Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 5 and Going Home

For our last visit we had to go pick up the social worker on our way to the baby house so she could evaluate us.  I was pretty nervous about this as we were told she would be asking questions like, “Why do you want a child with Down syndrome?”  How can I explain to someone who might not see things the way I see them, that God is the creator of all life and He doesn’t make mistakes!?

Well, we arrived at the baby house and went into the visiting room to wait for Maria.  There were a couple of toys I had brought this time that we didn’t get a chance to play with yet.  When she came in and she started to get into the toys on the shelf, I whipped out the Hello Kitty purse and lured her to me.  Instant hit! She opened it and immediately started brushing her hair.  I showed her the mirror and she would hold it in one hand and brush her hair with the other.  I also showed her the beads and put them over her head, but she DID NOT want the bracelets and promptly threw them across the room!  When I showed her the pretend lipstick, she also knew what it was for and began to swipe it across her lips. 

Then we went into a play room so the social worker could evaluate us.  Maria would not let go of her now prized girlie possessions.  I think I was also nervous because she is so independent and she has shown us that she will come and play with us when she feels like it.  We prompt play and sometimes she responds great, but other times she pushes us away.  I was hoping the social worker would see how much we love her and want to give her a family over everything else.  She actually only observed us for about 30 minutes and only asked us two questions: How did you find her: the internet or here at the baby house? and How do you feel about her not being a biological child? Is that all you’ve got? That was pretty easy.  The translator said she said, ok, everything looks good.  I hope so, because she will be testifying in court about our interaction.  She also gave us the original photo of Maria in the red beanie- priceless!

They brought in her snack and we took turns feeding her yogurt.  She let us and it was fun! She can do it herself, but let’s just say it’s a mess! When it was all gone, she actually took the spoon and tried to get every last drop out of there.  And she wouldn’t eat her pear- hmmm…

Then we joined her playgroup outside for some playtime and lastly for some pool time.  They pour boiling water seasoned with sea salt in the pool.  They don’t want the kids to catch a cold in the 90 degree weather you know.  It was so much fun to watch her and the other kids play! She was a hoot! She would splash another boy and then when he splashed her back, she would yell at him, “Kostya, ay yayay!”

Look at the difference in size! Maria and Charlotte- only 4 months apart

Finally it was time for the children to get out and get changed so they could have lunch and then naps.  We left a blanket for her and a baby doll in her bed.  I hope she can keep it.  The other children were all trying to take her purse items, so maybe they won’t let her keep the baby either.  We also left the photo album so they could show her the photos of her new family.

We had to say goodbye and she didn’t really want to give us a hug. She was tired and a little cranky, so we understood.  It hit me then how much I was going to miss her and I started to tear up.  I put my sunglasses on so they wouldn’t see me.  It’s going to be a hard 3 months to endure!

In the afternoon, we ventured out to Red Square on the metro with Katya, our Russian host, Traci Williams, her mom Freida and Anna. It was quite an adventure! We’re glad we got to go see it before we came home. When we were in the metro station, people were running by us.  I asked Katya, “Why are they in such a hurry?” Her reply, “They want to get home.”  Maybe it’s like driving 80 on the freeway so you can get home sooner. Traci found out Anna's passport will be ready on Tuesday! Praise the Lord! They will have been here for 4 weeks before they go home. 


The next morning we had to leave around 8am.  I woke up with a sore throat.  I also started sneezing and sneezed the entire 18 hours home.  I was really uncomfortable and congested, but we made it home no problem. 

Just a little note to those traveling after us, when we were in the airport, we had no idea what the process was.  There is a security check when you first get to the airport, then you check in and get your boarding passes.  Then we went up an escalator and there is gate A, with a passport/visa checkpoint you need to go through, then another security checkpoint and then onto your gate.  We were hanging around, thinking the passport/visa checkpoint was our boarding area.  It’s so hard to tell because there are so many people crowded around.  We were a little stressed because it’s a long line for the visa check and security and we only had about 45 minutes to spare.  We actually made it to our gate right when they started boarding!

We arrived Saturday night at my parents’ house after traveling for 24 hours! Our kids tackled us and were so happy to see us! We had a good night’s sleep and made it back to Santa Barbara Sunday evening. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 4- Short visit, notary and the Williams

Today we had a short visit with Maria so we could go to the notary in the city.  First we watched her do a lesson with the Behavior Specialist.  She is very good with matching, sizes, following directions, and stacking.  She is still working on shapes. She didn't want to interact with us as much today.  Her two favorite phrases are "No" and "By myself".  She would also hit us today when she would say no.  I got one in the eye.  We know that this is normal and we know that she needs to know we will still be here when she tests us.  We don't need her to show us affection to us.  Although we want her to, God called us to be her parents no matter how she reacts towards us.  Actually, we're not really worried because she has and does show affection every day, so we know this is part of adoption.  Here are some of today's visit:


 Lesson time


I got a little nervous at the notary office- this is so official, you feel like you're going to sign on the wrong line!
Then we went home to meet Tracy Williams, her mom and Anna.  They are going to stay with us at the YWAM house for a couple of days until Anna's passport is ready.  Please pray that this happens SOON as they have already been waiting three weeks and she is terribly homesick.

