Thursday, January 31, 2008

Day 7- A really good day!

Slide show here


Greetings all

Some observations I have picked up on.
1- not one swimming pool have I seen since being here. Girls said they can't swim. Go figure!
2- Air conditioners ( at least here in Gorlovka) are almost nil. Only seen a handful while riding in taxi.
3- Jumping out of perfectly good aircraft is safer than the taxi rides here.
4- Salting roads / snow removal is seemed to be optional. The put sand on sidewalks that's about it.
5- parking spaces are pretty much anywhere you can park the car and exit without being hit. Sidewalks are a usual spot.
6- The bright solid line down the center of the road must be for emergency landing of aircraft for it seems to have no bearing with the taxi driver.
7- Left turns seem to be the worse spot here for cars line up 4-8 cars side by side all competing to make the same left turn. Fastest guys wins pole position.
8- I seen only 2 extremely large cats since being here. It concerns me when I order beef for dinner and it seems to take forever to get it.(What is here kitty,kitty,kitty in Russian btw?) If I get a hairball later tonight I will update-k?
9- There is only 2 kinds of smoking sections in restraunts. Smoking & Chain smoking.
10- That my wife God bless her she found a decorating channel in Russian. Guessing its named design on a Ghrivina?

Ok, enough!
Today was a very good day. We kinda got off to a late start. We thought we would get picked up earlier in the morning to go to notary to get the court process going. Ended up being after lunch so we just hanged out at our flat. So after lunch we saw notary abd then headed to see the girls. WHAT a GREAT day!

We printed off so pics last night for the girls. One suggestion to anyone coming here to adopt. Either bring a poloriod camera so you take take pics of the kids friends there so that they will have pics of your kids to remember them. Also I believe it gives them HOPE! Since I have my laptop I picked up a used portable printer HP deskjet 460 off ebay and brought a couple packs of 4x6 paper & ink cartridges. Oh my you should of seen Rymma & Julia's eye light up when we told them they could take pics of their friends and we would run off a pic for their friend to keep. So we spent 1-2 hours this aftn of taking pics with their friends. After that we played several hands of uno in Rymma's room.

Oh before I forget...
Other than Rymma's room which had TONS of our pics all over her walls from a year of letters & packages. Almost every other room we peeked into the walls were bare except for a musician poster here or there. These kids have NOTHING! I cannot wait till tomorrow to watch Rymma & Julia hand out the pics :-)

Ok, back to today. After uno the orphange was taking the older kids ice skating. The girls wanted to go so we did. Lucia passed, we've both broke our ankles in our youth. So I gave it a shot but my left ankle only held up to about 10 minutes before I put my boots on. So I spent the rest of the time pulling Rymma or Julia around. It was a fun time only once did I fall and it was falling trying to hold up Julia who looked like bambi on ice. But the girls said it was the first time they ice skated! The only thing that kept running through my mind was I wished all the kids were here!
But that will happen soon enough. :-)

So tomorrow Olga sees our Judge to arrange for our hearing. So PLEASE pray for 2 things. 1- we have our hearing in next couple days. 2- that we can get waived of the 2 possible 10 day waiting periods. We have been told already to forget that and thay never happens in Gorlovka. But I know the power of prayer and mountains can be moved in his name! JESUS! So please join with me in this prayer.

So tomorrow we are on our own. We will have them call us a taxi to take us to see the girls. I will upload some pics below once I get them off the laptop.

Thanks again for your love, prayers and all the support Lucia and I have received. Most all we miss our kids at home! Kotc for our kids.

Love- John n Lucia

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Broken but Beautiful

It is day 6 and thoughout our stay I find myself not sleeping anymore than 2-3 hours at a time. ;-(
But I have found ways to turn this decefit into a positive one. The positive side of this allows me to do powerful prayer time! So when I wake up its time to pray.

For the past 2 days the song "Broken but Beautiful" by Mark Schultz has been stuck in my head. As I laid awake on the train last night a comment by Wes Stafford of compassion international popped into my head. He said he is never farther than 30 seconds away about crying about kids suffering. I instantly thought about the girls and wondered what horrors they had to endure and it truly just broke my heart into bits. I cannot change their past but by the Love of God I can certainly be a positive influence on the future! The thought kept racing through my mind that I just wanted to scream "Hold on Rymma & Julia!! Mama and papa will be there soon, hold on just one more day!"

Another thing that entered my mind on the train that truly made me feel guilty was this... The other kids. The ones left behind. I feel so ashamed that I cannot look them all in the eye and tell the hold on just another day, mama & papa are coming to get you too! So again I am broken, sobbing and yet God's love is beautiful! I know he has a plan for Rymma & Julia. It broke my heart last year when I asked Rymma what she wanted to be when she grew up. She shook her head no and I saw it in her eyes. She said she really didn't think about it. She had no hope! Well my friend that ia about to change! Rymma's new name is: Rymma Hope McLaughlin
It is my prayer for my daughter that 'Hope' always goes with her and that she understands why we have chosen this name for her and the significance if it! Yeah God!

So if your sitting there with tears in your eyes like mine. Then GOOD! What are going to do about it? God doesn't want us to sit on the sidelines. He wants us in the game! After my trip to Ukraine last year and while I was here I learned the age the kids out at 16! Lucia and I were doing great with finanical peace and was on our way to be debt free. We had to make a choice. Be debt free in a couple years or go for 1 or 2 girls now before the aged out. I know God wants us to be debt free. But if we had done that now we would have missed our opportunity with Rymma & Julia. This process has broken me again because it was the first time I have ever sent a support letter out. It made me sell 'stuff' I didn't need and had to let go of. It made me swallow my pride and realize lucia and I can't do it alone. And lastly I was robbing people of the opportunity of being a blessing. So why am I rambling on here???????

GET IN THE GAME! Don't put off the decision if you are able to adopt a child. DON'T LET ANOTHER CHILD SLIP AWAY!
People will help you if you ask. And if you can't adopt then reach out to your friends and others and be a blessing. Lucia and I wouldn't be here now if it weren't for many friends and family blessing (thanks again!) us to be able to be here and to bring the girls home.

