Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer of 2013

Hello! This is Ana... In a few more months, along with my sister Dasha, I will be celebrating our 5-year anniversary of being in the United States. As my dad often says, 'Time flies when you're having fun.', he's definitely correct about that! I'm so fortunate to be here with my new family, I absolutely adore them. I really don't want to think about how my old life may have been like right now.....This is where I belong, in a perfectly safe home. I don't have to be cautious of all my surroundings the way I used to. Anyway... I turned 15 years old last Febuary and very soon I will be starting High School, I guess you could say I'm a "tad" nervous. This summer I'm very focused on participating in volleyball events and waterskiing with my family. I also cant get behind in school when the time comes, therefore I spend time writing and reading--which I very much love and almost can't get enough of. Since all my focus goes to the English language at the moment, I try as often as i can to refresh my memory of Russian. I know I feel like I'm losing it all but I'm often reminded that being familiar with multiple languages will be a massive help when I become an adult. I believe it very much and my effort will be put to it. Hopefully, I can get a chance to post on my mom's blog in the future. As mentioned before, writing is my thing! I just really wanted to say how amazing my life is and has been for many years. I really can't be more thankful.... I love everything here--family, friends, school.... I can't be a happier person :).                                                                                          

                                                                                       Ana

Monday, October 31, 2011

Gotcha Date -- 3 year anniversary.

Today we celebrate another year in America with the girls. They have adjusted to life remarkably well in just three short years. It's funny.....today, I had a conference with Ana's math teacher and he had no idea that she has only been speaking English for three years. It's amazing how they just want to fit in and act like they have been in America forever. However, a little sad that they have no desire to speak Russian -- not even to each other. They now tell us that they don't even remember any words. I guess that means Santa will have on his list this year another version of Rosetta Stone and this time for Russian!

Lots of exciting things happened for the girls this year. They moved to a new school and are just finishing their first quarter at Sevastopol School. They have met an incredible group of new friends and it seems like they have been there forever. Ana just finished her first year of volleyball (I knew we would eventually find that hidden Eastern European athletic talent)-- she's a natural. Dasha is winding down her basketball season and for the first year, she actually gets in there and roughs it up a little instead of just running beside the ball. She has made remarkable progress. She is a true athlete, but just not sure of herself.

Ana turned into a teenager in February when she turned 13. In June Dasha celebrated her 11th birthday.

We have also added a new Russian to the household -- Laika. Tomorrow our little Siberian husky will be 4 months old.


Everyday is a blessing --sometimes a new gray hair and a Calgon moment, but always a blessing.

Until next time,
Heather and Jim

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gotcha Day -- 2 years ago!

Two years ago our lives changed forever. This was the day, the day we had been waiting for for just under a year, that the girls would be forever ours. Looking back, the process went by so fast. Jim and I decided to adopt and less than a year later, we were blessed with our girls.
Two years ago today, was the day that we finally were able to pick them up and finalized the process in Ukraine -- what we call in the adoption world, gotcha day. The 8 week journey in Ukraine felt like it took forever. There was a lot of heart ache and a lot of frustration until we found them. We are convinced that the trials and tribulations that we went through were part of the grand process. Our girls weren't available for our first several visits with the SDA (adoption authority in Ukraine). Then timing was in our favor when they became available.
In just under 2 years, the girls became Americans. They are 100%. We thought for sure they would continue to speak their native Russian language at least to each other -- no such luck. It's kind of sad that they have no desire to speak Russian. We have a local market in the area that has a couple from Ukraine that work there. It's pretty sad the capitalist that they have become, when I have to bribe them five bucks to speak of few words of Russian to the nice folks from Ukraine -- lol!
Ana is now 12. She loves school. She has great friends and strives to accomplish everything she sets out to do. She is such a go getter. Dasha is now 10. I give her six months and she will be taller than her mother. She also loves school. She is constantly taking it all in. English and phonics seem to have been a little more of a challenge for her than Ana. However, when it comes to the universal language of mathematics, Dasha is amazing. Dasha is also very perceptive. If anything is ever misplaced in the household, we ask Dasha and she can find just about anything.
The girls love sports. They played soccer during the summer season and are playing basketball for the second fall season. They are accomplished water skiers. Ana's mission was to master slalom skiing by the end of summer and she did it.
Life is great. Jim and I love being parents to them. Granted, life raising children most certainly can pose it's challenges. We work hard everyday to keep them familiar with where they came from and the life they once had. Keeping them humble and appreciative is our main goal. We started with such a great palette, we don't want to screw it up.
Until next time,
Heather
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Photos a year later.....











Here are some photos of the girls exactly one year later. We celebrated our "gotcha day" and anniversary in Chicago. Here are some pictures of the girls at the American Girl Store and at Brewer Park.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Right at this very moment, exactly one year ago, the girls and I landed in Green Bay, WI -- the good old USA. We were so excited to be home. They are having such a hard time believing that it one a year ago that they arrived in America. They said that when they had nothing to do and were living in the orphanage that time couldn't go by fast enough. It's amazing how things have changed for them.

