Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day 12 (December 29, 2011)

Before we begin our letter to our sweet AJ, we have a couple things to say.

1. WE MADE IT THROUGH THE SUBWAY AND BUS SYSTEM TO AND FROM THE ORPHANAGE TODAY! (without any phone calls or snotting-gagging-heaving- sobs) Thank you, Jesus. We left our apartment at 0715. We got on the subway at 0730. We got off the subway and onto our bus at 0800. We were at the orphanage at around 0900. Our visit was over at 1115. Our bus came at 1125. We were back at the Metro station at 1240. We were walking up our street to our apartment at 1330. And tomorrow we will repeat.

2. Special note to our friends who have never ridden public transportation in and around Kiev: If you are at all fond of your own "personal space" or like to carry an invisible barrier around your body at all times, that of which only those you know very well are allowed in at any given time, know that it will most definitely be violated 27 different ways within the first 3.2minutes of entering either the subway or the bus.
This is my first experience at any sort of public transportation. Seeing as I don't live or come from a place with an underground metro system- I have no idea if  US subway cars are jam packed like they are here. And by jam packed, I mean I can smell and feel the dude's breath on the back of my neck standing behind me.
The bus system is most definitely different here than in the US. Not enough seats? No problem. Hop in and stand, like sardines, and breathe on the people sitting down. Don't forget to crack open your bottle of booze, at 730am, and continue to breathe on the people sitting down. This brings whole new meaning to "It's 5 o'clock somewhere." Good times. Good times.

Dear AJ,
Oh, Sweetheart. Since we knew what made you belly roll laugh yesterday, we had hopes of getting some video of you doing that today, but today was a bit of a tough day. The nanny that brought you in to the visitation room handled you rather roughly and seemed to be muttering under her breath at us. The way she was handling you did not make Daddy or me very happy. I wanted to shake her and tell her she had better be careful with my precious boy and treat you with care and love or bug off. Luckily as soon as I took you from her, she continued her incomprehensible mutterings right out the door. We hoped she wouldn't be the caregiver coming back to take you from us.

The slight congestion you had in your nose when we met you on Monday has been slowly getting worse. Today, you sounded completely clogged up and were breathing quite heavily through your mouth. Your respirations were quite fast as well. Every time you would cough, you would cry as if to tell us how much it hurt your little chest. I cradled you in my arms and Daddy cradled both of us in his. You fell asleep after you could fight it no longer, head on my chest, listening to the sound of my heartbeat and holding my hair in your little hand. I kissed your forehead repeatedly and prayed over you for complete healing and protection.

I called Yulia and asked her to speak with the orphanage director about your cough and increased congestion. If we were at home, we would be headed to the doctor and asking for a chest x ray for sure based purely on the sound of that horrendous cough alone, and because we are still getting to know you. Yulia told me that usually if kids are sick, the orphanage gives medicine to them. If it is more serious, they go to the hospital.
So, what can I do now? I can continue to pray and ask others to pray. Please, Father, bring healing to our little boy's body. Bring him comfort and rest. In Jesus name, we pray for healing to be complete here. We'll continue to pray for that and see how you are feeling tomorrow morning.

After you woke up from your sweet little nap, you needed some fresh pants. WOO WEE Buddy, did you ever need fresh pants! We walked into the hallway and started to call out for help. We could hear 2 women talking in the next room but we are not allowed to leave this part of the orphanage. Every time I would call out for help, they would stop talking. They never did poke their heads out to see what we needed. Then a caregiver came down the hallway and came to us. She brought us a diaper and what appeared to be a bath blanket type of thing. What do we do with this? Lay you on it or get it wet and clean you with it. It was rather large- like a baby receiving blanket. There were no wipes to speak of in the visitation room, so we used the Kleenex we had with us to clean you up. They held up better than I thought when made wet. I must say, I was very happy to notice that the skin on your little bottom looks wonderful. No signs of any breakdown at all. No signs of any diaper rashes either.  I peeled off the layers of clothing you had on today: pants, tights, and two pairs of socks. My, AJ, are you ever so teeny tiny. After we got you changed, we decided to get out the tape measure and see what your little dimensions were. Here's what we found:
Waist at belly button: 15 1/2 inches around
Hips (over diaper): 17" around
Upper thigh: 8 3/4" around
Ankle (over tights): 5" around
Foot: 6" long- same length as the palmar side of my hand, bottom of my hand to tip of my middle finger.

