Saturday, February 17, 2007

February Update

Hello everyone,
Julie and I wanted to write a quick blog to let everyone know how the girls and ourselves are adjusting. The girls have been in school now for about a month. The transition seems to be going smoothly. Their English is coming along. Luda is in 8th grade. Galina is in 3rd grade, and Nastia is in Pre-first. I know what you are thinking, but it is one step above kindergarten. Leave it to California to come up with a transition for kids between kindergarten and 1st grade. I guess the old way was just too much of a leap.
We all made an unexpected trip to Albuquerque to visit with Julie's family, due to the unfortunate passing of her little brother, Tim. Obviously, it was a very sad occasion, however, Julie's family did get to meet the girls. Due to that and my starting work-ups with the Navy again, we haven't had a whole lot of settling down time.
The girls have been enjoying meeting new friends and their schools. Also, they are enjoying their rooms and freedoms here in the U.S. The girls all have their own chores to do every weekend like the rest of the kids. Helen, Joshua, and Jacob are adapting well too.
It took some getting used to, but Julie has the daily routine down with getting everyone off to school, getting them home, and then getting all of the homework done. Right now, it seems as if she and I are back in school, at least when it comes to the English homework. Meals seemed to be the biggest thing we were challenged on initially. Unfortunately for the girls, they did not realize how seasoned/ stubborn their new parents are. After a few turned up noses and a couple of "I don't want this!" statements, Julie and I quickly enacted a new house rule. If you don't eat what is put in front of you in a reasonable amount of time, then you will get no sweets/ dessert for 1 week. Problem solved!
We will continue to try to update the BLOG about once a month. Sorry about not doing it in January, but as mentioned earlier, we got pretty preoccupied.
We are continuing to follow the other couples' adoption efforts in Ukraine and continue to pray for them as well. Please continue to pray for us and our wonderful children.

Blessings to you all,
Dan and Julie

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Hello Everyone!

As promised, here are our new family Christmas photos. We have had three full days at home so far and still have not finished unpacking two of the 6 suitcase (imagine)!

We thought we only had Thursday to get the girls acquainted with Babushka Hughes. Dan and Grandma Hughes woke up at 4:30 Friday morning and headed off to the airport. Then Dan would head in for his first day of work. However, he was called back to the airport to pick Grandma up shortly after saying goodbye. Grandma had been bumped from her flight because the plane was overweight due to luggage. The plane left with three empty seats! Grandma had been given tickets for the overnight flight Saturday to arrive Christmas eve morning(isn't that fun after a month of watching 3 grand kids!). As it turned out, grandma was able to accompany Julie on a couple of shopping adventures with 6 kids for Christmas outfits and really realize she wanted to go home!! Jason arrived safely late Saturday, and Grandma left to go back to GA after getting a seat this time.

The girls have been having fun checking out the house and watching Christmas specials. We attended church this morning with our 7 children, where the girls were welcomed by the congregation with Drastwicha, Russian for "Hello", as Pastor Kenny guided them. It was an awesome experience to be back at our home church and praise our magnificent God for the blessings he has given our family. We also were able to meet several people who e-mailed and prayed for us. Thank you so much for the prayers to all of you. We still welcome them and will definitely use them as we raise our children and look to God for guidance while carrying out this task.

After Christmas service, we came home and took our first family photo. Today we are heading off to Wal-mart to make pictures for our late Christmas cards and pick up ingredients for the famous Ukrainian Borsch soup for Christmas eve dinner.

We will continue to update our blog site monthly at the beginning of the month so you can see how the transition period plays out and your prayers are answered.

Blessings for this glorious Christmas time when our God gave us the most wonderful gift of all, the gift of eternal life through his son, Jesus Christ. May you all have a very Merry Christmas and a blessed and Happy New Year.

Peace, Love, and Blessings,
Dan and Julie

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles!!!

(To the right: Americans at last! Photo of girls in D.C. with 2 American icons, U.S. Soldiers and STARBUCKS!!!)

