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Ukraine Adoption Journal

The Weston Family

Sent February 9th, 11:00am

It is now Wednesday morning. We ran around with our translator for several hours yesterday doing paperwork. We met the local inspector again. She is the lady that actually prepared Katya's paperwork 6 years ago and sent it on to the regional office where it was lost. She is the person who gave us a copy of the submitted paperwork. She has really been a great contact.

She knows how badly we want to adopt Katya and is the official in charge of submitting the paperwork to get the kids registered. She isn't the person who lost Katya's papers. That happened at the regional office. She gives us lots of useful information and has spearheaded getting Katya's paperwork redone. Technically, providing information about unregistered orphans is illegal in Ukraine. She has gone out on a limb to get us the information we needed to know about the status of Katya's paperwork. It is good to know that we have at least an ally in the government somewhere, although she is not as high up in the chain as we would like to make something happen for Katya now. We invited her to dinner this week and we plan on showing her our family photos and videos and talk about how much we love Katya. We then plan on asking her if there are any other possibilities to do something to get Katya home sooner. If there is a way, she will know and she is sympathetic to Katya's paperwork being lost.

We made it to the orphanage about 5:00pm last evening and were able to spend a couple of hours with the kids. We are amazed at how well they know the mechanics of English. They are shy to speak in conversations, but they are very good at reading and comprehending what they read as well as their pronunciation. Zhenya and Leeza had to come home from school to write a letter to the local court stating that they understood the adoption and were not opposed to it. We were not there but our translator said that Leeza wanted to write all kinds of things including that she thought her Papa was really funny. The orphanage lawyer talked her out of putting that in the letter and told her to keep it simple. She is so excited she can't contain her excitement. Zhenya and Leeza told our translator that their marks in school have gone down in the last few days because they can't concentrate and they don't see the point of doing their Ukrainian language lessons. They do pay close attention in English class.

We have a running joke going. One of the first things I said to Leeza and Katya was "No Boys." They figured out I was joking after some nervous glances at their mom, but since then whenever they see us the first thing they say is "No Boys." Sometimes they will just blurt it out and start laughing. They can laugh now but I feel these very protective feelings coming on and they may have to deal with a very strict Papa.

We have some playing cards that we brought and we were trying to teach them to play Go Fish. They didn't get it, so they tried to teach us a game. We were just throwing cards down. We didn't get it. For a while, they had no clue that we were totally lost. The rules seemed to change every turn.

Katya has a little note book that she showed us. She said she started writing in it the day after we arrived. She had written all of the names of our family and had written, "My Family" in next to our names. She had written her name in English over and over. In those moments, we realize what it means to these kids to have a family. In just a few short days we feel like we have known them for 10 years.

We haven't been as diligent with the video camera this time around. Last trip we took almost 17 hours of video. But much of that was out a taxi window as we were in shock. This trip seems more routine as far as culture shock goes. Ukraine has changed significantly in the short 22 months since we were here. The storefronts have actually appeared. Previously, you would go through a dark, unlit doorway and enter a store. Now, they have signs and windows so you can actually tell that there is a store there. The internet is generally faster than it was 22 months ago. It isn't hard to update the website. We are doing some shopping today so that we ensure Katya is the best dressed kid in school until we return. The kids that live in the orphanage attend regular schools. We sent Katya and Leeza some new clothes for Christmas this year and when we arrived we were shocked to see that they still had the tags on them and that they had not been worn. They were just so excited to have new clothes that weren't hand downs that they wanted to keep them new just to show that they had brand new clothes. We brought more clothes for them when we came. They wore them to school, but we noticed that the tags were still tucked inside the shirts and still intact.

We are missing Alex, Sonya and Nikitta. It looks like our court date here is set for the 21st. We should be able to travel home within 2-3 days after the court date. Things here can change as we have learned so it isn't set. We are working on getting the court date moved up and we may be able to leave a few days sooner. But then again, the sooner we leave, the less time we have with Katya, so either way it is not necessarily a day we want to come quickly.

We are working on taking more video and pictures. We will get some sent and posted soon. We love coming to the Internet Cafe and reading mail from our family and friends. We appreciate everyone's support.