We decided to get one of your little arms out and measure your upper body as well, without making you too cold. You weren't fussing at all having this done. I think you were taking the opportunity to study my face and remember who I am. I slipped your right arm out from under your t shirt, turtle neck shirt, and heavy wool sweater.
Upper arm: 5 1/2" around
Wrist: 4 1/2" around
Head circumference: 18 3/4"
We didn't get your chest measurement, I wanted to get you covered back up. We don't know for sure how much you weigh, but we are in agreement that you are definitely not more than 20lbs. You are 6 years old. 20lbs on a 6 year old little boy is not right. Not right at all. We need to get you home, so you can begin to grow and thrive.

Around 1115am, the door to the visitation room opened up and another family came in with 2 children. They spoke Russian, so I do not know what their story was. The nanny who had brought you to us, came back to tell us our time was up and we had to leave. We reluctantly let you go, telling you how much we love you and we would see you tomorrow. At least the nanny seemed to be a bit more gentle this time and was smiling. With that, you disappeared through the door and down the hall. Until tomorrow, Sweet Little Lamb. Feel better.

To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Days 9 and 10 (December 26 and 27, 2011)

Day 9 December 26, 2011

Today was a beautiful kind of day. It was warm and bright and filled with good things. Nope, not talking about the weather. I'm talking about you. Today, Daddy and I finally got the chance to hold you, talk to you, kiss you, hug you, snuggle you, hear your sweet little voice, and take a few precious moments to breathe you in- deeply.

Nico and Yulia picked us up at our apartment shortly after 8am. We had to stop at the Child Services office to drop off our dossier. I handed Yulia our referral as well and then it was time to come to you.
Your orphanage is big and is situated behind a wrought iron fence painted a bright green. There is a hedge of pine trees lining the back of the fence. The building is stately and made of painted white brick. A few of the windows were lit up with Christmas decorations. We walked across the front drive after entering the gate to a side entrance. There, we were ushered into a small room with a large window overlooking the summertime playground equipment, and mural of an exotic faraway place covered one wall. There were two chairs, a couch, a sink, and a few toys. We met Tatiyana, the orphanage director and attorney.
Yulia asked us to show her our photos of your big brother A and all the things that he does at home- his school, riding the bus to school, baseball, going on trips, swimming, snuggling up with our dog. Yulia explained to us that these pictures were very important in that people in Ukraine, child services workers, orphanage workers, judicial figures will find it very hard to understand why we would want to adopt you. To be blunt, they cannot wrap their brains around you having any semblance of a life outside of lying in a crib all day long. It is completely infuriating to Daddy and me for anyone to say that about you or anyone else with any sort of special needs. So far Tatiyana and the child services worker were both amazed at what your brother does, everyday, since the day he was born. Amazing the difference an ocean can make, huh? On to the best part, we sat down and waited for you to be brought into the little visitation room.

I'm so sorry that our first meeting, so precious to us, was really very scary for you. I hope you will someday know without a doubt, Daddy and I never wanted to make you cry or scare you. We have just been waiting so long for this very day and we are overwhelmed with love for you- it has to come out. Unfortunately for you, that means a Mommy and Daddy pawing all over you and getting bawled on and getting Mommy snot on your head. (Sorry about that.) We were told, too, that this was the first time you'd ever been in the visitation room and we'd like to think that may have contributed to the scariness of it all. In other words, we are hoping it all doesn't fall completely onto us.

I literally fell to my knees when your nanny walked you into the doorway today, AJ. From your photographs, I already knew how sweet and beautiful you are. Seeing you in person- well, your pictures, no matter how awesome, could not fully convey this fact.  Daddy's eyes were filled with tears and we were in complete awe that you were really here, with us, in the same room. I held you first and you looked at me, right into my eyes. You rested your head on my shoulder and I finally got to hug you tight while whispering to you, "Anton, I am your Mama and I LOVE you." It was Daddy's turn next. And what a proud Papa he is. If he could have run out of that room with you to show you off to world, he would have. Here's what Mommy saw:
First, a Daddy so madly, deeply, fully, and completely in love with his new little son.

 You cried off and on, short little bursts to let us know you were unsure of this whole thing. Daddy was so relaxed with you in his arms. He just spoke to you softly words of reassurance and love.

Our visit didn't last very long today. We still had running around to do with paperwork. Yulia asked us, " this a yes to this referral then?" "UH- YEAH! DEFINITELY!!" we eagerly answered. It was really REALLY official now- the ball was going to get rolling to get us a court date!

We finished up the day by saying good bye to you and letting you know we would be there in the morning. The nanny came in and swept you up in her arms and carried you off to lunch.

