Sunday, October 30, 2011

Court trip summary

I made a list of all the blog posts I wanted to write while we were on our last trip.  The truth is, I've been sick since the last day of our trip, jet-lagged and trying to get ready to leave again in 6 days! We never really adjusted to the time change while there and the smog is so terrible, it made me sick! Neither of us have seen traffic this terrible.  We must have been in traffic for 2- 2 1/2  hours each way, bumper to bumper, breathing in car exhaust.  My husband says I should just post pics cause that's what people want to see anyway!

We brought the same purse as last time with the toys she loved. This time we added a play cellphone and it was a big hit. I also kept trying to put a clip in her hair. She would pull it out and throw it.  Oh, I will win this battle eventually :)

Maria does NOT like to pose for photos. She is trying to get away as fast as she can!

 She LOVES to brush mommy's hair.  New meaning to "Tangled."


 Maria and our driver/translator/landlord, Vladimir

 This is really fun, mama.  Uh oh, this phone's ringtone is getting old...

 I see beautician in her future

 Fall in Maria's country= new winter wardrobe for me.  When we left our home, it was in the 80's.

 We got to meet Juliana Moreno- Orphan no more!

 And meeting Ashley and Gus was pretty awesome too! Their adoption took almost 2 years.  Bless them for their faithfulness to follow God's call, despite the circumstances.  And she is the author of Ashley's Almost-Famous Key Lime Pie, which many people here bought and enjoyed to support our adoption.

 Maria loves to color.  I think they do lessons at this little table because every day they would bring her into this room, she would walk straight over to the table and begin her "lesson."

 Playing peek-a-boo in a tunnel.  She loves this alphabet picture book and names all the objects in the pictures.  We bought her one like it to enjoy on the flight home. 

 Enjoying outside playtime. Yes, it was this cold to be this bundled up.

 Sightseeing at a place overlooking the river.  Wedding parties come here to celebrate and toast the occasion. We saw about 5 wedding parties here.

 Orthodox Cathedral- Our Savior Jesus Christ.  Funny story here.  I noticed all the women covering their heads before they entered, so I hastily threw my scarf over my head.  As we entered through the metal detector the guard yelled at us no camera, no flash and then at my husband, no cap!  We didn't understand and were like, what?  No cap! What? NO CAP!!!!! He got louder and more animated each time and we finally realized, my husband (who is bald) was wearing a beanie and that is a no-no.  So take note, friends. Women: cover your head, Men: Don't you DARE cover your head- Got it straight?!  Very beautiful paintings inside and live choir in balcony. Amazing voices!

 Old Arbat Street. Souvenir shopping and people watching.  Many women dress very elegantly and lots of high heeled boots.  Many wear mini-skirts too.  I had a knee-length down jacket.  I like to be warm :)

 Visiting our host family's church.  He is the pastor of the church and our new neighbor's brother.  His son translated the entire sermon for us.  Lilia helped translate a little. She is studying Spanish and was practicing with us. 

Maria is signing "more".  Her nurses have never seen signing used with children with Down syndrome before.  They have asked me to bring them materials to learn sign to use with the children.  

 On the way to Maria's orphanage, there is this restaurant called Mt. Ararat and on the other side, it is shaped like Noah's Ark.

Another restaurant shaped as a castle.

 Luda, our favorite caregiver. She has spent a lot of time with us during our visits with Maria. They say she's been telling everyone everyday that we are coming to see her.  She really seems to be understanding on this trip who we are and she likes being with us. 

 On our way into town to get Maria's passport photo. Usually this is done on the third trip, but they let us get it done early.

 The courtroom. I probably took this photo illegally-shh don't tell.

 Alyona- our faciliator, Olga- the local inspector and me after court- see our happy faces? 

 Us with Alyona after court- yay, it's over and our adoption has been granted!

 The outside of the court building. This is a regular courthouse.  Criminal and civil cases all are tried here, including our civil adoption case.

 Visiting Maria after court- Very happy day!

 She calls Kike "Da-da and calls me Pa-pi" She gets her words mixed up a little, but we know what she means:)

 Maria Elena Zuzunaga

 So you can understand how lost we feel. This says "Fitness Club"

Hanging with our host family: Simon Sr, Simon Jr. and Tania

We are so thankful God has sent us on this journey.  We have learned so much about who God is and about ourselves.  We also cannot wait to bring Maria home and share in all that God has planned for her life and watch her become all that she is meant to be. 

We also are anticipating that this transition period will be difficult.  We've prepared for it as best we can, but we don't really know what to expect or how it will affect all of us.  We DO trust and believe in God's promise "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

Please be aware, however, that we will need to adjust for a couple of months and some of our activities will be minimal.  We probably will not join in activities with large groups.  However, if you would like to stop by and meet Maria, we would love it.  If you would like to help with a meal or getting our children to their activities, that would be welcome also.  We just might need to put the Welcome Home party on hold- for now.  

Thank you all so much for your prayers and financial support over the past year! We truly hope the Lord has blessed you and you have seen His glory displayed through Maria's story, a story of redemption.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Introducing Maria Elena Zuzunaga

Today is a very happy day for us; the day we welcomed the newest member of the Zuzunaga family! We were quite nervous about court but we were also very confident about why we were there and that helped us stay calm. It all only lasted about an hour and all parties agreed that our adoption of Maria was in her best interest. We were again reminded by the local education department representative that had we not come to visit Maria in July, before she turned 4 years old on September 17, Maria would have been transferred to the mental institution. And just so you know that the powers of darkness do not cease to try to thwart God's work, the moment we were walking out of the court room, all the lights in the entire building turned off and everything went pitch black. We KNOW God's heavenly army was battling during our entire court process because if the blackout had happened 10 minutes sooner, we don't know how that might have affected our hearing. Thank you all again for your prayers- we appreciate them and may you be blessed.

We fly home tomorrow and then will return here on November 6th, and will be coming home with our precious Maria on November 12th.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


After getting our travel date on Monday, the last couple of days have been quite hectic to get everything ready.  Today, however, I felt calm as I cleaned the house, expectant of our imminent trip.

We sent out our visa application yesterday.  Today the agent called me to inform me that there has been technical issues with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and it looks like it is too risky to wait until it resolves on Tuesday for the processing of our 3 month business visa.  She decided to get us tourist visas and we will have to apply for another one as soon as we get home.  There might be an extra fee for that. What?! These visas already cost us $1200!!!!!!

Flights are booked!  We will be flying Lufthansa this time around.  It seems like United doesn't fly from DC on weekdays.  It 's pretty awesome though because I've heard great things about this airline and our airfare this time around is almost half ($1700) what it was in July ($3000).  I also hear they provide food and drinks regularly during the entire flight. :) We leave around 3pm on Wednesday and will arrive at 6:40pm on Thursday in Maria's country.

From there we will head over to the American Medical Clinic to have blood drawn.  Nope, fasting not required.  It's a 24 hour clinic so time's no issue.  Then hopefully we will make it to our host family's house.  Our new neighbor's brother and wife live near the city and have offered to let us stay with them.  We will be able to save so much money this way.

The next morning we are supposed to go see Maria- yay! We were talking about whether or not she will remember us.  I'm pretty sure she will, especially since we will visit in the same room we always started in and she has the photo album we left with her.  I don't think she knows what/who mom and dad are, but that's understandable (she will!) We can't wait for our reunion!

We miss you sweetheart!

Then we will go back to the American Medical Clinic for our 8 doctor medical exam.  I'm not too worried about this, but I think Kike is!

Hopefully after all that we can meet up with Ashley Moreno and her new daughter, Juliana and Melanie Jim who will also be on her court trip! Not sure if we will work out because of our full day, but we'll try.

Not sure what the plan is for the next three days- I think we will visit Maria and maybe try to go to the city to tour and shop for souvenirs.

Then we will have court at 10:30 am on Tuesday, October 25th! For my family and friends that live in California it will be 11:30 pm on Monday (everyone else, sorry, you do the math-lol).  So far, there has been nothing to indicate any problem or concern with court.  Please pray that this goes smoothly! My sweet hubby, who is also very soft spoken, will have most, if not all, of the questions directed at him.

We leave for home the following morning around 7am and arrive at LAX at 12:30 the same day! Weird, I know, but it's about 18 hours of travel, not 5!

We will be home for about 10 days and then we can go back to get Maria! It looks like we would be leaving November 5th or 6th.  We can go get her out of the orphanage on November 7th- forever!  We're hoping this trip is shorter.  We have to get Maria's passport, she needs a medical exam, we have to get her a visa from the US Embassy and then register our adoption and then we can leave. We are hoping to be able to leave November 11th.

Today it has really begun to hit me that this is really happening and our lives are going to change so quickly!  I started thinking about the holidays and how fun it will be to experience it all through Maria's eyes.  I can't wait to see her open her first Christmas present!

I also started thinking- I don't feel ready! I think that was true for my three pregnancies too.  But it is different this time. She is not a baby- she talks, walks, runs, has tantrums and gives wonderful kisses!  At dinner I thought, we don't have a highchair or booster seat for her.  We still aren't sure where she will sleep.  Does a crib provide more safety for her?  Maybe she is too big for the crib.  Would she do well on the bottom bunk?  Should we buy a bunk bed for Diego's room?  Hmmm... We'll just have to play it by ear.  At the park today, I was watching my kids play in the sandbox with their flip flops on and I remembered that I didn't have any for Maria! Mostly because we're still not sure what size she wears.  We've bought some tennis shoes and boots, but didn't think about the flip flops.  Then I remembered that I'm going to need a diaper bag of sorts to carry in my car: change of clothes, pull-ups, wipes, plastic bags.

This weekend we hope to be packing and organizing. Since we moved just 6 months ago, we are still "moving in" but feel the extra motivation to get things done before Maria comes home.  Finish organizing the garage, closets and kid-proofing.  Not sure if the bathrooms will ever get painted.

Every day we have been getting closer to being fully funded! We praise God for providing all that we need and thank you for supporting us and loving Maria.  We now are just under $3000 away!

Wow- we leave in 5 days!!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Court date!

Yesterday we received our court date!!!!! We will be leaving next week, October 19.  We will have medical exams and several more visits with Maria and then we will  have court on October 25th.  We are so excited! My sweet hubby wrote this on his Facebook page yesterday and I had to share:

"My heart wants to go out of my chest,...we have a court date! I'm in my work right now, but I want to hug my wife and just praise the Lord! October 25th, 10 am. That day is going to be a God's victory!"

So we are booking flights, applying for visas, etc...- yep, it's a little crazy around here again!

I have also been making/selling Pumpkin Spice Bread and Apple Crisps!  Thank you to everyone who has been supporting our adoption through your donations and especially your prayers! 

We have had some extra expenses to update documents and our airfare will probably be higher on our last trip. We found out it is more expensive to fly over the weekend :)  We now are only about $4000 away from being fully funded! It is amazing and humbling to see how God provides and how He has been using our fundraisers to also bring more awareness about His love for the orphan and His love for us!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What a day!

I am so tired right now it is going to be hard to keep this post coherent.  I had a big 'ol to-do list and amazingly finished almost everything.  I even had to go to the doctor to take a last minute TB test that needs to be notarized and apostilled along with all of our other documents.

Hubby had a dentist appt and was able to run over to his doctor and get his TB test too. That alone was amazing timing, since the doctor and dentist are only a block apart and his work is about 20 minutes away.  It looks like our psychological evaluation will be ready by Thursday, so I will be heading to Los Angeles on Friday to have everything apostilled.

Then I had my daughter's soccer practice and one of the brand new players decided to take me down and now I'm kind of hurting. Then I had to peel and slice a thousand apples for the apple crisps I am selling this week.  We went apple picking last week and had so many leftover apples that my amazing neighbor and friend Cindy offered to help me peel and slice so I could sell them.

As I was making the apple crisps, I started thinking about my great-grandma.  They are, after all, her recipe. And then it dawned on me that her name was Mary, just like our girl.  And my mom is named Mary Ann.  And my husband's grandma, the fair haired and blue- eyed one, was named Maria and his sister's first name is Maria too.

Yep, she belongs in this family.  We cannot wait to go back to see her! These will be two very long weeks and we will probably be exhausted, but she's so totally worth it.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Can life get more crazy? Apparently the answer is yes if you are adopting internationally.

Today our facilitator in Maria's country had a meeting with the judge to go over our documents and assign us a court date.  We asked for prayer in church yesterday and asked everyone we knew to pray specifically that the judge would NOT ask for a police clearance from hubby's native country.  This is not a requirement for adoption and this would delay our adoption for months upon months.  We also have been waiting for our updated immigration approval which has been delayed for over 2 months.

Good news first: We received that pesky immigration approval finally!

Difficult but not bad news: So far the judge has not asked for the police clearance.  However, she/he did ask for an updated psychological evaluation because ours is super long and way too detailed even pointing out ALL of our character flaws.  Big surprise: we're not perfect!  But, the judge doesn't need to know all that- just if the psychologist recommends us as adoptive parents (which he does!).  Problem: I don't know how long it will take him to re-do the eval.  Or how much he will charge (unplanned cost).

Our facilitator will meet with the judge again next Monday to ask for our court dates: October 24, 25 or 26.  But, we still have to visit Maria five times and have a medical exam BEFORE court and we lose two days traveling.  So that means we may have to leave Saturday October 15! But we won't find out until October 10! AAAAAHHHHHH! Ok, did you see how crazy that is? How will I get a visa and flights in five days?  I mean, I am aching to go back to our Maria, but under such circumstances, it is super stressful.

Thankfully, my parents are available to watch our kids for that first week. But, the second week they might have to go to a friends' house.

The awesome news: IF we do go to court Oct. 24, 25, or 26, that means Maria will be coming home by Thanksgiving!

Now that is something to be thankful about.