Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pix of th last day

These are the Kennedy sisters, which Max absolutely adored

Big smile for Daddy's Coffee! (Gate at Kiev Airport)

Thrilled to be in my seat--not!

Max standing in front of the same Delta Sign at JFK where the journey
began--it's finally come full circle!!!

Last Day!!! The trip home....

Last Day! The trip home….

I awoke from pure excitement at 0629 (my alarm was set for 0630)—The day was finally here!!! We are going home! I let Max sleep until the last possible minute, while I made breakfast, and finished up the last details of packing our carry-on luggage. I looked across the room in dread at our car seat. I knew this “carry-on” would be more pain than it was worth, but I also knew Rebecca would not be happy if it was “conveniently” left in Kiev!
After I staged all our gear by the door, I ate some breakfast and looked at my watch. 0700- half an hour to go, until Yuri arrives. I woke Max from a peaceful slumber (he sleeps in on the last day of course ☺ ) , fed him some breakfast, and got him dressed. I wondered if he suspected that this trip wouldn’t be our usual walk to the park in the morning. We took the elevator downstairs for the last time with all of our luggage---I was sighing in happiness as I surveyed our one piece of checked luggage and two backpacks. I started going over mentally how what my game plan was going to be for check in and security.
Yuri was right on time outside, and we climbed into his sporty Honda Accord.
The drive to the airport is only 30 minutes, but I don’t know why I expected it to be uneventful. This trip, like every other was not to be without it’s own drama…..
After a few minutes went by, I noticed Yuri’s gas gauge was on “E” , and he had 1 mile to go before empty in his display window. Yuri said—“don’t worry, there are at least 20 miles to go after Zero, and I want to go to the SHELL station on the way to the airport where I have coupons for free gas. We won’t make it all the way there, but I can stop at another gas station on the other side of the bridge [across the Denieper River] “ I immediately thought to myself, “Great, we are going to run out of gas in the middle of the bridge and I am going to miss my flight” . We got to the other side of the bridge, and I saw a gas station coming up with a sigh of relief—but Yuri passed it up! “ I said “Yuri, you are going to run out of gas—why did you not stop?” He replied “ooops! I forgot, hopefully we make the next one.” We are now “below” zero, and the “miles to go before empty” screen on his dashboard display does not even say “Zero” anymore! Yuri started driving very carefully—maximizing the his coasting down hills, and no abrupt accelerations (he was worried now). So I sat there as if I were in some Seinfeld episode and chuckled about the ensuing Choas that was my life.
We coasted into a little gas station on fumes, and I finally breathed a sigh of relief. But then Yuri only got 2 liters of gas! He wanted to make sure he used his coupons. I don’t blame him, because gas is expensive—but maybe how about 4 liters?!? We were now back to looking at Zero miles to go until empty—“ahhh plenty of gas”. A few miles later, we came to the shell station and filled up with Yuri’s coupon, and were finally looking at a full tank of gas. Phew! The rest of the arrival at the airport was easy. Max was strangely quiet, just taking it all in. I talked with Yuri for a while, and thanked him for everything. He really made all this possible with his expert handling of all our paperwork, and coordinating contacts in Zaporizchya region. I was sad to bid him farewell, but excited to get on that plane!
Check in was easy, there were no big lines yet, I think we arrived in enough time to beat the rush. Max tried to bolt for an interesting stairwell once, climb on the scale for our bag, and climb on the belt through the scanner at security—but other than that he was great. Passport control and Delta both wanted to see all of our paperwork, and I had the court decree, passport, and birth certificate ready to show them. It took about 10 minutes, and they gave us our exit visas, with a big “KACHUNK!” of their stamp—a sound I had been waiting to hear for about 40 days! While we were waiting for our flight to board, Max played with matchbox cars on the floor, and our friends the Kennedy family showed up in the boarding area. Their girls yelled “MAX!!” and ran over to him. When he looked up, he got this big smile on his face, and the four of them played for the rest of the time. It was so cute.