Tonight the girls had their final basketball game of the season. I think Ana likes a boy and Dasha just gets taller by the minute. A year ago, these girls were shocked by their new environment and didn't speak a word of English -- boy what a year can do. We have two beautiful, bright and caring girls and are very fortunate to have found them to be a part of our family.

Until next time,
Heather

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I remember it like it was yesterday....

On pins and needles we spent the day awaiting our anticipated court date to officially adopt the girls in Ukraine. I was particularly nervous as a result of being one of the few to go through the official Ukraine adoption process and get out of the Country without my spouse participating in the adoption in Ukraine.

On October 22, 2008, my facilitator and I went to the Courthouse in Torez and met the girls there who were brought from the orphanage with the Director of the orphanage. The girls had a choice in wanting to be adopted and the Judge needs to hear it directly from them of their desire to be adopted. The Director was as nervous as I was as a result of it being her first adoption hearing as she was filling in for the other director who was indefinitely removed from his position.

We were greeted by the Judge who was this lovely woman and the jury, consisting of two other women. There wasn't a man in the room. That offered me some assurances that hopefully these women would understand that I was completing this adventure without my husband and was a wreck as a result of it.

The girls native language is Russian -- not Ukrainian. They had studied a little Ukrainian for the short period they were in school. Apparently all official business had to be conducted in the language of the Country -- Ukrainian. It was obvious that everybody struggled with the Ukrainian language with the exception of my facilitator, Nina who was able to correct everyone as they were not sure of some of the words -- even the Judge. The girls were asked in Ukrainian if they wanted to be adopted and they were so affirmative and lacked any uncertainty about their upcoming life change.

After the process was over and everything went extremely smooth, the girls had to go back to the orphanage -- that was kind of a bummer. In Ukraine there is a mandatory 10-day waiting period. For those of you going through the process now, don't try to think you can get around it. So, the following days were spent in Donetsk buying the girls clothes to wear when I picked them up at the orphanage after the 10-day wait. They couldn't leave the orphanage with one personal item -- not even their underwear.

Then the waiting occurred. Don't ask me how, but some of the girls in the orphanage had cell phones. Ana and Dasha were able to call me nightly from a friend's phone while I was in Donetsk. We couldn't have much in the form of communication as a result of them not speaking a lick of English. Nina, our facilitator sometimes had a 3-way conversation with us so that she was able to translate during our anticipation of finally becoming a family.

What was really strange, from the moment I met the girls, I knew that one of them was going to be Daddy's little girl -- boy did I have that figured out. Little Dasha, is the twinkle in her Daddy's eye and she would be lost without him. They are definitely quite the pair. We are so lucky and have two beautiful, healthy daughters -- even if there is a little stubborn Russian streak from time to time!

Until next time,
Heather

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's Hard to Believe that it has been over a Year!


It's hard to believe that it's been almost a year. I need to keep up with this blog stuff. I can't believe how everyday just blows by and we need to start remembering some of the important daily occurrences in our lives. I'm going to keep up with this, because if I don't it will all be a blur. While in Ukraine and waiting, it was so easy to sit down and write about the day. Now, it is the effort because of our busy, daily lives. But, it will be so worth it to be able to reflect on our beautiful daughters daily activities.

The girls are doing fantastic. Thank God for blogs. I wouldn't know where I was a year ago without this fantastic blog. For those of you just getting started, it is so critical that you document this journey from the start and I can't think of a better way to do it. Now that the girls speak perfect English, this is something that they have enjoyed reflecting on. A year ago today, I was waiting for my adoption hearing and waiting for our girls.

I have become friends with our wonderful facilitator, Nina. She is definitely magical in her way of getting things accomplished with adoption. Don't get me wrong -- there was nothing easy about this process. However, I am a controlling person and I had to give it all up to my Nina to work her magic. That's a tough thing to do. I put all of my faith in her that she was going to see this to the end and that we would bring our beautiful daughters home. And a year later, here we are with Ana and Dasha.

The unfortunate part is that they are so American. They don't even want to speak Russian to each other. We really don't want them to forget their heritage or their beautiful language. We still try to quiz them on some words just to keep them sharp with Russian.

For those of you out there that are in the midst of your journey -- don't give up! Keep the faith and things will come your way based on your hard work and perseverance.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I think We've Finally Settled in.....




It's amazing how life can change so fast. One day you are single parents and can come and go as you please and the next, you're now responsible for two kids. However, we love it. We are having a great time with the girls. They have just adjusted remarkably to their new environment. Everyone said when you get them home, keep their world small. We were able to do that for the first week and since then, we've done nothing but go. So many people were with us on this journey and have been biting at the bit to have the girls be apart of their lives.

Ana and Dasha have been in school for just over three weeks and absolutely adore it. When the short Thanksgiving break occurred, Dasha was very let down to know that she was not going to have school for 4 days. However, we did manage to have a great Thanksgiving with family.

