Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy to Be Home!

We arrived safe and sound to our home late Thursday night (11/6). All the details regarding Cole's passport, VISA and medical exam came together well last week and we were able to easily change our flight to return home on Thursday instead of Friday. Once again we saw the Lord's guidance and help each step of the way.

We had a very meaningful going away party for Coleman and his group at the orphanage last Monday evening, 11/3. It was such time well spent. A time that we looked forward to with eager anticipation. A very emotional time for Kelly. Cole seemed extremely excited when we came, especially seeing Papa. We were permitted to take lots of photos and video of his living area and children in his group, which meant so much to us and will be such a keepsake for all of us. When it was time to leave, there was no looking back for Cole! Kelly actually had to ask him to give hugs to his friends from his group!

We are thrilled to be home and all together as family! Cole and Mallory did great on our flights home. We expected Cole to want to be up and about for a lot of the trip, but he was very content to play with the things we brought for him, eat and sleep. He didn't get all that sick from the motion either, until about a minute or two from landing on American soil!

Friday, Saturday and Sunday we just spent together as family. The adjustment seems to be going well to our new normal way of life. It is so neat to see how the girls interact with Coleman and vice versa. Madison and Mallory have been very helpful with their new brother which we really appreciate. Cole is getting up bright and early in the AM (yikes!) - much earlier than he did at the orphanage, so we don't know if he's just excited and curious or if it's his body adjusting to US time. He also took two naps since he's been home which is not common for a six year old!

It has been so neat to see Cole soaking things up. He loves riding in the car, although he still gets sick from the motion. He counts the "machinas" as they go down the road. It's amazing how he can count to ten in English already as "Papa" helped him to learn this. He LOVES putting together puzzles and is really good at doing so. We've taught him to say "I'm sorry" when necessary; and on Sunday we were all outside together and he came running to tell us something about Mallory. She was crying because of something that happened and Cole was very concerned about this. We were talking to the girls about what happened and Cole said, "I'm sorry". It was so cute! It was also very encouraging to see him remember the correct English words, use them in the right context and also it showed his heart attitude about something not being right with a situation. The only incorrect piece was that he didn't do anything wrong! He has been a joy to have around us! We love him so much and are so thankful that the Lord gave him to be a part of our family . . . and He had that in His providence from the beginning of time. It's very cool to think about the Lord's plan over the details of all of our lives.

We celebrated Coleman's birthday (10/14) on Saturday and gave him a new bike for his gift. We had a fun time together. He'll need to work his way into learning how to ride the bike. Can you believe all the things we take for granted like how to pedal a bike? We were showing him how to pedal and it took both of us to try and help him get the concept of pushing with both of his feet. Today I had him ride the tricycle which worked a bit better for him.

Cole continues to show his beautiful smile a lot and to be a seemingly happy child. He's very affectionate giving us lots of hugs and kisses which we love to receive! One day at the orphanage Alla asked him to give us a kiss which he didn't really seem to know how to do. She reflected on how he probably never learned how to kiss - how sad. We're sure glad to see he knows how to now!

Madison did amazingly well with Kelly's parents while we were in Ukraine. The bonding time between her and her grandparents will be a special part of what she carries with her. We're so proud of her and happy to be reunited with her. Mallory traveled incredibly well with us and grew and developed in so many wonderful ways. The time that just the three of us had together was such a special bonding time for us that we never had, given that Mallory was not the first born. It was so good for our relationship as husband and wife too to have all this uninterrupted time together. It is neat to see how the Lord has worked in all of the details of our journey.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Productive Week

We have had an incredibly productive week! Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday involved lots of running and taking care of necessary paperwork. Alla flew through the details and with God's grace things came together very well. Tuesday was a rather hectic day as we started out around 6am traveling over two hours one way to the district office of the village where Cole was born to obtain his original birth certificate and then have it changed with his new family information. The woman helping to process this paperwork was filled with lots of well-wishes for our family - it was neat to hear what she had to say to us. Back on the road again we went to government offices in Simferopol to register Coleman's new birth certificate, change his ID number to his new family name and hopefully make it to the passport office by 5pm. It was a close call as we got to the office just past five, but the right person that Alla needed to speak with was still in; and we found out what we needed to do to take care of Cole's passport in hopefully a timely fashion. We hope to have this document back to us on Monday so that we can then fly back up to Kiev to take care of applying for Cole's VISA and take him for his medical examination . . . and hopefully HOME on Friday!

