About the Garrett family

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Longmont, Colorado, United States
Matt and Aimee have been married for 9 years now. We have 5 daughters between the two of us. Three who are still living at home. Jasmine is 17, in her junior year of high school. Haley is 14 in her freshman year of high school. Anya is 18 in her junior year of high school. Anya was adopted from Ukraine in 2008. Taylor 18 is a senior in high School living in Thornton, Heather 20 Married living with husband Chad and thier baby Ezrah, he was born in Feb 2011. We are in process of adopting siblings Oksana 13, and Vladik 10 whom we met on a hosting program this past summer.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What are the chances?

I'm NOT kidding! We are siting in the McDonald's across the street from the train station in Odessa. We've been here for about 2 hours. With no warning, no information or anything else...in walks the birth mom for Oksana and Vlad. Literally, as I sit here, she is sitting across the table from me talking mostly with Oksana-VERY STRANGE! I have a lot to say about this, but not right now. I mean..........REALLY? Oh, & now, I get to buy her dinner here. Seriously, they are standing in line ordering. Am I even really here right now? What the hell........so, if you have ever doubted that God isn't real, or doesn't like to screw with your head and present you with odd situations just to see how you will react, well, think again.

Moving on to Kiev (update from Matt posted by Aimee)

Just talked to Matt and they will be on the overnight train to Kiev at 10pm. Everything has been done to receive the passports. They took pictures and signed all the forms and gave power of Attorney for Yuri to receive them when they are finished. Matt and the kids will spend the waiting time in Kiev staying with Karen and letting the kids do some sight seeing for the last few days. Matt really want to take Vlad to the WWII museum. They are hoping to get the passports back by Tuesday. If that happens they will do the medicals on Wednesday and Embassy for Visa Thursday and be flying home either Friday or Saturday. We are surprised and thankful at the speed of which this has moved forward, as we had originally been told that Matt should expect to be here for 3 weeks this second trip. Yuri has friends in all the right places. According to Matt the person at the passport office, whom they met today, is a friend that Yuri has known since childhood. He allowed Matt & the kids to bypass long lines and go right in to get the photos done. It did make many people angry who had been waiting in line, I feel badly for them, but what else could you do, when they tell you to come in, say no and go to the end of the line, that would not go over well with Yuri, I am sure. Matt has been without Internet since they arrived in Odessa. His blackberry is not working. I tried to get it fixed by talking to T-mobile and Blackberry yesterday, but it can't be done until he is back home. If anyone has been emailing or writing to him on face book, he has not and will not get messages until they are back in Kiev and then only when he is on the computer. He is going through withdrawals at the moment, frantic because he can't get an update or email the instant it comes through. It is amazing how dependent we all become on our cell phones! Oksana is trying to contact her birth mom by phone now to arrange to visit her before they leave for the train tonight. She lives there in Odessa, and the kids had asked to see her before they leave for America. I am praying that the mother responds and follows through this time, as she had also told us and Oksana she would come to Izmail while we were there the first trip, she never showed. I really think it is important for them to be able to have the opportunity for some type of closure in this area, and to know that Mom wants the best for them in their new life, I think she does, but is just still a mess and is unable to keep her commitments. That is all we know for now. Stay tuned. :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Matt's updates ( from Aimee at home)

Matt emailed this photo to me a few hours ago. They stoped at the orphanage to pick up old birth certificate before driving to Tarutina to pick up the new ones. He ran into these two, all dressed up for the big day! Matt says they are both so excited and ready even Oksana, who we thought may be sad and depressed on this day. Thank you God she is doing so well.
Yuri has been testing Matt since he showed up an hour late at the train station to pick him up, and did not call. Matt said it was raining and he stood there forever getting soaked waiting. Yuri showed up in a taxi, had car trouble, and they took the taxi back to his house. Turns out his "Magic" car strikes again, the self installed locking/alarm system now has stopped working and he was unable to get into the car. He finally was able to break into his own car and pull open the old manual locks. So they got a very late start to Izmail to begin the paper chase.
Turns out Vlad's REAL birthday is March 28th not February 28th as we have always known. So all documents are having to be redone!! How do they miss this for so long? How do they issue the child a travel document to come to the US this past summer and never notice? How do they terminate parental right, register him as an orphan, have an adoption hearing, and fail to notice this until now??
So Yuri left Matt at the orphanage and never told him he was leaving, returned an hour and a half later. Then spent another 30 minutes in the office with director, not telling Matt why.
They finally go to race to Tarutina, and Matt said he began doing that obnoxious slow driving in the city, and to top it off he stops at the big supermarket at the end of town to eat in the cafe. Matt thinks there is no way they will get back in time to take the kids out of the orphanage today, they are very mad. That is the last I heard from him, I will let you know after he emails me, how this day turns out.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Here we (I) go again!

Going to have to be quick. Back in Kyiv today. At Karen Springs place for a few hours before heading to the train station for overnight train to Odessa, then on to Izmail, back to Tyrutine and back again to Izmail. Going to be a very long, tiring, emotional next two days. Talked to Oksana tonight, briefly...she's ready! By myself this time-no Aimee-no "Rec Room" :( Aimee and I do everything together so this is strange for both of us-she's my best friend in the whole world. Honestly, though, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much easier traveling alone!! When she's with me I spend almost all my time trying to make sure her every need is met-it's exhausting. I think what I'm trying to say is that it's so much easier being completely self-absorbed and selfish. I'm looking at 3 more weeks. If things go well, maybe 16-18 days. We'll see what magic Yuri can perform. He may not know much English, but he's really good at what he does. Next entry in about two days unless Aimee posts from home. Later.....