When we first got home, the girls were a little overwhelmed by our animals. Our husky, Yukon greeted them with his normal affectionate "hello." I thought Dasha was going to jump through the ceiling. Then after a few hours they all became instant friends. Once we conquered the dogs and cats, we proceeded to greet the horses. Needless to say, they were born to be riders. They love riding and really have an appreciation for our horses. The picture that I posted was the girls on the horses on Thanksgiving day.

As far as adjustments and dealing with their new lives, we couldn't be luckier. Nothing is ever perfect, but for us, it's been pretty darn close. Ana is an extremely picky eater and refuses to eat meat. However, sausage with cheese is her favorite snack -- go figure!

That's the news for now and I can't thank you all enough for sticking with me!
Heather

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We're Back!

Wow!!!! Is it nice to be home. You don't realize how great it is where we live until we have to be in a foreign country for way too long. Gotta love America!!!! The girls are doing remarkably well and adjusting to their new home. We were thinking about starting school second semester to give the girls some time to adapt to their new surroundings. Well the adapting part took about 48 hours and they are ready to go to school. We will have them start on Monday and see how things go.

Regarding the adoption process -- I'm kind of at a loss. I'm so used to hearing from my fellow adoption friends and won't know what to do with myself now that I'm a "has been." So, if anybody is out there and needs a hand, please let me know. Unfortunately, I experienced it all when in Ukraine including having the pleasure of 3 SDA appointments and really getting to know how the system works. I'm here to offer any assistance to those who want it. Feel free to email me at hlawrie@itol.com

Again, I can't thank all of you enough for helping me find these 2 beautiful girls. I wouldn't have been able to do it without your support and help. I will post from time to time as we face our new challenges including learning English. Until next time,

With best wishes to you all,
Heather

Monday, November 3, 2008

We're Almost out of Here!

Today we went to the Embassy approved doctor for the girls medical examinations. The medical center was filled with families moving to America and other foreign countries. Apparently the doctor we visited is approved by most of the embassies for permanent placement in the various countries. There was only one other adoptive family there with a little boy that was heading back to America. They have also been here for a while. I felt so bad for the father -- he had no idea where they had even been for the last month adopting their son. I thought I had it bad! He and his wife appeared to be completely exhausted and full from the process. Quite surprised, I also thought they would have been more receptive to the thoughts of communicating with another adoptive family from home. I guess we all digest information and situations differently. I would have never made it this far without the love and support from my fellow adoptive families from Amercia -- those that have been here, those that are in process and those hoping to start the journey. I can't thank you enough. I also never realized how many friends Jim and I are fortunate to have in our lives -- thank you! Most importantly we can't thank our family enough for their love and support and knowing how to deal with me in what was to say at the least, a very challenging time in my life. Living in Ukraine and going through this process alone requires so much strength. I would not have been able to do it without the strength and support of my family. Most importantly, Jim...... thanks for being the best husband ever and giving us the chance to raise these two beautiful daughters we now have. The ironic part is you've never met these girls and I know how much you already love them.

Tomorrow we pick upthe visas for the girls and then wait another 2 days before we can come home. For the next 48 hours I will be chomping at the bit to get out of this place. I can't wait to see the looks on the faces of the girls when we get on an airplane for their first time!

Until next time,
Heather

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Gotcha Day!!!


Yesterday was an extremely eventful day filled with total excitement, happiness and sadness all wrapped up together. We went and picked the girls up in the morning. Then, we finished the remaining paperwork and got our passports in one day -- gotta love the Donetsk region for that. (I know of people in other parts of Ukraine that have been sitting waiting over a week for their kids passports). While we were in Torez, the girls wanted to see their great-grandmother one more time before they left. Apparently, she has been actively participating in their lives. (We've been hesitant to post their photo until it was official -- here they are with their great-grandmother) She would come once a week to visit the girls in the orphanage and bring them gifts and chocolate. Apparently, after seeing how she lives, she is not in a position to care for the girls. So, we took the girls to go see her and it was with heavy hearts by all of us. The girls presented her with a pearl bracelet so that she can always remember them. It was so sad to see this woman break down as she realizedthat she will never see these precious girls again. She begged Jim and I to take good care of the girls and of course promised we would. We also have her address and will share this photo with her. Unfortunately she does not have a phone and we will have to send letters. We then hopped in the car and all cried for about a half and hour as we rode back to Donetsk.

The girls were nothing but patient as we had to finish all of the paperwork in Donetsk and get the new passports. I sat in hallways and for the first time on this visit realized all the little quirks of this country when it comes to the adoption process. Every piece of paper, I mean every piece is in its own clear sheet protector -- not enclosed in a note book, but just a sheet protector. The official documents that have more than one page are sewn together. If that's not enough, they then put a sticker on the back of the remaining thread and enclose the fringes with another seal on top of that. I guess they don't want anybody unsewing the documents and inserting anything else. Every official has their own stamp. I've never seen so many stamps on one piece of paper. The notaries over here have it made. They are really lawyers by education and they have to sign everything.

