Monday, January 28, 2008

Home, Sweet Home

Just a quick post for now - we'll post more, with family pictures, once we've got a little more time. The bottom line is, we're home and Juliana is adjusting extremely well. She was an angel on the trip home (for the most part). She took both plane rides in stride, even the 8 hours straight from Amsterdam. No tantrums or tears - the flight attendants were very impressed.

She seems to really love her brothers, and the feeling is definitely mutual. The pets, on the other hand... well, that's another story. Let's just say that her reaction to our 3 cats and 1 dog has moderated from complete, abject terror to a very clear dislike and desire for them to be as far away from her as possible. It's actually pretty funny, but we can see her slowly moving toward accepting them. She's sleeping reasonably well, but is waking up very upset at least once each night. We're attributing that to the fact that she's used to sharing a room with a dozen other kids, so when she wakes up all alone it must be a bit scary for her. Julie just goes in and lies down with her for a while until she goes back to sleep - not a habit we want to establish, but we're cutting her some slack for now while she adjusts to this massive change in her life. She definitely seems comfortable in her new home and is rapidly putting on princess airs.

That's it for now. We'll post an update and pictures/videos soon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

All Done

We just got Juliana's visa, the very last document in this whole process. She's our daughter, she can leave Ukraine (passport), and she can enter the United States (visa). All that's left to do is to go to the airport tomorrow and head home. This trip has gone as smoothly as it possibly could have, probably smoother than we dared to hope - we're even done a day early! Too bad we hadn't made our flight reservations for today!

We have high speed internet in our apartment this time, but since we didn't bring our laptop, we're using the desktop that's here. Unfortunately, we neglected to bring along the software that enables us to upload video, but here's a picture of the three of us this afternoon. We also forgot to bring along the USB cable to hook our digital camera up to the computer; thought it was the same as the one used by our video camera. Made the same mistake last time - duh. At least our video camera has the capacity to take still pictures, so with the bathroom mirror we were able to snap this one.

Juliana continues to amaze us with her great disposition. She's always happy - even gets up smiling. We don't expect that to be the case all the time - if it is, we figure we'll probably pay for it when she's a teenager. We had been really nervous about how she'd handle the plane ride home (especially for the sake of the other passengers around us), but we really have no concern at all now. Of course, the honeymoon could end and the little stinker may surprise us, but right now it's not looking that way. She just seems to embrace every new experience and just soak it all in.

We all got a full night's sleep last night, finally. The apartment is a studio with only one bed, so we all slept together (at least the bed's queen-sized). There is a couch, but no extra sheets or blankets anywhere, so we made do. Juliana migrated all over the bed throughout the night. At one point, she was lying across the bed with her feet by Julie's head and her arm across my face. Hard to believe we got as much sleep as we did, but, despite a few such interruptions, we probably still got at least 8 hours' worth.
Justin & Jonathan - your little sister is finally coming home. She knows your names and faces, but in two days she'll finally get to meet her two awesome big brothers. Just like that, we go from a family of 4 to a family of 5. God has really blessed us.
This will be our last post before coming home. Thanks again, all of you that hung in with us and prayed for us throughout this whole adventure. You can never know how much it's meant to us.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

We've Got Her!

Finally able to update. It is now Tuesday and we're back in Kiev and everything is going off without a hitch. Our flight arrived on time on Sunday afternoon, so we had no problem catching our beloved train to Mikolayiv. We arrived there about 6:30 Monday morning and found a hotel room. Not that we were actually going to have the luxury of spending the night (night - that's when you get to sleep, right?); we just needed somewhere to put our luggage, take a shower, and use as home base for the day. We each slept about 2 hours on Saturday night on the plane, and maybe 3 on the train Sunday night. I confess that I probably got a bit more sleep than Julie - snoring? What snoring? I didn't hear any snoring - I have no idea what she's talking about. ;-)

We went to the passport office around 10:00 or so to pick up Juliana's passport, on which her new last name is spelled "Kon". Great. It turns out to not be that big of a deal - she'll just need to travel under that name if she ever uses her Ukrainian passport again in the future. Not likely to happen as it expires in 10 years and we'll just get her a U.S. passport next time we go globe-trotting (like, in 2015?). Anyway, from there we headed to the orphanage to see Juliana for the first time in 6 weeks. She definitely remembered us and came right up and gave us both a hug, but then she acted somewhat shy for a while. We expected that, considering the fact that her time with us encompassed all of just under 3 weeks, and we'd been gone twice that. We played with her for a little while, then it was time for her to take a nap (sounded great to us). It actually worked out really well, as we took advantage of the time to go back to our hotel room and grab a couple hours of shut-eye too. We were back at the orphanage around 5:30 or so, and she seemed much more excited - the caregivers had obviously clued her in on what was going to happen. It was all very quick, considering the enormity of the change coming into her life. We brought her clothes (she had to leave what she was wearing there) and one of the caregivers changed her, quickly hugged and kissed her (and us, for that matter), and practically shooed us out the door! The truth was, we could see that they really love Juliana there and just didn't want to drag out a difficult goodbye. A couple of them were definitely tearing up a little, and they repeatedly asked us to send them updates and pictures of her.

