About Us

Hattiesburg, MS, United States
We are a really average family that just can't get over that we have been adopted by an extraordinary God! We are excited and expectant as the journey to enlarge our family unfolds before us.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Praying for our friends tonight

Tonight as we settle down, we are praying for our dear friends, Kimberly and Tony Merida. In just a few minutes they will be setting out to visit a sibling group in Ukraine as they continue their adoption journey. We are praying that God will go before them and grant them extraordinary discernment in the decisions that lay ahead. We are also praying that they will be met with a spirit of truth and openness by all those that they will deal with along the way.

As I contemplate the journey that they have ahead, I would ask that all who know and love them hold them up in prayer and support them. Part of that support is going to be in giving them the space and freedom to find their children and to become a family. We all are anxious to be part of their journey and to share in their progress, but we have to remember to take it slow. They will have much to adjust to and much to accomplish in the coming days. That need for adjustment will be compounded by every new member of their new forever family.

We are so thankful that God has led our path to intersect with Tony and Kimberly so many times in so many ways!!! Godspeed as to journey today. You are our dear friends and some of our favorite siblings in God's family!!!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Thrilled for Friends

We've been home 4 weeks today, and life is good. Last night included a trip to the emergency room for Nicholas. A bump on the head, but all is well. But, enough about us...

This morning, we got fantastic news. Our dear friends Tony and Kimberly got news about their appointment at the SDA. They have an appointment this coming Wednesday!!!!!! Yep, that's right. They are scrambling to get things together to fly out on Sunday. This takes me back to our adoption of Erick. We traveled with 3 days notice, so we know it can be done. God is good and He is enough. Please pray that they will be ready and for peace and rest in the coming days.

We'll keep you posted!!!!

Rick

Friday, March 20, 2009

Two weeks down....

As of bedtime tonight, we've been home two weeks!!! How time flies when you're having fun. We have been very busy, but everything is going well. Nicholas seems to be adjusting well. He's really settled in and seems to be getting more comfortable by the day.

He and Erick are doing much better together. They have their moments, but more and more, we can see them accepting each other and acting like brothers. I think they are also figuring out how to gang up on us! Oh well, we knew it was bound to happen. I guess that;s just one more thing to be thankful for:)!

Part of our busy week was a trip to the doctor with Nicholas for a checkup. That was an experience. Our pediatrician, Dr. Greg Parvin, was great. Greg and Denise have been friends since elementary school and their families go way back. He really made Nicholas feel at ease right up until he told us that Nicholas needed one vaccination and some blood tests. The only way we had to prepare Nicholas for what was coming was to use Denise's iPhone to translate what was about to happen. First, I found the translation for vaccnation and played it for him. He got the picture and was not a happy camper. We got through that and headed for the lab. Again, I played the phrase for draw blood, and it got worse. He screamed like bloody murder (pun acknowledged). Once it was over and we went back to wait, I got the iPhone out to translate "all done." When I put the phone up to his ear again, he pushed it away and started screaming again. Poor baby! Though it was't funny at the time, his reaction has gotten funnier as the days have passed. We still have one more medical test to go...but the iPhone doesn't seem to have a translation for "stool sample," and for the life of me, I haven't figured out the charades signals to explain it :)!

Today, we did some running around including a trip by the church. We wanted to take him in and show him around on a day when things were quiet before bringing him on a Sunday. It doesn't get much quieter than 3 P.M. on the Friday of Spring Break week!!! Assuming all continues to go well, we are planning for everyone to be at church on Sunday. We can't wait to get him acclamated to Temple.

Well, that's about it for now. Once again, I want to say thanks to the many people who have done so many kind things for us in the days since we have been home. We have been fed and provided for by so many and we are grateful. We love you all.

Blessings,

Rick

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's 8 o' clock and all is well!

Sorry we haven't updated in a couple of days, but as you can imagine, it has been rather hectic. Yesterday was a good day. Denise and I got to go to church for worship as the boys stayed home with her parents. What a blessing! It was so good to be back and experience the presence of God together with our beloved Temple family. Tony preached one of the finest sermons I have ever heard him preach (and that's saying something--as many as I have heard over the years). It will be a tough act to follow, but I am excited about preaching. It's pretty hard to mess up a message on the Cross!!!!

Things seem to be getting better with the boys. Erick is really seeming to get more comfortable with Nicholas, and they are really beginning to enjoy each other. It's good to see. Nicholas has done well. He really is a good natured boy, and I think we are seeing more of his stress-free personality. We haven't seen any of the aggressive child we saw in the orphanage. Not to say that we won't, but so far so good. Our communication seems to be pretty good as well. Denise and I are begining ot recognize more Russian, and we can tell he is understanding us more as well. His first clear English phrase came courtesy of a Madegascar (sp?) Happy Meal Toy. It is, "I'd Like to Move It, Move It!" So appropriate for Gene, Gene the Dancin Machine! He has also added the phrase "double trouble" from our Pop-A-Shot. I am sure that one will be said of him and Erick soon. The one phrase he hasn't mastered yet came while he was rifing in the car a couple of weeks ago. I said he was "chillin' like a villian." That comes out "chicken like a billian." Nobody will take him seriously as a "gangsta" anytime soon.

Nicholas is eating well and sleeping well. He is easy to get to sleep and he has slept all night every night since we got home without incident. Pretty cool.

Denise's parents went home today. We were sad to see them go. They were a big help, and we love having them here. But, today with just the four of us, it seemed like we settled in pretty well. Erick heads back to school tomorrow, and I'll put in my first full day of work after a half day today. My mom returns home from Florida tomorrow as well, so after tomorrow, we'll get down to the business of a routine. Yeah!!!!!!!!!

One more thing. Nicholas nad i had a breakthrough today. This afternoon, I turned on a game from the World Baseball Classic. He loved it! I expected that it would just be background noise while the boys played, but he crawled up in my lap and watched for a while, and he even imitated the pitcher and the hitters! Cool. Nevermind that he kept calling it "basketball." At least he's not a soccer only man. He also watched a little NASCAR yesterday. Between those two sporting interests, there's something I can work with :)!

Have a great night,

Rick

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Home Sweet Home...and it's all good.

Sorry we didn't get to update from Memphis last night. Northwest threw us a bit of a curve. The information we had said the flight was departing 30 minutes later than it did. We had time to grab a quick bite to eat (Popeye's Chicken was a hit) and hit the road.

The reception at the airport was awesome. We were so grateful for the friends and family who came out to greet us. I am not really sure what Nicholas thought of it all, but he's got to have a big clue to how many people have been been praying for him and what the Body of Christ is all about. We will take a few weeks before we introduce him to church, but we're ready for him to begin to get the idea of a church family as well as his new family.

After we got home last night. Nicholas was hilarious. He just walked around from room to room taking it all in with a huge grin on his face. At one point, he looked at Denise and said, "Momma, Poppa Dome?" (Momma and Poppa's Home?). She looked back at him with a big smile and told him, "Nicholas Dome!" With a huge grin, he seemed satisfied. Another highlight was a pair of black dress shoes that Nanna and Papaw brought. I think we missed a little on our size estimate and they are really big, but he was so proud of his new shoes. This morning, he had to have them on with his pajamas as soon as he got up. Too funny! Last night, the boys settled into bed about 10 and we all slept until about 6 this morning. It really exceeded our expectations.

This morning has been fun. We introduced him to pop tarts and chocolate milk. They were a big hit! He and Erick have been enjoying Nanna and Papaw, and we're had a great morning just playing together.

We're home and we're grateful. Grateful for a great God and his mercies and for his people.

Blessings,

Rick

Friday, March 6, 2009

On the road again....

We are in Amsterdam. No problem getting out of Kyiv (except for the eye rolling and sighing of the passport agent who processed our paperwork...I guess doing his job was a little much to ask so early in the morning :)). The flight was 3 hours and uneventful. The boys are tired, and I am hoping and praying that the next flight (10 hours) is as uneventful. Looks like we are on schedule. We'll try to update again from Memphis. We should be there @ 4:40 and out of customs later...

See you soon,

Rick

Thursday, March 5, 2009

We're on go for home....

First, let me say that after looking at the post from last night, it looked like Erick wrote it. Sorry about all the typos and junk. I was beyond spell check at that hour and didn't really even notice. Slush, you know I love you like the brother I never had. I have 6-weeks worth of trash talk stored up, and I know I won't get to cut up with you while you are over here teaching...sorry I had to rib you, but I just couldn't resist.

Anyway, we got Nick's visa at about noon, and everything looks good for a 6:45 A.M. departure in the morning. None too soon. The zipper on Nick's new winter coat is shot. Every toy we bought had either broken or the batteries are run down. We have about an hour until the manager from our Ukrainian agency stops for a visit, and then Joel and Mary Ellen are coming over to this side of the river to have dinner with us. We'll have to meet up with Yana sometime to get the copies of our court decree and Nick's birth certificate with the translations to make us legit going through passport control in Kyiv tomorrow. That should polish off the evening, and get us to bedtime. We'll be up at 3 A.M.ish. Then we'll be off to the airport at 4ish. Then....nothing to it. Just 20 hours worth of flights and layovers. Piece of cake. Please pray with us. Assuming no delays, we'll be into Pine Belt International Airport (Ha, ha--at least we won't have to wait long for bags) at 8:15.

