Sunday, January 14, 2007


It was quickly apparent that Lauren and Donnie needed more challenging activities than staying at home. So off to school we went.

I was leery of signing them up too soon for school. After all they don't speak or understand English; how will they communicate with the teachers and other students? Well it turned out to be the best thing for them! The kids did great it's the teachers we are worried about!! Donnie has certainly kept Miss Natasha on her toes, although by the 3rd day she said that he was settling down. Lauren on the other hand is very obedient and will listen and follow intstrucitons.

They are attending Primrose and going from about 8 - 4 for 5 days a week. We have noticed that they are understanding many English words, sentences (commands). George is great with working with them in the evenings on their alphabet and "key" words. In the mornings when it is time to take them they are excited and go willingly. This week at school they will start "playball" which is a program that will teach them the basis for sports like baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, soccer and more. It will be intereting to see if they are "predisposed" to certain sports.

We also had a couple of successful restaurant experiences. After only 1 week home, we took them to IHOP (International House of Pancakes). Well, they were not ready. They did not get it even thought there were many other kids eating around us. Not pancake fans for sure (at least not yet). Then we braved a Friday evening for Mexican food! That was a hit. The chips were a good pacifier until the food came. Chicken with some rice is a hit. The success made the 30 minute wait all worth while. So now we know we can take them in public and have fairly behaved kids!

The pictures are from their first day of school and waiting for our table on Mexican night.

Home for 2 weeks!

Wow, I cannot believe it has been 2 weeks already!

The first week we were home Grandma Ann and Grandpa Don stayed with us and were a great help! Grandma served Lauren and Donnie their first breakfast! There was a lot of exploration, the house, the yard, the cars, the grocery store, etc.! It was sort of like a "free for all"; possibly a lot of overstimulation as well.

Folks have been so generous with the kids. They have a lot of toys and new clothes. We have actually started hiding the toys and bringing them out again after a couple of days. That way they are new all over again.

They also learned the bath tub experience with rubber duckies and bubble bath! Bath time is a lot of fun for them, but I think we need to move it from night to morning because it seems to over stimulate them and then they don't want to go to sleep.

Sleep is still a challenge. Very hard to put down ( a lot of crying ) and still getting up in the middle of the night (crying). We have had one night of full sleep so far but we cannot seem to follow it up with a second. Hopefully in time because mom and dad sure could use a full nights sleep (LOL)!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

We are HOME!

Oh my ~ I don't know where to begin!

Our travel day started about 7 a.m. Kiev time; with an airport departure of 10 a.m. from our apartment and ended at about 20 hours later with a US local time arrival at 10:30 p.m. Saturday evening.

Tola and Roma were my travel team! Tola did a lot of our legal paperwork behind the scenes and also doubled as our driver in Kiev. Roma came from Odessa in time for our departure. He is home in Kiev for the 10 days of Ukrainian Holidays which officially started the 29th ~ so it was a special surprise to see him again.

Departure was easy. The fun began on the 11 hour plane ride to JFK! The kids slept a total of 45 minutes. During that time poor Donnie had a bout of diahrea (sp?. I was so glad my Canadian buddy Mylene suggested I carry on a spare set of clothes for them. I really doubted I would need them and only brought pants "just in case". Well thank goodness for that. I threw out the tights and underwear. Wrapped the pants and sealed them in plastic and put on new pants for Donnie. No underwear, no socks ~ poor kid.

There were only about 4 or 5 meltdowns total. They took turns. The surrounding passengers were pretty patient, I'm glad. It was pretty interesting. A full flight and you certainly tell who the New American Parents were. I would guess there were about 10 new families on that flight. I was hoping that the kids would play with some of the other kids, but Lauren and Donnie are quite shy. So it was a challenge to keep them occupied to say the least.

Going through customs and immigration in NY was a "Real Pain". We were hot and tired. The kids hadn't slept and it was like 4 in the morning their time. But we got through it. Then that last leg to Atlanta, Lauren fell asleep over 2 seat and I only had to worry about keeping Donnie occupied.

