Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Last night it was hard to go to sleep for several reasons, we are very close to Independence Square and the music is very loud. I was finishing packing, washing a few clothes, talking to relatives and way too excited to sleep. Well by time I was finished with everything it was midnight and the fireworks started. We were so close to them it sounded like cannons going off and the sky was lit up. Mother and I got up and went to the front of our apartment and we could see the fireworks from the window. It was really neat to celebrate the new year like that.
Fortunately the boys slept all night. Well we are packing up everything including the computer to get ready for our translator to pick us up at about 9:20. By tonight we will be home. Yea!!!!!!!

Happy New Year to all our wonderful friends who have been praying for us.

Pre-Paring to Take Off

We spent yesterday trying to kill time and keep the boys busy. I went to the market to get enough food to last us until Thursday morning. Though I knew we would still need a couple of things like bread and water. At about 11:00am we walked to the post office to get some stamps for Jacob, then down to the underground mall. On the way to the mall there are several vendors selling various things from T-shirts, music CDs, key chains, passport holders etc. One lady was selling children’s books. We were able to get three good books and one of them had English and Russian describing house, transportation etc. Mother found a Ukrainian music CD. At the mall we went to the bookstore and Mother bought a couple of books to give to Alex for Christmas and his birthday. There was a newsstand near there and she also got a USA Today. She could finally read a paper. Jacob loves hot chocolate and they have vending machines in many places around town. We also had a hard time to know which item on the machine was hot chocolate. Well Alex got the gist of what we wanted and was very helpful to get Jacob’s hot chocolate and one for himself. Mother and I stopped at coffee shop and got an American coffee with cream. Love that stuff. I have been trying to finish up getting our translator a thank you gift but with the boys it has been hard. So my sweet Mother said she would watch the boys while I went out. It was nice to be able to get around quickly without as many distractions. We are counting down.

I had promise Jacob we would go back to the park today but I wanted to show Mother the nice department store that I had found. So we walked down the street to the store and then sent Mother back to the apartment and we went to the park. The park still had a lot of snow and Jacob of course was having a good time. Then just 10 minutes later Alex says he needs a toilet. Well finding a toilet is not easy. We started walking around one block in hopes to find one so we could go back to the park. Well that did pan out. So, I told Jacob that we would have to go back to the Square. We go to the underground mall to the WC. The WC cost 2Hryvnia. I then got the boys a drink and we headed back to the apartment. Hopefully they felt a little tired. We went back out at about 4:30, when it was dark to take pictures of all the lights. There was also a large stage that had been built in the last couple of days. It was pretty cold in the 20’s and after about an hour we went back to the apartment. I had bought some sparklers and after we had supper I took the boys right outside our apartment to light them. Well I wish everyone a Happy New Year. Our new year is starting on a good note by us coming home and with a new little boy. Our plane leaves at 12:10pm tomorrow. We are counting the hours now.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mission Accomplished!

