Sunday, July 25, 2010

Little Update

Hello, All.
Thanks for all of your well wishes and I'm sorry that we haven't posted in several days. We do have each of those days logged and will publish those posts soon, however due to the overall process, we've been asked to hold off on sharing all details until it's complete (I'm sure many of you can relate to how time sensitive and touch-and-go it can be sometimes). Anyway, we are home in America (as of midnight last night) and Matt will return to pick up the kids very soon. All is well, we are SO excited (they are, too!) and we're counting down!
Again, all of the details soon - we promise!!
The Stockwells

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ukraine Adoption - Day 15 (Sumy)

OK - so this is Matt, doing my best to go back and recapture the details of where we left off from our first trip, in part complicated by my leaving the camera in Oleg's car so once we got home to SLC, we had no photos to build our story around. So the next several posts will be back in July and then I'll resume with the present day stuff.

Day 15 was a fun day with the kids and Gledhills - we went to the funniest/scariest little amusement park imagineable, it is surely the place all old carnival rides go when they die and go to heaven (or H - E - double hockey sticks [for my son and expletive enforcer, Nate]). I kid you not, many of these clunky rides must be at least 50 years old and appear to be held together by the latest coat of paint (seriously!). The kids just bumped from one ride to the next and thoroughly enjoyed the day - Dale, Becky, Cher and I all grew nauseous watching their antics. I tried to embed a vid of Ashley/Shaun on the ride but realiaed it was taken on my point/shoot and is a 42 meg file, so I won't be downloading that - would crash my fragile little modem setup! Watching these two on the ride was hilarious and I wish we were able to really capture Shaun's face for he truly looked as though he'd spew at any moment, green-faced and all.

The bumper cars were and OSHA hazard and both Dale and I bloodied our knees in the process. Knowing that this was their point of reference, I can only imagine how blown away they were with Lagoon and can't wait to see them at Disneyland (as much as I hate that place).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ukraine Adoption - Day 14 (Sumy)

We began Day 14 with a great day at the Sumy branch. Here we are with a couple of the sisters in the branch who interpreted for us... next to me is Natasha, then Katia, then Becky. Katia is leaving in one week for Logan, Utah where she is getting married and settling down. We told her that if she needs anything in Utah, even just girl friends in a new place, to call us!
After church the kids were allowed to be with us outside of the orphanage again, so they came to our home and we had these two missionaries come over. The one on the left, Elder Stirling, is unique to our circumstance as he, too, was in an orphanage in Russia (Siberia) until he was 15, then was adopted to the US to an LDS family in Gilbert, Arizona. He is now on a mission, and we wanted him to talk to the kids. Not so much about joining the church as much as simply relating to them that he, too, had to adjust to 3-hour church, and family life, and school, etc. And he told them that he did not understand when he was first adopted the level of sacrifice that his parents had made to get him, and the opportunities they had afforded him. He says he understands it now, and he helped them prepare for the months and early years in America that are just before them. It was wonderful. The other missionary is also from Russia. He's a convert to the church and his name is Elder Dem'yanov. The kids related well, had some questions and comments, and we were happy that they were paying attention, looking them in the eyes and listening. The elders are so good with the kids - had them laughing and were on their level. They get transferred this week, so we're lucky to have had this time with them!

Outside of our apartment building (any apartment building really) are not only the Babushkas, but also cats (and sometimes dogs). Here is one of our residents... with Pasha and Masha

Natasha and Dad, swimming as usual.

We wanted to get a picture of the lake/park where the kids love to go. This is where they can go down a big bouncy slide for 2 grivna (like 25 cents) and jump on the trampoline for 3 grivna, and then play in the water all they'd like.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ukraine Adoption - Day 13 (Sumy)

Nate (left) and his best friend Tyler - Thanks, Afflecks, for showing our boy love while we're away on his birthday! That cake looks delicious! And which of your boys is that in the background?

Kayla and cousin Garrett.
This is Sergei (left) and Dima/"Punya" (right) with Matt.

We were allowed to take the kids out of the orphanage today because we needed to get passport pictures taken (for Natasha, Yuri, Pasha and Lena), so we (us and Gledhills) along with Oleg and Masha got that job done, then went out for pizza and went bowling! This is Yuri waiting for his beverage... and yes, we do realize that it looks like everyone is drinking beer, but that's only because they serve every drink in a tall beer glass at this place.

