, we learned to cross the street. Thanks Frank, Andy, and Ellen =).

Our dinner was at an Italian place. Interestingly, if you ask for “English menu” when you walk in, lots of places have a menu in English that you can read. I was just looking at pictures until I looked down and realized that the word “soup” is totally an English word. I can read the menu? Ellen then explained asking for “English menu” when you come in. I doubt that it will be so easy in region, that they will have a menu we can read, but for now it’s helpful. I had spaghetti and Tom had another type of pasta that had a spicy red sauce. We sat for a long time with our new friends and talked in the smoke filled, but otherwise beautiful restaurant. Here you can sit for a long time and chat at the table and we are told they don’t bring you a bill until you ask for it. You can sit for hours just chatting and talking and they don’t care. Very different from home.

It was interesting. I wasn’t expecting it to be so easy meeting people that I had barely spoken with online. I wasn’t expecting it to be something that changed my whole outlook on our situation. I wasn’t expecting to feel like “friends” that fast. But that’s what it was like. That was the reality of the situation. I think it’s interesting how different reality is from the way we imagine things will be, and I expect that a lot of my pre-arrival thoughts will be different from reality during this trip.

Today I learned just how much God created us for community. I knew this before, that it is important for us to have other people in our lives and to have community, but I didn’t know it like this. Today I felt for the first time, this way, a bond over simple commonality. It didn’t matter what things they liked to do for fun, it didn’t matter what their employment was, whether they home school or public school, what style clothing they wore, how they vote, or what type of church they go to. It just mattered that we were connected by the simple things. We speak English, and we are American.

This got me thinking about our commonality in Christ and how it should be like this. It was meant to be like this. We can have different likes and dislikes, we can have different political views, and we can come from different backgrounds, but we should have a common bond that instantly makes us feel at home. We are ALL in a world that is not our own, longing for a home that we don’t even remember but we know is there. We are ALL in the same boat, we are ALL in a foreign land that has customs and ways that are not like our own. It is my prayer that I can grow this kind of love and attitude toward all those that are in my family in Christ through all times. It is my prayer that we will recognize that we don’t have permanent resident cards in this world, but that we are here on business. Our father’s business. Let us keep our minds on His work and remember the bond that we have with our brothers and sisters through Him and by Him.

Today I learned that such things are truly important.

The Travel

Emotion. Exhaustion. Concentration. These have filled the last day or two for us.

Our little children, the people that my life centers around each day are not here. It’s strange to not have them with me, it’s weird to be alone with my husband. Alone, traveling through airports and foreign countries. It’s different, but we have clearly had our Lord with us the whole way.

Our flight from Seattle to Frankfurt was wonderful. Perfect, at least nearly perfect. Tom seems to think that the landing deserved a mid-class rating, he has had better and he has had worse. I however don’t travel much at all and I don’t like flying at all, so when I can come down and not get too worked up…well, that’s a good landing to me.

Usually when I think of God having plans for a flight, my mind hovers around the idea of us blessing or ministering to others. Even if it’s being in a joyful mood, reflecting God’s peace and His love can stand out. I didn’t even have to try to do that (which is the way it should be). I was joyful and surprisingly at peace for most of our flight. Tom and I were seated together, so there weren’t any long conversations with strangers that were seated next to us. I do love those conversations though and I had a couple of short ones with people that weren’t seated directly next to us. Through this WE were blessed.

As we got situated on our flight I just sat and listened to all that was going on around us. I don’t like to talk much while preparing for a flight, I like to focus on calming myself. I noticed that the lady seated behind us was speaking with the flight attendant (we were nearly the last row at the back of the plane). She was very talkative and joyful, excited to go and visit her grandchildren in Rome. I even mentioned to Tom “someone is joyful today…”.

In the mid part of our flight I stood up for a little bit in my seat area to stretch out for a little while. We ended up talking for some time about her grandkids, where we all lived, her parents who had lived with her for a couple years before passing in the last two years. Just chatting. She told us her destination of Rome, we told her about our final landing place of Ukraine. We shared about our kids- all of them. We told her about Ana, and how we were excited to meet her and bring her home, but that it was also hard to leave such little kids at home, but that it was all part of the process and we knew it would be good because the Lord had planned each step of the way.

We finished talking and got back to our viewing. How blessed we were to have the individual screens on the back of each seat as well. That sure made the 10 hour flight seem much shorter. We were only a couple of minutes back into our shows, when our new friend peeked between the seats and started talking to us. She had some cash in her hand and asked if it was okay if…and she saw the look on my face and said, “Use it for your little girl when you get her, or have a celebration dinner when you get to her.” And she was insistent, so we allowed her to bless us (well, Ana…because we will use it for things she needs). She said that we had made her flight (right…WE made HER flight…I think it was the other way around). SEE- I am growing in my ability to receive. I didn’t fight her too much =). I have learned through our giving that it really is a blessing to give and that it’s important to allow others to bless us in all different ways as well.

Later, as I was fixing things in my purse so that we could prepare to exchange for Euros in the airport, I saw how much she gave us. Twenty would have been an amazing gift from someone on an airplane that we had never met. Heck, $10 would have been! But she slipped us $100! It nearly made me cry when I realized that. What a generous woman to even think of giving that much to a family that she had never met, that she would never see again.

