Arrival in Kyiv!

We breezed (as quickly as possible with 6 people) through security and our flight departed from MSP on time on Wednesday evening.  We had a smooth flight and the kids did really well.  All of us got very little sleep though.  We arrived in Amsterdam on time and had ample time to hit the restrooms and get to our gate for our flight to Kyiv.

We were shocked to find the line of passengers stringing back to the next gate before our gate had even been opened!  We had ridden the moving sidewalk down there and ended up carting our kids and lots of luggage all the way back to reach the end of the line.  We were all so tired and grimy; it was hard to stand in line for a very long time before going through security again at the gate.  I think we stood in line for nearly an hour, then went through security and then got in another line to board.  The plane was completely full and we were far enough back in line and in the plane to find almost no storage space by the time we boarded.  We managed to stash our stuff mostly under the seats and took off a little late for Kyiv.

We arrived in Kyiv only a little late and landed very hard and took a bounce.  That certainly woke us all up and got the attention of everyone on board. : )  We hopped on a bus that took us over to baggage claim and customs.  We didn’t quite know what to expect going through customs or where our driver would be meeting us.  When we presented our 6 passports, we got a few smirks, until they asked us what the address was of where we would be staying.  I explained that we didn’t know it and that someone would be meeting us to take us there.  They were not terribly impressed by my answer and there were a few minutes of discomfort with that.  I finally offered that if they would allow us to turn on our laptop, we could retrieve our contact’s information.  For some reason, we did not have our driver’s phone number handy and we quickly realized that as an important detail.  I think the customs officer finally got tired of looking at me and decided to wave us through.  After we collected our 6 checked bags, we scored a couple luggage carts and loaded our total of 18 bags!  We hated the thought of unloading our carefully balanced carts once again as we proceeded towards security.  Thankfully, the security guy either took mercy on us or he thought to himself “They are certainly crazy, but they have too much stuff to be terrorists.” (Must be said with Eastern European tone and facial expression.)  He waved us through without hesitation!

Soon after, we split up and Bruce and Brian rode with one of our drivers, and the girls and I went with the other Russian-only speaking driver for a 40 minute drive to our apartment.  We rode comfortably in silence for much of the way as the girls napped.  But I was thankful that I knew a few Russian words to make light, appropriate conversation here and there to make it a friendly environment for the two of us.  He is a very kind, gentle, patient man and drives very skillfully and calmly through autobahn type traffic.  Bruce and I both love to drive and enjoyed driving in Germany very much.  But we have been thankful to be driven around Kyiv, because it really is a place with crazy traffic and amazing maneuvers to avoid collision.

We arrived at our apartment at about 5:45pm and got settled in pretty quickly.  Bruce left with our facilitator for a brisk walk to exchange some money, buy some bottled water, and some milk for breakfast the next morning.  While he was gone, the kids and I got some things unpacked and organized and I decided who would sleep where.  We are so very pleased with our accommodations – it is much more than we expected.  Our bathroom is HUGE and includes a big spa tub and a separate shower.  There is a new toilet and ample floor space, even with our washing machine in the bathroom.  This is very nice being that there is only one bathroom and we have a big family.  We also have a wide hallway with large entry way that makes coming and going and getting around in here very easy.  The kitchen is small, but I’m sure it is bigger than many and our fridge is small, but bigger than I expected.  We only have 4 chairs and a stool to sit around the kitchen table, but the kids have been taking turns when they eat or taking turns standing and we have enjoyed our time around our small table. : )  The living room is large with plenty of space for schooling, relaxing, etc.  Brian and Stephanie are sleeping on a pull-out couch in there.  Katie and Olivia are sharing a big bed in one of the bedrooms and Bruce and I are enjoying a large master bedroom with plenty of room for our “internet stations.”  We do not have wireless internet here, so we are chained to the wall, but very grateful for reliable internet so far.  I’m finally tackling trying to get caught up on my blog!

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Last post from this side of the Atlantic

We leave for the airport within the hour! Please pray for travel mercies as we embark on our adventure! See you there!

Got THE Call

These faces make it all worthwhile.  (I is on the left)

And it’s a good thing we got it when we did, because after spending an hour and a half on a conference call between Bruce, me, and the airline to get our tickets for six booked, the phone went dead.  Very dead as in no dial tone.  We called the phone company a while later and they said a cable line was cut somewhere and we MIGHT have a phone again tomorrow.  So if you need to contact us and are one of the 20 people who have our cell phone numbers, go for it.  Hopefully our land line will be back in service soon.

We kind of skipped the post that would have logically fit in between this one and The Mitten post.  We were a tad too stunned to write anything for a number of days and needed to get our attitudes, hearts, and minds straightened out before posting about what happened.

We got a call on Saturday, March 12 informing us that we had an SDA appointment scheduled (!) for today.  For reasons that we can’t get into here, we had to humbly ask the SDA if we could postpone our appointment until the end of March.  We aren’t entirely sure what the results of that request are, but today we were advised “by our sources” that we need to be in Kiev no later than April 1.  Well, you don’t have to tell us twice!!  We were on the phone with the airline within a very short time of that phone call.  We got tickets booked for about as reasonable a price as we’re going to get, so we are pleased about that given the amount of notice we received.

