Friday, August 20, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Thursday, June 3, 2010
The next two pictures are how Xan and Brennan slept while we were waiting for our train from Melitopol to Kiev.
Brennan slept like that for 3 1/2 hours.
These pictures are of the sunset we saw while riding the train. It was magnificent!
We rode a trolley like thing up a really steep hill and this was the view of Kiev at the top of that hill. Spectacular!
I can not remember the exact name, but the tall, skinny building is a really nice hotel.
This is the former Communist Party's Headquarters. It sits on a hill called "Devil's Hill". See below for the ironic and funny story...
The story goes that many hundreds of years ago, before the buiding above existed, witches would have their parties at the top of this hill. Therefore, the locals began calling the hill, "Devil's Hill" Then, ironically, the Communist party built their headquarters on "Devil's Hill". The name fit perfectly!
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Friday, May 7, 2010
Our court date today went very well. We arrived at the court house, which was a short walk from our apartment, a little after 9:00 am this morning. We only had to wait a short while before we were summoned into the judge’s chambers. We are not completely sure why we were summoned into her office and not into a court room. Xan and Brennan did go with us to the court house, however, they, nor Sasha, were allowed into the judge’s chambers. Our coordinator, Svetlana, stayed in the hallway with the boys while Natasha, our translator, stayed with me and Bucky. Along with me, Bucky and Natasha there was the judge, the county inspector, the prosecutor, two local Ukrainian citizens, the lawyer representing the orphanage and two court reporters. The two Ukrainian citizens were sort of like jurors in American courts, however, they do not have ruling authority. They could ask us questions and then were allowed to give their opinion on our case before the judge’s final ruling. Needless to say, we were VERY nervous. The judge was friendly, but she still had a powerful presence about her. She began by asking Bucky to stand and state his name, date of birth, place of birth and address. She then asked what he did for a living. After Bucky had answered those questions, I was asked to stand and answer the same questions. We were then asked to explain our reason for petitioning the court. Bucky was the spokesperson for us and the translator had given him very specific instructions on what to say. In all Bucky was speaking to the judge for several minutes. He did a great job even though he was nervous. We were asked other questions as well, but I have to save some details to share with you in person when we get home. The judge then asked the county inspector and the lawyer from the orphanage to stand and give their opinions on our case. Both whole heartedly recommended our family to the judge, but the lawyer said some things that were very special to us. She said that she was at the airport when Sasha returned from America and said that he was very excited about his time with us and showed our family photo to everybody and mentioned that he hoped we would come and adopt him. She spoke about many other things that he mentioned when he first got back to Ukraine, but those are the ones that stick out in my mind right now.
Sasha was then summoned to the room and the judge asked him several questions as well. She asked him if he understood what was going on here today, if he wanted to be adopted by us, why he wanted to be adopted by us, if we beat or abused him while he was in our care, what he liked about his time in America, etc. Sasha was very nervous too, but he did great and did not hesitate to say he wanted to be adopted and go to America with us (and that he liked our swimming pool and went swimming everyday in America. LOL!). Sasha even made the judge laugh with some of his answers. Once Sasha was finished, he was asked to leave the room again. Then, the judge and the “jurors” asked a couple more questions. The judge then asked the prosecutor to give his opinion on our case and he stated that he recommended our petition be granted. At that time we were all asked to leave the room while the judge spoke to the prosecutor and “jurors”. Within 10 minutes, we were summoned back into the judge’s chamber and the judge, with a big smile on her face, said that she was granting our petition to adopt Sasha. Bucky and I both cried and hugged each other. Leighton Sasha Rogers IS OUR SON!!! May 6th will, from now on, be celebrated as Sasha’s “Gotcha Day”. All the hard stuff, meeting with the SDA in Kiev, meeting with the county inspector in Melitopol, receiving approval from the director of the orphanage, and the court hearing, is over! Part of the tears that came today after the ruling was just simple relief. He is ours! Everything from here on out is just formality. We will pick up the final adoption degree after the required 10 day waiting period.
