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spelling 101

Saturday, January 31, 2009

One year ago...
Kiril arrived at 9:05 a.m., ready and willing to do whatever it took to get us to Kiev.
He was a great kid. And by kid...I mean kid. He was barely 21.
But he spoke great English and he talked to me.
A big improvement, I must say.
Turns out, Kiril had spent a year in the U.S. as an exchange student, and he had such a great experience and grew to love the country so much he wants to immigrate here soon.
I hope he's able to follow that dream.
We spent the morning showing Kiril around Odessa. We showed him the opera house, the steps, the pier. He loved it all. He was like a little kid walking around and taking everything in.
But he was also a huge help and above all, he was patient with Maddie.
He walked at her pace, helped me help her up and down stairs and translated what he thought she was saying to me.
It was so nice to finally be able to communicate with her without using signs...even if it was only for a few hours.
We stopped by McDonald's for lunch (I didn't want to buy any more groceries...and let's just say Maddie won't be ready for a sit down restaurant any time soon.) And during lunch we got the call.
The passports would be ready at 3:30 p.m.
We went back to the apartment, so Maddie could take a quick nap and I could finish packing. I made a quick call to Meshack on Skype to let him know...but then promptly forgot to post something (sorry about that! Thankfully clear thinking returned later, and he agreed to fill you all in ;)
We finally left the apartment around 3:20 and walked the six blocks to the passport office.
When we arrived my heart sank.
They had spelled our last name wrong.
Good grief.
Thankfully, this is one part of the process which isn't inefficient.
Go figure. They must have had thi happen before. ;)
Actually, I'm sure of it. The Haug's passport was misspelled as well.
They actually WROTE the correction in the passport and then stamped it.
I had it corrected in less than 15 minutes.
We could finally for Kiev!!!!
Okay...that is easier said than done.
We flew down to the bus station to try to get on the 6:30 to Kiev.
They had two seats left. When I asked if Maddie could ride in my lap, they said 'sure'...but then realized the two seats were in the very front and they don't allow children to sit in the front.
So we looked at another option.
A mini-bus.
Kiril called it something like a Matruska (I know that's not right)...but he said it would be cold and a bit uncomfortable.
Let's look at hiring a driver then. I just wanted out. I didn't want to have to sit around waiting until 11 p.m., when we could be there just a few minutes later by bus or car! I wanted out now.
Yea...real mature I know. But I was done. We had the passport...I needed to get started on the next leg of the journey.
Kiril found a cab driver to take us back to the apartment to consider our options. As we headed back, he turned and told me he had talked to the driver who said he would be willing to take us to Kiev for $220.
Not too bad.
It cost us almost double that to come down and visit Maddie back in December.
I said, 'Take it.'
The guy dropped us off at the apartment to pick up our stuff.
He never returned.
So we hailed another driver to take us over to drop off our apartment key and on the way, again, Kiril worked his magic. This driver had a friend who would take us for $220. All we had to do was wait another half an hour for him to be ready.
No problem.
By 7 p.m. we were on our way.
Maddie did great on the trip. She slept for most of it...and sat quietly during the rest of it. I think she was a bit scared of the driver.
So was I.
Not that I was doubting his abilities...but the guy was driving like he was a member of the Penske racing team! We were doing 180 kph at one point. Things were whizzing by...and just about the time I would doze off, he would slam on the brakes to slow down to go around someone.
We arrived four hours later.
Yes...you read that right. Four hours later!
It took us over six back in December.
We were so early that Bogdan's crew wasn't expecting us so I had to call and wake Bogdan up so I could get the key to the apartment.
We finally got our stuff loaded into the aparment and as I walked into the living room to drop off a bag and there, sitting on the computer desk was a bouquet of pink roses, a card and a basket of fruit.
Inside, the note said, Congrulations! You're one step closer to home.
I told you Bogdan was the best.
And he's right.
We were finally in the homestretch.
Tomorrow would be incredibly busy...but it didn't matter.
In less than 36 hours we should be on our way home.


pinch hitting meshack

One year ago...

I will try to fill you all in since Tami won't be able to for a while. Tami said the passport was finally in her possession in the afternoon Odessa time, and Maddie and her were going to Kiev as soon as transportation was available.
Tami was catiously optimistic, but it looks like she should be able to make a trip to American Medical Center and the US embassy on Friday.
If all goes well then Mom and Maddie will be arriving home at 7:30 p.m. local time Saturday night.
She will pick back up on blogging as soon as technology is available. Thanks to all for your compassion, kind words and encouragement.

Tami and I are grateful to all!

Meshack and Maddie's brothers and sister


what do we do now?

Friday, January 30, 2009

One of the things I have been struggling with since we moved to Grab-Your-Lasso, Wyoming was not wanting to be here.

I didn't really WANT to move. I felt like we HAD to move.
It was a matter of family...doing what was best for everyone.
Not really the best of motives if you think about it - doing something begrudgingly. I tried, but never did quite find 'my better attitude' about the move, so I quietly endured.
Fast forward six months and I'm to the point where I'm liking Grab-Your-Lasso. Its a relatively quiet town, even with a ton of college students living nearby. The schools are pretty good - except for that whole liberal thing - but its giving us an opportunity to teach the kids how to stand up for what they believe in.
I have everything I really need at my fingertips. A 24-hour Wally World is just a 5 minute drive away, we have fast food restaurants (which we've never-ever had in any town we've lived in) and there's even a bagel shop - its not a Panera...but it fills my bagel cravings nicely.
We are seeing the grandparents on a pretty regular basis now. Once a month we try to get down to the parents, and they usually return the favor - coming up for the kids programs, sporting events and just to hang out with us.
We've made some pretty good friends. Friends who are at the same point in life...and surprisingly, about our same age. We're all in our late 30s and 40s with kids in elementary. All of our oldest kids are boys, all in the same grade. We all go to the same church. All of our kids like sports, so we end up at the same events. And we get along GREAT!
Its been good.
So, I've grown accustomed to life in Grab-Your-Lasso.
Still...the financial part of life never has come together.
I haven't found a job - haven't even had an interview - after applying to nearly 30 jobs. I'm doing a bit of freelance work, but its not enough to make much of a difference.
The job Shad came here for, and that I followed him for, has been alright - but the owners have reneged on a bunch of the stuff they promised us...and we were naive enough to trust their word.
The health insurance we were promised...that we negotiated that they would provide for the whole family...turned out to be the catastrophic kind. It only kicks in after the first 3,000 of a hospital bill. Not exactly stellar. We have to put aside money for office visits, ER trips and that first 3,000.
The continuing education they agreed to pay for, has turned out to have a ton of strings attached...he can only go to state meetings, regardless of what the topic is (usually clinics will provide a certain amount to cover your expenses...but not limit you on where you actually go.)
The reduced on-call schedule has completely vaporized. He was supposed to be on call only every fifth weekend...and one day a week. He's on call every third...and sometimes on two to three nights a week.
The money is still there - thank goodness, but in another six months he will go on a production (commission) type of pay scale which could be devastating.
Oh! And have I mentioned that they didn't pay for his MALPRACTICE INSURANCE?!!!! Heaven forbid something happens.
So for the past few weeks (actually months) we've been debating...
Should we stay or should we go?
(Anybody else have that song running through their heads?)
We have gone around and around...talking about every conceivable option, ad naseum. We're so sick of talking about it that if one of us brings it up, the other usually leaves the room.
Then this morning I got the news I've been dreading.
We don't qualify for our home loan.
Not because we have horrible credit...
Not because we don't pay our bills on time - somehow we've managed to pay everything on time, even without my salary.
Nope. Its because four international adoptions, four years of veterinary school, no job for me, a house that won't sell in Kansas, and the mortgage crisis all add up to LOAN DENIED.
I feel sick.
Seriously...physically ill.
Not only are we in jeopardy of having to move...again. We're facing the real possibility of not having a decent place to go.
Oh, we could find a dump of an apartment and stuff all the kids in one bedroom...but who really wants to do that?!
The problem is, Grab-Your-Lasso, Wyoming is an incredibly expensive place to live. REALLY. EXPENSIVE.
We knew this was a possibility and thought we were reasonable with our housing choice. Its a 1960s bi-level. Three bedroom, two bath.
Not exactly a palace.
We thought we were conservative in our housing choice.
We thought we were being responsible.
We got pre-approval from our former mortgage company and blissfully jumped right in to a contract.
Our provisions?
Six months before closure...sooner if the house sold.
We were sure in that six months one of two things would happen.
A - I would find a job.
or B - The house in Kansas would sell.
Should be enough time for one of those things to happen, shouldn't it?
But then the mortgage crisis hit...and everyone changed their rules.
In the meantime, our pre-approval expired.
So now, we're stuck.
Our debt to income ratio is too high for us to get approved...I can't get a job to help that situation...the house in Kansas won't sell...and our contract is set to expire in March.
I called our Wyoming real estate agent (who happens to also be long-lost family) and told her the news. She has a call into the owners to find out if they'll have mercy on us and extend the contract until June just in case one of those two miracles happens.
And if not, to find out if A) they would be willing to rent to us and B) how much they would want per month.
I'm not expecting good news. I seriously doubt the owners will continue to rent us this property at the current rate (way below market value)...and anything more is impossible.
When we made this move six months ago, we thought we had God's blessing. He seemed to be opening doors, moving things, paving the way for us to move. So even though I didn't want to, I followed where I thought He was leading.
Now we have NO idea what He wants of us.
It seems as though He's left us high and dry.
I know it's not true. I know He's still taking care of us...
But it FEELS a whole different way.
I guess that's the difference between faith and sight.
One is done by our senses - feelings, sight, intuition.
The other is done by stepping out without a net.
What is it the Bible says?
"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.'
I'm trying to take that step...honest, I am.
Whether God wants to miraculously move by selling our house...
Or whether He is wanting us to move back to Kansas, I don't know.
I do know He is in control...because I've put Him there. (well, that and because what choice do I really have in the matter?)
But I hope he starts moving quick, because right now things are looking incredibly bleak.
Do we stay, or do we go now?
We just don't know.


