Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Psalm 39:4-8
"Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.

Remind me that my days are numbered--how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath."
We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.
Rescue me from my rebellion.
Do not let fools mock me."

My prayer for each of you is to remember to do what God calls you to do. We are not promised a tomorrow. Today is the "present". Give the gift to someone who does not know Jesus. Don't wait if He has called you to adopt. It could be a life changing thing for everyone in your life, but truly to the child you adopt. If you are not called to adopt, you are called to care for the orphans so please consider helping someone who is in need of funds or belongings for a child they are being blessed with. You cannot take it with you.

So much has happened since the last post. Some real good; and some not so much. I don't want to be like so many blogs out there who tell how great and wonderful everything is at home. We have our days and weeks where things go along great. Then, out of the blue, it is like a train crash. I am not always sure what causes it to happen, but we never can live a perfect life.

I have heard it said kids come home in one of two ways: Either the parents have a honeymoon stage, or a “LOOK OUT!” stage. My best friend adopted a boy last year and it went real good for the first six months, then little things started coming out. He didn't understand that parents are there to guide and teach children how to live fruitful lives. He got saved a couple of weeks ago. WOW! What a different kid. He seems to have had a real heart change. It is so cool to see these changes in him. I am looking forward to the day when the girls ask the Lord to come into their life; and they see how good He is.

We came home from Atlanta; and Christopher came home two days later. He has decided to live with us for his senior year to save some money. The girls love having two big brothers. And since we came home from Minnesota, Justin has moved back to Mississippi, which could not have made Kristina any happier. My parents kept the girls this summer while I worked; and they had the best time out at their house. For two girls, you would not believe all the toys, and baby dolls, and baby doll stuff. I guess that is what grandparents are to do, though, is spoil them; and send them home. Right?!?! Well, Mom, if you are reading this... NO!! You can just love them; and make me happy by not buying out the stores. They have become very American very quickly. One day we were driving by a store and Kristina saw a baby bouncer seat outside and of course it was, “Mama, please for me. Baby doll needs it.” Me, “No, she does not.” Her, “Yes, she does.” Me, “No!” Her, “Fine! Then I will ask Grandma. She loves me and will get for me.” I hated telling my mom she could not get them anything else. Then, one night at church, we went early to get ice cream. I was speaking to a lady; and Karen blurts out, “What did she buy us for our party? I don't remember her, Mom.” I wanted to crawl under the table. (Out of the mouths of babes, huh?) I will tell everyone who is thinking of adopting, or in the process of it, if your friends want to give you a shower have them do so before you go. Or, if after you come home, make it a day just for you, instead. Let dad keep them and you go have cake and enjoy. But don't come home and give them everything at one time. Give few things at first. Let them get used to them. Then a little more. The truth of the matter is at this point in life they have more than they ever had and don't know how to play with it all. I guess when you come from nothing it is easy to want everything you see. I try not to take them to the store with me. At times it can become downright embarrassing.

On the English and school front... We got all registered at school the first day the offices were open, so I thought we were set to go. I had been in to the district office last February and made some pre-arrangements to make sure they were ready for us. The Friday before school started we went to meet the teachers; and I will just tell you Karen's 3rd grade room was great. The teacher had done a great job. She seems like a very nice lady who truly wants the best for her kids. I joked with Karen that she could go to work for me; and I would come to school. She didn't think that was such a good idea. After we finished there we went to Kristina's school. Her’s was not the same experience that Karen had. As a matter of fact, I would rate it as in the top ten worst days of her life. They had not put her in the fourth grade as we had previously discussed, back in February. Nor did they have her registered in fifth grade. So, off we head to the office to see what was up. We were told we needed to speak to the principal. I said that would be fine, but that I needed answers and I needed them that day, as we were not going home without meeting our new teacher. When the principal did finally come to the office she stated that Kristina was not coming to her school as she was not sure how to teach her; and that she didn't need any problems. (My perception was that she really was saying, “I don't want her because she will bring down the schools’ overall results on state testing). Well, I wanted to tell her it was not her school. That it was mine and all the other taxpayers; and that she would not be Kristina’s teacher.

My tax dollars pay for people to teach Kristina, not for the principal to do the job herself. I did tell her later in the day that there are about 400 ELL students in the district; and they come from 38 different countries; and they all have the right to get an education. She sent us to the district office, who of course had no idea I was coming. I had spoken to a man on the telephone the day prior who had asked me if I wanted him to look into another class room setting they had. It would be much smaller, offering more one on one instruction. I said I would be interested in getting some more info. He said he would check to confirm if they still had openings and get back to me by 1:30 that afternoon. I never heard back from him, so at 4:00 pm I called and left a message for him. Still never heard back, so I thought it was not going to work out. When we got to the district office to go look at the program, I knew walking in the door that it was not for us, but I sat, and listened. Then, I spoke with the principal; and together we decided this was not the program for her. First, she had never been in trouble in the schools. And, second, she would have had to work independently. I guess the fact she had only had been in the U.S. for all of eleven weeks at the time and could not speak nor read English was not supposed to have been a problem?!?! They intended to give her assignments, then she would supposedly have gone to a PC to research info to do the work. One minor problem, though, if you can't read English you cannot do this. Plus, the program has no ELL teacher coming to that school. So, back to the district we went. I know they were as tired of seeing me as I was of seeing them, but at the end of the day we got a great teacher in the fifth grade! I think Kristina will do great things this year.

Throughout the day she would say, “Mama, me no be problem" I go back Kiliya; and it be okay.” I immediately responded, “NO! It would not be OK; and you are not the problem. The problem is the people who don't listen early on. You are my daughter. GOD gave you to me to love, teach, and guide.” That night, just before bed, I was sitting in the living room in my chair; and she came, and got on my lap, and hugged me. In her broken English she said, "Mama, thank you for fight me for. I love you." I think I heard fireworks off in the distance. It was the first time she came and hugged me that way. I hope it was a day that showed Kristina Mom knew what she was talking about. I never dreamed that when we were buying school clothes, lunch boxes, and school supplies, that she had no idea what we were talking about, and that she really did need to learn English like Mom & Dad had said. Since that night her English has taken off, which is a blessing.

Both girls go to an after school program so they can visit with their friends and get some extra help with homework. The first Friday I went to pick up Kristina she was telling her friends, “Bye!” and, “See ya tomorrow.” When I told her she did not come on Saturday or Sunday she started to cry, “Yes, me come pleasssse, Mama. Me come to see me friends.” So after picking up Karen and talking about this for forty-five minutes, God gave me an idea: as I drove by the church there was no one there as it was 5:00pm. I pulled into the lot; and we got out of the car. She asked what we are doing. I said I wanted to go to church to see my friends. We walk to the door; and of course they were locked. It is a good thing I can make tears easy! I said, “I want to see my friends, but they are not here!!” She put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Mom, you can see them on Sunday. Jesus house is closed". Then, the light bulb came on; and she said to me, “You knew no one here. This not funny,” but it did work! Hehehe!! I love when I sit and listen to what GOD wants me to hear.

School has been in session for two weeks; and both girls seem to be doing good. Praise the Lord for that!

Until next time, remember to share your faith with someone. Everyone will spend eternity somewhere; and it should be in heaven.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Well, we have had a lot happen in the last few weeks. Kristina and Karen have both been to the dentist; and both had to go have some fillings taken care of. They did very good. Karen has to go back again to get two more taken care of. The care of teeth in Ukraine is apparently not so good. I also got a call today from the girls’ doctor; and they both have to get some shots before I can register them for school. I am thinking I will let Tim take them, as I am very tired of always having to do the mean things to them. I doubt that will work, but it sure sounds good to me.

I thought by now we would be further down the road with this mom and girls thing. I have days that no matter what I say or ask I get rude comments back, or no answer at all. Most of it comes from Kristina which I am sure has a lot to do with her age. Her newest thing was to say, “Shut up!” which is not something we allow in our home. So, now most of the time it has changed to, “Mom, just be quiet,” which, of course, does not go over well at all. I hope that once they get to school and see how other children treat the teacher and other adults it will help. I spend most of my day telling myself that they don't know any better, but then around Tim, Vicky, and my mom, they know how to act. So, it must just be me.

On the English front we have made great strides. They are understanding quite a lot. I wish I could have picked up on Russian as fast as they have with English. One night we came home from Wednesday night church. We were all hungry as I had worked late that day. So, I come in about 7:30 to make dinner and Kristina looks at me; and in her so cute voice says, (without a smile) “Hurry up, Baby. I am hungry.” Tim was laughing so hard. Then, she says, “What are you laughing at, Baby?” That got him laughing even harder; then she says, “Kristina is so funny. She good at making funnies for people to laugh,” but then says to Karen, in English, “What did I say funny?” Karen, not even thinking, translates to us in Russian. Tim, of course still laughing, says, “Karen, she asked you in English. Why did you tell us in Russian? We can't understand Russian. She responded, “Oops! Me no good at this. I messed up big time!!”

Over the Fourth of July weekend we took a very quick and long trip to Minnesota. We had purchased Tim's mom’s old car. It was the last one she had before she passed away, so we thought it would be nice to have it. So, on Friday night the girls and I went and picked up a rental car from the airport. Karen was very upset. She was afraid that I was sending her back to Ukraine. I told her, “Not ever. We might go for a visit, or a mission trip, but nothing she ever would do would make us send her back.” I think that made her feel good to know. We went home packed the car, picked up Tim, and then off we went for a SEVENTEEN hour drive. Kristina was beside herself with excitement to meet Justin for the first time. We had a great visit, but a very short one. I hated to drive away from him. We left Sunday night to drive home. Tim and I both know we can't do two non-stop trips in a row like that. So we drove about five hours got a room with a pool so the girls could wear off some energy. But Kristina did not want to swim. Instead, she just walked in circles around the pool. I do think in the long run that she was sad she had not put her suit on. And we did not have time to go up to the room for her to change. It is one of many small lessons she has to learn. It is not easy, I am sure.

The following weekend we were off to Atlanta. Tim had to take a class; and the girls and I decided we needed a much deserved trip. Hehehe!! So, we swam, laid by the pool, went to a wildlife sanctuary, visited Christopher for a day and a half; and shopped. We also spent a couple days & nights with old friends from our time in the Marine Corp. It was good getting to see them again.

While there, Kristina did not think she needed to do any homework. She is going to be shocked when school starts. I think she really believes we are joking about sitting in a class room most of the day. The school at Kiliya was not very good. The kids would line up about 9:00am to head upstairs to their classes. Then they would be back down within twenty minutes for a twenty minute recess... Followed by twenty more minutes upstairs and another twenty minutes of recess. They got somewhere around forty minutes for lunch and were done with school by 2:00pm. So... not much time sitting down and listening to someone talk to them. I have both girls signed up for an after school program in hopes that being with other kids they will get to have some fun, enjoy some field trips and games, and the best part, get help with homework. I hope they will listen better there than they do with me. We keeping asking Karen to talk to Kristina in English as hers is very good, but she just looks at me and keeps on going in Russian. I have planned to be off work for the first few days of school. I am sure one of them, if not both, will have a melt down; and I want to be close.

I will close on the subject of food. It is still not going real good. Kristina has been caught a few times in the bathroom with her baby doll getting sick. She told my mom it was her baby doll, but we all know stuffed dolls don't get sick. Karen is still not eating well, either. She has lost some more weight. She thinks her size six pants are too little for her. I saw her in the bathroom the other day sucking in her stomach until her ribs were sticking out, and overheard her say to herself, “There. That is how I should look.” I was glad she said it in English so I could understand what she said. Somehow she thinks eating junk food is okay, but continues to fight us on eating healthy foods. Being in a hotel room for the last week I have been able to keep a better eye on the getting sick. Kristina has told me that I am fat and she does not want to look like me. If she only knew that I have lost almost 100 pounds. They have been told that when they get here they will become fat like all Americans. These kids come with such messed up ideas what life is really like.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart... That's true strength." – Author Unknown

I said when I got home that I was not going to be like all the other bloggers out there and not post. Well, I am sorry: 1) for ever saying that; and 2) I may be even worse than some of them! We have had so much going on since we have gotten home. Let me fill you in some on the life of Kristina and Karen. Oh, and, yes, Papa and myself!

The day after we got home we were up bright and early so I could get Kristina's clothes washed, as we had to go shopping. She only came from the orphanage with ONE outfit. I had bought two more outfits over there, but after traveling to Kiev, then home. she had nothing clean. Christopher originally had plans that Saturday, day and evening, but he changed his plans to spend the time with his new sisters. That thrilled them. I know he would have rather done something other than shopping, but he was a trooper. Then we went for Kristina's first American dinner out. We had to work at figuring out what she might like. I would say if I had to do that again I would print some menus with pictures or find some in magazines and put a book together. That night was another night of good-byes. Christopher was leaving at 4:00am for Valdosta, GA. For those of you who don't know, Valdosta is nine hours away. I had not seen him in eight weeks; and he is to be gone for ten more weeks. I DO NOT LIKE THIS. We all miss him.

Their second day home we went to church. We go to a rather large church, with about 2500 people in attendance on a Sunday morning. Tim leads an 8:00am Sunday School class, so the girls & I were up and ready to go. They sat in back of the class and colored. From there we met a friend from Ukraine; and they all went to Sunday School together, then on to kid’s church. They seemed to have a good time. Afterwards, we went and ate lunch with Grandma & Grandpa, then they had a blast playing on the Wii. A quick trip home to change clothes, then back to “big peoples” church for evening service. In one day they spent more time in church than they had in several years, or possibly all their lives. When we went to go back to church on Wednesday night Kristina was not so happy with me at all. At least not until she found out her friend would be there; and she would be going roller skating afterward. We all had a good time; and lucky for Papa and myself, no broken bones. She has gotten much better at going to church. The girls went to Vacation Bible School last week and had a great time. They both made a few new friends and that is good.

Karen had her 10th birthday on June 2nd, which I thought would be a good thing. I have learned that holidays may come with baggage. She woke up that morning to her room having been decorated by Kristina & I. She then had a meltdown. She cried on and off most of the day. At times quite hard. Later that night we finally learner that when she was younger her parents forced her & Kristina to smoke. Then, after she went to the orphanage, she got sick was put into the hospital. The doctor told her because she was bad and smoked she would die on her 10th birthday. All I can say is it is a good thing God brought me home. If I had been there I might have had to find that doctor and beat him up! We also found out the night before Karen's birthday that Kristina did not know when her birthday was, so she could not understand why we bought a bike for Karen and not her. We showed her on the calendar when hers would be, but I am still not sure she understands. That weekend, we had a combined birthday party for Karen and my mom. We had food, fun, swimming & fellowship along with several Ukrainian friends.
Sunday, the 13th, some of our friends from church gave the girls a welcome shower. We now have Barbie dolls & Polly pockets coming out of the toy box, and lots of clothes so we won't have to buy many when school starts. YEAH!!! Mom even got gift cards to go buy the not so fun things to, e.g. pajamas & under garments. It was such a blessing.

We also had our first doctor appointments. They went well. Kristina is right where she belongs on the charts. The situation is not as good for Karen. She is only in the 10th percentile for weight and 25th percentile for height. But when I look at pictures of her next to Grandma she is at least taller than that. We have had to revisit the doctor as both girls have also caught their first official colds. Too much time in the pool. Four to five hours a day can get you sick if you are not sleeping enough. Next week have their first dentist appointments.

I have went back to work, which I think is a good thing. My mom and dad are keeping the girls for us while I am at work. They love going out there. Grandpa takes them for tractor rides and sometimes even lets them drive. Today, Kristina told him she wanted to drive by herself. Thank goodness Grandpa told her, “No.” Both girls have their own little tents and furniture set up under them. They can't wait to get there each day. They have my dad wrapped around their little fingers. So much so he will let them do most anything they want as long as they won't get hurt. The hard part is the kids from other countries are so different than the kids from here. They think much, much differently. You must always think at least three steps ahead of them.

I have had some good days and some not so good days. I feel like a lot of times I am not going to get this mother thing down. It is a lot different than doing it with the children who were born to you. They grew up with your rules and understand you at all times. They may not choose to listen, but they at least understand. If God had told me how hard this was going to be I am not sure I would have signed up for this. I suppose that's why He didn't tell me. I already didn't listen to Him once. "Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart... That's true strength." – Author Unknown.

It seems like I fall apart a lot. I have not figured out this food thing yet. Kristina will eat about anything we put in front of her, and Karen will hardly eat anything. Some days it feels like I am fighting a losing battle, but it is better than when we first got home. I speak and get the looks of, “Who cares? I don't want to listen to you, so I won't.” Then, getting them to understand why they are in trouble is rough. It will get better. I have never been one to give up, so I must dig in deeper with the Lord. I will say, since Tim left me in Ukraine I have had a hard time finding time for my Bible study; and Satan will use that to destroy what God is trying to do good in these girls lives. I went for a walk tonight for the first time since I got home and spent 3 miles walking and talking to Him about my feelings and how to get my life back to where He wants it to be. Now I will see if I am obedient to Him. It is just finding a new normal. My fear is we will find it, then school will start. So we’ll have start over again. These girls are not big on change.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Our last week in Ukraine was like the much of rest of the time, we hurried and we waited. For some reason GOD must have decided our wait time should be faster this time. I will not go into all the details at the moment, but just say since Kristina came life has been very, very different, and not in a bad way at all.

We never did get the call we had planned on Tuesday for our passports to be in, so we moved the suitcases off the bed onto the floor. Then Alyona Karen realized we were not going to Kiev that day; and she was very sad.

All was well the next morning. We went back downtown to go to the Christian Book store. I had wanted to get the girls’ cousins some videos; and Grandma needed a Bible. We took the bus in and went to the store. The lady was not overly nice to me. For some reason I thought if she worked or owned the store with the word Christian in it she would be nice. I was wrong, so we left. As we were going out the door Alyona Karen and Kristina looked down and noticed two street kids sleeping on the ground in the window well. Alyona & Kristina laughed at them. I wanted to cry. When we met up with Oles a little bit later I asked him to tell them about the boys and why they were homeless. He said all kids have been chosen to have a family, but some families just never come for them. He also told then they needed to be thankful that God allowed them to have a mom & dad who love them and desire what is best for them. In this God has showed me we need to do some kind of mission project with them to show there are lots of kids who need families. Enough rambling.

We ran a few more errands, had lunch at McDonald's, and took the bus back to the flat. I got up the next morning and washed all the sheets & towels as I just knew we would be leaving. It was Wednesday and Oles thought we would get a call by noon saying our passports were ready. The call didn't come, then, nor at 1:00, nor 2:00, nor 3:00. Finally, at a few minutes after 3:00, Oles called, “We HAVE PASSPORTS!” The bad news, though, was we could not get train tickets out that night, so we were stuck another night. Oles said he would go back to the station and see at 5:00pm if he could maybe get some. At 5:10 the phone rings and Alyona Karen jokes, “Hello! We have tickets! Yeah!!” Well, when Oles said we actually had tickets I started jumping up and down; and then the girls realized what was going on. We were moving on to the next step of the adventure. Kiev here we come. So a few hours of craziness took place. The train was at 11:00pm, but we had to be there by 9:30 for the family goodbyes.

The train was late getting into Kiev Thursday morning, but the driver was there waiting with Yulia to pick us up. A mad dash through the station, we put everything into the back of the car, and off we went for medical exams. Yulia was very worried about us being late and not getting done on time, but I had a peace about it. Strange. That does not happen much for me. We got to the medical exam building; and she went and got us checked in. She wanted us to be seen by the male doctor, but we got this older, not so nice looking lady. Yulia was very upset as this doctor supposedly likes to send patients all kind of places for tests, etc., where the male doctor does all in his own office. I told her that God said it would be alright. He knows what He is doing. So the Doctor calls us into her office. Yulia is not allowed to come in with us, but thankfully the doctor does speak English. That was a good thing. She looks over Alyona Karen, and has her read some, and do a little math. Then, the same thing for Kristina. She then looks over the girls folders and asks why they were labeled as learning disabled when they seem smarter than most who she sees. She said she had shown the girls Russian to read while they are actually taught Ukrainian in school, but they both successfully figured it out. My response was, “Of course. They are their daddy's girls!” She just laughed, but then she dropped a bombshell I would never have of. Both girls had apparently tested positive for tuberculosis several months ago. What does that mean? It meant they had to go for chest x-rays, then she would need to read them and write up her findings. In America that would take at least a week for someone to read them and give the report to the doctor, followed by another appointment. She asked when we had to be to the U.S. Embassy. I told her, “By 11:30am;” and it was already 10:20am and we would have to drive half way across town. She was not sure we would make it. My heart fell. How could GOD get us this far and we not get done on time? At that I told her GOD told me in the beginning of this adventure that if I allowed Him to work all would be okay. She then said, “God told you that? How did God tell you that; and how do you talk to God?” I then spent a few minutes explaining to her how God should be your best friend and how to you talk to him. I told her how I wake every morning and say, “Hi, God! How are You this morning?” I get into His word as much as I can. I want to know all about him. She then made a phone call. I knew it was to the x-ray department, but that was all I understood. We left that room go to x-ray. The line was long, somewhere around twenty people I believe. I just knew we were sunk, for sure, but the doctor came down, took us to the front of the line; and we went first. She made many people mad at her, but she was the doctor. What else were they going to do? She waited inside while they took the x-rays so she could get the reports written ASAP. We went back to her exam room. NO TB anywhere. PRAISE THE LORD!!!! We weren’t done yet, though, because she wanted to know more about talking to God. She would like to have a best friend as she had lost her husband and was very lonely. I told her she would never lose God as He is forever. Then, we finished up and left. Yulia was in shock once we got outside and I told her all that had occurred. My response was God knew we needed to that woman right then. I had her where God wanted her; and I let Him talk through me.

When we get to the U.S. Embassy we went through all the security gates to get inside to then find where we needed to be. Everyone was very helpful. Got up to the window and received all the papers that I needed to fill out. Tim was there before he left and signed everything he needed to sign. At that the lady behind the window asks how long have I been there and when we would get to fly home. I told her our flights were scheduled for Sunday, buy it had been a long eight weeks. She smiled and said, “If we could get you these passports today, would you like to go home tomorrow?” What a dumb question! Of course I wanted to go home. I texted Oles and asked him call Tim; and tell him to call me ASAP. It was noon in Ukraine. What was I thinking? Okay, I was not really thinking, I guess. Tim’s first, very sleepy, question to Oles, was what was wrong? Nothing. Just please call Golden Rule Travel right away and see if they can change our flights so we can come home a couple days early. He then reminds me it was only 4:00am there. They won’t open for several hours. Oops!!! Sorry honey, go back to sleep; and call as soon as they do open. I went back to the embassy at 2:00pm for my exit interview; and within twenty minutes we had the girls visas. Yeah!!

That evening we went to dinner with Oles and some other friends we had made via the blog world. They had been to Ukraine two years ago and adopted two boys and were now back for a third. It was good getting to spend some time with other Americans. We ate pizza and enjoyed a great night of fellowship. Alyona Karen doesn’t like pizza so after that we took a cab back to Independence Square. We had not heard from Tim so I figured we were out of luck and God planned on us staying longer. Well, so be it. We went to McDonald's and got Alyona Karen some French fries and a sundae. Kristina and I each had one, too. We are walking back up the hill to our flat so we could get baths and watch some TV. As we entered the door the phone rang. It was Tim; and his first words were, “You get to sleep in your own bed tomorrow night.” So, we took baths as quickly as possible. Mind you, you would not want to take long ones as there was no hot water. Then I finished putting suitcases together and called Yulia to let her know we needed the driver to pick us up at 4:00am because we had tickets; and I would finally be taking our girls home.

Well, it was long night. If I had known Tim was going to call about the tickets I never ever would have let them have ice cream that late at night. It was well after midnight before we all got to bed. So getting up at 2:45am was not easy, or so I expected. They were so excited to be going to America that they were up, and dressed, and ready to go when the driver arrived. It took about thirty minutes to get to the airport. The driver helped us into the terminal, then he was gone in a flash. We checked in, went through customs, filled out some papers, and went on to the gate. The plane was supposed to leave at 6:45am; and we almost missed it. Never would I guess they would have no idea how to check us in with the adoption. We did make it to the plane, but they had to hold the flight for us.

Kristina had never done anything like that, so I was worried about her. But she took to it like a champ. On the first leg of the flight they took turns sitting by the window and taking pictures. We had a two hour layover in Germany. They were not happy at that, nor the fact that three times we had to go through security. We finally got on the big plane to go over the big pond. We did not get window seats that time, which was fine. We had a whole center row to ourselves, which was nice. The girls had so much fun watching movies and playing games with each other. Once we landed in America we had to go through customs again, along with immigration for the girls. Then, we had to pick up our suitcases from the international flight, check them back in for the U.S. leg, and go through security one more time. The plane was late, so even after all the other stuff we still had another two hour wait. The girls were so ready to get home and see Papa and Christopher. To be honest, so was I. They both fell asleep half way home on the flight from Charlotte to Jackson. When we got off the plane there were about thirty people waiting for us at the airport with signs and flowers. The girls were totally shocked and almost scared by it all. It was so nice, though, to know we were loved and missed.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

NEWSFLASH!! Lynn finished everything at the embassy earlier than anticipated; and we were able to get the last three seats available on the flight out of Kiev TOMORROW morning. As a result, Lynn and the girls will be home two days early. They will arrive TOMORROW (Friday) night at ~8:30pm!!!!!

I just got off the phone with her. She said the girls are both giddy with excitement. We'll see how they are following TWENTY-ONE hours of travel, but they will be home at last...

Tim =)
When we get home…

We know it’s going to take a while for our family to get into the swing of things, and for all the kids to really jell. We are praying that God will work in the hearts of each family member to bring us all together. As with any blended family, we know there is potential for division amongst the troops, but we’re going to work through, with the Lord’s help, and encourage the kids to be family (they will need to learn what this even means).

Our top priority from an adoptive standpoint will be bonding and attachment with Kristina and Karen. This will not be an easy process for many reasons: they are older children, they have been in an institution for over 4 years; and they have not been with each other (which can hinder their attachment to us since they can rely on one another now). Hopefully, they developed the ability to bond as infants and toddlers. If so, this process will be much easier for us all. If you have parented an older adopted child, you probably understand what we’re talking about. If not, you might wonder why in the world would I make a big deal over this or you may even think we’re crazy (I know I might have a few years ago!). We are not asking that everyone agree with us or even understand the process we’re going through, but that as our friends and family you would trust our heart, respect our decisions and support our parenting. If you would like to understand more about this, please feel free to ask us questions that can help you understand what we’re embarking on.

So, what can you expect when we get home?

- The girls will be very tired (maybe for a while as they adjust to their new life). Please greet them warmly with a hug, but do not be offended if they do not respond. They might not hug you back or even speak to you. They will be overwhelmed with emotions and might not warm up to you easily. Please respect their boundaries.

- Keep in mind that our goal is for them to bond with us as Mama and Papa... it’s what life will be centered around for them. Please let us do all of the care-giving (offering food, consoling, disciplining, offering choices, helping with tasks, etc). We must learn about them as they learn about us. We need to be aware of what they eat, Karen is very sugar sensitive; and we must watch for this. We have no idea if they have food allergies, so if we leave somewhere and do not know what they ate and they get sick we have no idea what it may be.

- Please do not give them anything they ask for without first telling them to “ask Mom or Dad” – don’t ask for them. They need to ask! This applies to food, permission, help, anything! They are learning English and can do this themselves.

- Back us up. If we direct one of the children to do/not do (or eat/not eat) something, please go along with us even if you would do things differently. When they see you respecting our words to them, they will learn from that example.

- Please do not allow the girls to hang on you or cling to you. They might want to sit in your lap, hold your hand, or just lean on you, but they must learn to cling first to Mama and Papa.

- Gifts: if you have something to share with them, please give to us first so that we can hand it to them for you... or ask them to “ask your Mom/Dad” if you can give them something. It´s important that the permission always come from us. If we don't know someone gave them something and things just show up and we have been to the store not that they would take something but there would be a question as we don't know them very well. And they don't know us.

- While the girls are learning to be a part of a family & follow rules and respect our authority, they will have days they are frustrated with us. We will be the ones saying “no, you can’t do that” or “I know you don’t want to go to the store, but we are all going as a family.” In times like these, they may turn to others outside our immediate family as a way of pushing us back. Please do not allow this. It might seem mean, but you need to push them back toward us! For their sake, they cannot bond with people outside of Mom and Dad right now.

- Bearing these things in mind, please do not ask the girls if they would like to go places, do things or attend events. You can ask us about these things, but do not be offended if for the next several months we don’t attend much – we will be staying home a lot! We do look forward to the day that they can attend parties and events just as other “normal” children can, but that will have to take a back-seat right now. As we cannot leave them home and if one is in trouble than we will have to suffer until they learn.

The girls are learning what it means to be part of a family, to trust and obey us as their parents, to rely on us for everything they need (emotionally & physically), and to bond with us as their Mom and Dad.

It is imperative that our children learn to seek all permission, affection, guidance, attention, provision (for every basic need), affirmation & acceptance from us first. Only after they have truly bonded with us as their parents will they ever be able to develop healthy relationships in the future. Right now, think of the girls as in the “infant” stage – they have just come home to our family. Only with them, they NEED to LEARN to rely completely on us just as an infant relies on his mother. This is not something that will be instinctual for them. Our desire is for them to come to know God’s love and to develop into healthy adults who have healthy relationships with their spouses, children, friends and family. Thank you for supporting us in this! It will help us all transition smoothly as we become a family.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

We have a new name to get used to. Alyona has requested to go by her middle name, Karen. She came to me the other day and said she wanted to be called Karen, as her new dad is so nice, which meant her grandma would have been nice, so that would be good name. She understands Tim's mom passed away as she has seen a lot death in her old family. Tim had to pray about and talk to his dad and brother as he didn't want to hurt anyone’s feelings. They thought it was okay. She said her old family was not as nice so she wanted to not have her name remind her of them.

Saturday morning we slept in a little. Once we got up, went to the market and bought Kristina new shoes, a hat, new pants and Capri’s. Then we came back and hung around the flat. Oles called and suggested we go out to the catacombs. About an hour later he came and picked us up. We asked a lady here at the flat how to get there. She was very helpful. Unfortunately she had not been there for a while, as there is now a big building where she said to turn. Oles then got out his GPS and we went followed it for a while, but it had no idea how to get there. After asking a few more people, we asked two guys we saw on a moped. Their response was to follow them, so we did; and they knew right where they were going. It was a really neat place. I had read about it on the Internet so even though the tour was in Russian I had half of clue of what she was saying. I am picking up a few words here and there. Although Alyona has told me not to talk it much because I goof things up. I did try to ask someone in a store about some perfume, they responded they did not sell dead chicken feet, but some of it smelled like that!! Everyone there got a good laugh, me too, once I figured out what I had said. Anyway, after that we went for dinner and back to the flat so we could get a showered and dressed all up for a night at the Odessa Opera House.

It was such a beautiful place. I think the girls really enjoyed it. I sat in between them for the first three acts. Then, I let them sit next to each other. Oles sat behind us; and during the fourth act he whispered the words that were being sung. The performance was in French so none of us understood what was being sung, but they had a display over the top of the stage scrolling the words in Ukrainian, so the people here could read them. We should have done that from the start! Afterward, we went home to bed, or should I say home to watch a movie?

Instead of going to church on Sunday morning, we went to orphanage #88, the first orphanage the girls were in. We were able to help with some crafts; and the girls got to say good bye to some of their old teachers & friends. It was not a good day for Kristina. She is very withdrawn from me. I know once we get home things will get better, but for now it is so hard to see the sadness in her eyes. I want to hug her and tell her it is all going to be okay, but she has no idea of what her new life will be like. I can't even imagine what she has to be thinking. She knows no English, so that makes it even harder for her. We are both depending on Alyona for help, but we can't do that forever. After #88, we took a new bus into downtown. We saw a lot of new places that day. When you think you can't see any more gray you come across a new area. Other than the metal surfaces being painted, everything else is gray or green. No wonder everyone here is seems so unhappy. They have to be depressed. We looked around for a while, walked off some energy, then came back to the flat. The girls watched movies; and I watched church. A nice quiet night in the flat. Well, quiet except for all the Russian speaking going on.

We went back into downtown, Monday, and saw some more sights, then went and had dinner with some friends from church who are here also adopting. It just was nice relaxing day, nothing too exciting. Kristina did make some headway last night with me. She gave me my first kiss without me asking for one, and she let me tuck her into bed. It is good to see GOD working through my prayers for her.

Today, I am waiting for the phone call from Oles saying we will be on the train tonight. That means our passports came in. If not today, then tomorrow. The girls are ready to go to Kiev. Every few minutes today, Alyona says, “We will go to Kiev today? I want to get done. I WANT TO GO TO AMERICA NOW!!!” She is so cute. I was packing up most of our stuff, earlier, so we will be ready; and she tried to help. Her idea of packing and mine are quite different. Mine is to fold and neatly place items into suitcase, as we will have to wear this stuff in Kiev. Hers is to just roll items into a ball and stuff them anywhere. I won though. It is all folded nicely and fits so well. I had been concerned about the weight, but I think we will be okay.

I will post again after we get to Kiev.


Friday, May 07, 2010

Thursday was another day of “roller coaster rides”. It sure is a good thing I love them so much! I only slept about two hours Wednesday night, if even that much, so I figured I would sleep in the car going to Kiliya, but that was not to happen. Oles was “a few” minutes late that morning. I don't how he accomplishes all he does on such little sleep. It actually turned out nice that he was running late. It gave me a chance to talk to Tim, in the morning, before we left. Tim said he & Oles had spoken a couple times throughout the evening, which for us would be the middle of the night. So Oles had as much sleep as me. I decided it would be better if I visited with him, which is always fun. Anyway, we had not been to Kiliya in three weeks so it has changed. The trees had all bloomed out; and the mustard seed was at the yellowest I had ever seen. So as we drive along, windows down, enjoying the cool spring breeze, I thought to myself, “The roads sure are in good shape.” We knew they had done some work, but these roads were smooth. That should have been my first clue that something was wrong. We looked at each and said, “Do you remember any of this?” We both answered, “No!” Then another, “No,” came from the back seat came, as if she knew what we were talking about. Thankfully there happens to be two men on the side of the road. Angels I think, as there was nothing anywhere out there. They said we could get to Kiliya by continuing straight, then turning; and we would run into it. At that, Oles got out his GPS; and confirmed they were right. We decided we had missed our turn as everything was now in bloom so it looked different. When we got to Kiliya we were so hungry and knew with the rest of the day we might not get a chance to eat, so we were going to run in to get something somewhere. We walked into a bar looking place and asked if they had food. NO... Oles asked where people could get something to eat. She said, “In your kitchen.” So, we didn’t eat until 3:00pm after we got back to Odessa!!!

We picked up the social worker and went to the orphanage. It would not be long now. We go into the administration office; and Kristina comes in with everything she owns in a shoe box and a small bag. The director talks some and leaves to make a few copies. Then, it was time for my three signatures and she would be ours. Yeah!! She went and found her friends so we could give them the gifts we had for them. We could not bring cake and drinks there as the director wouldn’t allow it. The kids loved the gifts. Then, for what would be the last good bye, there were tears & hugs from everyone. We took some photos; and the kids had to back to class. Oles needed to finish up some things, so we went outside to enjoy the sunshine. Next thing I know the bell rings; and here come all the kids again. So, we do all the hugs and good byes, again, and of course more tears. They then went back to their classes. I got a call to come up stairs, so off we head. We take care of a little business, then go back outside. A few minutes later I get another call to come to the 3rd floor. We finish that, head back down, and the bell rings again. I am not sure how many times we can all do this good bye stuff. Finally, Oles comes out and says, “Let’s go!” So I grab Kristina’s stuff, give a few more hugs and byes, then the girls go walking out hand in hand. This is truly the last time the will ever see this place, unless we possibly come back to do a mission trip.

The ride home was somewhat emotional for Kristina, as she is older; and she understands better what this means. Leaving her friends and the place she has called home for over two years. There is so much uncertainty in her life. I know she has to be scared. Oles translated some things for me. I told her I know most of the time she will not have clue as to what I am saying; and that is okay. I just don't want to be tuned out. I need her to pay me attention so that she can learn. Whenever she is sad and missing her friends she can come and say, “Kiliya.” That would be a key word to know she is having a rough day. I also asked her to always do her best, as I know she is smart. Alyona said she thought the director had called Kristina dumb, so we will have to deal with a low self esteem problem. We definitely will work on that. With being older also comes a lot more baggage. She remembers a lot more than Alyona.

We didn't get lost coming home, which is good as we had lots of things to do. We went to the Notary, the Social Security office, and the Passport office. It went well, and quickly, at all the places. We then went and had McDonald's for Kristina's first time. We had vanilla milkshakes and French fries. At the Social Security office we waited in the car. The next thing we knew, this man comes walking out to the car. Oles got out. After a short conversation, the man went back inside. A few minutes later he came back out with our new, correct paperwork. I was shocked at curbside service. Oles says it pays to know people in high places. When we were in the Passport office we got to see the Director from Balta, so Alyona was glad to be able introduce Kristina. Then, we were all done and headed back to the flat. Some great friends cooked dinner for us. It was great to come home and not have to cook. Oh no!! I just said home. It is definitely time leave this place!

After dinner, and a much needed shower & hair washing, we had a fashion show. Kristina had a great time trying on all of her new clothes. I was shocked for never seeing her before we came, everything I bought actually fit her. She looked so cute. The girls then watched a movie, and talked, and wrestled, and tickled, and laughed. I so wish Papa was here for this. They did get upset when the electric went out and they had to go to bed.

We got up today and took the bus downtown so we could look for shoes for Kristina, but we didn't find any. We will keep looking as we need them for Saturday night. Then, we walked around, went down the big stairs (176 of them!) to the pier. We no longer got to the bottom when Oles called and said he needed us back up the stairs and about six blocks away to get passport pictures taken ASAP! While we waited for them, so we could take them to the passport office, we ran to McDonalds again for lunch. The management of the U.S. stores needs to come here and see how service should be done. Although, here you do pay for napkins, ketchup, straws, everything. After lunch as we were supposed to be heading back to get the pictures, I got myself turned; and we walk about SEVEN blocks the wrong way. Oles calls and says, “Where are you? I’m waiting.” I tell him, “I got us lost. We are walking back to where we started. You will just have to wait for us.” That is good I am not sure I can do another 6 blocks if I got us lost again. Once we do get back to where we started, we discover the office was just up the street and around the corner. I definitely walked off my calories from lunch. After that we went to see the Dolphin show. It was good. Not Sea World quality, but good. All four of us got in for $18.00 U.S.; and it lasted about fifty minutes. We then went to the little amusement park to let Kristina do the bungee jump that Alyona did a couple of weeks ago. She is not nearly the daredevil that Alyona is. Then, I let Oles talk me into bumper cars. He had Kristina; and I got Alyona. Well, ten minutes of going backwards, and being hit, and almost thrown out of the car was enough for me. Thank you, Oles, for the fun memories. Then, we went and purchased our opera tickets for Saturday night, went out to eat, and home for the evening.

It is so good to have both girls with me!!


Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Tuesday was a very good day. A good day indeed! We went to Balta for Alyona to get to say good bye to her friends at her "gotcha party". Everyone had a good time, I think. They ate lots cake and drank juice. We then handed out goodie bags to everyone. It was so cute. They kept trying to give Alyona and I the candy we had brought for them. These kids truly know what it means to give and not always receive. Alyona had been saving kopecks (like pennies) that she we found; and she was up to almost ten grivna, or about $1.25 in American money. As we walked around she would give a little to the handicapped people or elderly at the churches. As we were leaving she had figured out much she had and how many kids were in her class, then she gave everyone the same amount. It was hard to say good bye as I was already falling for them.

After all that, we stopped by the girls’ uncle’s house, in a small village outside of Odessa. I will tell you what I have seen in Mexico on mission trips didn't really prepare me for what I saw there. Previously I had often resented that the uncle hadn't come to get the girls out of the orphanage. Well, he has five children of his own children, from twelve years on down to one month. He possibly could have gotten them before he had all his own kids, but clearly it is not now his place to raise these girls.

They had made dinner for us. When we sat down to eat, Oles and I sat on the bed; and Grandma and Alyona sat on stools; and everyone else stood. There was not room for any more chairs. None of them ate as they wanted to make sure we had enough to eat. They had so little, yet gave so much. We had taken some gifts for the kids; and you would think they had never previously received any toys, but then, as I looked around, I realized I did not see a single one. The last time we saw the uncle we had bought them a DVD player. They were so proud of it, they had to show us. It sits on top of the THIRTEEN inch black & white TV, which sits on top of the refrigerator. They do not have indoor plumbing; and they cook outside. I think they only have two outlets in the entire house. I so wish I had more money. I would leave them with a significant love donation, but one of the concerns is the uncle’s problem with alcohol. He is now essentially unable to work because of it. So there they sit. It is a real curse on the people here; and until they learn about the love of JESUS, it will never be broken.

As we were headed back to Balta this morning for the last time, all I could do is repeatedly thank God for all He has done for us. Just nine months ago, on July 24, 2009, He started a new work in Tim & I; and now after many trials & struggles, and numerous literal miracles, this phase is almost “completed”.

As we pulled into the orphanage this morning, so we could sign all of the paperwork for Alyona, it occurred to me that she is no longer an orphan. Believe it or not, I have a sadness in my heart, which seems so crazy as this should be a happy day, and it is. My sadness, though, is for the children who came running up to the car as we pulled in. I have only met Alyona’s class a single time, but have quickly become friends with them. As we climbed out of the car and walked into the building, there were lots of hugs and kisses, and lots of kids talking to me, of which I understood very little. But I did comprehend the, “Pleeeeasse take me to America. You be my mama.” WOW! I can say I did not expect that. I stood there not knowing what to say to all the sad little faces looking up at me, each so desperately wanting a family; and me knowing it was not to be at the moment. And for some it will never be. I did tell them in what little English/Russian Alyona & I could come up with that we would go home and do everything we could to find these cute faces a “forever mama & papa”. They seemed to understand. And through it all, they were still all very excited for Alyona, that she was going to America.

While there, I met a young man whose name is Andrei. He is sixteen years old; and he knows nobody will ever come for him. He will be leaving the orphanage in less than a month. When I asked him what he would do, he said, “Go live on the street,” as he has no family to go to. He was left at the orphanage when he was very small. He speaks rather decent English, which was nice to know. Maybe it will help him someday. I tried to tell him that God has a plan for him. His response was, “What God? I live next to a church that I am not allowed to walk onto their grounds, as I will get yelled at, or worse, they will call the police on me. If there was a God he would have sent someone for me. Maybe he does not like me. I might have been bad, or my mama was.” There was no convincing him otherwise. Maybe if I spoke a little Russian, but I don't; and Oles was out doing what he had to do so we could keep our process moving so that we could go pick up Kristina tomorrow. As we pulled away I looked up to the window; and Andrei was standing there with his hand on the window. Then, a small smile came to his face; and we turned the corner. I probably will never see him again. As I type this, I am sitting here crying as I have known for years we were to adopt. What if I had listened to God years ago? And what if we had come here? And what if Andrei was meant to be our child? WHAT IF? I will think about these words forever. I know that because every time I look at Kristina or Alyona I will think of Andrei.

So, my challenge to you is this: if you are called to adopt, PLEASE don't wait indefinitely, as I did. We are not promised tomorrow, nor are these kids. What if something happened to Andrei and he dies? Not that I want something like that, or even think that, but WHAT IF? What if you or I don't follow through as we should and he never learns of the love and saving grace of Jesus? WHAT IF he doesn't end up in heaven and when it is your time and God meets you at the gates and says to you, “WHAT IF you had obeyed all my commandments: like be the father (or mother) to the orphans? He would be here with you.” WHAT IF? Please, take the first step, even if it is a small one. Call someone today to get started, because WHAT IF we put it off?

The rest of today was quite crazy. The court decree was not ready when we got there, so we waited, and waited. The call finally came, “Come to the office. It is time to sign Alyona out.” I have waited so long for that moment. I almost forgot how to spell my name! But it did come to me. Then, off we went, again. Oles had a plan; and he was determined to carry it out. Even though the car ride back to Odessa was long, Oles always makes things fun. We got back in time to pick up the original birth certificates so we could then go get the new ones. The new ones which indicate Timothy John and Lynn Michelle Loecher are now the exceedingly proud parents of Kristina Lee and Alyona Karen Loecher. Yeah!!

It's official! We have our court decree! The girls are forever & irrevocably ours!!!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Well, here I am again. If you had asked me three months ago what I would be doing and where would I be, the answer would have been simple: getting up and getting ready to take my new daughters to church for the third Sunday in our own home church, but God's plan has been different from that. I am not sure as to why. Maybe to teach me some things? I know I have learned many lessons during my time here.

At the church we have been attaining here (thank you Vicky and Vernon for recommending it to us!) we had a guest preacher today from Indiana; and he taught on: How is GOD leading you? He read from Mark 6:45-56: ‘Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethesda, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.’ (NIV)

What I have learned was:
1.) Paul wanted the church to find their spiritual gifts.
2.) We can't be edified without God being Glorified.
3.) The Lord is still leading the same way He lead 2000 plus years ago. His word has not changed, just our hearts toward it.
4.) When we read the Gospels, we need to see ourselves in them.
5.) We need to get in the boat to go to the other side as sometimes we are with the wrong crowd.
6.) We need to feed our souls, not our stomachs.

I feel like there have been times in this Journey we have been on we have came under attack from the devil. When I sit back and think about the attacks, and when they have come, it has been when I was not fully leaning on the Lord to direct our paths. I wanted to help Him out. I cannot do that as His plans are the perfect plans. I have to always remember Jesus is in heaven praying on my behalf, so it will work out. I cannot expect to have a smooth road if I am going to follow Christ. Look at Paul. He went to prison. And Moses… he could not speak well and was asked to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. As well as so many others who came before us. In comparison, my life and trials have been easy. The disciples grew through obedience to God's word. If I knew how this was going to turn into such a long adventure I am not sure I would have signed on for this. I know my mom would not have. I am sure there are times she thinks I am crazy; and in some things I probably am, but this is not one of them. For the most part I have truly enjoyed myself. I do miss some of the comforts of home, but I have a great flat, a store across the street, Internet and phones so I can talk to my family every day. And in the end I will have two beautiful daughters to add to my already great sons. In the midst of the storms of our lives we just have to praise Him, trust Him with everything, and Glorify HIM... But for now in this what I think is a storm in my life I will enjoy what He is showing me and trying to learn as much as I can...

Now I will get off my soap box and give you some fun facts again. The following are some of the things I saw and thought were funny as we sat at the bus stop, and then during the bus ride:

- Three mopeds racing down the street and then one of them popping a wheelie. I have no idea how he didn't fall and kill himself on these roads. I think he must have been the one who won, or maybe he lost and wanted to show off.

- I am amazed at how many stray cats and dogs there are in this city. I have learned there is no animal control here, but that it is illegal to kill them. So now at the flat we are almost overrun with kittens. When we first arrived here there were around twenty-five stray cats. Now we have SEVENTY-FIVE TO ONE HUNDRED kittens and, for now, about FIFTEEN dogs. I am sure that will dramatically increase because the dogs are having a “great spring”, which makes for some funny talks with Alyona!!

- Saturday was the first of May; and everyone apparently received the memo that spring was here. When we had gone to the market on Wednesday they were still selling winter clothes; and you could not find a short sleeve shirt anywhere. Now, if you need a long sleeve anything you are out of luck. And I have seen more swimsuits. Which comes to something else I learned; and I am glad Tim won't be going to the beach here. It is now legal for women to go topless and men nude!

- Painting, painting, painting everywhere. It seems like the city is coming to life. Everything that is metal gets new paint. When we first got here it was very dull and dirty, but not as much now. I just wish the daily street cleanings would work on the dirt! All they do is wet it and make mud for a short time. Then it dries.

- We came across a sign which very much describes this town: “Kobbos + Charcoal = Beer party”. This weekend they celebrated May Day, which means most of the town shuts down and holds parties everywhere. Which may be why there seems to be such a curse on this country.

- Then, we were walking down the street talking about the sun; and this guy comes up behind me and beeps his horn. I was not paying any attention, as I was on the sidewalk; and you here horns beeping all the time. Then another beep. This time I look; and it is a guy driving down the sidewalk; and he is mad at me. For some strange reason I thought sidewalks were for pedestrian, but I guess not here.

- As we were walking to the bus we were following these two guys from China. One was about 200 pounds and built really well. The other was about 130 pounds and very skinny. The built guy was wearing these dark purple flip flops. The other one was wearing hot pink ones with flowers glued to the tops of them; and he was smoking, swinging his hiney all over the place. Alyona looks at me and smiles. When they have left us, she looks at me and almost falls on the ground laughing. We have had a few good laughs over this!

I hope y'all have good week. And please remember to pray for us on Wednesday when we are to get the court decree, and then Thursday when we finally get to take Kristina out of the orphanage for good.


Friday, April 30, 2010

It has been a long hard wait for this ten days to be up. Actually, when all is said and done it will have been SEVENTEEN days, so that’s really why is has so been long. When you factor in the weekends and all the holidays our wait period will have beenk much longer than for most people. I know in my mind why we must wait for these places to be open, because if they are not open and some family member wants to come and file a dispute against you they could not. But then my heart says, if a child has been in the orphanage for a long time and no family has visited, then do they really want the child? Or is it that they don't want you to have the child? In either case, it is hard. We will get our court decree on May 5th. I am looking so forward to May 6th so we can go break Kristina out forever.

Alyona and I have had a good time together. I do wonder if she thinks her new mama may have lost it a few times along the way since Papa left. We have shopped and went to downtown to sightsee some more with a friend we made who is here from Sweden. She is 21, so it has been a little like having Christopher here with me. Well, kind of. She is a girl; and he is not, but they are the same age. I am sure people look at me like I have my family with me. A lot of people ask Alyona if I am her babushka, which is grandmother in Russian. I am not sure I ever heard anyone ask Tim that. It just gives me a push to get back home and lose the rest of this weight so I can go buy cute twenty-one year old clothes. Not!!! But it would be nice to be at a healthy weight and not carry the extra around on me.

We have friends from the states that are in Kiev right now doing their SDA appointment; and she said that one week at the YMCA was not enough to get ready for all these hills and walking. She is so right. So all of you out there who will be following in our footsteps start hitting the pavement now. Your feet will love you for life if they are in better shape.

On Tuesday we had quite the day. Alyona wanted to go to the park, which to her is the two swings just outside the flat, in the dirt. I said I had heard of a really cool park. We just needed to take the bus, as if we were going to church, but stay on it; and go to the end. She looked at me and said, “191, right?” “Yes, 191. It will be an adventure.” So we boarded the bus. I had not even gotten the door closed when the driver took off; and I almost became close friends with the pavement. Luckily the driver and Alyona caught me. So we ride almost an hour to get there, to get off; and all we see is trees, and trees, and more trees. Alyona says to me, “I don't want this park.” I told her it would be OK. We just needed to walk a ways to find the playground. So we start off on the path to the entrance. We walked about a mile before we finally found it. YEAH for me! She looks at me and says, “Army tanks... ugh!” I said, “Look, you can climb on them.” She responds, “OOH LA LA!” It is her new saying. I think she thinks she is going to Paris. Anyway, she climbs all over everything she could get onto, then we head back to where the bus dropped us off. As we’re walking I keep trying to explain to her we are going to go around the corner to see the Black Sea. So we start down this hill; and we walk, and we walk. There is a car coming up the hill, but it does not make it to the top, and then it goes backwards down the hill to try it again. After three tries it finally makes it to the top. We get to the bottom and look back up the hill and Alyona says, “We live here now. I NO go back up. I NO do it three times.” In America, if you live overlooking the water you will most likely live in million dollar homes. Not here. They may be HUNDRED dollar homes! I was quite shocked, to say the least. We enjoyed the view, then decided we needed to head back up. Now, I was thinking I am not sure I wanted to see the Black Sea that bad. We get to the top and get a drink.

At that point the adventure really does begin. The driver pulls up. We get on. I am still learning my way around on the buses so we sit right behind the driver, across from the door, as I know we need to see out on that side and did not want to have to make our way to the front of a crowded bus. We are sitting there; and this man gets on and has a funny look in his eyes. I will say, I was a little scared, but did not tell Alyona that. Then he starts making these funny noises and Alyona is moving closer to me. I am moving closer to the window, but the metal will not give, I can't get us away from him. Then he falls to the floor and has a full blown seizure. All I could do is sit there and pray for safety for this man. The bus driver and this other man who each weigh may be 130 pounds try to get this THREE HUNDRED pound man off the bus to the ground. I tried to tell the bus driver things he needed to do. It was like a weird game of charades. We wait for help to come. Thank God the man is fine. Then, next, this lady gets on the bus; and she has THIRTY-SEVEN kids with her. The bus only seats TWENTY-EIGHT, but this is no surprise. The passenger limits are only recommendations here anyways! So we ride on, and on, and on. At one point I think we had about close to FIFTY people on this bus. When it came time for us to get off the driver would not accept our fares. Instead, he said, “Thank you for your help.” I responded, “Have a blessed day.” He just smiled. Yeah! A smile. We don't see many of them around here, nor do we hear much English. We get back to our flat and Alyona asks go to a park with swings. All I really wanted to do was go take a nap, but how could I say no? So, off we go.

Yesterday we went to the market so we could get things to put in the bags for the girls’ “Gotcha party”. The kids love getting things from Americans as most never receive anything. Even just a bottle of shampoo; and they think you gave them the world. It makes you think about all the Christmases we have had, and how much we spent, and how little our kids appreciate what we got them. Last Saturday night Oles took us to a park down by the sea and he was talking to Alyona about Christmas and what she might like. He asked about a bike, a doll, clothes, or games. She said she already got what she would want: a family to love her and get her & Kristina back together. She did say to give money to a family so they could come get her friend who was nice and needed a family. WOW! She is so young, but knows what is truly important. I hope she will keep that perspective forever.

There is so much I would love to tell, but I need to go. I hope you all have good week.

Prayer needs:
1.) That nothing goes wrong in getting our court decree on May 5th.
2.) Everything goes fast with our passports, so we can leave to get out of here and on the plane on the 13th, as on the 14th summer rates go into effect and the cost of our tickets will go up significantly.
3.) Alyona starts eating better. She can't live on potatoes forever.
4.) A smooth transition for Kristina into her new family.

Prayer Requests: Please feel free to email us your prayer needs or put them in the comments so we can pray for you.
1.) Mrs. Doris - She fell and broke her nose and bruised up her face. For quick healing.
2.) Friends that are here from the States ready to adopt two girls, non-siblings.
3.) Friends in the States that will be starting their adoption process. That everything goes quick and smoothly.


Friday, April 23, 2010

If something is worth doing it probably won't be easy. As much as Jesus called to us to take His yoke upon ourselves is straightforward, the path of discipleship isn't always easy to follow. Many of Christ's instructions contain elements of difficulty. For instance widows and orphans: James 1:27 – “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. Will it be easy to do this? No. It may be God just calling you to pray for these, or to help a missionary working with them, or could God be calling you to pray about adopting one of these less fortunate than you? The only way to know for sure is to seek after God, in how He wants you to help. There are many ways to help the less fortunate.

I truly feel God has placed the Yankova family into our lives (Kristina’s & Alyona’s extended family). We mentioned in a previous post about the generational curses that have been on this family; and we know Jesus will break these through our intervention in the girls’ lives. Will it be easy? Assuredly not. Will it be worth doing? Absolutely, yes. Anything that God has His hand in will ultimately turn out for good.

Tim left from Odessa at 10:40 Wednesday night to head back to the States. He took the train to Kiev so that he could go and fill out his share of the paperwork for me to be able to finish everything else here. We already miss him a lot. That night, when we went to go to bed, Alyona and I had watched a movie, then when I went to turn out the lights, she looked up and me and said, “Alyona misses Papa. Where is he?” She did not understand why Papa had to leave. She of course has no idea why he had to go back to go to work. I am not sure what kind of work her biological father did, even if he did work, so this will be adjustment for her to get use to. Then, when Mama gets home, she has to go back to work, too.

Tim left Kiev Friday morning. He has a two and one-half hour flight to Munich, Germany, and a three hour layover, then a nine hour flight to Charlotte, NC, followed by a four hour layover. He will arrive home in Jackson tonight at 8:45pm CDT, which will be 4:45am (Ukraine). I am sure he will be very tired, but how good to be able to sleep in our own bed tonight. I am very jealous! (Note: Once he got to Charlotte he learned his last flight was delayed, first for two and one-half hours, then for another hour, so now he’s not going to get into Jackson until almost 1:00am!!)

Since he left, Alyona and I have been out for a couple walks. We went to the store for the first time all by ourselves. We made cookies this morning for the first time as mother and daughter. I so wish Kristina was here with us. We will have to do a lot of making up when we get home. I am not sure what else the next few days has in store for us, but I know we will venture out to church on Sunday. Also, there is a real interesting looking old cemetery I would like to check out, so we will take the bus to go do that. I will also need to go to the market to buy things for the girls’ “Gotcha Parties”. I think Alyona would like to make some cookies to take to the parties, too. We will stay busy for at least a few days. Also, I am getting some much needed rest, as I am sure that once our feet hit the States we will be moving nonstop! Alyona's birthday is June 2nd. I am planning on doing a combined party for her and my mom, as my mom’s birthday is June 4th. I know we will have lots of pool parties this summer; and of course just getting use to being a new family will be work. I can't wait, though, to see how God works in and through our lives.

I am sure I won't post now for a few days as we are in the waiting period and won't have much to say.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Please join us today in celebrating God’s amazing favor!

Court went well; and we were proclaimed the proud parents of Kristina Lee & Alyona Karen Loecher!!! I am actually drafting this note on my laptop as we are headed back from Balta to Odessa. Then, I’ll quickly pack to catch the train to Kiev. Tomorrow I will go to the U.S. Embassy to process some paperwork in preparation for when Lynn and the girls get to come, then I will catch a flight for home on Friday morning. Barring any unanticipated volcanic ash delays, I should arrive back in Jackson on Friday night.

Lynn will have to remain in Ukraine for three to possibly four weeks. The first ten business days are a normal waiting period to allow for potential appeals to the court decision. Then, in between several Ukrainian holidays, Lynn and Oles will be working to finish processing all the paperwork necessary to bring the girls home.

Thank you for all your prayers to date! Many days have been trying for us, but it has been almost surreal to live through this experience and observe God’s hand moving in & through the multitude of situations. Even today, we went into court wondering if the prosecutor might choose to object to this adoption. Once more, though, we were amazed when we learned that the girls’ father had actually drafted a petition to the Ukrainian government, before he died, expressing his desire for the girls to be adopted. No one: social workers, prosecutor, not even our facilitator, knew of this existence of this formal petition. Everyone was surprised when the Balta Orphanage Director pulled it out of Alyona’s official file and read it in court. Coupled with the letters from Grandma and the uncle, we had a very compelling case. We were absolutely astounded when the prosecutor stood up and even she said she felt it was in the best interest of the girls for the adoption to occur. As the judge was reading her decision Lynn starting crying tears of joy, which caused the judge to start crying, too. She ended by wishing us health & wellness. She also remarked how much the girls resembled Lynn & I and said maybe that was confirmation God had intended us to be a family all along.

Praising JESUS from Ukraine!!!

Tim, Lynn, Kristina, & Alyona

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nothing happened yestersday. After a 3-hour drive to Balta, court was rescheduled for tomorrow. Please, please, please keep praying. The spiritual battle is intensifying the closer we get to the end. Thank you, Jesus, for the encouragement found in my reading in Numbers 23 this morning!! (vv. 19, 21b, 23b -- “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? The LORD their God is with them; the shout of the King is among them. It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, 'See what God has done!”)


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Well, it has been an interesting day. We decided to try and find our way to church this morning by ourselves. So, we leave before Laura. We get down to the street; and Tim & I discuss which bus we are to take. I said #191. Tim said #197. (Me) “No, I am sure it is #191.” (Tim) “No, remember you said it was #131 yesterday to go downtown; and it was really #133? (Me) “I know I was wrong, but I know one of them had a “1” at the end.” Had we taken 131, I have no idea where we might have ended up. We got onto #197 and it follows the same route as the bus for #191 for quite a way. I am thinking I will hate to tell Tim he was right. I am not good at that. I very much like to be right. Then… it all goes wrong. #191 goes straight; and our bus turns. I don't remember turning before. I am pretty sure Tim is thinking the same thing. As we had only been on that bus two previous times, and last week was somewhat unfair as it was an overly crowded day on the bus. Well, it finally comes to the end of the line. The bus driver turns the bus off and looks at us like, “Well, are you going to get off, or what?” Now, for those of you who don't remember, we are in Ukraine; and they speak Russian. Tim goes up to the driver and in the best English he can says, “We got on the wrong bus.” I mean I cannot hold it together. He says this so perfect; and the driver just looks, “What?” So he gets the phone out and calls someone who at least speaks a little bit of English. Tim, the driver, and the person on the phone pass the phone back & forth until I was wanting to roll around laughing. Then, Alyona looks at me with the cutest face she could have and says, “Papa got us lost?” And of course I said, “Yes!” She laughs and says, “191, right”. (Me) “Yes, sweetheart, #191.” Then, I do lose it! So, we ride the bus back home and get off right at the same place where we started the morning at. So, this is why I thought today would be a great time to post the following. I had seen it several months ago and kept the link. I had no idea why, but I do now. I will say, we saw a lot more of the city this morning than we would have if we had not made this little mistake. I think we may have to do this again! :-)

Hope you enjoy; and for those of you who are following us soon, start studying now!



I am by no means an expert, but I have learned a few basics of reading Russian that have helped us tremendously on our journey. Continuing the caveat, I also cannot claim any of this to be 100% accurate, but understanding these simple basics (right or wrong) have helped us read street signs and business names, and most importantly food labels and menus.

Consonants are the key to basic understanding. If you can identify even half of the Cyrillic consonants, you’ll do just fine.

Learn Your Child’s Name

Learn to recognize a Russian stop sign

First of all, the most important advice I have is to learn to spell your child’s first name in Russian. If you memorize something simple that is dear to your heart, you are almost guaranteed to learn at least two Cyrillic consonants and at least one vowel. If you can’t or won’t learn to spell your own child’s name in Cyrillic, I believe you seriously have no chance to learn any Russian because you clearly aren’t motivated enough.

Examples: Anastasia = Анастасия; Anya = Аня; Marie = Мари; Masha = Маша; Vladimir = Владимир.

It certainly wouldn’t hurt to learn how to write your own name and your spouse’s name in Cyrillic. If nothing else, you can then sign your names onto the letters you will write to your daughter while she’s waiting for you at the orphanage. While you’re at it, practice writing out her current family name in Cyrillic so that the packages you send end up with the correct girl.

Common English first names: James = Джеймс; John = Джон; Michael = Майкл; Mary = Мэри; Jennifer = Дженифер or Дженнифер (more common); Helen = Хелен.

In just getting familiar with several easy consonants and vowels. Here are just a few:
-- Л = L, as seen at the beginning of Léna/Лена. Caution: the lowercase L in Cyrillic can be represented a few ways: λ, л, л, or an upside-down v.
-- Н = N, as seen within Léna/Лена.
-- Р = R, as at the beginning of Richard/Ричард.
-- И = the short I sound (‘ih’), seen in the middle of both Richard/Ричард and Kim/Ким. Just to confuse you, other similar short I sounds can be represented in Russian as ы or ы (single characters that look a bit like the number “61″), while Ukrainian is kind enough to sometimes use the standard Latin ‘i’. Technically, these all aren’t the same letters of the alphabet as they differ phonemically, but for our purposes it’s close enough to just accept them all as the short I sound.
-- Д = D, as in Richard/Ричард. Caution: a lowercase Cyrillic D looks familiar (or not!): д or g.

This All Looks Like Greek to Me!

Well, it should! The Cyrillic alphabet is based on the early Greek alphabet and still shares a few common letters. Here are just a few of the most useful to remember:
-- Г = G, the Greek letter “gamma”. Caution: a lowercase Cyrillic G is often displayed as one of the following: г or г.
-- Λ or λ = L, the Greek letter “lambda”. But you’ll see the capital L most often as Л, as mentioned above.
-- П = P, the Greek letter “pi”. Caution: a lowercase Cyrillic P can look like: п or п.
-- Ρ = R, the Greek letter “rho”
-- Φ, ф, or ф = F, the Greek letter “phi”.

Learn a Few Simple Words

There are a few common words you will see over and over that, once you understand them letter by letter, you will soon understand much more than you realize!
-- Ukraine = Украина (Russian) and Україна (Ukrainian) — oo-k-r-ay-ih-n-ah.
-- Kiev = Киев (Russian) and Київ (Ukrainian) — k-ih-ye-v.
-- bank = банк — b-ah-n-k.
-- stop = стоп, a sign seen at almost every street intersection — s-t-ah-p
With just being familiar with those few words, you’ll easily grasp the following Cyrillic letters:
-- У = the “oo” sound, as in “crew” or “Lou”, not like “book” or “cook”.
-- Р = R, just like at the beginning of Richard/Ричард.
-- Н = N, just like in Léna/Лена, so it’s reinforcing the recognition for us!
-- В = V, like at the beginning of Vladimir/Владимир.
-- Б = B, like inKimberly/Кимберли. Caution: a lowercase Cyrillic B can look like the number 6, б, or δ
-- C = S, just like the soft C’s in “race”, “mice”, and “Cyrillic”

A Few More Odd Characters

You’re just going to have to remember these:
-- Ж = sounds like “zh”, as in “massage”. If it helps to remember, the letter looks like a bug, and it makes a buzzing sound like a bug.
-- Я = sounds like “yah”, like the end of “Maria” or “Katya”
-- Ш = sounds like “sh”, like in “shoe” or “fish”
-- Ц = usually sounds like “ts”, as in “pizza”, or sometimes like “ch”, as in Richard/Ричард.
-- Щ = combines the two sounds above into something like “shch” or “sht”, as in “borscht” or almost as in the phrase “fresh cheese.”

Are We Done? Not Nearly!

In no way have I finished covering all the letters in the Cyrillic alphabet, but the few you’ve learned will help you figure out many Russian words. For practice, try reading the following common words or phrases using only what’ve you’ve learned above. A couple of the words below contain new letters not mentioned above, but you should be able to extrapolate the word from the letters you already know with just a little guessing.
-- минимаркет (seen on many non-residential buildings)
-- интернет клуб (many similar phrases seen on non-residential buildings in the city)
-- ресторан (very common on non-residential buildings)
-- аэропорт (you might notice this while traveling)
-- багаж (you’ll have some of this with you, hopefully physical and not mental! For another hint, if the English word was spelled phonetically, it would be more like “багадж”)
-- бульвар (seen very frequently on street signs. If you’re stuck, pretend to add a “д” onto the end.)
-- кальмары (on some menus)
-- пицца (surprisingly good.)
-- станция метро (the first word is a bit harder to figure out, but this is something often found in the most populous cities, most useful before and after work. For another hint, trying swapping the word order to see if that makes more sense.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Yeah! We heard today that we have a court date. It is scheduled for Monday, April 19th, at 3:00pm. Praise you, Jesus! Let it all go smoothly...

Well, I have lots to tell, but at the moment I cannot. So I decided y’all need to know some important things when you come here. I hope you enjoy; and if you have any questions feel free to place them in the comment box and I will get them answered if I can.


Ukraine (pronounced

Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe. It is located between Poland and Russia. It is slightly smaller than the state of Texas. Much of the southeastern part of the country borders the Black Sea.

Most of Ukraine's land is made up of fertile plains, or steppes, and plateaus. Mountains are found only in the west and extreme south in the Crimean Peninsula. This area's climate is subtropical. Winters vary from cool along the Black Sea to cold farther inland. The temperature inland ranges from 66°F in July, to 21°F in January. Northern and western Ukraine average 27 inches of rainfall a year. This temperate climate is ideal for growing crops. In fact, more than 57 percent of the Ukraine's fertile soil is suitable for growing such crops as sugar beets, wheat, and potatoes.

- Area - 603,700 square kilometers(233,090 square miles)
- Land use - 56% cropland, 14% permanent pasture, 30% other (mostly urban)
- Coastline - 1,729 miles

Electricity - The standard electric voltage in Ukraine is 220 volts. Make sure to take a plug adapter as well as a converter, if you bring electric appliances.

Transportation - Public City TransportRuns from 6 am to 1 am. Bus, trolley bus and tram system is rather slow, but is a cheap way to travel within cities. Prices range from 60 kopecks to 2 hryvna.

Taxi - Taxi is comparatively cheap for Ukrainian/Russian speaking passengers. Probably everywhere situation with taxi is like this – if one speaks a foreign language price for a taxi immediately goes up. There are numerous taxi services, orders are taken via phone. There can be hired a taxi right on the street simply by putting out your hand. Be wary of taking a car having more than one passenger. Price is to be agreed upon beforehand.

Trains - Extensive network of railroad connects Ukraine with many European and Asian countries. Trains are cheap though slow and not very comfortable. First class compartments are mostly air-conditioned (very important in summertime) and have 2 berths (some trains do not have 1st class option), second class has 4 berths. It is advisable to buy tickets for the whole compartment, especially when traveling alone. Prices for foreign citizens and Ukrainians are the same. Trains are the most popular and easy way to make intercity trips in Ukraine.

Air - Most cities of Ukraine have air connection with Kiev, tickets for non-Ukrainians are more expensive than for Ukrainians for domestic flights. Best air connection with other countries goes via Kiev. Some domestic flights are not very reliable in terms of schedule - it is never too much to make sure that the flight you have chosen is made on a regular basis. Please, note most domestic train/air tickets can be obtained only in Ukraine

Things to do in Odessa
1.) Potemkinskaya Staircase with a statue of Duke De Richelien on the top. - It's the main meeting point of Odessa and vital part of the strolling route. Construction of the 193 Stairs was completed in 1837; the Potemkin Steps are the best place in the city to view the bay and busy harbors. The peculiarity of the staircase is that the length of the steps at the bottom is 10 meters wider than the ones on top, thus making the rising perspective more vivid.

2.) Odessa Theatre of Opera and Ballet - The Odessa Theater of Opera and Ballet, second best theater in Europe after the one in Vienna, heard the singing of Shalyapin and Sobinov, saw performances of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov.

3.) Interior of Odessa Theatre - Very beautiful from inside, absolutely fabulous acoustics and the stage is seen from any row, any seat!!!

4.) The Statue of Laocoon - The Statue of Laocoon located in front of the Odessa Archaeological Museum. This marble statue is a unique copy from the Rodoss artists.

5.) Arcadia district - It's a very nice district in Odessa: good sandy beaches, a huge park - Victory Park, green and tranquil.If you visiting Odessa, it's better to stay in that district, it's very close to the center of the city, just a few stops by tram, it has a lot of hotels and sea resorts, so it won't be a problem to find one.6.) Deribasovskaya StreetIt can be called the main street in Odessa. Shops and gardens located in the center of Deribasovskaya Street. Each year the Street gets more beautiful and of course, more crowded with tourists. There are many open-air shops, vendors as well as many fine shops.

7.) Belvedere of Vorontsov's Palace - The Colonnade gives Odessa, named after an ancient Greek colony, a look and feel of Athens.

8.) The Mother-in-Law Bridge.

9.) The Odessa Privoz is one of the biggest farmers' markets in the world and rivals those in Istanbul and Mexico City. As the saying goes, you can find anything up to and including nuclear devices at the Privoz, but a better description is everything that is edible and in season in the ClS, plus a whole lot more. Although lanes are devoted to construction materials, clothes and consumer goods, the Privoz is best shopped for food. Beware of pickpockets. Haggling is expected, but a lower-stress approach is to comparison shop.

10.) More than 400km of catacombs are buried beneath Odessa. Both partisans and smugglers have used them over the years, and the part of the catacombs which resistance fighters used in 1941 is open to the public. Located some 35km outside of town, the partisan catacomb bus leaves daily from the bus kiosk across Volzhynskij street from the train station at 10:00am, except weekends. An easier way to find the bus is to ask at the information window in the train station. The trip takes half a day and costs 5 hryvnas for the Russian-language version.

Things to do Kiev
1.) See St Sophia’s Cathedral: The oldest church in Kiev, St Sophia was built in 1037 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise, a majestic 13-cupola cathedral with golden domes, a turquoise bell tower and an interior adorned with elaborate frescoes and mosaics. A UNESCO heritage site, there’s also a museum inside the 18th century refectory full of archaeological artifacts. It costs just 2Hr to enter the grounds next to the bell tower, and 5HR for the Bell Tower itself.

2.) Go Underground in Kievo-Pecherska Lavra: This vast, sprawling monastic complex is home to a huge network of eerie 11th century caves, some of which are lined by the mummified bodies of monks. Buy a candle, descend into the depths, and see how the monk’s bodies have been perfectly preserved to this day. Admission is 16 HR, and English speaking tours can be arranged if you’re too afraid to navigate the caves solo! Women must wear scarves, which are provided at the entrance if you don’t have your own.

3.) The Mother Motherland statue is a memorial of the Great Patriotic War in Kiev. The statue itself is 62m tall of the whole 102m with the pedestal (450t!). It's similar to ones located in Kaliningrad and Volgograd. It's a beautiful socio-realistic relic and I recommend it to every amateur of Soviet gems. ;) It's located in the Pechers'ky Landshaftny Park (which is a bit Soviet itself), behind the Kyiv Pechers'k Lavra. Take the trolleybus #20 or a tube (to Dnipro) and walk south. It is not far from Independence Square, so if you are in shape take the walk and enjoy all the old buildings. Also be sure to and see the other sites while there. There are a lot of good gems hidden under her. Check them out for yourself.

4.) Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) is the central square of Kiev. It is located on the Khreschatyk Street. The square got its name after the Ukrainian independence and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Thousands of protesters gathered in the square during the Orange Revolution of 2004.

5.) Take a walk in the evening downtown, especially in Khreshchatyk and Independence Square and enjoy the views. - The fountains look beautiful and so does the 62-meters-high Independence Column. - The central square is full of people in the evening, too. - The square has an interesting history of development. It had several different names within its history. - The area used to be vacant land two hundred years ago. In the Middle Ages in was called Perevessishche ("hunting grounds"). - The area became a market square in the 19th century and was called Khrashchatyk Square. - In 1851 the first stone edifice was erected here. It was the Nobility House designed by architect A.V.Beretti. - In 1876 the square was renamed into Dumskaya Square ("City Council Square"). - The Bolsheviks renamed the square into Soviet Square in 1919. - In 1935 they renamed it into Kalinin Square. - From 1977 to 1991 it was called October Revolution Square.

6.) The street Yaroslaviv Val is famous for its architecture and beautiful buildings. This street was not destroyed during the Second World War. Prepare for a steep walk up from the main street, Khreshchatyk Street.

7.) Vladimirskaya Gorka is a green park on the bank of the Dnipro River. It's a kind of romantic place where just married couples arrive. It's also a place where people celebrate graduation from school.Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra topped with gilded domes is situated here.

8.) National Opera building has been built in 1897-1901 and it's still in use. It's not 'a must', but it's just a nice building to pay the attention to, if you are strolling around this area. Check the performances in the Kiev Opera House

9.) Park Vichnoyi Slavy (Eternal Glory Park) is located near the Kiev-Pecherska Lavra. Inside you can see the Monument to the Unknown Soldier. It's a nice place for a walk, with a fabulous view of the Left Bank and Lavra.

10.) In 1961 Kiev was the select place for making of a movie that became famous all over the former Soviet Union. "In Pursuit of Two Hares" is a comedy by an Ukrainian writer who uses the set of Kiev for a story that plays in 1913

Packing Tips
1.) A bag with wheels is helpful because Kiev involves a lot of walking. The Metro stations and train stations don't have lifts usually, so you will have to walk a long way carrying a lot of stuff if you don't use something with wheels.

In summer, Ukraine can be very hot, so be sure to bring lightweight clothing that can be washed at night and dries quickly. In winter, be sure to bring very, very warm clothes because no matter what you bring it will never be warm enough. My most prized possessions in Ukrainian winter were my gloves, scarf, and then the boots I purchased there. I had brought very warm boots from the USA, but they just weren't warm enough. I don't really believe in wearing fur, but if you do, this is the place to wear it.

Public toilets don't have toilet paper, so be sure to bring little tissue packages or you will be stuck using a newspaper or something worse. Pack all prescription medications you may need. Things like band-aids and antiseptics can be purchased here, but it is very hard for them to understand you, and can be very expensive.

Film, batteries, cameras, all things can be purchased here at local photo shops.

2.) It's advisable that you take all important belongings in your carry-on bag. It will help in case your luggage is lost in the airport or on a train. Pack passport, tickets, itineraries, money, wallets and insurance cars in your carry-on bag.

If you're arriving in winter note: -5-+5C, in spring: +5-+20C, in summer: +18-+32C, in autumn: +23C-+7C

If you are taking shampoos, soaps, laundry kits, shaving creams and other things like that, take travel size products. Note also that such products can be purchased in Ukrainian stores or markets.

Are you digitalized already?!! Batteries, CDs, Internet cafes are easily available, and the rates are better 1.5-2 times than in other places; the same for photo-prints! Wish you excellent sunny weather! :)

Obviously you check your documents, visas, money and other important things prior to leaving home. Bring a good mood and positive curiosity :)

3.) Remember to pack only as much as you can carry for a mile, by yourself. Don't plan on anyone else to carry any of your bags. After you first pack everything, then, take out at least a third! After a couple of trips, you'll get it right first time! When the airport says 50# they do mean it. If it is 50.1# that will be an extra $250.

4.) There's a lot to see and do in Kiev and walking is the best way to get there, so bring some comfortable and sturdy walking shoes.


- Voltage converters
- European electrical adapters
- Surge protectors
- U.S. 3 prong to 2 prong outlet adapters
- Travel wind up clock
- Flashlights


- Interchangeable
- Comfortable
- Coats and sweaters (loop sewn in neck)
- Swiss army knife (to be put in luggage)
- Bathrobe - Sewing kit
- Slippers
- Hat, gloves, and scarf
- Boots
- Swim suit (if in the summer)


- Bath towel
- Hand towel
- Dual voltage hair dryer
- Band Aids
- Chap stick
- Toilet paper
- Antibacterial hand gel (lots of it most bathroom do not have any soap)
- Rope or cord to secure train compartment door


- English dictionaries
- Stamps
- MP3 player and charger
- Prescription meds (at least 3 months, you just never know)
- Non-prescription meds
- Aspirin
- Diarrhea meds
- Laxatives
- Antibiotic ointment