That's about it...see you stateside.

Thanks for everything,

Rick

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Somebody call coach Cal.....

We ain't quite got this switch from zone to man to man defense worked out yet?!?!?! I figured as an alum of the #5 U of Memphis TIgers, he could give us some pointers.

Seriously, I an writing a quick post in the middle of the night to let you know we are o.k. Exhaused but doing pretty well. Yesterday began at 7 and ended with dinner at TGI Friday's across the street from out flat 13 hours later. IN exhasustion, we fell in the bed with two wired boys are were able to get them to sleep before 10.

This morning, a run to the eembassy for paperwork, to get a medical exam (with good news--the doctor saw little evidence of the developmental delays indicated by the orphanage. He leaned to believe it is lack of opportunity to develop). We'll see One funny moment, when the doctor asked what language he spoke...he asked "Russian" and Nick sayed "nyet. He asked Urrainian and Nick sayed nyet. He asked English and without missing a beat Nick said dah (Russian for yes). Everybody got a big laugh.

We thought up until late this afternoon that we might het his visa this afternoon. Delta had seats for us Thurday morning. Instead we should get it tomorrow morning and with a chunk of change put down later, we are heaeded home Friday. We will Fly into PIB (HAttiesburg/LAurel) at about 8:15 P.M. Also means Nick will become a citizen in Memphis (my childood home--pronounced--Meffis for those of ya'll not from there.) Kinda cool.

GOnna run, I'm sleeping with Nick tonight and don't want to disturb him. He snores like a buzz saw and every once in a while an odor wafts over that might explain why that counter=terrorism check might be taking a little longer. It's like rooming with Slusher. BTW, SLush, any of your middle eastern relations made it over this way in 2001. Cause come to think of it, Nick likes to throw his hands over his head and yell "OOpah" while he dances> Just wondering?

Thanks for praying. We're all well and ready to see you all.

Blessings,

Rick

Monday, March 2, 2009

False Start

Wow! The last couple of hours had been wild. Today was pretty typical except that we have been waiting for word about Nick's passport. No word at 2 P.M. Then, a little after 4, Yana called and the passport is done! So, we were thinking, "Great, we'll pick Nick up in the morning." Not so fast my friend. Yana called right back and said that the Director would not be at the orphanage tomorrow, so we either needed to get him right now or wait until Wednesday. We talked for about 30 seconds and decided to go ahead and get him. So we hurried and got his clothes together along with the gifts for the people at the orphange and some other stuff we had accumulated to donate, and we headed off to the orphanage.

Once we got there, we went to the director's office fully expecting to sign the papers and get Nick to bring him back to the hotel for the night. The director welcomed us into the office, and she tried to tell us something as we were getting reasy to sign the papers. One problem...no translator. Yana is still in Kyiv. A qiuck call to get her on the phone, and we understood. The director was willing to make special arrangments for us to pick him up at 7 in the morning. Whew! I think that will be a little easier for everyone.

So, we are headed to get him in the morning at 7 with a quick stop in Odessa to get the passport and then on to Kyiv. If everything goes well, we should be in Kyiv tomorrow afternoon around 4 or 5. One giant step closer to home!

This last couple of hours has been a blur. We just prayed from the time we got the call that God would order our steps. We're pretty sure the director's unexpected offer was just that. It's not that we don't want him with us. It's just that we want to minimize the trauma for everyone.

Erick's pretty whiny tonight. He went from being excited to get his brother, to crying over not getting him, to crying over wanting his old life back! Well at least he'll have his "old life" for one more night:)! Pretty funny. I'm sure every child that has ever gotten a sibling has wanted that from time to time.

Erick has been facinated with the hotel cat while we have been here. He's also been pretending to be a cat and coined a new term, "cat-tastic." I hope we have a cattastic day tomorrow....

I think from the post tonight, you can tell how to pray for us. Thanks for checking in on us. We'll write when we can.

Blessings,

Rick

Sunday, March 1, 2009

One day closer to home

You know how it is when you get a blister. The longer it goes. the more irritated it gets, and when you know you are about to be able to take your shoes off...it gets unbearable. That pretty much sums up the emotion of this afternoon. We are ready to go.

The visit at the orphanage was pretty tough. Nicholas was fine. The last two days, he has brought this little pink phone out with him to play. It plays music. I think it hit us both today, he had it because he was imitating momma's iPhone with the hot pink cover. Too funny! Anyway, he was pretty low key for the beginning of the visit. The last couple of days, he is really enjoying just sitting in one of our laps or being carried around. He hardly wants us to put him down. The tough part was the other kids. One of the other groups came over to play by us today, and after a while, some of the kids made their way to come play with us. It was fun right up until the part when they all started to call me "Poppa." Whoa, that was tough. I guess they are pretty used to seeing women, so Denise didn't draw as much attention, but they were really paying attention to me and trying to get my attention. The hopeful look in their eyes was so sad. All those little boys and girls need a poppa and a momma. They need homes, and I wish I could give it to them. In the end, I am crushed that I can't give it to them. That hurts. That stinks.

Tommorrow is the last day of life as we know it :). Barring something really unusual, Tuesday we will become a family of 4 24/7. I am tired just thinking about it. For all the anxiety and what-ifs, in about a day and a half it's going to be a reality. We're pretty nervous/scared/excited. For now...we wait.

Blessings,

Rick

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pretty good visit....and why bother with logic???

We talked with our facilitator before we went to the orphanage today. She had spoken with the folks there, and they had talked to Nicholas. The bottom line is that they all said this behavior was atypical of him. I hope that is a good sign. It's going to be difficult, and outbursts are a given. I just hope it's not his preferred coping mechanism.

Another thing that is going to make this hard is that ha is a very verbal child. Not being able to communicate verbally is going to be hard for him. Basically, we've tied a knot near the end of the rope and are hanging on...

When we got him today, they were in the middle of a music program. All the kids were dressed up in their dress clothes. We went and had him put on his outside pants, but couldn't find his boots. He was really reluctant to get his "good" shoes dirty. We could tell that it was something that was drilled into him pretty seriously.

His group was having cookies and fruit, and we could tell he really wanted to go back because he thought he was missing out. We took him back a little early, and he had to take Erick in with him to "show off" his brother to the rest of the kids. There were several big squeezing hugs today, but nothing aggressive. Maybe yesterday got the point across. We'll just keep a close watch and be consistent.

In my conversation with Yana this morning, I get the idea that going back to Kyiv on Monday is pretty much out of the picture. I think part of it is that our driver has to work on Monday. It's only a day. That pretty much means that Friday would be the earliest we could get home. We'll see. At any rate, we are less than a week from leaving for home. Whoo Hooo!!!!!!

I'll leave you today with a top ten list of things that we hope to do (or never to do) once we get home.

10. I need somebody to stop by the house and turn our hot water heater up to the thermonuclear range. You also might want to alert the North Lamar Water District of an unusual spike in demand on the night we get home 'cause I want a long, hot shower!

9. I will not wash anymore underwear or socks in the sink--ever!

8. I will not fight with Erick to wear a hat!!!!

7. I will not willingly watch soccer, and I will tell anyone that football is a sport where guys wear helmets and can use their hands.

6. I will not sleep on a box spring, and I want a top and bottom (fitted) sheet on my bed.

5. I will not eat salami on pizza or with eggs.

4. I will thank God every day for Charmin.

3. I will not drink another hot Coke without ice.

2. I will go several days without wearing a black article of clothing.

1. I will use a clean bath towel everyday and I will not share my towel with anyone!!!!

I hope you see the humor in this list. We have been stretched a little in our surroundings and lifestyle over the last few weeks. We're not complaining, and there is pretty funny story behind each of these items that we'll look forward to sharing a laugh with you about when we get home. Until then...you'll just have to let your minds wander ;)!

Hope you have a great Saturday,

Rick

Friday, February 27, 2009

Got some good news this morning

I went down to the hotel's communal kitchen this morning, and the couple from Minnesota was there with their kids having breakfast. They got word that their passports were picked up yesterday afternoon. They applied for them at the close of business on Tuesday. We applied for Nick's in the late morning on Wednesday....if logic works at all....We should get Nick's on Monday afternoon. That probably means a 6-hour car trip to Kyiv on Monday night. As soon as we know for sure, we'll start working the phones with Delta to see about changing flights. The earliest that we could probably get home would be Thursday. We'll see what happens?????

Boy, that was a little good news to wake up to over a cup of java!

Thanks

Just wanted to say thanks to all of you who have commented here and on Facebook. Your insight has been helpful. I think a big part of our reaction is just plain old fear. We've read a ton on attachment issues and all the other things that are potentially going to be an issue. We've dealt with some of the attachment and sensory integration issues with Erick when he was adopted as an 19-month-old out of an orphanage, but it feels pretty different with a 7 1/2-year-old. It's easy to read a lot into everything we see.

