Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Big Fat Ukrainian Wedding

When we went out with our Ukrainian friends a week ago, they gave us their wedding disc so we could watch it. Since we are leaving tomorrow, we felt obligated to watch it today. I am telling you, it looked like the funnest- and longest- wedding reception ever! They told us it was very traditional so I feel like we got a good glimpse of what the weddings are like here.

This is how it went....
Bride and groom drive up to the front of the resturant. When they get out of the car, everyone throws rose petals and pops balloons.
The parents are waiting near the door with two glasses of wine, fancy bread with salt on top and a long embroidered Ukranian cloth (we had this at our wedding for those of you who went). Some speech in Russian...Bride and Groom take a big piece of bread and dip it in the salt (I tried to eat our bread and Marty told me it was like 20 years old). They feed each other and wash it down with the wine. I think I remember Marty telling me it was a parent blessing and it was to give you health and prosperity?
They go in the resturant and everyone sits on long tables. You go up to the bride and groom and say something to them and put money and a card into the giant jar with the "$" sign on it.

No speeches, you just start to drink. There was a lot of footage of shots being poured, bottles being opened.

Then there is the feast! I have never seen so much food on one table in my life! Pickles, fruit, whole grilled fish, meat, salad, meat and more meat.

The auction starts. There are several bottles of alcohol on the table and people bid on them. The money goes to the bride and groom and the alcohol goes to the highest bidder.

Then the games start. The best man and maid of honor did not get off easy with no speech. They don't have time, they have to start drinking in order to endure what they are forced to do next. They are the ones who have to entertain the guests for the next hour playing the games.

The bride's shoes were taken from her (not sure why) and the games begin.

Game #1- The BM (best man) and the MOH (maid of honor) sit on a bag filled with marbles. They have to move their bums around to try and guess how many are in there. The MOH won this one.

Game #2- the BM got on the dance floor with two other guys. They all had to put on blindfolds and start to dance. They told the two guys to leave the dance floor and the BM is dancing alone the whole song. He lifts his blindfold and sees he is alone and everyone laughs.

Game #3- Three people put as many suckers in their mouth as possible and try to say something.

Game #4- MOH has to wear the blindfold and give the BM a lap dance. She starts to dance and they switch him up with an old guy. Blindfold comes off...everyone laughs.

Game #5- The MOH has to lie down on some chairs and they place chocolates all the way down her body. The BM has to put the blindfold on, find the chocolates and eat them off of her body. They switch the MOH with a guy so the BM is eating chocolates off of his friend. A few times, he almost kisses his friend. Blindfold off...big laughs!

Game #6- BM dresses up like a girl, MOH dresses up like a guy. They have to dance together.

Then the groom and four of his friends come out with no shirt on and tutus and tiaras. They dance to Swan Lake.

Bride gets her shoes back.

Everyone then goes outside for the fireworks show. It is a serious show of fireworks that lasts about 5 minutes on the video.

Game #7- Grandmas have to dress two full grown men in baby clothes. They have to feed them a baby bottle full of alcohol. The first one done wins.

A couple more games were played and then there is the bouquet toss and garter throw.
Then there is a very serious candle dance. Everyone gets in a circle and holds a candle and the bride and groom dance in the middle. It was very serious. Then it is all over.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

We are home






We got home late Thursday night. It was sad to go through customs with just three people. Every hour that passed during our trip home felt like we were getting farther and farther away from our son- emotionally and physically.

We took the night train from Melitopel on Monday night, arrived in Kiev to finish the paper to the SDA and get the American Embassy papers taken care of. Then, we took the 3 hour journey to Voss's orphanage to visit for an hour. He doesn't really remember anything except what he saw in the old videos. When we walked in, we noticed a lot of new construction. The doors throughout the whole place were new and all the hallways were recovered with paneling. When we went up to the director's office, we ran into the nurses. They looked at Voss for a second and had to say his name a few times before they realized it was really him! They kept talking about how his face has nice color (I thought he was pretty pale since we have not seen the son for SEVEN WEEKS!) how healthy he was and the dark circles under his eyes were gone. His dark circles are a side effect of his kidney disease and he needs to drink a lot of water and take his vitamin sprays to get them under control. They were happy to see him and talked about how big his belly used to be and were making jestures like he used to be quite the serious one (no translator so we had a hard time understanding). Ha! Look at him now! At times, we can't get him to stop laughing. Love heals.

We were brought down to his classroom next. I was hoping his favorite teacher was going to be there so I could thank her for taking good care of him and nuturing him all that time. She was there!! She came out and looked at him for a moment with a confused look on her face. Then she recognized him. "Vasyl!" She was smiling and a bit teary eyed. At least, that is what it looked like through my teary eyes. She was amazed at how good he looked and how healthy he was. She kept grabbing for him, but Voss allowed only a short hug.

We went in and all the memories came crashing back to us. It was all pretty much the same layout, but there was all new furniture, paint on the walls, bright yellow wallpaper, a new kitchen with a stove, and TV. Wow, how is there this fancy orphanage here and Ruslan's is such a rundown mess? This must be where all the Ukrainian Nationals are brought to adopt babies. Another one of his old teachers were there and she showed me a photo of Voss that she still had on her cell phone! Over two years and she still had his photo in there! They showed us old photos from a few Christmases ago- right before we adopted Voss. He was not smiling in one of those pictures. He looked so tiny and sad and alone. Voss did not like living in the orphanage and it was detremental to his health. He is more emotional and living there was very stressful for him. The stress caused him to get sick which landed him in the hospital every 4 to 6 weeks. So, when looking at the old photos, I noticed that he was just not there some of the time. I figured he was in the hospital.

Voss sat down and had a snack with the kids. Of course, it was very dairy based, but he had the rice pudding and pushed the milk away. We took lots of pictures and played on the floor a bit. It was a really strange feeling being there again. The good news was that there were only 9 babies there. They all looked really healthy except for one.

With all of the improvements, we hope that Voss remembers the orphange with good feelings in his heart.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Update

We have come to terms with everything. Better yet, Ruslan was not upset with the news. It was actually excellent timing bringing the gifts (report in a later blog) to the orphanage with us. Ruslan was happy to to have his family bring things to the orphanage. He was telling the kids that we have to finish some paperwork and he will be leaving in about a month.