Today was a good day. We have been looking forward to going to the Embassy for the past several days. I woke up too early because I was wound up knowing we would be getting Alexander’s visa today. It is the last of the paper chase that we will have to do. I got the boys up a little after seven because Ira wanted us ready to leave by 8:40am. We quickly ate breakfast and finished getting ready. Ira wanted to make sure we had our ducks in a row and for them to move quickly. So she sent the Babushka and Jacob to the Embassy with another translator to turn in our remaining paper work, and then the Embassy could start on the visa. While Alex, Ira and myself went to the Medical Center to get his physical. Ira could not find a taxi that would be inexpensive for as long as we would need, so she rented a mini suburban and asked her husband to drive us around. This was very nice of him to take off work to help us. The Medical Center is staffed with Ukrainian people who work for the Embassy. Normally the hall way is filled with many people to get their physical, so they can get their visa to go to America. This is done for any Ukrainians or adoptive families. We found out that immigration visas were not being processed until middle January and only adoptive families were being issued visas. That is why the hall was fairly empty. There were some Ukrainians just getting their physicals today. After awhile five other adoptive families came in. It was really nice to hear other Americans talking. The doctor was very nice and it only took about 15 minutes. They prepared their report and then we had to wait till the cashier got in. We waited for over an hour then come to find out she was having computer trouble. She showed up with the computer and Ira made sure I was first in line. We then ran to the car because we had to get to the Embassy, which were a few miles away, before 12:00pm. We did make in time. I have been wondering what the Embassy would look like. I expected an flag waving in front of a large building. But that wasn’t the case. There was a sign in Ukrainian and English but not a huge sign. There were several security guards around as well. We walked into an unimpressive building. Maybe there is a reason for that. There were two buildings. The first building was the security check. No electronic devices were allowed beyond that point. We showed our passports and then were wand scan all around. Jacob and Alex thought that was cool. Then we walked outside and across a short distance to another building. In the building there were two sets of thick glass security doors with another security guard. We felt like we were in a vault. The Embassy workers were behind glass windows like the drive thru at a bank. I had to fill out a couple more papers. The lady said that the interviews with the consulate would be at 2:00pm. I had two hungry and wiggly boys and I knew we needed to eat soon and we had about 1 1/2 hours till 2:00pm. Ira’s husband said there was a McDonalds close by and that sound good for the boys. We were back at the Embassy by 2:00 pm. The consulate was there and talked to all of the adoptive parents at one time. Then he said he would do individual interviews. The interview lasted all of five minutes. He said we would get the visa in about 20 minutes. Boy those minutes flew by. They were calling my name and we had the visa by 3:30 p.m. Woo Hoo!!! What a relief it was. It took us a while to get back to the apartment because of all the traffic. It was as bad as Atlanta traffic. Well -that is all for now as and my grandmother “Mama Love” would always tease me and say that is a pretty deep subject.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Snow, Snow, Snow

December 27, Saturday

I have found the time to go to the market is early in the morning. There isn’t near as many people as about 11:00 till evening. We also don’t go anywhere after dark. It is also easy as I know most of you know that shopping alone is much faster than with children. So I have been taking off early in the morning to get our daily market things and I am back to the apartment fairly quickly. I wanted to look around more of the square today, and I promised Jacob we would go up the park we had been before, so we bundled up especially the Babushka (Grandma)(spell?) and set off. The park is close to our first apartment here in Kiev but it is a good walking distance. It is also an uphill grade the last three blocks. So the Babushka had to go slow because of the snow and sore foot. She has been a real trooper with this whole ordeal and then even braves the freezing 20 degree cold, cold weather just so the boys could go to a park. On the way to the park we stopped into the post office. It is the largest post office I have even been in. There were numerous windows with clerks. They sell calendars and cards along with postage. I have wanted to get a calendar of Ukraine scenery and we found one with landscapes which is very nice. The boys played and played in the snow for about an hour until the Babushka was half frozen and then we left. On the way down the Babushka slipped and fell. She was behind me and the boys, when I heard this Oh, Aimee. Well I felt my heart go up to my throat, when I turned around to see her on the ground. A very nice man stopped to help her up along with me. Luckily she was fine with no injury. Hopefully she will not have a bruise. We managed to find some more souvenirs to take home in the underground walk ways and then went to McDonalds for a late lunch. We were all pretty tired, well the adults were. We were hoping all the activity would wear out two boys but it only lasted for a little while. I had brought macaroni cheese packets to make Jacob’s favorite thing in the world macaroni and cheese, so I made macaroni and cheese with the last package. Alexander didn’t like it but that isn’t a big surprise. We had a pretty good day.

