Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Home, at last

After going to bed at about 2am this morning, I thought I would sleep until about 10. However, I woke up at 6, tossed and turned for about 15 minutes, and decided that I had better enjoy the morning while I can. Now, I am listening to the washing machine run, and nothing else. Complete and utter silence. It is a wonderful sound, for now at least. Bobby got tired of this sound over the past couple of weeks with no family. His entire system is about to go through shock!!!

I will briefly update you on my trip to "Amerrrrriki' as the kids call home. We left our apartment on Monday at 1pm Ukraine time (5am B'ham time). After going through customs in Kiev with new birth certificates, visas, and 25 pounds of documents, we were on our way. Our flight left on time, got to Amsterdam at about 8:30 pm, as scheduled, and we got something to eat (McDonalds's) before going to our hotel at the Amsterdam airport. Our hotel room was a "triple room", meaning 3 twin beds and was only for 3 people (I knew I would need to sneak 3 kids in). I left Kevin just outside the lobby area with the other 4 kids while I checked in. I received the key, motioned for Kevin to lead the way with everyone else and proceeded 3 doors down to our room. I opened the door, let everyone in, and knew immediately that not enough heads had come through the door. I turned around, looking into our room, and 4 pairs of eyes are looking at me through the dim light of the hallway. I asked Kevin, "Did everyone come in?" His answer was, "No, Keri Jo is out there somewhere." Great answer from my usually responsible son. I guess he would have just left her out there and told me later!!!! I go out of the room, to the lobby, and find Keri Jo standing by the railing that overlooks part of the airport. She was in her own little world; not afraid at being alone in a strange place, just standing and looking.
Once we got baths and settled in for the night, sleep came easily. The room was nice, and 4 of the kids were able to sleep in 2 of the beds that had been pushed together. Kevin slept in the floor, and I had the other twin bed.

We got up early the next morning (check out time was 9am), and I went to check in at the NWA/KLM service counter since the Kiev counter told me that I would need to check in there. Thankfully, everyone speaks English there and I was able to get a nice lady there who advised me that the tickets for the 3 new kids was issued incorrectly, but there were plenty of seats on the plane, and she corrected the mistake. I am so glad that we did not have the large-boned "Helga" at the next window who "Haccchhtted" to everyone that came to her (I am sure that you have heard the Dutch language). She must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed and I felt sorry for all of the foreign travelers who went to the "service center" and ended up at her window!!!
We had lots of time to wait at the airport. Time went slowly, but we boarded and took off on time. After a 9 hours and 15 min flight, we exited the plane, glad to be on American soil (in Memphis). We proceeded to immigration services/customs with everyone else on the plane and were shown to a small room where others with passport problems, etc. are "interviewed" by gunned men and women in uniform. The kids behaved exceptionally here. I am not sure if they were tired, or afraid of the uniforms/guns. We waited for about 30-45 min, then proceeded to our gate. Upon arrival, the gate was full of people waiting to get on the small aircraft. As soon as the ticket agent saw me, he said, "You must be the Kemp family". I thought to myself, "Oh, how nice...He actually knows our name. He must have been advised by Immigration that we are on our way." How wrong I was!!! His next statement was, "Our flight has been oversold by 3 seats, and everyone else has checked in. I will try to find someone to give up their seat for you and your family". 2 "someone's" came forward willing to give up their ticket in exchange for a hotel room for the night and a credit voucher to be used to buy a later ticket. The 3rd "someone" did not materialize, even after the ticket agent went on the plane after all passengers had voided. The plane left without us on it. My spirits are still up, I am in Memphis and I can drive home.

