Friday, January 30, 2009

The Top 10 Things We Like About Ukraine

Sorry guys ... no pictures today! We slept in this morning and then played board games and cards with Slava. It was actually a very stress free day. We enjoyed it!

Tonight we were brainstorming all the things we like about Ukraine.
Here is our top ten:

10) Dessert at Kofines (the most beautiful and tasty crepes you've ever seen)
9) Bakeries one after the next (fresh breads, pastries, cookies, and fancy desserts)
8) Snowy, Birch tree forests
7) Statues, monuments, & parks a plenty
6) Beautiful churches (huge steeples)
5) Wearing your favorite sweater 3+ days in a row is expected!
4) English menus
3) Nice people
2) Emails from home!
And The #1 thing we like about about Ukraine:
1) We are safe, warm, fed, and exactly where God wants us! (We hope you are too!)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

So Far, So Good

This picture comes from our long drive to Wednesday's appointment. Along the way we did get to see a few things we had never seen before, like frozen lakes with people ice fishing on them. The black dots on the posted picture are people fishing on a frozen lake. We apologize that many of our pictures are so-so. Almost all of them are taken through a car window.

Turns out, our destination was the village where the boys were born and had entered the system. This was kind of an unexpected detail. We were very excited to see that many people in the village were riding bikes! That, combined with the fact that most of those employed in this village work for farms or dairies, seemed providential. Go Aggies! Perhaps we will be sending a son or two (or daughter or two) to UCD as a 4th generation Aggie!

The appointment itself went well. Thank you for your prayers! We received a favorable recommendation and the necessary documents. While these are influential, the final decision will not be made until we go to court. There are still some outstanding documents to be obtained before we can submit an application requesting a court date. The process is sure slower than we'd like; however, we don't have any reason to believe that the eventual outcome will be anything less than what we have our hearts set on. The next big, important appointment will be on Monday.

We are finished with paperwork appointments for the next few days. Tomorrow we will visit one of our guys and Saturday we will visit the other. Then, on Sunday we think we will be going to the circus! We'll keep you posted. We'd love to hear what all of you are up to as well!

We are so thankful for the all the great friends taking this journey with us. We are indeed blessed!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Some Funny Things & One VERY Important Thing

Okay ......

We will let you guess who took this picture.

Hint: Do women look at Google maps and then take pictures of what they see on the screen? (He wants to be able to remember where we were!)

Just some funny things about this place.

There are no shower curtains; big, nice tubs with hand held shower massagers, but no shower curtains.

Some parents push their children in strollers. Many more pull them on little sleds. Its pretty cute.

The women here love boots! Boots that go up to their knees and have a 4 inch heel. They wear them with absolutely everything, mini skirts, jeans, whatever. It is now a game for us to watch for a woman not wearing boots. Natalie wants some, of course, for her 6th grade graduation. (Not gonna happen.)

Bedazzle Mania! Everyone wears jeans here! And not just jeans but glittery, rhinestoned, multi-zippered, very tight jeans.

Many middle aged men carry purses/man bags. We have noticed the bigger the man, the smaller the purse; the smaller the man, the bigger the purse. Dan, Brian, Mark: not to worry we have room in our suitcases to bring each of you one! Would you like a pair of jeans as well? Sam, what about you?

Out the window of our apartment is a gym. In the evening, the girls watch the women do aerobics and mimic them.

There are stray dogs everywhere! The girls have a count for each day.

Only flat sheets, no fitted sheets.

There is a show on t.v. that we think must be Ukrainian Idol.

There is no maple syrup here.

They sell beer in vending machines on the street (less than $2 a piece).

To lock a door the key must be turned three times. You should leave the key in the door horizontally so that no one can push the key out from the other side.

Today was a better day than some of the others. We did some paperwork at the "Inspector's Office." Then, we got to visit and play games with Jen.

Tomorrow will be an important day. We will be going to an office about two hours away to speak with the person who will grant or deny the disconnection/separation between the two younger boys and the older brother. This is the deal maker or breaker.

Thanks for your prayers and emails! We love hearing from you!

Monday, January 26, 2009

From the Girls

Hello Family and Friends,

We miss you all! We're thankful for your prayers. Our new apartment is on the 4th floor in the corner of the building. There's no elevator so when we got here, we had to pull all of our luggage up the stairs. It was hard and tiring. Our driver was even more exhausted than us and he is a muscle man!

