Thursday, December 25, 2008


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Enjoy!

Rare Picture, Indeed!

I just had to show this one off ... it is a rarity that Derek smiles for a picture! It's hard for me to believe I have a son who will be graduating from COLLEGE in May!!!

More Pics from Julia's Birthday

As we said in our previous post, we celebrated Julia's, Shauna's and Timmy's family birthday parties together.

As a joke, we wrapped Julia's digital camera in a box from an order of chicken and jo-jo's from a local take out. Don't worry! I wrapped the camera in a baggie before putting it in the box!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Great Job!

I meant to make an entry the other day about this but time got away from me ... does anyone else have that problem or is it just me?? :o)

The girls recently finished their first 9 weeks of school this year. Here is an e-mail we received from the 8th Grade Team:

Hello parents! I am hoping that some of your children came home yesterday and bragged about being recognized as having good character or great effort towards academics. Each 8th grade teacher chose a student that exemplifies character and 2 students who have shown great effort towards academics. We rewarded these students with a dessert bar during their lunch period yesterday.

Rymma came home all excited!! It was awesome to see the sparkle in her eyes as she explained the award and the dessert bar to me. What a confidence booster! We are SO PROUD of her and Julia!! :o)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Rymma and Julia are doing SO well in school!! They are getting good grades, making friends and are becoming more independent when doing their homework.

The school district has hired a former teacher from Ukraine who speaks Russian - what a blessing! They have also provided the girls with an online program to help them with conversational English that they can access at school and at home. They even went to far as to order access to the program for Krystina in preparation for when she is finally home with us. We are so pleased with how our school district has provided for Rymma, Julia and Krystina. :o)

Here are Julia's and Rymma's fall school pictures! Aren't they beautiful?

Oh ... and get this! I took the girls shopping the other day. Rymma went looking for a cool t-shirt and came back with a bright green one (like the color in her school pic - she looks gorgeous in this color!) with a neon pink peace sign and glitter. Turns out it was the SAME one I bought her a couple of weeks ago and saving for her for Christmas!! I told her that she couldn't get that one and to pick another. hehehe "Why?" I ended up having to tell her that I got that one for her for Christmas. So much for the surprise! But the good part is ... I actually picked out something that she likes!!! :o) When I told her that I had already bought it for her she grinned from ear-to-ear! :o) But I also told her that she has to wait till Christmas to get it! I know, I know ... "Mean Mom!" LOL

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Priceless....


5 Bottles of Ketchup - $1.19 ea
6 Tubs of Whipped Cream - $1.99 ea
2 Dozen Iced Cupcakes - $1.99
1 lb. Cooked Pasta - $.89

Having a food fight with 3 of your friends and your family ...
PRICELESS!


Julia's friend birthday party

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I just love these pictures of Julia and Rymma and wanted to share ... :o) Gotta love b/w and sepia photos!!



Lucia

Friday, October 17, 2008

Football, Friends, Flag Raising

Tonight the girls went to their first American high school football game. Of course, being teens, they didn't want to sit with Mom and Dad. But in this case, it was good! It means they are stepping out and making friends!

John and Tim participated in the flag raising with Boy Scouts! The scouts got to welcome the team out on the field (I was too far away to get a good pic :o(

We froze our butts off but it was worth it! We won 60-14! WOOHOO!!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happy Birthday to Our Julia!

Yes, today our Julia turns 15! She has grown so much since coming home in March. She does not like to hear that she is getting taller or that she continues to grow. I tell her she is petite ... just like mom! :o) and that being petite can be fun! I was talking with one of her friends yesterday (Yes! She has made a couple friends at school! WOOHOO!!) and Ashley said that Julia told her that her pants from Ukraine are too small. She is having a birthday sleepover next Saturday with Ashley and another friend, Taylor.

Dad and Mom woke her up with the "Happy Birthday" song! Aunt Connie and Ariel called and sang her "Happy Birthday" on the way to work and school. She just beamed from ear-to-ear. :o) Timmy gave her a birthday kiss before she and Rymma left for school.

She received a text message from Krystina this morning: How r u? Happy Birthday Julia. LOVE you!:-) She also received a package from her family in France this afternoon - a photo album of pictures of her stays in France, her personal belongings and a card. They even wrote a little bit of English in her card! :o) She said that everyone at school told her Happy Birthday and she got tired of saying "thank you." LOL

We had a big family birthday party on Saturday to celebrate Julia's 15th, Shauna's 21st (10/31) and Timmy's 8th (11/8) birthdays. (We will post some pics later - I PROMISE!) Julia asked me all day on Saturday, "What you buy me for birthday?" I would tell her, "Nothing." She'd just look at me and smile. I didn't lie to her - John picked up her present! :o) You should have seen her when she opened her new digital camera! She ran right over to me and hugged me so hard she could have cracked a rib! And then she ran to John and gave him just as hard a hug. She was SO excited!!

Rymma and Julia went to their first American friends party last night! Ashley's birthday was yesterday. She turned 14. They were SO excited and did all the primping that girls do (I was quite experienced at that myself in junior and high school, thank you very much!) They looked beautiful! ... And they had a good time! :o)


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fireproof


Where has the year gone??? Lucia and I cannot say enough good things about the movie Fireproof. If you are married... GO SEE THIS MOVIE! Then contact us afterwards for more information about Marriage Encounter to further make your marriage 'Fireproof'.
Agape,
John

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A New School Year

The kids started school today. Rymma and Julia weren't all too happy about it but they got up, dressed, ate a small breakfast and actually smiled when they got on the bus. :o) They did a great job clothes shopping (and I must say that John did a great job with them too - he took them by himself! What a great dad!) The girls will be split up a little this year to prepare them for high school next year. This will also force them to speak English and hopefully get them to come out of their shell a little bit and make some friends individually. They will have Language Arts, Math, ESL, gym and lunch together. They have separate homerooms, science and social studies. We think this will be good for them - they will be able to start finding their own identity. (UPDATE 8/26/08: They girls are doing very well in school. They doing homework with minimal questions and one assignment opened doors for great conversation betwen all of us. :o)

I was really impressed with the district in how they prepared for their English this year. They will have an ESL teaching time once a day. Then they will have that same teacher in Language Arts and Math with them 3x a week to assist them. This is like 1000% better than last year!!! I am eager to see how much more progress they make. They are doing VERY WELL with their English - they understand more and more and try to communicate back more and more. Even Rymma tried very hard to tell us what she wants without consulting Julia so much - and we haven't had to use the pocket translator or call our friend but maybe once a month.

Rymma has decided that she wants to take hip-hop. We found a studio about 10 minutes from home and north of Dover (just before you enter New Philly). She seems to want to break away from Julia a little - which is a good thing! I want to get Julia involved in extracurricular stuff too - perhaps piano. She loves our keyboard and I would like to see her pursue a personal interest of her own as well.

We went to the open house at the new school for Timmy on Monday - they took three elementary schools and combined them into one. WOW! It's really nice! They have pods for each grade. What color is Timmy's pod you ask? Yellow, of course! His favorite color! LOL He is all excited about school starting again. He really missed his friends this summer.

The new JH/HS will not be ready until after Christmas. We are hoping to have Krystina home by then! We are still waiting to turn in our dossier but hope to do so within the month. If we do, there is a good possibility that she will be home with us before the holidays! :o)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mamma Mia!

Oh My Gosh!

The girls and I had a chick flick afternoon yesterday and went to see "Mamma Mia!" If you haven't seen this movie yet, GO!!! It was awesome! Meryl Streep is hilarious and really outdoes herself. Her two sidekicks are a hoot and a holler! LOL If you don't go to see it for Meryl Streep's performance, it's worth it just to hear Pierce Brosnan TRY to sing! LOL

I was amazed at how the writers of this musical took the ABBA songs and made them work for this musical! I think you will be impressed too!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Girls are official U.S. citizens! + 120 miles per hour

Greetings all!
July 8th the girls were sworn in as US citizens :-)
For those of your reading this blog who are yet to adopt just an FYI: If your child is 14 years or YOUNGER when they arrive on U.S. soil, they are naturalized U.S. citizens and nothing else other than paperwork you complete at the Embassy is needed. HOWEVER... if your child is over 14, like Julia and we arrived on Rymma's birthday (March 6th), they will need to be sworn in. So both of the girls had to go to the Federal Building to be sworn in as citizens. It was kinda funny because I believe the oath they took was exact oath I took when I joined the army. So once they finished taking the oath, I had a huge grin on my face and shook their hands and said, "Welcome to the Army!" (OK, perhaps you needed to be there to appreciate the effect of my humor).

