Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas is coming . . .

Christmas is celebrated on January 6th here, Orthodox style, so everything is hustling and bustling and decorated beautifully right now.  We feel so blessed to get Christmas twice this season! 

Independence Square at Christmastime

We found a place to buy some necessities today!

And we went grocery shopping again!
We are not sure if stores are open on New Year's Eve and Day, so we wanted to stock up, just in case.  Then we had almost a mile walk back to our apartment (mostly uphill) with all of this, plus a big jug of water, a bottle of Coke, and a bunch of other food that I think I forgot to put in this picture.  I'm loving all the walking we are doing here.  It's a great workout!   We live almost ten miles out of town, so this is a novelty for us.  One thing about living out in the country is that you don't get to walk everywhere.  It is pretty nice to be able to just walk wherever we want to go!

We are working on our Russian as much as we can, trying to be brave and talk to people in shops.  We are really good at saying, "I don't understand."  I got yelled at by a lady today, and I have no idea why.  I was just walking along.  She seemed upset by my shoes???  Who knows.  I told her, "Sorry, I don't understand," and kept walking.  Hmmm.  Wonder what that was all about.  

Derek does not like to be doing nothing.  Give the man a fence to repair, or a chicken coop to muck out, or a leaky faucet to fix, or a shelf to build, or some kids to play with, and he will be happy as a clam.  Tell him to sit in an apartment in the middle of the big city and wait patiently for a week, and he gets a little stir-crazy!  We are going for lots of walks, and spending a lot of time in the Word and in prayer.  I think he is itching to fix that mess of electrical wires outside our apartment door (he is an electrician), but he is restraining himself!  

We finally got to Skype with our kids last night (well, morning for them!)  I tried not to cry, but I was just so so SOOOO happy to see them again!  Gracie made funny faces at herself, like it was a mirror.  It was hilarious!  She seemed a little shy to actually talk to the strange mommy and daddy in the computer, though!  She nodded when we asked her questions, and looked so sweet and confused, and I just wanted to jump out of the screen and kiss her little face so badly!  

And then we got a turn talking to my Josiah, whom I could tell was not really sure about this procedure either.  He was just really holding back, sort of talking to me like he would a stranger, and I just so wanted to hug him.  It was really hard not to just burst into tears to see him and not be able to hug him.  Oh, my little lovebug!  It really is mommy, here in the screen!  He looked like he might cry, too.  But he looked good, and I know he is in good hands.  It just hurts so much to not be with him.  He told us he hasn't been flying his new remote control helicopter because he wants to wait until Daddy gets home to do it with him.  

Now my bubbly little Isaac seemed delighted to Skype with us.  He is nine and he understands everything that is going on a lot better.  He filled us in a bit on how life is going over there, and he was just all smiles.  Oh, how I love my boy's huge thousand-watt smile.  I could have just talked to them all day.  

I gave them a Skype tour of our apartment, which probably gave them motion sickness, so they could see where mommy and daddy are staying.  I got an update from my dear parents about the news back home.  I feel better seeing that everything is still ticking merrily along there.  It was just so hard.  People keep telling me I should be enjoying the break from the kids, and thinking of this as a honeymoon.  And that is a nice thought, but I just really really want to be with my little lovies right now, you know?  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

More Practice at Waiting

I have waited my ENTIRE life to adopt.  I have pretty much always known I was going to adopt children.  I have waited YEARS for Derek to be ready to join me on this adventure.  Then once the Lord had prepared his heart, we waited to get a referral for a foster-adopt placement from US foster care.  I have waited on several foster-adopt placements, fallen in love with children, again and again, been their mommy for months and months, and then had them taken away from me when it was decided they would return to biological family members.  Over and over again.  And each time, I waited and waited for my Father to sooth and heal my broken heart from those losses.  

I have waited on the Lord's perfect timing.  Then He showed us Gideon.  He has been waiting for five years.  His ENTIRE LIFE!  I knew we couldn't leave Gideon waiting.  So we started the process.  I have waited MONTHS to get to Eastern Europe, ever since we committed to Gideon in June.  We had hoped to travel by October, but then there was a long, two-month shut-down, rather unexpected.  And so we waited some more.  Then finally, we were invited to this country!  We waited for that travel date to finally arrive.  We got on a plane.  And sat and waited patiently in those crowded little airplane seats, eating pretzels and sipping Sprite, while we waited to cross the Atlantic.  We flew.  We waited in airports.  Got on more planes.  Waited some more.  Now we are here!  We got to our appointment where we would see our boys' files, sat down on a leather couch in a hallway outside the office, and we waited.  Somehow, that fifteen minute wait felt like one of the longest waits of them all!  Could this be real?  Could this really, truly be happening?  We are so close!

