Friday, February 10, 2012

A good time to think back on why we did this.

After posting the last of the recap we went back and looked at all of our posts starting at the beginning. What a "journey" it has been. We still get asked what possessed us to do this and we still don`t have a real good answer. These two videos that we started our blog with are probably the best answer that we can give and a good way to end up our recap before we go on with the next posts.

I came home from work awhile back and told Gail that if I bought airplane tickets to go back would she want to go with. She said she would leave tomorrow!! Yes, believe it or not we both miss Ukraine! Our two boys, especially Collin would rather go there than Disneyworld. Right now that isn`t in the cards but someday we WILL be making the trip again. We would love someday to win the lottery and take a group over to do some renovations to the orphanages. We think that would be about as good as it gets. Stay tuned for for how it has beeen going once we came back.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Recap- Our last days in Kramatorsk

Man- Time slips away without doing the things a guy thinks he will have time to do. We still have quite a few people checking in every day so we`ll try to get on the stick and finish our recap. Looking forward to showing how things are going now after 3 years but we had better finish the recap first.
- After arriving in Kramatorsk for the conclusion of our journey we knew we had to do the following things to finally bring Briley home.
- court appointment
- birth cert. stuff
- passport stuff
- 10 day waiting period
- load up and get home
After a few days in town we were able to schedule a hearing with the judge and do the paperwork with that. While this was getting done we settled into a routine. We would leave for the orphanage every morning at about 9, arrive at the orphanage, have Briley put on a "good" set of clothing, pick out a pair of "community" shoes, take Briley to the playroom, play a bit, feed her the food that we smuggled in and just "get aquainted with her".
Some of the things that we learmed during this time.
- oranges are bad for children
- you can catch cold from looking out the window at the snow
- no matter how warm it is in the building it is good to have the child in 7 layers of clothes.
The worst and best part of these visits were when we would get up to her "groupa". We would come to the door and every single little boy and girl would come running and grab onto your legs saying " momma and papa" thinking that you were coming to get them. There are some little faces that we will never ever forget and will always wonder if their momma and papa ever did come and get them! After a couple of days Briley would see the kids coming to greet us and she would push them away saying that we are her momma and papa and not theirs. Sorta cute but heartwrenching all at the same time.
After playing with her for about an hour and a half we would take her back so she could have dinner that we could smell cooking in the corridors. More often than not it was a "soup" of sorts made with chicken and potatoes. As we had stated earlier alot of these kids had little hair from the lack of protein.
After the morning visit we would head out and stop by the BUM market to get what we needed for a meal or two. Some of the things that we miss now are the crab flavored potato chips, the juices, mushroom flavored chips, the maslo (butter), great bakery bread, fresh cabbage salads, pickles, sausages, fruits and quite a few things that we don`t miss such as the limited meats, the carp in the tanks, and the milk that didn`t taste like ours. One of the odd things we noticed was that the people there would go daily to the market and buy just what they need for the day, while we would come in and fill up a basket for a few days. People looked at us sorta goofy sometimes because of this. We would check out and give them a 200 gryvna note ( about $25.00) and sometimes they had to get change at another register. People as a rule did not have that much money at a time to spend on groceries. While at the market we would get a 2-3 gallon jug of water also because the only other way to get drinking water was off of the truck that would go around to the apartments and fill jugs and this looked to be a little more "safe".
After that we would go back to our apartment and catch up on our emails and our blog and maybe take a nap. At about 2:30 we would head back to see Briley and repeat the morning. When we would leave after the afternoon vist it was sorta surreal walking down the streets. there wasnt as much lighting as we were used to, sidewalks were typically slushy, and was for lack of a better term "cool"
After a few days we had to get ready to go to our court hearing. there wa$ a few thing$ that made u$ $ure that it would go well in court. We arrived in a building that was I believe 4 stories and really not all that that large. This courthouse served the whole region along with the 250,000 people in Kramatorsk. Sorta made us wonder why we need all the courthouse space at home with a fraction of the people. Anyways, we sat in the hall until we were called and when we were called in there was the orphange lawyer, the "county attorney" type guy, the judge and a stenographer. We had to explain why we should be able to adopt, our yearly income, what we do etc, etc. The judge was a big burly guy and we sincerely think he was happy a child was finding a home. We were asked to leave and wait in the hall until he made his decision and after awhile we had to go back in and he read a "verdict" that said he felt this was ok to happen and then he congratulated us and wished us well. If I remember correctly that afternoon we went to the town of Stravansk for some reason and we stopped to eat at a very nice ski chalet type restaurant. We were the only people in there which wasnt uncommon with the lack of money to go out to eat. After we ordered they brought us basket of bread, a plate of lard to put on the bread and a pitcher of "water". Yup- they had to bring us butter because there was no way Gail and I were going to use lard and then we found out that the water in the pitcher wasn`t water, it was home brewed vodka. It was evidently customary to do some "salutes" to celebrate special events. :-) We saluted a few times and to be quite honest the vodka was actually pretty tasty.
We had commented in our blog that it was like the movie Groundhog Day with the routine we settled into. Very mundane and little difference from one day to the next. Our highlights were reading the e-mails frome home and our skype visits with our boys back home. It could be 4 in the morning there so that would be 8 at night at home. Our little chime on the computer would go off when we were getting an e-mail and more often than not I would get up to read it. Another sound that we will never forget is the sound of an incoming skype call. The kids would skype us sometimes in the morning before they got on the bus and sometimes in the evening. Without skype it would have really sucked as we missed the boys immensely. It got to the point at the end that our cat would even jump up on the desk with the boys when he heard our voices and at one point Tory was hugging the computer screen.
But anyways the ten day waiting period where any of Oksana`s family member could protest the adoption was within 2 days of being up. we were on our way to the orphanage on a Sunday morning when the cell phone rang. Now keep in mind, I went from 100+ calls a day at work on the cell to never ringing at all over there. It was Luba and I`ll never forget the conversation. "Craig, we have a problem, Oksana`s groupa has the chicken pox and they need to know if you and Gail have had it before". I stated we had both had it so that was no problem and that was when she dropped the bomb. "this will delay your departure until the pox is gone and we don`t know how long that will be and you must keep it quiet so the orphanage is not quarantined for 30 days". Great, just great!!! But there wasn`t much we could do but keep walking to the orphanage. we arrived there and the kids were definitely not feeling well but didn`t look too bad. After a few days they started getting the pox all over their bodies and guess who the worst one was- yup, Briley! During this time we had the opportunity to fill the "wish list" for Anatoly the director. We bought the orphanage oodles of clothes, underwear, drugs and other stuff that they could not afford. The only thing that bothered us a bit was after we delivered the stuff we never did see it being used. It almost seemed like they hoard the good stuff.
Finally, finally, finally we were given the all clear to take Briley home. On the day we left the orphange we brought juice and cookies for the groupa. When we left with her we`ll never forget the one caretaker holding Briley and crying, because I`m sure they get attached to the kids too and I`m sure she was happy for her also. As we left the orphange we had Vlad videotape it so we`ll have to put that up when we post all of our pictures.
