Friday, October 12, 2012

Volgograd Court

And....we are officially Elijah Ivan Williams' mommy and daddy!!!!! Court went really well and really quick this morning. Last night our translator, Natasha, gave us a brief rundown on what to expect in court, but really the best advice came from those of you that went before us and shared your court experiences in Volgograd! Soooo nice to have other families share their experiences...so thanks to each of you. Team effort. Haha

Barry and I spent a little time last night preparing "speeches". My speech covered how long Barry and I have been married, infertility and miscarriage, our decision to adopt, why internationally and why Russia, about receiving the referral, travel to Russia, our meetings with Vanya, his diagnoses, and our love for him. Barry's speech was about finances, home ownership, discipline and family support. They were probably 3-5 minutes each, plus time for the translation between each sentence or so.

Us this morning, ready for court! Actually...upon second thought...this was after court. Irregardless...here we are dressed for court. :)
The court proceedings went so smoothly...we appreciate all the prayers!!! We got to court at 10:30 this morning and went on up to the court room (after showing our passports a few times...you have to flash those things everywhere here...even at the grocery store when we pay with a credit card). We met the Volzhsky MoE rep and the Volgograd region rep, who would be in the court room with us giving their support of the adoption. Then we all waited for the judge to arrive...he arrived right on time and we got started right away. Side note...several of you will get a kick out of this...just take one guess what kind of shoes I wore to court. Yes, open toed shoes (not flip flops as I realize this was court...but open toed shoes none the less). Anyway...Russians like to bundle up...it's weird. I mean, Alaskans don't bundle up and their weather is more harsh than what we have here!! So me and my shoes were the talk of the court room this morning. They gave me such a hard time!! Our facilitator encouraged me to go back to the hotel to change shoes after court because she thought I would freeze (it was, I don't know, maybe in the 50's today). I stuck to my guns though and wore my shoes all day. :)
We had to introduce ourselves, everyone had to give their statements of support, etc. And then Barry and I were given the opportunity to share our speeches. Then the judge and the prosecutor had the opportunity to ask us questions. They asked a few things but nothing that was too difficult, controversial, etc. :) The judge went though our court documents one by one and then left to make his decision. Tenish minutes later he was back and read the decree that he was granting our request to become Elijah Ivan Williams' parents!!

Such relief...almost tears...but I had been told by our translator ahead of time to not cry because the judge didn't like it. Somehow I held it together....amazingly. :) I still can't believe that it's official!! We had been told it would most likely be the 16th of November, but that we wouldn't know for sure until the court decree was final which could take a week, but then just a little while ago we got an email with the dates we should be traveling, so unless something changes (which is never out of the question wibthese sorts of things) we will get to pick Elijah up Nov. 16th!

After that we were able to go back to the orphanage to take Vanya to get his passport pictures taken. A caregiver had to go with us, obviously, and he wanted to stay in her arms the whole time...which is totally fine with us. We want him to gradually warm up to us, to see that his caregivers are okay with us. It was his first car ride since he came to the orphanage, so he was a little freaked out at first but once we got back to the orphanage he was a happy little guy. We have a Mr. Independent on our hands...Barry and I played outside with him for several hours and he knew exactly where we wanted to go and exactly what we wanted to do...how dare we try to stop him. Oh my...the lungs on our child. :) He will let you know when you do something he does not like! He laughed for us on a few occasions too!! Such a beautiful sound!! How I wish I could share some of our videos with everyone!

We know this move is going to be so difficult on him in the beginning...so it's all bitter sweet. We are beyond thrilled that we are finished jumping through hoops (of course there is a ton of paperwork on the 3rd trip...but who cares?? He's ours!!) and we are officially his parents, but we know that this is going to be one of the hardest things that he will have had to face. We know he will be scared, that he'll grieve, and that he'll miss the only caregivers, language, surroundings and friends that he's ever known. We know that this is in his best interest, we know that God is in control, but it will be hard on him. We are just so ready to get him home and start the adjustment process. :) We left with him a little picture book of "his" story...a picture of him, the orphanage, him with his caregiver, mommy and daddy, mommy daddy and Elijah, picture of a car, hotel, plane, our house, etc. It tells the whole story in pictures about what is about to happen. Hopefully the caregivers will look at it with him to prepare him for the upcoming move.

And look what we saw as we left the orphanage this afternoon...

Uh, yea...that's a rainbow over the Volzhsky orphanage. How perfect is that? :)

We head back to the US tomorrow morning...but we know we'll be back soon!!!!!!!!

 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Vanya :)

Today we got to see our baby boy! He looks a lot older since our first trip, but he's still quite tiny. It was so so so good to see, touch, hear and smell him again...we didn't want our visit to end. I wanted to run out of that place with him and never look back. :)

They brought us into the same room that we visited with him in May and before they could even bring him into the room he started crying. Apparently they had told him mama and papa were coming and he's a smart little guy. He was probably scared. :( He warmed up to us quickly though...and by that I mean there were minimal tears, but he was a very quiet little guy for the first two hours of our visit. He played with us a little and talked to us some...he said "mama" and "papa"!!! He could point to our pictures in a book and say our names. Be still my beating heart. :) He can also say "nie", the equivalent of "take" in English. He and Barry had a long game of give and take. It was cute. :) He is doing a lot of babbling and we kept wondering if he was actually saying something or just babbling...hard to tell...

