Just Waiting

After Silas’s court date, we were blessed beyond belief when he was allowed to stay with us during our waiting period.  I stayed in country until that Friday and Mark stayed the rest of the time until Silas could come home.  Hopefully, eventually, Mark can blog about his time in Ukraine.  We were thrilled that they got to be there to celebrate their Independence day and that Papa was able to fly over to spend some time with them and seeing Ukraine!

For now, here are some photos from our adventures while I was there. We found a great park in Bila Tserkva with a fun ropes course. Just because he was standing there all handsome. There was a park near our apartment too.  Plenty of space for soccer and basketball… And climbing!

Cotton candy in Europe is a bit different than the US.  It was straight up just sugar.  No flavors, no artificial dyes etc.  Not our favorite but still edible.

My cooking went up a notch thanks to Google translate making sure I grabbed the right seasoning packets.

The sign in our elevator let’s us know not to use the bathroom in there.  Just an FYI.

Silas insisted we grab these tiger hot dogs.  Mark said they were terrible and only after he cooked them did he realize the stripes needed to be peeled off.

When I made it to the airport for my journey home, these beautiful art pieces were on display.  A photographer had taken classic art and re-shot them with Ukrainian scenes.  So much patriotism and pride for the country could be seen in each photograph.

Austria Not Australia

After a very sad good-bye, we headed back to Kyiv and then to Austria.  We planned a 24 hour layover to check out all things Vienna and squeezed in as much of their culture as we could in that time.
Riding the train from the airport to City Centre. Our first glimpse of Vienna.

Riding through the country side is quite beautiful.

We probably spent way too many hours trying to find a hotel in Vienna.  We decided on a art boutique hotel (reasonably priced of course).  Our room’s air wasn’t working and there were dog paintings on the wall that made us giggle.  I know.  I know.  It’s art.  But it was fun art and that made us laugh.

Our main stop was Schonbrunn Palace, the hunting palace of the Hapsburgs.  This wasn’t a fake backdrop.  Nope.  It was the real thing.  A large, beautiful, proud Austrian piece of architectural and interior design.  We toured and were able to walk where Mozart and Napoleon walked.  Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside the palace.

A small metal model of the palace grounds.

The gardens were fair game for picture taking.  And just as gorgeous as the inside!

Roses were in abundance.

On the way back to the subway, we couldn’t pass by a golden Mozart street performer without taking a picture.

Speaking of the subway, we enjoyed the art.  It was fairly clean and easy to navigate.  

A beautiful statue on the way to our hotel.

For supper, we headed to City Centre.  We saw St. Stephen’s and just basked in the beautiful architecture. And the crowds.  It was so busy!

Every side of St. Stephen’s included a beautiful piece of art.

Trip Advisor gave super good reviews for Aida and was right in the city centre.  And ya’ll, the desserts did not disappoint.  Yes, supper was good…but dessert.  Oh my!

Vienna was beautiful and we fit in as much as we could in 24 hours.  I would love go back and see more one day.

At Last

After we had our appointment with the ministry in Kyiv, we headed to visit Silas.  He was at summer camp which gave us a bit more freedom in spending time with him (school days are pretty structured).  We were able to see him for four days in a row and stayed from lunch to late afternoon.
We made sure to bring a few toys that would be fun to share and goof around with.  These silly glasses were a hit. Silas almost always had a friend with him.  We enjoyed getting to know D.  His English was okay and he enjoyed trying to talk to Zoe. There was a river across the street from the camp.   Mark got in the river one day and they had fun.  Zoe and I both forgot our swimsuits and purchasing them there was not really an option. I managed to get some snuggles in between venturing everywhere. One day, the older boys took us to a lumber yard area (Zoe said it said something about animals) and they convinced the owner to let us come look.  We walked over to the gate and saw a forest of boars.  Lots of them.   From giant ones to little babies.  Lots of fun to look at and all the boys were super excited to show us.
Silas writing his letter stating he wanted to be a part of our bunch. We brought our lunch each day but the director of the camp was insistent that we eat with them.  We were able to try some very interesting and authentic food but we all agreed it was very yummy. Before

After

The Making of a World Traveler

Last year, when we were working on our adoption and Zoe started to show an interest in languages, we got a crazy idea.  I would think it was probably me that first had it, but really, I can’t even remember.  Anyway, we invited Zoe to go with us on one of our trips to Ukraine for Silas’s adoption.  She wholeheartedly agreed and a tradition was born.  She asked grandparents and aunts and uncles for money for her 13th birthday and we agreed to pay for some of it as well.  Now, 13th birthdays are plane ride birthdays to somewhere.  Zoe’s just happened to be halfway around the world.A quick picture with Papa before Zoe gets some stamps in her passport!