Luba was in Kyiv making arrangements and we told her to stay there and we could make the train trip on our own. Vlad took us to Stravansk to board as they allowed more time there to board than in Kramatorsk. That was another surreal time because we were waiting in the train station that was largely deserted, no buiildings were open really, it was just a siding to load, a light snow was falling, sorta dim lights again and we had 100 things going through our minds. We had a new daughter, a solo train ride coming in a strange country, having to say goodbye to our friend Vlad that we had become good friends with, our upcoming paperwork in Kyiv and above all our trip home to Collin and Tory.
Finally a train came pulling in and Vlad said that that one was ours. we boarded, found our room and said our goodbyes to Vlad and departed for Kyiv one last time. The berth was once again very warm so we took all the layers off of Briley and it wasn`t long and she was dozing as were we. We arrived early the next morning(Monday) and were greeted by Luba to be taken to an apartment. We couldn`t do anything that day as it was a Ukrainian holiday I believe like the Ides of March.
After laying around a bit we met up with our Kentucky friends and spent most of the day touring a little bit, getting some last minute souvenirs at our favorite souvenir salesman "Danny boy" and psyching ourselves up to go home. Our plan for Tuesday was for Gail to take Briley to get a physical so she could get her passport while I went and did all the paperwork at the embassy.
When we arrived at the embassy early Tuesday morning we were greeted with a very long line of people waiting to get through the guard shack/ check-in area. Once they they found out we were Americans we were ushered right to the front of the line, way cool!! Once in this little building we were asked why we were there, searched, removed things and finally let go into the embassy. This was the first time in two months that we were surrounded by English speaking people and it was sort of a shock. We were shown where to go to find our paperwork and given a set of instructions on how to do it. I asked the rude old biddy what happens when I have a question, her reply was to fill it out and if was wrong then and only then could we talk with her. What a *****! Anyways, here I am in this room all by myself for a bit until other adoption type people started coming in to do there paperwork. The paperwork wasn`t too bad but it did take quite awhile to get done. Upon completion I had to go see my favorite gal again and she was still a *****! I told her that Gail would be coming with the physical results so Briley`s passport could be done in a bit. She then told me not to be in any hurry because it takes at least one full day to process the paperwork so we should plan on leaving on Thursday at the earliest. After 8 weeks in Ukraine I had had enough and by the time we got done "visiting" I was taken off of her Christmas dinner list! With the paperwork done I left the embassy to stroll out and check out the long line of people and check out the embassy building. While standing there I thought it would be sorta cool to take a picture of the embassy because it is a very nice building which seems out of place in that neighborhood. I got out the camera, turned it on and had time to take one good breath of air when I looked up and saw 2 armed guards rushing at me!!! Holy crap!!! For a minute there I thought I would get to visit a Ukranian jail for a day or two. The American guards were actually quite polite and asked if I had taken a picture, I stated that as quick as they were and as slow as I run a camera I didn`t have a chance to do so. They did take a quick look at the camera but everything was cool. they explained that they don`t let people take pictures for security reasons. WHEWWW!
Shortly thereafter Gail showed up with the Briley`s physical results and we had to go back in and attach that to my documents that I filled out earlier so they could get processed. When we got in there they could not find my paperwork and finally the lady said "Christenson right?" I said yep and then she said a different first name. Can you believe there was another couple from I believe North Carolina with the same name adopting, and at the embassy the same day we were? Finally they found our paperwork and told us to come back late on Wednesday or early Thursday morning to pick it up. I told the lady that we had plane tickets for early tomorrow morning and we fully intended to be on the flight. She bristled a bit and told me I might just as well cancel the tickets because the visa would never be done by the end of the day. I then told her that I would be checking in throughout the day to see if the paperwork was done and she told me not to waste my time!! Yup- I was getting teed off at this point. She did give us a sealed package that was "Double Dog Top Secret" that we could not open, that we had to give to immigration upon landing in Chicago. After a little more bickering we went back to the apartment but I had a driver standing by for a trip to the embassy if I needed one and he knew the importance of it! After many futile phone calls through the day I called one last time at 4:45 and talked with a guy and he asked if my name was Christenson from Ellendale, MN?? YES I WAS!!! He said the visa was just coming in as we spoke and I said I AM ON MY WAY!! He told me that if I wasn`t there by 5:00 that the gates were locked and we would have to come back tomorrow.
After a quick call to my driver he showed up for our Ukrainian Indy Car Adventure Ride. We went barrelling through the streets like a chase scene in a movie and pulled up to the embassy gates at exactly 5:01. As the man had said it was locked up tight!! I manage to get a guard`s attention and explained that I needed a visa that was inside. After talking with someone else he told me over the P.A. that I could use the phone on the outside wall, dial a number and get the receptionist. I did so and got the receptionist that sounded alot like the ***** that I had to deal with in the morning. She told me quite emphatically that they were closed for the day and to come back tomorrow. I then told her basically to get off her butt, walk down the hall 50 ft. to the office where my visa was and to see if anyone was there. There was a stretch of silence followed by a "hrumph" and she said that they would see me now! The guards let me in and within 2 minutes I had the visa and we were officially on our way home!!! That night we went out with John, Char and Maxim from Kentucky and had our last meal in Ukraine at our favorite restaurant Wato`s. After saying our good byes we left to finish packing and get ready to leave in the morning.
At 4:00 am our doorbell rang and Luba`s sister was there to get us to the airport. Luba was already assisting another couple with another adoption so she couldn`t be there. As we left we drove through town and it was another "Dickens" type of scene in Ukraine! Huge snow flakes were falling, the bright lights of Kyiv were glowing and for lack of a better word it was just plain COOL!! It was at this point also that we both realized we might actually miss this place.
Pretty uneventful at the airport- arrived in Munich a couple hours later and our experience there was much better than our stay in Dusseldorf on the way over. Really nice airport, friendly workers and alot of U.S. servicemen there waiting for planes. Finally we were able to board for Chicago- you know USA,Minnesota,Home, Kids etc,etc,etc!!!! This flight was long!! Briley was getting a little restless, we were sick of travelling and just wanted to get home. Finally arrived in Chicago, had to wait in line at customs with a HUGE amount of people, had our bags sniffed by a drug dog, and finally got to give a lady our "Double Dog Top Secret Package" that had Briley`s paperwork in it. Then- we had 15 minutues to get across the airport to catch our flight to MINNEAPOLIS!!!! Before boarding we again had to go through TSA and this time the guy in charge thought that the sippy cup with a brand new fill of apple juice might make the plane crash so we had to throw it away. No time to argue this time- we were too close to home.
After a short flight we arrived on "home turf" and got our luggage to proceed to the terminal. There was the best sight we had ever seen!!! Collin and Tory with the welcome home signs!!! After a short time we headed home and when we were about home we had to stop at the local convenience store and get a gallon of good old American milk. That in itself was worth the trip home.
And that as they say "Is the rest of the story"!
Stay tuned- we will give you a run down on how things have been going on our next post! And yes believe it or not we really miss Ukraine and can`t wait to go back!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Man time flies-WE ARE BACK

