Monthly Archives: August 2011

Where Are We?

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A few days after arriving back in the States, my husband woke me up from a short nap (I had asked him to) and for several seconds I stared at the wedding picture on our bedroom wall… my eyes went back and forth between the two large black & white wedding portraits on opposite sides of our bedroom as I tried hard to make sense of it – how had our apartment in Ukraine acquired pictures that looked just like our wedding photos?  And which apartment were we in, anyway?  Were we still in Dnep? Kiev?

Finally my head stopped spinning and I whispered, “Oh, we’re home.”

Jetlag.  It’s a bear.

Especially, might I add, when it’s 8:30pm and you’re playing a never-ending game of Candy Land with two exuberant daughters.

We arrived in Houston Thursday afternoon, after a very turbulent (and prayerful) flight.  Our dear friends picked us up in our own mini-van, and I hardly recognized it.  We drove home in a little under 2 hours, and the girls were playing in the kiddie pool in the back yard.  They were expecting us to come late at night, so we were thrilled to sneak into the backyard and surprise them while they were playing.  They each had a confused look of disbelief on their faces, and gave us tight, soaking-wet hugs!  Oh bliss!!

Re-entry has been wonderful and difficult.  Carson takes longer to get over the traveling, and now he has a fever and wants to nurse all night… I’ve been relishing time with my girls, while at the same time I lay awake at night and go over logistics in my head for the return trip.  I hate the thought of leaving the girls & Jeff in just a few days, but I’m anxious to get this journey done.

I leave again on Friday afternoon.  sigh.  I have to admit I’m a little apprehensive.  A decade ago, I was pretty independent, and heading up an international trip like this would have seemed a lot less daunting.  But I rely so much on Jeff now.  And leaving half my family here – well, I just don’t like it.  But two of my babies are there, so go I will.

The journey continues… will you join us?  Will you pray for us? Please pray for…

*Safe Travels for myself, Carson, & my friend Andrea
*For Carson to get well before we leave (and stay well!)
*For things to go quickly and smoothly finishing up the process

We’re also on a pretty tight budget going back, as we haven’t raised the full amount we projected.  But God is providing! We are continuing to pray for God to lay on hearts to give the right amount at the right time… We’re also hoping we get placed in the less-expensive apartments (like the 1st trip) and in a location where we are able to walk everywhere again, which will help us save money.

Sorry there are no pictures for this post… I’ve got a feverish, whiny boy who just got up from his nap, so I have to run.  Stay tuned!

Pakah, for now!

The News….

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Sorry to keep you all waiting… yesterday was a mad rush and we barely got to eat.

First the news, then the details.

The News
They’re ours!!!  We are the happy Mom & Dad to …

Christopher Anton (Viktor) Hazleton

Lena Joy (Abigail) Hazleton

The names in parenthesis will hopefully be added once we get to the States.  For now, they are Lena Joy and Christopher Anton.  We’ll call him ‘Anton’ or ‘Christopher Anton’ for a while to see if he takes to ‘Christopher’… if not, we’ll just call him Anton.  :)

The Details

Court was scheduled for noon.  We had to have everything packed and ready to swing back by the apartment and grab our bags.  We were ready and even downstairs (outside) waiting around the time Luda said she’d be calling us… several minutes later, when she called, plans had changed and we needed to walk to the orphanage to meet her.

Now, when I say walk to the orphanage, what I mean is cross two busy streets, then trudge through a sandy median, walk down a sandy path amongst the weeds, cross a little street, and then follow the driveway/road to the orphanage gates.  This is what we’ve done every day (and enjoyed it immensely).  But usually I have on my Converse tennies.   Yesterday we were dressed for court.  Jeff & Carson had on button-down shirts and ties.  I was in dress slacks.  Jeff had his Doc Martins and I had strappy sandals.  Not exactly trudging-through-sand attire.

But we did it.  I tried to get as little sand in my sandals (ironic?) as possible, all the while thinking, well, I guess it didn’t really matter that I couldn’t get my flat iron to work, since the wind is whipping my hair about.  

