Friday, October 28, 2011

Coming Home

We are home! We made it into Detroit Tuesday about 6:30 and boy were we tired. I can say without hesitation that the journey home was the most difficult, even traumatic part of our trip. Shall I give you a rundown? Oh, why not.  We arrived at the airport around 10 for our 12:30 flight. By the time we made it to passport control I think we had already shown our passports 5 times to various people along the way.  Sounds simple enough, but with a 3-year old and various carry-ons, it gets tiresome digging in your purse so often.

At passport control the lines are long, as expected. V. is doing great at first, then of course, she gets fussy the longer we wait. Then it gets interesting. We see 2 men casually walking up to the line, the front of the line, like where we're at. They actually edge in front of us. Excuse me! We've got a fussy little one here and we're in front of you. Well, if I've learned nothing from my time here, it's you've got to be a little pushy sometimes and this was one of those times. So, like a protective mama, I emphatically said 'nyet, nyet' and pushed our stroller ahead of them. That was not gonna happen. As V's cries got louder the nice lady in the booth called us to come up ahead of a few people, for which we were thankful.

Then through security and we're done. Now we wait. The thing about being here that, even though I was warned about, I still wasn't prepared for was being the focus of attention wherever we went. Because V. has Down's syndrome, people felt very free to stare at us/her. And I mean stare, not a brief look, but a prolonged stare. This was especially noticeable in the airport as we waited for our flight. I guess since people had nothing better to do, they focused on us. I got to where I would stare back until they met my eyes, then I would smile. But you know what was behind my smile - a momma-bear instinct that says 'stop staring at my kid!'

Finally it was time to board our flight. V. actually did great for about the first half or so. She played quietly in her seat and appeared to enjoy it, especially the take-off.

Then things got quite difficult for a while. There's nothing like trying to soothe an exhausted, tired-of-sitting child who doesn't speak your language, and is not completely comfortable with you in a confined space surrounded by strangers. I have such bad memories of that trip that I don't even care to go into much more detail than that here. 

 Finally we touched down in D.C.  Yay! we're back on American soil, and people aren't staring anymore - but we're not home yet. We got out as quickly as we could because last trip we missed our connecting flight and we really wanted to get home. But, immigration was much longer than last time. Things were not looking good. Probably 45-60 minutes later we made it to the front. We gave the officer the necessary papers then sprinted to pick up our bags. 

We found them but hold up, we're stopped by another officer. 'Are these your bags?' 'Uh, yeah.' 'Our dogs sniffed something on your bags. What do you have in there?' 'Uh, clothes.' 'Anything else, got any fruit?' 'I don't think so, just normal stuff.' He questions us a little further until I guess he's satisfied that we're not some kind of smugglers. Then when he finds out we're going to Detroit, he wants to talk about the Lions! We're trying to be nice, but inside we're thinking, 'Holy cow! We're going to miss our plane.' 

He finally lets us go and we sprint to security. Thankfully the line there is not too enormous and we're soon at the front when another person tries to cut in front of us!  My normally extra-accomodating, super-courteous husband flatly refuses.  We're moving at lightning-speed throwing our stuff in the bins. We're through - the officer tells us 'Good job.' I just love the words of affirmation after they run you through the wringer.

Now we're literally running to our gate and hear them paging us. They will shut the doors in one minute. We make it just in time. Oh my goodness! We're tired and so stressed and my muscles are shaking from the exertion. Gabe even drops his passport going down the walkway to the plane. Thankfully, the United agent brings it to us.

We find our seats and settle in for the quick flight home. Gabe makes the comment, 'I feel something warm. I sure hope her diaper holds.' He checks. He's, ahem, damp. We both just start laughing hysterically. A fitting ending to a not-so-pleasant trip.  So, I, at least enjoyed the last leg of our trip when V. slept soundly half of the way.

So, I say all that to say, everything you've heard about the post-adoption trip home is true. Of course, we thought we were somehow going to have the best trip ever. We had prayed, after all. But sometimes in adoption and life you just have to tough it out and wait for things to be over.  And if you can laugh about some of the bad things that happen, you'll be much better off.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sights of the City

Hi, ya'll! Just some random pictures today.  Since all we've done adoption-wise these last two days is Vika's embassy medical exam and met with the lady who is helping with our embassy paperwork, we've mostly been relaxing and exploring a little. We can't venture too far or for too long, though. Our little lady can only handle so much.