We can't wait to get the boys and come home! Today we get to go see Jen.

To all of Erin's friends, I miss you soooo much. Kate from Portland, I remember you. When I look at the pictures I cry. Marina, I hope you and Paige are having fun at school. Mrs. Salomonson, I hope you aren't having a hard time with the class. The first thing I want to eat when I get home is a chocolate chip cookie and a German chocolate cake. (Mom says, "You like German Choolate cake? Erin says, "Well, I don't know ... I've never had it but everyone tells me how good it is!") My favorite treats here in Ukraine, so far, was the pastries and sweet bread from the tunnel under the intersection. The first thing I want to do when I get home is run up to Marina and Graham and give them a HUGE hug!

To all of Natalie's friends, keep emailing me! We want to know how life is in America? How is everyone in Tara Jo's class? What are you learning? Friends at school, I hope you have fun in Sonora! Life here in Ukraine is a lot like it was in Mexico. Mrs. Rhodus, I picked out a gift for you. Mr. Binford, I have already read 3 books! When I get back to America the weather will seem warm because it is freezing here. The first thing I want to do when I get home is see all of my friends. The first thing I want to eat is a big,fat Reese's Peanutbutter Cup. My favorite food so far here in Ukraine was pizza at Pizza Bella. My favorite treats, so far, was the ice cream at Pizza Bella and some chocolate covered crunchy things they gave us at one of the Inspector's Offices. All each of our apr apartments there has been a really good view.

We love you all! Bye, for now.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Sun Came Out!

Today the sun came out and lifted everyone's mood!

We had some down time today, so we went to the square in the center of town. We'd driven by it many times and had been told it was the largest square in Europe. There happen to be a festival going on this afternoon. It included several ice sculptures and ice structures, some you could even climb up and slide down on. There were also pony rides, a snowboarding ramp, quads, a wind/sail skateboard thingy to ride, and music of course. Ukrainians seem to really love American music. We hear it everywhere we go including in our Opel. Our driver always has American music playing, everything from Bruce Springsteen to Celine Dion.

After walking through the ice exhibit, we decided to take a walk through town. There are many old and beautiful orthodox churches in the area. As we walked from place to place we saw nine weddings parties! I guess it is custom to take pictures at all the various landmarks. We came across a small craft fair as well. Erin bought herself a nesting doll. The only down side of our tour is that we really didn't know what we were looking at! None-the-less, we took a lot of pictures!

After all the walking we went to lunch at Bella Pizza. This was kind of a big deal because it was the first meal we had to order without our facilitator to translate for us. Luckily, we had been there with her before and the waitress remembered us! She brought over an English menu. Whew! We weren't going to starve!

Some other big events in the last couple of days include a trip to Target (can you believe that?), cooking our first meal in the apartment, doing laundry, and figuring out where to take the trash. Big stuff!

Tomorrow we are moving to a bigger apartment. This will allow our facilitator to stay with us. She is currently at home for the weekend to celebrate her grandmother's 85th birthday. She will return Monday morning and we will get back to business!


Yeah! We are back online!

We made it to Kharkiv, no problems. I guess we got lucky because our train experience was quite nice. I think we were on a newer train. It was clean, comfy, and the bathroom was like a big airplane bathroom. Nothin' on the tracks from us! We were on the train for 10 hours, 10:20 p.m. to 6:21 a.m. We should have slept! We tried, but the scenery was enchanting and we were all excited!

We went straight to our new apartment and then starting visiting government offices. It was probably one of the longest days of our lives. It was all worth it though, because we got to see both boys!

We spent a lot of time in the car, all four of us packed in the back of an Opel. Although our apartment is within the city of Kharkiv, each of the orphanages is in an outlying area, opposite directions from the city, of course. The posted picture is of our view out the car window most of the time.

Kharkiv is very different from Kiev. Think Fulton Mall meets frozen tundra. So far, this place seems very drab to us. To be fair though, it could be because we haven't seen the sun for days! It looks like we might see it today. It's Saturday and all the offices and orphanages are closed so we are going to the town square. We are told it is the largest square in Europe. We are heading out the door now and we will let you know what we experienced when we get back.

