Monday, August 25, 2008

Life With Emma

It's been a couple weeks since we've been home now. I'd like to say we have a routine down, but we don't. Getting blog time is hard. In fact, Emma is sitting on my lap as I type!

I know there are many of you out there still following the blog, so I'll keep updating with stories when I get a chance. This week I'm trying to register Emma in school. It's been hard. No one is sympathetic to our situation. Basically it looks like we'll just have to put Emma in grade one. The schools tell us it is quite an issue to get a child into a special program. There needs to be "documentation"...and a lot of it before a school will shell out extra $$$ for special needs kids. There is one school (not in the public system) who is going to do some research for me to see if we can place Emma in one of their special classes. We'll see how it goes. Hopefully we'll know before next week because that's when school starts!!

So, I know everyone out there likes to hear stories about gross here goes...Emma's poop story!....
We suspect Emma may have intestinal parasites (very common among orphanage kids) so our doctor requires 2 stool samples. We were given 2 little vials full of liquid and a screw-on cap with a little scoop attached. Our job...fill the vials with poop using the little scoop and stir it into the liquid. Sounds easy, right? Problem do we get this poop? It is not allowed to touch water or urine.

Day 1.....
Emma wakes up and goes to the toilet and is going pee. I ask her if she needs to poop..she says "da" (yes) So here mom comes with a paper plate wondering how I'm going to get Emma to squat over it and poop. I simply asked her to do it and to my amazement she immediately squats over the plate. I was very elated that everything was going so well, but all she did was squat there for a few minutes..she didn't have to poop. Later that day...same thing happens again. She will happily squat over the plate, but obviously she is not entirely sure what "poop" means. Round 3...Emma is peeing on the toilet and I ask her if she has to poop. She says "nyet" so I leave her alone. Next thing I know, she's calling me to wipe her bum as she's laid a great big one in the toilet!!! Round 4...same thing happens again. I give up on day 1.

Day 2......
I decide to try a new method...saran wrap over the toilet seat. I punch a hole in it for the pee to drain and leave it there to catch anything else that's coming out. Emma finds this very amusing. In fact, every time she goes to the toilet, she brings me the saran wrap and wants me to put it on the toilet for her. Round 1, 2, and 3...only pee. Round 4 and 5 were while we were out shopping and, of course, she pooped both times. That's it for day 2!!!

Day 3...... SUCCESS!! And the best part about it...Terry was home!!! I somehow conned him into scooping the first sample telling him we each have to do one. Well, this poop was so huge, I'm surprised the saran wrap could hold it!!! And here's poppa, scooping little spoonfuls into the vial, gagging the whole time..trying not to lose his lunch. It was hilarious!!
Next poop it was my turn. Luckily it was just little pieces that were very easy to get into the vial. And I have a much stronger stomach than problem! He got off lucky, though, because I was the one who got peed all over this morning as I got Emma to pee in a cup for a urine test!
Emma found all of this collecting pee and poop quite amusing. In fact, as poppa was doing his scooping, she's in the background yelling "STINKY, YUCKY!" and laughing her little head off.
OK! Enough talk about number 1 and number 2. I hope you all had a good laugh over this one!

Surprise Shower at Church

Monday, August 18, 2008

Small Successes

We are happy to say potty training is going alot smoother than planned. In fact, our last accident was in Ukraine the third night we had Emma. Since we've been home, she's either been going on her own or telling me (well-not really telling me, but calling "mama" and doing the peepee dance) That's ok. I'll take that. She even told me when she was in the tub a couple of days ago. I was impressed she didn't let it go in the bathwater. As far as night time goes, we have been getting her up once a night to go pee until a couple of nights ago. We decided to let her sleep through the night just to see what would happen. Two pee! In fact, last night she went to bed at 8 and then slept till 8 this morning and everything was good. I guess one bonus about adopting a six year old is we get to sleep through the night.

Another good thing is a couple of days ago, Emma started referring to herself as "Emma." Before that, she would refer to herself as "Girzheva" (her previous last name) or "oo-ya" (her way of saying Yuliya) Now when she sees a picture of herself she says "Emma Carter." I'm quite happy about that...I was hoping she would have her name figured out before school started!!

