Monday, April 25, 2011

Incredible...Incredible...Incredible...and other synonyms

It's been a little over a week since we left Russia, and so much of our hearts with our daughter.  She's an incredible joy and we cannot wait to bring her home!! 

Although it was tough to leave, we knew we had some things to look forward to upon our return - namely the "Sveta's Path Home Fundraiser" that occurred at our home church this past Friday evening.  Some friends of ours put the ENTIRE event together!  It was an incredible blessing to know that they were doing something amazing for us, to allow us to focus on other parts of the adoption process. 

Friday finally arrived after a long week of attempting to switch time zones, unpack, and mentally switch gears.  So many people came out to help set up late Thursday evening and all day Friday.  Then finally it was time for the event which we'd all been waiting for.  People began to filter into the church as Barry and I tried to welcome them.  We quickly realized that it was impossible for us to greet every we did our best.  Throughout the night three bands played incredible worship music, we ate incredible food, and there was a huge silent auction!  I first cried when Mitch and Courtney shared their story of adopting their son (who was born on the day we first met Sveta)...then I cried again when Jim spoke of the Boaz Project and my love for orphans developing so long ago.  And again when Lisa shared her adoption story...and when we watched the video of Sveta...and extra hard when they auctioned off a picture puzzle of our family.  INCREDIBLE. 

I listened to the preliminary grand total that was raised:  $9,000. INCREDIBLE.

I listened to many of the volunteers (who had done SO much for us) thank Barry & I for allowing them to be involved.  INCREDIBLE.

I heard the revised total for the evening:  $11,700.  INCREDIBLE.

Barry & I have been blown away: by the kindness of our friends to put together such an amazing event, by the generosity of family, friends, and brothers & sisters in Christ that have we've never met, and by the love that each of you have shown our growing family.

The only thing we have left to say is:  Thank you...and may God bless you one hundred fold for the ways in which you've blessed us.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rental cars, Palms, and Goodbyes

While we should be traveling at 30,000 feet above sea level, the highest we will actually get is 8,800 feet.  That’s the highest point on I-80 (east of the Mississippi).  No, our plane is not taking the interstate.  Our rented Subaru economy car is.  New York suffered a bad storm Saturday evening.  Our flight from Moscow had a very rough landing.  And our connecting flight to Cincinnati was delayed … delayed again … then canceled.  The next hope was a flight to Indy.  It followed the first flight’s pattern.  Then a flight to Columbus, Ohio followed the same pattern.  So, we took a cab to a Quality Inn for some good sleep (thanks for the hook-up Jim!).  The next morning’s early arrival to Laguardia Airport put us in the middle of hundreds of others who had similar stories to ours from the previous night.  And we, flying standby, had no hope to make it out of there until Monday morning.  “Maybe Monday” is the way the ticket agent put it. 

Jessi didn’t want to miss any more school.  And neither of us wanted to risk missing our appointment with the State Police for fingerprints on Tuesday.  So, we rented a car and have just passed mile marker 95.6 on I80 West in Pennsylvania.  Not stressed about getting home at this point, we stopped and helped a lady and her granddaughter change a tire. 

We are both heartbroken with having missed the Palm Sunday celebration with our church family.  We did, however, stop at Grace Church in Netcong, New Jersey for worship.  (Yes, we only went to one worship service while traveling, Mary Kate.)

While we’ve had quite an experience getting home, these traveling difficulties are nothing compared to the difficulty we’ve had in getting our hearts to travel home from a certain baby house in Russia.  We traveled to see Sveta.  To bond with her.  This trip’s purpose in a typical case is meant to provide prospective adoptive parents a chance to see the child, get to know a little about the child, and decide if they intend to continue/pursue adopting the child.  Having made that decision concerning Sveta months ago, we intended only to learn more about her and to bond with her.  Now, having bonded with her, we both feel there has been a tearing apart.  We were expecting this. 

We will keep ourselves busy in the net 2-3 months.  Preparing her room.  Finishing the second dossier.  Finalizing financial options and plans.  And sifting through the nearly 3 hours of video shot with Sveta while visiting her.  (I, Barry, have attempted to trim the video to a short segment to share with all of you on the 22nd.  It’s still a bit too long, but I promise to have something concise giving you a chance to hear her sweet voice, see her smile, and, in the end, melt your heart.  So, bring a box of tissues … if not for you, for mama and papa.)

So, you’ve yet to hear about our last two days with Sveta. 

Thursday afternoon we arrived at the baby house at about 3:10pm.  Sveta joined us after she’d been napping.  She would spend 15 minutes with us before being taken to get a snack.  And we waited.  During that 15 minutes of interaction she was very calm – we suppose she’d not yet had a chance to wake up. 

When she returned she was more lively.  Papa and Sveta played, while Jessi interviewed a caregiver (with the help of Vita of Global Adoptions).  We learned more about eating habits, bathing situations, temperament, sleep patterns, discipline model, and other daily routine and personality bits of information.  And papa’s summary of all of this is: “you’ll love her.”

We had a long visit on Thursday.  About 3 hours in all.

We arrived earlier on Friday, hoping to provide Vita a chance to get back to her family about 9 hours away.  Upon arriving at about 10:00am at the baby house we were told that Sveta was due back at any minute.  She was at the doctor getting a check-up - this is standard for the adoption process.  A little more than an hour later she arrived.  And she was very mellow.  We are unsure if she was just up early and tired or if she was perhaps exhausted from wrestling with doctors for perhaps hours.  We had a nice visit, nonetheless.  We read and held her.  She wore my slippers, then Jessi’s boots.  Then we tried to explain to her that we’d be back.  But not soon.  Then she went off to lunch.

On the drive back to Vladimir I thought back to the time I left her in December.  I had cried most of the way to Vladimir while Jessi slept next to me.  This time, I was sad, but filled with hope.  Jessi and I talked a lot.  And, even now, will ask one another, “how you doin’?” We both feel like we are, at times, ‘just holding it together’.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

4 Months Later

It was four months ago today that we met her.  And today was the day we filed official paperwork with the Ministry of Education in Russia saying that we want to adopt Sveta.

When we arrived at the orphanage today we were told that we could join her outside while she was playing.  The temperature was around 34 degrees and it was snowing.  She, and about four peers, were playing in a concrete shelter behind the orphanage.  Most of the well bundled children were on little plastic ride-on toys in the shape of cars and trucks.  When she turned and saw us she immediately jumped from her toy and ran to us with a smile big enough to reach across the ocean.

On the little plastic toy, Sveta would push herself right into the wall ... then look back to see if we were watching and if we would come and spin her around to go in the other direction.  Soon about 6 more children showed up and we were encouraged to go to our own structure to have time alone with Sveta.  We entered one which didn't have any toys.  Jessi's bag remedied this as it had a coloring book, two reading books, a yellow nerf ball, a bag of playdoh, and (Sveta's favorite) a little pink toy camera.  We'd picked the camera up at a local store after seeing her give so much attention to the camera we were using to record our time with her.

We played with every toy in the bag.  She wasn't familiar with playdoh but enjoyed rolling pieces into little balls and placing them meticulously in a line on the floor.  She tried to play soccer with one ... until she stepped on it.  She took pictures of us with her camera and even enjoyed reading about two pages from a book with 'papa'.

After only about an hour she was taken for lunch.  She would then have nap time.  And we had a long drive back to Vladimir.

Jessi is now sleeping beside me.  It's about 5:30pm here.  My heart still seems to be racing with excitement.  Every minute here has been filled with emotion of some kind.  We are overwhelmed with this sweet child,with work to be done, and finally with so many friends who have prayed, given, and loved so much.

We love you. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Russia by the Numbers

2::  Airplanes taken to arrive in Russia.

4:: Hours we waited to finish our medical exams.

8:: Doctors that saw us during our trip to the American Medical Clinic.

1:: Hour to the orphanage where Sveta lives from where we are staying. 

32:: Questions we asked the orphanage director.

500:: Questions we wanted to ask the orphanage director.

1:: The amount of seconds it took for us to completely lose track of the questions because our beautiful daughter walked into the room.

We got to see Sveta today.  She's amazing.  She's tidy, and kind, and giggles a lot.  She didn't cry when she saw us, she actually warmed up rather quickly.  We colored, played with her new baby doll, and took lots and  lots of pictures and video.  We will not be posting the pictures or video on our blog for now.  We will have them ready for the event on the 22nd. 

What an incredible day for us.  We'll leave you with these numbers::

15:: the number of words Sveta repeated to us in English after we said them. (approximately)

6:: the number of words we could understand Sveta say

1:: the number of days we've been called "papa & mama" by our little girl

Мы любим тебя,
Папа & Мама

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Trip #1 Commences

As I type this we are sitting at Gate B14 in the Cincinnati airport.  We are waiting to fly to Laguardia (I'm SURE I spelled that incorrectly) in NY where we will hope in a taxi and travel to JFK International Airport.  From their we will board the flight for Russia.

Honestly,  I feel like I'm just traveling to Russia to visit the orphans like I've always done.  It's normal. But yet, it's SO different.  It hasn't hit me yet, and I'm not sure when it will. 

Thank you for praying.  Please continue to pray for us:
  • for travel today, tomorrow, and all week
  • for all of the "hoops" or details to be completed with ease
  • for our first meeting as a family
Learning patience,

Monday, April 4, 2011

Glory & Gifts Galore

Glory: All the glory goes to God for this adoption.  The process has been as smooth as one could hope, and the blessings have been overwhelming.  We know that it is ONLY through the grace and gifts of God that we are able to adopt our daughter.  It's also all for His glory.  Thanks to His good gifts given through many of you - we are able to visit our daughter next week.  

We leave Greensburg on Sunday early morning and will arrive in Moscow, Russia on Monday.  We'll spend a little while in Moscow getting our medical exams, and then will travel to Vladimir. The next few days will be a whirlwind of travel, paperwork, visiting with Sveta, and interviewing her caregivers.  I'm also hoping to spend a little time galavanting around the areawith my dear Jess!  I love it there, and can't wait to return. 

Please pray for Barry and I this week as we are full of anticipation.  We are excited and worried all at the same time.  We have quite a bit to do this week to prepare as well.  Thank you for praying.

On another note - Gifts:

For those that don't know, the Russian culture is different from ours when it comes to gifts in two ways that I know of:
1. Russians do not open gifts in front of others...even if you gave them the gift (unless they know many Americans or are familiar with the fact that we don't follow this at all).
2. Russians give gifts as a way to say "thank you" frequently.  It is polite to take gifts to a persons home when you are invited for example.  

So, knowing this, I've prepared gifts to take with us to many in fact that we are going to check a bag now.  I wasn't really thinking, but the gifts are WONDERFUL - thanks to my friend Katie who's a 31 consultant.  The women are going to love their gifts...I sure do!

Waiting to hug our Sveta,