About two hours into our visit we decided to take him outside since he loved it last time. Well...apparently since it's a freezing temperature of 70 degrees outside, this denotes...tights (seriously...and they were pink), pants, snow pants, an undershirt, shirt, sweater, winter jacket and a toboggan. Seriously. So he starts getting very agitated as we're changing his clothes, AKA adding many a layers...and starts crying. By the time we have him dressed and outside he's screaming. We think he was a) BURNING UP, b) thought we were going to leave with him and/or c) felt choked by the snug/tight toboggan that they squeezed him in. Poor baby...he kept getting more and more worked up so I suggested we go back inside to take off his clothes. There was just no recovering from that though, as caregivers kept coming over to help, which I appreciate, but it kept getting him even more worked up because he would see them and get even more upset. Finally the psychologist, whose office is across the hall from where we were, came in the room and calmed him down.

Finally she was able to sneak off after he was distracted by a snack of "biscuits" (graham cracker looking things) and hot tea...yes, hot tea in a sippie cup (apparently this is a Russian thing. We were told all babies are given hot tea...lovely...)...He was happy for a little while and let papa hold the sippie cup until another caregiver came in and he was reminded again that he didn't know us. :) She took him upstairs to his room while we cleaned up his snack (my goodness those were crumbly biscuits) and then we were able to go see him on his stomping grounds.

All the kids in his room (he's the oldest in there now...he was supposed to change rooms yesterday but they decided to keep him in his current room since he'll be leaving in around 30 days!!! I was soooo glad to hear he would be making one less move!) were down for a nap so we were able to spend time with him, and his four caregivers, in his room. You could tell he was so much more comfortable there and he put on a show for us. He could dance, blow kisses, sing, stomp, climb out of the playpen, and follow many other commands that the caregivers gave him. It was so fun seeing him come out of his shell like that. We got lots of video! One sad moment was when the caregivers asked him why he was being so bad for his parents. That made me so sad that they would say that to him. If he's sad, I want him to be sad...and not to feel bad about it! Boo.

While we were there, we were able to get the names of his caregivers, we gave them scrapbook paper and asked them to write Vanya a note, we learned that he eats everything (and even wants some of whatever the caregivers are having...and will point and demand for it until they give it to him), a little bit about his schedule...we were able to get the names of the maternity home and hospital he spent time in before coming to the orphanage (we were able to drive there and get pictures after we left!!)...I have a gigantic list of questions for his caregivers and will post that eventually on the blog...it may be helpful for families in the future.

Overall, it was a great visit. We will hopefully be able to go back after court tomorrow, as long as the judge doesn't keep us too long. yay! Court is at 11am our time tomorrow...11pm Alaska time (Thursday), 2am CST (Friday). Please oh please be praying! :)

And here's the view from our hotel room...very anticlimactic compared to the 100+ pictures that we took of a special someone today...but it'll have to do for the next 30 or so days until we can post anything of him. :)

 

 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

We're back!!!

We are now in Volgograd! I teared up when we pulled in front of the hotel...what a softy. Haha. We're just so beyond words excited to be back. I really do love this place. We just finished eating at Grand Cafe and are about to head to the Mah (market) to get a few bottles of water and maybe a candy bar...

Our room this time around at Hotel Volgograd is much nicer compared to last time around, which isn't saying much...but this time we knew to request a non-smoking room and that has made all the difference. We also have carpet and a mattress pad!! Progress I tell you.

Headed to the orphanage at 10:30 in the morning for a 4 hour visit! Much longer than we've had with him before. Please pray that he is not afraid of us and that we have a great visit with him!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Russian Medicals and More Exploring

We started off our day today with this...

A $50 breakfast consisting of a 1/2 sandwich and water for Barry and a pastry and a cappuccino for me. Wow. Then we headed here...

The "clinic" for our medicals. It was really quite a joke. When we got there we went into a little conference room with Val and waited for the doctors to begin arriving. There was a form for 8 doctors to sign (all of which were females which we thought was interesting)...3 doctors signed the form without even coming down to see us, one doctor came down but didn't ask us anything, one doctor asked "Have you had any surgeries?" another asked "Have you had a mammogram?" Then one lady tested our reflexes and had us close us our eyes and touch our nose with our finger. And that was literally it. The forms we needed were signed, stamped and after a hefty payment we were ready to go. In and out in an hour.

We saw Moscow State University on the way back....

The main building was huge!!! This picture in no way does it justice.

Then we went for a walk...at one point we saw someone driving a tractor down the street, which wouldn't seem that out of place back home, but seemed really odd in the dead center of the 5th largest city in the world of ~12 million people, including the most billionaires in any one city. See if you can spot the vehicle that doesn't belong...

 
Then back to Red Square!! We remembered to take pictures with our phones today. :)

We ate at a little cafe in Red Square and had birds trying to attack us...

Had some Russian cuisine...it may look kind of gross, but it was actually really good, especially the beef stroganoff (which we didn't know was Russian), and it was much better than the Hamburger Helper variety, and to my surprise, had no noodles.

Went to the biggest, nicest mall maybe ever...there were three corridors like this one, and each one went as far behind me as what you see in front of me in this picture!

And now we're back at the hotel! We are really enjoying Moscow but so ready to get back to Volgograd!! Headed there tomorrow!! Yippee!!!!

