Friday, December 4, 2009


Sorry its been so long since the last post.  I finally had time to take a look at the blog and realized we stopped blogging on November 19th. 

On Friday November 20th, we did some last minute shopping of the craft/souvenir stands nears the SDA and were told to come to the US Embassy at 2pm.  It was a dreary, rainy day and literally we were running around picking up last minute gifts for our translator and the Doctor who performed the kids Embassy medical exams.  We arrived at the Embassy in record time and went in and waited.  We were the first people there, but somehow ended up 3rd in line.  We finally walked out of there with VISAs in hand at 4pm.  We were supposed to meet Lev and Elena at the SDA at 4 to show the kids to Maria and the others who work in the SDA office.  We had to rush there through traffic and pick up some bouquets as well.  It was a very hectic day for our last full day in Ukraine. After showing the kids off at the SDA, I did a little bit more shopping for keepsakes for the kids and then we went to dinner at Pizza Celantano.

We put the kids to bed as soon as we got home because we had to be up at 2am to get ready to leave for the airport at 3am.  Andrew and I did last minute packing and organizing, took showers and fell asleep at 10pm.  Two o'clock came way too early.  We woke up and woke the kids up, got dressed, and ate a bit of breakfast.  Andrew had the bright idea to give them grape juice.  Well, Aidan spilled it all over his pants, so we had to change his pants, rinse out his old pants and find a shopping bag to place them in.  Luda came with the driver at three and we took the luggage downstairs as quietly as possible.  We loaded it up and my OCD required me to review the packed luggage and count all the pieces before we loaded ourselves up and headed to the airport.    We made it there it record time because there was no traffic. 

We checked in at the airport made it through security and passport control.  We did have to wait awhile for the passport officers to review our adoption decree and make a photocopy.  The kids were getting a little antsy.  We finally made it to the terminal and waited a bit until boarding.  We were flying from Kyiv to Frankfurt at 5:35 am.  We boarded on the tarmac.  We had a 3 hour flight to Frankfurt, where we then had a 5 hour layover until we left for Philadelphia.  The kids were exhausted as well as Mama and Papa.  Somehow we made it through the 5 hours and we were on the last leg home.  The 9 hour flight was very trying and stressful because the kids were cranky and sleepy.  We made it to Philly went through immigration in 1.5 hours and then drove home for another 2 hours.  We got home around 8:30 and were up and traveling for a total of about 23 hours.  I was so happy to see my sister and Jason at the airport.  Most of our families were at the house and we spent an hour or two with them.  We were all exhausted.

We went to bed around 10:30 and everyone slept until 8:30.  Luckily we didn't have too much jet lag.  The kids naps throughout the day let them stay awake this long.   The kids love their new rooms!  We'll have to post pics.

Andrew was back to work on Monday and I found out the same day I had to have surgery on Dec 2. 

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving on Thursday.  We had so very much to be thankful for.  Friday we had our huge Welcome Home Party.  It was absolutely fabulous and everyone put so much thought and time into throwing us a wonderful party.  The kids loved it!  Thank you everyone for coming and for all of your thoughtful gifts, they are much appreciated by us all. 

We spent the last two weeks getting into a routine and starting our family life.  Wednesday I had surgery and what was supposed to be outpatient surgery turned into an overnight stay at the hospital.  I am at home recovering and all of our family has pitched in to help while I am recovering and Andrew is back at work!  Thanks Everyone.

We are looking forward to Christmas and sharing this special holiday time with our children.  We have been blessed!

We will post some pics!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

We're Almost Home

We had an early morning today and then a very busy day.  Both Andrew and I are totally exhausted.  We woke up at 4:30 and headed to the airport in Simferopol at 5:30.  We made it there a little before 6am and they were just getting ready to start checkin.  We took off about 7:40.  We had a nice flight to Kiev of 1hour and 10 minutes versus a 15 hour train ride.

