SIX Long Days

Sorry for the absence to my legion of 5 devoted readers, but last week me and my trio of cuteness were in survival mode. Daddy was out of town. He left Sunday morning before I usually am even out of bed and didn’t come back until bedtime on Friday night. Throw into the mix that the twins go to school at Daddy’s work which is 45 minutes from our house and Mommy had a long week. There are so many people who volunteered to help, but when they are already cranky because Daddy’s gone, throwing help into the mix just turns out to be more work because it messes up their schedule.
 
I realized at the end of the week when Daddy got back and wanted to know how things went, that the week can be summed up in pictures.
 
Day 1: Happy is not doing well. Imagine her saying, “I miss my Daddy.”

20140414-094310.jpg
 
Day 2: Picture my delight when not only do I get to drive for 90 minutes before I even get to work, but then have to drive 90 minutes after I’ve put in a full day. Imagine the utter delight added to it when the forecast was 100% rain. All Day.

20140414-094302.jpg
 
Day 3: My bright idea to help the girls cope was to let them take turns staying in Mommy’s bed. While they loved it, it meant that Mommy couldn’t really do much until the little one of the night was asleep. On Day 3, it was Cranky and she didn’t kick it until 9:30pm, 2.5 hours past her bedtime. Mommy did not get up after this!

20140414-094255.jpg
 
Day 4: It’s going downhill. Sweet Girl was on repeat on our drive to get the little ones, “But Mama, I’m so thirsty I’m going to die!” So I did what any parent in survival mode would do and sacrificed my Dr. Pepper.

20140414-094247.jpg
 
Day 5: I don’t know where this milk came from or how long it’s been here, but on Day 5, it smells like death. Since I’m in survival mode, it doesn’t make the cut of things to get taken care of on Day 5 (or 6) and instead I just pop a new air freshener in the car.

20140414-094239.jpg
 
Day 6: Someone snuck grape juice upstairs and then didn’t get the cap on tight before swinging the bottle around in a circle. Cleaning this while it was fresh did make the Day 6 cut.

20140414-094233.jpg

Since the airlines knew what was good for them, they allowed Daddy’s flight to be on time and he made it just in time for bedtime on Friday. Did I mention we had 25 people coming over for Sweet Girl’s 6th birthday party on Saturday at 11am?

Advertisements

Where to begin?

Let’s see, since I last updated our sweet girl turned 5! We had a jampacked summer full of so much fun! We moved. We went to the beach. We stayed up too late catching fireflies with Russian friends. We went to the zoo. Sweet girl had her first overnight trips to Annie’s house. We went to the mountains for the 4th. We played in the lake. We went fishing. We hung out with friends. We played in the pool. We played in the backyard. We went to Jaime’s wedding in PA. Sweet Girl started Kindergarten. She had her first sleepover at a friend’s house. We took some family pictures. We played ring around the rosie in a field.

Sweet girl is beyond fluent in English. She can count to 50. She knows her ABC’s and can identify the majority of her letters. She knows all her vowels and the sounds they make.

She is memorizing bible verses and hearing her little Russian accent tell me about doing to others just undoes me. It’s precious. Her fine motor skills are advancing – she can now draw pictures with purpose and write her letters. She’s getting a steady hand with the pearler beads.

She’s a wonderful big sister who loves to play with Cranky and Happy. She’s mostly patient with them, but has no problem tattling. She believes in fairness and equality and the most disruptions occur when she thinks one of those has been broken.

She LOVES to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and up until this week could care less about anything else on TV, but in the last couple days she has said she likes Doc McStuffins. She went from being terrified of animals to letting Annie’s doggies lick her and run with her.

She’s getting less picky on food. She’ll eat almost anything these days except most vegetables (tomatoes are still a hit) and chicken. Spaghetti and macaroni are still the favorites. Her hair has grown 6”, but because it’s corkscrew curls, it doesn’t look like that much. When it’s wet, it’s partway down her back. She loves baths with her sisters, but prefers showers alone.
She has gained 9 pounds. She is a solid 4T in the waist now, but is still tall for a 5 year old so pants are still a challenge. Thank goodness for Gap slim fit with adjustable waist! She just had her first ear infection. The rest of the house had a little cold we thought she avoided, but she must have caught it enough to have some fluid in her ears that got infected.
Saturday is the one year anniversary of Sweet Girl being officially ours in Russia! We didn’t get to pick her up for several more weeks and we didn’t get to the US until 11/18, but she was ours!