Speaking of school....ugh!! I just don't know what to do. I called our school division today, hoping they would give me some guidance. I explained the situation with Emma and how she may need some extra attention and was asking which school in our city would have the best program for her. The response I got was "pick the school nearest to you and throw her in grade 1." Not quite the response I was looking for. Now it's a matter of waiting till next week when the schools are staffed and phoning each one individually to see what they can offer. Not my idea of fun. :(

Friday, August 15, 2008

Home Almost One Week

I must say it again....I LOVE Canada!! It is so great to be home. Things are starting to settle down now that I've caught up on a little bit of sleep. And when I wake up now, I know where I am and am so happy to be here. For those of you who hate doing laundry...go live in Ukraine for 2 months! I was never so happy to see my oversized front end loading machines when I got home!! Washing and drying clothes is a blast now...and every morning being able to dry ourselves off with dry towels that don't stink after a HOT doesn't get any better!! :):)

Emma is settling in just fine. Our biggest problem is still communication. So many times she'll repeat something over and over again to us and we have no idea what she wants. And many times we'll tell her something over and over and she doesn't understand. It makes discipline difficult. Sometimes we can't tell if she's not listening or she just doesn't understand. Oh well, it'll come. At least that's what everyone says. She is starting to repeat things alot better than before. She learned our dogs names very easily. It seems if it's something she likes, she'll learn it or repeat it without hesitation...such as yogurt. The girl is NUTS over yogurt...she wants it all the time! And when she eats it, she licks the container until it's spotless. I always make her say "yogurt please mama" but when she says it, it sounds like "yo-dirt plez mama." She's trying!!!

Grandpa came over the other day with a brand new bike for Emma. It's a shiny red and white 2 wheeler with training wheels. I've never seen Emma as excited as when grandpa opened the back door of his van to reveal her new bike. She squealed with delight and was jumping up and was too cool! When we finally got it out of the van and put a helmet on her, all she could do was sit on it. Terry pushed her around and tried to push her feet to get her to pedal, but nothing seemed to be registering...she just couldn't figure it out. I think she was just so overwhelmed! It's hard to believe that just a couple of weeks ago she lived in an orphanage and had absolutely nothing and now she owns her own shiny new bike!! Hopefully she'll figure out the pedalling and balancing soon so we can go for bike rides together.

I'd like to say everything has been sunshine and roses since we got home, but we have had our fair share of stuggles. There have been a lot of tears and tantrums as Emma tries to push and see just how far she can go with us. We have to choose our battles wisely. You have to remember, we are new to Emma and she is just learning to trust us, so we don't want to scare her away. But at the same time, we have to set boundaries or she will continue misbehaving inappropriately. I'm not saying she's bad all the time, in fact the majority of the time she is happy and we all get along. It's just that when there's a battle, it's usually a big one!!

Grandpa has been over a few times. Emma really enjoys it because he speaks Ukrainian. The two of them just talk up a storm!! And grandpa was nice enough a couple of days ago to let Emma style his hair (picture below) She also styled her own hair along with mine.

Terry went back to work yesterday, so now it's just me and Emma. It seems strange that I don't have to go to work, but all the paperwork I need to get completed will keep me busy for awhile...EI, child tax benifit, social insurance number, apply for citizenship. I also have to figure out where she'll got to school and we need her to see an adoption doctor and the dentist in the worst way. Anyone know of a dentist who sedates patients? I can guarantee you there is no way she'll open her mouth for a dentist!!

New Bike!

Emma Styles Grandpa's Hair

Monday, August 11, 2008

So Glad to be Home!!!

Our flight home was very reminiscent of our entire trip to Ukraine. It did not go well. Our first flight was to Vienna. It was only a two hour flight, but when it came time to land there was a problem. We were descending, descending, descending...and all of a sudden the plane starts climbing again. Me, being the totally cool, calm, non-panicy flyer that I am, immediately began to think the landing gear??? Not too sure what the problem was, but we flew around for a little while and then landed with no problems.

Our connecting flight was to Toronto...9 and a half hours. We were dreading that one. It was SOOOOOO long. Then when we got to Toronto it was storming. Apparently during thunderstorms, planes can not land or take off, so we got to fly in circles over the city for an exta hour until it was safe to land. Ugh! So now we were running behing for our next flight to Edmonton because we still had to get through customs and immigration. So we are running like mad through the airport to catch our next flight. The immigration lady told us all kinds of stuff which I can't recall because we were in such a hurry. Hopefully it's not too important!

We made it to our next flight on time, just to find out it was delayed as the pilots had not yet made it to Toronto because of the thunderstorm. So we waited an hour to board the plane. Finally we got to board. Once all passengers boarded the plane, an announcement came on that the pilots were still delayed. Long story short...we had to sit in the plane another hour and a half until it finally took off. We were supposed to land in Edmonton at 8pm but didn't get home until close to midnight. Let me tell you....I do not want to go on another plane trip for a very long time!!!! does that sound like quite a trip, or what? Add into the mix a 6 year old. I must say, she did very well for the most part, but by the end she was getting irritable. Can't blame was I. On our 10 hour flight we were not booked seats together. In fact, each of our seats was about 10 rows apart. We explained our situation to the flight attendants to see if we could get seats changed so we could all be together. Unfortunately, there was only 1 person on the plane who was willing to change seats, so only 2 of us could sit together. So Terry and I did rotations sitting with Emma.