We were so excited to take Cole in the car with us on Wednesday to get his photo taken for his passport, VISA and medical examination. It was such a joy to see the expression on his face as he looked around and was seemingly excited to be with us. As silly as it sounds, we were so looking forward to this time with him. We needed to pull over twice as he indicated that he was feeling bad - but no throwing up thankfully. While we were in the car he said without being prodded or asked, something like 'I know I'm going to America. I'm sure I am.' It was music to our ears to hear him say such words!

We asked Alla for an opportunity to ask questions of staff from the orphanage about Cole's schedule, behavior, development and progress, food, personality traits, how they comfort him, fears, artwork/schoolwork to take with us, etc. We spoke with a psychologist and one of his teachers who were very helpful in answering our many questions. We value this additional information we were able to obtain. We want to put the pieces together of his past as much as we are able to do so for his benefit and ours.

Today we also video recorded the path we have taken many, many days now from our apartment to the orphanage as we pick Coleman up to play. It will be neat to look back on this.

Mallory and Coleman have been rather playful together this week and it's been so good to see their relationship developing more and more. Mallory took his hand and wanted to walk together down the path with him today. It will be great when we can get home and move into our new normal way of life together as a family.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

10-Day Wait About to End - 10/26

Our 10-day wait period ends today (yeah!), Alla returns tomorrow and we put on roller blades to get lots of paperwork/details taken care of. We look forward to the adoption process moving to completion. We are hoping and praying to be able to return home on or by 11/7. We were able to get Steve's flight changed easily to 11/7 and to secure a seat for Cole. What an answer to prayer.

On Friday we took our new friend Dasha out for a late lunch which was so enjoyable. It was fun getting to know each other. Her knowledge of history is amazing and she taught us so much about the country of Ukraine and its people. After lunch our driver took us to a local botanical garden that Dasha wanted to show us and we enjoyed a time of walking and talking through the beautifully landscaped and manicured garden. This was the place to be. Lots of locals were there and a wedding to boot. We've seen a number of woman standing/walking arm in arm here, something normal to their culture. It brings tears to my (Kelly's) eyes as I think about how we were walking along and Dasha linked her arm in mine; such a gesture of kind friendship. We were given opportunity to talk with her too about the Lord which was so meaningful.

We played with Coleman outside at the orphanage on Friday. It was so much fun! We noticed an older gentleman playing with one of the young girls from the orphanage and assumed it was a relative visiting her. It ended up being her grandfather whose name is Eugene. I (Kelly) had smiled at him and he called out to me something like "Ah, an American smile. What a dream. Thank you!" It ended up that he knew English rather well and we had a great time of talking with him. He was very pro American and seemed wistful about us being American. He had very strong political viewpoints about Ukraine, Communism and was a most interesting man to talk with. We're thankful for our interaction with him.

Each day we feel closer and closer to Cole. We feel lost at times when he speaks a string of Russian sentences to us and looks up at us for a response. I mistakingly one day said 'what?' to him after this occurance, but I didn't mean 'what?'. I meant 'what are you saying?????' ! We'll get through the language barrier, little by little. We feel we've been able to interact rather well with him despite our limited understanding of each other's language. You can't contain love! Our knowledge of the Russian language has certainly increased while we've been here and has been useful in getting Coleman to listen and respond to us.

We look forward to taking him home and beginning our life together on American soil, although it has been incredibly beneficial for us to spend extended time in his country of origin. As we think about the plane ride home, we're talking about things for him to do. If anyone has any creative ideas, please share them with us.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Still in the Waiting Game - 10/22

Yesterday, we ventured out without Alla, although we set up everything through her with our driver to go the McDonald's and to the Foxmart to go shopping - whoo-hoo! I wish we would have had photos of Kelly out of the car at the drive-thru pointing to the food options at McDonald's attempting to have the employee understand her. It was such a funny process! We didn't find much at the Foxmart, but it was a change of scenery.