The need is great, the time is now! God calls us to take care of the orphans and the widows. James 1:27

So why am I like a wild man here tonight? I can relate on a personal level to Rymma & Julia. When my parents divorced when I was 8, my dad left and never and I do mean never heard from again. So I know what its like to have a parent abandon you and I took a lot of anger out at my mom (sorry mom!).
So I guess what I am saying is that when our adoption of Rymma & Julia is complete that it is not finished! We can't adopt them all but Lucia and I can be a champion for the orphan. To be a blessing to others in the process. This isn't about us, its about sweet loving kids!

I beg you! Listen to your heart... You won't regret it!

One final thought...
Today before we got to see the girls and we had the appt with adoption state dept or whatever. The lady asked this question- You realize these children come from immoral home or home of criminals? And INSTANTIALLY I thought this... Where would Jesus be???

When I hugged Rymma & Julia today I knew Lucia & I are exactly where God wants us to be... loving those 2 young ladies.

Agape, For his children...
John

Day 6 - FINALLY!!!

We were finally picked up at 1:30 and taken to what is comparable to our “Social Services” where we were interviewed again. The social worker was very receptive and hospitable and asked us very poignant questions about our home, our occupations and our faith. After about 45 minutes of questioning and commenting, she said we were a nice couple and wished us the best in the remaining adoption process. From there, it was on to the orphanage!!!

On the way, I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin I was so excited! We had Oksana from Social Services with us who accompanied us to observe our reunion/meeting on behalf of the state department. We got to the orphanage and met Helen, the director, and were shown into her office. She asked us a few questions (much like the social worker) and told us that Julia was very anxious to meet us and has worried that we would not like her. We both said at the same time, “Impossible” to which Helen smiled. She went on to tell us that Rymma had been asking when her parents were coming for the past 2 months and the latest was yesterday. (We learned that she found out we were there about 10 minutes before we saw her!)

About 15 minutes later, Rymma and Julia walked through the door! It was like Christmas all over again! It is truly indescribable how we felt the moment we saw the girls. It literally took our breath away. I don’t think any two people could have jumped off the sofa as fast as we did to get to them! For those of you who are curious, we did not get any pictures or video of that moment because we were “in” the moment … :o)

John hugged Rymma and I hugged Julia and then we switched. Rymma is as beautiful as ever and Julia is just as cute as can be. We were taken to a small room and allowed to visit for a little bit. The girls were excited and Olga translated for us. We made some small talk and then the girls showed us their rooms (will get pics tomorrow). Rymma has pictures all over her walls of when she was with us last year and drawings that Julia made for her (she is quite the artist!) She has the scrapbook she made on her nightstand and the one I made her on the other nightstand. She showed us pictures of her friends and camp that she has attended. Julia showed us her room which is next to Rymma’s. Afterwards, we headed over to a restaurant across from the orphanage where we had lunch – the same restaurant where Theresa took the picture of the girls in November.


It was a little awkward just because of the language barrier but we had a nice time. John teased Rymma in his usual fashion and we got to hear her infamous “Noooo, John” for the first time in over a year. :o) We went back to the orphanage for a little bit and then told the girls goodnight and we would see them tomorrow. They have school tomorrow and Rymma was getting tired.

Rymma seemed to gravitate to John during our visit while Julia gravitated to me. Julia held my hand through the orphanage and to the restaurant and back. She gives great hugs and gave me a kiss on each cheek before saying goodnight. :o) Rymma gave us both big hugs before we left and was surprised when I told her goodnight in Russian. :o)

We will be attending to some paper work tomorrow morning to schedule our court date and start the process for the girls’ VISAs to home and then going back to see the girls after they get out of school in the afternoon. We asked them if they wanted us to bring back anything special for them – Rymma wants bananas and Julia couldn’t think of anything. We did get some bananas on the way home and got some gum as well to take tomorrow.

It has been an exciting day and we are exhausted from the little sleep on the train, the excitement in waiting to see the girls and then coming down from that adrenaline rush. We are looking forward to another great day tomorrow!

Thank you for all your prayers!

Day 6 - On the Midnight Train to Gorlovka



Our cabin has two bunks - one on either side - and a folding table. Very reminiscent of the old “Wild Wild West” shows. Yes, I am old enough to remember that show too!

A is in the cabin next to us and told us that the bathrooms are at either end of the corridor. The corridor is similar to that in “Titanic.” (Do you catch a movie/TV show analogy going on throughout this blog or what??? LOL) As far as using the bathroom, you are not permitted to use it within city limits, within 5 minutes of a stop or when the train is at a stop. This is because when you flush, it spills onto the tracks. Ew! John was brave and used the bathroom several times – I, on the other hand, was a chicken until about 6:45 this morning. I had read horror stories on other blogs and expected the worst. And you know what? It wasn’t bad at all. And my bladder was very thankful! :o)

Our night was less than restful. The clickety-clack of the wheels on the rails, the swaying of the car (especially on turns), the light coming into the window as you pass light posts, stopping and starting at different stops along the way, did not lend themselves for a restful slumber. John didn’t sleep most of the night. I caught a little shut-eye here and there but not a deep sleep. Needless to say, we are both very tired today.
We got into Gorlovka around 7:00. We had 2 minutes to get off the train so we had to preload our luggage to the doors and wait until the train stopped. It was a mad dash to get the luggage off the train once it stopped. A’s husband met us at the train and brought us to our new flat in Gorlovka. It is amazing how different the buildings appear from the inside compared to the outside. The outside is run down and not very pretty. The inside of our new flat is very nice and roomy. We have a very small kitchen (I will never again complain about having a small kitchen!),

a bathroom with all the amenities, a living area with a desk, TV, wardrobe closet and sofa, a bedroom with a double bed and a vanity. We also have a washer in the kitchen. YES! The fridge has magnets on it from places like Great Wolf Lodge (USA), Michigan, New York, London, Mexico and others.

Right now there is a load of clothes in the washer (there is no dryer so we have to lay out our clothes to dry and there is a heated “towel” bar in the bathroom to dry small clothes on – it is no wonder they wear the same thing many times before washing them); John is napping before A comes to pick us up to go the orphanage at 12:30; the video and still digital cameras are charging.

We are hoping to be able to post pictures later tonight or tomorrow morning but will have to see how good a connection we get. Connection is not like at home!

We are definitely spoiled with all the modern-day conveniences back in the states!

