Thursday, November 20, 2008


Bogdan William May and Yulia Anne May

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Our court date was Tuesday, October 28th. Our regional facilitator, Viktor, met us at the courthouse and we got started a few minutes after 11:00. We had court in the Judge’s chambers with the head judge of the region presiding, plus 2 jurors (one of whom came in late; both of whom were pensioners), an Inspector from Luhansk (for B), a representative from B’s college, an Inspector from Lutugino (for Y), a representative from Y’s Internat, Viktor and us. The kids waited in the secretary’s office right outside the door, where Y managed to charm a little trinket out of her.

The court hearing took an hour and a half. We answered a lot of questions and the kids each came in briefly to answer some questions from the Judge. The Judge asked Y if she knew us, if she wanted us to be her parents, if she wanted to go to America and learn English. Yes, yes, yes and yes. “So, you want to go to America and leave Ukraine behind?” “I have nothing to leave here” and “what would I do here” are the translations we received of her response. All of the Ukrainians in the room, especially the Judge, got a kick out of that. After pronouncing her a smart girl, the Judge sent her on her way.

B was next. He was literally bouncing on his feet and the Judge had just a few questions for him before saying “I can see on your face that you can’t wait to go to America” – that’s for sure!

After all of the questions, we waited around for a bit for the prosecutor to show up. During this time, the Judge asked our opinions about Ukrainian and American politics. Fun! After a few minutes of chatting, he sent us out of the room to continue waiting for the prosecutor. A few minutes later, we all filed back in to note the prosecutor’s presence for the record, then filed back out for the Judge and jury to deliberate.

Finally, about 10 minutes later, we were called in to hear the verdict: we’re parents!


Oy. That is about the closest thing to something nice that’s going to appear in this post. If you don’t like crankiness or if you think that those with nothing nice to say should zip it, you’ll want to skip this one. Let’s call it PG-13 for (imagined) threats of violence and some not-nice language.

Babushka. Please note that no babushkas were harmed in this story (but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t tempted). Please also note that my husband and I have a disagreement over this one – he thinks that Babushka is just a confused, misinformed old woman – basically harmless. I think that Babushka is a crazy old bat. How’s that for blunt? One could argue that Babushka has Y’s interests in mind, to the best of her limited capacity, but I’m sticking with my diagnosis of crazy, potentially dangerous old bat.

Just for background, please note that the lady Y refers to as “Babushka” may or may not actually be biologically related to her and may or may not actually be her bio grandmother. Babushka is not legally her grandmother, guardian or any sort of relative. Legally, Y does not have a father. As far as I know, no one has ever claimed to be her father. Babushka is an old lady that Y sometimes visits (by herself! via marschutka! several villages away from the Internat!) and whose house she has, on occasion, run away to when orphanage life has not been to her liking.
B definitely is not related to Babushka. He is grateful to her for the times she has helped him and Y but seems wary of her. He warned us that she was “crazy” (note, however, that most people who cross B are deemed crazy – but I have to agree with him on this one). He also warned us that it would not be a good idea for us to take Y to visit her (but of course we had already told her we would visit Babushka before we leave Ukraine, take lots of pictures, write, call and, if at all possible, come back to Ukraine soon to visit her. And we will keep our promise, against my better judgment).

So, here’s the story of the day we met Babushka. Read it fast before I come to my senses and take it down. Right now, you’re getting the whole, ugly mess.

During Fall Break last week, many of the children from Y’s Internat came to the camp where Mike and I were staying (more about camp – awesome, awesome, awesome – later). The kiddos arrived on Monday morning. Babushka had come in the gates earlier (unbeknownst to me) and was waiting for Y to arrive. When I went outside to greet the kids, Y introduced me to Babushka. We had a cordial greeting, which neither of us understood (but there was hugging and kissing and hand-holding), and then a translator was sent over so that Mike, Yulia, Babushka and I could all talk. I was definitely surprised and unsettled that Y did not greet me with her usual flying tackle-hug and, in fact, would barely look at either of us all morning.
Babushka opened our little chat by asking us what would happen to Y in America when she was 18. I was a little confused by the question, but we answered that she could continue her education in college or she could begin to work – and either way she could continue to live with us for as long as she wanted, until she was ready to move out and start her career and/or her own family.

