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This March has been a rough month, and it’s not over yet.

We had some child behavior issues that caused quite a bit of stress.  That wasn’t fun, but it’s mostly resolved now.

Don was going to take the three older kids on a three-night trip to the Twin Cities so they could have a fun vacation and I could have a break, staying home with just Clara.  Two days before they were going to leave, Peter got sick.  The next day, Simon was down too.  We’re talking 102 degree fever and lying on the couch in a daze, not just a runny nose.  The trip was cancelled.  Instead of getting a break, I had sick kids.  Then Clara got it too.  Fun, fun.

For some unknown reason, my left shoulder started hurting on Mardi Gras.  Over the next few days, it kept getting worse.  I was in pain nearly all the time and my left hand felt numb/tingly.  The worst was that I had sharp spikes of pain that reminded me of being in labor because all I could do was wait for the pain to pass.  I had made it nearly forty years in my life without being seen in a hospital emergency room, but I broke that streak on the first Friday in Lent.  (In my defense, I called my family doctor first, but she wasn’t in that day and the other doctor in the practice didn’t have any openings; the nurse who asked me about my symptoms recommended that I go to the emergency room.)  I greatly appreciated my small-town hospital (so small that the emergency waiting room only had eight chairs).  I walked in the door, was registered, waited for a room, was settled in a room, was assessed by a nurse, changed into a gown, saw a doctor, had x-rays, talked with the doctor about the results, got my discharge paperwork from the nurse, and walked out—all in an hour.  I know that there are big-city emergency rooms where you would wait for over an hour just to get taken back to a room to be seen for something not super-urgent like my shoulder pain.  My shoulder has gotten better, but it’s still not back to normal yet and I lost two mornings of homeschooling time between going to the emergency room and going to my family doctor for a follow-up.

Don decided to take the middle two kids to visit his parents for a few days (the week after the cancelled trip to the Twin Cities), so I had a semi-break.  Having two kids home was much quieter and less stressful than having four, but still kept me pretty busy.  It’s not like I got to just do the things I wanted to do during that time, especially because I hosted a meeting of our Catholic women’s group.  In preparation for that, I did a lot of housecleaning (which my shoulder did not appreciate).

On the way home from their trip, Don bought a new hamster for Simon.  Florence 2.0 didn’t even make it 24 hours.  Simon failed to close the cage completely and Florence escaped during her first night home.  Of course, this was disappointing and frustrating.  Maybe small rodent care is just not for us right now.

A child who will not be named here accidentally broke our living room television.  Now we can only watch tv in Don’s office, out in our detached garage.  Thus, we’re taking an unplanned Lenten break from most tv watching and from playing on the Wii.

On top of the things that actually happened this month, we’re now starting to hit anniversaries of major events in our adoption journey last year.  In reflection, last March was one of the most stressful months I have ever had.  We received our invitation to travel to Ukraine for an adoption, learned that “Valentine” (the boy we hosted for 12 weeks in summer 2017 and planned to adopt) had already been adopted, traveled to Ukraine anyhow, visited with an 11-year-old girl for almost a week, figured out that she wasn’t ready to be adopted, met Amina for the first time, and signed the paperwork to request a court date to adopt her.  What an incredibly emotional and exhausting month!

I just need to get through the first week of April, which will be a rough week.  Not only will I be doing the single parenting thing while Don and Peter are gone to Washington, DC (already plenty of work), it’s the week of the ice show that Simon and Amina will be skating in.  I will have to get them to practice, photo night, two dress rehearsals, and two shows by myself, and deal with Clara (whose schedule will be all disrupted) besides.  After that week is over, though, life should settle down somewhat.

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I’m sorry for seemingly falling off the face of the earth.  I have written many blog posts in my head over the past couple months, but finding the time to sit and type them is another story.

Winter here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is hard.  I’m sure I say that every year, but it’s true.  This is the time of winter when the snow piles get high and I get weary of the cold and the extra effort that winter requires.  On the bright side, the days are getting noticeably longer, which fuels my hope that spring will come.

It seems that life here has been non-stop busy and stressful since we returned from our Christmas/New Year’s break.  We’ve had Don’s and my 21st anniversary, Don out of town for a week, Amina and me gone to Milwaukee for three days to visit the children’s hospital, sick kids, sick me, hamster death and a grieving Simon, both boys’ birthdays, Valentine’s Day, visits to local high schools to help Peter decide what he wants to do next year, trying to keep up with homeschooling, and running kids around to all their various activities (adding Saturday morning swimming lessons for Amina feels like the straw that broke the camel’s back–I depend on the weekends to get caught up on the housework that doesn’t get done during the week and losing the two hours that it takes with travel time, lesson time, and waiting for her to shower and change afterwards has had a significant negative effect on my ability to keep up with the things I need to do).

In addition, Amina’s increasing comfort in our family, her increasing facility with English, and her increasing pubescent hormones have contributed to an increase in some undesirable behaviors, so we’ve been dealing with that.

This is a challenging season, but it won’t last forever.

