Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 53 - Running Around

Today was our day to start all the official paperwork to begin finalizing things on this side of the world. The judge has granted our adoption, but now we make it official in bureaucratic offices.
First Vital Records Office 
We started out 9am and went to get the amended birth certificates first. We were very fortunate that both girls were born in this city. We didn't have to travel very far, at all!  One office was almost right around the corner from our apartment! The second office was only about another mile-and-a-half away.  Then we had to go to the Department of Justice to legalize the new birth certificates and then to another office to change/amend the tax identification records.  All this was right here in downtown!
Waiting inside the second Vital Records office
We had a quick 30-minute break for lunch at McDonald's while Tatyana got some other papers together over at the notary office.  Then we stopped at the notary to sign a letter for the passport office.  We were done and back to our apartment by 2:00pm!
This says Notaries in Russian/Cyrillic
I can't tell you what a blessing it was to have such an easy day today.  I have followed other family blogs and heard where they spent hours and hours driving along rough roads and never stopped to eat or take a potty break.  I was expecting a long busy, crazy day and ours was nothing like that.  Maybe this is our reward for toughing it out over the court delays... or spreading things over 3 days... I don't know... but I'll take it!

We'll get the girls early in the morning and head over to the passport office and take them back to the orphanage when we're done.  We'll have to super-bundle them tomorrow since it's going to be really cold.  I'll be digging out a second pair of thermals for myself. We heard that the schools might be closed tomorrow because it will be -20C/-4F for the high temp.  But it doesn't sound like any offices will be closed.

We are learning that you can get a little dehydrated in this super cold, dry weather. And the dry, heated air indoors doesn't help, either. We're feeling some of the effects.  We're used to sweating and drinking lots of water during the summer months at home, but it's hard to think about drinking lots of water when you're bundled up to your nose and your toes are chilly.  So we're trying to remind ourselves to drink plenty of water each day.

We're heading out to have dinner with another adopting family, the Wests, who are here in this city.  It's been nice to meet other families who are sharing similar journeys. It really helps the time to go by easier.

Until tomorrow...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 52 - The Wait Is Over!

So today was the 11th day after our court decision was given!  Yipee!

We went to visit the girls and our facilitator went by the court to pick up our printed courted decree while we were at the orphanage.  So now we have it in writing from the court that the girls are now part of our family!  By getting this document today, we will save 2 hours worth of running and waiting time tomorrow. 

Tomorrow we will begin the next phase of paperwork to get the birth certificates, adoption certificates, and a whole host of other papers to finalize things.  Wednesday we'll take the girls to the passport office to file the passport applications.  It will be busy the next two days.

We're not sure exactly which day we will have our "Gotcha Day."   We joked about singing "I've Got You Babe!" and having it on February 2nd, Groundhog Day, since the daily morning routine began to feel a little like the movie "Groundhog Day."  But in the interest of keeping the girls healthy for the visa medical exams and the trip home, it was recommended that we wait until we are ready to leave for the capital city and the US Embassy appointment.  Also, the weather forecast shows high temperatures in the single digits for the rest of this week.  Very cold!  As much as we want to scoop them up and get them out of there as soon as we can, it seems to be prudent to keep them at the orphanage for a couple of extra days.

We'll let you know as soon as we know something specific.

Now it's off to get a good night sleep and be ready to hit the ground running in the morning!

Nighty, night!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Days 51 & 52 - More Fond Farewells

Saturday, January 28th

Today it was very cold outside and we chose to spend the majority of our day hanging out inside. When we awoke, the weather widget said it was -16C/3F outside with a windchill of -24C/-12F.  Too cold for this thin-blooded Texan gal! :)

We finally did venture out only to get some groceries and to return to our apartment. We only have to walk about 3 blocks to the little market, but that was plenty.

Sunday, January 29th

Our last "waiting day"!

As we usually do on Sundays, we readied ourselves and headed to church at Calvary Chapel.  This morning was a little bittersweet as we headed out knowing that this will be our final Sunday morning among these new friends of ours.  We both can honestly say that having a church family, or two, here in this city made a huge difference in the adjustment to staying here for so long.  If we had come here and not been able to have wonderful, personal Christian fellowship for these 8+ weeks, we would probably be a grumpy mess. But, alas, we are not!  All is well!

We will also miss those folks we came to know at K Christian Center as well. Brenda and Willard took us under their wings and connected us with some fantastic people who are serving the orphans and children right here in their communities.  We will miss each of them as well.

I just love how the family of Christ can have such an amazing connection across the miles and across culture.  God adopted each of us, first, into his Kingdom family through Jesus.  Then He brings our hearts together with other believers as we worship Him and serve to those in need.  Sometimes you find friends in places you never expected, simply because you share the same Spirit of God in you.  What an amazing God we serve!
Diana and Nate with Lee and Carrie

Vika and Pastor Victor, Vieta and Nika with Lee and Carrie

After church we shared lunch with Nate & Diana, Max, and Nathan & Amber.  Good food, good friends, and good times!  Max, who is 15yrs old, had a great time trying to teach Lee how to pronounce the Cyrillic letters and was coaching him to read Russian phonetically.  I think Lee's Texas/American accent was causing him some trouble and was giving Max a good chuckle!
Lee and Max (the new Russian tutor)
Tomorrow morning we will stop by the court building to get the official court decree for our adoptions.  Then we will head to the orphanage for our last "official" visit. Unfortunately, we cannot start the rest of the paperwork until Tuesday morning.  So the plan is to start early on Tuesday to run around and complete as much as we can in one full day.  As far as we know, we don't have to travel to any other cities or towns so it should not be too hard to accomplish. If all goes well, we'll be able to sign them out of the orphanage on Wednesday.

We will still have to wait a few days for their passports to be made before we can complete their US immigration visas. After that, we'll head home!  For those who are wondering, the best we can estimate right now is that we will be in Austin sometime around February 9th.