We've been trying to find a Ukrainian ballet to attend, knowing that Mallory would love it and it would certainly be a great performance. No success at this point and something we would likely be able to find in Kiev, although we probably won't be there long enough at the end of our trip to attend one.

We've had more great visits with Coleman, enjoying our time together. We feel that we are bonding more each day which is such a blessing. Each day we take him snacks and it is almost unbelievable how fast he eats what we bring and how much he eats. He also seems sad now when we leave, which is bittersweet.

Mallory is doing great and is such a trooper. Although we miss Madison so much, the upside is that we have extended time together with just Mallory which is good for our relationship with her. She is very easy going and goes with the flow. We're enjoying our time together. She just asked today if we can go to Disney again and if we could take Madison with us. How cute! Needless to say, her sister is still at the forefront of her mind.

We met a new friend on Monday at the internet cafe. Her name is Dasha and she is currently attending Cadet School at the Crimea Law Institute of Odessa National University. She is so sweet and kind to us. Her grasp of English both verbally and in written form is amazing. She seems so bright and full of life. She asked Kelly if she could read which was so funny! She asked Kelly to read and proof some of her poems she wrote. We might be going tomorrow to see one of her vocal performances at Cadet school. We look forward to sharing with her our hope in the Lord. We are thankful to have a new Ukrainian friend.

We're excited about the exercise program we've begun in Ukraine. It's so funny the things you'll do to pass time, although we have wanted for a long time to get back to regular exercise and what better time to do it than now! We're trying to exercise for about a half an hour most evenings. Let's see if we keep it up when we get home!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Back in Ukraine - Sunday, October 19

Steve, Mallory and I made it back safe and sound to Ukraine on Wednesday, October 15. We miss Madison so much as she is home with Nannie and Grandpa, and continuing on with school. We ended up back at the same apartment we had prior to leaving Ukraine. The familiarity is nice. It is great to see Alla again too, as she's become very special to us.

It was wonderful to see Coleman again and spend time with him at the orphanage. He was excited to see us too. The language barrier doesn't block the expression of excitement! Alla mentioned, and Steve and I believe too that Coleman seems different now; that our interaction together has changed, for the better even so. It's neat to see that Alla noticed this as someone looking on. We felt that our times together on our first trip were good, but that we're bonding even more so now. One of the staff at the orphanage told Alla that Cole was found at times looking at the door with sadness on his face, as if he was missing us. Although we would not have wanted him to be sad, we were glad to hear that it seemed he missed us. Alla was unbelievably kind as, while we were home in the US, she took candy and a toy to Coleman and said they were from his Daddy and Mama; and left another set of candy and a toy for a staff person to give to him from us on another day. What thoughtfulness! (We feel that she has 'taken care' of us in so many ways.)

We found that Coleman likes doing puzzles and is quite good at them. He also enjoys building things and it's neat to see what he creates. We bought him some other toys and are looking forward to giving them to him. We have seen time and again his willingness to share the food we bring him with other adults and children with whom we are sharing our play space. Alla even mentioned how 'he's not a greedy boy' which we're so very pleased to see. It is a HUGE deal for a child coming from orphanage life to share their food with someone else. Alla has given us some great suggestions and one of them was when we are at home to always leave some healthy snacks out where Coleman can, whenever he wants to, get something to eat. I'm sure our girls will love the continuous access to snacks enjoyable as well!

We talked about getting Cole's haircut when he would be with us, but no need to do that now. The orphanage took care of that along with what seems like all the other boys! Steve said it's probably a whole day event when they decide everyones' hair is getting cut!

We have some great photos and want to share them with you, but need to find a way to upload them in the internet cafe without putting our personal photos on these public computers. Hopefully, we'll soon be able to share our son's contagious smile with those who haven't seen our photo album at home; and for those who have, you'll see some new photos.

