Monday, August 13, 2007


Saturday, August 4, 2007

Everyone was dressed, packed and ready to go when Vasilly & Yelena arrived to take us to the van.

My back was hurting again, slowly increasing pain, but I took a couple of pain pills. I’d wait for an injection before getting on the plane.

Yelena was telling us how much her five year old nephew loved the ice hockey game we gave to her (we couldn’t bring it back on the plane).

I couldn’t listen to her finish the story; the pain was over the tolerable threshold. I turned and asked Pippa if she had the injectable medication in her bag. No, she had left it in the apartment, thinking that I seemed to feeling better so she didn’t bother to bring it since she wouldn’t have been able to get it through airport security.

I felt like screaming at her and at the pain. I didn’t do either. It was a reasonable mistake. However there is no way I would get on the plane in this condition; they wouldn’t even let me, if I tried. But I had to have this injection. Or go to a Ukrainian emergency room again. Then I’d have to let Pippa and the children go on home. But how would I talk to the EMT guys or the doctor? How long would I have to remain in Ukraine? Would they operate on me this time? All these questions and a dozen more were racing through my head.

Very carefully and slowly, I told Yelena the situation about the injectable medicine. Since we were now only fifteen minutes from Boryspil airport, I told Yelena to drop us off at baggage check, and then for she and Vasilly to rush back to the apartment and get the medication and rush back. There just might be enough time.

We waited for them to come back. It was really going to be close. I was in too much escalating pain to sit down and I walked in circles.

I waited near the baggage check area and Yelena and Vasilly showed up. Vasilly insisted on giving me in Russian––long and carefully constructed goodbyes, good wishes for the future, and expressions of love, all punctuated with Russian bear hugs, that hurt like Hell, as Yelena translated in English.

Finally, I rushed upstairs, threw the bag of medication to Pippa and to hurry and let’s do it. We all went downstairs to find a private room or toilet and Olya was tickled pink at the prospect of Pippa in the men’s room sticking a needle in my bare ass. But that’s what happened, except we used the wheelchair toilet room.

With five minutes of the shot, I could talk again, and the pain was quickly ebbing.

We rushed to the Ukrainian immigration booth, we were too very close to boarding time. But I used my friendliest manner to the Ukrainian immigration officer, who ignored me and barked, “Ze adoption document, pleazz!”

We thought we had everything. We had passports and the sealed package to go to US immigration. We had not expected this. What was he talking about?

Pippa panicked. So, did I. Andry came out of his sleepy daze and looked nervous. Pippa blitzed through the folder she had of extra copies of all the legal stuff we’d collected. By a sheer miracle, she had put this folder in the computer bag carry–on, instead of checking in baggage. The officer looked and looked as our hearts sank and sank. Finally, without looking at us, he pulled out one sheath of papers, handed it to Pippa and barked again, “Ze original, pleazz!” Pippa found a copy that had been stamped, handed it to the officer, again without looking at us, he stamped this paper and whirling around for us to follow him. Oh God, where was he taking us?

Actually, only about twenty yards. He turned over to another officer sitting by a big machine, who took the paper work, scanned it and us, and waved us on to the departure gates.

Olya and I sat in the ‘fancy section”, business class and Andry and Pippa went on to the back. All this was negotiated earlier. Andry had said all the seats were the same as he was on the plane. Olya was adamant about sitting with me up front. She’s had a taste of the good life in business class previously and has no wish to be with the peons in steerage.

I had a wonderful flight with Olya. Happy, bubbling, she operated my TV screen and synchronized her screen with mine as we watched the funny figure skating movie with Will Ferrell. She was shrieking with laughter and I loved being with her. Twice, she carefully put a blanket around me when I showed signs of being sleepy. It was probably the most pleasant flight I’ve ever had in my life. Being zonked out on pain medication may have added to the pleasure.

There were four families with their adopted Ukrainian on the same flight with us, and we greeted one another as only those who have shared the same tortuous experience can do. They smiled and chatted as they passed down the aisle.

When we landed in New York, Pippa told me the flight with Andry went also very well. Talkative and cheerful, Andry was a happy camper the whole trip across the ocean.

Pippa talking now: With so much uninterrupted time together I learned a lot about Andry. Unlike most children when they travel he was awake 90% of the trip. He asked me some questions that are tough to answer especially when we don’t speak the same language fluently.