So now we go to bed to complete this last "waiting" day!!! Slava Bogu! (Praise God!)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 50 - A Couple of Goodbyes

Friday, January 27th

We arrived at the orphanage again this morning. Papa and Little A were already visiting in the little entry way. It's been so good to see them together!  We asked if we could take their picture together and Papa said that we could.  We promised to have the pictures printed and to bring them with us on Monday.  We learned that Papa was leaving on a train this weekend and wouldn't be there, but we said we would leave the pictures with the nannies to give him when he returned.

So here they are!  Can't you see what a proud Papa he is?!
Papa and Little A
Lindsay was in a much better mood throughout our visit.  She still seemed hungry and was looking for the banana, but we were able to play for a while before she insisted on the snack. When it was lunch time, Lee had taken Lindsay back to the groupa room.  And Lindsay was OK with it as long as Lee stayed in the room. When he kissed her head and turned to leave, she turned and started grabbing for him. She didn't want him to leave.  This is a big deal since she is always VERY interested in lunch and would be completely happy to sit at the table and wave "bye" as she's waiting for the food to be served.
Lindsay - who doesn't slow down for pictures
So he left the room and I walked Shawna into the room, next.  Luda and I got her to sit in a chair at the little table as the other nannies readied the lunch bowls. Lindsay was still refusing to sit at the table, even though she was hungry. I tried to get her to sit in the chair, but then she turned and grabbed my shirt and pulled me to her. She didn't want me to go, either.

It was hard to leave and she obviously didn't want us to go.  Luda told us that she knows we are Mama and Papa and she doesn't want us to leave.  Soon enough, little lady, we'll all leave there together!  It's actually a bit of a good sign that she has begun to show some preference for us and a want for us to stay with her.  There is still a long, long way to go, but it's nice to see these small beginnings of an attachment starting to form.

Poor Shawna has the reddest little cheeks this week.  They've been dry and pink most for the last few weeks, but more so this week as the weather is much colder and drier.  Ive been putting some lotion on them, but I can't wait to get home and use the good stuff on those little cheeks. My two favorite treatments are Aveeno and Eucerin branded lotions.

Today was our last day to ride with Kirill.  He has recently applied for a job as a software tester and he starts this new job on Monday. He's really excited about it!  So we said our farewells this afternoon as he brought us back to our apartment. He's really a nice guy and his English is pretty good.  We'll definitely miss him as one of our new-found friends.

But the timing couldn't have been better.  Isn't God good that way?  Next week we will do all the paperwork to finalize the adoption, get passports and such.  We'll have to spend this time with our facilitator running around town getting it all done. And then we'll get the girls out on Wednesday.  So we'll be done with the daily drives to the orphanage anyway!  God's timing is perfect!  Kirill finished one job just in time to start another!

We went this evening and had the photos printed for Papa and I can hardly wait for him to see them!  I just wish I could see his face... but it's likely that today was our last day to see him. Oh, how I will pray for him and Little A, and the rest of their family.

Just two more "waiting days"!

Paka, paka!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Few More Pictures

Here are a few more pictures that I didn't get to insert into earlier posts.

There is a gas station that we pass everyday on our way to the orphanage. It's called AeroMarket and the station looks like an airplane! The nose of the plane is where the attendants are and the rear of the plane is a little storage area, I think. Then there is a little supermarket store behind it. This is so unusual, but fun!

We'd been wanting to get a picture of this place, so Lee took the opportunity when we had to make a pit stop for gas.

Side view...

Front view...
Our driver, Kirill. A great guy!

Here is a picture of the "Little Pink House" in the snow.

This was taken from our apartment window on Monday when it was snowing heavily outside.
Monday, Jan 23rd - A view from our apartment window
Here is a picture from the guys who were practicing American football inside the gym. Usually we see guys playing indoor soccer, but this was a first to see football (with shoulder pads and helmets) in here. And yes, they were tackling on this hardwood gym floor. Ouch!
American football practice
And this is one of our favorite little restaurants that serves traditional Ukrainian foods. The food is delicious and the atmosphere is nice.
Ouside - No smoking in the right hut, smoking in the left hut.
Inside decor.
This place has the best borshcht soup! And the service was outstanding!

Just counting down the days to "Gotcha Day"...

Day 48 - Winter is officially here!

Thursday, January 25th

It was sunny and beautiful again today. Thank heaven!  I love living in Texas because I love the sunshine.  It's still nippy outside, and our driver told us that it got down to about -15C/5F last night.  When we headed out this morning, it was already up to -10C/14F.  Brrrr!  That was about the high temperature for today.

We are now down to 3 "waiting" days!  Oh, it's now beginning to pass quickly. We are trying to squeeze in our last bit of shopping and visits with friends before we leave.
In the car, on the way!
Our visit today started off well.  Lindsay saw Lee peeking through the door when we arrived and she began smiling really big and laughing!  Shawna greeted us with her giggles.  Lindsay seemed very hungry this morning as she immediately began rummaging through the toy bag looking for the banana halves.  I don't know if it's the colder weather that might be making her hungrier than usual. We went ahead and let them have their snack right away.

It wasn't long before Papa came in again to visit Little A!  It's been nice to share our little visiting room with them this week. I hope we can get a picture of them, but we'll have to ask permission, first.

"Jumping" with a little help :)
She really likes this rattle.
Lindsay did well for a while until she spotted the little bag of crackers I had on my purse.  Boy did she have lock-on!  She wasn't going to rest until she had that cracker.  It is sad that she seems so hungry or obsessed about food.  We gave her the cracker a bite at a time so she wouldn't try to eat it all in one bite.  She settled down and played for a while, until the nannies left with the dishes to get lunch from the kitchen.  Then she was almost inconsolable.  Poor girl...

