Friday, December 11, 2009

I am healed!!

Thank you all for your prayers!! Yesterday, I went to see my endocrinologist in St. Cloud. After being so sick right after we brought the kids home with a thyroid "storm" and then burning out and told I was permanently hypothyroid, my labs are now normal and there are no nodules/goiter on my ultrasound!! That rarely happens. They usually just get bigger. I read part of my ultrasound report and it said it was unusual and correlation was required. My endocrinologist said we will take our victories where we can get them!! I am happy to be "unusual." ;-)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Robin Vladislava - age 8 - Happy Birthday!!

Robin's birthday was in the middle of November and I am now finally getting to put her pictures on the blog. (It is in the middle of the night and I can't sleep - that is the time I mostly get to blog!) ;-) Also, we have been home a little over 10 months now and there is so much I want to write about!! The best thing about this time with them home with us has been seeing all their "firsts!!" There have been lots of firsts!! I will write about that later - I know, I know - I always say that, but I will REALLY try this time. ;-) I have pictures to share about their first wedding dance and their first time at a water park. Both were lots of fun!!

So, on to Robin's birthday. We had a girl's day planned with Robin and mama. We did a little shopping and went out to lunch. She wanted "pamcakes" so we went to Perkins. Then we went over to the mall to get "owies" in her ears that she has been asking for since she arrived in the US. Then we went to Wal-Mart to get some needed supplies and then out to ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery (another first). I wasn't going to do a party for her, since I thought this "date" with the ear piercing was in lieu of a party, but she kept asking when all the people were coming, so we quickly threw a little party together the next day so my parents could bring her her birthday gifts and asked our friends if we could steal their kids' for a bit. It ended up being a good weekend for her. On the way to Brainerd, I asked her what they did for her birthdays in Ukraine and she said she never had a birthday, so at age 8, we got to celebrate her "first" birthday!!
Robin with brand new "ears." I wanted to take a picture of her actually getting her ears pierced, but she had a panic moment and wanted to hold on to both of my hands. I told her she didn't have to do it, but she wanted them bad enough to go through with it!! ;-)





Robin's actual birthday party. We didn't get any really good pictures of her - she is in disguise with the hat and sunglasses that she got for her birthday!!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

It smells like snow!

Last weekend, it was a little chilly in the morning and we started a fire in the fireplace to take the chill off and Ryan went outside and said "It smells like snow." He was smelling the smoke and that must have reminded him of winter - very smart I think - but oh no.... summer went waaay too fast!!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I love you 3!

I have not been good about journaling or blogging since we have been home - now 7 months!! But I wanted to save this for a memory. We went to Father Hennepin State Park with some friends and their daughter taught Robin how to sign I love you. So now everyday, she signs to me that she loves me, from across the yard or wherever. So I signed back I love you II and held up two fingers. I don't know if that is the right sign for "too" but it works for us. :-) Then a little while later, she came back and signed to me I love you III.... its just so sweet. She is an awesome girl!!

I told her this morning she was beautiful and she again signed to me I love you - this time - I love you 10!! And then she told me her Ukraine mama would say bye-bye to her and "she no come back." So I got to take that opportunity to give her a big hug and reassure her that I would be there everyday.... and a I got a beaming smile in return. Just wanted to save that memory....I still want to write a little something about each of them and their progress looking back over the last seven months....But it is getting late....'till next time.....

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Time flies when you are having fun!!


I looked back and my last post was in May!! We have now been home 6 months!! It is time for an update, but the kids will be getting up soon, so I won't be able to write an update, but did want to try to add some pictures and keep working on that update little by little! Well, I was right, by the time I added this picture, the two little ones are up. This is our most recent picture of all four. It was taken after the Riverboat Days parade with all their candy and flags. It was taken in the middle of July and a little bit chilly!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

18-week catch-up

We have been home 18 weeks now!! and here I promised an update long ago. It has been so long since I did an update, I almost forgot how!! Sorry! The kids are running around outside and I need to check on them every 2 minutes and I am waiting for a call from the International Adoption Clinic at the University, so I don't actually know how long this will be.

So much has happened since my last update, but I don't think I can write about (or even remember) everything. Some days it is tough, but there are so many good things to be thankful for and it is so much fun to see them learn new things everyday!

Some new things "we" have learned....

Bike riding and swings - I told you at 6 weeks that Ryan and Robin had mastered riding bike in the wintertime and now Jason has too. He threw his bike with the training wheels down the stairs and the wheels fell off, so he picked it up and rode it without the training wheels and has been going nonstop since! Jillian has not yet figured out how to pedal. She does push her trike around or run with her little legs going as fast as she can to keep up with the big kids. She has lots of bruises and scratches to show for it!! She has, however, learned to pump her legs on the swings and can get herself going and keep herself going - this just happened a couple of days ago and she is very proud of herself! She can also go hand over hand across the top of the swing set and can hang upside down on the crossbar as does everyone else. There is no longer any grass under our swingset! They play outside many hours of the day and are already getting tan.

School - we are doing school about a half hour to an hour a day. Not too much yet since we still have a language barrier and it is hard to explain concepts. The two oldest have learned their vowels and L, B, T, and N. They don't really understand yet that letters have sounds (and I think they all sound alike to them, especially the vowels), but Ryan is starting to get the sounds and points out letters at the grocery store, on book covers, and knows most of the alphabet. Things are going a little slower for Robin, but she didn't have any school in Ukraine, so this is all new to her, but they both have beautiful handwriting and can write their letters very well. Our other subject is numbers and they can count (sort of) to 20 - we keep working on it. They get hung up on 13 - in Russian, there is no "th" sound, so 13 sounds like 14 and then they skip 14 because they think they already said it...."firteen."

IAC at the U of M - International Adoption Clinic at the University. We got two of the kids in at the clinic early in May - Robin and Jason because we thought they had the most pressing issues and we take Ryan and Jillian next Friday. We learned a lot of stuff - it is almost overwhelming, but totally worth it. They marked almost every lab test on the lab order to run on the kids. So far, we know that Robin has hyperthyroid (as do I), but I was surprised a child would get it. We need to use iodized salt more (I never salt anything - I don't know why - I just don't - maybe a reason I have thyroid problems too). So now, we use it in pasta, potatoes, oatmeal, instant mashed potatoes, anything "normal" people us it in!! ;-) So hopefully when we re-test, that will be normal. They placed her Mantoux at the U, but they don't think it was read correctly at our clinic here, so we are going to re-do it when we bring the other two down. They don't see many positive Mantoux's up north here. A lot of Eastern Europeans have positive mantoux's even though they don't have active TB, because they are vaccinated with something that in the US we would use as a treatment, so they have false positives, but we are still working on getting a definitive diagnosis for her. She certainly doesn't have signs of active TB. As for Jason, he has two intestinal parasites, giardia - very common in EE and Chinese orphanage kids from contaminated water and entamoeba histolytica - and he needed an exotic treatment for these - it was their third choice in treatment because they coudn't get it up here and it costs $100 for 3 days of treatment. Hopefully that will be gone too when we re-test his stool samples - let me tell you, that is so much fun to do!! ;-) Also, they told us he is severely developmentally delayed - more like age 3 than 6 and is no where ready for kindergarten. He has speech issues and talks in a very rudimentary Russian (we have also been told this by several interpreters), and that will also affect how he learns English and they said he should know more English than he does for as long as he has been here... but there are four of them and they keep talking to each other in Russian and he doesn't "have" to learn English, so this is still slow going. They learn more English every day though. They also said he was small for his age - at 3% - and if he doesn't grow before his next checkup, they want him to see an endocrinologist for possible growth hormone shots - I don't know how I feel about that - I guess I will have to do a lot of research. Some of the problem may be the parasites, which also causes malnutrition and who knows how long he has had them. We should get a report in writing soon about all this and when we go down for the next two, we can ask more questions. They also did immunization titres, so we will know what vaccinations or re-vaccinations they need and will follow-up on that here in Aitkin.

Oh gosh, I have already written a book - sorry didn't mean to be so long-winded, but of couse lots more has happened!!

Yarina - Yarina is a friend of Pastor Stauters daughters. She met us at the airport when we came home with the kids and helped us talk to the kids about things we wanted to talk to them about and then came to our house for an afternoon in March. They told her they liked it here in America. They didn't say much - I think they felt intimidated in that situation, but did tell her they missed concerts at the orphanage and ice cream. I can remedy the ice cream - even though Ukrainian ice cream is really good, but I don't think I can do an orphanage concert. When she was outside, Robin would tell her she wanted to go back to the groupa - her group - Us - in the house. For quite a while she said "grupu" when she wanted to come in. At first I thought she was saying - poopoo or soomething!! ;-) It was nice to get some answers. Yarina told us she couldn't always understand them - they talk in baby talk or orphanage talk - they only say part of their words. Yarina was also able to tell them about prayer and we were able to start praying with them before meals. (Now, they won't eat without praying and even remind us somethimes and even when they are having pretend - play dough - meals, they want me to pray for them.) It was really nice to see her again and get to know her better.