Our court date was on Thursday, October 18 and things went really well. It was about a 15 or 20 minute in courtroom process. When the judge said, 'Eberly, Coleman Viktor' that's when I (Kelly) teared up just to hear his named announced officially. Coleman is officially our son now which is very exciting!

Alla is now in Kiev and will return to us next Sunday. This is typical for your translator to leave during the 10-day wait period. She's got things all set up for us with our driver to take us to the orphanage, etc.

We are now three days into our 10-day waiting period and boy are we waiting. Things are going really well on our second trip, but we are feeling ready to go home already! Yesterday was a tougher day with homesickness, but after talking to family at home, it felt much better. Mallory says many, many times each day that she misses Madison. We knew she'd miss her, but we didn't know her feelings would be so strong and with such longing. One of our friends mentioned in an email how the Lord is 'El Roi', the God who sees. The same God that sees Madison at home, sees us in Ukraine and is caring for all of us. We've found such comfort in these words of encouragement.

God is so good and we feel His love all around. We are still in amazement as to how He has led us to our son and cared for all of the details surrounding our trips. Thanks SO VERY much to all of you that have helped us in so many ways - praying & words of encouragement, helping with logistics, giving toys, books, clothing to Coleman, offering to care for our children, letting us borrow things for our trip, sending emails half way around the world, etc. We have felt such love. We miss you all and love you so much!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

At Home - 10/1

Steve was able to make flight arrangements and we arrived home around 6am on Tuesday, 9/30. Monday into Tuesday we traveled from Simferopol to Kiev, flew from Kiev to London and then to JFK in New York, rented a car and drove home. Poor Steve, I don't know how he stayed awake to drive, except that Kelly made a few attempts at scaring him to get his heart racing. Yesterday was spent sleeping, readjusting, unpacking and visiting with family. It was so good to spend time with them.

The girls said they did not want to come home as we were discussing about leaving Ukraine. Kelly also had tears in her eyes as we were saying good-bye to our translator and driver, but was ready to come home. Steve too was ready to depart. Although our trip was great in many ways, there is no place like home. Once home, we all said how glad we were to be here. If you walked in our house yesterday, you would have thought it looked like Christmas with the girls toys strewn out around the house!

Our next flight is slated for October 14, with our court date scheduled for October 16 at 2pm. After court, our adoption will be considered final and then we may post photos of Cole which we are excited to do!

Originally, we planned for our trip to be longer during the first phase in Ukraine, but with the inspector on vacation and then choosing to come home sooner, our second trip will now be the longer portion. We are using the round trip portion of our flight home yesterday to return on 10/14 and have purchased RT tickets for the girls too, in the event that they will return with us for a portion of the second part of the trip. We'll need to make some decisions about that. The round trip portion of our original tickets will be used for our final trip home from Ukraine.

We'll need to get our spare bedroom transformed into a little boy's room which should be a lot of fun doing. Steve has some sports theme ideas floating around in his head!

We have reflected on the prayer requests we had and the answers to prayer the Lord has provided to us on this trip. We will always remember that Tuesday morning in our apartment in Simferopol, with tears in our eyes as we discussed the ways the Lord had confirmed things to us and the manner in which He clarified things that weren't originally clear to us. He is amazing.

Thanks again to all of you who have been praying for and encouraging us along this journey. Your love, kindness and support has fueled us up along the way. We love you all.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Stressful Saturday - 9/27

We are having a very stressful afternoon and evening in attempting to change our flight home. One of the local inspectors in Simferopol who needs to sign off on some of our paperwork is on vacation. Our court date is slated for 10/17 or so and we feel there's no real need for us to remain in the country for the next 2.5 weeks so we've decided to come home during this time. Our current tickets won't allow us to depart until 10/6, our date we originally planned to come home. We attempted to change them today without any success since there aren't any seats available until 10/14 unless we just keep our original flight of 10/6. So, we've been making calls, using the internet, going to the train station and airport and local travel agent. We have a tentative flight that we're likely going to book for Tuesday, 9/30 tomorrow when the travel agency opens again. Whew . . . what a day!!