Then the sun came out and so did the happiness and excitement. Yesterday was the first day for the girls to ride on an overnight train, to eat pizza and have new clothes. They looked so fashionable. Grandpa said it would be great to record their firsts. Today was their first day in Kiev and I'm sure we are going to have some many firsts after this that we will lose count. We are just getting settled into our apartment and of course the first thing they did was go for the TV. I hope they enjoy it now. They will see a little bit a day when we get back and that's it. The girls we just going through their backpacks from Grandma and Grandpa that we filled with goodies. Dasha came out with the blowing bubble solution and wanted to wash her hair with it. She thought it was shampoo. I'm thinking that this is just the beginning :)

We'll try to get some sightseeing in over the weekend and then start working on the US Embassy requirments on Monday. If everything goes as planned, we'll be leaving toward the end of the week.

Until next time,
Heather, Ana and Daria (Dasha)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

One More Day....

Tomorrow morning I get to go to the Orphanage, hopefully for the last time and pick up the girls. The ten day waiting period will be over today -- we're so excited!!! My facilitator is arriving this morning so that we can go back to the region today and complete the rest of the required steps in order to complete the Ukrainian side of the adoption. Then tomorrow, once we get the girls, we pick up the court decree and head back to Donetsk. It sounds like we are going to have a whirl wind of a day. We will hopefully get the passports tomorrow too. I'm told the great thing about the region we are adopting from is that they turn around the passports in the same day. If all goes as planned (I've come to understand how Ukraine works -- don't plan on it), we will then hop on the overnight train back to Kiev.

The girls and I will hopefully do some sightseeing over the weekend. They are a perfect age to remember their home country and they have never been outside of their little village. I can't wait to see their eyes wide open when we get to Kiev. On Monday we'll hit the pavement and try to get the US Embassy issues completed in a swift manner and hopefully toward the end of the week we'll be heading home. I'm praying everything stays on track. No offense, this is getting old!!!!

I've got the girls all situated with new winter coats and several outfits to wear while we are still in Country. I found the greatest kids clothing store down the street from our apartment. They will be looking stylish.

Ana called me last night from her friend's cell and said "Mama, I want home!" I was shocked and didn't know if she meant to stay in Ukraine, or what. So, I said, "Home in America?" She replied, "YES!" How cute is that? She's already the queen of buttering up.

I'm hoping I won't post again until we get back to Kiev! Until next time,
Heather

Monday, October 27, 2008

Still Waiting....

The 10 day wait is over the end of this week -- there is an end in sight!! On Thursday my facilitator and I are going back to the region and getting the rest of the paperwork in order that we need to pick up the girls. Then on Friday we pick up the girls, their new birth certificates, the court decree and their passports. Hopefully, there will be enough time to catch the overnight train to head back to Kiev yet that day. Things will hopefully go as planned. I've come to realize that in Ukraine things change at the drop of a hat. I'll post again once we have the girls and know the next step. Thanks for all of your love and support. I wouldn't be here without it. Until next time, Heather

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's Official!

Jim and I are the proud parents of Anastasia Lawrie Smith and Daria Julianna Smith as of Monday. Sorry for not posting sooner. We just got internet in the new apartment we are now staying at in Donetsk. The Parker family (another family adopting from the US) and I are sharing an apartment. They are a great family adopting a little girl from the same region. We couldn't stand the conditions where we were for the adoption and are now living it up in a big city why we wait for the 10 day mandatory waiting period. Once that is over, on October 31st, I will head back to the region and pick up the girls. We will then get on the overnight train to Kiev and get ready to do the Embassy stuff on the following Monday. We are hoping to be out of here right after that! I'm able to talk to the girls everyday by cell phone. I left them with a list of phrases and meanings before I left the region. It's so cute to hear them say "Hi Mama. I love you!" They even got to talk to their Daddy by phone. We're getting closer and looking forward to getting back home!
Until next time,
Heather

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Just Waiting....


Yesterday I got word that my facilitator was able to work her magic and get our approval letter from the SDA sooner than she thought. So, we are back on track for Court on Monday at 11:00am. Once we are through with Court, my friends, the Parker's and I are moving to Donetsk for the 10 day wait. It's not that we want to leave the girls or the town we are in -- it's just not the best or safest place to be. Larry Parker is leaving for business for the 10 days. So, Mary and I felt best being in a safer, larger community. Things are moving in the right direction. Hopefully, there will be no issues in Court tomorrow. My facilitator met with the Judge last week and I would think if there were any issues, they would have been brought up then.


Today we spent some time outside and the girls we telling me about the apple orchard on the orphanage property. I've attached a photo of them looking into the orchard.


The girls don't understand why they can't come with me after Court. I felt so bad. I had to explain that it was the law and we had to follow it. Once they realized we didn't have a choice they were fine. We went over the timeline and they are getting so excited to come to America. It's so hard explaining to them what life will be like when they've had no concept of the things they are missing out on. They've never left the town we are in. They've never been on a train or plane. They have had only a few experiences riding in a car.


It will probably be a day or two before I post again. Keep saying those prayers that everything works out tomorrow.