We left the orphanage and went to an office building. We were told to wait in the car. Ten minutes later, Nico and Yulia reappeared and we were off to the notary. Yulia had us accompany her to the notary office, which by the way, is one of many and a hoppin' place. People in and out, in and out, over and over. Yulia running back and forth down the hallway and back only to disappear behind one of three closed doors. Daddy and I sat on a bench in the dimly lit and rather drab hallway. It reminded me of sitting on a bench outside the Principal's office- waiting anxiously for our interrogation and execution. Just kidding. I did get plenty of chances to say "I don't understand" in Russian. The wording on each of the 3 notary doorfronts that faced us must have been rather confusing. We watched many a person stop, read, look around, re read, poke their head in a closed door, look at us, re re read and then roll their eyes at what they probably thought was my attempt to act dumb and not be helpful. No lady, I'm really just that dumb. I would love nothing more than to be able to fully comprehend your language and help you out.

After the notary we were headed back to the Child Services office. They were getting ready to go on lunch break so we had to hurry. The child services worker was literally putting on her coat, hat, and gathering her purse for lunch while she asked, "You are fully aware this boy is sick, right?" "Da." -while nodding my head at her and thinking- I really wish people would stop saying you're sick. Far from it lady, except for the little stuffy nose that he has. She followed that up with, "What are your motives for adopting this boy?" With that, out came our answer and our family photo album. She was shocked and in awe, too, at what your brother is able to do.

And, that was that. Nothing more. No more questions. Just back to our apartment.
We spent the remainder of the day and night, looking at our video of you and taking in every inch of you that we had in a photograph. We will surely fall asleep tonight thinking and dreaming of you and your big brother- and all is right with the world. Merry Christmas present to us. Thanks Jesus!

Day 10 (December 27, 2011)
Today we woke at 6:20am to be ready to head to the subway station at 7:30am. Yesterday, Yulia had explained and shown us how to use the subway, which train we needed, where to exit the subway, and which bus to take to get to your orphanage. Daddy and I didn't sleep very well. We were absolutely exhausted from lack of sleep the night before and thought if we stayed up until 8pm we would sleep all night. Wrong- so very very wrong. I was awake at 12:45am, only to stay up until 3:45am and fall into a deep sleep until the alarm went off. Of course, why not?

We were ready to leave home a bit early so Daddy and I decided to sit in the quiet and take time to pray together. We prayed for the day ahead of us, for eachother, the other families adopting, our family and friends at home, and of course we prayed for you. We prayed that we would get to you quickly and easily. We prayed that the Holy Spirit would be with you and would fill up your little heart.

We headed out to the subway station at 730am. It was still a bit dark outside, but nice. There was barely any traffic, the streets were a breeze to cross. We made it to the station and got on our train- the redline running from Khreshchatik Station to Akademmistechko Station.
From there, we left the subway and climbed our way to daylight once again. It was chilly. It was wet. It was cloudy and gloomy. We needed to find Bus 796 to Boyarka. This bus would take us right past the orphanage. We waited at the bus stop for close to an hour before calling Yulia and asking if we were at the right location or waiting for the right bus. Many buses with many different numbers passed us standing on the curb. None of them was the 796 to Boyarka. 
Daddy passed the cell phone to someone who told Yulia we needed to cross the street and get on our bus on the other side of the road. So we did, with instructions to call Yulia back when we could find a busdriver who would take our call. We tried a few, they shook their heads at us. We found one that said we were in fact on the wrong side now and needed to cross the street. Wait, didn't we JUST do that? Great. Ok. Here we go again. Back underground, through the maze of tunnels to come up right back at square zero. It was well after 9am by this point, close to 10- our visit with you was supposed to start at 9am and go to only 11am. My heart was sinking. We found one bus driver who took our cell phone and spoke with Yulia once again. He explained to us that we needed to wait 3 bus stops up from where we were. He even gave us a free ride. (THAT does not happen here. NOTHING is done for free here.) We waited on the corner of that bus stop for what seemed an eternity. I couldn't hold it in any longer. I started to cry. I thought for sure we weren't going to get to see you at all. The stress of wandering the streets and subway and bus stops of Kyiv for almost 3 hours at this point was just too much. Daddy put his arm around me and assured me that we'd be ok and find our way back at the very least. We'd just hire a fac team driver to take us until we figured this mess out. After several long cold minutes, there was a little white more van than bus looking vehicle with the numbers 796 screaming at us from the windshield. YES!  We raced to the edge of the curb and held out our arms. He was 3 lanes over and not looking at us. As fast as we saw him coming, we watched his tail lights disappear into the vast sea of cars and buses. I couldn't help it. Hot tears stung my eyes and the soft cries I was able to hold back before were turning into heaving sobs. Yes, there I was, standing at a street corner bus stop somewhere around Kyiv, bawling my eyes out. We didn't already attract attention to ourselves just by the way we dressed, but now, I had lost it.