Here is where we are now. Tonight we ride the overnight from Melitopol to Kiev. This was already booked on friday before we heard the news. Our return ticket was cancelled. We fly out of Kiev Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. on our way back to San Diego. Tomorrow is a packed day. We start with signing the paperwork at the american consulate so that I can complete the adoption process as a Canadian. We also go to our good friends at the SDA and ensure our paperwork for the interpol clearance is signed and submitted. Right after that we take a 3 hr ride to Cherkassy to visit Voss's old orphanage. 3 hours back to Kiev to the apartment and prepare to leave at 4 a.m. the next morning to the airport.

How did this happen? Well we had been receiving emails from the consulate on a new interpol requirement to be implemented for any NEW dossiers submitted after Feb 1st. Somehow the Ukrainian government instituted this requirement early AND included all prior submitted applications. We have since talked to a few people and with DIMA and have attempted to understand if there is a way around this. He has assurred us that there is not. ....until we made him disucss the situation today with the SDA. Apparently they will be discussing how this is affecting current adopting families and will issue an official statement later today. It is possible, although remotely, that current dossiers may be allowed to continue without this requirement. We keep our fingers crossed, and ask for your prayers, in hoping for good news. With that being said we are all packed and ready to leave tonight.

One last note. The previously communicated 40 days may in actuality be only 10 days. All rumors and speculation so we will see how the chips fall.

So please don't worry that we are not ok. We are. ...although I am not sure Voss would like to hear the news if we are going to stay here any longer past Wednesday ;-).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Donations put to good use


We went to the orphanage yesterday to break the news to Ruslan that we were going to have to go home without him. The smile left his face and he looked a bit sad. His friends started to ask questions and I heard him say something about documents and then it looked like he was telling them that it was going to be OK. He was comforting them! He is probably used to being let down by life all the time, so he bounced back pretty quickly and told us to come with them to play ping-pong ball.

A month ago, we asked the boys what they had to do here besides TV and they said they have a ping-pong table but no raquets or balls. Thanks to an early donator (who gave me $ before we left to go get the kids at the orphanage something) they now have ping-pong balls and raquets. The room was packed with kids watching and playing.

Today, we were really excited to go to the sports store and pick up the basketball net and all the balls. Since we had gotten a lot of donations, we were able to get a whole lot more than we originally planned. Here is what we were able to purchase; the basketball net set-up, 6 basketballs, 4 soccer balls, 2 volley balls, a couple of cat's cradles for the girls, a gymnastics mat, a couple domino games, a chess set, 4 more ping pong paddles with balls, socks (lots of wool socks), tights for the girls (they wear them under their pants for warmth, and a birthday cake for Vadeem, one of Ruslan's best friends. The kids were not just excited they were in SHOCK! They could not believe they had just gotten all of this good stuff! Kids were similing everywhere!

Thank you all very much for helping us do that today! It was a fun day!



Due to the recent developments, we will be leaving for San Diego in the next few days. We will not be able to allocate any more donations between now and then. We just want to say thank-you for all the support and if you would like to donate either clothes or money then we can put them all to good use when we return.

Friday, January 22, 2010

News

The SDA has issued a new requirement to all adopting families. No exceptions. An Interpol clearance is needed to continue. This clearance is rumored to accompany a 40 day waiting period. We found out a few hours ago.

Bad luck? Maybe.

What this means is that our court date has been cancelled until our paper has cleared. We have made it through the initial shock and are trying to piece together our next steps. Foremost is considering how Ruslan will feel about the delay.

Most likely we will be traveling back to San Diego very soon and regrouping. We feel like our family is being torn apart. We will post more when we know more.

Donate to the Orphans

**Update**
We quickly reached our goal andthen some. THANK-YOU! Please see the Newer post. Please don't feel obligated to donate, but if you do know that it will be put to good use upon our return.

----------------------------------------------------------

Our initial plan was grand. We thought we could put together a plan to build a full playground. After a little research and some unreturned emails we decided to scale back a little bit. We talked with the director and he was ecstatic at the thought of installing an outdoor basketball net. Furthermore we noticed that a lot of the orphans clothes are old and could use replacing. We deicided a focus on the basics would be the best way to start: socks and underwear.

So in response to everyone's reply to help out we have the following goal(buying the equipment is better than donating $$ because you never really know where it goes):

Basketball net, backboard, balls and pump - including installation (director mentioned he can get it installed) est $200

Socks and Underwear: $100

....and depending on how things go we have seen a few other things that would be great for the kids (they have absolutely nothing to do but watch tv). There is a contraption that would be great for exercise including chinup bar, benchpress, etc, etc. Also mats, heavy bag, boxing gloves would be a possibility (maybe not). We'll see how things go.

So our initial goal is $300. Please donate what you can, even if it is $5. You can send the money by clicking on the following link (you do not need an account to send $$, only a credit card - just click the link on the bottom left of the paypal page):

We will keep a running total in the blog and also take pictures of the equipment once it is purchased.

Thanks!

Friday Jan 22nd Weather Forcast

Weather Forcast:


Friday
Overcast. High: -6 °C . Wind NE 28 km/h . Windchill: -16 °C .
Friday Night
Overcast. Low: -11 °C . Wind NE 28 km/h . Windchill: -19 °C .
Saturday
Overcast. High: -9 °C . Wind NE 32 km/h . Windchill: -21 °C .
Saturday Night
Overcast. Low: -16 °C . Wind NNE 32 km/h . Windchill: -25 °C .
Sunday
Overcast. High: -14 °C . Wind NNE 28 km/h . Windchill: -27 °C .
Sunday Night
Scattered Clouds. Low: -20 °C . Wind North 25 km/h . Windchill: -29 °C .
Monday
Clear. High: -15 °C . Wind North 21 km/h . Windchill: -30 °C .
Monday Night
Clear. Low: -19 °C . Wind NNW 14 km/h . Windchill: -27 °C .
Tuesday
Clear. High: -14 °C . Wind NW 14 km/h . Windchill: -26 °C .

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Going Native



1. go native35 up, 2 down love it hate it
Used humorously, to go native means to take on some (or all) of the culture traits of the people around you, often said of people who go to foreign countries or far away cities. These traits may include dress, language, accent, etiquette, religion, etc.

Important: The common use of the phrase does not have anything to do Native Americans.
1: When he visited China he loved the culture so much that he disappeared and went native.

2: Better keep her away from the village. She might just go native on you.