This afternoon, I picked up Fields of the Fatherless. A good friend sent it along with us. It was a good reminder. God is on our side. He is glorified by what he is doing through us, and the fear is not of Him.

Just praying tomorrow will be a little better. Regardless, we are trusting....and working hard to be a family of 4.

Blessings,

Rick

Confusing

WARNING---This isn't going to be a feel good post! Just an honest one...

Today was a pretty confusing day with Nick. It started out pretty much as a carbon copy of yesterday. Eating a banana, drinking some juice, listening to some music, and some dancing. Nothing much that was too remarkable.

Then it started to get a little weird. He was hugging all over Erick. At first it seemed affectionate, but then it just got plain aggressive. He was hugging him tightly and grabbing Erick's face in his hands. Denise or I would pull him away and tell him to stop, and he would head right back. Anyone that knows Erick well knows how timid he is with other kids being aggressive. He was pretty freaked out. A couple of times, Nick even poked at his eyes. It was really pretty troubling.

We finally got him to stop, and it was time for us to go. On the way back to the group, everything seemed fine. Right up to the point he turned around and hit Erick in the head with a toy car. Totally unprovoked and out of nowhere. As soon as he did it, he looked like he was going to cry. I made sure that he understood that what he did was very bad. Not a great way to bring our visit to a close. We did our best to let him know that we loved him in our limited Russian and that we would see him tomorrow.

I have to admit that lunch was pretty miserable. Just trying to process. This was pretty much the same behavior that Denise saw a couple of weeks ago. It was pretty unnerving. Up until now, we could just chalk that up to a bad day. Now that the same thing has happened twice, it's made us a little scared. Since we can't communicate with him very well, we don't really understand what is going on from him. We don't know what he is saying. We can't be sure we are getting through to him, and he has to be as scared as we are. And, in the back of our minds...worry. Worry that there is more to this, and that we are unprepared to deal with it.

Sorry, there is that raw edge to the blog again. Transparency at its finest. I don't want to over-react. Brothers are going to fight. Kids are going to do things and get into trouble. But, this was just weird.

Pray for us. Specifically, you can pray that we can get some clues to understand this behavior and how to deal with it.

Anyone who is reading the blog that has some insight or experience...bring it on. We're listening.

We are exhausted and so ready to get home, and maybe that is making things worse.

I know we are called to do this, and God has been all over our getting here. Today has been a day where that is most of what I am hanging onto. Probably the first of many...

Thanks for checking in on us and being there,

Rick

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Gene, Gene, The Dancing Machine!!!!




Today, we were back to our regular schedule. I have to admit that I was pretty apprehensive to see Nick. Yesterday was O.K., but seeing how he reacted (wanting to go back to the orphanage and seeing his relief when we got back), I really wasn't sure how he would react today. Did he change his mind? Would he want to see us? The walk into the orphanage was a pretty intense prayer walk.

When we got to his group room and knocked for him, he came bursting out as usual. He had a big smile on his face, and he was ready to go. We headed off for our normal place to visit. He was ready to tear into his backpack and see if we'd brought anything new to play with (well...that and if we brought anything to eat). It probably helped that we had more than Tic-Tacs to feed him today :)! We tried his snow boots on him, and I think they are going to work. They are a European 33 which we think is a U.S. boys 1. For a little guy, he's got a big foot! He was really cute running around with his snow boots and his sweat pants. He looked like he had riding boots and pants on! He found some rubber worms in the backpack, and they were a lot of fun. He chased momma around with them, and she enjoyed running from him just as much.

After a little while, Denise got her iPhone out and started playing some music. That was a hoot. He's a regular little disco king!!! We were rolling at the sight. At one point, something was on that had a little bit of a march beat, and he broke out into this little goose-step march boogie kind of thing that was a scream. Can you say "comrade?" He had a blast dancing. Denise and Erick taught him a little spin move thing, and off they went!!!! I think my ordination certificate may be in jeopardy. While the SBC may have a cross country event, I am sure that the dance-a-thon has been banned from Southern Baptist competition!!!!!

Today is a beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky this afternoon. It doesn't really matter how nice the weather is...we're ready for some Mississippi air!

Well, I had better run. I've got to go work on my Roger Rabbit and the Running Man...

Blessings ,

Rick

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Today was...interesting...

Today we got moving pretty early. We left the hotel at 8:30 and headed to the orphanage to pick Nick up and head to Odessa. On the way to the orphanage, we found out that Yana didn't get everything done yesterday that we expected. The main thing was she was not able to get Nick's registration number processed. We need that number to get his passport.

So, we picked him up. We had to sign a form for the director saying we were responsible if anything happened to him while we were out. ISN"T THAT WHAT BEING A PARENT IS?!?!?! As usual, logic doesn't necessarily count in a government bureaucracy. He seemed excited to see us and to go. He announced to his caregivers as we were leaving, "I'm going to Odessa, and I'm not coming back." Somewhere from that moment to about five minutes down the road, I think reality set in. He was okay for the most part, but he got really quiet. He just rode along leaning on one or the other of us. We offered toys, but he didn't want anything. Finally, almist an hour into the ride, he told Yana that he was ready to go back to his group. Poor baby! I felt so sorry for him. We know what we are doing is for his good, but he's scared to death. It kind of reminds me of my relationship with God at some points. What's good sometimes seems pretty scary in the moment. and, sometimes getting what you want and pray for can even be pretty scary when it happens. We felt pretty helpless, so we just gave him plenty of hugs, kisses, and reassuring touches. He was so quite and so sad looking.

When we got to Odessa, we went first to get the registration number. Yana went in and was gone forever. Nick got pretty upset at one point and began to cry a little. He really wanted to go back to his group and the orphanage. Oleg, our driver, was great. He reassured him with words while we just loved on him the best we could.

He settled down, and after a while we could tell he had to go to the bathroom. I told Oleg with the trusty ole point and grunt method. He went and looked for a WC. No such luck. To add to the situation. Erick announced he had to go too. Great, two boys who have to go and no WC in sight. Oleg came back to the van and motioned for us to follow him. We are in downtown Odessa (city of about 1 million people). He led us across the street to a park (yep...you know where this is going!). Two days and two public urination incidents! Wow!!!! We ain't in Hattiesburg folks. On the other hand, I guess this was a bit of a bonding moment for the brothers :)!

Eventually, we got the registration paperwork. We made our way through the city to the passport office. We got there at about 5 'till noon. They let us in even though they were about to close for lunch. Some quick paperwork, and they took us to get Nick's picture taken. Yana also get them to produce some paperwork for the official in Sarata to clear up the property registration issue. We hope she'll be able to get that cleared up this afternoon with one more trip to Sarata.

After a flying trip back to B-D, we left Nick at the orphanage. He seemed releived. I guess that's to be expected. We went shopping at the market and took a taxi back to the hotel. Home sweet home...

If Yana's mission in successful, we are anticipating that we'll have to wait 5 days or so for Nick's passport. Until then, we'll go every day and visit him at the orphanage as before. Please pray for him in his transition. Today, he was quiet and withdrawn. The next time we take him out for good...who knows. We are praying hard and hoping for the best.

That probably means that our target for getting out of here and heading to Kyiv is the beginning of next week. We'll go as soon as we can. We still probably don't stand a chance of getting an earlier flight out since we are using SkyMiles for three of the tickets, but maybe at least we can get the Embassy process behind us before the 11th hour. Still looks like 12 days and we'll be home. I can't wait.

One final thing. I am getting reliable reports that Tony was cracking on me from the pulpit about the whole ice skating thing. Now that hurts. Here I am 5000 miles away and living on fried eggs and salami. I guess I'll have to work on something special for my return home. Stay tuned. BTW, I understand that he is trying to resurrect his athletic career with a run at the Crescent City Classic. In fact, I hear that he has several of the staff boys running with him, Great! I guess Temple will be a shoe in to win the cross country gold medal at the next Southern Baptist Convention! Not that winning an SBC athletic event is a big deal. Winning an all you can eat fried chicken contest at the SBC...now that's a challenge! Come to think of it...I think I'll start training for that as soon as I get home ;)!

Well, that's about it for now. Thanks for praying (and caring enough to pray!). We miss everyone at home!

Blessings,

Rick

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's official...Nicholas William Morton is ours!!!!!





Sorry to be so secretive ot this point with Nick's name and picture, but we wanted to make sure that everything was complete before we published anything in a public forum. Today, we crossed a big hurdle in the process, but we are far from done.

