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A couple weeks ago, on Father’s Day, our area experienced an incredible flash flood.  We got seven inches of rain in five hours.  I saw an estimate that it caused $50 million in infrastructure damage.  That doesn’t count the damage to private property, which was also substantial.  I felt like I should write something about it, but never got to it.  However, my friend Monica just wrote a blog post with a collection of the most impressive pictures of the damage, so I’ll just share her post about the flood.

We were lucky that we were spared major damage.  The ditch that runs along the road in front of our house overflowed; the water ran over the end of our driveway, washing some of it out, then continued along the shoulder, washing out two channels that were up to a foot deep in places.  Because it made our mailbox inaccessible from a vehicle, we didn’t get mail delivery until Thursday (the storm was on Sunday), after the county had come and repaired the shoulder.  Our internet service also went out until Wednesday.  Fortunately, I was able to use a cellphone data device from Don’s work to get online to send e-mails and check Facebook; that kept me from going insane, feeling cut off from the world.

Here are a few pictures I took after the storm:

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Amina’s Ukrainian passport has been printed and mailed to Lviv.  Don and Amina traveled to Lviv yesterday and should be able to pick up the passport on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning.  They expect to spend Tuesday running around, getting the stamps in the passport that she needs for emigration, and making a final visit at the orphanage.  Then they will return to Kyiv.  Because the US embassy is closed on Wednesday (the 4th of July), they are hoping to have her final embassy appointment and get her visa on Thursday.  If all goes according to plan, they will fly out of Ukraine Friday morning, spend Friday night in Chicago, and fly home on Saturday.  That means it will be a four-week trip for Don.

Peter left for Boy Scout camp today.  He’s due to come back (with the troop carpool) right around the same time that Don and Amina are supposed to fly in, so I’m not sure how that’s going to work out.  One way or another, we’ll get everyone home.  It’s less than a week now until our whole family will be together!

Here are a few pictures of Don and Amina out entertaining themselves and cooking in the apartment where they stayed in Kyiv:

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After many months of encouraging people to donate to our Hearts for Valentine adoption fundraiser, I finally ordered the photo collage poster last week so that it would arrive before Amina came home.  It showed up this week and I hung it on the wall in Amina’s room.  Now all is ready for her arrival.

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(Note that there were three photos I had to split up because I couldn’t get all the people/pets from a rectangular original into a square on the poster, but I did get everyone in somewhere.)

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Just look at all that love!  Thank you again to everyone who donated and sent photos!

(If you’re so inclined, you can still make US tax-deductible donations towards our adoption expenses through Reece’s Rainbow until Don and Amina come home.)

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Don and Amina are in Kyiv, waiting for her passport so they can leave Ukraine.  The other kids and I are at home, waiting for them to join us.  It’s been over two weeks since we said good-bye to Don and will likely be another week before he and Amina come home.

It’s been challenging to be the only parent here, running the show.  I’m trying to do all the things I usually do, plus some of the things Don usually does (like mowing the lawn, which takes a ridiculous amount of time), plus communicate with him and Amina (often on Skype), which requires time and attention, unlike just chatting while we eat dinner or do other normal life things.  The fact that a certain 13-year-old has been less responsible and helpful than he could be has been adding to my stress.

We’ve gotten a number of things worked out in preparation for Amina’s homecoming.  She has doctor, dentist, and optometrist appointments scheduled, some sooner than others (the optometrist isn’t until the end of August, but she doesn’t seem to have any vision issues, so I think that’s okay).  Because she has a tooth that is hurting her (and looks pretty bad in the photo Don sent me–she said she’s never been to a dentist), she has a dentist appointment the week after she should be home.  She also takes medication and the supply that the orphanage gave Don isn’t enough to last until her appointment at the children’s hospital in early August, so we’ve had to figure out how to get her a short-term prescription to last until that appointment, at which time they will probably be changing her medication.  She also has an appointment with our family doctor the week after she should be home; the children’s hospital sent her a list of tests they want done, so we’ll need to get some blood drawn.  We’ll be busy with appointments for a while after Amina comes home, but then things will settle down.