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Wide awake at 240AM, this after being sick with fever and coughing all day yesterday. Already starting to repack. Going even lighter this time as I'll be by myself. This will be the longest time Aimee and I have ever been apart. Good to be home. I asked for the entire can of Sprite on the flight from Frankfurt to Chicago just because I could! It was so empowering to actually say something and not have to perform verbal and hand-gesture gymnastics to get my point across! We had a one hour and twenty minute lay-over in Chicago. This gave us 80 minutes to make connecting flight. We were 10 minutes late-70 minutes. Took 20 minutes for the plane to get to the terminal and for us to get off the plane-50 minutes. Took 20 minutes to get through customs, get our bags and wheel them to the drop off point for the connecting flight(this was actually easier than I thought as United had it set-up easy and quick)-30 minutes. 10 minutes to run up the stairs, wait for the tram and get to Terminal 1-20 minutes. 5 minutes to get new boarding passes, get through one layer of some sort of security stop that I don't even know what for-15 minutes. Took 10 minutes to get all the way up, down and through that ridiculously long walk all the way to another security stop on our way to Gate C21.-5 minutes. Took all 5 minutes(thank God) to get through security and get to the gate at exactly 315PM. They had the plane 90% boarded and we were almost the last ones on the plane. Aimee and I had been losing layers of clothing along the way because we were sweating trying to get to the plane. I boarded with nothing but my sandals on, carrying two strategically placed laptops and one carry on bag. I was immediately offered about a hundred of those burning hot towelettes, which I promptly used to take a, "seat-shower". The captain put on the seat belt light, I put a plane pillow in my lap and strapped the seat belt on just as the plane angled upward and we were off to DIA. When we reached altitude; I stood up, wrapped the airplane blanket around my waist and used the super-useful bungee cord lashed to my carry on to secure the pillow and the blanket for full, "360 coverage". I may have set the travelling fashion trend as we know it! It only became awkward when I was told I couldn't leave the plane with the pillow and blanket...bungee cords DO NOT make for good covering! I cannot believe I have to go back in 6 days for three more weeks. For those wanting a "reality check" on costs, I submit the following(& I do this in no way to discourage, just to inform). We went in to this 6 months ago with approximately $35,000.00. Because of the trip in January to Kyiv and back ($3800.00); two weeks in delays that added almost $2700.00 in unforeseen expenses; 4 weeks of missed work on FMLA for me and 3 weeks of missed work for Aimee(whose employer has been absolutely wonderful) a combined $5300.00 in non-compensated income; by the time we are done, we will have spent nearly $8300.00 just on plane tickets; and I won't go into all the other stuff that has happened...we will have spent nearly $40,000.00 on this process. Thank God, seriously, that we have had people we know, close friends and family step up in ways that we CANNOT begin to say thank you enough for. Much of this, because of the new tax laws, will be reimbursed, about $28,000.00 of it and some from my employer. Thats the reality of this process. It's the game we have to play. I don't mind being open about the personal financial aspect-it's what it is. I'm certain that there will be some who will gasp and wonder why or how I could give such information or details. Some will get irritated or even angry that I've posted this. Sometimes I wonder why the Lord doesn't perform some sort of miracle to change the process. Can you believe Butler over Pitt in the NCAA Tourney last night?? I REALLY struggle with scripture that nearly demands we step out in faith while simultaneously encouraging us to discern whether or not we can win the battle before we enter in to it. Which is it? If we over-think it, we can excuse or talk our way out of anything; if we dive in to it, we're rash or careless. Anyway, off to church in a few hours then I get to see my 5 week old grandson since he was 2 days old. The picture at the top of this post is why. Maybe someday she'll appreciate it.......maybe some day I will do the same. Can any of us really grasp the frustration the Lord must have, at times, with us?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Home tomorrow.

Flying out at 535AM to come home for a about 8 days and then I will return for three more weeks of fun and games. Haven't had internet access for about 36 hours. Here at Karen Springs place for one day. The picture to the left is of the holding cell in Karen's front room of the hospitality house she has put into service recently. It's where she likes you to keep your shoes upon entering! It's just a minor inconvenience and we were in and out in no time. Not really, I'm lying, it's the holding cell in the court room for the hearing yesterday morning in Izmail-really. We sat 15 feet from it for the entire 10 minute hearing. I've included a video showing what you May see out the window of a train ride. Thought some would enjoy, or at least be interested in what that may look like. I've also put up a shot of us outside court right after it ended. I sent at least three FaceBook postings with pictures and apparently it did not work. Late here and have to be up in 3 hours to leave for KBP. See all soon. Thanks to the Roge's who posted on our blog for us yesterday. video

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Success!!

Court was a success! We're on the train to Kiev and will post more when we can. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 14, 2011

"...down by the river..."!

