Return of the Jedi (Trip 4, Day 0/1)

Since we flew out of RDU and not CLT this trip we had the luxury of a later departure. We spent a somewhat lazy morning cherishing the last moments of only having two children in the house. One of the benefits of twins is that they are born understanding they have to share mama and papa’s time and attention. We are hopeful that one more child in the sharing mix won’t be too much of an adjustment for them. 

We left the house about 9:00am and made an uneventful trek to the airport. We realized as we were walking in that taking 7 bags (2 checked, 2 carry on, 2 personal items, and a stroller) presents a somewhat challenging situation! We barely took any clothes, but between orphanage donations, clothes for 3 people, toys, food, toiletries, winter clothes, electronics, etc those bags are packed! We also have Sweet Girl’s stroller which is awkward to carry but hopefully will prove useful to us.

The flight to JFK was uneventful but was running about 15 minutes behind. We did get a minor glimpse of some of the aftermath of the hurricane from the air. When we landed, we thought we were safe because we had an an hour and a half connection. Once we got out into the terminal and started walking to the other gate we realized that the next flight was boarding already! There went our plans to sit for a minute and enjoy a “last meal”! Coming back, we have a slightly longer 2 hour window, but it will be just as tight since we will need to deal with US passport control and immigration of sweet girl.

We had decent seats on the plane, but I was very jealous of the girl in front of us who had two seats to herself so she could lay out and sleep. They have changed  the flight schedules and planes for the slower winter season so we were on not as nice of a 767 that lacked the personal entertainment consoles. Our dinner option hasn’t changed… chicken or pasta. The pasta was still pretty decent and we had a yummy little brownie for desert. About 4 hours into the flight I settled in for my nap. It’s so hard for me to sleep on a plane because I can’t sleep with my feet on the floor. Somehow I always manage to pretzel myself into weird positions and sleep for 15-20 minutes. Then I wake, let my arms and legs regain feeling, and make a new pretzel for 20 minutes. I think I managed about 3 hours of this which is a record!! There was predominately more darkness this time than before, so perhaps that helped.


When we got here, we uneventfully went through passport control (probably the fastest yet), got our many bags and met Vita. Ilya pulled up curbside as always and we started the drive to region. The weather was incredibly cold, wet, and windy. We weren’t well enough layered for the 30* + wind chill so waiting for Ilya to pull around was painful. We didn’t really witness any snow on the ground flying in, but things were definitely starting to ice up. Traffic was mildly bad getting out of the city, it took us 4 hours to reach region instead of the optimum 3, but still better than his ride last trip.

We pulled into our usual hotel where we will be staying for just one night. Vita got us checked in and said we should not go see Sweet Girl today because by this time it was almost 4:00 and the orphanage doesn’t take visitors after 5:00. She explained instead, she would leave us and go make arrangements for tomorrow’s business affairs. She would go get the papers from Tatiana, the Organ of Custody, that we would need for the bank and she would call the bank to make an appointment among other things and would call us back at our hotel to let us know more.

So we took the time to reorganize our divided suitcases (which were evenly dispersed to minimize casualty in the even of lost baggage) and we also needed to dig out some warmer clothes. Then we headed up to the mall for a quick bite to eat and to stock up on our usual groceries at the market. After coming back to the hotel, we received a call from Vita saying we would start tomorrow at 9:40am. One of us could be dropped off at the orphanage to visit with Sweet Girl while the other went to conduct business at the bank and then pick up the passport. Since I missed out on the 3rd trip, He will be running errands with Vita while I stay and catch up with our Sweet Girl. Vita also reminded us to bring clothes for Sweet Girl – ahh!!! We aren’t sure if we’ll take her before lunch or if the paperwork takes long enough that we have to let her eat and nap and then take her. Either way, tomorrow night we head right back to the capital with an extra little passenger! So exciting!!

 

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Sometimes It’s in the Details