We awoke at 3 A.M. to leave the hotel at 4:30 headed to Odessa. We stopped at the train station to pick up Yana, our facilitator.When we met up with her, she had a little troubling news. We found ou that Nick had been registered in 2002 on a piece of property in Sarata. Getting the registration released could be a problem that could slow things down. We are praying that she will be able to resolve the issue today in Odessa, but the worst case scenerio would involve us having a meeting with another inspector for a hearing. Who knows how long that would take to schedule. Please pray with us that things will go smoothly, and we'll get his release with no problems. Once we got Yana, we came about 120 K back the other direction to Sarata (the town where Nick was born). Once we arrived in the town (about 5000 people) at about 8:30 A.M., we found the vital records office, and Yana went in and got the ball rolling on the birth certificate petition. They told us to come back in about an hour and pick it up. We decided to try and find a resturant and get some breakfast while we waited. In a small town like Sarata, that was no small feat at 8:40 in the morning. We found a little resturant...but it was an adventure. First, when we walked in there was no heat (and it was about -3C outside). Then, we asked if there was a bathroom (Erick had to go). The answer was no. The lady suggested that one of the other places in the little strip shop might have one he could use. The only thing open was a little bar at the end of the row where a lady was stocking. She suggested that I take him around back and let him go on a tree. I think that might have been the highlight of his trip!!!! And, judging from the condition out back he wasn't the first!!!! Unbelievable :)

We enjoyed a breakfast of fried eggs and salami. To put it bluntly, I hope to never eat fried eggs and salami ever again. At least I got a thimble full of instant coffee in a clear plastic Dixie cup! After breakfast we went back to the vital records office. In a Ukrainian hour (that's two and a half in U.S. hours), we got the form we needed. One problem, the registration date on the certificate was different than the court decree. On the way back to B-D, Yana spoke to our lawyer and decided to have the court decree ammended to match this form. She dropped us off at the hotel to get a nap (and get warm), and she headed off to get the ammended court decree then to Odessa to register the birth certificate and get the tax registration problem worked out. We haven't heard anything else, and I am hoping that no news is good news!

Tomorrow, we will get Nick from the orphanage for a few hours to take him to Odessa to get him "scanned" for his passport. I guess that is an electronic photo, but it sounds sort of Star Trek cool to say "scanned." "Beam me up, Scotty!" I'll try to surpress the urge on the flight home to yell, "Captain, I'm givin' her all she's got" in my best Scottish brogue.

So for now, things are progressing well, and we might make it to Kyiv as early as this weekend. We are anxious to get things complete here and get home. I just hope Cracker Barrell hasn't started substituting salami for the smoked sausage while we were gone!!!!

Blessings,

Rick

Monday, February 23, 2009

The paperchase begins

We started the day by sleeping in a little. Up until today, Erick has been up around 6 A.M. courtesy of the light from our skylight. A little overcast snowy day combined with a little Benadryl, and we got to sleep in! Anyway, we saw N for a little while this morning. We took the shoes, and sure enough, they were too small. Nevertheless, he put them on and wore them proudly. So proudly in fact that every time he heard someone out in the hall, he open the door to our sitting room and showed them off. Too funny! I can't wait to see his reaction when he get all new clothes in a few days. I hope the wonder isn't gone by Christmas....

After the orphanage, we set off with Oleg on Mr. Toad's wild ride all over B-D. When we got back in the car, he was on the phone with our facilitator, and she was giving him quite a to do list for the afternoon. We got copies of his birth certificate from the orphange, got more copies made, dropped the copies off at the notary, got the original of the birth certificate from the Inspector, when back to the notary to get the notarized copies of the birth certificate, and headed off to the market for more shoes! Whew, now you have an idea of what the next couple of days will be like.

We think that we will head off in the morning to Sarata (sp?) where N was born to get the birth certificate. I understood correctly today, we will go immediately to Odessa to get it registered. I think that means that we will have 2 trips to Odessa in the next couple of days. Really, I have no idea. Apparently, we are on a need to know basis, and right now I guess we don't need to know! No big deal. It's not like we can do anything to change it. We're just praying for smooth sailing!

We'll try to post something tomorrow. Not sure when we can, but we'll post as soon as we can!

Blessings,

Rick

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Another quite Sunday in B-D

Today's post is pretty much just a repeat of yesterday's except we got back on our regular schedule of 11 A.M. visits. N seemed to be feeling better. He wasn't coughing as much and was a little livelier. He had a little more of that mischievous glint in his eye that we have come to expect. (He was also trying a little more to see what he could get away with...a sure sign he is returning to health!).

With another quite day, we got a little more of a chance to size him up physically. He's about and inch and a half shorter than Erick, but his feet are a good half inch longer. He's got a lot of catching up to do to grow into those feet! We are starting to second guess ourselves on the shoes we bought a few days ago. We got what is probably equivalent to a boy's size 1, and I am afraid they are too small. We are guessing that his clothes are probably about a 4 or 5T. He's really small for is age, but we also are guessing that will change rapidly after we get him home and improve his nutrition. All that to say, he's all feet right now.

After a trip to the market, we are settled in for the day. We didn't get to go to church again today. We had a fill-in for our driver, and his English was way worse than my Russian (that is to say non-existent), so we were unable to communicate anything about a change in the routine like church. We'd like to hope that we are in Kyiv next Sunday and will get to go to church with friends there. We'll see...

We are really hoping that the light we see ahead is the end of the tunnel. Please pray with us that tomorrow when the court decree is picked up that it is correct. That will speed things along. Also, you can pray that we find favor with the people at the vital records offices in N's birth village and Odessa, and that the passport process moves quickly. If everything went perfectly, we could be headed to Kyiv by next weekend, but we have to have everything complete so that we can go to Kyiv by a week from Wednesday. God has seen us through every step thus far, and we pray that there are no surprises in the coming days, but if there are...we trust Him and His plan.

Blessings,

Rick

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Got to see our boy!!!!

We finally got to see N this afternoon. We could really tell that he still isn't feeling well. He was pretty lethargic with a bad cough and a runny nose. He was really excited to see us but he was far from his usual hyped-up self. We took him to a sitting room in another wing of the orphanage. Denise had suggested just before we left the hotel that we take the computer and watch some cartoons with him. Good call for a couple of reasons. 1) It was good for him to sit and be quiet since he is still pretty sick. 2) Tom and Jerry need little translation. It was great for the 4 of us to pile up on the couch and watch some cartoons! I am really looking forward to more of that in the future!

We also took him a little F1 race car as a present. Even that didn't get too much of a reaction, so I know he was feeling pretty weak. He loved it, but his enthusiasm was limited to a big grin and pushing the button to hear the engine noise about a million times. Before I get any notes from my friends...an F1 car would not have been my first choice, but they are a little thin in the NASCAR department around these parts. Not to worry, we'll have him watching the good 'ole boys goin' in circles in no time!

Well, that's about it for today. I've got to run. It looks like the ski jumping competition is getting good on Eurosport. Arrgh, we've got to get home soon. I need a real sport fix :)!

We're praying for just one more day of waiting...

Have a great day of worship tomorrow!

Blessings,

Rick

Friday, February 20, 2009

Another day waiting to see N

We didn't get to see N again today. we got word that he is better. His fever is gone, and he is improving. The doctor has said that we can see him for a little while tomorrow afternoon. We are really relieved, and I hope he understands why we have not been with him while he has been sick.

Since we couldn't see him again today, we went with Oleg to the Renok (the open air market) to do some clothes shopping. That was a trip!!! We found a little children's clothing booth to buy him a coat, a couple of pairs of jeans, some pajamas, a couple of shirts, and a hat. Added to what we bought the other day, I think we have enough stuff to get him home. It is pretty Ukrainian looking (especially the jeans). The sizes are all over the place, but it's not like anything he wears at the orphanage really fits, so it'll be okay until we get home. Once we get custody, we'll be able to do a little more "fitting" and have a better idea of what sizes he'll actually wear.

Also at the Renok, Erick got the two things he has been dreaming about since we got here. A european light switch and electrical outlet! For anyone who knows him, you'll know how huge that is!!!! Our little electrician/plumber now has both plumbing and electrical supplies from Ukraine, so the trip is now complete in his eyes.

Actually, the trip is complete in his eyes because he got to ice skate today. It was not really ice skating because it was not ice. It was some kind of artificial plastic stuff that you could skate on with ice skates. In the long run, I guess that's a bonus since you don't get wet when you fall. He did really well (he's a real chip off the old block!). It was fun watching him, and remembering the good ole days when I used to skate. He's actually a little younger than I was when I started, so we have plenty of time to get him ready for the olympics :)! Grandma, these pictures are for you. I know you'll get a big kick out of seeing them. We also have 3-4 good videos for when we get home. You would have really liked this kind of ice rink. Since there was no ice it was warm and comfortable. Not a bad place to sit and watch.


We talked to the couple from Minnesota this morning and found out a little more about next week. We'll probably head out Tuesday morning to get the birth certificate and to Odessa Wednesday as planned to register it and petition for the passport. Still looks good for us to get home on the 8th!!!!

Thanks for your support and your prayers!

Blessings,

Rick

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Odessa Pictures

Denise and Erick with our driver Oleg and his daughter at the old entrance to the city.

