Friday, December 28, 2007

Meet the “WHY”

Our pastor will often say “You can live with any ‘how’ as long as you know your ‘why’.”

I would like to introduce you to our WHY!!!


Maximus “Max” Stephen Eimers

Max is eight years old. His birthday is 09-27-99. Max is in the second grade. He likes to draw and paint. Max is considerate and caring of the other children and caregivers. Max is very proud of us as his parents and has been the star of the orphanage the last few weeks. Max is the only one of the three that has a clue that we don’t speak or understand Russian!


Max, Mom and Dad


Max and Misha meet each other again after over a year of being separated in different orphanages. (The orphanages were only 1,000 feet apart)

Max beside his bed in his group.

Mikhail “Misha” James Eimers

Misha is six years old. His birthday is 07-12-01. Misha is in kindergarten. Misha loves trains and candy. Misha is never one to be too shy. Misha is probably the most sensitive and outgoing of the three boys. His eyes are full of life!




Misha, Vitali, and Daddy (Vitali with his cut on his forehead)


Misha always ready for a picture


Vitali Luke Eimers

Vitali is a bundle of energy and four years old. Vitali’s birthday is 03/29/04. He is a free spirit but has grown fonder of us with each visit. Little Vitali is apt to climb up you while you are not looking and then tumble off into a heap. Vitali is the odds on favorite to be the first boy to go get stitches. Vitali likes anything he can carry around and show off and tell everybody it is HIS!

Vitali our blue eyed bundle of Energy!


Vitali loves being up in the air. His first English word was "again" his second was "I love you."

Vitali on the run again!

Court went well and the judge declared us parents of Max, Misha, and Vitali!!!!!! We are back in the states now because Ukraine is going on holiday until 7 January. The cost for airline tickets or room, board, and transportation was about the same so we are headed home for about 12 days to prepare for the boys. We arrive back in Ukraine on 8 January and then chase more “blue stamps!!!!” (passports, birth certificates, etc, etc.)

This is the end of the beginning! How is it going to play out? I don’t know! We still have about 3 weeks of chasing papers in Ukraine and then life. Vitali has never known a “family”, Misha was too young to remember “family” and Max deserved better! We are now the parents of six children, three girls and three boys. We promise to do the best we can to raise all these children in a Godly way.

For those who have partnered with us financially we cannot thank you enough. We had financially prepared to adopt these boys for several years but the total direct and indirect costs were over $60,000. Your generous gifts have allowed Max, Misha, and Vitali to have a family. We cannot adequately thank you enough!!

Steve and Melissa Eimers and our children;

Hannah 8, Max 8, Misha 6, Annette 5, Vitali 3, and Ivy 2

Court Update

We had court on 12-26 and all went well.  The judge declared us the parents of Max, Misha, and Vitali.  We are now back in the USA and will return to Ukraine on 7 January.  Ukraine is essentially closed for business until 8 January and it was essentially the same price to come home as stay.  Our friends Marie and Dayaker will be picking us up today.  WE WILL POST PICTURES THIS AFTERNOON.

Steve

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Even waaaay away from home over here in Ukraine, we still celebrated the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

We were priviledged to be invited to the home of Keith and Wendy, the missionaries I told you about before. Also there were their children, Shelby and Ryan and some of their friends, Sergei, Natalie, and Amanda. Keith read us the Christmas story and we took a few moments to think on the real reason this day is special. We had a nice time all of us together and too much food! I think that dining room chairs should have a recliner option for days like this! So we thank our friends from America for the great company and fellowship. Before we left, we took a moment and Wendy said a prayer for us and the boys especially for tomorrow's court proceedings!

Our court date is tomorrow at 10:00am local time and that means it is 3:00am Eastern Standard Time. Any of you who find themselves awake tonight (maybe some indigestion from the good food?!) are invited to remember us in prayer. If not just for the court proceedings, then for our nerves! It should go fine but....well, you understand....

We are leaving Kharkiv tomorrow by train and Ukraine on Friday by plane and will be arriving back in the States late Friday Evening. We are hoping to stay with my Aunt who lives there(--I need to pass that along to her!) Then on Saturday our friend Dayakar has graciously offered to pick us up and take us home to our girls! I can hardly wait to see them!

Please pray for us! Our nerves, our boys, our facilitator, our judge and our lawyer. Thank you for standing with us in this way. I will let you know as soon as I can! I don't know how that will play out though since we will also be travelling tomorrow! So much is happening!

I hope you all are having a very Merry Christmas! I keep remembering this verse today. You all know it. It begins like this: "Our Father, who is in Heaven..." Yes, the Lord's Prayer. Why that verse? Because with this adoption so prevalent in our thoughts today, we can't help but to remember that, as it says in the book of Romans in the Bible, "It is by the spirit of adoption that we can call, Abba, Father... This is the gift that Christ came to give. What a gift.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Swahili Anybody?

Wow!!

We went to church today with our new friends Wendy and Keith. There were people from Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, USA, Ukraine, Russia, Mauritania, India, Pakistan, Bahrain, Iraq, China, Cote D'Ivoire, Congo and so on.

