Saturday, February 16, 2008

One Year Update


One Year Update:

It’s hard to believe that one year ago we arrived back in Siloam Springs with a new son. Roman is now 11 years old and in 5th grade. With Feb. 17 being the official one year anniversary of his coming to live with us, I thought an update would be in order.

In most ways Roman is adjusting much better than we could have ever hoped or imagined. He is totally fluent speaking in English and has been for a while now. He got almost straight A’s in school the first semester and was on the Principal’s Honor Roll. He no longer attends special ESL classes at all. He picks up vocabulary and word usage pretty quickly.

Orally Roman doesn’t always get what is being said around him, especially if there are a lot of other distractions. His writing is getting better but still has a long way to go. Not surprisingly it has been hard to get him excited about reading, but the right book makes a lot of difference. His teacher gave him a book called Holy Enchilada! by Henry Winkler (yep, Fonzie) and Roman loves it. The Fonz to the rescue again.

Socially Roman has made a ton of friends and is very outgoing. He likes to be the center of attention, which gets him into trouble at school sometimes. Roman has a girlfriend named Anna, who is also very fun loving and outgoing. She got him a little stuffed dog for Valentine’s Day. Roman didn’t quite get the whole Valentine’s Day thing anyway. It didn’t make sense to him why he had to give every kid in his class a valentine card, even the other boys.

Roman played soccer in the spring and again last fall. He enjoyed being on a team and competing against other boys his age. It was obvious that he had some ball handling skills, but was taught to play much more selfishly than the US style of play. Learning how to pass the ball to an open teammate was a challenge.

He is on a 5th/6th grade basketball team this winter. He has a good coach who emphasizes basics and defense. They finished the season with only one loss. Roman plays power forward mostly, but has played point guard and hit a couple of big 3-point shots.

At church, Roman has adjusted to our American ways. He was used to standing all through worship and having an Orthodox priest do all the talking and singing. It took him a few months to stop telling us we were doing it wrong. He enjoys Sunday school and attends a Wednesday night children’s ministry at a different church in town with some friends.

As a family the adjustments continue. Cameron has become more comfortable with being a big brother and Alexa & Caley have taken to the big sister role as well. Becky and I still wrestle with how to encourage and discipline Roman and when to chalk things up to his background and relative newness. On the one hand he’s been with us for a whole year, but on the other hand he’s been in a different culture for 10 ½ years. How long should it take for him to acclimate? I think we will be asking ourselves this for quite a while.

Christmas was a special time for Roman. We had a family celebration at home before we went to Indiana to be with family there. Roman’s excitement about being with a family and having lots of parties and presents was pretty high. He enjoyed every moment. It was pretty fun to watch. To top it all off, Alexa provided about the biggest thing ever for Roman when she brought home an 8-10 week old pup she found in a city park the Saturday after Christmas. Against our better judgment we told the kids that if they took care of her that we could keep her. Well, they kept up their side of the bargain and now Hunter is part of our family as well.

All things considered we have been really blessed. There are a lot of stories about families who have adopted older kids and have very bad situations with emotional, educational, or behavioral problems. We have had not of those issues with Roman. His personality fits our family very well. A shy and introverted child would have been overwhelmed by the rest of us. God knew what He was doing when He put us together.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A 4-month Progress Report

I am sorry that I haven't updated in a long time. Too busy living life to write much about it, I guess. Things have slowed down now, and mom chastised me again this morning, so here's a Roman update. . .

LANGUAGE
The progress Roman has made on his English skills is amazing. His vocab is growing evry day. His use of slang is increasing. He seems to "get" sarcasm and humor. He can have a typical conversation in almost any setting. He especially enjoys ording his own meals when we eat out and talking with store employees when we shop. Roman has a friend in Virginia who was adopted in October. When they talk on the phone, they speak almost entirely in English now. "Me English good, yes??!!" he says.
He no longer wants to watch movies in Russian and follows almost everything in English. We finished watching season 2 of Lost last week and Roman understood everything that was happening, even getting much of the humor.

SCHOOL
Roman had a great experience in public school this spring. His teachers were patient and firm and helped him a lot. Roman's computer-based ESL (English as a Second Language) was perfect for him. He wound up with lots of friends, all A's in his classes, and awards for math, fitness, and perseverance. He only got in trouble a few times, and that was mainlywhen he was just being silly.

SPORTS
Even though Roman is only 10, he wound up on a U12 soccer team, which turned out to be very good for him. He was they youngest and about the smallest kid in the 4-team league. In his first game he started as a defender. By the end of the first half the coach moved him up to midfield, then to forward because of his ball handling skills. He played forward the rest of the season and scored in his second game. The team was pretty bad over all (1-1-8), but Roman didn't seem to mind as long as he was playing soccer. We had an incident at one game where a parent got upset with him for being too agressive. The referree said it was just good soccer. We are very glad he didn't play with his own age group, because he would have hurt somebody, scored lots of goals, and had an even bigger ego.
Last week Roman and Cameron did basketball camp at the local high school. The varsity coach is a friend of mine and he had nothing but great things to say about Roman. He doesn't shoot very well, but few 10 year olds do. He listens and hustles and is aggressive (theme?), which cause some tension with another boy at camp.
Roman obviously is a natural athlete, but he has to learn that it's not pkay to foul someone back twice as hard when you get fouled. That's part of the "survival of the fittest" orphanage mentality.

FAMILY
Roman is fitting in very well with the kids. They argue and fight just like he has always been their brother. We shuffled bedrooms last week so that Cameron and Roman are separated, and that has helped. Alexa is giving him piano lessons, which has been fun to watch. Roman really likes music, but I'm not sure he has an ear for it yet. We'll see. Adding a 4th child has created some issues. Alexa feels replaced and displaced. We are trying to work through that. She is house sitting for a family this summer, so she doesn't sleep here, but she comes for supper almost every day.
Caley gets along with Roman the best, but she is gone most of the summer. She went to Vegas for a week with Deb & Mom for her 16th birthday, and she's in Ukraine now for two weeks on a mission trip. In late July she goes to a 2-week soccer camp. That leaves Cam, Roman, and me together most days. I find myself referreeing a lot.

