Friday, December 28, 2012

So Our Latest News Is . . . ?

First we got a text telling us that some people's documents had been signed by the minister and some hadn't.  Some of the people waiting had court dates for today.  So we had to wait to see which category we fell under.  Clearly patience is one of the things God wants us to learn most during this adoption journey. 

Waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting.

It was well after 4 PM when the call finally came and our translator told us that ours had been signed, we were thrilled.  We are headed to see Cava and our court appointment tomorrow! 

Since we are returning to that small, rural village, we will be without internet.  I'm not sure when I'll be able to update the blog about our court appearance, but I promise I will as soon as I can. 

Again, thank all of you for your prayers - they were answered!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

True Snapshots From Our Journey (Thus Far & Randomly)

This was the view from our window last week.  The high was 15.  

This was the view from our apartment this morning.  The high was 37.  The beautiful white snow was gone from the trees and that on the ground was a gray slush.

Here is Benjamin and Danelle in the metro.

Here's Lenin in the Metro:

Here's another photo of Comrade Lenin wanting to enjoy a Pepsi with some friends at the beach:

Our friendly, neighborhood Mongol

And the neighborhood cat:

Here's Benjamin with the noted theater director Oleksandr-Zenon Stepanovych Kurbas (I'll admit, I had to look this one up.  We were just the typical tourists taking a photo of a family member with a statue):

He established the famous "Berezi Theater."  Kurbas, not Benjamin.

The archangel Michael (in the background) watching over Kiev:

Benjamin getting in on the proposal from two characters from the Ukrainian play "After Two Hares":

The play was also made into a movie.  The title is a reference to a folk saying that "If a man tries to chase two hares, he will catch neither."  In both the play and the movie, a man chases two women (one for love and one for money) and, like the proverb, ends up with neither.

One of the most famous sites in all of Kiev is Saint Michael's, which was built during the Middle Ages.  The original cathedral and monastery was destroyed by the Soviet authorities during the 1930's but was reconstructed and re-opened in 1999 following Ukrainian independence.

Here are some of the photos we took of this beautiful cathedral:

A pair of the monks from the cathedral:

A statue of Christ praying in the garden:

After we left Saint Sophia's, we encountered this traffic jam:

Since we pretty much walk everywhere, it didn't effect us.  Instead, we headed back over to Andrew's Descent for some more browsing among the stalls. 

After some haggling, I got a Matryoshka Doll (or nesting dolls), a Pysanka (or ornately painted wooden Easter Egg), and some Christmas ornaments for what would be $50 American dollars.  We did not buy any of the knock-off Soviet paraphernalia (though the Lenin blanket sure was tempting).

From there, we went back to Independence Square.  How different the Christmas Tree appeared in the daytime.

The area was full of stalls selling tourist items (t-shirts, flags, magnets) and carnival rides (the kind that take over parking lots of shopping centers back home).  We did spot someone dressed as Mishka the bear from "Masha and the Bear," so I snapped a photo from a distance so I wouldn't have to pay for it.  I've learned that any costume character on the street charges you to take their photo.  As I snapped this one, I couldn't help but think of Cava as I did.  I would have gladly have paid twenty hryvnia for a photo of him and Benjamin with Mishka.

All around the city, men are on the rooftops of buildings, shoveling off the snow and ice.  Benjamin loved stopping to watch.  Here's a photo of one of them:

To give you a better perspective on this:

As much as we love Kiev, we hope to be leaving it tomorrow so that we can travel to the village where Cava's boarding school is so we can have our court date on Saturday.  Our translator called us tonight to let us know that the minister's office has our documents.  He was at a conference all day and didn't have time to sign them.  We are praying that he will sign them first thing in the morning. 

Thank you to all of you who are praying with us and for us.  I know I've written it many times before, but your love and encouragement has meant so much to our family throughout this journey while we're here in Ukraine. 

I hope to get a chance tomorrow to let everyone know about whether or not we are headed to court Saturday.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Our Christmas Day in Kiev

Since Ukrainians don't celebrate Christmas until next month, we were in the minority here in Kiev.  Sveta, our facilitator, did phone this morning to wish us a "Merry Christmas," when Danelle wished her the same, she said, "We don't celebrate it today." 