It was about 1045am or so and I looked up from Daddy's coat and noticed another small white bus coming towards us and slowing down. It's numbers read 796 Boyarka. THANK YOU LORD JESUS! We got on and gave the man 5grivna as we thought it was 2grivna per person to ride. WRONG again. We didn't see a price on any of the windows like the other buses, well apparently this little get up was a tad more than the others. The bus driver yelled at us in Russian. We sat in our seats and he continued to yell at us. Then a babushka in a sequined hat and overstuffed mauve coat turned to us and began to try to explain what we did wrong. I swiftly said in my best Russian, "I don't understand." She just started speaking Russian even more loudly but slllllower. Then, from out of nowhere, a little girl who looked to be about 16 years old turned around in her seat and said, "You have to pay 14- altogether." OH! Why didn't anybody just say so? HAHAHAHA. Chris walked back up to the driver and paid him. The driver continued speaking loudly and I heard him repeat my saying "Ya ne poneemyo..." The patrons on the bus began laughing. We were clearly being made fun of. We sat quietly in the back of the bus. I listened to a young man sitting in the seat across from me slurp on his bottle of beer. We just wanted to get to the orphanage and get off that bus. Enough was enough. I was done wandering the streets. I was done passing the cell phone. I was done being yelled at in a language I don't understand. And now, I was done being made to feel like a complete fool. We would be calling Eugene or Nico to pick us up after our visit- if we even received one at this time. I had to keep speaking with the Lord and ask for His presence to cover the situation and just get us to our little AJ.

We called Yulia and told her we wouldn't be riding the bus home. We had just made it to the orphanage and it was 1120am. Our visit was long over. We hoped they would let us stay.  We sat in the visitation room. Yulia called us back and let us know they would allow us to have AJ until noon and Eugene would pick us up at 12:10pm. The nanny didn't bring AJ to us until 11:45am. We were going to REVEL in this 15 minutes. This 15 minutes meant the entire world to us and our whole day, everything we had to give, was going to this sweet little boy during this 15 minutes.

All that we had felt, the stress, anxiety, and angst of the morning didn't matter anymore. The orphanage walls could have began crumbling around us and we would have never noticed. Because our hearts, eyes, and ears were focused only on this one little person right here:

And here:

And here.

Be still my beating heart. One the best most treaured gifts you can ever receive in this life is a smile from your little love that you know is meant only for you. This was our first smile from you, AJ. Daddy and I will always always remember this very day. The day you, with your beautiful, I'm ALIVE grin, turned a stress drenched, hard, wanna punch someone in the throat day, into a perfect one.

This last photo I posted, I know exactly what I was thinking when it was taken. I thought- How in the world does someone so wonderful like you, face a horrible and lonely death in a mental institution? Why does this happen?  I was completely broken at the notion that such a thing could ever have been the ending to your story. I cried as I held you today and felt the Lord speak to me. He said, "This isn't his end. It was never going to be his end. It just took some time to prepare you fully for this day. This is Anton's beginning. I gave him to you. He is my precious gift- good and perfect in every way that I made him. Enjoy him, Mama and Papa, I do." Thank you Father. We are on our knees in awe and still so humbled that You would choose us. Shock, really, let's be honest.

Children as wonderful as you aren't seen for your full capacity to live a wonderful and blessed life in Ukraine. A government that doesn't give any help, a poor economy, and expensive healthcare needs are all reasons why children with special needs are more often than not, abandoned. Left to sit in baby houses until they age out, only to be transferred to mental institutions. No one thought you had the ability to think and comprehend. No one thought you could even sit up on your own. To all of those people who cast you aside, to all of those people who said "He will never fill in the blank. Just let him die." I say, this is only Day 2 of meeting and being with you. This is what you already have burning in you to tell the world:

To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day 8 (December 25, 2011)

Dearest AJ,
Merry Christmas to our little lamb. Merry Christmas to your big brother, our sweetest Anthony, at home. We miss you so very much dear heart. We'll be home soon.

It's a bit strange and a little lonely being on the other side of the world from the rest of your friends and family, especially on Christmas. Facebook has been really nice for seeing what everyone else is up to. What's really funny, is that I know if we were at home right now, we'd just be thinking of you, AJ, and how badly we wish we were with you.
Another thought that occurred to me was that you don't necessarily see all of your family and friends throughout the Christmas and New Year's holidays, but you know where they are. You know that if you wanted to see them, call them, stop could. I'm finding that there is a real comfort in that. When you don't have it, you start feeling a bit vulnerable. That's kind of where I'm finding myself today.

