Disney or Dirty?

The baby daddy/love of my life got a new phone recently and he has discovered Google Now (which annoyed the crap out of me and I turned off quickly). It has analyzed his info and has recommended some shows for him to watch:

Doc McStuffins
Tangled
Brave
Naked and Afraid

If you aren’t aware, the first three are Disney shows/movies. The last is a Discovery channel show that’s probably PG-13 about surviving naked in the wilderness. So basically, Google thinks he wants shows about cartoons and survival which considering he likes to be outside and has three girls is about accurate.

Seriously. It’s funny right? I mean “Tangled” is 100% innocent until you add Naked to the list and then it reminds me of Christian Grey. Am I alone that this is hilarious?

I considered though, that if you weren’t already aware of these shows, the combination of the 4 of them sounds suspiciously pay per view adult-program oriented.

Happy 1st Russia Party Sweet Girl!

When we were in Russia, we collected several gifts to give to Sweet Girl every year on the anniversary of when she became ours forever. In November, we were sick around this anniversary, but we talked with her that soon we’d have a party with Russia things to celebrate her being in our family for a year. She started calling it her “Russia Party.” Time slipped away and she kept asking when her Russia Party was going to happen. I had all these grand plans and because I wanted to do it right, more weeks slipped by. Finally, I told her we’d have her Russia Party before her birthday. The day I had her birthday invitations printed I knew I better get on it!

We already had dinner with friends scheduled last week so I decided to bite the bullet and just combo our little get together with her Russia Party. A few cupcakes and a sign later and it was not the extravagant celebration in my mind, but she loved every second of it!

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The gift we chose to give her this year is a book that teaches kids numbers. There are lots of number games and puzzles in this book and even those it’s a book, the puzzle pieces come out and can be put together separately or in the spot in the book. So it’s Russian, but because she doesn’t speak or read Russian, she can still use it since numbers are universal.

20140328-100443.jpgSweet Girl, we are so over the moon in love with you! I can’t imagine my life without you. Your papa and I are so proud of all you have done in 16 months in our family. Your sisters adore you and you are so patient and so kind to them. You are the perfect fit for us.

You are almost done with your kindergarten year and everyone at your school loves you and protects you. You’ve had a few bumps learning how to be a good friend and learning that it’s okay to mess up. We remind you a lot that being kid means that it’s your job to mess up and try again and it’s our job to help you learn how to make good choices.

This morning I was telling you how super cute you looked in your pigtails and you were getting annoyed with me gushing on you. You finally said, “Is your brain on top?”  I asked if you meant, “Is your brain on today?” and you said, “Yeah, that’s it!”.

I am looking forward to being your mama for as many days as God blesses me with the honor!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

COURT

Long overdue I know.

As much as it’s adjustment to go to a foreign country for a week, it’s a big adjustment to come back home too. We have family visits to try to get in, two girls who missed Mama and Papa, laundry, more laundry, housework, chores, jobs to catch up on, etc.

Add into the “funk” that we keep finding ourselves in once we’re home and it’s a disaster around here. Add to it, the girls are both cutting teeth and got flu shots on Thursday. And then, I managed to catch a cold Sunday too. Anyway, I want to document all the emotions that encircled the COURT experience before I forget.

The night before court we went to bed a little late. Once we recover from the jetlagged induced coma’s of the first 24 hours, our bedtime in region falls at about 7am EST so it’s hard to make yourself sleep. We woke up in the morning and our nerves were a wreck. I checked the weather and saw that it was about 45* out. Not great news for my summer dress/sweater and bare legs. I at least was rational enough to know our adoption wouldn’t be denied based on non-weather appropriate clothing. I couldn’t force myself to eat, but I did manage a glass of coke. I threw a honey bun and OJ in my bag as well in case I had a minute of calm. Court was at 9:30am and Vita was picking us up at 9am. We walked downstairs early and were surprised to see Vita waiting for us. She’s very punctual but usually waits outside in the car. She was dressier than she’s been. You could feel the tension in the air from Vita as well. We hopped in the car and jetted off to the adoption center. We were picking up the lawyer from the adoption center on our way.

At the adoption center, Vita hopped out and about 10 minutes later came out with a piece of paper we had to sign. So at 9:15am on the morning of court, we were still signing important court documents. Then Vita tells me I need to basically memorize what’s on this sheet (in a different language!) as the judge will expect me to know it! Um.. no one told me I had to memorize!

Finally at 9:22 or so, the lawyer comes out. She was very young and dressed fashionably. Definitely a shock. I’m too worried about being late to absorb much.

We cram into the car and head over to the court house. We had seen this building before since Thursday Vita had to file some more paperwork with the court secretary. We went through “security”. Someone let me know if you can explain this. You put your bags on a table, walk through a metal detector and then get your bags. But you don’t have to take anything out of your pockets for the metal detector so it keeps going off and the guards don’t seem to care. And your bags don’t have to go through the metal detector at all? So what’s the point of the metal detector?

Anyway, after some more “come here”, “sit here” and “wait here” from Vita we went into the court room. They had the window open. It was no more than 60* degrees in the room. It was probably a 15’x25’ room. There was a raised portion at the front with 3 nice chairs and there were tables lined up perpendicular to this. Then in between the perpendicular tables there were probably 8 rows of benches – very uncomfortable wooden benches.

Vita gave me some more last minute pointers and all the other people chatted like they all knew each other. Eventually at what I’d estimate to be 9:45, the judge came in. He was 50-ish, smaller stature, gray hair, and blue eyes. He was serious, professional with a slight hint of don’t mess with me.

Everyone in the court room was introduced. Some of these translations missed us because we thought the guy sitting off to the side in the odd uniform that doodled the whole time was the security guard. Nope, he was the prosecutor! So we had him, Vita and I on the front row. The orphanage director and the adoption center attorney on the 2nd row and the child advocate on the 3rd row. To the right of us was the court secretary at a table and to our left was the security guard turned prosecutor. Basically, everyone was positioned to stare at me. He and I elected me to be our family spokesperson which meant that Vita and I had to stand the entire time we were questioned. My feet started to hurt even though my heels weren’t that high. He complained that sitting in the bench for that 2 hours was harder. Who knows. Anyway, for two hours, I was questioned about EVERYTHING.

If you are adopting from this region email me and I will give you details of some questions I skipped here. Without further ado, here’s the list of things I had to answer:
1 .     Tell me about yourself.
2.      Why did you decide to adopt?
3.      Why this country?
4.      Why Sweet Girl?
5.      Family history of adoption.
6.      What was the date of your marriage?
7.      He noted that I had a divorce while I was in college and then I was grilled on that. What was the date of marriage and divorce of your first marriage? Why did this marriage fail? Are you sure you won’t get divorced again?
8.      Tell me about your financial situation, your jobs and how much do you make?
9.      How much is left over at the end of the month?
10.    Can you afford another child?
11.    Did you have medical exams in the US and in this country?
12.    Are you healthy?
13.    Tell me about your biological children.
14.    How long are they in daycare?
15.    Why do you want one more child? But your children are so young?
16.    Wouldn’t you like to wait to have another child?
17.    Tell me about your living conditions.
18.    Do you own your house?
19.    Tell me about the neighborhood.
20.    Tell me about your religion.
21.    Did you know Sweet Girl was baptized?
22.    Was your homestudy authorized? What was the outcome?
23.    Do you have experience with older children?
24.    What training did you do?
25.    Your homestudy says you attended school at a Baptist Day School. Are you Baptist? Is this prodestant? Please explain this.
26.    Do you know about the legal consequences of adopting?
27.    Do you know what makes international adoption different?
28.    Do you know you have to register Sweet Girl at the consulate?
29.    Do you know you have to do post placement reports?