on the bright side

One year ago...

I have decided to follow my mother's sage advice to start thanking God for all of this. While I don't know if I'm quite ready to thank Him for not delivering on the passport, there are several things for which I should be incredibly thankful. I'm hoping it will help my attitude to share them with you. So here they are...David Letterman style.

Tami's Top Ten Things to be Thankful For...

10. It's been warmer in Odessa than at home. I came to Ukraine expecting to be living in the deep freeze. Truth be told, I'm wearing my coat most days, but no scarf, gloves or long underwear. And we haven't had an inch of snow since I've been here. Not so much as a dusting. Something to truly be thankful for.

9. Pringles and Snickers are sold here. Yes, I've turned to my friends, Mr. Pringles and Mr. Snickers. I am SO glad these old friends have found their way to Odessa. They've kept me company more than a few nights while I've been here. Of course they're not doing my 'Ukraine diet' much good, but I gave up on hoping to lose 15 pounds a long time ago. I'll wish for 5. It's a start!

8. My cushy apartment. Yep, I'm pretty thankful for Odessa Executive Suites and the American who started it. I have high-speed internet, a jacuzzi tub, satellite TV, a king sized bed, a DVD player and a washing machine...all with western decor. What more could a girl ask for? Before you go getting all 'enjoy the culture' on me, just know during Punky and JacJac's adoption, we definitely lived with the locals. I've been there, done that. Since Meshack had to leave, I felt like I needed to be as comfortable as possible. And this place is great!

7. The Haug's are on their way to Kiev. We thought for awhile that their daughter's passport was with Maddie's, but evidentally it was just hung up somewhere. Today it was found and the family left at 5:30 p.m. local time for Kiev. They should be pulling into the capital city in a little over three hours. I'm so happy for them...really I am. I have to admit I was excited when I found out theirs was here, because I was absolutely convinced Maddie's would be too, and then experienced profound disappointment once again. But once I got over the intial shock I realized they really NEEDED that passport to be here today. They've been here FOREVER and have been through so much. They are more than ready to come home. If anyone had to beat me home, I'm glad it's them. BUT NO ONE ELSE!!!! I'M NEXT!

6. Bogdan. The man that I keep saying I'll introduce you to, but haven't gotten around to yet. Bogdan is an amazing human being. He works in an orphanage in Kiev with 'graduates' - children who have aged out of the system. He does an amazing job and I promise to introduce you to him someday. In the meantime, if you are coming to Kiev in the near future and would like a great apartment to stay in with all the western amenities...for a song, let me know. The money goes toward the graduate program, so you'd be doing the kids and yourself a favor. The apartment is a little out of the way (pretty close to the airport) but it's an easy subway ride to Independence Square, Kreshadik and the SDA. And for an added bonus...Bogdan speaks English not only fluently, but without an accent. It's weird. It's like you're talking to an American. And even after only a few days in Ukraine, you'll be craving that, I promise! :)

5. Tomorrow is Thursday...the day the passport is expected to arrive. I'm trying incredibly hard not to place all of my hope on this one day, but I have to admit I'm inching closer and closer. The passport will come when the Lord decides it needs to get here - and not a moment sooner. Several people have mentioned to me that there maybe SOMEONE who needs my help here. They encouraged me to look around. I'm looking...but not seeing.

5. Sandra. My friend is gone, but her impact on my experience remains. Meshack and I truly have made a lifelong friend in Sandra. She met us during one of the most trying times in her adoption experience, but exhibited true Southern hospitality in graciously showing us the sights and introducing us to the Kiev bus and subway system. We would have been lost without her. She is on her way home (as you read this) with her daughter, Annalee. Head on over to her blog and welcome her home, and then read her full story. You'll be amazed. I promise!

4. It's not August. While I would love to see Odessa in the spring or fall, there's no way you would catch me here in the dead of summer. UGH! You remember how much I HATE summer, right? I can't imagine being here, on the Black Sea (heat and humidity) without air conditioning. The thought makes my hair get all frizzy!

3. All my bloggy friends. You all have kept me company, cheered me up and cheered me on in the last year. I'm so happy to have your support. I don't know what I would have done without it in the last 48 hours. Thank you!

2. Meshack. I couldn't have done this without him. While I won't lie to you, this experience has stretched us, it certainly hasn't broken us (except maybe financially! :) He's my rock.

1. Maddie. How could I make a list of things I'm thankful for in Ukraine without mentioning this precious little girl. She has already changed my world - for that I am eternally grateful. She is a precious gift on loan from God. One which we get to help mold into a strong Christian woman. I can't wait to see what great things God has in store for her! ;)

So there you are, my top 10. I have to admit, it has helped a little. It took my mind off my situation, at least for a time. I'm still anxious about tomorrow. Part of me is hopeful and the other part is dreading it - afraid it won't arrive.
My facilitator is sending a translator (Kiril) down tonight to help me with this last little bit. It gives me some hope that they truly believe the passport will be here tomorrow.
As always, I'll keep you updated, although if we do leave tomorrow I won't have a lot of time to post something in depth.
It will probably be pretty short.
Pray for short.


dinner conversation

Thursday, January 29, 2009

As I was making dinner tonight Maddie came barreling into the room...

