Tuesday, November 30, 2010

We are ready…I think

Besides a few loose ends here and there, we are feeling surprisingly squared away. It is almost eerie though because we feel as if we are forgetting at least fifty things we are supposed to be doing or packing. I think I am more nervous than I realize though because physically I am not feeling well. Every time I eat anything I feel horrible afterward for at least an hour. While I appear to be calm and have it all together, my body knows that is not actually the case. Hopefully I won’t feel this way the entire time we are waiting to get back home from trip two. But if it is anything like the wait to bring Blake home, I think I may be in store for many upset stomachs and headaches. Thankfully I am surrounded in blessings that can at least temporarily keep me distracted.

Something that is cracking Justin and I up is the fact that both of us have mixed emotions about indulging in the ‘thing’ that we sacrificially gave up. As I blogged about here, I gave up chocolate on March 21 (a little over 8 months ago) as a way to remember to be in constant prayer about our adoption process. Justin and I agreed we would not have our ‘thing’ until we were in route to meet our referral. At times I have daydreamed about the first time I had chocolate again. Since we have been refraining for so long, it feels like we would be cheating or breaking a promise or giving in to temptation. So it will be interesting to see what my reintroduction with chocolate is going to be like. The hardest thing to resist right now are mocha flavored drinks or cocoas. I could live without an actual piece of chocolate, but chocolate flavored beverages seem to be calling my name. Ok, I need to be off to get a start on the day. I can’t give Blake, Madison, and Brady enough hugs. I am going to miss them so much!! Ohhh and Justin’s birthday is tomorrow! Such an exciting week for our family!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What does 21 months look like?

We are busy preparing to leave on Friday. Sometimes I find myself doing absolutely nothing because I am overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done. One way or the other everything will fall into place. I think Justin and I have both crossed the line of being cautious about allowing ourselves to get emotionally attached to the little face we keep looking at. If anything goes ‘wrong’ we will be heartbroken so we have decided to just embrace the joy we are feeling at this point. Honestly we were expecting to be referred an older child - perhaps a three year old boy. We are excited about the idea of a little one joining our family, but it does require us to shift our thinking a little bit. We keep asking “What does this look like?” Are we talking diapers? high chair? strollers? It is funny how quickly you forget what your children were doing at 18 months and two years. I would LOVE to be able to bring this little guy home with us after this first trip, but I guess we will have a lot to do to get ready for his arrival. Blake and Brady are excited. Madison was a little disappointed at first that it is a boy and not a girl. But when she heard how young he was she changed her mind and said, “I get to help take care of him the most!” Hopefully that enthusiasm will continue beyond our first week home with him. :o)

We are most thankful for our family that will watch the kids while we are away. And we are very appreciative for everyone that is praying for God’s guidance as we embark on this next leg of our journey!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Guarded heart or open the flood gates?

My mind won’t stop racing so I am having a hard time sleeping. I am hoping that blogging right now will help empty my mind a bit so I can get some sleep before our house is filled today with about 25 family members. It will be fun to have everyone here to enjoy Thanksgiving.

I want to write more about how our referral came about but it is best for us to wait until we return from the first trip to do so. I can say that this adorable guy is almost 21 months old and is living in Baby Home 3 in Ussuriysk. Blake was in Artem so we will be traveling a bit further each day and experiencing a new baby home.

I am really struggling right now with how much to allow my heart to soften. This is one of the downsides to reading blogs and having traveled down this road once before. Believe me when I tell you that I am already in love with the little guy whose picture is on my computer. No matter what happens he is going to have a place in my heart forever. I want to be joyous, thankful, and excited about that feeling. My heart and sometimes my head tells me to live in the moment and accept these overwhelming feelings of joy. But then there is my logical, cautious, subdued side of my head reminding me of everything that can go wrong and the excruciating wait that is ahead. Then I get annoyed with myself because I feel that shows a complete lack of faith in God’s plans for us. Ugh! Why do I have to think so much?!?! I want so bad to just put all my inhibitions aside and relish in the moment. I just can’t stop thinking of the families that have been a few days from traveling to meet their referral and something happens in which they are no longer allowed to go. Or even worse the people who traveled to meet their son or daughter and are not getting court dates in order to bring them home. Again one part of me says if it is God’s will it is going to happen, but I also know that there are people who interfere with God’s will all of the time and make this life much more difficult than it needs to be. And no matter what, even if everything goes smoothly, the process requires us to leave Russia without our child for a minimum of 2 months. I have been so excited and completely terrified to get to that part of our journey again. Of course it is a blessing but it is a very rough storm to weather as well.

I feel like this post is sounding negative on this Thanksgiving morning. Honestly there is very little negativity in my thoughts right now. Justin and I are amazed out how things have turned out so far. We are so excited to meet the little guy waiting for us in Baby Home 3. Brady, Madison, and Blake are so excited as well. My goal today is to stop stealing trouble from tomorrow and trust in God’s plan for our family.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One more thing to be thankful for! Could it be true?!?!