Two down, one to go! :-) We are finishing up some last minute paperwork before we submit our dosssier for Krystina. This time around is totally different because for this adoption we are 100% raising the funds through "donations only" to complete the adoption of Krystina. We will be posting more about the fundraising shortly ... and if any of you have suggestions we are all ears!

120 miles per hour! Below are photos from our recent trip to Cedar Point. I really missed Shauna coming along this time again and Sammy ended up having to work so it was mostly Rymma and I on the roller coasters. The pic is from Top Thrill Dragster (video from CP website). 120 miles per hour in under 4 seconds! WHAT A RIDE! Rymma is in yellow and I am beside her. What a hoot! Not only is this ride fast but a reminder of how life goes by sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo fast! We have been home a little over 4 months now! Goodness! You blink and a day passes by you. I find myself wondering at various times what Krystina is doing. Thank God we can send her text messages and call her.

Today was Ukraine day at our house to the max! Rymma talked to her best friend, Julia, who was adopted by a family in Iowa. She got to call Krystina in Ukraine and as I type this, Lucia, Rymma and Julia are heading to Akron to meet Alena from AZ who happened to be passing through Ohio today. I stayed home because Sam wasn't home from work yet. So I took advantage of the moment to blog a bit.

SO, at this point, we are just praying to raise the funds for Krystina. The world is telling us we are crazy for taking in 2 girls so far and we are nuts to go for a 3rd daughter. This will put us at 8 kids. But the more I pray about it, I still believe this is meant to be. For me the decision is simple. James 1:27 sums it all up and tells us to take care of the widows and the orphans. It's sad that the world is blinded and follows a different direction. When I die, it won't matter much how much money I have in the bank or how many customers my business has. What matters most is if I chose to follow God's directions for my life. Did I love enough? What kind of seeds did I plant in my own family? Some of these seeds I have already seen grow and some of them I won't live to see. But I want my legacy to be that I forever changed lives for Christ; that Lucia and I took 3 young ladies out of hopelessness and gave them a clean slate for their future. Just like Christ has done for us.

AGAPE,
John

120 miles per hour- US Citizenship

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Monday, July 7, 2008

"Hi, Mom!"

Okay, okay ... I know ... I personally haven't posted ANYTHING since we got back. My bad! Hopefully, I can now keep up ... at least a couple times a month or so. :o) I will attempt to catch up over the next few weeks. Be patient with me! Remember, God isn't finished with me yet either! ;o)


First off, I quit my job of over two years - my last day was June 27. I really enjoyed my work - and more imporantly, the people I worked with. I will miss all my "peeps" terribly! But, it was getting to be too much with the commute, keeping up with the house, the cost of gas and ... more importantly, keeping up my energy for the family. I am now working for my husband for 10-12 hours a week. Talk about a test of your marriage! LOL Another advantage is the shop is only 17 minutes from home - not the 35-40 minute one-way commute to my old job.

The girls and Timmy are happy that I am home with them more. The girls have really begun to open up to me more and we are getting closer every day. :o)


On Thursday (July 3), I went to work at the shop and on to a doctor's appt. I came home and Rymma walked in the kitchen. "Hi, Mom." WOW!!!! I looked at her and said, "What did you say?" "Hi, Mom." I went over to her (ok, ran to her!) and kissed her and hugged her and told her thank you!! You see, that is the first time she has called me "Mom" and this was a very special moment for me! All weekend, she called me mom and it just made my heart sing! She even asked me "When dad come home?" We are bonding and building trust, people!! And it's great!!!

Julia is still processing and it may take her some time before she feels that I am "mom" and John is "dad." She still calls by our first names ... but that's ok. We know she loves us and she will call us "mom" and "dad" on a regular basis when she is ready.

Grandma Speaks To Me

On the day John and the kids went to Cedar Point, I was able to spend a day doing what I wanted to do - no kids, no husband. I took full advantage of it! :o)

I got up and spent all of the morning and until about 2:00 cleaning. (I am one that cannot clean when there are others in the house and it actually relaxes me when I can look at my house and go "Aaaah!" Anyone else like that out there?) I got cleaned up and went to a scrapbook store in a little town called Strasburg. Next to the scrapbook store is an antique flea market. I decided to go in and take a look around - I like antique furniture, depression glass and knick-knacks. As I entered the store, I told my grandma (I called her "Nana") that if she approves of what John and I are doing with our girls and with our lives to show me in something that reminds me of her.

I walked down a couple of aisles and perused the pretty depression glass in blues, greens, oranges and antique tables and such. As I turned one corner, there was a chest of drawers and on top, smack in the middle, was a platter that matches the dishes that I inherited from my grandma when she died - 8/25/91.

My Nana made sure that I knew she approves and it made my entire day! I was on cloud nine the rest of the day.

I did get to the scrapbook store and had a great conversation with the owner about what happened next door and she told me a little about her mom and a good friend of hers. We must have talked for an hour or more after I finished my purchase! :o)

John and the kids got home around 11:00. They were SO excited! They told me about the rides and showed me the stuffed animals dad had won for them! Julia told me that she was going to go on the Demon Drop but she chickened out - "I go. I see. Whoosh! I no go!" It was too funny!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fathers Day 2008

Father's Day 2008



Greeting's all,

Just a quick post. These pics are from Father's Day I spent with 4 of my girls at Cedar Point. Check out pic of Rymma's first Magnum Roller Coaster ride!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dossier is almost done!

Greeting's everyone,

After waiting over 2 months we finally got our amended home study in our possesion yesterday! So now we have to get it certified and apostilled and it should be going to Ukraine before the end of the month!

So now its turning it over to God to provide and allow us to bring Krystina home. We are hoping that it will be submitted and accepted right away so we can travle over the summer months to get her. So we kindly ask for your prayers that God's will be done and that we can bring Krystina home soon!

Agape,

John and Lucia

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Where do I begin?
We have been home now over 2 months.
So many things to share and I don't know where to begin!
Let me start with the news and walk backwards.
We are going for a THIRD young lady! Krystina is 15 years old.

We fell in love with Krystina while seeing Rymma and Julia our first trip.
She fits in well wit the rest of the family. She looks like me (John).
And the funny part is we both have dents in our heads from childhood.(Long story!)
It is amazing how the choices we have made have the same exact effects of if
we have had the child ourselves they would have same appearance.
So we know God's hand is in all of this!

So we are awaiting home study revision and then we will submit our dossier again for Krystina! :-)
So at this point we are hoping we can travel during the summer months to get her. However, one hurdle
is another large financial expense and this time we are turning it over to God.
If it is to be then he will provide a means for this to happen. :-)
We will be putting up a paypal support page shortly and humbly ask for your help
for us to bring Krystina home soon!

So if you are new or lost track. We currently have 7 children. Derek 21, Shauna 20, Sammy 16, Julia 14, Rymma 14, Sabrina 13, and Timmy is 7. Krystina just turned 15. So it will be 8 then. :-)So how do we handle all this? Actually working on total transformation program now! (very good resource btw)
Considering writing a book soon. hahahahaha So where are we now?

Julia and Rymma have been in school for a month now and their English is growing quickly. Total immersion except for a Harry Potter set of books in Russian the have been reading. We thought about Russian programming on satellite but are holding off till their English is normal conversational. Today is Mothers Day and what better way to celebrate with 2 new daughters?

We have been totally blessed. For being home 2 months we have had very little issues.
No, I am not joking! Probably biggest issue is getting into Lucia's craft stuff without asking. But all in all we cannot complain. Hardest part is being consistent and fair with the new daughters. Then spending time with our other kids. So again, so far so good. But if you are reading our blog for advice.
It is something to consider in advance of choosing non-siblings. Something that we didn't do but we are very lucky that this has worked out well so far. Hoping it continues once we get Krystina.

It has been fun to watch over the past 2 months and seeing the girls adjust. The dinner table has become a place for
laughter and mini food fights. Hopefully this summer we can have a full blast food fight out on the picnic table. We will wait for a weekend when al the kids are home for sure! Julia is the sneaky, smiling one. Rymma is the quiet, planning one!
Rymma is the vocal she doesn't like something. Julia tells Rymma and Rymma tells us. So it is funny watching it all unfold!