Take care,

Heather

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wednesday, October 15th

Today was rather uneventful. I did some grocery shopping and went and bought some stuff for the girls in the morning. My faciliatator headed back to Kiev with our paperwork last night and I'm by myself in this garden paradise. Thank God for my friends the Parkers who are staying in the same hotel. We get together every night for dinner -- that's a nice break to speak some English. However, when my driver came to pick me up this afternoon he brought me a surprise -- his 22 year old daughter who happens to be an English teacher!!!! It made my day. She is adorable and speaks perfect English. She came to the orphanage with me and translated for the kids and me which makes life much easier. The kids seemed a little shy today and I think it was as a result of Tanya being with me. The kids asked that I bring them diaries tomorrow with locks on them so that they can start writing about this experience. They also want me to bring a soccer ball when I come back tomorrow. Ironically, Tanya took me to a real neat kids store on they way home and they had everything the kids wanted. They'll be happy tomorrow. There are no store fronts with goods in the windows for the merchants in this town. The only thing businesses have advertising their shops are the names on the building. If you can't speak Russian, a lot of good that does. Tanya said she would take me shopping. Sorry Jamesy, I do need to have a little fun! Until next time, Heather

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday, October 14th

Greetings!!! My facilitator and I have had a very busy 48 hours. Yesterday morning we completed all of the paperwork with the orphanage director and then took it to the local inspector. To our surprise, she had her paperwork already completed!!! This is a great region and everyone seems to be so eager to help and get things done swiftly. She indicated that the Vice-Mayor has to sign the local approval papers and she wanted to meet with me before she did. We had an appointment to meet with her this morning. Thinking ahead, I purchased some flowers to bring along with me (flowers are huge over here -- people love receiving them). I put a smile on my face and went in with flowers in hand to meet her. I heard from my faciliatator that she did not care for the previous couple that went to meet her that are here adopting from Italy and that made me real nervous.

She began telling me how she supported National adoption over International adoption and I thought my troubles were beginning. Long story short... within 30 minutes we bonded like friends and promised to stay in touch with each other. (That will be challenging considering neither of us can share in a conversation without translation). She was happy to hear that I was college educated, a business woman and it impressed her that I had the guts to be here by myself. We even gave each other a hug at the end. The Inspector said she was shocked at the warm reception I was given by her and that she was utterly amazed that she signed the papers on the spot.

Within minutes we went to see the Judge -- actually Nina did as I sat in the car and waited for 2 hours biting my nails wondering what was going on. We were able to get a court date of next Monday, October 20th!!!! Another amazing act......considering we hadn't gotten the paperwork back to Kiev yet for the approval of the SDA first. Usually the Judge won't issue a date before the papers come back from Kiev.

We're making major progress. I think we just cut a week off of this journey -- providing we don't run into any road blocks up ahead. Bad thing about today is that I wasn't able to see the girls. I told the Director I was working very hard at the legal process today so I can bring them home faster and asked her to communicate that with the girls. I hope they understood.

Until next time,
Heather

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday, October 12th

Day three of visiting the orphanage and it only gets better. Jim prepared some video and emailed it to me a couple of weeks ago of the house, the animals, my sister and niece and nephew. So we spent a couple of hours on the computer viewing their new home. They are just thrilled!!! They even got to see their new room.

We called the local authorities on our way back to our hotel and told them how anxious we are to start the paperwork to begin the adoption process. It's hard to believe that I've been here 3 weeks and am now just starting the process of adoption. The girls are definately worth the wait -- they are precious.

Yesterday we were told that their grandmother comes to visit them which made me a little nervous based on my last adoption go-around. The Inspector told us today that it is the girls great-grandmother and she is way too elderly to think about taking care of the girls. I may have mentioned that she gives them a little money everytime she comes to visit them. The facilitator asked them today what they were going to do with their money and they said they wanted to bring Daddy back a gift from Ukraine with it since he wasn't able to come and see the Country. How cute is that????!!!!!!

That's the news for today. I'm sorry about not posting pictures of the girls. I just don't want to jinx anything. Once I know they will be ours, you'll be the first to know what they look like. Thanks for all of your thoughts and prayers -- they're working and please keep them coming. This is far from over.

Take care,
Heather

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Saturday, October 11th


Another great day at the orphanage. We stopped first at the flea market to pick up some hair and nail stuff to play with. They are definately girly girls. Once we got there, we painted our fingernails, had some snacks and created some new hairstyles. Then we went outside to play and met an adorable stray dog. I would love to adopt her too. We spoke with the inspector and are planning on starting the paperwork Monday. We did find out that a grandmother comes to visit and the kids told her today that they are going to be adopted. The grandmother began crying and seemed happy for them. Until next time, Heather

