Thursday, February 3, 2011

Can you say, "blessed beyond belief?!

I know, way past time for this update, but can you say “busy as all get out?!”
Lena, Charlie and I arrived in Phoenix on January 20th at 8:32pm to a wonderful greeting of family and friends!  Can you say, "blessed beyond belief?!!!"
We arrived HOME the following afternoon after spending the night with dear friends, Jim and Lori, who had taken excellent care of our dog Jake while we were gone.  Quick stop at Seba’s Western Store for Lena’s first pair of cowgirl boots (knew she would need them immediately upon arrival home because we kept hearing that horses would be her first priority).  Another quick stop to pick up Tucker, our other dog.  He and Mack had spent their time with good friends Kate and Gerry (Kate also their Vet); unfortunately we’d only be picking up Tucker, several days before heading for home we had to make the very difficult decision to put Mack down.  A extremely hard day, missed very much not being able to say that final goodbye to a very special family member… since then life has been moving at mach speed, so both Charlie and I have felt as if we have yet to actually grieve Mack the way we would/should.  So give me just a moment… 
We love you Mack!!  You will forever be our Moo. 
Thank you.
So we are home!!  Just looking at the calendar, we have been home 14 days, we are acclimating, we are adjusting, we are loving Lena!!   Without a doubt she is our daughter, always has been…
Lena has already spent many hours riding the horses; she has claimed Charlie’s horse Rowdy as her own.  :]  The “old guys” Charlie and Tanner (Charlie’s 24 year old semi retired horse) will be joining forces once again.  Lena has also decided she loves ATV riding; she and I will be sharing “a machine”.  She thinks her new room is great and tells us she is having sweet dreams.  Last Sunday was Lena’s second Sunday in church with us, as we sang the closing song, Lena standing between Charlie and I, all of our hands interlocked (Lena’s doing), she began singing the chorus “Glory to God” along with us, I keep thanking God for all the special moments He keeps sprinkling our days with.  Tuesday was Lena’s first day at Wickenburg Christian Academy.  She had a great first day!  Yesterday was her second day; unfortunately Lena felt it important to tell her teacher that there were several things she wasn’t going to be doing.  Well that won’t fly… we’ve had many opportunities in the last 14 days for teachable moments, more last night.  As the days have passed, information is being shared, past experiences, past hurts, a past that for the most part needs to left behind.  Last night she shared more than she’s ever shared.  There is healing that needs to take place in our daughter’s life, no surprise.  She is wise and understands that she has the opportunity to change her future… that some changes will come easily, some will be hard.  I believe she now grasps the truth that Charlie and I are here for her forever, we will not go away, we LOVE her.  We pray soon she will understand that about her Heavenly Father.  
The theme of my days…
“I am the vine: you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
I have never felt so attached, felt the need to be so attached to “the Vine” as I do now.  I have no doubt that without Christ we would be ill equipped to do what He has asked us to do.  But,
“We know that all things work together for good to them that love God… to them who are called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28
We are witnessing Him work all things together for good right before our very eyes in a powerful way… through our lives and others for a child’s life, our daughter’s life.  Can you say “humbled”…  “In awe”…
“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26
Lena’s first memory verse from school has ministered to all of us in the last 2 days; I know that God is working all things together for good as we remain in Him… 
Can you say, “I love the Lord with all my heart, with all my soul, all my mind (I know not a whole lot of that left), and my strength"?  You know, I can. 
Charlie and I continue to be humbled and amazed by the innumerable ways we have recieved support, we can never thank you enough for all your love, your prayers, and encouragement, for joining us in this most amazing journey, which really is
God’s story of love, God’s story of Lena" 
and which really has only just begun, a story that we are so excited to watch unfold…                                         
Love in Christ forever and ever, Charlie, Judy and Lena

dear friends and neighbors welcome Lena home!! :]

a girl, a horse and her dog, like mother like daughter... :]

braiding Deacon's mane... as Lena would say, I like!  :]

Lena and Rowdy, what's not to love!

new room, new clothes = happy girl!

first day of school, she's ready!
she has the need for speed... look out!!
and in memory of Mack (our Moo), he gave the best dog kisses!!
we love you Moo Moo!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mission Accomplished! Homeward Bound!

Well this is it, our last evening in Ukraine.  Tomorrow morning we will finally head for home.  It was 34 days ago that we left on our mission, God’s mission to add Lena to our family, mission accomplished!  This journey was placed on our hearts back in October of 2009, tomorrow we will move into the next stage, “Life with Lena”.  But before we get home and unpacked let me share a little more about our last days in Kiev.