She was super nervous about the plane ride.  But not too nervous to give up a window seat.

Her first plane ride food.  Lufthansa has pretty good plane food.  We traveled Austria airlines home and, well, it was ah-mazing. Watching the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean.

Layover in Frankfurt, Germany. Zoe and I saw a castle (painting).  In the process, we had several German employees giggling.  Goofiness is international.

No.  I didn’t get sick.  We just wanted to be funny.  I don’t get sick on planes, trains, or automobiles.  Our family is blessed with no sort of motion sickness (except the dog).

A German McDonald’s Breakfast

My thrill was on the way back in, we had a layover in Newark.  We saw New York City out of the plane window and we could see the Statue of Liberty too.  That was our first time being that close to New York City.

I’m fairly certain we have created a world traveling addiction in Zoe.  This thrills Mark to no end.  And I can’t wait to see where her dreams and God take her!

Announcing…

We are excited to announce

Silas Yaroslav

joined our family on August 9th 2016 around 4:30 p.m.

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Our new family with the inspector and Silas’s director at his school.

This has definitely been my longest “pregnancy”  but every second was worth it to have Silas be our son!

We had a great court and were so excited by the support of everyone involved.  It could not have gone smoother.

I know several of ya’ll are scratching your heads trying to figure out who Silas is.  Well, when we went on our “first” first trip, a name change was discussed with our facilitator. We decided to ask Silas what he wanted.  We knew we wanted to keep his birth name, Yaroslav, because he was named after King Yaroslav the Wise.  We chose several names that we knew were distinctly American names.

We went through several names  and he shook his head no with all of them.  Until we landed on Silas.  He gave a resounding yes for that one.

When we took our “second” first trip this past July, he was still very definite that he wanted Silas to be his first name.  After court, Silas was definite that we should call him that.  And he corrected his siblings when they tried to call him Yaroslav or Yarik (the nickname for Yaroslav).

So, our Y the Brave (also known as Yarik the Brave) is now Silas the Brave!

And to note:

Silas is sometimes a Greek variation of the Aramaic Saul which means “prayed for”

Yaroslav means “fierce and glorious”

Our baby, the one we have prayed fiercely for.  The one who has made us see God’s provision over and over.  Who is tender and determined and who is ours forever.  What a journey we have been on and yet, have just started!

Silas’s life verse is so fitting for the start of his life with us.

On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
    and I will declare your greatness.

Psalm 147:5-6

Dossier 2.0

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In May, we finished up and submitted our second dossier.  A few weeks later, we heard from the powers that be and in a few weeks, we’ll see our Y the Brave!

Yes, this has taken awhile.  No, it’s not over yet.  We’ll have our second “first” visit and then wait somewhere around a month and have our court date.  After that, it’ll be around ten days before the last trip and to officially pick up our son!   We’re praying everything moves quickly and smoothly from here on out.

We would love your prayers for

  1.  safe travel for us.
  2. safety and a good time for the kids as they stay with family.
  3. a good reunion with Y the Brave.

I can not wait to see our son.  I can not wait to visit his beautiful home country!

We’re keeping a close eye on our funds but, there is a good chance that even with the added trip, we should be okay.   Our God has provided so much for us this past year through friends, donations, gifts and grants.  We are trusting in His provision as we continue.

Adoption Update

I know I’ve been quiet on what is going on with our adoption.  But, rest assured, it is still ongoing.  Because of some rules, we have had to wait and do a re-start.  We aren’t have to pay any extra out of pocket (something that is a very real concern with any adoption) to the agent.  We’ll have our dossier 2.0 complete the first part of May and it will go back over.  We are praying we’ll get to take our second first trip (we have to re-start our trip process too) in June.

For now, we are waiting and praying.  We miss our Y the Brave. Yes, we’ve been very busy with Emmie but Y has never left our hearts, minds, and prayers.  We all still want him home very much.

But, once again, God reminds us that He is in control of our lives and even our Y the Brave.  We are trusting Him to bring Y home at just the right time.

In the meantime, we have a flower/gift delivery service that we are able to use to send special treats to him.  In return, we get pictures from the delivery.

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In March, we sent 32 Kinder Eggs.  Thirty-two chocolate treat eggs.  Thirty-two.  We told him to share.  We are praying he did.  His dentist is praying the same thing!  Hopefully, we redeemed ourselves with April’s basket.

Just look at him!  He’s getting so big.  And so we wait on God’s timing and trust him in God’s hand.

