Remember me?

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From the sounds of it, at least a few of you have noticed that I dropped off the face of the blog world.  I’m trying to crawl my way back on.  It has been almost two weeks since my last post.  A LOT has happened in that time span.  Far too much for me to try to write about at this point, but I am going to try to hit some of the highlights.

The biggie that’s missing is the joyful report that Bruce and Nathan made it home safely and on time on Saturday, May 21.  We were all very thankful for our reunion and we are appreciating getting settled back into “normal” life.  Indeed, a new normal, but far more normal than living in another country for nearly a month and then being separated for almost 3 weeks.  It is very good to have us all in the same country, in the same time zone, and under the same roof!

Bruce started another grad school class on May 25, so there was no down time for him after arriving home.  We are thankful that the timing worked out and that he made it home in time to start class.  He hasn’t taken a class since finishing the two he took last fall semester.  It’s been a little painful for him so far, but before long, he will be back in his school groove.

The kids will be done with school for the year on Friday, June 3.  They are all excited for the break.  Summer activities for all of them have begun, so the overlap is a little challenging right now.  Brian and Nathan are both playing soccer and are on the same team.  They have had a couple of practices and had their first game last night.  Stephanie is playing her violin in the GTCYS summer philharmonic orchestra this summer, ending with a concert in late July.  She had her first rehearsal last night.  Katie is also playing soccer this summer, has had a couple of practices and her first game last night.  Olivia’s first soccer game ever is tonight and she can’t wait.  As many of you know, she is very enthusiastic about everything she does.  She has been wanting to play soccer since she was 3, and it is finally her time!  She hasn’t been disappointed by practices so far, so I imagine she will be very active on the field tonight!  I must say, I really enjoy watching my kids play soccer.  I don’t know exactly what it is.  I was never a soccer player myself, but I have such joy watching this sport.  It is going to be a busy, fun season with four of them playing!

I’m not making excuses about not getting around to writing posts for the blog.  My time and energy have been consumed by very intentional parenting and keeping up with my necessary household tasks.  Things are going very well overall, but I believe this is due to being intentional and allowing God to equip me and help me through the parental challenges we are facing.  There has not been anything unexpected so far, but it requires very thoughtful parenting to navigate it well.  Nathan is responding and growing and we believe that healing has begun.  We are so grateful to God for his promises, his faithfulness and provision in this.  It has been truly amazing to see him work through me and in these situations.  I pray and give it to him and I see his work unfold.  I have had peace, patience, and calmness that is unexplained by human rationale.  It has been an amazing experience and I actually look forward to the challenges that are sure to come as I trust God to bring us all through it.

When we were still in the decision-making phase of adoption, we were so concerned about this part of the journey and how it would affect our other children and our family as a whole.  As we prayed through that, while still considering adoption, I sensed God promising that he would cover it and that we wouldn’t have to do it alone.  He would be right there with us through it all.  Seeing his faithfulness in this has been incredible.  I don’t know how else to describe it.

We need your continued prayers as we move forward through the adjustment as a family.  Please pray specifically for each of our children as they all have issues to work through with this change in our lives.  God is faithful and we expect that we all will grow in ways never imagined.  Growth is always good, but many times it is not easy.  We pray that each child will grow in their trust of our Lord Jesus as they see him take care of us through any challenges that we might face.

Thank you for your love and support!

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Flower Friday

One of my most favorite bouquets over the years 

Late Mother’s Day gift?  Just because?  A little encouragement to keep me on the job?  Whatever the reason, Bruce came home with beautiful flowers for me today from my favorite flower shop.  It’s hard to explain what beautiful flowers do for my outlook on life.  I LOVE flowers and I really loved the ones that Bruce picked out for me on this day.  It made me feel special and has given me joy every time I’ve looked at them since then.  Thank you for brightening my week, Beloved!

Joyous Homecoming

The girls worked pretty hard decorating their sign

Finally leveling out after 9 weeks of non-typical life.  I’ve needed a little time to recover, so this post is rather late in coming.  But the sentiment is the same as I still remember it being a day filled with great anticipation of the arrival of Daddy and Nathan.  Our expectations were fulfilled as they arrived home as scheduled on Saturday, May 21 around 6:30 pm.

They awoke for the day at 2:30 am (May 21) Ukraine time.  That’s 6:30pm (May 20) Minnesota time.  They flew out of Kiev at 5:30am.  They had a 5 hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany.  They boarded the plane in Frankfurt to Chicago at 5:30am (Minnesota time).  They arrived in Chicago at about 3:00pm, went through customs during their 2 hour layover, and boarded their last flight back to Minneapolis at about 5:00pm.  So by the time they landed at MSP, it had been 24 hours since they woke up in Kiev.  That just wears me out thinking about it!  They were blessed to share the trip home with Nathan’s good friend, Jason Ritzman, and his mom, Jeanne.