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I’m sorry I didn’t get a 7 Quick Takes post up on Friday.  With being busy and being tired and fighting back the panic of knowing that in less than a week, our current version of “normal” will disappear forever, it’s been hard to find the time and energy to write.  If only I could dictate blog posts from inside my brain to a computer while changing diapers and making lunches, you’d get lots of posts, but since I am required to find the time to sit at a computer and type everything out, you get only a small fraction of what I compose in my head.

Realistically, I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up writing 7 Quick Takes.  Although they’re supposed to be quick, by the time I write seven of them, edit them all, and usually add some pictures, it actually takes up a good chunk of time.  I fully intend to keep blogging regularly, at least through the summer, but I think I may need to let go of the pressure of producing seven well-written takes with a weekly deadline.

We leave Friday morning.  “We?” you ask.  “I thought Don was going alone to pick up Noelle.”  That’s true.  However, you might recall that we live in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan, far from any major airports.  We flew out of Detroit on our first trip to Noelle’s country because it was the cheapest of the airports near Don’s parents’ house (we left Simon and Clara with them).  Chicago was the cheapest airport to fly out of for our second trip, when my mom came here to stay with our kids.  This time, flying from Toronto is significantly less expensive.  So we are going on a family road trip to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where Don will board a plane on Saturday morning to fly to Toronto, from where he will fly across the Atlantic Ocean.  Then I get the joy of a five-hour drive back home with three kids.

I’ll be holding down the fort myself for three weeks or so until all the paperwork is done and Don and Noelle come home.  We’ve already decided that, no matter the cost, they will fly into Chicago so that they can fly to the small airport near our house (Chicago is the only place they fly to/from).  That way, Noelle won’t be subjected to a long car ride to get home after all her plane travel.

The first week that Don is gone, the boys will be going to Totus Tuus (basically, the Catholic version of vacation Bible school).  If you think that will give me a nice break, you are sadly mistaken.  They are in two different age groups–the elementary-school-aged kids go during the day, and the middle- and high-school-aged kids go in the evening.  That means four round trips daily to drop off and pick up kids.  It was challenging last year, when Don was here to help.  Now I get to do it all by myself.  Woo-hoo!

Besides Totus Tuus, we still have homeschooling to keep us busy.  This adoption disrupted our schedule so much that we aren’t ready to wrap up for the year yet.  I’m planning to go until the end of June, or when Noelle comes home, whichever happens first.

Noelle had her last day of school on Wednesday, May 30th.  I’m sure she is now very anxious for Don to come, since she doesn’t have school to distract her anymore.

One final piece of news–I got an amazing surprise on Thursday when the woman who runs the local “Mom Prom” contacted me and asked if she could meet me sometime that day.  They gave us another grant, for $3500!!!  I couldn’t believe it!  That will help enormously with the travel costs for this final trip.

God is good.  I’ve heard so many stories of families beginning the international adoption process without the necessary funds and how the money came when they needed it.  Still, it’s hard to have the faith to start such an arduous journey when you can’t see a clear path ahead of you all the way to the end.  Back when I started feeling a strong urge to pursue adoption again, in December 2016, I prayed and told God that if He really wanted us to adopt internationally, we would need His help to pay for it.  He has definitely come through.  This has not been an easy process, but I’ve never doubted that it’s what God wanted us to do.  He has helped us make it this far, and I trust Him to see this through.

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Okay, so I wrote all of the following and then went to link up and realized that 7 Quick Takes isn’t happening this week because of Memorial Day.  Oh, well.  You, my dear reader, get a list of seven supposedly-quick takes anyhow.  Enjoy!

