Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween :)

This morning we allowed ourselves to sleep in a little, and Jake made us some pancakes!  They were soooo yummy.  We brought the mix and syrup from home - and they did taste just like home!  It was a nice treat.

My morning coffee...overlooking the city :)
No - that's not traffic smog :)
Someone else who is here in EE adopting recently said on her blog that cooking meals is a lot like camping.  This is 100% truth!  We have one skillet - and it's cast iron.  We have one sharp knife, 3 glass plates (just enough to not have to take turns eating!), one pot...and that's about it!  It gets a little creative around here during dinner time :)

After breakfast, we went out souvenir shopping.  Rachel got some really cool things for her family.  We did most of our souvenir shopping on our first trip - but we did get a few Christmas gifts today for the 6 cousins :)  We were also on the lookout for 'Gotcha Day Gifts' - a relative (or should I say friend?!) of ours adopted from Guatemala a few years back.  They bought a whole bunch of little gifts while they were in Guatemala, and have given their son one gift each year on his 'Gotcha Day'.  We LOVE that idea!  So - we're totally copying, Jeanne!  It won't be hard to find 15 or so inexpensive little gifts - there are souvenir stands everywhere.

We walked down to Independence Square and finished up our shopping.  We realized that our visit was only a few hours away, and we really didn't want to walk all the way back to our apartment, only to turn around and come back to the metro.  So we decided to eat lunch and relax at McDonalds for a bit...I know, so 'American' :)  It was close, and we were hungry :)

We have been wanting to get off the metro a few stops early, and walk around by the Dnipro river.  Today, we did.  Let me tell you - it's really not what it seems :)  It was pretty dirty - lots of garbage - and it felt slightly unsafe.  So we didn't wander too far - just enough to take a few photos and hop back on the metro.  Still glad we did it, though!

Wish I had a beautiful, intriguing story to tell you about this statue.  I don't.  I just liked it :)

The Dnipro River.  I'm pretty sure this part of it is not near as 'scenic' as other parts :)
In other words - don't judge the whole river by this one photo, please :)

Fun fact...when we got back on the metro, we saw an advertisement for a Skillet concert!  In this city!  Too bad it's scheduled for a few weeks after we should be leaving :(

When we got off at the Lisova stop (our stop), we shopped around the little vendors.  We found headed to the orphanage early. Rachel and I were chilly - when we left this morning, it was sunny and about 50 degrees! But by this time, the sun was gone and we were cold.  We knew the orphanage would be warm (it's usually like an oven when we walk in...) - so we decided to hang out there for the 45 minutes or so before our visit.  It worked out good, because they brought Carter out a bit early to us!

We noticed that his left eye looks irritated.  My 'Preschool Teacher Professional Wisdom' tells me it's pink eye.  Goopy/watery and red.  Hopefully it just takes care of itself.  His chest also sounded a little rattly.  Praying that cold stays away!

No - he's not sleeping :)  Just giving some snuggles!

Some more nose wiping for the Grandmas who just can't get enough!

Carter and I took a few long walks down the hallway today, and we found these pictures!

Carter is on the right, and his gal-pal Lucy is on the left :)

Anyone recognize this little man?  Orphan no more - this boy is happily home with his family!  Anyone?  Anyone?

Loved the ensemble today.  Perhaps it was a Halloween costume.  Whaddya think?  'Bathing Beauty'?  'Rubber Ducky'?  'Orphanage Chic'?  Take your pick.  We don't care - we think he's cute, anyway :)

Carter's little cheeks and lips are pretty I put some chapstick on them.  Well - after watching mama do it one time, he had it down pat!

Mommy was trying to teach me to clap my hands when everyone yells 'yaaaaay!'.  I didn't quite get it - but I will soon!
Toward the end of our visit, we called Yulia and asked her to call us a cab.  It was dark, and being Halloween, we really didn't want to walk back to the apartment.  She called back and said 'the taxi will be there in 5 minutes!'.  Well shoot!  We still had over 30 minutes left of our visit.  Oh well...we got Carter early today, so it all balances out :)

We went to the grocery store, and we were surprised to see that there were no Halloween shenanigans.  Okay - I know that word is ridiculous.  It's all I could think of :)  I guess we were thinking it would be like 'State Street' - which is mass chaos on Halloween in Wisconsin.  But really, it was just like any other  night.