So perhaps your asking yourself this question. You have 5 biological children and decided to adopt 2 girls. Why in the world would you adopt a third child? I know what you are thinking. We are rich, eh? Well we are very blessed but far from rich. We have had to make a lot of sacrifices to make this all happen. But how can you put a
price tag on forever changing a child's trajectory of their life? A stark reminder was this past week.

Rymma and Julia had to pick 5 things they would like to be when they grow up. It was a struggle to come up with a simple 5 choices! These girls have the ability to become anything they set their heart too. And having dreams of a future that is completely unwritten has not sunk in yet. Both girls suffer from poor self esteem and we are constantly encouraging them and building them up. We can’t save them all but we can save 3. If all my children grasp this and adopt 2 children themselves. Then 16 more are saved. And so on and so on…..

So we will try to update more often. If you are considering adoption and have questions. Please fire away! We will share everything openly and hopefully prepare others!

God Bless and Thanks for all your prayers and support!

Agape,

John and Lucia

Monday, April 14, 2008

We're still alive and kickin'!


Sorry for not posting since we got home. I hope to get something online in the next few weeks. In a nutshell, things are going well! Stay tuned for highlights ...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

3-19-08 Recent pics

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Home!

Good morning!
Just a quick note to let you know we did make it HOME! Ahhhhhhhhhh what a great feeling! So much to say and upload some pics later. So check back as we update on how things are going.

Thanks for your prayers!

John and Lucia and girls

Friday, March 7, 2008

On the plane!

Hey all
Its 9pm and we are almost loaded. Has to be the quickiest load I have ever seen. So those of you are coming to airport should be there around 10:30pm

ALMOST HOME! Yeah god!

John and Lucia and girls

Sitting in New York

Its 7:45pm and we just got notified that our plane should be 8:02pm. So I am guessing we will be heading home before 9pm and into CAK yet tonight. We know the roads are bad so please don't put yourself at risk to see us at airport! But at least we should be home tonight!

Love you all,
John n Lucia and the girls

Flight info

Hello all,

If you are meeting us at airport here are ways to check flight status. Thanks to Bob Ray.
Those who will be meeting you at the airport can check your flight
status at either
http://www.airtran.com/flight-schedules/flight-info.aspx or at
http://flightaware.com. They would need to enter your flight info,
Airtran Flight 213 in order to check status. The flight aware website
won't list anything until the aircraft actually takes off. The airtran
website will list flight delay info once the time gets closer.

So we plan on going to airport in case it takes off on time. So hopefully we'll be sleeping in our own beds tonight.

Love you all,

John and Lucia and the girls

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Back in the Good Ol' USA!

We made it! We arrived in NY at 6:45 this evening. It was wonderful to be able to read signs and hear "Next!" at the US Citizen line! :o) We went through immigration with no hassles and are now in our hotel room for the night. We have been told of the storm expected at home tomorrow and have opted to still take the evening flight. We are absolutely whipped and grumpy and there is no way we will be able to get the girls up and moving to be on the road to the airport by 8:30 am.
There is more to post -- just not tonight.
Good night from New York!
Lucia

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Homeward bound!

Greetings all,

Today was just a wind down day in our final whole day in Ukraine. The girls just stayed in pj's and we watched dvd's together and they listened to cd's on my laptop.

Girls had time to talk to friends one last time and was just all in all a very relaxing day. Once Lyuda go home from work she and I went to local store and got chicken, crab salad and such for our farewell dinner. Lyuda brought home a kiev cale and we sang our first happy birthday to Rymma tonight here since tomorrow will be spent flying.

The really cool thing is Rymma will become a US citizen (julia too!) On her 14th birthday the moment she touches USA soil. So it will certainly be a birthday for Rymma never to forget.

So here's the deal...
Tomorrow March 6th we fly 1pm ukraine time and arrive in JFK at 4:35pm est. We will stay in hotel there and take Friday afternoon Airtran Flight 213 LGA to CAK departing at 4:50 pm arriving at 6:28 pm at Akron Canton airport Friday evening. We wanted to fly straight through but getting that late tomorrow would be around midnight and hard on kids with school and such. So we picked Friday afternoon and hopefully late enough that people can meet us there. I'm counting on 400-500 people being there- ok? Hahahahaha I hope you can come see the girls and celebrate with us on this great day!

So some last minute thoughts and reflections.
1- I will be posting TONS more pics when I get home and settled in.
2- been here 5 weeks and NEVER seen a single cow or a active farm with animals. (Really)
3- that the last 5 weeks has humbled me that God is in control and not me. 4- that when you are following God's will you just know your doing the right thing when the rest of the world tells you are wrong or crazy to do this.
5- I have not regretted one millisecond of the past 5 weeks here. I am certain it was God's will and his purpose for us to be here this long. I surrender all.
6- that because of our posting and photographs there are other children at detsky dom that people have contacted us about getting more information about. THAT'S A HUGE YEAH GOD!
7- Rymma only has the photo's we gave her and a handful of friend's photos. We got 3 school pics from her school file. Other than that she has no pics. :-( So if you are reading this take pics of kids there and not just yours. Take memory stick to local photo shop and run off some pics for the kids there. One of the neatest and humbling sights of being here 5 weeks and seeing hardly no photos in any other room expect Rymma's was looking around our final day. I saw snapshots we had given out in several of the rooms and it really made me happy that these kids who have nothing so have something to hold onto.
8- that being here 5 weeks I never ONCE saw the kids not share every drink, chocolate, crab and when we went to local store the kids only bought things they knew everyone liked.
9- that a simple thing like a hug or a kiss on the cheek makes a difference in a young ladies life here. Its the simple things that mean the most here. That escorting our girls or one of their friends to the cafe or corner store was a big deal to them ( and me too!)
10- that Krystina, Marina, Nastya, Alena, Vika so many more here have touched my heart and changed me in so many ways. That for most of them I have been a dad to them this past 5 weeks and that's most contact they have had with a father figure, period. This simple truth is heart breaking to me.
11- that I can see already before I leave of the need here and that I expect to be back here again.
12- surprisingly even before we have left the girls are asking me to be able to return to see there friends. My first thought would be to leave and never come back but it makes me realize how much these kids are family to each other and they want to stay in contact.
13- taxi's in Kiev are double to triple to what we paid in Gorlovka.
14- that Lucia and I have been humble to follow God's will and complete the adoption of Rymma and Julia.

So please check back for photo's and updates as we now focus on getting home and being all together as a forever family.

Thanks for your support and your prayers. We could not have done this by ourselves. And last is first, first is last may GOD be glorified in this and that he is magnified! Glory to God to use us in this.

Agape,

John and Lucia

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cleared to go! No plane ... :-(

Privet from Ukraine!

Girls are cleared! Yeah God!
We got their visa's today and went shopping for a bit. While at embassy another couple there from VA said they had to fly out Thursday because tomorrow's flight was full. They weren't joking. :-( So as soon as we got back to flat I tried to book flights on my laptop but connection wouldn't hold up so I winded up at internet cafe for the evening trying to get flight. I found one combination through a web site a friend gave me here. But it was through singapore and once I completed all the stuff I found out it mailed paper tickets. So when I tried going to the 3 airlines direct a simple fare turned into a nightmare and costly. So I had to stick with aerosvit on thursdays flight. So as of this post we arrive the 6th in Jfk at 4:35pm. I have to staighten out issue of entering the passport info in morning and then see what flight I can get into CAK. Right now its like 11pm to 12 midnight arrival at CAK. So we might stay at New york and head home Friday. Will let all you know tomorrow. Its almost 1am here now and I am whipped!

Also before I forget we got quite a surprise at breakfast this morning.
Rymma told us about her sister! Yes, you heard me right. She has a 10 year old sister. She was abandoned by her mother at the hospital because she had heart problems and other medical issues. Her mother just left her and never came back for her. So a nurse there adopted her and Rymma knew nothing about her sister till 1996 when she was told about her and met her shortly after that for the first time. We also found out that the family asked to adopt Rymma AFTER they heard we had hosted her and she told them no. So we are grateful that she picked us to be her parents. So its been a another long day here. Finding this out, waiting at embassy and then some shopping.
So will post tomorrow about when we get in so everyone can sing happy birthday to Rymma at airport ;-)

We are so eager to get home!!!

Agape,
John

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Painful Goodbyes...

Greetings everyone,

As I punch this in my blackberry it is 05:30 and we are sitting in main train station in Keep waiting to go to Lyuda's flat at 7am. Julia is sleeping against my shoulder and Rymma is laying on her lap sleeping. It is comforting that papa is a nice pillow :-)

I don't think any of us slept well on the train. Julia told me her mattress fell off the top bunk at some point in the night. The bad thing she was laying on it at the time! Ok I am backing up to Sunday's events now.

