Sunday, September 10, 2017


After two months in Ukraine we are finally home- and as a family of 3!! Our trip home went remarkably well.  Sveta did very well on our two flights and our long layover in Frankfurt.  It felt SO good to walk off that plane in Portland all together! And Sveta got to meet her Grandma and Grandpa for the first time. Our first night home was a bit rough, but considering how much change Sveta has been through the last few weeks, along with the time change, we expected it.  She fell asleep very quickly on our drive home and then woke up once we got off the freeway.  It had gotten dark by that point and she panicked a bit and wanted out of her car seat.  She screamed the rest of our way home.  She was still a bit upset as we walked into our house together where our two cats greeted us.  She was not a big fan of them at that moment so some more screaming ensued.  We showed her around the house and eventually she began to calm down.  We taught her how to pet the cats and play with them and she started to really enjoy that, as well as explore some of her new toys.  We tried to go to bed since we were all exhausted but she wasn't having any of that until about 12:30 when she was finally willing to climb in her new bed with mama.  Bedtime continues to be our biggest challenge but we know for her that is probably the scariest time of the day.  She has never slept alone (which we still don't expect her to do) and we are still new to her.  As attached and bonded as she is with us, she likely still thinks we will be gone some day.  

Our first full day at home as a family was wonderful though! We were all so much happier being in a bigger space (compared to the small apartments we had in Ukraine) and Sveta had so much more she could do.  We went to the park and she was doing so well with that we even decided to try going to the store and she was great there too.  We know this adjustment won't be easy, though I'm not sure either of us had envisioned just how hard it would be, and appreciate your prayers as we transition.  Pray that Sveta will feel safe here and begin to understand that this is home for the three of us.  Pray that our bedtime routine will get easier and less stressful.  And pray for her separation anxiety to lessen.  Eric will be returning to work in a week and Sveta will be starting kindergarten in a few weeks.  Right now mama can barely be out of sight at home for more than a couple minutes, let alone go anywhere without her.  We are thankful she has attached and bonded to us so well but aren't exactly sure how to handle her separation anxiety yet.  Our journey is far from over and we are beyond grateful for everyone's support to get us this far.  We can't wait to see what comes next for our family!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Coming Home!!

We are so excited to say that yesterday we got ALL paperwork needed to travel home with our daughter!! It has been an exciting couple days- on Monday we heard from our facilitator that her passport had not only been printed, it was already back in Odessa and our driver was putting it on the train back to Kiev that night! Our facilitator picked it up Tuesday morning, we then all went to the medical office so we could pick up her medical paperwork, and then went to the US embassy because we were able to get an appointment immediately! It only took about 20 minutes for us to drop off the rest of our paperwork and receive her passport back with her immigrant visa!  By noon on Tuesday we were good to go! On Monday afternoon we had booked our tickets home for Friday.  We were blessed to be able to get the exact flights we wanted (only one layover and straight from Europe to Portland so she will officially become a US citizen in Portland).  This also gave us a couple extra days just in case something wouldn't have gone smoothly. We are so, so excited!! It so amazing to see how faithful God continues to be in this journey. From the very beginning we had prayed we could be home at the 2 month mark and sure enough we are done before that and leaving exactly 2 months and 1 day after we got here.

Please pray for smooth, delay-free travel on Friday. And especially for Sveta- that she will do very well on the plane and feel completely comfortable knowing that mom and dad are with her. The other day she told our facilitator in Russian that when she goes to America she is going to live and sleep at school (this is what she knows happens when kids are moved from a baby house orphanage to a boarding school orphanage). We all explained to her that she will live and sleep at home with mama and papa, but it's hard to know exactly what is going through her little head with so many unknowns and new things in such a short amount of time. Please also pray for our adjustment once we are home. It feels so good to say the 3 of us are finally going HOME!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Bonding Time

We have had an amazing time bonding as a family of 3 here in Kiev.  Sveta has continued to do so great considering all she has been through in less than two weeks.  We have been seeing more frequent toddler-like behavior (including a couple epic tantrums) but not only is that completely normal, it also means she feels comfortable enough with us to revert back to those stages.  Her institutional life did not allow her to be a typical baby and toddler so now that she can be, she is sometimes.  We are quickly learning to pick our battles and know that these stages won't last.  She has also had severe separation anxiety, particularly with mama. Usually mama can't even be in another room for more than 30 seconds before Sveta has to follow.  We have tried having mama leave for a few minutes to show her that mama always comes back, but we don't seem to be getting anywhere, so for now will let her take the lead on that and just continue to show her she is safe and with people who will always be there for her.  She did have a successful trip to the park with only papa today though!  Our bedtime routine has gone much better the last couple of nights so that is progress too.  Of course we will start all over once we get home though!

This week we took care of mandatory medical appointments and our first embassy appointment.  We also filed a petition/complaint to the immigration office requesting they process her passport immediately.  We were told the petition had been filed and the passport would be printed ASAP.  We will soon find out what that actually means by Ukraine standards!  We are desperately praying that we are home next weekend!!  We were also blessed this week to find a few other adoptive families who are in the same stage of the process as we are. It has been such a blessing to have other parents (more experienced than us!) to talk with while our kids play together at the park. We are all looking for ways to pass the time while we anxiously wait to go home, and keep our kids busy, so we look forward to our afternoons with them.