We even got to hear the choir sing a Swahili song. This Ukrainian church had three African visitors several years ago who asked if they may attend services because no other church in this city of 1.5 million would allow them to worship because of their color. Today there were over 100 people of different races from over 20 countries attending services together. It was so nice to see so many smiling happy faces.

I have some incredible video I will post later.

Steve

PS Anybody in the mood for some FRESH FISH?

This and That

There are stray cats and dogs everywhere. At Misha and Vitali’s orphanage there are four dogs. There is the no tail stray, ¼ tail stray, ½ tail stray, and full tail stray. I don’t know where the rest of the tails went to.

The other day there was a little cat stuck way up in a tree just down the road so we tried to coax him down. We tried English, Russian, Catonese and bribing with food but nothing worked. We went by the same tree the next night and he was gone and there were no cat pancakes below so he must have made it!

Here is a picture of the most rag-tag looking dog at Max’s orphanage. He is in dog heaven sitting on a huge pile of trash. He had huge tufts of hair and was crazy looking!


BREAKING NEWS

WE SAW THE SUN TODAY!!!!!

Not all day but at least for an hour!

We just wanted to let everybody know we have decided to adopt again it is going to be from Hawaii!

Just kidding!

Pray for court on the 26th at 10:00 am local time in Ukraine and 3:00 am EST

Friday, December 21, 2007

Coming Home and Going Back


Steve on the short walk from Misha and Vitali’s orphanage to Max’s internot. It is uphill both ways and we have to walk it in bare feet!



Max loves taking pictures and this is one he took of us setting up the “Yolochka” (Christmas tree) Max will stage toys and take pictures of them. One of the words we have learned well is “pukozhitsa! pukozhitsa!” (show me, show me) because they want to see the picture on the back of the camera.

One of the boys in Max’s group with his banana and “Machina” (car) that we were able to give the children for St. Nicholas day on December 19th. A special thanks to all those who gave us gifts to share with the children.
We will post pictures of our boys after court.

We are coming home on the 27th of December and will come back to Ukraine to finish the rest of the paperwork and pick up the boys when we get back to Ukraine on January 8th. Ukraine likes celebrating holidays and the Government has declared December 28th through January 7th as a holiday! This means we can do nothing towards finishing up the paperwork. It is nearly the same price to stay here or go home so we have chosen to go home. This will allow us to prepare the boys’ rooms, re-energize, visit with our girls and just relax!

We are so eager to be home with the girls but we are torn by wanting to stay here with the boys. We know the boys are being treated well but that does not make leaving them any easier. We will leave plenty of snacks and toys for the boys and call them occasionally. We are trying to emphatically let the boys and the orphanage staff understand that we are coming back!

Today we both feel a little lousy and are trying some of the items our friend Ginger sent us and some of the folic acid our friend Joe at Prescription Specialties compounded for us. Please pray that we will feel better tomorrow.

We headed out to see the boys at 9:00 this morning but ended up chasing tickets all day. We stopped at Aerosvit and were told they had NO tickets until January 15th! We then headed to a travel agent who was closed and had a snack at a local coffee shop. The agents kept trying to find a direct ticket from Kiev to JFK to Knoxville and finally I told him to just get us a ticket whether it meant going through Amsterdam, Moscow, Vienna, or Australia! Our non-English speaking driver quipped in “maybe Peking!” Finallythe agent found us a ticket for $5,000 each to which we quickly said Nyet! He looked again and found that he could get us into Atlanta on the 27th and leave Atlanta on the 7th of January. We went ahead and booked the flight and headed out to the “Vagzal” (train station) to get our train tickets to Kiev. It was about noon so we were unable to make the long trip out to see the boys today and headed home until Zaftra (tomorrow)!

We still have to figure out how to get to Knoxville from Atlanta but that is only three hours and will be alot easier than trying to swim the Atlantic Ocean!

We have now been gone 14 days and seen the sun only once. It gets dark at about 3:45 pm so Ukraine competes very well with Buffalo for good weather this time of year!

It is incredible to see the different worlds in Ukraine. Misha and Vitali’s orphanage is a well kept facility but shows its age through uneven worn floors hidden under linoleum, layers of paint that make it impossible to shut the doors completely and fences that are sagging. Right next door though is a house that would compare to the best in America. It has a beautiful wall with a ornate fence on the top. It has a six car garage. The house is three stories tall and about 10,000 square feet. The house is easily a $2.5 million home. The disparity is striking!

Please keep us in your prayers as we head to court on December 26th!


Steve






Thursday, December 20, 2007

Together again...for a little bit.

So much for my dreams of a relaxing day with the boys! Today, the bigger two boys, Max and Misha had to go and get pictures taken for passports. They were trying to tell us that we would stay with Vitali and play and they would take the boys for the photos. Steve decided that we would have to be a little forceful about this. He called Alla, or translator and she relayed the message to them that we wanted to be there when Misha and Max met eachother again for the first time in a year and a half! It was fairly obvious that they thought this was strange but we worked it out. We went with Misha to Max's orphanage and then waited while Steve and Andree our driver went in to get Max.

I got out the video camera and was ready. Misha caught sight of Max and called out Maxeeeem! He was very excited. Max, in his quiet way, smiled and called out a more reserved, "Meesha!" they hugged eachother and we were glad to have been there. I don't know why is seemed so odd to the orphanage workers. We took a picture of them together and then walked back to play with Vitali.

We had fun with Vitali but he wore us out! Especially Steve. He kept asking Steve to lift him high in the air or play hide and seek or that sort of thing. Finally, one of the workers suggested we take him outside for a while, which we did. This was great for us. We could play with him on the large sun porch and he could expend some extra energy! We found out that he is very afraid of cats but the one sleepy cat that was out there refused to leave the relative warmth of the porch so Vitali kept a wary eye on it. If it got too close, we took the opportunity to teach him that we are here to be his protectors. Steve would sit between Vitali and the ferocious beast andVitali liked the excuse to snuggle against him. It was very sweet. I got a picture or two of that also.

We wanted him to go down the little plastic slide but he was afraid at the top of that, too. No problem, it was my turn to reach up and hold his hands while he slid down. I don't know if he was really afraid or not but he seemed to want to test us in this way. ( Remember, Vitali has never had a mother or father. He has been in the system since birth.) He would climb the slide and then whimper and as soon as my hands reached out to his, his face was a bright smile! We did this over and over and were glad for the chance to cuddle his willing little body a bit. He is normally too squirmy to settle for long! Its all about his mood at three years old. There is so much for him to do!

Anyway, over all, it has been a good day. I hope to call the girls tonight. We are really missing home these days but are torn because part of our family is here and part of it is in America. How good it will be to have us all under one roof at last....not for a while yet, though.

Steve is trying to figure out if we can get plane tickets or not. Our return tickets that were supposed to be changeable are not exactly so. This means getting this all figured out from here which is not nearly so easy for us as in America! Also, we have to see about the prices. This is pretty late notice for buying tickets! This would be something specific we would appreciate your prayers about!

Pakah! (Bye!),
Melissa

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Tree and other stuff.

Hi All! I wish I could post pictures...of the city and especially of the boys! Unfortunately,besides the fact that the boys have to wait, it has just taken me ten minutes for this computer to process me signing in and then choosing which of our blogs I would post on! The extremely slow internet is so annoying! Aaaarrrgghhh!

I posted yesterday but accidentally posted on my family blog! TheEimers.blogspot.com

Anyway, We have a court date! Dec 26. This is good but because of the holidays here (not dec 25--it's nothing special in Ukraine) we will have to wait the manditory ten days PLUS several more! Because of this we are, at this point, planning to fly home and then at least one of us come back to finish the process after Jan 9 when things open up again here.

In a way, I will be glad for the opportunity to go home and get the bedrooms ready. Remember, we didn't khow much of what to plan for when we left!!

I have visited several of your blogs. I haven't commented because of the time involved with waiting for the things lo load. So here are a few comments here: Beth Pie, Asa is just adorable! I am so glad that you were able to be with him. Your heart must ache to be away from him now! I hope that things will pick up soon and before you know it, you can bring him home! Bethany, my sister, If I were you I never would have had the courage to post such an un-flattering picture of myself on the internet--I only choose the ones I like! It is funny how Dakota was laying on you, though! I see you are still able to sleep on your belly. I hope your baby doesn't look like Flat Stanley ( remember those books?) when He-she is born! Also, I hope your appointment on Friday goes well and that you can find out if your little "rolling ball" is a 'football' or a 'royal ball'. Warren, your Rudolph cookie looks delicious and the boys look like they are enjoying the snow--I'm not so much... ;-) Lynn, you are getting so close to being slim-you again! Can't wait to meet the little guy! Irena, I am very impressed with your English and am wishing my Russian were as good! Some days are harder than others to communicate. Today was especially tiring! Just curious: what city in Ukraine are you from? (Or near) Thank you for your many kind comments. Christine, the personality conflict? I don't know if I can characterize it well at this point. It may just be that we looked ungrateful to her when we asked for more files. In retrospect, I want to thank her for such a perfect choice! Natailya, Say a big happy birthday to Victoria from me! And, for what it's worth, you look pretty darn good for an "old-age" person! Leslie, I loved reading Kristina's post. I wish she'd teach me some Russian too! Sounds like she's having the time of her life! and what a lucky girl: This IS her life now!

For the rest of you: the links to these sites are on my family blog on the right hand side. I recommend that you at least all visit Beth pie's site and see her pictures of little Asa in Haiti. What a cutie!

We visited the boys this morning at their orphanages. Max's first because we took his group a Christmas tree. The children were so excited! They all crowded around saying "yoolichka, Yoolichka! Kryseevaya!" (christmas tree, beautiful!) over and over! Then we brought out the ornaments and they all started again. Steve and Max put the topper on the top and it did look quite nice. We also left cookies and candies and gave the kids bananas thanks to several donations from friends. I tried to get pictrues of the kids withthe bananas but they virtually inhaled them! They were very pleased, to say the least!

