Back to School

We had a good day yesterday.  It is so good to be home again!  I washed 7 loads of laundry and it felt like nothing just because it is so much easier than in Ukraine!  I know I talk about laundry a lot, but I do a lot of laundry!

The kids went back to school today after a really good night of sleep.  They are all adjusting very well back to Minnesota time.  They all reported having a good day at school, although Stephanie and Katie both felt a little shy after being gone so long.  I reassured them that things will feel normal again in no time!  Brian has a few tests to take and a few other things to get caught up on over the weekend.  Stephanie and Katie are both in a very good place and barely behind at all!  So our hard work on keeping up with school while in Ukraine paid off.  I mostly enjoyed my brief stint of “home schooling,” but am glad to have them all back in their classrooms with their wonderful teachers who do such an awesome job of teaching them everything they need to learn.  The middle school has a track meet tomorrow, but since Brian wasn’t here to be assigned to any events, there are no openings for him.  But he wasn’t excited about going anyway, so this will give him another day to get caught up.  Stephanie is excited about going on her field trip tomorrow to the Bell Museum at the U of M with her classmates!  Katie is happy to be back at school with her friends.

Bruce and I were awake in the night again.  I eventually fell back to sleep.  Bruce reported that he has been up since 3:00!  So I guess he’ll be crashing early tonight!  He’s debating about the benefit of getting acclimated back to Minnesota time before returning to Ukraine on Monday.  Either way, it will be easier to get adjusted over there without a family to consider.

Nearing bedtime, we were serenaded by the sweet sounds of Stephanie’s violin.  It’s been almost a month since I’ve heard that.  We had considered taking her violin with us to Ukraine so she could keep up with practicing, but in the end, we decided to leave it home rather than cart it around and take a chance of damaging or losing it.

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Bittersweet Departure

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The kids and I and all our luggage outside the Kiev airport.

While we are very ready to be on American soil again and surrounded by a familiar culture, it was hard to leave Ukraine yesterday.  We enjoyed so many things about our time there and who knows when we will be able to return someday?  Bruce’s feelings are quite different at this point, since he is returning next week!  But it was a very precious time for our family and we will cherish many special memories from our time there.  We just wish we could have had Nathan (Ilya) out and about with us, instead of only seeing him at the orphanage.

By the way, I got my camera back!  One of the orphanage care givers took it home (Sergei’s daughter) and he was supposed to bring it with him yesterday when he and Igor came to pick us up.  But he had forgotten to bring it, so we had to meet her somewhere before heading to the airport.  So Bruce and Brian went to the airport with Igor ahead of the girls and I.  Bruce couldn’t check us in since he didn’t have all the passports with him, but he grabbed two luggage carts and was waiting for us curbside when we arrived.  We quickly loaded the carts with all our stuff and headed to the check-in counter.  Once again, all our bags were within the weight limit and the agent managed to get us a whole row of seats together, 3 on each side!  We went through passport control and security without any problems.

We had a safe, but another very hard landing coming into Amsterdam courtesy of KLM.  I wonder if they are hiring all the rookie pilots or what?  My dad (once an Air Force pilot) always says he doesn’t trust commercial pilots because they don’t get many flight training hours (compared to military pilots) before they are given a large aircraft full of people to fly.  Maybe there is something to that!  No matter, we are all alive and well.

We were blessed to receive two rooms right next to each other on ground floor at the IBIS hotel here in Amsterdam near the Schiphol Airport.  The girls and I shared a large room with a double bed and two twins.  The guys had a smaller room with two twins, but it worked out well for us all.  There are several restaurants within our hotel, so we hit the Italian one last night and had a very late pizza and spaghetti dinner.  It was very tasty, but the service was slow.  We got back to our rooms very late and the girls were asleep within minutes.  Olivia is still sleeping, so I am in our room with her, while the others went to breakfast. (Tuesday morning)

Our flight to MSP takes off at about 1:30 (AMS time) today, so we will need to leave (on the shuttle) by 11:00 to get over to the airport by 11:30.  We touch down in the Cities at about 3:30pm (local time) so it will be such a weird time warp.  It’s like re-living the afternoon and evening and it becomes the longest day of your life!  But I am so thankful for our arrival time because it gives us time to get settled and do some unpacking, etc. before going to bed.  Thankfully, I do not have tons and tons of dirty laundry as I kept up with it in Ukraine until we left.  But we stripped all the beds and put on clean sheets before we left Minnesota the end of March, so I do have sheets to wash.  But it will be nothing for my American washer and dryer to take care of for me!  A wash load took an hour and a half in Ukraine and then it had to air-dry.  So I’m actually looking forward to doing laundry again at home and will appreciate the process in a whole new way!