Every time I say I have to do something quick, I can't or don't, so, I'm going to make this as long, obnoxious and drawn out as possible! We spent today going to the Fortress of Izmail. It is approximately 600 years old and has only one small building left and the outline of the wall that surrounded the entire complex. It was amazing-at least to me to know I was walking on small hills and grounds where, literally, Knights fought with swords! We also spent several hours down on the beaches of the Danube River having an open fire picnic. Little windy, little cold, but the best thing for Aimee as this is her last full day in Izmail before we leave after court tomorrow. I decided yesterday morning to fly us home and come back to Izmail to get the kids on the 28th, or 29th-depending on whether or not some stupid office is closed for another ridiculous holiday or, "...they don't do that on Monday's"! I cannot begin to categorize how deep, how wide and how large is the depth at which this place goes to slow down the paperwork process by being closed, having a holiday, computer is down, someone's sick or out of the office, this person's stamp expired, need to go to this city for this and have it certified twice, once somewhere else, 2 day delays, one moment please, sit here, stand there, get up, please come back tomorrow, stay off the streets, stay off the sidewalk, get in taxi, get out of taxi-enough already! A culture of paperwork would be a huge understatement. Anyway, Aimee needs to get home for several reasons and I get to come back and get stuck here like 3 or 4 of my other close friends who are dad's. This is assuming all goes well tomorrow at court. Our taxi driver took us to the river, built a fire and cooked smoked pork on steel skewers and they were amazing! It was perfect for Aimee as she got to spend this day doing what may be her favorite thing-family fires/picnic's/days at the river. Several barges went by, crane ships, a motor boat and a Ukrainian cruise ship. We also got to see two guys dressed up as Knights practicing "sword sport", really! The sunset was spectacular, the food was wonderful and we topped it off by making a mad dash to several shoe stores to get, "Princess Perma-Pout" high heeled shoes for her dress...thank God they were all closed! She's going with some boots that toned down the look that most dad's heads explode when they see. We've had a, "...come to Jesus..." meeting with the teacher who has let us take Vlad for however long we wanted the last three days. It's been nice. Remember(and if I'm repeating myself, its because I cannot stress it enough), "Weakness is provocation". We will be in Odessa late tomorrow afternoon after a side-trip to some small city to start the application process for some crazy tax ID number that is required in some regions. There are at least two new requirements or enhancements that are causing about 7 days in extra delays: 1. We have to get the blue passports with the chip. This will take approximately four extra days and 2. This tax ID number will add approximately three days. This is morphing into more than 7 weeks and that means nearly a month from today-not gonna do it! By the time I get back I'm sure their will be new legislation that requires birth certificates to be delivered by donkey to Kyiv and only those who have been certified by the local authorities-a whole other stamp! We leave for Kyiv on overnight train; one night in Kyiv and then on to Frankfurt, then Chicago(where we get to go through customs and make our flight in less than an hour), then on to Denver-where the streets are paved with, well, anything will do at this point. When I read here, I'm totally confusing my "B's", "P's" and "H's", when I see English on something. If you can read Cyrillic, you know what I mean and I would highly recommend that you at least learn the alphabet. We spent one day outside for three hours in the playground area. Sad! If you thrive on sad, watch these kids begging you to play with them, touch them, give them any sort of snack, push them on the swing or just acknowledge that they exist. That day was the beginning of the end for Aimee staying here-it's crushing at the deepest level. Vlad and I got to stand on what remains of the walled fortress right on the hill that leads down a steep embankment to the river. When the ship with the crane went by, Vlad just stared with his mouth open. When it passed, he went right for my "Twix" bar, if that keeps up, he's gonna need more than that sword shown in the another picture. You know, nothing makes you feel more manly than prying YOUR "Twix" bar out of the hands of a 1o year old who has to go back to the orphanage that night. When we dropped them off tonight, it became very obvious, very quickly, that tomorrow is going to be very hard on the kids when we leave. Both are very tight with Aimee. It's going to be a long 3 1/2 weeks for all of them. I'll survive, I'm simple. When I discussed with Aimee that I was taking her home this week, let's just say that it was emotional for both of us as she collapsed on my lap, sobbing, heart-broken, scared that something could go wrong. This woman is all female, all heart and EVERYTHING God had in mind when he fashioned them as He did. Those who know us well know that it has not been easy for us in the almost 10 years we've been married-but we are still there and in our most tender, quietest of moments when our foreheads touch and we exhale together....there is no need for words.

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's true, mom, the teacher IS out to get me!

