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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Home Sweet Home!

We finally made it home! I know everyone may have been thinking that we were lost somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, but we made it. Artem is the best plane partner. He sat on the plane and giggled for hour after hour. It was amazing. The stewardess thought he was amazing. He is doing great. He eats everything, he is drinking juice and water great, and sleeping like a champ. Its like he has always been here. He went to church on Sunday, sat through the service with us and did great.
He has conquered the bathtub with the help of his cousin Brayden who was here over the weekend. Brayden got in and started playing and that was all it took. Now Artem is crazy about the bath. He wants in it all the time. We have to keep the bathroom door closed or he will try to turn the water on.
He made his first visit to Down Syndrome of Louisville today for a toddler play group. He did really well. I was a proud Mommy.
We haven't started doctors appointments yet, but hope to next week. We started making appointments yesterday. I don't think it is going to be his favorite part of his journey, but we will do our best.
He doesn't love a car seat, but we are getting there.
These pictures are in backward order. with the first ones taken most recently:










Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 31: Settled In

Our journey is coming to a close. Which we are very excited about, but it is also bittersweet. We have had such an exciting time here, and learned so much. The last month has most definitely been a gift from God. Our apartment in Kiev is very nice. The best one we have been in so far. Artem might think we are going to be staying here, because he is getting very comfortable here. He knows what is in every drawer, and behind every door that he wants to drag out. He know how to work all the light switches and to use the remote. So he is quite at home here. And he is the sweetest baby. He has definitely turned into quite the cuddlier.
We have only been out with him a couple of times to eat and to the grocery. Every time we put his coat and hat on he is asleep before we are out the door. Its hilarious. He does well at restaurants. Partly because he loves to watch people, but mostly because he loves to eat. When he woke up this afternoon and we were in a restaurant he started smiling and laughing.
So the plan from here is to go to the US Embassy for the next 2 days. Then we are hoping to fly out early Wednesday morning. Wow, finally.
And the most important part, pictures and videos. video
video
video

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A long day for us, an even longer day for Artem.

GOTCHA DAY has come and gone. YAY! It was along day for all us. We had to make some changes to our plans, which made it even longer. Our original plan included lunch with Artem at the orphanage, then getting him ready to go, a car ride 2 hours away to the passport office, and finally the express train back to the capital city. But Tuesday night we learned that the passport office would be closing their computer system down at 1pm, which meant we needed to rework the schedule. On top of that, our facilitator had to head back to the capitol, so we would be on our own.
So, we got up early, finished cleaning the apartment, got in touch with our fabulous landlord, and headed to the orphanage early. Our trusty driver was taking care of some paperwork for us, while we worked on getting Artem ready to go, and we all met to begin the journey at 10am.
The car ride went well. He was terrified at first and did alittle crying but before we are even out of the parking lot he was asleep. We made it to the passport office with enough time to take care of everything, praise the Lord. He totally charmed everyone there, from the people in the waiting room to the ladies that took his picture, they were all loving him.
Then the train station.... Whoa. First of all, we have WAY to much stuff. And I thought we packed lite. I am really starting to hate all of our junk. I feel like we packed more than the average Ukrainian owns. I think Paris Hilton would have brought less. So poor Brandon has been dealing with our luggage everywhere we go, while I wrestle with Artem. And due to the changes in the day, our train didn't leave until 5pm, which ment we waited in the train station for 4 hours, way too long for Artem. So our wonderful driver and facilitator for the day Igor said goodbye and good luck. Ohh man was I afraid to let him go. And I think he was very afraid to leave us as well.
People kept trying to help us, and talk to us, until they realized we spoke English, then they would give up. Citizens here are very opinionated at times. They think they can tell you what to do, like put more clothes on your child, get your kid off the floor, or let him... So everyone had an opinion.
He was really tired too, as he was late for his nap time. So Brandon wrestled him to sleep, not without someone's lip being bloodied. He only slept for like 45 minutes, and then there was more wrestling. We finally made it to the train at 5pm. We were not in a sleepier this time because it was the express train. We were in a car with individual rooms of 6 seats. 3 facing 3. Brandon worked magic hiding all of our luggage, again. And off we go. The journey started with one young girl, who didn't seem to mind all the noise Artem was making. She got off, and then a young guy, who was a lawyer, got on. He handled it really well, especially since Artem decided they should be best friends. He thinks everyone needs to play with him.
He did really well considering his situation. I was very proud of him. He did fight off sleeping until after 9:30 and eventually just laid down on the floor of the train and fell asleep. It wasn't until we had to wake him up at 11pm that he really got mad. He was not happy to be awake, and back in his coat.
But I have never been happier to see someone as Niko our driver who meet us when I stepped off the train. I am sure Brandon was happy too, because he helped with the bags. Artem continued to scream until we got in the car, and the minute I sat down in the car, he was out again, dead to the world. He was out the whole rest of the journey.
So we made it to our apartment. Niko helped us with where to get food and how to work everything. He is excellent help. And Artem woke up a very happy kid this morning and has been eating everything in site ever since. He doesn't love bath time, but he really enjoys the Aveeno lotion massage and cuddling that follows. And now he is fast asleep. Beautiful.