Day 5 - The SDA and On Our Way!

St. Michael's Church in Kyiv
I lit a candle here in memory of my Grandma Carmela and Aunt Carmelina.

A and her assistant picked us up at 1:00. Thank goodness we had them as our guides. We would have NEVER found the SDA office on our own! It is tucked away behind a gated patio with no signage from the street (not that we could have read it anyway). Once inside, we waited about 10-15 minutes before we were called into the psychologist’s office for our interview. There were two other couples waiting as well – an American couple (didn’t get a chance to ask where they are from) and an Italian couple.

A young lady (who reminds me of my cousin, Joanne! :o) interpreted and she was very good! We were asked to either introduce ourselves or to show our passports. We were asked how many children we want to adopt and if we were approved for two. They asked if we knew the girls and we told them about hosting Rymma. They then showed us their pictures. The first was of Rymma around the age of 7 or 8 then of Julia around the age of 11 or 12. They asked if these are the girls we want to adopt and we said, “Yes.” The psychologist then asked how we knew it was Julia in the picture since we never met her. We explained to her that we had friends here in November who adopted from their orphanage and found out about Julia and sent us a photo. She seemed to be satisfied with our responses. She then went over the girls’ family and health histories (due to confidentiality, we cannot give out this information.) They told us congratulations and that they would have our referrals ready for us soon. It took all of 10 minutes.

Afterwards, we waited outside for A to do her “magic.” We met Mike and Jan from Seattle who incidentally brought some of our paperwork for us when they arrived January 14. They too are adopting two girls and are just finishing up their process and will be returning home in a couple of days.

On a side note … while waiting outside the SDA, we noticed that people park anywhere – and I do mean anywhere (the sidewalk, the middle of the street, blocking traffic) – it’s crazy! Those of you who know John, know that he despises traffic. And traffic is just maddening in Kyiv. As far as driving around here, it’s a game of Crazy Taxi from X-Box. There are no set traffic rules, no lanes, no pedestrian rights, no kidding! We sit on the edge of our seat each time we get in a car.

After about an hour or so of waiting in the cold (my toes were frozen!), we headed back to our flat. We ate lunch and John printed off pics for Lyuda. I packed our stuff, straightened up our room and cleaned up the kitchen. We packed a couple sandwiches, a large water bottle and some bananas for the train trip.

Lyuda came home at 5:00 as promised. :o) She asked us if we needed help to get our luggage to the train station as if we planned on dragging them down the street (NOT! LOL). We told her thank you but rather we needed help to call a taxi. The taxi arrived about 10 minutes after her call. We lugged our stuff to the street and loaded up. She wanted to come with us but there wasn’t any room in the car. We said our goodbyes and off we went. She looked so sad as we pulled away. We are hoping to be able to stay with her on our way home.

We waited for A at the train station for a little over a half hour as we watched literally 100s of people come and go. If there had been a revolving door rather than a hinged door, it would have been scary. In looking at the locals’ outerwear, you are not able to distinguish if they are affluent or not. They take their fashion seriously around here – young and old alike. I am not going to lie – I definitely have a case of boot and coat envy!

We boarded the train around 6:00 and pulled out of the station at 6:35 – on time! – after V showed up with our referral documents.

The Front of the Train Station

Day 5 - "Just Like My Mom"

Slept well until around 2:00 this morning. We were awakened again by barking dogs and a trash truck just outside the flat. We didn’t get back to sleep until after 3:30 and I woke up again at 8:10. Hmph!

We were able to have breakfast with Lyuda and took a couple of pictures with her. And she took a picture of me and John – our first pic together in Ukraine! But, before getting our pictures taken, Lyuda and I acted like two teenage girls - “No! Wait! No pictures until we get our makeup on!” We acted like sisters fighting over the mirror. Too funny!


Sergey came out of his room and told Lyuda that the doctors are planning Sofia’s surgery for this week and that she is in critical condition. We prayed with him, said our goodbyes (handshakes & hugs) and he was out the door to be with Ira and Sofia. He is a good dad. He comes home every night and washes out the baby’s clothes in the shower for the next day.

Lyuda asked when we plan to return to Kyiv. I told her that we don’t know. She asked if we would come back when she gets married - someday. :o) We told her John could perform the ceremony – only problem is her husband wouldn’t know what he was promising since he would be performing the ceremony in English. She laughed. I told her that if we could, we would be here.

Before she left, she said she would be back by 5:00 to see us before we left. I gave her a big hug, told her to have a good day and she said, “Just like my mom” and headed out the door. :o)

Day 4 - Continued

Lyuda came home around 7:00. As soon she walked in the door, she said she smelled flowers. It was my perfume. I showed her the bottle and she ooh’d and aah’d over the scent. She went to hand it back to me and I told her, “No, it is yours.” You would have thought that I had given her the world. She got a huge smile on her face, gave me a great big hug and said, “Thank you very much.” She held up the bottle to Sergey and said, “Look! American perfume” and giggled! Shauna, it just so happened to be “Godspell from VS. :o) I plan on sending her a couple new bottles of perfume with her “Walk to Remember” DVD.

We headed to the pizza shop and had Lyuda not been with us to order I would have been very afraid of what we would have gotten! There was no way to make heads or tails of the menu! (I know now how Rymma and Taya felt when they were with us last year!) We ended up ordering 4 pizzas (comparable to a small pizza at home): three with sausage, tomato, cheese and very thin pepperoncini (their understanding of pepperoni!) and one pizza with chicken, pineapple and black olives for Lyuda. Lyuda got a bowl of fruit and I got a salad of cucumber, tomato, black olive and goat cheese. It was very tasty! It cost 200 gryvna, or $40 USD, for all that and 2 pony bottles of Coke, an orange juice and a hot tea. (Yes, I am old enough to know what a “pony bottle” is!) It was a VERY small place with very little seating and we ended up eating on the outdoor patio that had a canopy. It wasn’t as bad as you’d think. At least we could talk to each other without shouting.

When we got back to the flat, Lyuda showed us some pictures of a Christmas party that she and some of her friends put on for an orphanage in Kyiv. Beautiful kids in each photo and even though it was a party, many of them still had such sad expressions.