My sister, Lisa, and our close friends, the Junker Family, joined us and Dave & Lucas Ritzman at the airport as we anticipated the arrival of our four loved ones.  It was fun to share our joy with some family and dear friends.  Our girls made a sign and I bought some balloons to welcome Nathan home.  They were very tired when they arrived, but were relieved to be done traveling.

We ended the day with a simple celebration and enjoyed some ice cream cake from DQ.  It is so good to be back together as a whole family!

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Departure is on Track

While wrapping up a meeting at school, I was delighted to receive a REAL phone call from Bruce on my cell phone.  We have only spoken to each other via Skype a handful of times and haven’t spoken on the actual phone since he left May 2.  While we talked for those few minutes, it didn’t feel like he is 5000 miles away.  We sure are looking forward to seeing each other again!  We haven’t been apart this long in the last 15 years!  I also spoke briefly with Nathan and told him that I love him and miss him and I’m so glad he’s coming home!

The other kids and I are going to have some down time tonight.  It’s been a busy week with 4 soccer practices, an orthodontic appointment, and two music lessons in addition to school and homework and showers, etc.  Katie and I are both sick with a cold, and Olivia may be coming down with it as well.

Tomorrow, we will hit it hard again with some housecleaning, sign making, balloon buying, lawn mowing?, bed making, room cleaning, weed pulling?, and grocery buying before our trek to the airport to pick up our missing men.  We are all very ready to be reunited as a family.  Everyone has really hung in there and done well during this trying time, but this last week has been the toughest.  We’ve had a few tears, a number of “I miss Daddy”s, and a few “I just want Dad and Nathan to be home” comments.  But I’ve been proud of the kids for persevering the way they have through this.  For the most part, it has been business as usual with everyone going to school, participating in activities, playing and having fun.  Our lives have not been “normal” since the end of March.  Now we will strive toward finding our new normal.

If their flight is on time, Bruce and Nathan will arrive at MSP at about 6:30 tomorrow evening.  I expect that they will both crash shortly after their arrival home.

The Final Poka

This will be a very brief post tonight because our ride to the airport will be here in 6 short hours to pick us up! We will arise at 2:30am Kyiv time to be whisked away to Boryspil Airport Terminal F for arrival at approximately 3:30am. Our flight leaves at approximately 5:30am and we must check in 2 hours ahead. From there, we fly to Frankfurt, Germany for the big layover before departing for Chicago and then Minneapolis.

A good day was had by all. We went to the orphanage to give everyone there the final good-bye, or “poka” in Russian. Gifts were exchanged, cake was consumed, and well-wishes were exchanged among the Minnesota families still stationed in Kyiv in various stages of advancement through the process. I took several pictures, and will try to post some of them when back home. Until we meet again on the west side of the Atlantic…

The Visa has Landed

Touchdown! The Ritzman family segment and the Boehrs family segment traveled the number 18 trolley bus from Maidan Nezalezhnosti the mandatory 6 stops and walked the half block in time for our 2:00pm appointment today. This time there were no crowds, so no need for rock-star treatment. We pass through security again almost effortlessly. A note to the future adopters, however – don’t bring your electronic things except your Ukraine-issued cell phone  because you can’t take it back with you anyway. I have been using a backpack everywhere I go here in Kyiv except the US Consulate. Don’t bother – just bring the documents. A brisk walk back through the maze to find the adoption windows, submit the documents, and wait. Then, we were called back for an interview. No real questions asked of us, and nothing unusual was noted. We received a canned speech about the visa printer taking some time to print the visa, and the shocking news that it could take up to a day worst-case. However, at 2:40pm this afternoon, we had the visa. The funny thing is that it interrupted a hot Uno game. Yes, the game completed after receiving the documents. A quick chocolate celebration at a corner coffee bar and that’s it. It was a bit anti-climatic in hindsight.

Now for the extra point. Tomorrow, we will travel back to the orphanage one last time. The plan is to swing back through Magellan and grab a couple of cakes for a mini-celebration and then head back to Maidan one last time at 5 for arrival at 6. I need to get a couple of last-minute gifts, then supper, pack, and bed, hopefully by 9. Our flight leaves at 5:30am Saturday morning, and we need to be at the airport 2 hours early. Tack on a half hour to get up and grab our gear, and another half hour travel time, and that’s a 2:30am wake up call. I’m sure I’ll be wide awake, at least until I get through passport control.

Mid-Week Update in the Last Week

In keeping with my football-themed blog postings, it’s time for a halftime update. For all you sports fans and those playing along at home, we’ve had a couple of fumbles and sacks, but the chains have been moving forward. We’re not in the Red Zone yet, but we’re close. Honey, do you regret giving me your username and password yet?