We waited at the orphanage, where our awesome driver Roman picked us up….

Fast-forward through sitting and waiting for the social worker, driving fast through crazy traffic, thinking we were going to be late, then having to stand outside the courthouse and wait another 15 minutes while we tried (in vain) to keep Carson out of the dirt, and then went inside and waited outside the court room another 30 minutes.

At about 12:30 we were whisked into a tiny office where the judge, two witnesses, a court secretary, a social worker, the orphanage psychologist, the prosecutor (!!), our facilitator, and the 3 of us Hazletons were squeezed around a large desk.

The proceedings began.  Luda translated like mad.  (She is awesome.)  The children’s info was stated… when and where they were born, how they were abandoned, and that no one had ever visited them.  I already knew all of this, but I had to fight back the tears as it was read in court.

We were asked lots of questions about our home life, our town, our ability to care for the kids… our income… why we wanted to adopt… why Ukraine…. our concerns about the kids’ HIV status…

It lasted about an hour, and thankfully, my prayers were answered and Carson slept through most of it!!!

Then it was done… we waited out in the hallway for the ‘decision.’  Ten minutes or so passed, and we were called back into the courtroom and asked to stand.  The decision (about a page of formalities) was read and Luda translated.  We were granted our request and as Luda was finishing translating she congratulated us and gave me a huge hug ( I love her!!)

And that was it!  It was so surreal.  I am on cloud nine and I still get teary-eyed thinking about that moment where all our hard work paid off.

We left the courthouse, and I was still processing it all as the mad rush continued… we had to drop off the psychologist, go by the notary, and get to the train station.  Our ‘express’ train was a fun experience.  We conversed with Luda most of the way (again – love her!) and watched a ridiculous Russian sitcom on the overhead televisions.  (We could mostly tell what was going on, and Luda filled in the blanks for us.)

We made it to our swank little apartment in the heart of Kiev about 11:30 last night and I was thrilled to find that we had fast internet, and we thoroughly enjoyed our video chat with our girls back home.

Thank you all SO MUCH for your prayers!

Carson, my friend Andrea, and I will return to Ukraine the first week of September to finish out the process and bring our children home!  :)  {Meanwhile, we are still not fully-funded, so please pray for us about that one.}

Stay tuned!



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As I sit here typing this, Shannon and Carson are laying down for a nap (mine was earlier). She is almost asleep on the couch; he is jabbering and talking to the wind blowing outside the bedroom window. Ahhhh, the wind. So inviting and welcome – the combination of wind and cloudy skies has made August much more fun there in Dnepropetrovs’k than in good ole’ Southeast Texas. Today’s high temperature? (factored for est. heat index) Around 70oF; back home it’s more like 109o. yeesh.

(UPDATE: at the time of posting this entry to the www, the current temperature is 66. niiiice.)

The only environmental downside for me is that my body seems to be rejecting this pleasant, welcoming Ukrainian city. In the last two days, I’ve been (on occasion) sneezy and sniffly, with itches in my eyes and the back edge of my palate. I’m not sure what’s going on here. Shannon tells me what I’m experiencing is something called “allergies”; I have heard mention of this, but to this point, have not been able to experience it. I would like to return or exchange it for something else, please.

“Hey buddy, can you spare a brother some nettle?”

Fortunately, we have something I can take for it that will counteract all this loveliness in no time; I’m also eating local honey like crazy, though I admit that I would do that anyway.

In other news, we have just three more visits with Anton and Lena before our court date when the judge will award the kids to us and make us legally parents of five! Please join us in praying for a great outcome. Who knows? We may even get to bring the kids home on this first trip if the Lord so ordains another miracle. Otherwise, it’s back home for about a week, and then Shannon and Carson will make another journey back here to set the prisoners free and bring the solitary into our family!

I Forgot to Mention…

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We got our court date!  We’ll stand before the judge on Tuesday, at noon (that’s 4am for all you folks back home on Texas-time).  I have a complete peace about our court hearing… our facilitator said that although the judge is inexperienced with international adoptions (she’s only done ONE), that she is very nice.  She even moved our court time from 2pm to noon so that we would have plenty of time to catch the afternoon express train back to Kiev on Tuesday.