Now we're back at the apartment - and Jake just made us a really, really yummy meal.  Pork with a cracker crumb coating, wild mushroom risotto, and crusty bread!  What a guy.  Remember what I said about eating in shifts?  He made mine and Rachel's first..and then his.  Well - ours was delicious!  Jake's...was burnt.  Poor guy.  He busts his buns to make us dinner, and then burns his dinner :(  But can I just say...he really does spoil Rach & I!  Jesse & Lisa...Rachel might be demanding room service when she gets home!!

Can I just wouldn't be Halloween without listening to 'Thriller' :)  Which is what we're about to do...and then finish our movie that we started last night - 'Ever After'!

One Thing I Know For Sure: Read Jake's post from this a.m if you haven't's pretty darn sweet!

My best bud...

Not all little boys can say that they had parents that loved them unconditionally as the grew toward maturity.  Well, I can say that I did, with great affirmation.  Even after smashing the door of my dad's prized Toyota pickup, or snipping some hair off of mom's classic 50's and 60's Barbie Dolls, they still loved me.  With out a doubt, they loved me.  

I can remember some great things from my childhood.  I remember Dad stopping home at lunch when we lived on Central St. and we would watch Mr. Rogers.  I remember naps with Mom before she would had to work 2nd shift at Mercy Hospital.  I was very young when these things happened but I remember them.  They have impacted me. One of the fondest things about my childhood was my dad always saying the simple phrase, "You're my best bud!"

When he said it I would say it back with an excited response.  He said it a lot, so I know he meant it.  It was special for me.  To this day he still says it. I love it.  I sit here and wonder if he knew how those few words have molded me into the man God intended me to be.  Just a few words that meant the world to one little boy.  This little boy.

Never in a million years did I think this would be the way I would enter fatherhood.  I mean, not adoption.  Definitely not a special needs adoption.  As I have written here before and told others in conversation, God changed my heart.  When I thought "that just isn't for me" He thought differently.  My wife did not nag, beg or plead with me.  This very important as to why this whole thing worked out.  She just prayed, and I finally realized that this life isn't about me.  Its not about piling high all that I can.  Not about climbing the preverbal ladder.  Its about doing what God intend me to do.  Most of that has to do with seeing my parents follow and obey God's plan for their lives.

I was lucky to have parents that realized the kind of guts it takes to follow where God leads.  I just want to say thanks to them for showing me how to be a good parent.  Had I not had their example I would be so freaked about being a dad, but I'm not.  I am prepared because of their example.

I am more than excited to be Carter's daddy.  I have already told him that I can't wait for him to catch his first Walleye or Bluegill or maybe even a Musky (maybe he will catch one before uncle Ben).  I can't wait until he learns how to raise his hands to signal a Packers touchdown. I can't wait for him to go to sunday school or Awana and make new friends.  So many"firsts" I can't wait for.

Part of me can't even wrap my mind around the fact that I am father.  What judge would grant me permission to take ownership of this little guy?  So many faults and flaws but perfect enough to care for Carter, "my best bud."  I plan on continuing the heritage of that phrase with my boys and girls.  They will know that I love them unconditionally.

One Thing I know For Sure: "Carter, you're my best bud!"  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

More Exploring!

Tonight was fun...we went out to explore the city a bit more.  There is so much to see, and really - so little time to see it!  We are just trying to take it all in!

We heard that Kreschatyk (the main street) is closed to traffic on Saturday and Sunday - so we wanted to head down there in the evening.  There are lights all over the streets, and you can walk up and down Kreschatyk.  We just had to go!

The view outside our kitchen window.

Jake likes this Porsche store.

The buildings and architecture are really beautiful!

This is the symbol for Ukraine - and their colors are blue and yellow.  These street lights line the street.
We loved all the music on the street.  There were 3 sets of musicians within a half mile.  We laughed when we heard this - the chicken dance is a universal language!

Rachel & I, standing in the street.