 

Monday, October 8, 2012

We're Here!

And we're back in Russia! After a long day...night??...of flying we arrived in Moscow early this morning (Monday). Our flights were uneventful and pretty much on time...we did get some weird food on our flight from New York to Moscow. We flew Aeroflot this time, which is a Russian airline, so we got Russian food. One of the meals was some beef thing, which was your typical plane food, but they served it with a side of cold green beans and tuna salad.

Odd. Then for breakfast we had the choice of an omelet or a hamburger (for breakfast??)...the omelet was served with a side of nasty looking sandwich meat and shredded carrots. Interesting combinations. One of our meals was served with the best looking dessert ever. It was some type of chocolate mousse/cake thing, but man was it good. Hands down best airline food I've ever had. :)

Once we got to Moscow we had no problem going through Passport control, getting our luggage or going through customs and Val, our rep here, was waiting for us as we exited and we even made it to his car within his free 15 minutes of parking.

 

The traffic here is unreal! The 18 mile drive from the Sheremetyevo airport to our hotel, Courtyard Marriott City Center, should be 20 minutes with no traffic, but it took us almost 2.5 hours. Val said once it took him 4.5 hours to make the same drive. Wow. I enjoyed the drive though, I love being new places and seeing everything around me.

Once we got to our hotel they allowed us to check in, even though it was so early (this picture was taken tonight...sorry you get all the lame pics that didn't warrant pulling out our nice camera...we will try to remember tomorrow to take more with our phones of actual exciting things so that you don't have to see pictures of green beans. :) ) They got major points for that since check in time is not really until 4pm and we got here before 11am. We took a nap and then headed out to do a little exploring. We found Red Square, which is just a few blocks from our hotel, and saw St. Basil's Cathedral, the Kremlin, the big red building that I can't remember the name of...we stumbled upon a mall and ate dinner at somewhere distinctly Russian. McDonalds. Haha. So, not exactly Russian, but we wanted something fast because it was getting dark and we didn't completely know how to get back to our hotel...it's quite difficult when all the road signs are in Russian. :)

McDonalds was an interesting experience in and of itself, as the menu was all in Russian as well. Thankfully we did see a small paper menu that had pictures and English, so we grabbed that and as we were standing there an employee came over to us to take our order on a little electronic device that he had in his hand. Then he printed a little receipt thing and we took that to the counter to pay and wait for our food. I had never seen that before. Somehow we actually got exactly what we ordered, even with the language barrier, which I was pretty impressed with. They also served shrimp wraps and other stuff that I could not even recognize from the pictures...I love visiting McDonald's in other places and seeing local cuisine...in Hawaii they had pineapple, I think rice (but I may have just made that up), and taro pies. Here, I can't tell you what they had, other than it was not what we have. :)

On our way back to our hotel (which we did find our way back to...yay!) we stopped at a coffee shop and had an amazingly good Americano.

Oh, we also stopped to get some bottled water at a weird little kiosk looking thing and had some mass confusion communicating with the cashier (the products were all behind a glass wall, so we couldn't just bring our purchase to her.) Thankfully, around Moscow there normally is someone around that speaks, or at least understands, some English, normally it's young adults, and there was a teenager there that translated for us and helped us check out. Whew. :)

Now we're back at the hotel, ready to settle in for the night. Our medicals are tomorrow, so wish us luck!

 

Friday, October 5, 2012

WE LEAVE THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW!!

Yippee!! We are getting so close to Russia Trip #2! We went from this...
 

Our throw back paper chain coutdown. I made it the day we found out our court date. :) To...

Well, I forgot to take a picture of the chain before we left our house, but if you were to see it, it would only have two links left!! We leave out of Atlanta on Sunday morning for our very fast whirlwind trip. We will fly from Atlanta to JFK to Moscow and arrive there Monday morning. Our week looks like this:

Monday - sight see in Moscow (hopefully we will feel up for it after having travelled for many many hours)
Tuesday - medicals in Moscow
Wednesday - fly to Volgograd
Thursday - visit with Elijah!!
Friday - court
Saturday - fly home

It makes me tired just looking at it...

Hopefully we will be able to see Elijah after court on Friday as well, but who really knows. :)

Prayer requests...
  • Safe travels, on time flights, not losing our luggage, etc.
  • That we have all of the required paperwork for the Embassy, court and anywhere else that we may be bringing things (we are literally bringing with us a stack of paperwork that is at least 1.5 inches think plus our chest x-rays and other various documents). I have gone through it all a hundred times, but it still makes me nervous that we could be missing something.
  • That our medicals will go smoothly (several, as in 7 or 8 I think, Russian doctors will need to ask us questions, maybe do a few exams and sign off on our forms) and that we will be healthy as far as the Russian doctors are concerned.
  • That we will have a great visit with Elijah - that he will recognize us a little bit, not be afraid of us, and enjoy his time with his mommy and daddy.
  • That court will run smoothly - that the judge will wake up on the right side of the bed :), that he will have compassion towards us and towards Elijah, that we will be able to answer all of his questions honestly, in a God honoring way and be able to give him the answers that he wants to hear.
We will be updating as we go!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

And…we FINALLY have a Court Date!

October 12th we will be in court in Volgograd! It is such a relief to finally have this date, you have no idea. It will be 5 months after meeting Elijah for the first time, much longer than we anticipated, but it’s a court date none the less!! Yesterday was a nerve-racking day because we never heard anything about how the preliminary hearing went or if we had a court date…nothing. Thankfully we heard early this morning though, so it was only 24 hours of being on the edge of our seat watching and waiting for that phone to ring. :) (During that 24 hour period we may have engaged in some retail therapy…)

We are now in the midst of booking our flights, then hotels, then working on the next round of paperwork to complete and bring with us. The judge isn’t requiring that we update our medicals in the US, so yay to that! We do have to complete the new requirement of 80 hours of training before court. (I am honestly glad that Russia is now requiring adoptive families to go through that much training. We see so many families at work that have no clue what they may face in the future while parenting a child who has experienced neglect and trauma. I think the training is a great requirement.) Sad that I can’t train myself since I train on adoptive issues for a living :), but Beacon House has schedule a “boot camp” next week in Pensacola, Florida to cover most of this training requirement, so we might as well have a little retreat at the beach and pass the time between now and court. :)

Back to travel mania! Thanks for the prayers, please keep them coming, court should be interesting… :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Preliminary Hearing is Tomorrow!!

Our preliminary hearing is tomorrow (well, technically in the middle of the night tonight since there is a 9 hour time difference...11pm here is 8am there)! Yippee! Please join us in praying that the judge and everyone involved will have had a good nights rest, that the judge will want to expedite getting Elijah home and will issue us a fast court date, that Lena (our rep) will represent us well and advocate for us...there are several possible holdups due to recent changes in Russian regulations but we are praying that our process will not be slowed down as a result. We went ahead and requested our visas last week so we are ready to travel ASAP! Pray, pray, pray!!!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Quilt Winners!

We have our winners for the adoption fundraiser!! The winning bid on the Auburn quilt goes to...Rachel Dykes for $80!! The winning bid on the Bama quilt goes to...an anonymous bidder for $105!! That's $185 for Elijah's orphanage...that will buy a lot of diapers, clothes and other necessities. That's awesome! Thank you to everyone who bid and especially to our winners. :) Congratulations!

(If you are the anonymous bidder, please contact me at lhwilliams812@gmail.com or leave a comment below with your email address so that we can work out the details. Thanks!)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Preliminary Court Hearing

Our preliminary court hearing is finally set. Unfortunately it is not until the 19th, a very long time after our documents were submitted to Russia. We should find out our court date on that day. From the two families that I know of that have completed the process/are ahead of us in the process in the Volgograd Region, the court date was approximately 2 weeks after the preliminary hearing. We are hoping that this will be the case for us as well. Our medicals expire the beginning of October (they are only good for 90 days) and I cannot explain to you how much I do not want to have to redo all of that…blood work, chest x-rays, TB skin test, letter from the doctor’s office, copies of the doctor’s license, form to fill out…sigh. We are just going to wait and see what the judge has to say after the preliminary hearing and hope that we don’t have to redo all of it. Ideally we want our court date before they expire, if not that, then maybe the judge will at least let it slide by a few days.

It’s just frustrating because things continue to go so slowly! We had been told by our facilitator in Moscow that he could see us being back for our second trip by the end of July, which would put Elijah home by now. And now it’s (optimistically) looking like our court hearing won’t be until the beginning of October, which puts us bringing him home in November. Like I keep saying, my concern does not lie with me waiting, it lies with Elijah waiting.

I wish I could be more excited about getting this date and getting one more step in the right direction, but I’m just not. I don’t really know how to pray anymore to be honest. We prayed that we would be back for court the end of July, that date came and went. Then we prayed our court documents would be submitted quickly and then that didn’t happen. We prayed that we would get a preliminary hearing soon after submitting documents to court and then that didn’t happen.

The Lord wants us to bring our requests to Him, He wants us to pray and believe, but it’s REALLY hard to when you have prayed for so many things that haven’t happened. Please don’t get me wrong, I know that God’s in control and I know that His plan is perfect, but it’s really hard to pray specifically for things when those prayers haven’t been answered in the past. I know that the Lord is capable of miracles, I just have a hard time seeing how my prayers have an impact on that…

I know God sees the bigger picture and I just have to trust in that. But my heart keeps getting crushed each time I GENUINELY believe He will answer our prayers in the way we are praying because they appear to be in our child’s best interest and then He doesn’t.

Looking back on our miscarriage experience…we prayed and believed with our whole hearts that the Lord would give our baby a heartbeat again. We truly believed that He would receive so much glory through that miracle. That didn’t happen. Right afterwards we were so confused about why He would allow that, but looking back I SEE. Without us losing our baby girl, Elijah wouldn’t have a mommy and a daddy and we wouldn’t have the honor of being his mommy and daddy! God is receiving so much glory through this process and our baby girl is better off with Jesus! I can truly SEE now why God didn’t answer our prayers in the way we prayed. He had a much bigger plan than we could ever imagine…and I would never want to change any bit of it.

I just have to trust that He sees something we don’t see now too. That He does have a plan in all of this and is protecting our baby boy through it all. So I will believe that He sees the whole picture. I will believe that He continues to hold Elijah in His hands. I will believe that He is bigger than all of this timing. I will believe that He is bigger than paperwork. I will believe that He hears every single one of our prayers. I will believe that He is sovereign.