Maddie - 'What for supper, Mommy.'

Me, sick and tired of answering the question for the millionth time - 'Stuff.'

Maddie, excited beyond belief - 'Ohhhh, Stuff? Mommy, Stuff?! I looooooove stuff.'


the war within

One year ago...
Warning: Rant Ahead - Please feel free to skip today's post. It's all part of that honesty bit I gave you yesterday. Unfortunately I honestly feel pretty cruddy right now and I'm having a hard time processing all the junk I went through today. The following post is real. The names have not been changed to protect the innocent (except for Maddie) and I'm starting to understand why Russians and Ukranians love their vodka so much. (Don't worry, Mom...I'm still a skim milk totaler! ;)
Thank you everyone for your comments yesterday. They did my heart good.
I wish I had a more cheerful post to give you today, but I don't.
The news is not good.
They have lost Maddie's passport.
Well...okay, they didn't technically LOSE it. They just sent it to different town.
The point is, it's been sitting there for two days and was only discovered because we started asking about it.
Did you hear that screaming this morning?
That was me.
Evidentally, Maddie's passport is sitting in a passport office somewhere in the middle of who knows where. It now has to make its way BACK to Kiev...where some bureaucrat will put a stamp in it saying it has been to the middle of nowhere and is now back in Kiev. Then the bureaucrat will hand the passport off to a courier who will hopefully bring it to the right city this time.
The earliest I'll see it is Thursday.
I'm not counting on it.
If the passport does not come on Thursday, I will miss my opportunity to get to the U.S. Embassy before the weekend, thereby forcing me to stay here through the weekend. I know I've mentioned how I feel about weekends right now.
To add insult to injury..there is, of course, no way to get back the 'expediting fee' we paid to the person at the passport office. Since the fee isn't 'official' there is no way to collect my 'expediting fee' even though my passport certainly wasn't expedited.
Unfortunately, I'm not alone.
It looks as if the Haug's are in the same boat.Their daughter's passport was also sent from Kiev on Saturday...it also has not yet arrived.
Hmmmm...I wonder if it's out in the middle of nowhere too?
Somebody is out searching for it. I think they'll need a search team...with cadaver dogs. It may be the only hope.
The Haug's are real troopers. They've been here longer than I have. They had the same SDA appointment date on Dec. 5th (we actually passed in the hall), but they didn't take the two week break, so they're going on 60 days.
I'm only on day 43.
On a more insightful, serious note. Remember back in December when I talked about the easiest trap to get caught in, in international adoption was to get caught up in your circumstances?
That's where I am right now.
All I can see is what I CAN'T have. And as you can most certainly 'hear' in my 'voice' today, my attitude continues to get worse and worse.
And that's not a good place to be.
Again, I'm at a place where it's taking all I have in me not to become bitter.
But this time I don't feel like I'm winning the battle.
Several people commented on the name change issues I mentioned in yesterday's post. Don't worry, I didn't take any offense. I just wanted to make sure we are all on the same page.
Actually, my gripe wasn't in what they were calling her (I am still calling her both, using the hyphenated name technique.) I think my issue was more with the fact that they weren't asking me what her new name was, or interested at all in how she was doing. There was no recognition on THEIR part of the changes Maddie had just gone through...and very little respect in the fact that I was now her mother. They kept calling me mama but didn't defer to me in any way in regards to her behavior.
It's a culture thing I know...and I'm just overly sensative right now.
When I look back on it, I realize a lot of what she was exhibiting was just a preference for the familiar. They are the only family she has EVER known. Of course she's going to want to stay with them, prefer them. To her right now I'm just a nice lady who gives her apple juice and plays with her.
It will take time.
After three (now four) international adoptions I know it in my head...it just hurt a lot in my mother's heart. Everything hurts right now.
The good news is Maddie is starting to respond when I use just her 'new' name and is starting to understand more and more of what I say. We had a pretty good day today (passport stuff aside.) If I can keep her away from anyone speaking Russian, I should be in good shape. ;)


rough and tumble

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

One year ago...
I promised myself three things when I started this blog. I vowed I would try to blog every day, write actively and with a strong voice...and I swore I would always be honest. Honesty is the only defense pre-adoptive parents have in the crazy world of international adoption. It is the only thing that really prepares them for what they're about to go through. I knew if I sugar coated the process I wouldn't do anyone any favors. Besides, I wanted this blog to act as a journal for Maddie...to show her what we went through to find her.
Today is the first day I have ever regretted that decision.
I was so tempted to skip today's blog or to gloss over what happened..but in the end decided to share it for one simple reason.
I know I'm not alone.
The truth is what happened to me today happens, in one degree or another, to almost all adoptive parents early on in the process...especially the ones who are adopting children who have been in the system their whole life.
As you are reading this, please keep in mind the orphanage is the only home Maddie has ever known. The workers are her only family. The children her only siblings. Of course she prefers them.
Then read on.
It's not pretty...but it's necessary.