December 28, Sunday

I decided this morning to get onto a translation website to let Alex know what about our Church service. I explained that we were going to have Church services and he needed to be quiet. Mother prepared the Lord’s Supper and I had found a sermon by Don Truex from Temple Terrace. We sang Jesus Loves Me, Jesus Loves the Little Children in hopes that the tune might be familiar to Alex. Jacob has been great about helping with the service as well. After our worship service I went to the market for a few things, one thing is that we are a lot closer to the market than we ever have been. We all went out for our daily excursion. The Babushka wanted a couple of souvenirs that she had seen a couple of days ago and we needed to exchange some more money. When we got to the big Christmas tree there were many kinds of things to do. There were little miniature cars for kids to ride, ponies and horses to ride, Santa’s and trinkets to buy. I let the boys pick out one trinket each. The wind has picked up and we are feeling the cold so we head back to the apartment. We had to have another unique Ukrainian experience to apartment living. The door handle of the bathroom door was getting very loose. I told everyone yesterday not to close the door all the way, because the handle may come off the door. Well today Alex wanted to see his mini light trinket that he had just got, in the dark. Well he closes all the doors in the hall including the bathroom door. A little while later I go to check on them to find the door close. I try to open it but the handle on both sides of the door come off. So here we are with no way to open the door. I try several things to jimmy the lock but it just was working. I call our apartment manager and he says he is very busy and will send the cleaning lady with some tools. From the time I first call him, plus other conversations in between time to the time the cleaning lady comes it has been two hours. Mother eyes are starting to fill up. The cleaning lady brought another man to help her. He took about 10 minutes to remove the handle and we were greatly r-e-l-i-e-v-e-d. The Babushka was of course first in line followed by me. Mother and I fix a ham, bean and potato soup for supper. We are relaxing till bed time. Tomorrow Alex and I will go to the Medical Center of the Embassy for his physical checkup, while Mother and Jacob go to the Embassy to take all the documents along with Alex’s Ukrainian passport. They will have to wait till we are done at the Medical Center and then we will meet up with them. Mother and I are excited to be doing something productive and to know we are very close to coming home.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Yea! Yea! Here Comes the Passport!

We received the wonderful news today, at 7:30pm, the passport is being picked up tomorrow by our wonderful translator Ira. In fact Ira is already on her way down to Kherson, so that she can be at the Kherson office by 8:00am tomorrow. This is definitely a wonderful ending to our day. I have kept reminding Mother earlier today that we may only have a few more hours before we would know something about the passport. She said don't wish the day away and she is right. We have had a good day. We went out today at about 11:00 to look around more of Independence Square. I wanted to get a small toy for the boys and a couple of other things, plus we need to get the wiggles out of the boys. We had more snow last night and today and the scenery is still very pretty. It has been a little bit of a battle to get the boys to bed. I will have to keep working on it.

Thank you for all of your prayers on our behalf.

I have put more pictures on picture link.

Christmas Day

Well it is hard to believe that Christmas is here and to see so much snow. Jacob does not remember when he was 4 yr old that it snow quite a bit and we played and played in the snow. He did get to play in the snow last winter but it was only about 2-4 inches and had melted by the next day. So, to walk outside and see lots of snow it too much for any two boys to handle. Where Alexander was born in Kherson I believe they don’t get as much snow as here in Kiev. The scenery was very beautiful with just the snow and then to see the three story Christmas tree plus other trees decorated was really nice. The boys really had a good time in the snow but we were hoping to go to restaurant after we had taken several pictures but they ended up getting pretty wet and cold. There were several men dressed up as Santa and we had one picture taken with Santa. After we had been playing outside for an hour Jacob realized how cold he was and we went to change in to dry clothes before we went to eat. Fortunate our apartment is not far from the restaurant. Mother ordered us an American espresso coffee and I could have just had three of those and been very happy. We haven’t had a good cup of coffee in several weeks. The boys each got a very large chocolate shake. Jacob said Mom can I have a chocolate shake but I know you will say no. I said it is Christmas and you can have what you want. Our food was ok but we are still waiting to get home to prepare our big homecoming feast. We were pretty tired, I mean Mother and I, by the time we settled in back at the apartment. We are trying to keep the boys entertained but it is a challenge. We do have a nice apartment but it is small for two wiggly boys. Over all we had a nice day but are still counting the days until we can return home. We hope we will know something on Saturday but it may be Monday about the elusive passport. We hope everyone had a wonderful day with their families and may the Lord bless you.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Hello Again, Kiev