OK- We feel guilty. We have ignored the blog because we have been so busy and haven`t made the time to tell the rest of our story. I checked our "stat counter" and we still have a large amount of people checking in daily so as Paul Harvey used to say "Here`s the rest of the story".

After our last visit to Kramatorsk to see the little girls named Angelina and Viktoria we headed back to Kyiv with high hopes for our third and final appointment at the SDA. This time we couldn`t get a train ticket so we flew from Donetsk back to Kyiv. This was a real treat!! :-) The airport was very old "Russian" atmosphere where half of the lights in the terminal didn`t work, sorta dirty and just kinda spooky. Gail said the bathrooms were the worst she had seen. Made us wonder what to expect when it came time for the plane ride. We weren`t to be dissappointed as the plane was as we had expected. Not bad but not exactly "new" shall we say. Well, we made it it back to Kyiv in one piece anyways. We spent the week touring various things in and around the city with John and Charlene (our friends from Kentucky) . This time we had an apartment above a bakery about a block away from the main square and had access to alot of things within walking distance.

After another "typical" week in Kyiv we were off to our final appointment at the SDA to look through some more files and to tell them about a certain child in Kramatorsk that we had by chance stumbled upon and to request her file for viewing. Let me back up a bit here- when we had left the orphanage the last time we had made a favorable impression on the people there by helping Angelina get the exams she needed. If you remember our last post we "accidentally" met a little 2 1/2 year old by the name of Oksana that we " felt" we might have a chance at. We were told that if we asked for her file we would have to be shown it.

Luba was so confident that things would work out that she was at the train station during our appointment and her sister went with us to the meeting. When we got there we were greeted with the smiling friendly faces of the caseworkers who were more than willing to help us as much as they could. No- not really, they didn`t like us at the first appointments and this one was to be no different. We were shown basically the same files we had seen at the two previous appointments and nothing else. At that point we reached into our sleeve and pulled out our "ACE". We asked to see the file on Oksana at the Kramatorsk orphanage. Holy cow, you would have thought the world was ending. They made every excuse in the book why they would not be able show us her file. We heard that we weren`t ready to adopt and we should be happy to take the other choices that they offered us. We were not ready to be parents. In short they refused to show us Oksana`s file.

After this arguing went on for our entire appointment I was fit to be tied and told the lady to give us the sheet of paper to sign off on because we were going home. We had enough! That was the only request they granted us. As we were signing off the SDA lady said we were the third appointment today to sign off. Gee what a surprise!! In a few short minutes we were outta there and on our way back to the apartment. It was the first time I've ever heard Gail say, " Give me one of those cigarettes and let's get a drink!!" Let's just say she was ticked. We called John and Charlene and told them we had struck out and wanted to go get a bite to eat.