Inna - Inna is a lady we met the year we went on our first mission trip to UA. She recommended that her brother be Korey's translater and he was - Andriy. We really liked Andriy and stayed with them for a few days on our second trip. Inna e-mailed us and said God placed it on her heart to come help us for a couple of weeks. She was staying in Texas with some friends helping them with their children and a difficult pregnancy. She came in April for two weeks over Easter and spent some time with Pastor Randy (She had been a new translator for him and his girls on one of their mission trips) and spent Easter with her cousin in Cambridge who is married to an American. Otherwise, she helped me with school and around the house. (I even walked right in to the sliding glass door, she got it so clean.) She was able to talk to the kids more in a less intimating way by being able to spend more time with them. They told her some things about their past. (Things I won't post here to protect their privacy.) It is so helpful to understand more about their background. It was really helpful to have Inna here, she helped me get started with school and could explain why and how we were doing school and could help explain boundaries in the yard, etc. On the last night, she read a Narnia book in Russian to them and one rainy day, they watched the Jesus film in Russian and she said mostly Robin had asked her about spiritual things and Ryan had told her that they did hear about Jesus in the orphanage. The rest of them had never heard about Jesus. Inna was able to tell them that the swear words they were saying were bad - they didn't even know that they were saying (and singing about) swear words and we haven't heard them since Inna left. They do, however, still say "durak" (stupid, fool) to each other sometimes, but definitely not as much as before Inna was here. She left to go back to Texas and will be leaving to learn Spanish and do some mission work in Guatemala sometime soon.

Well, I need to go, Monte is home and I want to spend some time with him - not much time to spend together anymore!! and I need to get supper on the table soon, but wanted to give you a "little" update - there is still so much to say!! "Talk" to you all again soon!! :-)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

All four.....


Since I won't have a birthday picture of Vlada until November, I just wanted to throw in a picture of all of them together. This was on a recent walk we took. Aren't they precious!!

Jason Vanya - age 6


For Jason's birthday, we had cupcakes instead of cake since he likes cupcakes better!! ;-) My parents came for Vanya's birthday too, Kam was away and his prayer pal was sick. We also had Sonny and Glo over since they are honorary grandparents and have just returned from Florida. It was a nice small birthday party. Inna was also present at the birthday party. I will write more about Inna when I update my blog as promised!! ;-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ryan Maxim - age 9

This is Ryan on his 9th birthday. We had a little bit bigger party for him, but still tried to keep it simple as Katya's was a little over stimulating for all of them. They are eating a little better with people over. We had my parents, Kamron, Ryan's prayer pal Roy and his wife, daughter, and grandson over. The kids had a really good time playing with Dylin and with Ruth and Monica's I-Pods. They love those!! They didn't want to give them back. Ryan was blessed with two skateboards and two soccer balls (lucky boy!) and some gardening tools. He probably understood the concept of birthday the most. Well, I have to go to do school, but I will add Vanya's birthday pics and a blog update soon - I promise!! ;-)

Jillian Katerina - Age 4


I have lots of catching up to do on our blog!! We have now been home 12 weeks and a lot has been happening, but first I wanted to try to post pictures of our birthdays. We had 3 birthdays in three weeks. The first was Katya's on March 26. She turned four. We just had my parents over. We knew that they would be overwhelmed and overstimulated easily, which they were. They would hardly touch a bite of their meals and they usually eat a lot. She got a new baby doll with homemade clothes from my parents and a purse with little dogs in it and this ball from us. She loves balls, but Buddy already took a big bite of it when she threw it off the deck - he loves balls too!! ;-)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Progress and rumors

Home 6 Weeks!!

Its hard to believe we have been home with the kids 6 weeks already. When we started the process, it seemed like a pipe dream and it would never come true and now they seem a permanent part of our household!

I titled this post progress and rumors. We have had a lot of progress and I will tell you about but wanted to address the rumors. I have had lot of people come up to me and tell me that they heard I got my thyroid removed. I didn't. I think that was a thought in the beginning, but I did not need that. I have had an ultrasound, I-123 thyroid uptake and scan, and a biopsy. All say it is a thyroiditis (a variant of Hashimoto's and fibrosis). With thyroiditis, it has to run its course unlike other thyroid disease which would be treated. I now have to live with the symptoms which may go away in 2-4 or 12-18 months!! I am hoping for the latter. I don't want to be fatigued forever!! I still have to take medicine for the racing heart and am taking something for the emotional lability. I have been nauseated and wretching this whole time and was finally able to eat two days ago and actually have seconds. (Thanks Judy for the yummy scalloped potatoes and ham!!) It has been nice to have so many people from church bring us meals at first when we got home and now when the symptoms just keep hanging on. It has been nice too that we can try all kinds of different things I wouldn't have thought to try. I think the favorite around here is chicken, potatoes, bread/jelly, sweets, fruit - they are loving the fruit and the fruited jello everyone has been bringing!! They really like everything that people have brought. No rejects here!! I think still the only thing they all except one has turned their nose up at is spagetti sauce on spagetti, but they will eat it in a hotdish!!

For progress, we have had so many!!

Dogs: They finally got used to the dogs!! We didn't even have to do anything. They ventured slowly off the deck and petted Teddy and then they got more brave and started petting Buddy and now they play all over the yard and go right up to the dogs and pet them and live a coexistence, although they have a hard time just ignoring the dogs when they want to be ignored. This was a definite answer to prayer!!

Bikes: Vlada learned to ride a bike on Wednesday!!! The bike that they found in the junk pile is what they were using. It works okay, but the chain keeps falling off and it is a little rickety. The most exciting part was when they came in and told me. Most of the time I am watching them through the window and try to do quick things in between and they all came running in shouting mama mama! Even the little ones were jumping up and down that she learned to ride the bike. She can even ride down the hill. Ryan, the vallant big brother who helped hold her up as she learned also learned to ride the next day. I guess this spring we will buying a whole round o family bikes.

Legos: We are even making progress with Legos. At first, they were just to dump out, throw around and pick up. They are now making houses with them and spaceships, etc. The only problem, the don't put them back, they hide them in a drawer when they are finished. The place where they keep their treasures.

"School": We haven't done much with school when I don't have much energy, but we have done a little bit. We are working on a large ABC puzzle and have them say the ABC's when we do it and a we have an erase book for making letters. Otherwise, school is "life" so far, helping set the table learning the words for cups, spoons, plates, and counting the dishes, etc., helping cooking and cleaning up. They are great helpers and love to wash dishes (they fight over this!), vacuuming and helping with firewood - which is a great family "sport." Kam helps Monte with firewood so they are getting to know their big brother through this too - and learning some English when they are out one on one with the guys. (I hope they don't learn any of LeRoy's "English!!") We are doing craft projects and at first the kids don't know what to paint or draw, so they need some ides, but they are really great artists when they get going. One day, I cut out some shapes and they made cats, birds, and houses from the shapes. That was one of the fun projects. The glitter glues are difficult for them to handle and they get frustrated easily.

As far as Enlish: They are starting to copy, but not use too much on their own. Except, I think they have mastered please, thank you, and you're welcome. One day, I caught Vanya making Katya say "peash" before he would give her something she wanted. I guess we are making some progress!

I forgot to mention above about weight gain when I was talking about the food. Most of them have gained 1-2 lbs since we have been here, but Jason has gained 6 lbs!! Remember he was the little sickly looking one when we came home. He now has color in his cheeks and has a ton of energy. And he loves hugging people. (We may have some attachments problems with this, with him hugging indiscriminately, but we are working on that.)

My friends Dan and Mary got a referral for two little girls age 1 and almost 5 from Ethiopia. It is so exciting to have another family built through the miracle of adoptioin. I can't wait to meet them!! We probably will be able to have our own local adoption support group soon!! Please pray for them for the financial aspects of adoption and the "looong" wait until they can bring them home. (Hopefully this summer.)

Katya has had some regression with wetting her pants, wetting the bed at night and crying at night sometimes. It is not a huge concern and I heard regression is common for orphans and we are just loving her through it.

We have three birthdays coming up soon. Jillian is Mar. 26, Ryan April 1, and Jason April 8. I haven't had to do kid birthday parties for a long time, but I think we will keep birthday parties low key this year. (And poor Robin doesn't have her birthday until November.) But things should be a lot more settled then.

We finally got their Certificates of Citizenship - proof that they are US citizens. I need them for MN Care. One more piece of papers to their puzzle! Now, I am just waiting for SSN. Hope that comes soon too.

One more thing I wanted to mention is that we still go back and forth between their Ukrainian names and their American names, so I just wanted to update you on who goes with who, I've had people tell me that had to look back and cross reference, so here they are again. Ryan Maxim age 8, Robin Vlada age 7, Jason Vanya age 5, and Jillian Katya age 3.

Ooops, another things I wanted to talk about is "America". When we came home and drove in the yard, they started saying America America excitedly that they were finally home and we let them thinking this is a cool part of America. Then one day, Monte had to drive by our house with the kids on the way to the woods and they said America America again, and now they say it for every house in a catalog. I guess we are going to try to find a way to explain what America is!!

I know we have made more progress and there are things I have thought that I wanted to blog that I have now forgotten. I guess if I blogged more often I wouldn't have that problem!! But as I think of them, I will blog them. Now, I need to go make lunch for my brood. Take care!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Three Weeks Home

Hi! Sorry everyone who is following this blog. I haven't felt good since I've been home and definitely haven't kept up on the blog like I meant to.