“But you will sell her when she turns 18.” Excuse me? Pardon me? SELL her? How I remained calm I will never know. My blood is boiling again just remembering this. By the way, Y is standing there during this whole conversation. SELL her?

Babushka’s neighbors apparently told her that she should not “let” Y go to America because the Americans will sell her when she turns 18. WTH? Somehow we remained calm and reassured Babushka that we had no intention of selling our daughter. I can’t even believe we had to say that! The whole thing was surreal.

I wish I could say that the conversation improved from there. We were questioned extensively about our plans for Y, with Babushka’s periodic interjections of “I just don’t know what to do” and “I cannot let her go wih you”. Babushka also interrogated Y re: whether she intended to learn English. (And yes ma’am, she does.)

Oh, by the way, this was all happening the day before our court date. Please understand that we were well aware that Babushka had no legal standing to challenge the adoption. Our fear was that she would (a) scare the crap out of Y or (b) lay a giant guilt trip on Y, who would then change her mind about being adopted. And if you think that’s paranoid please direct your attention to the story of Max, below.

Babushka mentioned that Y is very small (no kidding), that she “doesn’t want to learn” (i.e. doesn’t always make the best effort in school) and that she doesn’t always do what she’s told (show me a kid who does and I’ll show you a circus freakshow act). These opinions were all presented as damning accusations. In other words, Babushka spent a lot of time insulting Y – in her presence – I guess in an effort to dissuade us from adopting her. I don’t know, maybe she thinks the going price for 18-year-olds in America is based on weight or height. I just don’t know what was going through her head.

Babushka also mentioned that Y helps her in her garden and helps her clean the house (except when she doesn’t want to). Who will help Babushka if Y goes to America? Who will visit poor, lonely Babushka if Y goes to America? What will Babushka’s neighbors think if she “lets” Y go? Oy. Babushka waits for her every weekend, and every weekend little Y comes to visit her Babushka. (And I call a big, fat load of BS on this one. It’s simply not true. Y does visit her but I would be shocked if it was as often as once every 2 months, even including the times she has run away from the Internat. And WHY is the tiny 14-year-old riding the bus alone to Babushka’s anyway, instead of the other way around? Oh, and by the way, THANKS Babushka for enabling her running-away behavior and not sending her back to school. And THANKS for telling B he shouldn’t go to college but should start working, with his seventh-grade education, after he left the Internat. It was really generous of you to offer to let him stay with you while he worked. I’m sure his wages would have been a nice supplement to your pension.)

Our conversation went on and on. And on. And I would just like to reiterate that I did not raise a hand (or finger) to Babushka, curse her, insult her in any way or even get the least bit snippy with her. I sent nothing but sweet, sweet vibes her way. And yes, I do think I deserve a medal (or at least a cookie) for this exemplary behavior. You have no idea. I did point out that maybe, just maybe, Y would be better off with two parents who wake her up in the morning and tuck her in at night and are there for her at all of the times in between – as opposed to a rotating staff of caregivers and teachers who are paid to take care of her until she’s 16, with occasional weekend visits to granny. I showed such restraint. If only I had known the whole story.

After a while, I called my mom over to meet Babushka. They had a grandma-to-grandma conversation and poor Mom was as nice as could be. Babushka refused her offers of tea, a seat, lunch. After the longest conversation in world history, the translator helpfully suggested that Y and Babushka might want to talk alone for a little while. By this point, I was silently freaking out. Freaking. Out.

Eventually Babushka made her way toward the gate to wait for her bus and Y joined the other kids in playing and at lunchtime. I was still pretty freaked out because Y wasn’t really hanging out with us (though someone told me Y had informed Babushka before she left that she was going to America with us).

When B got back from his classes and heard that Babushka had visited he asked if everything was OK. We told him that Babushka didn’t want Y to go with us. “I told you. You see? She is crazy! I told you she is crazy! Don’t worry, there is no problem. Y want to go. I speak with her.” Sure enough, Y still wanted to be adopted by us! (And I know that B didn’t twist her arm – though to be perfectly honest I probably would have let it slide if he had.)

