Sunday, April 6, 2008

Kids and Trees

Our day at the Liberty Park in Salt Lake City reminded me of our time in Petro's "Central" Park so I thought I'd write a quick note. The weather was somewhat overcast, the temperate a tad nippy, and the kids running from attraction to attraction. We played together on the swings, explored the duck pond and even sampled the very small amusement park rides. Coming together as a family, I find, has to have many such activities.

Five months have come since all seven of us have been together on American soil. Our home is no different than any other with ups and downs, smiles and frowns, etc. But certainly progress cannot be denied. The girls have thrived in school. Julia's last report card put her on on grade level in almost every subject. There has been basketball, tumbling, learning to swim, learning to rides bikes and rollerblades, and Little Miss Olivia's true love, ballet!

Thankfully the language has come very quickly. Julia gave a 5 minute verbal report to her 4th grade class, complete with a power point program. She did a wonderful job. Olivia loves to sing along with the radio to all her favorite songs and both can express themselves on demand. Gratefully, they have been willing to continue cultivating their native language. Both have taught me to pray in Russian and love to help me with new ways to say thanks. Gratitude is a powerful thing. As I look back on the events of 2007 they seem as a dream, a very powerful dream. Sacrifice, along with untold effort have brought the sweetest blessing of all, to love and be loved.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

30 Days Hath September...

The 30 days of November have come and gone since the girls walked into our lives forever. Of course, their new citizenship of this great land affords them many and overwhelming opportunities. Time has been spent getting to know each other more, learning the language, and helping them understand what is like to have parents. All in all, things have gone quite smoothly.

They were enrolled in school 5 days after they arrived. To which they have received a hero's welcome and made many friends. Julia has been playing basketball in the local girls league and once she realized it was against the rules to touch anyone she has done very well. She also has learned to ride a bike and loves to ride around the neighborhood. Swimming is our next adventure as neither Julia nor Olivia can. Piano lessons will follow but that hasn't stopped them from teaching themselves in the meantime.

The girls have really enjoyed the chance to go out to a restaurant now and then. Julia showed her gratitude by licking the spoon of the fruit topping bowl at the local Chuck-O-Rama and kindly leaving for someone else to use. On a sad not however, the did not enjoy having their hair cut as each had their own plans that were not realized. They are very excited for Christmas but it took awhile to help them understand it wasn't the day after Thanksgiving. But the major highlight has been the public access to fruit. They are convinced it is really all they need. On the flip side, it has been refreshing to see some get excited at the prospect of fruit for dessert.

We've been reading about attachment and trying to look for signs of concern. They seem to be doing very well attaching to us physically and emotionally. Our biggest challenge has been having them let go of the fact that they don't fulfill the parental role themselves. That is okay for them to let their guard down and have an adult oversee their lives for a time. This real life "power struggle" has brought some tears and frustrations. But over time and with a measure of consistency, I have also seen a sense of freedom and relief pour over them. Kids are really good and being kids and when they realized it was safe to be a kid again it has come very naturally to them. Not to mention very rewarding as a parent to witness. They are beautiful, talented, sensitive children and I feel blessed to have them in our midst.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

In Conclusion.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Return Travel to Almaty was quite different than our first jaunt to Kazakhstan. First of all I was alone. Secondly, I was on a mission to rendezvous and recover our two daughters from middle Eurasia. "I move faster alone" I told myself, like some kind of green beret on top secret mission in the jungles of Vietnam. So fast in fact, that the first thing I did upon landing in enemy territory was move so hasitly through the airport in the early morning hours, I found myself outside the main exit surrounded by 10 hungry taxi drivers hovering over me like buzzards. No problem, I'll just pivot around and come right back where I came from. Yeah, except for the very obvious universal sign that screamed DO NOT ENTER! So I did what every non Kazak speaking man should when being stalked by cabbie's. I took a quick look around... and went for it anyway! I really thought I had it made when all of sudden from out of no where a very serious security guard welding "heat" stopped me moments before I disappeared into the crowd. My story fell on deaf ears as he kicked me all the way to the curb. "Welcome to Kazakstan" one of the cabbies blurted in crude English. I had been given orders that I would be picked up, briefed and shuttled to my hotel by someone I had never met, holding a clearly marked sign with my name. But whomever that joker was, he wasn't anywhere near where I thought he should be when I needed him to be there. I made a few attempts to use my new phone, which I had been assured would work abroad, as the vultures came in for the kill. "Vsoy harrasho!" (my translation for I'm okay!) I said over and over. Unfortunately, they woulld not be worthy to be called taxi drivers if they gave up that easy. And after what seemed like an hour I decided I had to get back inside again to find my ride. And save my life. Scanning the surroundings I found the entrance just to my left. Of course I had to check back through security, complete with interrogation. Once through headed for the mass of people awaiting the arrival of their loved ones. At that moment things started looking up and just like it was planned I found my savior, Nickoli. Funny thing was, I didn't feel any safer. I said a silent prayer and introduced myself.

Nickoli, the nicest guy in the world.



Friday, November 2, 2007

Home At Last.

We arrived home in Utah on October 31st. It was a 30 hour journey that made us tired but not tired enough to keep them us treat-or-treating in our new neighborhood. We dressed as princesses and looked very beautiful. Our parents told us that in United States we can go treat-or-treating every night.

Ha! Ha!

Greetings to Uintah Elementary 2nd and 4th grade classes. We are excited to meet you.