We love and miss all of you! Thank you for your prayers and emails. They are keeping us going!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On To The Next Step

This morning we had our appointment at the SDA. It was a short 10 minute walk to get there and the sights along the way were amazing! The appointment was brief and went exactly as expected. We will pick up three referrals at 5:00 this evening. After that we will return to our apartment, pack up, and then hop on the train to Kharkiv at 10:30 p.m.

We have just a few hours left to see more of Kiev. Believe it or not, we are headed to the mall to buy t-shirts and flip flops! We've been told the train is uncomfortably hot. Pray we are able to sleep.

We are hoping Kharkiv is as wonderful as Kiev. We aren't sure what our access to the internet will be. Hopefully, we will be able to continue blogging. We love sharing this experience with all of you! If you do not hear from us for a couple of days, please feel free to email us. We can receive and send email for free on Susan's phone. No texts though, please, those are expensive!

Thank you! to all of you who are praying for us, sending us comments, and encouraging verses. We totally love it! You are all in our prayers as well!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Daily Life

It was sunny and cold today. It will be cold everyday, but today it was sunny and crisp as well. There was still quite a bit of snow on the ground, in the trees, and on the roof tops, and since the sun was out the city looked bright and beautiful. Our apartment is located right in the center of the city. The look and feel of things is very much like staying near Union Square in San Francisco. Just like SF, the buildings are large and imposing, very old architecture mixed with new, scaffolding over the sidewalks, and signage everywhere.

We did some daily life things today; like go to the grocery store, the bank, the mall, and to McDonalds for lunch. Be thankful for SaveMart and Vons! The grocery store is pretty much like ducking into a doorway in an alley. The entire store is about as big as a master bedroom. The mall, on the other hand, looked just like an American mall; it has many of the same stores, a food court, but it is underground. One nice thing about this city it that you cross major intersections by going under them, through a large tunnel. The stairs down look exactly like an entrance onto BART. Within the tunnels there are vendors selling everything you can imagine, including fresh, beautiful flowers, any kind you could want. If you have ever been to the Pike's Market in Seattle it looks just like that.

Tomorrow, we have our appointment at the SDA, 9:30 a.m., our time. We are 10 hours ahead of California. Following this appointment we will receive referrals to permit us to go to the orphanages. Please pray we receive we 2 referrals, no more no less, and for the right children.

After we receive the referrals, perhaps tomorrow afternoon or the next day, we will travel to the region where they are located. We will take the train and it will be about a 10 hour trip. We will travel at night in a sleeper car. Our facilitator will be traveling and staying with us in the region. I think she will speak English and Ukrainian/Russia. What a blessing! Hopefully, we will be the same to her.

Thanks for checking in on us! Keep the comments coming! We love hearing from you! Add your picture too! Seeing your faces makes us smile!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

We Are In Kiev!

Hi Everyone!

This will be a short post. As you can imagine, we are very sleepy! We wanted to let you know that we arrived in Kiev safely!

It was snowing quite heavily when we got off the plane. All the Christmas lights are still up and so the city looked like a winter wonderland. We are staying the next four nights here in Kiev. On the way to our apartment the driver pointed out many of the historical buildings and landmarks. The Opera House and government buildings are beautifully lit at night.

Our apartment is very suitable; spacious, warm and clean. The neighbor next door has some Nora Jones style music softly playing and we can hear it through the walls. Feels pretty cozy.

I will try my hand tomorrow at posting several pics, tonight just one. Our driver told about the different occupations Ukraine has endured. This is a photo of the building that the KGB and Gustopo were headquartered in.

We are excited to go to sleep and then see the city in the daylight tomorrow. We can't believe we are actually here!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Preparing to Get Our Boys!

After several days of borrowing and buying the items on our packing lists, tonight we plan to start packing! We still have many things on our "To Do" list, but create blog can now be crossed off! (Thank you, Jennifer!) This will be our family's first experience blogging; so, please be patient with us as we learn.

We'd like to begin by telling everyone how thankful we are for friendship. So many of have patiently walked this journey with us. We are so blessed to have such faithful friends! We would not have made it to this point without you!

We hope this blog will allow us to take all of you to Ukraine with us! We hope to have access to the internet daily. When we do, we will blog and post pictures as often as we can, so that you can experience everything with us. Please post comments! Ukraine is really far away and we are going to miss all of you very much and probably be very homesick. Your comments will encourage us and we will treasure them!