Wade, Julia, Zhenya, Leeza and Katya
Sent Friday, February 11th, 2005

It is Friday today. Yesterday we were lucky enough to get to take all of the kids, Zhenya, Leeza and Katya, out of school at about 1:00pm. We walked from the orphanage to the school and arranged to have two taxis show up at the school to take the kids, us and our translator to a photography place to get pictures for the Passports. The orphanage director also allowed us to take Katya as she supposedly needed some photos taken. We think that the orphanage director is starting to realize that Katya is already our child in our hearts and is sympathetic to letting us be with her as much as possible.

We walked between several apartment buildings and found the courtyard of their school. The school was smaller than we imagined. But it was a decent building. It looked as though it had a greenhouse complex close to the school, but the building was old and had no roof. We went inside the school and waited for our translator to take the directors permission paper to the office and send for the kids. The lobby of the school was a little dark, but other than that it was clean. We could hear the sound of a gymnasium and the sound of a basketball. I kind of meandered in that direction to see what a Ukrainian school gym looks like. Leeza was actually in her gym class at the time and playing basketball with her class. They were all dressed in their normal clothes and they were playing full court boys vs the girls basketball. The court floor looked like it had seen better days. The floor was wood and looked like a normal basketball court floor, except if you could imagine an American school gym floor never being maintained for 30 years, that is what it would look like. It seemed to be a little warped in areas and had long since just been painted. But even the paint was worn off. The baskets were functional, but the backboards were made of large and square plywood rather than glass. I took some video of the kids playing basketball and soon Zhenya and Katya had been rounded up and we headed for the taxis. The kids were excited that we came to get them from school. We had permission from the director to get their pictures taken, but we figured they would be missing lunch and we didn't want them to be hungry, so after the photos were taken we took them to a really nice Ukrainian restaurant in a nice hotel. The bathrooms in the hotel drew some puzzled looks as they tried to figure out the faucets, hand dryers and soap dispensers. We were reminded of Sonya and Nikittas reactions, but we didn't realize that teenagers would have the same limited experiences. Dinner was fun because we were the only people in the restaurant, other than a couple of business men who came in at the end. Our waiter gave us his full attention and was very attentive the whole time. When he brought out the main dishes the plates had the covers on them to keep them warm and he made a big deal about the presentation of taking of each persons cover. It brought out some verbal sighs from the kids. It is going to be so fun to take these kids to New York on the way home. It is like living the Princess Diary movie, but on a different scale. The kids are so grateful and gracious. They do realize that America is the place to be and they know it will provide more opportunities, but we don't think they fully comprehend the kind of life America can offer them.
We were able to walk home from the restaurant as it was only a few blocks from the orphanage. Recently the temperature here has been so cold that it just goes right through you. The Ukrainians make fun of my American coat. The direct translation of how they describe it is "fish fur." And this is the coat I use to go snow boarding in. That is how cold it is here. Even in the middle of the day with the sun out it doesn't get above 25 degrees. And once the sun goes down it is really cold. People here spend much more time outdoors when its cold. They walk and take public transportation everywhere so they bundle up with huge, thick coats with lots of fur.
The kids have a dance at school tonight, Friday, so we are not going to see them today. We are going to spend all day Saturday and Sunday at the orphanage. Our translator is going back to Kiev to do some paperwork. We have started to realize that we interact much better with the kids without a translator. Everyone is more comfortable without her there and everyone works harder to communicate. The kids seem to speak much more English when she isn't around. So it will be fun. We just have to figure out how to communicate with the taxi drivers to get us there and back each day.
I am getting into editing our camcorder videos into short MPEG clips so I will send more. I am going to try to send clips of the things we describe in the letters and more of the kids so everyone can see their personalities as we see them.
During the day while the kids are in school we are working on both the current adoption paperwork with our translator and also trying to make sure we get everything together to submit the dossier for Katya's adoption before we go as well as to get the contacts we need to help get Katya home. We have such good friends at home who have been helping us get some of the paperwork done so that if something happens for Katya on short notice we can make it happen. We don't want to miss this opportunity to submit our dossier for katya while we are here so that the time frame to get her will not be impacted by our paperwork delays. We appreciate the support of our friends and family. It has been great.