We’ve had the pleasure of spending time with 2 other adoptive families while here.  We first met up with Melissa Macy, Melissa and her husband Brian have been following our blog, through comments they had made, we knew they to were in Ukraine to adopt.  We finally caught up with Melissa and son, Dennis (Brian had returned to the states) in Kiev after getting in contact through Facebook and then by phone.  A personal opinion: have mixed emotions about the whole social networking culture, think it can be overdone, but it has been an incredible tool for us through this process, as it’s connected us with other families that have shared invaluable information, encouragement, love and prayers.
We made arrangements to meet with Melissa and Dennis at Independence Square, then head to the theater to meet up with the Rowell family (who adopted a sibling group of 4), whom Melissa, Brian and Dennis had met along the way for the movie “Tangled 3D”.  The movie was in Russian, but the company English!  It was a wonderful afternoon!  We got to spend a bit of time together after the movie swapping adoption stories.  We will never tire of hearing how God brings about His perfect plan in so many varied and wonderful ways as He fits families together. 
The next day we all got together for ice skating.  Lena has discovered she loves to ice skate, 5 times to date at Independence Square’s outdoor rink.  I must admit I’ve even decided I enjoy being out of the stands and on the ice.  My ex-hockey player, referee, coach husband was even able to instruct me on the finer points of doing "cross overs”, and by George I think I got it!  Lena cracks us up, she now claims herself, “a professional” even when lying flat on her back on the ice.

Monday was Lena’s exit medical, she was such a trooper, imagine it couldn’t have been easy having to expose herself for the first time as our translator (female) and myself sat with her through the exam.

Yesterday was our appointment at the US Embassy for visa paperwork, all went smoothly.  As we pulled up there was a huge line of folks, Ukrainian folks waiting their turn, it looked as if it was going to be a long wait.  From what we understand, for every 100 visas applied for by Ukrainian citizens only 7 are approved.  We were ushered to the head of the line and escorted into the building.  Forty five minutes, and more paperwork later we were done, and told to return the next day at 2pm for Lena’s visa.  At that point Charlie put on his “sales” hat and throttled up his negotiating skills to try and convince the gal we needed to get Lena’s visa that day.  It didn’t work.  But I appreciate your skills and the effort honey! ;]   We had hoped we could possibly leave today if we where able to get the visa yesterday.  Charlie’s sister Nancy (love ya Nance) has worked hard to get us out on her passes (she works for United) flying either 1st class or business class, but if we didn’t get out Wednesday we would have no connecting flight into Frankfort for another 2 to 3 days…  so we leave tomorrow, flying economy all the way, Charlie's thrilled about the long trip home with knees in chest... Up at 3:30am to be out the door by 4:30am, flight leaves at 6:45am, to Munich, onto Dulles, where Lena will officially become an American citizen, then arrive Phoenix at 8:32pm!  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!

Today we took the opportunity to visit “Lavra” or “Kiev Monastery of the Caves”, it is a historic Orthodox Christian Monastery which was established in 1015.  A beautiful place.  Google it, very interesting.  Wish we’d been permitted to take pictures inside the many churches and underground caves where the mummified bodies of saints lie in state in glass cases. 
Then it was off to the Embassy for our 2pm appointment to pick up Lena’s visa.  Wonderful to sit with 5 other families and again share some amazing stories and all appreciating some English conversation.  Will have empathy for Lena when “the honeymoon” stage is over and she begins to miss all that she has known.  We pray that the adjustment will come easy for her…

So visa now in hand!  And it’s time to pack!! 

America and sunshine here we come!!!   Woohoo!!!

me, Lena "the professional" ice skater and Charlie... :]

sure enjoying each other...

Tangled 3D

Friday, January 14, 2011

In the home stretch...

We’re feeling as if we’re in the home stretch, and it feels good!  Charlie and I are more than ready to get home.  Lena is excited as well, but she is sharing some concerns.  She understands her whole life is about to totally change.  She has expressed her nervousness about meeting those that will suddenly become a part of her new world.  She is also wondering if English is going to come easily once there… 
In Lena’s past life she is a leader, the go to girl for her friends.  It was fun to watch her interact with the adults in her life, she was confident and comfortable.  We are amazed at how much English she knows; in her world she spoke English better than any.  She has been a huge help working as our translator, although at this particular point she is pretty unhappy with the whole “past, present, future tenses” of the English language.  We will continue to encourage.  We have no doubt that in her new environment she will thrive, just as she’s been doing here while overcoming some overwhelming obstacles.

She and Charlie are enjoying each others quick wit, as she masters the English language it will be fun to see and hear the banter excel.  Lena also has a competitive spirit like her new Papa.  She is ready to take him up on any challenge claiming herself, “Nika the Best” (bestowed nickname) and Charlie claiming himself, “Chawock (Dude in Ukrainian) the Great”!  I can’t lose, I’m betting on them both!  :]

As for me, I love that Lena loves to invade our personal space.  My love language is touch.  Seems hers is too.  Hugging and hanging comes naturally.  I come from a family of huggers and hangers, as for Charlie over the past 20 years he has done his best to understand, and even conform to the value I see in it… he is surely outnumbered now, and it’s wonderful to see him losing this battle, while enjoying every minute of it.  :]
Last night Charlie was in working on the computer, Lena was taking a shower, and I was in lying on our bed reading.  It wasn’t too long before Lena came in, climbed on the bed with me and had her arms and legs entwined in mine.  Girl talk ensued.
Thank you Lord for the incredible gift of Lena.  Charlie and I are overwhelmed by the abundant blessings in our lives...

Exploration of Kiev has been fun, it's a beautiful city, Lena say's she likes it, but most definitely prefers a small village... she'll get no argument from Charlie and I.

So as of now, passport received and Lena’s exit medical will be done on Monday.  We had hoped for a Embassy appointment on Monday as well, but they are closed due to MLK day.  Suppose it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, it just sounded strange when you feel so far away from everything American.  Hopefully we can complete everything on Tuesday and head for home on Wednesday.  As of yesterday we’re wondering if Thursday might be better should we run into any hiccups, will have to make that decision at some point, but so thankful that home is as close as next week…

let the exploration of Kiev begin!

Lena finds a horse, what a surprise!  :]

taking it all in...

statue fun!

Christmas lights at the square...

in the mall.  :]

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


So sorry, a bit behind the eight ball, but the last couple days have been crazy busy!!  Actually lots of hurry then wait...  waiting in a car, waiting behind closed doors, waiting in hallways, waiting in rooms, but we are sooo very happy to report as of January 10th, our wait is over,

LENA NICKALA SANNER is now officially our daughter!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A bit more hurry up and wait to come, but if all goes well, we should be heading for home mid next week.  Submitted paperwork for Lena's passport yesterday, will now need to wait for 3 to 5 days to receive it, then exit medical and visa. 

We will spend the next few days exploring Kiev with Lena, she has never been, we are looking forward to experiencing our daughter's homeland capitol with her.  Should have seen her last night as we drove in, she was lit up as bright as the Christmas lights in Independence Square, I'm sure we were too as we watched her...

and now your wait is over, here's Lena!!  

first hugs!  :]

feels soooo good!!  :]

already family!!

Charlie with Lena, Alyona and Dasha.  :]

Having fun!

Lena, me and Lassy.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

More thoughts and ADVENTURES!!

Was just watching Charlie and Lena have a moment.  They are loving each other.  They speak the same sense of humor.  They tease, laugh, hug.  Lena is accepting our love so easily, it seems to fit her perfectly, and visa versa.

It’s been a productive 10 day waiting period.  At times these “Ground Hog Days” seem long, but at the same time we are thankful for them.  The time we are able to spend with Lena has given us a glimpse into her current world and how she and the other kids operate within it.  I wonder if most these kids dare to dream or even know how…
We can’t see how any of them become anything but walking wounded without being rescued.  We believe the hosting program that Lena was a part of summer of 2009 gave her that “something” to dream about.  We are grateful that she was able to be a part of it, so incredibly grateful for those that have a heart for these kids, those that put these programs together.
As we’ve spent time with Lena, her friends, and some of the kids at the internat we are definitely seeing behaviors developed in an environment of children surviving without parental love and emotional support.  At the same time we see so much potential too.  As we’ve said before, it’s amazing how quickly these kids attach themselves to someone who gives them time and love.  As we’ve interacted with Lena we are already adjusting our thinking on what life might look like when we return, for some time we believe it will be a day by day process.  There are some behaviors we’d like to see immediately come to an end, and in her new environment we’ll see if that happens naturally or will need additional attention.  We recognize that God needs to be present and trusted.