EMOTIONALLY
It's hard to know what to expect out of Roman emotionally. He cries at the oddest things, like getting his hair cut or having to eat hash browns, but he seems to be faking it a lot to try and manipulate us. He doesn't express affection at all, which is not surprising, but he will snuggle up against me sometimes. In the orphanage they didn'e censor the music or movies the kids experienced at all, so he's seen dozens of R rfated movies and some of the nastiest hip-hop music produced. He is at once too mature and immature.

Overall, Roman has assimilated much more easily that I anticipated. When I read blogs of other families who have adopted older children about Roman's age, I am amazed at how different our experiences are. It seems as though Roman was made for us, and we were made for him, in many ways.

He turns 11 on July 1. Caley returns from her mission trip late that night, then the next day we hit the road for Indiana for 2 weeks. It will be interesting to see how well Roman travels and how he does meeting even more people.

As always, thanks for the continued prayers and words of encouragement. We all still have a long road ahead of us.

Dan

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A day in the life. . .

It's been a couple of weeks since we updated, so I thought you might like some more info and some pictures. One of Alexa's friends is in a photography class and had an assignment she decided to use us for, so the black and whites are from her. Thanks, Jess!

The pictures show some routine as we have developed it. Roman has homework every night. More than Caley or Cam in fact. It is focused on reading and vocab development. He does it well and without complaint -- so far anyway.

Dinner time is interesting as we figure out what Roman likes and doesn't like. He has a hard time sitting still and is frequently standing up and goofing off.


He loves playing games and watching videos, even if they are in English. One night he learned how to play Monopoly (kind of). We have a couple of DVDs in Russian that only play on my computer, but we do have some that our DVD player can read. He loves Superman and Spiderman and The Incredibles. Action movies. Go figure

Roman also enjoys talking on the phone. He has called his grandparents to say hello. The conversation goes something like this:

Hello

Hello Grandma Shirley (with a heavy Russian accent)


Well hello Roman. How are you?

I am fine, thank you. How are you?

I am fine, too. How's school?

School okay. (Big smile at me, then a shoulder shrug to indicate he's gone as far as he can go. Sometimes I prompt him to say more, which he thinks is very funny.)

Roma also calls a friend from his orphanage who was adopted by a family in Virginia. They talk in Russian about America and school and food and lots of things. The first time Roman called him, they talked for half an hour.


At school, things seem to be going well so far. He has had trouble with figuring out when to be rowdy and when to be still. He explained to us that he just feels happy and wants to express that sometimes. We explained that there's a time to be happy and a time to sit still. It will take a while to figure that out.

He does like his teachers and has made several friends. Roman is still a bit of a novelty, though, so kids still call out to him and want to be around him a lot.

He's not a fan of the school lunches, so we have started to send his lunch with him. Usually it's a sandwich, some chips, some fresh fruits and veggies, cookies, and a drink. he is eating it all, then still having a big snack after school. The boy is an eater, for sure.

Roman now has a real soccer team and coach. He is on a team with 11 and 12 year olds, which is just fine with him. Their name is the Roughnecks. The first practice was Monday. When he got out of the car, a couple of the guys went, "Roman's on our team? Yes!! He's good!"

He did all the drills and the running and had a blast. He is clearly super competative and had to try to beat everyone at everything. I'm anxious to see a scrimmage.

So, all in all, it's going well, with a few bumps. It's hardest on Cameron, as we knew it would be. Learning to be a big brother under these circumstances is a lot to ask a 13-year-old.

Keep praying!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

In His Element

Roman continues to have a remarkably great time adjusting to his new life. He loves school and is making friends quickly. He talks to everyone in Russian, even knowing they can't understand him. But he is also working to communicate and learn English. Today he called his teacher by name and asked to use the computer. He also knows how to disrupt math class, evidently. We are working with the teachers to know how to deal with him. I went to his class this morning to show pictures and answer questions about his culture and background. The students had great questions and learned a lot.

All in all, things are great, but we have to hit some bumps sometime.

Pictures are of Alexa and Roman (a real non-photoshopped one!), Roman riding a bike, Roman's class, and Roman with Mrs. Pierson, his teacher.







Wednesday, February 21, 2007

So Far So Good -- We Think

Since coming home Saturday night, Roman's adjustment has gone very well. We all had a great night's sleep and woke up Sunday ready for church. No jet lag for any of the five of us really. Church on Sunday was a fun zoo. We had a chance to introduce Roman to the congregation and say thanks for all they had done. I asked how many had read our blog while we were gone and about half of the 700 or so people there raised their hands. That was cool to see. I am sure Roman was overwhelmed by all the well wishers, but he seemed fairly unphased by it all.

Sunday afternoon Alexa, Caley & Cam took Roman to JBU for awhile where they played soccer with some other students. Roman was in his element laughing, showing off, and taking control. He has seemed pretty comfortable like that in most situations.

Monday we registered him for school, met his teachers, and learned more about the ESL process. They were all ready for him and excited to see him. He was a bit less excited. His 4th grade teacher is Pam Pierson, whom we have known since the first day we moved to Siloam 7 1/2 years ago, so we were very glad about that. She asked me to come to class Thursday to show pictures and explain to the students about Roman's background and culoture. I am looking forward to that.

We went for a doctor's appointment after we left the school. He has a clean bill of health. The doctor did give him a TB skin test to see how it reads. We'll take him in this afternoon to get a report. Caley had a soccer game Monday afternoon, so Roman thought that was huge. It was fun to see him root for her and yell her name and number all game long.

Tuesday was Roman's first day of American school. Caley took him and checked him in. He started in the ESL computer lab working on a new software program for English learners. He stuck close to Caley and wouldn't let her leave his side. When she had to go to school at 9:45, it took a lot of coaxing to let her leave. His teachers said he did very well and was quite a hit with the students. When we were walking down the hallway to leave school in the afternoon, several students said "Hi Roman" as we left. He's a celebrity for sure.

After school I called Schweikerts so he could talk with Nicky and Elliott, two boys who are from his orphanage and were adopted in the fall. They talked for about half an hour. They talked about families and school and church and soccer and basketball. It was great to see him laugh and talk it up in Russian again. We plan to do that maybe once a week or so for a while.