Friday, October 10th

Last night we boarded the overnight train to Donetsk We arrived this morning at 7:00 am and were met by a driver to take us to a town called Torez. Once we arrived in Torez, we went to meet the Inspector of the region to get permission to go to the orphanage where the children are located. We have accepted a referral for sisters, 10 and 8. After a very interesting 30 minutes in the car (the roads are terrible and you have to drive all over the road to avoid holes), we arrived at the orphanage. After the drive we just had and the conditions of the road and village, I was a bit skeptical of what this place would be like. We were greeted by the Director, a very nice man and his wife. He began asking all kinds of questions of me – quite frankly, it made me a bit nervous. He was especially concerned about my husband not being with me. I took out the photo album and my facilitator began explaining the pictures. After that, things only got better. The girls were brought into the room and we visited for a few minutes. Then whole room began crying including the Inspector when the Director told the kids what a great opportunity they just got for a real chance at the life they so desperately deserve. Of course, I had no idea what was going on and I began crying when I saw everyone else crying. The girls seemed very nervous as first and I asked Nina to translate that I too was a little nervous and especially by the fact that I was the only one in the room that did not know what was going on as a result of not speaking any Russian. After about a 20 minute conversation, they let us take the girls to another area in the orphanage and get to know each other. I got out my camera and that was all it took. I offered for them to take photos of whatever they wanted. It was the ice breaker and we became fast friends.

After about an hour and a half of questions, comments and just general conversation, we definitely bonded. Ironically, the oldest girl asked me if would ever get to go shopping. Right there was a sign that she was meant to be my daughter (for all that know me well J). The younger one asked if she could have a doll – another great sign. We had to then get ready to leave and they immediately wanted to know when we were coming back and the answer “tomorrow” wasn’t good enough. They wanted to know the exact time.

I think we’ve finally reached the end of this crazy ride. I’ve been wanting to get off of this rollercoaster for a long time (this process has been overwhelming) and I believe we’ve finally found what we have been so desperately searching and waiting for. I was beginning to worry that we weren’t met to do this. Jim and I have decided to proceed and we will hopefully begin the paperwork on Monday.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ukraine -- Thursday, October 9th







This morning at 9:00am was the third appointment. We saw a file of two sisters, 8 and 10. They are absolutely precious. We accepted the referral and will be leaving for the region tonight by train. This is our last shot at the Ukraine adoption process. We called the orphanage and the girls are supposed to be bright, adorable and wanting to be adopted. It almost seems too good to be true. But perhaps this is what the long wait was all about and the bumps along the way. As they say the best things are worth waiting for!!!! Jamesy is that why we waited 13 years to get married....:)

I'll be back in touch once we get settled. Thanks for all your positive thoughts and prayers along the way. Please keep it up -- this is far from over. I can't believe the friends I've met on this journey -- some here going through the process; some having gone through it and some just following along. Thank you to all of you!!! I wouldn't be able to be here with out your love and support and most of all trying to do this without my husband by my side!!!

It's been a test of strength -- one of which I know I've conquered. The rest of it is faith and hoping this works out!!!

The weather here has been beautiful the past couple of days. I had some opportunities to take some pictures of beautiful Kiev that I thought I would share a couple with you.

Take care,
Heather

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Two Down -- One to Go!

Yesterday was the second appointment and it did not work out. We will be granted one more appointment before the process is over. Yesterday we were shown a lot of files. All but 2, the children were very sick! The remaining two just didn't seem like a good fit. We have petitioned for a third appointment that will be either Thursday or Monday of next week. Please continue to pray that this works out for us. I'm not feeling well and want more than anything to come home. I've managed to catch the worst cold I've ever had. Jim and I both agree that we've gone too far to turn back now. Thanks much for following along. Hopefully, next time I will be able to provide some better news. Until then, Heather

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Here Today -- Gone Tomorrow!

Just when you think things are heading in the right direction. I'm so sorry for not posting sooner. It certainly is not as a result of not wanting to, but as a result of not having internet for the last couple of days.

Things, in the end, did not go well with the twins. We had their consent. Then overnight, things just changed. We believe that the kids were scared into staying and that one of the staff contacted their mother, who in turn contacted them. The Director was on our side, but in the hospital and the Vice Director proceeded to make our lives a living hell. I witnessed a conversation that she had with the children. I couldn't even understand what she was saying (obviously) but certainly felt the threatening tone in her voice as she proceeded to scare the children.

So, day before last, I headed back to Kiev on the overnight train and arrived yesterday morning. We immediately filed another Petition for a second appointment with the SDA. Hopefully, we will hear tomorrow when the appointment will be. I can't stand being in this place any longer and am dying to come home. But Jim and I feel for as far as we have come, we can't turn around now. Hopefully, one day next week, I'll get my next appointment.

So, until then, I now have internet and American TV. Life is as about as good as it can get considering the circumstances and where I am.

Please continue to pray that things works out on the second go around!!!!! I'm strong, but not that strong, if they don't.

Take care,
Heather

Saturday, September 27, 2008

It's a Great Day in Ukraine!

The weather is finally beautiful today and we had a wonderful visit with the kids today. My stepdaughter, Meghan headed back to the great USA this morning. Jim and I wouldn't have been able to do this without her. Thank you Meghan for your amazing help and support this past week!

Yesterday we were able to take the kids for lunch. We were told that there was a McDonald's in the location we are. After several phone calls from our cab driver, come to find out there is no McDonald's. The kids were excited about going there, but could have cared less that we didn't. Instead we went out for pizza. It was their first time eating pizza and they absolutely loved it. Then they each had two desserts of fresh fruit with whipped cream and a vanilla shake.