First, I will tell you why I have been sick. I went to the clinic last Tuesday with a lump in my throat that I thought was a swollen gland from the Strep throat that we had when we first came home that just wouldn't go away. I see a nurse practitioner and she thought it could be thyroid and called in a doctor and he also thought it was thyroid. She ordered blood tests for hemoglobin, infection and thyroid. She called me back later that day and said the first two were negative, but that my thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism). The symptoms that go along with thyroid are racing heart, shakiness, being hot, emotional lability, irritability, sadness, fatigue, but inability to sleep and weight loss. All of which I have!! I just didn't notice them because I thought it was all from the stress of the adoption. I even told Monte a few days before I was diagnosed that I thought I had post adoption depression. That is how bad I was feeling and even though I am a medical transcriptiontion and my sister has thyroid problems, I didn't even think of thyroid!! I can't believe I didn't put that together!! It doesn't make me feel better physically and with the racing heart, I still feel like I am about to spin out of control, but I am glad to have a diagnosis instead of just thinking I was going crazy!! I had an ultrasound last Wednesday and it is a goiter, which I guess is just a thyroid nodule and I see an endocrinologist tomorrow to see about treatment and whether or not I need to have it removed. I have read with goiters that they don't always need to be removed. At first it was very painful, but now it only hurts a little. I am just hoping for some treatment to feel "normal" again!!

Enough about me, you want to know about the kids anyway!! They are doing really well. They still sleep good at night. They are eating almost everything. Usually three out of four like what we make of each thing, so there isn't anything we have come across that they really don't like. Thet mostly dislike hot dishes (casseroles) and homemade soup. I can understand the hotdishes, I don't think they had much of anything like that in Ukraine. I am surprised about the soup since they ate borsch everyday. Maybe that is why, it smells too much like borsch. When we were there and they served it at the orphanage we stayed at, the kids wouldn't touch the borsch. Maybe they just didn't like it, but had to eat it everyday or maybe they were tired of it. They do like Campbell's soup, I have made chicken noodle soup and bean and bacon and they wanted more of that "borsch."

They still like playing outside a lot. At first, they did a lot of sliding on the hill, but most of the snow has gone away and it isn't very fast anymore. Then, they played a lot on the deck. Ryan found an old rusy bike in the junk pile, but he loves it!! He acts like he found a treasure. He can't ride it (and he won't let us help him), but he pushes it around the yard and on the deck. Korey also let them use his scooter, which they also ride around on on the deck. It makes a lot of noise, but they love it. We are finally making some headway with their fear of dogs. At first, we had the dogs come in when the kids go outside, but the dogs quit coming in as it got warmer out. We have an invisible fence and it is routed so that the dogs can't get on the sidewalk or the deck. That is why the kids played on the deck so much. Now, they are venturing off and will go up and pet Teddy. They are still scared of the "chordnare sabacka." (black dog) Buddy isn't black, but dark brown and he is big and a little more energetic than Teddy, but he steers clear of them most of the time anyway and chews on deer horns out in the yeard. I hope we are making headway anyway, so the kids will play outside this summer with the dogs outside. They do go up and pet Teddy, but he sometimes gives them doggy kisses and they run away again. I hope this trend continues and they will be more comfortable with dogs.

Learning English has been slow. They are only saying a few words. I think with talking Russian to each other, they don't feel the need to learn English. We do make them say please when they want things at the dinner table and they are getting better about saying please than just pointing and grunting and they also say thank you. They do say bye-bye and night-night. Ryan can count to 10. At the dinner table, they give us a thumbs up if they like it. I mean each kid has to give us a thumbs up, to Monte and I separately and we must acknowledge it or it will go on and on forever!! ;0) (Its nice that they are liking what we serve.)

Kamron came over on Saturday and got to meet his new brothers and sisters. He stayed most of the day and played with them. I am not sure that they understand that he is their brother, but they like him. Korey is down in the cities doing some training for his new job. It will sure be different in our house again when he moves. I miss him already!!

I can't think of anything more to say right now. Please let me know what topics you would like to hear about!!

Monte hurt his back and is in a lot of pain. Please pray for both of us to be feeling better so that we can play with and have patience with our kids that they deserve!! I get tired easy with my racing heart, but I am going to go out now and try to throw a ball with the kids. I think they are getting tired of the dogs and the deck. I will try not to wait so long between posts and hope to write soon, if I don't have a heart attack that is!! Again, we would appreciate your prayers for our health!!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Our First Week At Home

A friend of our's said I should journal on here everyday - I would like to, but I rarely get to the computer, but today I will attempt to catch you up on our first week. I wanted to write about everyday, but I don't remember what happened on which day anymore and which order. It has actually been going better than expected. I have read on a lot of blogs that their kids got up at 3 a.m. since their timing was off, but the kids have slept well everynight. They go to bed about 8 and get up at 7:30 or 8. There are variables to that of course. Last night, Korey took Ryan and Robin to Westside to go to the Superbowl party and it might have been a little early to send them out. The little ones didn't go to sleep until the older ones came home, but now they are all taking a nap, so I will attempt some updating. It will probably be fragmented, but here goes....

All of the grandparents have been here to visit and most of the aunties and uncles. Several people from our church have been over to visit and we have had meals brought in for a week, which was really nice. All of us adults were sick the first week and people brought things I wouldn't have thought to make. So far, the kids still like juice and fruit. My friend gave us a bag of raisins, which I really dislike, so I never would have bought, but they really like them. They like ice cream and sherbet and most sweets. They like homemade bread and they love grape jelly. I think they would eat anything if you put grape jelly on it!! A friend made a green apple/snicker/whip cream salad, which was a bit hit. They even licked the bowl on that one!! They like mac and cheese (thankfully) and cheesy potatoes. They like cereal and milk. They really like any fruit, even canned. They have a tougher time with any of the main dishes, they look at it and make a face. If Ryan makes a face first, all of the others follow his lead and won't try it. One day, the little two were putting the main dish in the dog dish and Jason was shoveling it in his mouth and then into Jillian's mouth - so I don't know why they couldn't eat it at the table, but could then, but I think it is just following Ryan's lead at this point. They do like chicken though and today we tried spagetti again and they will eat the pasta, but not the sauce or just a little sauce. So we have been trying lots of different stuff and hoping they are getting enough to eat. I feel that is all I do, is try to think of things to serve them since they eat like 6 times a day!! Jason is eating a lot better than he was in Ukraine and is getting some color in his cheeks.

Other things they like to do is play outside. They especially love the sliding hill. They ask to go outside constantly. Some days, it is just too cold - the days that it is way below 0. We try to bundle them up when it is warm enough, which is a process in itself. They are all very impatient and all want to be dressed at the same time and I forgot the Russian words for "please wait." We actually have lots of tears getting ready to go outside, just trying to get everyone's snowpants on and hats, mittens, coats, etc. Jason usually has to go "peesit" just after everyone is outside and Jillian usually has to come in first. Luckily, I can see the sliding hill from the girl's bedroom and the older ones can stay out longer.

The main problem we have is the dogs, they are petrified of them. If anyone has any advice for transitioning this process, I would appreciate it!! Buddy and Teddy are big dogs and wouldn't hurt anyone, but they are overly friendly and are intimidating for the kids. We try to bring them in when they are mellow, but if they walk especially by Robin and Jason, they scream. The other two are getting used to them slowly. The dogs are staying outside most of the time, but on the days it was below zero, we had them in the basement and then the kids were teasing them from under the door and then teasing each other. Jason would pretend scream even when the dogs were downstairs and then get the girls screaming or Ryan would be barking at them and then another screaming fit. I understand the fear of dogs, but the teasing I don't appreciate much!! But so far haven't been able to explain much to them. Hopefully, we can have someone who speaks Russian come in soon and explain a few of these issues.

As far as English, it isn't going too fast. Ryan speaks the most English. We are trying to get them to say please and thank you when they want things instead of grunting. I supposed they are communicating like a 2 y/o would. I think part of the reason is that it has only been a week and that there are four of them and they can talk to each other, so they don't have to try hard to speak to us. But we keep trying with things like plate, fork, cup, milk, jelly, juice, etc. I hope it comes soon!!

As our first family outing, we took them to church Sunday. They did really well. It was hard to sneak in the back and not be noticed because everyone wants to meet them and all the back rows were already taken, so we had to sit up front where we usually do, only this time we take up almost the whole pew!! The kids were really well behaved and Jillian was dancing to the music and then we took them out when it was time for Jr. Church and they really liked that - they got a Bible story and then got to color about the story - they didn't get that, but they just colored and then it was communion, so it was a longer service, so they got to go play in the gym. I think they will like church!!

As I mentioned before, all of us adults were sick when we got home. Finally, on Wednesday, Monte was feeling worse and went to the doctor and was diagnosed with Strep throat. He got a shot in the butt and they did send in prescriptions for the rest of us. Korey starting getting better before the prescription, Monte got better in a day, and I got worse and started throwing up. I haven't eaten much since I have been home, so I am thinking it may be from the medicine, so I quit taking it - I know you're not supposed to, but I am feeling better finally - almost normal!!

Well, there is lots more I could write about our first week, but nap time is over and time to get their snacks!! So, hope to write more soon....

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Home Sweet Home (long)

Hi all! I know you all think we fell off the face of the earth, but we did make it home. It was a long trek, but we made it. If you are reading this at work and that is all you wanted to know, you can quit reading, but it you want to know all the details, keep reading....