We got up early Sunday and finished packing up our stuff. Julia stayed with us again and Rymma spent last night with her friends. Olga picked us up at 11am and we planned 2 hours at orphanage but ended up with only an hour :-( so our final goodbyes were rushed to say the least. We let Rymma take the camera so she got lots of pics.

2 years ago when I came to Ukraine on missions trip in 2006 when I left I did not shed any tears unlike when I left Ecuador or Peru. I was ready to go then, mission accomplished. God has a reason for everything and I know why I didn't cry then because I was saving it for this time.
I do not think words can accurately describe what took place but I will try.

When we arrived we found all the girls gathered in Rymma's room. Tears were already flowing then and it just continued the entire time. We just spent the entire time going from girl to girl hugging and kissing them. The girls just kept constantly rotating between Rymma, Julia, Lucia and myself. I would hug and kiss Krystina, Lucia had Marina, Rymma had vika and Julia had Nastya. Then we would switch and the process repeated over and over.

I saw Jesus everywhere in that room and I truly feel I felt a glimpse of what heaven is going to be like. Everyone loving each other and praising our savior all day. One of the things that truly broke me was that these beautiful daughters of ours were leaving the only family that they had for the past 7 years together and that they willingly chose to be with Lucia and I. Wow! How brave these girls are. I can't honestly say I could make the same choice of leaving my family for another. You can pick you friends but you normally can't pick your family. So I was just broken watching these girls cry.

it is hard to imagine the bonds that were created in a month here. Lucia and I both have marks on our hearts from these girls and we know that we have touched Krystina, Marina, Nastya, Vika, Alena hearts very much.
I can honestly say I would lay down my life to protect these girls just as I would my own daughters Shauna, Sammy, Julia, Rymma and Sabrina. Oh how we miss these girls so much! The other stark fact is that Lucia and I would not hesitate to add any of these girls to our family. However, the painful truth is that we cannot save them all. :-( and this simple fact just breaks my heart. :-( Nastya is already 17 and through odd circumstances is one of the few that stays beyond 16 here. Her birth date is Dec 25th and will turn 18.
So once we said our goodbyes upstairs we all headed downstairs and out to front gate in a huge group hug walking together. Lucia and I were with Krystina. This beautiful young lady has really touched us both.
So we got to the taxi and it was honestly just a mess. Was very painful and I just saw broken young ladies on both sides. Going and staying. As we pulled away I watched julia console her sister and hug and love on Rymma. I am so glad we decided to go with two girls! Time has flown from that point. Took taxi to our flat and loaded bags and met up with Angelina and her husband. Drove to Donetsk to get our train.

Our train ride was quiet and peaceful for the most part. Spent time talking to girls and different things and just being silly. Girls both love being massaged and I relaxed them both to fall asleep so that was nice to watch.

So here we are in train station. If we were playing survivor I would be the winner. All three of the girls are crashed and I playing security guard watching all our stuff. So later this morning we meet up with Angelina and start processing out. Medical exams and visa's today.

So until I have tickets in my hands I am not sure if we will make flight Tuesday or Wednesday. Once we have our tickets will post so everyone knows when we return to usa.

Thanks!

Agape,

John and Lucia

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Mixed Emotions

Greetings all,

First off, I want to apologize to my still-youngest daughter for not making it back today to see her show. Knock 'em dead Sabrina! And secondly to my oldest for not making it home so Shauna could meet her new sisters.

Ok-with that off my chest, I need to clarify something. No, we did not adopt Julia's younger brother! Sorry for the confusion. He was adopted 7 years ago when he was a baby to a family in Italy or Spain. It caused an issue because our judge was concerned about something coming back on her decision so an investigation was summoned into why the earlier court allowed Julia and her brother to be separated.

So that's all behind us. We have our decree and passports. Rymma and Julia are OFFICIALLY ours! So tomorrow we leave Gorlovka at 2pm and head to Kiev and arrive at 5am! Fun-fun, does the fun ever end here???

We apologize for falling off updating the blog. We have spent every minute we possibly can with the girls and their friends. Rymma spent last night and her last night tonight with her friends.

Julia, on the other hand, spent last night with us for the first time in our flat. Was soooooo nice having her with us. She helped Lucia in the kitchen cleaning and cooking dinner. Julia and Lucia had a little slumber party out in living room and Papa had the bedroom to himself. I have been lucky to get 4-5 hours and then its hard for me to go back to sleep.

Today was our last full day here and we hoped to end on a nicer note but that didn't happen. We did take the girls and Krystina out for dinner. Oh yeah, Rymma had school today due the school having closed last week for the flu epidemic so she and Krystina took pics and Julia passed on going to school one last time :o).

Tomorrow is coming with happiness and sadness all rolled into one. We are happy about leaving with our girls. However, we are literally dreading saying goodbye to Krystina, Nastya, Marina, Vica, and so many other friends we have made here. God is at work here and I am certain we will be coming back.

Another thing I forgot was we got to meet one of Julia's caregivers tonight. Julia has spent a lot of time with her and it truly meant a lot to her that we took her tonight to say goodbye. We took Julia shopping earlier today to buy her caretaker a needlepoint. We got so see a lot of Julia's paintings and drawings. She loves art! It was nice to meet someone who has looked out for our Julia till she could become part of our family. :-)

Oh, one more thing before I forget to mention -- Rymma's birthday is Thursday, March 6th, and she will turns 14. So if we happen to return that day, it would be aweome to see Happy Birthday signs for her as well as Welcome signs-k?

Unless we blog on the train tomorrow night, this will be it till monday night.

We love you all!

Agape,
John

P.S. I will update with a more detailed post of the last few days as I am able. Back to packing! :o) - Lucia

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In Kiev

Greetings all,
We are running into some snags here which required us to come to Kiev to try to straighten out so we can get out of here. I can't go into all the details now. One issue we have encountered is Julia having a younger brother who was illegally separated from her 7 years ago and is causing issue with court decree. So it was our hope to be out of Kiev today and back to Gorlovka today but now need to stay in Kiev again tonight. Has been nice to see Lyuda again. One praise report is that Sergeia's baby is ok and goes home this weekend. It has been nice here but we miss our kids and everyone back home! We are ready to come home!

Also received alert from us embassy to avoid Kiev saturday due to expected violent protest. So we will watch this situation accordingly and might delay our return till after the weekend if needed. Have had zero security concerns here thus far and do not intend pushing my luck.

We love you all and miss you!
Agape,
John and Lucia

So we ask for your prayers that we can wrap things up this week.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ukrainian Disneyland

Greetings All,
This is for Saturday. First off, I want to dedicate this post to my wife for it was a day she probably would have had more fun staying at our flat or shopping. My hat is off to her for hanging in there all day.

Today was like taking the girls to Disneyland. Julia decided to visit with one of her caregivers/teachers this weekend to say goodbye since we will hopefully be home next weekend (crossing our fingers!). So Rymma got to bring Krystina and Marina along today.

We took 2 taxis this trip to Donetsk. Rymma and Krystina with me and Chia had Marina and Olga with her. First stop was ice skating. These girls LOVE to ice skate! Krystina has been to Donetsk before but this was Marina's first trip and it was a first time to ice skate at an indoor rink for both of them..

Ice skating was fun for the girls, Lucia took some pics and video & then went to cafe for a cappuccino. The entire time I had Olga and Marina with me. Olga did so much better this time and actually did a couple laps all alone! Rymma and Krystina did very well and skated by themselves the entire time. Before you knew it, our 45 minutes were up and it was time to leave.

Next, we stopped at a mall that had bowling. Marina and Krystina both dropped their jaws when we walked into the mall. The first thing Rymma did was turn around like a hostess and said, "Welcome to America!" in very good English. It was so funny. We went up two escalators to the 4th floor. As I watched Marina, I realized by her hestitation to get on the escalators that it was her first time. All I heard from the girls as they were eyeing all the stores & things was "Kloss!" "Kloss!" and more "Kloss"

We found the bowling alley (on the 4th floor!) but-like at home-no open bowling till after 10pm. So we passed on bowling. Next to bowling was a food court with Sbarro Pizza. Yes! We ate pizza there and decided to go next door to a video arcade.