  1.  Last week, Kelly Mantoan mentioned me on her blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum.  That makes me almost-sort-of-a-little-bit famous!  Of course, it was the week that I decided to skip writing a 7 Quick Takes post because I was still recovering from jet lag (I was sleeping through the night by then, but hadn’t slept past 6 am yet, and I wasn’t getting to bed early enough to make up for my early rising times).  The thought crossed my mind that I should put together a welcome post for visitors to my blog who found me through her blog, but tiredness-induced laziness struck, along with rationalizing that it was already the end of the day by the time I realized my sort-of fame and so I had probably already missed much of the possible great onslaught of visitors.  Anyhow, if you’re new here, the best quick summary of our adoption story is probably to be found on our Reece’s Rainbow page.  If you’re interested in orphan hosting specifically, you can read about our experience last summer in my series of orphan hosting reports (I apologize for the fact that some of the previews are messed up, but you’ll get the right text when you click the links).
  2.  I’ve been tired of telling our story lately.  I went to the dentist last week and the dental hygienist, who cleaned Valentine’s teeth when he was here, asked about him.  I just didn’t feel like telling the story all over again about how we tried to adopt him and it didn’t work out and who we’re adopting now.  Since the weather has finally warmed up and we’ve emerged from hibernating for the winter, we’ve caught up with our next-door and across-the-street neighbors whom we haven’t talked with in months and who haven’t been following our story on social media, so we had to update them also.  Fortunately, by now, most people we interact with reasonably often know what is going on.  It’s helpful to blog and to share info with friends and family on Facebook; we only have to write something once and many people can read it, so we’re not repeating ourselves as often.  I’ve been making a point to share our story, both because I was inspired by reading many adoption blogs over the years before we started our own journey and in the hopes that it might help our fundraising efforts by giving people a greater feeling of connection with our story, but it does take a lot of time and effort to write and it can be tricky to find the right balance between sharing and maintaining privacy.
  3.  We (mostly Don) have been working hard on Noelle’s room.  We brought four paint color samples for her to choose from on our last trip and she chose pink.  Now the trim in her room is freshly painted white, the walls of her room are pink, and the closet doors, the inside of the bedroom door, and the doors to a storage closet in her room are painted a brown that the paint company recommended as an accent color (the carpet is a brown berber, so we figured that brown would work).  Although we have an unoccupied twin bed in Clara’s room, we needed a dresser for Noelle.  When researching dressers, Don talked himself into ordering a bedroom set, with a bed, dresser, and bedside table.  They’re not top-of-the-line or anything, but they all match, which is more than you could say of the furniture in any of the other kids’ rooms.  Plus the woman at the furniture store gave him a pink lamp when he went to pick up the bedroom set and he told her about Noelle.  I’ll post pictures once we get the room done–we’re waiting on wall decals and haven’t bought bedding yet.
  4.  Our Hearts for Valentine fundraiser will be ending soon so that I can get the photo collage poster for Noelle’s room printed and hung in her room before she comes home.  The deadline for sending me your picture to include is Sunday, June 17th!  If you miss the deadline or just don’t care about sending a photo, you can still make a US tax-deductible donation to our Reece’s Rainbow FSP account up until Don and Noelle come home.
  5.  We won’t know for sure when Don and Noelle will come home until just before it happens.  It depends on how long the paperwork takes, particularly getting Noelle’s passport.  (She has to travel with a passport from her native country because under US law, she won’t be a US citizen until she lands in the United States.)  Based on the recent experiences of other families, we’re expecting it to take 2-3 weeks.  Don starts the paper chase on June 12th, when he picks up the court decree and goes to get Noelle a new birth certificate listing us as her parents.  Thus we are expecting them home in late June or early July.
  6.  On to non-adoption-related matters…  Clara has started using two-word phrases.  These have included, “in pocket,” “pants off,” “shoe-shoes on,” and the endearing, “Daddy home!”
  7.  The weather here is rather ridiculous.  We still don’t have full leaves on all our trees; a week ago most trees had nothing more than buds.  Yet, it’s been in the 80’s (Fahrenheit, of course) for the past several days.  This heat feels foreign, like there’s some kind of mistake.  We had a late, cold spring and now we’re fast-forwarding to get to summer.  My brain isn’t quite ready for summer, especially because we’re behind in our home school year due to adoption-related disruption so we’ll be homeschooling pretty much until Noelle comes home.