Monday began on plan. The Ritzman family segment and the Boehrs family segment took the Metro Blue Line to the Minska stop again for fun at DreamTown. The ironic thing about it is that it wasn’t as fun this time. I am not sure if the luster had worn off and the novelty was non-existent, or if it was Nathan’s injury in the Rollerdrome. We started at the RollerBlade place again and Nathan and Jason started circling the floor with fewer people to contend with. After about a half hour, the two of them became entangled either before or during the crash (I didn’t see the entire incident for certain), but definitely after. Poor Nathan’s head at the left temple either hit the floor or a skate, I’m not certain which. In any case, he didn’t spring back up quickly. In fact, he didn’t get up at all, but he was moving. I went on the floor to find the eggs on the side of his head that were growing. While trying to think of what to do next, a very nice woman skater with impeccable English skills stopped to help. She told me that a doctor (not sure of the complete credentials, but wasn’t concerned) was on site and could help. I didn’t think the injuries rose to the level of needing physician’s care, but  while I was pondering that, he came over. He was very nice and thorough. He asked Nathan to put his feet together and touch the tip of his nose, and looked into his eyes. He also pressed around the injury site to make sure no bone was mobile. He said (through our nice emergency interpreter) all it needed was some ice to help with the swelling. That is what I came to in my own head, so we moved over to a bench. Minutes later, he showed up with a 3M re-useable ice pack that looked like it had been used 300 times. It did the trick. He was still a bit stunned, but he hit the floor again. After that we did bumper cars (no ill effects from the injury), fighter plane virtual simulator, lunch, and ice skating again. We finished the day at Solo Pizza with the Ritzmans’ and the Moore family segment.

I would like to thank all the prayer warriors out there for the prayer support. It’s not an issue I want to dive into publicly, but we had a rough  evening and night. It continued until about mid-day the next day. Nathan needs your prayers and ours to overcome certain things in his life. He is a wounded boy and needs prayer and support in the years ahead. Thank you for all your support.

Tuesday’s adoption activities consisted entirely of getting the Ukrainian passport in the afternoon. This was a trip back over the river to the city passport office. Score! It is a full-blown immigration (from our standpoint) passport. The light-blue document is technically only a “travel document of a child” and that’s all. And the cool thing is that the passport is valid for 10 years, which is well beyond his 18th birthday and decision day for his citizenship. To finish things off, the segmented families of Boehrs, Ritzman, and Landry went to the Home Cooking place and feasted. Afterwards, we took a meandering walk back to the apartments through the Golden Gate and St. Sofia’s Church.

So, Monday was per plan except for the injury and no gifts. Gifts are easy, and may be moved to Thursday or Friday. Tuesday didn’t yield the required medical exam. Keep reading…

After a couple of off-hours form-filling sessions, Nathan and I were ready to go to the embassy. However, we instead went to US Consulate Services, which is in a different place. Per our facilitator’s instructions, we rode either the number 16 or 18 trolley bus (important distinction between the trolley bus and the regular bus I later learned) out of Independence Square six stops  to the Poltavska stop. You  can’t yell out “ostanok” like you can on the small regular buses to stop. The trolley buses are set up like the Metro – they have defined stops. So six stops later and a half-block walk and we were there. However, so were about 200 other people milling around in front. While Jeanne and I were wondering what to do, a Ukrainian policeman asked us what we needed. Well, we’re here for a 10am appointment concerning adoption. Right this way! No kidding, we were given rock-star treatment as in front of the line. A quick pass through security with a metal detector and a wand, and we’re in. We submit our documents at one window, drop $404 at another window (I didn’t bring any small American bills with me so I cleaned out the change and of course the cashier grumbled), and have a quick review at the first window again, and we’re set. I get a list of things to bring tomorrow including some copies of key documents (which I didn’t get an opportunity to get) and the medical report.

After that, a quick call to the facilitator gets our medical exam moved from Thursday to Wednesday. I’d rather have the tough day today, and it indeed worked out better. So, we meet the orphanage driver at the Vasilkivska Metro stop and drove to the examination place. Lots of movement in and out of cubby offices again, but I was present for the medical exam. Clean bill of health! A few necessary copies and ice cream completed our mandatory Wednesday activities!

So, compared with the plan, we’re back on track. We have our final visa interview and appointment tomorrow at 2pm and we get the magic visa sticker in the Ukrainian passport, and we’re done!

Friday is going to be a slow day hopefully. We are planning to head back to the orphanage one last time for the final good-bye. There could be a mini-party depending upon the availability of goodies at Bumi Market, but the social part is what Nathan cares about anyway. I would appreciate your prayers on Friday as well, because there is another issue coming up on Friday that I don’t want to share publicly either, but it is unrelated to orphanage life or leaving it. Just know that your prayers would be appreciated.

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