She also seemed to be overstimulated and refused to be held or consoled.  Being unable to let her just sit on the floor and to give her some space, makes it hard. I think she was just tired of being held. She was tired of  us picking her up off the bare floor.  She was hungry.  She'd had enough.  I can certainly understand!  But when the nannies tried to take her back to the room so she could regroup, she cried even harder.  I think she knew it wasn't quite time for us to go, either.

I'm looking forward to the day next week that we can let her get down, move around, spread her wings and explore.  We can play and have room to move around freely.
Daddy playing a computer game.

Since it was about 7F tonight, Lee decided to try the "throw the hot water outside and watch it freeze in mid-air" experiment. It mostly worked. I think a little bit may have hit the ground, but not much!

Off to stay warm!
Paka, paka!

Day 47 - A Sunny, Cold Day

Wednesday, January 25th

Our days sometimes seem rather repetitive and routine. But we know that routine will change soon enough!  Only 4 more "waiting days" before the paper chase begins again.

We awoke to a fantastically beautiful sunny day!  This was the first sunny day we've had in some time, so we were happy to have it. There is still snow everywhere, but most of the roads are clear. There wasn't as much traffic out and our driver said that probably most cars wouldn't start today because of the cold.  Even his car had trouble starting, but he managed to get it going!

Our visit with Shawna and Lindsay was a good one again today.  Our new friend, Papa, came to see his son again this morning.  It really warms my heart to see him and his son together.  He was trying to get Little A (his son) to say "Mama."  He would look at his dad and smile that sweet, sparkly smile and then he would make a little attempt to say it.  Oh, it was sweet!

It was really hard not to laugh when Little A manages to take off his shoe. Papa would go to put it back on and Little A would bust out laughing and pull his foot back.  I don't know if Papa was accidentally tickling is foot, or if Little A was making a game of it.  Maybe a little of both.... but, OH, was it ever hard not to bust out laughing myself.  Papa was trying to be firm with him to let him put the shoe back on, but that little sparkly smile was hard to resist!  I really had to hold back and not look so that I didn't "encourage" the game, and so Papa could get that shoe back on him.  Too funny!

After we left, we headed back to town and our driver helped us get some souvenir items to take home with us.  There were three beautiful buildings right around the square.
Church at the Park

Main Orthodox Church for this City/Region

Monsatery in Downtown

Then we spent the evening having a nice dinner out with some friends before we leave town later next week.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 46 - A Simple Day

We set out for our typical routine of a day... but with a big dose of snow in the mix!  It snowed for most of the night and it was extra chilly this morning.  Somewhere around -9C/16F.  And the temperature is still falling... Brrrrrrr!  It's supposed to be even colder over the next 3-4 days.

Because of the snow on the road and some slippery places along our usual route, our driver took us a new way today through the back roads.  It was fun to see some new scenery!

When we arrived this morning, before we even entered the building, we could hear Lindsay crying in the room. Poor girl had big tears on her cheeks. :(  Luda told us that she has been crying all morning and that they were not sure why.  Once we got settled in our little room, Lee picked her up and started singing to her.  She rested her chin on his shoulder, placing her ear on his cheek and she listened quietly as he sang.  Daddy seems to hold the magic touch.  She was quiet for several minutes when the nanny came out to check on her.  She was very surprised that Lindsay was quiet and thought that maybe she'd fallen asleep.  But she wasn't... she was just soaking in Daddy's songs.

Once she settled down, we gave each girl a 1/2 of a banana for a snack.  Lindsay didn't get upset or cry anymore for the rest of our visit.

We were blessed to see the Papa had come back to visit his son again today!  That just warms my heart!  We all had a good time hanging out in the little room this morning.

We came back to our apartment and had some soup for lunch.  Planning to stay in stay warm this evening.

Paka, paka!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 45 - Heartbreaking Moments

We returned this morning to see the girls again.  The weekends seem to get longer as we sure miss the girls over those two days.  Lindsay greeted us with excitement today!  She ran right up and was practically climbing to be held before Lee could even get his coat off.  She was all smiles!  Then we could hear Shawna's giggles in the other room as the nanny was telling her Papa & Mama were here!  We hugged and kissed and greeted each other with enthusiasm!

Not long as we were settling in for our visits, there was another visitor that came to the orphanage today.  We had not seen him before, so we were curious to see which child the nanny would bring out.  There are many sweet faces that we have cherished over these last few weeks.  My heart leaped as they brought out the precious little blonde fellow (who also has Down syndrome) who has the sweetest smile that could melt a heart of stone!  His Papa held him so gently and sweetly in his lap.  You could tell that he does love his son.

We tried to make some space for them in the little foyer area, but there's not much to be had.  We told the father, in our best attempt in Russian, that his son is handsome.  And he sure is!  The father smiled.  We broke out the bubbles and we were able to include them in our play.  As Lee would blow some bubbles toward him and his son, the boy would laugh in sheer delight!  And his dad would help him reach out and pop the bubbles.  We would also smile, clap and cheer as his dad would hold his hands and his son was taking several steps across the floor.  It was such a sweet time to spend with them.

As lunch time approached, our visiting time came to an end.  The nanny took the little blonde fellow back to his room and helped him wave paka-paka to his Papa.   And another nanny came to get Shawna.  We gave hugs and kisses and said our paka-pakas, too.  As the boy's dad was leaving, we could see that his eyes were teary.  Oh, my heart sank and broke right there! Right into a million pieces!

My heart hurt for this father, and for all the other parents who are not able to raise their children (with disabilities) at home with them.  When a child is born with Down syndrome in this country (and many others), they are told that there is no opportunity for a child like this, and that placing them in the orphanage is the best for the family and for the child.  But to see a father's eyes tear, when he comes to visit and then leaves his child behind, again - it hurts...  I just cannot imagine the pain and grief they must have felt, when they were told it's best not to take your child home.

