Monday, December 21, 2009

One more year

It's been over a year since our last post. We have been too busy living life to document it (spoken like a computer programmer; if you don't understand, ask a programmer and they will explain).

Kolya is now on Christmas break in 6th grade. His English is greatly improved, although he still shakes his head at how we spell and pronounce English. His earlier life of deprivations does not allow him to understand how wasteful we are about putting silent e's on the end of words and using ough for either the sound o, u, or uf.

Kolya has been taking swim lessons and is progressing quickly. He has gone from the dog paddle to 3 1/2 twists in the full pike position from the 10 meter paltform. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but he has been moving quickly through the levels. He has also been involved in Taekwondo since summer and loves it. He goes 2-3 times a week and has finally achieved the belt which allows him to start contact sparring; every 12 year old boy's dream.

He has begun sharing, unprompted, snippets of his life before the orphanage. We listen, not making a big deal, just letting him share.

Okay, enough post. We just thought (another one of those wasteful words; think of the illiterate people in China who would love to have some of those letters we don't pronounce) it would be good to do a yearly update. And yes, we did our duty and sent the yearly update to the Ukranian embassy. Take care and have a great holiday season.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Quick thoughts on learning the English language

Joe here. This posting has not been vetted by Wendy. I am posting on my lunch hour at work.

I’ve come to appreciate just how hard it is for someone to learn to read and speak English as a second language. Consider the book I was having him read to me the other night. It included the sentence “The kite flew high in the sky.” Simple to us, but as he struggled to read it, a light went on which allowed me to see it from his perspective.

First, they have no sound in the Russian language which is similar to our “th” sound. So those words are difficult to pronounce.
Second, the Russian language has no long i sound.
Third, the “e” in kite is silent.
Fourth, the word flew rhymes with glue, two, to, and too; tell me how you can teach solid rules for pronunciation with words like that.
Fifth, in the word “high” the "gh" is silent and does not sound like the "gh" in the word “tough or the "gh" in the word ghost.
Sixth, the word sky contains the letter "s". In Russian, the sound the "s" makes is represented by their letter "c".
Seventh, also in the word sky is the letter "y". In Russian, that letter has an “”oo” sound.

So in a sentence containing 7 simple, common words, none longer than 4 letters, there are at least 7 issues a Russian child must face before reading it correctly.

One other quick note before I leave off the blog: we had a snowfall this weekend with about 3 inches on Saturday and 5-6 inches on Sunday. In the midst of the snow on Sunday, Kolya pulled out his bike and attempted to make his way up the cul-d-sac. Ten feet later, he realized the futility of his efforts and returned the bike to the garage. I think he's puttng snow tires on his Christmas list.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nine Weeks In...

Hello Everyone! Kolya has been here 9 weeks now and what progress we have made! We no longer have the pouting fits and stubborness. Communication is definately a barrier when it came to these behaviors. We began to use an interpreter immediately after he misbehaved to explain why he needed to do what what we asked of him and it worked wonders. One day he decided not to participate in school. I recieved an e-mail from his teacher saying he wasn't acting himself and he refused to do a group project. The interpreter asked him if he could refuse to do school work in Ukraine and he said "No." She explained he could not do that in America either. He also was unable to sit in a dental chair and get 2 cavities filled. He heard the drill and started screaming and crying. He was numbed twice and could not feel anything but pressure, but he was too scared to endure it. That was a visit I should have used the interpreter for as I think she could have explained that he would not feel any pain and calmed him down. We had her explain to him that he would have to be put to sleep for the dental work and his response was, "No I won't. They fixed it." It was then I told him we didn't even start because he was so upset. This definately made him mad.

But that was several weeks ago and since then he has figured out that he needs to do as he is told. He has called the orphanage several times to talk with his best friend, Losha. The last time he called he had to say his name 4 times before someone recognized it was him. How soon they forget.

He has gone to Elitches, our amuzement park, and was very excited to be able to ride 4 roller coasters. He has had a successful season in soccer. Typical of any child, he complains about attending practice and games, but enjoys it once he is on the field. Next he will take swimming and Karate. We found out that he THINKS he can swim but when he jumped into the deep end of the pool this summer and almost drowned, we figured out he needs to take lessons!

He no longer makes his bed in the morning because his siblings do not. I was bummed about that. But what can I do? If I don't enforce it with the older two, I can't make him do it. He does keep his room clean though!

More later.