Arcade was a blast for the girls. Lucia would have enjoyed shopping but that would have opened game on a shopping safari so she just watched. I played one game of air hockey with Krystina and one cool fighter game that you strap in and the seat pivots in direction of flight and shakes on impact. It was "kloss!" :o) Girls raced, danced, basketball, etc, and had a really good time. Only spent 200 gryvna ($40) in the arcade for 1-1/2 hours so that wasn't bad.

One of the neatest things about there was when I watched the kids pool their tickets together and buy little trinkets for their friends back at the orphanage. It was odd not to have Julia with us. Lucia and I missed her a lot.

As our time winds down here, it's getting harder and harder to say goodbye to the girls and all their friends. It will be very hard to say goodbye to Krystina, Marina and Nastya! I truly cherish every experience with them and especially knowing that today was our last ice skating and Donetsk trip with them. So it is sad for me. But on the other hand, I miss my girls and son at home!

So like I said, today was Disneyland for the girls. I am sure it will be a memory that they will always cherish and recall with a smile. I am so used to being called "John Crazy" or "John Crazy Ballerina" by all the girls here. I am truly going to miss them very much when we leave.

It's truly strange that the fact was when I left here after a missions trip in 2006, I didn't shed a tear-unlike my trips to Ecuador and Peru when I cried leaving those places. However, I know I am going to miss these children we are leaving behind. I already know I will be coming back!

Again, my love and thanks to my wife for hanging in there today. Today would have been easier for her to send Papa off with the kids for the day and Mama to relax at home. I love you, Lucia!

Agape,
John

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

Better Than Yesterday

Can you believe that it has been 4 WEEKS since we left home?? We are hoping to be home next weekend. We'll let you know when we know!!

***************
Today was MUCH better than yesterday. :o)

We started our afternoon by walking to a Soviet tank monument near our flat, to an outside vendor to purchase more movies in Russian-it will be fun to see how they dubbed Men in Black!-and to our market for a few things for "home" and snacks for the girls. We came back to the flat & ate lunch before heading to the orphanage to visit with the girls.

When we got there, Helen told us that Julia was spending the weekend visiting with a caretaker who used to take her for weekends & had been ill for 5 mos. (Ironically, Julia picked out pics yesterday to give her from the stack she helped to sort.) We got to see Julia for about 5 minutes before she left. We got hugs and kisses & we told her to have fun. "Yes. Bye! Bye!" as she went out the door. (I am glad that Julia is getting this time with her friend before she leaves as Julia has told me that she is very close to this caretaker.)

Rymma & Krystina came down dressed for a program that was put on for the boys today. They looked beautiful in their eye makeup! They ate some of the snacks we brought them & we headed upstairs for the program.

The program lasted about 1-1/2 hrs. It consisted of a competition b/w 2 teams (from what I gathered). For each event, different groups of kids that were pulled from the audience. They did rope-pulling, arm wrestling, who could make up a bed the best and fastest, peel 4 potatoes the best and fastest, who could down a bowl of something (soup, I assume-I couldn't tell) and a drink the fastest ... and the best competition was who could carry 3 other boys to the back of the room the fastest! Lucky for me, I was paying attention & got out of their way before the chaos-I had been videotaping from their direct path! "I'm sharp! I'm on it!" LOL

Rymma, Krystina, Nastya & Vica, another friend, did a dance to a Brittney Spears song-I think it was "Piece of Me" (?) They did VERY well.

When the program was done, the chairs were stacked & another dance party started-complete with LOUD music & boys running. When I asked Krystina why she wasn't dancing she said that she was too hungry to dance. We asked her if she wanted to eat at the cafe and she said yes. Rymma said she wasn't hungry & wanted to continue to dance. We ended up taking Marina, Nastya & Krystina to the cafe. We had a lot of fun and got the girls back after 7:00pm. Oops! ;o) The girls didn't seem too worried about it so I guess we're ok! :o)

Tomorrow we're taking Rymma, Krystina & Marina ice skating in Donetsk-if the rink hasn't melted there too!! :o) If so, we plan to go bowling (sorry, Sam!) & to the Toys-R-Us/Chuck E. Cheese. Pray that our taxi ride goes better than last time we went to Donetsk!!! ;o)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Feelwin' Fwustwated!!

First of all, Krystina's great grandmother is feeling better today! :o)
**********
Today was a very frustrating day for me-and I can honestly say it has been the first day that I have felt frustrated. I don't know if it's because of my sinuses, having gotten to bed late last night (2:30am-I couldn't sleep this time!), the devil seeping his way in, being away from home for 4 weeks as of tomorrow :o(, I am just cranky or-most likely-ALL of the above!!

There were a few times today when someone had a "look" on her face, an attitude was displayed or words were said that hurt another's feelings. I know we are all happy to be together but the scenery is pretty much the same day-after-day, the days are starting to blur together & boredom is starting to show it's ugly head.

We got to the orphanage this afternoon & the girls quickly asked to go to the pizza shop with friends. We stopped at a PhotoExpress to pick up prints we ordered this morning & to get the girls' passport pics. We bought Marina a frame for herself and one for Oksana for a beautiful 8x10 pic we had printed for each of them. She was VERY appreciative as was Nastya for whom we bought an additional frame.

We then headed to eat pizza & play air hockey-AGAIN. (Honestly-you are NOT reading a repeat post!) The girls had fun with Nastya, Marina & Krystina today & they all ate very well. :o) While they all had ice cream for dessert (Olga included :o), I had a nice, warm cappuccino. Mmmmm!

While waiting for our food, the girls looked through the photos, COMPLETELY taking them out of order as they did so. Ugh! And, as they looked thru them, they just didn't comprehend that you don't put your fingers all over them! Double Ugh!! (Thankfully it was before the pizza or chips!)

As we were putting on our coats to leave, Olga told us the girls wanted to go skating-AGAIN. I had her tell the girls that I didn't think it was a good idea since they already had sinuses & taking medicine for it; that we could watch a movie. They wanted NOTHING to do with a movie and were determined to go skating. I told them I wasn't going & would stay back at the orphanage & watch a movie on the laptop-Olga didn't want to go either & agreed to stay back with me at the orphanage while they went.

John took a taxi back with Rymma, Krystina & Nastya while Olga and I took one with Julia & Marina. We stopped at the courthouse on the way for Olga to do something for A & while waiting for Olga, Julia said she didn't want to skate either & would watch a movie with Olga & me.

When we arrived back at the orphanage, John & the girls came in behind us. John said some of the boys had told the girls that the rink was melting but they had to walk down to see for themselves ... and they were NOT happy!!!

The girls were upset that they couldn't go skating, said they didn't want to watch a movie or stay in the playroom. They decided to go to their rooms instead, said bye, & Julia & Marina stayed with us in the playroom.

Julia, Marina & Julia's roommate helped us sort the pics & Krystina joined back up with us about 10 minutes later. The photo sorting was a frustration in & of itself-too much to detail here-but we FINALLY got thru it and all was well in the world again.

The girls got silly-Marina more than usual :o) - and soon it was time to go pick up the passport pics before closing. We said short & sweet goodnights and headed "home."

Tomorrow will be a new day!

2-20

Our Little Timmy with a BIG Heart!

His voice and words keep playing in my mind. It broke my heart when I talked to Timmy on Monday and he asked, "When are you coming home? I miss you a lot." :o( I told him in the next two weeks. "Ok."

Pastor Gary from church sent us an email on Monday telling us that he observed Timmy's Sunday School class last weekend. He said that Tomas' and Shirley-friends of ours who are with Compassion International in Ecuador-were visiting his class, there was a dialog going on and that Timmy was doing most of the talking! Who knew!!?? LOL He went on to say that TIMMY was telling THEM how they could go to the Welcome Center to sponsor a child!! How cool is THAT!!??

Timmy has such a HUGE heart and love for all people!! God is using our little boy to change the world NOW and I can't wait to see how God uses him for bigger things in the future!!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Psalm 40:5

Today was a very emotional day for all of us. John has recapped a lot of the details in his post. Here are my (lengthy-Sorry, Bob! :o) additional comments & thoughts:

As John mentioned, per our request, Helen arranged for Marina to visit her younger sister, Oksana, in a nearby boarding school today. Oksana will be 8 in May & has some developmental delays due to neglect when she was younger. The boarding school has programming for children with mild-to-moderate developmental & mental disabilities. When we arrived, we were surprised by the size of the facility but the kids live & go to school there.

We entered one of the 3 buildings & were lead to a main hallway-again, much like a deck hall from "Titanic." There were a lot of children of all ages & sizes walking & running by us - "Who are they?" "Why are they here?" ""Are they here for me?" is what I imagine they were asking themselves & each other.