Keep in mind that they are 8 hours ahead of U.S. time so when it was 5:00pm there it was still 9:00 am here so we had quite a bit of time to get back to our apartment and book tickets home. We met up with the Kentucky crew and their translator at Wato`s restaurant down the street from our apartment. We had supper , a few cocktails and told them about our day and how we were so discouraged at the process in Ukraine. Their translator then told us of an appeal process that we could do the next day where we could go back to the SDA and try to get them to change their minds. She also stated that this works only once in every thousand tries. We really didn`t know what to do but figured what the heck- as long as we are here we might as well give it a whirl. We tried to call Luba that night but she was already in bed by that time and we had not even gotten a chance to see her after the big rejection as she was at the train station. When we got back to our apartment that night we called any and all contacts in Ukraine and in the States to see how we should handle this. With good advice in hand we went to bed. Right away the next day Luba called us and somehow she already knew what we were up to and told us to meet her at the SDA at I believe 2:00.

We made it to the SDA and met Luba there. We got in there and we were to meet with the head honcho type lady. She came out and wouldn`t even let us in her office. There we were standing on the dreadded steps again. Gail gave me "the look" and basically told me to shut up because the woman wouldn't want to hear the words of any man!! :-) We stood on the stairway as Gail argued with this gal for quite awhile as we listened to the reasons why we couldn`t have Oksana.

- too young for us to adopt, we said we had already seen at least two kids that were younger than six but they said the rules changed this week. hmmmm Once again, rules change by the minute.

- too healthy for adoption to American couples. We said she isn`t and needed eye surgery for her eye. By this time Gail thought if they think she is a doctor, now is the time to use it. She stated she had colleaques that could give Oksana the medical needs that she needed. That argument didn`t work.

- We weren`t Jewish. Never did figure that one out

-We could redo some of our paperwork and then come back on a Monday. We stated that laws may change again and that we've spent enough time in Ukraine. Gail said she needed to get back to her patients. (At this point, they didn't need to know it was just to clean peoples teeth.)

Anyways, we argued for quite some time and it became apparent that it wasn`t going to work. Luba then told us to go to lobby and talk with her a bit. When we got there she thought that if we got a letter faxed to the SDA from our buddy the director at the orphanage stating that Oksana needed immediate eye surgery that it might change their minds. She called him and he sent it right away and we met with the gal again. Nope- that didn`t work either. The lady told us to come back at 4:oo and she would give us a answer. Gail told her we did not want to leave and that we would wait downstairs. We regrouped and were ready to call it quits as it was getting quite late by that time and Luba said. You guys sit here and I will talk with her alone one last time. It got to be 5:00 and here came Luba and she said "Craig, Gail we leave now we are done here" We said okay....., are we going to go for supper or what ? She said " NO!!! We go to get your daughter, she is yours!!!" Holy Crap!! Not what we had expected but somehow she had pulled it off. We grabbed a cab to get train tickets and got our stuff packed as quick as we could because the train left in 45 minutes. Somehow we made it but it was very close. We were on our way to Kramatorsk. We will never know what was said in that last little meeting but whatever it was it worked.
We arrived at the now familiar train station and just barely caught our train. This time Gail and I were not able to ride with Luba in the same berth. As we got on the train we noticed a gawd awful smell coming from somewhere. That somewhere was Luba`s "roommate" for the ride. A big old Russian guy that had been drinking and was eating this awful smelling fish on the little table in her room. We wished her luck and went to find our roommates. We ended up with an older gentleman that was some kind of play director and a young gal that was a student. We had an uneventful trip and the next morning when we pulled into Donetsk we were greeted by a very weary looking Luba. Not only did this guy smell like fish, he also had a tendency to snore after he had been drinking and Luba wasn`t able to get any sleep.
Once we arrived at Kramatorsk we went straight to the orphanage to see the little girl that was to become Briley. We went to her groupa but she wasn`t there as she was getting checked out on a lower floor by the doctor. Pretty soon a caregiver came with her and another little girl and the caregiver told Oksana that her mama and papa had come to get her. Briley was getting checked over because she along with all the other kids had colds. Another thing was Gail tried to give Briley a little stuffed bear and all Briley could say was nyet nyet as she didn`t want it :-). After a short visit we got aquainted with the apartment we were to call home for the next 4 weeks.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

No rain but 3-5 inches of snow coming

OK-We`re back for round 3. We were in Kyiv for our second week and are waiting for notification as to when our second appointment will be. We decided to take advantage of this time to sightsee and check out the city. As we had said in earlier posts, the architecture here is unreal. Alot of the buildings and cathedrals date back a thousand years. We visited quite a few different cathedrals when we were there and they were all pretty cool. We also met up this week with John and Charlene from Kentucky. This was the couple who were there a week earlier than us and had kept in touch with us to eventually meet up with. At this point I believe they had struck out on their first appointment and were also waiting on their second try. As a foursome we ventured to alot of different places and had a good time. The highlights of this week were my adventures with the police, the sightseeing, the subway, and being able to converse in English with John and Charlene.