Sole Searching

While reading through an adoption fundraiser page on Facebook, we found out about shoe fundraisers to help fund our adoption.  Hm, I thought, this is a good idea and an opportunity to help someone else.

We spent 90 days collecting shoe donations from all over.  Those shoes are then weighed and we receive a certain amount per pound.  The shoes are then re-used/re-purposed by microenterprises in third world countries.

In order for us to get the full amount per pound, we had a set goal of 100 bags of 25 pairs of shoes.  That’s 2500 pairs of shoes.  Two thousand, five hundred.

We set it up and then sent out a plea to Facebook.

And boy did they respond!  We had local businesses, doctors and dentists offices set up.  Our neighbor asked people in stores…like normal shoppers.  She was also responsible for getting boxes set up in local gyms!  We even had a friend drive eight hours to bring us the stash she scored from a local consignment sale (over 13 bags!).
IMG_20160107_091436181 We had several pick ups, thankfully, so we didn’t have a garage of over 100 bags for 90 days.IMG_20160107_091452474 DSC_4305

It was definitely a family affair.  The kids were super troopers pairing shoes and rubber banding and bagging them.

When all was said and done we had over 115 bags and made over $1100!  This had to be one of our most favorite fundraisers because it brought our community and our family together.  It was definitely a lot of work but it was so incredibly worth it.

You Can Have It

He stretched out his hand to reveal a crumpled one dollar bill and four quarters.

“Here mama,” he said.  “You can have it.  It’s two dollars for your adoption.”

No words.  I couldn’t say anything as I graciously held on to the two dollars our five year old, Bryant put in my hands.  For him, that was all the money he had.  But he wanted to use it for his brother.

****

The afternoon before, three eager young faces came bouncing in from outside.  They were planning and plotting and had an idea.

“Mama, we want to sell hot chocolate to raise money for the adoption. Can we?”

My response was, “Sure but, unfortunately, I’m not too sure hot chocolate will sell in this 75 degree weather we are having.” But then they never had to.

Please don’t think we are telling the kids we have no money and they have to give.  We haven’t.  They have helped with a lot of fundraisers.  They see friends and family giving and encouraging us and, I think, they just want a piece of the action.  To be able to give and do something.

***

December 20th, a text came through from friends.  “What do you need to finish paying for your adoption?”  Mark and I looked at the paperwork and responded back a high sum.  Then Mark remembered money that was coming in from one place.  Then another.  And the number continued to shrink.  I sent them what I thought was a modest amount when Mark spoke up and said he thought it would be closer to a number a bit smaller.  After he said that, I looked down at my phone.  Our dear friends wanted to donate the amount he just said.

Just like that.  Our fundraising for adoption.  Less than a year of working.  Less than a year of me worrying more than I should have been trusting.  And we’re done.  God has provided.  I know He is the provider.  To see His hand move over something that I just knew, at times, would be near to impossible without us going in to massive debt.  God spoke peace over our adoption processes over and over with incidences like this.

We praise Him for providing but also for who He is and how He is working in our family.

I was told by lots of dear friends who have been there that this road was long and hard and heartbreaking.  I understand now what they meant.  We won’t be able to travel until sometime after June.  As hard as this is, we are trusting God for His timing and that He is watching over our Y the Brave.

Beautiful Land

We arrived on a Sunday late afternoon.  Completely exhausted.  After we got settled in to our apartment, we went to a pizza place right next door.   Apparently, Italian restaurants are very popular in Ukraine.  We saw a lot of them and ate at a few.  DSC_3706 This is me trying to stay awake.  My pants make look funky but they were oh so comfy and perfect for a long flight.  I just look rough but I thought I would keep it real.

 

So, on Sunday, our transport parallel parked and we were pleasantly surprised to find the city so quiet and peaceful.  IMG_20151111_073048766_HDRMonday, however, was a different story… DSC_3707

The two lane street became one lane and there were policemen directing traffic and parking cars on the street.  We later found out that they don’t have parking garages in the city but are still dealing with building built several hundred years ago.

We loved our little apartment.  After skyping with the kids on Sunday night around 8:30 where we were and with about six hours of sleep between the two of us, we hit the hay and woke up briskly when one of our facilitators called us at 10:30 am the next day.  Never in my life have I slept so long.  It was heavenly!

We assured our facilitator we were good and fixed a brunch of oatmeal and whatever we could find and read and then headed out to explore the city.  I’m glad we had a day to recoup and recover from flying.  It was nice to relax and prepare mentally for what would be a long week.

