Friday, August 29, 2008

South Dakota Is the Center of the Earth

South Dakota is the center of the Earth.

Hey, don't look at me, I didn't say it! A national radio station did!

Maybe you're a K-Love listener. They breadcast all over the USA. We even heard them in Key West when we went on vacation a couple of years ago.

Why did they say that, you ask?

Because this weekend is the LifeLight music festival in Sioux Falls, the largest Christian music festival in the nation and it's cost is... free. Every year K-Love does live broadcasts from LifeLight and has contests to win a trip to Sioux Falls.

Here are some pictures from last year.

Barlow Girl

John Rivers

Phil Joel


Chris Tomlin

Big Daddy Weave


Toby Mac

We will all be at LifeLight this year. If any of you want to meet up with us shoot me an email at the Yahoo address. We'd like to meet you.

I also got bad news from our facilitator today for those of you hoping to submit dossiers this year. I'll blog about it after the festival. You're not going to like it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Adoption Update

Some of you may be wondering where we're at with the adoptions.

We received an email from our facilitator a few weeks ago saying that it is time to update our documents. We had let most of them expire since it is ridiculous to keep updating them for no reason. If you aren't aware, the majority of the documents in the Ukrainian dossier have a 1-year expiration date from the time they are dated. The kicker is that at the time the dossier is provided to the Ukrainian government, they require at least 6 months of lifetime remaining on every document. If you do the math, that means that almost every document needs to be replaced every 6 months until the time that the dossier is submitted.

So we started updating the documents again. Everything is complete now except for the health forms and the background checks. We went in last Saturday to the county jail for our 4th fingerprintings and sent the forms to the state office on Monday. I expect to get the forms back early next week.

Nancy needed a current physical before she had her wrist surgery so she got that part taken care of. I set an appt. for mine right after Oleg emailed us, but it was a couple of weeks before I could get in (which was a couple of weeks ago now). When I went in for the appt. I joked with my doctor that I was here for my monthly physical. hah. We also got our last hepatitis shots, so now our whole family is finished with those series of shots.

Nancy talked to our physician this morning and he said that the lab test results are back and he was preparing the reports. We should have the forms back shortly.

Once those are done, it's off to Pierre with the dossier for apostilles. The Secretary of State's office has a same day policy for apostilles. Once they get them, they will process them and send them back to us the same day.

Then it will take about 2 to 3 weeks for the "overnight" FedEx or UPS delivery to Kiev. The last time we sent it, we watched the shipment tracker closely. It went to Sioux Falls, Kentucky, Germany, Prague, and Kiev within a day but then sat in Kiev for a very long time. Maybe they were on vacation or something.

We've heard rumblings that they may accept a few new dossiers this Fall. We are certainly hoping for that.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Seventeenth Day With Sergey

(Tuesday 8/19) Unlike my trip out to get Sergey, this time he was flying by himself from Minneapolis back to the city where his summer hosting family lives. The flight was direct without any connections, and the airlines take really good care of unaccompanied minors, so we didn't have too much trepidation about his flight.

The flight left on time at 6:55 AM. We were so busy taking the shuttle to the airport, checking in, going through security, and checking in at the gate that we really didn't have too much time to just sit and dwell on the fact that this was it for us, at least for now.

I know he was sad to leave, and we were sad to see him go. He had asked us, can't he just stay in America, and I said no, they would put me in jail if I didn't send him back.

I guess Sergey is lucky that there are two families that love him. But it is tough on him. Will he have to choose between us and them? Our advice to him is to go with the first family that comes to Ukraine for him. It might be us, or it might be them, or it might be someone else completely different. But for his own sake, if he really does want a family, then the best thing is to go with the sure thing. I would hate for him to turn down some family to hold out for the other, only to find that they can't or won't be coming at all.

Goodbye Sergey, it was great getting to know you. We love you and we hope to see you again real soon.

Sixteenth Day With Sergey

(Monday 8/18) This was Sergey's last day in Mitchell, and was also the first day of school for Mark. We thought Sergey would be interested in going to school with Mark. We had made arrangements with the principal and Mark's teachers for Sergey to be there. But in the end, he really didn't want to go, so he stayed home with Nancy until lunch time, when they met Mark at school for lunch.

In the afternoon, it was time for him to pack for the trip back to his host family again. We bought him another little suitcase that he could take back to Ukraine with him. When he arrived in the US, he had nothing, only a super small backpack. Interesting way to travel internationally.

Mark had cross-country practice after school and wasn't able to come home, so once more Nancy and Sergey went to the school so Sergey could say goodbye to Mark.