Sometime shortly before March 12, I was doing adoption agency research. After hours of searching, I couldn’t find any information about the agency that had been recommended to us. But then, I found “her”. Let’s call her Luella. Lu had posted a small blurb asking for reviews of the agency on an adoption forum. I immediately messaged her hoping to steal her research and we immediately began an email courtship. We both dove right in to the process to bring home babies and have been within days of each other the whole process, up until court at least.
We have many similarities: we treat adoption as a business to cope with the uncertainties, we both get similarly frustrated at the lack of communication in the process, she works in the industry that comprises my old client base in public accounting. We both love to sew and enjoy blog reading.
But as much as we first clicked, I have come to realize that we have so many differences. This will be her first child. She prefers to sit back and evaluate where as I dive in and stick my foot in my mouth. She actually finishes the craft projects she starts. I’m pretty open about the process whereas she prefers to hold on to the details.
We took our first trips in back to back weeks and had dreamed and hoped of perhaps meeting up on our court trips in the capital. Then, we got our court date and I was heartbroken week after week when issues kept coming up for them and no date was in sight. He went back on the 3rd trip and still no date for Lu. We got delayed by visa issues and still no date for Lu.
All the while, he and I were making our last trip preparations. We’ve known the schedule for several weeks now, but for some reason, I didn’t make reservations for accommodations in the capital. We knew we wanted to stay in an apartment because the thought of the extra space and kitchen was appealing since we’ll have Sweet Girl with us. I kind of pittered about on the apartment websites and made notes of ones I liked and their prices but never committed. I finally received a recommendation from our agency on which apartment website to use. I went and searched it for our needed days and location and only 2 apartments got returned. One was a studio which was the same size as a hotel room, but with a kitchen. There was nowhere for sweet girl to sleep though except in bed with us and we aren’t sure if she’ll need her space.  The other was a large, “grand” two-bedroom apartment. It was more expensive and more space than we needed. We couldn’t decide and nothing was perfect so a couple more days went by.
Then, I got the email – Lu got her court date! And, against all odds, they would be in the capital almost the exact same dates we were. My thoughts immediately turned to that two bedroom apartment. They wouldn’t have their child yet, so there was plenty of space for 5 people. But, I’ve never actually met her in person. Sure we’ve exchanged almost 500 emails this year, but would we get along in person? Would it be too much to handle Sweet Girl and this new friendship? Would this be a disaster? I emailed her and asked thinking if she hemmed and hawed that maybe she had the same concerns we did and I’d just ditch the idea. But she said she’d love to! The apartment was booked that day.
So, regardless of the adventure we’re getting ourselves into, I’m very excited that I get to share this journey with my new friend Lu and her husband – not just through emails and on the phone, but in person. I feel a complete peace about it and I’m most excited to have other people to eat with and sightsee with because he and I are not so good at taking chances in foreign countries. And if it gets to be too much, then we’ve got two bedrooms 🙂

It’s just proof to me that God is in the details.  Here’s to hoping that regardless of the space between them our eastern European kids can grow up together!___Also, our sweet friend Paige took some “maternity” pictures for us. It was a stressful day and none of the kids wanted to cooperate, but I think we got some good ones 🙂 I hope it shows sweet girl just how much we’ve prepared for her and want her in our family.

 

HOOPS, the FINALE! Approved for takeoff!

Yesterday, our long awaited business visa’s arrived in the mail, a full 3 days ahead of when we actually need them (as opposed to last time when they arrived day of)! They were supposed to be good for 90 days, but with all the trouble we’ve only got 30 days left! Thankfully we are leaving this weekend and won’t need them after that, but it took a month to get the invite, and then another month to sort out the simple typo in the electronic system, and we’re left with a month to travel… crazy how much more difficult the business visas are to deal with than the tourist ones.The visa’s completes the last critical piece of the puzzle… we have permission to enter the country, we have flights for us and her return, we have hotels and apartments, and we’ve confirmed her passport is ready for pickup. Now we just need our daughter!

We will be spending the remaining 3 days we have left is a panic of suitcase packing and baggage weighing. We have more stuff than ever for this trip when you add in we’ll be taking more clothes for the 1.5 week stay and heavier/warmer clothes for the colder weather, not to mention adding in enough clothes and entertainment to keep Sweet Girl occupied for the week in the capital and the plane trip home. All this must fit into two checked bags not weighing more than 50 lbs each and two smaller carry-ons… space bags have become our friends. Also factor in assorted electronics, photography gear, food and snacks, gifts, orphanage donations and a stroller… we’ve got quiet the load. And of course, on top of that, we have the usual preparations needed for the little ones to spend a week and a half with Annie – grocery shopping, laundry, food prep, scheduling, and more!

Please also keep friends of ours in your prayers. They are walking a concurrent adoption with us and they have hit some roadblocks. We know firsthand how stressful that is, but their situation is even more complicated. I’m sure they are feeling discouraged and frustrated and helpless and my heart breaks for them.

 

Countdown to homecoming!

We have some very exciting news, we have booked our fourth and final trip… the trip that will result in Sweet Girl coming home with her family! We had hoped to do this at the end of Oct, but several factors caused us to delay slightly, something that doesn’t seem like a big deal but pained our hearts when we’ve been so diligent about not delaying her homecoming due to things we can control. But we have booked our final trip from Sun 11/11 to Wed 11/21, putting all us of home and together the day before Thanksgiving… there will be no shortage of things be thankful for this year. In just nine days this chapter will come to an end and a brand new one will begin.Since we had a couple of weeks delay we took the opportunity to spend quality time with Cranky and Happy and our families. We are legally a family of 5 right now, but with only two little ones in the house currently, we wanted to take advantage of the last days of our man to man defense before we transition into zone defense. I know no post is complete without pictures, so here’s some from our trip to the pumpkin patch and corn maize with the girls favorite cousin Benjamin!

