Thursday, September 6, 2012

Writer's Block

We're home.....together.....as a family of four....but if you had to rely on this blog for that information, you'd never know it! So sorry our blog has been offline....we've been busy with the business of being busy!  And I honestly feel like I don't know what to write....or how to say it.....and it is wonderful, and delightful, and a blessing beyond measure to have Ruslan home.  But it is also exhausting keeping up with our new normal! 

Our gratitude runs deep and far and wide, and it seems there will never be enough ways to say thank you.  Our hearts are so full with the every day moments that take our breath away, and it sometimes seems there is no adequate way to describe them or revisit them in writing. 

And we've got ten years to catch up with for Ruslan....he keeps us busy, engaged, and on our toes! (And we love and are grateful for each moment!)

With Bill's shift schedule, the kids' school schedules, me working full time, etc....our family time is very limited and precious.....so we're pretty greedy with it right now....because we need to be....for Ruslan....for Mason....for us.

Along the way, we are praising God for the blessing of raising this beautiful boy.  For the blessing of a family that is loving and learning and growing together.  For the blessing of the village of people who chose to be the hands and feet of Jesus to help us bring Ruslan home, and who continue to love us, and him. 

I'm sure I'll start blogging again.  What isn't flowing freely from my pen right now is surely flowing freely from my heart....a love that is unconditional, unwavering, unparalleled and forever.  That's something worth writing about! Stay tuned.....hoping to be back to writing

 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Just waiting....

It's getting close to the time we'll all be home together.  A couple more days (hopefully) and Ruslan and I will be stressed at the airport trying to make it through security, finding gates, making connecting flights, and then we'll land on American soil.  It's at this point that Ruslan will become an American citizen.  And then customs and another connecting flight and then we'll have made it to our family.  It's coming soon.  I've been in the Ukraine for a while now, and in that time I've done a lot of waiting.  The waiting hasn't been too bad at all.  But as the days get closer, the waiting feels longer.  The old episodes of Bones and The Shield aren't passing time like they used to.  The movie channels are playing games with me and have stepped up the non-English movies quite a bit...and sometimes they'll even take an English move (like the Terminator) and dub over the English with Arabic.  Also, I'm not sleeping as late as I'd like to.  All of these things make the waiting longer, and Saturday feel so far away.  Even my routine at the store was thrown out the window today.  There was a different lady at the cafe.  I tried to order the same thing I usually get but I couldn't answer her question.  I told her I didn't speak Russian and I pointed to the item I wanted (which I usually do).  She asked me the same question again.  When I repeated that I don't speak Russian, she put down my plate and turned to the next people in line and helped them.  Man, talk about a let down.  That's one of the things I look foreward to each day.  She got me.  Instead, I had a sandwich and some crackers back at the apartment.  I'll try again tomorrow.

It looks like we'll be able to leave on Saturday (barring any delays....knock on wood).  We're waiting here in Bilhorod for Ruslan's passport to be completed.  Once that's done, we'll pick it up in Odessa on our way to Kiev.  We'll stay there the rest of the time and have our meeting with the Embassy and a mandatory doctor's visit.  Then it's on to America.

There are a lot of things to look forward to.  The plane ride, getting to see Karen and Mason, sleeping in my own bed, petting the dogs, water that's not turned off during the day or night....I look forward to these things for Ruslan as well.  I know he'll be excited to see his mama and his brother.  And he'll be excited to have his own room with his own toys and clothes.  But I've got to remind myself that although it's so exciting for him, it's different.  It'll all be new.  He won't speak English.  The sights, the sounds, and the smells won't be familiar.  I've got to remember that this won't feel like home.  In a lot of the same ways I felt lost sometimes here in the Ukraine, he'll feel that in the US.  I know he'll adapt quickly and he's excited and happy to go.  I just have to remember that this isn't a "homecoming" for him....it's a new begining.  For as much excitement and releif I feel, he'll be feeling equal amounts of being "lost."  I admire how brave he is and must be.  He's leaving everything that's familiar (no matter how good or aweful it was) and he's starting a new life.  How couragous it is for a 10 year old to do this.  I know he'll have a better life, but he's only going on hopes and dreams.  What an amazing leap of faith.  So we wait.  We'll start our journey soon.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mason's Birthday

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Mason,
Happy Birthday to you!

You guessed it....today is Mason's birthday!  Ruslan and I recorded this video yesterday while we were in the car in Odessa waiting on some documents.  I went to email it to him, but it's too big, so I uploaded it here so he can see it.