George met us at the gate in Atlanta. Boy was I happy to see him! I could turn the kids over to someone for a while (or so I thought).

Ann and Don (my folks) were waiting for us at home. They were soooo excited to see the kids in person. Although all 3 of us looked like hell. It was off to bed quickly. Only to lead to histerical crying. This lasted for most of the night.

We put them down by 11 p.m. They both cried at first then Donnie fell asleep. Lauren would wake up about every 15 minutes. So I finally just got into the bed with them. Even at that she would wake up and ask for me (forgetting I was there). I had hoped to be on American time. But no, we were up at 3:00 a.m. this morning.

The kids woke up in great moods. They love their rooms and their toys. It looks great thanks to my folks who bought the furniture, furnished and appointed them perfect little rooms for a little boy and little girl.

After about an hour with them alone I thought George should share in this fun time. So off we went to get Papa at 4:00 a.m. out of bed. They are really having fun with him this morning. That is why I even have this time to update our blog!

I think the kids will adjust just fine. It is amazing the energy they have. George is getting to experience what I had for night and day for the last 3 days!

Many that have gone before me have said that it will all seem so distant. The time spent in country. Believe it or not, it is already a fog for me. Or maybe that is my sleep deprivation talking (LOL)!

Thanks to all for your well wishes and interest. We can't wait for everyone to meet the kids!

I'll update with some more pictures at home soon!

A few more Kiev Pictures

Good Bye Kiev

Since my flight was not until Saturday I had to tackle Friday on my own with the kids. Just imagine how hard it is to keep two 3.5 year olds busy (especially not on either of our turfs)! I decided to try and walk the energy out of them.

So we first walked to the Delta office to obtain a printed record of our flight (sometimes folks have had a hard time boarding flights with just an “e” ticket). Then I did the traditional visit that most adoptive families do on their last day in Kiev ~ Lunch at Fridays! I ordered the kids their first hamburgers. Let’s just say that it was not a hit. I guess they’ll learn more about hamburgers stateside.

Kiev is all decked out for their holidays which officially begin today on the 29th and last for 10 days. Christmas trees were everywhere! It was so pretty, a little snow on the ground and walking in snow flurries in the morning. By afternoon the sun came out and it warmed up. Really beautiful against the old buildings and Byzantine style churches.

The kids were falling asleep on their feet, so we went back to the apartment after lunch. But they would not nap. So around 4 we went out again just up the street to see Saint Sophia’s and the monument to Kiev (sorry, I forgot the name). Again it was spectacular.

It was a horrible night trying to get them to sleep. Lots of crying. They are extremely over tired. No naps in the last 2 days. And heck, they are totally out of what they have practically know all their lives, the orphanage. So I really need to give them credit ~ they have been troopers so far.

Now the flight tomorrow. About 20 hours of travel time. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it goes smoothly!

Overnight Train, Odessa to Kiev

~ A bittersweet departure

The train accommodations were great. We had a first class compartment which consisted of 2 little beds and tiny table. That is Victor who helped lug our bags to the train and Roma was helping stow them. Also a shot of the kids in the van on the way to the train.

Although I was excited to finally be on the last leg of my journey home, it was bittersweet leaving Odessa. When we first arrived I couldn’t wait to leave. Now I had grown to know the city ~ and it is a beautiful city. So rich in history. Also I was leaving the people I had come to know and especially hard was to say bye to our facilitator, Roma who had done so much for us. He was our “lifeline” while we were there. He’s the one that I call responsible for making me a “mom”. He told me what to do with the kids and what not to do. What to feed them, and lots of other information. So with tears in my eyes, we waived good bye as we pulled out of the station.

I was in for a real treat after that! You think kids that are normally in bed and asleep by 8 p.m. would be exhausted by 10. Well forget about it! That compartment was like a mini circus for them. They were clearly excited! I was worried we’d be dropped of at the next stop. Well about 1 (or maybe 2) in the morning I couldn’t take it anymore. So out came the Benedryl. Thank goodness, because 45 minutes later they were sound asleep. Now you would think that 2 little bodies won’t take a lot of room on the beds ~ well I was wrong about that as well. Lauren is all over the place so I scooted onto Donnie’s side. I had about a 2 foot section and even at that I was kicked about every 10 minutes.