Tuesday, December 23 - Wednesday, December 24

When I got this morning it was hard to believe that by the end of today we will be on a train to Kiev. I feel like it has taken us three months instead of six weeks to get to this point. I know that Ira will be coming back to the apartment to pick up her brief case sometime this morning but we are not sure when. I also want to have things packed up as quickly as possible. Ira came by after 9’Oclock to get her things. She had already been to the Tax I.D. office and passport office. She said be ready to go get Alex in a couple of hours. We also need a few things from the market, so Jacob and I rush to there and back. Ira calls around 11:00am and says she will pick me in 10 minutes. We head thru a lot of back streets trying to find a different notary than the one we used before. Ira wants to cover all bases and wants another document notarized just in case. We also need another translation of my passport and Ira calls some to help us with that. She has made many, many friends while she has been here. We pick up some coffee and chocolates as a thank you and then go to the Huge flea market to find boots for Alex. We want to make a good impression on all the boarding school staff. Ukrainians always wear boots in the winter and they keep their children very warm when they go outside. After this we rush back to the apartment to pick up all the clothes for Alex as well as Jacob. Alex is so proud of his clothes. He is just strutting around showing everyone his new clothes. We go to his teacher and show them and say da sviDAniya, Goodbye. Then to go see the board school director, who is also very happy and proud of Alex. He gives Alex many good words of well wishes for his new life in America. We head back to the apartment but Ira of course has more things to do before we leave and she goes with our driver. I manage to get everything in our big duffle bag and the extra bag I brought just in case. Ira comes in around 5:00 and gets on the phone to complete all the loose ends. The apartment manager calls and asks if the cleaning lady could come by and start cleaning at 7:00pm because of tenets coming the next day. The cleaning lady did a great job the last time, she took over two hours to clean and I sure tonight will be no different. Ira calls our faithful driver to pick us up at 7:45pm and I get all our stuff downstairs and into the taxi. Mother, Alex, Jacob and me are in the backseat of this small car, luckily we do not have to go far. We will miss our wonderful, faithful driver. The train is very nice, we each have a two bunk compartment. We are cooler than the other train but it is still very bumpy, jerky ride to Kiev. Mother and I do get some sleep and the boys do fairly well too. They were very excited to have their own compartment, we just had to get them to sleep, which they did around 10:30pm. After awhile I see about a foot of snow on the ground, it will be interesting to see how much snow Kiev has when we get there. We arrive in Kiev about 9:30 and manage to get down the steep stairs of the train, through the stairs and escalator of the station with our luggage. Ira has ordered two taxis to take us to our apartment. It is interesting to see all of the streets and Christmas decorations. I am trying to recognize stores to try to get my bearings since we were here last. Our apartment is very nice two bedrooms with a sleeping fold out couch. We have an oven and washing machine that has English words Yea!. After we settle for a bit we head first to the bank to exchange money and then to MCDONALDS Yea! Says Jacob. This is Alex’s first cheeseburger and he gives it the thumbs up. An McDonald’s employee comes We also get a few things at the market and back to our apartment up two flights of stairs and no elevator. Poor Grandma. We are relaxing for the rest of the day and trying to keep two boys entertained. We do have many more channels on TV and one of them Cartoons. At least Mother and I can watch CNN to get some news in English. Well we have made it another step closer to coming home. Ira is very hopeful to get the passport on Saturday, Dec. 27. This would wonderful, so that we could get to the Embassy on Monday to do the physical for Alex. We will just have to see if it will be the 27th or 29th. We have booked our plane tickets for January 1st. We have gone ahead because the seats are filling up and are completely booked on Jan. 3,4 and 5. We pray that all goes smoothly.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Goodbye Kherson