Today we went to visit them at the orphanage and did not leave the grounds. Overnight, Jim sent us 23 different videos of the home, family and animals for them to watch today. By the way, thank you Laura and Meredyth for assisting Jim with this giant task!!!! The kids were mezmorized by the videos. They can't comprehend what they are missing, because they have absolutely nothing to compare it to -- it's very sad. After we watched the videos, our facilitator asked if they thought more about coming to America with me and they both want to come --- YAY!!!! We then had juice, bananas and some other treats. I then gave S some new shoes from his Grandpa. He's been wearing shoes with holes in them and no socks. Yesterday we noticed what size shoe he wore and went and bought some new shoes today for him before we went to visit. He tried them on and they were a little big. He insisted they were fine and refused to have us exchange them for a smaller size. He was so appreciative and thankful. "A" didn't get any new shoes today as she is sporting a brand new pair of very expensive Puma's. I'm not sure where she managed to get those. We then proceeded to go out and play soccer with "S" and "A" with the soccer ball that they got from us the other day. Before we knew it, we had an entire soccer team built and had a blast. They couldn't believe this old chick had it in her. Of course, when I went to take a picture, the camera battery was dead. I'll take some tomorrow.

Things are moving in the right direction. We will start some paperwork on Monday and the overall process is going to take some time. Apparently, where the children are registered is not an active adoption area and they are very inexperienced in the process -- great! The most important thing is the kids want to be with us!!!!!

Enjoy your weekend. I'm going to kick back and relax by watching movies. It's rather pointless going out and trying to muddle my way through a conversation using my hands -- I'm starting to act like my mother :)

Heather

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Another Step Forward -- A Baby Step!


We had a very nice day at the orphanage. The kids are as cute as ever. The Director, Inspector and every other official has been just amazing to deal with. They are all on our side. Now we just have to get the kids on our side. We were told today by our facilitator that they really like us. Unfortunately, for the kids, they were also told by the Director that their mother will not be coming back for them. We haven't come right out and told them that we are here to adopt them. It's going to take baby steps but we are moving in the right direction.

As a warming up event, the Director allowed us to host an Autumn party for the celebration of Autumn. We brought candy, cookies, juice and fresh fruit for all of the kids in the groupa to enjoy. The kids are all so cute. I emailed Jim photos and he said to bring them all home. I will attach a photo to this post of the group of us at the party.

The orphanage director is allowing us to take the kids from the orphanage and bring them back to the city for lunch tomorrow. We are going to take them to McDonald's. All of the kids over here know about McDonald's, so it should be a treat for them. Getting back to McDonald's, Meghan and I thoroughly enjoyed eating in Kiev because all of the restaurant menus had English translation. Go figure, you go to McDonald's and it's the only menu in all Russian!!

So, tomorrow is another day and we'll see where that leads us. Please continue to pray that this thing works out -- it's exhausting. But, I'm hopeful it's worth all of the stress, sadness and anxiety that comes along with it.

Until next time,
Heather

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Setback!!!

After the all night train ride to the end of the world, we finally met two great kids today. Brother and Sister, twins! They are healthy and absolutely adorable. In Ukraine when you become an orphan it is as a result of the mother's and/or father's parental rights being taken away from them. Apparently these two kids were deprived of appropriate nourishment and care and have been at this boarding school for 3 years. The mother's rights have been revoked for one year. When that happens the mother is not to communicate with the children or go any where near their environment.



Back track..... when we went to our appointment at the SDA and were shown the files of these kids, the SDA personally called the orphange to ask if the kids were there and if there was any family members that come to visit. If they tell you "yes" it normally causes concern and could be a problem for adoption. We were told "no." Our facilitator also called the Director of the school and she confirmed that there is no family.



So, we go to meet these kids today along with the director, the psychologist, the nurse and the caretaker. The last person we talk to is the caretaker and she tells us that the mother just came to visit the kids 3 weeks ago. Everyone was shocked including the Director. So, bottom line, these pour kids feel that their mother is going to come back for them some day and it's just a matter of time. The sad part is, she will never come back for them other then an occassional visit behind the scenes. We know she is not interested in having them back because the local officials indicated that she has never filed a petition to get her kids back.



Now these whole process and how it turns out is up to these two small children. It will be up to them to decide if they want to be adopted. Now we have to talk to the Director and unfortunately give her the task to tell these children the story of their mother and the fact that a family is here to adopt them. I feel so bad for them. This process will just continue whether it be us that try to adopt them or the next family. Because they will continue to be available with the government officials and families will continue to be sent to meet them.

After a long conversation with Jim today, we agreed that we have nothing to lose. So, we are going to try to win their hearts and see how it goes. I just hope that it doesn't end up breaking my heart in the end. I don't know what kind of strength I will have left in me to return to the SDA and ask for a second appointment to see the available orphans and begin this process all over again. My stepdaughter, Meghan will only be with me until Saturday and after that I'll be on my own to face these difficult decisions.