Boarding time finally arrived, and it went without incident. Max was great. He happily followed me down the jetway, and aisle without any fuss. Once we got to our seat I strapped him in for a minute or so, and got our carry-on situation organized so I wouldn’t have to keep jumping up to the overhead bin. In retrospect, I should have just checked the car seat. He did not want to sit in it, and it took up a lot of room in the cramped 767-ER cabin. I gave him some animal crackers though and he was happy. I thought he would be happy just looking out the window, but he was more happy to play with the window shade, and keep it closed most of the time. I tried to interest him in the goings on outside, but he would have none of it. After about 30 animal crackers, I cut him off. He was not happy, and started to throw a fit. I was nervous about vomiting though, so I stood my ground for a while. After takeoff, I decided that he was too upset, so I just let him have the bag. He immediately calmed down and sat there happily eating his animal crackers. In fact , the only times he fussed during the 10 hr flight was when I would restrict him from doing something he shouldn’t—like grabbing a passenger in the seat in front of us. He also got to play with the Kennedy girls a few times, and that helped break up the monotony. He only slept for about two hours though! I was exhausted by the time we reached JFK (swine flu central station). Max must have been too, because he immediately threw his backpack down and asked to get on my shoulders!
I made him walk through passport control at JFK. He grabbed on all the blue line ropes corralling all the passengers, and I had to fight him free after every turn in the line. Poor little guy—he just wanted to be free ! Passport control was easy, the immigration officer took my sealed envelope that the Kiev embassy had given me, and then the officer showed me where to go next . We went to another office where they wanted to take Max’s picture—but I already had extra pictures of him ready to give them (Thanks Helen and Yuri! ) so that process only took two minutes. Then we were on our way to collect our baggage from customs and re-check it in for the domestic flight to Norfolk. I decided to check the car seat this time, and agent helped me out with no problems.
Max was not as easy during the next trip through security. He was ready to run around and stretch his legs a little. Not so easy in the security line with TSA.
Luckily, I kept a good grip him and he never go far when he did escape occasionally as I tries to put my belt back on. Finally, we cleared security, and then Max was happily up on my shoulders as we strode through the airport to our next gate. We arrived at the commuter gates with an hour to spare. Max and I just decided to stay away fro everyone and just washed our hands a lot so we wouldn’t risk catching the flu!
The best thing about the last flight home, was that it was strangely right on time for JFK-- Thank you God! But the last flight was a little miserable, because Max was exhausted at this point. Everything seemed to be the end of the world for him. Tray table up / Tray table down/Window shade up/window shade down-- both made him cry and throw a few tantrums. He was just so tired that he did not know what he wanted. We finally made it to the Norfolk and stopped off at the nearest bathroom for Max to change his shirt, and wash one more time before hugging everyone with JFK germs.
The reunion was wonderful. Ava screamed “DADDY!” and sprinted down the hall to me, and my twin girls Keeley and Allyson rushed into my arms. Max recognized Rebecca and gave her a big hug. Our friends the Thoroman’s and the Douberly’s came down as well to witness all the fun. It was great to see everyone!
The rest of the evening we chatted about our adventures, and Max went to sleep in his new bed without a fuss—he was exhausted!
Sunday was a wonderfully relaxing day. The children played like they were old friends. Max is adjusting well so far, and the girls are so excited to finally have their new brother. Monday was a little annoying though—I came out to go to work, and my car had been stolen from our driveway in the night!!! “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!??!?” (I yelled down the street). So, at least we ended our journey the way it started---Chaos!