Anna-orphan no more!

Tomorrow is our last visit and we will also be observed by the Child Welfare Inspector.  We're a little nervous- more questions to answer about why we want to adopt a child with Down syndrome and she will testify in court about her observation of us.  We would love your prayers for this last visit and that God will guard Maria while we wait.  We were told they might admit her to the hospital to be treated for fluid in her chest.  I really don't want her to be alone during this time, so our coordinator is going to try to talk to the Director.  We found out that we will probably go back for court the first week of October.  There are many documents to translate still and about 3-4 documents we still need to finish and certify and send.  Court must happen within 3 months, so it can't be later than that!  We also found out on our second trip we will first have our medical exams, then 4-5 visits before our court appearance.  We will then go home for about two weeks for the 10 day wait and return and will be there about 5 more days, to get her passport, visa, and the rest of the clearances to bring her home- hopefully by the end of October!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 3- Amusement Park

We arrived and got to spend some time with Maria in the waiting room, then the Montessori room and then the Dark room aka Psychedelic Lounge.

After that, we played outside and we put her in a swing.  It was really hard to get her in, but she practically started to cry when we said no.  Finally we got her in and she loved it.  Daddy had a great time pushing her and got some sweet kisses today.

Then it was time to go to the amusment park.  She started crying because she didn't want to get out of the swing. Finally Olga the director sweet talked her and pulled her out.  They brought out all of the children from her group, 2-3 year olds. Then we piled into three cars.  Kike held Maria in the back and I had Kelly Dirkes, Charlotte.

The kids loved the car ride, but got a little tired because it was close to lunch/nap already.  Kike gave Maria little peach/mango puffs to keep her still and she ate the whole cup.  Finally we made it to the park.  It had several playgrounds and a water fountain that shot up water from the ground that kids could play in.  It also had a small amusement park.  The kids all ran over to the train and wanted to go on. But first we had to wait for the Director to buy the tickets.  Maria was very impatient and we got to see her stubborn side.  She can flop and drop like the best of them!  It also was like 85 degrees and humid.  I think everybody was hot, thirsty, hungry and tired.  Finally they got to ride the train.

Daddy, Maria and Shrek

 Maria and Kostya

Charlotte and Dania

It was a hard day.  The director wanted us to go on another ride, but it was clear to us that making her wait in line was not a good choice.  We asked to go to the playground instead and she said no.  We're in this funny middle ground where we have no authority over her, yet we are trying to connect with her as her parents. Oh, and we don't speak Russian!  I was getting a little frustrated, but my hubby reminded me to relax.  We made her go on the helicopter ride with Kike and she was trying to climb out.

Then we went to a little toddler playground with houses, ball pits and climbing structures.

Kike went into the climbing thing with her, but then was told adults weren't allowed so we had to drag her out.  We were only there 5 minutes and then they said we had to leave.  This is why I didn't want to go in there! Let's just encourage another battle and see how the adoptive parents do!  Luckily I had cookies and water in my bag! Oh yeah, score one for the mama! She came right out! And we got to practice signing "please."  Poor thing was so tired, hungry and thirsty. We gave her water too and on the way home, she sat in my lap, snuggled up to me with her head on my chest, sucked her thumb and fell asleep.  Another sweet moment! Can't wait for tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Get your kleenex ready

Day 2 Video

Our first meeting with Maria

Read the below post desribing our first meeting, but here's the video:


Day 1
We were picked up from our apartment at 8:30 and began the snail crawl drive to the city.  It took a little over an hour and a half.  The car smog is bad and there were lots of accidents and stalled cars which made it worse.  The city is the business center so there are lots of nice cars and nicely dressed and very fashion forward people to watch!  We arrived at the Ministry of Education met up with our coordiantor Alyona and got into the tiniest elevator I've ever seen and up to our appt.  It was an old office and we went in and sat while a young woman began to read the information about Maria to us.  Most of it we already knew, except we found out a little bit more about our daughter.  She was given up by her parents at one week old, had gastrointestinal surgery at 20 days old and open heart surgery around 5 months to correct an open oval window. She has vision problems, flat feet and is overweight. After to hearing everything we were asked if we accepted the referral and wanted to go meet her. We said yes and signed some papers.  Then the lady told us how happy she was that we were here and that we had come to adopt Maria.  This was a very easy meeting, and we were never asked why we wanted to adopt. There was a poster on the wall with a rainbow and sun and I asked what it said. It is for their adoption campaign and says, "Adoption- an everyday miracle."  Couldn't be said better!