We really didn't know how Juliana would handle this new adventure. She's never spent a night away from the orphanage and had certainly never been on a train before. Now here we were, dragging her away from all she's ever known and immediately taking her for an 11 hour ride on Camp Claustrophobia (have we mentioned how we dislike that train?). Julie and I were joking that she may wonder if she's been adopted by a family of gypsies and that this will be her new life every night - just hopping the train from one place to another. :-) Well, we've got to say, she has been an absolute angel. She has taken everything in stride and we haven't seen one tear or heard one whine out of her. And have we mentioned that she's 100% potty-trained? We weren't sure how the whole toilet thing would go, with all of the hustle-and-bustle, new environment, new parents - but she hasn't had one accident. She just goes with the flow (no pun intended. Or maybe it was). She spent most of the evening in our compartment playing with the toys we brought, and then went to bed and slept well all night - wasn't even phased by all of the stops and starts, bumping and swaying. She got a full night's sleep - the only one of the four us that did (Luba shared our compartment too).

We arrived back in Kiev this morning at 5:30 and went straight to the apartment that Luba had lined up for us. It's a small one-room studio, but it will be fine for two nights (Luba lives in Kiev, so she won't be staying here at the apartment with us). Considering the fact that we have now spent three consecutive nights on either a plane or a train, averaging 2-3 hours sleep per night, this place looks beautiful. We went to the US Embassy this morning and got the visa process going and we have an appointment there at 2:00 tomorrow afternoon to pick it up, so we're just about done. As I type this, Julie and Juliana are snuggled together sleeping on the bed, both getting some much needed zzz's. I think I'll crash on the couch for a couple of hours.

Thanks for all the prayers - we have no doubt the Lord has been in control of this adventure every step of the way. We'll be home Friday - all three of us!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Our Flight Leaves in 24 Hours

The past few weeks have been tense and suspenseful, to say the least. We made flight reservations for 1/19, thinking that that would provide plenty of time for Juliana's new birth certificate and passport to be issued with time to spare. You remember - the passport that we thought might, possibly, have an outside chance of having been ready before 12/31? Well, up until this morning there was a very solid possibility that we were going to have to delay our plans another week or two. As of a few days ago, the passport office was telling Luba that Juliana's passport may not be ready until sometime next week (that could mean sometime in March with the Ukrainian government involved). Well, today was the cutoff - if they couldn't guarantee her passport would be ready by Monday (the day we are arriving in Mikolayiv to pick her up), we would have postponed. A lot of people were praying for us - thank you all. Even if they had said it would be ready Monday, it would have been a step of faith for us to get on that plane. We got the word from Luba this morning - THE PASSPORT IS READY! One more answered prayer. Oh - changing our flights would have incurred a $600 penalty, so this is no small blessing.

The next few days will be absolutely crazy. We fly out of Boston tomorrow night, arrive in Kiev at 4:30 Sunday afternoon, get on the train to Mikolayiv around 7:00 Sunday evening, arrive in Mikolayiv Monday morning, pick up Juliana and get back on the train Monday evening to arrive back in Kiev on Tuesday morning. Considering our fondness for Ukrainian trains, we just can't wait to bask in the experience once (make that twice) again. ;-) Once in Kiev, we'll have about two and a half days to get her medical exam and visa through the U.S. Embassy - a process that, by all accounts, is relatively smooth.

The 11 hour train ride and 10 hour flight may be very tough on a little girl who has barely experienced riding in a car. We're praying that she takes it in stride (oh, wait - she's 2). For the sake of the other passengers, we hope she handles it all well. We realize that this whole transition will be very tough on her and expect that she may very well hate us for a few weeks as we yank her out of her comfort zone and away from everything and everyone she's ever known. She hasn't seen us for a month (though we know she hasn't forgotten us and she's been talking about us - Luba saw her a couple of weeks ago), and now we're going to show up and take her away the same day. She bonded so well with us when we were with her (especially with Julie), so hopefully she'll settle in quickly.

We're going to do our best to get online and update the blog a couple of times to keep you all in the loop, at least once we get back to Kiev on Tuesday. God willing, we'll be back on the plane to Amsterdam on Thursday evening and arriving in Boston Friday morning (10:25).