After the 10 day waiting period, we will make one last trip to the orphanage. We will take with us cakes, cookies, candy and drinks so that we can have a small party for Sasha’s classmates and allow him time to say goodbye to all his friends, teachers and the director. I really don’t know what to expect that day from Sasha. I don’t know what emotions he will feel or show. Then, we will travel to request his new birth certificate and passport. Hopefully, that will be completed within one business day. If that all goes smoothly, on the 18th we will catch another overnight train back to Kiev. While in Kiev, Sasha will be examined by a US Embassy approved doctor then we will have our US Embassy interview where they will grant Sasha his Visa. Once we get that Visa, we can hop on a plane back to America. Sasha is ready to get to America, he tells us that often.
Miss you and love you all!
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Today for our anniversary, you will never guess what we did…….we went to an OSTRICH FARM!!!!! LOL!
Yesterday, while Natasha and I were shopping, a lady mentioned to her that there is an ostrich farm not too far away. So, Natasha had our driver pick us up at 10:30 this morning and we drove about 20 minutes away to the ostrich farm. Along with ostriches, they had rabbits, parakeet birds, swans, chickens, deer, and donkeys. There may have been more animals, but I can not recall them at this time. One of the owners of the farm gave a lot of information about the ostriches and Natasha interpreted it for us. I am sure it normally is only a 5 to 7 minute explanation, but since it all had to be translated for us, it took twice as long. Sasha and Xan got pretty bored during the explanation. Brennan was on Bucky’s shoulders, so he was just happy to have a great view of the birds. Oh, and they also had a fish pond. All in all it was a very nice place and Sasha got ride on a donkey. Xan and Brennan both said no to a donkey ride. We told Sasha to get used to the donkey because that would be all he could afford when it came time for a car. For some reason he did not think that was as funny as Natasha, Bucky and I.
Tomorrow is our court date and Natasha spent over an hour with us going over questions that might be asked during the court hearing and the best way we should answer those questions. The questions were things like:
-You have two younger children, are you capable of parenting a teenager?
-Are you financially able to parent another child?
-Julie, how do you plan to keep Sasha busy after he is done with school each day until your husband gets home and continue to care for two much younger children?
-How will you discipline Sasha?
There were other questions, but those are the ones that stick out in my mind at this time.
Today, as we were leaving the restaurant after eating our lunch, a gypsy approached us and she was smiling and talking, in Russian of course, but all of a sudden our translator, with a very serious look on her face, said in stern, loud voice, “no” and we walked away very quickly. As we walked, they gypsy continued to follow, but left us alone after a short distance. After she was gone, Natasha told us that she asked if she could buy Brennan because she could make a lot of money off of him. I was so glad that Natasha was with us because the lady seemed so nice as she was walking up to us with a huge smile on her face. She better be glad I didn’t know what she was saying until she was gone or the protective motherly instinct inside of me might have reared its ugly head.
On a lighter note, I told Bucky today that I didn’t care what time of day or night it was when we returned to GSP airport, on the way home I am going to stop by Sonic and get a sweet, peach tea with lots of ICE. I miss ice in my beverages and sweet tea. I also miss my dishwasher, washer and dryer, shower, bed, car, and Xan and Brennan staying in their rooms until 8:00 every morning. The sun comes up so early here (between 5:30 and 6:00) and the boys think it is time to get up by 6:30 or 7:00 every morning. Ahhhh, how nice it will be to get home.
We miss you all!