A Marathon Month!!!!

We are home, praise GOD! Everyone made it home safely. After a 1 1/2 hour taxi ride to get to the train station, a 12 hour train ride to Kyiv from Berdiansk, multiple metro and taxi rides with 3 girls while in Kyiv, 4 plane legs from Kyiv to Fresno (28 1/2 hours), and a 1 hour drive home to Hanford, all of the kids are in bed asleep after a warm and joyous homecoming.

Last night, while pulling an all-nighter packing, we almost packed away our Russian dictionaries. Then it donned on us that we would probably still need them to communicate with our new daughters, duh!!! Thanks to Anya and Victor meeting a van at 3:40am, we were able to get to the airport and checked in without a huge hassle. Thank you so much Anya and Victor for everything you did for us. Without you guys and God, this adoption couldn't have happened.

Many, many, many hours later, Dan's mom and the kids met us at the Fresno airport, along with Steve Barr, one of Dan's buddies from work. Steve was called in for logistical reinforcement (i.e. we needed his Tahoe to get all of the luggage and Dan home). Of course, Dan couldn't go alone, his little buddy, Jacob, had to go too.

Once we got home, the girls got their first look at our new home and their new bedrooms. After playing a couple of hours with their new siblings, we finally got all of the kids tucked into their beds. Luda, Galina, and Nastia enjoyed snuggling up into their new beds. Hopefully, they will maintain that feeling of warmth and security for years to come.

To close for this evening, we just wanted to send out infinite "Thank you's" to all of our dear friends in Kyiv and Berdiansk. Without these people, our lives would not be as full and blessed and it was a huge honor to get to know all of these wonderful, selfless people of God. The list is as follows: Marilyn (Julie's Mom), Elaine (Dan's Mom), Anya, Victor, Julia (Anya's daughter), Julia (SDA), Luda (translator #2), Larissa (translator #3), Karen (translator #5), Steve and Kristi Weber, Dima, Misha and Luda, Georgia and Galina.

To everyone else who prayed for us and supported us as well, it would not have been possible without God hearing your prayers. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Adoption is a true miracle of God and you all have helped to make our miracle come true.

Jason will be in town on Friday and will get to meet the girls for the first time. They are all excited. We plan to take our complete family photo for our Christmas cards. By the way, they will be late. We will continue to post to the BLOG through Saturday in order to post the Christmas family photo.

Love and Blessings,
Dan and Julie

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Coming Home!!!!

Hello Everyone!

We are getting ready to leave Anya and Victor's right now. They have been gracious enough to host us the past 3 days. What a truly amazing couple. This is just a quick note to let everyone know that we received our Visas today and will be heading home in the morning. We have to leave our apartment at 4am. Yeah! Anyway, we really appreciate all of the prayers and support we have had from all of you. It is evident based on the fact that today is the one month point for us. This is record time and most importantly, it is God's time. We can't wait to get home to see the rest of our family.

God Bless you all,
Dan and Julie

Visas in hand, America, here we come!

(To the right: Luda, translator #2, and our girls at medical.)

One step left!

Praise God! We are one step away from having our adoption process completed in Ukraine. We went to the medical exams today for the girls. It was a Ukrainian medical clinic which does exams for people applying for Visas. The staff was very nice. Adoption clients had priority over other patients at the clinic, and we completed our exams, paperwork and first Hepatitis B vaccine for Luda, all in 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Then we went for the third time to get photos done for the girls. We needed different sizes and views for the passports, medical exams and visas. However, the specifications have changed over time and the printed material was out dated on some of our directions. We stopped by CBN’s (Mission Emmanuel in Kyiv) bookstore around lunch time and purchased several Christian books, DVD’s and CD’s in Russian for the girls. It was a comforting feeling to know even though we couldn’t read the packaging, this material would be a blessing for the introduction to a Christian walk for the girls. CBN is a light and hope for Ukraine.