When we pulled into Kiev at 7:30 a.m. our compartment looked like a tornado had torn through it. Our driver Tola was great; he came right on to the train and helped get me, the kids and all the bags out.

Off he took us to the American Medical Facility for the kids exams/medicals and then to the US Embassy for the remainder of our paperwork, Visa’s, etc. It was a long time at the Embassy. We didn’t get out of there until 3:30 that afternoon. Then it was a quick drop at our apartment in Kiev. The apartment was great; just off Independence square. It was starting to feel like civilization again!

Leaving the Orphanage

On Christmas Day, December 25th we got our official court decree; but due to logistics I chose to leave the kids at the orphanage until our scheduled departure date Wednesday evening. I’m glad I did because Tuesday and Wednesday were NON STOP. On Tuesday I ran around the city from one government office to another getting our new birth certificates, legalizations, passports, etc. Then we even had to go to the train station to buy our tickets for the next evening to get to Kiev. The trains were booked solid, I really lucked out getting the ticket! We started at 8 in the morning and didn’t get back to the apartment until almost 10 at night. I was exhausted.

Wednesday morning we were treated to the Christmas performance. After which I had to run back to the apartment to get the kids clothes for them to be changed into so they would be ready for the pick up at 8:30 that evening. I even had to stop and buy some tights for both the kids because the orphanage is so picky about how warmly the kids are dressed. Even though they will not be wearing tights under their clothes in Atlanta, I didn’t want to “rock the boat” so I bought them tights.

Roma hired the orphanage van driver, Victor to pick us and my luggage at my apartment and then swing over to the orphanage to get the kids and then drop us at the train station. It really worked out great.

Lauren and Donnie were sooooo excited to go!! Sometimes you just don’t know how kids are going to react when they know they are leaving. I got to go in and take a couple of pictures of their beds and dining/play room. They showed me their beds, they told all the kids in their groupa goodbye and they were leaving with their “mama”. It was all very surreal to me at the time. I couldn’t believe this was it! I know was fully responsible for these 2 kids!!

More Christmas Performance

The Children's Christmas Performance

It was an unexpected treat! The kids had been rehearsing several months for their Christmas Show. So instead of visiting time on Wednesday, the parents “in waiting” were all invited to watch the show. The room that had been under renovation had finally been complete and this was the debut. The staff really did a tremendous job putting this together. The kids sang and danced; recited poems, played out nursery rhymes and even Father Frost and Snow Girl showed up! At the end, Father Frost had a gift for each of the children. Olga Panteleevna, the orphanage director of #3 really does a great job running the place. I really lucked out to see the show, because we were leaving Wednesday on the night train to Kiev.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas morning and I'm preparing all the gifts for the caretakers, nurses, landlord, etc. I purchased a small Christmas tree for the apartment for it to feel festive!

Today (it is not a holiday here, they celebrate Christmas according to the old calendar on January 7th) we got our formal Court Decree declaring us parents and legal guardians of Lauren and Donnie. Tomorrow we will get their new birth certificates and passports.

On Wednesday I will take the night train to Kiev. We are trying to get a compartment to ourselves. It will be me and the kids. That way we are confined to a small area which should be easier on me. The bus ride was really hard on the way down. I don't think I could do it on my own with the kids. The train takes a bit longer, but that is OK. We will leave around 10 in the evening and should arrive Kiev around 6 or 7 in the morning.

Not sure of the schedule after that. Someone will pick us up and we will have to go to the Embassy and have the American Dr. do the medicals, then I will need the Embassy to issue the Visas for travel. The kids will have dual citizenship until they turn 18.

Hopefully we can accomplish all that on Thursday. That will leave Friday free. Then we depart on Saturday at around noon! HOORAY!

It is a 10 hour flight to JFK but I have plenty of Children's Benedryl. So hopefully they will sleep for at least 8 hours of it!