(Copied from the Urban Dicionary)
The other day, I was joking with Zenon that we are going to "go native" soon and, well, it has actually happened. Today, we all resembeled the locals; Voss walked around talking as loudly as possible on the cell phone, Zenon (the jean snob) actually bought a pair of Ukrainian jeans and was sporting them all over town (he was
forced to buy a pair since one of his two pairs was completely ripped after the snowball fight at the orphanage), and I bought a pair of fur-lined high boots.
I even stopped by the fur supply store to pick up some fur bling for family and
friends back home. I considered pimping out Zenon's Northface coat with a fur
collar, but they just didn't go together. Zenon thought it would be fun to give
Voss the "Ukrainian mullet" haircut, but I will never go THAT native. Let me explain the Ukrainian Mullet....totally shaved with the half inch clippers with the exception
of a thin row of long hair at the nape of the neck and thin bangs about to the mid-forehead. It is the same haircut Voss had when we first met him (you can check
out our old posts from his adoption to see what I am talking about.) We walk
around with serious looks on our faces. And when someone stares at us, we stare right back and don't look away. We even get excited to go out for meat pockets!
Ugh! Get us out of here before it is too late!

Court Date

We finally got the approval from Berdansk. It was touch and go for a day, but Vitali worked it out and made it happen. What? Don't we sound excited? We will be excited when we are in the airport in San Diego! As far as our court date...we were told that it is next Friday. Hopefully, that date will stick. There is always that chance that it will change. We are happy to finally get the preliminary date, but frustrated when we worked out how much longer we will have to stay here.

Zenon took one for the team yesterday when he didn't tell me anything about the phone call he had with Vitali on Wednesday night (he is the best husband). I guess Vitali was very worried that we did not get the papers and was thinking that we might not get them ever! Poor Zenon waited until 2: 30 the next day to finally call Vitali to see if he had any news. Vitali was supposed to call in the morning, but I guess he decided that he would make us wait until he was done with all the paperwork for the day. We would have waited until 6PM! When Zenon got him on the phone, he was in a great mood at the orphanage finishing all the paperwork. Nice. Thanks for giving Zenon an ulcer Vitali.

(Note to anyone adopting from here in the future...no one wants to talk about future good possibilities. They really focus on all the bad things that could happen. I mean, why get your hopes up? This is a country filled with people with little hope.)

So, we will see how things go tomorrow. I think me and Voss will leave by the 31st. Zenon will finish up here with Ruslan. He drew the short straw.

Meeting in Berdansk

I know some of you are waiting to hear the news and we are still waiting as well. The meeting was held yesterday and the approval letter was faxed to Vitali. We are just waiting for the mayor's signature and then it will go off to theSDA in Kiev this evening. We hope to get the court date today. Hopefully, it will be as soon as next week. I am hoping for tomorrow...but there is no chance of that I am sure.

It snowed here so we were actually able to do somthing a little different today...go for a walk with Voss's sled. We made it to the (stinky) internet cafe and then who knows what adventures will come our way today. All three of us are starting to talk like Eyore (sp? from winnie the pooh). Hopefully we can snap out of it.

Thanks for everyone who has called, e-mailed and put comments into our blog. We don't feel so alone over here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ruslan

We went to visit Ruslan today. He looks really happy and even looks like he has some color in his cheeks. He showed us around the sleeping quarters...finally! We got the grand tour... all the highlights... the rug where they wrestle, break dance, karate, and do gymnastics moves, the TV room with hard benches to sit on and watch tv, and the weights that belonged to one of the older boys. There were several posters from McGills skateshop (in Encinitas) so I am sure that Ruslan got a lot of kudos for bringing cool posters to the orphanage. There were not any other posters or pictures up on the walls, so I am glad he brought them. We finally met his best friend. He must have been gone for the holidays because we have never met him until today. His name is Vitali and he looks like the sweetest little guy. All of the boys seem very sweet and thoughtful with each other. Sure they wrestle and kick the crap out of each other, but they always make sure the other guy is Ok afterwards and that the blood isn't getting all over the carpet.

Ruslan seems to be very comfortable with us. He is trying to talk and answer all our questions in English. He is even posing for pictures which is something that we really have not been able to do. It is amazing what happens to a person when they feel loved. It is the greatest gift you can give to someone. It must be such a lonely feeling knowing that someone won't stick their neck out for you. I can almost tell which kids at the orphanage still have family who visit because they are the ones who still have some softness in their eyes. Some color.

The first time I saw Ruslan at the airport in New York, he scared me a little. He had fear in his eyes. It was a look like he was not afraid to punch me if I tried anything tricky. I remember that most the other kids were smiling and hugging their host families (some knew them from past trips or had received a letter or two before the trip). Ruslan did not want to look anyone in the eye or -God forbid- hug anyone! He looked scared. And skinny. We grouped together with some of the other kids and their hosts to find our way to connecting flights. One of the kids, Victor
(who is finally being adopted), had shoes on that were way to small on him and he could barely walk. Our guess was that they were the newest shoes at the orphanage and so they put those on him. Or maybe, he squished his feet into them just so he could wear new shoes. We made him take them off and walk around in his socks. He looked at us really funny because- who in their right mind would walk around without shoes? Ukrainians NEVER go without shoes, even in the house. Once those shoes came off, he let out a sigh of relief and smiled. One of the girls was a fiery redhead and was already telling English jokes and was the skinniest thing I had ever seen! She was just adopted by a family in Italy (Good, get some pasta and gelato into that girl!) And then there was our guy, the quiet apprehensive one that had the saddest eyes.

We all weighted ourselves on the baggage scale and every host parent there was silently calculating how much weight they can try to put on the child before they had to go back to the orphanage. Ruslan gained 5 pound in 3 weeks. Not bad. He didn't eat much at first because he was busy riding the bike for the 100th time around the house or was having a meltdown in his bedroom. After week two, he came out of his protective shell a little and started to eat. A lot. His favorite thing was (and still is) chicken and he also loves french fries and fruit- any kind of fruit. We would go to the grocery store and he would start to grab anything that looked like fruit and put it in the cart. He got a little daring after a few trips and got a pineapple and a mango. He also loved trail mix with m & m's and macadamia nuts. He could go through a pound of macadamias in a day!

Then there was the behavior. OH, the behavior! I can't tell you how many times we tried to go to pizza port to eat pizza and play video games. He did not want to eat pizza, he hates pizza, and did not want to play video games. The fact was, he had no idea what we were talking about, but the 11 year old mind likes to think that they know everything. We finally got him to go on one of his last nights there and I think he was a little peeved that he didn't agree to go sooner.