(Below: Julia and SDA psychologist with us at Ukraine Adoption Agency.)

We took the girls back to the SDA (State Department for Adoption) today to meet up with our friend and department English translator, Julia. We are excited to go to lunch with her to Mc Donald’s tomorrow! We also introduced them to the psychologist who interviewed us for our appointment on Nov 21 to gain approval for the adoption process to begin here in Ukraine. It was strange to be in the office with our girls knowing almost a month ago we walked in so uncertain of how God would play out the timing and plan for this process. We saw several prospective adoptive parents waiting in the lobby and they curiously watched us and the children as if just wishing they too were with their children. We were told by the staff at the office they rarely have families bring children back by for them to meet. We believe this overworked staff really needs to see the children with their families to encourage them in their hard work and future adoptions. It shows them their hard work pays off in the faces of the children!

We spent the remainder of the day with our dear friends, Anya and her husband Victor. They have been such a blessing to our lives and have been a main strength in the process here in Kyiv. Towards the end of the evening, Anya finished our documents for the embassy visit at 8:30 in the morning. She even used the famous string, needle and tape procedure which makes Ukraine documentation so unique! If we only had these materials a few weeks ago, we too could have doctored our documents up a bit and saved us a trip to a village with our translator/taxi driver Grisha!

(Below: Anya stringing documents for us.)

The girls were exhausted from the walks around Kyiv today and even fell asleep in the taxi ride back to the apartment. For the second night it was a humbling and heartfelt time to tuck the girls into bed and say prayers with them. They chatted for a while before falling asleep. It would be so wonderful to be able to understand all of their conversations and thoughts right now.

After the embassy and Mc Donald’s lunch tomorrow, we plan on meeting up with Larissa and spending more time with our friends. We leave early at 6:50 on Wednesday and are so excited to be heading home to get our whole family together for Christmas! Please pray for smooth up coming traveling and all of the children and families who are in the adoption process.

Blessings to you and your family!

Dan and Julie

Monday, December 18, 2006

Medical is done, Embassy, here we come!

Back to the starting point to wrap things up!

Hello all!

Today was a day to settle for a couple of days into a Kyiv apartment and visit friends! We arrived around 8:00 into the Kyiv train station and loaded all of our bags into a rented van. We got to the apartment in downtown Kyiv and it was great. We then headed out to take the metro one stop over (we thought) to Hillsong Kyiv’s 10:00 church service. We have been looking forward to being there for as long as we have been doing our adoption process. Our pastor’s in VaBch are from Hillsong Australia and hosted the pastors of Hillsong Kyiv to our church. We quickly learned the English version of the metro map was doing us no good. We also tried to ask for directions to the one stop we needed and received directions (in Russian) which didn’t seem like just one stop over. So, we decided to take a cab. We arrived about 30 minutes late, but it was a wonderful time. We visited with some of the team who spoke English and listened to the sermon on the translator head sets. We also purchased a couple of CD’s for the girls to take back home from the Hillsong Kyiv kids and praise and worship selection.

We then took the metro station again and this time arrived at Anya’s stop successfully!! Praise God. We had a wonderful visit with our friend of two years and her husband, baby and Babouska (84 years old). The girls decorated Anya and Victor’s Christmas tree and we also planned our time out tomorrow.

We took a cab to Steve and Kristie Weber’s home for a pizza dinner at 7:00. Steve is the head of CBN Kyiv, also called Mission Emmanuel. We had a wonderful time and were able to meet all six of their children, three of whom are adopted. The children played for several hours while the adults visited and exchanged adoption stories about the children and the system. We were also able to borrow their internet phone and call to change our flight home one day earlier!!! God is so good. We are thrilled. We added another leg to the trip which now routes through DC, so please pray for excellent weather and no delays or cancellations. This change will also allow the girls to spend a day with Grandma Elaine Hughes, who has been with the kids at home for a month, instead of 6 hours before heading back to GA.