I love this picture - you'll notice that Natasha puts her hands up like that, for fun, when her picture gets taken. See below.

I love this picture, too - Yuri is such a little cuddler with me, and Natasha is definitely more affectionate than I would have imagined upon first meeting her, when she was more removed and guarded. We can't wait to get these guys home!

Lena & Natasha

These are the "socks" they give you at the bowling alley - more like nylons!! These are Matt's feet (please, people... hairy legs!)... I've never seen him in nylons before!

There go the hands again!

So Day 13... This was SUCH a fun day. The kids had a blast together, and it's been great to get to know the Gledhills better. What great people they are, and what a wonderful family Pasha and Lena are going to. We have such respect for them and are glad to have had this opportunity to spend a little time with them. Pasha proved to be the best bowler, by the way... no surprise there!

A word about our other two kids at home - Kayla & Nate. We miss them immensely, but that goes without saying. I wanted to write today about how completely impressed with them we are. In these last two weeks they have been nothing but selfless, nothing but supportive, accomodating, patient and encouraging. It's so difficult to be away from our kids, as many of you can attest, and then when they truly take care of things back home (including themselves, the home, our animals, the lawn, you name it), we just feel so humbled to be given this opportunity to have them as our children. They have been with grandparents and friends and scout camps these last two weeks, probably feeling bounced around and out of their routine. Yet when we talk on the phone with them all they want to hear about are Natasha and Yuri, and the other children at the orphanage, and us and how we're doing. They have so much love in them that it makes me want to cry. Kayla will send me sweet text messages at night (Utah night time) saying good night and I love you, and she has no idea how that sustains me. They always wants to be sure that we are telling Natasha and Yuri that they love them, and that we not forget! The other day we were in the taxi with the kids and Natasha was teasing that she was going to rub Nate's ears again (that may sound random, but when she was at our home last October, she and Nate were constantly play-fighting... Natasha would sneak up behind him, cup her hands over each of his ears, and then rub back and forth really fast, then she would take off running because she knew Nate would quickly be after her), and cute Yuri says, "I won't let you do that to my brother!" We love the anticipation they have about bonding with new siblings, and we love that Kayla and Nate have established that with them, already.
On another note, I haven't written about my pregnancy on the blog, as this adoption has been so involved and exciting, and I was mainly worried that I'd remain healthy while on this foreign travel, that I haven't yet shared all of the thoughts and feelings going on in my head regarding this sweet baby boy growing in my belly. I'm at 20 weeks now, so the half-way point. Just last week I began to feel him moving and kicking constantly. Not randomly here and there, maybe once a week, like before, but more like several times a day, all day (first thing in the morning, on). I love it; he's my little buddy (Matt calls him my "passenger"), and it's a comfort to me. I still can't believe I'm pregnant. Matt always knew it would happen, but I didn't. I got to the point where I made the choice to believe it was out of my hands, and what was meant to be will be. We focused on adoption and our own precious kids, feeling blessed enough in them. So now that I'm pregnant, and it's actually turning out well, and I've seen his face and his features, and I feel him every day, I feel pretty emotional, and blessed, and honored. And all this concern that I wouldn't find food to eat in Ukraine and would I be ok traveling and running around from place to place was completely unnecessary. We've eaten VERY well, have fresh amazing produce daily, Matt makes my (favorite) french toast and breakfast burritos all the time, and the running around has felt good to me. Nothing to worry about (other than those attractive swollen feet the first day off the long flight, but whatever).
So there's our post for the day. More to come...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ukraine Adoption - Day 12 (Sumy)

[Matt writing for first portion]
I'll add a bit of the day-to-day color that continues to make us smile, miss home, and remember what a crazy ride we're on. Knowing that I'd go stir crazy without getting in some exercise while here, we had Masha and Oleg help find a "fitness center" for us, and conveniently, one is located about a block away on the ground floor of an apt building - this gym is named "Hollywood!" I've become an every other day regular and am pleased with the facility which I mostly have to myself. On my first day, the girl working the front desk continued to hover around me as I worked out - I didn't realize my sounds of exertion and heavy breathing differ from those in Russian? I did my best to not crack up and maintain my lazerlike focus... :) This morning while going through my routine, I was joined by a stout man whose body reminds me of an anvil - we exchanged the obligatory "what's up Dude" looks and moved on. Next thing I know, Mr. Bufferunkus interrupts (in Russian) my current exercise and has me follow him into the next room to show me a machine that duplicates the exact move I purposely was doing with free weights... thanks Dude... and so it went for the duration of the morning, during virtually every routine I did, Senor Stout would volunteer pointers, have me adjust my hands here, stance there... sheesh! I did my best to nod, "da," "spasiba (thanks)", etc, but was getting rather bugged as I had zero continuity. At the end of my workout I walked over and bid him farewell and we exchanged names and language barrier goodbyes, at which point he announced he was both a former Mr. USSR and Mr. Ukraine, along the orders of Mr. Universe, etc - and I have to say I'm not surprised - he was very serious about his workout - fun stuff!