Please pray that Sveta's passport will be in our hands early next week and that we can be home by next weekend!!!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Back to Kiev

Our first days as a family of three could not have gone any better. Sveta has been simply amazing- always happy and silly, and so much fun. We never knew we could love someone quite as much as we love this little girl. The three of us have stuck together to avoid any more separation anxiety, although Eric did successfully and quickly go get dinner for us last night without any issue. Food is still an issue a lot of the time but we are trying hard to figure out what she will eat. She is very much like a toddler when it comes to food, and textures and temperatures seem to play a big role in what she will eat at one moment and not another. Fortunately yogurt (close to room temperature) and fruit always seem to work- for now!

On Wednesday we took the train from Odessa back to Kiev. We were nervous to see how she would handle the 7 hour trip but, as usual, she was amazing. To be honest, we are very glad to be back in Kiev. Not only does it mean we are another step closer to going home, but our apartment is in an area with much more to see and do, as well as more foreigners. Thursday was Independence Day in Ukraine so everything was closed (and many things today too), but on Monday Sveta is scheduled for her medical exam as part of the immigration process. We are hopeful this will go smoothly and are still praying that we will have her passport in our hands by the end of next week.

Today we went to a large shopping mall because we desperately needed to find some warmer clothes for Sveta. Odessa was close to 100 degrees the last couple weeks and now Kiev is in the 60s so she didn't really have the best attire. At the mall we discovered they also had a bowling alley and decided to check it out. Sveta had a blast! She had the same priceless reaction every time a ball would knock down the pins- shouting "Wow!" and jumping up and down.  Watching her reaction to all of these firsts is so special.  Even simple things like being mesmerized by the washing machine tonight or a revolving door at the mall are so cute to see.  We are certainly enjoying our bonding time here as a family of three, but are so very eager to get home.  Please be praying with us that we can be home during the first week of September.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Gotcha Day!

August 21st was officially gotcha day for our girl! It was quite a bit more emotional than we had anticipated.  When we arrived at the orphanage one of the caretakers was doing Sveta's hair and getting her dressed in the clothes we brought. She was Sveta's favorite and vice versa so she was already very emotional about her leaving the orphanage. After Sveta came out of the room with her small backpack and a going away gift, she was sobbing which made this mama cry too.  We tried to comfort her and the caretakers tried to comfort her but nothing was working.  We had brought treats for her to share with her group and she cried all through that too.  She knew that she was about to leave the only world she's ever known with two people she barely knew and no idea what was beyond the fence. We were able to tour the orphanage to see where she had been living for the last five years and by the time we were done with that her tears had stopped.  She wasn't completely her happy self, but more content than earlier.  We finished the last of the paperwork we needed to do and then it was time to go.  Sveta left the Baby House for good with us as her mama and papa! We were overwhelmed with joy that this day had finally come and are so blessed to be together as a family now.

Since she had been so sad earlier in the morning we had already planned with our driver to meet up with Sveta's best friend who had left the orphanage with her family from Italy one week earlier.  It was so fun to see the two girls interact and talk together and it made Sveta very happy.  We went out to lunch together (Sveta's first time in a restaurant) so the girls could have some more time together.  Sveta was quite funny (or embarrassing) at the restaurant.  She was very adamant she wanted soup and pizza and let the waiter know right away. Then every time he walked by she would ask him about her soup and pizza.  Since we had ordered a pizza to share, Eric and I were given plates while we waited for our food.  Sveta wanted a plate too so she got the attention of the next waiter that walked by and eventually got her own plate. She also got plates for the other people at our table even though they didn't need them.  Apparently Sveta didn't care for the soup because she didn't eat it and told multiple waiters about it as we were leaving!

After lunch we came back to our apartment and Sveta did great through the afternoon.  We tried to all go out to get some dinner but weren't having luck with Uber so Eric took the bus on his own to get something to bring back while Sveta and I stayed at the apartment.  She was fine for a few minutes but then lost it completely and threw a very loud fit.  It's so hard not understanding most of what she's saying but I kept hearing the word "papa" so I was hoping her only problem was that he wasn't there.  She was completely inconsolable. I texted Eric and told him to hurry up!  We went outside and walked around a bit watching for the bus which helped some until he got back.  Then when she saw him she got louder again and for the next hour or so would only grunt at him when he tried to talk to her.  She had calmed down though and eventually was back to her happy self.  Whew! We were taking it cautiously after that through the night and decided that at least for the time being, all three of us will stick together at all times!  Sveta had a great night and is still happy and content this morning.  Pray for our girl though.  This adjustment cannot be easy at all, and is probably downright scary.  Pray that she will have peace and we will be able to comfort her when she needs it.  It is such an adjustment for all three of us.  Also pray that we can figure out what foods (besides juice, candy, and ice cream) she will eat.  So far she has said no to just about everything else (besides the pizza at lunch yesterday). This is our last full day in Odessa and unfortunately it is raining so we're not sure we will be able to do much outside. Tomorrow afternoon we will take a train back to Kiev. We continue to pray that her passport will be in our hands by September 1st (or earlier!) and all things needed for immigration at the embassy will move quickly and smoothly.  We continue to hope we will be on our way home by the first week of September.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