By the time many of you are waking up, we should be on board waiting to take off for the States!  Have a great day everyone!  (Unfortunately this did not get posted until Wed. 4/27, but I wrote it on Tues. morning.)

A Glorious Easter Day in Ukraine

 

My very favorite Easter hymn:

Christ the Lord is Risen Today

by Charles Wesley

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

There was misinformation communicated to us this weekend about what the COCH kids would be up to yesterday and today.  We were told the kids would be going to the circus on Saturday, so we decided to use it as a vacation day and live it up a little!  We found out last night that perhaps the kids had not gone to the circus yesterday.  We called Nathan (Ilya) this morning and asked him about it.  Since we were in the apartment with internet access, we were able to use Google translator which greatly enhances the quality of communication in our conversations with Ilya!  He confirmed that he had not been to the circus yesterday and that the circus was in fact today.  We asked him what time he would get back to the orphanage and he didn’t know.  We asked him to go ask an adult and find out.  He said okay, and hung up the phone.  Bruce called back a few minutes later and someone told us the kids would be back at 3:00.  So we did other things (including “home church”) and took off for the orphanage by about 1:30.

We also managed to squeeze in 20 more minutes of vacation and finally explored the Golden Gate area.  It is right next to our Metro station, but we always seem to be in a hurry, so it didn’t happen until today.  I would love to share my photos of that with you, but since I left my camera at the orphanage (argh!  especially on our last visit there!) I cannot do that today.  We called Ilya and asked him to look for it and he must have found it, because Igor called us back and said it was found and that he will bring it tomorrow.  I am very thankful.  Unfortunately, I panicked and was all worried about how and when we were going to get it back.  I should have trusted that all would be okay.  All my photos from today are on it and of course not imported to the computer yet.  We finally got our first family photo (thanks so much, Nellie!!) of the 7 of us (post-court) and I was crushed to realize on the way home that I didn’t have my camera with me.  I went to pull out my camera to take a quick photo of a nice vista, and my heart just sank.  So, no new photos today!

The kids had a good time playing at COCH again today.  It was a gorgeous day and we spent much of our time outside.  We arrived at about 3:00 thinking Ilya would arrive home from the circus soon after, and after waiting outside for a while, he came out.  We were rather surprised, since we hadn’t seen a bus full of kids pull up.  It turns out, he or his caregiver misunderstood our phone call and he missed the circus because he thought we were coming sooner!  What a fiasco.  At least we got a good 3 1/2 hour visit in today, including the family photo I desparately wanted.  I also got an outline of his foot for some new shoes and we used a willow twig to measure his skinny little waist for pants.  I have a great flexible tape measure that lives in my normal purse at home, but my very pared down international traveling purse does not have such a luxury inside!

We fly to Amsterdam tomorrow and spend the night – in two separate rooms!  They could not accomodate 6 people in one room, so it’s a girls’ only slumber party in our room and bachelor night in the other I guess!  Bruce said we’re going to pay for Wi-Fi so we can at least communicate to each other.  Funny, huh?  I miss Comfort Suites…

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Dropped some grivna in and around Independence Square