Another funny thing happened related to my haircut today - for those that know me and have seen recent photos in this blog, I'm already sporting a very short do - knowing we'd be out of the country for the most part of a month, Cher buzzed it at the end of June - nice cool summer hairdo. So yesterday, I attempted to trim my sideburns in our apt bathroom which conveniently has lights only on the left side of the bathroom mirror, making it tough to get an accurate feel for such an endeavor - and as you can imagine, I ended up shearing several apparent gouges above my right temple. I called Cher in to see if she could salvage it and was told this would require professional help. So today I went into a rather lavish hair salon and got the royal treatment. Masha interpreted via cell phone my desire to "clean up the sides and leave the top as is..." so the woman proceeded to do a great job on the first part, cleaing up sides high and tight, and then after changing clipper guards to a higher #, motioned to me non-verbally, what I thought was her plan to blend the sides, so I nodded in approval, just to have her take the clippers right down the middle of my head (think reverse mohawk)... :( A bit bummed, but it'll grow back - but don't be surprised when you see photos of me as I'm about as close as I've ever been to being "Bic'ed!"

[Cher's writing]
It was a good day, and it was good to see the Gledhill's. Today we just worked from home all morning and then went to see the "Egg Lady" at about 1pm. We have a wonderful taxi driver, Alexsei (we need a picture of him) who has this nice air conditioned Audi, and has become our little buddy. He's so appreciative of us - seriously, I give him a couple dollar (equivalent) tip and he is shocked! Anyway, the egg lady is a local artist here who paints on eggs (typical Ukrainian art) and plates, but who has come to learn of all of the LDS people who travel here, and has painted on eggs replicas of familiar LDS art. It's beautiful; she really is amazing. We had to pick up an order for the Koch's and we placed our own order, as well. Then we met the Gledhill's for lunch and it was nice to reconnect with them re: their crazy and horribly inconvenient journey so far. They still don't have their luggage - it's been 5 days! They have such a good attitude, though, and are troopers. Then we went to the orphanage for just a little while. Today was difficult at the orphanage. Some of the children who don't have families, or who have never been hosted, were pained by the two sets of parents there today (us and Gledhills) here on the trip to take our children home to America. Little Dima/Punya, our little buddy, was found walking alone and crying before we left tonight. We went up to him and he was shy and trying to hide that he was crying. But he confided that he feels alone, and I would imagine that of course he feels this way, watching us here at the orphanage to pick up other children. We can't get him off our mind tonight, and are determined to find little Dima (and the others) a home, a family, a life outside of the orphanage complete with love and opportunities. We've bonded with so many of these kids in the last 9 days... I find myself praying for them all the time. I know we can't adopt everyone, but I'm telling you I wish we could.

Ukraine Adoption - Day 11 (Sumy)

Today, Matt (who to date has held the title of chief cook and bottle washer [literally, in addition to hunter/gatherer]), has taken the helm as scribe of yesterday's adventures in Sumy. Part of the adoption process includes the adopting family giving the orphanage a gift. In our case, Viktor, the Director, told me he wanted our gift to be a lawnmower as he wants the lawn on the compound to resemble those of the White House. We drove to the neighborhood Husqvarna dealer and after reviewing the various options, Viktor selected a handsome electric mower which we were able to transport in the back of our little Toyota Corolla-sized car. Once back at the orphanage, Viktor and his operations pros set about the work of sourcing several 100' powercords and then invited the entire group (Cher, Masha, me and kids) to see the mower in action - see above!