Tuesday evening we had a chance to sit down with a JBU student named Mary who is from Russia. She talked with Roman for a while and helped us communicate with him on a deeper level that charades. Through her, he told us that he liked our house and was eating good, but would like some borscht. He likes school and his teacher, but he was embarassed all day because the students all stared at him, but that he made some friends. We told him that we would have Mary over to show us how to make borscht soon, and that the students won't stare as much from now on because he won't be brand new. He seemed okay with that.

He also wanted to know when he could play on a real soccer team. We told him that should start in a couple of weeks. he can't wait!

Tomorrow I hope to post some pictures.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Family Reunion

Roman & I survived the nigt in the Amsterdam airport just fine. At one point I asked an airport employee if anyone there spoke Russian. I really wanted Roman to understand that we had to sleep in the airport and that we couldn't go to a hotel. The guy said he didn't know of anyone that could help us. A few minutes later a guy in his 20s with a German accent came up and said he overhead my question and that he could help us. I explained the situation to him and he translated for Roman. They chatted for a while and off he went to catch his flight. God is good all the time!! That night, Roman was able to sleep on asection of seats for about 5 hours. I slept maybe an hour. We made our flight the next morning with no problems.

He was fascinated with the video system on the plane, and played video games, watch the first 10 minutes of Finding Nemo about 24 times, and chatted with a guy from Africa who was sitting beside him for the whole flight. He didn't sleep at all. I slept maybe an hour.

Once at Minneapolis, we breezed through immigration and customs. It was about 20 minutes from the time we exited the plane. By 12:20 we were in the main part of the airport. I found a ticket agent and asked about getting an earlier flight to XNA. He said it was not possible because there were no earlier flights. There are only 2 each day from Minneapolis to XNA, the first one leaves at 10:10 a.m. and the second leaves at 9:30 p.m. I accepted our 9 hour layover reluctantly, and off we went to find something to do.

I checked the departure board to see if I could what terminal we would leave from. To my surprise, the 10:10 flight to XNA had been delayed and had still not left!! Roman and I raced the length of 5 terminals to catch a gate attendant to see if there were and seats left and if we could get on. There was no attendant at gate 6B, just 8 sleepy, angry people waiting for news. I found a gate attendant at 5B. She said that there were plenty of seats and the flight was scheduled to depart at 3:05, but was waiting on a crew to come from New York. So she rebooked us and I was thrilled!! No 9 hour layover, and we would be home before supper.

We went back to wait at the gate and struck up a conversation with a couple of the passengers. Two ladies we planning to play cards, and they invited Roman to play with them. He accepted, language barrier and all, and they played for over an hour. The nine passengers had become a mini community and all shared each others' stories. It was really fun as we waited. About 3:40 a pilot showed up and received a resounding ovation from us. He was interested that we had bonded as a group and we not angry. He went to do his pre-flight checks, and the co-pilot and flight attendant, fresh off their New York flight, arrived shortly thereafter. Once we boarded, at about 4:00, the pilot came on and said he would "put the pedal to the metal" and get us to XNA quickly. What is scheduled as a 2 hour gate to gate flight took 1 hour 20 minutes.

We landed and we leaving the plane when several of the other stepped aside to let Roman and me through. They wanted to watch the family reunion, and they weren't disappointed. Roman went ahead of me and ran right to Becky, giving her a big hug. He then went to Alexa, hugged her and said "Hi Alexa!" That brought her and some onlookers to tears. As he hugged Caley & Cameron, I hugged Becky and a still sobbing Alexa, who squeezed me harder than she ever had. It was great.

Everyone talked and talked as we drove the 30 minutes to our house. It was great. We will post more over the next couple of weeks about our adjustment and Roman's first days at school.

One chapter has ended for us, and the fun part begins!

Thanks again for all your prayers and comment over the past month. We saw many small miracles happen along the way.

"Slava Bog!!" (Praise God!!)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Coming Home - Part I -- Caley, Cam, and Becky

A little bit about our trip home. Caley, Cam and I got picked up to go the airport in Kiev at 4:15 a.m. (Kiev time) on Thursday morning. We thought that would give us plenty of time to make our 6:45 flight. Our ride dropped us at the airport, so we were on our own. About half-way to the check-in counter we realized that the line we were in was for Business Class only, so we switched lines. About half-way to the counter again, our line stalled because there was apparently a passport problem with the person trying to check-in. The line next to us was moving along quickly and its end was about even with us, so we jumped over there. The person in front of us reached the check-in counter and then the delay set in. Something was wrong with his tickets and or the computer, but they could not get him checked in. He was an English speaker as well, so he was growing frustrated at the difficulty in communicating with the young women who was trying to check him in -- she spoke only a little English. We waited and waited. Finally the line next to us opened up and we checked in there. I was getting nervous because we were getting close to 6:20 by this time. When we weighed our bags, one of them was overweight. I was praying silently by this time that we would make our flight. The woman at the counter must have decided that we wouldn't make it if she made us repack because she sent the luggage on through and didn't charge me extra. We raced through the airport to passport control. Again, I prayed I would choose a line that moving quickly. Luckily, I did. We got through, went through security where the security officials were amused with my "Tide-to-Go" stick. The guy got it out of my baggie, opened it, smelled it, had several other security guys smell it, and then showed one of them that you rub it on clothes. He stuck it back in my bag and we left security. We were the next to the last passengers to get on the plane. One woman boarded after us. I breathed a prayer of thanks and a sigh of relief when we sat down.

We arrived in Amsterdam and found a table to sit at to spend our 5 hour layover. We got some food, some internet time, and passed the time with no problem. We boarded the plane for the US with no problems at all.

We landed in Memphis and got through passport control and customs without a hitch. We had to recheck our baggage and go through security once again. This time, something in Caley's backpack (that had gone through security twice already that day) alarmed the woman who was running the x-ray machine, so they pulled it out to be searched. The guy who searched it was really nice -- he didn't find anything (luckily for Caley) and sent us on our way. We got some American food -- cheeseburgers and fries from Backyard Burgers and settled in to wait for our plane to Northwest Arkansas.