Next, I proceed to the car rental kiosk. I began calling, "Do you have a rental car leaving tonight, one way to Bham, for 6 people?" What seemed to be a very easy task of renting a car and driving to Bham was beginning to look like it was not to be!!! I called every car company listed, but most companies were completely booked, some had no one-way service to Bham, and one only had a compact car. The last company that I spoke to was the national reservation # with Alama. Yessss!!!!! They had a minivan. We excitedly got on the shuttle to the off-site car lot, and went in the the lady standing at the counter. "Ma'am, I don't have a reservation for you." Those words that you never want to hear!!!! I am still not concerned and explained that the reservation had just been made. She called the national #, I spoke to another lady there and was told that my reservation had been made, but it had been made for November 2, 2010!!!! Yes, next year. The lady at the ticket counter looked at me, glanced at all 5 kids and said, "We don't have any kind of car for you." Now was the moment that everything was not all right and the outcome that I wanted looked bleak. I was going to have to spend the night in another hotel!!! My weariness and whatever-you-want-to-call-it, came forth and I started boo-hooing, right in front of this lady. I might show a lot of different emotions in these situations, but usually this is not one of them. However, I think that God knew what would work in this situation, and as usual, He is in ultimate control!!! This angel in front of me immediately said, "We will find you a car." She picked up the phone, made one call but no luck on the car. She left the counter, was gone 2 minutes, came back and asked for my driver's license and credit card. She told me that there were 2 minivans just outside the door, take my pick, the keys are in the car. The kids could not believe that they were going to ride in such a "royal" car, after seeing the small European ones all of their lives. As we left the car rental gate, I almost expected for a guard to stop me and tell me that it was a mistake, and that we needed to take the car back. But, no, I made it safely out of the gate, and to B'ham in about 3 hours, arriving home at about 11pm.
Once we arrived, it was like Christmas morning!!! Lots of ooohs and ahhhhs, running up and down the stairs, and the pulling of 2 teeth (Kolby). I am not sure what it is, but if you are adopted into this family, you must immediately lose some teeth (Katie also lost a tooth on the first night that she was here). So, in addition to it being like Christmas, the tooth fairy will get to visit!!! Bobby was able to meet the plane that we were supposed to be on (our luggage made it), retrieved our luggage, and partied with church friends that had come to meet us for the first time!! He was able to call other family and friends to let them know about our delay. Thank you all so much for your out-pouring of love and support, not just yesterday, but for the last 5 weeks!!!

So, what started as an adventure, has ended with an adventure!! We are all home, under one roof. Bobby had done an amazing job with cleaning the house, changing beds, etc. in preparation for our home-coming. The kids had "Welcome home" signs and balloons and a few gifts that others had brought. It was all such a welcoming sight, and it smelled like home. There truly is no place like home!!! Now, I am drinking coffee, waiting for the pitter-patter of little feet.

NOT!!!! You obviously don't know how loud newly adopted Ukrainian children are - their voices and their feet!!!!! Can't wait until they get up!!!


Sunday, November 1, 2009

On The Way Home

I have talked with Kim this morning and all is going well. They have begun their journey home. I would like to thank all of you for your prayers this last week. I would like to invite everyone who can to help me welcome Kim, Kevin, Katie, Kolby, Keri Jo, and Elijah home at the Birmingham Airport Monday November 2, 2009 at 8:30 p.m.


Today's the Day

Well, it's finally here; the day that we have been waiting for. We are packed and ready to go. We are all so excited to be flying out today. Our plan is to fly to Amsterdam this afternoon and spend the night in an airport hotel. We fly from Amsterdam Monday afternoon and are scheduled to arrive in B'ham Mon. night at 8:30pm. The next 24 hours may be a little stressful, due to all the excitement!!! The only homecoming that I can imagine that could be more exciting is when our Lord returns to take us all to our Heavenly home!!!!

Yesterday, all 3 kids learned the meaning of a "time-out" and the enforcement of the consequence went better than expected (mainly disobedience and pouting). It took a little longer with Kolby, but when he found out that I would not give in and was prepared to stay up all night (just whenever he wanted to sit his 10 minutes was fine with me), he did exactly what I expected. He was then able to enjoy the movie that the others were already watching. They are already beginning to settle down and get used to me, Katie, and Kevin. They are beginning to learn English, but I am glad to have my other 2 little translators to help with the process.

Yesterday, we were able to walk around Kiev a little bit just to get out of the apartment and went to the store to get a few things to eat for last night and breakfast this morning. As I write, the kids are eating the few snacks/fruit that is left in the kitchen.

When I talked to Bobby yesterday, he said that he would be so glad to have us back home. It must be a little too quiet in our house. I told him that he had better enjoy the peace and quiet because it is about to end!!! He just doesn't know!!! I hope that the pantries are stocked, because the kids want to eat non-stop, especially Kolby. Kevin and Katie were saying, "They want to eat all the time." I reminded them of Kevin's eating just 2 short years ago. I honestly do not know where he put all the food that went into his stomach. The kids are also beginning to learn that we eat real meals, we can't just live on chips and chocolate. All 3 love praise and are going to be big helpers, just as their big brother and sister are!!!

Last night, our devotion was Psalm 119:105-112 and do not be afraid, because God is with us and we can learn Bible verses to help us when we are afraid. Elijah said that he is afraid of snakes and Keri Jo said that she is afraid of the dark. Katie and Kevin were both afraid of the dark for awhile, but that is much better now. Kevin and Katie translated the Bible verses and the devotion reading in Ukrainian so that the kids could understand. They are learning that we ask the blessing before eating, and Keri Jo even prayed last night for God to help Kolby with his attitude.

I am excited to have such an opportunity to have a positive impact in the life of all 5 of them. I also can't wait to see all of our family in B'ham!!