Please continue to pray that things work out with S & A, and we'll be able to adopt them. Thanks for all of your love and support, Heather

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ukraine Update

Sorry it has been a while since we posted. We are obviously here and the trip was rather uneventful except when we went to the departing airport and KLM decided they were going to change my journey through Paris-- Yikes. We got it straightened out arrived with no hickups. First night was a nightmare apartment. So, we moved to a nicer apartment with internet. Come to find out -- no internet. So, posting has been a challenge. We've taken up residency from time to time a the Radisson and are using their internet.

The city is beautiful. However it has been raining the whole time we've been here and haven't had a chance to do any siteseeing yet. Hopefully tomorrow before we leave.

Now to the important stuff -- we had our appointment at the SDA this morning. It was the most nerve racking experience I've ever encountered. While we were waiting, there was a German couple waiting for their 3rd appointment and were a reck. They didn't help my situation. I felt their stress on top of mine and you can imagine how things multiplied. My stepdaughter, Meghan had to hold me up as we waited on a flight of stairs to be called for the appointment in a small corridor and a very small area. We were shown 7 files of children. Only one single girl who was very cute, but something just didn't feel right. It's amazing how you just get a hunch and I had to go with it. We were then shown files for twins -- a girl and a boy, 10 years old and they are adorable and ironically just became available today. We will be leaving tomorrow on a 14 hour overnight train journey to go and meet them in East Ukraine. That is what we know for now. They are said to be healthy and very normal and if all goes well when we meet them, I will proceed. Please continue to say a prayer for us because your prayers are working. We can finally breathe and hope for the best. It has been a very trying couple of days and I don't know how I would have gotten through them without Meghan. Hopefully tomorrow before we leave, we can take some pictures of this beautiful place and share them with you. My best to all of you and thanks for your continued support, Heather

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ukraine Here We Come!!

Today is the last day at home for a while. Meghan and I will arrive in Ukraine on Saturday evening (their time). For all of you on central time, Ukraine will be 8 hours ahead of us. Hopefully we will get a chance to do a little sightseeing on Sunday and try to relax before our appoinment on Moday-- easier said then done, I'm sure.

For our family and friends that just got introduced to this process, I would like to explain what is going to happen. On Monday, September 22nd we have an appointment with the SDA (the agency for the government that oversees all Ukrainian orphans). When there they will show us some files of children that are available. I don't think we'll see many files. While we are at the appointment, we pick a child to go and visit. From there we go to the region of Ukraine where the child is located by car and/or train. We have an opportunity to meet the child and hope and pray that it is the child we are met to have. If it works out, we then proceed with the adoption and stay in that region until the adoption is complete. Let's just assume that this is going to work out and we don't have to go to plan B and ask for a second appointment.

The emotions are like the worst rollercoaster ride we've ever been on. Right now, and I hope it stays that way, we're feeling very positive about this working out. It's in God's hands and if this wasn't meant to be, we would have been stopped along time ago. So, I think we'll stick with the positive thoughts!

We will try to post on our blog as often as we can. Depending on where we will be in the Country, we may or may not have internet access.

Please continue to pray for us and pray for the little one or ones we are met to have!
Until next time,
Heather

Monday, September 15, 2008

Appointment -- One Week from Today!

By this time next week, we will have hopefully found the perfect little one to become a part of our family. The stress of the wait is overwhelming. Not to mention trying to put all of my affairs in order for a trip that I have no idea how long I'll be on. Spent the last several days also packing the luggage. Adding to and taking away from the piles. No matter how I cut it, I can't meet the 50# weight rule. So, I'm going to end up with 2 checked bags -- oh well.

This whole experience is overwhelming to say the least. There are no words to describe it and only fellow families in the adoption world can relate. My parents, other family members and friends just can't seem to understand the emotions. Even some friends that have adopted from other countries are struggling in understanding the Ukraine way of adopting. One friend said, "You are going to travel thousands of miles and have no idea if you are going to adopt a child??!!" This whole thing is in God's hands and I'm sure he is leading us to the next part of the journey. It does seem rather crazy -- this process. Then I make myself crazy reading about families that have just sailed through and those that have come home with heavy hearts.

Next time I post will be from Ukraine. Wish me luck --until then, Heather

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Counting Down....

Hard to believe that we leave in just over 2 weeks.  Over the Labor Day weekend I managed to get the worst cold I've ever had.  The stress of this whole event must have worn down my immune system.  So, in normal circumstances I would have just waited this out, but I went to the doctor yesterday.  While there, he mentioned a slew of immunizations that I should have updated for the trip plus mentioned some that I should have that I've never had.  So, on Friday I get to go in for 5 shots!!!!

Right now I'm just in a stage of shock and can't seem to get my s--- together to prepare for this journey.  I'm such a list person and I've got it all on the list, but have done nothing to implement it -- not like me.  Maybe it's just as a result of not feeling good right now.  

I've been following other blogs of families that are in Ukraine now and seem to just be sliding through the process with great referrals.  I sure hope this continues and we will be so lucky.  

Wishing all of you in this process the best of luck,
Heather