Tomorrow we are going to have the girls American medical exams done and pray we have time for the embassy appointment.

We really enjoyed tucking our three new daughters into bed tonight and saying prayers with them. They were excited to settle into bed after a long train ride last night and a day of visiting so many wonderful friends whom God has sent into our lives to make this adoption process possible. Wow, it is hard to believe we will only have two more days left in the Ukraine before heading back to the rest of our family.

God’s love and blessings to you all!

Dan and Julie

Sunday, December 17, 2006

We are in Kyiv!!!!

(To the right: Everyone on the train, finally!)

Hello Everyone!

Well, we are finally on the train back to Kyiv. It has been a long road and there are still things to do before the finish line, but we are thankful to God our prayers continue to be answered. We started the day with Dan and Luda, translator #2, going to the train station to purchase tickets. We were able to get them originating in a city called Melitopal. It is slightly bigger than Berdyansk and is about 1 ½ hours away. This train will take us to Kyiv, leaving at about 8pm and arriving at 8am.

The next part of the day was spent gathering some small gifts to give to the orphanage staff for the tremendous help that they have been to us. After that, we proceeded to the orphanage to meet with Galina, the director. She showed us a large 3-ring binder with photos from all of the children that have been adopted under her tenure. Many times while flipping through the pages and reminiscing about the kids, Galina was moved to tears. It is so refreshing to see an orphanage director with such a wonderful heart for her children. After finishing the photo album, we asked to be taken on a tour of the orphanage to places where there might be some needed things to pass on to others led to help. We were shown many of the outstanding discrepancies that need to be fixed, but cannot for lack of funding. There are many broken windows with tape over them or two panes pieced together, windows which are nailed in place which are too old to open and close, a leak and warping in the gym ceiling, and a room with broken and torn gym equipment unable to be repaired without funding. The children’s restroom is in great need of re-tiling. Then there are the more simple things like children trying to sew Christmas costumes, but they are in need more material and thread.

(Below: Window panes and tiles that need repair at orphanage.)

While we were taking the tour, the girls were packing their things and saying goodbye to all of their friends/family. Luda and her friends paced the halls crying and holding each other. It was very moving and difficult to watch them go through this and especially difficult watching their friends cry and wonder, “Why not me?” Two of Luda’s friends asked her to have her mama and papa help find them families. They are beautiful girls the director said are very sweet and good. After the goodbyes were, we piled into Grisha’s taxi and proceeded to the hotel to get showers and pack.

(Below: The girls and some of their friends from the orphanage.)

We checked out at 5pm and went to our dear friends’ home, Misha and Luda. What a sweet God-filled couple they are. Unfortunately, due to our departure time, we were unable to spend more than ten minutes with them. They will be sorely missed. Praise God for a couple of Christians like them to act as role models for the children leaving the orphanage!

After yesterday’s travels, today’s taxi ride to Melitopal was quick (1 ½ hr). We said our goodbyes to Grisha and his father. The girls gave Grisha a big hug each and said that he was their personal driver. We had a snack in the train station while waiting on the train to arrive. Once it did, we had less than ten minutes to get 6 bags, 5 backpacks, 3 food bags, and 6 people onto the train. Needless to say, we made it happen after trying to get on the wrong car once. Julie and I just finished discussing how it feels like time actually flew by in Berdyansk, even though it didn’t feel that way while we were there.

We are so very excited to be heading back to Kyiv to finish up the process of American medicals on Monday and the embassy for visas Tuesday. We will visit our dear friends, Anya and her family. We are going to try to attend the Hillsong Kyiv Church service tomorrow, in addition to meeting with Steve Weber, the head of CBN Kyiv. Steve is actually the guy who helped get us started on this wonderful path of adoption.

Thank you all once again for all of your thoughts and prayers. Please continue to pray for a speedy and early return for us.

Today we claim Psalm 20: 4, 5, 7 -- May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Dan and Julie