But I admire this father, as he presses through this pain to come visit his wonderfully handsome son! I'm telling you, the radiant smile that this little one has will make each visit so worth it!  I intend to pray for this father and for this boy and his family.  I pray that he will always know that his parents love him, even if they have to live apart. I pray that his father will hold onto this love and continue to be strong and keep this connection with his son.

I pray that one day things will change and awareness and opportunities will open up for all children with disabilities in this country, and in many other countries around the world.  I pray that their births will be celebrated, and that they would not be raised and sheltered away from their families.

I pray, too, for Shawna's and Lindsay's families.  I pray for the fear and pain they must have felt hearing the news that their daughters had Down syndrome.... for the losses they felt as they left their children in the orphanage.  I don't know the reasons why their families stopped visiting or didn't visit, but I believe those choices didn't come without grief, or without their mothers and fathers leaving pieces of their hearts behind. I pray that God will bring them comfort and peace they may need.

This evening we were able to stop by and say our farewells to our Italian friends.  They will pick up their daughter from the orphanage tomorrow and return to Italy next week. We are so happy for them and for their new daughter!  Ciao! Arrivederci!

Days 42 - 44 - The Weekend

Day 42 - Friday, January 20th

Today we went to our regular visit to see the girls in the morning. They were happy to see us and we were just as happy to see them!  We were able to share with the nannies that the court named us as Mama and Papa! They were happy, too!

Friday evening we spent the evening at church with our friends Brenda and Willard.  They have been great friends to us while we've been here. There were special services this weekend with a guest speaker visiting from Oklahoma.  The worship music was awesome and the message was great. 

Day 43 -  Saturday, January 21st

We give our driver the weekends off, so we spent the afternoon relaxing.  Later we joined some friends for another round of Monopoly in Russian! 

It's been snowing the last couple of days. On the way home we saw the prettiest snow. As it was accumulating on the ground, it was a beautiful crystalline that gave off an iridescence from the store signs.  Now I'm beginning to understand why the Eskimos have many different words for snow. We have already experienced a handful of different types of snow since we've been here.  Some wet and sticky, some dry and dusty, and some pretty and sparkly!

Day 44 - Sunday, January 22nd

Today was a typical Sunday for us. We head for church with the folks at Calvary Chapel.  On the walk there, we have found a wonderful little shop that has some delicious pastries.  The cherry danishes and the chocolate croissants are wonderful.

The church meets in a rented room located at a recreation center here in town.  There is usually a game of indoor soccer going on in the gymnasium, just outside the door.  Today, before service started there was the usual soccer game going.  I walked out of the room after service, to go downstairs, and there was a large group of guys in dressed in football (American) jerseys, shoulder pads and helmets inside the gym.  It definitely caught my attention, because you don't usually see American football over here.  Soccer is the main sport.  I wondered what they would be doing in their gear in a gym.  After I returned upstairs,  I realized they were practicing and were actually playing tackle on that hardwood gym floor.   I couldn't believe it.  I have to note that as funny things you never expect to see.

For dinner we planned to meet up with our Italian friends for a final evening out before they get their daughter from the orphanage and head back to the capital city.  Things didn't quite work out, as I goofed and we ended up at two different restaurants and didn't get together after all.  We have really grown fond of them and we are happy to call them friends.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 41 - Two New Daughters

I have to laugh as I sat down to compose this post and realized that we are now on Day 41 of our trip.  In the Bible, the number 40 is usually significant to a time of testing... 40 years of wandering in the desert... Jesus fasting in the desert for 40 days... So it's funny that we've just completed 40 days of our own testing...  And now the score....

We passed court!!!!  Shawna and Lindsay are our newest daughters!!!

We still have to wait for the 10-day appeal period to expire. On the 11th day we will begin the next set of paperwork that will begin our steps to come home.

As we were arriving to the court building, there was a large group of people on a small pier over a large pond, just across the road.  Many of those folks were in speedo and bikini swim suits!  Mind you, it's -4C/24F today and the pond is frozen over and there's snow still on the ground!  They told us that this is some holiday in the Orthodox church that is called Baptism Day or something. So it seems these folks are celebrating Jesus' baptism and dunking themselves in ice-cold water!  All I can say is it's just too darn cold for me to even think about doing that nonsense!  I was shivering in my coat just watching them.  Of course, this is the day we don't have the good camera!  Lee got a few pictures from his phone, but they're not as clear, but you get the point. (I'll post a picture after I can get it off his phone.)

We went on into the court building and waited for our hearing. Our attorney gave a short briefing of the court procedures and the general questions we would be asked.

In the court room there were two citizen representatives (or jurors) that sat on the bench on each side of the judge. There was a Prosecutor who was there to represent the rights of the children. There was a representative from the orphanage, and the Director for Children's Services from the local government. These ladies sat at a table just in front of the Judge's bench.  We sat at a desk and bench off to the right. A court reporter or clerk was off to the right of the judge's bench who was minding the computer that was recording the proceeding.

When the Judge entered the courtroom, I have to admit that I was surprised at how young he was.  I would venture to guess that he wasn't any older than 35.  I guess in my mind, I was picturing an older, grandfatherly-looking, gray-haired man.  So much for preconceived ideas! Blew that duck out of the water!

We went through the procedures of stating our names, information and what we were asking from the court.  We had to stand up each and every time we had to make a statement or answer.  We sat down after each answer, too.  So it was up, down, up, down, up, down.....  Once we answered the questions, the judge went through all of our dossier paperwork and all the other documents that were submitted by the other authorities that had to give their recommendations concerning our petition to adopt.  All parties there gave their recommendations to approve our adoption.

