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 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. 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 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'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 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 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 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 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 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'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 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


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!