Now that Sweet Girl is home we can be a little more open about the procedure. For all those coming here as a resource about adoption, Sweet Girl is from Vladimir, Russia. All posts about being in region reference Vladimir and all posts about the capital reference Moscow.
I hope to keep the blog up but transition it into a journal of our family and Sweet Girl’s place in our lives! So with that, here’s an update on what we’ve been up to!
Ten things I didn’t expect in our first two weeks home:
1. Cranky and Happy to not bat an eye as Sweet Girl has seamlessly taken her place as the big sister. The interactions between all three girls are genuinely sweet and caring. There has been very little issue over toys, attention, etc.
2. In Moscow, Sweet Girl slept on a pallet next to the bed with us. Here, we have her on a little cot next to our bed. In Moscow, Sweet Girl slept 8p – 8a without issues. At home, when she wakes, she’s up. This has been from 3a – 8a. Our hopes of getting her into her own room at night after a couple of days have turned into we hope we can get her into her own room by Christmas.
3. All 3 girls at once is still pretty overwhelming for he and I individually. It’s our issue though, not theirs, as we learn to split our attentions well enough to fulfill all three girls need for affection, attention, and positive reinforcement. I feel exhausted 99% of the time. I try to not let my frequent frustration show, but I am human and I fail. He is super dad and is continually patient and present with them.
4. While deep down I am not surprised, Sweet Girl is modeling all the twins behavior. They throw food on the floor, she wants to see what happens when she throws food on the floor. They want a book read, she wants a book read. She watches their behavior as a model on how to act in our family. Thankfully, the twins are surrounded by a village of people who have helped us model good behavior for them so they can now model good behavior for Sweet Girl… except for that throwing food thing 🙂
5. Sweet Girl has attached very quickly to he and I – moreso him. She comes to me and loves me and needs me, its when her Papa is at work, her little world breaks down. It is getting better as she realizes when Papa leaves he will always come back. Overall, when not at home, her anxiety about being forgotten, being left, or all of us not going home is palpable. The shocking degree to which she “needs” us has been slightly overwhelming, but we’re managing.
6. Eating is harder than I thought it would be. In Moscow, Sweet Girl was pretty picky about what she ate and that has continued at home. It is a little bit her controlling her completely uncontrollable surroundings and a little bit that she thinks we are crazy Americans for eating all this food out of boxes. We are learning her and she is rewarding us by trying and liking new things occasionally. She has no pressure with food. She can eat as much or as little of whatever she wants whenever she wants.
7. Sweet Girl loves going. As a way to avoid the insanity that comes from being inside all day every day, we try to go out for little trips every day. She loves to crawl into her carseat and get buckled. She loves going into stores and looking at all the stuff. In the grocery, she just wanted to touch all these things she’s only seen in pictures.
8. She is SMART. She prefers to teach us the Russian word than learn the English word, but she is learning new concepts so quickly. She can bead patterns, sort, color, trace and overall learns so fast. She tries to mimic words we say and already understands lots of basic things we tell her. We taught her A and C this week and now she can consistently say, find and write those letters. And I don’t even need to get into her expertise at what she’s now taken as HER iPhone and HER iPad.
9. She doesn’t like warm Krispy Kremes. I know it’s a travesty, we are working on it.
10. She has maintained lots of orphanage habits, but others she has dropped quickly. While she can dress herself, she prefers to let us dress her. She knows she is supposed to sit for meals but sometimes, her curiosity about the cat causes her to get up and investigate. She shares well and is tolerant of twins being in her room and riffling through her stuff. She is opinionated about what she wears. She is learning what happens when she doesn’t respond to “Nyet!”
I won’t lie. This is HARD. Adding another child to your home who already has so many life experiences is not roses and daisies. But God said to follow Him. He didn’t tell us it would be easy and not fraught with heartache, but He did tell us that the reward would be worth it. Seeing the light in her eyes the first time she saw fruit at the grocery store made every document we chased worth it.
So, here’s our first two weeks in PICTURES!
We went through US Customs and Immigration with no issues whatsoever, they didn’t even take us to a secondary screening! He just flipped through the pages of the sealed envelope and said, “Welcome to America, you’re done!” US security was no problem with the medications either and we were on our way!
We found a nice little corner spot to wait the 30 minutes for our next flight where Sweet Girl could look out the windows at the planes and run around a little bit. The minute we boarded that plane, she gave up very quickly again and went to sleep and didn’t wake up until we landed in RDU.
She was very impressed with Mama and Papa’s machina and her seat. She had no problems getting buckled. She stayed awake until we made a quick drive through stop (which she was facinated with!) and then fell asleep with her juicebox in her hands.
A long bath and sweet bed time cuddles and her day was done! She did fantastic today even though we skipped her nap time for St. Basil’s. He and I have spent the last couple hours trying to put the luggage puzzle back together. Boris should hopefully be here to get us at 9:30 am. Our flight leaves here at 1pm here time and we will hopefully be home before too late EST tomorrow! We are hoping for a nice calm week where we can settle in, learn our new normal and start making good memories!
We have won the kid lottery. This Sweet Child is the most precious thing in the world. She is so so smart and so precious. I already can’t picture my future without her. She is kind and generous. She is loving and thoughtful. She is stubborn and independent. Her untamable hair makes me smile every time I attempt to tame it. Our three girls are our light and we are so thankful and so blessed that God saw fit to allow us to parent them in this broken world.
We got a little late start to the morning since we all slept in a little bit! We had nothing on the schedule all day so we did a few tourist activities. We started at a little cafe so our friends could grab lunch. We ordered Sweet Girl a fresh squeezed apple juice. We got some sort of beef quesadilla thing. She drank her entire apple juice before the waiter even left the table, but she wanted nothing to do with our food! She did scarf down the left over pasta and salmon that our friend shared with her!
We headed back out to Old Arbat (which is super close to our apartment) and went to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. The waiter asked Sweet Girl what she wanted to eat and read her the children’s menu. She picked a cheeseburger. We had tried this at McD’s, but thought maybe she just had picky burger tastes. It came and she ate a few french fries and her orange slices. She also ate our friends mashed potatoes. When we got back to the room she had cheerios and grapes to round it out.
We had an uneventful bedtime routine and then the adults stayed up way too late!
We had a speedy morning of eating breakfast and getting ready to meet Boris at 8:30 for her appointment at a doctor for our US Visa. I couldn’t let another minute go by so even though it wasn’t the first bath of our dreams, I put Sweet Girl in the tub really fast to wash the orphanage off her. She had no problem getting in (a fear we had since often children aren’t given proper baths and instead endure cold water splashed over them) and splashing around. All too soon it was over and we were out the door. Before she went to sleep last night she went through her entire suitcase and looking at every article of clothing we brought for her. She ooh’d and ahh’d over everything except the pullups I brought in case of long car rides/plane rides. Those she called something that was probably “for babies” and then tossed aside. So this morning, I thought she’d be excited to pick her clothes, but the concept was too foreign and instead I picked and just asked her if it was okay.
Not a great picture, but here we are waiting for our medical.
The ipad watching above lasted about 4 minutes, then she carried the headphones and ipad around and pushed the buttons. I think everything new was too overwhelming for her to concentrate.
About this time, we headed out to find a market. We ended up at the one Boris pointed out to us. It was very 5th Avenue ish. It’s the bottom floor of a very fancy department store. We were seriously the only customers and on the end of every section there was an employee there watching us. We let Sweet Girl look around a lot. She has never seen a market and never knew that’s where food came from. We let her assert choices and pick out the fruit we wanted. Since we knew we’d have to carry everything back, we didn’t get much.
We got back and had lunch (chicken noodle soup, yogurt, and grapes). She ate everything but the soup. Then around 1:30 we took a family nap. Sweet Girl went down effortlessly, but I’m not sure if she gave in to sleep before I did or not! We spent the whole afternoon playing in the apartment. Sweet Girl has been talking to us nonstop, but I think we’re finally getting a rhythm. Up until bedtime, she was doing FABULOUS. Beyond better than we could have hoped. Everything is new and she’s just soaking up the experience and the attention. Even something like being able to take a drink of water when you want is new to her. Her favorite activity is turning all the lights off and looking out the window to the city lights. We try to turn one back on and we are immediately corrected that it’s not allowed!
For dinner, we had a pizza that we found at the market. It was pretty good but Sweet Girl wanted nothing to do with it. Then, I made her oatmeal. I bribed her into taking one bite, but she was not a fan. Then I tried these little cheese things I got at the market. She wasn’t interested in that either. I took a bite to show her it was safe and realized I just took a bite of cream cheese. No wonder she looked at me like I was crazy when I put it on her plate! She ended up with a kids cereal bar, an apple, and some milk for dinner. We are struggling to get enough fluids into her. She will drink a juice box all day long, but when any liquid is in a cup, she has a couple sips and then leaves it. Her little system isn’t used to so much juice and it’s causing interesting bathroom time.