We are having, or had problem's with Vlad's teacher at the orphanage. She's a 21 year old who has, for whatever reason, decided to assert her limited authority. We have been told we can no longer take the kids out of the orphanage because last Friday we took them without being able to locate this particular teacher(Oksana's teacher approved it and is very nice)and was only able to tell her when we left the orphanage grounds and found her hanging out with some older kids at a bus stop. Two days ago it got a little ugly in the lunchroom when she told us he couldn't go, couldn't tell us why and went back on her initial approval and against the directors position of saying we could. It was a one way conversation: Me: finger pointed at myself; "Menyah (me)! Finger pointed at her snotty, arrogant face, "Twee (you)"! "Zaftra (tomorrow)! "Dina Markhova (director)!!! "Have a nice day"! (in English). She hasn't screwed with us at all the last two days. Haven't been able to see the director because she's been sick...but we will. Being my third trip here, I have absolutely no patience for the "language barrier sword" some swing when it suits them. To be fair, the vast majority of the people here are very nice and helpful, but there are just enough that aren't that suck the tolerance right out of you.
So, back this morning to finish this post and I'm watching the earthquake report about Japan on BBC News. I don't have the words to describe what's going on as I watch in horror, disbelief, sorrow and sadness.
We're also trying to navigate through a situation that has developed regarding medication that Aimee has to have and only has 7 days of it left. We have our good friends, the Roge's and Green's working on this to assist. Thanks to all of you. We'll see..
Here' a suggestion: in addition to travel mugs, zip-off pants, bungee cords, zip lock bags and comfortable shoes; get your doctor to write a prescription for a weeks worth of antibiotics. Aimee has used hers and I'm likely going to end up giving mine to an American couple here. The wife is very sick and getting worse. Oh, bring, or buy, balloons!!! Talk about being able to kill lots of time with one simple item. The kids love them and the boys of course, turn them in to weapons and beat the living hell out of each other with them...kind of makes you proud to be an American-it's very uplifting and inspiring.
We have court in three days and really need to prepare Oksana. That "perma-pout" look that seems to be pervasive here in Ukraine with attractive young women is not very conducive to a positive court appearance. It sends the wrong message on many levels.
Started reading "Mere Christianity", again (4th time). No wonder I'm all ADHD with my thought process and writing style.
We've decided that when we get home that one of the things we want to do is have a REAL, Ukrainian adoption experience dinner. It will be bags of any and every thing you can heat up with hot water AND, that really cool hot water pot as the center piece on the table. I've also considered submitting a game to the makers of "Wii", called, "Eastern Europe Sidewalk". The calories you could burn, the, "eye-hand coordination" you could develop and the nimbleness you would have to have could allow for hours of family fun and exercise.
The picture at the top of the post is a monument to what is left of the largest church that at one time was at that very spot. It was destroyed, completely by the Soviet Union, along with
most of the other churches. There are a few that survived, like the large, blue, orthodox church we've shown pictures of. The picture to the right seems routine. The story is that all the trees in the park are from all over the world. When the church was rebuilt, the general in charge ordered the soldiers to bring back trees from every continent that had trees, in order to plant them in front of the church in a park that was dedicated to it. There are hundreds of them and in the spring, supposedly, it is fantastic. Below is a picture of some students at a university we were asked to talk with/teach/lead. We spent almost two hours talking with and discussing numerous subjects. They are all wanting to come to America at some point for opportunities most of us take for granted.
Yesterday, we walked about 6 miles up to to, "Taviyar". It's
their Walmart or Target. It's our safe
zone. During the walk, we saw so many different things that, for me, did nothing more than constantly remind me how lucky we are to be Americans. I believe Aimee may expand on this further, later. She stopped and took lots of pictures and was in deep thought the whole time.
Under normal circumstances, I post not only to inform and update, but to vent, make points that are drawn from this experience and incorporate them in to my faith &, to be sure, add as much sarcasm as possible because I feel out of place in this world and expressing it in that way helps me cope. Humor is, after all, only funny when it has the underlying element of truth behind it. Odd thing is, this morning, I wake up to a world that is watching in horror and sadness at the situation in Japan. It is destroying untold thousands of lives and I'm hurting for them. It reminds me of just how bad some things are for people. Just not in the mood.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Return of, "The Rec Room"!!!

In a moment of self-righteousness & mis-guided religious awareness, (a.k.a. Aimee was angry with me) she inadvertently removed the first edition of this picture and corresponding blog post. I categorized it as intentionally violating the words found in "2nd Testoserone's"'concerning the husbands desire and pride in having the beauty to pursue (trophy wife). These passages can be found right after 1st & 2nd Opinions and right before 1st, 2nd & 3rd Traditions. These are writings that can be very useful and can be misconstrued-which is very self-serving and convenient. Anyway, to be sure, there are those who will get their brains all twisted up in knots, self-appointed standard setters...whatever! She's my wife. She's nothing short of ridiculously stunning. I stare at her sometimes when she's sleeping and absolutely cannot believe she's laying there. Some could say that this is inappropriate or, "Adoption Blog Soft Porn"....Bwhahhahahahhahahahaahaha...Let's see; I believe the Lord made a point of highlighting in Genesis that Rebecca was, "...beautiful in form and figure". I'm fairly certain that Isaac didn't work 14 years because he wanted to get to know Rebecca's thoughts on the political state of affairs in the land of Ur. Esther was specifically singled out by the Lord to save the Hebrew nation precisely because she was beautiful-because that got her in to the inner circle. In fact, she was so stunning it allowed her to approach without being summoned; an action that could have ended her life. The king threw out all protocol and standards because the Lord saw fit to fashion her as He did. Sarah was so beautiful, Abraham lied about his relationship to her so he wouldn't be killed for her. Ruth is a story of a woman who used her femininity to her advantage and let's not leave out the obvious: Song Of Solomon-talk about tossing out a "stumbling block" for all those reading it. I can assure you that each man, or boy, reading it draws from it his own mental image of the babe in that story. The first time I saw Aimee, I can tell you that my first thoughts were NOT, "Wow, I wonder what her position on instrumental music in the service is?", or, "I wonder what she thinks of, '...the abomination that causes desolation...'!".(For those of you who are simultaneously passing judgment and wondering what on earth I'm talking about, read scripture-it may help you not only know what I'm referring to, but may assist you in navigating this entire discussion). There's plenty more examples. Who among us wouldn't want to know what Eve looked like? Who among us doesn't post pictures of our husbands or wives-most of those in flattering formats? Are we to jump to the conclusion that they're doing so with bad intent. While the case could be made that it's throwing up a "stumbling block"; that's taking the intent and the context and torturing it. One could argue that titling it, "The Rec Room" is intentionally drawing attention to the obvious. Is it obvious? Does this say less about me and more about you? To take that position, one would have to question why the Lord chose physical attributes to highlight and not some other. One could say that by distinguishing those attributes, the Lord drew attention to this aspect and left it up to the imagination as to just what kind of stunning beauties these were. Could one, at that point, then say the Lord has thrown up a stumbling block; right there in the scripture, knowing that mens imaginations would run wild-may it never be! :) They were points of fact; a part of the story-an important and critical dynamic because (this is shocking), in certain instances, physical appearance does matter. Some may think that's a leap, but it's my leap. Writing is, at times, therapy for me. No one is holding a gun to anyone's head to read this or look at it. Get a hold of yourself, or, as Jesus may say, "Why look at the speck in your brother's eye, when you have a plank in your own...". Every man wants a woman he's proud of, loves and can display. Every woman, or most, want to be the woman on the pool table, or at least want to know that their husbands would be proud to present them as I have done with mine, were they given the opportunity to do so. Consider this an opportunity to exercise some wisdom, discretion and spiritual growth and less as an opportunity to display a level of ignorance, piousness & an inability to distinguish between the intent of a person & how one CHOOSES to receive it. Maybe later I'll actually post something about the adoption process, or could it be that spiritual growth IS a part of the adoption process? Jesus looked right at the Pharisees and told them they demonstrated an amazing lack of wisdom, maturity and understanding, not because they didn't know, but because they twisted meaning, distorted intent & were dull to who the Lord is & what He's all about. I wonder what He would say to us?