Our flight to XNA was pretty empty and we all had trouble keeping our eyes open. I think the day was wearing on us. We got into XNA at 8:50 p.m. as scheduled and were met at the airport by Alexa. It was a joyful reunion. We had all missed her so much!

We got to the house to find a "Welcome Home" banner from our church, fresh flowers, balloons, a financial gift from our church, and groceries -- with some special treats for the kids. All blessings for us! We have really appreciated the way so many of you have cared for, supported, and prayed for us during this entire process. You have been blessings in our lives!

We got word on Friday that Dan and Roman had left Kiev on Friday (two days earlier than expected) and were on their way to Amsterdam with an overnight there and then on to the states on Saturday. We weren't expecting them in until late Saturday night, but Dan called after they got through customs, passport control and immigration to let me know that he had gotten on a flight to XNA that had been delayed and would arrive in Northwest Arkansas about 5:30 p.m. We were overjoyed with that news.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Way Home

I am blogging tonight from the Amsterdam airport. We got to the embassy as planned and got the visa for Roman quickly and without problems. We then went to the KLM office about noon to see about leaving Saturday. After a flurry of keyboard work the agent said we could leave at 5:30 Friday (today)!!! The catch is an overnight stay in Amsterdam. And the change is only costing $430!!! Too good to pass up, so that's why we are in Amsterdam.

When we got to passport control they would not let Roman leave because he does not have a Holland entrance visa, so we get to spend the next 14 hours here. Then we have a 10 hour flight, then a 9 hour layover, finally getting to XNA at 11:30 p.m. Saturday. No way to communicate any of this to Roman. But at least we'll be home.

Leaving Kiev was an expience I wish Roman could talk to me about. He was fine until we actually were taxiing down the runway, rthen he really tensed up and closed his eyes tight. How much of that was flying itself and how much was leaving Ukraine, I may never know. He grabbed my hand and squeezed tightly for a few minutes. It was a moment.

At any rate, we are no longer in Ukraine and it will be a long time before Roman gets to have regular conversations in Russian. What will the next few days and weeks hold? Stay tuned because I am sure it won't be boring!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

THE LONG HOME STRETCH

THE LONG HOME STRETCH

TUESDAY – He’s ours, but. . .

Tuesday morning began as we expected, but certainly did not end that way. Natalia went to the court at 8:15 to get the signed adoption decree, which she did without a hitch. After a couple more quick stops, she came to pick up Becky, Roman, and me to head to the notary’s office, which didn’t open until 9:00. We were able to get in pretty quickly, had the documents notarized, dropped Becky off back at the apartment, and our trusty driver, also named Roman, headed us to Melitopol to get Roman’s new birth certificate.

We arrived shortly after 11:00 and went in to see the clerk who needed to issue the papers. She accepted our documents and told us to come back in about an hour. We went to a local café’ to wait the time out.

Meanwhile, back at Berdyansk, Becky and the kids were headed to Zaparosha in a minivan with two drivers who didn’t speak English. After we got the birth certificate, we were to meet them in Zap, get Roman’s new passport, then load all of us in the van to head to Kiev.

So far, so good, even though Becky was pretty far out of her comfort zone.

Then the fun began. Natalia received a phone call from the clerk saying there was a problem with the court decree. We left our food and drinks on the table mostly unconsumed and raced back to her office. She explained that there was a typo in the decree that made it sound like Roman’s birth mother was speaking from the grave. She refused to do anything else until we returned to Berdyansk and had the judge fix it. E-mailing or faxing the corrected page was not an option. So back to Berdyansk we headed.

Natalia called Becky’s driver and told them to turn around and meet us in Berdyansk. She then called Julia, the main facilitator in Kiev, who reported another problem. For some reason that no one has adequately explained to us yet, the US embassy was insisting that Becky sign a document indicating that she is aware of Roman’s medical history before she leaves the country. The only way for that to happen was for Becky, Caley & Cameron to turn around again and head on to Kiev, while the rest of us raced to Berdyansk, then back to Melitopol, and hopefully on to Zap where we would spend the night.

Once in Berdyansk we went straight to the judge’s office. She had written the adoption decree on a computer, which meant a quick fix. Unfortunately, and inexplicably, she wrote the whole document on her computer at home. Since she had court cases all afternoon, she couldn’t go home to get it, so Natalia would up retying the whole thing from scratch. Then we waited for a break in the judges schedule for her signature, and off we went to Melitopol again. What should have been a 15 stop in Berdyansk turned into over 2 hours an seriously jeopardized our ability to get the birth certificate that day at all. Natalia called the clerk and explained the situation, and she agreed to stay to wait on us. The office normally closes at 5:00, and we left Berdyansk at 3:45ish.

On the way back to Melitopol, Becky kept texting me that the drivers were lost and kept stopping to ask for directions. She was concerned because she had never seen a man do this before if he wasn’t sure where he was going. Of course she has never been in a car with man who didn’t know where he was going, at least not to my knowledge. Natalia tried to assure her that this was normal and not to worry.

We arrived back at the clerk’s office at 5:25 and she was gone. There were 2 staff clerks there who said she had asked them to stay to wait for us until 5:30, so we made it with 5 minutes to spare! As she read the decree again for more errors, she offered us coffee while we waited, which was nice I suppose. Once she saw everything was in order, she asked her staff to enter the information and print the new birth certificate.

As we waited, we chatted about adoption and America with her, and she read some more info about Roman’s case from his file. According to a very sketchy report, Roman was found on the streets of Melitopol a few days after his mother died and he had just turned 5. She was only 24, and had a younger sister who took Roman in at first. His aunt was married to an older man who did not want Roman, and threw him out of the house and onto the streets, where he was picked up.

By 6:30 we had a new birth certificate for Roman Stephen Lambert, and headed off to Zap to spend the night and be at the passport office first thing in the morning before going on to Kiev. We got there just after 8:00 and found an old Soviet era hotel to stay in. I got a text from Becky about 11:00 that they had arrived at a hotel in Kiev and they were finally getting something to eat for the first time since breakfast. She had also caught a cold and had lost her voice. What she didn’t know is that I was in excruciating pain in my left side from who know’s what. I thought maybe a kidney stone or something. After a couple of late night phone calls to America and a gross of Aleve, I was able to fall asleep about 4:00 a.m.