Friday, September 5, 2008


The one thing I am disappointed in with the adoption blogs are the lack of updates after the child arrives in the US. So here I go.... first is school. I registered him on the day after we returned which was a Friday. I was told he could not start until he was entered into the system, which was Tuesday. So from Friday to Tuesday poor Kolya was dragged everywhere with us. We bought new clothes, grocery shopped, shopped for school supplies, went to Joe's work to show him off (he rolled his eyes in his head because this was sooooo boring. Everyone staring at him and saying hello.) We visited everyone we had missed in the last month. So by the time Tuesday rolled around I think he was begging to God that he be admitted to school just so he wouldn't have to be introduced to another adult. We did tell him the reason for all the meet and greetings was because we were so proud of him.
Kolya is always smiling. Not much gets him down...except the anticipation of the first day of school. There were no smiles and very little appetite for breakfast. Fortunately we had a Russian interpreter who works for our school system meet us in the office. We saw instant major relief on the face of a very nervous little boy when he heard his own language! The kids thought he was THE coolest kid they had ever met and some of them had looked up Russian words on the internet to try and talk to him. His teacher has him teaching 1-2 Russian words to the class every day and he learns the English counterparts. I figured I would be attending school with him for the first couple of weeks at least until he was comfortable. I was sent away at 10:30 am the first day by my new son as school was no problem and he definately did not want to be shadowed by 3 women all day. Jeeezzzz! What a kid!
So school is a favorite right now as he has very little homework and no real tests to stress about. We have had some tears but they are not due to homesickness, they are due to communication barriers. I went to have his hair cut to which he said "No." He kept saying my older son's name and pointing to his hair. He wanted his hair long and in his eyes. I said no and we went to get a trim. We go to one of those Cost Cutter places where the girls aren't too bright and I ask for a trim. Short on the sides and long in the crown. She practically shaves his head without the razor! He cries and I feel like a rotten mom. I called an interpreter when we got home to explain that is not what I asked for, but forgiveness was a long 24 hours away.
The next set of tears were when we made him drink water. He refuses to drink milk or juice. He wants soda. No way says mom and dad, so water is the only thing left. He came from sea level and we are a mile high and dehydration is a concern. Plus we have floride in the water and his teeth could use it!
The third set of tears came with the next set of immunizations he recieved at the doctor's office. First he was hummilated by having to wear the gown, so I took it off. Next he was mummbling under his breath in Russian the entire time we were waiting for the doctor who was 45 minutes late. I kept saying, "It's an American thing!" to which he looked away and probably did an internal eye roll. The 2 shots he recieved were very painful because the medication that was administered stings badly. He then thought that the nurse gave the shots wrong because they hurt so bad. All of this I got from the interpreter I called after the visit. I had planned on taking him to McDonald's for lunch then back to school but he refused and insisted he return to school. Later I learned he cried when he was alone with his ESL teacher. I want to feel like a bad parent but shots hurt and there was really nothing I could do about it. His day ended on a positive note though. We have signed him up to play soccer with Colorado Rush and he went to his first soccer practice then we went to McDonald's for dinner and Kolya went to sleep with a big smile on his face.
He has had 2 play dates with Russian speaking children his age and he absolutely beamed with happiness after each one. Today we went to a Russian grocery store and again the big smile came across his face as he was able to pick out any food he wanted. The owner told me he said he was not home sick at all and I was a much better mother then his biological mother. Well now, the bar wasn't set too high on that one was it?! I am happy to hear I float his boat as a mom!
The best part of this adoption process is the look on his face as he experiences all the wonders of America. He is a very upbeat, playful, happy boy and he brings such joy to all of our lives. Tomorrow he will see his first Colorado Rockies professional baseball game and later this fall we will take him to a Six Flags Amusement park and blow his mind on the rides! Having a third child feels no different than having 2 children, just more fun, as the third one isn't a baby!

Friday, August 22, 2008

There's No Place Like Home!