I got off work early so that I could take Sergey to Minneapolis. He had a very early flight so I wanted to stay overnight there. Nancy and Mark stayed in Mitchell.

In the car, Sergey played Gameboy and computer games.

We arrived at the hotel in Minneapolis at about 9:30. It was straight to bed as we had a 4:30 AM wakeup call.

Fifteenth Day With Sergey

(Sunday 8/17) Sunday is church day. Nancy and Sergey went to church at Northridge Baptist, Where John Tolly is the lead pastor. Mark and I went to our own church, First Reformed. After church, we met the Tolly's for lunch at Pizza Ranch.

After lunch, we all spent the afternoon swimming at the Mitchell pool. The Tolly girls had fun trying to catch Sergey in the pool. It was impossible; he is a very good swimmer.

Since Sunday night was Sergey's last night in Mitchell, we just relaxed and watched a movie together. Then early to bed for everyone since school started on Monday.

I want to tell you about something else Sergey did while we were at Pizza Ranch. After we had eaten, we adults were sitting around and visiting, but the kids were over in the arcade watching and playing video games. Nancy had given Sergey several quarters to play the games, and he eventually came back asking for more. Nancy told him no, no more that was enough video games, but he begged for just one more quarter. She gave in and he disappeared for awhile. Later, he came back with this silver ring for her. He had gotten it out of one of those gumball machines that gives out those little toys. You know what I mean. He had taken that quarter and purchased the ring. Of course Nancy loved it.

In fact, just today she got the ring back from the jeweler's. She had it mounted on a pendant. When Nancy explained the ring to him, he did it for her at no charge. Very nice of him.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fourteenth Day With Sergey

(Saturday 8/16) Didn't have much time to waste in Rapid City. We needed to get back to Mitchell. But Sergey did get a chance to swim for awhile in the hotel pool with several cousins. Afterward, we went mini-golfing at Pirates Cove with some other cousins.

On the way home, we stopped at Wall Drug for some souvenir shopping. Sergey picked out a couple of South Dakota trinkets to take back to Ukraine with him.

Finally home after a long day of traveling and time for bed.

Thirteenth Day With Sergey

(Friday 8/15) This is the day we decided to climb Harney Peak. I tried and tried to convince Sergey to come on the hike with us but he just didn't want to. So Mark and I did it ourselves. Sergey stayed in Rapid City with Nancy and helped the relatives with wedding preparations.

Here are a few pictures of our trek. The day was drizzly and overcast. Harney Peak is high enough that at the top we were up in the clouds. It wasn't ideal conditions but it had its own beauty.

I was initially disappointed that Sergey opted not to go on the hike, but afterward I realized that God knew that Mark needed that one-on-one time with me. Nancy and I could both tell that he had changed after our time together.

At the wedding, Sergey was on overload with meeting our relatives. He was initially cranky, but afterwards he was back to his usual self.

There was something touching that happened with Sergey during the reception. The wedding was done and we had just finished eating supper at the reception. Sergey pulled Nancy aside to a quiet corner and I could see that they were talking about something but I didn't know what. Later, in the car, on the way to the dance, Sergey asked me what he had asked Nancy earlier. He had asked Nancy, and now was asking me, to promise or vow to adopt him. He had seen the vows between the bride and groom and thought that would be a good thing to do. This wasn't him being silly, which he often is, but he was quite sincere. I try to put myself into his shoes. He has no money, no earthly possessions that he could offer us to earn it. It is simply a hope on his part, that we would love him and come for him. Asking us to promise is the only thing he is able to do.

Kinda like when we come to Jesus.

Twelfth Day With Sergey

(Thursday 8/14) We left Mitchell for Rapid City to attend a family wedding Friday night. If you don't stop, it takes 3.75 hrs. by car. Sergey's opinion of traveling by car has changed since we picked him up. Now he doesn't mind it because they play computer games and gameboy in the car (yes we make them read books too). I'm sure traveling by car in Ukraine isn't nearly so "luxurious"! Also a few breaks along the way helps, like the cool rest area at Chamberlain with the Lewis and Clark exhibit, and Wall Drug.

We were late leaving home and so that messed up our plans to hike Harney Peak that day. Instead, we went to Mount Rushmore in the evening. It worked out OK though, since we got to see the lighting ceremony, which is kinda cool.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Eleventh Day With Sergey

(Wednesday 8/13) This was another quiet day for the boys. It will be the last quiet day that Sergey has with us. Thursday, we head to Rapid City and the Black Hills for a family wedding and some sightseeing. I'll blog as I'm able. I have found it difficult to find the time to blog since Sergey has been here.