Max was very proud of all this but the visit was pretty stressful for him and for us because the other kids were clamboring for our attention. We gave them all gifts, cars to the boys and the one little girl got a small doll. Oh, I wish you could have seen her face light up! She was so pleased! We gave Max a little Lego kit and he really enjoyed puting it together although he was distracted by feeling the need to police the christmas tree lights!


We only saw the little boys for a few minutes because they had to take naps. We gave them our gifts, a car for Vitali and we finally found a train for Misha! It is small enough for him to take home (if it lasts that long) and even has a little track that he started right away to put together!

It was very draining to try and communicate at these outings today because so much was different from the norm. I hope we will be able to stick more to routine from now on. That way we all know what to do and where to go!

I am looking forward to more relaxing visits tomorrow.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Update

We were able to take our camera to see Max on Friday and when we visited Misha and Vitali on Saturday, we showed the pictures of him to Misha and Vitali. The boys have not seen each other in over a year and Misha cheered MAXEEEEEEM!

Later, we went to visit Max and when we showed him video when he saw Misha, he touched the screen affectionately and said MEEEEEESHA!

It will be some time before the boys can see each other in person but it was so great to share this with them.

Today we went shopping and bought some clothes for the boys. We will post sizes soon, Bonita.

Got to run!

Steve

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Yes!

We arrived in Kharkov by overnight train and were picked up by our driver and taking to see the inspector. We had to get permission to see the boys and after several minutes we had our first YES for the day and our first of many papers.

Next we were off to see the oldest boy. He lives in an internot outside the city of Kharkov about 27 km outside the city. This was a smaller village. We sat down in an old room with three desks at which were seated the orphange director, lawyer, assistant director, medical director, psychologist, our translator, and the regional inspector. We were seated on a couch beside the wall. Various people told us things about his story. The anticipation is unbelievable! After several minutes a young blond haired blue eyed boy with his black suit, blue coat, and big hat slowly walked through the door. For so long these children were an abstract idea. They were an I-600A, dossiers, updates, cash, checks, emails, etc but now right in front of us was a scared little boy. It took everything I had to keep my tail planted on that couch.

This young boy had NO idea we were coming. He was in class and had been told to come to the director's office. He walked in the door and was sat in the center of all these adults. He was hit with several questions. Do you want to go to America with this couple? Do you want to learn English? Do you want them to be your parents? Do you want them to adopt you? At each question in his soft voice he said "Dah". I cannot even begin to imagine what it might be like to have experienced all this! We had another YES!

We got to play with the young boy for some time and shared different small gifts with him. He was a bit nervous as might be expected and after about 1 hour we had to leave. As we were leaving he got his coat and hat on and came up to us. This young boy was ready to go. He believed we were off to America right then! I wish he was right!

We were next off to see the younger boys. We walked into the baby house after a short wait and were immediately greeted by two very eager boys shouting "MAMA" "PAPA"! There was little doubt this was a yes! The director told us the youngest boy has "good dream" every night that he has a mommy and daddy. They said every time a couple comes into the orphanage he would ask "is this my mama and papa?" Everytime before the answer was no! Thursday morning the answer to that question was YES!!!!!!!

Just a few quick notes:

The oldest boy is 8 years old and is 2 weeks younger than Hannah. He has blond hair and blue eyes and a soft spoken attitude. We enjoy our visits so much with him and he is very smart. He loves to share the candy and bananas we bring him with his group. His name is Max. He always asks as we leave "when will you come back and see me again?

The middle boy is 6 years old and suprisingly plump! He has hazel eyes and brown hair. He has a throaty voice. He has been a favorite of the director and this shows! When we are with him he is possessive of us and if another child other than his younger brother is with us he will escort them out and close the door. This is a good sign for bonding. His name is Misha (Mikhial)! He does not necessarily share his brother's sharing skills and was not happy with me when I would not let him eat his 3rd banana in 10 minutes!

The youngest boy is a sweet little boy and full of energy. He gets a toy or candy and immediately runs through the whole house showing off his new possession. He is full of energy! His name is Vitali. My mom calls him vitality! This description fits him well.

This journey has been tough with many bumps in the road. Many times we had delays and a very large one in July. If we had been to Ukraine earlier we would not have had the chance to meet these boys as they were just recently registered for adoption. The timing was perfect but painful!

Our appointment on Tuesday was not fun!! We were essentially shown 1 file, we had expected at least 4 and up to 12. This was shocking! I was near panic as we sat there thinking we had come this far and now we are sitting here and about to fail. There was abit of a personality conflict at our appointment and we reluctantly took the referral for these boys and went home. We were rather angry. After, I made a call to one of our pastors in the states and was describing the appointment and the referral. I began to review what happened and began to realize that I had misdirected my feelings towards the children. I can say I felt no emotional attachment to the boys before this point. As I was talking I have never been hit so hard as when speaking about things having to do with the boys. I realized then, AGAIN, how selfish I have been. I knew then they were ours! When we met these boys they were perfect for us!

There are still many steps and we are praying for a court date on Christmas Eve or Christmas day. We will know more on Monday! I can't imagine a better Christmas!