The last day in Kiev, we got up at 2:30 a.m. to get the rest of the stuff packed and ready to go. I slept in my contacts since I knew we wouldn't be in bed long and it would be time to get up soon. We wanted a little time to finish packing before the kids got up, but somewhere along the way, Vanya woke up and ran in the other kids' room yelling that papa was going to fly them to America. Everybody actually got up in a good mood and got dressed and ready to go. The last night at the pizza party, we were teasing Bogdan about getting up and coming to see us off and he said he was thinking about it, and we said, no really we are just kidding. We just didn't want to be forgotten and we didn't have a cell phone anymore to call anyone. We gave it back to George that day since it was his. Sasha, one of the orphanage graduates who has a mini van, was supposed to drive us to the airport and he lives in the same compound, so we felt pretty comfortable that he would remember to get up and take us. Bogdan got up to see us off anyway and helped load the van and talked to the kids for us. He helped bring the luggage all the way to the desk and walked right past the part that says ticketed passengers only. He waited until we went upstairs to custom. It was time to say goodbye to him and Sasha. He does wonderful work with the orphanage kids and graduates.

We then went upstairs to customs. We have heard horror stories about how they take you to a back room or give you lots of trouble and try to keep you there for a long time. We just went in line and they did everything there. I prayed we would get a nice lady in our line and we did. She maybe told them in the back room that they didn't want us there with all four kids, but we just stood at the desk and she took our papers to the back room and after a while, she came back with everything, stamped it all, and we got to go. Waiting at the Kiev airport was hard as there is nothing there, but it wasn't a long wait. We did get some juice for the kids and got to get on the plane. On this short jaunt to Germany, they gave us breakfast, and brought snacks and puzzles, and sticker pages for the kids. I sat with the girls and Monte sat with the boys and Korey was one row behind us. He slept the whole time and I think he even missed breakfast. The kids did really well with having to wear the seatbelts even though they had never worn seatbelts before. We had a several hour wait in Germany. It is funny that they would have a waiting room, after you pass through security with no bathrooms, so everytime we went out, we had to go through security again. We tried to keep the kids contained in one row of seats. They mostly colored and played with little cars. Vanya would go up to people and try to unzip their bags. One time, he leaned on a guys legs and Monte was talking to the man, and he said he was probably staring at him because he was Asian and probably hadn't seen anyone who looked like him before. Luckily, he was a really nice guy and was on the same plane as us. We didn't get to sit together on the big plane, they did put some of us together. At first, they had us all over the plane with only one person in each row. We did get it down to Monte and Vanya, Me and the girls, and Korey with Maxim. We didn't get to see each other much on this plane. The kids did pretty well. They slept and played with the buttons on the arm rest. (I don't think the stewardesses liked that very much as there was a call light on there that they kept buzzing them.) There is a little T.V. on the back of the seat in front of us. Vlada did cry a little bit about the seatbelt on this plane, but we had to keep them on as there was a lot of turbulence. It was on this plane that I realized that the kids liked cucumbers and tomatoes that they got that with one of their meals. They also liked the rhubarb cake. I am glad we had the airsick pills with us, I was really queasy by the time breakfast came, but we were already starting the descent at that time and I couldn't eat. For breakfast, they brought Twix, barbecued potatoe chips and a ham sandwhich. The girls ate well anyway. I forgot to tell about the airplane bathrooms. Katya was scared of the flushing as it makes that whoosh, I think she thought she was going down too. After the first time, she stood behind me while I flushed. It even took awhile after we got home that she wouldn't run away from the toilet when it was being flushed. Anyway, we made it to Chicago. First, we went through passport control and then had to wait for our bags. When they came, we sent Korey on his way. We had changed our tickets where we only had 1-1/2 hours in Chicago for ones that were a few hours later so we would have time to go through immigration. We had heard this could take 3-4 hours. We only sat there for a while. I had to go to the desk twice to show passports or give a telephone number or sign something. It didn't take long and we were on our way. We realized that maybe we could still keep the 5:05 flight, so we went to the desk to see if we could change them back. On the way in, a lady grabbed our bags and put them on the conveyor belt and when we asked if we could go earlier, they said we couldn't because our bags were already gone. When we got up to where our flight was, one gate down from the 5:05, it was already gone, so if we would have got on, we would have had to run, which of course would have been difficult with four tired kids. So, we got some apples and juice for the kids, and settled in for our wait. At one point, they made us move to a different gate, quite a walk from B to C. We waited there for a while. There was a bunch of college kids there and Vlada was entertaining them with Russian, and when they were laughing at her, and then she got quite silly. The flight kept being delayed, about three times, and they little ones were getting quite tired, Katya and Maxim fell asleep on the benches and Vanya fell asleep cross legged on the floor. I wish the batteries in my camera weren't dead - that would have been a cute picture. After about an hour of delays, they cancelled our flight. I was fighting tears at this point. Everyone was so tired and we all just wanted to go home, but there was a vibration on the plane. They told everyone to get in line to be set up for another flight and get vouchers for a hotel and meals. We must have been the farthest from the line because I was the last one in line. They set us up at the Hilton, which is across the road from the airport with an underground tunnel. There was a long line to check in there with everyone from our plane. They also gave us a $15 voucher for food for each person. Everyone was so tired that we tried room service. On the menu, it said spaghetti was $7 so we ordered three plates of spaghetti since the kids ate it in Ukraine. It turned out that the spaghetti was $22.50 a plate plus all the extra taxes and fees, it was $93. It used up all of our vouchers plus more. They only sent us four forks and the kids wouldn't eat it anyway, just ate a little bit and some bread. That was a total waste of money. Then we put everyone to bed. We had to sleep three people to a bed. Boys in one bed, girls in the other. Maxim cried about which bed he had to sleep in, but everyone slept pretty well, and then we walked back to the airport. When we got to the airport, we got the kids apples, bananas and juice. It was so nice to get on the plane and finally be on our way home!!! That was a quick jaunt and we were met at the airport by Mike and Toni, Dan and Mary and family, and Shannon and Amy Stauter and a friend of theirs who spoke Russian. It was so nice that she was able to talk to the kids about going home, what to expect in the car, etc. (The Stauter girls graciously hosted Mike/Toni and Dan/Mary for the night when our flight was cancelled so they didn't have to drive home and come back again.) That was alot to ask of our friends!! But we are so glad to have such good friends. A little ways from the airport, all of the kids fell asleep, but nobody had eaten, so by about Elk River, the older two were awake, so we went to Denny's there, thinking that the menu had pictures and the kids could pick something. They all picked pancakes that had pancakes for ears, and whip cream for a mouth and cherries for eyes. Maxim ate his, Vlada about half, Vanya a few bites, and Katya didn't eat anything, except some of my scrambled eggs. I think it is going to be difficult to find something they all like to eat!!! Then we continued on home and only had to make one potty break. When we got close to our house, we got them all excited about going home and when they saw our house, they recognized it from pictures, and started yelling "America, America!!" I wished we could have taped it, it was so cool!! When we got home, we spent time exploring the house and showing them their bedrooms. Mike took pictures and some video of the home coming. When they were here and we were showing them the boy's bedroom, the dogs had pushed the door in and ran in, all of the kids started screaming, they were very scared of the dogs. We will have to work on that transition!! Before they left, Monte's sister and brother-in-law came. Everybody thought we got home yesterday and we had just gotten in. Then Monte's mom came and brought remote control cars for the boys and a singing bear for Vlada and pony for Katya. Katya wanted a singing toy too and one of the remote control cars didn't work. Carol said she would come back tomorrow with a new car. We fed the kids a spagetti hotdish that Kathy had made. The boys loved it and the girls only ate a little bit. LeRoy and Lori and Chris came over too and brought apple pies from McDonalds. By then, the kids had gotten quite silly and a little rowdy. After LeRoy and Lori left, it was time for bed and they went to bed really well. I read one book to Katya and she was sleep by the last couple of pages. I heard Korey come in, he had been in the cities. I think it was about 9 and we were all in bed already. During the night at about midnight I heard someone walking around. I thought it would have been one of the kids and I got up to find Korey sitting on the floor in the kitchen. He said he didn't feel good and almost passed out. He drove home from the cities when he wasn't feeling well and then was sitting on the floor in the bathroom, so I got him a bucket, got him some Tylenol, and walked him back downstairs. I didn't think I would be taking care of the oldest kid in the house. I thought it would be one of the younger ones.

I want to write more about our time since we have been home, but I think puzzle time is over and the crying has begun. I have supper in the oven and it is almost done, so I need to get going on that - I will try to catch you all up soon. But I just wanted to tell you that all of us adults have been sick since we have been home and we haven't been able to write yet and it is still difficult to find time to sit down. I hope to soon though....

Friday, January 23, 2009

Our last day here....

Today is our last day here, the kids all got up about the same time today. We did the two breakfasts. Korey wanted to walk to the store to get Coke and we had him get some milk too since we didn't have enough for everyone for second breakfast. They ate really good today. Some days they eat the cereal well and other days they don't. We have had some kind of cocoa puffs for them and corn flakes. Our facilitator came over in the morning and we settled up on everything we owed him, owed here at the clinic, and for the boys who drove us around. We got all the kids showered and then George told them they could go out and play. It was nice to get them out of this room, but is it warm here and everything is melting, and there is a layer of slippery ice under everything. Jillian slipped many times and came in soaking wet. More clothes for the radiator!! They also got to help the psychologist feed a turtle. It is a Japanese "soup" turtle that grows to the size of its surroundings. Then we made the kids a lunch of fried mashed potatoes - using up the leftovers and tried frying the sausage (they look like hot dogs with a casing), but they liked it boiled or "raw" better. Then, it was on to nap time and trying to pack. We had supper with the children from upstairs. We bought pizzas for them. They really like our kids and gave them all gifts again. I think we will be taking home one whole bag of gifts from them. The caregiver also gave us Ukrainian candles to burn with meals, so the kids will remember Ukraine. Bogdan let me go to his office to print our new itinerary. We pushed back our flight - sorry!! - to leave Chicago later so we would have more time to get through immigration with four children. It says in our packet that we just got from the embassy to allow at least 2 hours for port of entry for one child and we only had 1-1/2 hours in Chicago. We may regret this decision, but with Monte not feeling well, we didn't want the stress of rushing four tired children through this. Plus, we have to pick up all our bags to go through customs before we even get to immigration. Korey is still coming home as planned on the earlier flight since his car is still down in the cities. We will be arriving in Mpls. at 9:31 on a United flight from Chicago. Well that is about it for today, we are almost all packed and it is the middle of this night.