So back to Sweet Girl..

Once in country, our itinerary goes something like this… after we arrive, we will spend the first two days in Sweet Girl’s region, making final preparations for her departure from the orphanage. We will pick up her passport that I applied for on the last trip. Vita confirmed for us last week the passport office says its ready, so hopefully no surprises there. Then Tues afternoon, we will grab Sweet Girl, let her say her goodbyes and depart the orphanage for the final time. It’ll take all we have not to run to the car. We are expecting she will leave with literally nothing, not the clothes on her back, not any of the toys we previously brought her. She was an orphan, she had no possessions, only communal property.

We will dress her in her first very outfit she can call all her own. We will then immediately take the 3 hour car ride to the capital that night where we have rented an apartment near the US embassy for the remainder of our time (and be spending our first nights together as a family). We will say our final goodbyes to Vita as she hands us off to Boris, the facilitator that handles the capital region. We’ll begin the 5-day program there on Wed which will consist of getting her medical exams, interviewing with the US embassy, getting her visa to enter the US, and finally registering her at her country’s consulate. Even though this is pitched as a 5 day program, we hear its almost always completed in 3 days so we might have a chance at coming home early.

Booking plane tickets was slightly more complicated this time… we looked at adoption fares as the attractiveness here is there are no change fees. No change fees would be nice and increase the possibility of being able to afford coming home sooner. But quickly realized just what a scam these “special” fares are. Not only must she have a 1-way ticket which is more expensive to begin with, but they only discount their most expensive (not cheapest/internet) fare. So an adoption fare still ends up being like 4x the amount of a regular round trip internet fare, hardly worth it, even if we end up paying change fees associated with a normal internet fare. So what we decided to do what book our 2 tickets normally as we have in the past, then separately book her a round trip ticket originating in the opposite direction and she would not use her return flight. We could then call the airline and get all tickets linked together as a traveling family. So our plan was sound except for one problem, you can’t book a 4yr old an international flight by herself, without a parent on the same reservation, the website won’t allow it. After some ingenuity, we were able to overcome this problem, purchase all our tickets at the exceptional prices we wanted, pay for hers with the miles we’ve earned on previous trips and get them all linked together. We all sit together on our international leg, but she doesn’t yet have a seat assignment on our domestic flight as only exit row seats were available, but thats a minor problem I’m not too worried about dealing with. We also choose to depart/return to a different local airport than we’re used to in order to try to cut down on our 4hr layover in JFK. Our new path gives us almost 2hrs for all 3 of us to get through customs and passport control and make our connecting light… which will be close with an adoption, but should be possible and will keep Sweet Girl busy and cut down on boredom sitting in the terminal waiting.

I want to thank everyone for following our story, supporting us, and getting us to this point… I can’t express that enough. It seems very surreal to be at this point. Please continue to pray for us and Sweet Girl as she prepares to make the journey to her new home and family. She’s leaving all she’s every known – her country, her familiarity, her safety, her food, her language, her caretakers, even the same clothes she wears day after day – to take a chance on the love of a family. We are already heartbroken knowing that she will have to grieve this loss. It’s hard knowing that we are the cause of her grief and we are doing this to her. There is no way to explain to a 4 year old that we think this will be better for her in the long run.

Stay tuned for exciting updates from Trip #4!

HOOPS, part 3

(posted by him)
Yesterday we received wonderful news and that news came in the form of a tracking number from DHL! After over a week of wrangling and logistics, finally, proof that our package has been picked up and is on its way to the states. As I’m writing this, our package was last scanned in Germany and is probably traveling over the Atlantic this very moment. Even though we are no strangers to these sort of problems, I’m continually amazed at how difficult seemingly simple tasks become once you spread them across multiple countries, governments, and cultures.
I have to tip my hat to DHL and supervisor Michael for really working the problem for us, staying on top of things, and DHL for ultimately agreeing to use their corporate account to get this package moving. Who could have thought it would have been so difficult to get foreign shipment prepaid from the US… but thats now behind us. We expect to receive the package by the end of the week where I will promptly pick it up and place it in another shipper’s envelop to overnight it to Seattle where our travel agent can finally present it to the embassy. If you recall, all this was caused by a fat finger typo in the electronic visa invitation system that caused the consulate to say they would not issue my visa unless they had the original invitation in hand! But pray this is the last hangup and once they see the original, they’ll go forward will issuing my business visa without problem.As if that hasn’t been bothersome enough, what occupy’s more of our thoughts at the moment is preparing travel arrangements for our final trip. We initially thought about traveling this week, but for many reasons (visa trouble now being one of those), it worked out best that we didn’t. With her having unavoidable work travel on 11/4-11/6, our next opportunity to consider is 11/10. Even though we have not heard from Vita that Sweet Girl’s passport is confirmed ready for pickup (its been almost 3 weeks now since I applied for it),   we’re completely confident it will be by 11/10. So you may ask, whats the problem then? Can’t the adoption company provide you with a travel itinerary knowing everything will be ready by 11/10? Afterall, thats what a travel agent would do if you were planning a vacation and those cost far less money than adoption agency. I wish it were that simple, but its not. Unfortunately, one of our biggest headaches right now is trying to decide how long we’ll need on the final trip, thus deciding when the return portion of our flights should be. Let me try to explain…