I hit the brick wall today.
I was hoping to avoid it...but today it shot up in front of me when I least expected it and I hit it full force.
I'm sick of being here!
I want out...
It's sad really. I only have a few more days, if everything goes well...but those days are looming large. I feel like every second is dragging by, every minute lasts an eternity...let's not talk about the hours.
I think even Maddie is starting to feel it. She was a little less cooperative today...a little more stubborn. Not to be unexpected...but certainly not welcome when all I want to do is go home.
To make it worse, today I got my hopes up.
I should have known better.
What was I thinking?
I called my facilitator, who is in Kiev, to ask about the progress on the passport. She (not Lev) told me she expected it to be there this afternoon but she would call me and let me know for sure.
Well, you know me...I jump right to the wrong conclusions and start dreaming about getting the heck out of Dodge.
I'm still here.
The passport is not.
So...we're back to plan A...it should be here tomorrow.
Add to that the fact that I think my daughter hates me and you see why I'm so miserable.
Let me back this story up a bit.
Lev left me on my own, the day we brought Maddie home from the orphanage.
Cool. I can handle it. She's doing pretty well, I thought, and this would give us some time to bond without a Ukranian here to translate everything or second guess my parenting skills.
The bad news is he's not coming back...and he's not being replaced. I am on my own...permanently! He has another family coming in this week for their SDA appointment, so he can't come back here...and the big facilitator's mom is just home from the hospital, so she can't come down. So I get the joy of finishing this leg of the journey on my own.
Good thing I've adopted internationally before or I may just take this kid and hit the road! All I have to do is wait for the passport and get passport pictures taken for her visa.
Okay...now on to why my daughter doesn't like me.
Lev was supposed to arrange for someone to come pick us up on Friday to take us to a bank to sign over Maddie's account to the orphanage. They say it's not a whole lot of money, but asked that we give it to them.
Sure, no problem. Except they never came.
That same person was supposed to take us to get the passport pictures.
So this morning I took things into my own hands.
After confirming with Lev that he had no idea when the driver would arrive, I arranged (through Sandra's translator) for a driver to come pick us up and take us to get the pictures taken. I figured it would be one less step I had to worry about...and I knew I HAD to get it done before the embassy interview. I figure if the orphanage wants the money that badly they'll figure out a way to get it before I leave. (told you I had a bad attitude!)
So we went to get the pictures taken...and that's when it all started going so very badly.
Not the picture part of it.
That was fine.
It was Maddie's reaction to the Ukranians.
She loved them.
She wanted to be with them.
She most definitely didn't want to be with me.
The driver took us to a photo shop where his wife worked. She was wonderful with Maddie...gave her a little toy to occupy her while the pictures were processed and then accompanied us to get something else done to the photos. They were both so very nice.
Too nice.
All Maddie wanted to do was hold her hand.
She grabbed her hand to cross the street and dropped mine like a hot potato.
Maddie grabbed her hand in the car and didn't want to let go.
And then when the woman got out of the car and said 'baka baka' Maddie started to cry.
I wanted to scream, "I AM YOUR MOMMMY! NOT THIS STRANGER!"
But I didn't.
I just cringed inside.
Needless to say, the passport fiasco just added to my misery.
Then, we had no sooner gotten back to the apartment when Lev called and said the driver from the orphanage was there. Were we ready to go?
Sure...why not. I'm a glutton for punishment.
We bundled back up and went out to meet the driver.
Maddie knew him.
That should have been my cue. However, in my current state of mind, I missed that flaming neon sign completely.
He helped her into the van and off we went.
We arrived at the bank...and long story short (it's too long, I didn't even understand half of it) we have to go back tomorrow. After 30 minutes of yelling and screaming at the bank controller (I know it's the controller, because I had the time to translate the word in my Russian book) , the orphanage workers came back and told me the controller wanted Meshack's signature.
I laughed.
Out loud.
'He's in America,' I said.
'He's in America,' the lady told the controller.
'Hrrrumph,' the controller said.
'Sigh,' I said.
So...we headed back to the van for what I thought was a ride home. Instead the driver asked if it would be alright if we went back to the orphanage.
All the way there wild thoughts flew through my mind.
'Was the crazy orphanage director going to try and get more money out of me,' 'Was the money from that account that important,' 'Would it keep me from going home,' 'Was this a setup to blackmail me out of more cash?'
Seeeee...crazy thoughts. But that's where my mind is. The stress of being here is combining with my fears and creating a mental game I'm not up to playing.
We finally arrived, walked through the gates and up to the administrative building. I was on the verge of a panic attack and was working on a plan of attack.
It never occured to me that no one in this building spoke English.
Remember the taxi pantamimes?
Seeee...I told you I was stressed.
We walked into the building and straight to the director's office. As soon as Maddie saw the director she yelled something and RAN to the director.
She climbed up into her lap and the director just kept saying, 'Nastya, Nastya.'
'She has a new name you know. She's never going to learn her new name if she keeps getting called Nastya all the time.' - No I didn't say it.
I didn't say anything.
Evidentally all that was going on was that the driver needed to come back and pick up the executive staff for their nightly drive home. He gathers them all up and takes them to their prospective bus stops.
It was time to go.
I called Maddie to come with me and she looked at me with a crazed look in her eye and backed herself into the corner. The director kept talking to 'Nastya' and I heard the word 'Mama' every so often. Finally, the director walked Maddie back over to me and I picked her up.
She started crying.
Yea...made me feel real great.
The director kept talking to her as we walked back out to the van.
When we reached the van, the driver opened the door and I set Maddie inside.
Now you have to realize the van is a big van...it's more like a mini-bus. It requires two steps to get into and there was no way I could just carry her into the van, so I had to hand her off.
One of the ladies grabbed Nastya...and didn't give her back.
The whole way back to our apartment, as we dropped people off, Nastya Maddie sat on this woman's lap and just drank in all the attention. She laughed, sang songs and shouted out 'machina' every few blocks.
And then she got over-stimulated.
She went nuts.
She tried kissing the lady all over her face...then tried kissing the lady sitting in front of her. She got loud and refused to quiet down and got so squirmy I could tell the lady was getting a bit uncomfortable.
But she never gave her back.
Finally we reached a stop where everyone got out.
The driver told me, '100 meters' and pointed in a general direction.
'Oh, I was getting out too. Okay.'
So I climb out, the lady hands Maddie to me...who promptly starts crying again.
Everyone walks off after telling 'Nastya' 'baka baka.'
I stood on the street corner lost.
Not literally...I knew exactly where I was.
It was figuratively.
I had hit the brick wall at 200-million miles an hour and I couldn't find the energy to pick myself up and cross the street.
I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to find the orphanage director.
She grabbed Maddie from me and crossed the street.
I followed along like a lost puppy.
All along the 100 meters, the director kept telling 'Nastya' wonderful things about her new Mama. I chose to believe they were wonderful things because I don't understand a lick of Russian and I'm too tired to really care.
We finally arrived at Boonina 21 and the director turned to me, handed Maddie back to me, said 'Baka Baka' to Maddie and 'Das Vedanya' to me...and off she went.
Okay...she's not so crazy after all.
I on the other hand, am.
We walked back through the scary alley to our apartment...all the while Maddie is chatting with me as if nothing had happened. There's no crying, no nothing.
Until we close the door of our apartment to the outside world.
And then the flood gates open.
The tears were mine.
I haven't felt this spent, this lost, this overwhelmed in a very long time.
Maybe ever.
All I can do is pray.
Pray the passport comes tomorrow.
Pray I have the strength to endure the train ride back to Kiev...by myself.
And pray the U.S. Embassy has pity on me and processes Maddie's visa in one day so I can head home on Thursday.


playing dress up

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

One year ago...
Another quiet day in Maddie's Odessa home.
We spent the day playing, watching more videos and doing pretty much whatever Maddie wanted to do.
Not that I'm spoiling her! ;)
There's not much to tell about today. We're pretty much just waiting for tomorrow. (A terrible attitude to have, but one that I've resigned myself to, in this process.) We're always waiting for tomorrow.
On this particular tomorrow we're supposed to go to a bank to sign over whatever money Maddie has in her orphanage account and then get some passport pictures taken for her visa. According to Lev...the passport should be ready on Tuesday.
We'll see.
I'm at the point when I'll believe it when I'll see it.
I have to admit, I've taken on somewhat of a funk in the last few days. Now that I have Maddie, I see no reason why I should be here any longer than absolutely necessary...and weekends seem absolutely unnecessary. (Sorry...but it's true!) I can't get anything done on a weekend...I just have to endure them.
Hopefully Monday will bring a better attitude.
In the meantime, here's some more video. Sorry if you've had your fill of Maddie cuteness...but her daddy hasn't. Every time I talk to him he begs me to post more.
So here ya go Papa! Enjoy!
Today's selection is of Maddie playing dress-up. In case you miss the commentary...Maddie is dressing up in Sandra's clothes. She has her purse, hat and thermal underwear as a scarf (don't worry...they're clean! ;)


they're insane, I'm tellin' ya!

Monday, January 26, 2009

They are insane!
We had a foot of new snow fall overnight last night. I woke up absolutely sure we wouldn't have school today. I mean, what mom-mobile can safely make its way to school with a foot of snow?
Evidentally, they think mine can!
We not only had school...it wasn't even a late start.
They expected me to get my four bundles of joy out of bed on a snowy morning, wrap them all up like mummies and get them to school on time.
I did it...but not without a whole lot of slipping and sliding...and complaining, on my part.
The bike-riding nutjobs were out again this morning.
Even Alek noticed.

Alek - Mom, there's another nut riding his bike in the snow.
Me - Yep.
Alek - Do you think he'll get hit?
Me - Probably.
Alek - Well, HE's not smarter than a fifth grader!
Me - Yep.

One more thing I learned this morning - if we are going to stay here in Grab-Your-Lasso, Wyoming, I'm going to need to ditch the mom-mobile and get something with 4WD. Something big, black and bulky...that way if I hit one of those bike riding nutjobs, I'll still be able to get the kids to school on time.


what more could a girl want?