She baked a cake consisting of eggs and sugar and a raspberry sauce. She said it was her mother’s recipe and it was very good! It still doesn’t beat your raspberry crisp, Gail! :o) After dessert, we told Lyuda that we would see her in the morning before she headed to work because we weren’t sure if we would see her before we leave tomorrow evening.

Once our SDA appt is done, we will be taking the night train (cue “I’m Leavin’ on that Midnight Train to Georgia” – okay, Gorlovka! But you get the idea!) Now, I have been on a train before when I was 9 and my family toured Italy by train. But, I don’t remember it so this will be like a new adventure for me.

We exchanged contact information to keep in touch. Lyuda and I struck up a nice friendship and she holds a special place in my heart. I am going to miss her smile and laughter.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Day 4 - Finally Connected to the Rest of the World!!!

YEAH! John did it! We have internet connection! He's the man!!

Here is what I wrote before we got connection:

We woke up to a blanket of fresh fallen snow on the trees. Very pretty! We were awakened a couple times during the night by outside noises – cars, dogs barking, snow shovel – but all-in-all we got a good night’s rest. So far, jet lag hasn’t really seemed to be an issue. That’s a blessing!

We ate breakfast and headed to the train station (a couple blocks away) for more internet troubleshooting. This time we went to the one downstairs. We ended up being able to get online and enter a “we made it” post to the blog and check my AOL and John’s work e-mail. We took some more notes and headed back out. We stopped at the Multiplex on the way back to the flat thinking it would be more like a mall. It is actually more of an arcade-type place with pool tables, air hockey, video games, movie theatre, bowling alley (thought of you, Sammy!), a restaurant, and – of course – a bar.

We got a call from A that she is going to pick us up at 1:00pm tomorrow for our appt with the SDA. I am getting nervous but I also know that God is in control. We are getting closer to see our girls on Weds and we are SO excited!!!

Sergei is such a nice guy. He returned from the market and gave us some bananas and a chocolate bar to share. Mmmm! Chocolate!!! It was GOOD! John went back to the internet café by himself while I stayed back to type my entries on Word to save on internet time when we finally are able copy and paste them into our blog. Sergei has left to go to the hospital to visit Sofia and offered me some pierogies and mineral water before he left. Good stuff!

It is 3:10 pm and John just got back with connection on his blackberry. Now he wants try to get the laptop to connect so I gotta give him the puter. :o( We await Luda to come home from work around 7:00 pm and for Sergei to come back from the hospital to go out to eat. Hopefully I can type more later tonight. Wish us luck!

text msgs

Hi,
Till we get our laptop connecting or email on my blackberry. We can get txt messages on our ukraine phones. John's 380677426678 lucia's 380674507809

You can send txt msg from kyivstar.net on right column you will see ENG click that at it will change page to english. Then click send SMS button our area code is 067 and then enter our 7 digit phone and there is no cost to send to us-k? Hoping to get internet settings correct to connect from my blackberry this afternoon. Love- John n Lucia

Not in Kansas anymore....

Greetings,
Day 2 and 2nd try at an internet cafe. Yesterday we tried and it kept kicking us off. So this one will be short and sweet.

We arrived safely and are settled in our flat just fine. Today is a free day and going to try to get the internet through my blackberry. So far I have been unsucessful and my blackberry isn't able to email either at this point. (Brian we'll talk!)

The great news is..... JULIA IS AVAILABLE FOR ADOPTION! Yeah GOD! So tomorrow at 2pm we have our appt at SDA. Then travel by all night train to Donetsk. So we hope to see the girls Wed!

Ironically, the flat where we are staying is the same one that Shauna stayed when she was in Kiev this summer. Our roommate, Luda, recognized her in pictures we brought from home and said that she is a very good girl. :o)

Please check back as we hope to have the internet up on our laptop soon and will be able to post more details of our adventure so far.

We love you all and thank you for your prayers!
John & Lucia

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Day 3 - No other word to describe it but WOW!

Got up at 8:45. I couldn’t breathe all night because of my sinuses. I usually get this way after flying. Ugh! John said he woke up from 12-3 am and I was snoring like a freight train. Nice, huh? Now you have this great visual of me as "Princess Drool" and a freight train!!

Anyway, we got ready for church and what I thought would be a 5 minute walk ended up being a 5 minute walk, a 10 minute subway ride, and another 5 minute walk to church. The subway was super crowded with all kinds of people – very few with any facial expression – sad really. People are on a mission and push their way through – definitely not for one who doesn’t want to share his/her personal space.

When we arrived at the church, Luda teased that we had to climb the steps to the 9th floor. It turned out to be 3. Whew! The layout reminded me of our church at home – stage- cameras, side screens. I took a couple pics before service. Although we didn’t know the Russian words on the PowerPoint, we did sing along and worship in English:

You are Good
Shout to the Lord
This is the Air I Breathe

God opened the door for us to go to His place of worship and it was good!

We wore headsets to listen to an interpreter for the sermons. The first was about setting yourself aside and serving others with sacrifice. If you do not make some sort of sacrifice when you serve then you are self-serving. Jesus came to serve and not to be served. (Matthew 18-:19-20) Our mission is to go out and be the salt and light of the earth; to go outside the church and bring others to salvation and share Christ’s love. Is that not what we do at RiverTree? It’s amazing that God put it in Luda’s heart to invite us to her church and then find that they share the same mission as our home church. :o) The church website here in Kiev is http://www.newlife.kiev.ua/

John told Luda that he is in school to become a pastor and that his calling is to help the homeless and do mission trips. Luda told us that her mission is to bring hope to the children with no hope in Ukraine – orphans. WOW! Amazing! A coincidence that she wants to help orphans and we are here to adopt two orphans? Nope! God’s handwriting is all over it!!

The second sermon was difficult to understand on the headsets – a lot of background noise. The background noise was too distracting so I just listened to the pastor in Russian and wrote down the scripture verses to refer back to: James 1:27, Romans 15:2-3, James 2:15-17, Proverbs 31:20, John 14:18. Before I looked up the scripture, I asked John if he understood any of it because he listened on the headset the entire time. He said, “Yes. It was about adoption and taking care of the needy.” “Nuh-uh! Really??” “Yeah, it was.” Another WOW!