People in Izmail who have Blessed us

Valentina- We met her the day we had to have our petition notarized, she was hired to read us the document in English before we signed. After this we ended up moving into the hotel Seaman's Club where she works. Valentina and the entire staff here have been so kind and helpful for us, doing all they can to ensure we have a good stay in their city. Valentina is a very special lady.
Anytime we need any help with speaking to people she goes out of her way to help. Last week she had the driver from the hotel take us in the van for a tour around the city. She showed us many historical sites, places to eat, things to do, and a much nicer area of Izmail.
Sunday we went to church with her. She is a member of a Christian Church here in Izmail, similar to services we would attend at home. Worship music then a message and announcements plus a time of sharing testimonies from the week past, more teaching, more music. Very similar to our churches, but much longer services, it was from 10am-1pm. On the Sunday that we were there they were celebrating the children. All the young children from the church came up front and the congregation prayed over them. Also the youth choir lead some songs. Valentina's 18 year old daughter Katya sang with the group. She was in town visiting from Odessa where she goes to university studying English and German language. Valentina sat with Matt and I translated for us the messages that were being spoken. It was so wonderful to be there with other sisters and brothers who love the Lord as we do. I felt the spirit in that place, even when I could not understand the words the Lord still spoke to me through the people. We plan to go back this Sunday and for as many weeks that we are in town.
During this time of testimony sharing many people came up and talked about what the Lord was doing in their lives and in the lives of others they had been with that week. Their were stories of the youth going out and ministering to other young people in the city, stories shared by a man who teaches the Word in a local prison, and two men repenting and accepting the word during his last visit, a woman and her husband who shared about their falling away and returning to the Lord and His healing of her cancer. I felt the spirit asking me share our testimony too. I asked Valentina if she would come up with Matt and I and translate, she was happy to do so. So we went forward and spoke to the people. It gave us a chance to share about the Father's heart for orphans, and to thank these people for all they have done for us by welcoming us into their little family. There were many tears and many praises from us all. It gave these people an opportunity to also pray for Oksana, Vlad and the other children who will remain in the orphanage, and for other couples who would come and welcome them into their families just as God had welcomed all of us.
After the service Valentina introduced us to her daughter Katya.
This photo is of Katya(left) and her friend Lina during our visit on Monday at the Seaman's Club. We spent 3 hours talking getting to know each other and having coffee & Desert.
Katya has also been a person who has blessed Matt and I very much. Katya speaks very good English. She was happy to have some time to practice her English with native speakers. She invited us to come back later in the evening for the youth service and to bring the children. We did decide to go back and bring both children even though it was a little older group. The kids in service were 16-20 years old. We ran into Roma (Oksana's boyfriend) on the street walking home from the church. Roma is 17 and attending a trade school having aged out of the orphanage last year. He is not very friendly to us, especially after Oksana told him she was going to be adopted and come to America. He continues to pursue her and try to get her to change her mind. We invited Roma to come to the youth service with us. He declined. I called Oksana, who really wanted to go, and she also asked Roma to go with her. He declined and Oksana told me he said he does not like the church or baptism. Oksana loves our church and was baptized there by Matt during her visit this past summer. We attended the service without Roma, Oksana was not happy that he did not come. Katya sat with us and translated the message. The youth pastor shared a message from Proverbs chapter 7 The warning about the adulterous women who lure men into their beds. The pastor noted that today mostly roles have reversed and that the men now pursue the women and lure them into unholy relationships, preying on them. He spoke about young people being bold and standing up against the pressure of the sexual culture they are living in. This message was something the Lord orchestrated for Oksana to hear. At one point the pastor said You should not be in relations with a person so much older than you(common here in Ukraine for teenage girls to be hooked up with men in their 20's or older) and that you should not get into relationships with these persons who are not Christians and do not share your beliefs and moral convictions. Oksana heard the message. all though it was painful I am sure and she did not want to discuss it, she heard the message. These words spoken to her from her savior telling her Roma is much too old for her, he is not a Christian and is opposed to her faith and baptism. Katya prayed for Oksana and Vlad and later she gave them both bracelets with Jesus is my Savior on them.
Monday we met with Katya and she had invited a friend Lina whom she met last year at the summer English camp in Kiev. Katya had went and purchased many cakes, fruit, teas & coffee for this meeting. Ukrainians are all about food in abundance, and hospitality to guests, they want to make sure you are well feed and cared for. We had wonderful conversations with both these young ladies about America, Christian faith, Marriage, choosing the right person to marry, the differences in our cultures, what is like to grow up here and be a Christian. Time flew by before we knew it was after 9pm. Katya and Lina both became friends on facebook with Matt and we exchanged emails so we will stay in contact. She returned to Odessa Tuesday, but will come again in two weeks so we can have more time together.
Xhenia- Here Xhenia is in his car with Matt. He is a taxi driver that showed up one day to pick us up at the hotel and drive us to the orphanage. We got his cell number and he now is "Our Driver" when ever we need to be somewhere he comes to drive us. He is a great kid with a good heart and a happy spirit. He is 24 years old. Xhenia has limited English, studied in school, but he improves every day. The more we communicate the more he remembers. Xhenia is so helpful and kind. He went way out of his way to call and ask around town to find Matt a place to play basketball, drove us there and spoke to the director of the club and found out when and where Matt can play. Xhenia loves Oksana & Vlad and jokes around with both of them every time we are with him. He even drove the kids back the internot one evening so Matt and I did not have to go and pay the extra fee. He took great care of them and walked them into the internot making sure they were safe for us. Xhenia is the one who took us to visit the group of people who jumped the fires Sunday evening which was the last day of winter here in Ukraine. He explained to us this Ukrainian tradition, as we saw so many fires burning that evening on every street groups of people gathered around the fires. They jump over the fire each year on this night to celebrate the end of winter. They also drink and eat, what we were not expecting was the shots of Ukrainian wine that these people insisted we drink with them, not once but twice toasting to their great country and also to friends from America. We were also given food Salo (raw pigfat) on bread which I refused to accept, Matt tried it almost throwing up and "accidentally" dropping it on the group for the dog Rex to enjoy, the rest he held onto and disposed of at the hotel. I ate the Blinchki (Ukrainian stuffed rolled pancakes) and it was very good. And of course all of us had to jump the fire, Xhenia and Matt did fine. I tried to refuse this as well, but they would have none of it. I jumped the fire and landed in a big muddy mess almost loosing my shoe. Not so much fun but these people were loving it, only in Ukraine!
Just got our call from Valentin Court will be on Tuesday the 15th at 9am. He said that we should not brag about this around town because somehow they got a head judge to step in during the absence of the regular judge and hear our case on this date. There are several other families here in Izmail that submitted the documents before us and they have been given the court date of 25th! So Thanks be to God we are not waiting another 10 days. Just the rest of this week plus Monday. The ten day wait after court and then traveling to Odessa for passports and then on to Kiev to finish immigration paperwork should have us home on about March 31st.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Crossed over and the "Over/Under"