This is Artem and Papa at the passport office.

Napping at the train station.



This is Artem fighting his sleepiness. He just wouldn't let it go.


And he finally sleeps, the end of a long day.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 26: Its the beginning of the end of the beginning.

Ohh my goodness. We thought we had cabin fever from being in the apartment too long, today we have a new kind of fever from being left in the car too long. It was good though, I am sure we got lots of stuff done that we don't even know about.
It started this morning at the orphanage where we meet Yulia. She picked up the court decree and started the paperwork for the changes to Artem's birth certificate before we meet with her. When we got to the orphanage they did more paper work for us to sign, I don't know what it all was, but some of it had to do with us being able to pick up Artem tomorrow. Then we went to another office to work on Artem's birth certificate. We waited there for like an hour because a computer was down or something. Then we went to pick up the orphanage attorney who went with us to 3 other offices and the bank to take care of any accounts that where in Artem's name (that money goes to the orphanage). Then we drove for a long time to some place else to get all of the necessary paperwork to apply for Artem's passport tomorrow. Most of this adventure we waited in the car. I was starting to feel like a kid who had gotten in trouble. But Yulia knows what she is doing, and thank goodness, because I have no idea what is going on. She is very efficiant. Anyway, Brandon can't be left in the car too long, or he starts losing it... I was able to get a few pictures/video of it...

And when we got home, guess who needed to come out...



So tomorrow is GOTCHA Day! We will be meeting our driver at the orphanage tomorrow to pick up Artem, then we will take him to another city about 2 hours away to apply for his passport. After that we will catch the train back to Kiev, at least that is the plan. Please pray that it all goes smoothly.

And a few pictures of Artem to hold you over...








video

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 25: Wow thats a lot of days!

We had a great day today visiting Artem at the orphanage because it will be the last of our GroundHog Days. I just talked to Yulia our facilitator and we are going to meet her in the morning after she picks up the Court Decree! You heard right, we will have the court decree. Super exciting!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day 23: Brandon's Observations

So it is me again. Laura's husband Brandon. I don't really get into this blog thing that often, but Laura wanted to put my "flair" into it today. Also, I think she was just a little tired of it just being her. I was going to do it yesterday, but I wasn't feeling to well. I kinda felt nauseous from the butter I cooked with last night. Just so you all know I made a sausage and cheese omelet and fresh hash browns. I think I might have used too much butter. Anyway back to the blog. I use to have a blog on Xanga called TTF (Top Ten Friday). It was kinda like David Letterman's Top Ten, but I made it up myself. One of them was Top Ten Things I Am Still Trying To Get Use To With Being Married. So to commemorate that time in my life I have come up with The Top Ten Friday special edition TTS (Top Ten Saturday).

Top Ten Observations I have had on our Adoption Adventure.

10) They only have instant coffee here. Don't get me wrong the coffee shop we went to had pretty good coffee. However, it wasn't until we went to the store a couple of times, and watched some television that I noticed they only sell instant coffee.

9) Going to a place where you don't speak the language, and can't read/pronounce the words is a great place to loose weight. If you can't tell the person what you want to eat, or if your not able to point to the item that is a great diet plan. Now for those that have been concerned about our nutrition or just started after reading this don't be we are fine.

8) There are a lot of wild animals. Really just a lot of stay dogs and cats. The dogs travel around in packs, but they are friendly. I think people may feed them so that could be why they are nice. You do have to be aware of where you walk. They do leave behind...presents.

7) One of the most interesting things I have seen is people walking around with sleds. They are not just children, but adults too. First let me say most people where we are walk not drive. So when it snows they take a sled with them to transport items be it groceries or a child. Some have backs on them for little children so they don't have to walk, and the parents just pull the sled behind them. It is a pretty cool situation.

6) Today I saw a man washing a car. Now I am not talking about going to a car wash. I am talking about a man got a bucket of water, soap, and cloth and was washing a car (it's not like he was washing the salt off of it, because they don't salt the streets). If you don't know about the climate we are in, there is snow on the ground. Come to think of it, it was snowing while he was washing the car. Later when we came back for our second visit the car looked very good. Along the same lines people take their area rugs outside in the snow and clean/beat them. I also observed a couple lay the rug on the snow put snow on the rug, pick it up then beat the snow off of it. I am sure there is a perfectly logical reason behind it, but it is kind of curious to observe.

5) Women walking in high heel boots. When Laura and I first arrived all women of all ages wear high heel boots with leggings or skinny jeans. I thought to myself, "It is trendy here too." Then the snow came. I saw women in the same things. Boots with high heels. They have a functional purpose: snow does not get into your shoes. However, these women are really talented. They walk effortlessly on ice, snow, and uneven terrain in high heels without falling. Kudos to them.

4) Their chocolate and juice here is wonderful. First the chocolate. I think it is sweeter and smoother. We eat a different candy bar every few days just to taste the different ones, and my favorite brand is Roshen. It is made here in Eastern Europe. Don't worry we will be taking some on the road/tracks/air. Second the juice. I can't read the labels, but I don't think it is made from concentrate. There is "pulp" in it. It doesn't matter what kind, orange, mixed fruit, mango, cranberry apple. Our most favorite is probably mango and pineapple (so far). We try different flavors every few days.

3) There are stuffed animals everywhere. You know the kind that you would get at the fair or a prize at a carnival. Everywhere I turn I feel like there is a stuffed animal staring at me. There are nine in arms length of me right now. Even our web cam that we use is a stuffed animal. I feel like I am in a claw machine at Chuck E. Cheese.

2) Not many people smile here. I always feel awkward when I smile at somebody, because they usually don't smile back. It must be cultural. Please don't get me wrong they are nice, but whenever you see somebody back in the states usually you say hello and smile at them. Here they just say hello.

1) Laura and I have spent way to much time together, we are turning into one person. It is not a bad thing, but it sure does make the days interesting. For example: there are three people in the room with me right now. Me, Laura, and Laura's reflection. I asked Laura a question and she told me I had to refer all questions to her secretary. When I asked who that was she pointed to herself in the mirror. That is a comment that I would have probably made. We are definitely getting cabin fever.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 22: I find my rest in You.

Today is Friday, which brings us to the end of the last week of our lives without having Artem with us. It has been a hard week for me. It has felt a little like being held hostage at times.
Tonight, when it was time to give Artem back, we didn't get our usual goodbye. We usually get to walk him up the stairs, hug and kiss all over him, and say paka-paka. But tonight, a girl I had never seen before came and pick him up off the carpet and just walked away. Wow, I thought. I wanted to say, "He is mine, give him back." But I cannot. I just have to say okay, and leave.
Because a stranger is going to feed him dinner, and put him to bed. Will she be sweet and kind? Will she rub his back? Probably not, but neither can I. What if he is scared? What if his belly hurts?

I come to rest in You, to abide in You, to dwell with You for You are gentle and humble and You are where I find my rest. My rest is in You.

Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him. Psalm 37

God, hear my cry;
pay attention to my prayer.
I call to You from the ends of the earth (Eastern Europe)
when my heart is without strength.
Lead me to a rock that is high above me,
for You have been a refuge for me,
a strong tower in the face of the enemy.
I will live in Your tent forever
and will take refuge under the shelter of Your wings. Psalm 61

I must Rest in the One who started this from the beginning.
I must Rest in the One who created his sweet face, knows him more intimately than I ever will, and loves him more than I ever could.
I must Rest in the One who has provided and protected him from his conception.
I must Rest in the One who so carefully brought us here and worked out every detail.
I must Rest in the One who so graciously allowed us to be a part of this story.
I must Rest...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 21: The Longest Week Ever

Sorry that we have gone silent for few days. The mundane daily activity of our lives this week did not seem blog worthy, and then I remember that we were in Eastern Europe adopting the most awesome kid ever and realized that was definitely blog worthy. We have made it to the seventh day of the waiting period here. It is going well. I say it is the longest week of our lives, but Brandon and I are so thankful for this restful time to just be together, catch up on sleep and reading, and spend quality time letting Artem get to know us in his comfort zone.
Every visit with him is better than the day before. He is the happiest kid on earth, and if that can be accomplished in a sad place like his orphanage, what in the world is he going to be like when he realizes he is part of a family. He may explode from giggling.
He has started saying "Mama" and "Papa", we aren't quite sure if he referring to us, or just repeating us, either way, I'm good. He did however look at Brandon today, said "Papa" and climbed up into his lap. And I can't explain how happy it makes Brandon when Artem climbs into his lap, he was beaming.
We bought Artem a Sip Cup so we could start giving him something to drink. Bless his heart he can't figure out how to suck on it. So we do much better just taking the top off and letting him drink from the cup, until Brandon got involved and spilled the entire cup of water down his overalls. Ahhh Dad... Luckily he never felt it, for the three to four layers of clothing they always put on him.
He is walking on his own now about 10 steps at a time, which has been so fun to watch. He can't walk and giggle though, so if you make him laugh, he is done. So really that means you can't hardly even look at him, because most of the time that is all it takes to make him laugh.
We got a chance to Skype with the youth from our church last night during their Wednesday night worship service, which was a joy. I can't wait to get home and share the joy Artem brings with all of them. He is so contagious.
Our one and only English speaking friend left on Wednesday for home. It was sad to see her go. Sad because we will miss her, and sad because of all the attention she alone gives so many precious babies here. It has blessed me so much to watch her love on so many that never get kissed, never get held, never hear a kind word. God sent her to them, and to Artem before we could get here. Please pray that she safely makes it home, and for her future as she prays for what God has for her next. You can follow her at http://ambassadoroflove.blogspot.com
Brandon and I successfully ordered lunch at a restaurant yesterday with no translator, or english speaking staff. It may have taken several attempts but we were able to eat lunch. We had Borscht (the traditional soup), a calzone, and some Coca Cola, which thankfully is the same in every language. CocaCola is hard to mess up.



As for the question on everyone minds: When do get to have Artem with us? That is an excellent question.
We are in the middle of the 10 day appeal process. The 10 wait will be over on Sunday and we could pick up our court decree on Monday. But, the office of vital statistics isn't open on Monday, on, and, on and so forth. To make a long story short. Artem's gotcha day is planned for Wednesday Feb. 9th. I can't wait to say "Paka Paka Baby House, give me my baby." Please be praying for us as we work on paper work Tuesday-Wednesday and that Artem handles everything well. I told him this morning that he only had 5 full days left and that he better start saying his goodbyes.
And now a few pictures of his beautiful face...





And a few videos so you can hear him laugh...


video video