I did not see the entire scene John describes of Oksana with the woman. :o( I looked over when I heard "Oksana!" and saw her running to Marina. It was like in slow-motion when she ran into Marina's outstretched arms, they embraced & the tears flowed - from all of us. I cannot explain what I felt at that moment: a combination of joy for Marina & Oksana, sadness that they were separated in the first place, thanksgiving that we were an instrument in making this happen for them, and blessed to witness their reunion.

During our visit, the love between Marina & Oksana was obvious from the way Marina tenderly touched Oksana & tended to her to the way Oksana looked into Marina's eyes when she spoke to Marina. I too did not need an interpreter to know she asked Marina if she was going to America. :o( Olga told us that Oksana told Marina that she wants to go to the orphanage with her [to be together]. I don't know Marina's response; perhaps I don't want to know. :o( Unfortunately in this system, this will never happen. Oksana will never be able to "advance" to a "normal" orphanage. Though she is receiving special programming, it is not enough to bring her to the level deemed sufficient to graduate her out of the boarding school. It is truly sad that Marina & Oksana will never be together again until they are aged out-and that is not for certain-or they are brought together in a forever family.
:o(

We stayed maybe 1-1/2 hrs and it was time to go. We took some pics of Marina & Oksana and watched as they said goodbye-not knowing how soon they will be seeing each other again.

In the van, Marina (thru Olga) told us, "Thank you for taking your time to take me to see my sister." I told her, "It is our gift to you and Oksana." She smiled her big, beautiful smile!

We took the girls out for pizza & air hockey. The girls got to the point where they didn't want to go up against John any more because he always won! LOL The girls wanted to go shopping for what I thought was for a couple of things so I agreed. First, it was laundry soap and tissues for the orphanage. Then it was a purse for Krystina. Marina got a hair clip. Then the "grab what you can" phase ensued with Rymma. By the time it was all said and done, there was a whole basket full of stuff! OY!

Krystina had been complaining about a headache since yesterday & she & Rymma have congestion. I took Julia & Marina with me back to the orphanage while John & Olga took Krystina & Rymma to the "chemist" [pharmacy] for some OTC meds & then they met up with us.

When they returned, Krystina called her grandmother & was told that her great-grandmother has become very ill & is not expected to make it thru the night. Krystina is very close to her & is just devastated by the news. I wish I could have stayed the night with her or brought her to stay with us in case she got word of her passing. John told me later that he saw Jesus yet again today when je saw the compassion for Krystina in Rymma's eyes when she learned the news. I am sure that Rymma, Julia & Marina will stay close to her. I told her to call or text us if she heard anything. Please keep Krystina and her family in prayer!

So many emotions/feelings came over me today. The most prevalent were:
* Joy-the reunion of Marina & Oksana; watching John being "John" as we all know & being silly with the boys & bringing smiles to their faces
* Sadness-for all the children at the boarding school & their possibly separated siblings. Seeing all the younger boys today made me realize just how mich I miss my little boy waiting for us to come home.
* Thanksgiving-for another day with the girls; for Helen agreeing to & arranging today; the love in Marina's eyes when she told us "thank you," & that Krystina was able to visit her great-granmother this past Saturday.
* Love-for my God for today and every day, for my husband & all the girls, for my Timmy and our other kids at home, for our family and friends, for the children we saw today ... For my Julia, who told me "I love you" back in English when I hugged her goodnight. :o)
* Awe-the knowledge that God knew of the events of today before time began and placed each of us at these precise moments to experience His presence
In awe of Him,
Lucia

Psalm 40:5
Many, O Lord, My God,
are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
no one can recount them to you;
were I to speak and tell of them,
they would be too many to declare.

God's Hand...

Sorry about a late post yesterday. Lucia's 3rd cousin passed away & it took time trying to do a tribute online for him. This is my 2nd try blogging tonight. I did it once & somehow lost it so here goes again!

Backing up to yesterday for a second-we ice skated & were prepared this time w/warm clothes. I skated this time & was given an almost-new pair of skates to which the girls responded "Kloss". I soon felt guilty after seeing how bad the skates fit the girls & thought how Julia was going to break an ankle or both. We had fun & went to cafe for dinner.

We learned the girls didn't have school today due to a flu outbreak. We emailed A if we could surprise the girls' friend, Marina, and take her to see her sister today. It worked out & we left early today for the orphanage. Julia came down first & asked Olga all sorts of questions. Where were we going? Who is going?. You should have seen the look on Marina's face when she learned she was seeing her sister!

Marina is 14 and Oksana is 7. Oksana was separated from her sister this past Sept & they haven't seen or heard from each other since then. Today while waiting to leave, Julia was telling Olga about my skates & that I got the best because I was an American. She was absolutely right! I was given the best & my daughters had been given the worst! And today happened because an American asked to take a young girl to see her little sister and I used that advantage to be a blessing to Marina!

We all loaded up in orphanage van. Helen, Olga, Rymma, Julia, Krystina, Marina, Lucia & I. We completely forgot about bringing something for Oksana so we stopped by a market on way & let Marina buy her things. She bought her bananas, chips, cookies, pop, cereal & chocolate.

On the trip there, 2 things happen. We were out toward the country & a new direction we hadn't seen in the past 2 weeks. I looked up into the clouds & saw a cloud formation of an outstretched hand. It was AWESOME! I could see the thumb, fingers & the palm perfectly clear. It was as if God's hand was outstretched over us. I was completely overcome emotionally at the sight & truly took it as the simple gift it was-God's blessings for the day. OUR GOD IS AWESOME! The 2nd experience of the trip was coming up on some high-rise apartments that we've seen from distance the past 2 weeks. Getting closer to them, you could see most were vacant and not-so-nice. It reminded me that God looks at our hearts & not the outside. Appearance isn't everything; it's what's on inside that counts!

Our little group arrived to the orphanage: 3 large buildings - 1 school, 1 housing and not sure about the last one. But were soon swarmed with children coming out of the woodwork! All seemed eager to know why we were there & we were pelted with 'privyet' or good afternoon in Russian. We were lead to a long hallway on the 2nd floor.

After a couple minutes of waiting & TONS of little kids walking by, we saw a lady walking a tiny girl down the hall approaching our group. I could see confusion in her eyes as to why was she being brought to see our group. Marina finally saw her & yelled "Oksana!" & she immediately heard her.& dropped the hands of the lady into a dead-beat run to her older sister's outstreched arms. I cried watching this reunion as well as Lucia and Krystina (I couldn't see the other girls' faces from my place). They just held onto to each other, crying tears of happiness and disbelief. Then Marina let go & looked up & our eyes met. I cannot explain the look- all I can say is I saw Jesus in her eyes & they were full of love.

Our visit wasn't as long as I had wished. Oksana wolfed down chips and a banana with some pop. I watched Marina fix her hair, look at a mark on her ear & pull up her socks. You could just see Jesus in her & how much she loved her little sister. We got to take some pics & see some of the rooms near us - 8-12 kids per room average.

When Marina introduced Lucia and I & said we were from USA, I didn't need a translater to tell me what she said. Oksana said she wanted to go with Marina & didn't want Marina to go to USA! This poor little girl thought we were adopting Marina & leaving her behind & that Marina had come to say goodbye! :-( Yet another thing that broke my heart!

I was so glad to take our daughters along to experience this. We soon said our goodbyes & Oksana left down the hallway waving goodbye as she left. I was overcome with emotion for I imagined my 2 youngest - Timmy & Sabrina - being separated like that and it just broke my heart to leave her there & take Marina back with us.

Oops! I had it straight in the post I lost. Oksana was separated from her sister because she has some learning problems so the reality of them ever being together as a family is slim to none unless they are adopted. It is a sad system, to say the least.

Once we left & got back into the van, Marina thanked me & Lucia for taking the time to take her to see her sister. Again, its the little things that mean the most! On the trip back I asked Helen for permission to take the girls for pizza - "Of course!"

So off to get pizza we went. Ate pizza, played air hockey and shopped a bit. Power went off for 1/2 hour so that was fun to chat in the dark. Time flew & it was time to take the girls back.

Upon getting back, Krystina called her grandmother to learn the news her great grandmother is dying and isn't expected to live through the night. Heartbroken again!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"Tomorrow we skate?"

Today I woke up with sinus crud. Ugh! I have NO idea why? LOL

Olga wanted to come with us today but didn't want to go skating for fear of becoming ill again.