I forgot to tell you about the little girl I met at the play area at the arcade the other day. She said "Hi" to me and again later said something in English. She said she was born in New York and her and her brother are "Russian and English" and her parents are Russian. She was there with her nanny, who made her leave after we started talking. It was really fun to chat with her and she asked if I was the kid's nanny or their mama.

And I just wanted to answer a few questions people have asked me. Yes, they are potty trained. When we left, I thought maybe the caregivers were just trained to take them at regimented times and maybe getting off that schedule, they would have accidents, but they are very definite when they have to go "peesit" or "caca" and you can tell by the urgency in their voice that they wait until the last minute to go and our main problem is that usually they all have to go all at the same time and cry if they can't go when someone is already on the toilet. Good thing we have two at home!! (maybe we will need four!)

And I have been asked what the kids like to eat. It is so hard because they change their minds each day. They have liked chicken, pizza, and spaghetti that we have tried. They didn't want to eat borsch or a rice dish they were served the other day which would be typical of an orphanage meal, but they did like the Ukrainian potato pancake, that is kind of like a hashbrown patty, but has a different taste and of course they like mashed potatoes and the dreaded sausages that look kind of like hotdogs. They go crazy for juice boxes, fruit, and ice cream. Some days they like McDonalds and somedays they don't. I am not sure what kind of meals we will be preparing!! They even drink tea.

Well, I don't know if I should finish packing or try to sleep for a couple of hours..... Anyway, see you soon!! Please continue to pray us through Ukrainian customs, for getting through all the airports, hitting all our connections and getting through Immigration in Chicago. Also, Monte is not feeling well, has cold symptoms and a sore throat. All of the things that have come together has truly been a miracle!!, but please continue to pray.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The best day

Today was a busy, but good day. The kids got up early today, but they were very good. We were all getting a little cabin fever today because we can't take the kids out as it rained and everything is wet. With only a couple changes of clothes, that isn't a good thing. We did get out the balloons that they got at McDonald's the other day. Usually, they get pretty wild with balloons, but we needed a distraction and the older kids were watching a movie with Korey. So, we played that for a while and we had lunch of mashed potatoes and sausages again. That is getting a little boring, but the kids like it. Katya and I took a nap, the rest just had quiet time. Finally, it was time to go to the embassy. I thought we just had to pick up the visas, but it was more of a process. They took the rest of our papers and sent us to the waiting room with toys. There were two other adoptive families there, each adopting one girl - I think there were both about 8 yrs old. One family was from Indiana and their SDA appt. was a few days after ours and they are going home tomorrow. One was a Ukrainian woman married to an American who has been here two months, her husband went home a month ago. Their new daughter had brothers or sisters that had to be separated and that is a lot of paperwork and delays. It was really nice visiting with people who are going through the same thing as we are. We were lucky in that we dropped off most of the paperwork the day before. They had been waiting more than 3 hours and nobody told them what was going on. The kids behaved awesomely today. They are shy and are really quiet around new people. I guess they are just not shy around us!!! Then, the other two girls started talking to them and playing. They finally brought out the paperwork and did all three families at the same time. We all signed each paper (papers X4 in our case) and then moved on to the next one. Then, he said he had to go back and make sure everything with everyone's visas were okay. Breath holding time again - then he came back and they were all okay and they were printing and it would be about 30 minutes. They brought us the kid's passports with visas, our sealed envelopes for immigration in Chicago and the papers were need for customs in Ukraine. This is it!!! We finally got all of our papers!!! This is the best I have felt the whole time we have been here!! We are done a day early and can come home Saturday morning as planned!! After we got home from our visas, we went to McDonalds with Bogdan and Alyosha. Now, it is time for bed, so I need to finish for today.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Medicals, Embassy

We needed to get up to be picked up at 8 a.m. to start our day. The kids got up really well considering we had to wake them up early. We had a mini bus take us to the hospital first. (I was mixed up on the process - I thought we did embassy first and medicals the next day, but we did medicals first.) We went in to the hospital and checked our coats first. Then, we waited in a hallway while George got us registered. They first took the little two and weighed and measured them, then the older two. They also checked the eyes for the older two and they could see even the smallest line - using pictures since Vlada doesn't know her letters yet. Monte went to pay to pay the bill for the medicals. They used to be $85 a person and now they are $90 - George says because of the "crisis." More waiting. The kids are doing fairly well waiting and they are getting lots of attention in the waiting room. There is a lady here from California with her adopted son also. She is on the same timeline as us, only a few days faster. Their court date was Dec. 29 and ours was Dec. 26 and they are going home tomorrow. They are friends with the couple we talked to in the airport on our way home last time and that family is just having court today. The process is different for everyone. Then, they called in the whole family. The doctor was really nice and went through their medical records and explained things to me. She asked the kids all kinds of questions. She said they all answered them correctly and worked together as a family unit. She had them all take off their shirts, multiple layers remember!! She checked their lungs and then had them lie down and she checked their abdomens. We had to have Vlada sent for an x-ray because of the Mantoux sensitivity. More waiting, it is getting harder to sit still. The facilitator for the California family was telling them it was much nicer to sit on the benches than lying down on the dirty floor. That helped for a while. Then, Vlada went in for her x-ray. We had to wait for the x-ray to be finished and read. We waited in another hallway for a while and then George suggested that we go to the hospital cafe. It was really nice and had good food. Even though it was 10:30, we had lunch. Their choices were liver or fried fish. Maxim chose liver for everyone. He is the only one who ate it. But they did mostly eat up the potatoes and beet salad. Now, everyone has to go to the bathroom and they all have to go at the same time. Jason was beating on the door while Jillian was going and cried the whole time and of course Jillian took her sweet time knowing that she was bugging her brother. Now, we are sent back to the hallway to wait for the x-ray. It is getting much harder to sit still and things are deteriorating. George came back once and said it would be another 5 minutes, so we got our coats from the coat check. They ladies hand signaled that the kids look like mama and papa. Then, more waiting. It is getting tougher and tougher. Okay, lets go!! Everything is done and we have to rush over to the embassy to do the paperwork for the visas. We have to be there by noon and there is lots of traffic. We fed the kids cookies and juice in the car. That kept them busy for a little bit. We got there and parked on the sidewalk. We tried to rush the children into the building where they do the security check. It is really hard to rush 4 tired children. We got there with 1 minute to spare!! The security guard kept looking at the clock, but lets us through. We got up to the floor where the adoption unit is. The lady there is really nice and said I could take the kids to a waiting room down the hall that has toys in it and Monte could do paperwork. Monte had the paperwork in hand, but certainly didn't want to fill out papers, so we switched. He took the kids to the other waiting room. Luckily, I had most of the paper filled out ahead of time. She went through everything and helped me with a couple of questions I had. She gave me a little heart attack though. On our fingerprint paper, it said the expiration date of our fingerprints was June of 08. They are good for 15 months and we had them done in March. There was an error in the date written!! She said we were lucky the original was there that showed our March date. Whew!! I certainly don't want to stay and re-do fingerprint just because of a typo by our government. Everything was in order so far and they sent us away to come back tomorrow at 2 to do the interviews and get the visas. Please pray for this process that everything is correct. (We have to take the children back with us for the interviews.) They are really tired now!! We made it back to orphanage 12, but its too late for a nap. They are getting a little short tempered now. Monte took them outside to play while I filled out two more sets of papers that we need for the embassy tomorrow. Bogdan said that Mia wanted to make us Ukrainian potato pancakes and we could also have the cafeteria food for tonight, they serve at 7. He also said that Artyem and Alyosha would take us back to the arcade place to go ice skating, which would be really fun, but the kids are incredibly tired, so we elected to stay in and eat at the cafe. Bogdan sat with us (and some of the other kids) and went over some phrases the kids have been saying that we couldn't understand and some phrases we can use with them. The orphanage kids here got their Christmas boxes from Samaritan's Purse. They really enjoyed getting them. One of the teenage boys brought us socks and a hat and gloves that he got that were too small. That was nice timing as Jason lost one of his gloves today and was beside himself that he didn't have them. Mia also brought all of the kids a gift, a coloring book for Jason, stuffed animals for Robin and Ryan, and a "book" of hair thingys for Jillian. All of the kids want Jillian's gift and are trying to "trade" her for it. She knows she has the prize and is keeping it from them. Lots more tears on both sides. I think it is an early bed night. Jillian was asleep in just minutes, and just now (in the middle of the night), she was crawling in her sleep on the floor looking for something. I just put her back to bed and tucked her in, but I better get off the computer and lie down with her and try to get some more sleep. Tomorrow is another big day!! Again, please, please keep praying for all the paperwork to be correct an we can be ready to go. Also, please pray ahead for customs for when we leave Ukraine. I have heard they can give you a hard time. On Saturday morning, I really want to be on the plane home!!!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Homestretch??