Today may be the day I have crossed over into adapting/assimilation/survival mode without realizing it. Our hotel/apartment is very nice; spacious, internet (although weak at times), comfortable couch, room to play and wrestle, lots of hot water, etc. What we don't have is a kitchen. We are using a hot water pot to make everything. Because of the size of the sink and location in the bathroom, it's hard to do dishes. This morning, without really thinking about it, I grabbed the seven or so items that needed washed and took them into the shower with me and washed them while showering. It wasn't until I got out and looked back at them sitting in the corner of the shower that I realized what I had just done. We had an exchange student from Russia several years ago who would wash clothes in the shower and hang them to dry. We gently told her it was OK to not do that. She insisted. It took several weeks to correct that as it was foreign to her. She also would not put hot or semi-warm items that were left overs in the refrigerator until cooled because it would cause the temperature to rise inside, using more electricity to cool it down. She's 21, now, and doing great at a prestigious university in St. Petersburg. Anyway, very disturbing to do this without thinking. I've crossed over. Also, for those of us who have had issues with our spouses, or other people in out homes concerning whether or not the toilet paper goes over or under. I had to come all the way to Izmail, Ukraine to finally be vindicated and validated. The dispenser is designed to have the roll go OVER, not under, OOOOOVERRRRRRRRRRRR!!!! If it goes under, the tearing mechanism does not perform as designed. It's intrinsic! Everyone knows in their gut it goes over! Even in Ukraine it's obvious. Think to yourself, "What would that look like or how would you design it to go under"........you WOULDN'T!!! That's right! Anyone who doesn't do that has an issue of very subtle, passive-aggressive, oppositional-defiant behavior. I've considered running for office on the, "Over Platform". I'll take the over!..............Just came back from breakfast. I dropped my keys in the exact spot where they went all the way to the basement. Went to retrieve them and came across a nice, huge room with two tournament size, quality pool tables and a really nice ping-pong table!! Right across the hall-JACK POT...a fully furnished, accessible weight room!!!! Finally; the picture to the left is what you get when you order an expedited court hearing and a waiving of, or partial reduction in the number of days required during the dreaded, "10-Day Waiting Period.". I'm facing knee surgery when I get back. I'm considering playing that angle with the judge, as well. Off to get a tour of the city so we have stuff to do and somewhere to go for the next 2 1/2 weeks.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

When orphans go gangsta!

videoI also posted this on FaceBook, so put it in the category: "From The Department Of Redundancy Department. " This is our soon to be 10 year old son busting out and showing his inner-gangsta! We are already so proud to be providing the platform upon which to launch his new career. Have you seen the movie, "White Men Can't Jump.", well...in this video, you be the judge.

Take what you get.

We are staying at a hotel that caters primarily to seaman who work the docks, port or on the ships themselves. Great place and I negotiated free breakfasts. We have to give our orders the night before which includes the time we want to eat and what you would like. This is what happens when you order scrambled eggs, sausage and orange juice. Somehow, someway, somewhere this morphed in to rice and hot dogs. Aimee had her rice served with some sort of cheese/sour cream combination; I got mine with butter. Aimee received just the rice. We had grapefruit/peach juice. The young girl who has now been preparing our breakfasts for the last five days, served it with pride in her eyes. You smile & take what you get.