It has been difficult to stay fueled in continuing to prepare without a solid date, knowing that we need to keep moving forward and live as though we are going soon.  We’ve been telling the kids that hopefully we will be going next week and that they need to be thinking that way as well.  But they were still a little stunned at the reality of hearing the news when they came home from school today.  They are excited and will be ready when the time comes, but they admit they are a little nervous too.

We are leaving on Wednesday, March 30 and will arrive in Kiev in the afternoon on Thursday.  We’re not sure what is in store for us from that point, but we’re just going to show up and trust that our “handlers” and God have a grip on that!

We need prayer for focus, good prioritizing, protection from feeling overwhelmed, and rest.  It is hard to turn our minds off at this point with the many details that are dancing around in there.  I’m a list writer, so we have lists to work off of, but it is easy to wander off and start working on something else unrelated or just daily tasks and then jump back in where we left off.  Thankfully, we got our taxes done in February and the kids are on spring break next week.  So we need to keep up with school work through Friday and make sure everyone is in a good place.  We also need to work with our dear teachers in formulating some plans for keeping up with school work while we are away.  We aren’t sure what that will look like, but we have wonderful, loving, supportive teachers to guide us and help us through this.  We are so grateful for our school that is mission-minded.

We just want to say again how very thankful we are to have so many people praying for us and cheering us on.  Your prayers are felt and your encouragement always brightens our outlook.

Room in Our Mitten

Six years ago, when our daughter Stephanie turned 4 years old, she received this book as a birthday gift from her Grandma Jan.  We did not realize at the time, but this book is adapted from a Ukrainian folktale.  If you are not familiar with the story, it goes something like this:  a boy drops his white mitten (made by his grandmother) in the snow and he goes on without realizing it is missing.  One by one, woodland animals find it and crawl in; first a curious mole, then a rabbit, a badger and others, each one larger than the last.  Finally, a big brown bear is followed in by a tiny mouse.  As the story of the animals unfolds, the reader can see the boy in the borders of each page, walking through the woods unaware of what is going on.  Eventually, the bear sneezes and the mitten is blown sky-high and the animals are scattered everywhere!  On his way home, the boy finds the mitten and is so delighted.  When he returns home, his grandmother is glad to see that the boy did not lose his mittens.  As he warms his feet by the fire, grandmother notices that one mitten is far bigger than it was when he left home and she has a curious look on her face.  This is where the story ends.

This book has been enjoyed by all of our children over the years.  As one of the children had the book out and was reading it the other day, I noticed these words inside the front cover: “adapted from a Ukrainian Folktale.”  I picked up the book and looked through it with new eyes.  It’s funny how something can suddenly become so obvious.  I shared my new discovery with Bruce and we both agreed how cool it is that we’ve had this book for all this time and had no idea of its eventual significance.  My mom certainly had no idea when she bought the book (because she found the story and illustrations delightful) that six years down the road, we would be in the process of expanding our family by adopting a Ukrainian child.

The even greater significance it seems, is that Bruce and I (almost at the same moment) saw our family as analogous to the story.  When God first started tugging at our hearts to consider adoption, we started contemplating whether or not we had room in our lives, our hearts, our home, our family, etc.  Well, we have unanimously reached the conclusion that we do indeed have room in our mitten for one more!!  Only God has the capacity to stretch a mitten to allow his purposes to unfold in our lives.  We thought this was a beautiful analogy when it came to our minds and we wanted to share it with you.

New Name?

I am preparing a care package to send to Ilya today.  It will probably be the last one that we send since we hope to be traveling soon.  We can’t wait to see him in person again.  I’m sure he will look older since nearly 7 months have passed since he was here with us.  His care package includes: a Mario t-shirt, a few small toys, drawings from each of the girls, Lego magazines from Brian, some M&Ms, some Tootsie Pop suckers, and a disposable camera.  We encouraged him to take pictures of his friends and then said “hang onto the camera so we can print pictures when we get there.”  Although, we have no idea if it is possible to do that in Ukraine, so it might have to wait until we get back to the States.

We spoke to him again on the phone last Sunday.  Using Google translator, we asked him if he is worried about anything concerning his upcoming adoption.  He said “yes.”  We were so thankful that he was honest with us.  I think this demonstrates that we have built some trust with him.  I was so blessed to be able to offer him reassuring words and encouragement as his mom.  We were a little scared to ask (or maybe concerned about his potential answer) but thought it would be good to know where he is at in his mind.  So I typed “Do you still want to come back to America with us?”  He said “yes” again without hesitation.  We would only be temporarily discouraged if he hadn’t said yes and would have considered it a matter of prayer to break through his fear, but it was comforting to hear him say yes and to know that he is still on board with God’s plan.

We also discussed the possibility of changing his name.  We were planning to keep his first name and give him a middle name along with our last name.  We were challenged in our thinking on this as we visited with another adoptive family last Saturday.  We knew that many adoptive parents choose to do this, but we thought due to his age and some other factors that he might wish to keep his birth name.  Well, we asked him what he would like to do and to our surprise he said that he would like a new name.  We are pretty sure he has been influenced by a good friend who has planned since last summer to change his own name!  So we are giving this more thought and obviously need to discuss it more with Ilya in person with an interpreter so we are all understanding each other.  We also included a letter from me and Bruce in his care package and shared with him the middle name that we had chosen.  Now he will have the opportunity to think a bit more about it before we see him.

We still have not been informed of an SDA appointment date, but we are trying to wait patiently and are still hopeful to hear something by the end of the week.