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Everything in Ukraine is still going great! Yesterday, we hired a taxi (minivan) and went to the Sea of Azov. Our coordinator and translator went with us. The drive was only about an hour and once we got on the beach, it was very windy. The water was green, just like the Atlantic Ocean in Myrtle Beach and the sand was filled with sea shell pieces. Our feet got some much needed exfoliation. Xan was the only one brave enough to get any part of his body wet. But, once he was wet he got really cold. Thankfully I thought ahead and brought a change of clothes for Xan and Brennan. Like Brennan’s other trips to the beach, he did not want to get close to the ocean water, but really enjoyed the sand. Sasha, poor thing, was so cold. We bought him a sleeveless shirt, which he picked out, for our trip to the beach because the temperature was supposed to be warm. Well, the temperature was really warm, but the wind made it feel really cold. He was shivering by the time the taxi driver offered him a jacket. Sasha found a mound of sand and entertained us by doing back flips off of it. We tried several different beaches, but it was simply too cold to stay out for very long. We got lots of cute pictures though! On the way home, our driver had to slam on his brakes and Xan and Brennan fell out of their seats and landed on the floor. Both were fine, but it scared them to death. In Ukraine, seat belts are not put in the back seats of minivans. So, there are no restraints for the kids. The driver felt awful and I believe he gave us a discount at the end of the day.
Today, I had a mommy’s day out. Our translator, Natasha, and I went out together today. Svetlana, our coordinator, had to return to Kiev to pick up some paperwork for our court date on the 6th. Natasha and I went shopping and then had a really long lunch and talked about many things. She is a true kindred spirit, a wonderful Christian lady.
While I was out with Natasha, my very brave husband took all the kids to the park to play on the playground and sandbox. Then, they went on a roller coaster ride. It was a very small roller coaster, but all the kids enjoyed it. I think Xan was a little scared at first, but said he would ride it again tomorrow. Brennan LOVED it which does not surprise me at all, I knew he would be our adventurous, wild child. After the park, they had lunch together at a local pizza place. Bucky pointed to what he wanted on the pizzas and Sasha ordered them for us. Sasha has been such a big help to us when we are out and about without our translator. He even helped Bucky not get ripped off while buying an onion at the local outdoor market the other day. The lady realized that Bucky was American, but must not have realized that Sasha would know what the real price of an onion would be. So, she apparently quoted an enormous price and Sasha put the onion down and told the lady “no”. Then they walked around the corner and found a more honest person.
Sasha was regularly calling Bucky “Bucky” for the first few days with us and we would lovingly remind him to call him “Papa”. I don’t believe I have heard him call him anything but “Papa” the past few days. It is so wonderful to hear him say, “Papa, please stop” in his Russian accent when they are wrestling and being rough with each other. He has the cutest gruff voice ever! Sasha has the biggest crush on our translator, Natasha. He sprays cologne on himself anytime he knows we will be in her presence. The day before yesterday while Sasha and Bucky were out during naptime, Sasha wanted to buy flowers for me and Natasha. Bucky told him, “I only buy flowers for two women, my mom and Mama.” So, I got some really pretty pink tulips, which are my favorite flower.
The people of Ukraine bundle up and they especially bundle their children. It has reach the low 80’s a couple of days this week, but the children are still in winter coats and toboggans. I am sure they think we are neglectful parents for not dressing our children the same way, but I think Xan and Brennan would die of heat stroke. Even with the high temps, the Ukrainian adults still wear very warm coats and jackets. Ukrainian women also dress like they have just stepped out of a fashion catalog. Even when they are playing with their kids on the playground, you can expect them to be in a high heels and miniskirts. I seriously don’t know how they walk around in the high heels. I mean these people walk everywhere they go and they do it in high heels. I have felt like I look like a homeless person when I go out because they are all dressed so nicely all the time. We have not experienced any of the racial hatred we were warned we might experience. Our experience has been quite the opposite, especially with Brennan. We have had several people comment that he has no “fault” in his features. At a restaurant the other night, the waitresses communicated to our interpreter that they had “fallen in love” with Brennan and wanted to know if they could hold him. He let them hold him briefly and they gave him a present (legos).
Please pray that after the 10 day waiting period, that will begin after our court hearing on the 6th, we are able to travel to Sasha’s birth city and get his new birth certificate and passport during one business day. Our coordinator is not sure if they will consider his new passport a “new issue” or a “re-issue”. If they consider it a “new issue”, we may have to wait an entire week before the new passport is issued. If they consider it a “re-issue”, we would be able to request it and pick it up the same day.
Well, it is nearly dinner time. I hope you have a wonderful day!
Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Julie and the boys are asleep in the apartment, so Sasha and I went out on the town to find some wifi! We finally did, so here's Julie's latest update to the blog. Keep praying for us, as the process is not over.
We have arrived in Melitopol, Ukraine! We arrived at the train station in Kiev at 5:00 pm (10 am Spartanburg time) and boarded our train. Our family had a private compartment with two sets of bunk beds. It was VERY small for those of you who may have never traveled on an overnight train. Bucky and I joked that it was smaller than a jail cell, but larger than a coffin. Xan and Brennan nearly drove us crazy with their excitement over the train. They were so hyper! Our translator and coordinator graciously offered us cake so, couple the excitement of a train ride with the sugar in cake and you get several crazy hours until the sun went down. Brennan slept very well on the train. Xan did great too, but he did not sleep as long as Brennan. We arrived in Melitopol, Ukraine around 5:00 am (10 pm Spartanburg time) and were driven to our apartment.
Melitopol is much smaller than Kiev. Kiev has about 4 million residents and Melitopol has only 150,000. Our apartment is much bigger than the one in Kiev, not as new, but very clean. Once we got settled into our apartment, we went and got breakfast/lunch. Bucky and I had a calzone and Xan and Brennan got chocolate and banana crepes. Both were very yummy. After we ate, we bought a soccer ball, chocolates and candy to give to Sasha tomorrow. By this time we were exhausted, so we went back to the apartment and took a 3 hour nap. After the nap Natasha and Svetlana took me grocery shopping. That was fun! Their markets are different than ours, everything is behind a counter and you just speak your shopping list to an attendant and she gets everything for you. The only thing that I have not been able to find here is cereal for the kids. They do have cereal, but not Cheerios and Rice Krispies. For those of you who wanted the address, I will try to get that tomorrow.
We took the boys to a nearby park to play. They are having a fun time with daddy while I am typing this. Apparently they accidently interrupted a child’s birthday party and the mothers were so excited to hear Bucky’s English. They said they preferred American English to British English. And we were given a huge piece of birthday cake. Very nice people.
We are bringing some culture to this small town. I doubt they have seen a Latino or African American in some time and couple that with the fact that we are Americans, and we are starred at everywhere we go. I don’t mind, I am pretty used to it.
Tomorrow will be a busy day. We will meet with the Inspector (not really sure what an Inspector does, but we must meet with her and she will take us to the orphanage). Once at the orphanage, WE WILL FINALLY MEET SASHA! We can hardly stand ourselves, we are so excited. Sasha will have to speak to the Inspector and the orphanage director that he wants us to adopt him, then more paperwork will begin. Hopefully, we can get approval from the Inspector and orphanage within the week. Then we can apply for a court date. Please pray that Sasha is not shy about his wanting us to adopt him and they he speaks it clearly and quickly.
Well, it is almost time for dinner. Bucky and I treasure your prayers! With love, The Rogers
Melitopol Update #2
We are sorry that we have not been able to update you as often as we would like. Melitopol is a much smaller town than Kiev and although we have the necessities (hot water, food, bed.), we don’t have many of the extras living in a modern city offers (wi-fi, washing machine, McDonalds).
On Monday, we had a meeting with the Inspector. The Inspector asked us a few questions about our motivation to adopt, why we wanted Sasha and if our income was enough to add another child. That interview went well and she joined us on our adventure to the orphanage. Although the orphanage is only about 7 miles outside of the city, it took us approximately 30 minutes to make the trip because the road was full of potholes. Xan and Brennan both fell asleep on the way because it was so bumpy.