On the lighter side…
Another visit with Uncle Peti and Aunt Vala, Christmas Eve, January 6th, this time with the addition of Aunt Vala’s sister and her husband.  We went early afternoon, having told Lena to tell them we’d be coming for just a short visit, not for dinner.  We headed over with a cake in hand.  Upon arrival, same feast!  But we did an excellent job of fighting off the relentless assault of “Christmas Cognac”.  We left having only to partake in a very small amount, and got to witness a very special goodbye between Uncle Peti, Aunt Vala and Lena.

Yesterday morning the power in our hotel went out, we know it is your prayers that keep us seeing the lighter side… we were told yesterday afternoon, “power will come back on tomorrow.  Maybe.”  Well there’s some good news…  so no lights, no hot water, and no heat, brrrrrr!  I have yet to share our hotel experience, think it would consume a post in itself, let's just say it would be a glowing endorsment for Model 6 (but unlike Tom Bodett they won't be keeping the lights on), Charlie's contribution.  LOL!

Last night Charlie and I tagged along with Lena, Dasha, Alyona and little Angela for Christmas Caroling, or so we thought…  We were told (by Lena and friends) on Christmas evening that the kids go to homes and sing a Christmas Carol for candy and hryvnia (Ukrainian currency); in my head I was playing a Christmas version of Halloween.  After traveling (walking) for many, many dark frozen blocks without seeing another living soul and Charlie finding himself on the hard slippery ground once which had all us girls giggling, we arrived at the home of the school nurse.  The girls sang, and then an invitation to come in the house for candy?  NOPE, dinner!!  More unrecognizable Ukrainian food and Charlie taking one more for the team when the chant eat, eat, eat began and in horror of all horrors, drink, drink, drink, when the homemade wine came out.  Ugh!   We were finally able to escape with our lives… actually Charlie has enjoyed many of the dishes; I continue to avoid the unknown due to the known response I may encounter.   It was I who on the return trip “home” to our cold dark hotel room, found herself on the ground not once but twice, it’s just a good thing I’m so young and resilient!  Apparently my shuffling and gripping is not the answer to staying upright on ice.  Charlie said if we were to stay much longer he’d be investing in a pair of cleats. 
Glad to report electricity back on as of about 2 this afternoon.  One more memory made… :]

My sister Leslie gave me a CD for Christmas prior to us leaving for Lena.  Matthew West’s, “Story of Your Life” has ministered to me throughout our days here, it’s my “adoption theme”, thank you Les, I love you!  The whole CD is great, but over the last couple days I’ve locked onto the song, “The Reason for the World”, and the lyrics, “maybe the reason for the world is to make us long for home”.  It's got me wondering whether I’m longing for my heavenly home as much as we’re longing for our earthly home at the moment.  Oh, how I want to.  Gonna keep chewing on it for awhile.

Just one more walk to the internat tomorrow morning.  On Monday, back to court to finalize Lena’s adoption!

i wonder what he's wondering...
a bunch of boys having a bunch of fun!  :]

my wee bit of "Christmas Cognac" and Uncle Peti.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Random Ramblings...

Our hope, that next Monday (10th) we will receive our final court documents, that Lena Nickala Sanner will be officially declared our daughter, that we will pick up her things, and she will not return to the Internat again.  The 9 days that follow we will be traveling to a near by city to begin the process of getting her passport, then on to Kiev to wait for her passport, and to get her visa.  Once completed we’ll head for home!

As we wait we experience and observe…

Rural Ukraine is a very different place then the big City of Kiev.

I like very much that people walk here, the major mode of transportation.  I enjoy seeing the men and women going about their business bundled up in their winter coats and Shopka’s (Russian style fur hats).  This is not urban living; this is a small village where people walk a good distance to their local markets.  The homes are small, but many have brightly colored trim and fences.  There is an amazing amount of trees, trees that line the streets and medians.  Charlie and I keep saying that it must be beautiful in the spring, summer and fall.  Right now there are frozen trails (sidewalks and streets are not plowed) throughout the village to follow.  Since gracefully, ok maybe not so gracefully, falling on my bum in the middle of a slippery street a few days ago (large attractive bruise), I have taken to shuffling while gripping onto Charlie, Lena or friend.  Another adoptive parent mentioned that’s why she believes that so many of the young women wear spiked heels, to keep themselves upright…
In that vein, we’ve come to see that this world is both backward and forward at the same time.  When it comes to TV, music, music videos, and movies it is a very sexually suggestive culture.  Actually it even seems the news anchors feel it’s important to introduce their cleavage to viewers.  We will be thankful to remove Lena and ourselves from all the “exposure”. 
We have also found that hellos and smiles do not come easily.  It takes awhile to break the ice, but once broken the smiles and laughter are robust.  We have made fast friends with a couple of the ladies at the meat market, actually Charlie has made quite an impression on them, he and Lena took them each a cake as a New Year's gift, which gained him hugs and kisses.  Wish I could have been there to catch it on camera!
Lena told me today, after I bumped into her accidentally in the market, that saying sorry was not necessary, that there are no words for “I’m sorry” in Ukrainian, which I believe.  I have come to believe that the phase, “excuse me”, doesn’t exist either, people just seem to know or expect others to stay out of their personal space. 