We did the usual breakfast thing and trying to keep them occupied for as long as we can. Ryan is feeling much better. He got up to have breakfast, but then laid down again - I think he is getting a little spoiled by being able to sleep in the room with the extra T.V., and the room Korey keeps his I-Pod and PSP in. Jason's toe is much better also. Monte took him to the nurse for his dressing change. They changed it and also the thumb wound. They told Monte by hand gestures that he should wear gloves to bed. Ya, we will see how that goes!! Bogdan brought over some embassy papers that George had sent over so I could get a headstart filling them out. With four kids, it will take much longer. I filled them out while Monte took Katya and Jason outside to play. Ryan still didn't want to go out to play and Robin ran out there later. Just as I was finishing the papers, she ran back in and I was just going to get up to let Monte know that Robin was back in, when he came in with the little two. Just as I figured, she had run off without telling him and he was worried. Korey watched a movie on my lap top with the older two and we played referee with the youngest, trying to share blocks and Legos. Bogdan had the great idea of having the kids eat here at the orphanage since it is the same kind of food they are used to, so we went down at 1:30 to eat in the cafe. They served us Borsch, mashed potatoes, a chicken cutlet, pickles, bread, compote, and brought the kids a banana. Bogdan came in and grabbed a bowl of borsch and then sat across the room, so we invited him over. Maybe he wanted to get away from the kids, but he graciously accepted. He told us stories about orphanage graduates and how hard it is for them. There is one boy in a wheelchair that is lucky to be a trade school. Normally, once he was done at the orphanage, he would be sent to a rest home at age 16-18 (I think) to just lie in bed for the rest of his life. He is at a trade school and his legs and hands don't work, but is learning a trade. They don't have a washer or dryer there. He has to get someone that is able to hand wash his clothes for him. Then they lay them out on the beds and Bogdan says it stinks in there because it takes a month for the clothes to dry since their rooms are very cold. Bogdan was trying to get a washer and dryer for them, but the place refused because of the old wiring. Bogdan said that they would re-wire for it, then they said the electricity would cost too much, Bogdan said they would pay for it, but they still refused. That is how hard it is to help these kids here. There are people in America that want to help, but they can't get through all the red tape. And one day, the caretaker came to check on the boy and he didn't open his door fast enough, so they took the locks off his door. In Ukraine, there is a big problem with theft. Bogdan tries to help these kids with their problems. Once they leave the orphanage, they are sent all over the country and he tries to still help them with these kinds of problems. Have I ever said, we think Bogdan is awesome!?! During dinner, he said that Artyem was off tonight and his wife works at an arcade if the older kids wanted to go and then he checked and there is an indoor playground there too for the younger ones. When we were done eating, he came back to the room with us and explained to the kids that they needed to take a nice nap and they would get to go to this arcade. They all agreed to be good. Robin and Ryan ran off and jumped under the covers. Katya tried really hard, she only crumpled her face once and then laid down. Yay, the first day without tears!! Jason still couldn't behave, he had to "go" peesit 5 times, got up and down, argued with Monte and just generally still couldn't lie down and take a nap. Monte was at the end of his rope. I think this was his worst day for napping. Monte decided since we said they had to be good for their naps, he couldn't go. I guess this is our first "we have to say what we mean" parenting issue. Of course he sobbed when we left. The three were really excited to go. I asked Bogdan to go talk to Jason so he could understand why he couldn't go and he said he would as soon as we took off. We went by taxi to the city center. It took a long time since it was "rush hour." They have an arcade, several different play areas for the little ones and an ice skating rink - I really wanted to go there, but we didn't have enough time. I played with Jillian in the playroom, it has a maze, a little thing you can ride sleds down, enormous Legos, and a huge stuffed penguin. We played on everything and ended with me with "tossing" her onto the Penguin and she loved that. I hope we can have some bonding in our relationship. It is so hard to bond when you have to be after them all the time in the room to not color on the furniture, not jump on the furniture, etc. We had a good time. Ryan and Robin played lots of different video games and air hockey with Korey, Artyem and Alyosha who showed up to drive us home. At first, they couldn't decide what to play or how because they had never seen anything like it before. After playing there, we took the kids to McDonalds for supper. I ordered all the kids a happy meal. Ryan ate some french fries and didn't like them and ate half of his burger, the same with Robin. Katya ate up most of her fries and didn't know how to eat the burger. By the time she started her burger, we had all finished and Artyem tried to show her by "eating" his box. She still didn't eat it. She kept a few of her fries twisted up in the bag. Robin really like Korey's milk shake. A lady brought around balloons for all the kids. Alyosha was smart enough to put all the balloons in the trunk, we were really crowded with Robin and Jillian on our laps. Robin kept asking on the way out if one of the SUVs was what we were going to get to drive. Nyeta - the kids say nyetah and da huh for a huh an unhuh (sp? have you ever tid to spell that??). Anyway, we went back home and Bogdan met us at the door. He said he would explain that the fun was over and it was time to go to bed. (Can we take Bogdan home with us??) Monte came back then with Jason who got to play upstairs on the third floor with the big kids. Bogdan says he would probably regret not going to McDonalds as the food they served tonight wasn't good for him either. He did talk to the kids and explained to them that they had to put away their toys and go to bed. Katya wouldn't give up her french fries, she still had them in a tight fist. They went to bed really well (had to still keep Jason in another room), Katya didn't cry at all. She ate the rest of her french fries and kept singing and singing (in a whisper), then I laid my hand on her chest and tummy to try to soothe her, she laid her little hands on mine, picked my fingertails a little bit and was asleep in just seconds. It was amazing!!

George called Monte while we were out and he has the children's passports!!!!!! Thank you all for praying!!!! Tomorrow, we leave at 8 a.m. for the embassy. Please keep praying for our process! We are all ready to come home!!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sick Boys

Today, Jason woke up crying and he is limping on his foot and complaining about a sore on his thumb. He constantly bites his nails and also bit the end of his thumb. His big toe looks infected. We gave him a Tylenol to help with pain control and we called Bogdan to see if he could see the pediatrician. He offered her services when we came. She is only here in the morning. He said he would be there in an hour and would set it up. Then, we were playing with the kids and getting their breakfasts. Ryan just kept sleeping and sleeping, was crying a little bit, and was pushing away the other kids when they tried to play with him. We took his temp and for some reason, it changed to celcius, but Korey has a converter on his phone. It was about 99. We have him a Tylenol just to see if it would make him feel better. When Bogdan came, he accompanied us to the pediatrician and translated for us. We took both boys. She looked at Jason's toe first. She didn't think he needed to go to the hospital (neither did we, but hoping for some antibiotics). She painted a couple of different liquids on it and bandaged it up. Then, she looked at his thumb and painted the stuff on it too and bandaged it up. She wants him to come back everyday that we are here to treat it. She told me a lot of orphanage kids have that behavior. She listened to Maxim's lungs, looked in his throat and said his throat was a little red and wrote a prescription for a throat spray, some lozenges (I think) and something for the cold also to suck on. Bogdan had Artyem pick up the medicines for us. They cost 86 grivna, about $10 USD. He brought the medicines with Artyem and they explained to Ryan how to use them. He is really quiet and slept most of the day. Korey took the girls out to play while we had the boys in the clinic. We put a big shoe on Jason and sent him out to play since he desparately wanted to. I stayed in with Ryan and got to read a little. A lot of the kids from upstairs played with the kids outside and Mia came to play with the kids in the apartments. She played with them very nice and it was a nice break as she could talk to them and see what they wanted. She left when we were making lunch. Bogdan had asked Artyem to take us to McDonalds that we talked about yesterday, but I didn't know they would just show up without letting us know and Monte already had lunch made and with Ryan sick, we didn't go. Korey was playing video games in the room with Ryan and didn't hear Bogdan, so he was bummed that he missed out on McDonalds food. The food that we can make here gets old fast! We made mashed potatoes and boiled sausage again. (It is like kielbasa.) Then it was nap time, only crying until they both fell asleep. They didn't sleep long though. We played inside for a while, then took them to the park to go sledding. They really love that, hoping to get rid of the rowdies! When we got back, Mia and her sister Jessica came to play with this kids. It was so nice this morning, we were glad to see them again. Monte took the opportunity to go get groceries and then took Korey to get some pizzas. Mia left and Jessica stayed. She is a little young and got the kids rowdy. I kept telling her and them to get off the beds and settle down, but they kept getting up and she would tickle them and they would jump from bed to bed and I would settle them down and get them off the beds and then she would have them on there again. The last time, I was trying to get them all off the beds and at the table to color, Jillian fell off the bed and landed on her head. There is nothing here for an ice pack, so used a cold cold washcloth. She has a rug burn, but not too bad of a goose egg. More Tylenol to dole out- glad I brought that!! I was kind of regretting bringing the drug store with me, but I am glad I had that! Monte came back with the pizza and she was still there, and the kids wouldn't concentrate on eating pizza, so we had to shoo her away with a bye-bye. I hated to hurt her feelings, but I was at my witt's end!! They were still rowdy after dinner and Monte took them to the play room in the psychologist's office. I had to ask for the key - Anastacia kuchee, but the lady at the desk didn't want to give it to me and she called Bogdan and she seemed surprised that he said I could have it. The girls kept coming from upstairs and the kids stayed rowdy and they were still rowdy when they returned, so I am trying to finish this quickly so we can look at pictures on my computer, hopefully that will settle them down.... til next time.....(I didn't want to write this in the middle of the night, but daytime isn't working too well.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