Wade, Julia, Zhenya, Leeza and Katya

Sent: Saturday, February 12th, 2005

Here are some fun pictures of the kids that were taken today...

The kids have a channel on their TV called "fashion tv" that shows runway fashion shows 24 x 7. The kids kept saying they wanted to do fashion tv and strike poses while we took pictures. The attached pictures are some of the ones we all liked the best.

Leeza is now like the kid in the back seat on the way to Disneyland that keeps saying, "are we there yet?" She wants to know when we are going to America. It is really hard to be excited for Leeza and so depressed about Katya at the same time. Katya is doing much better than we are. She has a Mama and Papa now and she can't hide her excitement about that, although we are sure there is some fear inside her that we won't come back. Living your life without a family, and especially a Mom or Dad would probably create doubt like that no matter what we did. Zhenya has his own profile on Papa's windows XP on the family laptop now and you would think that he just won the lottery. The techie Papa has already learned some things about his computer that he never knew before. Zhenya is still attending his Physics and Math classes at the University this weekend despite knowing he is going to America in a week. He is one driven kid. He said that it doesn't matter if he is leaving in a week. He says Physics and Mathematics are the same in Ukraine and America. He could skip the class and play with Papa's laptop all day, but he would rather take a bus across town and sit in a class. We are so proud :)
Sent Feb 14th, 2005 Monday
Happy Valentines Day! We miss everyone. We are learning so much about Leeza and Katya and Zhenya every day. They are exceeding our expectations by so much. They really are amazing kids. Luckily, these kids seem to be in the best orphanage in Ukraine. The more time we spend at the Orphanage, the more we realize it is more like a boarding school with caregivers that really do love the kids. We liken the caregivers to Aunts. It would be like being raised by one or two of your Aunts with 10-12 kids in the family.
Leeza is really outgoing and fun. We remember her as shy, but she is definitely not shy. We keep wondering if it is due somewhat to her excitement about finally getting that family that she always wanted. On Saturday we brought the kids some cookies. Unfortunately, Leeza is on a special diet and can't eat any sweets. She was released from the hospital the day we arrived here and has been on a special diet since then. She has been really good about what she is supposed to eat, but the cookies were too much. There was a song that Zhenya had queued up on the computer and Leeza started making up new words to express her need for a cookie. It was so hilarious. We had the video rolling and we will make a clip for you.
Zhenya is a really good big brother. We had a serious discussion with all three kids about the US not being just a Disneyland playland, and that they would have to work extra hard in school, etc. Zhenya jumped in and gave his advice to the girls and said that he was going to take advantage of every opportunity and focus on school and that they should do the same.
Katya is really quiet and mellow, but so affectionate. It must be on her mind that our time with her is short. She clings to us every minute we are there and she likes having us just sit and talk to her and hold her hand.
Yesterday, Sunday, the girls groupa made valentines cookies. They have this little metal box that plugs in that was actually a small oven. It was army green and about one foot square in size. It could do about a dozen cookies at a time. Ukraine has adopted so many of our traditions. The cookies were sugar cookies that they were going to decorate.
It is blowing and snowing really hard today. We are just going to stay inside and make some video clips to send and organize our pictures. Our translator should be back from Kiev tomorrow with the permissions for the local court. The orphanage is having a special Valentines day program after school. We are going to go and take some video and see the kids later today.
Today is Tuesday, Feb 15th. We had a long and down day today. Our translator is in Kiev right now and was working on several different things. She was going to go the the National Adoption Center to get the permission at the National level for the local court to proceed with Leeza and Zhenyas adoption. We are also submitting our dossier (or paperwork) for Katya's future adoption. Also, our facilitator had set up a meeting with the National Adoption Center attorney to discuss Katya's registration and the possibilities of adopting her sooner. This meeting was really a last ditch effort to make something happen.

We struck out on all three. The lawyer said the paperwork and permission for the local court was all signed and ready to go, but the director would not let anyone pick theirs up until Thursday. They have 5 business days to complete the permissions and although they finished it earlier, the director wouldn't give it out until Thursday. This is a little bad for us as the local judge goes out of town on Thursday and won't be back until Monday. We had hoped to move the court date up a few days, which won't happen now, so court is still on for Monday the 21st. On a good note, this gives us the entire weekend with the kids. We may get to check them out of the orphanage for a day and do something fun.