On Wed. we received word that our next appointment would be the next day. Thursday came and we met Luba for the appointment. When they brought out the files they were all pretty much the same kids we had seen before. All but one new file of two little girls but according to the charts they both had some issues. The 4 yr old Angelina supposedly had epilepsy and the older ( 6yr old)1/2 sister Victoria was fully mentally retarded. The gal helping us with charts was not very helpful and Gail felt that she was not being very sincere. When Gail asked more questions about the girls charts she was given short snappy answers. One that sticks out in our mind is when Gail asked how many seizures the youngest girl has had and we were told several a day without no hesitation. At this point we new she was just pulling answers out of her head or should I say ......! Gail kept looking at the pictures and said that in her mind there was no way that these girls had issues so severe. Needless to say the gal was not very happy with us because she felt we were not listening to her. We weren`t too concerned about the epilepsy so you already know what we decided-- yup, off to Kramatorsk we went!! :-)

Same old routine- get paperwork on Friday, meet Dr. Yuri, get on train travel overnight to Donetsk, travel by car to orphanage. This is the point where it got interesting. We met up with the inspector of the area orphanages to do the necessary paperwork and we were off to the orphanage. We were greeted by a very nice director who was to show us Angelina as Victoria was at yet another orphanage in a different town down the road. A nurse brought this little girl in to meet us. She was a cute little girl but there was some issues that Dr Yuri wasn`t real comfortable with. After the exam we thanked the director and told Luba that we may as well sign off now as there was no use to go see the other little girl as we were told that they would not split up sisters. Luba told us that we had to go see the other girl as it was part of the conditions of taking this referral.

This time we took off in a different direction about 20 miles to a town called Stravansk. On this road trip we actually finally saw a grain elevator, which was strange because even though this was a very good farming area we had yet to see any bins or elevators. We arrived at our next stop and there we were escorted to a playroom type area as the caregivers went to get this little girl. We were expecting to see a little girl with issues and we would be on our way. Well, we were wrong!! This little dark haired, dark skinned girl with pigtails comes out , sits down and starts talking with the Dr.. He ran her through all the tests and she did really well except for one test where she stumbled a little bit. I wasn`t too concerned as I was doing the test right along with her and I messed it up too. After she did the tests she took our photo album we had along and rattled off the things in all the pictures. At this point Gail gave me the "look" and we thought this little girl could be the one if we could work it out. As we left, Luba stated that there probably wasn`t any way that we could split up these two half sisters. Just to defend ourselves a bit here- these little girls had, we believe never seen each other and probably never would be together because they were far enough apart in ages that they would always be in different orphanages. But anyways, we went back to the orphanage in Kramatorsk to visit with the director. We told him what we had found but wasn`t optimistic. We thanked him for his time and then we left for Donetsk. As we were on the road back, Gail and I were a little steamed as it seemed that we had hit a dead-end. All the while Luba was talking with the driver off and on again and on the cell phone. After awhile she turned back to us and said " it is possible if you want to fight, the orphanage directors want to find this little girl a home, but the regional inspector has to OK it." We told her to go for it. Being this was Saturday we had to grab a room at the Liverpool Hotel in Donetsk til Monday. Luba hadn`t planned on staying very long and only had a handbag of stuff but she was a trooper. The hotel was quite new and had a very nice cafeteria on the bottom floor so we were set. When we arrived at the hotel we had asked Luba if this was a safe area and she said " Yes, veddy safe", I asked her what about the chalk outline of a body on the sidewalk out front? Well uh, must be someones joke! I wasn`t so sure it was a joke as it looked pretty real looking to me.

Saturday night we all went to the cafeteria and had a nice supper and it was here that we finally found the ketchup that we were craving, only problem was that it was used as pizza sauce. Other than that the food was good and we called it a night.On Sunday we went to breakfast and there were the display case full of picture perfect sunny side up eggs, glasses of milk etc. We took what we wanted and found out that everything was served cold- yuck. Luba had a glass of milk that looked sorta " Thick" and we asked her what it was. " Curdled milk,you not like,you not try?" I said yup, I`ve had it before but only when the good milk accidentally got bad.

Sunday afternoon we were getting a little bored and went for a walk around the neighborhood and checked out quite a few little shops. When we got back was when I mentioned to Gail that I wish there was a way to see how many people were looking at our blog. After some tweeking on the computer I installed a counter and didn`t think anything of it. Like I had said way back when in our posting, Gail thought maybe 30 people a day and I thought a few more like 40-50 might be watching. When I checked back a few hours later the darn thing was already up to a couple hundred. This was very humbling to say the least. Sorta made us feel that we weren`t doing this all by ourselves. The highest count on any day that we saw was a little over 500 hits!!! Pretty cool.

That night Gail and I went back to the cafeteria to grab supper . Luba didn't join us cuz she spent the day in bed. Luba's curdled milk and raw cold sunnyside up eggs were not as fresh as she thought. When we entered the cafeteria we were greeted by hundreds of drunk teenagers . We were astounded , Luba told us that there is a teen night twice a year and we were lucky enough to be there for one of them. We just ate very quickly and got the heck out of there. Kinda made us uncomfortable in that situation.

Monday morning came and we met up with Luba in the lobby and she didn`t look good and said she didn`t sleep well as she had a stomach ache last night. Gail told her she should probably lay off the curdled milk :-). We went back to Kramatorsk and met with the regional inspector to plead our case. We went around and around but she thought that maybe someday the girls would be together and while we admire her intentions we can`t help but think that somehow it wasn`t the right thing to do.

After it was obvious we had struck out we went back to thank the orphanage director for trying. Gail asked at that point why was Angelina`s file so wrong. We were told that they had no money to update the files and the government didn`t do it often enough. We asked what kind of tests were needed to make the file more accurate and were told that the tests were very,very expensive. We asked how much was very expensive and were told that the cat scan was I believe $90.00. Gail at that point looked at the director and told him to get it done! He was a little taken aback and asked why would we do this? Gail told him that if we don`t her file will never be accurate and it might help her find a home or at least make sure she isn`t kicked out at age 16. He then called the clinic ( socialized medicine) and we couldn`t get in for 6-8 weeks. We told him to call a private clinic and he said that was more expensive but Gail held to her guns and said to do it! He called and an appointment was set for the next day.