Our hotel - it caters mostly to business travelers, but is also used to serving adoptive families.  We like it. Some very famous people have stayed here: presidents of U.S., Russia, and other countries, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, actors, sports figures, models. 

The view from our hotel window. The Moscow River runs by our hotel. There is a Metro station, shopping mall with a food court and grocery store, and a McDonald's all close by.

Vika admiring the view. It's so fun seeing her experience things for the first time. She's really taking it all in amazingly well.

Sleepy girl. When she wakes up you can see her looking around at her surroundings like she's trying to understand where she's at. Then she seems to remember and begins her usual exploring. 

Moscow at dusk. This city is absolutely stunning. Everywhere you look there are magnificent buildings. Traffic, though, is horrendous; you've got to keep your wits about you all the time if you want to avoid getting hit, especially if you're on foot. 

Vika rides the subway. Such a trooper. It's a bit freaky at times, even for me. I got a little queasy on the ginormous escalators that go on for what seems like forever. So many people, and the noise. She did amazing.

State library with an impressive statue of Dosteovsky. 

These are the scariest birds ever. First of all, we had never seen any like them. But the really scary thing is that they're big and two times they came flying at me and just swerved in the other direction at the last second.  

The roof of the famous department store, GUM. Since Red Square was blocked off today - totally bummed about that- we went for a walk around the block.  Some very fine (expensive) shopping here. Places I can't even afford to look. Btw, did you know that this city has more millionaires than any other city in the world?

The Bolshoi Theater

Back at the hotel - elevator ride.  Is Gabe a proud papa or what?  He loves Vika so much. We both do.  Can't wait to see what the future holds in store for that little girl. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Beautiful Day

Today was a gorgeous day in our daughter's city. Temps were in the 50's, the sun was shining, and very little wind.  Perfect.

We enjoyed a stroll around the neighborhood

We had one more meal at our favorite restaurant.

We admired the trash cans that look like little cannons.

We visited a monastery.

But...the absolute best part of the day came later when Vika got to make her escape from the baby house. It was a hectic time as we signed her out, received some instructions for her, gave gifts to the director and workers, and dropped off diapers and a whole suitcase full of clothes courtesy of my MOPS group.  (Thank you ladies! They really needed them).Then it was time to go so we could finish up more paperwork before the offices closed. So we got her dressed and you would have thought we had never dressed a child before. All thumbs, both of us. We were a little excited.  But between the two of us, we got it done.

Before we left we also got to visit with her special caregiver which was wonderful. This lady loves these kids and is so happy for another of her little ones to have a family. And there are some more kiddos in Vika's groupa who need families.

And we're off!   See ya!

Vika taking in the sights of her city, maybe her only car ride, except for going to the hospital. She was so curious. So cute!

Vika and I had some good bonding time while we waited in the car so our staff and Gabe could get paperwork done. We played a kissing game. I gave her a big kiss on the cheek and said "kiss." Once. Twice. Just an intense, inquisitive look on her face. The third time I did it, a big smile spread over her face. You know the kind of smile where your whole face gets involved? We did that a few more times with Vika smiling and laughing. So fun.

This little girl is a quick learner! She has started imitating many of the things we do.  She's just so ready to learn.  I was tickling her feet in the car last night. She loved it. She kept taking my hands and placing them on her feet so I would keep doing it. And may I say she's mighty flexible, too.

She only got scared once that we could tell. We were driving and it was getting dark. The car headlights kept coming at us and she began to cry. You can imagine she has never experienced anything like that before. So Gabe quickly grabbed her blanket from the orphanage and we prayed for God to comfort her. Within a few minutes she was calm. God's been good to us.

 Thank you God for your overwhelming provision for us on our trip thus far.  And thanks to you all for praying us through. We have felt your prayers!

I think this last picture says it all. Happy Vika, happy parents.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

And the verdict is...........

Adoption approved!

10-day wait waived!