Steve

And Now---My Perspective...

Ahhhhhh.......internet! At last! Don't tell Steve because \I complained all the way over here since it is below freezing ---but I am glad to have access and glad that our Russian was good enough to ask where was the internet cafe, to read the signs and follow the directions we were given, etc... Sometimes being here is an exciting adventure but I really miss my language!

The good news:
We have accepted the referral to adopt three boys! We can't publish their pictures yet because of the way it works here. After court, after the ten day waiting period we will be able to show you pictures. Yes, this is a while. I hated waiting on the other blogs too! We are hoping to have court on Dec. 24th or 25th. Christmas for us, but not here!
We will know on Tuesday. Please pray for this to go well and speedily.

Let me tell you about the boys. We are so in love! The oldest, Max, is 8. We met him first. We were shown into a big, cold-looking (but heated) building and then into a room that was large but quite empty except for three desks facing eachother in the middle of the room and one built in couch all along one wall. We sat on the couch with our translator until the director and some other people got there, including the inspector. (we had to have the inspector present because since Max is over 7 years, he must agree to be adopted. I was worried a little about this part. ) The inspector, the doctor, our translator, and some people from the orphanage, including the orpahage lawyer, sat around these desks and talked about the details. Alla, our translator, occasionally giving little pre-agreed upon winks to let us know things were going well.

Then, we were asked did we want to meet the boy? Did we?!! YES! Word went out to find him and bring him in. He had to leave his classes and come to where we were. I was not prpared--couldn't have been-- for my first sight of him. Tears filled my eyes looking at that sweet young boy standing in the huge doorway of that big room. He looked around, obviously wondering how he fit into this picture. They called him to sit at one of the desks--the one closest to our couch. He was sitting kind-of sideways to us looking straight ahead to the inspector who was asking him questions. We gathered that she was telling him why we were there and that we might adopt him, if he were willing and take him to America in an airplane. He would have to learn English but he would get three sisters, and live again with his two brothers who he hadn't seen in a year and a half. Would he like to be our son? Did he agree? These were the questions the inspector asked him. The corners of his serious little mouth turned up a bit and he looked our direction. I saw him glance at me and give Steve a once-over. Us trying to look friendly and hide the emotions we had welling inside of us. He looked back to the inspector, "Da." he said. She asked again to be sure. His tongue stuck out a little this time as he smiled shyly, "da." he said again. So they brought him over to us and took our hands and put his in ours and we looked at eachother. Our translator introduce us as Steve and Maleessa ( that is how my name sounds here) We spent the next hour playing with him and just in awe that this could be our son. Barring some awful development at this point, we knew we would take him home forever.

When it was time to go, we said we had to leave and picked up our coats. He got his coat and hat as well and was ready to go right then! Alla told him that we would be back tomorrow maybe. She later told us that he said, " Can they come sooner? I will wait for them!"

Then we were off to the littler boys' orphanage only a block away. We walked in the door of the house they were in and the boys were quickly found and dancing at our feet! Oh, what precious little guys! Their names are Misha and Vitali. (Yes, Irena, we are keeping their names!) Then we were led into a room which was the bedroom. We sat on a couch in this room and the boys came up to us and asked us where were the presents?!! When people come, it means candies, cookies and gifts for the lucky kids! Now it was their turn and they were so proud! Steve pulled a couple of matchbox cars out of his pocket and they ran off showing everyone they could see, holding them high. Proud as could be. They, especially the three-year-old were quite cuddly. They have been well taken care of, well fed and they are quite happy! We were worn out at the end of our time together, though! Vitali is especially lively.

I know Steve is going into a little more detail about their personalities so I will skip ahead and say that we have spent ever since then pursuing documents so that we can bring them home! Well, Alla has--we have been obediently waiting and signing where needed. :-)

Today we visited them again for the third time. We got some very nice pictures and video--especially of Max. I can't wait for you all to meet them--some of you here and some of you in person!

Our apartment is nice--two bedrooms, kitchen large living room, a bathroom with a hot water tank that can last for a whole shower (believe me-- it's a luxury!), and a beautiful view. We are enjoying the food, smiling at how diffently Ukrainians behave and think from Americans (good and bad), and loving to visit our boys!

Of course, we are missing our girls like crazy but we are blessed to know hey are in good hands and that soon we will all be together as a big family! (Hannah keeps begging to share a room with Max! She doesn't understand why we don't let her!)

You all, this is totally amazing to be here and be with our boys, to be dreaming of home and taking them with us and all this. We can not believe how blessed we are to have this opportunity, and how grateful we are that we took it, and how awestruck we are at how we could instantly fall so head over heels for these boys! I am sitting here trying to put this all into words and find that there just aren't any. Three boys who needed a family will have one and we are amazingly blessed to be that family. Do you ever get that choked-with-emotion feeling? I do, everytime I think about all this. Praise God for all of this. I'll say it again. This is amazing, I am so overwhelmed! (in a good way!)

I am going now to look over a few of your blogs! I have missed all of you and it is so refreshing to be so far from home but still get words of encouragement and joy from those of you in the web-world! Keep the comments coming! I do a little cheer inside when I see a bunch of comments!