One year ago...
It was another day of firsts for Maddie.
The first time talking on a phone.
The first time using a washing machine.
And the first time eating at the golden arches...Mikky D's.
Let's start off with the phone.
Maddie got to talk to Q-ball, Punky, JacJac and of course Daddy today.
She loved it.
She giggled, babbled and stared at the Skype phone while listening to each one of them. It was amazing to watch. She looked startled when she first heard the voice on the other end of the line (internet) then gradually warmed up. I tried showing each person's picture to her as she talked to them. I don't know if she got the idea or not, but she sure had something to say.
She can pronounce everyone's name pretty well, with her cute little Ukranian accent, but has a hard time with Q-balls. For some reason she has decided to call him 'walla'. I don't get it...it's not even close.
I'm not sure what he thinks - but I imagine he'll be just fine.
Maddie also helped me with the laundry today. She really is a pretty good little helper. She helped me drop the clothes over the balcony railing onto the couch below. (It never occured to me that it wasn't a great idea to teach a preschooler to do that...but she enjoyed it.) Then she helped me jam it all into the small washer. I put in the soap and she pushed the button.
After it was done she helped me pull it all out and hang it up on the drying rack.
I can't wait to get home to my dryer!
After the chores were done, Sandra, Maddie and I headed to McDonalds. We just had to have a burger...and it's a right of passage in our family for the kids to have their first McDonald's experience BEFORE they leave their home country.
We couldn't miss it.
Maddie loved it!
She was a bit overwhelmed at first by all of the noise, people and energy...but after awhile she settled right down and ate her lunch.
Chicken nuggets, french fries, apple juice and barbeque sauce goodness.
What more could a girl want?


basketball and anniversaries

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Yesterday was a big day for my little guy.
He had his first practice for his very first basketball team.
To say he was excited is an understatement. The guy wore his brand new high tops all around the house Friday evening and tried to convince me to let him sleep in them.
He. Loved. It.
And for a little guy, he's not half bad. He's the smallest guy on the team, but that doesn't mean anything. Remember Spud Webb? He was only 5'7".
Here are some pics from Nick's first practice. (double click on 'em to make them bigger.)

Oh...and yesterday was the one year mark since I sprung Maddie from the orphanage.
It was a quiet day.
Shad was on call this weekend - which is why we celebrated the court day a couple of weeks ago.
I imagine that we'll do something special for her 1 year of being on U.S. soil in a couple of weeks as well.
Its amazing to think that my little girl has been my little girl for a year.
In a way it seems like she's always been with us...and in other ways it seems like just yesterday.
I've been spending a lot of time lately working on a one year anniversary video for Maddie. I've been doing a lot of reminiscing...crying...and smacking the side of the computer screen. My computer has been giving me fits lately. I need to get it fixed.
So barring any major computer meltdowns I'll have something to make you all teary on Feb. 3.
The one year anniversary of stepping off that Delta Airlines flight.


from day one

One year ago...
What a great and marvelous day.
It couldn't have been more perfect.
I don't think it gets any better than this.
I have our little girl.
The little girl we have waited forever to find is finally ours.
And so far, the honeymoon is great.
She's doing incredibly well with all of the changes. Especially since Lev said he doesn't think anyone explained to her what was going on.
The only true meltdown came last night with the bath. Other than that she hasn't so much as thrown a tantrum.
Oh...she's done the pouty, throw-myself-on-the-floor routine, but I quickly corrected that, and as my roomie, Sandra, will tell you...it hasn't reappeared.
She came back from the little town where her daughter is, to spend the weekend in civilization. If you saw the pictures of the place where she's staying I think you would agree she made the right decision.
Her visits with her daughter, Annalee are limited...and since the weekend stretched endlessly in front of her she thought she would come to town to hang out with Maddie and I.
She was really hoping to see Maddie's 'vapor' episodes...she has been disappointed.
Today Maddie and I spent a relatively quiet day inside. We went out for a quick walk to the store, but spent most of the day just hanging out inside the apartment.
We played games, read books, watched Veggietales and Teletubbies (which she loves), ate a ton of yogurt, did our hair and read some more books.
Around suppertime Sandra arrived and Maddie was so excited.
We are really going to have to work on our attachment issues.
Maddie was in her face.
Thankfully, as an adoptive parent, Sandra knows all about this stuff and is totally supportive with the 'please don't hold her and let me do everything for her' thing.
Maddie went to sleep without too much fuss.
I'm already planning tomorrow.
I think we're ready for our first excursion.
Maybe a trip to McDonald's?
I'll let you know.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with some more Maddie cuteness.
Today's video is brought to you by Quaker Oats Oatmeal...the breakfast of little girls adopted from Odessa's Orphanage 1...and Dole bananas.
Maddie highly recommends both! ;)


i gotcha!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

One year ago...
I woke up bright and early this morning...ready to head to the orphanage.
Lev didn't. He slept in.
Okay...he didn't really sleep in. He left at 5 a.m. to meet the first train to pick up some paperwork Meshack sent over. I guess I can't complain too much, but he didn't get back up and around until 10 a.m...and by that time I was about ready to drag him out the door by the collar of his black leather coat!
There were a million items on the agenda today. We had to...