My prayer… Lord…"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Mark 9:24

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Orphanage Donation

DSC_0055

I didn’t mention yesterday what the money from the quilts will be designated for. Part of our adoption expenses is the opportunity to donate to Elijah’s orphanage. The orphanage is in need of clothes, diapers, winter clothes, etc. and we are going to be bringing a monetary donation as well as many items with us on our next trip. SO the proceeds from the quilts will be given to Elijah’s orphanage to help out all of the other children that still do not have forever families. Does that give you motivation to bid? :)

Click here to bid on the Alabama Quilt.

Click here to bid on the Auburn Quilt.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Adoption Fundraiser – Alabama Quilt

My sweet coworker and friend, Esther, has donated two beautiful quilts to be auctioned for an adoption fundraiser! (For those of you that don’t know us, we are in the process of adopting an adorable 18 month old little boy named Elijah from Russia. I hope you have a chance to follow us on our journey!) There is an Alabama quilt and an Auburn quilt for auction. These quilts each take her between 8-12 hours to make (they are hand stitched!) and they are extremely soft!

Here’s how we are going to do it. If you are interested in bidding on the quilt, please leave a comment in the comments section below with your bid and email address. There will be two separate posts, one for the Alabama quilt and one for the Auburn. We are going to start bidding at $40 and please increase your bid by at least $5 each time. (Depending on your location I will either hand deliver it or ship it to you.) The bidding will end Saturday, September 8 at 11:59pm. Remember to keep checking back to increase your bid as needed. Thanks in advance!! Now…GO!
DSC_0466 Alabama quilt is approximately 3.5 x 4.5 feet

Click here to bid on the Auburn Quilt.

Adoption Fundraiser – Auburn Quilt

My sweet coworker and friend, Esther, has donated two beautiful quilts to be auctioned for an adoption fundraiser! (For those of you that don’t know us, we are in the process of adopting an adorable 18 month old little boy named Elijah from Russia. I hope you have a chance to follow us on our journey!) There is an Alabama quilt and an Auburn quilt for auction. These quilts each take her between 8-12 hours to make (they are hand stitched!) and they are extremely soft!

Here’s how we are going to do it. If you are interested in bidding on the quilt, please leave a comment in the comments section below with your bid and email address. There will be two separate posts, one for the Alabama quilt and one for the Auburn. We are going to start bidding at $40 and please increase your bid by at least $5 each time. (Depending on your location I will either hand deliver it or ship it to you.) The bidding will end Saturday, September 8 at 11:59pm. Remember to keep checking back to increase your bid as needed. Thanks in advance!! Now…GO!
DSC_0465 Auburn quilt is approximately 3.5 x 3.5 feet.

Click here to bid on the Alabama quilt.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rough Week and a Promise

This has been a rough week. I mean really rough. The amount of tears that have been cried this week is shocking really. :) Our adoption worker, Terri, had told us to be prepared for a 4 month wait between trip #1 and trip #2 (it’s been a little over 3 so far) however we have recently seen it happen A TON faster than that. There is a family that travelled on their first trip to Volgograd over a month after we did and they are back in Russia right now, had their court hearing today. Without seeing that I think I would be doing a lot better, but seeing how fast it COULD have happened (their agency and POA (Power of Attorney who is the person on the ground in Russia, also our representative -ours is Lena) did things a lot differently) is literally like torture. Knowing that MY baby is still sitting in an orphanage, seemingly no closer to getting home, and if the process had gone differently he could be HOME by now…

We found out today that our documents are STILL not at court. Our POA was waiting until the “good” judge was back from vacation to submit our documents to him. That’s nice and all but I would take a judge that would grill us in court over my baby waiting any longer to get home. The word as of today is that our documents will be submitted to him Monday and he typically schedules a preliminary hearing with the social worker from the orphanage, the Ministry of Education (or Department of Education, called both things, sort of the equivalent of DHR), and our POA within TWO weeks of submitting our documents to court. THEN during that preliminary hearing he will schedule a court date for us, which we have seen be about 2 weeks out, but that obviously varies. So, if the time frames stick with what our POA is telling us it could be a month before we make it back to court. My heart is just breaking the longer this takes. My baby just keeps getting older (18 months) and I know way too much about brain development/attachment/neglect/etc. due to my job. I realize that God is bigger than all of that, but knowledge is my enemy right now and I wish I didn’t know so much about adoption and the effects of all of that on the children. :)

I have definitely come completely to the end of MY rope. But, guess what? It’s not really the end…

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:29-31, NIV)

Oh how I need that strength only He can give. I honestly can’t explain what we’re feeling right now.

The Lord brought this song to mind this morning, oh how fitting it is (minus the sentence that says “there’s no reason worth this”…because Elijah is TOTALLY worth this). I have just been listening to it on repeat, bawling. It describes perfectly how I feel.

“Trust In Me Now” by Anthony Evans 

I know your past
The point of breaking into pieces
I know you feel
Like there’s no reason even worth this
And when you cry
The tears that fall don’t even touch your pain, no, no

Even though you feel alone
Even though your strength is gone
As your weary heart just tries to hold on
Even if your faith is lost
Even if its hard to trust
In a Lord, that would let the rain fall down
Trust in me now
Trust in me now

I can hear every prayer that goes unspoken
I feel the weight of everything that’s on your shoulders
So don’t give up
There is nothing we can’t overcome
There’s nothing we can’t overcome

Even though you feel alone
Even though your strength is gone
As your weary heart just tries to hold on
Even if your faith is lost
Even if its hard to trust
In a Lord, that would let the rain fall down
Trust in me now
Trust in me now

I can see what you can’t see
And I will hold you close to me
Through the storm until you can see the light

Even though you feel alone
Even though your strength is gone
As your weary heart just tries to hold on
Even if your faith is lost
Even if its hard to trust
In a Lord, that would let the rain fall down
Trust in me now
Trust in me now
Trust in me now
Trust in me now

You can listen to the song here.