Love to you all!
Melissa

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Leaving Kiev!

We are on the 10:25 pm train to Kharkov tonight. This is a city of 1.4 million people. I believe our friend Alex from Knoxville is from Kharkov. It will feel good to switch from tourist mode to what our focus truly is. We cannot wait to see these young boys. The bureaucracy here is significant and even our simple visit requires many stamps and approvals before we can see the children. Pray that all goes smoothly.

Steve

PS We may be off-line for some time!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Our appointment

We have accepted a referral and will visit 3 boys. Yes, boys!

Since we have no experience with boys could somebody please run out to our house and smash all the walls with Tonka trucks, throw baseballs through at least three windows and practice belching the alphabet. Please then email us the pictures and video; we need to prepare.

We are excited to go to Kharkov tomorrow evening on the overnight train.

Would you believe those boys are named Steve, Steve, and Steve?

We will post more details after arriving in region. Please continue to pray for us and pray for these 3 young boys. We hope these may be the children we will adopt.

Steve

Ten Things you won't hear in Ukraine

10. Where is the handicap parking?
9. If you're not greeted with a smile, your service is FREE!
8. Super size me!
7. Is there lead in that paint?
6. Injured? Call Cellinosky and Barnesky 1-800-123-4567!
5. W, For President!
4. Hey! This play ground isn't safe!
3. Fur is dead!
2. Excuse me, am I in your personal space?

and the number one thing you won't hear in Ukraine....

1. Hola!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tomorrow at 8:00 am EST and 3:00 PM local time!

We have our exact appointment time!

It is tomorrow at 0800 EST and 1500 local time.

What will happen is that we will make the five minute walk from our apartment to the SDA for our appointment. Our facilitator and translator will accompany us to the appointment. We will meet with an English translator and the SDA psychologist for 1 hour. The psychologist will have matched us with 4-10 sibling groups (on 39 areas of compatibility)

They may ask us different questions about why we want to adopt from Ukraine and why we want to adopt 3? Why we want to have such a big family?

We will scroll through the files and be told about each group and have time to ask questions and seek clarification. From what we are told this is strictly one hour and then we will have to choose. The magnitude of this decision will be life altering for us, for these children, and for the children we cannot take. The stakes are great and the pressure will be intense.

Please pray for us and all the children we will be discussing tomorrow.

Thanks,

Steve

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Day In Kiev

(Steve, on the phone at gate seven where we waited for our plane in Knoxville)

(Our view from our kitchen window)

( The pizza we had for lunch. It was soooo goood! Those red things are the pepperonis)

(Steve and Dima )


(part of the church wherre the Cave of the Monasteries is. The fog today was so thick that we could barely see the top)

(There were many different mini-museums surrounding the church as well. Here I am in the Holograph museum with some Czar)

(My dinner this evening. It was really yummy even though the photo may not show it)

I have never,until now, flown overseas. It is not all that fun. I am pretty sure that, even in first class, it would have been uncomfortable. We were fortunate to be able to fly over from Washington to Kiev in economy plus which is one step up from coach but a few steps down from first class. We watched one movie, then another, then an episode of CSI and finally, an episode of Everybody loves Raymond. The flight itself was six and a half hours long. The first 3 weren't so bad...

We arrived, got to meet our Facilitator, Valentina, and our Translator, Alla, who were holding a sign bearing our name, at the airport after we had struggled our way through customs. (Not that they gave us a hard time; it was just tricky to fill out the forms when we hadn't really slept in 24 hours.)

Our driver, Sasha, deftly whipped us through traffic and I quickly discovered that I would be better off not to pay much attention to his driving! We were going FAST--no seat belts, either. We stopped at a grocery store and bought a few things to get us by for right now and then to settle things about our apartment. Some discussion in Russian (or Ukrainian, I don't know) and the exchange of bills and we were off to find our place.

My first impression was to wonder what kind of place this was going to be. The outside was dingy, though it must have been quite nice at one time, the doors worn and old looking. The inside hallway wasn't much better:In need of paint, cement floors that had been worn shiny with time and not by buffing, dark and also dingy. None of the doors seemed to have numbers. I don't know how They managed to pick ours out!

We walked in through a door which lets us into an entry area which contains our door and two others. Instant difference. Remember in The Wizard of Oz when all is black and white and Dorothy opens the door and there is instant color? Picture that--only no Munchkins. Now we had light and color on the walls, a warm golden. Three doors in front of us; all different. One heavy and deeply beveled, Ours, the tallest, about eight feet high and another that is probably seven feet tall and wide. (Interesting since most doors in the U.S. are standard sizes, particularly in the same building. ) We opened the door with our key (which is really cool looking) and came in. We have a kitchen and bedroom and bathroom. Nothing fancy but nicer than a hotel room. And phew! a regular toilet! Our ceilings must be 15 feet high. Which surprised me. I will try and post pictures. Maybe tomorrow.