1 Month Home

(posted by him)
Its been 4 weeks… almost a full month… since Sweet Girl came home. This past week was the first of a new month, meaning busy time for mama at work, the first one we’ve encountered since she’s been home. As so, with the exception of Monday, the rest of the week was mine to spend with Sweet GIrl and I would say this week was slightly different than those previous… more so characterized by testing of boundaries.Monday was the only day I went to work. The act of me leaving with the twins is perhaps the most difficult thing for her to deal with. When she sees her sisters getting ready and going down to the car with papa, the tears are inevitable. She will throw her arms around my waist and beg me not to go. After prying her off, mama is left with a 30-45 minute unconsolable sobbing. We have learned that this can be eased by allowing her to get fully dressed alongside her sisters and sometimes going for a short car ride just to get out the house. While we think she is mostly upset by me leaving and not being sure when/if I’ll return, there seems to be part of her that simply wants to get out of the house.

The remainder of the week was my turn. Since the twins normally accompany me to work, on days where I don’t work, we’ve worked out the arrangement where mama leaves early and drives an hour and half out of her way to drop them off at school and in the afternoon, Sweet GIrl and I load up in the car and do the same drive to fetch her sisters. While very inconvenient for everyone, we feel it is necessary for the girls to see their friends at school and us be able to focus our attention on Sweet GIrl during the day. She does struggle the same with her mama leaving in the morning, but to a lesser degree than papa. By the time the afternoon gets here, I get several questions that infer as “where is mama?” And by the time the afternoon gets here, she is very excited and rides very well to go get her sisters. She becomes instantly excited when we pull up to their school but is still very shy inside around all their friends and teachers. On the ride home, since she sits forward facing in between her two sisters who are still rear facing, she’s constantly talking to them and passing things to them. When we finally get home, there is a made dash of children excited to see their mama… Cranky is now competing with Sweet Girl on who gets to be held/hugged until the table is set for dinner.

I started this post off with this week was different, characterized by more testing of boundaries, and that has come in the form of sleep. This week, I have instantly become unsuccessful in getting her to take her afternoon nap. We’ll get changed into our pj’s and into the bed and I’ll settle down on the floor of her room like I always do, but she now instantly tries to sit up/stand up, talk, and whatever else to remain awake. When I lay her back down and place the covers over her, she becomes upset and latches on with a tight bear hug. Breaking this bear hug causes instant sobbing. No longer will remaining in her room within line of sight eventually result into napping. We sat in total darkness for over an hour sobbing before eventually giving up. We haven’t been too worried as at 4.5yrs old, she is really at an age where naps are becoming optional, and since we’ve spent so much time in the car, she usually gets a solid 45 minutes there anyway, but she was such a good napper just a week ago, its like the switch just flipped. But this may also do with her attachment to papa, as mama was able to make her nap this weekend where I haven’t been. But her bedtime routine has also suffered from more sobbing and extended time trying to get to sleep, but mama is always able to work her magic and once asleep, she has remained pretty steady in staying asleep until around 7:00am, so for that, we are thankful.

We also concentrated on having our 2nd and 3rd sessions with our student translator. The first visit was characterized by head down, almost sobbing, these recent visits she has become accustomed to him in the room where she will play and resume her normal business largely ignoring him. But while she doesn’t typically respond, she does understand and acknowledge what he says to her. Also, he’s been able to catch some of her chatter and while not in direct response to his questions, he is able to understand most of what she is saying. One misconception I’ve witnessed is just putting someone who speaks and understands Russian in front of her, doesn’t immediately establish communication. Just like with any unfamiliar English speaking person, she is shy, reserved, and closed off first… just because they know her language, doesn’t change her reaction to new people. However, I’ve found if we’re able to spend time and take the focus away from her, she’ll eventually start to open up. But we feel no one outside our home gets to witness her true rambunctious, chatty nature that we experience every night… but this will only come with time.

As for everything else, our expectations are exceeded on a daily basis. She has become completely comfortable with Cranky and Happy and we have not had a single fallout between them as I was prepared for. She loves to do things for her sisters, hand them their bottles, help with bath time, even tries to instruct them to do things in Russian. Happy loves having someone to chase around and Cranky remains fascinated by what her big sister is up to. Bath time continues to be an all time favorite and potty time is no trouble. Eating continues to be hit or miss depending on the food choices, but largely we have no problem getting food into her. We’ve had no more breakdowns over communication or lack of understanding each other for several weeks now. She’s picked up a handful of English words, even used her first English word “hot” in context last week. She is also intrigued by learning the alphabet and the alphabet song and will sing and pronounce the letters along with her various toys that do so. Her favorite letters are the beginning of her name “C” and “A” and she struggles the most with “W”. Perhaps what I’m most amazed with is her ability to soak of new things so easily. She only needs to see you try something once before she’s repeating it, and thats without language involved. It just further reiterates how amazing and smart she is and only needs to be given the opportunity and she will flourish.