The most famous site in Odessa, the stairs that lead into the city from the port. Originally, these stairs led up from the Black Sea. In the distance is the Hotel Odessa, the city's finest hotel. I think it's a lot like our hotel in B-D (not)!

The pedestrian park at the top of the stairs.

A walking bridge known as "the mother-in-law" bridge. As a tradition, newly married couples go to the bridge and lock a pad lock to the rail with their names and other messages painted or inscribed on them. Oleg said that the city needs to replace the bridge but can't because of the locks.

This couple must have been pretty serious about their vows. Maybe we should do this at Temple on the security gate at the Oasis :)

Another day...another cannon.

The ballet and opera house in Odessa. It is about 200 years old...

Day trip to Odessa

We couldn't see Nick today, so we get it arranged to take a day trip to Odessa. Oleg, our trusty driver, was back today after a 2 day shift at his real job as a firefighter. He took us to Odessa, and we met up with his daughter who translated for us two weekends ago.

We started our day with lunch at a sports' cafe called Buffalo 99. It had the feel of more of an English pub than a Buffalo Wild Wings, but we weren't being picky! The food was pretty good. I got a cheeseburger. Chili's has nothing to worry about, but it was good enough to keep me going for the duration. Denise got fajita's. Not bad either.

It was a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the mid-40s. A perfect day for sightseeing. Odessa is a relatively young city by European standards. It was founded in the late 1700s (although there are ruins that date back to ancient Greece). There are distinct French and Italian influences in the architecture that come from European governance under the Russian monarchy.

The city has the reputation of being a fun-loving place. In fact, it is said in Ukraine that Odessa is the home of humor. We found the mood and atmosphere unlike any other place we have been in Ukraine. And, I have to say we were more comfortable there than in any place we have visited here. I would love to come back sometime and see the city in the summer. I am sure that it is a wonderful place in the summer when it is in full bloom.

I'll post some pictures later. We took a ton.

We are hopeful of at least being able to see N tomorrow. We are praying that he is at least well enough for a short visit. Tomorrow marks day 8 of the waiting period. I think it is really the last day for all practical purposes. The last two days are Saturday and Sunday when no petitions can be filed with the court. We are anticipating Monday as the beginning point of the next flurry of activity!

We'll post the pictures and some more later.

Blessings,

Rick

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fortress Pictures







N has the flu!!!!

Well, the fun continues. We heard this morning that the doctor at the orphanage thinks N has the flu. We were told that we couldn't visit today or tomorrow. We are really glad that we all got flu shots before we left!!!!! Thanks, Melanie!!!! Anyway, we are really feeling useless at this point. We have offered to buy medicine or do whatever we can, but we have to remember that for a few more days, he's not legally ours. So, we wait. I think tomorrow we'll go see if we can get him some toys to take by and leave for him just so he knows we are thinking about him! I really feel bad for him, and I think it's worse because we can't do anything to take care of him...

Just to break the monotony, we took a walk down to the fortress on the point. It was a couple of miles there (no problem) and a couple of miles back (c'mon feel that burn!). And, I have to say after the walk there and back...it ain't no Six Flags. It was a good diversion for a couple of hours, but I think we can safely say we won't be going back. The most interesting part of the walk was seeing a woman driving 5-6 goats through the park at the fortress right up in town. Now that's something you don't see everyday even in Oak Grove!

We're back at the hotel, and there's tennis on the TV. There has been a lot of tennis on TV the last few days. All in all, I'd rather watch curling. I know Tony has this thing against curling, but I think it's kind of manly. The broom is only part of the picture. The real test of machismo are the guys that are playing. They all look like they ought to be at a Green Bay Packers' game with a brat in their hands. Not many of them are going to be mistaken for a girly men. So bring on the shuffle board on ice...that is if there's no bobsledding to watch! Oh wow! I gotta get back home before March Madness begins. I need a roundball fix!

Thanks again for checking in on us. Please join us and pray that N gets to feeling better soon. Six days down and four to go until he's ours...

Blessings,

Rick

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sick little boy

When we got to the orphanage today, we were told that N was sick and sleeping. He's had a runny nose for the last couple of days. We are praying that it is not serious. I talked to our facilitator in Kyiv, and she's going to call this afternoon and check on him and let us know. Since we didn't get to see him, we walked to the local big store to do some grocery shopping and to look for some clothes for N. We got a pair of shoes and a few other things. We've still got more to do, but I think we'll have to go to Odessa to get the rest. Otherwise, not much going on here. In case you are counting (like we are) today is day 5 of our 10 day wait. We're inching a little closer every day....

Blessings,

Rick

Monday, February 16, 2009

A scraped hand and a big reminder....

Today we went as usual to see N at the orphanage. When we got there, we headed up to his group room but were met outside by one of the cleaning ladies. With some talking and pointing, she communicated that his group was outside the orphanage grounds walking. As we were planning our next move, we looked up and saw N and his group coming through the gate. He saw us and he was thrilled. He ran to us yelling "momma" and "poppa" over and over. His group went inside and we stayed out on the playground to play. Things were pretty normal at the beginning. We gave him the new soccer ball and he was enjoying kicking it around. At one point while he was running after the ball, he tripped over his own feet and did a pretty good face plant right into a tree root. In the process, he got a bad scrape on his hand. I felt so bad for him. He's had a scraped place on that hand that has just now really healed, and he opened up a pretty good little place right back in the same spot. Denise and I rushed to him, and she used a we wipe to clean it up, but we knew we needed to get someone to look at it since we didn't have any first-aid supplies with us. We took him back to his group, and one of the caregivers took him and washed it out. She then came by and told us she was taking him to the doctor. We followed them down to the doctor's office, and Denise went in with them. The doctor cleaned it up and put some blue stuff on it (it looked a little like Merthiolate) When they came out of the doctor's room, the caregiver looked at us and said in broken English, "he wants to go back to group...tomorrow." And, she smiled and off they went.

Boy, that episode was a stiff little reminder of how far we have yet to go. When he was hurt, he wanted the familiar security of his caregivers and his group not his momma and his poppa. Wow! If I were writing a fairly tale, I really would have planned a different scene. But, this isn't a fairy tale. It's real life. I wanted to badly to help him. To comfort him, but I can barely communicate with him. It's a bummer. I know it will get better in time. I know there will be lots of scrapes and bruises to nurse and make over in the future. It's going to be o.k. God has put us on a path, and we are certain of it. Today was just a little glimpse of how the process of building a relationship is going to go. I know the urgency of learning English will be greater when we get him away from the orphanage. I am just praying for us to be able to continue to bond. Tomorrow is a new day, and I hope a wound-free day :)!

Hope you all have a great Monday!

BTW, I hope you all have recognized that it is now Monday, and I have showed great restraint in not mentioning the Memphis-USM game until now. Oops, I just mentioned it...nuff said!! ;)

Blessings,

Rick

Sunday, February 15, 2009

At the halfway point...

By anyone's measure and barring some major setback, we are at the halfway point today. Today marks the end of the third week of our journey. It looks like everything is moving along smoothly. Sunday's are a hard day. We really miss Temple, and Sunday is just a little more of a homesick day because we can imagine what we are missing in worship with our church family. Thanks again for all you prayers and your constant encouragement. There has yet to be a day go by when we haven't received multiple messages of encouragement from home. That has truly been a lifeline. God has used so many of you to minister to us in this very stressful time, and we thank our God upon every remembrance of you (to quote a pretty good author).

It snowed again last night, so we woke up to a blanket of white over B-D. It didn't even last until mid-morning, but it was great to see. The snow has given way to a bright sunny day with hardly a cloud in the sky and the temperature is climbing to near 40.

N lost his front tooth between the time we saw him yesterday and when we saw him today. Oh well, I guess the mouse got another one, and the tooth fairy will have to wait to get established with him. Since the snow was melting, it was too wet to get out an play. That was a shame since we got a new mini-soccer ball yesterday. It'll just have to wait until tomorrow. We spent our visit time in a small room at the orphanage. I really dread our visits in this room. It's roughly the size of Denise's closet at home with a sofa and two armchairs. With all four of us in there, there isn't much space to spread out, and with two boys,we definitely need room to spread out! We made the best of it with N spending most of his time reclined on either the sofa or the one of the chairs while eating his fruit. He was quite a sight.

We also managed to "measure" him for some clothes. I use measure in a loose sense as we didn't have a tape measure. We improvised with the elastic out of a money belt!!! The best we can figure his foot is larger than Erick's (a little surprise). It is probably about a kid's size 13 or a boy's size 1. He is a good bit shorter and lighter than Erick. I am guessing a boy's size 4 in pants (maybe even a 4 or 5 T) and shirts. We'll now need to figure out how to transfer that knowledge into European sizes, so we can start clothes shopping. We'll need to get several outfits of clothes to get us home since everything he has now is the property of the orphanage and will have to stay when he leaves.

Well, that 's about it for now. Hope you all ave a great Sunday. BTW, it would be great if someone would Tivo the Daytona 500 :)!

Blessings,

Rick

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pictures from this week

Erick is chillin' like a villain back at the hotel.