One thing he wanted to know was why we had adopted him. There are several truthful answers to this question. I wasn’t sure which he had the vocabulary to understand. I also wasn’t sure which he needed to hear at this moment. I was realizing there was a lot going on with him and he was ready to talk about how he was feeling.

Stumbling through my answer I told him that when we found out that Olya had a brother still in Ukraine we started looking for him. When we found him and visited him in Spain, where he spent summer vacations with his Spanish foster family, we fell in love with him. We thought he was nice, smart and special. When we learned that he wanted to be adopted we started the procedure as soon as we got back to the United States. We wanted him to be our son and come to live with his sister.

Andry then told me that he didn’t believe I loved him until I cried. He was referring to the incident the day before when exhausted from his reocuuring sullen behavior, when I was trying so hard to make him feel loved and happy, I had broken down and cried. I didn't hold back my tears because he needed to see how badly he was hurting me.

He also asked how I could be his mother and love him since I hadn’t known him since he was little. Another good, tough question. I hope my answer satisfied him.

We stayed busy together the rest of the flight. We played the complicated card game he had taught me a couple of weeks ago. I got good enough to beat him almost half the time. Prior to this my only wins were when he let me. I also drew floor plans of our house showing him where all the rooms are including his. This led to a map of the city with points of interest like the beach, park, pool, Miami Ad School and his school. Then came a list of all of our family members and our friends. He talked about his childhood, school and friends and his worries about his new school and new friends in Miami.

The in-flight movie came on when we had run out of things to talk about. Toward the end of the flight he tucked my blanket in around my shoulders and fell asleep with his head in my lap. He seemed physically and emotionally comfortable.


Thursday, August 2, 2007

Morning came and so did Pippa, bless her soul, with a cup of hot coffee. Ahhh. She also had a bowl of muesli for me. Olya came in to see me about five minutes, shocked to see that I had eaten the cereal, to tell me the milk was sour.

Well, I got up and took a shower, aching back and all.

Everybody this morning was in a good mood and even “Slowlya”, as we were beginning to call our daughter, because it takes her so long to get dressed and ready to go.

Vasilly and Yelena were waiting downstairs and we drove quickly to the American Embassy for our 10:30 appointment.

Getting into the American Embassy is as tough, well as tough as getting into an American Embassy. No bags, cell phones, purses, containers, food, computers or whatever you would like to bring for a four of five hour wait with two children.

We pass a giant line of Ukrainian people who look as if they have been in line since dawn. As an adopting American family we don’t have to wait.

Once we get pass security we go though a series of the heaviest doors on earth. I think we will be very safe inside this building.

We follow the yellow brick road and sit in a line of chairs in the corridor with four other American couples hoping to get their visa for their adopted children. One couple had three children in tow; a boy about eight, one girl seven and another five. A second couple had a little five year old who looked terrified, while another woman had a pretty twelve-year old girl. Another couple had a little girl who kept bouncing here and there as if she did this every day. Andry sat quietly not talking or interested in any of the workbooks, paper or colored pencils Pippa had brought for the kids.

In talking to the other families and embassy staff we found out that the current, average stay for adopting families is four to five weeks. Our seven-week stay seems even longer now.

It’s a long, long wait at the embassy but we weren’t in a hurry. We were missing one document, the official medical record that wouldn’t be ready until 12:00. Vasilly and Yelena were going to pick it up and rush it over. So, the delay for the medical didn’t delay us more than an hour. The very nice American man behind the counter, said no problem, the visa will be ready for us at 3:30.

We left the embassy and headed for T.G.I. Fridays, a restaurant chain we never go to in the USA, but today it seemed appropriate. When we got there we saw two of the adopting Americans we had met at the embassy.

Andry and Olya were in great spirits and having a wonderful time together. Andry must be relieved that the very long and nerve-racking document scavenger hunt is over. We are all so happy that we can finally go home together as a family. Lunch zoomed by and we zoomed over to the internet café. I’d stay there with the kids while Vasilly took Pippa to pick up the visa and do a last grocery run.

The kids were having a ball together playing “Counterstrike”. They were glowing as they came up to the lobby where I was having a kafe s molokom. That was really nice to see.

The good mood continued all evening back at the apartment. Olya and Andry played on the computers all night. I showed Andy how to design books in iPhoto and gave Olya a few pointers as well. Pippa stayed beside them writing notes to herself.