We got off the plane and got our luggage in record time and headed into the city center at around 9:15.  We sat in traffic for about an hour and a half .  We made it to the US Embassy at 11.  Lots of people were waiting to just go into the courtyard, but luckily US Citizens get to go to the front of the line and I walked through security.  Luda left with Andrew and the boys to get their medical exams done for the VISA.  I was done at the Embassy in 20 minutes and Luda was surprised to hear me call her.  They had just arrived at the hospital for the exams.  We have our Embassy appointment on Friday at 2pm.  So we will pick up the completed VISAs on Friday afternoon and then fly home on Saturday, leaving for Kyiv airport at 3am.

After sitting at a nearby restaurant for two and a half hours and drinking a pot of tea waiting for Andrew, Luda and the kids to finish up with the medical exams, they finally came back for me and we ate lunch.  We then headed for our new two bedroom apartment in Kiev and settled in.  

We thought we would treat the kids to McDonalds for dinner.  They liked the french fries, but would not eat their cheeseburgers.  Who would have thought?

Well, our Ukrainian journey is almost complete and now we will be starting our Hirschmann Family journey.

Can't wait to see everyone!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quick update before bed...

We finally received the key documents we have been waiting for to travel back to Kyiv...the kids' passports.  Since our last post it was business as usual up through Tuesday.  Tuesday morning Luda called the passport office at 9 am to see if our passports had arrived.  The office told us that they had not yet received any passports from Kyiv and to call back at 1 pm.  Heather and I went to visit the boys with a new driver because Misha had prior appointments.  We did not go to see M as we usually do instead we returned to the apartment.  Luda called the passport office again and we were informed that our passports were here.  YEAH!

We scampered to get all of our care packages together for the orphanages and the new clothes for the kids.  Our pickup schedule had to be compressed in order to make our 7:05 pm flight to Kyiv.  We first picked up M.  Her orphanage was undergoing an inspection and her dormitory was quarantined so we were not allowed to even see her groupa for the last time.  We completed the required paperwork and left our goodies for the groupa and left to get the boys. 

The process took a little longer at the boys' orphanage largely because there were two sets of paperwork.  As we were leaving the boys orphanage to pick up the passports Luda received a phone call.  Bad news.  Another American family's passports had been mistaken for ours.  There would be no flight for us tonight.  Everyone was let down.  The kids had been excited to fly on an airplane, Luda was excited to go home and we were excited to be one step closer to home.  Waiting for an hour and a half at the Inspector's office added insult to injury but at least we had our kids now!

Our first night as a family was good.  The kids were so excited to receive their new clothes and see our apartment.  They liked their PJ's so much that they put them on at 7 pm although they wouldn't go to sleep for another couple of hours.  Each of the boys acted out a few times especially around sleep time.  Mama and Papa slept on the floor because we have no extra beds and we didn't expect to be in Simferopol another night.  Flash forward to 6:30 am, 3 sets of eyes spark to life and stomachs start to growl.  Breakfast of hardboiled eggs, bread and leftover chicken placate the little ones for a couple of hours.  We are anxiously awaiting a call from the passport office.  While we waited for the passports we took our first family walk together along the river.  It was a long and peaceful walk and the kids were tired and hungry when we returned.  Pizza and sliced tomatoes and bread sprung them to life again. 

At 3 pm we received the call we were waiting for.  The passports were here.  Unfortunately the night flight to Kyiv was sold out.  We'll have to wait until the 7 am flight tomorrow.  We will be on track to fly home on Saturday, the 21st, if we can get to the Embassy by 12 pm tomorrow.  We should land with enough time to accomplish that.  The kids keep asking when we are going to America and get super-excited when we tell them "Soon."  The orphanages both, did an excellent job of preparing the kids for the next steps in the journey.  We have had no problems so far and I have my fingers crossed that we won't have any more. 