Several days ago Charlie and I headed to the Internat to hand out some gifts that we brought from home, and some purchased here from donations we had received from others (which we appreciate and were appreciated soo much) to share with the kids, the Marti Family also left some behind to be distributed as well. 
It was a best day!!!!
We have become very much aware that there is a pecking order that exists amongst many of the children.  It certainly doesn’t bring about warm fuzzy feelings.  When you think about these kids living this way 24/7, 365 days it’s heartbreaking.  I’m sure some is typical behavior in any group setting, but these kids lack a place to retreat, a safe haven, the love of parents to “fix” what’s been broken… how I wish we could do that for each and everyone…  our prayer life will never be the same.

Charlie and I have a running joke these days; we’re likening our experience at the moment to the Bill Murray movie, "Ground Hog Day". 
The days seem to keep repeating themselves.
Up at 6:30, cup of coffee for him, cup of tea for me, get ready for the day, head off to the Internat to pick up Lena and a friend (Alyona, Dasha, Larrissa, Angelina,or Llona), head to the market to re-supply, then the meat market to buy some type of sausage and entertain the ladies, back to the hotel, computer, food, movie, food, puzzle, food, cards, food, hot shower for the girls, food, again these girls can eat!  Then back to the orphanage at 7pm. 
Today we attempted to change it up a bit.
To internat to pick up Lena and Dasha, off to the internet cafĂ© for a bit of high speed internet, longer walk home which proved to be extremely cold, the girls thought we were crazy, and which also resulted in another invitation to Uncle Peti’s and Aunt Vala’s!
Ran into them on the street, they invited us for Christmas Eve Dinner on the 6th.  They are such dear people, just don’t want to share that our stomachs do a flip every time we meet… I don’t know that we’ll be able to skirt this invitation (which was the result of our New Year’s Eve invitation, we ended up sleeping through it), not even sure I want to, they are dear people, think we’ll just have to make a point of bringing a gift of some food we can eat, and absolutely refuse any offers of cognac!!  On to the bookstore, market, then hotel, computer, food, movie, food, checkers, food, hot showers for the girls, food, Ilona shows up, food, music, food, and back to the orphanage.
Goodnight and sweet dreams, Lena, Dasha and Llona.

We really are looking forward to tomorrow, we wonder what the day will bring… :]

Brightly painted trim and fence...

Sanner Claus!!

my heart is melting, can you tell?

he comes Sultan with Uncle Peti, Aunt Vala, and our Christmas Eve Dinner invitation!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A read between the lines!! and a few pictures.

The Sanner’s had a great day today!  We would love to update you on every detail that is currently taking place, but things are happening so quickly we’ve been asked to guard some of those details until a later date.  Needless to say we are feeling comfortable and pleased with the direction and speed in which things are going…

Will also share that we have felt your prayers, today in particular they seemed to engulf us, a peace that surpassed… thank you, thank Him!  The sun even came out this afternoon! 

We continue to spend gobs of time with Lena and friends.  Feeling incredibly blessed!

The only thing today that could have possibly been seen as a negative is that Uncle Peti came by again and asked us to come to his house for New Years Eve dinner…  would LOVE to spend more time with them, but we’re still trying to figure out an out on the dinner invitation without offending… any ideas, let us know.  :] 

Charlie, LENA NICKALA and I send our love…

Promise more to come as we can…

In the meantime here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure!!

a feast with Uncle Peti, Aunt Vala, and Babuska
me and Aunt Vala!

love this picture of Uncle Peti and Charlie, family!! :]

Lena heads off on Sultan, along with Uncle Peti...

Sultan returns home without Lena!  and we thought our horse Rowdy was rowdy!
Lena was ok, she returned smiling... :]