  • Translate the document Lev picked up.
  • Apply for Maddie's passport.
  • Get some pictures taken for the orphanage and for the embassy.
  • Check Maddie out of the orphanage.
  • Hand out all of the gifts I brought with me.
The problem was I hadn't finished buying all of the presents I had brought with me! :)
I am a procrastinator at heart...so I used everyone's sage advice to wait until I arrived in the region to purchase anything to my advantage. My excuse...it would save on valuable luggage space and weight and would give me something to do during the 10 day wait.
Unfortunately, I didn't take advantage of the 10-day wait. Being a true procrastinator I waited until the last minute.
Like five minutes before we left for the orphanage.
Actually I was a little better than that. I had purchased most of the gifts the night before at a office supply store across the street. I bought the orphanage lawyer and inspector a nice pen set each. A little impersonal, but when you're desperate you're desperate...besides I don't really know these women. The only time I saw them was on the day we met Maddie and again on the court date.
Have I mentioned I don't like this part of the process?
So anyway...I woke up this morning and realized the present I actually did bring with me for the orphanage director, just wasn't right. It wasn't her. I needed something else.
So I dragged Lev across the street to help me pick out something else.
Five minutes later I came out with yet another pen set, a year planner and a binder thingy that he said would be good.
I quickly brought it back to the apartment, put it in a gift baggie and off we went.
We walked through the scary alley (which isn't so scary in the daytime) to find a late 70's model Lada waiting for us.
I had never seen anything so beautiful.
I didn't care that it was a leftover from the Soviet era. This rusted out piece of history was taking me to my daughter.
It could have been a turnip truck for all I cared.
Today was Gotcha Day!
I have to say - what the tan Lada lacked in outward styling, it more than made up for in digital quality sound. The guy had the little matchbox tricked out.
There was a video player in the dash, which I prayed he wouldn't watch WHILE we were driving. And the stereo was good enough to make Vanilla Ice sound good.
With 'Ice, Ice Baby' blaring out of the back speakers, we raced through the streets of Odessa on our way to the orphanage.
This time I didn't care.
We couldn't get there fast enough.
We arrived at the Orphanage number 1 a short time later. I paid the cabbie 40 grivna and said my customary 'spasiba'. As I was getting out he said, 'Congratulations.'
How awesome was that?!
I said thank you - this time in English, grabbed my five bags and walked through the gate. We first went to the administrative building. Lev was going to ask to use one of their computers to translate Meshack's document. He told me to go ahead and hand out the presents while I waited.
So I did.
First, I gave a little present to the director's secretary. Paulina had been a godsend. She called cabs for me everyday...and made to sure they called to let her know when they had arrived - so I wouldn't have to wait out in the cold.
She always had a smile for me...a rare treat.
Another small gift went to the security lady, Lara, who buzzed me in every morning. She was the one I did charades with to get to Paulina...she was also almost like a babushka (grandmother) to Maddie. Every time Maddie saw Lara, she would run up to the woman, give her a hug and then hold her hand out for the piece of candy that was sure to come. Lara always made time for Maddie.
The rest of the gifts were for the lawyer, doctors, caregivers and director. I also left a little box of cookies for the kids.
I hope they get them.
Finally I sat down to wait for Lev.
I waited, and waited (anyone want to chime in here?)...and waited.
Two hours later he was finally done.
Or so I thought.
The plan was to go ahead and take Maddie to apply for the passport and get those pictures taken and then bring her back to the orphanage to check her out.
To save time, though, Lev decided to go ahead and fill out the paperwork now, so we wouldn't have to do it later. That was a first.
So he translated the form for me, I filled in the blanks. It went pretty well, but then he started walking from one office to another...I have no idea what he was doing, but he would literally walk out of one office, walk through another door, come back out a few minutes later, go down the hall to another office, then come back to the first.
He did this at least five times.
I guess no one believes in holding meetings.
Anyway...finally he said it was time to go get Maddie.
Unfortunately by this time she was already in the middle of her nap.
The caregivers were none to happy about waking her up and then they saw the coat I had brought for her. Lev translated what the woman said to me, but there was no need. I could tell.
She thought it was too 'flimsy' (that's the word he used)...and wasn't good enough.
Let's not go there lady! Alright?!
You are speaking to a woman who has been waiting in this country FOREVER...way longer than should be necessary!!! I have three children at home who I haven't seen in WEEKS and who do not freeze in the winter. I know how to dress my child!!!! And she IS my child now, so if you don't want to put the coat on her, I'll do it myself.
Besides if you will look in the backpack you are holding you will find a shirt, a sweater, an undershirt to go along with the coat.
No, of COURSE I didn't say that...but I sure WANTED to!!!
I sighed...pulled out the clothing, the woman gave me a dirty look and turned around to go get Maddie dressed.
So much for international relations.
A few minutes later a groggy Maddie walked into the room in the clothes I had packed...except for the scarf and gloves. Thinking that they didn't think my scarf and gloves were good enough, I grabbed the bag, pulled them out, took the stuff off that she had on and replaced it myself.
Then we turned and walked out.
Little did I realize we wouldn't be coming back.
We grabbed a cab and Maddie's adventure began.
Her reaction her first car ride was mixed. At first she was overwhelmed and pretty much stayed glued to my side. I was worried about her throwing up so I asked if the driver could take it easy.
It didn't help much.
But a few minutes into the ride, Maddie climbed onto my lap to look out the window. We talked about cars and busses, vans and trucks.
She loved every minute of it.
Okay, this next part I am not making up....seriously.
I was in ANOTHER minor fender bender.
Strange...but true.
I'm telling you I must have some sort of magnetized attraction to the worst luck in finding cabbies.
Actually, I don't know if you can call this an accident.
It was more of an incident.
Our car...another lada..scraped fenders with a Toyota SUV.
I'm not even sure the cabbie felt it. No one stopped. No one seemed to care.
But I'm telling you, it happened.
I wish I could swear off riding in cabs. Unfortunately I can't do that until I get on a plane out of here. THEN...I will vow never to ride in a taxi again.
Unless of course it's driven by Brad Pitt.
Then I MAY reconsider.
Finally we arrived at the passport office.
Maddie did great.
She stayed right beside me, but talked with everyone she came upon. Not tantrums, no boredom (except for mine)...she was a trooper.
We ended up having to wait for an hour or so for our passport appointment, so we went back to the apartment and waited while Lev went to have a document notarized right across the street.
While we waited, Maddie had a snack of yogurt, juice, Pringles and a banana.
Mmmmm...quite a combination.
Finally it was time for us to head over to the notaries office where I signed my John Hancock. Again, Maddie did great. She played with stuff in my purse and just babbled to herself. She charmed the socks off the lawyer, which is tough to do. That lady is a toughie.
After that was done, we headed back to the passport office to finish up her application. The ladies in the passport office loved Maddie. They gave her two pieces of candy before they took the picture and then gave her another for being such a big girl.
The girl is a charmer.
This is where I realized it had all gone wrong.
I thought we were catching another cab to head back to the orphanage to check Maddie out. But Lev started walking.
We walked and walked and walked.
Finally, I go up the nerve to ask.
Turns out, unbeknownst to me, we had already checked her out. We weren't going back to the orphanage. She was mine.
But what about taking pictures with the oraphange workers? Asking about her schedule? Getting good luck notes from everyone who knew her?
What about that?
Too late.
What was done, was done.
So I have no pictures of Maddie with her groupa. I have no pictures of her with her caregivers. I have no notes of encouragment from the orphanage director.
I have nothing.
Why doesn't that surprise me?
I had checked my child out of the orphanage and didn't even know it.
It was a great day...it was just a little marred by the disappointment.
There would be no goodbye for Maddie.
On the way back to the apartment, we stopped by McDonalds for some chicken nuggets to go. I was too tired and disappointed to fix any meat for supper, but figured if I combined the nuggets with some noodles and corn I'd have a meal fit for a princess.
She loved it.
Then we watched a little VeggieTales - it was lost on her. I guess you've got to know the language to truly appreciate Bob and Larry.
Finally it was bath time.
It wasn't fun.
For the first three kids this part of the first night 'home' was a breeze. Everybody loved bath time.
Not this kid...she screamed.
Bloody murder.
The entire time.
So much so, I worried the neighbors would call the Ukranian version of social services.
We survived...but only because I used my hands to rinse her hair - that took forever. She was so upset she was shaking...visibly.
Poor thing.
I pulled her out of the tub, dried her off, put on some lotion (which she loved) and then got her dressed. As soon as she was in her footie pj's she climbed up in my lap for a good cuddle.
I just finished watching her drift off to sleep.
It doesn't get any better than that.
Since I don't have any pictures from the orphanage today, here is some video I took after we got home. Enjoy!