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 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!

10 Tidbits

Sometimes I think of things or take a picture and mean to post it somewhere and never do.Or maybe, something in itself isn’t enough for a blog post or I just don’t have time so it hides on my phone. Here are 10 tidbits, inspired by the pictures on my phone.10. This morning it was raining and I hit traffic again. I have no clue why in the middle of this road, traffic always stops. I wanted to share this picture with the quote, “At least it’s not Monday anymore!”

9. For LAOKV’s birthday the other week, we went and saw Sister Hazel at Ziggy’s. I knew I was old for 4 reasons. 1) By the time we were done with dinner, I was ready for bed 2) I had a glass of wine with dinner and said that was enough for the whole night. 3) I wore flats and my feet were still killing me after standing on concrete for 3 hours. 4) The old guy dancing behind us was more endearing than embarrassing.

8. I’m addicted to shopping at Goodwill for sweet girl. I have such a hard time paying full or even half price for kids clothes. For the twins I buy a lot of their stuff used from a multiples resale group because the prices are so good. And I still match them and that’s hard to do at Goodwill. But for Sweet Girl, I can find awesome things in singles at Goodwill and I don’t feel bad about it. Yes, she has 11 Christmas shirts, but when you consider I paid $2 each for them so the whole lot is retail for one, who cares! And of course a 4 year old needs 3 bathing suits when she’s coming home in October! I posted this on my facebook, but here’s a recent Goodwill steal – RL Polo Sweater (maybe slightly big, but we’ll roll the sleeves back, Cream Cherokee LS top, Children’s Place Jeans and Target brown boots in excellent condition. $9.50!

7. Cranky loves shoes. She wants them on and off and on and off and on and off all day. Or socks. She can easily get them off herself, but can just now, get her sandals back on again. The other day, she saw her shoes on the floor in the living room on the way to the kitchen for dinner. She insisted (when she insists, we usually say ok, it’s a matter of picking battles) that the shoes come with her. Then she proceeded to use them as bowls for the pretzels she didn’t get to yet.

6. I saw this picture on my phone and didn’t recall what it was or why I took it. Then I remembered – this is the Delta terminal at JFK. There was a pigeon just walking around. Why not! Welcome to America!

5. Also in Eastern Europe, I found Nascar on the TV one day, but the announcers were speaking Russian. It was better than the alternative TV choices!

4.The twins LOVE to eat cereal in a bowl with milk and a spoon. They are SUPRISINGLY accurate with the milk filled spoons for 18 months!

3. The twins have developed in unison, a love for baby dolls. They have two sweet babies they keep in their cribs that Gregory gave them – sometimes they can’t stand to leave baby alone all day and have to go grab her through the rails. They also have two bigger babies that G-ma gave them for their birthday they drag around by the hair. We are practicing loving the babies, being gentle to the babies, feeding the babies, putting diapers on the babies, etc. Just when I think they understand gentle, they decide it’s hilarious to whack the baby over the head.

2. My big girls can now climb up stairs to go down big slides all by themselves. Cranky usually is too lazy to go up the stairs and instead asks that you just put her at the top of the slide.

1.You didn’t think I could go an entire post without discussing adoption or advocacy did you?!? I read this blog post this morning and was in tears. Everyone we have directly spoken to about adoption has been completely supportive, and I haven’t gotten rude comments yet, but I know they are out there, especially for my friends as they willingly adopt children with more severe special needs. This blog post summed it up PERFECTLY.  Click here: Into the Flames. I know it’s another link, but please read it. And then know.. I’m not asking you to go into the building the first time, much less go back into the building. I’m the one going into the building and I just might go back into that building again one day. What I ask you to do, is hold me up when I get out of the building and help me polish the treasure I’ve just drug out of the building who may be covered in soot and grime and be burned in a few places. Can I do it without you? Yup. But, it’s certainly nice to see everyone when we get out!

[T]heir mumbling grows to shouting. They say that they could understand you feeling like you needed to save one -as they glance cautiously at the little one that you just risked your life for….that you were willing to GIVE your life for……but they really can’t understand why you would go for another. Haven’t you sacrificed enough? Some are even saying that you are selfish! They are saying that when you race into that house, it makes them uncomfortable. It distracts them from the things that they have to think about that day. You try to reason with them, but their faces are full of pity for you! Pity that you have obviously lost all common sense. That you have stepped out of where God would want you to be….