We had been told to try O'Panas in Taras Shevchenko Park.  The park, which is one of the oldest in Kiev, is named after Ukraine's most famous poet.  He is the one who not only influenced modern Ukrainian poetry, but also the modern Ukrainian language.  His most famous work is entitled Kobzar or The Bard, which also became his nickname.

There is a great statue of Shevchenko in the park across from the university.

Benjamin's response was simply, "You're going to take a photo of another statue?" 

He was much happier to have his photo taken with Danelle and I in front of the Christmas tree:

Here they are in front of O'Panas:

Inside the restaurant the roof is thatched and the decor is meant to look like a rustic Ukrainian hut.  Benjamin loved the fact that they had live rabbits in cages.  I joked that it was like the lobster tank in some seafood restaurants for those who ordered the rarebit.  He didn't find that funny. 

The restaurant has two floors and since we got there about 12 pm, the lower floor closes at 1 pm (Yeah, I don't get that either), we ate on the second floor, which was cool because it was like eating in a tree house.  Benjamin ordered the roasted turkey with creamy vegetables and Bechamel sauce, Danelle ordered the green Borscht and a salad, and I ordered the Duck in fire (a grilled duck with apples and oranges served with a raspberry and mango sauce). 

While we waited on the food, Benjamin read the copy of the Kyiv Post he'd picked up.  Yeah, he loves to keep up on all the latest Ukrainian news.  And for those wondering, no he hasn't learned Ukrainian, this edition was in English.

To give you an idea of what the second floor looked like (before other patrons joined us) here's a photo:

The food was delicious.  The total came to around $550 hryvnia or around $65 U.S. dollars.  Since we have eaten the majority of our meals in our apartment (from items we bought at market and fixed in the kitchenette) and because it was Christmas Day, we decided to splurge for lunch. 

Afterwards, we took a walk around the park, after all, it was a balmy 31 degrees (Hey, when it's been in the lower teens and the negatives, 35 is practically swimming weather!).  Benjamin and I stopped to pose with a Bubushka on a bench.

We walked back past the opera house and the many busy intersections in Kiev.  They are very aggressive drivers and walkers.  When the sign that counts down to cross an intersection hits O, they walk forward (cars or not).

Then we went to our local market to buy 2 more large bottles of water (we've already gone through 6 bottles this week, but we use them for everything from drinking, cooking, and brushing our teeth). 

Back at the apartment again, we played games, listened to Christmas music on my iPod (Perry Como singing "Home For the Holidays" made Benjamin sad), and Skyped with our sisters and my Dad.  It was great talking to all of them but it made us even more home sick.  Still, we were glad to get to be with them, even if it was only by computer.  We just wish we could've seen Cava somehow.  He has been in our hearts and minds every day since we left his boarding school.  Of course, we can't wait to celebrate Christmas with him next year! 

Our family also missed our other member, our dog Chloe.  Benjamin missed her the most since the two of them are inseperable and our dog isn't man's best friend but boy's.   We did get a Christmas photo e-mailed to us of our little "Santa Chloe."

After eating Raman Noodles for dinner (This is what you get when you splurge on lunch!), we watched the movie "Elf" on DVD.  Apparently not too many in Kiev have seen this film because smiling is definitely not their favorite.  Still, I like to play a game as we walk along the sidewalks or in the metro, to meet people's gaze (They do tend to stare at my Shirpa hat) and smile to see if they smile back.  I don't get too many takes, but when they do, it makes me feel great, like I've accomplished something. 

So, while this may not have been our "typical" Christmas, it was still one full of family and new memories.  We are grateful for our family and the child we are lovingly added to it.  Our families back home are excited about Cava and cannot wait to meet him.  My sister and Dad are already buying him clothes and shoes (since he cannot bring home any of the clothes he has at the boarding school because they will pass them on to another child). 

We hope that all of you had a very Merry Christmas.

Luda, our translator, called us that night to also wish us a "Merry Christmas."  Danelle replied this time, "I'd wish you a Merry Christmas, too, but I know it's not your Christmas yet."  Luda then told her that she had phoned the SDA today and they told her, "You called us yesterday."  When she said that she would call them again tomorrow, they replied, "Don't call until around 5 pm because we won't know anything until then."

Today, we find out if we get our court date for this Saturday.  All of our hopes and prayers are that we will because we miss our dear son and brother, Cava, and want so much to see him before we leave for the U.S. on Sunday.  Since we probably won't find out anything until after 5 pm, that will have to be another post.