Much of his stay with us was dealing with melt downs and him retreating into his room under the blankets for an hour or so. We called the translator almost every day to get him to understand what we were saying and that "Let's go to the zoo" did not mean "We are going to take you somewhere really boring and make you eat pizza with mayonnaise and lard." And it never really got better. We all had big bags under our eyes after that three week "vacation." I think we all were going to bed at 8PM every night.

So, his eyes aren't so scared, he trusts us a little now and he knows we stuck it out in this god forsaken #@!#$* country so we could bring him home with us. We are making some progress.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Boeuf Bourguignon

OK, so things here have really hit a new level on the boring scale. Cindy fired up "Julie and Julia" last night, a movie about Julia Childs (about as exciting as it sounds). Today we scrambled together all the ingredients for Boeuf Bourguignon, with the exception of thyme, and the concoction is sitting in the oven right now. It took a half hour alone to find just the beef stock in the grocery store. I was on my own because the women working there had no idea what I meant when I said "do you have any beef juice". It gave us something to do today.

Henry, our cab driver, has been calling twice per day for the last 3 days. Tomorrow he will be picking us up to take us to a religious ceremony. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the baptism of Christ. He is pretty excited about taking us. When he calls he yells into the phone. I have to yell back in engrussian so he can hear me. Cindy says I talk to loud but I am just trying to fit in.

Voss has become a selective listener. Cindy believes he is done with being here. That left me as the lone holdout who didn't mind our surroundings.......until yesterday. I am finally done too. One of the things that got to me was that I started getting B.O.. It's not right. It must be the food or something. The other thing was finally realizing that we are in a part of Ukraine that has no Ukrainians, only Russians.

We bought Voss a stuffed cow that sings a Russian lullaby, and he named it Marley. He really misses his friends. In the butcher shop, we noticed that he was wiping his eyes a lot and then realized he was crying. He really misses his grandma today. I think he is a little tired of us and would like a change of scenery.

So here is the latest. We went on Friday to pick up Ruslan from the orphanage. Vitalli phoned in ahead and we figured everything was set to go and Ruslan would be with us for the weekend. We got there and indeed everthing was set-upfor Ruslan to come with us. The only thing was that Ruslan didn't want to come. Can you believe that he would rather spend the weekend with his friends instead of locked up in an apartment doing nothing with a bot half his age! ;-) No problem, we didn't mind. We took our customary shots with the director and left feeling good. Voss had mixed feelings. Sad because Ruslan wasn't coming. Happy because the director gives away lots of chocolate (and pickled tomatoes) after a few shots.

Right now it is Monday night. Cindy is listening to a book on tape, Voss is in bed, and I am contemplating going to sleep soon (it is 7:30). Tomorrow Vitali comes back into town. We plan on visiting Ruslan with Vitali around noon, after our time with Henry at the Jesus ceremony. Wednesday is when the rubber meets the road. All our waiting comes down to wednesday. The panel of bureaucrats in Berdansk will meet then and decide the fate of splitting Ruslan from his brothers. We have been told it is just a formality.

Maybe we will take pictures and share how the cooking experiment worked out.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Quiz Results

Awesome! Quiz is now closed. Here are the answers:

1) 6 eggs
2) pizza, not the mayonnaise kind (cilantanos is the only place that serves something that resembles american food)
3) 3 bowling alleys. It was also confirmed that Melitopol has only 3 bowling alleys so we have seen them all.
4) Speaks Russian
5) Vitali
6) Dima
7) Feta cheese
8) Cartoshka
9) Spiderman

Brianna = 6
Mike = 4
Bree = 5
Jennifer = 5

So to summarize. Brianna wins! ....and Mike comes in last place. The good news is that everyone wins something nice from Ukraine, a bottle of medicinal cognac. ...and Briana wins an additional prize tbd.

By the way, congratulations on the engagement Bree.

What do you do after Ukrainian sushi?

We went for lunch at the Smile Cafe the other day. We were told it was a sushi place. We got the menu and it had lots of pictures in it (like Denny's) so we thought of ourselves as lucky and ordered some cool things...or so we thought.

Zenon picked the picture of a silver bowl with mushrooms and seafood and cheese. It looked good. Voss picked the chicken soup. Can't go wrong with Chicken soup. I picked a cool looking thing that sort of looked like a dumpling tied at the top with a bow.

So, let me tell you what we really ordered; Zenon- a strange seafood mix with all of the seafood he does not like (a.k.a mussels) topped with some creamy sauce. Yuck. Voss- Chicken soup. Good stuff. He is the only smart one of the group. Me- a crepe filled with kidney and liver stew tied at the top with a green onion. I took one bite. Yuck! How is that sushi?

Afterwards, we finally found the big park. Here we are having fun.


New Year Trick-or-Treaters

On January 13th, Ukrainians celebrate the ancient New Year. Again, they come out and visit houses to say their poems for treats or money. Let me explain money....they are expecting COINS! Not bills.

On that night, we had three girls come to visit and recite their poem. We had no chocolate or fruit, so Zenon looked for some money. All he had were bills. The smallest denomination was a fiver (62 and a half cents). We gave each a five. One snatched it out of my hand so fast I almost got a paper cut.

Two minutes later, three boys show up at the door. They said something in Russian and I said I didn't understand. "Give me money." In English, just like that.

I said, "I don't have any money," and shut the door.

Humm? Maybe we are giving out too much money. Two seconds later, another ring at our door. Voss was in the bathroom freaking out about something so I decided not to answer. Note to self...Do not give trick-or-treaters any more than one coin.

Russian Poem


5 grevina for the person who can translate.

And it is called a "New Year Tree" not a Christmas tree here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The orphanage

I took some video of the orphanage since I figured some of you would be interested to see what it looks like. Notice the lack of outdoor entertainment? We would like to purchase some playground equipment and basketball nets if anyone would like to pitch in. We are looking into the costs now.

The drive to the orphanage

The entrance

The school

Box the orphanage dog



The cafeteria


Cute boys



Living quarters




In the directors office for the usual cognac, pickeled green tomatoes and chocolate breakfast


Orphanage puppies




Our night out on the town

We have made some Ukrainian friends. When Santa came to visit our house, his angel spoke English and called us a few days after to invite us to visit the water with them. Last Sunday, they took us to the hot springs. It was VERY cold that day! People go to the springs for health and sit in the waters to get rid of all their aches and pains (see videos). The kids had a great time being close to the water again. On the way to the sea, there were several stands set up selling fish. They were all dried and salted and hanging from a string. They bought us a string of fish so we had something to eat with our beer later (I don't know...fish that has been hanging outside for weeks?!).


