Saturday, April 13, 2013

2003 looking back - a photo journal of Natalie's first year!

Natalie was breaking out of her shell.

Celebrating our homecoming!

Natalie with Oma and Opa

Enjoying all her new toys

Yes - she really fell asleep at the table

Our princess Amanda and Natalie

1st day of pre-school

Halloween fun

Fall harvest

Well, I am finally completed typing our story. I can’t believe how long it has taken me. It was very pleasurable to go back and read about our experience in Ukraine. Every day that goes by, the memories become more precious to me. Natalie is doing so wonderfully! 

She truly is our Ukrainian angel! 

She has adjusted so well to her new life in America. She is not quiet or shy anymore. She is very outgoing and cheerful. She still makes the cutest faces and smiles so beautifully. She is witty, smart, fun, playful and full of energy every day. She has a great attitude towards life and is a daredevil! She is not afraid of too many things. She is learning so much English every day!

She is very independent and confident.

The other day, she did the funniest thing (July 12, 2003). Our neighbor down the road (Kathy Pickert) cleaned out her youngest daughters clothes and passed them on to us. Natalie was so thrilled!  She went through the basket and immediately picked out the winter hat, gloves and snow boots. Natalie put them on (let me remind you that the temperature was pushing 100 degrees outside). She told me that she wanted it to snow! I tried to explain to her that it is not going to snow today. She asked me in Russian “zaftra?” (tomorrow?) I told her “many many zaftra’s from now!”

Always a trooper
Natalie kept asking for snow on a 100 degree day
This summer Natalie has been introduced to the swimming pool. She is a fish! She jumps in, goes under water, kicks, splashes and never wants to get out of the water! She looks so natural in the water! It is hard to believe that the first bath experience was such an awful one!

Water rat and no fear!
 Amanda and Alex adore her too! Alex said "It’s   hard to imagine our life without her!” 
She fits in so well.  Amanda loves sharing rooms with her and loves to take her shopping. 
Her softball team even made up a cheer with Natalie’s cute Russian words!

So far, in 3 months’ time, Natalie has done so many things for the 1st time!

*Going swimming-even in the deep end by herself
*Riding in a car seat, (we did not see one car seat in Ukraine)
*Watching fireworks on her first “Independence Day,” after a while she hid under the blanket, she   wanted them to be over.
*Going to see “Finding Nemo” at the movies
 *Watching tons of baseball and softball games-what a trooper
*Meeting new friends
*Having her own toys and clothes
*Going shopping the first time to “Super Wal-Mart” with Mom and Dad! Now when we go shopping she says “no shopping.”
*Going camping
*Going to a rodeo and even petting a horse
*Having pretty much whatever you want for breakfast!

Waking up each morning and being able to pursue her dreams!

Gotcha Day April 3, 2013
Christmas 2003

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday April 11, 2003- We're coming home!

Neil Diamond keeps playing over in my head, “We’re going to America! Today!” 

The kids have given us a wakeup call at 5:00 am, or 9:00 pm for them. They sound so grown up and really are! They’ve dialed internationally using a credit card and spoken to the Polish hotel operator. We are most surprised to find out they are home alone and are tucking themselves in tonight (Thursday night). 

Both Alex and Amanda have endured a patient wait for us. Soon, I think to myself, this wait will be over. It is one long day with an 8-hour time change till we are home. The kids think it will be tougher, with a full night and forever day of Friday at school. And, they don’t even get to miss drama! Our neighbors, Jeff and Ann will be picking us up at DIA after a 10-hour leg from Warsaw to Chicago. We will have a quick 1 ½ hour flight from Chicago to Denver. 

Our 6:46 pm arrival will be a great reward to a tough week for all.

We are currently over the North Sea with almost 7 hours remaining on the leg. I can’t imagine what else we could do to amuse our wiggle worm, but time passes as she busily touches everything, and plays tea party and dolls. The couple behind us has adopted a 22-month-old boy from Zaporozhia. They abandoned the Cathy Harris approach a year ago and have paid an independence agency. Their boy has huge cheeks and looks remarkably like both of them. This is not the first time we’ve made this same observation about adoptive families on this trip. 

You would think that spending a whole day and then some with a bunch of Polocks (LOT Airlines), would lend itself to some comic inspiration, but I can’t think of anything funny.

It is 49 degrees Celsius outside at a cruising altitude of 33,000 feet. We have a ground speed of 501 MPH and are just south of Ireland. Fortunately for us, the floating chunks of ice on the salty sea below are nothing but slowly passing image in a two-layered oval window beyond our climate controlled environment. 

The tea party is calling.

How many Polock’s does it take to check how to open an airplane bathroom door? On this flight it seems like everyone tried to pull on the push handle at least once! All 280 people! Natalie lasted all day and 7 time zones across the Atlantic with only a 10-minute nap.

We forced a quick nap from Chicago to Denver before meeting an anxious family. We are surprised by a few, but expected most.  Oma and Opa, Grandpa and Grandma, Kevin, Pete, Kym, Jeff and Ann have all come with Alex and Amanda to welcome our newest family member (unfortunately, Annette is out of town)! 

Natalie is as expected, but better. She is quiet and pleasant, but willing to let many people hold her. We file a lost bag claim bag and soon are comforted by a wonderful ride in our much-appreciated Suburban. Jeff and Ann have bought us dinner, which I thought I was too tired to eat, but loved every bite!

And so begins the rest of Natalie’s life. We know that she has much to be grateful for. She must someday realize how blessed she is. 

 Fortunately for us, we can realize now, that we are lucky ones who have been allowed to be with the angel sent from above!

All together at last!  We were so happy to be home!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

April 9 & 10, 2003 - Warsaw, Poland

Wednesday April 9, 2003
Today is spent getting out in the snow to accomplish our final task abroad. Natalie’s physical is a 10-minute formality. We spend about an hour at the Embassy getting her Visa applied for. We are told to return at 3:00 pm to pick it up. We tried taking a photo of us in front of the flag at the Embassy from across a busy street. However, we are quickly waved by armed police to put down the camera. Killing time before 3:00 pm, we enjoy lunch and a visit to the playroom with our adoptive couple friends, Troy and Janelle. They have also been looking for two older children, but adopted younger. Their boy, Nathan, is cute. He even looks like his parents!

We count our blessings with Natalie, and are thankful she is almost 4. Natalie’s rate of learning is increasing. She now knows to turn lights on/off, take things to trash, get ready for outside etc. Right now her favorite playtime is with dishes and plates. When she is imitating her orphanage experience, sometimes revealing the un-desirable, she takes her washcloth and slaps her dolls on the legs as she barks out orders. We have learned the hard way how much she hates pants! She is a tights and dress girl! We have now advanced to using water in our “tea party,” and we have water (vwada) spills everywhere!

We are awakened to a pleasant 5:00 am wakeup call from Annette and kids. They sound great and we can’t wait to get home! We laugh a bit, sounding like Grandpa and Grandma (both on the phone at once). Kris is using our second phone in the bathroom. We’ve come a long way since Tuesday in Kyiv!

We talked with Amanda and Alex this morning! It was so great to hear their voices. It sounds like all is going well and they are gland we are on our home stretch. We also talked to Ann Yuska. It sounded as if she were next door! It is so nice to connect with our friends and family back home!
We had Natalie’s doctor appointment with Doctor Kruk. It was the fastest appointment I have ever seen. Height, Weight and listen to the heart that was it! And now we are waiting at the US Embassy Consulate to complete our paperwork. We see at least 3 other American families in the same step as us. If we can, we are going to try to leave Poland tonight. 

But it looks like there are no flights out here until April 11th. Oh bummer.

Thursday April 10, 2003

Warsaw City Square
Today we spent touring the old part of Warsaw. We were given a tour of their castle, which was completely destroyed in 1944 by the Germans. It was rebuilt from 1971-1984. We then watched a movie at the historical museum of the destruction of Poland during World War 2. Over 6 ½ million people were killed on Polish soil. With 85% of the city destroyed, it is understandable why it took 10 years to regain the 1 million population that it had prior to the war. It’s absolutely amazing to see the difference of Ukraine and Poland and how they have and not have prospered since (respectively).

Our new friends Troy and Janelle

Enjoying the history of the city
Natalie has transitioned fully to a normal 3-year old. She has lost her inhibitions and can now throw a temper tantrum in a flash when she is tired and doesn’t get her way! We have barely made it back to the Hotel at 3:00 for a much needed nap for “nada” Natalie. When she gets tired and unwilling, everything is “na-da!” (NO) an incredible investment in time by me in the tube (with my swimsuit) and Kris outside has paid off. Natalie was very resistant for 25 minutes till she could hardly resist the temptation to play in the soapy suds. Forty minutes later she almost cried when the water is drained from the tub.


We slept in at the Holiday Inn. After breakfast, we met some friends; Troy and Janelle and their newly adopted son, Nathan. We took a taxi downtown to tour the town square. Natalie was good today. She only had two meltdowns. One because I insisted she wear her hat and the other is she did not want to lie down. Right now, though, she is sawing logs! We leave for our long journey home tomorrow! I will be so glad to get back to American soil; I think I’m going to kiss the ground! Well, goodnight for now…

Monday, April 8, 2013

April 8, 2003 - Departure Day!


Departure day from Kyiv! Das Vedanya!

Our sweetheart is a little sleepy head and slow to wake. I, on the other hand, was up at 5:14 am watching the neighboring construction trailer blazing on fire form our 15th story windows. After ten minutes of watching the workers struggle with a garden hose, it was an apparent loss. The 10’x20’ trailer burnt to the ground. Black smoke rolled up from the complete destruction. Liquid metal was rolling off the metal roof like lava from a volcano. Just then, two very small pumpers arrived with dim lights and blue siren lights. There were no audible sirens. Though I could hear their engine running and voices shouting, I was very removed with my birds eye view. Having experience in firefighting, I was a little amused by the keystone cop performance.

I looked across the river a ½ mile or so and noticed the clear visibility of lights. The first commuters were boarding the Metro train for work as I jumped in the “sit” shower. In only 10 minutes, the visibility was down to meters, and the ground covered in white. Big fluffy flakes were coming down at an amazing rate! Today is our day to leave for Warsaw and we hope the snow doesn’t slow us down!

We had our appointment at the US embassy this morning. We were pleased with our US citizen preferential treatment at the Embassy, skipping past the line of Ukrainians standing in a frozen white line. The snow was making us all look like snowman in the short walk from the car. Our visit is short, as we authenticate a few quick documents. (court decree and regional adoption papers) we were told to deny any “bribing” if asked and were glad that we weren’t asked. I wish I had all the “expedite” fees for Natalie’s college fund! 

Valery slips and slides his way in his 74 Volga, as our taxi driver today. He states that they haven’t has a late snow of this magnitude since the death of Stalin. I choose to keep silent, thinking that perhaps Sadaam Hussein has truly been killed, as reported on his squealing car radio of the BBC. It isn’t a personal wish, but rather an inevitable stage in the US led fight.

We have lunch “dinner” which turns into breakfast because it is before 10:00 am. The “Arizona Grill’ is a wonderful, westernized departure from oily foods and cabbage! I have the eggs benedict and am amazed that it tastes so wonderful. We arrive at the airport nearly 3 hours early, and are blessed by the break in the storm. Nearly 5” of heavy wet snow was accompanied by ¼ mile visibility just and hour before. 

We are a bit annoyed at the 2-hour line standing process of bidding Kyiv farewell. Natalie does great on her first International or otherwise flight.

We are so relieved to arrive in a westernized society. We run into to other American couples before de-planning. One couple is Troy and Janelle Schaffer, who we have been corresponding to via e-mail. They have adopted a beautiful little boy of 14 months from Zaporozhia. The other couple is leaving empty handed, and we are saddened by their news. Their spirits seem ok, considering.

We arrive at the hotel and are in heaven! We choose the cheaper option of Holiday Inn for $150.00 USD a night. Natalie engages in play of nurse/caretaker with the ice bucket and hotel coffee cups and saucers for almost 2 hours. She looks like she is playing waitress, with the exception of the harsh words shouted at the person and the receiving end of the modified “tea-party.” We are ecstatic as she occasionally says “spaceba” (please) in her play. She realized that it slipped out, and is clever not to reward us again with the word we have begged her to say for nearly 5 days. She is feeling playful and engaging. 

She finally is willing to slap my hand when I ask for “give me five!”  I am so happy! I start dancing!

 We are waiting at the airport. There was quite a snow storm/blizzard this morning. We were a little worried about the airline canceling the flight, but it stopped snowing and hopefully things are ok! This morning, Valery picked us up at the hotel at 7:30. We had an appointment at the US embassy this morning. It was so snowy! We went to the front of the line and by passed about 50 Ukrainians waiting in the snow. We were searched and went to our meeting. All went well. We ate breakfast with Valery at the “Arizona Grill.” Valery was actually personable and sort of pleasant. The restaurant was great because they had American Food!

Our flight out of Kyiv went well. We were the last ones on the airplane. I seriously thought we were not going to make it. We stood in line forever for the ticket, and security! Natalie kept saying “peeza” and I kept telling her to wait. Poor thing. However, we made it up the stairway into the plane just in time. 

Natalie was an Angel for her first flight! She was fascinated by the magazines and even got to look out the window. We were so excited to finally be on our way home.

We checked into the Holiday Inn. It was first class! We even had bathrobes and a phone in the bathroom! Natalie entertained herself with the coffee cups and plates from the room for hours! It was nice to be in an “Americanized” hotel again. (showerhead on the wall!)