We had a fun time today. Started the day with the business of life – a little schooling and little laundry just to keep it all rolling in the right direction. Everyone was tired and dragging today. Several of us needed a little nap after lunch. After we woke up, we hit the streets of Kyiv! We saw many interesting things (photos below) and finally did some shopping just for fun! Some time ago, we spotted the perfect souvenir shop on Khreschatik Street that contained all the sorts of things that the girls and I were hoping to buy. We arrived today and the door was closed and the “closed” sign was hanging in the window. I was so sad and kicking myself for not getting here earlier in our stay. As we lamented and wondered if they would be open on Monday, a sales lady came and opened the door! They must have been closed for lunch. Stephanie, Katie, and I had a wonderful time choosing some gifts for classmates, grandparents, and a few special items for ourselves. I had seen a plate in the window that I just loved when we first found the store. It has three young ladies on it and reminded me of my girls. It was the only one they had and I bought it today! It will be fun to display in my home. We also love matryoshka dolls and had fun looking them over and choosing one for each of us. Eventually, we let Olivia and Brian come in the shop too, but I needed some shopping time without them. God bless them both. Stephanie and Katie are both on task with me and what I am trying to accomplish, so it is fun to shop with them.

From there, we went into the underground mall and ate at McDonald’s. This was a very good option for us, as we were able to actually find seating for the entire family in the food court area. We also used the pay potties for the first time. Kids are free, so we think we got a really good deal!

Then we went to a media store where they had a ton of kid movies to choose from. This was an important agenda item for us as it was a lifesaver last summer when Ilya was with us and we all needed a break from struggling with language and some down time. The Haak family generously loaned to us a bunch of their very precious Russian-dubbed American movies and we are so grateful! As we were preparing to host Ilya, Alesia stuck them in a bag, handed them to me, and said “Here, you’re going to need these!” Little did I know how valuable they would prove to be. We got about 10 movies for less than $10 each.

We also stopped by a kiosk in the subway tunnel area and Katie bought a beautiful Ukrainian girl doll and promptly named her Katia. Bruce and I each grabbed our first cup of real coffee since arriving in Kyiv. It wasn’t quite up to the standards of our favorite coffee shop, American Joe, in Blaine, but it tasted pretty good compared to the instant coffee we’ve been drinking for the last 3 1/2 weeks!

We surfaced back up to street level and a big celebration was taking place. This is the second time we have seen this sort of thing happening. They close down Khreschatik Street on the weekends and a stage and huge lights and sound system with jumbotrons are set up. There were a huge number of dancers in the street doing a routine set to music. It was quite impressive and they were drawing an equally impressive audience. We stayed for a while and watched all the excitement while we drank our coffee. The kids decided they should have a treat too, and we encouraged Brian and Stephanie to try their hands at doing business in the Kyiv market place at the ice cream shop. They went up to the kiosk all by themselves and ordered 4 ice cream cones for them and their sisters. Unfortunately, there was some misunderstanding, as they got something a little different from what they thought they ordered, but in the end, it was yummy ice cream and we were proud of them for being so brave and using some of their Russian language skills.

Since it’s all uphill from there to the apartment and we were heavy-laden with packages, we decided to hop on the Metro from Khreschatik and ride home part-way. We were grateful for the day off from our regular routine and happy that we got to do some of the things we were hoping to.

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Exit Strategy

Our last few days in Ukraine are laid out now and here is what they will look like:

Saturday:  COCH kids will go to the circus all afternoon.  The Boehrs family (minus Ilya) will use this as a vacation day and see some more sights and do some fun things.

Easter Sunday:  This will be our last time visiting Ilya at the orphanage before leaving Ukraine.  We have some more pictures to take, including a family snapshot with all 7 of us.  We would love to attend church somewhere, but honestly, it is too much hassle and would take up too much of the day.  We are planning to have “home church” as we did last Sunday.  As it is, we will spend over two hours riding out to the orphanage and back.  We want to spend as much time as we can with Ilya, since Bruce won’t be back until May 4 to pick him up.

Monday:  We will pack our stuff up in the morning, have lunch, and then Sergei and Igor will be picking us up (we need two vehicles in Ukraine for all our people and luggage!) at 2:30 to head back to the Borispol airport.  We will check in by 3:30 for our 5:20pm flight.  We will fly into Amsterdam and stay the night as we have a layover.  We were thankful to hear from the Ritzman’s that we can keep our checked luggage checked during our stay in Amsterdam!