On the car ride home, the couple (Tamara and Nicoli) continued to ask us several personal questions that we would normally never answer...but had no problem answering in this country. How much does Zenon make, how much do we pay for for our house, electric, gas, cars, taxes, why are we adopting Ruslan, etc.? All the most personal questions. From what we have read, Ukrainians have NO problems asking these questions. We were asked the same questions last time we were here. Of course we down played the responses a bit. I mean, the average salary here is less than a $1000 a month. We had no problem spending half of that outfitting our outer winter clothes for the trip here! We continued to compare costs of things and remembered how expensive life is in North America.

We invited them to dinner and asked them to take us to their favorite restaurant. Last night we went to Russian house. We had a traditional Ukrainian dish of potatoes, boiled steak and cheesy sauce. I don't like potatoes, only like my steak on the barbecue, but I ate it anyway. It wasn't to bad, actually. She ordered wine, something we don't drink here because the wine here is awful. It wasn't bad last night, but this morning I feel terrible. And I only had one glass!

After dinner, the music and dancing started. As it turns out, they brought us to a dance place. I noticed a stage, but didn't think twice about it. It was for the singer! They have live singing every night (where was the band?). I kept looking at him wondering why he was slightly "stiff" while singing and then I noticed the computer screen in front of him....Brianna and Rita are going to like this one....he was reading the lyrics from a screen! It was karaoke! Awesome! No, we didn't sing. It wasn't really like that. He was the star of the show and didn't ask if anyone else wanted to sing. He did have a great voice. Voss was having a great time dancing. He was checking out the girls in the really short skirts who were there for a birthday party. I think him and Kent need to go out on the town one night. Maybe when he is ten.







Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday Night

I set the alarm for 5:00 am with a plan to wake up and do some work. After not being able to fall asleep I am aimlessly surfing the net and and losing another online tournament. I will try and update you with the latest trivial happenings.

On Tuesday we went to a new bowling alley to check it out. We heard there was good sushi. I was surprised that it was so good (maybe it's just my lack of variety has lowered my standards?). It was actually a Japanese style restaurant off the side. We went bowling afterwards, just Voss and me. I racked up a 109, and Voss was a little frustrated with his 42. I don't mind taking the win because I really don't think my 109 will hold up much longer.

The girl working at the alley spoke English pretty well. I was surprised of course but she said she lived in Minnesota and Florida for a year studying agriculture. She said she likes the US and doesn't like Ukraine. That was when Cindy perked up and joined the conversation ;-)

Yesterday we met with Vitali. He is frustrated with everything but still trying hard to see what he can do. We told him to use his charm to make things happen (he didn't know we were joking about the charm thing).

The elections are in full swing. There are booths set up on the sidewalks. There was an old lady getting literature from the USSR party tent, red flag and all. Maybe communism is on the ballot?

On the way home I stopped for a $3 haircut again. We then stopped for vegetables and chicken to make some chicken soup at home which turned out pretty good.

Today we rolled out at about 11 and made our way towards the little cafe Cindy found in the mall. We started out at the pharmacy and found the prescription cognac. Not sure yet what to do with it. Voss was excited when we got to the little mall because there was one of those toy machines with the mechanical arm inside. You know, the ones where you spend about $5 to try and pick up a $1 stuffed animal and always leave with nothing. Well his reward for having a good walk yesterday was to hit up the same type of machine at a different mall downtown. The problem is that a few days prior, when I turned my back for a minute, Voss jammed all the coins he had from his pocket into the machine trying to get more turns. Problem was that he was stuffing the equivalent of pennies into a quarter machine and jammed it up. He was upset when we went back there yesterday and the machine was out of order. Now you can understand why he was doubly excited at finding another working machine.

We hung out there for a while andthen over to our favorite restaurant for a bite to eat. On the way home we picked up a bunch of eggs because we are going to pick up Ruslan tomorrow for the weekend. Our last stop was at the convenience store for a few beer. Cindy went in and came back out after a few minutes with a disgusted look on her face. In the store she was grabbing the beer out of the cooler and knocked a can off the shelf and when it hit the floor it popped a leak. It proceeded to spray Cindy and the 4 people around her. It was funny hearing Cindy tell the story because I could see that she didn't get embarrassed. It was even funnier when she realized that she was charged for the can that fell and popped a leak!

I bought a subscription at an online movie site called megavideo. We have access to almost any movie now. Voss just watched HOOK the other night. Just before bed tonight he asked if he could go with Peter Pan to never never land if Peter showed up during the night. He was given the green light as long as he promised to return before morning.

It's now 12:45 and I will go turn off the alarm. Seeing as it is my turn to wake up with Voss I will have a 6:30 wake-up call anyhow.

...by the way keep the comments coming. We look forward to reading them.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Following Mom's Advice

We are taking our Mother's advice and not saying anything if we have nothing nice to say. If we were to say what is on our minds, it would be a post with a four letter word in between every word along with more swear words. The holidays are over and the reality of our situation here has hit us again like a ton of bricks. It was really hard to be positive yesterday and we are trying to get more information today. I hope to post some good news later. Again, please send positive thoughts.

It's not as bad as it sounds though. We expected to have some paperwork completed on Monday or Tuesday but have been told that it will not be addressed until the 20th. No other steps can be completed before this next step is completed. Therefore we are delayed another 2 weeks. At this point we are trying to understand how to coordinate this with work. I may have to travel back to San Diego to work for a few weeks and come back for the important court dates.

Voss has a book and it has my favorite story in it. It is about an old Chinese farmer. One day the farmer's horse runs away. His neighbors come by and say to the farmer "oh, such bad luck you have" The farmer replies "maybe".
The next day the horse comes back and brings with it a wild stallion. The farmer's neighbors see this and say to the farmer "oh, such good luck you have". The farmer says "maybe".
The next day the farmer's son breaks his leg trying to ride the wild stallion. The neighbors say "oh, what bad luck you have". The farmer says "maybe".
The next day the army travels through conscripting all the able young men from the countryside. The farmer's son is spared since he is not capable to fight with his broken leg.

So it's not always a bad idea to try and look past the bad news and hope the good won't be far behind.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Saturday Bus ride

After our walk downtown, where we exchanged the rubber basketball that would not stay inflated, the guys rode the bus back to home base. We waited on the #24 and Cindy helped us on with 2 scooters, 2 filled grocery bags, 2 boys, and a stroller. The bus was packed and I stood blocking the door of the Van sized Bus.