WEDNESDAY – Coming Together

When I woke up at 7:00 Wednesday, the pain was gone and I was ready for another long day. I attribute that to a LOT of praying and pleading with God for relief. I was honestly as scared as I think I have ever been. I almost passed out from the pain at one point. God is good, even when He is not as fast as I want Him to be!

At 8:30 we headed to the passport office. At the same time Becky was going to the US embassy in Kiev to sign the document (I-600 if you care) she needed to sign before she could leave. That went without a hitch.

In the passport office we were breezing along until Natalia couldn’t find Roman’s pictures. After a hectic hour, we finally found them, paid the fee got the passport with Roman’s new name, and headed off to Kiev about 11:00 (nearly 1 ½ later than we hoped). About 5 hours of the trip was on ragged 2-lane roads I hesitate to call highways. Think old state roads. It turned into a 9 hour trip due to road conditions, fog, and stopping for an hour lunch at 1:00.

Roman and I were able to be reunited with Becky and the kids just after 8:00 p.m. at the home of Mike & Judy Manna, who had gone to get them mid afternoon. They fed us supper and we chatted for awhile before heading to the hotel just after 10:00.

THURSDAY – Last Things. . . Maybe

Becky, Caley, & Cameron woke me up at 4:00 to say good-bye (they were in a triple bed room on the 8th floor, while Roman & I were in a double on the 5th. The driver came to take them to the airport at 4:15 so they could be there by 5:00 to check in for their 6:30 a.m. flight to Amsterdam. Becky was still very hoarse and hesitant to leave us, but eager to get home. Let me just add that I am intensely jealous that they will be home by 10:00 tonight and Roman & I are still here.

I was able to drift back to sleep – still pain free – for a couple of hours before we had to get up to begin our day at 7:30. Roman & I enjoyed a great breakfast buffet in the hotel and were ready to go to the embassy required Kiev medical exam by 8:15. We arrived at the medical center for immigrants to Canada, Australia, and the US. About 9:15. The health system here is nuts. In the med center, you knock on a doctor’s door and find out if he can see you soon. He may even have a patient in there undergoing an exam.

After about 30 minutes Julia had found a doctor for us, even thought there were easily 30 other people there still waiting. I don’t understand. The doctor was very nice and interested in the adoption process. She wanted to X-ray Roman’s chest for TB (it was negative) and he needed a Hepatitis-B vaccine. Julia had told me she called the embassy and as long as we were there by 11:30 we could get the visa processed and go home Friday!!! I was excited.

After finishing at the med center and fighting traffic, Roman and I rushed into the American citizen service desk at the embassy at 11:26, just in time. I filled out a few papers, waited for interviews with two different people, and hoped to hear the good news, “Come back at 5:00 this afternoon to pick up your son’s visa, Mr. Lambert.”

That’s not what I heard. Evidently a recently enacted policy requires that all immigrant visa applicants age 10 and over are required to have their faces go through America’s face recognition computer, which could take up to 12 hours. That means no Friday departure for us. We do have confirmed seats for Sunday, but, man, I want to be home earlier. I will pick up Roman’s visa in the morning then see about getting Saturday tickets home. It may cost me $1500 extra. Is it worth it? I haven’t decided yet. Stay tuned!!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It's Official!!!

Roman Stephen Lambert is legally, officially, and irrevocably part of our family. The last two days have not gone as planned but we don't have time to write a lot now. Becky, Caley, & Cam will leave Kiev at 6:30 a.m. and be at XNA about 9 p.m.

Pray for safe travel for them.

Roman & I have to see another doctor tomorrow, then go to the embassy to apply for his visa. Hopefully we can leave Friday!!

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Last Day. . .


Monday began like most days, except we didn’t know what it would hold. We hoped the judge would sign the official document declaring Roman to be ours officially. We hoped the local notary would sign the documents making the name change official. We hoped this would be Roman’s last day at the orphanage. We hoped we could pack our stuff into five suitcases after arriving with 12 stuffed to the gills. We hoped we could then leave Berdyansk first thing Tuesday morning to go to Melitopol to get a new birth certificate , then to Zaparosha to get a new passport, then on to Kiev. What actually happened was, as expected, full of the unexpected.

Natalia began her day at the court to speak with the judge. She had decided that, although Sunday the 11th was the 10th day of the 10 day waiting period, making today the 11th and Roman officially and legally ours, Sunday would not count and today was the 10th day. That meant Roman can’t be ours legally until 8:15 Tuesday morning local time. 0-1 so far.

We went to the notary’s office at 2:00 for us to sign and her to notarize the name change document. She decided not to sign until she heard from the judge, and that can’t happen until Tuesday morning at 9:00 at the earliest. 0-2. Because of that, we have to wait until at least 9:30 to leave for Melitopol, so we were 0-3 by 2:15.

After that, we drove to the orphanage for what we hoped would be the last time. In faith we packed Roman’s clothes we brought for him and took them with us. We also had food and gifts for the class good-bye party. Our first item of business was to speak with the director about making a donation to the orphanage. She indicated that there were some windows that needed repaired and we could pay for that work to be done. As important as that is, we told her we would rather make a donation of needed medical supplies. She indicated that the nursing staff has told her that many children would benefit from oxygen and breathing machines to help those with asthma or bronchitis. We thought this sounded like a great idea. She insisted on the business director taking me to the bank to make a direct deposit myself rather than just give her cash.

Then it was time for the good-bye party. We had oranges, Play-Doh, gummie candy, trail mix, Coke, and a pen for each of the 23 students. They seemed very pleased with the food and gifts, especially the Play-Doh. Each child stood and said something about Roman. I have no idea what they said, but we got it all on video so hopefully we can get it translated some day.

The director had decided that we could go ahead and take Roman with us today! She said it only made sense because he was already ours anyway. Roman was very excited and went to change his clothes. I would say he gathered his belongings as well, but all he has is a picture album and a small stuffed Piglet. That brought us up to 1-3.

One of the orphanage staff took us on a tour so we could get video memories to save. We went through classrooms, hallways, bedrooms, and many other great locations. We have some good footage I will need help making into a memorable DVD for him!