Julia and Olivia.

ps Our parents will be posting pictures as soon as they get their camera working again. My dad will also sum up his experience in Almaty and learning to communicate with us for 2 days without much help from a translator.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Change of Plans

It's getting colder.

Over the past week we have been finalizing the details of my trip to Almaty. Yesterday we made a change to our plane tickets that will allow the girls and I to return home on Wednesday Oct 31 rather than November 3rd. The schedule in Almaty will begin early Monday morning and be a busy two days.

I leave Saturday afternoon at 1:30 and land in Almaty very late Sunday night. The girls will already have been escorted from Petro by Sholpan and will be with our new translator, Oleg and his wife. Whether I will see them that night is unsure. Hopefully they will be asleep preparing for an early rise Monday morning. They are counting the days.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Debbie will be making final preparations for the arrival of the girls. Everything that could be anticipated has been taken care of. Certainly there will be some "Oh yeah, I can't believe I didn't think of that" moments. On Friday we will celebrate our last day as a family as we know it.

All of the girls in our neighborhood are excited to throw a party for the Olia and Yulia. Our home is always full of neighborhood boys and now it seems that with the arrival of two girls, the total net gain will be more like five or six.

Here's to a new life!


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Father Time

My new favorite cycling team.

Kazak flag proudly on display.

Not many of these stickers around.

Time is a strange thing. Moving quickly for three weeks while in Petro, and coming to a screeching halt the past two. We are still hoping that the return trip to KAZ will happen this coming Saturday but a national holiday has got everyone worried that paperwork won't be ready. As it stands, we have an airplane ticket on hold for travel Oct 27-Nov 3rd. We also decided for many reasons that I (Guy) would be going alone to retrieve the girls. I will fly to Altmaty and have our coordinator, Sholpan, escort the girls from Petro.

Showing the pictures we sent.

We have been corresponding through our translator, Igor. His wife Nadiya has been teaching English lessons to the girls. Every couple of days we get an email with a few pictures, with us replying with some photos of our own. An Amercian couple from Tennessee, Bill and Cathe, have been so kind as to send some photos and pass along our love when the see the girls at the RBS. Everything is going well in the meantime but the girls can't wait to be with us. The feeling is mutual. Since our waiting period is over the girls belong to us and if we were in country they could stay with the family while the immigration paperwork shuffle continued. Unfortunately due to timing, that is not a reality for our family. Thankfully the memories of our time in Petro has been deeply embedded in hearts and mind.
Yulia and Taunya (who 14th day of bonding with her parents just finished)

Debbie has been nesting. Building a wardrobe for the girls has been a serious task. She usually buy all the boys clothes for the follwoing year at clearance sales. Clean. Quick. Easy. Debbie has perfected the artform. By the time she is done the store sometimes owe her money. This time we have had to watch ourselves with all the cute girl clothes so readily avaiable. Truthfully, it has been fun to see the things see has brought home to proudly hang in their closet. Of course, shoes and coats are my weakness. I have placed an order for warm "puffy" coats in blue and pink and helped Deb choose some very cute, functional (of course) shoes.
A father knows best.

Practicing English.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Safe Travels.

Funky building.

View to the north.

Government building.

View to the South, Presidental Palace in the distance.

Under construction.

Tallest building in town.

The Mosque.

Government building.

View to the east.
Friday morning we flew from Petro to the new capital of Kazakhstan, Astana. Because the capital has been recently relocated the President of the country has allocated serious money to get things up to snuff. It looks more like Las Vegas than Kazakhstan. It was real shocker to see all the new buildings, lights, and hustle and bustle. We hired a driver for a couple of hours to show us around and get some photos. The Baiterek, the tower in the center of town, and made a wish at the highest point, it's a local custom. Aftewards we spent the evening with a couple from California doing Humanitarian work. Great company and mexican food, can't beat that.
The Baiterek.
Making a wish.

Saturday morning came early as the wake up call rang promptly at 4 am. We had a flight that left at 7 am for Vienna and considering our last close call in Astana, we weren't taking any chances with missing this time. By 1:30 pm Kazak time, Vienna was a reality and after a couple hour layover we were Chicago bound. Now I'm not really a fan on sitting on a plane for 10 hours but Austrian Air was the best carrier I've ever flown. Food was great and I caught up on some movies. And all in all, it wasn't too bad. The last 30 minutes were tough on the kids as the lack of sleep started to take its toll. Janse fell victim and crashed 10 minutes before we landed and Denver tried as we taxied in. I refused to have 2 dead Indians so I prodded him, forcing him to tell me jokes and stories until we unloaded.

Once in Chicago food was in order. The mind willing but the flesh was weak and besides myself it mostly went to waste. Our three hour layover turned into four as our plane had some issues. When we finally boarded everyone was together in the front row, except me. I was all the way in the back. Which, turned out nice as we moved a few people around and I got some breathing room. Debbie wasn't as fortunate. She had been seated in front of the "loud talker", and despite me and the boys getting some shut eye, she had a very long, noisy, bumpy, 3 1/2 hour flight.

Shortly before landing I sat up and looked out the window. We were high above the cloud layer. It was dark and for the first time in a month I realized I hadn't seen the stars. Suddenly, the plane banked hard left over Brigham City and right in front of my eyes was the Big Dipper in all it's glory. I couldn't help but make a wish, a wish for ALL the children we had loved, and left, that the watchful eye of the God of Heaven might be upon them.

There is a time a place for everything. Indeed, it was hard to leave, but it feels good to be home. Thanks to all for your support and love.