I couldn’t sleep. I lay just waiting for the next round of pain as the stone comes down lower to the final part of its journey. I’m still waiting, still awake. The clock is ticking. Tomorrow will be here before you know it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Thursday, August 2, 2007

Getting Andry’s passport had its panic moment. Someone didn’t pay the 15 hrivana fee (about three dollars). We waited and waited, then had to rush to a particular bank, pay the 15 hrivana, and rush back to the passport office.

With the passport in hand, we rushed to a medical center to get a medical exam, the last remaining piece we needed to request a visa for Andry. We remembered the medical center from four years ago when we went there to get Olya’s medical for her adoption. That time the lights went out and we waited in pitch black for two hours.

This time we had lights. But the experience for Andry was terribly upsetting. While Pippa stood behind a screen so Andry would have privacy, his doctor, who was a woman, examined him very “thoroughly”. Next he had to get vaccinated and have tests for TB and HIV. At least the medical was over. We were told we could have his medical report back at noon the next day.

It wasn’t a time for celebration yet. We had a new problem. Our appointment at the American Embassy to get Andry’s visa was at 10:00 in the morning and they finished visas for adoptions at 12:00. We needed the medical report in order to get the visa.

Yelena also told us that the embassy often does background checks on teenage boys to make sure they don’t have a criminal record. If the embassy did the background check or made us wait a day because the medical record arrived in the afternoon instead of the morning we wouldn’t get the visa in time for our flight. The next available flight wasn’t until Tuesday.

We hatched a plan. Pippa, the kids and I would go to the embassy while Yelena and Vasilly went to get our medical reports. As soon as they got Andry’s medical clearance they would race it over to the embassy. Since the embassy only processed visas until noon we knew it would be a close. We also knew we would have to do some begging.

It was now close to 5pm. I hadn’t had lunch. Pippa and Olya got a plate from the medical center cafeteria. Andry had been too embarrassed to eat. I missed it because I needed to get some medical records from Andry’s school records, we’d left at the apartment. Actually, I had only coffee for breakfast. When I got up, I had some unusual pains in my back and I felt a little nausea, so I settled for coffee.

So, I convinced the gang to go to CCCP (SSSR) the Soviet-era nostalgia restaurant I liked so much that was close to the apartment. A good meal was the way to wind down and talk about what we’d gotten accomplished so far. The passport was critical to leaving Ukraine with our new son, and it was in our pocket.

We ordered a really big meal, complete with a very fine Georgian wine. Andry’s mood had brightened and everything was going well. I had a great feeling of relief. However, I began to have another feeling begin to come over me as well. And it was a sharp pain in the small of my back.

(Since the pages and pages I had written describing the pain in vivid detail were pretty boring and only of interest to me, or the relative few people who have had an attack of kidney stones, I deleted them.)

Pippa called every private clinic in Kiev trying to find one that was still open. The private clinics have western-style medical care and the doctors usually speak English. Since it was after 6:30 all the private clinics were closed. Pippa called an ambulance; she had no choice. Even in my misery, that idea seemed miserable, but I was in no position to argue. I thought I might be dying.

An eternity of pain later, an ambulance showed up. Pippa described it to me the following day as looking like a toaster and being about as medically equipped as a toaster. The temperature inside was certainly toast-like.

The next few minutes are a jumble for me. I was pulled or pushed inside. Everyone was shouting in Russian. Yelena was inside with me; Pippa was fighting to get in, being pushed back by the male ambulance nurse. I was literally screaming in agony, begging somebody to help. Pippa got in. We sped off. I said I was going to vomit. A blue bucket was shoved over to me. Pippa said the male and female nurse were mixing liquids from several vials. A needle was stuck in my arm. We raced on and I soon began to feel the pain dull just a little. Even a little was a lot. I felt the ambulance hit a hundred potholes and someone said we’re at the hospital. I remember a blur of flowers just as I entered the Twilight Zone.

We walked into the hospital and entered a movie stage for a horror flick set in the 1940’s in Soviet Russia.

There were pale green tiles on the floor with a percentage of them missing. The hospital was massive with very few lights and almost empty of humans. I was led into room with a nurse and a doctor; the doctor was about fourteen years old, with a doctor’s white coat and torn jeans.