We'll be picking up Miss Victoria Faye Jim from the baby house tomorrow afternoon and whisking her away to the capital and a new life.  Court went really well which was a huge relief. We'll be bringing her back to the States next Tuesday if all goes according to plan.  Thanks for your support and prayers! We certainly felt them!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Visiting the Orphanage

Hello everyone!

The highlight of our trip so far, of course, was going to the orphanage today to visit Victoria.  It was quite different than our visits with her last year. We were there about 2 hours. The poor thing probably doesn't have a clue about what's about to happen to her and seemed a bit annoyed by all the fuss over her. She had just eaten and got tired after awhile. I think she really could have used a nap. So our visit was a little bit interesting in the sense that we had one visit to kind of catch up and get re-aquainted with each other.  Last year, we got to know one another over the course of a few days and it was easier that way.

Still we did have fun with her. We got a kick out of the way she would loudly say "Nyet!" when she didn't like something.  We enjoyed watching her get into the clothes I brought to try on her. She was fascinated by the bubbles, although I think she would have really liked to drink them if I had let her.  We went for a walk outside. She liked examining the grass and leaves. One leaf looked so interesting she had to taste it.

She's into cars, like her papa.

Taking a stroll

I'm not sure what Gabe is doing here.  Victoria isn't either.

One more........

She's going to be lots of fun. She is a busy girl! One of the orphanage workers says V. loves to clean.  She always dusting and wiping things. We could use one of those kind of kids around our house. We seem to only have the messing up kind right now.

 It's getting late and we have a big day tomorrow! court is at 9:30 am, that's 1:30 am eastern time.  I'll post an update as soon as I can. It may take me a little while as we have lots of running around to do after that.  Thanks for your prayers everyone! Good night!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

One Year Ago.....

One year ago, minus a week, we boarded a plane and flew halfway around the world

We met and fell in love with a little girl

A little girl without a momma and a daddy, brothers and sisters

Without a family

A girl who loves to be tickled

Who smiles a lot

And reeaally craves human contact and affection.

A complete sweetheart

A few days later, we left that girl, very sad but hopeful

- we thought we would be back by Christmas 

Well........ that didn't happen!

But, today, October 16, 2011 is the day!

Her clothes are packed, the paperwork is in order, her room is ready

Aren't these paintings sweet? Thanks to the very talented Amy Leyden!!

And we are busting with excitement!!!

And I've got to get busy

It's almost time for take-off

Victoria, here we come!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Travel Itinerary and Miscellaneous

Hi, folks! Since several people have asked us about our travel plans, I thought it would be helpful to post them here.  We are scheduled to fly out of Detroit this Sunday, Oct. 16th. We change planes in D.C. and then should arrive in the capital city late afternoon on Monday.  From there, we will drive immediately to our region, about a 5-hour drive.

Tuesday morning we will go to the orphanage to visit Victoria :) and also to meet with the orphanage director.  The afternoon will be spent doing court prep, including meeting with our court-appointed interpreter.

Wednesday morning, probably at 10, is the big event.  We will have to answer questions in a courtroom about our fitness and desire to be Victoria's parents.  This should be a couple of hours, give or take.  The judge will make his/her decision and rule on whether or not to waive the 10-day wait. Anxious moments to be sure.

Assuming all goes well and the adoption is granted, and the 10-day wait is waived, we will spend Thursday running around gathering the necessary post-adoption documents in region. The best part happens later that day when we go to the orphanage. This time, though, Victoria leaves with us, and our lives, and her's,will never be the same.  We then hop back into the car for that 5-hour drive back to the capital. 

Very, very early the next morning, the doctor will arrive to examine Victoria so that we can submit everything to the U.S. Embassy later that day. V. should receive her U.S. Visa that same day.

Weekend - we get to play! as much as our little lady can tolerate that is.  Really hope to do some sightseeing but I have a feeling most of our energy will go towards learning how to care for her and making her as comfortable as we can.

On Monday we finish up some business at the U.S. Consulate and on Tuesday we fly home! Due to the magic of intercontinental travel, we also arrive home on Tuesday. That still confuses me. No matter, we'll be home, and that's the important thing.

