FAMILY DAY!! (Trip 4, day 2)

How do you describe the day that your child gives up a life of being an orphan and becomes part of your family?I have loved her from the first moment I saw her picture. She wasn’t smiling and wasn’t making eye contact with the photographer. She looked lost, scared. Today I know this expression of hers. It is her “I am overwhelmed” face. She gets the blank stare and doesn’t make eye contact when she doesn’t know what else to do.. when she is overwhelmed by the situation and doesn’t know how to respond. It is a face that breaks my heart.This overwhelmed face is different from her uncomfortable face. She has lived a life of being alone, caregivers and friends coming and going. When you attempt to show her love and affection she doesn’t know what to do. It is awkward for her. The feelings she has are foreign to her and she doesn’t know how to process that mama and papa want to love her. The simple act of giving her a hug causes her to shriek and squirm. An observer might think she is being 4, but I know that she’s uncomfortable with the contact, with someone else initiating touch. She will run up to us and climb on us and sit on our laps all day long, but in those instances SHE, not US initiates the contact and can leave it when she’s had enough. If you try to hold her she gets uncomfortable and displays behaviors that are meant to get away.Both the overwhelmed and uncomfortable actions are what he and I are trying to help her process. She has to learn that we are safe people, that we will meet all her needs, that we will love her even when she messes up. The first step in that is one of the happiest days of our life and the most terrifying of hers. It is called Gotcha Day in the adoption circles. It’s the day we get her and take her away from her life as an orphan. The day we claim her in front of the world as our daughter. She has been ours since the judge said da on 8/31, but today almost 7 weeks later, we get to prove it.

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!

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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!!