There were two young men who came up to us after service to welcome us. (We had stood during service when asked it anyone was there for the first time.) John told me that before he told him why were in Ukraine that the one gentleman said, “Of all the days to come to our church and they speak of adoption.” John then told him that we were here to adopt two young girls and his face lit up as he said, “God bless you.”

After church, Luda stayed back and Sergei got us back to the train station near our flat. We split up and he went to the hospital to visit his baby and wife and John and I went to the internet café upstairs. We didn’t stay long because we were having difficulties staying online when we tried to post to our blog. John looked up some settings to get connection on our laptop and when we returned to the flat, he tried again without success. Ugh! He is VERY frustrated at to say the least. (For those of you who know John, he is very astute with computers and it is just driving him crazy to not be able to get the connection up and running.)

This afternoon I spent some time “talking” with Sergei with the pocket translator (Thank God for these!!) In talking with him, I found out that he recorded some of the worship this morning. We downloaded his video to our computer and we’ll share it when we can.

This evening, Sergei and Luda invited us to join them for dinner. Sergei fried up some sliced potatoes and attempted to bake/broil some chicken legs after asking if we ate meat! (Luda shuddered when I told her that I have eaten guinea pig in Ecuador and that we eat venison from the deer that John hunts. :o) The pilot light on the oven went out and good ol’ John Boy got saved the day! While Luda and Sergei finished preparing the meal, I cut up some tomatoes and cucumbers and cleaned some grapes to share. Luda had some fresh bacon like my family makes and she shared some with me. I hadn’t had any in such a long time and it was wonderful!!

During dinner we spoke of Luda’s schooling and family and Sergei’s family. Our conversation turned to church and if we liked it. YES! Luda asked if we like music and what is our favorite Christian song. Lucia’s – Awesome God; John’s – Jesus Freak by DC Talk (like she’s going to know that one! LOL) She started humming Awesome God and before you know it, John, Luda and I were singing to the songs John had downloaded onto his blackberry. It was really neat and one of those KIROS moments (for you, John Moores!:o)

Luda asked if I had heard of the movie “A Walk to Remember.” Have I!?? This is one of mine and Sammy’s favorites. She said she likes the song “You Are My Only Hope.” How cool is that, Sam?? I told her that we would send her a copy of the movie when we get home and her face lit up.

Luda asked if we knew Slavik (he helped Bob, Gail and Shauna when they were here.). John mentioned that his daughter taught English at DCU this past summer and Luda asked her name. When he said, “Shauna,” she told us that Shauna had stayed here for a couple days before leaving. She said Shauna is a “good girl; a very nice girl.” :o) We think so, too!

We cleaned up after dinner and asked Luda if we could take her out to dinner tomorrow evening. She is setting aside a business meeting to go out with us. :o) And what does she want for dinner … pizza! Twist our arms, why don’t you!? LOL

It was great day of worship, people watching and seeing the wondrous works of our God taking place in the God-incidences in which we get to be a part!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Day 2 - Finally in Ukraine!

Day 1 2:00pm

Nikolai, our driver, picked us up and we headed to our flat (aka apartment). He said that A wanted to talk to us. He phoned A and John talked to her about our flat. He said “Sweet!” and lost connection while looking for our local phone number to give to her.

I asked him what the good news was – assuming that it was about a great price on our flat in Gorlovka. Boy! Was I wrong!

JULIA IS AVAILABLE! Praise God!!



Rymma and Julia (picture from Theresa W.)

We are so overwhelmed with joy! You have NO idea! We want so much to bring the girls home together and have given it all up to God to make it happen if it is His Will. We thank you all for your prayers for Julia. We are still not in the clear so we ask for your continued prayers for our girls.

We also found out that our appt time on Tuesday is 2:00pm UA (7:00am USA)

4:00pm

After going a couple places to get our KYIVSTAR activated and exchange $$, we finally got to our flat. Our flat consists of 3 bedrooms (one of which is ours), a shared bathroom, shower room and kitchen. There is a young lady who lives here and a young man who rents the 3rd bedroom and is awaiting his 3 month daughter to undergo heart surgery. He has been to the US and his sister lives in PA.

After dropping off our luggage at the flat, we went to the market for some groceries. It reminds me of a small Kroger store from back in the day. We got some bread, salami, swiss cheese, jelly, fresh fruit and veggies, Dannon yogurt, instant coffee, pop and bottled water. We even got ketchup, Uncle Bob!! :o)

Once back at the flat and settled in, we sat down to eat supper. Yep! Salami and cheese sandwiches. We asked Luda and Sergei to join us and we shared a meal together. During conversation, Luda (who speaks a little English), mentioned she is going to church tomorrow and asked if we would like to come with her. YES! So we synchronized our watches, John went to bed, I took a shower and am staying up to work on a gift for Rymma.

Today was a good day!

Day 2 - Bring it on!

Day 1 4:05 am USA 11:05 am UA

We just filled out our immigration cards. Can you say “more room to write please?” Geesh!

Well, our night wasn’t so bad. We ended up boarding our plane around 9:00pm – originally scheduled for 6:35pm! At least this plane had heat and we didn’t have to walk outside to get to it. The crew was Russian-speaking and what little English they spoke was hard to understand. Whenever announcements are made over the loudspeaker, it is reminiscent of the teacher from Peanuts – wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah. Dou-ble Cheese-bur-ger and a Large Orange Drink! LOL

We sat in the emergency row which was nice because it gave us a little more leg room to stretch. John and I both got some much needed sleep. But it was much like being in the hospital … you know … just as you get into a deep sleep, someone wakes you up to see if you need anything. This time it was for meals or drinks.

The food wasn’t bad either. Dinner was beef or pasta. John wasn’t hungry and I had the pasta which turned out to be spinach-stuffed manicotti, a roll, small salad and a piece of chocolate cake (for you, Tami!) I ate most of it but not all.

For breakfast it was McMuffin-style eggs, croissant, broiled tomato, steamed broccoli, watermelon/pineapple cup, cup with a slice of turkey and swiss cheese and choice of coffee or tea. I didn’t care much for the eggs and opted for a turkey and swiss croissant, the fruit cup and tea.

Right now, we are flying over a sea of white whispy clouds in a beautifully sunlight sky waiting to land at Borispol airport.

It’s a new day with a new adventure ahead. To coin a phrase … Bring It On!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Prayers, Planes and Just "Plane" Funny!