Our final trip will be broken into two portions, time we need to spend in Sweet Girl’s town making final preparations and time we must spend in “the capital” awaiting our clearance to enter the US. In Sweet Girl’s town, we must pick up her passport (which only may be done on a Tues), attempt to cash out her bank account, get final questions answered from her caretakers regarding keeping her daily schedule consistent  and then spending enough time with her so she’s comfortable enough leaving the orphanage with us for good. Once we walk out of the orphanage that final time, all three of us, we will immediately travel 3 hrs by car to “the capital” city to an apartment there. Here we will remain for what is explained to us as a 5 business day program that includes paperwork, getting Sweet Girl evaluated by doctors practicing US standards of medicine, having an in-person interview at the US embassy, and finally, Sweet Girl being issued a US visa to enter our country. Part of the challenge here is our adoption agency will only commit to this being officially a 5 business day program. Though in actuality, many of the adoptive parents we’ve spoken to who have gone through the exact same thing swear up and down it only takes 3 days and is never know to take the full 5 days.

So here is where our headache comes. We would like to fly out Sun, arrive in Sweet Girl’s town Mon afternoon, conduct our business there Mon afternoon and Tues, then leave with Sweet Girl Tues late, use Wed, Thurs, Fri in “the capital” doing her visa, and be on a plane home Sat. There are a couple of problems with this, can we get done all our business in her town in 1.5 days (mainly close our her bank account)? And can we get her visa done in 3 days when the adoption agent tells us we need 5? In this day and age, changing airline tickets can be done, but its neither easy or cheap (with change fees + fare differences, etc). But at the same time, staying 3 extra days in country that we don’t have to isn’t cheap with extra hotel fees and food plus delays Sweet Girl getting home and returning to the normalcy of a schedule (what will bring her the most comfort during this time). What to do? Either way, it could be a costly decision in terms of money in excess of $1000 and time/discomfort for Sweet Girl, not to mention being apart from the twins. And we will be forced to make this decision with incomplete information and without the guidance of our adoption agency… I sometimes feel Vegas would give you better odds! Hopefully reading this gives a little glimpse into the stress involved and how its not just a hurry up and wait process. The other advice I would give those considering international adoption is, despite the money you pay them, don’t expect your agency to stay on top of your schedule, get involved, get educated, and push the boundaries for your kids. This will undoubtedly remain stressful until we step off that plane onto US soil for the first time with her.

HOOPS, part 2

I was hoping to be able to post this last Friday, but as is the case, there was no news.Michael at DHL is in contact with DHL (region). Now the hold up seems to be that the adoption center either doesn’t have the package ready for pickup or won’t call DHL (region) to pick it up.

I requested Vita call again to day to tell them to give it to DHL (region) asap, but I have yet to hear if she did. It’s a little ridiculous that emails have to go through 5 people before they get to the right person!

HOOPS, part 3 to HOPEFULLY come soon 🙂

I looked at flights early this am and it’s looking pretty fantastic (like miracle territory) if we can book soon. We might go ahead and book flights before we have confirmation the visa invitation is on it’s way. It’s slightly risky, but the alternative is that flights go up and we pay more. It’s not just a little more either, it’s like thousands more.

But also, before we book, we need confirmation from Vita whether she wants us to be in region Sunday afternoon so we are ready to go early on Monday or Monday afternoon so we have a shorter day.

Anyway, here’s some pictures of the cutest 20 month olds around!

