Journey Home (Trip 4, Day 7)

On Sunday, after our marathon sightseeing Saturday, we got up and had breakfast while we waited for Boris to come pick us up. We had a few logistical issues fitting the luggage in the car, but we finally got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Through all this adoption travel, we made “status” on Delta and got to bypass the hour line to check in and went to the express desk. No issues checking in and no issues going through passport control. She is petrified and crying in this picture because she thought Mama and Papa were leaving and she was staying with Boris and Irina.
It took a few minutes for the KGB (okay, they aren’t KGB, but I don’t know what they call their passport people and KGB sounds fun ¬†ūüôā ) to approve all the paperwork. We were travelling with some medications for Sweet Girl and we had no issues on that end getting them through for others who might be in the same boat.
We sat at a little coffee shop and had our last meal in Sweet Girl’s home soil. She gobbled it right up. Good thing too because two cokes, a water and 2 apple danishes cost me $20.
We went on a last minute trip to the “toy-o-let”, looked at the planes out the window and then we were boarding!
So far so good!
Then the fun began. She didn’t mind the plane at all, but she was too overwhelmed to sleep. She knew that as soon as she said “toy-o-let” that we’d let her get up and walk to the bathroom. So about every 20 minutes she’d do this. Then about every hour after the first 3 hours, she’d get upset and start repeating something. One time, I took her to the back and tried to get her to say it for the flight attendant, but she just conned them into giving her a juice. (I have learned since then, she was saying something like “I want to get up”)
Overall, on the 9.5 hours flight, she drank an entire milk, 2 cans of orange juice, 2 cans of apple juice and an entire bottle of water. She ate the carrots in her salad and half of her bread. Then she ate tomatoes off a sandwich and the little snack size candy bar that came with it. And lastly, she ate an entire bag of trail mix. She refused to watch a movie, cartoons, the ipad, or anything that might give either He¬†or I two seconds of peace. She constantly tried to stand up and kick the seat of the guy in front of her. All of her behaviors were normal 4 year old things or testing boundaries things. We were firm and consistent on some things (kicking the seat) but tried to be very relaxed on others (bathroom every 20 minutes). At about halfway He¬†and I looked at each other and I think we were both thinking that we wouldn’t be taking another plane trip anytime soon.
FINALLY, we landed in JFK. The landing immediately made Sweet Girl a US Citizen. She celebrated by choosing that moment to lean over and fall asleep. Perhaps, somehow she knew – this long road is finally done, now I can enjoy the fruits of my labor ūüôā

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.

Once we got home, we made her a little pallet on the floor of our room and we all slept perfectly soundly…
.. until 3am when she was bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready for the day. ::YAWN::

 

Sightseeing!! (Trip 4, Day 6)

We woke this morning to the doorbell ringing at 9:30am. While excited that we all slept that late, we then realized we had miscommunication with Boris. He thought we were leaving today, but we are leaving tomorrow. Sorry Boris.
We had another slow start and left about noon to head down to St. Basil’s and the Kremlin. We stopped at a mall food court for lunch and sweet girl pointed that she wanted spaghetti and a meatball. She did pretty good eating! Once again though, she was most excited for our friend’s cherry crepe.
We went to St. Basil’s and took the obligatory adoption pictures. Our friend took some other pictures on her camera we don’t have yet.
  
Then we were off to the Kremlin!¬† We were excited to see the Cathedral of Assumption which is modeled after a Cathedral in Sweet Girl’s region.
Our friends split off and were going to the theater tonight and we headed back home with a stop at Wendy’s for dinner. No, we don’t normally eat fast food at every meal, but when we don’t want to sit for a long time and pay a lot for a meal, it’s easy to point at the menu and know what we are eating! We tried a baked potato and chili for Sweet Girl. Those got a nyet, but she was happy with the Frosty and some Cheddar Bunnies.
 

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.

Out and About! (Trip 4, Day 5)

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!

Then we saw some super cool tow trucks. They anchor to the ground and then have a boom that swivels and lifts the cars up. This car was parked in the middle of the sidewalk.
We took a quick trip down Old Arbat Street and then came back to the apartment to wait for this little beauty! Yay! Every bit of official business is done!!

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!

EMBASSY (Trip 4, Day 4)

Praise the Lord, Sweet Girl slept until after 7 this morning. She’ll fit right in at our house! We love our sleep! I’m still having a hard time sleeping between 1a and 4a so I told Him¬†just one more minute for me. Before I knew it, it was 9am and Sweet Girl was jumping on the bed. It’s just like home. On the weekends, He¬†gets up with the girls for me and I get another wink of sleep. It’s just so hard to get up in the morning! Boris came and picked us up at 10:30 for our 11:30 embassy appointment. There were lots more locals in the embassy for business purposes than I expected. We paid the fee and sat down in the little room and Irina told us we were 1st in line. “This is good thing,” she told us. Soon enough, another 5-6 adoptive families filed in and began to wait with us. Sweet Girl seemed to be the oldest and she was for sure the most well behaved. Lots of the little ones were tired and hungry and cranky, etc. After about 20 minutes of waiting, a lady came out and addressed us all. They said to save time, they would tell us all the general information together and then we’d be processed faster. She said her bit and then we waited for another couple of minutes. She called our name and we went up to her window and she asked us to confirm Sweet Girl’s name and birthday. In under a minute she said sit and wait while we process the Visa! It took about 5 minutes for the Visa to be pasted in and the packet for immigration prepared. We quickly picked up our packet and were out the door. When we got back into the car with Boris it was 12:15. We ran over to the consulate to register Sweet Girl’s passport. We waited in the car for Irina and when she got back in the car, she said, “Success!’ They will pick up and deliver the passport to us tomorrow around 4. After that we are free to leave! We are checking on flights to come home either Saturday or Sunday – whatever is cheaper.We had Boris drop us off at the market and we picked up a couple of things – some cheese and beer to welcome my friend Luella in with tonight!

Back at the apartment, we tried mac n cheese for lunch. It was a no go for Sweet Girl. She ended up with yogurt, grapes and another breakfast bar. She’s doing much better about drinking a little milk at each meal and then helping herself to her water cup throughout the day.¬† After lunch, she went down effortlessly for her nap. We did stay in the room with her and play on the computer while she slept.

When she got up about 4 we headed out for dinner. We thought we’d test her restaurant skills at McDonalds which was bound to be forgiving. She behaved great and loved the apple juice that came with her happy meal. She did not however have any interest in chicken nuggets or a cheeseburger. I think we did get 5-6 fries in her. We are hoping that tomorrow night we can try TGIFriday’s. We’re still a little too nervous to take her to a place we can’t read the menu.

In the tiny apartment elevator

 

It was sketch by American standards, but pretty good for here.
We came back and straightened up a little and had bath time. Sweet Girl likes to wash her own hair and must have done so 3-4 times!

Around 6:30 or 7 our friend Luella and her husband got here. Yay! About 30 minutes into us chatting I saw that sweet girl had just started crying. We aren’t sure yet what spooked her, but Lu and hubby went ahead and took off for dinner so we could get Sweet Girl settled for bed. I later realized that maybe the gift they brought her messed her up. So far, the only people to bring her a new outfit were He¬†and I when we were leaving the orphanage. It’s possible her little mind raced to the possibility these people would try to take her away.

While they were gone, we went ahead and put her to bed and stayed in there with her for a long time until she fell asleep. She was back to normal by bed time.

We however stayed up and chatted for awhile. It was so nice to have people who spoke English as a first language to talk to!

Clothes and Toys Oh My! (Trip 4, Day 3)

We left off at about midnight last night when we finally got to sleep. We found a little mattress and lots of soft quilts to make a pallet on the floor next to our bed for Sweet Girl. She tried to drift off to sleep and then her eyes would pop open to make sure I was still next to her in the big bed. Finally, she gave up the good fight and went to sleep. He¬†and I struggled to sleep well. Heat here is an interesting thing. During the winter, the radiators are just “on”. There is no controlling then. So, to get the right temperature, you have to open the window/s to let COLD air in to mix. But, we are on a very busy street and the sound of the traffic/police/horns is loud. Overall, we managed and Sweet Girl slept until 7:30 this morning.

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 medical was interesting. First off, we drove for 20 minutes to get to somewhere that might have taken us 15 to walk to. Then, we were told that the doctor spoke English and was very good with adopted children. As soon as we went into the building, poor Sweet Girl knew it was a doctor and lost it. She had silent tears streaming down her face and was shaking. We filed into the doctor’s office and were the first ones there. We into his little exam room and stripped her very emotional little skinny self down to her underwear. The doctor seemed very kind and gentle with her but something just felt off about it. He told us that her crying was to get attention and to get sympathy from mama and papa and she would continue to be a drama queen for attention and we were to ignore these requests and not give in (no thanks buddy). Then he told us that her ears were no big deal and once she turned 8 we would just get them pinned. I don’t have a problem with her ears so it seemed very odd to have him mention something so obviously cosmetic without us asking. Before we knew it she was done. It took way longer to undress her and redress her than the entire “exam”. As soon as her clothes were back on and we left the room she calmed down.
We went straight back to the apartment, but by this time it was 11 am. We hung out for a bit and little miss made herself very at home in this little home away from home.

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 ūüôā 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!

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!

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!!

 

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.