Jake & I in the street.

Kreschatyk at night.  Beautiful!

For dinner, we went to El Patio...delicious!!  Does this look familiar, December 2010 adopting families?

I ordered pasta.  Let me tell you - I didn't realize how much I loved pasta until I've lived without it for weeks!  This pasta was delicious! Jake and Rach split a pizza...they said it was the best they've ever had!

This restaurant was super...the atmosphere was great.  It felt like a restaurant in America.  The prices were a little more 'American'...but it was worth it!  I would recommend it, for those of you coming after us.  It's right next to Friday's.

While we were walking the streets today, I realized that some day, our memories and experiences will be the only connection that Carter has to his country and his culture.  It made me feel a little less 'guilty' about missing visits to explore.

Since we had to set our clocks back, its very dark at 6:00p - which is when we leave the orphanage.  We decided that after evening visits, we'll call a taxi.  We feel safe walking around Kreschatyk at night, but not so much near the orphanage.


Tomorrow we'll sleep in a little, and head out for some souvenir shopping.

One Thing I Know For Sure: Love this city more & more each day!

Same Old, Same Old...

The monotony has set in.  I'm not even sure what to blog anymore!  Every visit is pretty much the same.  Take a few steps, play on the iPad, take a few more steps, play in the sink, sit at the table, take more steps, give a few snuggles, play 'make Carter giggle', take a few more steps, play on the get the idea :)  We LOVE visiting our boy, and we LOVE spending time with him.....but it's getting hard to come up with new things to do :)

Ah, yes.  The ongoing search for something fun to do sometimes results in ideas like this:

Ridiculous, I know - considering he barely fits.  But he liked the buttons, so it turned out okay :)

Yes - he is laying on the sink.  He just could NOT get enough!

Every once in a while now, he'll laugh out loud - just randomly.  For the fun of it.  He would have NEVER done that before.  NEVER.  He is blossoming, and we're loving it!

On the walk home, I freaked out a little when I saw a kid with a gun!  Okay, it was a fake gun, and once I realized that important fact, I got a kick out of watching him point the red laser in places that lasers should never be pointed :)  Little stinker.  


I think I mentioned once that Rachel and I have been listening to 'Radical' by David Platt...usually while Jake is napping :)  He'll listen to it, too - sometime before we get home.  Anyhow - so far, it's incredible.  Really, really love it.  We're only on the second chapter (ha!)  but I would already recommend it to everyone!  

Also - did I mention that we had to set our clocks back last night?  So now we're only 7 hours ahead of everyone at home.  Well...until you all set your clocks back next week :)

That's all for now.  I'm absolutely napping today :)'s 4:23p here - and nap, I did.  For over 2 hours.  And then realized that I never posted my blog!  Sorry for the late post :)  

One Thing I Know For Sure: Ready to bust this boy outta there!  9 days & counting!  

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Our God.

Tonight we went to Hillsong Church.  Eugene called a cab for us and it came at 5:15p.  We got to the church  by 5:50p - and the service started at 6:00p.

When we walked inside, it was obvious that this was not an 'american' church.  No marble floors.  No new carpet.  Plastic lawn chairs in the entrance.  No ritzy light fixtures.  But God was clearly in this place.

We were immediately met by an english-speaking woman, Katya.  She lead us to their cafe - which was nothing more than a few tables & chairs set up, with coffee & tea.  She asked us why we were here, what we were doing, etc.  When we explained that we were adopting a child with Down syndrome, she couldn't believe it.  But by the time we were done talking - she agreed that it would be better for him in America.  She seemed sorry that this country doesn't know how to care for these children.  I'm praying this opened her eyes a bit.

She led us to the store - wow!  We bought lots of fun stuff!  A children's Bible pop-up book (in Russian), 2 Kids Worship Cds (in Russian), another 'normal' worship CD (in Russian), a tshirt for Carter (it says 'i want to marry a history maker like my Mama'), a tshirt for myself (it says 'the best is yet to come'), and a Ukrainian Bible.  We've been looking for a Bible at every book store and were so glad to find one here!

