Thursday, February 28, 2013

Homeward Bound

When I was 17 years old I spent the summer away from home.  Almost every night I would listen to the song "Homeward Bound" by Simon and Garfunkel and cry because I was so homesick!  (This is not an exaggeration.)

Today we got up very early and started getting all our tasks taken care of:
  • Paying for medical appointments
  • Picking up passports from the train station
  • Getting medical examinations for the children (this was quite an experience... medical clinics function much differently here than in the USA)
  • Filling out and submitting more paperwork to the US Embassy
  • And receiving the kids completed visas and passports!
  • Final accounting of all our adoption expenses
Once all these tasks were completed we had a number of people saying, "Congratulations!" because the process in Ukraine is finally FINISHED!  We are now free to leave Ukraine with our children and head for HOME!

I'm sure that many of you think that the past 7 weeks has flown by and it's unbelievable that we're already heading home with our three new children.  And in some ways, I agree.  However, in other ways, it feels like it's been FOREVER.  I am so anxious to see my other children and be home in familiar surrounds.  Every time I think about going home I get a little queasy, excited feeling in the pit of my stomach (you know, that feeling you get when you're a kid waiting for Christmas morning to finally come?)  I'm just so ready for to have my entire family under one roof, together!

And then there's the part of me that starts really analyzing this journey and I think about how my life has changed in only 7.5 short (or long, depending on how I choose to look at it) months.  Here is what we have accomplished in such a short time:
  • We met and/or learned of 3 children in Ukraine that needed a family.
  • We fell in love with and determined that they were meant to be a part of our family.
  • We began the adoption process (home study, paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork!)
  • We raised and/or saved approximately $55,000 to help fund our adoption.
  • We flew to Ukraine and finalized the adoption of Albina, Alina and Maks.
  • We returned home (this has yet to happen, obviously, but it will happen before it hits 7.5 months).
 And people say that miracles don't happen anymore...

So in just a few hours we will actually be Homeward Bound and the real work begins.  Because, let's face it!  As difficult as the adoption process (or 9 months of pregnancy for that matter) is: the hard part is raising kids!

So perhaps you think I'm excited to be at this point in my journey as the mother of 3 new children?

I am.

But I am also scared out of my mind.  I am completely overwhelmed with the responsibility I've just taken on.  I'm feeling inadequate.  Oh, so inadequate.

I appreciated the honesty of one blogger (a couple that is currently finishing up their adoption here in Ukraine):

With the realization of just how much our lives are going to change in just a few short days, we can’t help but feel like we are reaching the peak of a tremendous roller coaster (one that we have been riding for 8 months!) . I have the same tingly feeling in my hands and feet that I do when the clang of a coaster car’s wheels click to a stop right before the free fall (have I mentioned I’m terrified of heights?). We are both so excited for this next chapter, but at this very moment it seems like such a daunting task. We’ve caught ourselves wondering just what we have gotten ourselves into. But when we really think about it, we’ve never gotten off a roller coaster regretting the ride. Hopefully this ride is no different.

So, here I am.  In Kyiv for my last few hours.  I'm listening to Albina talk on the phone with her friend before she leaves Ukraine.  She giggles and laughs.  I am noticing how excited Alina is to be finally going to America.  I am enjoying the fact that Maks ran to me a number of times tonight to simply give me hugs.  And I have to think that as hard as my life ahead may be... it's all going to be worth it in the end.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Church in Kyiv

This morning we got up and got ready for church.  They kids looked so cute (James did Maks' hair):

Once we arrived at church we attended Sacrament Meeting and then sent the kids to their individual classes.  James and I followed Maks to make sure he was okay.  After he sat down in Primary he looked like he was about to cry, so I went in and sat next to him.  Sure enough, he was pretty scared and out of his comfort zone.  When James walked in and sat by him, he finally relaxed a little and smiled, but he was still near tears for the first while.  Once he went into his smaller class for his lesson he was completely fine (although James and I still stayed with him the entire time).  He was so excited that he learned about Jesus Christ.  He colored this picture:

During Primary he was asked if he had rules in his family.  He said, "Yes.  To help my mama and papa."  His teacher was so good with him and made him feel really comfortable.

After church we took a few pictures outside the chapel and then walked next door and took pictures in front of the Kyiv LDS Temple.  It was so great to be able to go to church and see the temple with the kids.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Exploring Kyiv: Day 2

This morning Albina told us she really wanted to clean the apartment and asked if we could all leave for a while.  (Really???)  James and I took Alina and Maks out to explore some more of Kyiv (and YES the apartment really was much better when we returned!)

Overlooking Kyiv, Ukraine
We aren't sure what this small museum was.  We ended up inside and then realized it wasn't anything we were interested in.  However, I did like this photo.
We got to see a lot of interesting buildings on our walk:

There were also lots of places to shop on the street as well as a number of people begging for money.  Alina kept asking us for money to give to them.  We finally gave her some money and told her it was hers to give as she chose.  She was very kind to everyone she met on the street.