And that’s my update for this week!  Thanks for reading.

 

 

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This week’s edition of 7 Quick Takes comes to you from Eastern Europe, where Don and I are on our second trip in our adoption of “Noelle,” a 10-year-old girl.

  1.  Don and I left home early last Saturday morning.  Fortunately, my mom was able to come to our house to watch the kids this time, so we didn’t have to make the grueling drive to the Detroit area with them.  Skipping the drive with the kids is definitely less stressful, and I think they’re happier staying at their own house.  We made the ~7 1/2 hour drive to Chicago, because we don’t live near any major airports and that was the cheapest one for us to fly out of.  We had great weather for the drive and no problems until we reached O’Hare.  The on-airport economy parking lot where we planned to park was closed because it was full, so we were directed to another lot that was twice the price.  Then we anxiously drove up and down and all around the huge lot, not finding a single empty parking space anywhere.  We finally gave up in frustration; the parking attendant didn’t charge us and gave us directions to the area where off-airport parking was located.  We made it to an off-airport lot, then had to wait for their shuttle to take us to the airport.  Although we had budgeted some extra time, we were feeling stressed and nervous until we finally made it to the airport, through security, and to our gate.  Our flights from Chicago to Vienna and then from Vienna into Noelle’s country went smoothly.  We had a layover of about four hours in Vienna, where the sun was shining brightly, although it felt like 2 am to our bodies.  They had nice couch-like furniture in the airport where we could lie down and rest, so that’s what we did before eating breakfast/lunch and going to our next gate.
  2.  We spent two nights/one day in the city that we flew into.  (I know, it would be a better story if I told you the name of the city–hang in there!)  Despite the fact that we spent two nights there on our first trip (one on the way to Noelle’s region with our facilitator and translator and the other before we flew home), we hadn’t been into the city.  This gave us a chance to explore the more touristy areas, learn more about the history and appreciate the heritage there, and start working through the jet lag before meeting Noelle.  (A seven-hour time change is challenging.)

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    Don enjoying eating outdoors on a pedestrian street.

  3.  We spent some time with Noelle before we had court on Thursday.  We took a train to a city near the orphanage on Tuesday, arriving midday, and the owner of the small hotel in Noelle’s town picked us up.  We walked to the orphanage in the afternoon, after Noelle returned from school, and spent about three hours with her until it was time for her to eat.  We showed her photos and videos, gave her the paint color samples so she could choose the color for her room (she wasn’t ready to decide right away, but we asked her again on Thursday and she chose pink), and then went outside to play.  We played catch with a fuzzy tennis ball and velcro mitt things, frisbee, and hide and seek.  Noelle and I played on some of the playground equipment and blew dandelion fluff at each other.  Then on Wednesday, it was a holiday here, so Noelle didn’t have school.  We went to the orphanage mid-morning and were asked if we wanted to go for a walk with her in town, which of course we agreed to.  The caregiver sent Noelle to change her clothes (she came back in a beautiful dress, like she was going to church), then we went out for a lovely walk.  Noelle showed us her school, we walked through a large park and around a small lake, went to another small park with various memorial plaques, then we went to a restaurant and had pizza for lunch. After lunch, we bought ice cream cones at a grocery store and ate them as we walked back to the orphanage.  We went back to our hotel for a short rest, then returned to the orphanage, where we played some more catch, shared jelly beans with all the kids, and then did a craft to make a ladybug with plastic beads.
  4.  We passed court on Thursday!  Our facilitator/translator (she was the translator on our first trip, not the facilitator who was a crazy driver) took the overnight train from the capital and arrived at our hotel at 8:30 am.  The orphanage had sent Noelle to school and our facilitator confirmed arrangments with the orphanage director and regional social worker by phone, so we didn’t need to be anywhere until 1:30 pm, when we were to meet them at the courthouse (our case was scheduled for 2 o’clock).  We walked to a grocery store, bought some food, came back to our hotel room, and ate and chatted until it was time to leave to walk to the courthouse.  (We can walk everywhere here, which is both good exercise and saves us money on transportation.)  Ours was the first international adoption in this city and our judge was very by-the-book.  The whole thing took two hours, but 10-15 minutes of that was waiting for her to type up the document saying that our translator was allowed to be in court and another 25 minutes was waiting for her to type up the decision at the end.  Noelle sat in the hall outside the courtroom for most of it (which was probably very boring for her), but she did come in and speak to the judge and jurors.  The first question they asked her was if she knew the people behind her (us), and she answered “Yes” in English.  Our ability to communicate was one of the things the jurors were concerned about, based on their questions, so I think that helped show them that she will quickly learn English.  After court, we gave Noelle a necklace with a small heart charm on it and told her that she can wear it and think of us while she waits to come home.