The second issue was that of submitting our paperwork to get us registered to be able to adopt Katya as soon as she is available. There was a line that formed of facilitators that were there to submit dossiers yesterday. Monday is the designated day of the week for American families. The director came out and saw the line and hand picked several facilitators and told the rest to come back next week. As is our luck, our facilitator was not picked. So, we will try again next week. We are scrambling to get some paperwork updated as some of it expires in a month and the adoption center needs a month to review the paperwork and none of it can expire before the review date is done. (Special thanks to our wonderful friends who have been running around gathering documents and visiting fed-ex on our behalf, Bret and Trisha, Ruth, and Shawny)

The third thing happening was the meeting our translator set up with the lawyer at the NAC. This was our last and best hope for Katya. We prepared our facilitator with a list of questions. The meeting yielded some good information, but not necessarily what we wanted to hear. We did learn a lot about the process. Adopting 5 kids and being in Ukraine for almost 3 months through two different trips can help with the learning curve. We have one more contact inside the Adoption Center that knows everything about Katya’s situation and is sympathetic. We also found out how we can track Katya's registration. Once she is registered and we are registered, her paperwork will be attached to ours and we will receive a formal invitation to return on the day she comes available which will probably be around March 1st of 2006. We also asked about any and all possibilities to get the one year waiting period waived. There are no options. Unless a child has a terminal illness, we were told we would have to wait. So, while we prepared ourselves for this information, it was a difficult day as the reality set in that we are not going to bring Katya home now, or even in a few months, and it will be another year before we can. Actually, a year from when she is registered, and that is still pending, which frustrates us. But the lawyer said Katya should be registered within 14 days and then the 1 year waiting period would begin. Julia has been clinging to a hope that she will come home with us this trip. She is asleep right now, and would probably be mad that I am writing this, but she is heartbroken. She loves Katya so much. We feel like there is something we could have done differently that would have yielded all three kids coming home with us. But as we look at how this all transpired, we have realized that this is the only way we would eventually had all three kids home with us. When we came to Ukraine, we were only approved for 2 children in our INS paperwork. Zhenya would be unadoptable at a later date. Because he is already older than 16, the only way he can be adopted is at the same time as a younger sibling that is under 16. Either he is adopted right now, or he can never be adopted. Leeza is 15.5 years old. In 6 months, she would not be adoptable. Katya, at 14, is the only one of the three that could have had problems with her papers and still have time to get it fixed and come home.

We originally planned on bringing Leeza and Katya home with our approval for two kids. As it turns out, Zhenya is meant to be in our family, and if Katya were available right now, we would never have considered Zhenya as we were only allowed to adopt 2. This way, all three will eventually make it into our home. And as of right now, all three are our children. If Leeza or Zhenya would have had paperwork issues, it would have been too late for them. Katya is the youngest and we can remedy her situation with time. We don't have to wait for the 21st for court or wait a year for Katya's day in court. They are all our kids. They all have a new family. And this is the only way it could happen. But..... with that said, leaving Katya here is incredibly hard.


Wade and Julia
Posted Friday, Feb 18th 2005

Hello everyone! We are doing well. We have our court approval in hand as of last night at the end of the day, so court is confirmed for Monday, Feb 21st. Leeza and Zhenya will be attending with us at 10am. Normally kids don't attend court here but the judge requested that they be there because they are older and can understand. This is the same judge that gave us the decree for Sonya and Nikitta. We know her well. She scared us to death the last time. She looks like Peg Bundy from that horrible show, "Married With Children." She is an odd fit for a court room, but after some tense moments of asking whether I would be forced to serve in Iraq and killed by terrorists, she did finalize the adoption for Sonya and Nikitta. Apparently, when our translator made the court appointment, she remembered us and wanted us to be sure we brought our pictures along so she could look through them. So maybe she is more bark than bite. Our translator told her that we just loved her the last time and were really looking forward to seeing her again. We will forgive her for her little white lies.