Voss has a fairly high decible level and immediately blows our cover in public (as if the yard sale of stuff we were carrying with us didn't already). I always have to remind him to whisper. The bus started moving and Voss tripped a little (all 3 of us were standing). I grabbed his jacket with my one remaining finger. The lady seated behind him cleared her lap and offered Voss a seat on her lap. My immediate reaction was to say no, but then I think, "Why not? This type of thing is normal in Ukraine." I told Voss to sit on her lap and he cautiously obliges. Let me tell you! That was the quietest I have heard him in the last month! He didn't say a peep for the 10 minute ride! Was it strange that I allowed Voss to sit on a complete stranger's lap? Well, in the U.S. I am sure it would be a completely uncomfortable situation if anyone offered such a thing, but it felt OK here.

Ruslan had been super patient all day (and Voss) so I offered the internet cafe around the corner. I left a note for Cindy and we went to the internet cafe. It was small and stinky -like the other one- and there were about 12 boys waiting to use the 4 computers. The attendant said the wait would be well over an hour. I consulted with Ruslan and he had a few thoughts...he wanted to go to the other cafe which was 15 minutes away...or he wanted to wait here for a computer. I told him that both were not options and asked if he wanted to go earlier tomorrow and try. He did not like that response and stopped talking to me. Not good.

So what to do now? He said he was going to stand there and wait and that Voss and I could go home. No can do! It's such a delicate situation that always has the potential to spiral uncontrollably downward when he feels like something has happened that isn't fair. It's so easy to say, "If you are going to act like this then forget the internet cafe tomorrow!" Right? Wrong. He needs space and needs to be given a way to make a different decision. I gave him 10 minutes then explained how Cindy may be waiting for us and get worried since we have the only house key. After a few minutes, he just said "LET'S GO!" and started speed walking back to the apartment. He was out of site in no time while Voss and I were trying to keep up.

We have been reading this excellent book: Beyond Logic, Consequences, and Control. The book is excellent and really helps us consider a different perspective. In a nutshell, children who have come from tramatic backgrounds have defaulted to a different way of handling stressful and confusing situations. Their wiring doesn't allow them to objectively process things when in a stressful state. Therefore, the traditional parenting method of logic, consequences, and control just add fuel to the fire. For example, in a stressful situation he tells us to go fly a kite and we respond saying you lose XYZ privilege. He becomes more out of control, doesn't learn anything, and no one is better off. It is a long term goal (not a problem because we have time ;-)). In the heat of the moment, we need to reaffirm our support and love and allow the child a way to feel comfortable about calming down. Once the situation is back to normal, maybe an hour or so, take the child aside and explain how lying, stealing(etc.) hurts other people and it is not the best way to handle things. Reaffirm love, support, and that we are always here to listen. I hope we aren't speaking too soon, but we have really seen some great results so far. We both wish we had know these things earlier.

After a half hour, Ruslan acted as if nothing happened. We talked about what could be done differently next time and all was back to normal. We have already done this strategy numerous times and he has already changed a few bad habits! Pleeeeaase let this be the answer to our prayers!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Quiz

Whoever posts all the correct results first, OR whoever posts the most correct results will win a special prize from Melitopol (delivery TBD): post in comments section:

(rules: limit 1 entry per person. Some of these answers may be in previous posts, some not. Some answers will be complete guesses. Promised prize to be well worth the effort!)

1) How many eggs does Ruslan eat on average each morning? (answer is not 1 dozen)

2) Our favorite restaurant serves a specialty, what is it?

3) How many bowling alleys have we found in Melitopol?

4) What is Voss's new favorite thing to do?

5) What is the name of our Melitopol Facilitator?

6) What is the name of our Kiev Facilitator?

7) What kind of cheese has Cindy found that she tries to eat in a salad every night?

8) Which of the following is the Russian word for Potatoe?
a) Potatoeshka
b) Hryvna
c) Cartoshka

9) What superhero movie did we buy yesterday (in Russian) for Ruslan to watch in San Diego?

Quiz closes Friday at 10 pm.

Fur

We continue our social observations here in Ukraine. Due to some recent observational activity of Melitopel culture, a couple of our questions have been answered today.

Question #1. What type of business is the one around the corner where there is always a frenzied type of line inside the store and -one day- a large frenzied crowd waiting outside as well?

It was the butcher shop. People have been going there to get their Christmas Turkey. They must run out of turkeys at some point in the day and people try to get there early on the days of the delivery to secure their Holiday Turkey.

Question #2. How does every woman afford a fur coat? Every woman has some fur on them somewhere; coats, hats, boots, collars, around the hood. Most are wearing a year's salary of fur on their person. How is this possible? Are they just really good savers? And how is it that I have never seen the same coat twice? They are all different.

I found a fur supply store today at the mall. On one of the larger racks is a row of all types of animal pelts for sale. For a small amount, you can buy our animal pelt and have a coat made for you. You get to pick the fur, the hood, the collar, and the style. Or, go get a coat at the market for cheap and add the fur collar. Several pre-made collars were available for sale and you just sew it on to whatever coat you have. Or, you can buy fur by the yard (about two to three inches thick) and you sew it on to the arm cuffs and around the hood of your $30 coat (a very popular style). Don't forget your hat! You can buy a fur pom pom for the top of your knit ski hat. If you are on the less creative side, you can buy a fur coat all made and designed for you. A cute waist length full fur, with big fur hood, is around $125.00. For a leopard print one with a little more style, $225.00! I personally liked the full mink trench coat. I think it was the most expensive in the store and I didn't want to touch it to look at the price or I would have had five Russian speaking sales people on me trying to get me to buy it. Ukrainians are very good sales people. I bought a necklace and tablecloth today that I didn't really want, but I was not leaving their stores empty handed! I did not want to get talked into a full mink coat too.

Chocolate


Every time I turn around, someone is giving Voss some chocolate. One of the women at the orphanage gave him a few chocolates (without asking me....they don't bother asking the parents here) and I found him facing a corner, chowing down on chocolate! He had chocolate all over his face, as grandma will attest to the fact that Voss always has food on his face. At the time, I thought it was only one chocolate, but later I found AT LEAST 5 chocolate wrappers in his pocket.

Voss is allergic to milk. He gets a very "strong" reaction when he drinks it. Has anyone ever seen Gremlins? Yeah, this is similar to what happens to Voss when he drinks milk. Eating chocolate is close to drinking milk for him. He gets wild and starts biting (I am not kidding). If I would have thought of it, I would have had our translator write a big sign to tie around Voss's neck that says, "Do not feed me chocolate or I will bite you."