We did get the chance to skype with one of our faves, Joani. That was certainly a Christmas gift to us, and she probably doesn't even realize it. A little taste of home for Christmas. We also watched Pastor Dan teach online from last Sunday. We are so very thankful that our church records and streams the teachings online- that, too, is a nice gift and taste of home.

This is the first Christmas that we've ever been away from friends and family- let alone, on the the other side of the world from any of them. So, this is how our Very Merry Ukrainian Christmas went:

We didn't get to bed until about 1:30am, but Daddy didn't get to sleep  until about 4am. Yes, one week in and our bodies still haven't completely adjusted. How long does that take anyway? I woke up at 12:15pm and started to make your Dad some lunch. He's been hungry and not at all used to the small portion sizes, small plates, small cups, small bags, and smaller amounts of food. (For example, he went next door to the grocery and bought 3 bags of chip like snacks. 15 minutes later, when I was asking if he would share with me, they were gone. Note to self: Self, steal food immediately upon entering the apartment, lest you receive an empty bag.)  So, we enjoyed ham, toast, scrambled eggs, a banana, and a clementine. Add a little orange juice on the side for me, water for Daddy, oh- and a few dill pickles for me too.
I realize that in the picture, this looks like a lot of food and what are we complaining about, right? The plate I used to serve everything up on is the same size as the dinner plates we have at home. The plates we ate from are the same size as salad plates (or I call them our lunch plates) at home. Kapish? And I have yet to find a gallon jug of juice or milk. Ukrainians must go to the market everyday to every couple of days, or we eat entirely too much as Americans. I have a feeling it's probably both. I wonder what Ukrainians would think of how large everything in America is, or that it's not uncommon to drop 200 bucks or more at the grocery store and not go back for quite some time?

After lunch, Daddy cleaned up the kitchen. I started laundry. We've figured out, best to do laundry in the beginning of the day and you can begin to guesstimate when your clothes will be dry enough to wear them again.

We decided to hit the streets and walk for a bit. It's not Christmas Day, here in Ukraine, but everything is very lively just down the block from us.

The end of our street, facing city center.

 TGIFridays!- We haven't eaten there, though we've heard it's the place where a lot of adoptive families in country meet up. Right now, since Allen and Mallory left- we're the only ones still in Kiev.

 This is how you cross the street. You go underground to do it, lest you be run over or dragged behind the bumper of a Mercedes and left for dead. We have learned- cross the street underground unless you can get into a large group of people who are ready to cross. Cross in a big group above ground, cross by yourself underground.

Merry Christmas from Independence Square- Kyiv, Ukraine!

 I really can't tell you why the following photographs even exist...we are both bird haters. Mine stems from being forced to care for parrots while growing up. I hate them. They hate me. It's a perfect relationship. I was waiting for this thing to gouch my eyes out at any second. Look at him- you know he's thinking the same thing.

 Before I knew what was happening, I had one on my freaking head. All I kept thinking was, if this thing takes a poop on my head...I know what your starving Daddy will be eating for dinner.

 Daddy is not digging the big all. I'm still waiting for the white ones to unleash their intestinal fury on my arms.

Daddy's turn to worry as to whether or not this thing is going to take a monster dump down the back of his neck.

Independence Square Christmas Tree. The entire city center is lit up just beautifully! There are street vendors everywhere. You can find pastries, coffees, ice cream (ya, I know), sandwiches, balloons, toys, scarves, hats, name it- you could probably find it down here.

 I had to. I couldn't resist. I found it funny that we don't have a GAP to speak of any longer at home, but there happens to be a 2 story one in downtown Kyiv. Although, when we were down here the other evening, I didn't realize it was 2 story. We walked in to see if we could find anything cute for you and your brother. There were children's clothes in the front shop window, but we saw nothing inside. It was really very tiny. Tonight after taking this photo, I realize there was an upstairs we hadn't known about.

Last stop before home was the Billa. It's another nice grocery store around the corner from where we normally go. We just happened to be passing it on our way home so thought we would just load up there. Remember, what you buy- you have to carry. The bags here- you buy them too, so we must keep that in mind. We, actually have yet to remember to bring our own bags and have bought them every stinking time. I must say, though, the bags are crazy strong. Much stronger than our plastic grocery bags at home. This by the way cost a total of 299 hryvnia or about 37ish USD.