After another stay at the Liverpool we were off to the orphange again. They were ready for us and had a nurse to travel with us to the clinic. The clinic itself was quite dingy from the outside and had dogs and cats running all over outside but seemed to have the necessary equipment inside. Gail went with the nurse as I had the driver take me to a supermarket to get a huge bag of candy for all the kids at the orphanage as we planned on leaving that day to go back to Kyiv. After about an hour they all came out and we headed back to the orphanage to say our goodbyes. We gave the director the candy and he gave Angelina a couple pieces and we went over the exam results. In short, the scan did show the brain issues and helped update her file so it worked out pretty well. Oh yeah- the total cost of the cat scan and the doctors briefing ----------- A little over forty dollars!!! Money well spent!!

Side note- when we picked Angelina up for her cat scan Gail gave her a little doll we had brought along and she latched right unto it! Also she had said something to the nurse and Gail asked Luba what she had said. Luba said " she told the nurse that my momma and poppa have finally come to get me". Gail knew better than to tell me that at the time. She didn`t tell me that until after we had left.

So, we were saying our goodbyes and jokingly asked the director if he had any more children coming available. He looked at his book and said yes he would have twin girls available in the near future but it was a ways down the road. Long story short- we accidentally "met" a little girl that had a lazy eye, thin hair, shy,pale etc. Catching on yet?...

On the way back that night we asked Luba how might we be able to have a shot at this little girl that we "thought" might be available. ;-) She said that she was quite sure that something would work out for us at our next appointment.

Stay tuned for the next appointment!!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

recap part 2- our first train ride

Well it`s not raining but it`s supposed to. We got to the train station with Luba and didn`t know what to expect. It was not very well lit and with the drizzle, darkness,cold and all the different looking people it was like a scene out of a Dickens story. We met up with Dr. Yuri and proceeded down the walkways between the trains to find our car. We got to where we were supposed to be and a lady guided us up into the car and pointed us to our berths. These cars are all sleeper cars where the "rooms" all have 4 bunks in them with a small table on one end. Total size of the berth was probably 6`x8`. We all climbed in and sat on our bunks and we all introduced ourselves to the doctor. He is a very pleasant low key individual who took a great deal of interest in our family and life back home. After we had made our introductions the train started moving and we were off!! The train travelled at about 40-45 mph I`m guessing and stopped every so often to pick up more passengers. The tracks there are not what I would call smooth. The cars would rock back and forth which made sleeping difficult at best and made a trip to the bathroom very interesting to say the least. I had said in an earlier post that trying to sleep on the train was like being pulled on a wagon behind a four wheeler and laying on a sheet of plywood while driving under the yardlight once in a while to mimic the lights in towns as we go through them. It still is the best description that I can think of to describe the ride. Not only was the ride rough but we could not settle in knowing we were about to meet a child that could change our life forever. The anticipation was to much for us to sleep and it hit home that we were actually doing this" for real." Anyways, at the start of the trip and about an hour before the destination the "stewardess`" would come around and offer you a hot tea for I believe 2-3 gryvna (about $.35). These were actually not too bad if you didn`t stop and think if they ever washed the cups. After a very fitful night in the bunk we finally arrived in the train station in Donetsk. We unloaded our group while Luba was on the phone with the driver and we went down a long walkway where he was waiting for us. The first thing we noticed was the lack of any sign of wealth that we had seen thus far in Kyiv. The buildings and homes were very bleak and dingy looking. We were headed to Mariupol which is an industrial town towards Russia from Kyiv. As we were travelling down the road we noticed the rich black dirt in the fields. It was much like southern Minnesota. The roads in MN.are rough at times but are much better than the ones in the country in Ukraine. After an hour drive we arrived in Mariupol and we drove by a steel mill that had to stretch for 2 miles and was extremely "Russian"looking". The town itself looked to be very poor and the roads were downright awful in the inner streets that we travelled. The main roads weren`t wonderful but were better than the little side streets. The first stop we went was to the inspector of orphanages to sign in and from there we were to drive to the orphanage. As a side note- Our friends from Blaine, MN, Brent and Cath had gotten two children from this very orphanage a number of years ago. We arrived and went into the directors office and listened to a high speed conversation in Russian between Luba, the director, a nurse and Dr. Yuri. What it boiled down to was the director wondering why the SDA kept sending people to see this little girl that they didn`t feel was adoptable. We did get to see her and Dr. Yuri did a quick evaluation and quickly told us this would not work. The little girl did have some real obvious problems and at that point we were wondering what the rest of the trip was to be like for us. We headed back to the inspectors office and signed off on the referral and headed off to a little deli type place to grab a bite to eat before we went back to the train station. This was the place where we all four had a very nice meal, dessert, 20 oz pop and the total bill was I believe about $8.00 for all four. And then we were off to the train station. This whole journey to Mariupol and the orphanage had taken the whole day and by now it was about 6:00 pm so we were pretty wiped out. We bought train tickets and were off on another great train ride. This time we were actually able to grab quite a bit of sleep. Let me wander a bit here, I forgot a few things!! The train tickets that were 2nd class were about $27.00 each and that got you about 1/2 way across the country. The other thing that I forgot to say was the train bathrooms. The only word that I can think of that comes close is NASTY. But anyways, about 13 hours later we were back in Kyiv to await our second appointment. This time we had an apartment about three blocks off of the main square in a different direction. We slept in basically all day to recoup from the non sleep type train ride and just hung out. ( this was Sunday) On Monday morning Luba called and told us that she would try to get us our second appointment as soon as she could and would let us know. Stay tuned for part three- police issues, Kentucky friends and our second appointment.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I know it`s about time but it has been hectic around here to say the least. If anyone ever tells you that 3 kids aren`t any more work than 2 kids they are lying!! Everyone has been asking us how in the world did you decide to adopt and why in the world Ukraine? Well, we might as well start at the beginning. This is going to be a long post so you might want to grab a beverage of your choice and sit back and read. I type slow so you slower readers will be able to keep up.