Our airline tickets had a return date of today, Friday the 18th. We knew when we bought the tickets that we would have to eventually change our tickets as you can't really guestimate a return date when adopting from Ukraine, however, we put the date so far out there that there that we would just have to move it up if we moved it at all. Well, now we are in a dilemma, as we have to specify a return date when we are changing the tickets and unfortunately, there are still some things to be done in Kharkov like getting original birth certificates and passports, as well as then going to Kiev to get the kids a medical exam and a visa from the US embassy. They only have flights out of Kiev on our airline on Fridays or Wednesdays. It is going to be tight to get everything done so we can leave next Friday, but it is risky for us to make Friday the change date on our airline tickets as we would have to pay another change fee if we couldn't get everything done by then. But then again, we can't afford to wait clear until the next Wednesday to get home as we both need to get back to work as soon as possible. So, we are going to go for next Friday as the day we leave Kiev for home next week. Hopefully, we will have an easier time getting everything done by Friday. And that is also assuming we can get confirmed seats for Leeza and Zhenya on that flight with us and it isn't full. That is still pending until tomorrow morning. So right now, our exact return date is a little up in the air. Our last trip took 3.5 weeks. We expected the same for this trip but ran into some nasty snags with the Adoption Center and their politics. But with the court approval in hand now, they are behind us and we don't deal with them anymore.

Tomorrow is Saturday and we were lucky enough to get permission from the orphanage director to take all three kids out for the day. We are planning on going to McDonalds and shopping. This will be our first trip to a McDonalds this trip. We have really been into the Ukrainian food. While our translator has been in Kiev this week, we take a taxi from the orphanage to a Ukrainian SuperMarket and then home again. In two years these stores have come a long way. It is like a Super Walmart, except that it is about 1/5 the size. They have a fairly nice deli, although the mayonnaise salads seem pretty glossy...we eat them anyway. I have seen that in most American deli's so it can't be that bad, right? They eat lots of different and interesting salads. Most of them are made with hard boiled eggs, cabbage, beets, cucumbers, etc. We have to take taxi's home and carry everything, so we have just been getting enough for two days at a time. We had our translator write the addresses to our apartment as well as to the orphanage, so we have been able to get around ok. Food is very cheap here. As are the taxi rides. It takes about 15 minutes to drive from the orphanage to our apartment and the taxis charge between 2.75 and 4.00 dollars. Although, some of those rides are pretty scary as many of the taxis are russian made cars that were built in the 80's and are held together with lots of tape and wire. No seatbelts or airbags here. A loaf of bread here is about 35 cents. They have these little stores, much like a convenience store attached to a gas station. They usually have about 4 people behind glass counters. All of the items for sale are behind the counter. You have to tell the person what you want, then they get it and ring it up. There are some refrigerated display cases out in the middle of the store, but you can't open them up and ! retrieve the items or they start yelling. You have to tell them you want a particular item and then they come out from behind the display or tell you you can retrieve it. All of the items are divided between the four people, so many times if you want deli items or bread or dairy products, you have to wait in line at each place to buy those items. This system makes it very hard to shop when you don't speak Russian very well. We have figured out that they have no frame of reference for people that are learning Russian. They have no immigrants. There are no foreign tourists. The people here have no experience with people who are learning Russian. So when you tell them you don't understand and that you are American, they just keep talking to you like you understand, because you told them you didn't understand in their native tongue. So not understanding means that by repeating it over and over really fast, you should be able to get it. Everybody has dealt with English as a second language in the states. Where we are in Ukraine, this is the first time most of them have ever met or seen an American in person. To Americans, when you meet someone that is struggling with the language, you respect that person for attempting and trying to learn an unfamiliar language. Here, they just start talking faster and assume that will help you with your understanding, or they just don't get that someone can't speak Russian very well. Repeat after me, as fast as you can.
Leeza and Katya were making fun of my Russian as I am just throwing every word out I can think of to practice. I don't really care what I sound like because I can't learn it with my mouth shut. You have to see if people understand it when you say it. We had to explain to them through our translator that I am not learning Russian because I plan on speaking it every day of my life. It is because I desperately want to communicate with them as best I can to help them with their transition. So laughing at Dad's language skills and saying that he sounds like an idiot is off limits. That is one thing that we are so proud of Sonya for. Within a few weeks of coming home she was saying some really interesting combinations of words, but she was not afraid to just throw things out there. She had the right attitude to learning a language. You kind of just have to swallow your pride. Zhenya keeps giving us the thumbs up on our Russian, so at least we are impressing someone.
Speaking of Zhenya, we started going to visit his groupa a few days ago and having Leeza and Katya join us over there instead of vice versa. We were astounded at the boys groupa. They were quiet, reserved and polite. They spoke in low tones and the groupa was like a well oiled machine. There were kids tidying up, setting the table, doing dishes. Other kids were sitting at desks quietly doing homework while others were doing puzzles, etc. It was such a stark contrast to the girls groupa and we expected just the opposite. These are some very well behaved boys. After having observed them for several days, we actually think the older boys are better behaved than the girls. And for some reason, this is really surprising to us. Zhenya's friend is actually the president of the school. He is 16 years old and played St. Valentine in their Valentines Day performance. He and Zhenya are the obvious leaders of the boys groupa. They work together with the Mama to keep things organized. The younger boys respect them and the older boys are really good to them. Some of the boys are 8,9 and 10 years old and the older boys are really nice to them despite the age differences. I'm not sure how it all works so well, but it seems that when you are dealing with such humble kids, everything works differently. They don't have designer clothes. They share everything. A boy was wearing a polka dot, purple sweater that should have been in the girls groupa. But nobody had any reason to laugh at him. Because tomorrow, that might be the shirt left in the hamper for them. Zhenya has been in that orphanage since he was 5 years old. I am confident that he will learn English quickly, study hard in school and do amazing things. In many respects, we think that the circumstances he has grown up in are better than for a child that wants for nothing in America. He knows humility.&nb! sp; He h as learned respect. He is structured, grateful, gracious and hopeful. He thanks you for bringing him a bottle of juice like he just won the lottery. The only thing that we can see that he missed out on is a Mama and Papa that loved him. He had family. He grew up with a sister. He had unrelated orphanage brothers that he shared every thread of clothes and toys with. He also had several surrogate Mama's that truly loved him and cared for him. And now the final piece to his puzzle is complete and he will have had it all. And we think we can make up for the missing puzzle piece quickly.