Oh, and I am so excited and blessed to be a guest writer on one of my favorite blogs I’ve been reading for years: Passionate Homemaking.  I love Lindsay Edmonds’ heart and her blog is full of encouragement and practical resources… check out my post here.

One more thing – thought I’d leave you with this VIDEO of the kids playing… enjoy!

It’s the Little Things

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A few months ago, I had a startling realization while standing in my kitchen getting dinner ready.  I don’t know where it came from, but I suddenly thought that Anton and Lena might be of the age where they had already lost their first tooth.  It made me incredibly sad that after missing so many “firsts” in their lives, that I would have missed this one too.  I instantly began hoping that they would not lose their first tooth until they were with Mommy…

Imagine my utter amazement yesterday when I was walking Lena back from the bathroom at the orphanage and heard her gasp… and then looked down to see her holding her tooth in her hand.  She was just as surprised as I was!  She didn’t quite know what to think at first, so we walked her in to the head doctor on campus, who reassured her, and then we saved her tooth for her and took lots of pictures to commemorate the occasion.  All the while I was thanking God for His kindness in allowing me to be there for it… We almost didn’t go to our afternoon visit yesterday, but I am so, so glad we did!  I was finally there for a “first”!  It’s the little things!

She stopped admiring her new grin long enough for Papa to take a picture.

Gaping Hole
We also have been having better visits with the kids since we moved our normal meeting place from the big playground to this little cubby area with a picnic table.  There doesn’t ever seem to be any groupas meeting here, so we’ve commandeered it for Team Hazleton Headquarters.  So we’ve been able to sit and draw pictures together, enjoy snacks, and play in a more focused environment.   It’s the little things.

Anton is so serious when he’s working on a project
The local mall here is AMAZING.  I’ve never been any place like it.  It literally has everything we could possibly need including a huge supermarket, McDonalds, a fantastic pizza joint, an ice-skating rink, a very cool fountain that Carson loves to watch….. and a great toy store!  We bought the kids some washable markers (after making the mistake of purchasing markers that were definitely NOT washable) and a little package of rulers & protractors.  I couldn’t have imagined the fun that the kids would have with these.  It’s the little things.

Lena love for her Daddy to show her how to do new things

What We’ve Been up To

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This is how our visits have been going…

I think Anton has picked up Jeff’s default silly-face

We’ve been playing outside a lot with the kids… the first few visits, this really helped break the ice with us, as there was lots of physical things to do…. running, see saw, monkey bars… but after a few visits, this was not only completely exhausting, but also hindering us in a few ways…

The kids are pretty much free to roam about as they please, so they move rapidly from one thing to another… it’s been difficult to get them to sit down and draw with us, or look at pictures… they have just wanted to run, be chased, be carried around, and to dig in our bag for any treats or toys.  Basically, a free-for-all.  Also, since they have no sense of parental authority or protection with us, it’s not even within their nature to stay close to us if something else has distracted them, and they are slow to come when we call.  Actually, Anton is better at staying with us, and coming when Papa calls (he’s pretty attached to Papa), but Lena is a wild bird and happy to stay with me, or happy to run off – and ignores our calls.
So having our visits outdoors has made it difficult to establish any boundaries.  However, the nannies want the kids outside for “fresh air” so we’ve really been hoping for rain.

Just Hangin Out
Then we got it!  Today it was finally sprinkling pretty good on our walk to the orphanage, and the kids were not outside with their groupa when we arrived.  So we ended up spending our short morning visit indoors – success!
Things were much more calm and focused.  Lena actually finished coloring an entire picture, and Anton sat with me and drew a picture with me, pointing and talking about what we were drawing.  Lena loved sitting on Jeff’s lap looking at his drawing, and looking through our picture book, and Anton was interested in the pictures as well.
We still have a long way to go, and lots to learn and overcome, but all-in-all, this morning’s visit was the best one yet.