It was SOOOO great to see our family and friends when we landed in Edmonton. That, on top of the fact that we were in Canada, such a blessed country, was very overwhelming to me. There's so much we take forgranted here. I knew that before we left, but I don't think people truly understand it until they've experienced another part of the world. My first shower at home was the best shower I've had in my entire life!!!!!

Emma was very excited when she got home. Our house had been decorated by our dear family with a ton of helium balloons. Her new bedroom was also set up and decorated and filled with new toys. It was quite an experience for her. We celebrated with chocolate cake and iced tea. Emma didn't get to bed until 3 am.....that's 28 and a half hours since we got up to catch our plane. She only got a couple of hours sleep during the trip home. Terry and I stayed up till 5:30am unpacking. Then I was up at 6:30 with Emma. Needless to say, yesterday was not a good day. With the lack of sleep, Emma was quite a terror. It'll probably take a few days to get sleeping patterns back to normal with the time change. Emma got more sleep last night and did much better today.

I, on the other hand, have not adjusted to the time change at all. I've had very little sleep the past few days and feel like I'm running on fumes. And when I do doze off here and there, when I wake up I can't figure out where I am. It's all very strange. We've been in Ukraine so long, I keep thinking we're there. At one point last night, I rolled over and saw one of our dogs laying on the floor and was completely confused as to why she was in Ukraine. I know...I'm kinda losing it. :) I'm hoping for a better rest tonight so I can get back on track!

One other thing that's funny is our language. We got so used to saying things like "yes, no and thank-you" in russian and we catch ourselves still doing that here. I had to laugh at Terry today as he was talking to one of our dogs and telling him that he was "dobre" (good) I told Terry our dogs don't understand russian. He didn't even realize he had said it!

I've posted some long awaited pictures below. My favorite is actually a shot that was taken by our American friends. It's of Emma eating water melon. Another favorite is the day we picked up Emma from the orphange and I got a shot of her waving good bye to all her friends.

I also wanted to say a HUGE thank you to our family and friends for all of your support over the last two and a half years. We have had so much prayer support as well as many financial donations which helped out so much. Thanks to our family members who took care of things while we were away...getting our mail, paying our bills, getting Emma's room set up. We were overwhelmed by everyone's love and generosity. Also, thanks for all your emails while we were away...they were the highlight of our days. We can not say thank you enough. And thank you in advance to those I know will continue to be a huge support. We love you all so much!!!

Emma Waving Goodbye to the Orphanage


Friday, August 8, 2008

Last Post From Ukraine

This is the last time we will be online before we leave. Don't worry. Many of you have been requesting that we continue the blog when we get home...of course we will. We need to put some pictures of Emma on when we get home.

It's hard to believe we're leaving in the morning. It hasn't quite sunk in yet. We've been here for so long, it feels like we live here. It's the strangest feeling which I don't expect anyone at home would understand, but Terry feels the same way, so I know I'm not going crazy!

God gave us a beautiful final day here in Kiev. The weather was perfect and we got to do some last minute souvinir shopping. Unfortunately, purchases were very small due to the lack of cash flow after living here for so long, but we were able to pick up some keepsakes for Emma when she gets older.

Today we took our last underground train ride, took our last walk for a meal, ate our last authentic ukrainian perogies (which are yummy, by the way) We took our last walk through independence square. There is a big, beautiful church there with many gold domes on top. When the sun hits it just right, it is absolutely beautiful. It is one of the very few things I will miss about this country.

This whole experience is definitely the hardest thing we've ever been through. For me, there have been many tears, but also many happy memories. For any of you out there who ever think adoption is the easy way out, think again. And just a warning, if someone tells me that to my face, I might break your knee caps!!! LOL!!!!:):)

Jen, I have to apologize, I didn't find any crab chips here in Kiev. They seem to only be in Donetsk, and I wasn't about to take another 12 hour train ride to taste them. Maybe next time...not!

Well, nothing left to do for us now except walk back to our apartment, finish watching our movie and go to bed.....and then wake up and leave :):):) We are so excited to see our family and friends at the airport. Just a warning, though. All three of us might be bawling our eyes out!!!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Chillin in Kiev

We made it to Kiev yesterday after a boring 4.5 hour drive. Tough to keep a six year old entertained for that long. We wish she was like a normal kid who would fall asleep in the car!!!! She's just always so excited to see where we're going. I think she's waiting for the grand finale...our house. We keep telling her about the long plane ride. She doesn't know what we're saying until we stick out our arms and make engine sounds...then she smiles.