One day, me and Voss decided to make an art project with all the wrappers and papers from boxes of chocolate. Here is Voss's mask. He wore it around all day outside. That was all we needed...people having another reason to stare at us. But at least they were not staring at me so much.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Boys

Our boys are doing great.

Ruslan is getting to know us and - I think- starting to trust us. He is really funny and does silly things and just waits for us to look at him and laugh. He eats about a dozen eggs a day (is that ok Marla?) and can down about 25 meat dumplings in a sitting. A bag full of tangerines lasts about a day and a half and roasted chicken?....well, don't get too close after you put him in front of one! We went to a cafe yesterday and he even came inside with us to sit for a second! Then, he went back outside to stand guard again. One of these days he will come in and sit with us and drink or even eat something. Considering where he has been for the last 6 years, he is doing better than expected. We have to take him back to the orphanage on Monday to start all the paperwork and court proceedings. It is going to be really strange here without him. He is totally cute. He let us know that he wants to get a hamster when we get home.

Voss misses his friends. The other day, he told me he wants to "go to Aunt Janet's house to have some vitamin water, because I haven't visited in a while and she always has good drinks at her house." He also drew a picture for his friend Dirk and has planned a playdate (in his head) with our neighbor, Noah. When we were out for a walk the other day, he noticed that a lot of kids were walking with their grandparents. He would make comments like, "Oh, is that his grandma? He looks happy," and, "Look at him. He get's to walk with his grandpa. I want to walk with my grandpa...my Dido." I asked him if he missed his grandmas and Dido and he got kind of quiet. He was either really sad or pretending that he can't understand English anymore since he speaks Russian now. That is his new favorite thing to do. He will put all of his Russian words together in one sentence and tell me I have to respond in Russian. He will say, "yes no good no thank you no your welcome," and wait for me to respond to it. He was talking in his sleep the other day and started to say "yes" and "no" in Russian. Maybe it is starting to stick?He really misses Bessell too.

Together, they are starting to bond. They share everything pretty well. They try to talk to each other and there are a lot of misunderstandings. Of course, Voss wants to do everything that Ruslan does and follows him around everywhere. Ruslan gets a bit annoyed sometimes. I walked into the living room the other day when they were watching TV and they were sitting on the couch with their arms around each other. It was really cute.

Now, let's get this process moving and get the hell out of here!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Merry Ukrainian Christmas Eve

Waiting. It seems like that's all we do.

Ruslan has been a bit depressed/scared and has refused to leave the house now for two days. We talked to him last night at dinner and after 20 minutes of trying to figure out what he was complaining about, it turns out that he really misses his friends. I immediately started to cry for him because I tried to think about how hard it would be to leave friends (who are more like family) at the age of twelve. Two seconds later, Voss started to cry too.

So, Zenon and Ruslan went to the orphanage today to see if we could take a few kids bowling. The director said no, made Zenon do a couple shots of cognac and sent them on their way. We still went bowling. I took Marty's advice and started my career as a bowling instructor. Zenon was my first student. I was knocking them down every time so I decided to let Zen in on my secret moves. I think he ended up winning the second round of bowling. Two Americans walked in during our game. What are they doing here!? I did like the rest of the Ukrainians and just stared at them.

When you are really bored and can't understand what anyone is saying, you tend to be more aware of what is going on around you. Lately, I have been noticing lines forming outside and inside places and have no idea what types of businesses they are. You know, with the different alphabet here and the fact that the Pimsler's "Learn Russin in 12 Easy Lessons" doesn't cover the alphabet - we can't even try to figure it out. So, I started to just line up with people or follow the crowd to see what kind of trouble I could get us into. Why not? We have NOTHING else to do.

A few days ago, we were walking around town and we noticed a few herds of families rushing into a building (everyone's always in a rush). I decided that I would follow. It turns out it was a theatre and there was some kind of Christmas show for little kids starting at some point. So me and Voss decided to go in and check it out. Most of the kids were dressed up in costumes. It was mostly girls, so there were MANY princesses. I figured it was the Nutcracker or something and they all like dress up like princesses. I did notice a stray bumble bee and Darth Vader. I didn't pay much attention. We went in and sat down wondering what we were in for and when it was going to start. Voss was scared that something was going jump out at him and was sitting veerrrrry close to me. I couldn't even comfort him since I had no idea what was going to happen.

As soon as the curtain opened, I immediately noticed that there was something off. It started with a witch and a bunch of animals talking and singing. After a few songs, I realized that the whole thing was lip synced...even the regular talking (that was the part that was making it "off"). The costumes and dancing were the worst things I had ever seen. The story appeared to be about some animals who were looking for their winter coats. I think the witch took them and the snow fairy helped them get their coats back. We kept waiting for Santa to show up since the billboard had a picture of Santa on it. No Santa. All of a sudden, the snow fairy and the animals were all waving good bye. Everyone got up within a split second and started rushing for the door (again rushing).

Voss and I managed to squeeze ourselves into the Christmas mosh pit to get out of the main theatre to let the crowd lead us outside. The crowd took a sharp right...away from the stairs that lead to the exit. We followed -without much of a choice- and both wondered aloud what was happening. We ended up at another smaller theatre and all the kids were in a giant circle holding hands and a giant Christmas tree was off to the side. Voss did not want any part of the hand-holding and had a death grip on my leg. One old woman tried to get him out there, "Go on little girl. Get up there." (I have to admit, his hair is quite long all of a sudden). Thankfully, Voss can not understand. Both of us wondered if THIS was when Santa would appear. Nope. Neptune, king of the ocean came out to talk to everyone. He pulled a wrench out of his pocket and everyone yelled "Nyet"...Russian "no." Then he pulls out a giant key and everyone yelled "Da (yes)." The witch came out again and gave up her key as well. Where is this going? An 8 (ish) year old girl came out and did a dance number in the middle of the circle with moves Beyonce could use in her newest music video...backless dress, short skirt, lots of make-up. Everyone broke up into smaller circles, started singing, and that was when they lost me and Voss. We left (Me and Voss have almost the same 2 minute attention span). I guess we will never know what happens next.

Later, I thought about the kids'costumes and remembered that I did see a few stores with costumes in the window and wondered if kids dressed up for Christmas like Americans do for Halloween.