To top it ALL off…today is our little girl’s two year Heaven birthday. Like I have mentioned before, God has orchestrated every single detail of our journey and I am so glad that our little girl is in Heaven with Jesus and we are able to adopt Elijah. He has a plan in ALL of this, I know He does, but I definitely just feel drained…emotionally and physically as well (this may be because I have ran my heart out this week…I needed the endorphins but may have done permanent damage to my body :) ).

Headed to the police department right now to redo a local police clearance form that is now expiring due to the longer than anticipated wait. Goodie. :) I hope this is the only document that we will have to redo before court…

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Hidden Cost of Adoption

No one tells you about the hidden costs of adoption. Sure we got a break down from our agency about costs that we could expect to incur, but the hidden costs…

Things like…

IMG_1274 IMG_1275 and…

IMG_1283 IMG_1292 and…

IMG_1288 IMG_1312 and…

IMG_1316

This is just a small small sampling of the “retail therapy” as Dee Dee (the other family that travelled to Russia with us for their first trip) describes it. I can’t seem to stop buying things for him. I have been buying from outlets, zulily, totsy…I’ve been buying things on sale and with coupons. So that’s something…

I was talking about said retail therapy with a friend and she pointed out that it probably is the only thing that makes me feel connected to him. It’s all I can do to care for him right now. That’s totally it. It makes me feel like I am doing something when I purchase things/get things ready for him. It’s all useful things, after all, he needs clothes on his body, he needs useful toys, he needs a place to sit, a way to travel…but my goodness, I need to stop. :)

Side note…I have this obsession with onesies and since he won’t be able to pull them off for much longer, if you ever come to my home in the near future after we bring him home, that is what he will be wearing. :) Also, I have a new obsession with t-shirts with appliqu├ęs and his name/monogram on them (thanks a lot Jill. I got one at a shower I had this past weekend and now I need more…need is a strong word there…). I want a whole wardrobe of them.

And the other hidden cost for us…food. Comfort food. Raisinets, ice cream, greasy hamburgers and fries…anything that I don’t have to prepare and cook. My friend Kat (who is also adopting and has been in the process for a very very long time) and I decided that we need to market adoption pants with a drawstring/stretchy waistband. Yep.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

DE Release Letter

We FINALLY got word on Tuesday that our DE (Department of Education) release letter had been received! This basically is a letter that says Elijah is free to be adopted internationally. The DE tries to explore all options – trying to contact birth parents or other relatives, etc – before issuing this release letter. Now that this letter is in hand our entire file is being notarized/authenticated over in Russia and should be submitted to court next week.

I am a little bit unsure the process from there…I have gotten mixed messages and timelines so we will just wait and pray and see. We are praying desperately that we will get a court date assigned to us next week, soon after submitting our file to court, but we have been told in other regions this can take around 30 days after the file has been submitted.

Once again, we ask for your prayers…prayers that every person that comes in contact with our file will feel a sense of urgency to complete their part. Prayers that our facilitator on the ground knows exactly what she is doing to help expedite the process. Prayers that the judge will see our file early next week and issue us a court date so that we are back in Russia within the next couple of weeks. Continued prayers for Elijah that he is continuing to grow, attach to his caregivers, be happy and cared for…and that the Lord will be preparing him for this adoption. Thanks for all of your support and prayers!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Contentment

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13

Contentment. This one is hard for me. While we were going through infertility, loss, waiting for a referral...all of that...I honestly felt like I had grasped this verse and really was living it through Christ's strength. Back then it was only Barry and I that were effected (affected? How can I be 30 years old and still be confused by the usage of those two words??). I could SEE the Lord using our story to impact others, I knew that He really was using all things, even our suffering, for His glory.

Now my child's life is in the picture and I'm having a hard time feeling content. I have a hard time seeing why this wait is in anyone's best interest, most of all my 17 month old.

Maybe that's it right there...feeling...maybe contentment, just like joy and many other "emotions" isn't about a feeling. It's about a knowledge that He is in control and will orchestrate things according to His will. It's about being firmly rooted in His promises so that when we don't feel content we know that the only way to stay sane is through Him and His strength. Through His strength we can face each day content because we are all, not just Barry and I but Elijah too, right where He wants us to be. After all, look at what He has promised us...

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:13-16

I don't need to rely on my feelings but trust that He can and will use even this time for His glory. I pray that it isn't wasted time and that there is purpose in the wait, especially for Elijah. Maybe he needs this time to form stronger bonds with his caregivers so that he is better able to transfer those attachments one day to us. Maybe...I don't know...but I do pray that there is purpose in this wait for each of us.