So back to a little blurb about Friday.  We did not leave for the orphanage until after 1:00.  The Metro was VERY busy today and the (255) bus was even worse!  Even after passing up a full one, we rode the most crowded bus we’ve been on so far and it was awful.  Bruce, Brian, Katie, and I all ended up standing for the entire time.  We were sandwiched together (Katie wasn’t even by us) and the people just kept packing on the bus.  I was trying to maintain a good attitude and reflect on all the good bus rides we had that hadn’t been like this one.  I was also VERY thankful for an open window that provided a little fresh breeze, because many times it’s like 80 degrees on the bus when it’s 50 degrees outside.  Yuck.  We survived and arrived at our destination.  Poor Katie couldn’t worm her way out and started crying.  I had to get over to her and tell people that they needed to let her off.  A man tried to board the bus in the midst of all this and I held up my hand and said “nyet,” so I could get Katie and I off the bus!  Apparently the buses were so crowded because people were leaving town for Easter weekend.  They must have been taking the bus to get to the train station.  Many people had bags with them, which also didn’t work so well on a really crowded bus!

We decided to approach our route back to our apartment a little differently.  A mostly empty 507 bus pulled up and we decided to hop on.  We knew this bus was another option and were warned that the bus ride would be longer as it takes you to a Metro stop further down the line, instead of the one closest to Novosilky.  We were so thankful to be sitting on a quiet, cool, bus.  It was actually relaxing, rather than stressful like it is sometimes.  As it turned out, we came across a Metro stop before the Lybidska stop, so we weren’t even on the bus much longer!  It was an awesome option, for those of you who are coming soon.  It was the stop right after the one we normally get on!  We also hit a great bakery kiosk with a very kind woman running it.  We grabbed 6 pastry treats for dessert and it was only 18 grivna – about $2.25!  The Metro was not crowded by this time in the evening and our trip home was uneventful.

The 255 bus that we catch from the last Metro stop.

Regrouping

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After our long, tiring day for everyone yesterday, we needed to stay at the apartment all day and recover a little.  It was hard on the other kids being away from us for nearly 6 hours.  The kids were in an environment that has become very familiar to them, but it’s not the same when your parents aren’t there.  We are grateful to the other adoptive family who was there and graciously watched over our four others while we were at the courthouse with Ilya.

We did a lot of school work today and got caught up on some things which always feels good.  I got a couple loads of laundry done too, which is always necessary!  We were planning to get over to a nearby park before supper, but couldn’t seem to get ourselves out the door.  So we ate supper first (pasta, vegetables, and watered down tomato paste!) and then scooted out the door before it started getting dark!  The kids had a great time playing at the playground and the four of them played together almost the whole time.  It was fun to sit and watch them as they laughed together and blew off some steam.  Olivia cried when we left, because she wanted to keep playing.  We felt bad for not getting there earlier.

On the way home, we stopped by the building that houses the Taras Shevchenko museum.  We were hoping to find out the hours of operation, as this is one of the things we really want to see while here.  Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861) was a talented and revered Ukrainian poet, artist, and thinker.  His mother died when he was only 9 years old and his father died two years later leaving him orphaned at the age of 11.  His parents were serfs and he became a house servant at the age of 14.  He did receive an education and later studied painting.  He accomplished much in his short life.  He died at the age of only 47.  We did not find out the hours the museum is open, so we’ll have to check into that another way!  Our days are numbered, so we better get on the stick!

It is Finished!

We had our day (literally) in court today and Nathan Ilya Boehrs is officially our son!  We will not get our court decree until about May 10, but for all intents and purposes, Ilya has joined our family.  We could not be filled with more joy!

As Katie and I worked on her school Bible lesson (on Jesus’ promises to his disciples during the week leading up to his death) on Tuesday, there were so many parallels between our adoption of Ilya and the Lord’s adoption of us as his children and brothers and sisters of Christ.  It was amazing to me that we were covering this the day before our court date.  As Katie and I read from John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” I couldn’t help but think about going home next week to prepare Ilya’s bed and clothing for him.  And Bruce coming back for Ilya in May to bring him home with him.  Of course this passage is Jesus speaking to his disciples (before his impending death and subsequent resurrection) about their future home in heaven with him, but there are obvious parallels.  John 14:18 says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”  Again, this is Jesus talking to his disciples about the Holy Spirit remaining with them when Jesus was physically gone from earth.  But the promise of returning is evident.  Next week, we will depart for the U.S. and we will leave Ilya with the promise of his father returning to him to bring him home where a place has been prepared for him.