Guess what?!? We leave for Vladivostok, Russia on December 3rd to meet an adorable little boy. We are cautiously optimistic and feel very blessed with how quickly things have come together. We met Blake the first weekend in December in 2008 and are hoping for the same positive results. And just like last time, we are now in a frenzy trying to get all of the last minute details hammered out. I hope to update more when my head isn’t spinning in circles.

Praising God for his many blessings! Thank you all in advance for your prayers as we take this next huge leap of faith.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Inspired by a book - a splash of color.

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading a book entitled, A Boy from Baby House 10:  From the Nightmare of a Russian Orphanage to a New Life in America.  It was one of those books that changes you when you read it.  Early in the book I was thinking a lot about the lack of visual stimulation children have in some orphanages.  Even when toys are donated, often times children are not allowed to play with them because they will break them.  It was sad for me to read that the smallest change in a child’s surrounding would be of interest to them - perhaps an unraveling thread or a nail that had popped through a board.  I don’t feel like typing any more about the sad conditions.  I feel that the emotions are too raw right now for me to visit those thoughts again and again.  And we do know that many of the orphanages are well ran and do the best they can with the resources that they have available.   But I did want to share with you an inspiration that came from the book.  I asked my mom if she would make some blankets for me.  I looked for fleece that had color and patterns on it.  Justin and I will take these blankets on our first trip with us and donate them to the baby home.  I am hoping to not only to be able to donate them but I am going to ask if we could distribute them during one of our visits.  I figure it can’t hurt to ask.  If we could get them in a child’s hands for at least a day maybe it would bring a smile to their little face.

You can't get the full effect of the colors in these photographs, but you get the point.  On the ones my mom made, she used different stitching patterns as well for a little extra pizazz!

And while I am bragging about my mom, look at the sweater she crocheted for me! It is quite fashionable and I don't think it will be much longer and it will be cold enough to need this sweater.  Thanks mom, I love you!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

2 years ago - Nov 21

It was 2 years ago today that we received Blake's referral.  Rereading the blog entries from that weekend brings back a lot of memories.  We will be forever grateful that we trusted what God had put in our hearts and that we begun embraced the dark hair, dark eyed boy in the picture that changed our family forever - even with his crazy hair sticking up everywhere!

We are off to Justin's parents to celebrate Thanksgiving today.  We sure have a lot to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The good news trend continues!

We are registered!!!  Thank you Lord for the answered prayer!  We have no idea how soon we can expect a referral.  It could come as early as later on today or it could be months from now.  That is the great unknown.  But right now we are celebrating this huge milestone!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving soapbox

We now interrupt this regularly scheduled program with a public service announcement (or Heather’s time to complain because she is annoyed!):

Do not do retail shopping on Thanksgiving Day. It is ridiculous! I am appalled at the increasing number of retail stores that are opening up during the day on Thanksgiving. What is the point? Employees should be given time to be with their families. If they do not have family to get together with then they should have the day off to celebrate with friends. If they do not have friends to get together with then they should have the day off to be thankful for living in a country that has so many luxuries and freedoms. Is there a need for retail stores to be open? What can you possibly need from *-Mart on Thanksgiving Day that you couldn’t get the day before or at midnight when the stores open for Black Friday sales? We have really lost sight of what the holidays are all about! In my opinion, any person that works in a grocery store until mid-afternoon is really serving in a ministry! It is an act of service for those of us that fricassee our turkeys or burn the rolls. The fact that some grocery stores are open is a saving grace to those of us that stink in the kitchen. But retail stores?!?!? Really?!?! There is a rumor (I cannot verify if it is true) that one particular large chain retail store has stated that any employee that is scheduled on Thanksgiving Day and does not come to work will lose his/her job. I really would like to think that there is no truth in that.

Ok – you can now return to your regularly scheduled program. Sorry for the interruption.

We are so happy for our friends Ryan and Sandy True. They are in Korea right now and will be bringing home their new son soon. We spent all of our second trip in Russia with them and visited them this summer. It is crazy to compare the Korean and Russian adoption processes. Sandy laughed because her dossier this time could fit in her purse. You need a sturdy piece of luggage to carry around the Russian required dossier. :o)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Can we keep the trend going?

Brady got baptized on Sunday! Our papers arrived in Vlad today! Can we keep the good news coming in?!?!

Praying really hard the regional operator reviews our documents and ACCEPTS them this week!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Coming up on some big anniversaries

Let me first start by sharing how befuddled I become when thinking about how different every adoption journey is. Emotionally the journey SHOULD vary every single time because feelings can never be controlled. But procedurally, you would expect a few things to be consistent. With international adoption, we have found that experiences vary greatly from which homestudy agency you use, what placing agency you use, what region you are registered in, what baby home or orphanage your child is in, which judge is assigned to your case, what new laws are passed by the government, whether or not someone puts their child on a plane and sends them back to Russia alone!, etc… Right now our most immediate focus is on getting registered in Vladivostok. We are praying that ‘the letter’ and the renewed license will satisfy the regional operator.