Today, we went for a tour of Kiev with Alla's son, Dima. He was a great tour guide. We wanted to see the underground Mall, the metro (the deepest subway in the world) and Steve wanted to see the cave of the Monasteries. The Mall looked like an American mall so we can say we've been there but we weren't there long. The Metro was pretty interesting. You go down two sets of really loooonnnnnggggg escalators to the bottom. Dima said I could take pictures but that it is actually illegal. I opted to borrow one from someone else. We were moving so fast I didn't really want to let go and get out my camera!

The best was the Caves of the Monasteries. What a completely unique experience! We couldn't take pictures so you will have to rely on my descriptions. We did take pictures of the outside of the buildings. This is an area built under a church and its outbuildings so we have pictures of the buildings, if not the caves. The caves were dark and unlit, except by candles. Dima told us that he took an American woman down once and she got panicky in the close quarters, dim light and stuffy air and fainted! Turns out she was claustrophobic! Not us, we made it just fine. I had to wear my hood for a head covering and we carried candles. We passed quite a few mummified monks and many people crossing themselves and praying. The monks were not intentionally mummified and it is supposed that their preservation is a kind of miracle.

We walked quite a bit. We began the day with lunch at a local pizza place and finished with dinner at a place that I can't remember the name of (something like Gallery of Tastes, in English) but that had good Ukrainian food and had pictures on the walls of a questionable nature--to say the least! We didn't notice the pictures at first. They were in black and white and weren't that big but once we noticed, we couldn't help but laugh--We weren't in America anymore! I had borscht, Hulupci, and something like beef stroganoff and a dessert crepe which wasn't that great. The rest was really good, though.

I know I am going on and on and what you all want to know is about the kids and the appointment but you'll have to hold on a bit. Our appointment isn't until Tuesday. We still don't know what time. We will let you know when we do!

Steve is fighting to keep himself awake. It is 1:00 in TN and 8:00pm here. We slept from 5:00 pm yesterday until 5:ooam this morning and then I went back to sleep for a mid-morning nap. I am glad I did because now while Steve is miserable, I feel pretty good still! Poor Steve! Tomorrow things should be better.

Thanks for all your prayers. We are thankful to God for you all.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Safe and Sound and Sleepy...

We're here! We are so exhausted! We did our calls to home and were able to skype with the girls and try out the video conversing. The sound kept cutting out on their end(we couldn't always hear them). I don't know if that is our problem or theirs. Anyway, It was good to check in.

Good night-- in the morning for you and in the afternoon for us.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I'm leaving on a Jet Plane.....

I'm leaving on a jet plane don't know when I'll be back again......

This one's for Ivy and Annette



This one is for the purists who know only John Denver should sing this song



Goodbye

Steve and Melissa

RE: Request to post prayer cards

I have had several prospective adoptive parents ask me about the prayer card we used.

Here is the Jpeg on it

Front

Back
My friend Jerry Godolphin did these. Very professional. Very reasonable.

Here is his contact info.

Jerry Godolphin

http://godolphinphoto.com/

Godolphin Photo
865-966-5690 Office
877-216-1312 Toll Free

*Weddings *Families *Events

Memberships:
Professional Photographers of America

Christian Photographers International
National Association of Photoshop Professionals

Smoky Mountain Professional Photographers

Tennessee Professional Photographers

Just a thought

Tomorrow, December 7th, a day that for Americans, lives in "infamy" we will leave for Ukraine. (It won't live in infamy because I was born on that day!)

I was contemplating all the help we have gotten from so many different people on this journey. I was thinking about the fact we will miss Christmas with our girls and be gone for 4-6 weeks and then I kind of felt guilty. I realized that several of our relatives are in harms way in Iraq and they have been gone for a year not just weeks. I realized that while not "home" I would still be enjoying comfort during this journey. I would be remiss if I did not recognize the significant contribution the US Military has made that helped bring down the iron curtain.

I remember staying up late in 1984 at the age of 9 watching the returns come in for the last great American president Ronald Reagan and being disappointed when he lost Minnesota! 20 years ago Mr Reagan went to the Brandenburg gate and shared this speech. If president Reagan had listened to the mealy mouthed wimps around him he would have never uttered perhaps the most important words of the 20th century:

....General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet
Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr.
Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!...

If not for the courage of President Reagan and the blood, sweat, and tears of the US military backing him up we now would be unable to be entering the breadbasket of the former USSR and giving three young children a home.

Special Thanks to Uncle Larry, Jason, Eric and Wiley!

Steve

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

For Ivy

Ivy will often come down in the morning and climb up on my lap as I am checking email and getting started. She will say "puppies". She loves watching puppies, kittens and animals on youtube. I am posting these favorites of hers here so she can watch them when we are gone.

Love you Ivy

This is Ivy's all time favorite




Tuesday, December 04, 2007

No more updating the thermometer

That is one very good looking thermometer I must say. If you ever need to create one you can do it entropyfarm.org.

We have been so blessed and are just ready to get moving!

Please pray for our children here and there.

This video of Psalm 23 is great!