Have a happy birthday Mason!  I love you, and I'll see you soon!!!!



video

Photos from June 26th and 27th

Here are some photos from the "offical" day and the day after:

All set to leave orphanage for trip to Odessa

One of the churches we pointed to

Birthday meal at McDonalds

Finished his lego truck!!!

Ice cream at McDonalds

Happy Ruslan and his Papa

One of the dogs that got barked at by Ruslan

The "offical" day...and the day after...

June 26th, 2012 is the day that the Kochies family "officially" became a family of 4.  The papers are all signed with all of their "t"s crossed and "i"s dotted.  The waiting period is over and the Ukranian government recognizes that Karen and I are the proud parents of Daniel Ruslan Kochies.  He is no longer an orphan.  At times, we thought this day would never come....and I'd like to send a thank you to everyone who has made this possible.  Thank you.  Karen and I are forever in your debt.

The "offical" day is the first day that we can start the paperwork needed to bring our boy home.  He needs to have his birth certificate updated, get a new social security number, and get another passport made with his new name.  That was our goal for the day.

We started at 7:00 a.m. and drove to the orphange to pick-up Ruslan so he could accompany us on our trip to Odessa...the city where all of this paperwork would be finalized.  He came out of the orphanage wearing the same outfit he wore to court with his hair wet and combed.  His face beamed with pride and excitement and you could tell he'd been anticipating this trip all night.  He got in the car, said his hellos and off we went.  Odessa is about 1.5-2 hours away from Bilhorod on roads that are full of pot holes and bumps and have the ability to make the most experienced traveler car sick....so I was worried.  People that have adpoted from this region have expressed that some of the kids get motion sickness easily, so we were prepared.  We had plastic bags willing and able to accomodate Ruslan should the need arise.  But he did fantastic!  He seemed to love the ride.  We played games, took pictures, pointed to every single church, and pretended to swim in pretty much every body of water we could find.

When we got to Odessa, our first order of business was to get an updated birth certificate.  Our coordinator made the request and was told to come back some time later to pick it up.  That gave us time to shop for clothes for  Ruslan to wear home (the orphange does not send him with anything).  Ruslan was more than happy to try on the clothing for proper fit and really seemed to enjoy it.  He was extremely thankful for the new clothes and must have thanked me and kissed my hand at least 10 times.  He wanted to (and tried to) carry the bag but it was too heavy for him and the walk was too long.

After putting the clothes in the car, we made our way to McDonald's to have his birthday meal.  I wasn't able to take him out of the orphanage on his actual birthday because it was during the 10-day waiting period...but he didn't seem to mind.  He devoured his meal (double cheeseburger, fries, and a coke) and played with the happy meal toy (which was a Russian tiger named Vitalic from Madagascar 3 that hoola hoops)...which he got a kick out of. 

We went back and picked-up the completed birth certificate.  We then went to the social security number changing place where we found out the lady that does this job was on vacation.  Apparently, no one else in Odessa can do this job (or if they can, they weren't available either) so we struck out.  Without the social security number we couldn't apply for the passport.  So we left Odessa with the hopes of traveling back to Bilhorod to get the number changed there.  Unfortunately, that meant that we'd have to go back to Odessa the next day to apply for the passport.  On the way back to Bilhorod we received a call stating that we couldn't get the social security number changed in Bilhorod and that we'd have to go to a town called Izmail (which is on the Romanian border- further south and west) because that is where the number he has now was asigned.  So rather than making the left on the road to Bilhorod, we traveled another couple of hours to Izmail.  When we reached the office there, they informed us that they could make the change, but that it wouldn't happen until the next morning.  Ugh!  So, rather than staying the night there and waiting for the paper, we traveled back to Bilhorod with an understanding that the social security number people in Izmail would fax the information we needed to us in Odessa the next morning.  This was very unnerving because no one had heard of the passport office accepting a faxed document, but staying overnight would make it impossible to travel to Odessa the next day and have enough time to complete the other paperwork we needed.  We had to bet on the fact that they'd accept the fax.  Also, at some point, a mistake on the birth certificate was found...so we'd need to get a new one of those made.  Luckily, that is done in Odessa, so we'd be able to get that fixed in the morning without too much trouble.

I'd like to insert a little Daddy pride here....Ruslan did fantastic.  We pretty much spent the majority of our 12 hour day in the car, waiting and waiting and driving and waiting.  He didn't complain once.  We had a lego toy from his birthday that we tried to finish putting together and we joked around a lot, which seemed to pass the time quickly.  I couldn't have asked him to behave better than he did.  He handled everything like a champ.  I think I may have fussed more than he did.  So, we traveled the couple of hours back to Bilhorod, and with a new plan for the next day made, we dropped Ruslan off at the orphanage.  While I was walking him in, he asked if I'd be visiting him the next day or if I'd be in Odessa.  I said I didn't know if I'd make it back in time to visit and this made him a little sad.  At this point our coordinator told me (in English) that Ruslan would need to come with us again because he'd need to have his photo taken for the passport.  When I asked Ruslan if he wanted to come with us, he got really excited and smiled his smile...that smile.  I'm sure he had another night of anticipation.