Next on our list of to-do's was a return to the river nearest the orphanage for some swimming. Above is Dima hucking a front flip from the svelt platform situated in the mud and providing a nearly stable base from which to perform tricks. I'm continually amazed and inspired by the resourcefulness of these kids as they make the most of what they've got or nature has to offer them. In the above photo, the trained eye will notice a small board propped against the diving platform - this board, encrusted with rusty nails on it's side, is the "stairway" which we used to climb atop. This requires dexterity and coordination, and works perfectly and how fun to watch each of the kids scurry up the plank - and funny to see how concerned they were that I might break the plank as I followed them. This day was quite warm with little breeze so the water felt refreshing. Fish nerd that I am, I'm blown away by the amount of life lurking in this river - literally millions of "guppy-sized" fish cruise in massive schools along the shores and whenever we're swimming, they tickle our legs - and you wonder why Cher refuses to get in? Speaking of sweet, adorable, pregnant Cher - she is such a good sport as she does her best to support the kids in whatever activity they want to do, and yet yesterday proved to be a long, hot day for her sitting beneath a tree's shade, talking with Masha and Jula. She really needed a nap and it would've been nice for her to be in an air conditioned locale, but she toughed it out. I hope to have her wade in the water next time to help cool her core body temperature (and will convince her that the guppies exude positive growth energy for babies in mommys' tummies).

Above you see Yur performing a backflip - this brings back funny memories for me of Nate, who at age 5 or 6, in SoCal, was enamored with the idea of trying a backflip on the tramp. One day I walked into the backyard to see this brick of a child attempting such, only to land flat on his head in an extremely neck-breaking-like manner. Not surprisingly, he worked through the mechanics and soon mastered the trick. Yuri has shown the same persistence and athletic aplomb as he pushed through his fear and nailed the backflip - going bigger and farther with each attempt. Somehow, I think Nate and Shaun will do just fine...

Ah, and now I must write of things fishing. Above is Pasha with one of a few "perch" looking fish we caught with his new fishing outfit. As alluded to above, this river teems with life and I'm trying to learn of the various fish types and members of the proverbial food chain. There are numerous bugs, both surface and in the water, many frogs (some big and brightly colored), tadpoles, the aforementioned guppies, a smaller fish than the above perch, and then these perch, which live in deeper water (I've not seen them hitting the surface for flies, as there is so much nutrition below, why would they?). Pasha is showing all signs of sharing the same madness I do for fishing and we're already planning trips in Utah to get him into some quality fishing. This is an exceptional young man and I'm grateful we'll be able to continue our association with him as I know he will be an on-going influence for good with Natahsa, Yuri (and me).
The Gledhill's (still without their luggage) arrived with Oleg in Sumy late last night and we will rendezvous with them today. Thanks to Oleg for the quick turnaround time in getting our paperwork with the SDA while he was in Kyiv - he's proving to be the Energizer Bunny and blows us away with his work ethic and tenacity. We got home to the apartment, and per a special request by Momma Prego, I prepared her a meal of saturated french toast with fresh fruit and the requisite Ukrainian "salad:" tomatoes and cucumbers, drizzled with balsamic. Another good day indeed.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ukraine Adoption - Day 10 (Sumy)

There's this crooked/slanted bridge from the school to a little store nearby - it's pretty, but a little scary.
It was Pasha's birthday yesterday and the kids had planned for a picnic by the lake (they had taken their own money and bought pork, cakes, sausage, cheese, bread and soda) and wanted us to come with them. We are continually impressed with how these kids look out for each other. They could have done anything they wanted with their money, but they spent it on Pasha's birthday, even buying him gifts. We asked the kids what Pasha would like for his birthday, and they said a fishing pole (we saw him out at the lake a few days before, fishing with some sort of stick or pole) and that gift was right up Matt's alley (will not surprise those of you who know Matt and how much he fishes). Masha helped us find a fishing store and we bought Pasha a fishing pole, reel, etc. (a basic set up). He loved it and was so surprised! We also bought some extra food for the picnic and met them in the afternoon. It was a late night but a lot of fun!

Yuri and Roma manning the fire.
The Gledhill's arrived in Kiev tonight and we spoke with them on the phone. The kids were so excited to hear they had arrived! Unfortunately, they were delayed and re-routed through Rome, and don't have their luggage yet. And their SDA appt. is today! Becky was on her way to find them new toothbrushes to get them through. Pray that their luggage will arrive promptly!!