About two years ago I had seen an article on my MSN homepage at work and started looking at the links. One of the links took me to the "Ukrainian Angels" website and it showed a gal by the name of Cathy Harris from Florida that had adopted numerous children from Ukraine over the years and she was now helping families do the same thing independently without using an adoption agency. For whatever reason I saved it to my favorites and every once in awhile I would open up the site and look at the pictures of all the little tykes that various families had adopted and the pictures of the kids still in the orphanages. At that point I had no intentions that I was aware of anyway and didn`t give it anymore thought.

About six months later I had come home and Gail was on the computer staring intently at the screen and she sidestepped me a little bit when I asked what she was looking at. Well, lo and behold she was looking at an adoption site. I mentioned that she might want to go to Ukrainian Angels. org and she gave me the goofiest look( not the "stink eye", just a goofy kinda look). Well, that was the start of the whole ordeal.

We sorta thought at that point we might as well check into it together as long as we were already doing it seperately sort of. We contacted Cathy in Florida and she gave us a breakdown of prices, travel, documents needed etc etc. While we were doing this we also took the time and researched domestic adoption and attended a seminar in Rochester also. The seminar in Rochester was done by an agency and we left there thinking that if we are going to do this we are going to wing it ourselves.

After a little discussing and talking with the boys we found ourselves telling Cathy that we are "gonna do it"! At this point Collin and Tory wanted a little sister and they made themselves pretty clear on the matter! Here is the paperwork sequence in the order that we remember doing it. Keep in mind we had to do all this to put together a dossier(all the paperwork) to send to the officials in Ukraine. The catch is while you do all this, once the dossier gets over there none of the things can expire within 6 months of submitting. For example- if we had physicals done on Jan 1, 2007 the paper work would have to be submitted and approved by June 1, 2007 or it would be expiring within the 6 month time limit. All the documents had to be signed by a notary and then sent to the state attorney general to get apostilled with an official stamp. ( apostilling is basically the state making sure the notary that signed and stamped them previously is really who they say the are.)

- Home study, we had to hire an agency to send a social worker out to evaluate whether or not our family is suitable, housing is suitable and whether or not we could afford another mouth to feed. We also had to attend classes in Eden Prairie as part of this requirement.

- Paperwork to the INS to get approval for the international part.

- fingerprints and background check at the federal level.

- fingerprints and background check for the state level.

- fingerprints and background check at the county level.

- physicals for Gail and myself.

- letters of reference

- employment certification from employers.

- wage statements from employers.

- tax statements from years past.

- foreign power`s of attorney

- marriage license

I`m sure I have missed some things but you get the gist of it- lots of paperwork. And yes, we drug our feet a bit and had to do some over again as some documents expired before they got submitted.

While the paperwork was being completed we stayed in touch with Cathy with any questions we had and she gave us the e-mail address of our facilitator in Ukraine. His name is Vlad and he would be the guy over there arranging the translator, submitting paperwork and doing the legwork before we got there. During this period we had high hopes of getting there, getting it done and getting home but things don`t always go as planned, especially in Ukraine. Finally we received an e-mail in Sept that our dossier should be submitted in Nov.. With 30 days to accept us or deny us and 4-6 weeks for our appointment, that meant we would be travelling early to mid January. This worked out really well for me as this would be the slowest time of the year at work. That was the good part, the bad part was that the panic started to set in as to what in the world are we doing?? :-)

We got plane tickets booked with an adoption discount which is substantial and started making the arrangements for everything else when we were gone. In no specific order- bills paid, Collin and Tory arrangements(Thanks Kenny and Judy), dog chore person,(Thanks Jeff)housesitter( Thanks Brady)etc,etc.

Well after dragging out for over a year and a half the travel date zoomed up on us. We were ready for the most part but realized that we were putting a whole lot of trust in people that we had never met and travelling 9000 miles to do it. At this point we figured that we would go over there , pick up a little girl, come home in 3-5 weeks and things would be hunky dory. WRONG!!! Two days before we left I got the flu. I never get the flu, but I sure had it now!! The 4 trips/hour to the bathroom flu!

Finally the big day was here. We had to fly out of Mpls. to Chicago, from there to Dusseldorf Germany and from there to Kyiv. We arrived at the airport plenty early for our departure and said our good byes to the kids. For me this was the hardest part. We were leaving to a foreign country, didn`t know when we would be back and would be away from the boys that we had never been away from before for more than a day or two. We didn`t have too much time at that point to dwell on it because I had to get going!!! Not on the airplane though, you remember where I mentioned the flu?? Yup-I had to find a bathroom and find one quick! This was gonna be a long trip.