After the tour, it was time for good-byes. When the class party was over, the kids left like it was no big deal. I just told myself that they are 10-year-olds and don’t really get the permanence of Roman’s last day. The director, however, was a different story. She hugged and kissed Roman, lecturing him to be good and obey his new mama and papa. Sobbing, she pushed him towards us and wished us Godspeed. One of the other teachers, one who had come to America with the choir, walked us to the exit. She stood there as we walked away, waving and saying “Das vedanaya, Roma!” over and over. Roman waved once as if it was rather a burden for him.

He asked if he could go back to the playground one more time to say good-bye to his friends. Cameron and Caley went with us while Becky & Natalia waited for the taxi. Several of his classmates were still outside playing, so he got to speak with most of them. He really just wanted to play soccer for a while. Three of his best friends hung out by a goal and they shot the ball for a few minutes until the teacher yelled at the kids to come in. His two best friends, Sasha and Sergey, lagged behind as long as they could, walking slowly toward the door as Roman slowly walked the other way. One last time Sasha yelled, “Roma, good-bye,” and waved. Roman turned and waved back. That last wave made Caley burst out in tears at the thought of leaving all those kids behind without mamas and papas. Silently, we all walked to the taxi and drove away for the very last time.

Once we arrived back at the apartment at just after 5:00, we talked about supper and plans for the night. I mentioned to Natalia that Roman didn’t seem sad to leave at all. At that moment I heard him in the bathroom with the door closed, where he was sobbing, splashing water in his face to hide the tears. Through Natalia, he said that he was very sad to think about never seeing his friends again. As horrible as life in an orphanage sounds, Roman has never known anything else and never had to make new friends or be the minority. That sounds pretty frightening to me, especially for a 10-year-old.

After a few moments of hugs and shared tears, we decided to set our minds on supper and off of the orphanage. In minutes, Roman was laughing and goofing off with his new brother and sister again as we walked to a restaurant. It had been a very emotional and trying day, and night was just falling. Five more hours to bedtime? Ugh.

About the luggage, we were able to get everything into only 5 suitcases. It required a lot of donating items, which we planned anyway. That put us at 2-3 on the days hopes. Not bad, I suppose.

Tomorrow will be a day on the road and at the mercy of four women – all government officials who have the individual and arbitrary power to throw a wrench into our well-laid plans in any of three cities. We likely will not have time to blog until Wednesday sometime, so don’t expect a Tuesday update or send the CIA looking for us.

Please keep praying and commenting. Becky & Caley & Cam will be home by 10:00 Thursday night. Roman & I will be home Friday night (YES!!!!), Sunday night (okay), or Tuesday night (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). I am very ready for this adventure to be over and our new one in Siloam to begin.

That’s all for now.

Friday, February 09, 2007

What do we miss most?


THINGS WE MOST LOOK FORWARD TO WHEN WE GET BACK TO AMERICA

A#1 – Alexa!!!!!!

Dan

My recliner

Driving

English language TV

My students

Family

My bed

Unlimited Internet access

Grilling food

Feeling at home

Good milk

Becky

Dishwasher

Garbage disposal

Clothes dryer

Using tap water to drink

Sebastian, our cat

Use of a full kitchen & supplies

Home Fellowship Group

Friends

Mexican food

Not being stared at everywhere we go

City Coffee lattes

Comfortable chairs

Caley

Rachel

Soccer practice

My shower

Zach

Personal space

Thermostats

Being able to order my own food w/o a translator

Peanut butter chocolate chip bagels

City coffee mornings w/ mommy

Libraries

Cameron

Donuts

The Journey

My friends

Basketball practice

Down blanket

English being spoken by everyone

Taco Bell

Waffles, French toast, pancakes

CSI

Knowing our way around

Root Beer

Pictures are our everyday lives for the past three weeks. The top pic is our stove and water heater. The next is our very own boar's head trophy that greats us each morning. Next is Becky at the washing machine. Next is drinks being cooled by the window and a shirt drying on the radiator. Finally it's Cameron doing dishes.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Soccer Match of the Year!!



After another morning of doing homework (we are all pretty updated on homework so far), we set out for the orphanage about 2:30. When we saw Roman he excitedly explained something to us. He could get out the words “classroom,” “teacher,” and “soccer.” We noticed he had on gym shoes for the first time. When we got to the classroom, several of Roman’s friends were there watching TV. They were happy to see us, and we exchanged hellos for drasvyutchyas. We noticed many of the boys had on gym shoes, plus they kept running to the window looking out at the soccer fields. We could sense something was in the air.

As it turns out, yesterday’s soccer game was the talk of the class, and they had arranged permission from the teacher to all go outside for a bigger game with Caley & Cameron today. It wasn’t quite the World Cup, but was a lot of intense, muddy fun. Over a dozen kids played at some point (the game went about 90 minutes), and Caley, Cameron, Roman, and a friend Misha played the whole time without a break. Keep in mind the temperature was in the mid 30s and the field was all semi-solid mud. It was fun to watch, and a lot of the kids who didn’t play stood around and watched a while.

At the same time, the older kids were also playing a pretty big game on the larger field. Soccer is a big deal in Ukraine. Their national team did well at the World Cup last summer, and it’s star, Andrey Chevchenko, is one of the top rated players in the world.

We are beginning to make plans to leave Berdyansk, counting meals and laundry needs. It has been great to have a full kitchen and a washing machine (even if it’s very small).

On another note, gas is down 10 kopecs a litre!!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Life in Ukraine From Becky's Perspective



Being in Berdyansk, Ukraine, for several weeks now has made me think a lot about how “good” we have it in America. I know that not all Ukrainians lead the life that we do in our little apartment – some have it better, but many have it worse. Let me share with you some about the things that have been different here in everyday living.

In a lot of ways, living here has transported me back to my childhood – my parents and siblings will appreciate this. After every meal, we wash all dishes by hand and someone dries them. Washing dishes by hand has to be one of my least favorite chores that I disliked doing even as a kid, and now here I am doing it again after every meal. Any scraps, etc., have to be thrown away because there is no garbage disposal. For that reason, we take the trash out everyday.