PLEASE READ JOHN'S POST BELOW FIRST.

Okay, so you've read John's post first, I hope. Here is my first entry.

We ended last night with a visit to Sammy & Sabrina to tell them bye and give them kisses before we left. We did our last WalMart run and went home to put Timmy to bed for school today. Before bedtime, we all said prayers together - well, almost all of us. Timmy started with his usual, "Now I lay me down to sleep..." Daddy then took over asking for protection for Tim while we are gone and saying how proud he is of him and that we will miss him and closed with "Amen." I opened my eyes to see Timmy's face looking at me questionably. Ok, Mommy will pray too. It was SO hard! I could barely speak. I hadn't realized how hard it was going to be to be away from him for so long. I cried through the whole thing and when I was done, he asked me why I was crying. I simply told him that Mommy loves him too much and that I would miss him a whole lot. He got ready for bed like a big boy and we gave each other one last kiss and hug before he got into bed. Sigh!

So, we don't start actually putting things in suitcases till like 10:00 last night. You read right! But we were done by 1:00!! HEHEHE! I had a few last minute things to do (empty the cat box, fold a last load of laundry, straighten up from packing) before getting to bed about 1:30. We got up at 4:00 and as John said headed to the airport (I intentionally didn't mention the blackberry cover! Too painful! LOL) It was nice to see Sue McClain, our good friend and from Born in Our Hearts Adoption Ministry through our church) to see us off. Got a huge hug and well wishes and we were on our way!

When we checked in to Delta, one thought crossed my mind and I couldn't help but laugh! Do you know the scene in "Meet The Parents" where he is checking in to go home and the clerk is entering his boarding information and just clicking away on the keyboard? Yep! That happened to us this morning! Too funny!

Now, I have flown before but never did I have to exit the terminal and WALK to my plane! It was cold but not as cold as INSIDE the plane! No kidding! You could see your breath! Some comments made by passengers were:
  • Where's the sterno?
  • Look! There's a sign for free snow cones!
  • No throwing snowballs while the plane is in flight.
  • I'll take a Coke - with no ice!
  • Specialty drink - iced tea!
  • Only first class has heat.

Before taking off we, taxid and they announced that we were on the de-icing pad! (Thought of you, Bob Ray!) I have to tell you - the guy operating the bucket and hose must LOVE his job! He had to have been freezing out there!

The flight was about 40 minutes and cold the whole time. John complained that his toes were cold. I cozied up to him for body warmth.

We took off for our next flight to NY JFK. Yep! Had to go outside again to board the plane! Unbelievable! Once in NY we had to take the AirTrain to Terminal 4 - had to go outside (AGAIN!) to get to the AirTrain station. Hmph!

So here we are - at a restaurant overlooking the same place we last saw Rymma and Taya over a year ago. A bittersweet moment fell on us as we rounded the corner and realized it. I still picture the girls and the tears in their eyes as they waved bye the last time and seeing Rymma walk away to board- the last time we saw her. The image is etched in my mind. We still remember leaving the airport that day without the girls and the feeling of loss that we felt.

BUT, the silver lining is that we be with Rymma again in a few days after our appt!! And WE CAN'T WAIT to see her and meet Julia!!

Thanks for checking on us and we will be back soon!

Love from NY , Lucia

Day One... It always starts off funny...

Greetings all!

As I type this it's 4:15pm Friday Jan 25th and we are sitting in JFK.

First I want to start off with a reflection or perhaps a weird irony. When we walked into JFK this afternoon and walked around a corner it came quite apparent real fast it was the same corner a little over a year ago that we were here to bring Rymma and Taya (another girl we hosted that was no longer available soon after we hosted and if you've followed our story from beginning then you're up-to-speed. Otherwise, now were are adopting Rymma and Julia). So I sit here typing within yards of the last time I've seen Rymma and to be honest it's a very emotional day to say the least... Ok so I've brought you up to speed. Now to the story!

Last night was a very short night. I believe we went to sleep around 1:30am and awoke at 4am to get ready for the day. Now for those of you who don't know us personally, I will just say that Lucia IS NOT A MORNING PERSON! Get my drift? SO after some last minute directions to my sis and her hubby and a fruitless search for her blackberry case (painful memory- the most I can say!) So we got on the road around 5:15 for the airport and good ol' Uncle Bob took us up to the airport. This is where the story goes south, let me tell you!

I believe the outside temperature was 7 or perhaps a blazing 8 degrees. Now the funny part (or at least I can laugh now) IT WAS COLDER IN THE PLANE THAN OUTSIDE! I'm like not telling a fib! My glasses steamed over from it being so cold in the airplane. I've never had an experience like it. The whole plane was chiming in asking for snow cones or if we were on the wrong airplane and the Polar Express instead. The flight was 40 minutes and it barely warmed up before we landed. The thought that kept running through my head was from Christmas Vacation when Clark askes Audrey about the Christmas tree and his wife say " SHe can't Clark, her eyes are frozen..." I LOVE IT! Oh the other funny part....

The served 'complimentary' drinks on the flight. So I got a water. Yep, you guessed it. It was full of ice! What a riot :-)

So we got to Cinicinnati fine. Got a little cat nap there. Lucia got to play princess drool and woke up laughing at herself (who knew!) and we made it here to JFK ok. Now we just found out that the flight has been delayed to 8 oclock. So to use the electriciy here in the lounge I've paid $7.95 and drank 2 iced VERY SWEET teas. Don't think the bladder can hold out much longer! hahahaha

SO today has been an adventure. But it's been also a process, a learning lesson, an eye opener, a blessing, laughter, tears, fears, lack of sleep, too much caffeine all rolled up into one huge opportunity of a lifetime. Today God revealed a lot to me. I remember sitting in Cinncinati and our seat was in blaring sunlight. No one else seemed to want to sit in the bright sunlight. But it's where I want to be with my wife by my side. I am in the light and I just basked in the sun and with the Son. I know without a shadow of a doubt that we are following God's will. If God is for us then who can be against us?

Leaving CAK
Ok, Lucia has written most of the past postings so I will turn the puter over to her for her ramblings. Love you all- John

Thursday, January 24, 2008

WE LEAVE TOMORROW! (doin' the Happy Dance!)