Erick wanted Dr. Kent to know that he is eating well. In fact, he's eating better here than at home!!! He really likes Chicken Kiev...


This is the judge and the other court officers with us after our adoption hearing on Thursday. The judge is the man in the middle.

Happy Valentine's Day

First, we just want to wish all our loved ones back home a happy Valentine's day. I bought Denise a Twix bar. Seriously, the chocolate here is very good, so if you have to be somewhere other than home...this is a good place to be.

I am happy to report that I am feeling better after a couple of days of amoxicillin. I am trying not to think about whether this antibiotic is for humans or horses, but it seems to be doing the trick. As my daddy used to say, "What the eyes don't see...the heart don't feel!" How true that is.

We had good day at the orphanage. N was glad to see us, and there were no signs of the aggressiveness that Denise saw yesterday. Maybe he was just having a bad day or maybe there is more to it. It's hard to say. One thing is for sure, he's pretty strong willed. I am sure we are going to have to have a pretty firm hand with him. We'll see. Today, we kicked the ball around until we kicked it flat. After the orphanage, we went to the local Ukrainian Wal-Mart and got a mini soccer ball to take tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how that goes. He's got another loose tooth. It's the last of his front teeth. When that one goes he'll have a complete hole in his front grill :). I hope it will hang in there until we get him so that we can do the whole tooth fairy thing. Over here, when teeth fall out, they "throw them to the mouse." I am not sure what the mouse does with them (Boy, that would make an interesting set of dentures!). If anyone has a clue about that tradition, we'd love to know more.

We'll that's about it for now. I'll try to post a few pictures here later. One in particular. Erick wants Dr. Kent to know that he is eating well and has taken a liking to Chicken Kiev. I'll post the evidence later.

Thanks for checking in on us. We miss you all, and can't wait to get home!

Blessings,

Rick

Friday, February 13, 2009

I'm Dreaming of a White Valentine's?

We woke up this morning to a winter wonder land, well it was all mixed with a brown sludge. And by lunch time it had almost melted away. Erick had declared that he was not leaving the hotel at all because of all the snow, and by the time we were at the end of the street headed to the orphanage, he was asking to play in it when we got back (but by then it was just a slushy mess).

Rick was still recovering from his sinus infection so he didn't go to see N today. It was just Erick and me. After several days of being outside, we were back in the same small room where we had been before. He didn't seem to be too upset at our not seeing him yesterday, but he was ready to see what we had in our bag. We did see signs today of aggression that we had not seen before. I'm not sure if it was because Rick wasn't with us or why, but I hope he understood me by my reaction that behavior is not acceptable. I know the expression on his face did change, so I'm hopeful that he understood me. Keep us and him in your prayers. Life in a institution is not an easy life for children, and I hope we know how best to help him adjust to being part of a family.

Erick has spent the day watching the Science channel and the show Brainiac. He loves when things go "boom!"

Love you all! Can't wait to be home.

Denise

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Here come da Judge...Here come da Judge...Order in the Court cause here come da judge!

Please forgive the Flip Wilson reference, but I just couldn't help myself. Today was our hearing, and it went well. We got up early and headed to the courthouse at 9. We went with the other couple from Minnesota who are here adopting twin boys from another orphanage nearby. We got to the courthouse and waited for a pretty long while as our driver also had to pick up the Inspector and the representatives from both orphanages. At about 10:20, we were escorted into the Judge's office for the hearing. This was very different than last time with Erick. Last time we were in a big courtroom, and it was quite imposing. Today. we were in a smaller office. The Judge sat behind his desk with two assistants (we really didn't ever understand what they were there for?) and the court reporter and her assistant sat at a small table to his side. We sat on a bench with our facilitator facing the judge at the other end of the room.

The hearing began with procedural matters (getting names for the record, etc.). Then the judge read our petition. He asked us both individually to tell why we wanted to adopt N, to affirm that we were aware of his medical status and past background, and that we intended to comply with the post-adoption responsibilities of Ukraine (reports and so on). He then heard from the Inspector and the lawyer from the orphanage. It was particularly sad when the lawyer gave N's history of abandonment and lack of visitors (but that's all about to change!!!) Then he asked us to state what we wanted the court to do. We told him we desired a favorable judgment for N to be our son and to change his name to Nicholas William Morton. That was it. He excused us from the room as he deliberated for a couple of minutes, and then we were asked to return. (Denise and Erick were late as Erick had to hit the bathroom during the break--no one who knows him will be surprised--BTW, he says the plumbing was fine!!). The judge declared his judgment. We are Nick's parents pending a 10-day appeal period in which someone could contest our adoption. We don't expect that to happen. Everyone here seems very pro-adoption. We got a great picture with the Judge and the rest of the cast that I'll post later :)

After court, we went to the notary's office to prepare the petition for his passport. We can't file it until we get his birth certificate and get it registered in Odessa (probably the 24th or 25th), but we still got at least one thing out of the way. Then we headed off to lunch and back to the hotel.

We didn't get to see Nick today, but it will be great to be with him tomorrow morning. I think we have decided not to get him out of the orphanage until we are ready to head out to Kyiv. We want to reduce as much trauma for him as possible. For a kid that is used to living on a regimented schedule, our next several days after the 23rd will probably be a little more crazy than will be good for him. We'll have plenty of time to settle in together in Kyiv and on the trip home.

We were hoping to get done to be able to fly home before the 8th of March, but today, reality set in for us. Likely, we will not get to Kyiv to begin the process for the medical exam and visa until March 4 or 5 at the rate we are going. At most, we might be able to shave a day or two off that, but I think March 8 it will be.

Our facilitator headed back to Kyiv this afternoon, so it looks like we'll be on our own here until the 23rd. I guess we'll settle a little farther into our routine...

It's raining cats and dogs here today, and we aren't feeling too great. Erick is tired. Denise has a headache, and I have a sore throat. I think that adrenalin has waned for the moment. God is good, and he has certainly given us more than we need. We are so thankful for all your love and support along the way. Please don't stop praying yet! We are just rounding the corner on the halfway point of our journey.

Enough for now...

Blessings,

Rick

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Court Tomorrow!!!!

Last night, we got a text from Alla, the responsible manager for our facilitator's office that said that we didn't receive the necessary paperwork from the SDA yesterday. Apparently, there was a power outage that halted work. So we got up today, hoping and praying that it would be ready today. We got back to normal today. Our trusty driver Oleg was back after a day off to go to his real job as a fireman. I really like Oleg. He is a good man, and he has been very kind to us. We manage to communicate with his little English, my little Russian, and a lot of laughing. Denise didn't go to the orphanage today. She woke up with a bad headache. This is the first one she's had since we got to Ukriane (and I pray the last). She's doing a little better now, but she really didn't feel like a day of soccer in the playground with N.

So, the Morton boys headed off to the orphanage to visit the third to our trio. He was happy to see us, and I could tell he was wondering where Momma was. With one of the workers, I think I managed to express that she was sick but o.k. She told him, and he seemed to be okay with the explanation. When we got to his group room, they were "cooking" a snack. He was wearing a frilly little girly apron (and it was tied a little high on his waist to make it just a little geekier). He was quite a sight. I didn't take the camera, but I wish I had. That little picture could have provided great ammo for meeting girlfriends and a rehersal dinner that I am sure will be in our future (just not too soon). While N and Erick were playing on the playground, I received a text from Alla. Our paperwork from the SDA was received today. Whoo Hooo! That means we have a court hearing at 10 A.M. tomorrow!!! It all comes down to this. Tomorrow is the day that will determine whether N is ours. That's funny, because he already feels like he is ours. We just hope the judge sees it that way, and there are no problems. That's the big prayer request for today. We are confident that God has brought us this far, and that he will lead us through this step as well.

The rest of our time with N was spent kicking the ball around. He's a real character. I really saw a sign of hope. He isn't very good at kicking the ball on the fly, but he's a good little punter. He'll hold the ball out in front of him and yell "fut-bol" and look at you with this grinning look that says, "you wanna see me kick it?!" Then he'll give it a great punt. I am taking that as hope. Since he doesn't like to kick the ball on the run, I'm thinking he's already slanted toward American football. Maybe we're looking at the Oak Grove Warrior's punter, class of 2019 (or so). Z Slush get your coaches whistle ready, cause I think I have a little punter for you to train now that you're in retirement!!!!

In other news from Bilgrod-Dnestrovsky, there has been a peanut butter sighting in the grocery store here. To those of you in the states, I know that sounds about as significant as sighting a gunrack in the back window of a pickup, but here...this is big news. It's a little more expensive that caviar, but who would eat fish eggs anyway? At $4 a jar (a little jar), it seems like a reasonable purchase to get a little taste of home. I'll let you know if I spot a Cracker Barrel. I am not anticipating anything that big to happen anytime soon.