That was our airplane experience, then came the long wait at the Frankfurt airport. We had planned on leaving the airport for a little while, but when we got there we had a hard enough time getting food for ourselves that we decided to stay in the airport. It wouldn’t have been fun to get lost and I think that to forgo getting lost would require brain function. Brain function was not something that was being experienced anywhere near full capacity. It was best to stay.

You see, I was tired at 4pm our time. That’s two hours after we left home folks. I am used to getting a small nap in lately, and I had been doing a lot in preparation for our departure, so I was tired. Unfortunately, I am not gifted with sleeping on an airplane while pregnant in the same way I have been in the past. It just didn’t work. SO…we got to Frankfurt a bit tired and in need of sleep. We walked around the airport for a bit and ate something, then we searched out a spot to sleep for a little while.

We ended up stepping out of security to these lounging chairs (and don’t get the idea that they were cozy by the word lounging because that wasn’t the case) and tried to sleep for awhile. Tom didn’t even try. It was too loud and there was too much going on. I rested my eyes and tried to sleep, I was just not able to fully fall asleep. You know, you need to be laying down. That’s the whole issue with the airplane- not laying down enough.

We went back through security and had some lunch, played a game, and spent time wandering the airport. Then we found it. We found a special spot that was empty of passengers waiting to board with long rows of chairs. It was void of most noise, and contained only sleeping and silent people. It was great! Tom hesitated to lay down, but after I talked him into it he quickly fell asleep. I slept for a bit, but one of us should really be awake to make sure nothing happens to our luggage that is with us, so I started typing this for you =).

Toward the end of our stay at the lovely (expensive I might add) Frankfurt Airport, I started to get sick. It was pretty terrible and not fun at all being sick in an airport in a foreign country. We were lucky to only have a few people at our gate waiting, perhaps because we were there 4 or 5 hours early. I layed across some chairs and tried not to focus on feeling sick. Tom prayed for me and I took some medicine and started to feel a little better right before out flight. I was not up to par, but was at least not loosing my stomach every 10 minutes, which is what the airport was like.

And a note about German airports, or at least Frankfurt, I have to say that their soap smells very good. And...they keep the bathrooms cleaned ALL the time. I'm pretty sure there was almost always someone cleaning the bathroom when one of us would go to use one. Sanitation gets an A from me, but expense...well, I won't even go there.

When we stepped off of our plane, we were outside. It was like that in Germany too. Now, I don't travel much, so I am not sure if they do that in the US in some places or not, but it was different to me. It was good, we just got on a bus that took us to the building, where it was time for customs. The moment we walked into the airport, haze. It was filled. with. smoke. Uggh, not something I really want to be in, especially while pregnant!

We had filled out our forms and were the last in line, when we went up to make it through security. It had a blank for where we were staying that asked for address, and since we didn't have one that we knew of, we just didn't fill it in. Well, we got sent back (and put the name of the capital city in hopes that would be enough even though we weren't going to stay there). Then as we were writing it in, a HUGE line of new people came in and got in line. We had to wait a whole lot longer to get through. I'm pretty sure out poor driver thought that we would never get there!

As we were walking out of customs, we met with our driver Nicholay (I hope I spelled it right). He was wonderful. He was very kind and showed us everything we would need- that night. At 2am. When he had to get up and be at the airport to pick up another family at noon! And today is his birthday (or tomorrow....I'm not sure because when he said it I wasn't sure if he meant later that day, since it was 2am...or Monday). He helped us with exchange of money, took us to grocery stores (2 of them and showed us another) within walking distance of our apartment. He told us all that we would need to know and answered any questions we had. I very much like him.

Our apartment is much larger than I expected. I guess I was picturing a hotel type size, like a bedroom, bathroom and kitchenette. I will try to post pictures later for you to see what it looks like.

So, that extremely long post is all I have for now for you. We are getting ready to go out for a bit now. We are going to check out the city and some restaurants, and perhaps try to meet with two other couples that are here right now.

Prayer that we need:

Our health, especially protection for the baby. I was cramping a bit this morning, and though I don't think it was a big deal it still makes me a bit cautious. We are around second hand smoke and different's all a lot for the system to adjust to. And then the lack of sleep and time change isn't totally easy on the body, making things less strong for fighting off illness.

Alexis and Ben. They were both sick after we left and Alexis came down with a pretty high fever of 102. My mom said she was miserable and watched television and drank juice all day. She seems to be feeling better now. Ben wasn't feeling great when we left either, but seems to be okay now too. Please pray for their health.

Our appointment with the SDA tomorrow. This is where we should get our referral for Ana! Pray that all goes well and that we get our appointment that day so we can go and see her. Depending on what time we get our referral (a piece of paper), we could travel out Monday! That means we could meet our little girl as early as Tuesday. Of course, it's possible that we won't get our referral until Tuesday as well, so when we meet her is kind of unpredictable right now.

That's all I have for you right now. I will update perhaps later today after we explore and also try to put some pictures up for you. It sure is a place filled with beautiful culture. The supermarket we went to last night was just beautiful!

Until later-

Friday, November 27, 2009

On our way!

We are finally at the airport on our way to Ukraine! First we will stop in Germany for a 14 hour layover, then we will go on to Ukraine after that.

I will try to update, even if I can only get on for a short time, when we get to Frankfurt so that you know we arrived safely. After that I am not sure when I will get computer time again with internet, but I will update when I can.

So excited to be leaving...yet it's also very hard when we have to leave our little ones at home. We both miss them already.

Off we go....