Good Morning, Everyone!! Today is our last day to prepare to leave! We just can’t believe it’s finally here! You wait and wait and wait and when it gets here, you are truly in a “fog” at all you have to get done before you leave ...

We leave our local airport tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. and fly into Cincinnati for a 3-hour layover then to JFK for a 5-hour layover. Some of you might be thinking, “Why such long layovers?” Good question! Simple answer - we want to make sure that we have ample time to get our connecting flights and to allow time for our suitcases to be transferred!!! :o)

Last night we received an e-mail from our facilitator, A, (YEAH!!!!) confirming our appt on Tuesday, the 29th, and inquiring about our travel preferences from Kiev to where the girls’ orphanage is located. After our appt, we will be taking a 12-hour train ride to where the girls are. We are just TOOO EXCITED to see them!!!

IT IS REALLY HAPPENING, FOLKS!!

OK, since most people are putting their laundry list of things to do and pack out there, I thought I would do the same (you know, just to fit in!) – unless otherwise noted, they are completed! WOOHOO!!

  • Copies of medical authorizations for Timmy to pediatrician, school, bus garage, boy scouts, caregivers
  • Letter to pediatrician, school, bus garage, boy scouts with emergency contact information
  • Copy of medical card, itinerary and passports to Aunt Paula and Uncle Scott
  • Go over “rules,” discipline, school stuff, food likes/dislikes, important phone numbers, veterinary info, and important house stuff with Aunt Paula and Uncle Scott
  • Copy of each dossier (2) to take with us – leaving an additional copy of each behind
  • Register with the U.S. Embassy (will be done by this afternoon - DONE!)
  • Notify credit card companies of travel abroad
  • Notify medical insurance carrier of travel abroad and get info on how to add girls to policy upon return
  • Get crisp, new bills at bank
  • Bills are already on autopay
  • Order and install SIMS cards in blackberries
  • Register with Kyivstar for phone calls and text messages
  • Go over work duties with co-workers
  • Change oil in vehicles
  • Change filter in furnace
  • Get vacuum cleaner repaired
  • Get hair cuts (I will be coloring my hair at home later today! DONE!)
  • Get gifts for the kids in the orphanage – since Valentine’s Day will come while we are there, we got Valentines and candy to pass out to the kids
  • Get gifts for our girls – (R – embroidery cloth, floss, floss organizer and needles (she does embroidery and knits) (J – sketch pad and colored pencils (we hear that she is quite talented in drawing)
  • Gifts for friends in Pryvatoria, Ukraine
  • Purchase book about Ohio for the judge
  • Purchase “Why a Daughter Needs a Dad,” “Why a Daughter Needs a Mom,” and “Why I Chose You” by Gregory Lang – GREAT BOOKS!!
  • Purchase cage, food and bowls for Sabaka (the new puppy!)

PACKING LIST: I laid everything out on our bed yesterday andyou could not see the top of the bed!!

Are you sure you’re ready for this????

  • The usual – clothes, socks, wool socks, thermal underwear (ha!), belts, etc.
  • Gloves, scarves, hats, money belts (we are taking 4)
  • Tennis shoes, boots, dress shoes, slippers, shower shoes
  • Travel sized – Tide-To-Go, Febreeze, Lysol spray, lint brush, shoe shiner, sewing kit, hairspray, sanitizer, Q-tips, toothpaste/toothbrush (for carry-on), baby wipes, Kleenex, toilet paper. Shaving cream, razors, bath soap, large toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, nail clippers, tweezers, hair straightener/curling iron combo!
  • Medicine cabinet – Ibuprofen, Airborne, Dramamine, cold/allergy meds, Immodium, thermometer, prescription meds (refilled), chapstick, cold sore salve
  • Electronics – laptop, mini-printer, blackberries, camcorder, digital camera (with all the adapters, USB cords, media, etc.), multistrip, international AC adapters, photo paper, blank CDs/DVDs, copy paper, travel iron, flashlight/batteries, alarm clock
  • Movie DVDs, CD programs to watch/listen to during our down time
  • Journal to write in as we have down time and can’t get to the computer right away, book light
  • Family & Home scrapbook album, Rymma scrapbook album

Still need to do: Get Hershey candy for A, get baking stuff for Anya (friend in Pryvatoria) ... Oh, yeah! PACK!!! I see another WalMart run in the VERY NEAR future! LOL At this point, we think we have it all covered ... then again, who knows?

SPASIBA! (Thank You in Russian)

Thank you all for your prayers! We are truly thankful for our family and friends (this includes you bloggers out there!) who are praying for us, have been our support (emotionally and otherwise) and are just as excited for our girls to come home as we are!!! We love you all!

John & Lucia

Not sure if we will be able to post any more before leaving. Just lettin' you know! :o)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2 Days Left Till We Leave!!!



Hi, everyone! Sorry I haven't written lately. It's been a little busy around here - to say the least.

Last week was my last week at work for a while. I had to tend to last minute details, go over my job with a few of the girls who are doing my duties while I am away (Thanks, Myra, Linda & Carey!!) and the usual home stuff. Everything went well with explaining everything and both guys with whom I work thanked me for my thoroughness. :o) I actually felt calm and at peace when I walked out the door on Friday and began my family leave.

This past weekend was jam-packed with activity. Friday night after work (my last worked), I attended my uncle's calling hours. Saturday morning, I attended his funeral and did some running around for my middle stepdaughter's Sweet 16 party. I got home and started getting ready for the party and had 15 people over to celebrate with all the fixin's - food, cake, ice cream! Sunday came around and we had a Marriage Team meeting at church, services, a Marriage Encounter Retreat Committee meeting and then made the first of our WalMart runs. Is it any wonder that when we got home from shopping Sunday evening we were "lights out" at 8:30 pm???

Monday proved to be productive. I got my house cleaned - upstairs and downstairs! YEAH!(only to be messed up again when we start our packing - Yep, you read right! We haven't started packing yet ... ), got laundry caught up, baked (not one -but two) batches of cakes (don't ask!) and attended the Father/Son Cake Bake at Boy Scouts. There were several categories (best overall, most appetizing and best Boy Scout theme). A lot of the cakes were really well done! Cheeseburger, fish tank using jello and gummy fish, a "pizza" with a pizza pan and cutter, a castle with ice cream cone towers with lollipop tops. Timmy decided he wanted to go with the Boy Scout theme. He and Uncle Scott will be participating in Pinewood Derby the day after we leave. He decided to make his cake look like his PD car. So, the cake was cut up and pieced together to form the car. John and Timmy used mini-chocolate donuts for the tires and iced it in bright yellow icing - just like his yellow car!