You can imagine the level of excitement we are feeling these days. For me, it fluctuates with anxiety over all I still have to do before we leave. Funny, life doesn't slow down so I can get a ton of extra stuff done.  My kids still have their activities and we have doctor and dentist appointments. My family still keeps needing clean clothes to wear and wanting to eat at least a few times a day. The dog keeps shedding, ugh, and the grass needs mowing (that one at least is not my job). Throw in keeping track of the bills, my admittedly half-hearted housekeeping efforts, and a few rehearsals to boot,  and you've got the makings of a frenzied good time. I'm really not whining, even though it kind of sounds that way. If anything, I kind of enjoy this level of activity, especially when there's such a wonderful prize at the end. And we are so, so happy and thankful to be at this place. Still, my heart does race when I look at my to-do list. That's why I'm so grateful to read what God's Word has to say.

These verses from Isaiah chapter 46 are bringing me comfort these days: "Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you." v. 4 and in v. 9-10: "Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.'" That's my God!

This post is already too long, but if you can bear with me a bit longer, I would like to mention a few specific prayer requests.

1. Court!! We need wisdom in answering the questions posed to us and favor with the judge.

2. Victoria's adjustment. If you could just imagine you are a child leaving everything you have ever known. You are leaving the people who have cared for you your whole life. You are leaving the only home you've ever had. Now you're with these unfamiliar people who can't even speak your language and they sure don't do things the way you're used to. Not to mention, you have been raised in a a relatively unstimulating environment without the nurturing a child needs and you have learned to comfort yourself. Now you're surrounded by so much stimuli you don't know how to handle it.  Not to mention you are grieving. Victoria really needs your prayers.

3. Please pray for our children at home and our family who is helping to care for them while we are gone. They are so excited that V. is finally coming home, but they don't really know what to expect, and neither do we.

4. Finally, please pray for our finances. Some rather large non-adoption expenses lately are making things a little tight. And if you would like, it's not too late to make a financial gift to us through Reece's Rainbow.  We would be so grateful.  Thanks for sticking with me to the end and all your support. We will be so thrilled when we get to introduce V. to all of you!! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Signs you Might Be Adopting.......... a Child with Down's Syndrome

1.  You start blubbering after seeing a child that looks like your bio kids, only with DS, getting picked up and greeted with hugs and kisses by her brothers and sisters like she's the best thing in their world.

2. You're on a first-name basis with all the notaries at City Hall.

3. Your whole idea of what constitutes physical beauty has changed.

4. I Corinthians 1:27 is now one of your favorite verses in all of Scripture.

5. You drive your cars for forever! and are okay with that.

6. You no longer think having your child meet all the developmental milestones on time is too important, and showering loved ones with hugs and kisses is more valued than a high GPA.

7. You can't help staring at every little one with Down's you see. To the point their parents think you're weird.

8. You start to dread the weekends, because you know there is no hope of news from your agency.

9. You start to realize how we're all special-needs in some way, and God still pursues and loves us anyway.

10. You live with butterflies because you know that your life is about to change dramatically, in a way you can never fully be prepared for.  And still you move forward, because that child so needs a momma and a daddy and God has given you the desire to be the ones.

11.  From the crazed look in your eyes, lack of sleep, irritability, eye strain, and addled brain, it's obvious you are suffering from a heretofore unrecognized malady known as dossier-preparation-derangement-syndrome.  Symptoms intensify each time a document either expires, has a colon that should be a semi-colon and therefore obviously needs to be redone and fed-exed overnight to a tune of $18.30 each time; or is completely destroyed by the dog, a child, or even the sufferer who is desparate for a piece of scrap paper after waiting on hold with the Department of Vital Records in her birth state for 20 minutes and is so shocked to get an actual person on the line that she temporarily forgets the importance of this piece of paper and thinks it is her grocery list.

12. You make no plans, have no life, and are such a dork you check your e-mail every 2 minutes hoping for some word from your agency that will put a smile on your weary face.

I'm sure this is an incomplete list, but if you see someone you suspect is in the process, do her a favor - give her a hug (dads like hugs, too). And be kind, as my husband can tell you, that irritability part is for real.