More Paperwork

Saturday was a "working Saturday" in Ukraine which meant we were able to take care of a couple more things.  We went to the orphanage in the morning to meet with the director and finish signing Sveta out (though we won't actually take her until Monday).  We then went back to the bank because our facilitator and driver wanted to try and "talk loudly at them" to get them to close Sveta's accounts right away so we wouldn't have to worry about it next week.  Ukrainians do not trust banks at all and we quickly learned why.  When we got to the bank we found out that everything had just been completed on their end a couple minutes earlier and we could sign and get the money right away.  We took the money back to the orphanage to give to the director and that's when we found out the bank had only given us the interest made on her account and not the actual original deposit, which was a much larger amount of money.  So back to the bank we went where our facilitator and driver demanded they give us the rest of the money.  This took quite some time and eventually they said the director needed to come.  Once she got there it was just after 1:00 which is the lunch hour so nothing could happen now until 2:00.  So we went to get some lunch and wait until 2:00 when we could try and get everything resolved.  They continued to try and not give the full deposit but with the orphanage director, our driver, and facilitator refusing to budge, they eventually did give the full amount in cash back to the director (legally they should have given it to us, and then we would have given it to her, but that's another issue!).  Thus during our few hours spent at the bank we learned why Ukrainians do not keep their money in one!

Everything is in place for us to officially, and finally, take Sveta from the orphanage on Monday morning!  Since everything will be taken care of in Odessa after that (our driver will send the passport to Kiev once it's ready), we have train tickets booked on a day train back to Kiev Wednesday afternoon, where we will stay until we can finally fly home.  Please pray with us that we will have her passport in hand no later than September 1st (two weeks after submission) and that we can be on our way home during the first week of September.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Paperwork Day

We had a long, but mostly successful day chasing paperwork yesterday!  Now that our ten day wait is over, the adoption has officially taken effect, we are officially her parents, and we can begin working on the paperwork required for her immigration to the United States.  Our facilitator was able to pick up our court decree from the courthouse on Thursday which meant we were able to leave early Friday morning to head to the rural village where our daughter was born, and get to the records office shortly after they opened.  It was about a two and a half hour drive on the worst roads we had ever been on by far.  We had no idea how long it would take to get her new birth certificate once we got there and was the part we were most worried about for the day.  However, we were very blessed to have her new birth certificate, with her new name and new parents, in hand only 30 minutes later!  We then started the long bumpy ride back to go on to the next thing.  Unfortunately a short ways into our journey we discovered the road had been blocked by protesters (who were protesting the horrible looking road) and no one was getting through.  The only other way out of the village was 100 km out of the way.  Our driver parked the car with the others and she and our facilitator told us to wait in the car while they walked up to the barricade to see how long it might last.  When they came back a short while later our facilitator told us that if anyone asked, we were to pretend we were important officials from the embassy who were late for a flight and desperately needed to get back.  They would move their barricade and let us pass through because of that.  So we drove up to the barricade and sure enough everyone moved aside (we heard them saying "Americans, Americans"), they moved their barricade, and let us (and only us) through! Another huge blessing!  We were back on the road again and by early afternoon had arrived back in Odessa.  We stopped by the orphanage so our facilitator could give them documents necessary for starting the sign out process and then our next stop was the bank.  Every orphan in Ukraine has a bank account that the government puts money into so that when they age out they have something to get started with.  When a child is adopted it is customary to close out the account and give the money to the orphanage.  This sounded easy enough to us since we figured we would just basically sign something that said to give the money in the account to the orphanage. Nope. First the bank must verify some of our documents to ensure we are who we say we are, and are really her parents.  This will take at least 2-3 business days.  Then we will need to go back to the bank to sign off on them giving the money to the orphanage.  So because of that we will not be able to go back to Kiev as soon as we thought we could. Fortunately though it doesn't slow down anything else in the process right now.  After the bank we went to the main passport office in downtown Odessa to have them scan some documents and start the process of applying for her passport.  We were originally thinking it would take up to two weeks to get her passport but found out yesterday the wait time is now as much as 4 weeks!! (Please pray we get it within 2 instead!) Our last stop of the day, just before they closed, was the local passport office in the district where the orphanage is located.  We had to give them some documents and paperwork for her passport as well.  We were able to get everything we needed to accomplished yesterday.  We are so thankful to have our facilitator doing all of this work for us because most of the time we have no idea what's going on or what we're supposed to do next!  We just do what we're told- stay in the car, sign here, etc., and know that she's got it under control.

We were not able to take Sveta from the orphanage yesterday but, in the end, we were okay with that because we were able to get so much accomplished that will lead to her getting home.  Monday should be the day that we get to have her with us for good!