We dressed appropriately to go skating (we both wore thermal underwear this time! Sexy. NOT! LOL) and walked to the market to get a few necessities for the girls-you know, the usual: bananas, crab, chips, Sprite. LOL

Nastya went skating with us this time :o) Still no Alena nor Marina today. :o(

I was able to stay outside a little longer this time-my feet stayed warmer because I wore a pair of John's wool hunting socks!!! John skated too and they all had a good time though Krystina complained there was too much snow to skate. She would go out for a round and sit down and repeat. Julia is a trip. No, really! The girl spends more time on the ice than skating on top of it!! At one point, she took Papa down with her! She says she likes to skate but she hasn't quite caught the hang of it yet & trust me when I tell you it's painful to watch her! Especially when you see her ankles go from side to side onto the ice because there is no ankle support whatsoever on the skates - I am VERY surprised she hasn't gotten hurt yet. Rymma and Nastya did fairly well.

We were there about another 2 hours - half of which I stayed inside. As we left, Rymma said, "Tomorrow we skate?" To which Krystina and I replied at the same time, "No!" LOL

We went to the cafe for dinner where Krystina ordered for all of us. :o) By the time we ate and walked the girls across the street, the guard was getting ready to lock up for the night (7:00). We walked them inside and said quick goodnights.

The girls don't have school tomorrow because of a quarantine due to a flu epidemic. YUCK! Please pray that none of us gets it!!!

Not sure what we"ll do tomorrow but I know one thing for sure ... we're not ice skating!! LOL

Monday, February 18, 2008

2-18-08 Pics of the day

Photobucket Album

President's Day in UA

It was another COLD day in Gorlovka. Who knew??? But a least the sun was shining!!!

Olga couldn't be with us again today. Her mother and grandmother came down with what she had and she is now nursing them back to health. :o(

When we arrived at the orphanage today, Natasha (the volunteer), let us in the playroom. We hid in the plastic balls and surprised the girls when they came into the room.

Rymma, Julia and Krystina were in rare form today! They were giddy and giggly from the get-go!!! (Alena, Marina nor Nastya joined us today. :o( Julia who started out REALLY shy is showing more and more of her personality every day! She said her new name with a HUGE smile and then put her arms up in "Ta da!!!" fashion and just giggled!! :o) and she has joined in on the prankstering (is there such a word? LOL).

When were at the other market last night we got them more crab and found their lemon cookies and Skittles. When Rymma saw them in the grocery bag, her eyes got REAL big and she said, "THANK YOU!" Then she dug right into the cookies ... then the crab ... then the Skittles - passing each around to all of us. They were eating machines!!! Too funny!! The Skittles were really hard to chew and Rymma looked at me and said, "Lucia. Skittles Ukraine No; Skittles USA Yes." :o)

John asked if they wanted to watch a DVD. To our surprise, they said, "No. We go ice skating. 3:00." (Krystina can read and speak enough English to get by :o) My thoughts: AGAIN??? In this COLD?? Couldn't they text us ahead of time to let us know??? You guessed it - within the hour, we trekked down to the rink where I took some pictures and video for about 10 minutes then headed inside ... and froze some more. Ugh! (I honestly don't know how much more my toes and fingertips can take!!!) After about 1-1/2 to 2 hours later!!!, they finally called it quits.

We invited them to the cafe for dinner and at first Rymma didn't want to go but some time between the conversation and walking up the street, she changed her mind. John asked her via the PT if we needed to call Olga to order for them. She said, "Yes" and after Rymma spoke to Olga, she handed me the phone. Rymma had thought that Olga needed to order for US. I had Olga explain to Rymma that we could order our own food and when I recited it to her, her and Krystina' eyes got REAL BIG and Krystina giggled and said in an excited voice, "Oh, Lucia!! Good!!" :o) The waiter came over and Rymma took care of ordering for all of us-which included, of course, chips and chocolate for them. :o) Dinner was "the usual," with Julia and Krystina adding shrimp as an appetizer - with eyes and all!! BLAH!! Rymma snarled her nose up at them too.

We walked the girls back to tell them goodnight and they told us they want to skate again tomorrow. UGH! But, hey!! At least we have a warning to dress warm enough this time!!!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sleepless in Ukraine

Greetings, everyone,

Slept 2 hours and now I can't sleep so now the ramblings begin! :-)

Some thoughts or things I've noticed (or haven't seen);

- Fast food restaurants- saw a McDonalds in Kiev and Donetsk and that's been it. There isn't a Subway, KFC, Burger King. Not one, zip, nada or oop-chana here!

- The reason for this? There doesn't seem to be a hurry for food. We always wait forever to get our meals and it never comes out together. There is no rhyme or reason either. You might get your ice cream before the main meal or your salad after the soup or things like that.

- Taxis- Very good service here and quick to respond to call. The road to the orphanage has a water main break so it's a river of ice and is blocked off. Not a problem-they just drive on SIDEWALK!

- If I had to estimate, I would guess that 80 to 90% of the people here don't own a car and mostly use the bus and tram for transportation.

- Youth do not drive till 18 here. (Sorry, Sam!) Very uncommon to see woman drivers.


- I see more people out when it's colder than when it's warmer? It was-as Dr. Evil from Austin Powers says-"friggin freezing" today and we saw people everywhere ... especially at ice skating.

- Dogs-n-cats are everywhere but you can't get near them.

Now to things about the children here
.
If you are adopting... GREAT!
If you aren't ... Why not!? :-)

If you have not hosted or have a child picked out in advance this might not apply, but something to consider or at least be aware of. Just some simple facts that we have just recently discovered;

Just because you hosted a child does not 'reserve' or put that child on 'hold' in the system. Unless I am mistaken, a child over the age of 8 has the right to say yes or no to ANY opportunity. Meaning what? Meaning if you hosted a child and you're from the USA, there is no stopping a family from another country from seeing the child's profile at SDA and selecting that same child! The key here is COMMUNICATION!!! With our Rymma, we e-mailed and sent letters and gifts every time a family traveled so she knew we loved her and she knew we were coming for her. So if by chance another family selected her, she knew we wanted her and that she would say no to the offer.

I cannot say for other orphanages, but the teenagers here are allowed cell phones. Had I known this before, I would have purchased a prepaid phone so we could send text msgs. Phones here are fairly cheap and incoming calls or text msgs are FREE. So even if the child uses up all the air time, you can still call or txt them. They just couldn't respond. Now, having said that ... If you give them a phone with talk time on it then that phone is passed along to the friends to share calls. That's just the way it is. So you might only want to add minutes every now and then. It's like .10/min here talk time and .05/min to send text msg to USA. One thing I would recommend is getting a phone with email and only feeding email side of phone plan (data plan). None of the kids here use computers and don't have email so they would only be emailing you. Just a thought. Kyivstar.net and hope.com.ua are 2 decent providers here. With Kyivstar, I know you can add time online so you could add time from home in USA for your child in Ukraine.

I honestly HATE seeing young kids with cell phones ... just ask mine-they have to pay for their own! But in this case, it gives you a chance for DAILY contact with your child and at least they know you are working on homestudy or paperwork or what have you. But most importantly, it's COMMUNICATION with your child. I have never heard this subject mentioned before on any other adoption blog. So check with your adoption agency or your Ukraine facilitator FIRST before buying a phone!

Also before I forget ... to txt your child, you can txt msg for FREE from the Kyivstar's or Hope's website. The girls got a call from a friend now living in USA and the entire ROOM lite up. So what I am saying is they will want to call back to the orphanage once they are home so plan on an int'l phone plan or something ahead of time!

If you are reading this and have any questions, feel free to ask or perhaps I can point you in the right direction.

Blessed in Ukraine,

Agape,
John

Antarctica or Ukraine??

*SORRY. THERE ARE NO PICS FOR TODAY.*

We got to the orphanage later than we had planned (close to 3:00). A stopped by our flat after lunch to discuss our next steps and then we went to "our market" to grocery shop for the girls. We have been calling Olga when we need a cab but today we were able to get one on our own just outside the market thanks to a Russian/English phrase book Krystina gave us! :o)

While waiting for the girls to come down, some boys were playing ping-pong. I went over & said "Pryvet" or "Hello." They motioned to me if I wanted to play and I told them, "Nyet spasiba" or "No thank you." I wish I understood what they were saying as they talked, looked my way and smiled a lot. Me paranoid? Yup!