And so of course, there has to be the unexpected.  We did get the boys' referrals, so nothing earth-shattering has gone wrong.  This is just a minor speed-bump, truly.  But being asked to wait until Tuesday to meet them . . . REALLY?  Haven't we waited long enough?!?  Haven't the boys waited long enough?  But I guess not.  The Lord's refining fires are a mystery to me, but I try to trust Him and let Him lead.  Last night two other families left this city to go meet their children.  They are probably meeting them right about now, in fact!  A couple of other families are here in this town, meeting their children.  I am SO HAPPY for all of them, and living vicariously through them, because today their dreams are coming true! 

And meanwhile, we wait.  Wait in a very cute little apartment in an amazingly beautiful thousand year old city in Eastern Europe.  Trying to be happy to be here, trying to soak in the rich culture, trying to appreciate the beauty that is all around us, even though all we really want to do is get on a train, go to the institution, and scoop up those children who have been waiting for a hug from their mommy and daddy for way too long.   And soon, so very very soon, we too will finally be done waiting.  Our boys will finally be done waiting.  Their mommy and daddy will come for them!  It is so soon.  But until Tuesday, we are waiting.

So I know what you all really want is pictures of that first meeting, but since I do not have those yet, I will leave you will pictures from our walk around town instead:
my first day here, I saw a babushka stop and cross herself
as she passed by this church

new building being built near our apartment

a Soviet car, from the old days when this is the only kind
of car anybody was allowed to drive (and even then, there
were not enough of these to go around!)

brave man crossing a crazy busy street,
and in the background notice the billboard for fastening
your seatbelt?  Seatbelts have really not caught on
around here yet!

pink building (I am including this for my daughter's
benefit!  Hey, it's pink!  What's not to love, right?)

these cars are parked about three deep on the sidewalk, all in
different directions

I am including the picture of the crane for my son
Josiah's benefit.  He would love to just stand on the
sidewalk and watch these guys work all day long!

And here, on the same building, they are building
it up, brick by brick.  Awww, Joey, I miss you, buddy!
You would love this!

fancy schmancy kids' clothing store

There are birds everywhere!  Sometimes we have to step around
them to avoid stepping on them!  

very important office building I never want to forget:
inside this building we received the paperwork
for our adoption!

statue right outside that same building

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Three Airplanes, Two Days, One Big Adventure Has Begun!

After two long days of travel, we have arrived safe and sound in the capital city of our son’s country!  We are so excited to be here!  Everything has gone wonderfully so far.  The planes were crowded, the layovers were long, my feet are swollen, and we are having a marvelous adventure!  
the airport

We got off the plane, walked through the dark, windy, cold evening (yes, it was one of those airports where you walk down the steps and outside!)  piled onto a crazy-crowded shuttle bus, poured into the airport, got that first stamp in our passports (I’ve waited my whole life to get a stamp in my passport!) and were met by Niko, our wonderful driver.  He took us grocery shopping:

took us to our apartment, got us settled in, and we promptly fell asleep for the next nine hours!  I can’t even tell you if the bed was comfortable or not!  We just had to sleep! 
our living room

first dinner in our lovely little kitchen



washing machine in the bathroom

So we woke up around 5:30 this morning, cooked up some eggs, pancakes, and ham, and enjoyed our first morning in our son’s country with a leisurely breakfast.    Niko picked us up at 8 am for our appointment.  We drank very strong coffee from a little coffee truck while we waited.  

Then we went up some stairs, into an office, sat down on a couch, and there on the little table in front of the couch were files!  With photos stapled to the fronts of them!  

Oh, the photos.   I didn’t expect to see such cute little baby pictures, and we were especially thrilled because they allowed us to keep two.  I just can’t get over how sweet this little face is.  
Gideon's baby picture!!!
 Be still my heart.  I am hoping to share another photo with you soon, as well.  You'll just have to wait patiently for that one!  

We were asked a couple of quick questions:  “Tell us about your family?” and “Why have you decided to adopt children with special needs?”  Then they read to us out of the files.  We didn’t really learn very much about the boys that we didn’t already know, but there was some information that was important.  So now the next step is to wait until tomorrow, when we can go pick up the boys’ referrals.  Then normally parents hop right onto a train and go directly to their children’s region to meet the child, but in our case, things will go a bit differently.  The director has asked us not to come until after the New Year.  So we will be waiting here for a few days and heading down on the train on the 2nd.  Then we *should* be able to meet the boys on Tuesday morning. 

In the meantime, we just wait.  We are in an awesome apartment right in downtown K**v.  We went to a Ukr**nian buffet for lunch, and then we took a nice meandering walk (translation:  we got a little lost!)  We are going to head out again this afternoon and use the WiFi at McDonald’s (if you’re reading this, you will know I have found success with getting internet!)  We are supposed to have internet in our apartment, but that doesn’t seem to be working.  Neither is the water, but at least we got nice hot showers in this morning before that stopped working!  J  We are also hoping to find a place to buy a map of the city so we can spend the next few days exploring! 

We have been able to meet up with a couple of other lovely Reece’s Rainbow families while we have been here.  That is pretty awesome, to be able to share this journey with other families!  We shared lunch together and we even have cell numbers so we can stay in touch during our stay.  I am hoping to meet up with some other families during our stay here, also. 

In other news, I miss my kids like crazy and I can’t wait to hug the stuffing out of them again!  They are in good hands with my parents, so I know I have nothing to worry about.  It just doesn’t help me with the missing them.  I sure love those little sweeties!   And I sure love these little sweeties over here!  And that is why we are here, on the other side of the world, that feels like a whole different world.   To gather my sweet children together.  

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Counting Hours

When I first saw Gideon's photo, months and months ago, I knew I wanted nothing more than to leap across the ocean and hug that little boy.  And now, the countdown is no longer months.  Not weeks.  Not even days.  I am now counting down the HOURS before I get on an airplane!  I can hardly believe it!  Merry Christmas!  I am going to go love on my other little sugarplums for a few more hours now . . .

Monday, December 19, 2011

You Know You Are Adopting When . . .

You know you are thick in the midst of an international adoption when the heaters in your house suddenly stop working on the coldest day in December.  And at the same time, Grandma and Grandpa have a leak in their main water line and have to stay at your house until it can be repaired.  And at the same time, the washing machine goes out.  And you are leaving the country in six days.  Yep, we are really feeling the fun around here lately!  And truly, that just seems to be the way things go with international adoption.  If something can go wrong, it will!  If it's just little speedbumps like these, then we are fine!  And of course, in the midst of all of that, I've had a few other little tasks to complete:  sew quilts for the kids for their Christmas gifts (ssshhhh!  don't tell them!), learn Russian, pack for the trip, get things set up for the kids while we are away, and pull Christmas together somehow.  

But through all of this, we are truly feeling very blessed these last few days.  Surrounded by mounds of dirty laundry and stacks of suitcases and long to-do lists, yes, but also surrounded by sweet cuddly children, serenaded by Grandpa practicing Christmas songs on his guitar, nourished by Grandma's soups and french toast and homemade bread, the heaters are working again, and remarkably, everything seems to be coming together!  By golly, I think we are really going to pull this off!  

Because our suitcases are (mostly) packed

Our fridge is plastered with charts and instructions for Grandma and Grandpa to keep things running smoothly on the homefront

Gideon's bedroom is just about ready

The washing machine part will arrive tomorrow
Washing machines are not supposed to be
in pieces all over the laundry room floor!

if you look behind Derek, you can see the very edge
of a very scary pile of two weeks worth of dirty laundry!
"Only $50 extra for rush delivery on that part?
Sold!  Just get it here!"  

Christmas cookies have been made

Our Christmas tree has been cut down

and decorated

I only have one quilt top left to sew together, 
and two left to quilt 

Derek is still feeling calm and sane enough 
to play board games with the kids 
(Mousetrap is the current favorite around here)
And he's managed to keep Santa's workshop on schedule

And I know how to say "How much does this cost," "Where is the bathroom," "I am your mommy forever," "You are so smart," "Be careful," "Are you hungry?" and "I will love you forever."
I love this program!  

So all in all, we are feeling very blessed these days!

And SO SO ready to have all of our chickadees gathered together into our nest, so we don't ever have to be separated from each other again!  Or at least not for a very very very long time!