Looking at Pictures from their New Home
(Look closely, Jess)

It’s pretty rough out there. Fortunately, Danger is my middle name.

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I think we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping everyone out there updated on the newest Hazletons and our journey to bring them home.

However, there are three more kiddos in the crew, and we brought one of them along on this adventure. Many of you already know this, and may be wondering how Carson is doing. Well, he’s been fantastic, especially considering that his first airplane ride was a 9-hour one (followed quickly by another 2-hour one), he’s sat (in a stroller) in numerous lines, waited in many offices, ridden in lots of cabs, lived in 3 homes in 6 days, all while recovering form jet lag and a constantly changing sleep schedule while barely getting to play at all until he met his new brother and sister. Oh, did I mention he’s bringing a new tooth in?

jet lag? what jet lag?

So yeah, he’s been a champ. His usual bubbly, happy, funny, charming, Carson self. Everyone loves him. People are always smiling at him, talking to him, playing with him, and even trying to hold him when we let them. Being a momma’s boy, he doesn’t usually go for that, but he has surprised us a time or two.

what’s not to love?

He’s adjusted quite well to um, more relaxed child safety standards as far as travel. He has not seen a car seat since Houston, and he’s loving the freedom. He’s also getting pretty good at sitting in a big boy chair for meals.

big boy at the dinner table

The only real hiccup came today during our second play time with Anton and Lena. I was carrying Lena around, and we went to the merry go round where Carson was playing with some dominos. He was doing quite well on his own, so we turned to walk away. I took one step and heard the sound of him losing his balance and falling off his little perch. Fortunately, his head broke his fall. oops.

Even then, he only cried a bit. Lena checked on him, and Anton went to get him a wipe to clean off the new goose egg on his dome. In no time at all he was ready to go, though he did not put up any fight at all when we said our goodbyes and loaded him up in the stroller. I think he fell asleep before we left the orphanage courtyard.

knot head

Yeah, Carson’s doing great. He is, as always, a blessing to his momma and daddy and everyone else who gets to be around him. Please keep his new tooth in your prayers, as well as that knot on his head.

Sunny Morning- 2nd day of visits

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We were greeted with kisses!  Wasn’t expecting that!  The Nannies told them to give us kisses, I’m sure, but they weren’t hesitant at all.
After our warm welcome to the orphanage, we headed back to the playground, because, as the facilitator said, “the children need fresh air.”
Here’s a few pics from the morning visit.
Do I finally have a left-handed child??

Got Your Shades, Mom

Hazel Eyes

Both wanting Papa’s (Daddy’s) attention

Does anyone know how to say “the pig and chicken stayed home” in Ukrainian?

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We noticed from the first meeting we had that Anton is very detail oriented. He did not take his eye off the paperwork that was being reviewed, signed, stamped, and exchanged. Later, when we gave the children toys to play with, he kept taking one toy apart and putting it back together. (he wasn’t disassembling it; it has three or four parts.) And then, this afternoon we all got a longer visit together on the playground. During that time, we got out a little container that has farm animals in it. The container has a picture of what belongs inside (this is one way Shannon is training our kids to clean up after themselves.)

wait just a minute……

Well, Anton had a question about these toys: Where are the pig and chicken? You see, they were in the picture, but not in the container. We had to tell him the pig and chicken stayed home. Interesting!

Lena seems to be a big, playful adventurer. She got over being shy muck more quickly than Anton, and she was all go, no quit when we were playing on the playground. And just like her sister Maggie, she seems to have no fear. When combined with Anton’s shyness and focus, she seems to be quite able of running all over her new brother.

However, she also shows strong nurturing tendencies. When she and Anton hijacked Carson’s crackers (a fact that stretched our youngest boy more than a little), she made sure that whenever Carson called for a cracker, he got one.

here, let me give ya another one

Of course, she always held the bag, but she continued to give them to little brother until they were gone. Anton was on his own; I guess she figured orphan rules applied, and he was big enough to either get his own or go without. No worries, though: at the end there was an empty bag, three sets of cheesy cheeks, and even a cracker or two for Momma and Papa.

o.k., that’s all for now.

we’re gonna post some late-breaking prayer requests tomorrow morning (our time), so stay tuned.

Thanks for being a part of this adventure! We might have been able to do it without you, but I’m so glad we won’t ever have to find out. May the Lord bless you more and more and more each day because of the prayer, encouraging notes/posts, and many other ways you are joining in our journey to Joy…and her brother.


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Anton (With Mama)


Lena (with Daddy)

This day has seemed never-ending. We got off the train at 7am, and literally haven’t stopped until about 7:00 this evening. There was a LOT of official business… and a LOT of just sitting and waiting around for official business… and it was tiring, especially for the little guy… especially since the little guy and I didn’t sleep more than 3 hours on the train last night.

But adrenaline kept me going. I was ready to meet those beautiful children waiting just a few miles from where we were running around… I couldn’t believe it was about to happen…

How We First Laid Eyes on Them

When it finally came time to meet the kids, we were whisked to the orphanage, where we were seated in a front entry area and told that some paperwork needed to be completed before the children were brought to us.

Carson was walking around, exploring, and Jeff and I were sitting on couches. I turned my head towards some movement at the front entry, and saw a nanny walk in holding the hands of two children… OUR two children… they were whisked right past us and into another room. I reeled my head around to Jeff and looked at him in disbelief.

Then we were ushered into the orphanage director’s office with a bunch of other people: two of our facilitators, orphanage director, the social worker from across town, the orphanage psychologist, and a few others. Lots of Russian was thrown around the room, and Serge, one of our facilitators, said, “Show them the album!” We pulled out the Shutterfly photo book we had made of our family and Serge pointed to the last page, where there’s a picture of our friends, the Carlins, who adopted a son from this same orphanage.

Lots of “oohing” and “aahing” ensued.

Then, before I even knew what was happening, Anton and Lena were brought into the office and lots more Russian was flying around the room… and perhaps some Ukrainian as well…

Anton was so, so shy. He literally hid behind Lena, who was a little bolder, but still apprehensive. Anton has such expressive eyes, and I thought at any moment he would cry, and I asked our facilitators if the kids were scared…. he said they were just shy, especially Anton.

The orphanage director had the kids come around to her side of the desk, and she turned away from us, put her arms around Anton and Lena, and lovingly spoke to them in a whisper, reassuring them.

The two of them both came over to us, apprehensively, and we were able to tell them hello and hold their hands… everyone in the room kept reassuring them. At one point both of them did start crying and it nearly broke my heart. But Serge told us not to worry b/c it was just a lot for them to take in today – you see, before today, they had no idea they would be brother and sister, and that a strange Mama and Papa, speaking a different language, would come to visit.

We went back out to the sitting area with Anton & Lena, and pulled out a few toys, a notebook, and some crayons. Within a few minutes, they warmed up, and I saw a few shy glances our direction, and some smiles. Anton whispered to Lena a lot, showing her the toy he was most interested in. Before we left to do more business, we played a game of balloon volley with them.

We returned in the afternoon, and when the kids were brought to us, Anton was still shy at first, but they were all smiles. They each took our hands and called us “Mama” and “Papa” and we went outside to the playground. They both loved looking at the shutterfly book and asked us lots and LOTS of questions in Russian, which we couldn’t answer, unfortunately. I just told them what I knew in Russian, things like, “this is our home”… “this is our family”… “this is your sister/brother”….

Within just a few minutes, they were both vying for our attention. We played, took lots of pictures, and explored every last thing in the backpack.

Then it was time to go and we said “pakah”… I am interested to see how they react tomorrow morning when we return for another visit. I have no idea how much they understand at this point.

Thank you all for your prayers… we are staying in an apartment that is a 10 minute walk from the orphanage, so that is very good. However, we had to buy a cell phone modem for the computer, b/c there is no internet in our apartment… now we can get online, but things go MUCH more slowly, and video chatting isn’t going as nicely as it was when we had wi-fi in Kiev.

Time to call it a night – more pics later…