We will be giving more updates as we jump all the next hurdles with Max, and figure out the whole car situation……Love,
Team Chaos

Friday, May 1, 2009

More Pix of Day 38/39

Defeated Nazi Crest

Yuri and Max in the Holocaust room

Cool guy at bathtime
This is what the Kryzchatyk looked like after the Germans
invaded.  (this is where we stayed when we first arrived)

Jewish prisoner uniform for children

Pix of Day 38/39

Museum Entrance

Motherland Monument , Overlooking Statue display
Max enjoying the cave full of monuments
Had to pose with the prop planes!

Many tanks to you all.....


Hello out there Team Chaos fans!

This will be my last transmission from Ukraine before we board our flight to the USA tomorrow morning!  Yuri will pick us up at 0730, and our flight leaves at 1050 AM from Kiev for JFK. So excited!!!!
I am sitting here listening to my Euro-Ukrainian Techno/Dance mix playing in the background, and reminiscing about all that has happened up to finally get to this point.  Thank you to everyone for your support, encouragement, and your prayers.  Without your thoughts and the Grace of God, I don't know how we could have had the patience to get through all our many adventures.   I laugh as I read through some of our old posts and think about all the road trips back and forth to Zaporizchya, adventures with the Rebecca, Ava, and the Babushkas, playing with Max when we first met him at the orphanage, and the nervousness in the pit of my stomach when we arrived for our appointment at the SDA when we first saw his picture.   It all seems SO long ago!   I'm chuckling as I look through the pictures of Ava not sleeping, and the pictures of Yuri, Helen, and Oleg--who did so much to make everything go smoothly under a difficult system.   
Ahhh well, I guess it is time to close this chapter of our journey with our last day's adventures in Kiev....I have been pestering Yuri to go to the WWII museum  for some time now, and today we finally went.   I was supposed to go yesterday, but Natalie's son Eli (formerly Maxime) got sick with a nasty staff infection in his foot.  So they spent their last hours in the hospital before leaving Kiev with Eli getting cleaned up and shots of penicillin (ouch!).
The WWII museum in Kiev is quite large, and has both outside and inside exhibits.  Today's weather was questionable, as threatening rain clouds hovered overhead all day--but luckily never dumped on us.   
When you first arrive at the museum you are immediately captivated by a giant gleaming metal statue of a woman standing in a victory pose, with her sword stretching toward the sky, and shield protecting the surrounding city.  She is a symbol of "The Motherland", and a great landmark in Kiev as you arrive from the airport.   From the base of the statue you can see all the beautiful gold roofed  cathedrals in the city.   Below the statue is a massive carved stone statue exhibit commemorating the many men who fought and died in defense of their homeland against the invading German Army.  The rest of the outside exhibits are positioned along a loop which displays countless tanks, artillery, and aircraft exhibits all beautifully restored.  
The Inside of the museum was truly fascinating.  The focus of the museum was not only on the battles, equipment, and combat stories that took place during the intense fighting around Kiev and the greater Soviet Union, but it also focused on the lives of the civilians who were lost, displaced, or exterminated.   There were several rooms dedicated to the Ukrainian Jews. Their population was almost entirely destroyed by the Nazis during the Ukrainian Holocaust.   There is an erie map of Ukraine forged out of black metal in one of the rooms, which has red lights illuminated in hundreds of small villages on it's surface.  The red lights are illuminated as markers to towns in Ukraine which were completely annihilated by the Germans--wiped off the face of the earth.  Pretty sobering.  There was also a guillotine in the center of the room.  Pretty scary.  Other exhibits included a neat description of the liberation of Kiev, and the famous Battle for Stalingrad (1942-1943).   Some of you may be familiar with the movie "Enemy at the Gates"--- I did not know this, but the famous Vasily Grigoryevich Zaytsev was from Kiev City!  The Ukrainians vehemently say that "Wikipedia" is all wrong about his place of birth.   Not sure which is right, but  his rifle and memorabilia were on display at the museum.  I took a picture for all the Hoo-ya's in the audience....
Max loved the whole museum experience.  He was fascinated by the planes, and all the artifacts the museum had to offer.  He ran from exhibit to exhibit saying OOOOHHHH! (pause, then look in another direction) OOOOOH!  He was very good actually. He didn't try to grab things too much.  I was impressed.  He was very adamant about walking next to me and trying to be good, without me holding his hand.  He would put his hands in his pockets in protest when I would notice him a little too close to a motorcycle or rifle display.  It was so funny!   We steamed on into the afternoon, skipping his nap on purpose-- I want him to go right to sleep tonight!
After the Museum, it was getting close to dinner time.  Yuri and I made plans to meet up for sushi at one of his favorite local haunts the "Arena".   Arena City is a large high end mall, which is in the center of Kiev, and houses a shopping mall, art center, several nice restaurants, and the famed "Arena Nightclub" (the night bar & dance scene hotspot).   We had dinner at the Arena restaurant blow the club, and it was actually some pretty good sushi!  No Yuri, not as good as Japan ---but nothing ever quite is....Max ate some miso soup, and I ordered him some chicken which he ate a few bites of.  He was not particularly interested in eating.  Instead he was interested in taking apart the screws holding the menu together---it captivated him for most of the meal while Yuri and I chatted.  He loves taking things apart.  One can only hope that someday he will learn to put things back together as well....  After dinner, it was bed time for Max, so Yuri drove me home, and we settled all the bills for the apartment so I wouldn't have to deal with the landlord in the morning.  The apartment was very reasonable for $100/night in Tolstoy Square w/ cable internet connection!   I highly recommend it....just not the one with the piano!   
Max is bathed and in bed now.  He only protested for 10 minutes tonight!  So, I'm off to pack our ONE bag (YAY), and then try to organize Max's carry-on.  I have decided to bag the idea of taking the portable DVD player and my laptop in my carry-on.  I put them in my suitcase--Max isn't really interested enough in them, and they are a pain to schlep through security while keeping Max under foot.  So we are opting to travel light---I am just bringing some great toy cars I bought him ( the doors open and close, wheels turn, etc. ), some coloring books and crayons, and a magna-doodle.  The rest of the space will be taken up by extra clothes incase of vomiting or whatever, and medicine--yes I am planning to dose with Tylenol and Dramamine.  The Tylenol is in case his ears hurt with the pressure changes, and the dramamine is to prevent the extra outfits from being used!  It's only 9 1/2 hrs --we can survive anything that long (that's what I keep telling myself anyway!).    I will let you know how it works out. 
  Well that's it for Team Chaos in Ukraine!  Our next transmission will be from Va. Beach.  For all of you who were wondering---Yes, we will continue the blog when we get back to the states.   We know that the adventure is really just beginning as we welcome Max into his "forever family", transition Max to the USA,  get him seen by a specialist in the USA, set him up with a sign language program.  There is so much left to discover!  If you want to enjoy the ride with us--stay tuned! 
Sam (signing off from Kiev!)


Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Day 35-37: Monday-Wednesday.    


Sorry that I haven’t updated the Blog in the last few days.   Max and I have been busy, and I have been rushing around getting the last of our paperwork done before the US Embassy closes on Friday for a holiday.   




           [Camera Zooms out as Sam dose his happy dance]


Today (Wednesday) Max and I got up at 0630 and ate some breakfast,  while Yuri was already down at the train station picking up Max’s passport.  Helen had put the passport on the train in Zaporizchya via overnight post.  Yuri came and picked us up at 0755, and we went to the US Embassy to drop off our complete paperwork package for Max’s U.S. Visa.  Luckily, Rebecca had already pre-filled out most of the papers, so I just had to sign them for the embassy clerk, and then schedule my interview appointment.  This part of the process only took about 10 minutes, but I still had to go to the Kiev Medical Center to get Max’s medical clearance for the USA, and his vaccination record.  I ended up having plenty of time, as my embassy interview was scheduled for 2:00 PM.

Yuri drove me over to the medical center, which was about 15 minutes away from the embassy.  Yuri was wonderful. It was the easiest doctor’s appointment I have ever been to.  Yuri was inside filling out all the paperwork, handling the translation of the paperwork, and waiting for the doctor, while Max and I played on the playground outside.   It was like taking a number, but having someone hold your place in line while you relax somewhere else.  Max only had to be in the office for about 15 minutes during the actual visit with the doctor.  Meanwhile, he was thoroughly enjoying playing with some new friends outside.