We were greeted by Rymma, Julia & Krystina. Rymma looked really cute in a skirt and when I pointed to it and said, "Nice!" she beamed! We joked around with them and showed them pictures from yesterday that John PhotoShop'd. Every so often you'd hear, "Aaah, [kloss].!" meaning "classy or very nice." They all use this phrase when they REALLY like something.

When were done looking at all the pictures, they told us they would be leaving in 10 minutes to go ice skating down the street. My first thought was "Are they serious? It's below freezing out there!!!" And John and I certainly weren't dressed warm enough at all!!

Next thing we know, we're at the rink!!! and I am freezing my fingers off videotaping!! (Julia wasn't going to wear gloves and I made her go get a pair.) I finallly couldn't stand it anymore (fingers and toes were stinging again) and headed inside. John and the girls cont'd to skate for almost an hour, I would guess. I stayed inside standing and waiting the whole time but I didn't mind. I could still see them when they passed the door; I got to paople-watch; and, it was warmer than outside!! When John and the girls came in they were all completely red from the cold. I KNOW John had to be freezing-he wore lighter clothing than me!

Some of the kids didn't get skates because they ran out of smaller-sized skate (Yes, there were that many people there. Crazy!) so they would walk or run beside their friend(s) on the ice. And then the kids would trade off the skates so his or her friend got a chance. :o)

By the time we walked back to the orphanage, I was completely frozen-my legs, my toes, my hands (with gloves!), my face. Even the PT was too cold to work again. And you know it's cold when John complains it's cold!!

We hung out and defrosted in the main hallway with Rymma, Julia, Krystina and Marina until we were told they needed to go to supper. We called Olga for a taxi - which lately our taxi rides have been a lot better! - and stopped at the our other market for food for "home."

Olga sent us a text msg this evening that she is feeliing better and will join us again tomorrow-the girls ask for her every day.. But I have to admit-it has been nice to have this time alone with all the girls. We have made strides in our communication with all of them since their attention has not been divided between us and Olga and there has been a lot more interaction between all of us. At the same time, it will be nice to see Olga's smiling face and hear her, "Good morning" when we see her. :o)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

2-16-08 Pics of the day

Photobucket Album

Day 23 - Silly Saturday!

We spent the morning relaxing around our flat, headed to the orphanage after lunch, and spent the afternoon watching the last half of Tomb Raider 2 and just "hangin' out" with the girls in the playroom.

They all loved seeing the pictures of Ohio in the book we brought-"Ohio Impressions." They ooh'd & aah'd about the nature and cityscape pictures.

Alena used the pocket translator a lot to speak with us-way cool! When I showed her that I knew how to spell all their names in Russian, she told me I did well! :o) She was pleased to learn that John and I want to learn Russian.

Marina joked around more today with all of us - she chased Nastya around with the big bear making kissing sounds! Too funny! Nastya was her happy-go-lucky self. :o)

Julia & Rymma kept busy with the camera and video camera-who knew? (Those of you adopting older children, we suggest bringing a digital camera with extra memory devices & batteries. They run our battery out every day!!) Krystina (correct spelling-LOL) joined us after a visit with her babushka and great babushka. It was one big party after that! LOL

These girls are SO much fun! They chase each other, pounce & pile on each other, and dance with each other-just like real sisters! They all get along so well-it's amazing!! And they have a new game! Cannonball into the plastic balls. They jump into them one at a time up to three at a time. It's a hoot!!

While we were hangin' out, a call came in on Alena's cell phone. The girls squealed & said, "Julia in Iowa!!" In English. The girls took turns talking with her but Rymma spent the most time. We will definitely need to look into an unlimited long distance provider!!!

After hangin' out & goofin' off for well over an hour, we headed to the market for the infamous snacks. This time we got an ice cream cake-vanilla ice cream w/chocolate coating & cherry in the middle. When we returned, the girls invited us into another piece of their world-"their kitchen." This is where they can cook snacks with an oven and microwave & kitchen essentials.

We all sat down at the table & the girls had me cut the cake. I felt like I was serving my kids dessert as I handed a plate to each of the girls. The girls all waited till everyone was served. We then all held hands and thanked God for our time together and for the cake!! :o) It's ok that they didn't understand the words; they know we are Christian and know that we were thanking our God. There was a little cake left over & two caretakers came in & the girls offered some to them. They were very appreciative & said they recognized us from photos. :o)
It was neat to see all the girls working together to clean up & wash the dishes we had used. They smiled at me when they saw me help, too. :o)

Before coming "home," John & I ate dinner at the cafe. I ordered our dinner without Olga-who is still ill :o(-and it came back right!! YEAH!! OK-so it helps to know the menu too. But it's still another milestone!!

Tomorrow we head to "our market" for another grocery run for "home" and to shop the girls' grocery list. This time they asked for Sour Skittles! When I asked Rymma what she did with all the candy she bought yesterday, she said they shared it with all the other kids! Another lesson - 1 Timothy 6:18: "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and be generous and willing to share."

Oh! And by the way ... Julia can say her new name perfectly!!! She's been practicing since court yesterday and telling everyone!! :o) Rymma is still working on McLaughlin. :o)

******

We got a surprise phone call from Shauna this evening, too! :o) Love ya,' Shauna!! We love and miss you, too, Derek, Sammy, Sabrina and Timmy!!!

Mamachia

Friday, February 15, 2008

It's a girl(s)!

Photobucket Album

It' A Girl(s)!! - A Double Blessing

We are PROUD to announce the addition of our newest daughters:

RYMMA HOPE McLAUGHLIN
and
JULIA MELINA McLAUGHLIN!!!!

WOOHOOOOOOO!!!!!

We appeared in court today around noon but the proceeding didn't start until closer to 12:30ish. In Ukrainian law, there must be two disinterested witnesses and our second one didn't show up until then. Present were the judge, a prosecutor, a rep from the General Counsel (she witnessed our first meeting with the girls), the social worker from the orphanage, the two witnesses, our facilitator (Angelina) & the four of us. Usually a rep from. SDA is there too but instead their letter of conclusion was read into the record. Poor John was completely outnumbered-it was a room full of women!

The hearings used to be 10-15 minutes long but since Jan 1, 2008, all court proceedings must be tape recorded. Our hearing lasted about an hour once it got started.

The girls had to sign a paper that they understood a law or something and then the judge began by reading the parties' names & the purpose of the hearing. She went on to explain how the girls are eligible for adoption according to Ukrainian law and the process of the court. We were then called upon individually to answer questions posed by the judge who then asked if anyone had further questions: Name, birthdate, address (this was a fun one to hear translated!), occupation, why do you want to adopt these children?

The prosecutor asked me a couple add'l questions: How have you kept in contact with the children? Are you ready for the stresses of adding 2 more chldren to your family? Describe your home & how you will accommodate 2 more children in your family.

We were then asked to confirm the names we chose for Rymma's and Julia's new birth cert's.

Next, it was the girls' turn: Do you want to be adopted? Do you want these individuals to be your parents? Do you accept your new names? There were a couple other questions that weren't translated - all to which they answered, "Da."

Everyone then gave their opinion & whether they thought there were any obstacles to Rymma's or Julia's adoptions. No one believed there were any-the social worker even pointed out that there is a bond b/w us & the girls & that they would be lucky to have us as their parents. :o)

We were asked to leave the courtroom so they could make a decision. After about 20 minutes, we were called back in, told there were no objections and congratulations on the addition of our new daughters!!!

The judge congratulated Rymma & Julia, told them to be good to their parents & have a wondeful future!

As much as we originally wanted the 10 days to be waived, we are thankful for the extra time with Rymma and Julia and their friends & the add'l time for them to prepare leave their friends to go home to the USA. The final decree will go into effect.on Feb 26th.

To celebrate, we went to a nicer pizza place with A & our new daughters!! The pizza was really good. It made us both hungry for Cross Roads Pizza back home. (We have agreed this will be our 1st meal when we get home!!! :o)

We stopped by our flat to change before heading to the orphange & to get a DVD to watch. The girls gave themselves a tour & seemed relaxed-a good sign!!

At the orphanage-after all the girls looked at ALL the pics on the laptop, we watched about 1/2 of Tomb Raider 2 before it was time to go & say our goodbyes. Have we mentioned how much we LOVE our hugs and kisses???

We can't thank you ALL enough for your prayers. Our God is an awesome God and we praise Him for our wonderful, new daughters & the love, prayers & support of ALL our family & friends!!!

Love,
John & Lucia