Flight 1713

I was recently asked about when I first thought about adoption. This was something Melissa and I had talked about for some time and even seriously explored back in 2002. For me though I remember the first time I thought of adopting a child was on November 15, 1987. I would have been 11 years old and in 5th grade I believe.

What happened was a plane crashed in Denver, Colorado. I remembered hearing news reports about a young infant that survived that crash and at the time I thought had been orphaned. I had the most bizarre dream that night and still remember that I adopted the child. I was quite concerned in my dream about how as an 11 year old I would raise a child.

Last night and this morning I did some research and discovered that the flight was Continental Flight 1713 and the child was located in seat 24E and most likely was not orphaned. It is amazing what a seed planted out of a deadly plane crash on an icy runway in Denver over 20 years ago has grown into.

Steve

Monday, December 03, 2007

Jehovah Jireh

My God Will provide!

A little over a year ago we started this journey to be the family for 3 young children. I was sitting in the attic office of one of my customers and he was asking questions and asked me about the costs and my income. He informed me that there was no way we could do what we were talking about doing unless somebody paid for the whole thing or we saved for five years or incurred tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

We are now at full budget!

Over the last year we purchased a vehicle that would seat a family of eight and with no debt. We saved enough money to cover 2 months lost income. With Melissa's brother's help, we finished off our basement. Then we carpeted it, and bought beds to sleep our entire family. These indirect preparatory costs exceeded $20,000 but we have NO debt. We bought our vehicle used and at a significant discount, we used our Home Depot 10% school coupon books. We worked hard on finishing our basement and even became carpenters with online help from Google, Youtube and Yahoo. (and I learned never to try and fix your own garage door.) We just kept moving forward and the money was there to keep going.

Concurrently, we were beginning to pay for direct expenses like USCIS approval and a Homestudy. We came across the website of Cathy Harris, an adoption consultant in Florida, at this time. Cathy is a single mother of about 10 kids most of them adopted from Ukraine. Cathy is not an agency but she shows you how to adopt independently from Ukraine and usually about $20,000 less than what it would costs to adopt 3 children with an agency! The constant skeptic, I googled Cathy's name and got only positive things, I then added the word fraud; nothing bad! I compared Cathy's client list of over 1,000 to the number of IR-3 visas issued in Ukraine and found Cathy was responsible for over 20% of all Ukrainian adoptions in recent years! Instead of $50,000 our costs would only be about $32,000.

During the early stages God provided the opportunity for us to attend a conference with Dr Gregory Keck the world's leading attachment and bonding expert. There were 300 social workers, tons of resources, and Dr Keck. We were the only Prospective Adoptive Parents in attendance so we had everybody mentoring us!

We continued saving and moving forward and God started providing funds through small gifts. We broke into our change jar, Melissa hand-painted cards, we had a lawn sale and gifts kept coming in. One morning we decided to take the girls to Shoney's for breakfast. We were sitting next to an older couple and the man commented on the girls' behavior. Hannah and Annette then told him all about our plans and how they were going to have 3 more brothers or sisters. They asked me to go and get him one of our prayer cards. This 80+ year old man got in his car and then drove through the parking lot and found us. He had to unhook from his oxygen and walked up to our car door and handed me a $100 bill.

People from all over this country have provided support. We have gotten gifts from people we don't know and may not ever meet. We have had dozens of my customers share gifts. We have had church friends share gifts. We have had old friends share gifts. We saved our own money like crazy! My business grew about 15% this year!

God has provided more than just funds; he has provided friends. We have made friends with Sasha and Vera and their family of 5 Ukrainian children. We have been able to attend the local Ukrainian church and last week even got to share with that church our hope. God has supernaturally placed several people in our lives over the last year.

Let me share the last 30 hours. We attend a large church of about 9,000 members. Many of those people are doing very worthy things so it meant so much to us when our pastor asked us to come forward and asked questions about our trip, prayed over us, and then asked our congregation to pray for us over this journey. We got to go out for lunch with our Sunday School class and one of the guys offered to build us the right size kitchen table we have been looking for unsuccessfully! I got on the computer last night and found we had gotten a $250 online donation putting us at just $1,250.00 from full budget. In the evening we went to dinner with our good friends Marie and Dayaker. This morning I had a FBC member who overheard me talking to my chiropractor follow me out to the parking lot and give us a check for $200. We were just $1,050 from full budget. I stopped to pick up some pharmaceuticals for our trip from another FBC member and the bill should have been about $150 instead he rang it up at $0.00. I got home and there was a check for $500 from an old friend in the mail. We were just $552 from full budget. I updated our website and had a phone call come in from my window cleaning supply house about an order I had placed but not finished. I told Nancy I had just been so busy and told her what we were doing. I shared our website with her and told her I would try to get everything ordered before I left but wasn't sure I would get it done. Not 10 minutes later Nancy called me back and notified me she was sending a check for the remainder. (Just a quick aside Nancy owns Harry Falk Window Cleaning; Harry Falk is the same name -not related-as Melissa's grandfather!) Tonight we got two more gifts which helps add some buffer. We also got to spend an incredible evening of fellowship with our friends Sasha and Vera.

God has humbled me this year!

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

-vision of the prophet Isaiah.