 Welcome to Christmas Dinner 2011. Your Auntie Kimie in Oregon said when dinner is ready there, she would skype us in. Thanks. :)

 Last note, for our readers and other adoptive families in Ukraine...Read your labels!! We're so used to walking into the store and picking up whatever without thinking about it based on its familiar looks. (Insert chuckle here.) Yes, I'm leaving it at that. We need someone else to commiserate with.

So, our sweet AJ, that was our day in a nutshell. Our Christmas present comes tomorrow.  A gift so precious and well though out, a gift hand picked by Jesus, Himself, no doubt. We'll unwrap this good and perfect gift by being led through a doorway or maybe having a door opened to us.  Are you still pondering about what this miraculous gift could possibly be? I'll give you a few hints:
He has blonde hair.
He has big brown eyes.
He has the sweetest milky white skin.
And, we have been waiting and praying for the day to finally come to love on him and call him ours.
See you in the morning Sweet Little One.

It's 9:38pm where we both are right now. The morning light can't possibly come soon enough. Sweet makes me smile now, finally, to say- you have no idea.

To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 6- December 23, 2011

Dear AJ,
We just got back to the apartment from the SDA office. We have the referral to come and visit you along with our translated dossier. In other words, we have our official permission from the Ukrainian government to come to you- in person. We will ask Luda, our team family liason, tonight when she checks in with us if there is any possible way to meet you yet this weekend. We know it most likely will not happen that way. We'll have to wait until Monday, but how great would that be if someone allowed us to come on Christmas Day. What a cherished gift on that very special holiday for us! We trust in the Lord and have all of our faith resting in Him, that He will choose the perfect and most meaningful time for us to finally meet. Whether that would be at 10pm tonight or not until 10am Monday morning, we know we are on our way.

Daddy and I didn't do very much today. Our tour with the Fitch family and Eugene was squashed due to horrendous downtown Kiev traffic. It's honestly like something I've never seen before. We'll have to take pictures- it's really quite amazing.

We did accomplish one very imporant thing since getting home. We knew how to read your name as stated in Russian on our referral paper. Here it is phonetically:

Ahn-tohn.  Ah- na- toh- lee- oh- vich. Kre- my- uh- chuk.

So, we know that your birth father's name is Anatoliy.  Ukrainian and Russian boys and girls are all given a patronymic name. This is your middle name. For boys, patronymic name is made up of your father's first name and then adding -ovich or -evich on the end.

Daddy and I have been practicing saying your name over and over and over again. We hope we are not actually teaching it to ourselves WRONG... we probably are and then you can laugh at us and our poor Russian all you want, just as long as you let us hold you while you do it.

Until tomorrow our Little One....and you still have no idea.
To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy

Day 5 (December 22, 2011)

Dear AJ,
This is the day we've been waiting for. Our appointment with what we once knew to be SDA (State Department for Adoption). The name has changed, but it's all really the same, and it's finally here!

Our driver, Niko picked us up in the morning around 9AM. We had all of our things packed up and ready to move into our new apartment, which was promised to be in a fantastic location- close to city center. We thought we already had a fantastic location- could it really be better? Waiting for us in Niko's car was the Fitch family- well 2 people of the Fitch family! We finally got the opportunity to meet Allen and his daughter Mallory. I've spoken to his wife, Carrie, on Facebook before and we were very happy to meet one of their children and her other half.

We were on our way to the SDA for our appointment. We entered through a side gate of this building:

 Once inside, all four of us were seated and told to wait on a couch situated in the nearby hallway. We didn't see any other families there for appointments that we knew of, but there were a few people milling around and about. The family we came with were called first. As we watched them ascend the staircase and disappear, Daddy said he was starting to get a bit of a nervous belly. I held his hand and said, "This is what we've been waiting for. Can you believe we're finally here? We're going to see our baby soon!" Daddy smiled at me and squeezed me tight. That is always most reassuring and comforting to me. I think you'll soon find how wonderful those loving squeezes from Daddy truly are. 

Within 10-15 minutes of waiting, Allen and Mallory reappeared, smiles on their faces. Niko called for us to follow him now. We were led into a small office room with another seemingly smaller office attached. We were asked to sit on the couch and a woman named Maria presented us with your file. Yep, there you were. One baby photo, one photo of you at 4 years of age and another of you at 5 years of age. How strikingly handsome you are! We were asked why we wanted to adopt  and if we were aware of the "special needs" you had. In my mind, I thought- "The only special need this little good and perfect gift has is the special need for a Mama and Papa and Big Brother who will love him for the rest of our lives." We answered her questions and she was able to share a bit of general information with us about you that we did not previously know. We hope that once we visit with your orphanage director and orphanage physician, we will know more in depth history.