You can’t buy ziplock baggies in the stores or little plastic storage containers. No plastic wrap either. So leftovers are stored in bowls. I’ve found myself trying to be more careful about cooking only as much as we eat so we don’t have leftovers to try to deal with. We brought a few baggies with us, so they get used to store things that need to be airtight.

The refrigerator we have is just a little bigger than a dorm-style refrigerator. It has a very tiny freezer compartment. Because of the size of the refrigerator, none of the containers of anything we buy can be very big. From the stock in the stores, I would guess that most people have fairly small refrigerators. Nothing comes in large packages. Sam’s Club would never fly here because people wouldn’t have a way to store anything that came in bulk.

Going to the store (the market) has been interesting. The grocery stores are well-stocked with a good variety of things, but unless the packages have pictures on them, it’s tough to know what we’re buying unless we have our translator or someone else who speaks Russian or Ukrainian with us. It’s tough sometimes feeling like such a foreigner. In almost every store we’ve been into either in Kiev or here in Berdyansk, we have been followed around by workers or security people. Just today at the grocery store, Dan and I were followed by a security officer as we shopped – we assume because we are pretty easily identified as foreigners (neither of us look even slightly Eastern European). Experiencing that suspicion makes me re-evaluate how I have been suspicious of foreigners on occasion.

Most interesting for me, though, has been the outdoor markets. Most Ukrainians, especially older ones, still buy most of their stuff there. We’ve walked through them several times. Buying fruit there is better than at the grocery store – it’s always been in better condition and much cheaper. As you walk through the outdoor market, you see booths with clothes, (yes, even underwear and bras fully on display), towels, sheets, stationary goods (we bought an eraser for Cam one day), shoes, beautiful flowers, baked goods, canned goods, juices, milk, eggs, chicken, and fish. We walked through the fish area of the market and I kept thinking that it smelled pretty fishy in January, what must it smell like in July or August (and yes, they still sell fish in the outdoor markets even in the summer). One day we were out walking along a street and there was an older woman out selling shrimp – she had three trays (about the size of a cafeteria tray) piled with as many shrimp as they would hold – uncovered, just sitting there (and yes, they were whole ones, eyes and all, my favorite!).

But the most profound difference for me is something that is very simple -- water. I am so used to having as much hot water as my family needs to take showers, wash clothes, run the dishwasher, etc. I am so used to turning on the tap and getting clean water that I can drink, wash fruit in, etc. Here, water doesn't work that way. We've not actually run out of hot water, but we have to stagger when we take showers because all four of us can't do them back to back or we would run out of hot water. We can't drink the tap water -- we drink bottled water. We even have to use bottled water to brush our teeth and wash fruit. I miss easy water.
It’s been good for me to experience a different lifestyle than I am used to in the US. It makes me more appreciative of the way of life I am blessed with where we are.
In the two pictures at the top, the kids are playing soccer outside of the orphanage on their playground area. Roman loves soccer, so he fits right in with Cam and Caley!
In the picture of Dan and I, we are using the only wireless internet access that we've been able to find in Berdyansk. We purchase wireless cards from the Berdyansk Hotel and then access the wireless there. The catch is that the wireless is only available on the 9th, 10th, and 11th floors. And on those floors, there is no furniture or anywhere to sit except the floor. So, when we use wireless, we sit on the floor in the lobby outside the elevators on the 9th floor. It's also cold in those lobbies, so Dan sits against one radiator and I sit against the other. I'm way too old for this, too! Makes me appreciate the wireless at Quizno's, City Coffee (and I'm dying for a good latte, too), and around JBU in their wireless hotspots!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Caley's Turn Again!




From Caley. . .

I spent the night with two missionaries last night, Sarah and Sushan, and then went with them to the temporary orphanage. All the kids there, and there weren’t nearly as many in this one as there is in Romans, were together. Not separated by age or anything. They stayed in the same room and played games or colored. I played ‘Slap’ and ‘Skip-bo’ with Sarah and Anya, a 13 year old girl who has been at the orphanage since October. Also, today at the other orphanage, we played Uno with 5 of the boys. So there were 7 of us playing one round of Uno that lasted like…2 hours. Crazy--ness. Every time before they would put down a skip or draw two or draw four or reverse they would say ‘excuse me’ to who ever it applied and laughed a lot. They caught on really fast. But a lot of them got really distracted really fast and couldn’t pay attention for very long. The funnest part, though, was when I would reverse it and play a skip or something back at them and they would make sad sounds and faces. Roman has completely clicked perfectly with our family. He plays and jokes and taunts with us like he has always been part of the family. While he was staying with us this past weekend, I figured out that he is ticklish. So he would go into the other room and tell me to come find him so I’d run in there and grab him and throw him on the bed or drag him out onto the floor and tickle him and he’d act like he way hiding over and over again even though he knew in the end he’d end up laughing and screaming. Its just amazing to see how well he’s adapted in such a short time.

Pictures are of hot ping pong action. Cam and his new Ukrainian girlfriend vs. Roman and Lena, who has mad ping pong skills. The other picture is the big time Uno game.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Just Another Berdyansk Monday

This morning the priority was getting our flights taken care of. I called the Kiev office for KLM (the Dutch airline partner of Northwest) and talked to a rep. After explaining our situation and what we are hoping to do, she told me there were plenty of seats for flights on Thursday, February 15. Roman’s visa will not be ready that soon, so we booked tickets for Becky, Caley & Cameron to return on the 15th. (Caley wants to surprise her friend Rachel, so don’t tell her.) Roman & I will leave Kiev on Sunday the 18th. I had to fax our credit card information to Kiev to pay for the changes, which made me nervous, but we received confirmation late this afternoon that we are all set, which is a big relief.

Caley & Cameron continue to work on homework daily. Cam is actually ahead of where he is supposed to be since Siloam schools were out half of last week. Caley is ahead in Computer Apps II, and where she should be with English and PE. Currently she is working on her Lord of the Flies paper.