It feels very special that our adoption of Ilya is happening during Easter week.  As we reflect on what Christ has done for us in offering eternal salvation through his death on the cross, we are humbled by God allowing us to participate in giving Ilya a new life.  Ilya’s life is very precious to God and we know that God has good plans for him.  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future.” Jeremiah 29:11.

We were thankful to get out the door on time this morning and arrive at the orphanage by 10:00 as requested to get to our 11:00 appointment.  We arrived at the court house a few minutes late, but as it turned out, it did not matter.  Shortly after our arrival, we learned that our judge was not even there yet!  We were a little surprised by this, but we have heard other stories of things like this happening.  So we chose to be patient and sat mostly in silence for quite some time.  We were on the 2nd floor of the interior part of the building, so there were no windows to look out of.  It was dark in there as 10 out of 12 ceiling light fixtures were burned out.  It is so odd coming from a very instant gratification society such as the U.S., to observe (post-Soviet society) people tolerantly waiting in the cold and dark to see a judge who is very late for work.  No one complained, not even our son.  Our other children would have been complaining had they been there.  We were not comfortable, there was nothing to look at, nothing to do, nothing to listen to.  Had we known we would be waiting so long, we would have brought something for Ilya to do to pass the time.

We did get out for a short walk over to a nearby building to go to the bathroom.  Aha!  My first encounter with a squatty potty.  No way, said I.  I did think twice about it, wondering when the next opportunity would come, but decided I just didn’t have to go badly enough to bring myself to go that way.  We did enjoy our little walk out in the sunshine though.  We returned to the “cave” to wait some more.

The highlight of the day for me, was when Ilya fell asleep sitting up while we waited.  I gently placed my arm around his shoulders.  Eventually, he was so deeply asleep that he started falling over and it gave me the perfect opportunity to provide a soft spot for him to land.  I pulled him into me and unbeknownst to him, enjoyed holding my son for the first time while he slept.  It was a golden moment.

We wondered how our other children were doing back at the orphanage.  We left them alone in a playroom, knowing that another adoptive family from MN would soon be there to offer some supervision.  We left them some snacks and juice, but not enough to really sustain them for 6 hours!!  Our judge FINALLY arrived sometime between 2:30 and 3:00.  Our court session took place in a rather tight room (like most Ukrainian government offices we have been in) for 9 people and three desks.  At least there were windows with sunshine streaming in!  The room was pretty full with the judge, her two assistants, Bruce and I, Viktor, our attorney, Natasha, the social worker from COCH, Anna from juvenile services, and Ilya.  The proceedings lasted about 15 minutes, nothing unusual really, except for one thing.  Noticing his earring, the judge asked our son who had allowed him to pierce his ear.  I couldn’t hear Ilya’s response, nor did I catch the translated version by our attorney.  But let’s just say that this is not an issue that we are addressing with our son at this time.  We are pretty sure we know who put him up to it and I think we understand why.  Beyond the hygiene of his ear, the earring is the least of our concerns in our new role as his parents.  We love him with or without an earring.  Everything else went smoothly and Ilya was declared our son somewhere between 3:00 and 3:30.  We waited for a few minutes while our attorney returned Anna to the juvenile services office and then we all took off to return to the orphanage.  We arrived at about 4:30 and our other kids (especially Stephanie and Katie) were very happy to see us.  We were all shocked that we had been gone so long.  Who knew?!  We are very grateful to the family who watched out for them while we were away.  We finally returned to our apartment at about 6:30 – LONG day.  We had a series of mini meltdowns among our children and it is understandable after the weird day they had.  They’ve been with us every day, all day for 3 weeks straight, and then suddenly are separated from us ALL day.  Apparently they behaved very well while at COCH, but the emotions of it all were coming to the surface throughout the evening.  We are glad this day is done!  Praises to our heavenly Father for bringing all of us through it.

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