almost done

Friday, January 23, 2009

One year ago...
We have the Tax ID number.
Boy...that was easy. I hate to even mention how easy it was because it has caused so many other people such headaches. Lev was in and out in a couple of hours.
While he was doing official stuff...I was doing fun stuff.
I took our cab over to the orphanage and visited Maddie.
It was the first time I had seen her in two days...and she was THRILLED!
As soon as she saw me she ran across the room and threw herself into my arms yelling, 'Maaaama, Maaaama, Maaaama...' in her cute little Ukranian accent.
It melted my heart.
She took me by the hand to the play room where we sat down and started digging through her backpack.
While she was trying to figure out what to play with first, I chatted with the French couple.
'Have you been sick,' the wife asked.
'No...just paperchasing.'
'Aaaah,' she said with a knowing smile. 'Well, Maddie missed you very much. When she saw we were here to play, but you were not, she cried and cried and cried.'
Awwwww...she missed me! I'm so glad she missed me. I mean, I don't want her to HAVE to miss me...but I'm glad she did.
I'm just sorry she HAD to.
Good news though.
Starting tomorrow...she won't HAVE to!
Tomorrow is GOTCHA DAY!
Can I get a 'woohoo'?!!
Tomorrow Maddie leaves orphanage life behind her forever and starts a new one with the crazy clan I call my own.
Her life will forever change. I can't even begin to imagine what she will be thinking as we take off in a car, probably for the first time; ride a train - I know for the first time; ride in a plane - obviously for a first time; and meet her brothers and sisters, for the very first time.
There will be a lot of firsts in the next few days, but first we have some more paperchasing to do.
It's pretty simple stuff. The only thing holding me in Odessa right now is waiting for the passport. Once I have that I can return to Kiev (via train...ugh) where we will do the embassy bit.
Been there...done that...and I have three kids in t-shirts to prove it.
I can handle that part.
Then we get to come home. Hopefully in the middle of next week.
I can't wait.
Meanwhile...I've got stuff to do here.
I went shopping today for gifts. It's customary for adopting families to give gifts to the orphanage staff on their going-away day. I have to admit - I've always HATED this part.
I'm not good at giving gifts...especially to complete strangers.
And there are no gift cards here.
So I went with the old stand-by.
Chocolate, candles and if they're high-ranking...a pen set.
Easy peasy.
I hope they don't think it's too cheesy.
I also went shopping for a set of boots for Maddie to wear when she leaves the orphanage. Did you know even the most simple pair of snow boots run $70?
So I bought her rain boots.
They're ugly too. But at least she won't get her new pair of pink tennies all muddy. And if I let her wear them here, believe you me, she would get them muddy. Even if I carried her everywhere. The mud is incidious.
So I'll let her wear the nasty little pair of pink, plastic boots until we leave Kiev.
Lev complained her feet will get cold.
I told him she could wear extra socks.
Like I'm going to let my kid freeze.
You would think I hadn't parented any children before. None of my kids have never frozen off a toe. And I will have you know that it is colder at home than it is here, thank you very much. I think I know what I am doing!!!!!
Okay...rant over.
Back to happy stuff.
So tomorrow I bring Maddie home to the cool apartment on Boonina street.
And she begins a new chapter in her life.
I wonder what it will be called.


why is it?

Why is it...

  • That my kids don't do what they're supposed to do, UNTIL I YELL...

  • That as soon as I buy a new bottle of hair detangler, the other two lost ones show up right where they were supposed to be all along...

  • That as soon as I think I'm caught up on the laundry, a quick check of the hampers shows I'm right back where I started...

  • That five days of 50 degree weather is always immediately followed by a snow storm...

  • That I can go for weeks without having something profound to blog about, then I get slammed with so much stuff I can't keep up...then when it slows down again I can't remember the stuff I forgot to blog about...

  • That even though Maddie is now in preschool every morning (except Friday) my To Do list is growing rather than shrinking...

  • That as soon as I write my to do list on the dry erase board, my four (almost five) year old wipes it off with her brand new, white teddy...

  • That no one told me dry erase marker doesn't come out of brand new white teddys...

  • That my children don't bring me last week's lunch boxes until the last minute, with stuff still in it...
  • That a year after bringing Maddie home I am still using 'stoy' to tell her to stop something...
  • That my four year old can tell her speach teacher that the zebras need to pray before eating their dinner...but I am too embarrassed to do it myself while eating at a restaurant...

  • That I'm surprised that my 10-year-old son now has bigger feet than I do...

  • That I cry every time I hear this song. EVERY. TIME...as in every time I played it last night while working on Maddie's one year anniversary video...

  • That after spending over an hour and a half for three straight days on hold with my mortgage company, that they still haven't answered the phone, transfered me to voicemail or knocked off a whole month's payment for not turning them in to the Better Business Bureau...

  • That I am still stunned by the beauty of my four precious kids - even when they're driving me insane...

  • That every time a bloggy friend of mine leaves for a foreign country to bring their child home, I get all nostalgic and start thinking five is a manageable number...

  • That every time I think I've got a great idea on what I should do with my life, by the very next morning I've chickened out...

  • That I'm starting to sound like my four-year-old with all of these why's...

  • That if I sit here long enough I can come up with a million more...
More to come...


i want this job

Thursday, January 22, 2009

As I scoured the internet looking for employment I came across this job.

I think I'm going to apply.
The benefits sound decent.
The pay isn't too bad...
And I can handle the long hours.
Besides...the office looks nice. And I'm a sucker for an office with a nice view.
Here's the job description....
Explore and report back
There’s so much to see and
do, so you’ll have plenty to write about in your weekly blog. And with so much
life above and below the water, you’re sure to capture some entertaining moments for your video diary and photo gallery. To keep you busy, Tourism Queensland will organise a schedule of travel and events on the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef. Your schedule could include sampling a new luxury spa treatment at
qualia on Hamilton Island, trying out new snorkelling gear on Heron Island, or
bushwalking on Hinchinbrook Island.
Feed the fish
There are over 1,500 species of fish living in the Great Barrier Reef. Don’t worry – you won’t need to feed them all.
Clean the pool
The pool has an automatic filter, but if you happen to see a stray leaf floating on the surface it’s a great excuse to dive in and enjoy a few laps.
Collect the mail
You’ll have some time on your hands, so why not join the aerial postal service for a day? It’s a great opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of the reef and islands.
So what do you think?
Think Shad would move the family to Australia for six months so we could give this a go?
Think I could convince him it's a learning opportunity for the kids?


back to the beginning

One year ago...
Today I did something I have never done in any of our adoptions.
I went back to the beginning.
We are at the part of the paperchase where it's time to get Maddie's birth certificate changed to reflect Meshack and I as her parents.
It's a big step - in more ways than one.
Lev and I hired a driver to take us to the small village where Maddie was born. It is located an hour outside of Odessa...I'm not sure in which direction.
I think it's north.
Don't quote me on that - I'm still all turned around.
It wasn't a long drive...unless you were with our driver.
He was a maniac.
No...I mean it. He was nuts. I don't think I've had this bad of a driver since I've been here. Well, except for maybe the 'drive on the sidewalk' cabbie. Yea...the cabbie was the worst. But this guy wasn't far behind.
Can anyone tell me what the 'mph' equivalent of 130 km/h is?
Do I want to know?
It seemed awful fast...of course that may be because I've been living in the city for the past three weeks and haven't had the opportunity for the driver to really let loose. Who knows. All I know for sure is that things were whizzing by.
Anyway...he was so focused on his driving that he missed our turn. And not just by a little bit. He missed it by a lot!
We went 20 minutes in the wrong direction! That's 20 minutes each way.
He finally stopped and asked for directions at a gas station.
Thank goodness.
I could tell by the exaggerated body language the men he was talking to were dumbstruck that he was so far off course. They pointed back in the direction we had came from...and kept jabbing their fingers in that direction.
We were way, way, way past our turn.
Anyway...as he was pulling out of the gas station to do a u-ie on the interstate...he pulled in front of another car who was also pulling out of the gas station...and yep, you guessed it - we had another fender bender.
And Meshack wonders why I'm such a bad back seat driver. After this experience I would be surprised if I ever feel the urge to comment on Meshack or any other American's driving ability! They can't even begin to compare.
Thankfully, no injuries and no major damage.
We finally turned on the right road and I have to tell you - it was like going home.
We were in the country. There were cows grazing, combines sitting in the fields and every so often we would drive through a small town.
Granted...the houses were different and I don't usually see too many horse drawn wagons, but other than that I could have been back in Kansas, Colorado, Iowa or any other farming state.
We finally pulled into a bigger town (maybe 5,000) and Lev told me we were there.
This is where Maddie began.
This is where she was born.
This is probably where her birth-mother still lives.
Words do not do justice to the my thoughts and feelings as we pulled into town. It's hard to explain everything that came over me. There are so many questions...many of which I can't find the words to utter.
But the biggest is...does she still have any family living around here?
We may never know.
While we waited for the birth certificate, Lev and I went to lunch at a local cafe (It was pretty good), I took a ton of pictures and then I called Meshack. I just had to share this experience.
He too was moved...even from half a world away.
This is as close as we may ever come to having any kind of real background information for Maddie.
There's nothing else.
No names.
No real dates.
No pictures.
Just the information I can glean from this small town...and I had minutes to get it done.
It was so overwhelming. The journalist in me had a million questions...and no way to ask them. Lev was busy in the office...and the driver spoke no English. So I took my pictures, jotted down notes about sights and sounds and then sat back to drink it all in.
That's the best I can do for her.
I hope someday, when she asks questions, it will be enough.
Finally, Lev called me into the office, I signed a couple of papers and they handed me the birth certificate with Maddie's new name and our names listed as her parents.
We are officially her mom and dad.
There was no time to relish the thought. We jumped back in the car to return to Kiev. As the maniac drove, I snapped pictures out the window. Shots of the apartment buildings, the train depot, a local grocery store, a man on a moped...whatever was in sight I shot it.
Frame after frame.
Picture upon picture.
Until finally the town was gone.
When we got back to Odessa, Lev had the birth certificate authenticated. Then he tried to apply for the Tax ID number, but the office was closed.
Oh well. It will wait until tomorrow.
Another thing that will have to wait is a visit with Maddie.
Again, I was so entrenched in the paperchase I missed both visiting hours.
Only a few more days.