We started the day after the "official" day around 7:30 a.m.  It was pretty much a "groundhog day" in terms of our plans.  Get a corrected birth certificate, receive the fax of the social security number, and apply for his passport.  The only thing different about today was that we didn't have a buffer day.  Thursday and Friday are holidays this week and if anything went wrong we would have to wait until next week to apply for his passport.  The heat was on.  Luckily, our coordinator and driver are phenominal.  They brought their A game and were on fire.  We zipped here, parked and waited here, zipped over here, and so on and so forth.  We were able to get everything completed and submitted for his passport before the offices closed...and they even accepted the fax.  Now our job is to sit and wait until the passport is ready (anticipated for the middle of next week).  Then we can go to Kiev and complete the US Embassy requirements and fly home.

It was another really long day in the car and Ruslan didn't complain, fuss, or get impatient at all.  He
really did a great job.  My favorite parts of today were the fact that everything seemed to go great and the passport application was submitted....and the way Ruslan took his photo for his passport.  He gets embarassed easily so his face showed his shyness when the ladies (there were 2) asked him to sit up or move left or right...but he fought so hard to stay "official".  I could tell that he was concentrating so hard to overcome his instinct to look down and away and to look directly at the camera.  He did it, and his photo came out great!  I was able to see it on the computer when they took it.  This is the only computerized part of the process that I've seen.  In a little less than a week (keep your fingers crossed) we'll have the passport in our hands and a couple days later we'll have our bags packed and be leaving on a jet plane...I don't know when we'll be back again.

There were a couple of observations over the last two days that I've made that I'd like to share:
   1) the biggest offical office in Odessa does not have a fax machine (if they do, they tell you they don't)
   2) I'm glad I didn't have to drive around Odessa (other drivers are nuts) and traffic patterns are weird
   3) there are a bunch of people walking dogs (Ruslan pointed at or barked at all of them that passed our car whenever we waited someplace)
   4) I like the "Big Tasty" from McDonald's (second day in a row...this time we all had ice cream too...Ruslan and his dad were really happy!)
   5) the Ukranian goverment takes their documents EXTREMELY seriously...you need one for everything...nothing is computerized (at least from what I've seen)...see point #1 for an example
   6) although point #5 is frustrating for this particular process...it's kind of cool that you talk to a person rather than a computer at every step of day-to-day life
   7)  Ruslan is a champ

Sage Advice

Families adopting children with special needs have......well....special needs! Love this article!

http://special-needs.adoption.com/children/special-needs-adoption-2.html

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

He Moves In Mysterious Ways!!!

We're about to bring our son home from Ukraine.  Friends of ours leave tomorrow to get their daughter.  The paperwork has been filed.  The bedrooms have been prepared.  In other cases, adoptions are just being pursued.  Homestudies are in progress, fundraising is in full swing.  And for almost all the children that came with Ruslan to be hosted last summer, a "forever family" is on the horizon.  Almost all of them.  Except for one.


Meet Vova.  He is the only child from last year's hosting program that is still hoping for a family to call his own.  Now before you tell me that you don't have room in your car, house, schedule, budget or heart for another child...just hear me out.  Time and time again, I have been amazed at the connections the Lord makes to bring these children in to homes.  So, if you have a moment, please share Vova's story, and let your friends and family know he is dreaming of a place to call home, a family to love, and a chance at a brighter future.  You never know how God might be working behind the scenes to put His perfect plan in to action.  You never know who might know someone who knows someone who knows someone who has been wanting to adopt.  It's happened before, even with some of the children that came with Ruslan last summer.  So, you just never know.   

Or, maybe it is you.  Maybe you're reading this, and God has placed a stirring in your heart.  Maybe you've always thought about adoption, but just weren't sure how it would work logistically, financially, etc.  Now is a great time to learn more.  Ultimately, a "forever family" would be the goal for Vova, but a strong advocate family would certainly be a blessing as well.  Someone who could take Vova in to their home for a few weeks, and advocate for his placement in a family. 

Anyone interested in learning more about Vova can talk to the family that hosted him last year, and can also learn more from Redline United (http://www.redlineunited.org/).  He's a great little boy, dreaming of a family.  Can you help make that happen?