After all the formalities, the judge and two jurors left the courtroom together to deliberate the court's decision.  They were gone about 10-15 minutes before they returned. The Judge had a printed document in-hand that he read as the preliminary decision.  The court would grant our petition to adopt both Shawna (Svetlana) and Lindsay (Olena)!

Afterward the Judge came by and shook our hands and congratulated us.  Then the two jurors did the same.  We had to laugh when the one juror was smiling and rattled on in Russian and we had no clue what he was telling us. Tatyana came over and told us that he said we should have requested to change their birthdates so we could make them "twins" since their birthdays are already so close together!  We all had a good laugh at that!  Their birthdates are only 2 months and 3 weeks apart, so they are about as close as it can get.

Our driver brought us back to our apartment and we decided to have a celebratory lunch at one of our favorite little local restaurants. Afterward we went to church to celebrate and fellowship with our friends.

We are over-the-moon happy and excited!  It was hard to hold back the tears of joy we felt when the judge read his decision.  Two little girls are orphans no more!  They have a family!  They have a Mama, a Papa, and brothers and a sister that will love them to the moon and back!

And thank you to all of you are praying for us and encouraging and helping us throughout this journey!  We truly appreciate everything you do!  God is hearing and answering our prayers. I can't spell the details out here, but know that He IS!

Good night, all!
Lee and Carrie

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 40 - One More Day

We've been enjoying the snow we've been getting over the last 3 days. We've seen little bits of snow since we've arrived, but it melts by the next day. But now its' been around a few days and it's really pretty outside. And the snow seems to lift everyone's spirits around here. We've seen kids having snowball fights. There are little ones being pulled around on little sleds! Everyone everywhere just seems to be happier! Everything is brighter and looks so pristine.

I see this and I'm reminded of the joy one feels when you know Jesus paid an enormous debt just for you! And you ask him to forgive your sins, to be a part of your life and to change your heart.  Seeing the snow has my heart singing that old hymn, "Oh!The Blood of Jesus, it washes white as snow!"  Even the evenings are brighter around here as the snow reflects the street lights and signs.  How much more Jesus lightens our lives!

We went to the court building today. We were asked to file one more document and then they gave us an appointment for our court hearing. We will go before the judge at 2:00pm on Thursday, January 19th to petition for our adoption.  Just one more day to wait. This is just one of several remaining steps in the process, but this is the most significant!

Afterward we went on over to the orphanage and visited with the girls for about an hour. It is our usual routine to leave just before lunch is served. But Lindsay was not ready to go back to the room, today. She wanted to stay with Daddy. She tried a couple of times to get away and come back to the door where we were. Sweet, girl! Soon enough, all of us will leave together.

We plan to spend the evening with some new friends and try to get a good night's sleep for our Big Day tomorrow.

Here are a few pictures from yesterday afternoon and this morning. It is really hard to get both girls to look at the camera at the same time.
Checking out the new toys. Making lots of noise!

Shawna, me, and Lindsay.
The girls loves to have a toy in each hand!

Showing off my new rattle toy!
Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Days 38 & 39 - Good news

On Monday we went to our regular morning visit. We joke more and more about how it seems like the movie Groundhog Day! I plan to find some new toys to take tomorrow to change up the offerings. Shawna is always content with one particular rattle toy.  Lindsay seems to lose interest in toys more easily. She'd much rather be on the move!

We heard from our attorney this evening. She has an appointment with the court chairman to find out when we can schedule our court date. We hope to know more by the late afternoon on Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning, Lee decided to go to the early morning prayer meeting at the church. So he headed out early and would be back in time to go to the orphanage.

We had a little mix-up in our language communication Monday afternoon, and our driver didn't show up this morning. But I take full responsibility for the confusion. We called him and decided to go ahead and visit the girls in the afternoon, after their nap time.  We had been wanting to visit during the afternoon to see if there was any difference in their attentions or behaviors later in the day.  We arrived around 4pm and stayed until 6pm.  I'm happy to report that they are completely the same!  Both cheery and quite happy to see us!   Shawna was actually quite a giggle-box this afternoon.  Lindsay was even a little more relaxed.  It was nice!

On our way back to town, our attorney called us.  She said that she has finished her meeting at the court and we have a judge assigned to our case.  We WILL have court tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon, but the time was not confirmed, yet.   She will find out by 10am exactly what time we will go before the judge!

Slava Bogu (Praise God!)!  That was just the news we have been waiting to hear.  It seems to have taken so long to get to this point.  But, all is well!  We will present our petition to the judge and ask to adopt Lindsay and Shawna, and to be named as their parents. We pray that our petition will be granted. Please continue to keep us in your prayers. This is just the next step.

If we receive a favorable decision, then we will wait 10 days to allow for any appeal to be filed. If there are no appeals presented to the court during that time, then we will receive our official court decree. At that point we will begin the final paperwork and be close to coming home!

Dobre noche! (Good night!)

Day 37 - Encouraging Words

Today we spent the early afternoon at church at Calvary Chapel. Pastor Victor had a timely message from the book of 1 Kings.  It was right on the mark with what we needed for the day.  Pastor reminded everyone that God is victorious in our lives, whether we are on the hills of good days, or in the valleys of down days.

Afterward we had lunch with the Kimbles and visited with them and their new daughter, Mila Gayle. They will be leaving soon to pick up Yana Kathleen! We are so happy for them and we've become good friends as we've shared our adoption journies together.

Life is a lot more fun when it's spent with friends!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day 36 - Catch Up on Pictures!

OK! I know you come to visit for the pictures and I've been slack in keeping up with updates this week. So this post will be the week in review, in pictures!!!