Speaking of bathroom time, for all the other adoptive families out there…. She is not scared of the big potty at all. Sometimes we ask if she has to go and sometimes she goes in there on her own. She crawls up there all on her own. If it’s pee, she doesn’t wipe and just hops down. If it’s the other, she waits for me to hand her toilet paper and then wipes on her own. I’ve been wiping after her to make sure she’s good too. She’s not strong enough to push the flush button so we can always tell if she’s gone 🙂 There are two bathrooms in here and either she doesn’t know she can use both or she’s has designated one hers.
Then we got to bedtime. We were unable to get any sort of a schedule of her day so we have guessed that her bedtime is 7:30 or 8. Tonight about 7:15 she started to get a little more hyper and distracted. I took this as a sign she was tired. We did jammies and brushed teeth (she needs a little help, but understands the concept and the spit at the end) and I put her on her little pallet, said some prayers and left her. About 5 minutes later, I opened the door to check on her and sweet little thing was silently crying her eyes out. I’m not sure if she was scared of the dark or scared we weren’t there or what, but I laid down on the bed next to her and rubbed her back for a long time. Then I moved to our bed and watched her watching me. Again, I’m not sure who fought the longest, but before I knew it it was 11pm. Oops. Since my nap has kept me up, I’m out in the living room blogging and two of the four loves of my life are sleeping in the other room.
Tomorrow we have an appointment at the embassy in the morning and then we are going to try to register her passport right after. If we can get her passport registered tomorrow, we might be on track to come home a little earlier. Lu comes in tomorrow as well. I’m sure they are going to be exhausted, but I hope they recover quickly and want to do some sightseeing Friday afternoon!
We started the day at 9:40am and went straight to the orphanage. Vita told me to bring Sweet Girl’s clothes and coat. Once there, He, Vita and the director went out for some business. I was to stay and play with Sweet Girl and change her into her new clothes. She was very unhappy that I wanted to put new clothes on her, but we managed. She looked absolutely adorable!
While changing her, I noticed the cold hard truth that the numbers only eluded to. Our sweet precious girl is the height of an average 4 year old but weighs only 30#. She is very very skinny and her bones protrude from her back, knees and elbows. It’s not purposeful malnutrition, it’s a sweet orphanage director only having limited resources and lots of children to feed. She does so so much with what she has. She has done a fabulous job advocating for these children and exposing them to many different things, but no matter how fabulous it is, it’s still an orphanage. It’s still a building where little children go to bed hungry because there just isn’t enough to go around.
We sat and played while we waited for the gang to get back from their errands. They returned pretty quickly and said that they were only halfway successful. We had to decide whether we would go to the other part of the region 1.5 hours away to finish some business or not. The business was optional, but I have fought in this region for what it represented. I was afraid to decline the invitation to go, lest it negatively affect the families after me. He and gang went back out to pick up the passport and go to the adoption center and left Sweet Girl and I to play again. They arrived back at about 1:00 and we left Sweet Girl at the orphanage to rest. Our trip was supposed to take about 3 hours. This would put us back and leaving the orphanage around 5 to make it to the capital around 8.
Of course as it always goes in this country, someone at the orphanage saw we had a driver and asked for a ride somewhere first. By the time we got out of town it was 1:30. We are booking it along rally car style (this is the same town he went to on trip 3 that he had to race to and from) and the GPS shows we are 30 minutes away and then it happens. We had slowed down to go through a little “settlement” but still took a bump too fast. We came down and “pop”, the tire blew. Ilya had it changed and us back on the road within 15 minutes. The whole time I’m doing math in my head about what time the subsequent events would happen. We took care of our business and got back on the road. It was 4:00. We hit town at 5:30 and still had to go to the notary, the adoption center, pick up our luggage from the hotel, stop and buy a gift for the orphanage director who had stayed late to wait for us (ironic that we made her stay later by stopping to buy her a gift) and then finally, at 6:30, we got to the orphanage. It was the night crew for sure, but Sweet Girl sat in her clothes and coat and looked very scared waiting for us. We collected her and the director (remember, we had a driver!) and took the orphanage director home. The entire time, Sweet Girl did extremely well. She for sure had her overwhelmed face on, but she was hanging in there. To add to the stops, Ilya decided he wanted to stop and grab another spare tire just in case. Good idea, but by the time we got on the road for the capital it was 7:30. Sweet Girl slept most of the ride thank goodness.
We got to our apartment in the capital about 10:30 and by the time we were up and settled it was close to 11:30. We had one small breakdown when Vita said goodbye and we walked into the apartment alone. I think it was a combination of fear, darkness, tiredness and the emotions of the day all coming together. Since then, Sweet Girl has been doing AMAZING. She just talks and talks and talks to us and acts like this is no big thing.
So.. now, here’s the pics! We are dying for lunch, but I know so many of you are dying for this post, so forgive the lack of captions right now!
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.
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!
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!