Another of the older girls had a birthday today. We thought we would bring a cake so we bought two of the fanciest cakes we could find at the supermarket and bought about 25 bananas and some pop. It was a big hit. The kids played games, but the party was definitely unique from the last one we attended. The games were different. But the spotlight was definitely on the birthday girl and the mamas went out of their way to ensure she felt very special.

The more time we spend in this orphanage, the more we think the US foster care system stinks. These kids want only for a mom and dad to call their own. They have everything else they need. Not everything they want, just everything else they need. They eat really well. We know because we ate the orphans food and realized that it was better than what we were cooking at our apartment here. Julia keeps telling me the kids are going to be really disappointed that they don't have their meals served at the same time every day. They actually eat in courses here. They have appetizers and main courses and desserts. We were very impressed. The first trip we were here we took a picture of what we thought were raw potatoes. We didn't spend enough time with the kids to realize how well they eat in the orphanage.

We are looking forward to our weekend with the kids. The orphanage director was really good about letting Katya come with us on our outing. Technically, they don't have to let her even spend time with us. But our translator, Nina, sat down with her and showed her the paperwork we were filing to get Katya and let her know that we really wanted to spend as much time with her as possible before we left. She trusts us enough that we are definitely coming back for her that she is letting us spend lots of time with her. And this is one of the most important things that we needed to have happen in our favor before we left. We are just happy that eventually, all three of these kids will be under our roof in Colorado.

Julia keeps saying she can't believe she has six kids now. She keeps doing the math of having 6 kids within 9 years of each other. We thought it would make us feel older faster, but hanging out with three teenagers for two weeks seems to have turned back our clocks. We will see how fast our clocks move when we are running the kids to all their activities after school. :)


Wade and Julia
Sent Monday Feb 21st, 2005

Our weekend with the kids was perfect. We took them out shopping for new clothes and went to McDonalds one day and a Cafe the next. Katya is now officially the best dressed 14 year old in her school. Some of our pictures we will send should tell the story.(more...)

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