Wishing everyone a VERY MERRY CHRISMAS from this side of the world!

Christmas Eve

I joined Mylene and Patrick for Christmas Eve Dinner at a traditional Ukrainian Restaurant downtown Odessa. The food was delicious. Another American couple (Linda and Jamie ~ he’s the one holding the beer) that is here adopting from Ashville, NC joined in as well. After a fabulous meal we walked over to Philharmonic Hall and listened to a concert. The building was incredible. It was built by the Tsars and clearly for the royalty.

After the concert Mylene, Patrick and I decided to go to Christmas Eve Mass. We met on the way a Spanish couple who are adopting their 7th child that we knew from seeing them at our orphanage. We were early to the church (luckily we got seats). It was a beautiful Catholic Gothic church. The service was pretty spectacular. It lasted for 2 ½ hours! The entire service was in Ukrainian, I don’t understand why, but a Cardinal held the mass. Also there were several Russian/Ukrainian Orthodox priests there in their “garb” as well.

When it came to reading the Gospel, they read it in 7 languages! (part of why it took so long). Also in the end all the priests at the altar stood up and gave some sort of speech. Not understanding Russian, we really didn’t follow what they were saying. Although we could tell that the Orthodox priest was very serious and very stern in his address!

After church we hurried to our bus street to catch our bus home. We were freezing by then as they don’t heat the churches and in all that granite and stone it begins to feel very cold after a while.

Groupa #11

These are some of the kids in Lauren and Donnie's Groupa.
Our kids are the oldest in the groupa. Most of them are about 2 1/2 to 3 years old.

Knock Out!

No words needed!

Hide and Seek ~ Siblings

We were playing hide seek around one of the buildings at the orphanage. I didn’t see Lauren and Donnie for a few minutes and heard some screaming. Well what did I find . . . . Lauren was beating the “#%@!” out of Donnie. Now I have heard of this sibling fighting, but here it was in front of my eyes! I let them at it for a while since Donnie was mostly smiling and I figured it must not be too serious.

Christmas Eve Bananas

This was on Christmas Eve during the day. The kids sure do love their bananas!
They are not used to getting fresh fruit. So the banana is a great treat. They are tasty and sweet! They also love yogurt (which I sneak in on occasion).

Unfortunately they have already learned "cookie". I hope that doesn't surpass their love of bananas.

We have observed that sugar plays a HUGE role in their behavior. You can tell almost immediately which kids have gotten candy from their parents. It takes about 10 minutes to kick in and you would think they are a different child!

We're going to the Circus!

Mylene and Patrick from Quebec are here adopting 2 brothers (Leo 4yo and Andre 18 mos.). Mylene had a wonderful idea of treating Leo’s groupa to see the circus as a special Christmas treat. She was so nice as to invite Lauren and Donnie ~ they are in a different groupa (and me) to join.

Thanks to Mylene for her organization effort. Permission from the director, organizing the orphanage van and driver, gasoline, tickets and of course the nurses were required to be along. In all there were 14 kids and 9 adults (including the parents).

Well you would never think that we would all fit in that van. About the size of a typical U.S. conversion van. Well in Ukraine I think there is NO limit for these types of things as can be demonstrated by the amount of people that cram onto the buses and trams! We all fit, all adults had a least 1 kid on their lap and the rest just stood where there was a spot. I think the van ride competes with the circus itself (LOL)!

Myelen had pre-purchased the tickets; but since it was a Saturday evening some of the nurses had invited a guest. So our head count was more than the ticket count and the event was sold out. No problem, kids 2 -3 per seat and the rest in adult laps! We were a cozy bunch, but the place was packed and it worked out fine.

I am amazed at how well all the kids did at the event. It was about 2.5 hours. Lauren and Donnie did really great until intermission. Then the attention span was gone. Can’t really blame them, the 2nd part of the performance was the magic show which I think is geared for the older kids anyway.

They were not afraid of the clowns, I think the wolves looked like dogs to them, but they did think the Bears (Mishkas) were cool. The bears did lots of tricks and they really liked that.