We will see you all in just a couple of days!!!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Calgon, take me away

I was not able to blog yesterday, because I was exhausted!!
However, after obtaining our passport quickly (by 10am) and requiring one trip to the passport office and 3 trips to the US Embassy with 3 excited, non-english speaking children, I received the needed 3 passports and visas by 2pm. Our day really started at 7:30am when Sasha picked us and our luggage up from the apartment in Billa Tserka. Then, on to the orphanage where I was able to sign the 3 children out, they said their good-bye's quickly, and we were on our way in Sasha's car to Kiev. Kolby gets car sick, so I was prepared with medication, which he took before leaving the orphanage, and plastic bags. Thankfully, we arrived without needing those.
By the time that we had completed our errands, we were all tired, wired, and hungry!!! Not a very good combination!!! There is a pizza parlor just up the street, so we ate a late lunch there.
It took about 2 hours to get luggage organized, kids "scrubbed", and in clean clothes for the night. Last night, for supper, I had mashed potatoes, sausage, and cheese. Keri Jo spent time with me writing the alphabet while the others watched a movie. I have found that she likes to spend time alone with me, and Kolby likes to help in the kitchen. Elijah likes to color and draw.
It took a little time last night for everyone to settle down for sleep, but finally all was quiet at about 10pm. I wanted to spend a few minutes alone before going to sleep, but I was too tired!!!

This morning, we were able to sleep until about 7:30, which was wonderful!!! After the kids found out that they can't eat chips, cookies, and ramen noodles for breakfast, they were able to stay calm until I had had a cup of coffee and cooked breakfast. We don't have a table in our apartment (which is very nice and clean), so we have a picnic on a sheet in the kitchen for every meal. I was able to take a wonderful, hot bath, put on make-up, and have just spent much-needed time while Kolby is listening to a Christian CD and singing loudly; the rest of the kids colored quietly.
We only have about 28 more hours here before we leave for the airport, and I think I will make it; physically and emotionally!!!

I will try to blog again in the morning before we leave for the airport!!

Thank you all so much for your prayers, thoughts, and for following with us through this incredible God-led journey,


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Talk about "Babushkas"

This week has proved to be a whirlwind, just as I expected and wanted. Monday we got behind because of the "holiday", Tuesday we had a couple of things here to do in the village, and today was an early start driving to Kiev (yes, all 6 of us + facilitator in his Volkswagon Skoda). Seatbelts here are optional, like most every other rule so it did not matter that there were 5 people sitting in the back seat. We were able to run from one place to another with a total of about 5 stops, including the notary, passport office, medical exam, photo place, etc. The kids are so ready to be out of the orphanage and they thought that today they were being picked up for good. Tomorrow will be a day of waiting for us, but behind the scenes, several things will have to come together in order for us to get the passport and apply for the visa at the US Embassy on Friday afternoon. Friday morning, Sasha will pick us up with the 3 kids from the orphanage and we will go to Kiev until we come home. Friday afternoon, we will hopefully receive our passports and go to the US Embassy. If we do not get them on Friday, we can not leave until next week. I feel confident that we will have them come Friday afternoon. We will begin packing our apartment tomorrow and Sasha will find us another one in Kiev to stay from Friday until Sunday. The kids will come and stay with us in Kiev.
Can you believe it??? Only 4 days left!!!!

Of course, on our ride to and from Kiev, Sasha and I talked a lot. One question that I had for him was about the head scarves that the older women wear here in Billa Tserka. Sometimes, we see entire marchutka's (buses) full of older women wearing their scarves. They are the hardest working people that I have ever seen. Many are "sweeping" leaves with their brooms and dustpans, some are carrying heavy satchels or bags, many are stooped over and one can see that they have worked the same way their entire lives. They are known as "Babushkas", or grandmothers. I don't know if they all have grandchildren, so I think of them as the elderly women. Since I see nobody here with grey hair, except those with the scarves, I asked Sasha, "Is there a certain age when you have to start wearing the head scarf, or is it when your hair turns a certain color?" For example, should I wear one?? His answer was that it is an old-world style. At one time, all girls and women wore them, but now most do not except for the older women. This is especially true of the "willages", but not the cities (Sasha and others pronounce the "v" as a "w"). I am part of this "babushka" club since, I have a 2yr old granddaughter, as are some of my friends. Congratulations to my sister, Kelly, who will join this club in April when her oldest son and his wife are expecting their first baby!! Kelly, I'll bring you something to cover your head with!!!

We will have to go to the market in the morning to get the kids an outfit to wear in Kiev and on the airplane. Katie said that she can't wait to get the kids to the apartment to "scrub" them. I feel the same way. It just makes you feel better to get a hot shower/bath and put on clean pajamas before going to bed. The good night kiss and hug is just the icing on the cake. They have so many things to learn about, such as this. Many good things that you can't put a price tag on or measure in any way!!