Janell Tolly, Lienna, Morgan, and Tanya stopped by at lunch time and brought us borscht to eat. It is a soup made from beets, with other things in it, like meat. I had read about borscht on other blogs and was glad to get a chance to try it. They also brought us all the fixins, too, like bread, bananas, strawberries, and sour cream. We all enjoyed a meal like the Ukrainians have. Lienna and Tanya are bio sisters that were adopted by the Tolly's from Ukraine last year. Their English is coming along nicely. The last time I saw them, we weren't able to talk, so that was fun visiting with them.

The girls were wanting to see how well they could remember Russian, so they tried to get Sergey to speak in Russian to them, but he just absolutely refuses to speak Russian ever. Which is disappointing. At least this time he would actually talk to them, unlike Sunday when he ran away and refused to meet them.

Tenth Day With Sergey

(Tuesday 8/12) This was a quiet day for the boys. They rode bikes down to the library in the afternoon.

Tuesday night is our regular weekly Boy Scout troop meeting. Sergey came along, since he had already met several of the boy scouts and the weekend camping trip.

Our topic for the month of August is cooking. We are supposed to be focusing on food that can be made at a campout. I decided to teach them how to make grilled-cheese sandwiches. Everyone got to make one for themselves on one of the three backpacking stoves we set up. I don't think Sergey had had one before. He made one for himself and says that he loves American cheese!

We spent the evening watching the Olympics.

Ninth Day With Sergey

(Monday 8/11) Not much to report on this day regarding the boys. The big news for us was that Nancy had outpatient surgery on her broken wrist to insert a plate with screws and pins. She'll have that in there for the rest of her life.

Something about last Friday I didn't blog about but will now. On Thurday night, when we were in the ER, they made an appt. for her to see an orthopedic surgeon first thing on Friday morning. The local surgeon is on vacation, so there was another one subbing for him for a couple of weeks. He's a young guy from out of town and was just so kind to us during the appt.

We went into the hospital at 6:30 AM for checkin and prep, and Nancy was in surgery by about 8:30. Everything went fine without any complications. Now this is what I wanted to tell you about. Some time during the course of the day Nancy had struck up a conversation about spiritual things with him and learned that he was a Christian. He told her that he was preparing to go on a 2 year medical mission trip to Africa, and she told him about our upcoming adoptions. Later, after the surgery and Nancy was recovering in her room, he came by to check on her and we had a real long conversation about Christ, the Bible, his family, adoption, missions, churches in Mitchell, etc. We invited him to our church this coming Sunday and he said he would come. He was probably in Nancy's room for about 1/2 hr. just chatting with us. At the end, he asked if he could pray for her and us. Of course, we said yes and he said that he had already been praying for her before the surgery. How do you like that? We thought that was very awesome.

Nancy recovered quickly and I took her home at about 1:30. The boys stayed with Mark's friend until supper time. The staff at Nancy's office bought us Ruby Tuesday's takeout and delivered it to us at home. That was very thoughtful of them and very much appreciated. We then all pretty much relaxed and watched the Olympics.

Eighth Day With Sergey

(Sunday 8/10) Sunday morning, we attended our church, First Reformed Church.

After lunch, we attended a party at Lake Mitchell to celebrate Mark's friend Ryan's birthday. Mark and Ryan have known each other forever. They attended school together every grade through 7th. Sadly (for us), Ryan and his family moved to Iowa (Iowa!) for a new job. Ryan and his family came up to Mitchell with some of his new Iowa buddies for a party at the lake.

Everyone enjoyed swimming, tubing, and waverunning. Is that a word? Sergey enjoyed the water, natch.

That building in the background in the last picture with Nancy and Sergey is the Mitchell Archeodome, where they do archeology of ancient plains Indians.

One incident we had with Sergey at the party was when the Tolly's stopped by. They had wanted to meet Sergey. They adopted Lienna and Tanya from Ukraine last year. Sergey was over somewhere else and I asked him to come over for a second to say hello to them. He refused and ran away saying he didn't want to. I told him that that was very rude and asked him again to go say hello. Still refused. I told him he would lose privileges and he still wouldn't budge. So he lost Gameboy and iPod privileges for the day on Monday. I know he has his reasons for not wanting to meet them. He is embarrassed in some way about being from Ukraine. He has been living on his own, so to speak, at the orphanage. But even so, it is not too early for him to start learning who is in charge.

After the party, Mark and Sergey stayed overnight at one of Mark's friend's house because Nancy was scheduled to be at the hospital 6:30 Monday morning for surgery.