New things to do

Our day again started with Jason being the first one up and then it moves on to everyone else. They all wake up in a good mood and we do the two breakfasts. They usually start coloring or drawing or playing play-doh. They lasted longer today (Its getting longer and longer each day that things go well, so thats a good sign!!) before the crayons started flying and they were arguing over the coloring books. Then we took them into the psychologist's office to play. She has lots of toys in there that they play with - mostly the legos, building things like Lincoln logs, stuffed animals, and the developmental toys. We kept them occupied there until about noon. Then we gave them leftover chicken nuggets, cheese, bread, and sausage. Then we got everyone showered and into clean clothes for the puppet show. A 24 y/o orphanage graduate named Artyem that speaks English took Korey and Ryan and Robin on public transportation. When Robin and Ryan left, Jillian and Jason both started crying uncontrollably. They both wanted to go outside and thought they were being left. Luckily, the orphanage director Bogdan was there helping us arrange everyhing and he came in and talked to the kids and told them they were leaving too. I wish we could calm them when those kinds of things come up!! Monte and I and the little ones were then driven by Alyosha when it was our time to go that drove us yesterday. We met Artyem there and he came with us to the puppet show and helped us check our coats and find our seats. The kids sat spellbound for the whole show, except Jason who was more interested in the people behind us (who I have to say were quite noisy), but he did say a comment at one point in the show that made the lady in front of us laugh - I wish I knew what he said. After we got out of the show, Korey asked me if I realized what the show was about, but I was so tired I fell asleep 8 times during the show - and that was sitting on hard chairs!! Korey said it was Cinderella. After we got back, the kids played in the room again. They really like music videos and they dance to them, sometimes even when they are coloring. I have to say I am impressed how much they are coloring and playing play-doh after this many days. There aren't a whole lot of other things to do though!! The kids in one of the groups upstairs asked us to come up for dinner and they cooked for us. That was really nice. They served us chicken and fish and several salads that they had made for us. Each group has a kitchen and they cook in them for special occasions and gaining life skills at the same time! Our kids were pretty much silent for the whole meal - it amazes me how shy they are when they are so wild and crazy with us!! After we were served dessert, the kids had turned on karaoke. They sang for us while we visited. Then, they turned on the music and got the children up to dance and carried them around and played with them. The children from the orphanage also gave each of them gifts - stuff they had there like games, paints, colored pencils, cars, and stuffed animals. The kids thought they were in heaven!! Then it was time to go home. It was so nice to be invited and to get to know the kids more. They like having guests as they don't see people outside the orphanage much. Then it was a traumatic bedtime again. We had to have them put up their new toys and get jammies on - this time all of them were crying!! It was really nice to get out today, but I think a routine actually works better for them. Maybe we can get someone that speaks English to help us with bedtime soon. I really don't like having this traumatic time for them!! I wish we could explain things to them - I really wish I knew what was going through their heads!! It snowed a little today, hopefully that will be enough to take them to the park to go sledding tomorrow!! Thanks for hanging in there with us - and thanks for your prayers, comments and e-mails. Da Zafstra!! (til tomorrow or something like that!!)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Day 7 Trip 2 - Getting to know the kids better...

Again, I am catching up on blogs I have missed. If you want to read them in order, scroll down to where you left off....

Jason was up first today. Monte gave him juice and fruit in the kitchen again to try to keep him quiet, but that is hard to do in that small of a space. Robin was up next and within seconds, everyone was awake and started our day. I played with the kids with the coloring books. I pulled out some flash cards to try to work on English, but they just wanted to play with them. Monte and Korey went up to get more cereal and milk. That is what we give them for "second breakfast", trying to keep on the same schedule as the orphanage. It doesn't take long and their behavior deteriorates quickly, so Monte took them to the orphanage park, I straightened up the place and joined him later and Korey took a shower. We took the kids on a walk to another park on the orphanage grounds and let them play there until they were cold. Then we took them back to play in our room and Monte let me try to sleep in the other room, but they were in and out banging the doors, etc. Just think of it as trying to occupy your kids in a hotel room for this many days .... and you don't speak the language. We are getting along really well with hand signals I think, but there are many times where we just can't understand them and that isn't pleasant for either of us. I didn't get any sleep, so just played with them again and then Korey and I walked to the store to get more groceries. We had mashed potatoes again for lunch, which they love and a summer sausage which they didn't care for. We tried nap time again and it wasn't anymore successful than the previous day, except that Jason did end up falling asleep for a little bit - until he fell off the bed. Bogdan came soon after with an invitation for one of his graduates to take us to the ticket office for the puppet theater so that we can take them to the puppet theater tomorrow. Monte stayed with the kids - I think he is getting into Russian T.V. Bogdan gave him the key for the psychologist's office too. Then Korey, I, and Maxim went up to get tickets. It was in the city center. It was fun to drive down there. Korey really liked downtown Kiev and Maxim was fascinated. We bought 7 tickets for tomorrow at 3. We drove back to the orphanage. When we were leaving with Maxim, the other kids had a meltdown and wanted to go too, so Monte got them ready to take them outside just as George showed up to let us know what was going on next. They both took them outside to play. George will go on the train Monday night back to Odessa to get the passports (again pray for all the officials involved that they will be correct and actually be there!!) The passports should be ready on Tuesday, then the rest of the week will be spent doing embassy stuff. When we all got back, Bogdan filled us in on the plan on how we will get to the puppet theater. Alyosha will drive Monte and I with the little ones and Korey and another orphanage graduate that is 24 and knows English will take Korey and the older two on public transportation and will stay with us for the show and help us find our seats. I hope it goes well, it will be nice to do something different. We then took the kids into play at the psychologist's office. Monte didn't know that he could take them there earlier as the psychologist wasn't in today. To give him a little break, Korey and I stayed with them in that room and played with legos, big stuffed animals and building things and the developmental toys, even Robin likes them - you know the kind you would give babies/toddlers with the shapes that go in certain holes. Monte made us a supper of chicken nuggets and spaghetti. Korey and I found all the incredents when we went to the grocery store last. Bogdan found a lady to help him with the stove in the cafe that has an oven, otherwise we just have hot plate. Monte served us in the cafe, which was a nice treat to get out of this room. After that, Korey holed up in the other room with a video game - I think he needs to get away from the kids a bit!! and I think he is ready to go home. We put in a movie and tried to keep the kids occupied with coloring books and flash cards. I tried to check e-mail and write in the blog, but the computer didn't cooperate, but while I was trying, Ryan wanted to use my pen and started writing words in his tablet. (Korey had written their names and his during their quiet time earlier in the day and had Maxim copy them - and they finally called him Korey and not papa - they call all men papa.) Monte again helped Maxim write his name and mama and papa in English, then he just took off writing the words from the flash cards and trying to say them with us and Robin started in and Jason even said his name in English - finally some progress in English!!!! Ryan is also a really good drawer and drew the computer and the phone. That was some nice quiet time before bed and we stayed up with them 'til 9:30, past their usual 9 p.m. bedtime, but still the meltdown and Robin joined them in the crying. It took a while for everyone to settle down. When I finally got Jillian to sleep, Ryan and Robin were still whispering and I had to separate them and they finally settled down too. I am sure this is a scary place and that is probably the time of day when they are really missing their friends and their familiar routine. (Please pray for their transition to America and our home and some extra prayers to get through the time here!) I think I am finally caught up to present on the blog and I need to go to bed - I am really lacking sleep!! C ya tomorrow!!

Day 6 Trip 2 - Getting to know the kids...

in a tight spot. Jason was up first, so I took him into the kitchen for juice and fruit in hopes of keeping him quiet so everyone else could sleep. This apartment is small. The kitchen doesn't have enough room for a table and chairs. The bathroom is through the kitchen and has everything we need. There is one bedroom with two single beds. The other room has 3 single beds and a double futon, the computer, T.V., and dining room stuff in it. Before I was done with Jason, Monte brought Katya in and we gave her a snack and then everyone was up and our day began. The room with the futon and 3 beds is also the play room, which doesn't give them much room to play. It didn't become long before they were rowdy. We took them to the ophanage park, it had snowed during the night and the kids had a lot of fun playing on their playground equipment, much nice than the one at their other orphanage, and threw snowballs and tried to make a snowman. I don't remember what else we did the rest of the day, but used coloring books and tried to keep them contained and occupied with the few toys we have for them. We made them a lunch of mashed potatoes and boiled sausages. They gobbled it right down. I don't think we bought them enough!! We will have to get used to feeding that many mouths. Then we tried nap time, it was about as successful as bedtime last night. Monte laid down with Jason and I laid down with Jillian. The older two laid down in the bedroom and played computer games with Korey. Jillian was the only one who slept. Bogdan came around and took us on a tour of the orphanage. It is an orphanage that specialized in kids with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. The youngest child is 10 and there are 50 children here now. It used to have a lot more, but Ukraine is swinging towards foster care and they are not getting new kids. He showed us their sleeping areas and he has team leaders in the older kids, which is a great way to give them self esteem and experience leading. We saw the dining room that we can use. After the tour, he took us on a walk to a big park two blocks away and gave us two sleds to use. Bogdan then showed Monte where the pizzeria was and Korey and I stayed and played with the kids on the sliding hill. They loved that!! Then we walked back to the apartment. Monte and Korey walked up later to the pizzeria and brought us back two pepperoni pizzas. Monte pointed at someones pizza on their table and held two fingers up. Again, two pizzas were not enough!! Jason ate only one slice and everyone else ate it until it was gone. More time spent indoors trying to keep them occupied. I think we have used up everything we have to keep them entertained. Then Bogdan came back again and took us to meet the psychologist - must have thought we needed one!!! Actually, it was to meet her and let the kids play in her playroom, which has some really neat stuff in it. We can use it whenever she isn't with clients. (But how to ask for the key....hmmm) We played there until 9 p.m. and the psychologist was surpised how fast the time went. She had showed them a bunch of development toys and spent a lot of time one on one with Robin. Then it was time to take them home to bed. I thought it would go easier with quiet toys and not so rowdy, but the crying started again Monte took Jason into a room by himself and I took Katya in the room with the oldest two and Korey slept on the bed between them. They whispered and tossed and turned. It took about two hours to get everyone to sleep. When they were finally asleep, I wrote on the blog. I didn't sleep much, Katya is in almost constant motion as she sleeps, it was hot in there, and all night long I didn't know what time it was as the kids had taken the travel clock and played with it changing the time, and I was worried about Jason being so pale, that maybe he was sick. I got up and sat in the bathroom to pray. There is nowhere to go read or do anything when you can't sleep except sit on the floor in the kitchen or bathroom.