Later that afternoon, Y referred to Mike as her “Papa” for the first time. :-) I got my first “Mama” from her the next day and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything sweeter.

We haven’t been to visit Babushka yet (I can’t take Y from the Internat until we have the court decree in hand) and as far as I know she hasn’t contacted Y since that day. I will keep our promise to make at least one visit to Babushka (AFTER the court decree is final – just in case) but you had better believe I will be bringing reinforcements. Here’s why:

Although we didn’t know it at the time of our conversation with Babushka, she had actually gone to the Internat that morning to try to take Y home with her. The Internat staff told her she could not take Y; Y was going to the camp. So Babushka hopped a bus to the camp and waited for Y there. When the kids came in the gate, Babushka took Y’s hand and tried to just take her out of the camp, without a word to anyone!

Can you say kidnapping?

She was stopped, of course, because the Internat Director had not given permission for any children to leave the camp during the week. I think it is safe to say that my demeanor would have been different, and the conversation with Babushka pretty heated, if I had known the whole story at the time. I probably would be blogging from the Ukrainian pokey right now because I can assure you I would have been all up in granny’s grill, so to speak. Grrrrrrr.

Believe it or not, I could say more. But I won’t. Can I have my cookie now?


Several people have asked me how things are going with Max. I actually haven’t seen him in over a week (he went to visit his grandparents over Fall break) but I am happy to report that he was back to his usual self in record time. No more crying, apologizing or “hiding” – (he hid his face from us when he walked by before our official meeting to hear his final decision – poor baby).

The day after our sad meeting we went to the children’s “living room” to visit Y. Max came down the stairs and for half a second had an “uh-oh” look on his face when he saw us. That disappeared instantly as we greeted him and joked around. I mentioned that we heard his favorite song in the taxi on the way over. He broke into that megawatt grin and, with jus t a little coaxing, treated us to his version of “Smack That”. (By the way, just for the record, I did NOT teach him that song - but it is hilarious to hear him sing it!)

Ever since then he’s been just fine and we’ve all had a lot of fun together. I’m looking forward to seeing him this week (Monday probably will be my last visit with the Internat kids for this trip).

p.s. Saw Max after I wrote this. He is fine – happy and healthy and fun and funny. :-)

Blog-A-Thon ‘08

I haven’t written anything in a while because internet access has been scarce. I’m going to try cutting and pasting from Word to bring the blog up to date. In case that doesn’t work, here’s the latest: We can pick up the court decree granting the adoptions of B and Y on Monday, November 10th. We hope to be home within 2 weeks after that. Yay! Mike is on his way home right now – we miss him already!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

All is Well

This will be a short post - we're riding in our favorite taxi on our way to "go in shopping" with B.
We spent most of the weekend settling in to our room at "camp" and worrying about Y, who was away from the Internat for the weekend. We saw her for a few minutes yesterday and she was happy to see us & her big brother. All is well with her. She was sad when she realized that none of her friends from the Internat would be joining our family but she is happy in the knowledge that B will be with us and, ahem, some of her friends informed her that they would be joining her in America soon so she is very excited about that! After some hugs, a chat and a quick manicure we had to return to the paper chase. We hope to visit her again today.
B has been like an extra facilitator for us -- running paperwork, translating and even catching an error in two of the documents! Despite the errors, we supposedly are still on track for our court hearing on Tuesday (one week from today). So that is great news!
B and Y are healthy and happy; Mike and I are happy and mostly healthy (though we both have colds); we are thrilled to become a family.
Can't remember if I said this already - but: L, your message was delivered to K (with translation) and she understands. She smiled and nodded. There was not a good time to speak with Y with a translator but I'm sure she has received the message from K. They both understood when I told them that you love them very much and I do, too!
OK, now we go in shopping! Pa ka!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Best & Worst Days Ever

Where to begin?

Bottom line: Bogdan and Yulia want to be adopted by us and we probably will have court in the next 2 weeks. We may be home about 2 weeks after the court hearing.