Hoops

I know lots of times, you hear about all the hoops adoptive families have to jump through. You look at me with sideways eyes when I tell you that it took me 28+ hours to get a package shipped. You can’t imagine the amount of red tape and bureaucracy, much less time zone hopping that has to be done to just mail a letter.
So, while I’m still in the emotional throws of it, I wanted to share what my last 28+ hours have looked like.
I think last you heard, we were having an issue with His visa invitation. We have a scan of the invitation and the FMS service inputted the visa into the ‘system’. This took 24 days to accomplish. But, there was a typo in the inputting process. The number on the bottom of the scan doesn’t match the number in the system. Our travel agent said, you have two choices 1. Correct the system 2. Get the original.
We have requested #1, but since it took 24 days the first time, we are also pursuing #2. You would think this would be easy. They scanned me the original, so now they need to put it in a Fed-ex envelope and ship it to me. They even have my fed-ex number.
Cast of Characters:
Judy – Adoption Agency contact – US side
Vita – Adoption Agency contact – Sweet Girl side
Michael – DHL, US
Svetlana – DHL (region)
Here’s where it went downhill:
Tuesday, 10:30am
Judy – “(Region) has (only) DHL direct service.  They told Vita that they would send you corrected original documents by DHL. What they would like you to do is visit or call your local DHL office and ask them to send confirmation that you would pay for the DHL from (region).  Evidently this is something they have done successfully before.”
Tuesday, 12:00pm
Me – I tried to call the DHL 800 number. The person didn’t speak English well. He told me that he couldn’t give me the number to the local DHL office. I tried to see if they would send confirmation to (region). He said he couldn’t do that. I asked if they could send it COD, he said (country) is an at risk country and COD, prepay, and recipient services aren’t available there. He wants me to contact the shipper and give them my account number. I told him I didn’t have one and could I create an account. He said I couldn’t have an account to ship internationally if I wasn’t a business.
Tuesday 12:10pm
Me – Try DHL online chat services. They are of no help.
Tuesday, 12:15pm
Me – Fire off emails: 1. Whitney asking if she has DHL. She doesn’t, but she’s trying to get a DHL account started so we can us. 2. Judy and ask for alternatives including asking if they can mail it to Vita and she can DHL it to me.
Tuesday, 12:45pm
Vita – I think it’ll be much faster if Adoption Center will ship the invitation through DHL. But for that they and DHL office in (Region) asked to confirm that the we will pay for DHL. For that we should contact any DHL office in their area and inform them that they are expecting the package from (Address) and they are ready to pay for that package. The contact person in (region) is Zotova Lubov, phone number is (xxxx) 32-38-61
I was told that as soon as DHL office in USA contact DHL office in Vladimir (their email is:  XXX@vinfo.ru) they’ll pick up the documents and send them to family.
Tuesday, 2:00pm
Me – I try the online chat again. I get a guy who is willing to look for the shipment in the system and see if there is a hold on it. He can’t find the shipment and tells me he can’t help until it’s in the system. We proceed with a circus of me asking what else I can do and him saying he cannot help for what feels like forever.
Tuesday, 3:30pm
Me- Using my sleuth skills, I find what I think is a local DHL number. Call and Michael answers the phone. Explain situation to Michael and he tells me to forward him the email and he’ll see what he can do.
Overnight
Me- Freaking out wondering if I messed up his email and dreading the morning when I’m going to have to call back and ask if he found out anything.
Wednesday 6:44am
Michael – “I was able to contact DHL (region), they advised the below information:
(Svetlana at DHL (region) emailed: As I understand, there is a consignee in the USA who needs to get an invitation from (country).So, there are two ways: 1. Shipper calls DHL (region) and pays for sending. We will p/up it and send to the consignee. Or 2. The consignee calls the nearest office DHL and makes Transport Collect, if he wants to pay.)
We do not offer the transport collect option in the US, are you able to have the shipper use there DHL shipping information to send this to the US and send you the bill? We could try to have an account set up in your name but we would still need to get your account number to the shipper to process the shipment. If you would like to create an account customer service would be able to assist.”
Wednesday 7:25am
Me – After evaluating the risk and alternatives, I emailed Svetlana my credit card information including security code thinking this would satisfy her #1 since she was DHL (region).
Wednesday 7:35am
Svetlana – “You should call the nearest DHL office and make a request for delivery from (country) to USA. You will pay there. Our colleagues will send your request to our office and then we will make pick-up.”
Wednesday 7:55am
Me – I attempt to beg Svetlana through email to just charge my card. I also email Judy again and ask if Vita can just pay for it. I also email Michael and ask for other ideas.
Wednesday 9:10am
Svetlana – “I’m sorry, but we can’t use your card. The procedure says that your local DHL office should send the request to (country).”
Wednesday 9:42am
Michael calls. We brainstorm some options. None sound great to either of us. He says he’s going to go look into some things.
Wednesday 11:05am
Whitney is still trying to set up an account, but DHL is slower than molasses.
Wednesday 11:57am
Got a call voicemail (because I’m attempting to work in between all this!!) from Michael – says to call him.
Wednesday 12:55pm
Call Michael back. He says it’s ridiculous that we have to jump through these hoops. He’s going to contact DHL (region) and just use his DHL corporate number. He says he’s going to handle all the details and try to get it out tomorrow. I tell him as soon as it gets there He can go pick it up (DHL is about 30 minutes away, between our house and His work) and will pay for it. He says that we aren’t allowed to pay for it and he’s so sorry for all that we’ve had to go through just to ship a piece of paper and it wasn’t supposed to be this hard.
I’m a sobbing mess.
We know there are no guarantees that he can get it here, but just the fact that I’m not fighting alone anymore was so great to me.
Part two to come later! Do you think we’ll get it shipped?

The only known in adoption is the unknown…

(posted by him)
So in an earlier post, I gave you a little preview into the “fun” it is applying for visa’s to enter Sweet Girl’s country. In her country, you must be invited to come via a formal invitation. This invitation allows you to get a visa from the local consulate. And there are two types of visas (though law is currently changing this as we speak), a tourist visa, good for a double or single entry in a 30 day window, and a business visa, that can be gotten for multiple entries over a long period of time. Up to this point, we have been traveling on tourist visa’s as they are easy and simple to get (your invitation can come from any travel agency or hotel abroad). The business visa, in our case for adoption, must include an invitation from the adoption ministry… much harder to obtain. Since our court appearance over a month ago, we have been working to obtain this invitation. We wanted me to travel on a multiple entry business visa recently for trip #3, but the invitation arrived a day late and dollar short, so I traveled on another tourist visa. Why so important? Well, first off, a multiple entry business visa would have saved us money over multiple single entry tourist ones, but that’s not the main point. The main point is the passport office in Sweet Girl’s hometown requires that we be traveling on a business visa when we come to pick up her passport during the final trip. Without it, we may not be allowed to get her passport and thus not be able to bring her home.So, whats the quarrel? Well, first a little background. We had asked about our business invitations when we were there for court, end of August, and a few days later were told they would be ready by Sept 12th. Well, Sept 12th came and went, and Vita called everyday, but the invitations where still not ready and no one knew the problem. Well, this turned into the situation I wrote about preparing for trip #3…the long and short of it is, the invitation was ready on Sept 24th, but not in enough time for me to turn it around into a visa in time for trip #3. Vita had sent us a scanned copy of the invitation, and we noticed something odd while looking at them. Her’s appeared to have been dated Sept 12th, as originally promised, but mine appeared to be filled out differently/at a different time and was dated Sept 24th. We concluded that there was some breakdown in communication and they had only issued Her’s and forgot mine, and then had to scramble to add mine when we started calling everyday. But we thought the worst of it was behind us.Well, when I returned from trip #3, we knew trip #4 was imminent, and wanted to go ahead and apply for our business visa since they are good for 90-days (instead of 30 like the tourist). So we once again sent off our passports to our travel agent in Seattle to apply for them, this time not needing to pay for as much extra rush processing. But then I get a call last night, there is a problem with my visa application, the consulate has rejected it. When any agency in Sweet Girl’s country issues a visa invitation, they record it in a computer system the consulate uses to look up the invitation. This saves us from having to pay the $150 in shipping to get the one piece of paper here physically. But, the adoption ministry in Sweet Girl’s home town that issued me my invitation, miskeyed a number into the online system so there is a mismatch between the actual invitation and the electronic registration. Now the consulate is saying they won’t issue my visa without either a.) the original copy of the invitation (which we hope Vita physically has) or b.) the office that issued the invitation can correct the typo in the online system. Either way, its gonna take at least a week to sort out and I may not get my visa with enough time to travel the 3rd week of October (the soonest Sweet Girl’s passport would be ready). Her invitation, the one issued on the original promised date,  is of course fine, she’ll get her visa.

Once again, what we thought surely would be simple and we had plenty of time for has turned into a debacle and will probably push things right to the edge again. It might not be possible to go get her the third week of October (10 days!) like we want/plan. It’s possible that the passport wouldn’t even be ready then. But it’s pushing us to push the pickup trip date out to the 2nd week in November. This would ensure that we’d have time to deal with the visa and ensure the passport would be ready. It sounds sensible, but it means our Sweet Girl would be without her family a few extra days that she doesn’t absolutely have to be… something we’ve tried to avoid all along.

Friends wanted!

How can you put into words what this journey has done for us? It’s made me stronger than I ever knew possible while making me fall to my knees in weakness. It’s broken my heart and my soul for every child that I can’t save. It’s made tears fall from my eyes when I watch my sweet girls play because I know there are so many millions of children who will never know what it’s like.

I tell myself, “Can I stop with just Sweet Girl?” Can I tell God that we don’t have enough money or enough room at the table?

Imagine Sweet Girl being a sweet girl, playing her harmonica, drinking her juice box and looking at pictures of HER family. (Imagine the “non-brushed” hair day he talked about in his post.)

There is so much evil in the world. Even within my small adoptive community, I see satan attacking at every turn. Sometimes it’s obvious – sweet precious children pass away while they wait for their mama and papa to come, crises with jobs or houses while parents try to fight to bring home their kids, kids who wait YEARS AND YEARS for their family to find them. Other times it’s not obvious – something another adoptive mom does annoys you and puts a bitterness in your heart or I choose to buy a fancy lunch out when I know what $10 would mean for these kids.

Today, I read a post about a lady who was culling her friends list. She said something like if you read this and don’t plan on praying for orphans, adopting orphans or donating to orphans, then delete me as your friend. At first, I was inclined to agree and shout, “Yes, this is SO IMPORTANT! If you aren’t with me, then you must be against me and if you are against me then I don’t want to be your friend!” But I quickly realized I didn’t mean that.

Do I think that this journey has been so awesome and the reward so great that I think everyone should do it? Yes! But don’t all “new parents” say that? Once you had your first or third child, didn’t you try to tell all your friends that they need to stop waiting and just have kids or another kid now! We all meant it with the best of hearts though. But do I truly judge my friends who choose not to have kids? No, not at all. That is their journey and their choice. I just want to support them on whatever decisions they make and watch God work in their lives. I know that sometimes this means that I will cry with them and be heartbroken with them.

Back to adoption.. so even though I encourage everyone to adopt now, do I truly think it’s for everyone? No, I don’t! Do I think donating to families/children waiting for adoption is for everyone? Nope! I’d hope that you could at least pray for them, but will I really unfriend people who aren’t believers because they don’t believe in prayer? That’s ridiculous. What I do want my friends to do is search their souls and look around them to see where they can help and HELP SOMEHOW. I do think that everyone needs to follow the Bible when God tells us to care for the orphans and widows in their distress, but if that means that you support meal programs for orphans or a work assistance program for widows, then I am so excited for you! And it’s exciting to know that where I’m not called to help specifically, God has called others to help! We are all working towards the same goal!

It’s such a rewarding experience to follow what I think God has called us to do. I get wrapped up in the details of life and get frustrated by it all too, but the reward at the end of this journey wrapped up in a little red headed ball of fire is my light. She makes this worth doing.

What I’m trying to say is, I don’t care if God leads you down a different path or if you don’t think God leads you at all – you are still my friend and I cherish our relationship.

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I was going to stop this here, but throughout this whole post, the theme of redemption has been front and center in my mind. I can’t find an eloquent way to bring the two topics together, but just pretend that a great writer whisked his or her way in here and added a paragraph that combines these two topics.

There is a quote from a man, Derek Loux (http://louxfamilyblog.com/), about Redemption. He wrote this in his blog regarding the adoption of his boys from EE:

On the drive home that night, the Lord whispered in my ear, “This is Redemption. Derek, do you know how far I travelled to get you and bring you back? I had to be separated from my Son, in order to get you, just like you are separated from your children in order to get these boys. Do you know how expensive it was for Me to purchase you? It cost me everything. Do you know how broken, sick, damaged, twisted, dirty, smelly, and hopeless you were? And at the end of it all, you had nothing to give me or add to me. I did it for you. I emptied myself and became nothing so that you could have it all. This is redemption.

 

My friends, adoption is redemption. It’s costly, exhausting, expensive, and outrageous. Buying back lives costs so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him. And when He redeems us, we can’t even really appreciate or comprehend it, just like Dimitri will never comprehend or fully appreciate what is about to happen to him … but … he will live in the fruit of it. As his Daddy, I will never expect him to understand all of this or even to thank me. I just want to watch him live in the benefits of my love and experience the joys of being an heir in my family. This is how our heavenly “Papa” feels towards us.

 

Today, settle your busy heart down and rest in the benefits of redemption. Enjoy the fruits of His goodness, and stop trying to “pay Him back”. You’ll never get close you goofy little kid.

Derek went to be with Jesus a year after he wrote that which makes it even more powerful. It makes me realize that my blessing is that I don’t have to be strong and I don’t have to do it all, I just need to do the best I can. God has already redeemed me and Sweet Girl, I don’t need to do it again. But I do want to watch her “live with the benefit of my love and experience the joys of being an heir in my family”.

We think we get to go get our sweet sweet baby mine in two weeks 🙂

On a wing and a prayer – Trip 3, Day 3

(posted by him)
:gasp: …that was a sigh of relief! This day has been more challenging than I ever could have imagined. When I said we were cutting it close by having to conduct all business we needed to do today, Friday, I only knew the half of it. I’m still decompressing and shaking as I’m typing this, let me explain…The morning started off normal. Vita called me down at 9:30 like previously planned. She already had the court decree and we were heading off to the ZAGS office. What we needed from them was an adoption certificate and updated birth certificate with our names to apply for the passport. We get there and go straight into to a large office room with modern office furniture. I sit on a couch in the corner of the room while Vita sits at the desk with the lady. They engage in some back and forth conversation for quite a while. I wasn’t sure, but the back and forth-ness seemed not to be a good sign. 40 minutes pass and she starts printing and stamping papers, so my nerves calm, we’ve got this. Though Vita still has not clued me into anything at this point. Then finally, just as we are about done, she turns around and tells me they will only be issuing the adoption certificate and NOT the updated birth certificate. Apparently a new law just went into effect in Sept where updated birth certificates may only be issued by the ZAGS office where the birth mother is registered at. Even though Sweet Girl was born in this city, her mother was from an outlying town and we would have to visit that ZAGS office. Vita isn’t from this area, so she had no idea how far that was away. But she and I had looked up her birth mother’s home town before on Google maps and I knew this was not a good sign. We return to the car and Ilya informs her where we need to go is over 100 km’s away. By this time, its 11:00am. I ask Vita how late the passport office is open, she tell me 4:00pm. I start doing the math in my head, this is not a good sign.

So we take off driving. We exit town over the river across a big bridge that she and I had seen before from standing at the Assumption Cathedral. If I’ve learned anything, I know due to road and traffic conditions, it takes far longer to cover distance than it does in the US. After getting outside of town, we have to stop for gas, but then the road turns into a quiet two lane highway. The country side is quite beautiful and we’re passing big fields, small shack towns, birch forests, and farms. There really isn’t much of anything except the occasional village or train tracks. The road is rough, but thankfully traffic isn’t too much of a concern being we’re in the middle of nowhere. After what seemed close to two hours of driving, a small little town square popped up in the middle of nowhere. Much nicer than anything I witnessed so far. We found the ZAGS office and as we were getting out of the car, Vita warned me it was lunch time. Sure enough, we go up and the door is locked. We return to the car where I play a couple of games of brick breaker on my blackberry and pass 30 mins until its 1:00. We go try again and its open! No one else is there but the counter lady. It takes us about 30 mins and we get the updated birth certificate with her and my names. Vita then informs me we need a “citizenship stamp” before going to the passport office and we would try to do that in this town. We drive to the other end of town square and she tells me to wait in the car and disappears for 30 mins. When she comes back, she says she should have known better, but the stamp must come from Sweet Girl’s town. So wasted 30mins and back we head.

checkpoint 2 – ZAGS office located!

Its 2:00pm by the time we start heading back. Now I know Ilya drove pretty aggressively on the way out because I could feel it in all the bumps in the road, but on the way back he took it to a whole new level. I felt like we were in the grand championship of the world rally federation and we were going for the cup! we were darting out and passing trucks and cars, sometimes 2-3 at a time, all along this wet 2 lane highway. One time I glanced over and his speedometer was touching 170kph, no joke (thats 105mph). We’re in a Ford S-Maxx… which i think amounts to a Focus and man that thing is flying over the rough asphalt, I’m just thinking keep 3 wheels in contact with the ground please. We’re running up on trucks going 30mph and he’s all over the binders, then we dart out into oncoming traffic to pass them. How that little car handles that sort of driving I’ll never know. There was no sleeping on this ride, it was hang on, grip tight! The rally adventure landed us back in town right at 3:30, and we still had to get the stamp before going to the passport office. I ask Vita if she thinks we’ll make it, she doesn’t want to hazard a guess. We pull over at an inconspicuous looking building I’ve passed many times, Vita hops out and tells me to stay put. 15 mins later she returns but I’m thinking, great the passport office must be across town, we’ll never make it. Thankfully, I didn’t know it was just down the muddy back alley a few hundred yards. So we get there and Vita and I jump out, its 3:45 by this time. We climb two flights of stairs and there’s the passport office. There was a hallway with four numbered rooms on it. Two younger people were already waiting outside. I’m thinking to myself, great, now we’re here, but there’s a line and they’ll probably cut us off while we’re standing outside the door! Vita sits down on the bench and organizes her papers, I go ahead and sign the application. One by one they get called in, now its our turn. Vita goes in and tells me to wait outside. 5 minutes later she calls me into the room. An older woman is sitting there going over all her papers, handing some back to her. 5 more minutes, she stamps things and hands Vita a piece of paper with a number on it, Vita says “lets go”. Just as we walk out of the office, Vita and I let out a collective sigh, we’ve done it with no time to spare! As we’re walking down the stairs, I hear Vita talking to herself and moving her hands in front of her… I’m thinking, is she saying a thank you prayer? We get back to the car and fill Ilya in on the good news, I thank him for his excellent driving.

So now is the first time all afternoon I can breathe. I’ve been hours in a car, all over the country side, at breakneck speeds… haven’t eaten a thing all day, haven’t stopped, and all I’ve been thinking in my head is what will be my plan B (change flights, extend stay over the weekend, what? as an FYI, Vita also has another family coming on Sun)… but it doesn’t matter now, we’ve accomplished it. I asked her about the less important bank work with Tatiana, and she said she had called earlier and Tatiana still hadn’t returned from vacation, so that was out anyway. We decided I would try to sign some blank forms for Tatiana in the hopes she could fill in the needed information, so we’ll see.  Then it was back to the hotel were we both celebrated and said our goodbyes. Vita will now be heading back home, she’s arranged for Ilya to pick me up at the hotel at a wonderful 5:30am to get me to the airport for my 11:50am flight. Just one more 3hr car ride in the morning and I’ll be on a plane starting my journey home, with almost everything I needed to get accomplished done.