As Joe said, we made it! Kolya is grinning from ear to ear! And for those of you who don't know us very well, I did not bribe my way through Ukraine, it just seems like it.
I have some interesting things to tell you. The day I blogged and said Kolya was "bored" was a very frustrating one. Kolya not only was bored but was suffering from food poisoning. The boiled chicken was bad. I was told by our "VIP" driver that I would be picked up at 2:00 to go to the airport. Well, Alexi the driver, was to lazy to make a left hand turn to the Internet cafe when he dropped us off so he stopped in traffic and we were invited to jump out of the van then cross 4 lanes of highway-speed traffic and walk down a block to the Internet cafe. Well, poor Kolya was practically doubled over in pain. I was less than happy with the driver. Once he was inside and sat down he looked better. So I waited outside the cafe at 2:00 for Alexi and at 2:10 I received a call from Edward asking me where I was. I explained I was sitting outside the cafe and Alexi was not there. Edward insisted Alexi was there and had been waiting for us, I insisted he was not. Then Edward told me to go to where Alexi had dropped us off. That is when I lost it. I pay top grivna for this driver and he makes us hike up to where he is and dodge traffic because he does not want to make a left hand turn. Kolya was looking even greener than before and clutching his stomach. I gave Alexi hell when I reached the van in English which he does not understand, which he interpreted as me being mad because we were going to be 10 minutes late to the airport. Clueless. We get to the airport and Kolya runs to the bathroom with Alexi in tow and empties his stomach. Alexi comes back and pantomimes this to me and I sarcastically say, no kidding and roll my eyes for real this time. Alexi immediately gets Edward on the phone and starts whispering to him (like I know what he saying) and Edward gets on the phone to tell me his diagnosis of Kolya's condition. I wanted to say, "No shit Sherlock!" but I held my tongue and instead said, "yea, I figured that one out on my own!" This just fueled my fire. Both men were clueless to why I was mad and frustrated. They just don't care for their children like we do. I checked my luggage and called Joe to vent my frustrations. Poor Joe, I just increased his stress level 10 fold, but I had no one else to talk to.
We arrived in Kyiv and I went to get our luggage and 3 men elbowed me aside and butted in line right in front of me. Then I spotted my luggage going round and round ready to be picked up and no one else's luggage was out yet. Kolya is trying to tell me to go get the luggage and I start venting once again, this time to no one in particular. I said,"You people really out do the French when it comes to rudeness!" No one even flinches or turns to look at me. So I say even louder, "that is my luggage and I would really like to get it but NOOOOOOO you people need to butt in line and be rude." No response from the crowd so this time I say,"HHHEELLLLLLOOOOOOO!!" and start plowing through the crowd. I get my 2 pieces of luggage (they are still the only ones on the carousel) and try very hard to hit everyone's shins and legs as I pull it off the belt and drag it to the back of the crowd. That felt good!
The flat we stayed in was large and in the central area of Kyiv. Everything was within walking distance. For $90 a night we had 2 forks, 2 knives and 2 spoons, 3 rusted pots for cooking and no soap for the shower. BUT, we had air conditioning and hot water. Whoo hoo!
The next day I started off the day with a breakfast of champions, peanut butter on a spoon and a diet coke! We started off the day by going to the "hospital" for the physical exam. I was not expecting much but was surprised that the doctor actually owned a stethoscope and knew how to use it. The interesting thing is the doctor's "office." We waited in a narrow hallway. On one side there are chairs and the other has many doors with the doctor's names on them. I watched as people/patients would occasionally get up from the chairs and open the doctor's door and peek inside or step inside then come back out to sit. I was thinking that must be the reception area behind the doors. Oh no. We are called into a room about 10' x 10'. In it are a desk and chair for the doctor, 2 chairs for patients and family, an exam table and a sink. The view to the exam table from the door was blocked by a simple screen. This is the doctor's office AND the exam room. So during Kolya's exam, people would open the door, peek in and look around and the doctor would tell them to go back and sit down! Can you imagine a stranger walking in on your exam?! Unbelievable.
Kolya received the first of his Hepatitis B series and his last Rubella shot to complete his immunizations for entrance into the U.S. The cost for the exam was $85 and the shots were $40.
We then headed to the US Embassy to apply for Kolya's visa to get into the US ($400). I cannot say enough about Valentin at this point as he is so organized that the visit went without a hitch. He had all our paperwork in perfect order. There was another American couple there adopting a 3 yr. old and they did not have all their papers and had to come back.
We then booked Kolya's flight to the States for $1400. If Joe had booked it from the U.S. it would have cost $2,500. So at last, we encounter a savings!! The rest of the day was running from bank to bank trying to get a cash advance on my Visa card without a PIN number. It was a no go, so Joe had to Western Union money over to me. So a note to the Denver group, take a Visa card and your PIN number with you, just in case.
The next day we had our exit interview at the U.S. Embassy and we were free to leave. I had some Grivna I needed to unload so we went souvenir shopping. I gave Kolya 20 grivna to spend and his face lit up in excitement. After many debates on what to buy, he spent it on candy and comic books! I had to laugh! Typical 11 y/o boy! Speaking of typical boys this age.... I was having Kolya shower each night before bed. He is used to having a shower once a week. So one day I bent over to kiss his head and his hair smelled sweaty. So I made sure he showered that night and emphasized to wash his hair. He came out of the bathroom with the towel over his head, drying his hair. Ten minutes later we were out on the balcony watching the military practice marching and I look over and his hair is dry. I ask him if he washed his hair. He would not say yes or no, just looked guilty. I smell his head and it stinks! He was then bent over the tub by Mama and his hair was washed to his dismay! Today, Friday the 22 nd, he got a bath by Mama and his toenails no longer have dirt underneath them and all the Ukraine has been scrubbed off. He didn't even protest, I think he just gave in to the fact that he must be clean on a daily basis. Now I need to convince him to change his underwear and clothes everyday!