We're coming down the homestretch, and this time we're bringing home the prize!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Plans are Made

We received the following e-mail from Luba the other day:

"My congratulations to you: you are LEGAL parents of Juliana Alexandra.
I've got yesterday the Court Decree!
...I came for one minute to the group and had asked how is Juliana doing? She is OK, just waiting for her mama and papa....
She is healthy.
I did not meet her personally, I did not want to confuse her, they show her your album,
don't worry, just a little bit and you will pick up your daughter."

It was so great to read those words - we are now legally her parents. And just hearing that she's doing well and that the caregivers are showing her the photo album we left and talking about us really encouraged us. We're missing her so much and cannot wait to go back for her. Luba's e-mail also outlined a couple of snags she's encountered in getting the new birth certificate issued; nothing major, but a holdup of another couple of days. Again, it just confirmed that we made the right decision in planning to return after their holiday season in January. Just that one delay would have prevented us from being able to bring her home before the end of the year and we would have been stranded in Ukraine for an extra week or two; not a scenario we find attractive (or affordable!).

Our travel plans have been finalized. We will be flying out of Boston on Saturday, 1/19, and returning home on Friday, 1/25. It will certainly be a whirlwind of a trip. We'll land in Kiev Sunday afternoon, catch the train to Mikolayiv that evening, pick Juliana up on Monday, take the train back Monday night, and then have Tuesday, Wednesday and part of Thursday to wrap things up with the US Embassy for her visa. We'll be flying out on Thursday evening and landing back in Boston on Friday morning. Whew. Those are the plans, and the time can't pass quickly enough.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you all!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

We're Home

So, so sorry that we haven't posted since last week. As most of you know, we arrived home safely on Wednesday evening, 12/12. We just realized that we haven't posted since we got home and there may be a few out there who are wondering what's happened to us. Our flight was delayed in Amsterdam for a couple of hours, but other than that our journey home was uneventful. Thankfully we weren't scheduled to come home the next day, as we likely would have been stranded somewhere due to a snowstorm. We had a wonderful reunion with our boys and have now settled back into the daily grind for the time being. My (Steve's) mother was able to return home to her husband (thanks again, Bob!) after almost a month away. She is an absolute saint to have made such a sacrifice for us. My sisters had also come out to join her the last week. They were all forced to spend an extra day with us (we welcomed the opportunity to visit) as their flights out on Thursday were canceled. The all flew out early Friday morning.

Shame on us for complaining about the Ukrainian weather. It was about 2 degrees (that's Farenheit, for you Canadians!) this morning. We've already gotten about a foot and a half of snow since we got home, in addition to the snow that fell a few weeks ago - there's got to be at least 2 feet on the ground. Such a contrast to last year when we got no snow until January. Looks like we're going to have a good old fashioned New England white Christmas.

We are really beginning to miss our little girl and are anxious to bring her home. We haven't firmed up our travel plans as of yet, but it looks like we'll be flying out the 2nd or 3rd week of January. It will be a much, much shorter trip (should be less than a week). We'll update the blog once our plans are finalized, and will, of course, post a good deal more when we return to Ukraine, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, Merry Christmas to everyone as we spend time with our families and celebrate our Savior's birth!

Monday, December 10, 2007


Real quick post, as we need to leave shortly to catch the train back to Kiev (yes, that train).

Court went perfectly. We met in the judge's office, along with his secretary, the orphanage director, and the inspector. The judge asked us all questions, with Luba interpreting for the two of us. He asked about our family, why we want to adopt, our income, our home, etc. He then asked the orphanage director and inspector specifics about Juliana. The whole hearing lasted all of about 20 minutes. In the end, he congratulated us and stated that the court approved our petition. Oksana Alexandrovna Avadenya is now officially Juliana Alexandra Cohn. We really weren't expecting any problems, but it's a relief to have it over and done. We have a daughter!

If only we could just take her home now; but, there's that pesky 10-day waiting period before the court decree is officially released and Luba can get the new birth certificate and apply for the passport. The birth certificate will list us as her parents and will show her new name. The judge actually asked us if we also wanted to change her date and place of birth. ??? We weren't aware that was an option but really can't imagine a circumstance in which we'd want that. Of course, it would seem somewhat strange to have a birth certificate listing New Hampshire as her place of birth, issued by the Ukrainian government. :-) No, we're good with just listing the new parents and new name.

We spent time with her this morning and were able to take some pictures of her group room and the other children in her group (had to get special permission to do that - they're a little touchy about allowing pictures of other orphans due to Ukrainian regulations, but the director let us, as long as we promised not to publish them). Tough saying goodbye (for us, not for her!). But, we'll be back next month to pick her up, and then the real adventure begins!

We doubt we'll have any opportunity to post again before we get home. Looking forward to seeing you all and kissing the blessed American soil!