Arrived in Chicago O`Hare after a little ride and found our gate for the long ride. About an hour later we boarded on a Lufthansa flight on a real big dog airplane. 4 seats in the middle and two rows down both sides. Three hundred and some people. All I thought about was Gail`s old boss Dr. John DDS. (forensic guru) He always said if you are gonna crash in an airplane to shove a thumb up your butt before you hit the ground so that they can get one good fingerprint for identification purposes.
The plane ride itself was very long but with the movies and all the service from the flight crew it went pretty well. We had a couple meals, snacks, beverages and were waited on quite often. Alot more cushy than say a domestic flight. Remember when I said I had the stomach flu?- yup, there were a couple mad dashes down the aisles to the bathrooms.
Arrived in Dusseldorf, Germany after 9 hours in the air at about 4:00 am their time. The customs there were brutal. These people took their job way too seriously. Had to take off jackets, open cases and explain what my Maalox was. They found Gail`s money pouch but didn`t even try to see if I had one.
After sitting at our gate for a 2 hour layover we were told that our flight to Kyiv was going to be delayed due to the fog. After an extra hour or so we were able to get on a smaller plane and we were finally on our way to Kyiv. This was the point where the reality was finally starting to set in. You know- "the what in the world are we doing feeling". This plane was not nearly as nice and I was thinking about the "thumb" thing again but we safely touched down in Kyiv about 3 hrs later . There were no gates per say as we know them. We were met on the tarmac by a bus that took us to the terminal where we picked out our luggage. You have probably heard the saying " We are not in Kansas anymore ToTo". It was very different to say the least. We had to fill out forms as to why we were there and where we were going to stay etc. etc. Try telling a customs guy that we really didn`t know where we were actually staying. Finally he said just put down "hotel" . That worked for me!! Then we had to go through a security check point with x-ray and guards. I wasn`t too worried about this as the guy looking at the x-ray machine had his feet up and looked to be half asleep.
We gathered our luggage and made our way out into the terminal to see if someone was going to be there to meet us as we had hoped. Sure enough, there was a gal about 30-35 years old holding up a sign with our names on it. This gal was Luba who was to be our translator for the time we were to be here. She took us out to the waiting car where she had a driver ready. Also there was our facilitator Vlad. We paid him his balance that we owed him for his services and we were off. The airport is a ways out of town and our driver lost no time in getting us to where we were going. The thought that we could be dropped off and robbed or worse and nobody would ever know what happened did cross our mind but we had to trust that everything would work out. We had a cell phone with us from another past adoptive couple so Luba had us stop and get a phone card with prepaid minutes on it. Everyone over there uses these cards as they are sold everywhere. I think the idea of a monthly cell phone bill would be a strange concept for them. From there we were taken to our apartment about a block off of the main square. We had to walk through a gate and down a dark alley to the apartment and we were thinking- " great!- what a place to get mugged and killed". I don`t think Dr. John`s thumb trick would work in Ukraine. Our apartment building on the outside was far from fancy but the actual apartment itself was pretty nice. The next day was going to be our first appointment so Luba told us she would meet us at the square at I believe 1:00 for our 2:00 appointment.
The next morning after hardly any sleep we ventured down to the square to eat at the most popular restaurant in Kyiv. Yup- McDonalds. Real similar to home but way different. Some same items on the menu but quite a few different ones. Some that come to mind are the seasoned potatoes as well as french fries, sundaes with a cone cup, fried fish, coca cola "lite" not diet, no 1/4 pounders, pay for condiments ( nothing free). The strangest thing that first day at a Ukrainian McDonalds was the people drinking beer with their egg mcmuffins. It wasn`t uncommon at all to see drinking going on in the morning. Later on in the trip in Kramatorsk we saw 14-16 year olds on their way to school drinking bottles of beer. But anyways, at 1:00 we went to the corner to meet Luba for our appt. We dressed in our dress clothes we had along for our appts. and court. She met us right when she was supposed to and away we went. We walked up a steep street and across a courtyard and down a few more blocks where we arrived in front of a non-descript building which was the dreaded "SDA". We had no idea what to expect but figured we would just hold on and see what happened. We went into a little side door where there were a couple of other couples standing around and we waited for our translator to come and get us. Finally Luba came out and said to follow her. We went upstairs to a little office where there was one couple looking at pictures of children on the coffee table and we were taken to a little office in back. We were introduced to this little gal who looked like she had just flown in on her broom. After looking through our dossier and asking us why we were there and what we wanted she proceeded to lay I believe 11 or 12 files in front of us. At this point we were a little panicked as there were no files that "jumped out" and said " This is the one". All the kids had issues of some sort which is common over there but still we thought that something would stand out for us. Well, nothing stood out and to show that we were sincere, we picked out what we thought was the healthiest child of the group. This little girl was " Elina" in Mariupol. Luba had seen this little girl while at that orphanage before and didn`t remember her as being as ill as her file said. We left the SDA at about 4:00 with the understanding that we were to come back the next day ( Friday) to get our paperwork and jump a train to Mariupol. We contacted Dr. Yuri to travel with us to evaluate this little girl and determine health etc etc. Dr Yuri is a doctor based in Kyiv that does evaluations for adoptive parents as a sideline.
On Friday we packed up and were ready to do our paperwork and train ride to Mariupol. The paperwork went without a hitch and we were off to the train station to meet Dr. Yuri.------- continued on the next rain day-------------------------( my pointer fingers are getiing tired from typing) :-)

Monday, April 13, 2009

We`re gonna get to it!!!

We haven`t forgotten about this blog. We will be doing our recap and update as soon as I get a rain day or two at work. Gail says that she would do it but having three kids plus a busy two year old takes up most of her day. I think she`s referring to me as one of the three but I`m not sure :-). Till next time, Gail,Craig,Collin,Tory and Briley.