Well, it gets better....This evening, we were sitting down for our second(or third?) Christmas Eve dinner of the season and the door bell rings. Who is that? We have no friends here? When I opened the door, there was a mother and her little girl standing there smiling and holding two bags half filled with food. The girl began reciting something in Russian...sounded like a poem or something. All I could think was, "Shoot, do I give her food? Should I wrap up the chicken to go? Are they hungry? They don't look poor. Are they gypsies? What is going on? I see chocolates and tangerines in her bag...I have a few in my purse, should I pass them on?" Not knowing what to do, I dumped about 10 chocolates into her bag, smiled and said, "Merry Christmas."

Zenon said, "Um, you may want to go easy on the chocolates, we may have more visitors. Let me call Dima and find out what this is all about."

Sure enough, the kids go trick or treating on Christmas Eve! Ha! That is the greatest!! And they have to memorize, like, a one minute religious poem and recite it before getting their treats! I swear! American kids are lucky with the "Trick or Treat." I want to take a video of the next person who rings our door and put it on the blog. These kids are so darn cute!

Unfortunately, Darth Vader has not been here yet.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Shopping in Ukraine

Grocery shopping is our big event for the day. It is one of the few things to do in this town. Zenon does not have a problem eating meat while we are here, but I- on the other hand- have gone vegetarian for the time being. After several attempts at buying what I thought was cream for my coffee, Zenon finally brought home the real thing. First time was sour cream, then buttermilk, then buttermilk again, then goat something, and finally cream. I hope we can find it again. At least we have figured out the difference between ketchup and tomato paste.

As Zenon mentioned earlier, the ladies down at the corner store have been all up in our business (head bob, snap to the left, snap to the right). I like my privacy so I am forced to walk a Ukrainian block to one of two stores (1 Ukrainian block = 2.5 Leucadia blocks or 5 to 6 city blocks). The lack of red meat or any meat has caused me to get a little dizzy (just kidding mom) during these walks, but I would rather not have ten women giving me the laser stare and attempt to talk to me when all I want is a dozen eggs and go home.

A few notables;
- The pharmacy here sells brandy. It's prescription strength so, it's good for you.
- the price of candles quadruple when there is a power outage (which we had the other day)
- frozen chickens are three times more expensive than fresh chickens
- a huge bag of organic tomatoes cost 80 cents
- anyone can sell anything on the sidewalks near the market. So, if you happen to have a cow you just slaughtered and can't eat the whole thing, bring your axe, your big cutting log, and the leftover cow and cut it right in front of your customers. Now that is fresh meat!

This is what it looks like when we go shopping everyday. There are a few photos that are a bit blurry because I try to take them quickly without anyone seeing me. The video I was able to take on the sly with the Ipod.
The market
AWWWW, come on! Who can eat a burger after seeing this!? Blood, hooves, fur, bloody axe!
The butcher
The fish stand
Who can guess this type of fish? Looks like something I saw in Nemo... with the light that hung in front of his face to attract Nemo and Dora.
The food here is quite ..... beige... with some splashes of red here and there.
Shopping trip at the market and then the big supermarket

Cravings

Craving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Always happens.

Waiting, waiting, waiting

Nothing to do.

Voss's Post

I love Marley because she sent an e-mail to me. When I go back to California, I will have a play date with her. I visit my brother at the orphanage every time. He's at our apartment right now. We buy food with him, we go to the cool park, and sometimes we take cool busses. We went to a show. It was a bit silly with all the girls. It was OK. It was an ocean king. I have never seen him. Santa wasn't there. He was busy. He got stuck in the business and couldn't come. That is why the ocean king (aka Neptune) came. He had a key and the witch had a key. I am going to stop for now.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Good morning


Voss is the only early riser out of everyone. First light does not start until just after 7. This morning I made him go back to bed (sit in his room with games) at 5:30 and wait for the sun. He wasn't happy about it.



It's just him and me at the kitchen table and it's alomst 8. There is a fresh dusting of snow outside, but it seems to be evaporating by the minute.

Yesterday, we made the hour walk downtown where Cindy and Voss found a play at the local theatre. Ruslan and I waited outside until the rain started then we went into the bowling alley and waited some more for the only pool table. Ruslan really likes his scooter and could probably ride it all day long if he had too. The only problem is that after 2 days the rear wheel is already bent at an angle and 1 more solid jump from becoming inoperable. Let's hope it holds out.

Before making it to the theatre, we stopped for lunch at Auto Pizza. It almost had the feel of burger joint so I thought, "What the heck, let's try a burger." Voss and Cindy opted for a pizza while Ruslan rode his scooter outside (He wasn't hungry after his 6 egg and anything else he could get his hands on breakfast). I was excited about the burger. The waitress brought our tray. The pizza was already cut into slices and put on 2 plates. I had to unwrap my microwaved burger from the saran wrap. I am not sure what classified this thing as a burger!? If I was to put a heading on the menu it would have read "paper thin chicken fried steak on a mushy bun with mayonnaise oozing from the sides." The pizza was better because the mayonnaise didn't drip of all over your hands when you took a bite ;-)

Cindy and Voss found us in the bowling alley, still waiting. Ruslan was tired of waiting so we decided to make the walk back home since the rain was holding up. I have to give Ruslan alot of credit. When he came to visit in San Diego, he became easily frustrated and impatient. I am sure it helps that I know some Russian now (so he knows what we are doing and when we are doing it) but he also seems to have a different temperament.

Voss is doing well with everything. It is a stressful time for him. Structure and whatever semblence of a routine we can adhere to is the key to everything. For instance, his regular routine is dinner, straight to the shower where I help him get ready for bed, read a book, stay with him for a few minutes before leaving him to sleep. 2 nights ago he wanted to let Ruslan have a shower first, then wanted to shower by himself like Ruslan. After that it was 5 minutes of tv with Ruslan. After that it was complete chaos for 2 hours. Where he normally is fine in his room at 7, he was out of control in and out of his room till 9. We got back to the routine last night and all was well. He is just like his dad because he likes his routine! Other than that the boys are really playing together often and playing together well.

So where from here? More waiting. Cindy admitted yesterday that her tolerance for our surroundings has deteriorated. Not a good thing. We are trying to see when the first opportunity to have Cindy and Voss return home would be and I will remain to complete the remainder of the adoption. This may be possible after the first court date, but may also have to be after the second court date. We did confirm that I can complete the paperwork at the american embassy (the last step) as a Canadian citizen which is a step in the right direction. ....but the other pacing item is my "back to work date" which is currently scheduled for February 1st. I believe it would be possible to extend this date and I may have to start looking into that. Depending on that it may be the other way around where Cindy stays and I return ;-)