After we finished up our shopping, we went in to the sanctuary.  There were maybe 150 people in attendance - and Katya said that on Sunday morning there are about 800 at each service (there are 3).  Katya introduced us to Sofia - who translated the service for Jake & I.  Sofia is British - and is studying at this Hillsong College, learning Russian.  It was fun to talk to her about her life and what God is doing.  She did a great job translating - her first time ever!  We forced her to take 100 hryvnya (about $12USD)...she was so sweet.  Rachel had a different translator - we never got her name, she just came up out of the blue and started translating for her :)

The service was different than home in so many ways - but we all agreed that the Christian fellowship was much needed.  The worship started, and the screen displayed the lyrics in Russian, and then English underneath.  It was fairly easy to sing along in English once we got the hang of it.  Rachel said she enjoyed hearing the Russian and trying to read the words @ the same time.

And then it happened.  This song absolutely touched us.  You'll recognize the song for sure.  It was an amazing, emotional 5 minutes.

Our God.  Not America's God.  Our God.  Really - I wish I could explain how incredible it was.  Here we are - all so different, but yet so similar.  And we are all coming together, worshipping the same God.

And I can't even tell you how many times I have listened to this song over the past 6 months - and claimed that YES - If our God is for us, then who could ever stop us? If our God is with us, then what could stand against us?  And here we were.  In Carter's city.  Newly pronounced parents.  About to break him out of the orphanage for good.  Praising God with his people.

That doesn't even begin to describe the emotion I was experiencing.

Beautiful, really.

The message was good - a little hard to follow with a translator, but good nonetheless.  One of the Bible College teachers was preaching - and she spoke about the Holy Spirit, and how we need to be drenched in Him.  Soaked.  Dripping.

After the service, we walked across the street to Ashan.  We wanted to get another pair of shoes for Carter - the ones we brought are a tad too big, and not really conducive for his new walking feet :)  First we tried calling the taxi guy who drove us there - well, that was useless.  It was an automated system - in Russian, of course.  So then we called Eugene twice, with no luck.  So we decided that after Ashan, we would call Yulia.  So - we found some cute shoes for about $6USD, and headed back over to the church.  We got Yulia on the phone, and she needed to know the address of the church.  Ha!  Good question!  Luckily, we found Katya again, and she explained it to Yulia.  We spoke with Katya for a little while longer, and then went out to wait for our taxi.  After about 15 minutes, Katya came out to check on us, and was surprised that we were still there.  She said 'give me your phone - I will figure this out for you'.  Just then, an unmarked car pulled up - Katya spoke to the driver in Russian - and she explained that this was our driver, and she would take us to the apartment.  We told Katya that we'd probably see her next Saturday, as we plan to come back.

What a blessing sweet Katya was!  That's the body of language barriers - no cultural barriers - just love.  Love it.

We got home, and all agreed that tonight was such a total blessing.  How great it was to be with other believers.  How sweet it was to spend time with people who actually smiled back at us.  And how GREAT it was to get a hug from Katya when we left.  I miss hugs!  I guess Jake & Rachel & I will have to start hugging before bed to get caught back up :)

One Thing I Know For Sure: Our God is greater, our God is stronger - God, you are higher than any other....

Learning - Growing - Thriving

We visited Carter in the playroom today!  The director saw us when we came in, and he handed us the key to unlock it.  So I went up to get Carter while Jake and Rachel waited in the playroom.

We had a really fun visit, once again.  Lots of laughs - not just Carter's, either!

We 'explored' a few things with Carter today.  We want to see how he reacts to certain situations in his environment.  There is a little sink in the playroom, and we've been wondering how he'll do during bath time at the apartment.  Jake took him over to the sink, and turned the water on slowly.  Well....I don't think bath time will be a problem!  He loved the water, and kept crawling back to the sink throughout the visit.  That's a good sign :)  We decided that once he's ready for a bath at the apartment, we'll just let him play in the water - and then slowly transition the playtime into an actual bath.