We ended up at The Great Patriotic War Museum.  We didn't end up going inside because the kids were tired and anxious to go home.  However, we did talk them into walking around the grounds and taking some pictures.  Alina took the camera for most of our time there and got some interesting shots.  Here are some of the better ones:

While we were out walking, we came to a place with a lot of hills where children were sledding.  Alina and Maks were excited about the snow and asked if they could climb the sides of the hills.  We allowed them to climb and play for a bit.  We caught this great moment of Maks on tape (sorry it's sideways for a bit and then changes... not sure why?):

Friday, February 22, 2013

Exploring Kyiv: Day 1

Today we took the kids out and explored a little of Kyiv with them.  
We hoped to see more, but they got worn out quickly.  

Independence Square is in the background.
The kids wanted to pose together.
When you tell Maks you're going to take his picture, he frequently kneels in this pose.  It's pretty cute!
On the bridge over Independence Square making silly faces.
Monument at Independence Square.
Albina doesn't like this monument, so she didn't want to be in the picture.  I think everyone else looks cute though.
The very long escalator exiting the Metro.
Riding down the escalator.
Maks thinks this is the best ride EVER!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Our Second Good-Bye... The Hardest Good-Bye

This week has been a crazy week.  As soon as our 10 day waiting period was finished we were running around from place to place signing documents.  We also needed to pack up all our things, get clothing ready for the children, plan food for the train ride and take care of more paperwork with Albina.

Albina was not happy about all the documents.  She has informed us that she does not cry in public (and so far, she hasn't!), but it was evident that it is really hard for her to leave her friends and college behind.  We anticipated this (we've moved with our other kids enough to know firsthand how difficult it is to move, especially at her age!), so we haven't been surprised by the mood swings and crazy comments.  The fact is, she really loves our family and wants to come to America, but she also really loves her "family" here.  That would be a tough transition for anyone, and I hope we can help her navigate through the challenges ahead.

After all our paperwork was finished and all the luggage was loaded up, we headed to the orphanage:

Once we got there we were rushed inside where we met with the director and the director assistant.  They were very kind to us and wished us health and good fortune in the years ahead.  They told us they were very happy that Albina, Alina and Maks would be joining our family.  They feel that we are a wonderful family for them and they have enjoyed watching our interactions with the children during our visits.  It was wonderful to talk with them and know that they completely support this adoption.  I was very emotional during our visits with them (surprise, I know!) and felt very grateful for the love and care they've given our kids during the last few years.

Once we were finished meeting with them we were taken into the Music Room where we were able to witness an awesome farewell concert for our kids.  Alina was able to dance and sing, Albina sang and Maks danced.  After the performance all the children ran to our kids and we witnessed lots of hugs and kisses and tears as good-byes were said.  Again, it was a very emotional and bitter-sweet moment knowing that we now have our kids, but they have to say good-bye to such dear friends.

The Music Room
Albina hugging her friends.
Maks getting hugs.
Group shot of the children with James and I.
More of Albina's goodbyes.
Alina's teacher and friends were all very sad to say good-bye.
More good-byes for Maks.

Albina's teacher and friends.
Albina and her teacher.
More good-byes for Alina.
Albina and her best friend.  We really grew to love her (we were able to spend a lot of time with her as well as with our kids.)  It was so hard to say good-bye to her!  She is such a sweet, beautiful girl!

As soon as we said good-bye we were whisked out the door and heading off to the region capital to take care of more documents.  Maks got car sick, but fortunately we thought ahead and gave each of the kids a bag to hold just in case.  It still wasn't pleasant, but what can you do?

Once we finished with the kids passport applications, we had just enough time to run in and grab something to eat at: McDonald's.  Albina was less than thrilled at this option, but Maks was excited!  He had somehow gotten the idea that a hamburger was the same thing as a crabby patty and he thought that Sponge-bob was cooking in the kitchen.  However, once the hamburger and fries came, he quickly realized that he did NOT like McDonald's food (regardless of who was cooking it). 

After eating, we got on the train and headed to Kyiv.  We were on the train all night and it was definitely the worst night sleep of the entire trip.  Maks was really excited with our adventure (he doesn't remember anything before the orphanage, and since he's been there he's never been able to leave, so this was all very new and exciting!)  He refused to go to sleep and got very mad at us when we turned off the lights and said it was time to sleep.  Once he fell asleep, Alina was wired and kept turning on her light.  Then she settled down and Maks woke up and started rummaging through luggage and bags of food.  This went on all night and I felt like we would NEVER get to Kyiv.

However, you'll be happy to know that we are no longer on the train.  We made it to Kyiv and will be here for a few days waiting for passports.  Once they arrive, we'll go to the US Embassy to finish up the final paperwork for traveling with our kids and then we get to go HOME!

As lovely as this trip has been, we are really missing our kids at home and are anxious to be reunited and have our entire family under one roof!  We can hardly wait, and are so grateful that we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel...