On the Road Again... Soon

It's packing time again. Actually I am pretty much unpacking, washing, folding and repacking. We arrived home last Saturday evening and I leave on Sunday to return to Ukraine. Unfortunately, Drew will not be able to make this second trip with me. It's not a possibility for him to miss 2 more weeks of work on top of the three he has missed already. A friend of mine from high school is going with me to Ukraine. Drew and I both feel it will be better for Lane and Hudson too, to not be without both parents for another two weeks. They will be taken care of during the day by grandparents and Drew will be home after work every evening. So, hopefully this will be easier on them than the previous 3 weeks. It's been such an emotional and often stressful time for our whole family. Lane doesn't handle change well (to put it mildly), and he has cried a lot since we've returned from Ukraine. He loves to just be at home with Dad and Mom and although he had a great time with Grandma while we were gone, he is such a worrier and he was very anxious for us to return. Hudson too has been extra snuggly since we got home. I'm not complaining about that though :)

We are so excited that in two weeks from today I will be returning home with Kole. We look forward to getting back into a routine with all 3 boys. Please pray that our three boys will bond quickly and grow to love one another. We anticipate that there will certainly be times of jealousy and fighting for attention, but we pray that our home would be a place where KINDNESS and LOVE abound. Please pray that we will have wisdom as we help Kole transition into a very different life, including starting kindergarten.

As you pray for us, please remember to pray for all these precious orphans. I often take the time to pray through all the children on and it is so rewarding when a family commits to adopt one of these children.

Visits With Kole

Well it has been a couple days since I last updated. We have continued to visit Kole every day, usually twice a day. I have to say that it is a little strange visiting our son under someone else's watch. We are permitted to visit him for a couple of hours each morning and a couple of hours each afternoon. We have to keep him on the orphanage grounds. Each day Kole runs for the gate and laughs when we scoop him up and tell him "no, no." He really has a great sense of humor and such an adorable smile. I really can't tell you how much we just want to pick him up and run out of the orphanage gates.

We went to the market and bought some turkey, cheese, bread, and tomatoe. I was pretty proud of myself for ordering at the deli with minimal hand gestures. I made Kole a sandwich and brought some grapes and juice to go with it. So far there is nothing this kid won't eat. We are just amazed at how much food he can fit in his mouth.

Kole took my sunglasses off my head and put them on. I gave him a thumbs up and said "Kole is so cool." He laughed and gave me thumbs up back. Drew and I decided to go to the market and find him some sunglasses of his own. We found some blue camo little boys ones and brought them to him the next day. He was so excited! It's hard not to want to spoil him and buy him everything he could ever want. I know we can't make up for the past six years of his life, but I really want to. I hope some day his memories from the orphanage fade and are replaced with new happy memories of our family.

Kole has had a cough this past week and each day it seems to be getting worse. We spoke with the orphanage Doctor and she told us he is on an antibiotic. But, yesterday evening we went to visit him right after he woke up from his nap and he was just not himself. His throat was sore to the point where he didn't even want the juice we brought for him. Usually he guzzles the juice and soaks the front of his shirt in the process. He laid his head on my shoulder and I sang to him; the same thing Lane and Hudson like when they do not feel well.

Drew woke up this morning with a sore throat too. We were not able to visit Kole today because Drew really does not feel well and Kole is still sick too. Pray for them to get better and fast. I am dreading having to leave Kole at the end of the week, but it will be even harder if he is still sick.

We should be going to court on Thursday or Friday, then we will say goodbye to Kole and come home for a couple of weeks. My heart is still hoping he can come with us. We will return after two weeks at home and pick Kole up from the orphanage. Oh how I can't wait for the day when we drive away from that place with Kole!

Our Days With Kole

It’s Thursday night here in Ukraine. Yesterday and today have been pretty good days. Yesterday morning we went to the orphanage at about 10am to visit with Kole. When we first arrived Kole was sitting at a little table drinking milk from a real glass. He literally squealed with joy when he saw Drew and me. You just don’t know how happy that made us. We had brought a pair of sneakers and socks for him because he has been wearing girls sandals. He sat in a chair across from me; I put one sock on him and started to put a sneaker on him when he just hugged me and squeezed my neck, as if he was saying thank you for getting him some proper shoes.

They let us take him outside as long as we stay on the orphanage property. So we ventured out, and Kole was thrilled to be outside. The orphanage does not let any of the children go outside without a hat, so they gave us a yellow Yankees hat to put on him. Yuck! It was painful to see him in that hat and I can’t wait to get him a proper Red Sox hat. We are contemplating buying Red Sox hats for all the children in the orphanage. Haha!

Kole lead us around the entire property until he settled on a particular playground. There are several playground areas each with their own little “dugout” type area. We sat down and gave Kole a banana to snack on. I have never seen a kid so excited about a banana, nor have I seen a child consume one so quickly. It made me happy to see him so thrilled over a simple snack, but I can’t help but wonder if he does not get much food in the orphanage.

Kole then proceeded to walk around the playground and pick up every pine cone he could find. It was really cute to watch; he would point at one and yell excitedly every time he saw one. He was also really fascinated at the cars driving by outside the orphanage fences. Our time with him Wednesday morning seemed to fly by and before we knew it, it was time for Kole to go back inside for lunch and naptime. Kole hugged me goodbye, but he did not want to hug Drew. That was really tough for Drew. We have noticed that any time one of the two men who work at the orphanage walk by, Kole acts scared of them. We wonder if they have been mean to him, and we also wonder if he has a bad picture of what a father is like because of his birth father.

At about 4pm we went back to the orphanage. Kole was just as thrilled to see us that afternoon as he was that morning. We went outside again and Kole immediately saw some dogs lying on the steps. Side note: there are packs of wild dogs EVERYWHERE! Kole started to run over to the dogs. Drew chased after him and suddenly the dogs growled meanly. It scared Kole and he started crying. Drew was right there and he picked up Kole. Kole wrapped his arms around Drew’s neck and held on tight. It was as if at that moment Kole realized that Drew loved him and would protect him. After that Kole has been so affectionate with Drew and has even wanted Drew to pick him up and hold him.

It was really difficult to say goodbye to Kole Wednesday. He ran toward the gate when we were outside and motioned for us to follow him. He wanted to leave. Then when we were playing inside he packed a small backpack full of toys, got a “walking stick” and motioned for us to follow him out the door. He clearly wanted us to take him with us. It was so cute and heart-wrenching all at once. But for the first time he hugged Drew goodbye too.

We went to the orphanage this morning and afternoon too. This time we brought him a new hat! We also brought him some clean clothes and a pair of sandals we purchased at the market here. Even though we brought him a pair of sneakers, we noticed that they keep putting those girlie sandals on him, so we decided to buy him some boys sandals. Side note: the children play outside, eat, and spend most of the day in nothing but underwear and sandals. And they are all in desperate need of new shoes and new underwear.

When we were at the orphanage today we noticed that there was a little girl who was always sitting in the same arm chair. I asked one of the workers if I could go talk with her. This little girl is 8 yrs old and so sweet. She has no legs and when I walk over to her she is smiling and so excited that someone is coming to see her. She is sitting in a chair coloring and she is coloring perfectly. It was all I could do to hold back the tears, because she is so sweet and happy, and I think about what her life could be like if someone would adopt her. She could have a proper wheelchair and she could go to school where I know she would excel, because she is obviously so bright. We hope to bring her some good drawing pencils and books when we come back. But won’t you please pray that she will be adopted, soon!

It’s difficult to visit Kole each day like this. We love our time with him, but we just want to take him with us. What’s also hard is seeing the other 70+ children in this orphanage almost all under the age of 6, and to think of their lives having to be wasted in an orphanage. My heart aches because I wish so badly that we were able to do more, to adopt more. They see us walking around with Kole and they say “Mama, Dada.” And we hear the orphanage workers say “Kole’s Mama and Dada.” I am praying to God that these children will one day have a real mother and father. I am crying to God that He will protect them and keep them.

We will go to court the end of next week and then Kole will legally be our son. There is a mandatory 10 day waiting period after court, before we can get him from the orphanage. We will come home during the waiting period. We are praying that the judge will wave the waiting period though. That pretty much never happens. But we have seen over and over again that God answers prayer, works miracles, and provides. Please pray with us that Kole can come home soon!

A huge praise…We received word today that “Show Hope,” which is the adoption grant ministry Stephen and Mary Beth Chapman started, is giving us a $3000 grant (we don’t have to pay it back). That is a huge answer to prayer as we had to take out some loans in order to adopt Kole. We are just praising God for his continued provision and goodness!

Kole's Birth Mother

I could tell that people had prayed and were praying for our meeting today with Kole's birth parents; our meeting could not possibly have gone better. We were very nervous on the two hour car ride over. We arrived in Kole's birth city, ate lunch and walked around a little. Kole was born in a large port city on the Black Sea. It's very much a melting pot and it feels more like being in the Mediteranean than Ukraine. I probably would really have loved being there except that I felt like I was in a daydream of sorts just waiting to meet with Kole's birth parents. We were expecting to meet both of them, but his father did not really care who adopts him, so he did not come.

We met his mother and grandmother at a beautiful park in front a large Orthodox church; then we walked to a nearby cafe. His birth mother is beautiful, she has orange/red hair and she really is so pretty. I noticed right away that we were both wearing dark jeans, white sleeveless shirts and black sandals. Weird. We sit down at a table and it's all I can do to even look at her. She begins to talk with Alex and he tranlates all her questions for us. She looks at our pictures of Lane and Hudson and she asks about 100 questions. She wants to know what Kole's life would be like with us. Will he go to school? Will other children make fun of him? Why do we want to adopt him if we can have more children "of our own"?

She explains what it's like for children with Down Syndrome or other special needs here in Ukraine. She starts to cry a little. I can tell she loves him. My heart just aches for her. I can't even begin what it would be like to live in a country where people with any kind of "disability" are treated like they are not real people. I can begin to understand why they left Kole at the orphanage, although in my heart it still doesn't make sense.

She shows us pictures of Kole when he was a baby. He is so cute dressed in old fashioned clothes and a bonnet, riding in an old fashioned baby carriage. She shows us a picture of her husband and her. Fighting back tears she tells us that many times she has wanted to go get Kole and bring him home, but his father refuses and he does not want him. She tells us that she is so glad that he will not have to spend his life in the institution and that she is so happy to know that he will be in such a nice family. She tells us that people of our character are rare, we are different in a good way. She and Kole's grandmother are crying. I am crying too. We promise her that we will love him and care for him the same as we do Lane and Hudson.

We exchange addresses and we assure her we will send pictures and write letters. I tell her that I do not think badly of her at all. And I really don't. I did, but after meeting her and seeing that she genuinely loves Kole, I just feel so sad for her. We hug goodbye and we are both still crying.

We will see her again, one more time after the adoption is finalized in court here. She gave the pictures of Kole so we could make copies and return them to her. And she wants to say goodbye to Kole.

Drew and I both felt better and worse after the meeting. We don't love Kole's birth father, to be honest. We feel sad for his birth mother, but we are relieved that she seems at peace with our adopting him and happy that he will have he good home. Thank you all for your prayers and kind words. These past few days have been quite the emotional rollercoaster. But, God has been pouring His graces on us in so many ways.

We returned too late to see Kole today so we are really looking forward to spending a few hours with him tomorrow morning.

Our First Meeting With Kole

I hardly slept last night. We woke up and got ready to go meet our son, Kole. Alex called and said he would pick us up in about 5 minutes and we would go to a cafe to get some breakfast. I honestly, didn't want any breakfast; my stomach was in knots. We went into a really nice cafe' ordered some Americanos and a couple of fruit danishes. I felt so nauseous with anxiety I could barely eat or drink. Alex explains to us that he already went to the Administration of Children's Services with our papers, and now we need to go back there to pick them up. We walk a short distance to the administration building. He goes into the office and then motions for us to come in. There is a short, red-headed lady talking a mile a minute. She asks us a few questions about us, our family, where we live, why we want to adopt etc... Alex translates. We sign some papers and then get into Alex's car and follow her over in her car to go to the orphanage.

On the drive over I am trying my hardest to hold back tears. I can't even begin to explain the array of emotions I am feeling. When we pull up to the orphanage we step out of the car and Alex tells us it is OK to take pictures. His orphanage is actually pretty nice looking and they have a large fenced in playground area. We go inside and sit down in the hallway. Then they call us into the office. We are waiting and waiting. Alex tells us that Kole's biological parents come to visit him once a year and that they are OK with him being adopted by foreigners. We didn't know that his parents came to see him and I feel a little sad that we will be taking him so far away from them. I'm just not even sure how to process this information. Alex further explains to us that Kole's biological parents may want to meet us and that it might be better for us to meet with them and to get things squared away with them before we try to go to court. That way they will not try to appeal our adopting him. He said they have already terminated their parental rights, but it would be good to meet with them just to be safe.

They tell us that Kole was playing outside and he got a little dirty so they are cleaning him up before they bring him to see us. We laugh. We realize that we left the little teddy bear we brought for Kole in the car, so Drew quickly hurries to go get it. All of a sudden Kole rounds the corner holding the hand of an orphanage worker. He is so tiny and cute, he is wearing a pink and white shirt with Snoopy on it and blue shorts pulled up too high, with blue socks and white girls sandals. I tear up the moment I see him and I am frozen. We say hello and reach out and hand him the teddy bear. He reaches out and takes it and holds on to it and squeezes it like it is the only thing he has ever been given. He smiles and laughs and looks at the bear and hugs it some more. I am just staring at him; he is beautiful and so full of life. Finally I just outstretch my arms to him and he comes to me and hugs me. I mean he is really hugging me and squeezing me. I just start crying and I don't want to let him go. He is a little hesitant to hug Drew, because the children in the orphanage rarely see men; they are cared for by all women.

We play with him on the floor and we pull out the photo album to show him pictures of his brothers and us. He grabs it and looks through it over and over again. Every time he sees a pictures of Lane or Hudson he smiles and laughs and points to them. We tell him those are his brothers and he seems so happy. He sits on my lap and looks at the pictures over and over again and he squeezes his teddy bear. He is so little. He is about the size of a 3 yr old even though he is 6 yrs old. All the clothes we bought for him are going to be huge. We bought mostly 5T, so I guess we have some shopping to do when we get home. We only get to see him for maybe 15-20 minutes and they tell us he needs to go eat lunch, then take a nap. We make sure that they tell him we will be back. We give him one picture of us to keep with him, because they said for us to keep the album to bring to court later in the week. We hug him goodbye and kiss him. He waves and blows us kisses and smiles, then he leaves.

After we say goodbye to Kole we go to another room to meet with the orphanage doctor. She is perhaps the cutest and nicest old woman I have ever seen. She is tiny. She explains, in Ukrainian, that Kole was abandoned at the hospital and then brought to the orphanage when he was one month old. The first year was very difficult because he had trouble eating and he weighed too little. He had bronchitis and pneumonia before he was 18 mos old. He is very healthy now; he eats anything and everything. She says he is very independant; he feeds himself, uses the toilet on his own, dresses himself and he plays very well with all the other children. Drew is taking notes furiously because we are not sure if we will have real copies of his medical records to take with us. We ask the Dr. a few questions. She tells us in Ukrainian that we have a great responsibility and she thinks what we are doing is amazing. We tell her we love Kole and we will take very good care of him. She nods yes and smiles. Of course Alex is translating everything for us.

Then we go back to the director's office and they call Kole's biological parents. Alex speaks with the mother and the father on the phone and they say they are OK with us adopting Kole, but Alex arranges for us to drive about 90km tomorrow to meet with them. When we get back to the car I get in the back seat and just start crying. It's just all so overwhelming. Meeting Kole was as wonderful as we expected, but now I am so worried that his biological parents will change their minds after they meet us. I'm not sure how I even feel about taking him so far away from his biological parents. Does Kole know, when these people come to visit him once a year that they are his parents?

Please pray that our meeting with his biological parents goes well. Please pray for peace for Drew and I. Pray that whatever is best for Kole will happen. Pray that God's will be done and we will be at peace.

Saturday, July 10

It’s 9pm on Saturday as I am lying in our apartment writing this. Another day in Kyiv, another day closer to seeing Kole. We woke up late again this morning; Drew got up around 10am and I got up about 11am. Drew was sitting at the kitchen table journaling when I woke up; I had no idea how late it was because my body was screaming, “I need more sleep!” We got ready, packed the backpack for the day and headed out. As we walked into the hallway of our fifth floor apartment I took one look at the elevator and decided to take the stairs, possibly a worse decision because they are falling apart and they seem to be nothing more than concrete suspended in air with nothing supporting them. I’m pretty certain this entire building was here when Stalin invaded. As I am walking down the stairs I am literally praying “Dear God please do not tell me brought us this far, only so we could fall 5 stories into a concrete grave. “ At about the 3rd floor Drew presses the elevator button and I watch through the cage-like metal as the elevator comes up. It is seemingly raised and lowered by an ancient pulley and weight system. I notice that the elevator has four ropes tied to the top of it and they are what is holding the elevator in air. All I can say is that I hope who ever tied those knots was an eagle scout. I took my chances with the stairs again.

As we venture out onto the street we immediately see a bride in white and her groom in a shiny brown suit, standing in front of a Hummer stretch limo. They are so happy. A babushka walks by and says something in Russian, which I assumed was a word of congratulations because the young couple smiled and said thank you. Just a little further down the street in front of the Golden Gate there is another bride and groom getting their picture taken. My mind wanders back to Drew and my wedding day, less than six years ago. We never would have imagined that this is where God would bring us, Kyiv, Ukraine adopting our third son. Crazy! It’s just crazy.

We make our way past the Opera House, which is huge and beautiful, like nothing in America. I notice though that across the street is a 20+ story, rundown, Soviet style apartment building. What a contradiction. We turn the corner and make our way to McDonald’s. Uggh. We don’t really ever eat McDonalds back home, but it’s the one place here where we know what we are eating, and they have free Wifi. When we walk into McDonald’s we overhear a man talking pretty loudly in English; I just can’t help but eaves-drop. He looks like a Bob Jones professor and all I hear is him saying “I don’t really care for contemporary music in church anyway.” The Ukrainian couple he is talking to kind of roll their eyes and laugh. I am thinking, seriously? I am half way around the world and I am hearing that? I really wanted to tell the guy to shut his pie-hole and stop making American Christians look like the morons we are. After a filling yet disgusting lunch, we decide to walk down to the main street, which we call “K street” because it’s a really long Russian name we can’t pronounce. We go into a five-story mall which is apparently famous. I’m not super impressed and the prices are outrageous. We leave. So glad we walked down this enormous hill to check out this famous mall, now we have to walk back up the huge hill and it is the hottest day yet since we got here.

We walk back to McDonald’s, grab a coffee and sit down. At least now it is late enough in America that we can call our boys. We video skyped with Hudson and it was so good to see his face. He was talking and smiling. We blew him kisses into the web cam (I am well aware of how strange we must have looked to the other people in McDonalds). Hudson reached out to the computer screen and said “Mama, mama.” Seeing him and hearing him made my day so much better. Lane was on his way back from the beach with Grandma so we didn’t get to talk with him then. While we were in McDonalds, it starting raining and thundering and the wind really picked up. After a while it looked like it had let up a bit, so we decided to go back to our apartment and then come back to McD’s at dinner time when we could hopefully skype with Lane too.

Well…as we were walking back it starting raining and the wind starting blowing. I thought my contacts were going to blow right off my eyeballs. We were slightly lost and getting soaked. We ran up the street laughing and trying not to slip and fall. Across the street pieces of tile and concrete were blown off the building and came crashing down to the ground below. Glad we weren’t on that side of the street. We finally see the fancy American hotel to which our apartment is adjacent, but we are on the wrong side. We decide to cut through the Hotel in hopes of staying a little bit dryer. Everyone in the lobby and the restaurant just stares at us as we walk through, soaking wet and probably a little stinky. Because, I forgot to mention that when it rains here it would appear that some of the sewers flood and therefore the puddles of water are not just water. I discovered this the hard way when on our second day here I walked through several puddles wearing my chaco flipflops. Later that day and the next day I kept smelling something awful. I finally figured out it was me. I now have poopy-pee chacos. Awesome.

We made it back to our apartment, finally. We were soaked from head to toe, but it was kind of fun too. After a couple of hours of reading we ventured back out to McDonalds hoping we could video skype with Lane. We talked with Lane for a good 30 minutes; this was the first time we have video skyped with him since we left, and seeing him made me miss him even more. He asked us where Kole was and he was a little disappointed that Kole wasn’t with us. We’re disappointed too. Kyiv is a great city, but I just have no desire to do anymore sight-seeing. I just want to be with Kole and then go home.

Note: After I finished typing that last night, Drew and I were watching a little Sports Night when the power in our apartment went out. It was pitch black outside, but when I looked out the window I noticed there were lights on in the other apartments. Drew found his headlamp and turned in on (I gave him a really hard time about buying that thing, but I was glad now he did). We walk over to our fuse box and Drew fiddles with the fuses a little hoping not to get electricuted; there is a weird burning smell coming from the box. Super! We are going to burn to death in this fifth floor apartment. Drew takes the fuse out then puts it back in and the power comes back on! But...only for a minute, then it's out again. We can't get the power back on and there are no extra fuses to be found. So we decide to go search all the hallways of the apartment building looking for fuse boxes that just might have extra fuses in them. Thankfully noone came out of their apartments and saw the two weird looking American's, in their Pj's, one with a headlamp strapped to his head like he's about to go explore some caves. We never did find any more fuses. So we went to bed. We still have no power today (Sunday), but we are leaving in a couple of hours to drive to Kole's city!

Yesterday We Moved

Yesterday morning we were awakened at about 10:30am (don't judge us for sleeping in so late it's really hard to fall asleep when it's 7 hrs ahead here), it was our facilitator, Yulia. She told us to have everything packed by noon, we were moving apartments and she was going to have a driver a named Sasha pick us up. Sasha would have a USB broadband modem for us so we could have internet in our new apartment. We weren't so excited about moving apartments or only having an hour and a half to pack everything. We had just learned our way away around from our apartment and we had stocked up on groceries the night before. But, the idea of having internet at our disposal made up for the lack of timely notice.

We packed and then waited outside. Of course they did not show up until 12:45pm. Ukrainian's are always late! I am not overstereotyping, it's just the way it is. Sasha pulls up, hopes out of the car, and runs over to us; he spoke no English. The only words I understood were Yulia and Sasha. There is two other people in his tiny car already, some lady who works with Yulia and her daughter. I get the privilege of sitting in the back middle seat. I suddenly have flashbacks of my childhood, the five kids in our family piling into our Mercury Lynx. I'm just hoping that I don't get car sick, as I am prone to do, as Sasha drives like a maniac barely squeezing his tiny car between parked cars and other moving vehicles, over bumpy cobblestone roads. We finally get to our new apartment; when we enter the hallway it is dark and really rundown. There are stairs that are falling apart; the tile on them and in the hall is chipped and broken. There is a small elevator. I'm pretty sure this may be the oldest elevator in the world. It's pretty scary looking and I was pretty nervous to get in it. There is only room for this lady and myself to get in it. I'm a little relieved because Drew is carrying some heavy bags and I seriously question whether or not this elevator could handle that kind of weight. Plus, I figure if the elevetor plumates down to the ground, at least only one of our kids parents will die.

We enter the apartment and it is actually way nicer than our first apartment. The kitchen has new appliances, the bathroom is clean and doesn't reak of urine, which is always a bonus. The tile in the bathroom is new, blue, and shiny, and it has a huge bathtub. We pay this lady $100 USD to stay here two nights. $50 a night is actually pretty cheap in Kyiv; imagine trying to find a clean, safe apartment in NYC for that price. She gives us a usb modem and tells the instructions are in the box. I was pretty excited at the thought of having internet there in our apartment. I could skype with our boys back home, stream some Netflix, or watch Hulu! I immediately open the box; yes, there are instructions but they are written in Cyrillic. In case you're wondering, no Drew and I do not know Cyrillic. I'm trying not to be angry as I watch all my internet dreams vanish. We still haven't figured out how to use it. Thankfully we are a short walk from the "Coffee House" chain; which is basically Starbucks, only the espresso is heavenly.

Shortly after getting to our new apartment we get another phone call. "Hello, I am Alex. I work with Yulia. I meet you at Ministry of Adoption today at 3 oclock. OK?" I reply "OK." Alex says, "OK, we talk more there. Bye." We had to go back to the SDA/Ministry of Adoption to pick up our official referral papers to adopt Kole. We quickly unpack at our new apartment and head out for a walk. We grab a quick snack to eat and then head to the bank to exchange some more USD into UAH money, because we are not certain if there will be banks near where we are staying once we travel to Kole's region. Then we start making our way toward the Ministry of Adoption office. Drew has gotten really good at reading the maps we have, even though they are in Cyrillic. Who knew that Greek would actually come in handy some day; it has surprisingly been a help since Cyrillic was derived from Greek. At least Drew can recognize certain letters enough for us to make our way around the city with ease.

We arrive at the SDA a little early and wait for Alex. He shows up right about 3:00pm. Amazing! Someone was on time. We go inside, wait in line for a few minutes, show our passports, sign something and pick up our papers. We go back outside and Alex explains that he will drive us to Kole's city because the train doesn't go there. We will leave Sunday between 2-3pm and it is about 500km away. Alex is clean shaven, has short hair, is dressed very American and drives a really nice car with leather seats. There are mullets everywhere; Drew has been taking pictures so we will have a little Eastern European Mullet Album to share when we get home. Seriously though, I feel like I am in a Billy Ray Cyrus music video. We are happy that we will be driving in Alex's car to see Kole. Have I mentioned that none of the cars here have seatbelts in the back seat? Well, Alex's car does! Yeah, atleast as we are flying at ridiculous speeds down the highway, I will be buckled in.

After we say goodbye to Alex outside the SDA we walk decide to walk back toward an Irish pub we spotted earlier that day. I'm not sure how much more McDonald's or unrecognizable food my intestines can handle. We get to the pub, go downstairs from the sidewalk and walk into a beautiful pub with big screen TV's. We sit down and they hand us a menu in ENGLISH! It's not cheap compared to what we have been eating, but we are starving and tired. So we order the things that seem most like American food off the menu. Our waitress brings us bread with butter and she sets a bottle of Heinz ketchup on the table. I smiled so big and said "ketchup." She laughed and said "you like Ketchup, yes?" Drew and I just laughed; we probably seem really weird to her. But they charge for ketchup packets at McDonalds so we haven't been getting any. If you know Drew at all it is quite impossible for him to have a meal without using half a bottle of ketchup.

Our meal was incredible. I had chicken and roasted potatoes, Drew had turkey wrapped in bacon with potatoe fries. There were sliced tomatoes and cucumbers on our plates and all the bread and butter we wanted. So yummy! They also had free wifi, so we called Lane and video skyped with Hudson and chatted with a couple of friends on facebook. It was a real pick-me-up.

After that we headed back to the apartment and did some reading for a couple hours. For dinner we ate some cups of noodles (think Ramen) and some crackers, we had purchased at the market. It made us feel less guilty of spending $25 at lunch, since our dinner cost about $2. After "dinner" we pulled out the laptop and watched a couple of episodes of "Sports Night" we brought with us on DVD. Great show by the way; another Aaron Sorkin masterpeiece. Just before the start of the last episode we watched, we popped a couple of Tylenol PM (which is our only hope of getting any zzzz's).

It's been difficult to sleep for a combination of reasons: 1) When we go to bed here around midnight, our bodies still feel like it is only 5pm. 2)Our bed at our first apartment was horrible, you could feel the springs sticking into your back. 3)I just can't stop thinking about Kole. I just want to be with him, and these days in Kyiv with nothing really to do are getting old.

Dear Kole

In two more days we will meet you for the first time. You have no idea what is in store for you. I wonder if you have been told that there are people coming to see you. A man and a woman who want to be your Mommy and Daddy. I wonder if you know what a Mommy and Daddy are. I picture you at the orphanage sometimes, seeing other children being picked by nice mother’s and father’s to be their children; I picture you wondering when and if anyone will ever come to get you. We are coming Kole! It seems like all your Dad and I have done is wait and now we are waiting some more ‘til we can be with you, but you have been waiting for more than six years for someone to rescue you. You won’t have to wait much longer, little man.

I have pictured the moment we first meet you with great anticipation and anxiety; I think I may have pictured it a thousand times. You are so happy to see us and you call us “Mommy” and “Daddy” right away. I imagine hugging you and kissing your face. I’m crying; it’s a “happy cry” as your brother Lane has learned to call it. You’ll learn too, your Mommy is way too emotional; as is your brother Lane. I keep picturing you hugging your Dad and riding on his shoulders. I have dreamed so many times of what it will be like when we take you by the hand and lead you out of the orphanage, and the joy I will feel in my heart knowing that you will never have to return to that place. I hope your little heart will be filled with joy too. I picture your face staring out the car or airplane window in amazement. I imagine you playing with your brothers at home in our living room. Everytime I imagine a moment with you in it, it’s in slow motion like I am watching a movie where I am happy crying because all the drama has been resolved, and David Gray or Alexi Murdoch music is playing in the background.

I hope you like us. We love you already with all our hearts. I know it may take you a while to want to hug us or to want to be hugged. That’s going to be hard for me; I hug and snuggle your brothers a lot, but they don’t always want to snuggle either. They are busy boys. I know you will like them. Lane is so excited to teach you all about trains and he can’t wait to jump on the trampoline with you. They made you a teddy bear that is sitting on your bed at home; Lane picked out a Star Wars jedi outfit for it. I know you don’t know what Star Wars is yet, but I’m sorry to say that when you live in our house there is just no escaping hearing something about Star Wars being mentioned on a daily basis. I’m sure you will have many epic light saber battles with your Daddy and brothers in the back yard. You’ll be sharing a room with your brothers, and Lane has asked many times if the two of you could just sleep in a tent on his bed every night like you are camping.

Lane is loud and funny, kind and sensitive. I know he will make you laugh; he is so silly and he loves to entertain. I hope you like music, because we play it constantly at our house. I love to pick up your little brother Hudson and dance around with him and Lane. Lane borrows Mommy and Daddy’s cd’s and puts them on in his room, way too loud and dances around. The other day he asked if he could borrow a cd “like maybe the Beatles or something else cool.” Usually he asks someone to come and dance with him. I’m just warning you, you will be forced to dance, but don’t worry if you haven’t any rhythm, no one in our house can actually dance; that just makes it more fun.

Hudson loves to play and he laughs and smiles constantly, but don’t take his red ball away from him, or he might bite you. He will play catch with you all day if you wanted. It’s one of his favorite things to sit on the floor and bounce his red ball back and forth, and he’s getting really good at catching it. I hope you are a heavy sleeper, because Hudson wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes just babbling and talking, and he’s loud.

The week before we left Georgia to come to Ukraine Lane helped me pick out a pair of sneakers for you. I have no idea what size feet you have, but I just really had the urge to buy you a nice pair of sneakers. Your Dad thinks they are a little ugly, but I think they look cute; your Dad has horrible taste in shoes anyway, he would wear his Chacos 24/7 if I let him. Lane was slightly disappointed that we didn’t buy you some light- up Sketchers like his; Lane thinks that every kid needs to have a pair of sneakers that light up. I don’t have the heart to tell him those are really nerdy; I’m just hoping he outgrows the light-up shoe phase at some point.

Your Dad is just as excited to meet you and bring you home as I am. We talk about you ALL the time. I think your Dad and I look forward to different moments with you. He can’t wait to teach you how to play video games and take you to your first movie. We both just can’t wait til we are all together as a family. There are so many things we talk about teaching you; we wonder and laugh about what you might think of our crazy family or the way we do things.

I can’t wait to teach you about how I was an orphan too until God rescued me and brought me into his family. There are so many things I want you to know about our great God, but mostly I just want you to really know Him someday, like your Daddy and I do. I hope that even now you are sensing His love and protection. We have prayed every day since we first saw your picture that God would protect you and keep you safe until we could take you home. I love you so much Kole Isaiah Miles. Just two more days son.

Update From Abroad

We had our appointment at the SDA this morning. We sat down with an SDA worker, she pulled out a big file with our names on the front and our facilitator translated for us. She asked us about ourselves, our home, our family and why we wanted to adopt Kole. We showed her pictures of Lane and Hudson, and we explained why we wanted to adopt Kole and how we fell in love with him the first time we saw his picture.

We were so relieved that Kole was still available for adoption. We knew there was always a small chance that before we could get here he could be transfered out of his orphanage, or another family could have adopted him.

They then told us about Kole. He was abandened at birth in the hospital by his parents. I started to cry a little bit, partly because I was thinking about this beautiful boy having to spend these first 6 yrs. of his life in an orphanage, but also because I was thinking of how difficult it must have been for his parents. The culture here is just so much less accepting of chilren with Down Syndrome or any special needs. And I know how often even in America we hear ignorant comments or receive long stares. I can't imagine how sad it must have been for those parents to have a child here and feel like they couldn't keep him because of how they and he would be treated.

The SDA worker decribed Kole as emotional, sociable, and well-behaved. Sounds a lot like our boys, minus the well-behaved part :). We saw pictures of him when he was younger. He had chubbie cheeks; he was and is so adorable. He was not smiling in any of his pictures. I really just can't wait to see him smile, to hug his neck, and kiss his face, tickle him, and play.

Our official referral papers will not be ready until tomorrow evening, and we will go pick them up at the SDA. Because it will be the weekend the orphanage and the offices in Kole's region will be closed. So we have to wait to travel there on Sunday. We will meet Kole Monday sometime. That was a little disappointing to hear; we had so hoped it would be possible to spend the entire weekend with him.

So for the next few days we will just be here in Kyiv. More waiting... :)

Here At Last

We arrived yesterday around 1pm Kyiv time. Going through immigration and customs was simple and fast and the people here are so friendly. Our facilitator had arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport; our driver's name was Nikolai. He spoke great English and he drove like a New Yorker. Nikolai drove us to our apartment; it looks a little shady on the outside, but after we climbed 3 flights of stairs and went into a small, unlit hallway we entered our apartment. It is actually quite nice and very clean. We were exhausted from not really being able to sleep on the plane so we slept well in the apartment.

This morning we got up and headed out to see the sights. The city is busy and there is so much to do. We walked to St. Michael's Monastery of the Golden Domes which was destroyed under Stalin and only recently rebuilt in 2001. Outside the monastary walls there is a stone and iron cross which stands as a monument to the victims of the Ukrainian famine of 1932-1933. Down the hill from St Michaels is St Sophia's Cathedral, Kiev's oldest standing church. The architecture and details on these buildings is ornate and beautful.

We spent some time in Independance Square where the "Orange Revolution" took place in 2004. Across the street is the monument of independance which was erected in 2001 in celebration of Ukraine's 10 yr anniversary of self-rule and freedom from the USSR. Near that monument is also a statue of founders of Kiev; 3 brothers and their sister. The sister, Lybid, supposedly chose the spot where Kiev was to be and named it after the oldest brother "Kyi." The younger brothers were Schek and Khoriv. And yes I am getting this from our guidebooks.

The history of this country is both sad and fascinating. We are loving our time here so far. Today we walked everywhere. Tomorrow morning at 11am (4am EST) we have our SDA apt. Pray that all goes well! Probably the next day we will take a train to Kole's region. We just can't wait to see him and hug him.