The first little while at home may be a little tough on Emma. We thought the culture shock here was hard on us....she's only six. Soon, everyone will be speaking a language she does not understand. She'll be living with two old people instead of a building full of kids. Shé'll be learning that not everything is a toy (namely light swictches and remote controls!!) It will probably also take a little while for a new sleeping routine with the time change. We leave here on Saturday at 8 am (which is Friday night 11pm your time) We will be landing in Canada Saturday at 7:59pm your time, which will actually be Sunday at 5am to us...we could be a little whacked out for awhile!!!

Today we go to the Canadian embassy for Emma's visa. Things have changed since we got here...Emma's learning about holding hands. In Oxtnpka, we let her roam free because it was a small town. Kiev is so big and so busy (plus she doesn't watch where she's going...she gawks at everything) we could easily lose her. It was a bit of a battle yesterday. She cried the whole time as we walked holding hands. Today was better, though. She's learning!

Our apartment here is quite disappointing....and expensive. It is extremely dirty. Hot water seems to be intermittent. The furniture is so gross and dirty I have a hard time sitting on it. All of this for $130 US a night....what a deal! Thank God we're only here for a couple of days. Oh...and the internet connection in our apartment. It's a fifteen minute walk to the internet cafe.

Gotta go...Emma's getting restless and is starting to punch all the computer keys!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

So long Oxtnpka!!!

Yes, that is the proper spelling (except the N should be backwards) Now you know why it took me so long to get the pronounciation. I'm afraid we've been in Ukraine so long, I actually am able to read alot of cyrillic. Unreal.

We've been in this town for 24 days and are looking forward to going back to's one step closer to home. The night before last, the ladies who work at the hotel came to our room and brought us some small gifts. It was very thoughtful. They wished our family good luck and all wanted to say good bye. I must say the service at this hotel is above and beyond anything else we've seen in Ukraine. We won't miss the town, but we will miss the new friends we made here. We did exchange email addresses, so we'll be able to keep in touch. I was just about to post a picture we got with the hotel staff, but at the last minute I realized Emma was in it....sorry about your luck!

Things with Emma are still going well. I brought Children's gravol for the airplane ride, so hopefully all will be good. If not, I have gravol for myself as well :)

Potty training is getting better. No accidents for about five days. We take her every couple of hours. We also have to wake her up and take her a couple of times in the middle of the night so she doesn't wet the bed. There has been a time or two when she has actually gone to the washroom on her own, so we're happy about that. We're heading in the right direction anyway.

We also spend a few minutes a day going over numbers, colours and alphabet. Right now we're just at the repeating stage. She can't take much, but hopefully spending time each day will help her to learn.

Our taxi to Kiev leaves in a couple of hours. Time to go eat before we leave. Not too sure what our internet situation will be when we get there. If you don't hear from us in the next few days, we'll see you all when we get home!!!!!:):):)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Safety First

I can predict what will probably be the biggest battle with Emma when we get on the airplane on Saturday and when we get home.....seatbelts. Cars in Ukraine have seatbelts, but you can't usually find them. They're usually tucked behind the seats. Every time we go in a cab with Emma, she is either sitting on one of our laps or laying across us. She'll have it no other way. And how do you explain to a six year old who doesn't speak English that she has to put a seatbelt on for her own safety and it's the law? Please pray!

Safety standards in this country sometimes make my jaw hit the floor. It's not even close to Canada. I guess it's because no one can afford to hire a lawyer to sue. There are huge holes in the sidewalks everywhere. Big, sharp pieces of metal coming out of the ground. And remember how I told you most people in this town ride scooters? We've seen three people squeeze on a scooter. If someone has a child, they just place them between their legs while they're riding. It's unreal. And, yes, of course, they are also on the highway. And helmets? I don't think they even know what they are in this country. I've held my breath many times on the highway on the way to the orphanage while our great big van passed these tiny little scooters with maybe a couple of feet between us and going 100km and hour. It's scary.

Oh, and car seats....what are those? The other day a car drove by and there was about a two year old standing on the back seat looking out the window. I guess to the Ukrainians, this is all normal to them. There have just been so many things in this country that are SO completely different from home....including banks.

For all of you at ATB, I've been meaning to write about the banks here for quite some time, just haven't had the chance. I know I had a conversation with Bissel before I left regarding whether or not we were going to use a bank to hold our money...the answer is no.