He examined me by thudding my back until his fist found the right spot. I was careful to let him know he had been successful in his search, by rewarding him with my imitation of a dying bull. He declared I was having an attack of kidney stones. He would do some tests but that was his diagnosis.

I was sent into the bathroom for a urine specimen. The bathroom was rank. The toilet had no seat and no cover. To flush it you had to reach into the water and pull out the drain by hand. There was no paper.

When I came back into the room, I was told they needed to take blood. I rolled up my sleeve but the nurse grabbed my finger and pinched with a needle that hurt like hell despite the pain medication in my body. She then milked my finger as someone would do a cow’s teat, getting all the blood she needed.

Next I was taken, with Pippa and Yelena, down the long empty dark corridor to a tiny office. There was the smallest table, with a pale green formica-type top and a 1950’s-style telephone, with two wooden chairs on either end of the tiny table. We all crowded into the room. Posters of floral arrangements were pinned to the wall. The nurse pushed a button on the wall, doors shut and we descended to another level. It was an elevator! It felt like we were going to open into another universe, perhaps inhabited by a race of body-snatchers.

The doors opened again and we were led into an even darker corridor. We walked down the corridor for a long time in the half-light, passing two square women who could have been janitors or patients. If they were janitors, they haven’t been doing any work in this place, I tell you.

We rounded a corner and I was shown into a large dark room with a splendid x-ray machine that was new in about 1948. A big woman in white pushed me onto the table and I was instructed to pull down my pants. Big nurse made the most cursory adjustment of my position, left the room, I heard the vibration of the machine and then silence.

I lay there for quite a while with my pants down to my knees. This place was not air-conditioned but I was freezing. Earlier when I was having the shakes, I’d asked for a blanket and was told they didn’t have any. Yelena finally came into the room and said for us to go back downstairs to the doctor.

There was a second doctor in the dimly lit office. He was dressed the same and was maybe twenty years old, distinctive with his curly hair, looking at lot like my 24 year old son.

Curly-haired doctor said that I was having an attack of kidney stones and that the thing to do was to break them up with their ultrasound machine. But unfortunately their ultrasound machine didn’t work so they would have to operate on me instead. He seemed pleased at the prospect, ready to roll up his sleeves and go to work right away.

As stoned as I was, I could not for the life of me, see any merit in that choice. There was also a question about insurance. My insurance was no good in Ukraine. Don’t worry I was told, all the tests were free, but I would need to pay the doctor.

We convinced the doctor to skip the surgery he was planning for me and instead, to load me up on pain medication until I could get the USA. He seemed dismayed at not having a chance to cut into me, but he acquiesced, and agreed to the pain medication.

He gave us a prescription for an injectable pain medication that we could pick up in any pharmacy, and other prescriptions for pain capsules. He instructed Pippa to give me an injection before we get onto the plane if I was still in pain on Saturday.

While this hospital, Octyabirskaya Bolnitsa (October Hospital, in honor of the Soviet October Revolution) had been a nightmare, the doctors and nurses had been extraordinarily friendly. Perhaps they were just happy to have a patient at last.

Still in considerable pain, but able to walk, I followed Pippa and Yelena back to the car where the children had been waiting with Vasilly, our steadfast driver. The children had been perfect throughout all of this except that Olya had made ‘butterflies” that kept Andry in stitches. “Butterflies”, we found out later, is Vasilly’s word for farts.

I had a very bad night. Pippa microwaved a wet towel wrapped in plastic that she placed against my kidney, hoping the heat would help assuage the pain. I rolled from side to side for hours. Eventually, the pain subsided and I fell asleep, wondering what the morning would bring.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

There was no hurry to rush out of the apartment; Yelana did not need us at the passport office. Pippa worked on her computer, the children slept very late (Olya doesn’t go to bed until long after midnight; Andry watches the TV in his bedroom until after one).

When Olya got up and had finished eating her “ducks”, her favorite Ukrainian cereal, I asked if she would like to take a walk with me. She said in her usual cheerful, “Sure”.

The three of us, me, Olya and “little Pippa”, one of her five American Girl dolls, this one named after her mother, sauntered out and took the fifteen minute walk to the mini market next to McDonald’s. “Little Pippa” pushed the elevator buzzer on the way down.