Monday, December 22

Ira came a little after 8:30 to pick me up, then we picked up Alexander from the boarding school and then to the Tax I.D. office. Ira went into the Tax office, while we waited in the car. After a little while she came back to get me to sign the ledger, but first we had to make a copy of my passport. There was a office supply across the street from the Tax office. We are almost running from one place to the other to get back to the nice lady at the Tax office. There are two guards that you have to pass and I show my passport, they give me the head nod and we go down the hall to the office. Ira fills out a paper, I sign the ledger and in about 15 minutes we are done. The nice lady is going to send the info to Kiev today. Yea! Two down two to go. We rush back to the taxi and off to the passport office. Alex and Ira go in and I wait in the car with our driver. Ira rushes out to get me and we rush back in. Alex is waiting in the office. This takes a little while, we have another problem with Alex’s middle name not being the same as the Tax I.D. office, finally Alex’s picture is taken and I sign the ledger. Ira tells me to go to the car with Alex and she is trying to find out about the Registration office. When she gets to the car she says we need to go back to the tax office to fix the problem with the name and after awhile she is back. She suggest for Alex to go the apartment with me, while she pursues the document chase. Alex again very excited to be with us and in our small apartment. Jacob and him play, they watch cartoons, eat lunch, and play with the PSP. We had a good time. Alex is very interested in the computer but doesn’t know what to do. We are going to have fun when we get home to show him how it all works. Ira calls around 4:00pm and says that we had told the boarding school that Alex would be spending the night there. So she sent the taxi to pick us up. Jacob and I take Alex back to the boarding school and then are taken back to our little abode.
Ira comes back to the apartment by 6:00pm and we find out that she has been fairly successful. The registration document will be ready tomorrow and then she will take it to the passport office. The passport office with hopefully send it off to Kiev by Wednesday. This will give them two days to work on it and then send it back here to Kherson. We have been in Kherson for Four weeks and we are getting to leave tomorrow night Yea!. We are very happy to have a change of scenery. We are hoping that the passport will be ready by December 29th and we then could plan to come home on January 1st. This is still a great unknown. Maybe tomorrow Ira can find out more

Happy Alexander

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Alarm clock goes off at 7:00am, so that I am ready by 8:30am to go with Ira to the passport office. We hope that they are open. Ira found out that there is police holiday, like our memorial day, (Ukrainians have many special holidays) and the passport works with the police dept. We also need Alexander to take a picture at the passport office. Our faithful driver picks us up at 8:30am, we then go and pick up Alexander, then to the passport office. And of course they are closed. Ira asked what do you propose to do. I say I don’t know, she says we could go back to the apartment until 1:00pm, at this time is Alexander’s lunch time. So we go back to apartment and surprise Jacob and Mother. Alex is very excited. Jacob shows him games on the computer, Alex plays with the PSP, we give him another dinosaur egg and have him try on his new shoes. The shoes fit. Yea! We also show him his new coat and clothes. Ira is trying to think what she can do to help get the documents finished. She says she would like to try to see if the Registration office is open, which I say of course, go and please try. She and Alex leave a little after 11:00am. She is going to drop Alex off at the boarding school and then see if the Registration office is open. After they leave Jacob and I go to the market and I also want to find something for Mother’s cough. I write down in Russian cough drops and cough syrup on a card. I show this to the pharmacy person and she gives me a couple of things, there isn’t any English on the packages but I hope it helps Mother. Ira came back later that afternoon to say that the Registration office is closed. Another translator that Ira works with has a mother here in Kherson. This lady has been sick and Ira wanted to go visit her and her grandbaby. Ira ended up spending the night. I sure she had a better bed to sleep on than the one here in our apartment. We have been without radiator heat all day and you can tell a difference with using just one electric heater in one room, but we are managing all right.

Sunday, December 21

We have snow on the ground and it seems to be heavier than the last snow. It still is not very much. We were able to listen to John Weaver’s sermon on Thanksgiving this morning for our worship service. Ira arrived back around noon and we mention that we have been informed by our travel agent that we need to pick a date. We had originally picked December 22nd because the airline required that we pick a return date. We knew that it would have to be changed, so Ira says it will take a week to get the Ukrainian passport, and the best guess for travel would be January 3rd. We will see what unfolds tomorrow and hopefully have good news. Ira books an apartment in Kiev, because of the holidays many people are traveling to Kiev. She books it for December 24. We are also concerned about getting train tickets. They have been also in short supply. Ira and I decide to go to the train station to see if they have tickets for December 23rd. We take a trolley bus to the train station and we are fortunate that they have 5 tickets available. We need go the market to buy some more chocolates and coffee to give to the various officials that Ira will talk to tomorrow. Ira eats supper with us but the lady she spent the night with really wants her to come back. So, sweet Ira goes to visit her again

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Documents, Documents, Documents