So at this point, I’m clipping along. These are all questions we’d discussed except the Baptist one since I forgot that was in my home study. I’m thinking he’s wrapping up. Nope.

30.    Will you be able to support your family if one of you loses your job?
31.    Do you know about the Russia/US Treaty that was just signed?
32.    You know that after September 1st you would have been required to have more training?
33.    Are you aware that if the laws change again, you could be required to comply?
34.    Do you know why the treaty was signed? (Trick question! Got this one right though!)
35.    Have you heard about the news stories of mistreatment of Russian children?
36.    Would that happen to Sweet Girl?
37.    Tell me about meeting Sweet Girl.
38.    Tell me about this trip.
39.    How do you plan to communicate with her?
40.    Do you know about her character?
41.    What do you know about her medical conditions? (this was the sheet I memorized in the car!)
42.    In spite of what the reports say about her, you still want to adopt her?
43.    Are you prepared to treat her current and any future medical needs?
44.    Did you have meetings with Sweet Girl in the presence of the orphanage staff?
45.    Did you get all necessary info from them?
46.    Did they mistreat you?
47.    Did they demand anything from you?
48.    Do you know about Sweet Girls biological family?
49.    (Detailed questions here about her bio family)
50.    Is your home ready for her?
51.    Will you put her in daycare?

At this point, I could care less what my extended/emotional answers should be. I’m just answering as succinctly as possible.

52.    How long will she be in daycare?
53.    Will you parent her or will someone else? (?? Huh?)
54.    Will you keep the adoption a secret from her or anyone else? (she’s 4???)
55.    Does NC allow you to adopt a child?
56.    What do you plan for her activities? ( I said ballet, gymnastics and soccer – excellent Eastern European passtimes)
57.    Do you receive any financial assistance for her?

Finally, he was done with me. Whew. Remember that he asks in his language, Vita translates to me, I answer in English and she translates back to him.

He asked Him to stand and asked if He had anything to add. He said no. Vita told him he must say something so he said a couple sentences about caring greatly for Sweet Girl and wanting her to be a part of our family. He then asked the court for permission to adopt her.

Then, the security guard stood up and we realized he wasn’t the security guard. Oops. The prosecutor asked:
1.      Do you have any bad habits?
2.      How do you plan to maintain her heritage and culture?
3.      Are there resources available to you?
4.      (some specific questions on her history)

Then the orphanage director was introduced and she said her bit. She stated she was in support of the adoption.

Then the child advocate spoke and said her bit. She stated she was in support of the adoption. We didn’t think anything of it as we had no reason to believe someone might disagree, but then the judge said, “This is the first time the administration of the Vladimir region has ever supported an adoption to an international family. Are you aware of that?” She stated that she was, but in this case, the region felt as if we were truly the best family for her. It was a great sign.

Then the adoption center lawyer said her bit. She stated she was in support of the adoption.

The judge then started at the top of our pile of documents and read what each one was and summarized it. Then he got to our document that we had to do at the last minute back in the US that we thought would hold up court. He read it, set it down and moved on. Vita, Heand I audibly exhaled and relaxed on the bench.

Then everyone in order had to again go through their permissions/declarations. He and I had to ask permission to adopt and the others had to confirm that the adoption was in the best interests of the child.

The judge left and then we waited for about 15 minutes. The others sat and chatted. They attempted to make conversation and asked us how much plane tickets to Russia cost and how many times we had to come. We explained we had to come 4 times and that plane tickets were $1500-$2000 per person each time. Vita said that was about 50,000 rubles per ticket or 400,000 in rubles just for plane tickets and they all seemed shocked. I think they are confused why we do this. I’m not confused. I do it for her. From the moment I saw her picture with her little red curls I knew she was mine.

After 15 minutes, the judge came back in and said she was ours too. Sweet relief it was over!

Here’s everyone but the prosecutor and judge. Vita is taking the picture.

Court secretary, orphanage director, attorney and us.
Friday afternoon we were asked not to see Sweet Girl. The Director has an inspection happenning and she thought it would be confusing and crazy. We were sad, but we respected her wishes.
So instead of a visit, we walked around her town some and took some pictures for her to see later. Here are a couple.
On Saturday we got up at 5am to drive to the airport. We got there in more than enough time and while in line to check in, met another family who was on their gotcha trip with their two new daughters. It was nice to meet then and talk to people who understood English. We bumped into them again before boarding our flight and then learned they were sitting 3 rows behind us and then we saw them again at customs in JFK. Watching them navigate the airport with the little ones helped us greatly as we are planning our own gotcha trip.
You better know what gate you are supposed to be at because unless you speak this language, there is no way to confirm the city is right!

The flight home was uneventful. The flight from JFK to CLT had issues, but we ended up in Charlotte about 11:30pm on Saturday – about 24 hours straight of travel.

So now we wait for 30 days. At the end of the 30 days, the adoption is final and she’s ours. But, in our region, the passport takes 3 weeks, so we will have to go back and apply for the passport and then go back again 3 weeks after that to pick her up.

“I will not leave you as orphans.  I will come for you!”  John 14:18 

What is Reece’s Rainbow?

If you have been around here for the past couple months, you have probably heard us talk about Reece’s Rainbow. They host our FSP (Family Sponsorship Program) page. That allows people to give to us with tax deductible contributions.
But if you didn’t come here through the Reece’s Rainbow community, perhaps that’s all you know. Reece’s Rainbow just put a new awareness video out and it’s great. But before I link to that, I want to tell you about Reece’s Rainbow.
Most people think of international adoption in one of several ways. They either think of sweet little blue eyed Russian babies, or maybe little girls with dark hair and eyes from China. Maybe even, you think of gorgeous Ethiopian toddlers. I can’t think of many people that haven’t said, “Oh, my cousin/sister/friend adopted a baby from ___. That’s the American view of international adoption. Most adoption agencies will tell you that adoptive families want the healthiest, youngest child with the shortest wait possible.
Where does that leave all the other children in the world? What about the little boy with the cleft palate? What about the little girl born blind? What about the child with the heart defect? Sometimes these conditions are repairable in the US, but in their home countries, there isn’t hope. And, the flagship of Reece’s Rainbow, what about all those kids with an extra chromosome? Unfortunately in many countries around the world, the education, medical care, and frankly, money, isn’t there to care for these kids so they are given up by their parents to live in understaffed and underfunded orphanages, and then later mental institutions because there aren’t social services available to integrate these kids into society.
Reece’s Rainbow finds these kids through their own advocates, through adoption agencies and through orphanage directors and photo lists them. What’s the big deal about a photo listing?
Well, let me tell you about a little boy named Hudson. I had the privilege of naming Hudson. It’s a boy name I love that he would never let me use. Hudson is almost two. He has blond hair and blue eyes. He lives in Eastern Europe. Hudson doesn’t have a mommy and a daddy just because he has cerebral palsy.
You skimmed over that right? You said, “okay, and ?” right?.
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Well, what if I show you his picture? Meet Hudson.
Your heart skipped a beat didn’t it? You said, “Oh my, he’s cute!” right? I did too.
Because Reece’s Rainbow has him in their photo listing he has a chance at a family. Reece’s Rainbow is the ONLY link this little guy has to finding his parents.  Without his picture, it’s not likely that ANYONE would ever adopt him. When he turns 4, he’ll be transferred to an institution. There he will live FOREVER. It doesn’t matter that Hudson is cognitively normal, he will be put in a crib and left alone for the most part to live out his life. How long do you think the sparkle will stay in his eyes?
I’m ashamed to say that I could have *read* Sweet Girl’s profile a million times and never stopped to think about her. I definitely wouldn’t have inquired about her. But I saw her picture and I heard God’s voice and now we are 8 days away from going to plead with the judge to let us have her forever.
Without Reece’s Rainbow, we wouldn’t have found our sweet girl and hundreds of other families wouldn’t have found their children.  It’s a ground breaking ministry that works to place special needs children in forever families. And they do it all for free.
If you want more information on Reece’s Rainbow, special needs adoption, or international adoption in general I would love to talk to you and tell you what I know.  Or you can click here: Reece’s Rainbow
If you want to donate to Hudson’s grant so that the financial burden is less overwhelming for his future parents, you can click here: Hudson (edited later to add that Hudson lives in Russia and Russia is currently closed to American adoption so Hudson’s grant is frozen).
And without further ado, here’s the video I promised. This video isn’t sad or depressing. It’s purpose is to celebrate and give hope.  Even though she’s not home yet, He and Sweet Girl are pictured – see if you can spot them – It’s one of my favorite pictures. J

 
 

Weary…

This has been a very hard week on the adoption front. I’m growing weary. At a time when the end is in sight and I can see the finish line, I just can’t seem to find the strength to get over these last few hurdles.
We got a court date for August 31st. We leave in 10 days. We should be jumping up and down, we should be so excited, but we can’t, because once again, there might be one simple piece of paper that’s missing that could bring it all come crashing down. I feel like for every single document, for every step of this process, the burden has been on he and I to fight for our Sweet Girl. Nothing has come easy. Nothing has been simple. After months on end of EVERY DAY having to fight for something, we are drained.
I can’t wait for the judge to ask if I will treat this child as my own, if I will love this child. I want to tell him that beyond a shadow of a doubt she is already my child. I already love her as my daughter. I want to look him in the eyes and tell him that every day of this journey I have fought for her and I will not rest until she’s sleeping in her bed, in her house, with her mommy and daddy saying prayers with her and telling her stories.
As I was listening to the radio in the car on the way to work this morning, I was thinking of how of course I won’t give up, of course we’ll keep going. I suddenly realized that this is what God does for us every day.
He fights for the souls of his children.
Through war, poverty, hunger, and more, He battles for us.
Yet, He’s never grown weary and He’s never thought of giving up.
So when today, we grow more weary still by the battles yet to fight to bring her home, I will remember, that I don’t have to be strong, my Father is already strong for me.
Until she is in our family pictures, we won’t rest.
Saving a spot for you Sweet Girl…

6th 4th

Another week has passed – where is the time going? I’m so happy that the weeks are passing quickly – it means it’s one week closer to when we get to see you again! It also means one less week to get ready for you!

The last news we heard is still no news. I tried to think of a creative way to skip our third trip and just take 3 total, but our facilitator said it’s just not possible. We are hopeful to hear something this week. We’re desperate to get back to you!

We finally figured out what you are going to sleep on when you come home. It seems like it should have been an easy thing, but it was hard! One day this week Papa is going to put your bed together and then we can work on the finishing details of your room. Mama has already made you a quilt for your bed. Now I just need to make a couple of pillows, your curtains and a pillow sham for your bed. And hang the artwork and print your name letters and hang those up.

On July 3, we went to Annie’s house for our annual July 4th trip. This is the 6th year we’ve done this – or the 6th 4th. Every year the cast of characters changes slightly, but it’s always a good time. And the best part! We just have to bring food so it’s free!

Here are all the pictures! Next year you get to come! Yay! And Taylor will be very happy she doesn’t have to play with “all those babies!” And Olive gets to be there next year too if Olive’s Mama braves the heat with a wee one 🙂 And hopefully other friends will be on the way to #2 too!

The Ultimate Teaser Post

What do 50 prizes worth over $2000 and Sweet Girl’s 50 month birthday have in common? They are cause for a GIVEAWAY

 
The giveaway starts Monday, June 4 at 8am Eastern and runs for 5 days only! Did you catch that? 5 days only – put it on your calendar because if you blink it’ll be over and your chances to win will be gone!
 
Stay tuned for a preview of the prizes you can win! We have some awesome things by some very generous donors! It was hard not to keep them all, but I’ve managed to remember the bigger picture!