Other late breaking news...I shaved off my beard today. Couldn't stand it any longer. Not to worry, the Van Dyke (goatee) is still in tact. Fifteen years and I ain't gonna part with it now :)

Well, I had better run. I am missing watching "Dirty Jobs" in Russian with Erick. I can't imagine that it is helping Denise's headache to answer Erick asking every 1.78 seconds, "what is that" or "what are they doing."

Rounding the corner toward the halfway point,

Rick

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Another routine day in B-D

Well, not much to report from here today. We had another good day outside with N. We are really settling into a routine. We pick him up from his group area, go outside, drink some juice, eat some yogurt, eat a piece of fruit, play all over the playground, and take him back to his group. Then, we come back, eat lunch, and settle in for another afternoon/evening until we can go back again.

We didn't have our usual driver, so we had to get a taxi to get to the orphanage. Not a big deal. We managed to get by with the old point and grunt routine. I must be a good tipper, because the cabbie was quick to give me his card with a smile when we got back to the hotel after our trip back. Who knew a buck could still go so far.

We talked to our facilitator in Kyiv today. She said we are still on for court on Thursday. She expects to pick up our paperwork tomorrow and come back on the overnight train to get here Thursday morning early. Our hearing is at 10 A.M. We're still praying for that and for a favorable result in court. We understand that they are very pro-adoption, and we hope that will be confirmed on Thursday.

Then the next big question is when to take custody of N. Legally, we can take custody after the 10 day wait is up. Our big question is what will be best for him. Would it be better to put him through a lot of moving and such while we are getting paperwork done and give us more time to get acquainted or to leave him in the orpahange in his familar routine until we are ready to go to Kyiv? We aren't really sure. Comments and advice are welcome (particularly from those who have done this before). It was a whole lot easier to decide last time with an 18-month-old!

Oh well, that's about it. But, before I go how bout a little shout out to my Memphis Tigers on cracking the top 10!!!!!! Whooo Hoooo! Man, I miss college basketball!!!!!

Also, I just put new pictures up on Facebook...

Blessings,

Rick

Monday, February 9, 2009

Yeah, that whole warm thing...

Sunny and 56 degrees. Not today. It's cold, cloudy and windy, and the heat wasn't on in the hotel last night. Just a little reminder that this ain't Kansas, Dorothy!!!! We'll post later after we see N.

My first attempt

Rick is the one who is usually keeping you informed on everything going on with us, but I thought I would try today. We woke up today to sunny skies and warmer weather. The thermostat on our driver's dash board had 13.5 degrees (that is Celsius) I didn't pay attention in school when they went over the metric system so I don't know what that would be in F, but it was warm.:) We took the boys outside again today. It was a little more interesting with no interpreter today, but we seemed to do ok. We understood when he wanted to eat his snacks, and we took a ball which he enjoyed kicking around. I find it funny that when other kids are around he calls attention to himself. I wonder if he wants everyone to know that he is with his family. I think Erick has made quite an impression with some of the girls from N's group. There are two girls who always come up to him, and we have found out that they say he is cute. Of course, Erick could care less about any of it.



What is really sad, though, is knowing that those children come running up to us every time they see us, and I can only wonder what they are saying or thinking. Some of them have the sweetest faces, and some of them have the saddest faces. There are two in particular. One little boy they showed us when we were at the SDA. He is 7 or 8, and he has a cleft palette. He has had one surgery, and will need more as he grows up. He seems to always be by himself whenever they are outside. Another is a little girl that is in N's group. She is a cross-eyed little girl. She is one that runs up to Erick every time. She touches his face (and you can imagine how Erick likes that), but it breaks my heart to look at her and the little boy.

Erick has news for everyone at home. He wants you all to know he is a "genius" because he made a lamp work by realizing the bulb wasn't screwed in properly. He also wants you all to know that the plug ins have round holes, and we have to use an adapter to plug in our stuff in order to use it.

So long for now, Rick may have more to add for today. You all know he is the talker in the family:) Lots of love, and we can't wait to be home!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A rainy Sunday in B-D...

Todsy was pretty much just more of the same. We had hoped to go to the Baptist church here is B-D today, but we didn't get the right information about service times. There's always next week. Something tells me it wouldn't be much like home anyway. We sure are missing worship at Temple today. I can't wait to get back home and be able to worship with our church in our heart language. To make matters worse, our Internet connection is slow enough that we can't get the download of the podcast. Bummer!

Today was another good day with N. We went outside today. He ran around and played and had a great time. It was windy and rainy, and a little colder than we would have chosen for a day outside. Just the same, he had a great time running around playing with a squirt gun and making a bow and arrow from sticks and a piece of string. We think we understood that he saw a bow and arrow watching Tarzan and decided to make himself one. Pretty creative, and he did a pretty good job putting it together. We kicked a little ball around as well. He's a decent footballer (for Paul Koonce--that's a soccer player. I know you still won't acknowledge the sport as real, but judging from the amount of it on tv here...it's real!). I must confess that I am hoping we can transfer some of that energy to real football (or some other sport I understand).

The next few days will be a little more of a challenge. We will be without a translator until probably Thursday. That will make our visits a little more interesting. They will also be a little more real. I guess there's no time like the present to perfect the old point-and-grunt method of communication!

A big matter of prayer for the moment is our paperwork in Kyiv. It was submitted Friday, and it needs to get back here Wednesday night for us to keep our court date on Thursday. Please pray with us about that. We are anxious to keep moving forward toward getting home, and us getting that paperwork is a serious step in that direction.

We'll keep you posted...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Two good days in a row!

Today was another good day with N. Nothing much exciting to report. He was really fun today. We laughed and talked about things that we like to do. He said that his favorite thing to do is to go outside and throw snowballs. Oh well! Chances are he'll get to do that a handful of times in Hattiesburg before he graduates from high school :). We told him that Erick like to play in the water during the summer, and he seemed pretty excited to get into that action. He's talking a lot more about when we get home. I think we may be getting over the hurdle of his past experience of the Canadian couple who left him suddenly after a few days. Today, he crawled up in Denise's lap and ate an apple. He was having a blast laying in her lap and eating like royalty. It was cool to watch. He's still really active, and I don't even want to think about the 9 hour flight from Paris to Atlanta. Can you say 9-hour prayer vigil!

That's pretty much it for now. We are going to sit back and watch the rain and fog. Two days of warm sunshine was a little too much to ask ;). More later...

Friday, February 6, 2009

His mercies are new every day!!!!!

Wow! Our God is awesome!!!!! I have to admit that it felt like the walls were closing in on our little hotel room. The three of us are living in a hotel room that is about the size of our master bedroom at home (and the bathroom is much smaller). Just for grins and giggles, I'll post some pictures at some point. (First, we'll have to clean up, 'cause what's not covered up with us is covered up with a suitcase or food.) Anyway, last night we went to bed feeling pretty low. After Erick went to sleep, Denise and I talked about all that we had seen and experienced. We were really frustrated. We felt like a lot of what we had been told about N and his personality was so different from what we were seeing. We were really questioning how much to trust of anything we have been told. We talked about all the reasons that we could be seeing what we were from him (even the really scary ones). At the end of the day, there was only one question that really loomed as important. Do we really believe God sent us here at this time for this child. The answer was obviously "yes." As hard as we had tried to make this happen faster, everything put us here at this time which we are confident is God's time. Still, last night was pretty long, and we really cried out to God for something. When I got up this morning, I checked facebook and the comments to the blog, and I know lots of you were crying out for us as well (must admit--I'm crying now!). That's big!!!! And God is big, and He is faithful!!!

This morning, we awakened to something pretty amazing--the sun!! Now all of you at home probably think this is silly, but anyone who has spent much time in Ukraine in winter knows what s big deal this is. We have a sunny day!!!! There is barely a cloud in the sky, and it is so warm that we are sitting this afternoon with the skylight and window in our room open. It was as if God lifted the fog this morning, and we are thankful. Thank you God for a little tangible reminder of your care and your love.

So, at just before 11, we set off for the orphanage. Today we were accompanied by our driver's daughter. She is an English student at the university in Odessa. She spent last summer working as a lifeguard at a small hotel in D.C. and traveling to Miami and New York. She is a delightful young lady, and we really enjoyed her company. When we got to the orphanage, we went to the area where N's group lives and asked for him. He was eating, so we had to wait a little for him. When he came out, he was different. Calmer. at various times during our walk through the corridors on our way to the playroom, he held hands with Denise, Erick, and our translator, but he stayed with us. No running wildly ahead. Just staying with us. When we got to the playroom, he was excited to see what we had in our bag of toys. Today, we had a present of a new toy truck. he loved it. More than that, he got down in the floor and played with it. We played blocks (although they are still a little of a hard sell), and just spent some time hugging, laughing, and playing. We looked at pictures of our house and talked about where he will live. He asked some good questions about his new home and when we would be able to take him away from the orphanage for good. We sat down for him to eat an apple and drink some juice and worked with some flash cards to teach him a few English words. He's mastering "apple," "bee," and "ball." And, today he started learning "shoe" and "cup." All in all, it was a great day. We saw a different side of him today. A side we needed to see. Thanks God for a little focus and a little comfort. By the way, we told him we love him today--and we meant it! It was cool.