The rest of the story:

We picked up the referrals at the SDA on Wednesday afternoon, then went to the train station. 15 hours later we arrived in Lugansk. B and his friend, Prosha, met us at the station on Thursday morning. B's hair is SO LONG that we barely recognized him! He and Prosha look healthy and we were all glad to see each other. Viktor, our local facilitator, promptly sent B on his way to gather paperwork and information.

After quick showers (much needed after that long train ride) we went to B's college to meet with the director, who has to approve the adoption. If you want to keep score at home, that was the first time on Thursday that we climbed 5 flights of stairs only to find out that we were supposed to be on the 2nd floor, not the top floor. (I'm actually not complaining about the stairs, it was good to move around in between sitting in the taxi and sitting in offices. It just became a running joke that at the next building we would ask directions on the first floor!)

The college director and her assistant (?) were happy to meet with us and were very cooperative. This is the first time one of their students has been adopted.

The meeting with the college officials was the first time on Thursday that we sat in chairs while everyone talked around us and we had no clue what was happening. When a meeting is finished, Viktor says "OK; everything is fine. Let's go." We hear this a lot!

B then accompanied us to the local Inspector's office, where we sat in chairs while everyone talked around us and we had no clue what was happening. (Up to the fourth floor then back down to the first and up to the second floor.) The Inspector asked B some questions and was smiling and seemed happy about the whole thing. I think she agreed to have one consolidated court hearing, even though the children are under different jurisdictions right now.

Next, we took B back to school (just in time for the big soccer tournament) and left some papers with his director.

Then it was off to see the Inspector for the younger kids. (Stairs to the fourth floor, then back down to the first, then up and down the stairs on the other end of the building, only to find out we were in the wrong building. At the correct building, we went to a fourth-floor office.) After an hour or two of sitting in chairs while everyone talked around us and we had no clue what was happening, we followed the Inspector (and assistant) to the Internat.

In true Y and M fashion, they came running to the car as we headed down the lane to the Internat gates. Every time I visit them I am afraid they will be hit by a car because they literally chase (and race) our taxis! After quick greetings we went into the Director's office where we had a serious meeting with the local Inspector, the Director, the assistant and Viktor. The Inspector asked us many questions. Meanwhile, M and Y jumped up and down and waved and clowned around outside the office window, making it pretty hard for me to keep a straight face.

Finally, the Inspector was satisfied with our answers and our dossier and the children were invited in to the Director's office. Of course, we were sitting in chairs while everyone talked around us and we had no clue what was happening. Apparently, however, we are "horasho" according to M and "ochen horasho" according to Y. Sounds good to me.

Both M and Y told the assembled crowd that they wanted to be adopted by us. They then took us on a quick tour of their classrooms and playroom and introduced us to some classmates (and to Y's pet gerbils, who are not coming to America -- even though I'm pretty sure the cats would appreciate the snack!). Max got our cell number and we got his. (Don't even get me started about how so many orphans have their own cell phones but they don't even have their own clothes. Whatever; I guess we all have different priorities! Seriously, I am glad that many of them can keep in touch with friends and family outside the Internat.)

It was well after dark at that point, so we headed back to Lugansk. After a stop at the supermarket and taking some groceries to B, my phone rang. It was Max. He spoke with Viktor for a few minutes but all I could understand was "tomorrow". It turns out that Max had decided he did not want to be adopted. He would miss his grandmother too much if he moved so far away. He cried as he told Viktor all of this. (We were afraid that it would be hard for him to leave his grandparents behind and it turns out we were right.) Viktor said we would discuss it "tomorrow" (today) and he broke the bad news to us when we got back to the hotel.

A few minutes later, my phone rang again. It was Y, on a borrowed cell phone. Viktor translated her request: since Max said he did not want to be adopted, would we adopt a different child instead? She had some candidates in mind, of course.

A little while later, Max called Viktor and informed him that there was another boy who wanted to be adopted. Would we please adopt this boy? Oy.

Needless to say, I got zero sleep last night. My eyes look like the "before" picture in an ad for a plastic surgeon. It was a very hard night. We wanted to confirm with Max that he had made his final decision before stopping the adoption process for him, so we headed back to the Internat this morning.