Bonus: While I was wrapping up this post, I went to Goodwill for my lunch break. I found this coat for $3. Baby Gap 3T. I previously bought sweet girl a coat, but it’s a 5/6. I was nervous it wouldn’t fit and I was nervous about the weather in October in Eastern Europe if the coat didn’t fit. I hear we might see lots of snow. For the price, it’s worth the risk. I need to borrow my favorite 4 year old soon so I can try it out to see whether to pack it or pass it on to someone else’s littler sweet girl.

+7 days

It’s been 7 days since we left your country. 10 days since we kissed your cheeks and said goodbye.It feels like it’s been a year, or more.
It feels like it was a dream, or maybe more appropriately, a nightmare. Where we got a wonderful week with you just to be ripped apart against our will.
It feels like we’ll never get back to you.

Our next trip will be for court. We’ll only get to see you 3-4 days for this trip too. We feel blessed that you live in the capital of your region so when we go for court we’ll get more time with you. We don’t know when court will be. We are hoping for August, but we’ve heard that lots of judges in other regions are taking August off.

I haven’t blogged all week because it’s painful. It’s hard to take myself back to you in my mind but know that it’ll be so much longer until we can come see you again.

I started selling little necklaces to help us raise the last little bit of money to bring you home.

Well, it doesn’t feel like a little bit, but compared to the whole total, it’s less. We started off thinking bringing you home would cost about $35,000. Wow, lots of money right? Well, when we got into it, we thought the total would be more like $45,000. But, now since we’re trying to bring you home in the summer, it’s going to be $55,000. Blah. Mama and Papa have wiped out all the easily accessible cash they had. And so many friends and your family have been trying to help too. We’ve come up with about $40k. We still need to find out where we can get $15k more. That’s only 600 necklaces 🙂

Since 600 necklaces is unreasonable, we’re also going to have 2 yard sales. One at grandma’s house and one at our friend Lesli’s house I think. I think we will try to do them on 7/21 and 7/28. We have had a few people give us some great stuff to sell, but we need lots more! Mama and Papa need to go through all their closets too and get more stuff! I’ve thought about going to the goodwill donation trailers at night and taking the donations people leave on the steps, but someone told me that was illegal. I don’t know where else to get donations of things to sell. It’s frustrating asking people for help when I feel like I am guilting them into helping.Maybe the yard sales will help us raise about $1000. Down to 560 necklaces, but I have a few more ideas of things we can try and sell. It’s hard to put myself out there for you when no one but your mama and papa love you this much. I’m so afraid I’m bothering everyone and they will love you less because your Mama and Papa harassed them for fundraisers. 


In other news..

On Tuesday night, Mama and Papa and Happy and Cranky are going to the mountains to see Annie for the 4th of July. The V’s are coming and so are the J’s. We hope to spend lots of time at the lake and eating good food! And it doesn’t hurt that all we have to bring is food and everything else is free.

See how much fun it looks! (Pics from last year)

Okay, well Cranky doesn’t look like she’s having fun here, but when we weren’t trying to get her into the water she loved it!

If you come home in September, then we will try to take a day trip to the mountains so you can see the house and the lake too. We have decided though that until at least Christmas we won’t have you spend the night anywhere but in your own house. We want you to feel secure and comfortable before we ask you to sleep in another bed.

Missing you sweet girl….

A camping we will go!

One of our favorite family activities is camping and we’re lucky enough we’ve got a great (and growing!) group of friends who loves to go with us!

We used to think this was a cheap way to get away for the weekend, but we are realizing that we like to eat well while camping so it’s not as cheap as we always think it will be 🙂

So without further ado, here’s the awesome pics (that I shamelessly stole from others because I didn’t upload my own yet). 

Our speed demon
And her cautious sister
Nighttime cuddles
Yes she got the twizzler, no she didn’t get the Coke.
Sitting on the dock
So sleepy
Kiss the fish
Bike trailer riding!
Tomboy at heart, but not when it comes to kissing the fish
My sweet family
The most awesome baby play yard ever – this is only like 1/4 of it!
Breakfast at the table Daddy made for us

While we were camping, we also got a surprise. A new pic!!! Doesn’t she look like she fits right in and could have been out there with us? Love this sweet face and this sweet girl – we’re coming baby! 🙂