It was a good outing experience for me with the kids, they did stick by me in the crowds.
Hopefully they will do the same in the airports.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A mini update

George made it home safely on Wednesday evening! Again, struggling with computer access and this internet cafe (which is a misnomer because there is no food/drink in sight) does not allow you to upload pictures.

Paperwork trail is going well. I should have all my documents in order prior to the shutdown for the Ukranian Holidays. Also fantastic news, I was able to buy 3 tickets for a flight out of here on Saturday the 30th!! This is incredible as most people said I would not be able to get out of here until at least the 3rd or 4th of January.

This is a good flight as well, Delta from Kiev to JKF then to Altanta. Only 1 chance to lose the kids now in the airport instead of 2 (LOL)!

The kids are doing well, both have little colds but I think that is the way it is during the winter here. They are really bonding to me. Although I am the total "Nazi" mom with Donnie. He is really testing me!! I think practically the only words out of my mouth to him are Nyet, Nyet and more Nyet!! Poor kid.

Lauren is really well behaved. She will pay attention to what I say. Although she still does the crying jag when she doesn't get what she wants (it's that fake crying thing). But even those are improving as I'm ignoring them.

Our Swedish friends left 2 days ago. They should arrive home in Stockholm today with their new son Michola. I just met 2 more Swedish couples that arrived yesterday. They are also adopting 1 boy each around 22 months old.

There are so many great kids here available for adoption. All ages. I hope for all of them to get a chance to have a home. I just found out today that Ukraine has again started accepting dossiers from American couples as of the 19th. That is great news.

Next time I take the laptop downtown I will post more pictures. Thank you all for following along, your support and your comments.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Historic Odessa

We putzed around historic Odessa yesterday. The weather has been incredible here. I swear it felt like 60 degrees F. And today as well. We are so lucky, this has been their mildest winter in 500 years! But I think our weather luck is going to change. It looks like we are in for some 20 degree F. days ahead.

Odessa has the largest Opera house in all of Europe. It is really incredible! The pictures just don't do it justice. Inside there is a crystal chandelier that weighs over 1 ton! Also some pictures of Odessa harbor, the picture is taken from the top of the Potomkin steps. Also a picture with Admiral Potomkin.

We had a nice sushi dinner right across from the Opera house. Downtown Odessa is really pretty with it's cobblestone streets and great architecture.

Our Gang!

This is the one and only restaurant near our apartment. We have been there twice so far. We are fortunate that we have such a great facilitator, Roma and also we have met and become friends with another couple who are his clients. Karin and Pierre are from Stockholm, Sweden and they are adopting an adorable 22 month old little boy, Michola.

Roma really looks out for us and is doing a fantastic job doing all of our paperwork.

Oh yes, this restaurant has the best Borscht! Also great "Shish" ka bobs.

A Real Ukranian Tradition!

A couple of nights ago our landlord (Sasha)stopped by to say hello. He is renting us his sons apartment for the short time we are here in Odessa. George told him he wasn't feeling well. So off went Sasha only to come back with his brother and a bottle of Pepper Vodka! This is the cure for everything here I think.

Well we thought 1 shot and that is it. But no, the tradition here is that you never stop until you finish the bottle. George did feel a bit better as he couldn't feel his throat anymore ~ but then again 2 days later and he is on antibiotics!

I didn't try the vodka; but I toasted with them with a little of the cognac he brought to us on his first visit to us. Oh and yes, they always bring something to eat with the alcohol; this time it was hand picked, marinated mushrooms. They were very tasty.

George and the Doctor

Well we had the Ukranian Doctor experience! At least George did. He has been concerned about his cold not improving so Roman our facilitator took him to the "adult clinic". The doctor was very nice; he diagnosed George with Bronchitis. Since you don't need prescriptions here he just wrote down all the drugs we needed to buy and got them at the local "Apteka". Thank goodness for Roma; we were able to find the antibiotics and the various other vitamin C type of things he recommended.

As we were walking back, the Doctor had stepped outside for a cigarette break. We this picture of the Doctor and Patient in front of the clinic!