Meanwhile, we did make inquiries about another child. We love V. I always knew that it would be heartbreaking to visit Y and Max at the orphanage with all of the other children, especially those orphans who have very special places in our hearts, knowing that we were there to adopt other children. Yesterday, as we entered the Internat, we saw V clinging to a girlfriend and looking incredibly sad. It is devastating to think of what her future may hold. V is beautiful and smart and sweet and needs parents and a family. With a family, in the US or elsewhere, she will go far in life. Without the love and support of a family, she may have no choice but to head down the wrong path in a couple of short years. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to adopt both her and her older brother, so it is not possible for her to join our family at this time. If someone reading this could give a home or just some friendship and support to this wonderful 14 year old and her 16 year old brother please contact me and I would be happy to make an introduction. V needs a family and some hope.

Anyway, we met with the children in the Director's office this morning. Max hung his little head low as he confirmed that his decision was final. We were able to tell him that we love him; we will always love him; we want him to be happy and we are glad that he has people here that he loves so much. After the tense conversation, we joked with him a bit and he was smiling when he left the Director's office -- so that is about the best we could hope for, under the circumstances. He called me later to say (again) that he is very sorry he cannot come home with us. Poor kid! What a terrible position to be in. We know that he talked with his grandparents after we left on Thursday night (and before he called us). I don't blame them for wanting him to stay near them (after all, that is what I want -- to have him with me) but it is a shame that he must live as an orphan in between their visits. I am glad we tried for him but I am very sorry for putting him through the ordeal of the past 36 hours. We will still be friends and pen pals and maybe someday he will find a family, whether his grandparents step up for him or whether he becomes open to the idea of being adopted. We will always be ready to help him in any way we can.

That paragraph was incredibly calm, not at all how I have felt for most of the last day and a half. We are coming to terms with the reality of life without Max and we know that it will all be fine, for all of us.

We spent most of today (Friday) in Lutugino doing paperwork. (Actually, we spent the day waiting around while Viktor did paperwork, and occasionally sitting in chairs while everyone talked around us and we had no clue what was happening.) We signed petitions at a Notary's office and delivered them to both Inspectors' offices.

This afternoon I had a glorious nap at our hotel. Later, we were able to see B and Prosha and do a little bit of shopping with them. They showered at our hotel because they have not had hot water in their dorm for "long time". Yikes! (And our bathroom still smells like feet, just in case you didn't already get TMI from this post!) B and Prosha will come with us to the village tomorrow and hopefully we will get to spend some time with B and Y tomorrow. She is happy but understandably apprehensive and it will be good for brother and sister to spend some time together to process what is happening.

Thank you to everyone for the comments and the kind words, thoughts and prayers. It is good to know that so many people want a good outcome for these awesome kids and we thank you for taking the time to check in and say hello.

I will close for now (if anyone is still reading this). We most likely will not have internet access while we are staying in the village so it may be a while before our next update. We will add to the blog whenever we can. Pictures of Y and B (and their full names) will be posted after court.

p.s. One of the highlights of this bittersweet day has been B's sweet voice on the phone throughout the day "hello, Mom" - "I wait for you, my mother" -- "we go now, Mom". :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Three Referrals!

We are safe and sound in Kyiv and had a great meeting at the SDA this afternoon. Tomorrow afternoon we will pick up the three referrals we were hoping for and hop a train to the kids' region. We should arrive Thursday morning and if all goes well we should be able to see all three children that day.

This is a great city -- incredibly beautiful, with a quirky mix of architectural styles and interesting neighborhoods to explore. I'm sorry that we haven't had more (non-jet-lagged) time to hang out here but maybe we will be able to take the kids sightseeing on the way home.

A few interesting sights in Kyiv so far:

A film crew and actresses in giant, old-fashioned bouffant wigs covered with scarves being filmed for something outside our apartment building this morning. With accompanying opera music blaring from somewhere

Communist party and Nationalist/Socialist (Fascist?) party demonstrations, in preparation for the upcoming elections

Bessarabskaya Market - stunning displays of flowers, fruit and other sights in a beautiful indoor market (built in the early 1800s, I think)

Tons of PDA on Kreschatyk at night -- anyone know how to say "Get a Room!" in Russian?