We also wanted to see him 'play'.  Yes - we technically play with him at each visit - but we wanted to see if he would sit at the little table with a few toys, and play with those toys.  Well...once again, he blew us away.  He sat at the little table for over 15 minutes...totally focused on his toys.  He tried very hard to mimic what his daddy was doing...whether it was stacking, spinning, matching - he tried it all....this kid is amazing :)

Carter gave us a few surprises during our visit.  He was getting very brave with his walking today.  He started out by walking a few steps, with me following very closely behind him.

Later on, he crawled over to the little table (with Rachel's shoe!) and got in the chair himself.  Since he was being so independent, we just had a hunch that he might try to walk on his own.  So glad I had the camera on!  This boy got up off his chair, and took several unassisted steps across the room.  He just blows us away.

Amazing to watch a little boy gain confidence & independence, isn't it?


After our visit, we decided to take Rachel to McDonalds :)  We sat outside (yes, it's cold out, but the natives don't care - so we don't, either!) and enjoyed our home-like meal!  And we laughed.  Boy oh boy did we laugh.  I don't even remember why.  But I do remember that this morning when I read my sweet Grannie's daily email, she said "find something to laugh about today" and we did.  Thanks Grannie.  I appreciate those daily emails more than you'll know!

Later tonight we'll go to Hillsong Church!  A taxi will pick us up at 5:15p - which, unfortunately, means no afternoon visit.  But we are so excited about experiencing church in a different culture.


Do you realize that you are watching a little boy flourish right before your eyes?  Just a few weeks of love, and look how far he has come.

From this....

To this....

Every child deserves a chance.  Every.single.child.  For this boy, it has made all the difference in the world.  

Has adoption ever crossed your mind?  Ever?  There may be a child that needs you.  Yes, you.  Don't start listing off reasons why adoption is not right for you.  If you've thought about it, then it probably is right for you.  And please, please don't turn away from adoption because of financial reasons.  There are grants and fundraisers that can & will help with that.  If you remember correctly, we raised over $20,000. It is possible.

Could you look this boy in the face, and tell him that he can't have a warm home and a loving family, because of money?  Or because it doesn't fit your lifestyle right now?  Or because you want to have biological kids first?  Or because adoption is too much work?

Please...if the Lord has ever, ever whispered 'adoption' to you...don't ignore it.  You'd be walking away from a beautiful, incredible, unimaginable gift.

And Carter agrees.  Because this 'family' stuff is pretty great :)

 If you have ever thought about adoption (special needs or otherwise!)...have questions...concerns...doubts...please - email me.  Right now - I'd love to chat!  Gibsons15 (at) sbcglobal . net :)  Don't miss out on this gift....

One Thing I Know For Sure: So glad we acted.  So glad we took the leap.  Never, ever looking back...

Friday, October 28, 2011

For Those Coming After Us...Part 5 :)

Since we mostly hung around the apartment this afternoon, trying to rest up, I thought of a few things I wanted to share!

+When you get here, you will get a cell phone, provided by the team.  It has all the phone numbers that you will need.  Check to see if it has 'Yugen' or 'Eugene' - if it doesn't, then ask Niko for it.  Eugene drove us to court because Niko was in region with another family.  He told us that if we ever had questions or needed him to translate, to please call.  We did call him once from the orphanage when the nanny was clearly trying to tell us something.  We also called him tonight about taking us to Hillsong Church, because he mentioned that he knows where it is.  So - my point?  Don't hesitate to call him!  He's super nice, and very helpful.  Just be mindful that if he drives you somewhere, you will be asked to pay him - obviously.  When he drove us to our apartment, and then to court (about 40 minutes of driving) it was about $12USD.

+I've mentioned before that there are many, many markets to choose from.  If you are staying in this region, you'll undoubtedly have one very close to your apartment.  There are about 3 that are within 2 blocks of us.  One is an open air's in the same building/block as Celentanos...and it has lots of things like this.......

Needless to say, we don't shop at this one!  It's fun to walk through - but I wouldn't buy anything here!  The one we use the most is on the lower level of the Mandarin Mall.  Niko will probably point this out to you on your first day.  The entrance to the mall is near (next to?) Tiffany & Co.  This is what the entrance looks like......

 It's actually a very American-looking mall.  As soon as you go in the doors, you'll see this escalator.  It goes down to the market that we use the most.