As we approached the orphanage, Bucky and I felt we were in a dream. We could not believe we were moments from seeing Sasha again after nine months apart. We pulled in past the gate and just ahead of us was a two story white building and standing outside were a couple of boys. At that distance, we were not sure if one of those boys was Sasha, but as we drove a little further down the lane we quickly realized it WAS Sasha. As we got closer, our mini van (taxi) passed him in order to pull into a parking space. Our eyes met with his and a huge smile came across his face. That made our hearts leap! Bucky and I could not get out of the taxi fast enough. Bucky got to him first so he got the first hug and then I got a hug too. Sasha was surprised to see Xan and Brennan. Xan was quick to give Sasha a hug, which we were very glad about. Sorry, I can’t remember Brennan’s response. All of us were quickly ushered into the office of the director of the orphanage. He was a very nice, older gentleman and he smiled almost constantly, which put us at ease. He offered Xan and Brennan cookies, chocolate, and juice which they, of course, gladly accepted. The director asked us many of the same questions the Inspector asked. Then, the director turned to Sasha (keep in mind this is all in Russian and being interpreted for us) and asked him if he wanted to be adopted by us. Sasha immediately answered, “Of course I do!” We were so happy! We were praying that he would answer this way and leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that he did indeed want to be a part of our family. Whew, sweet relief! Sasha had to write a letter stating that he wanted us to adopt him. We enjoyed the director’s company for over an hour and then Bucky and I were excused to go play outside with Sasha, Xan and Brennan. While outside, the boarding school let out for a break and we drew quite the crowd. Everyone wanted to see Sasha’s new family. In all, we got to spend about 2 hours with Sasha. While we were outside playing, our coordinator and interpreter were negotiating visitation with Sasha. Then it was time to go. We hugged Sasha and promised to come back the next day. As you can imagine it was torture leaving him again, but it was necessary because we had a lot of paperwork to complete. The rest of the day was spent going from place to place collecting and signing paperwork and sitting in the taxi while our coordinator and interpreter worked on our behalf. At one point, we had time to run by a local supermarket. The supermarket was just like a grocery store in the US. It was a LONG and exhausting day and we were so glad to get back to our apartment.
On Tuesday morning, we were taken back to the orphanage to meet with Sasha and the director again. Again the director was so nice. He again gave the boys a snack. We were told that we could take Sasha back to our apartment for FOUR days. We were beyond excited. Our time at the orphanage that day was about an hour, but Sasha got to leave with us. That was AWESOME!!
The orphanage in which Sasha resides is very nice. The campus is gated and hundreds of red tulips are in full bloom. Although we were not given a tour of the campus, every building looked clean and well kept. The director is a very special man and we have really enjoyed the brief time we have had with him. The runaway rate at this orphanage is very low (no runaways in many, many years) and it is no doubt because this man loves these orphans so much. The director was very recently recognized by the Ukrainian President for his many years of service to orphans. He will be retiring in the Fall, please pray that he is replaced by someone who will love these kids just as much as he does.
The rest of Tuesday was pretty uneventful. We came back to the apartment and Xan, Brennan and Julie took a nap while Bucky and Sasha played card games. Tuesday evening we went to the local park and hung out then went and got some pizza. It was nice just being with Sasha again.
On Wednesday, our interpreter and coordinator took us shopping at a local open market. We were looking for clothes for Sasha. This proved to be quite an adventure. We quickly realized that Sasha’s taste in clothes vastly differs both our taste in clothes and that which is popular among teenagers in the US. But, we decided to allow him to get whatever he was comfortable with. All that he considers normal and comfortable is changing, we can at least allow him some normalcy in his clothing. I am sure he will adjust to American culture far faster than we want him to.
I had forgotten how much this kid can eat. You would never guess he could eat so much if you could see how skinny he is. I don’t know if he eats so much because he is actually hungry or because he is just not used to having the freedom of going to the refrigerator anytime he wants to get something. But whatever the reason, he eats non stop! This does cause problems with Xan because he doesn’t understand why he can’t have a snack everytime Sasha has one. But, we also don’t want to tell Sasha he can’t eat whenever he wants. I am sure eventually we will have to limit his snacking, but for now, we are allowing him to eat whenever he wants.
Please pray that our Interpol fingerprints are received in Kiev soon. These fingerprints were applied for over 30 days ago and the results have not been received by the appropriate authority. We cannot be assigned a court date until these are received. Thank you again for praying for us. With love, Bucky and Julie