We know that your name is indeed Anton. Unfortunately at this very moment, your rather long middle and last names are slipping my memory. They are on the tip of my tongue but I can't seem to get them out right now. We know you live in an orphanage in a suburb of Kiev called Boyarka, however this was apparently not your place of birth. They did not give us the name of the town where you were born, but said it was approximately 200KM from Kiev. We will travel there at some point in this journey to get your birth certificate. I can't help but wonder who of your family is still there?

We know that you were born when your birth Mom was just 7 months pregnant. She was not married to your birth Dad and he apparently was not an active part of your life. We were also told that your birth Mom passed away on February 4, 2008. You were not even 3 years old. Maria and Niko were unable to tell us how your Mom died and said it was not listed on her death certificate. I found that strange, but we were told that the orphanage director may be able to find that information out for us. I don't know right now if you were placed into the orphanage when you were born or not until after your Mom passed on.

We were also told something else that really tugged at my heart for you, Little One. You were your Mother's fifth pregnancy. Somewhere out there, you have at least 4 siblings. We were told that their whereabouts were unknown to them, but again the orphanage director may have more information. Oh my Sweetheart, I wish I already knew who and where they were. Do they have families? Do they need a family like you do? If there is any information that can be given to us about them, we'll keep it and safeguard it for you. If there ever comes a time that you would want to find them, please my Little Love, know that Daddy and I will do everything we can to make that happen.

At the end of the appointment, Maria slid two of the photos of you to us. She said we could have them and she would try to remove the baby photo that had been glued to a page of your file for us. Daddy and I couldn't take our eyes off of you. I held both photos in my hands and felt a hot tear slide down my cheek. I held those photos so close to me and Daddy held me so close to him. The Russian words for handsome and perfect flowed from my lips over and over again. With that, we thanked Maria and we were ushered back downstairs.

We were instructed that what needed to be accomplished today had been. We could come back at 3PM tomorrow and receive our referral to see you at your orphanage. Unfortunately, as much as Daddy and I would love to see you today, tomorrow, and especially Sunday (Sunday is our Christmas Day) we will have to wait until Monday December 26. But, that day, will be truly amazing. On that day, we will be face to face, nose to nose, and we will finally be able to tell you in person how much we love you. I cannot wait to breathe you in and have that be my only goal to reach for the day. So, we wait... just a short while longer to be with you.

After our appointment, Niko had some running around to do for paperwork and we sat at a little pizza place with Allen and Mallory. It was fun getting to know them. Daddy and I enjoyed our coffee and then it was time to go. Niko took us to our new apartment.

Here is the entry way and that is our front door leading into the hallway of our building. We are apartment number 2 this time, practically on the ground level. Yes, that is our refrigerator on the the entry our front door.

This is stepping out from the entry way facing the hallway of our apartment. The bedroom is straight ahead.

 Here is the bedroom. We had already started to unpack and had done a load of laundry. We are drying our clothes on the rack you see there in front of the window and radiator.

 Here is the kitchen. It literally has everything we need, despite the fridge being in another completely strange area of the house. You can't see it, but Daddy is standing next to the kitchen table while taking this photo.

 Our bathroom! We think it was a trade off- in the last apartment, our toilet had its very own room and was completely separate from the sink and bathtub/shower. This time we have our toilet with the rest of the bathroom and instead have our refrigerator living a lonesome existence in the hallway, not in the kitchen with all its kitchen friends.

 And yes, there she is. I love her. She loves me. She sits and waits for me inside the kitchen cabinet beneath the TV. We had a 5 load love affair on our first meeting. Ah, it's the little things, AJ, the little things.

 Here is one view of the living room. Daddy is sneaky and snapped it while I wasn't paying attention.

 Two, rather comfortably large chairs in the living room, complete with um.. "sitting cloths" as Daddy liked to call them.

 The opposite view of our living room. Really a very nice sized room to say the least. Comfortable and nice for lounging. Daddy and I were able to find MTV- some videos of only God knows who in English. We also were able to painstakingly take in about 4.2657 minutes of Paris Hilton finds a BFF in Dubai or some freak show like that. It was in English but had Russian being spoken over top of it. Turns out, Paris Hilton is not only able to make Americans nauseated in English, but can do the same in Russian- and just as quickly.