It's a 'normal' looking store, and it's fairly easy to distinguish the different items.  We have bought the pork from the meat department, and maybe next time we'll try some chicken.  We love the fresh bread and pastries, too!

The other market that we go to is a Billa Market.  It's on Kreschatyik, near Friday's.  You'll find it.  It's also very easy to get around here and navigate through the items.

Both of these markets have other necessities like toilet paper, shampoo/conditioner, hand soap, etc.  For this trip, we didn't pack shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, or ziplocs...because now we know that all of those items can be purchased here.

+Just a fun'll see/hear these street musicians all over the place.  We try to drop something in their hats when we can.  It adds to the feel of the city, you know?  You'll also see musicians get on the metro and play/sing.

That's all for now! More to come!

One Thing I Know For Sure: Love this city :)

*Yaaawn*.....Oh, Sorry....!

This morning, Jake had two very tired girls on his hands :)  Rachel and I both slept in a little bit, but were up in time to make it to the orphanage by our 9:30a visit.

When we got to the orphanage, we decided to ask about getting the playroom unlocked.  Well, boy oh boy.  You would have thought that we asked her for a million dollars!  She was not happy.  It's a playroom, for pete's sake!!  Isn't that what it's there for?!  Ok, done ranting :)

So she hesitantly went to unlock it, and brought Carter down a few minutes later.  This time, he seemed much more comfortable in this room.  He only snuggled for a few minutes before he was ready play.  One of our reasons for wanting to be in this room was so that we could work on his walking on a carpeted area.  When we have him walk in the hallway, he sometimes leans his body and walks away from us - and falls on the tile.  He's not really gotten hurt, but we if we think the nannies are angry now...well...we'd hate to see them after we return Carter with a bruise on his head.

I LOVE to get hugs after I take a few steps.
I love that my mama and daddy cheer for me. They really go crazy!
Nobody has ever done that for me before.

Sometimes, even I cheer!  It's so fun!

And I love when my mama kisses me.  I press my little cheek to her, as hard as I can.
Nobody has ever kissed me like this before.

Even Carter is starting to feel like our visits are becoming today, he played with Rachel's shoe, instead of his :)  Gotta mix it up a bit!

It was incredibly exciting :)

He's starting to get the hang of the iPad, and gets excited when we pull it out.  This will come in very handy on the plane :)

On the way home from the orphanage, I don't think we said more than 5 words to each other!  The whole walk back, all we heard were yawns :)  We got on the metro, and we all dozed off a little bit!  Rachel even said that if she laid her head on the handrail of the escalator, she could probably fall asleep :)  So - naps for all, today - and maybe just an evening relaxing at the apartment tonight.  Don't judge, please.  Yes - we want to spend as much time with Carter as we can - but we will be no good to him if we're exhausted.  And in about 11 days, we'll be bringing him into our apartment - we REALLY don't want to be exhausted, then.

We decided to stop for lunch at the 'Native' Buffet :)  We had two sayings during lunch.  "I have no idea what this is - but it's good!" and also "This would be so much better if it were hot.".  We probably would have even settled for 'luke warm' :)  Overall, it was a good lunch, and the food was very authentic.  So...a good experience, I suppose :)

By the way...we did the math last night!  Almost wish we wouldn't have :)  We thought we were walking about 4 miles a day...ha.  Turns out, it's more like 3.5 miles per visit :)  So, about 7 miles a day, that is - if we're just going to the orphanage and back.  This trip, we've walked about 20 miles.  That could be why we're a bit tired :)


The other night I found this song while browsing YouTube...I just can't get enough!  It's so interesting being here - on the other side of the world...and then listening to all these languages.  It really makes me realize how small our world is, and how connected we all are.  We're more alike than different, people!

We're pretty sure that around 1:10-1:20 is the Russian portion.

Makes us even more excited to visit Hillsong...which I think is tomorrow.  Pretty sure they have Saturday services.


One Thing I Know For Sure: Rach & I are about to listen to the audio book of 'Radical' - we'll let you know how it is!  (Sorry, it's getting hard to come up with catchy sayings at the end of each post!)

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