Monday, October 26, 2009

10 Day Wait is Over!!!!

Today, our facilitator, Andrew (works with Sasha) was able to pick up the inspector from Child's Services and go to the courthouse to obtain our court decree. We have been waiting for the last 10 days to obtain this. Nothing else could happen until this mandatory 10 day wait was complete and we had the court decree. This decree states that we are the parents of the 3 children and changes their names to their new American names. Andrew also went to the orphanage and picked up the old birth certificates. We had to have these to get the new birth certificates. Andrew picked Katie, Kevin, and I up from the apartment to get the new birth certificates (since I am the Mom, I had to be there). Guess what??? It is a holiday of some kind for the birth certificate department, so we were not able to do this today. Tomorrow, we will try again. We also plan to take the kids to Kiev to apply for the passport. This should be a fun field trip and will get the kids out of the orphanage. When we got back to the apartment, we had our devotion/prayer time. Katie prayed, "Lord, don't let the new kids drive Mom nuts tomorrow as we go to Kiev." I hope that you will all be in prayer for the same!!!

Actually, the kids are settling in with our visits and can't wait to come to America. We are trying to teach some English and a few polite phrases, such as "Thank You" and "May I have...". It is just hard to get into too much of this with them still being at the orphanage, and all the other kids around. Most of the other kids in their group also love attention. They love for me to get out the multiplication flash cards or the English/Russian teaching book that I have. I have determined that neither of the 2 youngest kids (Eli and Keri Jo) can read or do much math, although Keri Jo seems to be very willing and smart. I can't get Eli to sit down for more than about 5 seconds!!! I have determined the following: Eli loves Kevin and sports, but doesn't like to be touched very much, Keri Jo loves praise and I see fast behavioral changes when I praise her, and Kolby might be a Mama's boy. I don't know if any of them can ride a bicycle, but it should not take long for them to learn.

This time that we have had waiting has been very beneficial for all of us: we have learned so much about them, and they have learned some about us.
Our devotion today was Psalm 27:14:
"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord".

I must say that that is extremely hard to do most of the times. It is much easier to do SOMETHING than to do NOTHING!!!!

One week from today, God willing, we should all be home. YIPPEE!!!!!!

Love you all,

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Kids speak, again

I like to give the kids an opportunity to tell what is on their minds and from their points of view. Here are their thoughts and "Hello's" (unedited except for a little spelling help).

Kevin says:

One night, we were doing our schoolwork and we heard a noise. I thought some car had crashed into the trash can, but it wasn't. Then Mom said, "It sounds like a crash." Then we looked out the window and saw that the car had crashed into the marchutka (bus). Then we wondered if a police or fire truck would come, but they didn't.
The electricity went off twice in our apartment, but the good thing about it was that we brought some flashlights.
I can't wait until we come home because I can take my brothers to church with me. I would like to say, "Hello," everybody, especially Papa.
Hello, Grandmother, I can't wait until all 5 of us spend the night and I guess you are ready for all of us!!!! Yesterday, we walked to the orphanage and there were 3 big dogs. I guess you would have a stick and PaPa would have a rolled-up newspaper to whack them with!!
The cool thing about Ukraine is that now it is winter, but they still have flowers blooming. They also paint their houses weird colors, like pink, bright blue, and green. Their fences might be half pink and half green.
Our devotion today was about how to get to Heaven. Our Bible verse was John 14:6, "Jesus said, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me."


Katie says:
I really enjoy having new brothers and sister, and their names are Kolby, Elijah, and Keri Jo. I thank God that He gave me a sister to play with because we have a lot of boy cousins. Keri Jo and I play together sometimes. She will get on my shoulders and I will carry her a long way. They just cannot wait until they come with us, and I cannot wait until we get to our own home. There is nothing like the smell of HOME, SWEET, HOME.
As we walk every day to the orphanage, we see small houses. Every house has a fence around it and at least one dog in their yard that barks at us. I wonder why everyone's yard is fenced!!!
Yesterday, we went to the orphanage to see the kids again. It was a good thing that we got to spend time with just the 3 of them. A girl called to Keri Jo and wanted for Mom to get her an ice cream. Mom said, "No," because she had already made their own bags of treats. Keri Jo started to be mad, and then Kolby got mad. So, we went home.

Here is my letter to my Papa Baba,
Dear Pa,
I miss you so much. I can not wait to see you again. When we get back to America, I will run to you. I can not wait to get back to our routine with the new kids. Pa, I can not wait until you pick me up in your arms again. Pa, I want to hear your voice calling me, "It is time to get ready for church." At least I can hear your voice every night before we go to bed. I will give you a lot of hugs and kisses.
With all of my love,