Walking with Olya is always a joy. We chat about nothing and everything. She tells funny stories and tells them in a funny way. There are still gaps in her English and some words are used in, shall we say, an interesting way. She bounces along instead of walking.

We couldn’t find what we wanted in the mini market so we went next door to McDonalds. Olya doesn’t like the food there, neither does Pippa nor do I. But Andry does, so we ordered him a couple of big Mac’s. A lot of confusion. English is not understood, neither is finger-pointing at the big pictures on the wall. I took whatever they wanted to give me and paid probably thirty dollars for three cheeseburgers and two orders of fries. Whatever.

Olya and I ate a couple of the tiny tubs of fries on the way back. I must admit they taste good even if they do take a year off my life.

Andry, who had just gotten up (1pm or so) was happy with the cheeseburger.

Pippa heard from Yelena. No news. Bad news. It seemed doubtful we’d make our deadline. I began immediately to try to think of alternatives. Since there are no seats to be had on any flights after Saturday, we could be in Kiev for a lot longer. I needed to think of anything to keep us from staying in Kiev for another week.

How could we deal with Andry and his roller coaster moods here? We must change the environment and get him to Miami where he can start his new life instead of this holding pattern. The reality of dealing with the uncertainty of this environment, calls from Maria and Nikolai, seemed now unbearable to me. I feel like an animal caught in a trap ready to gnaw my paw off to get out. I’m sure Pippa and the kids feel the same.

And then, as if a thunderbolt hit me, an overwhelming depression came onto me; it was not gradual, as often these kinds of things begin. But sudden, immediate, and very strong.

I can’t remember much about the rest of the day. Andry made me a bead bracelet; I worked on the computer. But, my brain was fried. I went to bed.

Pippa interrupting now: While Ron and Olya went for a walk I stayed at the apartment to let Andry sleep longer. I’ve read teenagers need more sleep than adults or even children. During stressful times the body also requires more sleep. With all the anxiety this never-ending-adoption is causing all of us, I expected Andry to sleep like Rumpelstiltskin.

At about 1:00 Andry woke up. As he walked out of his bedroom I gave him a cheerful, “Good morning.” In return he gave me the kind of glare you give a suspicious looking stranger and he walked to the bathroom. When he came out I patted the sofa next to me and asked him to come sit with me. He ignored me and walked to his room and closed the door.

As much as my feelings were hurt, I also knew that for him to be snarling at me, he also had to be in pain, though I had no idea why. I went to his room and firmly asked him again to come sit next to me on the sofa. I explained that when I ask him to do something he must do what I ask. At heart he is not a defiant boy. He willingly joined me on the sofa.

Andry was able to explain that he was upset because I had not waked him up this morning. I just can’t win! If I wake him up he wants to sleep late. If I let him sleep he wants me to wake him. I understood that it was more than not being waked up; he felt left out.

I was actually glad for this issue that thankfully had a quick resolution. It gave me the chance to reinforce again that Ron and I will only do good things for him; that we want him to be happy. I explained that I was being nice to him when I let him sleep late. He immediately relaxed.

I was impressed with how Andry had opened up and explained what was bothering him and how quickly his anger toward me disappeared. The misunderstanding had hopefully allowed us to learn how to work together through a problem.

I wanted to extend this synergy and do something fun together. I remembered the beads my mother had left so the children could make jewelry. Andry strung beads on a leather thong making a bracelet for himself. Then he made a more feminine version for me. Ron and Olya came home and he made bracelets for both of them; a very masculine one for Ron and danty bracelet for Olya. I know if a psychologist had been watching she would have scribbled in her notebook that our family was making progress.

Back to Ron: I didn’t watch TV. I’ve read every book we brought and I was unsuccessful in finding books in English in Kiev. Actually, I’ve read the books I bought from home––back to front as well, as I sometimes do.

I didn’t want to read. I’d had it. I just lay there.

I was like the marathon runner who gets within sight of the tape, but collapses, unable to make the last fifty yards.

I’d felt this coming on a week or so ago. But shook it off. I had been, I think, at the edge of the emotional cliff, but Pippa unknowingly pulled me back.

I recalled the moment. I was in the bedroom and she came in and gave me a simple hug that lasted several minutes. But it was a courage transfusion to me.

For all this time in Ukraine, what was supposed to be four weeks has turned into seven, we’ve been focused on the children with little energy left over for each other. If we had a moment without the children, it was purely accidental, as two land-tortoises might bump one another, if their pen was small enough or the fog thick enough.

However, this day was different. I was drained of any stamina. I knew I would go through the motions and do whatever needed to be done. But my heart wasn’t in it. Which one of the characters in the Wizard of Oz movie was looking for a heart? I can’t remember, but whoever it was, is ME.

Sometime later, Pippa came in and told me, “We can get Andry’s passport at noon tomorrow! Whoopee! (Pippa does really say, “whoopee).

That got me on my feet. I took a shower. I don’t recall what I or anyone else did for a few hours after that.

Yelena and Vasilly showed up. We made plans for the next day.

Yelena said Maria called and asked to see the children one last time.

We had Yelena ask Andry if he wanted to see them. He said emphatically, “No.”

We told Yelena to tell Maria that Andry did not want to see Nikolai again.

They dropped us off at Yakatoriya. It has become the children’s favorite restaurant. Olya still wants borsch everywhere we go, but she seems to have tired of vereneky with cherries. She loves the chicken wings at Yakatoriya

We walked home, about a twenty-minute pleasant walk using the short cuts we’ve discovered.

I didn’t stay up long. I watched a disturbing Hallmark, fell asleep.

Hopefully tomorrow is a big day – passport day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Andry got up early without incident.
I made the kids German pancakes and Vassily was picking us up shortly after nine am.

(Pippa writing: All of us looked at the pictures Erik had emailed us of our life in America. The pictures he sent of family, our dogs, cats and birds, our living room, kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms have been comforting. We try to imagine ourselves in the pictures. While this trip has not been a huge hardship, we aren’t hungry, no freezing weather, no lice infestations or blights, WE WANT TO GO HOME!)

Here is the view our of our apartment window in Kiev.

The playground below.

Yelena didn’t need us to go with her to submit the “legalization”, but asked us to stay close by in case she needed us. We went to the internet café/movie theater.

After we got there Andry didn’t want to play any video games. We knew going there was might to set him off again, since the internet café was the scene of a recent episode. But it needed to be worked out.

He surprised us by asking to see Harry Potter again upstairs at the cinema. Olya was in her typically good mood and would do whatever. So we traipsed upstairs and caught the 10am showing of a movie we had already seen and didn’t understand, in Russian.

(Pippa writing: Funny, a couple of weeks ago Andry stated several times that he would not watch the Harry Potter movie. Now this is the second time he’s wanted to see it. During the movie I sat next to Andry and he laughed the whole time. Wanting me to also enjoy the movie's humor, he smiled and said, "When we see it in Miami you will laugh, too.")

After the movie we went around the corner to a Ukrainian restaurant where we had eaten before. Tasty food and reasonably prompt service and the waitress spoke a little English.

We went back to the cinema and waited outside for Vasilly to pick us and drop us at the apartment. Then he went back to the passport office to get Yelena.

She showed up at our apartment a few hours later with a sad look on her face. As Yelena was meeting with the woman at the passport office the woman got a phone call. Someone in her family had died and she was needed at the morgue to identify the body. Obviously, one more passport-less day.

The woman told Yelena to come back the next morning at 9:00. If we get the passport back in one day, there is still a chance for us to get the medical done and our approval from the American Embassy and we could make our Saturday flight. We’ve been waiting for the appointment for six days getting the passport back in one day is not likely.

The rest of the evening was a blur for me. I cooked a pork roast. Andry, Pippa and I ate dinner, while Olya slept. She hadn’t felt well all day. Andry seemed to like having us to himself for a bit.

After dinner, Pippa stayed on her computer; I think Andry worked on Olya’s computer. I went to bed and watched Hallmark.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings at the passport office.

(Pippa writing: While Olya slept on the sofa I taught Andry a little Photoshop. We sat close giggling as he retouched a photo of Olya so that her ears were huge. He gave her one blue eye and a Dali-style mouth. Then he went to his room to watch Russian Spiderman cartoons, his favorite.

When Olya woke I fed her and we watched a scary movie on Hallmark, much scarier than I thought Hallmark would show. If we were in the States I would have changed the channel but here there is no other choice.)

Monday, July 30, 2007


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Andry became a champion sharp-shooter when he was in Spain on the Chernobyl Children program. His host parents for the summer had discovered he had a talent for shooting target. They had taken him to a series of shooting events, and eventually he won two championships.

We knew target shooting was his thing. So, when we were looking for a special event for Sunday, since we had no adoption procedures until Monday, I (Ron) looked on-line and found a target shooting range about 30 kilometers outside of Kiev.

We timed the short trip so we would reach the shooting range around lunch; they had told Yelena on the phone that they had a restaurant on the premises.

When we pulled in we were very pleasantly surprised. This place was far more than a little target shooting range. The place was enormous.

There were young girls in a riding ring with fine horses; an archery range; a Russian tank to ride on rough ground; a building just for pistol practice; a knife and star-throwing section fit for a ninja; another building to shoot kalisnikov’s and other sub machine guns; and other ranges for other purposes we could only guess at.

There were animals all over the place. Many were in pens, others wandered wherever they liked.

Yet there was something serious about the place. (We discovered later, from one of the employees, that the Mafia used the place for practice; another suggested they owned the place. Another said bandits came here to practice; he didn’t define bandits.

We sat and had a coffee and ordered our lunch and then went to shoot pistols and arrows until lunch was ready. Sadly, we knew this day wasn’t going to work out well. We actually knew it the minute Andry got out of bed and walked into the kitchen. He acted unhappy. He responded to every question or comment the same way, an abrupt monosyllable. When asked what was bothering him he said, “nothing.” In the car he sat in the back seat with Pippa, quiet, not responding to any of Pippa’s attempts to break the spell.

Despite all the fun things this place offered, he remained stoic. He and Pippa went to the pistol range. Olya, Yelena and I went to the archery range.

With my (Pippa) one-on-one attention Andry softened. He said he would only shoot if I did too. This was the first time he made an effort to engage any of us all day. So of course I shot the pistol. If my target had been a real, bad-guy he would have simply limped away. Andry’s first bullet would have stopped his villain cold.

Olya was already skilled with a bow and arrow from her practice at our farm in North Georgia. In a minute or so, she was hitting the target every time, something an older boy before her couldn’t do.

We took a break for lunch and all of us met at the restaurant. Andry was his sullen self and soon Olya was acting the same way. Bad moods are contagious. I (Ron) took Olya out of earshot of everyone and asked her why she was acting like Andry. She didn’t know why. I (Pippa) also talked to Olya about happiness being a choice and not being dependent on someone else for her happiness.

Andry announced he no longer wanted to shoot a pistol; he wanted to shoot with the bow and arrow instead. I knew trouble was coming but we went to the archery range anyway. I was right. Unfortunately.

Andry was first at the archery range. He didn’t want me to tell him how to do anything, so I didn’t. He wanted to start with the long bow instead of the easier to use, cross bow.

His first five arrows weren’t awful, but a couple of arrows missed the target altogether. He walked off discouraged and disgruntled wanting nothing to do with archery. Yelena went after him and put her arm around him; they stayed like that in a deep conversation for a long time. We were glad he had someone he felt he could talk to but wished it was us.

In the meantime, Olya was having a good time. She was right on target nearly every shot. The archery supervisor took a shine to Olya’s performance and kept adding balloons to the target to make it more interesting for her. As she would pop one balloon, he would replace it with two.

Perhaps an hour passed before Yelena and Andry came back over. Olya was ready to stop and the next group in line was waiting for their turn. Yelena announced Andry wanted to shoot the pistols again and the group walked over to the pistol building. It turns out they also could shoot rifles and machine guns there as well. Olya stayed for Andry’s first shots and then went outside because the noise, even with the noise-deafening earphones, was loud. Andry finished shooting with the pistol and then shot a few rounds with the largest rifle I had ever seen. I took a few posed photos after the real shooting was over since the camera flash would have been disturbing.

Andry had great accuracy and we made sure to “ooo” and “aaah” over the paper targets with the holes in the middle. All the praise made him smile.

The afternoon over, Pippa, Yelena and I walked over to pay the bill. It was also the first opportunity we’d had to be alone with Yelena to find out what had transpired in her conversation with Andry.

The essence of their conversation was he is jealous of Olya’s relationship with us. Not that he articulated it that way, but he wants what she already has and what Ron and I are working hard to develop with him, a close, caring relationship.

He is convinced we care more about her, we praise her all the time and spend more time with her. Then he explained to Yelena what had happened most recently to bother him. He said the night before he, Olya and I had all been together watching TV and not talking. He left the room then Olya and I started talking; that we won’t talk when he is around.

What he said is true but he missed some parts. The night before Olya, Andry and I had been watching TV. Olya and Andry were tickling and being goofy. Olya pretended to kiss Andry. Annoyed, Andry marched off to his room. I took this quiet opportunity to practice Olya’s multiplication tables. Our “conversation” he heard from the other room was me saying, “Olya, what is 6X4?”

While it’s hard to deal with, I think the jealousy could be a good sign. He really wants what Olya has, a close relationship with us, his new parents. We have to find more ways to inter-act, bond and be physically affectionate with him. WE’RE TRYING!!

We think hugging is something Andry never had, wants badly, but doesn’t know how to make it happen. He never hugs me (and definitely not Ron) but seems to really like it when I touch him; much different than Olya was when we were in Ukraine adopting her. Whenever possible, I make a point to rub his back, massage is hands, ruffle his hair, pat his knee… He told me as a child he remembers being alone all the time. Maria was “no there.”

After the shooting place, we all piled into the van and drove back to Kiev. Olya fell asleep and Andry and I had a free-flowing conversation. He told me that he does not want to see Maria and Nikolai anymore. (This sure makes life easier for us!) He said that when he was in the orphanage, Maria and Nikolai were all he had, so they were important to him, but now they are not. He said we are now important to him.

Andry went to bed early, shortly after dinner; he usually stays up past midnight so we were concerned about his change in habit. He said he was tired and wanted to be ready to get up early.

We had told him that tomorrow was going to be a busy day doing legal stuff for him. We went though the steps necessary before we can go home on Saturday: having the legalization of all our papers complete which is what we need to give the passport office; taking the passport to get a medical exam; taking everything to the American Embassy Thursday morning because the American Embassy is closed on Friday. Without all this, we can’t get on the plane on Saturday.

He asked for a paper and pencil as he was going into his room. I (Ron) gave him one of the blank journals we’d brought along in case one or both of the kids wanted to make a journal.

I (Pippa) to spend time with him to lessen his isolation, asked if I could read my book in his room with him where it was quiet. He seemed happy for the company. Andry sat by the window writing in the journal while I read on the bed.

As the sun set I went to the window to see it. Andry quickly closed his journal as I approached. I used this opportunity tell him about my own journals and blogs; how writing your thoughts down can be really helpful. I explained that there was no need to close his journal if he was writing in Spanish or Ukrainian because I couldn’t read what he was writing. But even if I could read those languages I still wouldn’t read his journal. His journal was private. He didn’t understand “private” so I explained, “when you take your clothes off and want the door closed.” He got it. I left him alone for a while to write and checked on Olya who was busy ichatting.

Better understanding his need for interaction, I went back in later with the language workbook I had brought for him. Sitting next to him, I showed him the pages I wanted him to complete. He turned down the volume on the TV show he was watching and got to work without a complaint. Together we went over his answers, which were almost all correct. I told him what a good job he had done and how proud I was of him.

The pages finished he asked if wanted to watch TV with him. When I said “yes” he went into the controls and switched the program from Ukrainian to English so I would understand what Pugsley, Wednesday, Morticia and the husband, whose name I can’t remember, were saying. Andry said the Adam’s Family with the mother, father and son and daughter were our family. We laughed.

When the show was over I left to have a “multiplication conversation” with Olya and then, so Andry wouldn’t feel left out, went back to his room to have a “multiplication conversation” with him.

(Ron now.) Pippa reminded me to take him the white chocolate I’d bought for him at the Mega Market. I knocked on his door and walked in. The room was completely dark.

I asked, “Awake?” He answered “yes.”

“Want your chocolate?”

He reached over and took the chocolate from me. “Thanks.”

That’s the first time he’s ever thanked either of us without prompting.

I left Pippa in the living room spelling words for Olya who was ichatting with her grandfather.

“I’m really wiped. Going to bed. See you in a couple of days.”

Before going to bed I (Pippa) went to Andry’s room to tuck him in. I rubbed his back and told him that his Dad and I wished he had always been our son; that I wished I had been able to read him stories, drive him to school, make birthday cakes for him and teach him to swim.

He asked me what “wish” means.

I made another sentence with wish. “I wish we could go to Miami in the morning.”

He said, “I understand.”