Ukraine Adoption - Day 9 (Sumy)

On Day 9 we worked from the apartment all morning and went to the orphanage in the afternoon. The kids wanted to go to the lake and swim again, so off we went. On the walk back we passed this adorable couple working in their yard and Matt asked if he could take their picture. The woman smiled and got a little flustered and removed then re-applied her scarf... so cute. The man was strong in his older age - he was lifting heavy stuff without a problem!

On the walk back from the lake the kids picked apples and we took a picture. We also went into a little store where Shelby (Ira) McDougal's aunt works, and she asked all about Shelby! She almost started to cry as I told her how well she is doing, that we see her in Utah, that she sings and is happy. We asked her aunt if we could take her picture, and she asked if we would come back another day when Shelby's other aunt would also be there, and we could take both of their pictures. We got her phone number and will call her today.

I love how Yuri always puts his arm around me when we walk.

Matt found some Tabasco sauce (he's been missing "spicy" while here) and the kids wanted to put some on their fingers and taste it - especially Lena! She kept saying "on chips" remembering chips and salsa.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ukraine Adoption - Day 8 (Sumy)

These are the parents of the puppies. I can't help but feed them because I know they don't get enough to eat!
Here's our sweet Masha - she's our interpretor while in Sumy and we adore her. She and I have lots in common, we're finding. She appreciates healthy food, doesn't like orange juice (but like me, loves all other juies), and is detail oriented. She loves these kids as much as we do, and they love her, too. She has been such a help to us, and we are so impressed with her English skills. She translates our legal documents as well as helps us at the grocery store; she's all we need, but more importantly, she's our newest friend.

Dad and Yuri (I guess we can start writing Shaun)


Matt and Dima (also call him "Punya" - it's a shortened version of his last name)


We have been very touched by how much the director of the orphanage, Victor (pictured about with Natasha and Yuri), loves the kids, and how well they respond to him, too. They go running up to him when they see him, and we wanted to get a picture of him before we left. He's known these children for a very long time.
So now that the weekend is over we were able to get back to the business of the adoption. We are in the process of being assigned a judge for our case so that Oleg can return to Kiev and get the paper he needs from the SDA to proceed. Oleg has been working tirelessly for us, and is just constantly running around and talking on the phone. The inspector, Valeria, finished our conclusion (I think it's called) today, as well, so we are on track with our plan.
Today we played UNO with the kids for a long time, and were at the orphanage all afternoon. We stop at the market and bring them some sort of treat every day (ice cream bars, chips, etc.). Maybe we should try to be more healthy, but lets be honest... when I was kid I totally wanted an ice cream bar on a hot summer day. And these days are unbearably hot.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ukraine Adoption - Day 7 (Sumy)

Today we began with church at 10am in the Sumy branch, which was a wonderful experience. Pictured above from left to right are: Elder Dem'yanov (from Russia), Aleksei (I'll tell you his story in a minute), Matt, Cher, Elder Stirling (who was also adopted from an orphanage at age 15 and is now serving his mission!), Elder Young from California and Elder McArthur.
Aleksei's story really touched us today and has been on our minds all day. Aleksei is deaf, and knows Russian Sign Language and can also read lips (in Russian) very well. He converted to the church 15 years ago, and as a result, his wife left him and forbid him to see their daughter. She was 15 the last time he saw her. As if this wasn't enough, Aleksei rides his bike 3 hours to church each Sunday, without fail, and then 3 hours back home, as the Sumy branch is the closest to his home. We just couldn't believe the sacrifice he has made for his testimony of the gospel. He has been to the temple only once (Germany is the closest) and he is so excited to go this summer to the new Kiev temple. We watched him pay his tithing, and we watched a sweet sister in the ward come sit by him to write notes on paper while the church speakers gave their prepared talks. He is the kindest man, and was so pleasant and optimistic/joyful to talk to. We look forward to seeing him each Sunday.
This is me outside the door of the church.

After church we picked up the kids and took them out for the day. They wanted McDonald's (of course), and then we spent the afternoon at a park on a lake. They quickly and without hesitation jumped into the water and played. It was a very fun day.

And these sweet ladies are our babushkas... they sit outside of our apartment building each afternoon/night and visit with each other. Oleg, our facilitator, calls them the building "alarm system" as they would make the biggest scene if anyone were to try any funny business. We asked if we could take a picture with them and they all passed around the camera afterward to look at the picture. They were so cute.