Erick is doing great. He is a little trooper. He's doing so well with all the stress of living outside what is normal for him. He misses his class at Oak Grove Primary School. He is working on school work every day to keep up and be ready to rejoin his classmates. Our friends Mary Ellen and Joel gave him a bathtub drain from Ukraine. He's loving it. It is getting a lot of play! He says he'd like to come back and visit Ukraine, but he wants to come back to America to be a plumber. He's having a little trouble relating to N with the language barrier. He's not exactly the most bold child when approaching other kids anyway (adults are another story, of course). One big thing we'll keep working on is getting the two of them together.

Thank you God for a good day, and thank you friends for prayers and encouragement.

Blessings,

Rick

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Feeling like we have our feet planted in mid-air!!!!

I resolved at the beginning of this journey that I was going to be transparent. So, here goes. There are a lot of mixed emotions around here today. On the one hand, we are really thrilled that the process is moving along. At noon today, we met with the Inspector and her boss (I didn't get his title), and we received the Inspector's final determination. This piece of paperwork is now on it's way to Kyiv to be submitted tomorrow to the SDA. They will have several days to process it and send back the official paperwork that we will need to have the court hearing. We have a tentative court hearing scheduled for next Thursday. If all goes well we will then get custody of N on Feb. 23rd.

On the other hand, we had our first visit with N without an interpreter today. I have to admit that the gravity of traveling 18 hours by plane with a hyperactive (and fairly disobedient) child who cannot understand a word we say is becoming a bit of a giant. We are trying really hard to stay positive and focus on all the doors God has opened to get us here as a source of confidence. In the grand scheme of things, we are really early on in the process to be discouraged. We know that we are being held up by our great God on the prayers of many, many of His people on our behalf.

I don't want to whine, but honestly, we are asking God for something tangible. A little progress. Just something that we can see that will tell us that he will be okay and that we will be okay with him. I apologize for my little rant of truthfulness, but in reality, this blog has become a lifeline for us to home. Back to the people and church we love. This adoption stuff is messy. It's not a pollyana fairly tale, and we never expected that it would be. I keep telling myself that the extent Jesus went to to come after me makes our discomfort or uneasiness pale in comparison.

I also don't want this to come off more dark than it is. We are okay. The ship sin't sinking. It isn't even tossing all that much. We just need to hear that still small voice of the Father again tonight, and feel a little comforting hug! Thanks for letting me get that off my chest...

Rick

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Moving along....

Today was a pretty good day. We got up this morning and went to pick our facilitator up before going to the orphanage. N seemed a little more calm today. Still pretty hyped up, but better than yesterday. We made the decision just to visit him once today. The evening visitng time seems to be at a bad time for the workers. They take the kids out for a little time outside and then settle into a nightly routine. We really feel like we are in the way, and we are sure that he must be a handful as they are settling the kids down for the night. I hope he will not be too anxious at the schedule change. We will see him in the morning, and I am sure that will help us all. Erick has missed getting to see him tonight, so we'll see how things go after tonight before we make this a perminant routine.

As for paperwork, we are hopeful that our facilitator will get things tomorrow that will allow her to submit our paperwork to the SDA on Friday. That still leaves a chance of making our court date on the 12th. We are praying that this will be the schedule.

We are getting to know the town a little more. We ate in a pretty good resturant. It looks like it will be a place we can go often. We alos think we have a solution for the time when our facilitator is in Kyiv. The man that has been driving for us has a daughter who is majoring in English at the university. She is on a break, and we have plans to hire her as a translator for the 5-7 days while our facilitator is gone. I hope that will make the family back home rest a little easier!!!!

All in all, we are doing well. We hope to settle into a routine in the next few days that will make things a little more predictable (easier).

Thanks for checking on us and praying for us! We are anxious to get back home and see you all!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Day...New Discoveries

Today was an eye opener. We went to the notary this morning to get paperwork done, and then we headed off to the orphanage. It was wild. N was really high strung during our visit, and we really had a hard time settling him down. We was running, jumping, and yelling loudly. About the only time he was settled down was when he was eating the banana we brought him for a snack. It was a bit of an eye opener. I think we realized for the first time how difficult his transition is going to be.

After our visit, we went off to the toy store to get some more ammunition, and then to the market for more fruit. We went back to see him this afternoon. Our facilitator talked to the doctor and she indicated that his hyperactivity is the way he reacts to stress. (Great, everything we do from now 'till we can imagine feels like a stressor!) Tonight, we had a smaller room to keep him in and he seemed to be more comfortable. He was still wound up fairly well, but we were able to get him to color a little, play with some flash cards, and eat an apple. Eating the apple was a sight. He ate everything! When he was finished, all that was left was the stem and the bottom part of the core!!!

As far as our timeline, we heard a little more today. We went to see the lawyer, and we have petitioned for a court date on the 12th. That is the soonest that we could go to court. To make that date, we'll have to get paperwork finished here for our facilitator to take it to Kyiv by Thursday night. Things are moving right along, and we are glad.

When our facilitator goes to Kyiv, it will be for 5-7 days and we will be without a translator. Needless to say, we are a little nervous about that time. She will set us up with a driver and get things arranged at the orphanage, so the basics will be covered. And, we have Joel and Mary Ellen as a gracious lifeline on the other end of the phone, but we'll be glad to get past that hurdle. It will be more difficult communicating with N without her as well. Please pray with us about that.

Today was one of those days where we honestly felt more out of control than in control of things. In the end I guess that is just a proper perspective in terms of the control we have. In the end, we know God has brought us here, and we are trusting. Maybe breaking down the illusion of control is just part of His plan for today?

Monday, February 2, 2009

The first day with N

Today has been an amazing day. We went to the inspector’s office a little after 10. The meeting with the inspector was a good experience. We went to the Inspector’s office along with another couple from Minnesota who are here to adopt as well. They went in first, and in a few minutes, we were escorted in to see the Inspector. The Inspector was really nice and very kind. Most of her interview with us was spent talking to Erick. She asked him if he wanted an older brother, and he said that he did want one his size J.

When we finished at the Inspector’s office, we went on to the orphanage. We met with the director and got more information on N. He was born to a single mother who did not care for him. He was being raised by his grandmother, but his grandmother could not afford to care for him. She placed him in the care of the orphanage in 2005, and his mother’s parental rights were terminated in 2006. All in all, he appears to be healthy with delays that are not unexpected for a child who grew up under such difficult circumstances.

Once we finished reviewing his files, N was brought in to meet us. He was a little shy at first, but quickly, we knew we had a chatterbox on our hands. After a brief visit with the Director, we were taken to a playroom to have a more personal visit. As we began to leave the Director’s office, N grabbed Erick by the hand, and they ran ahead hand-in-hand to our appointed place to play. We stayed about an hour together and put together a Lego car. At one point, N came over to where I was sitting and gave me (Rick) a hug. He sort of flung himself into my lap and I tickled him a little. He loved that, and I know we were doing well. When the workers came to get him for lunch, he did not want to leave.
This evening, we went back and N’s group was on the playground. We were able to take him to a little playground nearby to play for a while. He is a livewire!!!! We played until it got too dark to see and too cold for us to stand. He went back to his group, and we came back to the hotel. Not bad for a first day. Thanks for praying. God is good, and we are thankful that He has led us thus far.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Got the spelling right

Ok, so I was close. The city is spelled Belgorod-Dnestrovskiy. With that out of the way...The Steelers won the Superbowl. What a bummer. Sounds like the 4th quarter was amazing. I hope someone DVR'ed it (hint, hint). Anyway, we are up and going today. Hoping to see N today.

We're in Belgradnistrofski

I still have no idea if I spelled that right or not, but we are here. It is a small town of 5,000 or so that is sw of Odessa. It took us a 51/2 hour bus ride and a 1 3/4 hour car rids to get here. We have internet via a gprs card but it is slow, so I'll make this short for tonoght. Tomorrow we go ot the Inspector's office and then to the orphanage. Hopefully, we'll see N tomorrow. Good news, our facilitator Yana has worked here before. She speaks well of the town. We have a comfortable hotel. What more could we want!?!?!?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Great friends and a great day

We spent today with Joel and Mary Ellen Ragains, and it was great! We ate at the TGI Friday's (yep that's right, just like home...except), did some shopping, rode the metro (subway) to their side of the river, and had a great dinner prepared by Mary Ellen complete with chocolate chip cookies and brownies for dessert. I'm sure we won't eat like this for a whlle. Thanks ME and J for your wonderful hospitality. Got to get packing, 'cause tomorrow we are off to the Odessa Region via bus. We leave Kyiv at noon and should arrive by 5:30. Then off to the city (I'll get the name up as soon as I can spell it!!!). Monday should bring a trip to the insepector's office and the orphanage, and we think the first visit with N. We covet your prayers. He must willingly consent to this adoption as much as we do. We are praying that past disappointments will not muddy the waters.

Blessings,

Rick