We now have friends who are also grandparents

FYI we now have friends who also became grandparents this past week. Burt and Robin our good friends from church and worship ministry. Little Taya was born Feb 21st. She is a beautiful little girl. This is the first child of their daughter Amber and the frist grandbaby, Amber you did a great job, she is just precious. We love you and are praying for you. So Felix, I am now not the only young beautiful babushka!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Update from past 5 days

We have had very poor Internet connection in our new hotel/apartment that we moved into Friday. We are on the third floor and walls are mostly concrete so router has a hard time with the signal up here. This combined with the fact that Oksana or Vlad are on my computer whenever they are here with us, and I am so tired by the time we get them back to the internot I have had no energy to blog. I have been posting new photos each day on the Picasa web album link with some captions that tell a little bit.
A lot has happened since Oksana made the decision to move forward. Our paperwork has been completed. Valentin called this morning to let me know it had been submitted to the SDA. He expects us to have it back by Friday and then Yuri will return from Odessa with the copies for court. Valentin thinks we will have court by the end of next week, I am not sure about that it seems rather quick, but I would be thrilled if it does happen.
Yuri our "Translator/Driver/in region facilitator" is a very strange person who speaks very little English, his second language is Italian he does adoptions for many Italian families in this region. Valentin figured with Matt's little Russian, Yuri's little English and this being our second adoption, that having a "translator" who does not know how to translate would work for us, it has been very stressful to say the least. Yuri left yesterday morning for Odessa with our documents, it has been good for us to have time apart. He is good at his job and does have good relations with all the right people here in Izmail to get things done for the adoption, but it is always a guess for us as to what he is doing. Perhaps we were just spoiled by having Nadia during the last adoption trip. He is the slowest driver ever, has been taking him at least 30 minutes to drive us to the orphanage each time, and it is very obvious that he takes a lot of roads that just waste time and take us in circles. Other drivers are always honking at us, and Yuri often pulls over to allow everyone to pass, there are times when we are actually coasting, no gas pedal being pushed for many minutes. The worst thing is that he really has a fear of black cats. He will pull off to the side of the road if he sees on in the distance, and wait for another car to pass the cat causing the cat to run away, then he will drive again. It is absolutely insane, if you have been here you know how many stray animals roam the streets, so black cats do cross the street more times than we had the patience for. Yuri also is grumpy a lot, or at least it appears that way. Oksana & Vlad do not care for him much either. Yuri seems to be inserting his advice and or request of the children, when it is really not needed or wanted by any of us. One day after one of these conversations between Oksana & Yuri I could tell she was very annoyed with him. I asked her what is his problem, her answer "I don't know He Always has a Problem!!" This is Yuri's car where we have spent too much time. The bonus is he has this self installed security alarm system, that has the old manual door locks now wired to a push button locking system. A few days back this system had a major malfunction and as a result the locks in the driver side and front passenger side door constantly move up a down as you drive. It is creepy. Yuri just laughs and says in his broken English "Crazy Car" "Magic Car". Since Yuri has left we have been using Taxi's to get back and forth from the orphanage and the hotel, Taxi takes 5-6 minutes tops, this in comparison to Yuri's 30 minutes.
We have had much freedom as to our visits with the kids. We can take them with us to eat, shopping or to to the hotel to hang out. We can also stay at the orphanage and visit there for a s long as we like. We have been doing some of both. There are two other American couples adopting now from their orphanage. I posted their photos on our web album. When we visit at the orphanage during the same time as these couples it is really loud and chaotic, the other couples have younger kids so they are very active and everyone tends to feed off each others craziness. This is the photo of Matt bench pressing Vlad during one of these visits. This was after the 10 minute long WWF match between the two of them. After Matt was all worn out Vlad wanted more, so little Yura put down the gameboy and joined in for round two. After all of this Vlad was very hot and sweaty in his three shirts. He took off the top two layers which left him in a tank top and his jeans. We were informed by one of the care takers who happen to walk by that this was NOT OK. She began to spout off in an angry Ukrainian mother tone about how Vlad will get sick and it is way too cold bla bla bla. Vlad tried to explain over and over how hot he was, she would hear none of it, finally he compromised and put back on one of the long sleeve shirts until she was gone. These Ukrainians and their superstitions, it is out of control! By the way I talked with Valentin about adoption of Yura, no way to do this during this trip. If we had brought a second dossier we could add him to the petition and have the same court and would have been able to bring him home also. I wish we had brought another dossier but we did not think it would be needed. Matt and I are praying about how, when or if we can come back for him in the next year. Yuri has been in the orphanage for 7 years. He turned 13 on December 23rd this past year. He wants to go to America and have a family. Please pray with us as we seek God's will and try to figure out His plan for this little boy.
Monday was a busy day. The children did not have any medical records in their orphanage files. I am not sure why this is, maybe because they have only been in this orphanage for a little over two years, not 6 years like Oksana had told us when she was in America. Anyway we had to take them along with the orphanage nurse to the children's clinic for an exam and to get a certificate of health made. This clinic is like the rest of Ukraine very old style stuck in the soviet times all the equipment in the exam rooms looks like it was made in the 40's. The system of record keeping for each child's medical history is shocking to me. They each have a little notebook like they use in school with had written notes, various papers stapled in them and all of the little books are stacked on desks with the child's name on the front of it. No computers! This is the picture of the doctor writing in one of their little notebooks not sure if you can make it out but there is a stack of these on the edge of the desk.
Monday was also Vlad's 10th Birthday. We had a cake with candles that spelled out Happy Birthday in Russian letters, balloons & Presents. We had the plan to have the little party at the orphanage with Vlad's group of kids, but he really wanted to do the party at the hotel with just us. It was a good time. Vlad got a MP3 player and a Avalanche Hoodie and sweat pants. He loves his music and really gets into his dancing, it is pretty funny. Matt has a video maybe he can post on facebook of Vlad dancing in his new outfit on this day cracks us up. Vlad also asked me to take pictures of him in various poses with his outfit and the avalanche hat he got when he was in America over the summer, he really thought he was the man in this get up.
I think we are just entering the hurry up and wait zone other wise known as Groundhogs Day. I guess I have rambled on enough for now. Matt is also writing a blog post here next to me so between the two of us I am sure you
will have a pretty good idea of what has been happening here with us. If any of you have facebook and don't have Matt as a friend look for him, he has been updating often there from his blackberry which has better connection than our hotel internet.
Good Night for now!