Last Sunday evening we spent the afternoon/evening at Pastor Victor's house enjoying a delicious Christmas Dinner and playing Monopoly (in Russian!)
Christmas Dinner 1/8/2012 - This is before the roasted goose and mashed potatoes made it to the table!
Classic Monopoly in Russian

 These are some pictures from our visits with the kids during the week:

You can't see it here, but Lindsay is placing her hand on the side of Daddy's neck so she can feel the vibrations when he's singing to her. She also likes to put her hand on the front of his throat to feel them.  Later in the week she began putting her ear on his cheek to listen. It's  really neat to see how curious she is about his voice.  She is also beginning to sing along with him.
Lindsay checking out Daddy's singing voice.

Checking out the hair accessories!

Shawna with her favorite toy.
Warm and toasty in my pretty sweater!

Checking out this new toy cup.
Some days I just prefer to empty the bag. :)

We were excited when Shawna showed us she knows how to make the car go forward and back!
Riding the little Pooh Car.
A few pictures our Italian friends shared with us:
Lee, Carrie, Giusy (Josie) and Edoardo at the orphanage.
Making snowballs for a little fight!

Edoardo and Lee - "Good game!"

 Have a wonderful weekend!

Carrie & Lee

Day 35 - Friday

Today marks our 5th week in this country!  Some days it feels like we've been her forever. Other days, it doesn't hardly seem like it's been that long.

As is our routine, we headed out to the orphanage for our morning visit.  The girls are always happy to see us. Today, the nanny was telling us, in Russian with miming gestures, that when she told Shawna that Mama and Papa were here she started smiling and laughing! As Lindsay comes out of the room, she heads straight for Papa with arms open wide!

We brought toothbrushes to see how the girls would respond. We know we'll have some work to do in that area.  Lindsay would close her lips and barely run the brush over her lips. Then wipe her lips off.  She refused to open her mouth.  It's funny because she puts all kind of toys in her mouth all the time. We figured she'd be interested in the toothbrush, too.  Shawna turned her face away at first, but eventually she let me touch her lips and tongue with the brush.  I had put a teeny-tiny bead of the kid toothpaste on it and she seemed to like the Tutti Frutti flavor. We'll have to make some baby-step progress in brushing. Poor Shawna has one large, obvious cavity on one of her front baby teeth. There is also some noticeable decay on her upper molars.  I've already talked to our pediatric dentist back home and we'll make a plan on how to get their teeth fixed and cleaned as soon as we can.

Even thought it was still the full 2 hours, our visit seemed to go by quickly.  Time flies when you're having fun!  The lunch they were serving the kids smelled really good, too. It was some kind of chicken-base broth with potatoes and onions.

We'll be resting and going to church over the weekend. We are so blessed to have made so many new friends in a city halfway around the world!

Paka, paka!

Day 34 - Thursday

Today we visited the girls again and our days are going well.

We were hoping for news about court early today, but our facilitator was busy with another family doing final paperwork. They will be getting Miss Mila out of the orphanage forever today! We're definitely happy for them!

By early evening, we learned that the court is still not issuing new appointments for hearings, yet. So we'll have to wait again until Monday to learn more.

This evening we had the opportunity to have dinner with the Kimbles and meet Miss Mila in person!  She is just beautiful! She's 3.5 years old, but she's about the size of a 12-18 month old! She walks and toddles around exploring her new place. She has thick dark hair and beautiful dark, deep eyes!  The Kimbles learned that her birth family wants to meet them before they leave the city. What a sweet opportunity!

Day 33 - Fewer Orphans!

So sorry for the delays in posting this week.  We've been just coming and going and plodding along this week.

On Wednesday, we were happy to learn that there are two fewer orphans in our circle of friends!  The Italian family that is here adopting from the same orphanage was awarded their adoption on Tuesday afternoon!  The are now the proud parents of Miss Olga V! This little girl is so darn happy to have a family, I wish you could the the joy that lights her face when they arrive to see her each day!

And our friends, Corey and Stephanie Kimble, were granted their adoption of their second daughter! They'll be back in our city this week to finish paperwork and have their "Gotcha day"

It was a good day! Both families still have to wait for the 10-day appeal period, but they are happily anticipating the day they take their little ones home for good!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 32 - No court date, just yet.

Today, we went with our attorney and stopped by the court to check on an appointment.  We didn't get the news we were hoping to hear. The court will not issue any new appointments until this Thursday and we won't have a court date before Monday.  It wasn't what we wanted to hear, but there's not much we can do about it.  We'll wait for Thursday and see how things unfold then.

Each day we arrive, the girls seem happier to see us. We are greeted with giggles and smiles each morning.  We're getting used to our routine in the little entry way.

Shawna even made a few new sounds that I hadn't heard before. I was getting a notebook and pen from my purse and I heard something.  I looked over at Shawna and she was holding her arms up for me to pick her up!  Made my day!  When I picked her up, she gave me a big, hearty giggle!  She just loves to be held.

Lindsay was happy with Daddy singing to her!  She gets so focused and listens so intently when he's singing songs.  It's really sweet to watch!  Today she seemed to be singing along with him.  She was trying to make sounds and nodding her head with him.

The doctor came by and I was able to ask a few more questions about their medical information.  They shared much of their health information when we met the girls.  But today, I was able to write much of it down so that I can relay this information to our pediatrician and medical providers when we get home.

Our visit went by quickly today.  On the way back to our apartment, I got a call from our friend Brenda. She was calling to invite us to the evening prayer service at church tonight.  I guess the Lord new we needed some good fellowship and prayer tonight.  The music and the message were just what we needed.

It's late so I'm off to bed.  I'll add pictures into the post, tomorrow.

Paka!  And dobre noche (good night)!

Day 31 - Another Christmas Treat

We returned to our daily visits to the orphanage.  The weather is still rainy and wet.

The girls were glad to see us after our weekend rest and recovery time. We are both feeling much better and are beating whatever bug was trying to get us down.

When we came in, the nannies asked us to wait a minute. A few minutes later, they invited us again into the groupa room and we sat on the couch.  All the kids were sitting in the chairs again, obviously waiting for something to happen.  We were about to be treated to another little Christmas treat for the kids.