While we were at the playground, we met the Kennedy family from Roanoke, Va who had just adopted 3 sisters! The girls were absolutely wonderful with Max.  The sisters were 10 yrs/ 9yrs/ and 7 yrs.  Max was in hog heaven making himself a nuisance when possible, and laughing as they chased him around.  I’m sure he will love having three sisters of his own soon!!  It turns out that the Kennedy’s will be going home on the same flight as us, so we hope to be seated near them (instant entertainment for Max).

Yuri called me once it was our turn to see the doctor, and we went in to a small exam room.  The doctor was very nice, but she scared me a little when she said “ I see he has congenital heart disease?”    I was caught off-guard, because we had been assured that he did not by the orphanage doctors.  She continued her exam I told the doctor “I thought that was ruled out” .  She explained to me that she was actually a cardiologist, so she would be able to tell more as she progressed with the exam—in other words “just be quiet and wait”.  When she got to the part where she examined his heart and cardiovascular system, she said “Oh, I was wrong—his heart is just fine!” 

I said “Oh good, because mine was about to have a problem!”

            The doctor finished her exam, and gave Max a clean bill of health to come to the USA.  She also gave me his complete vaccination record translated into English, so we can have a place to start when he gets his U.S. doctor.   His vaccinations were all well-taken care of, but I noticed that he does not have his Influenza Vaccination for 2008 or 2009.   This worried me a little, because we are flying through JFK, and the USA is in the beginning of the Swine Flu scare.  I don’t like the idea of Max being exposed to a bunch of new bugs in the flying Petri dishes of the JFK commuter scene-Bleh!  We’ll just make sure to wash hands a lot I guess.

            Once we were done with the medical center, we had a few hours to kill until the embassy interview, so Yuri, Max, and I grabbed some lunch at a local Italian restaurant. If you are looking for an Italian fix, try the place just to the right of the T.G.I. Friday’s near Arena city.   The food was great. After lunch, Max got to have some more fun at our favorite Syvchenko park.  The park was filled with children, and Max also enjoyed the blow up jumpy house-complete with 25 ft slide!   He protested kicking and screaming when Yuri and I finally pried him from “his” jumpy house when it was time to go the embassy. 

            We arrived at the U.S. Embassy 30 minutes early for my interview, and surprisingly they took me early.  I had to give them the sealed medical envelope that the doctor’s office gave us, and Max’s passport.  Then an embassy official invited me over to one of the interview booths to conduct Max’s immigration interview.  The interview consisted of swearing me in, and then signing the documents that I had already filled out in the presence of the embassy official—that was it!  Then he informed me that I would need to wait for about one hour while they processed the visa. 

            Luckily there was a nice quiet waiting room down the hallway with lots of toys and books for Max to entertain himself with.  He seemed more interested in the light switch though, and proceeded to flip it on and off for the next half hour.   Luckily our friend Natalie showed up with Maxime for their interview appointment, so Max had a friend to play with.  The embassy finally called both Natalie and I to the window at the same time, and handed us our children’s passports with their visas printed inside.  They told us to verify all the names and dates were correct, and then gave us all the instructions for when we arrive in the states.   They also handed us a sealed official envelope for US immigration when we arrive.

            Then Natalie and I were left standing there looking dumbfounded that we were both finally done!! The adoption saga was finally over!!!  All the traveling to the far ends of the earth, puking in cars, and searching for children is finally done!  Well, aside from the adventure of flying home…. J    Natalie and I gave each other a big congratulatory hug, and then I met Yuri outside the embassy gate.  Max was exhausted at the end of the day, and almost fell asleep in his cheerios before bed!

             Over the next two days, I plan to go check out the WWII museum with Max, and pick up some supplies for the pane on Saturday.  Today is “hump day”, so only two more days and a wake up!   Max and I will be able to go the “citizens” line when we get to JFK, as he will be a citizen as soon as his feet touch U.S. soil.  It will supposedly take an hour to process everything as we get the final stamp from immigration, and then off to catch our connection to Norfolk.   See you on Saturday! So Excited to introduce everyone to Max!


Team Chaos


Sunday, April 26, 2009

pictures of Day 33/34-Memorial Weekend

Here are some pix from the weekend!