I just looked up the definition of contentment and one of the definitions was "ease of mind". That's a hard one for me not knowing how Elijah is doing or how he's being cared for, but God tells us "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

In essence, making us content. Casting out those anxious thoughts, resting in His promises, being thankful in every situation, trusting Him with each of my tomorrows as well as Elijah's tomorrows = Contentment. I think I can do this. Obviously not in my own power, but through His strength, I can do it.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Things Not to Say to An Adoptive Parent

Here are a few things that you should never say to an adoptive parent…things that I have experienced firsthand. I teach a training on how to talk about adoption in the community and how to respond to all of these difficult questions, so I hear a lot of dumb stuff. Things such as, How much did he cost? Why didn’t their real parents want them? Do you have any children of your own? Most of the time people really just don’t understand what is appropriate to ask and don’t think before they say things. As adoptive parents we have to learn how to respond appropriately because a lot of times these questions are asked while your child is present. Anyway, here is what I have heard thus far…

1. What’s wrong with him? OR I’ve heard so many horror stories about international adoption, haven’t you?

I have seriously been asked those questions by people that should know better. One incident happened last week and she went on and on about the problems that our child would most definitely have. Oh how I wanted to launch across that table and give her a piece of my mind. Sure, there are “horror” stories out there but there are SO many success stories.

2. Why would you adopt internationally when there are plenty of children in the US that need homes?

Now, I am totally fine with this question when asked out of honest curiosity. After all, part of my job is to recruit and train families interested in adopting from US foster care, I get that. But you can tell the intent of people’s questions and I have gotten this one several times in a condescending way. My answer? God led us to international adoption and this specific child AND every child deserves a chance to know Jesus. Argue with that. :)

3. You know, now that you are adopting you will get pregnant.

I’ve talked about this one before…it comes across as having a biological child is the goal of adopting which couldn’t be farther from the truth. It also happens that way very rarely.

4. Any updates?

Such a simple question, spoken from a caring/supportive place, I know. However, when you are asked that question several times a day, and some days, like Sundays at church, you’re asked it about 20 times and you have NO update, it’s a hard question! I want to just print up little cards that say “we have no update…trust me, we will let you know when we have one” and hand them out to people before they even get a chance to ask. That sounds harsh because I know people really do care but it’s not a fun one to give the same uneventful answer to over and over again.

5. One lady asked me once if I had seen that Lifetime special about a child who was adopted internationally and then her “real” parents came forward and the adoptive parents had to return the child to her "real" parents.

How she thought that story was helpful is beyond me. I had to explain to her how you use a reputable agency and that stuff doesn't happen, I also added in how adoptive parents were "real" parents and biological parents I think was the word she was looking for.

6. Oh, that’s a perfect age to bring a child home. You won’t have to deal with any sleep problems, they’ll be almost potty trained…you’ll skip out on all the hard parts.

Again, ignorance…people just don’t understand what a difficult transition it is for adopted children to go from experiencing one place, one language, a rigid schedule, specific caregivers, lots of other babies always being around, etc to taking them away from everything they have ever known, a new language, new people, over-stimulating environment, etc. They will grieve – they will more than likely have a ton of sleeping problems, eating problems, they more than likely will regress – losing skills that they once had, losing their language, learning to communicate again. It’s very sad for adoptive parents to miss out on any of their child’s life, so please don’t blow that off like it’s a positive thing to miss those things. Trust me, we will have plenty of sleepless nights, dirty diapers, etc.

I’m sure there are more but that’s all that’s coming to mind right now. Every single one of us have said things that we regret later, so I am not condemning anyone that has said any of these things, but I do want to educate. :)

All you adoptive parents out there, what inappropriate/frustrating/aggravating questions have you been asked?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

More info on Elijah, and more waiting…

Barry here…Elijah had some doctors appointments back in June that we had been waiting to hear back from, and we finally got an update from all of that last week with great results.  He is doing well, and we heard that he is walking now and talking (a lot).  Apparently he is saying “Papa” now too!  I’m not sure in what context he is saying that; I’m hoping they are showing him the soft book we made for him with our pictures in it, and teaching him who we are.  It’s exciting to know that he is doing so well, but it is also really hard to know that he is growing up, and hitting all these milestones without us being able to see each new thing that he does.  There is not 10 minutes that goes by that I (and I’m sure Lisa too) don’t think about Elijah and wish that we could be back there with him, and know what day we will be able to have him home with us.

We also got a few new pictures of him, which as you know, we still can’t share publicly yet, but it was again exciting to see him and hard to see how much older he looks in just the two months it has been since we saw him last.

Now after getting to see updated pictures and hear how he is doing, it makes us just want to get there to see him even sooner, but we have to wait.  We did hear that all of our paperwork was officially on its way to Russia as of the end of last week, so it should be there by the middle of this week!  We are just praying now that once they get it, that it won’t take long at all before they give us a date for court.  It still could be a long time, there really is no guarantee of how soon or far away that call will come, but we are praying and believing that it will be soon.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bleh

I feel…bleh. I am not sure how to put it into words exactly…just unsettled and like a part of me is missing. Because it is. Ever since seeing Elijah’s sweet little face I have fallen in love with that boy. Having part of you, part of your heart, half way across the world and not having any idea when you get to be reunited with that part of you is pretty terrible. There isn’t an hour that goes by, sometimes not a minute, that I am not thinking about him and praying for him.