A lady came in that we had recognized as the piano player at the puppet show last week. Then an Orthodox Priest came in and addressed the group as we were waiting. Then our players came into the room. They presented a cute little skit of sheep, a shepherd and a wolf. Unfortunately, we couldn't understand the words, but the kids did a great job. They ended the play with a hearty, "Slava Bogu!" which means, "Praise God!"  Then our budding thespians handed out a small package of cookies to each child.

We continued our visit in the entry way.  We were told the kids could have only one of the cookies so they wouldn't spoil their lunch or get overwhelmed by the sugar. Lindsay was intensely interested in the package of cookies. Knowing her, she would have devoured the cookies in record time. Shawna doesn't eat any hard foods, so we decided to offer them both a piece of banana, first. Once they finished those, then we let Lindsay eat one of the cookies. She loved it! I think she'll probably eat just about anything we'd offer her. :)

Afterward, we noticed that Lindsay's diaper was full and was heavy in her pants. I took her back over to the groupa room to ask the nannies about changing her diaper. As the nanny took Lindsay from my arms, Lindsay started crying and was reaching back for me.  Poor girl.  I think she thought I was going taking her back so we could leave.  We weren't leaving.  It wasn't even close to lunch time, yet.  She was not happy.  I offered to change her diaper, but they insisted, and indicated they'd bring her back to me.  I heard her crying the whole time, even if it was only a matter of minutes.  When she came back, Lindsay had big tears running down her cheeks.  Once she saw we were still there, and that Shawna was, too, she settled down and was back to her cheerful self. 

We were happy to see that she showed some preference for staying with us.  It also showed us that she understood the concept of what time it was and that it wasn't time that we should be leaving yet.  Once lunchtime came around, she was ready to go eat, but she showed a little hesitation in going back to her room.

Overall, it was a very good visit. Tomorrow (Tuesday) our attorney will go to the court to see about an  appointment for our hearing.  She'll also help us meet again with the doctor to ask a few more questions about their health history so we can make notes to share with our pediatrician when we get them home.

Day 30 - Monopoly

We didn't do much on Sunday. We went to church and then went over to Pastor Victor's house for dinner. We had a nice time visiting with other folks from church.

The dinner was DELICIOUS!!! We had roasted goose, mashed potatoes, homemade bread, and many other foods that I didn't know the names of, but they were delicious, too! That has been the best meal we've eaten here, hands down!

Afterward we played the Russian version of Monopoly. Now that was a hoot! The rules, playing pieces and board were all the same as the classic game we know. But all the street and railroad names were Russian versions. The Chance and Treasure Chest cards were in Russian. Pastor Victor had to interpret for us when necessary. Carrie was the first to bankrupt and Lee finished better, claiming third place.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Day 29 - Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Today the Orthodox Church celebrates their Christmas holiday.  We've already heard a number of fireworks going off around us.  And I imagine we'll hear many more as the night goes on.

We stayed in today and are taking it easy.  I'm feeling a little better and a little less congested.  The Flonase seems to be working now. :)

Monday will be the official holiday for the government offices. Our facilitator plans to go to the court on Tuesday morning to get an appointment for our hearing.  I hope to have good news to share then.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 28 - It's Christmas Eve, again!

It's Christmas Eve, again! Tomorrow is the official Christmas holiday for the Orthodox Church here. We have enjoyed seeing all the Christmas decorations for a while longer than we'd normally see them back home!

The weather is warming up and has been close to 40F this week with rain and drizzle. And I packed so many extra-warm sweaters and shirts. Wishing I had brought a few lighter, long-sleeved shirts as well. Oh, well... live and learn!

We went to our regular visit again today. The girls were great, as they usually are!

We're planning to stay in and lay low this weekend. I have felt a bit of cold trying to come on, so I'm going to stay in and rest up and try to fight it off before we go back to visit on Monday.

Hoping for our court appointment to be one day next week, preferably Tuesday or Wednesday. Would you please pray for us that we will get word soon on our appointment? Thanks!

Paka, paka!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Days 26 & 27 -

Day 27 - Thursday -  A Puppet Show

Today we arrived and things were a bit different. There weren't very many kids in the room when we arrived. They brought Lindsay and Shawna out right away - we didn't have to wait for diaper changes or getting them dressed. We visited in our usual place for a little bit when a couple of women came in the front door with something that looked like a backdrop for a show or something. Then a couple of other ladies came in that we haven't seen before. A bit later, we heard someone playing "Somewhere My Love" on the piano in the room. The girls were immediately drawn to the music!

It wasn't much longer before they brought all of the kids from the other groupa room into the room with the backdrop. We were also invited in and we took seats in the back. It was a puppet show they were doing for Christmas (Orthodox). The play was cute and the piano player was also the narrator. Unfortunately, we don't understand much Russian, but the kids loved the little puppet show. I was in heaven because I could finally see some of the sweet little faces that we can only catch glimpses of when doors open and close.
Holiday Puppet Show
Lindsay and Shawna with their gift.
Lindsay was not interested in picture taking today, so this is the best one we were able to catch.

After it was over, we went back to our little room to continue playing. Today, we brought a 1/4 of a banana for each of the girls. Lindsay dove right in ate her piece quickly. Lee gave her one small animal cracker after that. We're learning that she will quickly scarf any food you give her. When we finally get home, we'll have to work on getting her to eat slower. Shawna wasn't too sure at first and turned her face away. I was able to put a little taste on her lips and that got her attention. I gave her little bites at a time and she ate the whole piece, too. It was sweet to see her licking her lips and smiling between bites! We're told she won't eat any hard foods so we didn't offer her any cookies.
Shawna - Miss Photogenic!