The shoes. I should be used to it by now. But as long as I live, I will never get over the shoes. I am in awe of the apparent ankle strength and the bravery of the ladies in the crazy-high heels all around here, even on the cobblestone streets. I couldn't even stand in some of these boots, much less walk around in them.

My husband eating caviar with a plastic spoon.

There's more but I'm tired. Post a comment if you want details about the SDA or anything else and I will write more about it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Six Days

We are leaving for Kyiv in six days!

Things we need to do before then:

Finish the boys' bedroom (assembling beds, etc.)
Clean Y's bedroom
Ship donations to UA
Finish packing
Move out-of-season items to storage
Give away about half of our clothes
Clean our house
Work (a lot) & prepare to be away from work for a few weeks
Pay bills in advance/make arrangements to pay while we're gone

(Sorry, that was a really boring blog post.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


YES! FINALLY! Our appointment with the SDA is Tuesday, October 14th.

Flights are booked.

More later.

Friday, September 19, 2008

And Another Week Gone...and no news

It's OK, though. I have decided that we will hear good news on Monday. I declare it will be so. Or else.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Another Week Gone

Well, it's the end of another working week, and we have not heard from the SDA. They have had our dossier for less than two weeks so of course it is not realistic to expect an answer yet. But I still keep hoping!

Oh well, at least the "refresh" button on my email will get a 2-day rest.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pretty, Dirty Feet? Or Just Pretty Dirty Feet.

6 of the 10 feet in our family...


Just practicing...
These are some old photos from the National Museum of the American Indian.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Still Waiting

Gee, it' s been like two whole days. I can't believe we haven't heard anything yet.

Do you think I'm actually going to make it until the "20 working days" deadline for an answer?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Our dossier has been submitted! Now it's time for some more WAITING - my favorite activity!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Too Early to Call?

It's nearly 5 AM in Kyiv. Do you think it's too early to call our facilitator? Perhaps a little wake-up call to provide some inspiration/motivation to head on down to the SDA to submit our dossier?

What do you think? Too pushy?

No News

Well, it is almost 8 PM in Kyiv (1 September 2008), and we have not yet received the promised email confirming that our dossier was submitted to the SDA today. :(

Friday, August 29, 2008

Welcome & False Alarm

Hello and welcome to our blog.

The purpose of this blog (aside from the shout-out to UA thanking the gov't in advance for allowing three awesome children to leave state custody and join our family FOREVER) is to keep our friends, family and anyone else who stops by in the loop re: our adoption. We are attempting to adopt three teens from Ukraine. We know them, love them, hope they know that we love them, and hope that (when the time is right) they will take an incredible, truly brave leap of faith and join our family in the US.

There probably won't be too much to say here until we actually get to UA but I thought I'd get started blogging early. We hope to have internet access during our trip so this will be a convenient way to post the latest news while we're gone. Also, I have found it helpful (or at least entertaining) to read others' tales before, during and after their adoption trips -- so here's hoping something we learn in this process and write about here will be helpful to someone else someday.

Finally, the "false alarm" part of the post -- we hoped to have our dossier submitted to the SDA (State Dept. for Adoption) in Kyiv this week but it didn't happen. We believe it will be submitted on Monday (Labor Day in the US) instead. If you are reading this as someone who is adopting or has adopted from Ukraine, you know what a big deal (and big hurdle, sometimes) the dossier submission is. If you are unfamiliar with the process, trust me -- it's a really big deal.

After months and months of paperwork, waiting, more paperwork, medical exams, fingerprints, more fingerprints, more paperwork, waiting, stamps, seals, forms, fees, FedExes, still more waiting and an impressive collection of grey hairs at the ripe old age of 32 (mine, not Mike's), dossier submission feels (to me) like the one thing that finally gets the wheels moving on the adoption bus. Wherever you are, you will hear my shouts of joy when I get the email telling us the dossier is actually in the hands of the SDA. And then . . . we will wait some more.