"I'm coming to America"!

It has been several days since we blogged. No real reason except maybe it's so much easier to FaceBook events. The young lady pictured here is on board, always was & always will be. Took this shot on the couches at the orphanage where we have spent a lot of time. I love those couches! She's sitting right where she was when she spoke her heart, Satan took one in the a.. & the process to get these two out of here moved forward. To me, it's sacred ground, the exact location where the battle was won. We had our paperwork get to Kyiv this morning. All is good, in order and a confirmation that the Interpool clearance is good to go. Will have documents to submit for a court hearing on Monday. Good possibility we could have court next Wednesday. Is that really still a whole week away? We've been skeptical for about a week about the time, distance & travel path taken to get to the orphanage by our translator. I tend to pay attention to directions. We rarely went the same way twice, had lots of u-turns, back streets (if you can imagine a streets worse than the ones I posted as a video on FaceBook) and it was taking approximately 20-25 minutes, one way. Last night we took our 1st real Izmail taxi ride. It went exactly how I had mapped it out on Google Earth, cut the distance by 1/3 and took about 6 minutes. We knew something was really wrong last week when some on bikes started not only honking at us, but passing us. Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to be sitting in a taxi and have a 70 year old guy on a crappy bike wave his finger at you as he bolts by? The other three rides we've taken have been only 30% of the cost we were told it would be and just as fast. We have settled into that mode where you wake up as late as possible, eat breakfast as late as possible, slowly make your bed, remake it, look outside and start wondering if it's OK to wander out without getting lost because all the streets have really long names and end in, "...skya, or ...ova". Had our taxi guy, Zhenya, take me to a gym near the port to see when they played basketball. I brought shoes, a ball and a pump-no luck. It's all about indoor soccer; guys the size of linebackers playing indoor soccer...pleeeeeeeze! For those who met Oksana; imagine her about 20 lbs. lighter, if you can. To describe her as thing would be a stretch. It's very hard on me.A few things that drive me crazy: when people criticize shows like, "Extreme Make Over-Home Edition" or, "The Biggest Loser" because it's just about promoting the advertised products or cashing in on someone's weight problem. Aren't they still doing a good thing, meeting real needs? Or those who pronounce judgement on a religious sect, movement or belief system because certainly their good works or intentions cant't be as good as those whose theology is rock-solid. When Jesus used a Samaritan traveler to be the leading man in one of his greatest parables, do you think it was an accident that He chose someone other than God's chosen people, especially the two mentioned who would have clearly had the correct, "theology" and instead inserted one whose heart was in-tune with the spirit of Jesus? The woman to the right sits at this spot every day. We watched as dozens walked by. If ever the skill of NOT
making eye-contact paid off, this was it. We watched. We went shopping for her. She sits, strategically, on the sidewalks that surround the church. Why? Why would she do that, of all places? I submit that at the core of who we are as humans is an innate sense that those who talk of religious issues or would be in a location to present that religion is a part of their lives, are the very people you expect ACTION from. Read Matthew 25. I want
to make it perfectly clear that I am not self-righteous and have made too many errors to pretend to assume a position over others I know I'm not qualified to fill. What I do know is this: if you SAY you're a believer in Christ you are bound to manifest that in tangible ways that meet the needs of the outcasts: the poor, the widows, those unfairly imprisoned and the orphans. Those are identified in scripture so if you have a problem with me saying it or are offended, you don't have a problem with me; you have a much bigger problem. I think it fair to say that God has no use for lip-service. I've really got to stop reading this stupid book, "Red Letters", by Tom Davis. I'd much prefer to go back to my comfortable life in the greatest country in the world, at least for a while. I have a whole perspective/blog/discussion venue on that: I think God is slowly allowing our country to suffer the consequences of a nation that has the resources to be Jesus to the world and is finding every excuse under the sun to justify our selfishness. God used the Assyrians, the Persians and Babylonians to dismantle His chosen people, it's certainly within the realm of possibility that He would allow us to destroy ourselves from within, IE: socialism. While Jesus had some very socialistic things to say, it wasn't the kind were heading down as a nation. I've read through the Bible, cover to cover, chronologically, twice in the last three years-it's there! If there is a growing burden concerning adoption, that burden is the Holy Spirit. Ignore it or excuse it to your own detriment. We are not called to comfort, we are called to a cause. Or, as I heard it was stated in Sundays service at Rocky Mountain Christian Church, "Comfort does not trump calling". I love that. Did I mention our driver stops for black cats? The melting snow is revealing streets that were better off covered in it. With the way this affects me, will it ever end? I don't have the money or any more rooms in the house. Can you hear the Lord right now? "PERFECT, just what I need! Someone who can't take credit." Another thing: there is NO biblical basis for retirement as we define it and strive for...anyone want to correct me on
that, feel free. I can't find it. Wrestled with Vlad yesterday. Was wonderful to let him dominate me and see his confidence grow, up to and including yanking off his shirt and flexing as some sort of warning for me that I'd better back off or more of that was coming after me! Look out indoor-soccer-playing-linebackers...here comes "Vlad The Huge".
To the left: dinner last night! Can I interest you in tonight's special? We have instant mashed potatoes, with or without chicken flavoring. We have Ritz type crackers & a cheese that is completely unknown. Very expensive grapes and day old bread that appears to be a pizza, "wanna-be". Washed down with flat Fanta & lukewarm soda water. Bon-apa-puke!