We’ve spent the last week visiting Don’s parents in the Windsor, Ontario area.  This was Amina’s first time visiting Canada and she was very excited.  Here are some highlights of our trip:

  1.  We enjoyed seeing Christmas lights.  Where we live, it’s so cold and snowy and our electricity rates are among the highest in the country, so few people decorate their houses with Christmas lights.  However, the majority of the houses in Don’s parents’ neighborhood are decorated.  We also enjoyed the city of Windsor’s “Bright Lights” attraction with elaborate colored light displays in a park.
  2.  We went 5-pin bowling.  This Canadian version of bowling is much better than the 10-pin version.  It’s particularly good for kids, as the balls are smaller and lighter.
  3.  Don and the kids went to a water park.  Clara only lasted for a couple hours, so I picked her up and took her back to Don’s parents’ house so she could eat lunch and nap, but the three older kids and Don were there for almost nine hours and came home happy and exhausted.
  4.  We ate at a Ukrainian restaurant.  Amina has been wanting borsch(t), but we weren’t up to trying to make it at home, so this was a treat for her.
  5.  We did a lot of shopping.  Where we live, there is a limited range of places to shop, particularly for clothing, so we make a point to go shopping when we visit “civilization.”  We took advantage of the “Boxing Week” (after Christmas) sales and got some great bargains (the best of which was a pair of jeans I got for myself for $9 CAD before tax).
  6.  We packed many celebrations into just one week.  We had three different Christmas/present-opening occasions and New Year’s.  On top of that, Don and I had an early anniversary celebration (our anniversary is on the 10th).  We left the kids with their grandparents while we went out to dinner, walked around a mall, and spent the night at a hotel.  Then we returned to parental duty after breakfast.  It was all too short, but still nice to have a little time to ourselves.
  7.  It was good to spend time with family.  Amina had met Don’s parents as they had come up to visit us in the fall, but she got to know them better and spend time at their house.  In addition, we drove back to Michigan one day to visit my brother and his family; it was Amina’s first time meeting them and our first time at their house (they moved a year and a half ago).

Now we just need to survive the long drive home!  If you’re on a long drive and you need more reading material, find other bloggers’ 7 Quick Takes here:

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The fourth and final collection of photos from Ukraine are from the city where Amina lived in the western part of the country, near the border with Poland.  Not all the photos were taken during the same trip, which is why some have bare trees and some have green, leafy trees.

p 1

The street that our hotel was on was paved at one point, but is in poor shape now.  This was true for many streets in the city.

p 2

This was taken on the walk from the orphanage to our hotel, again showing the state of the infrastructure.

p 3

A modern grocery store and a monument that has seen better days.

p 4

This was Amina’s school.

 

p 6

We walked on the path that you can see to the right of this church on our way between our hotel and Amina’s orphanage.  It just looks like a cute little church, until you see the plaque on the side wall which informs you in Ukrainian, Polish, and English that during the occupation by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944, Jewish citizens from the city were kept there before execution.

p 5

This tree in a public space was decorated for Easter with ribbons and eggs.

p 6

Close-up of the Easter egg tree.

I hope you have enjoyed my brief photographic tour of Ukraine.  You can find other posts in this series here:

Ukraine photos #1: Kyiv

Ukraine photos #2: Odessa

Ukraine photos #3: Lviv

Ukraine photos #3: Lviv

Lviv, the major city in western Ukraine, is considered to have a more “European” atmosphere than other Ukrainian cities.  It has charming cobblestone pedestrian streets and outdoor eateries.

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L 4

Because I only have a few pictures from Lviv, you get a bonus picture with this post.  Google Translate has an amazing feature where you can hold your cellphone or tablet camera over something with text and it will translate the text into another language.  It was extremely helpful, but not perfect.  Below is a screenshot of a menu that it had a particularly hard time with.

Menu

 

You can find other photos of Ukraine here:

Ukraine photos #1: Kyiv

Ukraine photos #2: Odessa

Ukraine photos #4: Amina’s city

Odessa, on the Black Sea, is a popular regional tourist destination.

O 1

ВОКЗАЛ = train station

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O 3

O 4

This walkway was in a park overlooking the Black Sea (to the left).  The photo above is the street to the right.

O 5

Our apartment overlooked this street in the touristy area.  Despite the car parked on the sidewalk, it was closed to vehicle traffic.  There were many pedestrians, at least one horse, and some street performers who entertained the crowds at high volume until the wee hours of the morning.  We could only imagine how busy and “happening” it must be during the summer.

O 6

O 7

I took many pictures of apartment buildings through the taxi windows, trying to capture their unique appearance here; most didn’t turn out well.  All of the older apartment buildings (the vast majority of apartment buildings) feature these mismatched constructions on the balconies.

 

You can find other photos of Ukraine here:

Ukraine photos #1: Kyiv

Ukraine photos #3: Lviv

Ukraine photos #4: Amina’s city

Ukraine photos #1: Kyiv

When I wrote about our adoption trips, I was careful not to post photos that might in any way reveal where we were, as we had been advised not to publicly announce that we were adopting from Ukraine until after the adoption was finalized.  Life has been busy since then, but I’m finally sharing some of the photos that I didn’t post previously.

Ukraine was a visually fascinating place to visit.  It has many beautiful historic buildings and streetscapes.  Some city scenes were quite modern.  However, there were urban neighborhoods and rural areas that looked like photos from a 1980’s National Geographic article on life behind the Iron Curtain.  There are many things that we did not take photos of, but here is a small taste of what we saw.

These pictures were all taken in Kyiv, the capital city.

K 1

The view from one of our apartments, in a high-rise building.

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K 4

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K 7

This is a replica of a historic gate to the city, in its original location.

K 8

One of the metro stations, with chandeliers and mosaics on the ceiling.

K 9

In the Independence Square (Maidan) area.  The “Freedom is Our Religion” sign was a decorated cloth that was covering the site where a building was being constructed or renovated.

K 10

Independence Monument, perhaps the most-recognizable site in Ukraine.

 

You can find other photos of Ukraine here:

Ukraine photos #2: Odessa

Ukraine photos #3: Lviv

Ukraine photos #4: Amina’s city