You should have seen his face when they announced that he had one the Best Boy Scout Theme! He was in the front row and looked back at me with his jaw dropped to the floor! I wish I had had the camera ready and gotten a picture. It was priceless! A picture of the winners and their winning cake ...

Yesterday was "run around Tuesday." It started out with my getting Timmy up and off to school and taking the cat and dog to the vet for vaccines and check ups - quite the "hairy" experience! But we all survived. :o) Then it was back home to finish some paperwork, off to the bank to notarize the paperwork, drop off some items to John at work, get the oil changed in my car (way overdue!!), pick up a replacement furnace filter (another "way overdue"), pick up the repaired vacuum cleaner, to the school to talk to the principal about our going out of the country, emergency contacts and bus information for Tim while we are gone, back home to empty the car from our WalMart run the night before and to get Tim off the bus. After that, I met up with John to attend our diet class. I then took Tim to Uncle Bob's while John and I went on a "date" at a local Mexican restaurant, visited a friend in assisted living who wanted to pray with us before we leave and on to our second WalMart run. Afterwards, I picked up Tim at a halfway point to Uncle Bob's and came home. John came straight home from WalMart, took a shower and went to bed.

So ... here I am. Tired but not enough to fall asleep. John and Timmy are both out. The dog is out, the cat that went to the vet is out and the other cat is being annoying - as cats will be.

Today is "paperwork Wednesday." Yes, I still have some copies to make of documents we need to take with us to finalize the adoptions. But not until I pick up Mark Wollschlager (Mark & Theresa) at the airport to pick up our van, go to breakfast with my older son, Derek, and stop by the craft store to get a couple gifts to take to the girls. Then, tonight Aunt Paula and Uncle Scott are coming over to go other "the rules" and other important items as they will be staying at our house with Timmy while we are gone (THANK YOU!!). Uncle Scott will doing the scout thing with Tim until Daddy comes home. Aunt Connie will get him on the weekends and Uncle Bob will still get him on Tuesday evenings. It cracks me up how everyone fights over the boy! :o)

Well, I think I am going to try to get some shut eye. I will write more later ... keep checking back.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Stressed spelled backwards is desserts.


In fourteen days and 6 and a half hours, we should be aboard our first flight to get our girls!!! It has been crazy getting ready - and that's just at work! I am trying to remember what all I do (a lot is either by rote or "as they happen"). I will be going over one part of my job with a co-worker on Monday to do my job while I am away. Please pray for me that I am able to speak to her clearly, that she would understand the tasks and how to do them after my explanations and a peace would come over me when I leave work on Friday and leave my job behind for a while.

On the homefront, I have copied our dossiers once again - one to take with us and one to keep at home (just in case!) I have prepared all the paperwork - med authorizations for Tim that still need notarized, letters to the school and bus garage, letter to Boy Scouts that his Uncle Scott will be participating with him while daddy is away, Tim's food likes and dislikes, Tim's "rules," important phone numbers, who to contact in an emergency, etc.

I think I am going look to the saying -"stressed spelled backwards is desserts"- and indulge in a little treat this weekend. I am not sure what it will be but I know it'll be something good!! :o)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Too Doggone Cute!

Yep! As if adopting two beautiful young ladies from Ukraine isn't enough, we have decided to add to our furry family, too! Tonight we got to meet our newest and youngest daughter ... (sorry about the blurry pic)


She is a mix between a mommy beagle and a daddy pug - and she is absolutely adorable! She is not yet weaned and we will be able to bring her home after we get home with the girls. She shall be named Coba'ka (sa-ba'-ka - Russian for "dog") until then. We are going to let the girls name her so they have a feeling of belonging and to affirm that they are family and we respect their input.

Here are the rest of Coba'ka's siblings ... Too Doggone Cute!


Friday, January 4, 2008

21 Days!

Today marks 21 days until we leave for Ukraine. There is still so much to do - at home and at work. I still have my lists and have been plugging away at them little-by-little. But I have also taken the time to notice the beauty around me during this hurried, stressful time - the beauty of fresh-fallen snow, the deer in the field on the hills around our home, the smiles on our kids' faces, the beauty of family when celebrating the holidays, the laughter of my husband ... the following is a link to a beautiful video to a song that we sing at our church. Enjoy!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pABZXKyX_O0

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year and Happy Anniversary!

We had gone there on our first "official" date to the Ohio Mart the first weekend in October 1999 - just a little over a week after we met. Ohio Mart is a festival of artisans that takes place every year on the grounds of Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens http://www.stanhywet.org/. We toured the vendor tables and the grounds, all the while holding hands and talking about what we wanted in a relationship. Little did we know what the future held for us!
On New Year's Day 2000, John took me back to Stan Hywet. We toured the mansion and the further we got along on the tour, the more nervous he seemed to get. About halfway through, he said he was too hot (it was an unusually warm Christmas and New Year that year and the mansion was a little stuffy) and we made our way outside. Once outside, he lead me to the patio overlooking the Valley where there was a BIG Christmas tree roping off the patio. He muttered something under his breath and then lead me to the back steps of the mansion. It was here that John proposed to me ... under the brilliance of Christmas stars hanging in the trees of the grounds and the soft lights of the mansion. I had only dreamed of a moment like that night and my prince charming made my dream come true. I still don't remember John getting down on one knee - he says that he did. I am taking his word for it. :o) Our engagement picture ...

As we begin this new year together, John and I are preparing to make two young ladies' dreams come true - to have a mother and a father and a family. We will be leaving in 24 days to adopt these two beautiful girls and make them our own.

Who could have known back on New Year's Day 2000 what the future held for us?
  • God brought us together.

  • God keeps us together.

  • God had a plan for us.

  • God has a plan for our girls.

Happy New Year, everyone! We wish you all that God has planned for each and every one of you!

John & Lucia

Pssst! Happy Anniversary, Handsome! I love you! And I would say "YES!" all over again. ... me