Friday, December 19th

St. Nickolas Day

Jacob and I didn’t get out of bed as early as we should have. It was almost 9:00am and Ira had already left. We finally got ourselves together at about 11:00am and headed out. We needed to get money exchanged and go to the market. I have also been thinking about the boy’s clothes. If we are going to have more than a few days with Alexander before we go home, I believe we will need a few more things. So we also are going to the toy store where they have clothing. I am sure if we went to the flea market we could find something cheaper but it is just easier for us at the toy store. We go to the bank nearest our apartment and they shake their head that they are not exchanging money. We are not sure why. We go to another bank and get another no. We are perplexed at what is happening. We notice that the Hryvnia has gone down from over 8.00 to 7.00 to $1 US dollar. We then try another larger bank and there is a mob of people in there. I told Mother that this is not safe, because of the amount of money we were exchanging. We are afraid that we will have to give up but we really need to exchange money. We are almost completely out of Hryvnia. So as we are walking to the toy store there is another bank and we go in to find they are exchanging money. There are some people in line but not near as many as the other bank. It does take us a little while but we finally get the money exchanged. We believe that the banks have run out of Hryvnia. (We found out later that last night the Hryvnia had almost reached 10.00 to $1.00. This is very serious for the Ukrainian economy. Prices have gone up drastically on many things.) We are not far from the toy store and once we get there we find two shirts, a pair of pants and some socks. Then to the market for a few things and back to the apartment. Mother has been feeling pretty bad with her cold. She has been coughing quite a bit and shouldn’t have gone out. Plus her heel is still in a lot of pain from the spur. We are wondering what Ira is having to go thru to get the rest of the documents that we need.

At about 2:30pm I get a call from her that she needs me to sign a document. She is sending the driver to pick me up. I quickly get ready and go downstairs to wait for the driver. He shows up in about 10 minutes and takes me to Ira. She is at one of the two birth certificate offices that we have to deal with because of two different regions of where Alexander has been born and lived. I still do not understand all of this. You might say we need a notarized document to make another notarized document ok. The amount of paper work that has to done is mind boggling. It seems overly complicated. Ira looks very tired and exhausted from the day. She hasn’t had anything to eat either. She informs me that of another document that is missing. It is the registration document showing that the child is born in Ukraine. This is filled out at the same time of the child’s birth. Alexander’s mother never did this. Ira said she has never had this problem with the missing registration document. More on this later. The birth certificate office that I meet up with Ira has a very nice lady to work with and she is able to get the birth certificate done about an hour later. We are in a time crunch to get back to the other birth certificate office, where Ira has already been. This “other” B.C. office has a very mean and unwilling boss lady, who has called Ira many names and accused her of terrible things. We finally receive the “first” B.C. and run to the taxi. He drives like he is in Atlanta to the “other” B.C. office. Once we get there Ira and the unwilling boss lady start having many words. Ira has been told that they only work on Tuesday for birth certificates. Ira also knows that they are getting ready to covert the paper files on the computer and will be closed starting Monday through the middle of January. The unwilling boss lady does not know that Ira knows this. Ira knows that we have to have this B.C. today or it will take several more weeks to finish all of the paper work. Then this boss lady calls her director, who is already done working for the day, and has Ira talk to her. This director says what do you want, you need to make an appointment, and Ira tells her that she didn’t call her but that the “boss lady” did. The director says what do you want, so Ira tells her what we need. The director then talks to the “boss lady” and things go better after that. The “boss lady” also says it is St. Nicolas Day and Christmas time and that chocolates and etc would be appreciated. So Ira gets money from me and goes buys chocolates and things for the ladies. During this whole time I am sitting out in this large foyer without heat. These ladies are in this one room off of the foyer with heat. So after all of the drama they prepare the B.C. We are there for over an hour. The “boss lady” comes to me, with a big smile and motions for me to come into another room and there is a wedding chapel, which is very nice. It is strange for people to be so two faced. Then just a little while later Ira motions for me to come into the office. I am not sure what I am doing but then they motion for me to sign in the ledger book, they give the B.C. to Ira and off we go. It is of course getting late. Ira ask if we could go get something to eat and suggest the Café Angelina. Our driver, who had picked up his son while we were at the last B.C. office has to pick up his wife first then takes us to the Café, his family is going home. We have a nice supper, talk a lot. Ira calls different taxi for us to go back to the apartment. It has been a very long day for us- mostly for Ira.