I must add more kudos for Valentin. Customs in Ukraine wanted all the ORIGINAL adoption documents. Well, the US Embassy sealed the originals and told me no one could open them but the US Customs people. Valentin had given me 2 complete copies of all of the papers and they were all notarized and translated. The mean surly customs lady in Ukraine let us by after 20 minutes of going over them and discussing them with everyone else in the airport to the great dismay of all the people standing behind us. I don't think the janitor really knew what she was talking about! The US customs people keep the originals and I am left with one copy of the papers. That came in handy registering him for school today. I was able to give them his new birth certificate and the court decree of adoption in English and Russian, notarized!
We meet with his teacher, the Principal, ESL teacher and a Russian Interpreter on Monday and he starts school on Tuesday. Next will be the many visits to various doctors and dentists.
So the answer to everyone's question is YES I AM GLAD TO BE HOME! I love my house my bed and my in-door ice dispenser! I slept 9 hours last night and am back on Colorado time. It is much easier adjusting coming back than to go over.

To the Denver group, we will have an open house but we want to wait until the Stewarts and Matthews have returned so it may be in mid-September. In the meantime, feel free to call or stop over as we will be happy to see all of you! And we want to thank every one of you who posted comments on this blog as we looked forward each day to hearing from everyone. If anyone else would like to contact us in the future our e-mail address is

They're home!

Wendy and Kolya landed safely in Denver late Thursday afternoon. Joe was not able to get a picture of the arrival because they zipped through passport control and customs so fast that they were through just as Joe and Elizabeth arrived at the airport (the secret reason for no picture is that Joe was so excited at their arrival that he neglected to bring a camera).

Upon arrival, Kolya was immediately joined by kids from the neighborhood. They played in the cul-d-sac with Kolya's new remote control SUVs, and then headed up to the park to play baseball with his new glove.

We will post more details once Wendy has had a chance to catch her breath and sit down to blog her thoughts. Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and prayers through our process.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

They're coming home!

Joe here. I've talked with Wendy this morning and they have completed all necessary forms and steps at the embassy, Kolya has been checked out in the medical exam and has been pronounced a typical 11 year old Ukrainian boy. He also received a couple of shots which he had not had when he was at the orphanage. We'll have the real exam when he gets here.

I had to wire money to Wendy on Tuesday. She had really gotten into the spirit of Ukraine and started bribing everyone. $50 to a waitress to get ice; $30 to a cashier to get to the head of a line; $20 each to the other 7 people in line; $100 to a street musician to play the Beach Boys' "Sloop John B" (cultural reference for those of you not up on the Beach Boys; sample lyrics: "I wanna go home, let me go home. Why don't you let me go home"), $75 to a cat to allow Wendy to pet it, 1 grivna to a pedestrian the cab driver hit, etc. After the massive outpouring of bribes, she found herself with only 15 grivnas to her name and a hungry little boy. But thankfully, she was in Kyiv under the wing of our main facilitator, Valentin. Wendy could not speak more highly of him. He has been wonderful, paying for everything until I could get the money wired to her and she could repay him.

But now, everything (and everyone in the Ukraine) has been paid off and their last remaining task is to get to the airport in Kyiv and board the plane. They will be picked up at the apartment about 3:00am Kyiv time for their 5:30am flight. They have a lllllllloooonnnnnnngggggg layover in Frankfurt, then a direct flight back here to Denver. They are scheduled to land at 4pm on Thursday. It will take at least an hour to an hour and a half for them them to get through passport control and customs. Wendy has told me that they will be pulled out of the line and have their papers examined. So we expect to see them around 5:30pm tomorrow afternoon. We can't wait.