All I Want For Christmas

It's funny how a song's lyrics can take on completely different meanings than the artist who recorded it meant.  Take Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You."  When it came on my iPod just now, my immediate thoughts were of Cava.  Our family wants to see him again so desperately before we leave for the United States on Sunday.  One reason that we pray every day that we will get our court date Saturday is so we can see Cava.  So when I heard Mariah Carey singing:

Oh, I don't want a lot for Christmas
This is all I'm asking for
I just want to see my baby
Standing right outside my door

For me, I see him striding in the door of that small room at his boarding school with his big smile and his greeting his new Mama, Papa, and Ben.

That is all I and my family want for Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Time Is Here

Despite it being in the negatives, our family braved the cold to go down to Independence Square to see the Christmas lights.  We weren't the only ones as hundreds of Ukrainian families packed the square to enjoy the lights, getting their photo with Father Frost (for a price, of course), winter treats, a children's choir, and lots of stalls selling different crafts.

As you can see from the photo, there are no such things as sidewalks. They are just viewed as more parking spaces. 

This photo doesn't do the beauty of the square justice.

The 37' tree is made up of many Christmas trees on a giant tree frame and weighs 50 tons.

This is the first year we didn't decorate our house for Christmas and it felt odd not to.  Putting up the tree, then the lights (always my least favorite part), and finally the ornaments, which hold so many memories of Christmases past, are all part of getting into the spirit of the season.
Nor did we get caught up in any of the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping.  Seeing others post on Facebook about getting ready for the holidays, we felt removed from all of this hubbub. 
Even here in Kiev, the underground shopping mall was packed with people buying that item they hoped to be just right for a loved one. 
Near the apartment we're staying in is a man selling small trees that we refer to as "Charlie Brown Christmas trees."  They are even nailed to two pieces of wood that criss-cross each other just like the one from my favorite Christmas special.  It was all I could do not to break out into "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing" just like the Peanuts gang do.
This year we are far from home and I'll be one of those people singing, "I'll be home for Christmas / if only in my dreams . . ."  Or when we skype our families.  And it's hard to be soooo far from our families at Christmas time.  It's difficult not to be homesick.  This experience gives a greater appreciation for military and missionaries who willingly serve and are away from their homes and families. 
Unlike where we live, here we will be having a very white Christmas.  It feels very much like the carol "In The Bleak Midwinter" as the icy wind does blow as the temperatures barely reach the teens.
On Christmas morning, we won't be unwrapping presents from under the tree.  But how much greater is the gift of a child joining our family is!
Danelle and I will soon have a new son and Benjamin will finally have that sibling he has wanted for years. 
We wish we could actually be with Cava on Christmas, but we will still be in Kiev.  We are patiently waiting to hear if we will get our court date on the 29th before we leave.  Every day we pray that we will.  If so, then we will be traveling back to Cava's boarding school the day beforer our court date.  If not, we will have to wait until mid-January. 
Everything is on track so far and it all depends on the SDA and the weather as to whether or not we will have our court appointment before the new year.  Please join in praying for our family that we will so that it will be that much sooner when we can bring Cava home.
This is our Christmas wish!
To all of you who are following our journey, our family would like to wish you all a very

New Friends

Today we were truly thankful to go to worship at the Living Vine Church this morning for their Christmas service. 

One of the ways that God has truly blessed us while we've been in Kiev was getting to know two really great families: the Midkiffs and the Bergstroms.  Being in a foreign city can be extremely isolating, especially when you don't speak the language.  And it means so much when people who are complete strangers offer not only their help but their friendship.  The Midkiffs and the Bergstroms are two such families. 

They have opened their hearts and their homes to us while we are here in Kiev and it has been one of the things we will treasure most about this part of our adoption journey.  And Benjamin has loved having other kids to play with.  They have been great with advice and their time. 

The only thing we regret is that these new friends of ours will live so far from us when we leave.  They will, however, be in our hearts and our constant prayers. 

Despite the distance, we will have to remain in touch with these generous people who God has placed in our path during this major step in the life of our family.

Both families are true examples of Romans 12:10, "Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor."

We cannot thank either family enough for their kindness.

C. S. Lewis was correct when he wrote that there was no "greater pleasure" than "Christian friends."

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Day In the Life Of . . .