The girls seemed a little more relaxed after we offered them a snack. Usually, Lindsay is so hungry by the end of our visit, that when the ladies come in with lunch that she is ready to leave us and head to the table. Today she was content and took a few minutes more to spend with us before she had to go back to the room.

Day 26 - Wednesday

Lindsay seems so hungry toward the end of our visit. We brought a banana and a little bag of animal crackers for a snack. When Lindsay saw that we had food she was determined to get at it. Daddy offered her a cookie and I think she only chewed two times and swallowed it fast! We didn't want to give her too much so she wouldn't spoil her appetite for lunch. But that girl was determined to have more. Instead of giving her more cookies, he gave her about 1/4 of a banana. He gave it to her in small pieces so she wouldn't eat it in one bite. When it was finished, she still wanted more. He showed her the peel, and she had to keep checking it over and over again to make sure that it was all gone. I felt so bad for her to know that she is so hungry. She kept looking around for the bag that had the cookies. Eventually, she settled down and played with the lighted wand for a while.

Shawna was her usual sweet, quiet self. She seems to be more relaxed and is beginning to initiate more. I was sitting beside her on the little bench and I was talking to her when she reached her arms up so that I would pick her up. When I picked her up, she wrapped her arms around my neck and put her head on my shoulder....Warmed my heart! She's definitely a snuggle-bug!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 25 - Snowing Again

I finally updated our ticker so you can see just how far our little ladybug is moving! Thank you so much to everyone who has donated to our journey to bring our new girls home. We truly appreciate each and every gift you have shared with us!!!

The morning started off sunny, but soon changed to cloudy. While we were inside visiting the girls, it began snowing outside. By the time we left, 2 hours later, there was a light blanket of snow on the ground. It was so pretty. But by late evening, the rain began falling and turning the snow into slush on the sidewalks. Should make for an interesting day tomorrow. Not sure if it's going to be wet or icy when we wake up.

We had a great day again at our visit with the girls. Unfortunately, we did not get any good pictures to share today.

I got Shawna to get up and walk a little for me this morning. She would giggle and laugh while I was holding her hands and getting her to take steps toward me. She would reach out and fall into my arms with the biggest smile on her face!

Lee was counting to 5 in Russian today with Lindsay. She was very intent as she watched his face and seemed to listen carefully to him. She even seemed like she was nodding her head as he was saying each number. It was as if she was trying to say it along with him! Even the nanny was smiling big when she saw Lindsay following along with him. I think she's a little smart cookie! Later she was even  copying Lee when he was tapping his fingers on the table.

I saw Lindsay get up from a seated position on the floor into a standing position all by herself.  She also likes to climb up into the big chair by herself.  Even though she's so thin, she's pretty strong.

Through friends, we were able to find a new driver that will cost a little less than the other drivers we were using to take us to the orphanage every day. His English is pretty good, too. This will help us keep some of the expenses down since our trip is taking a little longer.

Our hearts go out for the other little ones that we have been able to see while we are here. There is one little girl who keeps slipping out of her room and tries to come out to play with us in the little entry room. I'm not sure why she's there. She doesn't appear to have any physical or cognitive delays. She looks like a typical 5-yr-old.  Then there is a beautiful little boy with bright blonde hair who has Down syndrome. Probably about 2yrs old at most. Oh, how I would love to give him a few hugs! He was watching us and smiling at us today. Melted my heart.... I wish all of these kids could have the mamas and daddies that they need.

Off to bed!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 24 - Happy New Year!

So 2012 is starting off with a bang.... well lots of them! Folks around here are still shooting off fireworks well into the night. We can't always see them, but they make a racket all over town as they echo in between buildings. We were told that there is a large fireworks factory here and that they are rather inexpensive.

Group Hug!

We had our first visit with the girls for the new year. Today was a great day! The girls were happy to see us and we sure missed them over the weekend. We bought a lighted wand when we were at the festival on the square. We were pretty sure that Lindsay would like it since she liked my little flashlight. And she did! It captured her attention for most of the visit. She didn't particularly like the setting that made sounds, but she liked the blinking lights.

There are all kinds and colors of stockings for kids to wear. This particular pair reminded us of Wonder Bread! :)
Lindsay loves lights.
They are both fascinated with the light wand.
 Shawna hung out with me most of the time. I brought a hairbrush and some tangle spray and fixed her hair with a bow clip. She was cute and the bow matched the shirt she was wearing today. We got some precious giggles from Shawna, too. I was trying to get her to stand up, but she would bend over and try to touch the floor. She would laugh and giggle each time! Lee got some of it on video.

I got out the bubbles today and Shawna really liked them. She would smile and try to reach out and pop them. Another little girl came out and was popping the bubbles too.
I love bubbles!

Toward the end of our visit, Luda, one of the caretakers, was showing us some of the things Lindsay can do. She was pronouncing Lindsay's name to her and trying to get her to repeat it back to her. Finally, Lindsay said it!!! It was so cute! She only did it one time though, but we were super excited to know that she can! We were also able to see that she can understand quite a bit of what's ask of her.  Luda was getting Lindsay to jump, walk, stand up and walk between her and Lee. I think Luda is really working with all the children in the groupa to help them learn to do things on their own. And she really seems to care about all the kids in their house.

As we were preparing to leave, we watched as she was guiding Shawna to the table to sit down for lunch. She was helping her to sit down in the chair with only a little help.

We spent the afternoon shopping around for some shoes or boots for the girls, as well as a stroller. So far,  I haven't been able to find a stroller that doesn't cost a small fortune. I'm going to have to ask around to find some other places to look for one. Right now, I'm really wishing I had brought one from home.

Stephanie and Carrie - In front of the Euro 2012 display.

And here are a couple of pictures from New Year's Eve...
Waiting for fireworks...

"I may look poofy, but I'm warm!"
Carrie & Lee