DSC_3726 St. Micheal’s Cathedral

These churches are amazing and while most have had to be remodeled and renovated, they still resound with the architecture and design that was very common in orthodox churches built in the Byzantine Empire (that would be around the 11th century).DSC_3722

St. Sophia’s Cathedral and one of the most popular stops in Kiev.  Absolutely beautiful! DSC_3720

The statue is of Yaroslav the Wise.  The most famous king of Ukraine.  His remains are interred in St. Sophia’s.

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Yaroslav the Wise at the reconstructed Golden Gates.
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St. Volodomir’s Cathedral.  This church was bright and cheerful.  It was close to our apartment and just beautiful to walk by.  Mark and I stopped several times as we passed it just to stare.

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Beautiful folk art on the buildings.  We saw a lot of this when we drove out of the city.

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St. Andrew’s Cathedral.  It was being renovated but it was just as beautiful.

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Another cool statue.  There were several cool statues all over the city.

What we thought was our last night in Kiev, we decided to go to the opera.  The opera house has a different show every night and while the prices appear high, if you calculate them in to American currency, we got amazing box seat tickets for the price one would pay for a nosebleed seat here.

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The Opera House.  It was just as beautiful inside as it is out.

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Inlaid wood floors.

We met up with another family who was in the process of adopting (I say was because they should be coming home on Thursday!  Eek!).  After eating supper, they decided to “splurge” and go to the opera with us.  We saw Aida.  An Italian opera.  About an Ethiopian and Egyptian.  In Ukraine.  It was a multi-cultural experience to say the least.  They had a screen set up on stage that translated the words to Ukainian.  Now that was super neat to see.

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We had Ukrainian chocolate at the Italian opera.  Can I just say, yummy?  Best chocolate I’ve had ever.

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Our new friends with a random stranger in the far background.  I think he thought we were all insane but we had a great time.

After all our paperwork stuff, we finally got to travel to see Y on Thursday.  We were blessed to be able to spend time with him Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Now Y is only 8.  He has no real access to computers or any way to communicate with us.  He had no clue we were coming.  He had no clue we were working to adopt him.  Can you imagine the look on his face when he walked in to the director’s office and saw us?  Sheer joy!  I cried happy tears.  After we got some awesome hugs, the first thing he did was ask about Emmie.  See, he’s our son.  He asks about the favorite sibling first!

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One of my favorite pictures.  That’s a whole lot of happiness right there.

IMG_20151113_161911882_HDR Mark enjoyed playing around the grounds with the kids.IMG_20151114_113001971 All of his friends were super nice and loved to talk to us a mile a minute.  In Ukrainian.  They worked some on their English and laughed when we tried to speak Ukrainian.IMG_20151114_114615767 We brought a small amount of toys and they were eager to see what we had for them.  They were grateful and sweet with them.IMG_20151114_123421751 Y’s buddy N.  They are a close knit group of kids.IMG_20151114_135722683 Our playmates on Saturday.  They don’t have school on Saturday.  We were able to spend a bit more time than the previous two days but it still wasn’t enough for us, of course.IMG_20151114_123444712

Friday night we stayed in an apartment very similar to a typical Ukrainian apartment.  It was small and cozy and warm.

IMG_20151114_151557764Not our apartment building but similar to it.IMG_20151113_185547367 Two sets of cute plates in the kitchen we were in.IMG_20151113_185534870

Now for the food…We tried getting multiple pictures of our food.  Everything was so incredibly tasty!  We loved it all and after each meal would say, “I think this is the best meal we have had here.”

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IMG_20151111_175325143This was close to a Ukrainian dish.  Pelmeni and veggies with cheese.  And homemade sour cream.
IMG_20151113_183440689 My birthday was on Saturday and Mark and I thought we would celebrate with cupcakes on Friday.  Well we thought they were cupcakes…IMG_20151113_194718308

Nope.  Meringue in pastry shell.  Yummy but super sweet.

IMG_20151114_162644914 My birthday supper.  They call these pancakes but they are thin like crepes.  Stuffed with mushrooms and chicken. IMG_20151114_164906264

Mark had salmon and fries.  This was where we learned that the whole bottle of “tomato sauce” we used on our pasta one night was actually ketchup.IMG_20151114_164902490 Grilled veggies
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Borscht!  So much better than what I can make.

IMG_20151110_174253610 This is the look I give when I want Mark to stop taking pictures.  I did actually cook in our apartment a bit.IMG_20151110_080324848

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Here’s our pasta, sausage and ketchup.  It really wasn’t too bad.  There are no preservatives in foods like here.  So, everything tastes a bit better.IMG_20151111_110638841

We stopped at McDonald’s to grab some drinks one afternoon.

Long post but that is a pictorial overview of our time in Ukraine.  We can’t wait to go back.