Day 5 Trip 2 - The long hard road

Today, we started the day by springing the kids from the orphanage!! They were ready and dressed in their new clothes that we left them yesterday, except Katya still had her orphanage shoes on. I lifted her up quickly onto a little table by the door to change them into her boots and I got chewed out by the caretaker that it wasn't sanitary, that I had to take her to the cloak room to do it. The caretaker did invite us to take a picture of her groupa before we left though. Then all the kids were ready to go. We left the orphanage at 8:30 a.m. to drive to Odessa to get their tax i.d. numbers and digital pictures taken for their passports. Then, the plan is to stay in Odessa at another Christian clinic until their passports come back and then go to Kiev for the embassy stuff and medicals. Just a little way out of Belgorod, Robin got car sick and vomited all over herself and Jason. My brother had given us some barf bags that were a lifesaver, but of course the kids didn't know how to use them when that first one comes!! I had read a lot about orphanage kids getting carsick because they rarely ride in cars. We stopped the van and tried to clean them up the best we could. They didn't want us to get the suitcases out to change their clothes so we went the rest of the way with a "faint" scent of vomit. She got sick several more times, but the barf bags are ready. When we got to Odessa, we went to the tax i.d. place first. (They need a tax i.d. number with their new names - I am not sure why when they are leaving the country, but it is a rule.) We waited outside in the minivan while George went inside. (We did take this opportunity to get out a clean shirt for Robin and some coloring books and markers.) Even with the coloring books, it took a long time, so we got the kids out and took them to an empty lot across the street to run around in. That passed the time a lot quicker. When George came back, we loaded them up and drove to the next place. We went to the place to do the digital photos. They get each passport information ready and take all the kids photos. Jason was fascinated by a lady working at a computer at the next desk and kept getting closer and closer 'til he was at her elbow. The girl let her watch her and I took some pictures too. I really hope that the passports are correct. The girl's names are too long to fit in the box, so they had to be written in. I have read about a lot of problems with this. (And of course this has me worried, so please pray that these would come back correct - I don't want to stay here extra days for a typo!!) Next we took the kids to a pizzeria and had lunch. George went to an "Anteka" and got Robin some carsick medicine, which turned out to be a miracle drug!! I wish we could buy those in the states! At sometime during this busy morning, George decided we should just drive to Kiev in the minivan and stay there at Orphanage 12 that would be cheaper and a better place for children than staying in Odessa, which is all great except that we had already been in the car for hours and we would have to be in the car "6" more hours. But George already had it lined up with the driver. I won't go into details about how awful it was, but just think of a minivan with four lively children, five adults, and no seatbelts!!.....and the faint smell of vomit. I think everyone was miserable by the time we reached Kiev, but our adventure wasn't over yet - The driver didn't know how to find the orphanage so we drove around for another 45 minutes - and the drive wasn't just 6 hours either. I think we were in the van about 8 hours! Yuck!!!!! We finally found the orphanage and Bogdan was waiting for us. (I first heard about Bogdan, through Life2Orphans.) He took us to a tiny apartment with two beds. George failed to tell him there were 7 of us. Luckily, they have another apartment that they rent out for extra money for the orphanage. We then moved our bags again! Monte and George went to get some groceries for the night. We showered the girls, gave everyone a light supper, played for a little while and then got them ready for bed in their new jammies. (Thanks everyone who gave us new jammies!!) Then the fun began, Jason started screaming when it was bedtime, that got Katya started. It was loud for quite a while before everyone quieted down and finally fell asleep.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Day 4 Trip 2

I was going to do one post in order as things happened, but this computer times out really often and I don't want to re-write it, so I am sending each one separately. If you want to read them in order, scroll down to day one trip two....

We started today by buying bananas and apples for the children's groupas for a going away party. When we got to the orphanage, we found out that the director was out sick and they didn't know when she would be in. We needed her to sign papers, but we did have permission to leave the fruit and try the clothes on the kids. Ryan and Robin were in lessons and they wouldn't let them. We got to try clothes on Katya and everything fit. Then, we tried Jason and everything is a little bit big. He is really tiny. But he told George, they were "ad lishna" - the very best. He cried when we had to take them off. Then, we went to the street market to buy tights for the kids. They don't much of them in the U.S. They are patterned and are more like long johns than tights. Then, we got called back to the orphanage - she would meet us in half an hour. We got there just in time to catch Ryan and Robin and try their clothes on them. They were also a bit big, especially Robin, but at least they will have clothes to grow into!! Then we got to play outside with the kids. Monte and George went to make our orphanage donation to the director and she asked that we send pictures and updates on the kids. We then signed papers to release the children. I thought we would have to leave them in the orphanage until we got their passports, but we can take them with us tomorrow. We had to sign the papers in front of the inspector and her assistent. Then, I got a long talk on how to parent. Then, they brought the children in so the inspector could take pictures. We also got to talk to the head doctor and found out a few new thing about the kids that I didn't know in the beginning. Robin has tested Mantoux positive in the past, but it is just a sensitivity like a lot of people have and the x-ray didn't show any TB, but a nice thing to know. Jason was born premature. He weighed 4.4 lbs at birth and has a heart murmur. I am going to throw in a prayer request here - he is really pale and doesn't eat much - about a third of what Katya can eat. Could you please pray for his health and that nothing comes up when we do his medicals that will keep us from going home. It would be nice to get him home and treated there if he has any problems. Jillian's hernia is not an umbilical hernia that I thought. It is an abdominal wall hernia that "will get better with exercise." Will have to wait and see what happens when we get her checked at home. After we did medicals, we met with a caregiver and got their daily schedule. After all the meetings, we went back to "Don't Be Upset" to eat. We wanted Korey to experience that. After that, we took a nap and then got back up to pack. It is very late now, so I will do the rest of the updates when I get a chance.

Day 3 Trip 2

This was a really long day. We left at 6:30 a.m. (When I journaled this day when I didn't have Internet - I journaled pages and pages, but I will try to keep it brief.) We drove to Toruchina (sp?) which was the local city center where the kids were born. We went back and forth between offices to get everything ready for the new birth certificates and passports. At one point, Monte and Korey had to wait in one office since there wasn't enough room in car while we picked up a lady to take her to a notary, then George picked up the Chief of Children's Services to take us to her boss, and we were gone for hours. Monte and Korey had no idea what was going on. I sat outside offices and in and out of offices signing papers, sometimes sitting out in the cold and being questioned by the local chief administrator. It was hard, but at least I kind of knew what was going on. I really felt sorry for them!! After we got everything done there, since things went faster than George thought, we drove on to Odessa to get new tax I.D. numbers for the kids and do the regional passport stuff. We mostly waited in the car. Then we drove back to Belgorod. We never stopped to eat, just ate in the car. We got back to Belgorod late and didn't get to visit the kids.

Several Days of Updates

Day One and Two - Trip Two
This was an incredibly long day - 30+ hours of travel. We started out by driving to MSP in a snow storm, then we were delayed leaving because it took a long time to de-ice. A lot of people were complaining about missing their connecting flights, but we know we can make it across O'Hare in 8 minutes or less!! We made our next flight - we only had to walk from gate 9 to gate 17. We next flew to Washington Dulles. We had a long layover here, so we sat down and ate at a Subway. After waiting and waiting, our flight to Vienna was delayed 1-1/2 hours because of an emergency on board the flight prior to ours. We made up time during the flight and arrived in Vienna on time. (Monte and I both got sick on this flight - it felt like we were descending forever!) At the Vienna airport, our gate lead to the outside and the doors kept opening and closing and the benches were metal. I am glad we only had a two-hour layover there - it was freezing! Then, we flew a quick flight to Odessa. It was much easier and much quicker to go through customs in Odessa than Kiev, but changing planes four times was a killer!! Our driver from our first trip was waiting for us and all of our baggage made it. We made it back to Belgorod quickly - Zhenya drove really fast this time - sometimes playing "chicken." George was waiting for us at the Christian Clinic. We put our bags away and went to go see the kids. If you read my blog from yesterday - at least I think it was yesterday - it is hard to keep track of what day it is - you know that our visit went well. It was awesome to see the kids again and that they missed us and couldn't quit hugging us. Then, we went to a new market to get some groceries - it just opened two days before we got there and it is like a Wal-Mart. Then we went to bed.