It’s hard not having any kind of update. We were told that our facilitator in Russia was able to get some updated pictures and medical information (he was scheduled to have his big medical appointments and vaccinations in June) but we have yet to see it. It’s been two months since we left him and we know zero about how those two months have been for him. How much has he grown? Is he walking now? Is he talking? Is he chewing solid foods yet? Is he still in the same room with the same caregivers or has he been moved? Has he been sick? Is he happy? What does he look like now?

I KNOW that God is holding him in the palm of His hand and I know that God knows what our little boy has been doing for every second of these past two months…but I am ready to know too. :) I am so beyond ready to be back in Russia with him…

Sunday, July 15, 2012

One More Step in the Right Direction

ALL of our court documents are now authenticated and in the process of being sent to Russia. Yippee! :) It typically takes about 5 business days to get to Russia. Please join us in prayer that once they receive this packet (which I have heard is about 3 inches tall) they will be finished with their part and will immediately contact us with a VERY SOON court date! We have heard that during the summer months things move very slowly over there due to many people taking long vacations, but we are praying that God has allowed the right people to be in the right place at the right time, not allowing any delays due to people being out of pocket. Come on Russia Trip #2!!!!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

“Our Infertility Journey” Blog Book

I have been wanting to make a blog book for a long time and finally caved the other day. I want to always be able to look back on our journey and see God’s hand in every single step of it. I want to always remember the comments from friends, family and others who love us and are on this journey with us. It is really a story of our lives for the past few years and I don’t want to lose that! Soooo…I got it printed!

photo 1The front coverphoto 1-1Title Page/Dedication Page/Whatever you want to call itphoto 2-2One of the pages inside

I am not 100% carried away with it, only because using the website I used (www.blog2print.com), you weren’t able to choose fonts, font sizes, layout, etc. You basically put in your blog address and chose which posts to include (I included everything from post #1 until we announced that we would be adopting) and it makes your book! You are also able to choose a photo for the front cover, back cover and front page. There were other websites that allowed you to personalize everything but my book is over 300 pages long…I did not want to spend that kind of time designing the book. :) It was super easy and it serves its purpose. It’s now sitting on our coffee table. Pretty fun if you ask me. :)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bible Verse for Your Day

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Court Documents Finished!

We just mailed our last piece of court documentation to our agency!! Yippee!!!!! It is such a great feeling!!

We had our medicals today which was the last thing we needed. And somehow, thank you God!, we had everything we needed – copies of our chest x-ray results, our x-ray images on CD and a hard copy, copies of our blood work, copies of our urinalysis, copies of our TB test results, copies of the physicians' medical license, letters from the doctor’s office saying that he is licensed to practice there, copies of the actual medical form, AND a separate medical form needed for our home study update. Man, that was a lot of stuff. I mailed it off…(side note, just for kicks I added up how much we have spent thus far on postage for this adoption…$305.91. I wish FedEx gave frequent customer discounts…)

IMG_1219And wanted to do a happy dance or something. :) Now our agency will finish their work getting everything apostilled/authenticated and then it will all be ready for Russia!!

To keep ourselves busy we are trying to finish up Elijah’s room, baby-proofing the house (we instantly will have a child that can get into everything!), etc. It’s been so fun working on it all! Our recent project is this…IMG_1220 Granted you can’t tell what it is but it’s Barry’s creation that is going to look awesome in there. I’m quite excited about it. Hope everyone has a good weekend!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Camp APAC, A Baby Shower and More!

Sorry for my absence! :) I was here…7407579686_ca10a17d6c_ofor a week. Camp APAC 2012! My 6th Camp APAC (a camp for adopted children ages 9-18 in Alabama that Alabama Pre/Post Adoption Connections, the program that I work for, hosts each year)! I did a little of this…7411247762_44e7ed281b_o Some of this…

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Dressed completely inappropriately for the woods for our formal night.

7412065142_c1b0fd381e_o And enjoyed watching kids have so much fun!

THEN, I came back for this…

Edit Elijah’s first baby shower! My friends did such a great job decorating with the Noah’s Ark theme! They had tons of pictures of our little boy and little bits of Russia thrown in. I have a ton more pictures of the decorations that I can’t post since I can’t post his pictures yet :( It was really special!

DSC_0333DSC_0335DSC_0337This cute little banner has word such as God, Mother, Father, Blessed, etc. in English and then in Russian!DSC_0342Elijah's Baby Shower Dothan 022Alphabet beanbags made by my friend Brittani!DSC_0365 A Russian Bible from my parents!

At one point someone at the shower said, “Lisa! You are having your baby shower!!” It was pretty surreal. We received so many wonderful gifts and had a fun time taking everything out of it’s packaging, finding homes for it all, washing his dishes and clothes. Love it!

In the meantime, Barry passed his huge NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) exam – the goal he has been working towards at work for the past 2 years. Thousands and thousands of hours of studying have been dedicated to it. And he passed!!! It was a very very very exciting day in our household. I have my husband back!

AND to top it all off we received our FBI clearances today!! This was the big hold up on our court paperwork! I am taking it to FedEx this afternoon and it will be delivered to our agency in the morning. I was seriously debating driving it 3.5 hours so that they would get it today but then I talked some sense into myself. We went last week to have blood work and chest x-rays and will go Thursday for our doctor’s appointment. That should be the last piece that we need for our court documents. We have had to put our medicals off until the last minute because they are only good for 90 days and they have to be current for court in Russia. We are so ready to get all of our paperwork to Russia so that we can get our court date!!