We've been in a couple of banks to try and exchange some money. And being a banker, I was curious to see exactly what goes on in the banks here. Well, the answer is NOTHING. The couple of banks we went in to were like ghost towns. Not a single customer. I asked our translator about this, and she told me that no one here uses banks. Why? Either they have no money and also, they don't trust them. Something happened many years ago (and I'm sorry I don't know exact facts) where the leader of the country changed and when this happened, everyone who had money in the bank lost it. It all just disappeared. This actually happened to our translator's mom and dad. People lost everything and were devestated. Since then there has been no trust. Same with insurance companies. We asked about insurance here and our translator told us no one pays for it because they don't trust the companies.

Here's some interesting facts on the economy of Ukraine. Inflation over the last couple of years has been 50%!!!! Crazy!!! Interest rates right now for a loan are between 15-20%. I imagine because inflation is so high. But here is the backwards part. Economists here advise citizens that when they make money, the MUST spend it immediately. They say that if they don't spend it right away, inflation will just keep rising and eventually they will not be able to afford anything. And the crazier thing is, that's the advice people in this country live by. Even our translator, who I think makes a decent amount of money compared to the citizens of Ukraine (average income per person is $200/month) lives by this method. We asked her about saving for retirement...she told us the kids take care of the parents. Pretty hard to wrap my brain around all this after just taking the IFIC course!! :):)

That's all for now. Like I've said, we've seen so many unbelievable things since we've been here. So many times, I've wanted to take a picture, but I really don't want to offend anyone here. I was able to sneak a picture a couple of days ago. I've posted it below. You will see a woman with a stick in her hand. At the bottom of the stick is a blade. She waves this stick back and forth to cut the grass. And she's not doing a yard....she's doing an entire field!!!!!

Mowing the Grass

Saturday, August 2, 2008

More Stories From Ukraine.....

Let me tell you about my shower troubles a couple days ago.....It all starts with the electricity here. It goes out quite often. No rhyme or reason...just goes out, usually at the worst time. The hot water we get in our shower is not from a hot water is heated with an electric heater. So no power means no hot water. The other morning I was enjoying my hot shower (actually lukewarm-but I'll take that) when the power went out. Of course, I had a full sudsy head of shampoo and freezing cold water. I debated whether or not to ride it out to see if the power would come back on, but decided to continue in the freezing cold. Good thing, because the power was out for an hour.

Later that day, our toilet started having trouble flushing. By that evening, we had sewage coming up the shower drain and filling the shower. Talk about disgusting! We had to leave it like that overnight until somebody came to fix it. Yuck!! :(

Today was an interesting day. We are getting quite popular in this little town. Everywhere we go, we stick out like a sore thumb and people are getting used to seeing us. Most are quite friendly and will wave and say hi. Today we ran into a gentleman we met a little while ago. He insisted we come to his coffeeshop and have a free coffee. Even though we were in a hurry to get to the market and get home for Emma's nap, we just couldn't say no. He was so nice. Then he took us to the market and tried to get us a deal on our purchases. Not that it's necessary. All we needed was cucumbers. We got three big cucumbers for 1 hryvna (about 20 cents!) and then we were on our way.

The gentleman walked with us back towards our hotel, which happened to pass by his apartment. He insisted we come in and meet his family. So we did. He has been married for 10 years, like us. He and his wife have 2 daughters, 8 and 3. They were beautiful. His 8 year old daughter sings competitively all over Ukraine, so she sang us a song with a little dance routine. It was so precious! She was so good, she almost had me in tears. We also used his laptop to look up our house on google earth because he wanted to see where we lived. We had a very nice visit with them and they told us we are welcome anytime. I just couldn't believe the kindness of these strangers. It totally made our day!!

Emma is doing well. Everyday gets a little better. I'm quite surprised at the progress we're making already. I'm definitely not as scared as I used to be. I think I'm starting to enjoy mommyhood. In fact, I'm slowly climbing up my way up the totem pole with Emma. I'm still no papa, but I think I could be a close second! :)

This morning we played some music on our laptop. Emma LOVES music. She loved to dance and she always tries to sing along with the songs. We have one song that has the lyrics "hallelujah" over and over, so she learned that one right away! She wanted us to play it over and over because she knows the words. Only thing is, it sounds like she's saying Hallelu-yum! Too cute! :):)

Many of you have been dying to see a picture of Emma, so I have posted one below along with some other shots taken in town.

Enjoy....until next time!

Papa and Emma....LOL!!!!!

Emma's Homecoming (Our Hotel)

At the Town Market