Yesterday was the first day that we didn't go out to explore Kiev.  This was due, in large part, to it being a high of 12 degrees Fahrenheit and a low of 3 degrees Fahrenheit.  Back home it was a high of 57 - and people there were complaining.  Ha!  Trade you!

This whole trip has been a test of how strong we are as a family because we have to spend a lot of time together.  Before we left, many people told us not to bring our son along because doing so would add extra stress to an already stressful situation.  And, at times, he has, but we don't regret bringing him at all.  He and Cava bonded before we did with him.  I think Cava attaching to us so fast was due, in part, to his playing with our son.  Besides, we wanted Benjamin to experience a country and a culture that very few, if any, of his classmates would.  We thought it was extremely important that he meet his sibling when we did and to see where his sibling was coming from.  A key part of our decision was to break that American "bubble" that our son, like so many kids in our country, have grown up in.  We wanted him to know that the world doesn't revolve around him.

Okay, enough platitudes, so with no sight-seeing to do, we did something far less exciting - laundry.  Since there is only a small washing machine, we did our clothes in small bundles and then hung them to dry on hangers around the apartment we're in.

We also vacuumed and swept.
I know how thrilling this must be for all of you and I'm sure this will get the most hits on the blog.  A fascinating and insightful "day in the life of" entry.
Since it gets dark early, around 4 pm, we spend most nights in the apartment.  Sometimes we watch TV.  There are a few channels in English (CNN, BBC and Boomerang). Most are in Ukrainian.  We have watched some American shows that were dubbed into Ukrainian (iCarly - it's hilarious to see Random Dancing here, Spongebob) and then those that are narrated in Ukrainian just like they do programs for the blind (E.R., Grey's Anatomy).  What has also been fun is to watch Ukrainian versions of American shows like The Voice (Casadee Pope didn't win this one) and Survivor (Sorry, Lisa, lost this one, too).   Here's a photo of Benjamin and I watching Spongebob:

Sometimes we watch DVDs on the laptop.  We're saving Elf for Christmas.

My Dad was generous enough to let us borrow his iPad and Benjamin has tended to claim that as his while he's here.  Danelle and I have been reading.  We drew lots and Danelle got to start the Game of Thrones series first.

We play a lot of games (a travel version of Sorry and Clue, Farkle, Sorry Revenge, Uno, etc).  To mix it up, we had a Sorry Revenge challenge.  Danelle and Benjamin played first then I played the winner and then the losers played each other so that the winners played each other to be the champion.  Benjamin won and made sure to let us know - frequently. 
Being far from home, Danelle and I have used the internet to keep up.  It's hard to believe how much of a lifeline Skype, Facebook, and e-mail have been.  We thank all of you for your messages of encouragement, prayers, and love.  You have no idea how much it really has meant to us.
We have been told with great emphasis that we can bathe in the water here but that we shouldn't drink it.  Needless to say, we buy a lot of bottle water.  Large bottles that we use for cooking, brushing our teeth, drinking, and washing food.  Out of 4 bottles we bought earlier in the week, we have already used 3 of them.  Water is one thing we took for granted back home that we have a greater appreciation for now.
Since we are on a very tight budget, we go out to eat very little.  Most meals we fix here in the apartment.  We go to our local market to buy items like bread, milk, water, and cereal.  It's about a block from our apartment.  For more items, we have to walk 10 blocks to the larger Billa.  One lesson we learned the hard way was not to buy canned items before checking to see if the apartment we were staying in had a can opener!
One of the things we've enjoyed discovering while we're here is watching episodes of "Masha and the Bear" on Youtube.  Since it's Cava's favorite, we wanted to know this cartoon, too.  Even though we don't understand the language, we easily understand the humor, the warmth, and the love behind it.  Children are children everywhere.
While this may not be the most exciting of our entries, we hope it gave a  little insight into our days here in snowy Kiev. 
Today we are meeting the Midkiffs, missionaries here who are connected to our church back home (which we miss worshipping with), because they have been kind enough to invite us over for dinner at their home.  We also plan to go to church with them and the Bergstrom's on Sunday.
We also are praying every morning when we do our Bible study and every night before bed that we get our court date on the 29th before we leave on the 30th to return home.  If we do, it will mean that Cava will be coming home with us that much sooner.  It also means we will have less trips to and from Ukraine.  Please continue to pray with us that we will get this court date.