We treked around the city center with Allen and Mallory for a little while. We found some nice shops and restaurants to try out. Daddy and I also found a nice grocery in the basement of Mandarin Plaza that I think we'll be using often. We finished up the laundry, watched American TV commercials on Ukrainian TV, and I watched Daddy figure out how to get ESPN3 on the laptop.  He is beyond thrilled to know he will not miss the Hawkeyes play their bowl game. When he figured it out, I must admit, a part of me died inside. I loathe football and thought that in coming to Ukraine, I had found my freedom from it. (Insert loud sigh here.)  I am happy to report he will have to get up at 5AM in order to watch it. (Insert maniacal laugh here.)
All in all, today was a good and special day. Tomorrow we hope to see Allen and Miss Mallory again before they head to their region on Saturday morning and meet the newest member of their family, Valentin. We have planned to all meet together with Eugene for tour of Kiev part dva.

Maybe, just maybe, Jesus has a Christmas surprise in store for us and we'll be able to see you sooner than Monday. We'll be praying on that, and if not, we know in our hearts that His timing continues to be perfect. Merry Christmas Little One.

To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy

Day 4 (December 21, 2011)

Dear AJ,
We got a little bit of sleep (still not quite right) and are ready for the day ahead of us. Today we have plans to meet with Eugene and he will take us on a bit of an excursion through the city. To be honest, neither Daddy or I ever really had any interest in world history or Ukrainian and Russian history- that is, until now. The 1000 year old city of Kiev alone has such a rich, albeit rather painful, background. Here is a taste of what we were able to see today.

St. Andrew's Church, Kiev Ukraine. Located on the right bank of the Dnieper River, it is considered a sacred and Holy place. It was designed by architect, Bartolomeo Rastrelli on the order of Empress Catherine in honor of Jesus' apostle, Andrew. It was built between 1747-1754. Andrew erected a cross at this place and we were told that he stood in this place and not only taught the gospel of Jesus but prophesied that this city would be a great one.

 Unfortunately, it was under heavy construction and was not open for touring or visitation.

 Apartment buildings in the city.

 Our tour guide, Eugene. He is standing infront of a stone monument on the grounds of the Ukrainian National Museum of History.

 One view of the Ukrainian National Museum of History.

 Entrance of the Museum. We had hoped to tour the museum, but it was closed. We'll try again another day.

Place of worship located on museum grounds. It was a seemingly busy place- many people in and out. Men remove their hats, women wore a head covering of some sort. (even if it was just the hood on your coat.) I wish I could remember the name of this place. It is really quite beautiful.

The front entrance of the SDA- as we once knew the name to be. It's changed again- Dept of Adoption or something close to that. All we really know is that this is the place where our "appointment" is and what we've been anxiously awaiting to start our incountry process begins here.

Signage at the front entance to the SDA.

Metro Bridge crossing the Dnieper River.

Entrance into St. Michael's Monastery. Beautiful and stunning does not even begin to describe this place that was named for the Archangel Michael- who is held to be the patron Saint and protector of the city of Kiev. It was orginally built between 1108-1113, renovated and enlarged between the 17th to 18th centuries, and completely demolished in the 1930s by Soviet authorities during the Stalinest antireligious campaign. Before demolition, some of the frescoes and mosaics were removed and taken to Moscow or stored at the St. Sophia Cathedral (down the street from our first apartment). During WWII, the items stored in the Cathedral were seized by Nazis and taken to Germany.  The reconstruction of the Saint Michael’s began in 1997 following Ukrainian independence from Soviet rule. It was officially opened in 1999, but the interior decorations, frescoes and mosaics were not completed until 2000. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed to be taken while inside. Take my word for it, it was simply fantastic.

Looking up toward the ceiling of the above photo.

Beneath the dome in the forefront of the photo shows where some of the original ruins of the monastery and cathedral remain.

The entrance into the Cathedral. Men remove their hats, women have a head covering. Many people came in for quiet time of prayer and worship while we were there.

We really saw quite a bit during our 4 hours with Eugene. What an awesome tourguide! Any other adoptive parents heading to Kiev need to set up a tour with him. Don't pass up the opportunity! You won't be disappointed. He charges only 10USD per hour for his tour. We plan on getting together with him again in the next day or so to do more touring and perhaps visit the museum. (This guy is pretty great, he even took us to the grocery store before taking us home- at no extra charge and even though he was running late.)

Well, my sweet love- this pretty much concludes Day 4. Tonight, Daddy and I will be packing up our things and getting ready to move into our new apartment tomorrow. Hopefully it will come equiped with a washing machine that I can understand as well as reliable internet access. I'll let you know and post more pictures. Tomorrow is Day 5 and we have our long awaited appointment with the adoption authority to begin our process to make you, on paper, our son. You've been our son in our hearts and minds since the day we first saw you- don't forget that. The papers are just a formality.

To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy