Wednesday, April 1, 2009


We said our goodbyes to the Webers and left for the airport around 8 AM on Monday (30 March). The boys were so excited that they hardly ate any breakfast. Check-in went smoothly. I was a bit nervous about Ukrainian immigration even though our facilitators had prepared all the documents necessary to take the kids out of the country. I guess that after so many months of ups and downs in the adoiption process, I was a bit worried that I'd run into another roadblock. Fortunately, everything went smoothly. The immigration offical disappeared with the boys' passports and other documents for about 5 minutes, came back out and stamped everything.
The flight was a real ordeal for me as the boys did not sleep a wink during the 10 hours from Kiev to JFK. I allowed them a few hours to, hopefully, get some of their excitement out of them then gave them a half tablet of Tylenol PM so they could rest. I waited and waited for the pills to kick in but they never did. Later, I gave each another half tablet but with the same results. Some of the stewardesses were very nice and helpful. A couple were Russian speakers and another was actually from Virginia Beach. Also, a lady with four kids of her own (not with her on the flight, though) volunteered to take care of Oleg for a while.
As typical boys, they could not sit still for long. Even the personal in-flight entertainment systems did not really hold their attention. Oleg was seated next to the wondow as we approached New York. We were still above the clouds and he pointed to them excitedly, saying the Russian word for "snow" and Saint Nick! Arriving New York, the boys got to sit in the cockpit for a few moments. We then went through the regular immigration line then had to go into a room and wait for a second review of documents. Once we completed that, the boys became official Americans, eligible for US passports.
We went to a lounge for our long wait. I kept trying to get the boys to sleep. Finally, after much kicking and screaming, Oleg konked out on the floor at 6:30 PM, 1:30 AM Kiev time. Sasha never did sleep until we were on the short flight from New York to Norfolk. We were met at the airport by Maggie and Renee. Due to the late arrival (almost 10 PM), we did not ask any friends to come out. The boys were so excited to arrive at their new home, chiefly because they were dying to meet Simba, our labrador-retriever. Maggie and several friends had worked hard to transform the guestroom I knew into a room suitable for two boys. Renee wanted to sleep with her two brothers so she slept on the top bunk while Sasha slept on the bottom and Oleg on a separate single bed.
Thanks so much to all who encouraged us through this long process. Sometimes we wondered if we would survive but we thank the Lord for giving us these two precious boys!

Friday, March 27, 2009

A big step closer to America

This morning we made our way back to the US consulate. After a short wait in a waiting room which had a few toys, we were called up and the man who processed our case told us that all the documents we'd left were in order. He reviewed the forms I'd filled in overnight, had me sign them and told us the visas would be ready in about 20 minutes. Less than 20 minutes later, we had the visas and were on our way. Again, we were impressed with how helpful and kind the consulate staff is to families involved in international adoptions.
A colleague and good friend from CBN-CIS, Vitaly Stebenev, then drove us to an outdoor military museum in a majestic setting overlooking the Dnieper River (the same river that flows through the boys' hometown, Kherson). We all had a great time. The boys got to climb into a combat helicopter, on top of a tank, and into the cockpit of a MIG fighter that boasted a top speed of 2,500 k.p.h! We spent almost an hour there and were begining to get a bit cold in the "springtime" weather (it actually snowed a bit this AM). I suggested having a bite to eat before we went back to the Weber's home and our ofice. The boys actually remembered the name of the restaurant we'd been to yesterday and begged to go back. It was NOT McDonald's but rather a Ukrainian buffet-stype place with a great variety. I was glad to go too as I think Ukrainian food is great and, in general, quite healthy.

Upon returning to the office, I called Northwest one time to see if I could get us seats this weekend. None were available on the direct Delta flight to JFK tomorrow nor any other flights going through Europe. So, we will be on the Delta flight on Monday, March 30. We leave Kiev at 10:50 AM arrive New York at 2:15, then don't leave for Norfolk until 8:00 PM (arriving at 10 PM. There will be a few more formalities then usual to process the boys' paperwork when we arrive in New York but it will still be a looong wait. The man at the consulate told me the boys actually become US citizens when they arrive on US soil which was a pleasant surpirse as I thought it wouldn't be for six months or so.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Long Wait

On Saturday we all went with the Weber's to the new home in the country, about 30 minutes outside Kiev. It was wonderful being with them (and a whole group of Logan's sophomore classmates). Sasha tried his had at biking while I walked with him to hold the bike steady. We decided he needed either training wheels or a less bumpy road, or both, to get going on his own. While I was inside, he did attempt one more ride. This time it was down the hill, straight for a barrier with a pond on the other side. Luckily, the Webers saw him and yelled hard enough that he managed to stop before crashing into the barrier and flying into the pond.

Sunday morning we drove back into Kiev to attend the international church the Webers go to. This kind of service had to be new to the boys even though both were confirmed in the Orthodox church. They were rambunctious during worship but enjoyed Sunday School. In fact, after the service Sasha asked if he could come back again tomorrow! Later that afternoon, we returned for one more night in the country.

A big highlight for the boys happened on Wednesday afternoon when Oksana took them to the circus. They absolutely loved it and also the toys and snacks they got there. Otherwise, they continued to enjoy playing and talking late into the evening and continuing where they left off in the mornings. On Monday night I took Oleg with me to the grocery store and he did pretty well in the sense that he did not run around like a chircken with his head cut off or insist that "Papa" buy everything in site. So it was with a modicum of confidence that I took both boys to the store the next night after going to a shwarma restaurant for dinner and walking through evey puddle of rain water they could find. Unfortunately, the two of them together created different dynamics in the store. Both of them went crazy. FInally, I had to carry Oleg and my grocery basket in one hand and pull Sasha with the other to the checkout stand.

Yesterday was the big day in whihc we hoped to find out if the boys' passports had made it back to Kherson. Olga was back down in Kherson and went to the government office. Around 3:00 PM Natasha called with a good news/bad news scenario. The passports had been received but could not be released without the signature of someone who was out. Finally he or she showed up around 5:40 PM, just before government offices close at 6:00. Olga planned to take the overnight train to Kiev with passports in hand. Unfortunately, the train was completely sold out, likely because this week is spring break. But, there was one seat left on a train from Odessa. So she took a bus from Kherson to the next big city, Mikolaiv, then waited for a bus from there to Odessa. The waiting and a big snow storm made her late to Odessa and she missed her train. Not to fear, there was still the night bus which actually got her to Kiev before the train. I so appreciated her efforts to get the boys' passports and other documents to Kiev by this morning.

For the first time, the boys were still sleeping when they needed to be up. I literally had to pull Sasha from the bed a couple times. He somehow couldn't see the relationship between getting up early and going to America, which he is still very excited about. We made it out of the house only 10 minutes later than planned and by 9:00 we were in the health clinic with Olga. The US requires a health exam before granting adopted orphans an immigrant visa and this may only be done once the children have passports. The doctor who examined them was very nice. She did have to have Sasha get a chect x-ray as he had once been diagnosed with TB. This diagnosis was later reveresed but, because it was on his record, she needed to see the film. Fortunately, his lungs were in perfect health.

We needed to get to the US embassy by 12 noon. We finished the exam and paid by around 10 AM and just needed for the clinic to put together the various papers and hand them over to us. An hour and a half later, we were still waiting. I kept thinking that it would be such a waste for Olga to have made all that effort to get the passports to us only to not make it to the embassy today, forcing the 2-day visa process to go into next week. Finally, at 11:38, we got the documents and went to our car. We did not get tot he embassy until around 12:10 but the guard let us in (I think we were the last so allowed). The lady who attended us in the adoption section was very friendly and helpful. After reviewing our documents, asking me some questions, then making sure I had paid the $800 for the two visas, she scheduled our second interview for tomorrow between 9 and 10 AM.

My wish during this process was that we could get their visas by tomorrow (Friday) and fly on Saturday. The reservations I had made for safety's sake, was on Wednesday of next week as we calculated our process could go on until Tuesday of next week. As soon as I was back in the office this afternoon, I tried to change our reservations. Unfortunately, no seats were available either Saturday or Sunday. We were able to change to Monday and are now scheduled to arrive Norfolk 10 PM Monday. This was a disappointment but I will still try again tomorrow. I am so ready to go home, as are the boys (albeit for different reasons!).

Friday, March 20, 2009

Taking the Metro to McDonalds

The boys slept all night long (as far as I know) and got up around 7 AM. They had a great day with Oksana and then with John and Andre when they came home for school. At 6:30 I told them to get their coats and shoes on and we would go to a restauarant. We walked a bit to a place where I could change money then took the metro. The boys have probably never been on an escalator and certainly never on the metro. The escalator was very itimidating at first (especially as the subways are very, very deep in the ground in the former Soviet cities I've been in. Little Oleg almost fell getting on so taking no chances I picked him up as we got off. As I'd always walked to the restuarant I wanted to go to (a buffet-type place where language doesn't come in to play unless you really need to know what is in the mystery meat) so didn't know which entrance to go out. We wandered for a second and then both boys made me understand that there would be dire consequnces if we didn't locate a toilet right then. So we quickly retraced our steps to the McDonals at the metro entrance. I reached my saturation point on McDonalds meals many years ago but I suppose it is a mandatory visit for our two little future American citizens. They might even require previous knowledge of McDonalds to get their US visas for all I know. So in we went. They really enjoyed it but barely got through their french fries without even getting to the cheeseburger. I begrudgingly helped finish oen extra burger off. The metro ride back saw the boys gaining escalator navigation skills, with Sasha leading the way passing people on left and right. We finished the excursion off with a visit to the supermarket for Sasha to buy a new toothbrush as he had managed to lose his in less than 48 hours. The supermarket didn't seem to be a foreign environment to them so perhaps they had been in one before they went into the orphanage. They were pretty good about pestering me for unneeded items - except for ice cream. The night ended with another long bath/swimming session in the local bathtub.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Day - and Night - of Firsts

Last night we arrived at the train station for the 8:20 PM train to Kiev. Little did I know that it would be one of my longest train journeys and I have been on lots of trains. Olga and Natasha came with me to the train station and we got the boys into SPIDERMAN pijamas (a very important detail) and their beds made up. Even before the train left they were already going crazy, jumping from bed to bed, climbing to the top bunks, turning lights off, going to the the nice, clean train bathroom then drinking more water to ensure another visit soon, laughing talking, etc etc. I enjoyed watching them and playing with them until about 11.

I kept thinking that they had to be wearing themselves down. But how wrong I was! They were only wearing me down. I pulled the toys aways and even held Oleg to try to get him to calm down. I thought this worked as he got quiet and was crying softly (at the tragic loss of his cars). So I tucked him into bed. Next thing I knew the lights were back on and the jack-in-the-box had popped up once again. Of course, we also had very meaningful conversations about their need to get rest. He understood my English as well as I his Russian.

Sasha finally conked out after 12:30 and Oleg about 1 AM. I went right to sleep but wouldn't you know it, I had to get up at 1:30 for the bathroom then took forever to get back to sleep. No matter, I thought, we don't arrive in Kiev until 9:20 AM so lots of time to sleep in. Yeah right. Sasha woke up just after 5 AM to go the bathroom and decided he'd had enough rest. Soon Oleg also awoke and joined the fun. By 7:30 AM they were getting bored and asking if the little towns or the forests we passed were Kiev. Around 8 AM I made the mistake of indicating Kiev was close. On came there overcoats and backpacks (even though the train was so hot I was sweating in a T-shirt with the door wide open) and there was no way they would take them off.

After we finally arrived Kiev, we came to the Weber's house. They still did not surrender and were not interested in breakfast. Luckily, it was no longer my problem as I left them in the hands of Oksana, the Weber's part-time helper who mercifully agrred to also work for me and help take care of the kids. I finally got to sleep and heard them also laying down for a nap as I was getting ready to go in for a half-day of work. Oksana said that they did great and are really wonderful kids. I too feel really blessed. Last night was tough but, at the same time, it was so nice to see the kids' excitement at all the new experiences!

In the afternoon, I got to chat a little with Dan Reany, a colleague who is also over here adopting. In fact, he and his wife are adopting the little boy Segei from ivankiv that we had asked about but was not yet available. We are happy for them!

In the evening the kids played with John, the Weber's youngest boy who was also adopted from Kherson. We then ate a spaghetti dinner Kristi made and which the boys (all three of us) really enjoyed. The highlight of the evening though was surely a loon bubble bath. Unlike last night, they went to sleep (or at least their room is quiet) as soon as we switched off the lights.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Big Day!

I picked up the two boys this AM. Before leaving they had to change into their new clothes packed in backpacks Maggie had chosen for them. Unfortunately, she had only found one Spiderman backpack which Oleg got and Sasha had a plain Puma backpack. So Sasha made sure I knew that he wanted a different backpack when he goes to his new school in the fall. They said a few goodbyes to the director (pictured above) and other staff who had been so good to them. The rest of the morning was filled with paperwork. The last stop before lunch was at the passport office. Sasha needed to go to the bathroom so bad but Olga wouldn't let him as they did not have a public bathroom in the government office and she did now want us to lose our place in line. Luckily he got his photo without incident then Olga took him to a toilet in a nearby park while Oleg got his photo.

We stopped by an Italian place for lunch. The boys were so excited about all the new things they're experiencing that eating was not too high a priority. They each had a piece of pizza and Oleg also had a bowl of soup. Both enjoyed pizza but had not interest in eating more as they wanted to play with the matchbox cars we had also packed for them.

This evening we are to take the train to Kiev. Olga is supposed to go with us but she said that a supervisor was absent today at the passport office so she was not able to complete all her paperwork and may need to return tomorrow. Her abscence would just make the train ride that much more interesting, I'm sure!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Getting Closer!

I (Kim) arrived back in Kiev on Sunday afternoon. Monday evening I met Natasha and Olga and we took a night train (with one other mystery traveler in our compartment) to Kherson. We arrived at 5:45 and went to the house Eric and Natasha Jones (a couple from Seattle who is also here to adopt) for a few moments. Before 8 AM we left to start processing papers. We weaved a trail through Kherson, through many dark and - very - cold waiting rooms in banks and government offices. We processed birth certificates and adoption decrees and tax numbers for the boys. Now they are officially Alexander Carroll Mitchell and Oleg David Mitchell and we have the papers to prove it.

Finally, at 4 PM we made it to the orphanage and after a short meeting with the director to sign yet more papers, we got to spend a few minutes with the boys. They'll spend one last night in the orphanage and I'm to show up bright and early tomorrow with their new clothes. We'll need to go right away to apply for Ukrainian passports for them. Then we will take the overnight train to Kiev and begin the wait for the passports to be issued and American visa to be obtained.

They are both so excited. Excited about their first train ride (even though they may be in for a letdown as Sasha said he was looking forward to the stewardesses serving him on the train - I had to explain that the train we are to take is not quite that luxurious), their first time in Kiev, their first plane ride and, of course, their first time to America. But they are most excited to meet their new big sister Renee. At their insistence, we actually called Maggie for a few moments so she could say hi to them. All in all, it has been a tiring day but we accomplished all we needed to. Thanks for your continued prayers!