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    Noelle and me, just “hanging out” (I couldn’t tell you how many years it’s been since I last did that)

  5.  Now we wait to find out when we will be able to pick Noelle up.  There is a mandatory 30 day waiting period before the judge signs the adoption decree.  However, the 30 day wait is not based on the date of court, but the date that the judge registers the decision, which they must do within 10 days of court (so it can be up to 40 days of waiting after court). We were told that, for technical reasons, the decision wouldn’t be registered until the 16th, but our facilitator is trying to see if it can get done sooner.  I know that you’re eager to see photos of Noelle and learn more details, but out of an abundance of caution, I am waiting until the adoption decree is signed before I share those things out on the open internet.
  6.  Staying in this hotel is different from most hotel experiences I’ve had.  It’s a very small hotel, the only one in town, and so far we haven’t seen any other guests here.  The couple that owns the hotel lives next door; clearly, this isn’t their main source of income.  There is a housekeeper here regularly, cleaning the (presumably still clean) empty rooms, but she hasn’t touched ours since we arrived.  We ran out of toilet paper and just bought a package at the store.  Our garbage can was full, so we took the bag out ourselves and replaced it with a plastic grocery bag.  Yesterday evening, we came back from dinner late (9:30 pm), and the hotel owner, who was standing outside (possibly waiting for us) asked us if he could come in our room to water the flowers in the flower boxes outside our windows.  The blinds do very little to block the light from the windows; I am awakened early every morning as the light from the rising sun hits me right in the face as I lie in bed.  I assume that the towels are dried on a clothesline because they are the stiffest, scratchiest hotel towels I’ve ever used.  However, what the hotel owners lack in knowledge of hotel operations, they make up for in friendliness.  They frequently greet us as we are coming and going.  On our first trip, they invited us to attend the Easter Vigil Mass with them and gave us some traditional Easter bread.  This trip, they invited us on a day trip to a local attraction, which we politely declined, because we want to spend the time with Noelle.  This morning, they gave us a plateful of homemade cookies.  The husband is interested in ham radio (though he’s not a ham) and enjoyed looking at photos of Don’s ham shack.
  7.  We expect to be back home on Monday.  Today (Friday) we will visit Noelle at the orphanage after school.  On Saturday, we’ll spend time with her in the morning and the afternoon, before taking the train back to the city we flew into.  We’ll spend the night there, then fly through Munich to Chicago on Sunday.  After sleeping near Chicago, we’ll drive home on Monday.  Then my travels to/from Eastern Europe will be over, while Don will prepare to spend about three weeks here in June/early July when he comes to pick up Noelle.

Thanks for reading!  You can find other bloggers’ versions of 7 Quick Takes here:

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