See you all Saturday at home!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Paperwork and Waiting

Well, we had a couple of days of hurry up and wait.  Tuesday morning we headed off to the kids birthplace or "native city" as Luda says.  We left at 6:30am for a rainy and chilly drive.  We enjoyed the drive and seeing more rural parts of Crimea.  We saw a lot of huge flat fields with some gently rolling hills, not many trees to be seen.  The main crop here is wheat.  We traveled along the coast and saw a bit of the Black Sea.  We arrived in better time than expected and were the first people to arrive at the Vital Records Office.  We were concerned because they told us they were having computer problems and you never know how long that could take.  About 1/2 an hour later they called Luda in and she got everything going.  They told us to wait and will call us when they were completed.  Three hours later, we picked up the new birth certificates.  Took a short drive to the seaside to dip our fingers in the Black Sea and take some pictures.  We made it back to Simferopol in record time and dropped off the new birth certificates to be legalized, changed their names on their identification numbers and dropped off the new legalized birth certificates to have notarized copies made.  We didn't get to see the kids after this busy day.

Wednesday we were hoping to apply for the passports, but the director of the passport office was out of the office.  That meant we had to wait until Thursday.  We went to visit the kids and made arrangments to pick up the kids on Thursday morning for the passport applications.

Thursday, Luda went to pick up the kids and Andrew and I walked to the passport office to meet her and the kids.  Luckily its just down the street from our apartment.  We applied for the passports and the kids had their pictures taken.  They were all hamming it up.  The Director of the passport office said that Mollie looks like her mama and she thought the boys were twins at first because they were sitting on Papa's lap.  Luda asked how long for the passports and she said a week.  We need to have the passports in hand no later than Wednesday or we will NOT make our flight on Saturday back to the USA.  Please pray that everything falls into place and we can get them on Tuesday.  After the passport office we all piled into Misha's car for a quick drive to the local picture place.  We needed to get pictures taken for the kids' US VISA we need to get in Kiev.  We also had our first family portrait taken to give as a gift to the both of the orphanage Directors.  Once again, the kids were excited to have their pictures taken.

A couple of hours later we picked up the pictures and were surprised to see such an "interesting" background on our family portrait.  We were expecting black, white, maybe even blue.  I guess we will never forget we were in Crimea in October/November 2009...haha.

Today we had our normal visiting routine with the boys and then M.  C started acting up as soon as he figured out he was going back to his Groupa.  Only a couple more days and they will never have to go back.  Today was weekly shower day at M's orphanage, so we did not get to spend much time with her.

After we got home we decided to be adventurous and try and find our way to McDonalds, which is a pretty long walk and we weren't sure how to get there.  After a 1/2 hour fast walk, we found McDonalds, wolfed our food down and headed back because it was almost dark.   The food was good, Andrew said the walk was worth it!

For the next couple of days we will be visiting the kids and relaxing.  Everything is done here except for picking up the passports.  Hopefully our next post will be us picking up the passports and kids and having their first plane ride back to Kiev.  At least its a short flight; 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Keep us in your thoughts and prayers that we get the passports by Wednesday so we can make our flight!

We added some pictures to the web album of their native city and their VISA pics!

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's been a while and people are worried...

Sorry it's been so long.  The last week has been pretty mundane.  Wake up, visit kids, come home, make dinner, read, listen to music, watch TV, and sleep.  Rinse and repeat the next day.  The kids are doing great.  The boys are now more affectionate with us which makes Heather and I very happy parents.  M is doing great also. 

We've had a few interesting moments with the boys this last week.  We are really having issues when it is time for them to go back to the groupa.  The boys seem to sense when it is our time to leave and they start acting out.  Both A and C had to go back to the groupa with tears streaming down their faces for different reasons this week.  A likes to have things done his way so when Papa made him put his coat after A had taken it off there was 15 minutes of fake crying and sobbing.  C likes to evade Mama and Papa when it's time to go. Papa caught up with C and walked him back to the groupa during which the waterworks (and the noseworks also) got a work out.  We're not sure exactly what is going on but we hope that it means that it is difficult for the boys to leave Mama and Papa at the end of the day.  We hope. 

M's visits typically include many of her friends.  Her favorites are Lena, Nastia and Bogdona.  We play "Go Fish" and "Memory" with the Carebear cards Heather picked up at Ollie's before we left.  The kids really like playing those games.  M and Papa bonded over sunflower seeds the other day.  She loves them and Papa loves the seeds from home much better than those available in Ukraine.  Wait until you taste the yummy goodness of roasted and salted sunflower seeds little girl.  M was amazed with Papa's ability to stick a handful of bland seeds in his mouth and crack the shells to extract the seed and split the shells like a ball player.  Everyone here cracks seeds one at a time which takes foooooooooooreeeevvvvvvvvvvveeeeerrrrrrrrrrrr!

Each of the kids now know their American names.  "Kak vas zavut?" (what is your name?) is answered with their first and last American names and they also know each other's American names.  For a while C thought that his American name was Andrew Hirschmann.  It was cute while it lasted.  M seems very excited to be reunited with her brothers in America.  We show the picture of our house and point to the bedroom windows of the house and show each kid which room will be their's.  Auntie Kristen and Uncle Jason have ensured that the kids will be returning to wonderfully decorated rooms.

Luda is back from Kiev and has our tasks for the week setup.  Tomorrow we are traveling to the kids' birth town on the western shore of Crimea to have the kid's names changed.  We are leaving at 6:30 am which is the earliest we've had to get up since we've been here.  For some of you night owls, we'll be getting up before you go to bed back home!  It's roughly two hours to the birth town and we should leave later that day with new birth certificates in hand.  We plan on taking many pictures and some video of the birth town so we can share them with the kids in the future.  Wednesday we'll be applying for passports and then waiting for them to be completed.

We will pick up the kids from the orphanages when we get the completed passports and are ready to leave for Kyiv because we don't have enough room in our apartment for everyone.  There is one very important fact that I haven't mentioned yet and that is "WE'RE OFFICIAL."  Luda picked up our court decree this evening from the courthouse.  Heather and I have been flying high ever since the court date so getting the final decree is more symbolic than anything to us.  So officially as of November 9, 2009 at 5:00 pm Andrew, Heather, M, A and C have fulfilled our blog's namesake... Hirschmann Family.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Saturday, Sunday and Monday

Well, there has not been much to report since court on Friday.  Luda headed back to Kyiv on the train Friday afternoon, so we have been using hand signals and writing some things down to communicate with the orphanage personnel and the locals.

Saturday and Sunday we did our weekend visiting routine, which includes going to see Aidan and Callan from 10-12 and then Mollie from 12:30 to around 3.  It has gotten much, much colder recently, so we've had to play indoors during our time with the kids.  The boys have a lot of energy, so we have to amuse them inside with puzzles and crafts.  Mollie is on an extended fall break because of the Swine Flu (4 weeks), so some of her groupa plays with us and we do crafts or puzzles.  Mollie, Andrew and I skyped Assumpta and Charlie (Andrew's parents) on Saturday from the orphanage.  It was cute, but I am not sure if she entirely understood what was going on.  Saturday after visiting with Mollie, Andrew said "I really could eat McDonalds".   I said sure and told Misha (our driver) McDonalds.  I thought it was an universal language all on its own.  Apparently not.  I had to call Luda and tell her to tell Misha to take us to McDonalds. I must have been saying it a bit too Americanized or something.....McDonalds was a MADHOUSE.  It is right beside the train station and everyone must have been traveling on Saturday afternoon.  No place to sit.  We had to eat outside and it was very, very cold.  Oh well, it tasted great!!

Sunday we visited with the kids.  The boys seem more and more reluctant to go back to the groupa after our time together.  They try and run away when we are walking to their rooms at the orphanage.  Callan likes to go limp and melt like a puddle on the ground.  I try to pick him up and explain we will be back tomorrow and that we love him (ya te-ba lu-blu).  We get to pick them up from the orphanages next Tuesday, so hopefully that time passes quickly and we can be a family and get them started on the Hirschmann Family Routine.  Mollie continues to be loving and gives big hugs and kisses to Mama and Papa.  Especially when she is in front of her groupa.  We stopped at the Supermarket on the way home and Misha dropped us off.  We unpacked the groceries and headed out to Pizza Celetano.  Today I had a pizza with cheese, mushrooms, tomato, and green pepper.  It was crispy and cheesy and delicious.  Andrew was courageous and got cheese and salami.  He said the salami tasted like deer bologna (we all know Heather did not try it).

Today it is really cold and was actually flurrying.  Today we started our weekly routine of visiting Mollie from 2-4 and the boys from 4-6.  The lobby was really cold at Mollie's orphanage, so we were invited to play in her groupa's area.  The caretakers left and I used that time to take a few pics of her living quarters.  From 2-4 is naptime for Mollie's groupa so all the kids were sleeping (or pretending to sleep) except for Mollie.  I am amazed that 7-8 year olds take naps from 2-4 in the afternoon.  School in the USA won't be having siestas.  We looked at pics on the computer and shared our picture book with some of the other caretakers who were around. 

The boys visit started out a little crazy.  The assistant orphanage director brought the kids to the playroom from their groupa, but Aidan was crying.  When she brought them in, Aidan walked away into a corner and Andrew went and picked him up.  He really started crying and the assistant director came back and took him back to his groupa.  Apparently, she had made him wear the wrong sweatshirt and he was upset.  He seems to have a fetish with certain clothes and constantly tucks his shirt in and gets all upset when his tights and underwear and two tucked-in shirts all get bunched up and annoy him.  I think he will be happy to have some properly fitting underwear when we pick him up from the orphanage and when we go home.  I think Grandma H is picking up undies, t shirts and socks for the kids (yay, no more tights, especially pink tights with flowers on them).  We bought some balloons and watched a bit of the movie Cars on the laptop.  That held their attention for most of the time.

We headed home and prepared Andrew's Greek salad and spaghetti with marinara and sausages.  It seems like our appetites are finally back.

You asked for pics of the Simferopol, so here are a few.  I get worried about looking like a tourist (even though I know we do) and taking pictures of everything.

Nice building near our apartment

Park across the street from our apartment - Remembering those killed in Afghanistan

St. Nicholas, under construction

Pedestrian only street with TWO Pizza Celetanos!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Court Date

We are now officially the Mama and Papa of Mollie Rose, Aidan Kurt and Callan Kurt!  We had our court hearing today and the Judge and the two jurors approved our request to adopt our three little darlings.  We will be "official" after our ten day waiting period.

Our day started a little earlier than a normal day because we had to have time to dress in our nice outfits for court and we had to walk to the courthouse from our apartment.  Our driver, Misha was off picking up the kids and their orphanage representatives.  We arrived at the courthouse at 9:15 am well ahead of our hearing time of 10 am.  It's better to be earlier rather than later for something like this!  The kids arrived a little after 9:30 am and we all waited for 40 minutes until the Judge was ready for us.  The boys were reunited with Mollie for the first time in over a year.  Unfortunately for the shutterbug in me they were reunited in the car without us present.  Shucks.  The kids were all smiles when they entered the room where we were waiting.  Each child was dressed nicely and Mollie had her hair pulled into pig tails for our important day.  The boys were cute in their blue jeans and sweaters although Aidan was wearing hot pink socks and Callan was wearing pastel pink socks.  Either someone at the orphanage is color blind or pink socks were all that was clean today.

The actual proceeding was very official.  At 10:10 am we were invited into the Judge's chambers.  In addition to Heather and I, Luda, our translator, the kids, one representative from each orphanage, the local inspector, a prosecutor, two jurors, a court secretary and the Judge were present at the hearing.  The official language of the hearing was Ukrainian even though everyone in the room, except us of course, spoke Russian outside the Judge's chambers.  The Judge started off by informing us of our rights as they relate to the proceedings.  After that the Judge read, word for word, our application and reviewed the passports and indentifications of everyone in the room.  The Judge asked Heather and I both if we had anything to add or to edit in our application. We had nothing to add or edit.  The Inspector next read to the court her approval of the adoption and the reasons for her approval.  Each orphanage representative then also indicated their approval of our adoption to the court's satisfaction.  Next the Judge read into record each document in our dossier.  I didn't remember that there were so many documents in our dossier.  At this point Aidan became a little restless. The Inspector was kind enough to give Aidan a pen and some paper to doodle on for the rest of the proceeding.  Mollie and Callan were great throughout the hour and 20 minute hearing.  Luda had warned us that even though everyone in the room is supportive and happy for our adoption application, it was going to be all business and there would be no smiling.  Well the charm and happiness of our children were too much for everyone in the room except for the Judge.  I'm sure he would have cracked a smile too if he wasn't so busy reading the dossier.

After reading our dossier the Judge had some questions for Heather and I.  He asked the following questions:
  • Do we have an biological children?
  • Why we are adopting?
  • Why are we adopting from Ukraine?
  • Did we receive the medical condition of the children and are we prepared to provide medical care for them?
He did ask us a few other questions that we don't remember right now because we were nervous during the hearing.  Many of the questions were open ended and very general.  We were well prepared by Luda to answer them though.  Thank goodness for Luda.  Our Judge is new and he does not have a lot of experience with adoption proceedings.  Luda mentioned that the Judge was lucky that she prepared the documents so well for him to move along so smoothly.

After we successfully answered the Judge's questions he asked Mollie if she wanted to be adopted and if she wanted to be adopted by us.  She had earlier written a note that was part of our dossier indicating her desire to be adopted by us and she reiterated that desire to the Judge.  The Judge asked the boy's orphanage representative to interview the boys.  The representative asked the boys who we are.  The boys answered with our names and then with "Mama" and "Papa.'  The boys were then asked if they wanted to live with us in America.  They said yes!

The Judge once again asked the Inspector, the Prosector and the two orphanage representatives for their approval of our adoption.  They said yes again!  The Judge then turned to the two jurors and asked them if they approved.  They said yes!  Finally the Judge also indicated his approval of our adoption.  The proceeding was quickly wrapped up and we adjourned to the waiting area where we received hugs and handshakes from everyone.  We snapped a quick picture of the kids before they left for their orphanages.  We are super excited today for the result of our hearing. 

Luda left this afternoon on the train to head back to Kyiv.  She has been with us for a long time and she was eager to get back to her apartment.  She will be back the Monday before the end of our ten day waiting period to run down some loose ends.  The end is near and soon we'll be flying back to the States.

Heather and I had a nice celebratory lunch at the Flamingo.  A Greek salad and a ceasar salad for starters followed by marinated beef skewers and mashed potatoes for each of us filled our growling stomachs.  We took the afternoon off and we will start fresh tomorrow with our weekend visiting routine.

While we were waiting for court to start, the boy's orphanage representative told us a funny story from the orphanage.  One of the boys in Aidan and Callan's groupa asked her to find him a "Big Papa" like Aidan and Callan's.  I think that either qualifies me as a rap star or a proud Papa.  The representative told the boy that she would try to find him a "Big Papa."  If there are any "Big Papas" out there, there is boy in Simferopol waiting to be adopted.  Along those lines, earlier in the week I took pictures of 24 other children at the boys' orphanage for their annual picture update.  There are a lot of very nice children in this orphanage.  I don't know what their availability for international adoption is but they need good homes. 

That's about it for today.  Heather and I are very excited for our new journey in our lives as Mama and Papa to Mollie, Aidan and Callan.  We can't wait to get them home to our house and to introduce them to our families.  Aunt Kristen and Uncle Jason are preparing the best bedrooms imaginable for the boys and for Mollie at home.  We can't wait to see how they turn out.