change in plans

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I'm so glad we can agree to disagree. We didn't have any bashing in the comments on that last post.
Just respectful disagreeing opinions.
I'm so proud of you! :)
Enough politics...we're moving on.
There's been a little change in Maddie's weekly routine.
My little girl is going to preschool four days a week now, instead of just two.
We have seen such a huge improvement in her bonding over the last six months. It just isn't as much of an issue as it was back in August, and since we KNOW she's learning a ton at preschool, we felt like the two extra days would do her good.
I'm a little sad.
Its so quiet around here.
I miss my Madster.
What am I going to do with myself when she heads off to Kindergarten?
Speaking of which, there's some new thoughts on her school plans.
We're thinking of sending Maddie to Kindergarten next year after all.
Turns out there's a STRONG elementary school program in our district for kids with hearing disabilities.
From what I understand, the kids have their own teacher (not just a para)...who works with them on signing and gives them extra-one-on-one help while they are in the mainstream kindergarten room. They are also pulled out into another kindergarten room (where its quieter) so they can work on some of the fundamentals.
We hadn't given any thought to sending Maddie to kindergarten next fall until her preschool told us the school district sometimes gives them trouble about the preschool continuing IEP services AFTER the child turns six.
Since Maddie would turn six in Feb. 2010, we would have to either petition the district to let the preschool continue services, just let her go to the district for services or just skip getting services until she starts kindergarten (six months later).
No services is not an option.
There's no guarantees with petitioning the district - lately they've been a little cranky.
So we're thinking of sending Maddie to kindergarten this Fall with the expectation she'll need to repeat. That way if she does well, we'll be pleasantly surprised...if not, she'll get two years of extra kindergarten help to give her a solid academic start.
We're supposed to have a meeting in the next few weeks to go over more of our options.
I am anxious to learn more about the kindergarten program...and to hear what our options are.
I'm just a little nervous about sending my baby off to kindergarten so soon.


she's ours

One year ago...
Today is the day the court decree goes into effect. The 10 days of waiting are behind us and now we get to start the next round of paper chasing.
So, while I'm technically a mom of four beautiful kids now, I don't actually get custody of her until sometime later this week. I'll let you know when 'gotcha day' will be.
In the meantime, I'm chasing the all elusive paper.
Lev arrived around 9 a.m. and told me I needed to cancel my cab that would take me to the orphanage. We needed to run around all over town and wouldn't have time for my morning visit. So I didn't get to visit Maddie today.
Maybe tomorrow.
Instead, I waited for Lev to change and then we headed to the courthouse to pick up the court decree. Evidentally there were quite a few changes that were going to need to be made, so Lev was just planning to drop it off and we would pick it up later.
It took an hour to drop it off.
(Insert hysterical laughing here...I'm at that point people! ;)
When Lev was finally done (I have no idea why I was even needed) we left and went back to the apartment and then out to lunch.
We dined at a cafe we ate at with Shad 10 days ago (has it really only been 10 days?!). I had a really good grilled chicken and rice. While we were eating I got a phone call. It was Sandra. She was on her way to Odessa...and could I use a roomie?
What fun!
Lev and I headed back to the apartment and met Sandra on the street corner. It was so good to see her again! :) We dropped her stuff off at the apartment, and after checking with Lev (who said he didn't need me at the courthouse), we headed out to explore the city. I took her to all the places I had been shown just a few days ago and gave her all the trivia I could remember.
She was impressed...I could tell! ;>)
We finally made it back to the apartment and talked until Sandra fell asleep...she hadn't really slept since she left the states so I guess I shouldn't assume she thought my conversation skills were lacking.
Tomorrow it's more paperchasing. We're supposed to go back to the courthouse to pick up the final decree and then head out to the town where Maddie was born to get the birth certificate changed.
After that, we'll try to get as much of the rest of it done as we can.
Hang on! We're in the home stretch!!!


lessons forgotten and lessons learned

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

As the world came to a screeching halt this morning to watch Barack Obama become the 44th President of the United States, I had one of those moments.
A moment where I remembered a lesson I had long since forgotten.
Its something my parents taught me when Carter became President back in '76...and its one I think Americans would do well to remember today.
The President, is our president, whether we like it or not...and we need to respect the man and the office, whether we want to or not.
I think at least half of all Americans weren't listening to their parents back in the 70s.
The response, today, to former President George W. Bush proved it.
Obama fans lined the National Mall by the millions to cheer on the new President...and to 'boo' the old one, turning what should be one of the most historic events in the two century lineage of this country, into something akin to a high school football game.
How cheap!
It never ceases to amaze me the difference between the two political sides.
The unwillingness of some to let history be the judge...the graciousness of others to let their political foes enjoy their moment in time.
Stark differences indeed.
Its a difference I want to impress upon my children.
A difference between bitterness, pettiness and bickering...and grace, forgiveness and honor.
A difference many people seem to be blind to.
I want to my kids to be better than that.
I want Alek, Anya, Nick and Maddie to respect the office, as well as the man.
While we may not agree with the choices he has made...and we will certainly not support the choices yet to come, Obama IS the president of the United States...OUR president, and if for no other reason than that, he deserves our respect.
The new president will be making choices over the next four years (heaven forbid the next eight) based upon his conscious. He will be making choices he believes, rightly or wrongly, are the best decisions for the country.
I am highly concerned about what those decisions will be, but I let my voice be heard back in November. Now, I have to live with the consequences of living in a democracy.
I have to live with the choices of the majority.
That's what I'll be teaching my children.
I will be teaching them to make change within the system of government in a responsible way.
That you need to stand on your convictions...but respect the right of others to have convictions of their own.
And most importantly I'll be teaching my children more about the power of prayer...and our responsibility as Christians lift our new leader up before his maker.
Praying for his safety.
Praying for his wisdom.
And praying for the grace to respect the office AND the man.
Because its going to take some serious grace.


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