Then off we went to the baby house. It took us about an hour and 20 minutes.  It is more in the country, lots of trees.  We arrived and I was surprised by the colorful orange building and murals on the walls.  We met the director, Olga, and were invited into her office, after putting on our plastic booties.  The director told us more information about Maria.  She is very open and wants us to know all about her.  She also asked us a lot of questions.  This part was hard.  They are trying to evaluate us.  This is a child they dearly love and care for and they want to protect her.  They want to make sure we will care for and love her like they do, if not more. We were asked questions like, "What kind of qualifications do you have to raise a child with Down syndrome?"  "Do you have what it takes to care for this child?"  These are tough questions!  I never had to answer these with my biological children!  After more questioning, they began to feel more comfortable with my answers.  Then they pulled out a photo album and showed us pictures of Maria when she was a baby up to now.  We were promised a copy of all the pictures on disk- we are so blessed!

Then we got to meet her! They took us into a room with some couches, a little acitvity table and chairs and toys, a cage with a parakeet and a huge altar with religious pictures and candles. When she walked in the room, there were two things that surprised me.  First, she was wearing these adorable blue glasses! Second, she was huge! She walked right over to me and climbed up into my lap and put her head on my shoulder.  She stayed like that for a long while.  Every time she looked at Kike, who was taking video, she would get a serious look on her face.  Then she started to talk to the bird. She would say his name, Keesha and then say hi, Preevyet.  She would say it in a high pitched voice it was really cute.  If I ever get the videos to post, it is too cute. Then after a couple of minutes, she leaned in and gave me a kiss!  This is my daughter and I am her mama!  We actually had a long visit.  We showed her the photo album with our family's pictures. She repeated all the names.  We also gave her a magnetic drawing board, the kind that you can slide the thing and it erases.  She loved it! She loves to draw and paint.  We also showed her some things on the iPad, and they showed us some of her artwork.

Then she had to leave for lunch and a nap.  She did NOT want to go, but they carried her out.  We then went to eat at a nearby restaurant.  I tried borschdt for the first time-delicious! I didn't realize what was in it- it's like a beef soup with cabbage, onions, beets and potatoes.

Then we went back because they asked us if we would please take photos of the other special needs children and try to find families for them! Um, YES! I was surprised about this too.  They were very open here.  They love these children and they don't want them to go to the institution.  They want them all to be adopted.  This is really important! This is a very good orphanage to adopt from because of the level of care and love they receive.  Imagine the horror they will experience when they leave this loving environment.  They kept thanking us over and over for coming for Maria.  I know it is an answer to their prayers.

We got to then meet Charlotte, who Kelly and Kyle Dirkes, will be adopting.   There are several RR kiddos here and some that we hope to add.  They all need families!  They don't all have Down syndrome. Some have cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, apert's syndrome and other special needs.  A couple of the kids in the group are typical children and not all of them are available for adoption. There will be another post advocating for these children at a later date.

We spent another hour playing with Maria and the kids in her group on the playground.  We were trying to hug and love on all of them, and Maria was getting jealous!  That was a great sign!  Then we had to leave and spend 2 hours in traffic on the way home.  We were pretty exhausted!

Day 2
Today's plan was to go to the baby house at 9 and stay until lunch.  Our driver took us, but the coordinator did not come today.  A translator would come for us though.  It took about an hour and 15 minutes to get there, with little traffic.  When we got there and went straight to the play room.  They brought her in and she came over to me and hugged me.  She was wearing a cute pink halter top and capris.  We could see her scar on her chest from heart surgery.  They got out some watercolors and we painted with her.  They director had another woman come in who was a Defectologist, which maybe means a Behavior Specialist.  They asked us questions again.  I realized about halfway through the day that this lady was here to evaluate us too.  She actually stayed with us during the entire 3 hour visit. We also got to watch her eat her snack: apple juice, an apple and a pear.

Then we went to a special room, they call it the Montessori room or the sensory room.  We played and I started to teach Maria some signs. Wow! She is so bright- she was signing please and thank you in about 2 minutes!  I can't wait to see what she blossoms into!

Then we went outside to play.  We had a great bonding moment.  She wanted me to hold her and kiss her and she would start cracking up. Over and over and over I would kiss her and she would throw her head back and laugh.  I also got to rock her and sing to her.

Today she really bonded and opened up with Kike.  She would sit in his lap while he showed her the video of her.  We also got a taste of her strength when she tried to grab the camera from him. It was a bit of a wrestling match, but Papa won!  Later, they rolled a car back and forth.  He told me he could have done that all day long with her and it felt so natural and that she was his little girl.  We then had to take her in for lunch.  She did NOT want to go.  When they told her to tell us bye (Pak-A), she waved bye to them and tried to leave with us.  Break.my.heart.  We stopped by the director's office before we left and she told us that yesterday she cried when we left.  Tomorrow she is planning some type of outing for us to go on with all the kids, maybe to the zoo! Very exciting.