Let's take you back to an blog entry I made on December 8th, 2008

Lana - our interpreter, Irena – our agency rep, and Alec – our driver were supposed to pick us up at 10:30 a.m. to go to our MOE (minister of education) appointment. This is where we would officially be approved to see a child and be invited to visit an orphanage. Now, I didn’t post this earlier because I didn’t want our parents to freak out, but when we were picked up from the airport Lana told us that our documents had not arrived from Moscow yet. “Don’t worry Heather – Now is not the time to worry,” she said. Sure, sure I won’t worry a bit! Yeah right!!! So Justin and I were both sick to our stomachs that on Monday we would not be able to go see the lil guy. At 10:00 a.m. the phone in our room rings. Lana says to us the papers had not arrived yet, but they are supposed to be at the courier’s office by 11:30 so they are going to pick us up at 11 instead of 10:30. Again… “Don’t worry Heather – Now is not the time to worry,” she said. Ummmm I am thinking now is a great time to start to worry.

So at about 11:15 they arrived to pick us up. The city driving here is like no other. Different than Chicago for sure! It is best to just not pay attention. We stopped by the courier’s office and Irena came out with a huge smile on her face and said congratulations! Our papers arrived! We went to the MOE and answered some questions. We were told Tatiana was in a good mood today and we were lucky for that. When she saw the pictures in our homestudy of Brady and Madison she smiled and said beautiful children! Awww shucks – we sure think so :o) She showed us the picture of our lil guy and invited us to go visit him.

You see with Blake’s adoption we were never even registered in any region. Our papers were sent to Moscow on November 14th, 2008 and we received Blake’s referral information on November 21st, 2008. There was no chance for the regional operator to even review our documents. It seemed weird to us at the time, but we didn’t complain. And we now know that God’s timing was perfect. Blake was ready to meet us. So while this journey is so different than the one we took two years ago and is different from everyone else’s, I can’t help but get my hopes up just a tiny bit that maybe just maybe we could come close to having a similar timeline as the one below.

November 14, 2008 – Registration papers sent to Moscow
November 21, 2008 – Got Blake’s referral
December 8, 2008 – Met Blake for the first time
December 11, 2008 – Signed our petition to adopt Blake

I know, I know, I know. It is not good to get my hopes up. But I can’t help but dream just a little!

Monday, November 8, 2010

'the letter' arrived

YEAH!!!  The letter arrived in our mailbox this afternoon.  Justin in on his way to Springfield right now to get it apostilled and in the mail to World Links.  He dropped a copy off to me first and I have scanned it and emailed it to our caseworker.  She will be able to forward it electronically to Vlad so that the translation will be done by the time the letter gets there!  I am praying this is the last requested document to get us registered.

Check out this price tag (this is just for FedEx - not for apostilling or for US mail to get everything to World Links in PA):

Original Registration Documents to Vlad ~ $150

(Understandably the regional operator did not like that our Lifelink documents had some reference to Lutheran Chid and Family Services.  Lifelink became a subsidiary of LCFS midway through our homestudy.)

We changed all Lifelink documents to Lutheran letterhead and sent to Vlad ~ $150

(The LCFS office that our paperwork was redone on was one of the branches of Lutheran but not the main one where the state license is issued to. Regional operator requested verification they all operated under the same license.)

Letter stating the addresses were all for the same agency sent to Vlad ~ $150
(The regional operator decided she did not like that the state license is issued to Lutheran Child and Family Services and the letterhead said Lutheran Child and Family Service of Illinois)
Letter stating the two names are the same agency and sent to Vlad ~ $150.
So far we have spent about $600 in FedEx fees alone to get our papers registered in Vlad.  I am praying that the regional operator will accept this new letter and let us move forward with our journey!  Instead of dwelling on the ridiculousness of the mailing cost or the paper chase, I am celebrating the fact that we now have possession of 'the letter'!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Give a gift that REALLY counts

Wow, as soon as Halloween was over the Christmas shopping advertisements started bombarding us from all directions. I guess I should be thankful for the distraction as we continue to wait for ‘the letter’. Anyway, I was thinking this year that I should try to purchase as many of my gifts from people who are hosting fundraising parties. If you look at the blogs in the list on the right you will see that many have various ‘things’ they are selling to help raise money for their adoption. I love the idea of giving the gift with a note attached saying that 15% or whatever of the purchase was donated to help place an orphan with his or her family. I believe the gift receiver would also take joy in knowing that as well. So I just thought I would put the thought out there for you to wrestle with.

Don’t forget too that we are doing our t-shirt fundraiser. We are not using the funds to help with our adoption costs, but we are using those funds to make a donation of needed items to the baby home when we return on trip two. The t-shirts may make a great Christmas gift as well. They are a great conversation starter! If you are interested you can get more details here.