We left for the orphanage at 2:30 as usual for our weekdays. Roman was going out the door as we were coming in. He and his best friend Sasha (a Russian nickname for Alexander) were headed shopping with 28 grevna Roman had saved somehow. He led us to about four different places as he bought us balloons, and stocked up on candy bars, peanuts, gum, orange juice, potato chips, and dried anchovies (yep, they just eat them as snacks). He never seems to stop eating.

We met Sarah, one of the American missionaries working in Berdyansk, at our favorite pizza place for supper. Caley is spending the night with her tonight and will go work with he at the “intake orphanage” tomorrow. It’s like a short term children’s shelter. I’ll have her blog about it one day.

Today’s pictures are of a couple of girls illustrating Cam’s point about short skirts and tights in freezing weather, the orphanage playground area, Roman & Sasha in a store, and the kids playing soccer with one of the balloons in Roman’s classroom/TV lounge.

I think this week will fly by. Friday we will take Roman for the weekend again. Sunday night will be his last in the orphanage I think. We will through a good-bye party for him with his 5th grade class on Monday. I don’t know what emotions to expect.

On another note -- we made the Berdyansk newspaper. They had a short story about foreigners in town to adopt from the orphanage. Two American couples and one from Spain. Woo hoo!

Thanks for continued prayers and comments. We anticipate your comments like college students anticipate mail. It’s kind of fun each day to see what people are writing, even people we don’t know.

Until tomorrow. . .

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Today It's Cameron's Turn To Blog!!

There are several differences between Ukraine and America. Differences like clothing, programs on T.V., food, and they speak and write in two different languages (Ukrainian and Russian).

Their T.V. programs aren’t actually Russian, they are dubbed in Russian, and they don’t have to be clean (like bad words and profanity). They have the Simpsons show and soccer or “football” every night, usually Chelsea (Andre Shevchenko’s club team). They have a lot of American shows and movies; like tonight they are showing the X-Men movie.

All of the girls wear boots and short skirts with panty hose (because its winter) and fur coats. The guys wear leather jackets and jeans or khakis and dress shoes but not real dressy. They do not take showers every day or even every other day.

At the orphanage they learn to speak in Russian and write in Ukrainian. Weird huh? Then at a later age they learn to speak Ukrainian as well; the two languages are similar.

When we took Roman for the weekend the first time, the director of the orphanage said no ketchup, mayonnaise, or mustard, and no cold drinks (he might get sick ;) ). They have really good food. I haven’t tasted anything I haven’t like so far. They have really good chicken and pasta.

It’s been a real culture shock, but I’ve made it this far. The latest we could be home would be Sunday, January 18th in the evening, but we hope to be home sooner, so see you soon.

Cameron Lambert

Saturday, February 03, 2007

QUICK PRAYER REQUEST-- RETURN DATE!!!

We have been trying to figure out a return date. I received an e-mail from KLM saying there are no seats open until Sunday, Feb 18th. I will call on Monday to see if there are any other options to get us home earlier, even if we have to split up on different flights. We would love to come home Friday the 16th or Saturday the 17th, but Sunday is better than Wednesday the 21st, which is when we were originally scheduled. PRAY!!

Sharlotta's Vebski


We awoke to a beautiful, if cold, sunny day in Berdyansk. After a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, we decided to go for a walk and get some video of the town. We are within a short walk of the sea, so we headed off in that direction. On the way we passed a movie theater. We recognized the poster for Charlotte’s Web and decided to go see a show. The theater itself was large and looked like our older theaters. All seats are reserved, as well. We could choose from the first 5 rows, at 10 grevnas a person (about $2), or get seats further back for 15 grevnas each. Roman decided to be frugal and get the cheap seats. We were third row middle, which were actually back far enough to see comfortably without breaking your neck. The kids decided they needed popcorn and a drink, so we got a large bucket of corn and four drinks for 22 grevnas. The whole experience cost 72 grevnas, or about $14.40 to see a current, first run movie in Russian and enjoy popcorn and a drink.

We are learning more about Roman’s personality each day. He is eager to please and to help. He holds doors open, cleans up the table after meals, carries bags, throws away his trash, etc. He has been a bit too eager at times. He spilled a tray full of drinks at a pizza place (all in unopened plastic bottles, fortunately), and broke a glass at home today as he insisted on washing the dishes. And eat, man can he eat!! He has a great personality and is picking up English quickly. It seems like he was made to fit in our family and gladly joins in our zaniness more and more.

The picture of Caley is one Roman took as we were walking by the seashore today.

The sun dial is just one that is part of the park décor.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Today it's Becky's Turn

From Becky:


Today we started our ten-day waiting period. During this time, our translator, Natalia, goes back to her home, about 100 kilometers outside of Kiev, and we are basically on our own in Berdyansk. We can reach her via cell phone though if we need her. There is also another American couple still here in Berdyansk with their translator, Sergei, so if we need help, he’s available. The ten-day waiting period is really just what it is called – we wait. We are allowed to see Roman from 2:30-5:00 every afternoon and take him with us on weekends (from Friday afternoon until Sunday evening). Other than that – the time is spent waiting – the kids work on homework and other stuff for school, we do work, we read, we walk around the city, etc. Pray for our sanity during this time.

Also, since it’s Friday, we have Roman with us for the weekend. These are good times for us to get to know one another better and to work on his language skills.

Today, our apartment got a new feature. Prior to today, we had an electric stove and we were only allowed to use one burner at a time. It’s been a challenge to fix dinner for four or five people and use only one burner. Also, our oven has no racks in it, so it’s pretty useless as well. Today, our landlords came and installed a gas stove-top for us. Now we can use as many burners as we want!

The interesting thing is, even though I couldn’t understand anything they were saying to one another, I could tell that just like many American couples, it probably wasn’t the best idea for them to do this project together. There were raised voices and “the look” on several occasions during the installation process. I guess couples are couples everywhere.

We’ve also discovered Roman’s love for soccer – of course, called “football” here. He claims himself to be another Schevchenko. He’s always excited if we find a soccer game on the TV. He also asked lots of questions the other day about being able to play on a soccer team in America. Look out Siloam Springs Rec League – here he comes! His interest in soccer couldn’t make Caley and Cam much happier. They went to a park (mostly concrete though) this afternoon and kicked around the soccer ball we brought with us.

Keep the comments & prayers coming, please!