Friday, April 15, 2011


I am writing this entry from the hotel room in Moscow. I want to document the part of our journey that took place over the past couple of days. I am sure I won’t be able to fully capture the chaos through my typed words, but I don’t doubt that Justin and I will remember these past few days for many many years to come.

So let me start with the afternoon of Tuesday the 12th. When Justin returned from doing the paperwork stuff downtown in Vladivostok, we went for our afternoon walk. During that walk we decided that Justin needed to get home sooner than expected. We were receiving several updates from home about how nice the weather had been and that planting was underway. I could tell that Justin had already mentally ‘checked-out’ from Vlad and was worry about things at home. Together we decided that on Thursday the 14th he would go with Boston and I to Moscow to help with that flight and get us settled. He would then the next flight back home. I was a bit nervous but felt completely comfortable since he would be able to help get us to Moscow and the facilitator in Moscow would help from there on out. So after our walk, we sat down one last time to make sure that was what we needed to do. We then called Irina because we knew we would have to get power of attorney papers signed. (note to other PAPs, you may want to bring those forms with you just in case – you just have to have it notarized and not appostilled) So by this time it was early evening. We called Irina to run everything past her. She stated that we would just need to go the US Consulate while we were doing everything else on Wednesday (the next day) and that our plans would be fine.

So in our minds in was a done deal. Via Skype we called Delta and changed Justin’s return flight home. We paid the non-refundable charge and were set. We then spent the next hour or so discussing all of the details of packing and money and things that I would need while in Moscow. At this point it was around 10:30 p.m. in Vlad and 6: 30 a.m. at home. We figured we should just stay up another hour and call back home and let Justin’s dad know the plans. I could tell Justin felt good about his decision and was happy to tell his dad he would be back to beginning planting…..

So I believe it was just a little after 7 a.m. on the 12th back home and Justin tried to call his dad and did not get an answer. He then called his mom’s cell phone (she was at our house with Brady, Madison, and Blake) to see why he wasn’t answering. His mom answered. Instead of being able to give her the news about him returning home early, he heard the news that his father had had a heart attack and was being sent via helicopter to the hospital in Peoria. That was all the information his mom had at the moment. As you can imagine, this news caught us completely off guard. Once we caught our breath we knew that we had to get Justin home right away. He could not wait to get us to Moscow – he needed to leave from Vlad that day. We called Irina again and she and Lana spoke with one another. The big problem was that it was like 1 a.m. in Vlad and nothing was open. We had no way of knowing if we could get him on a flight. Plus the flight would have to be in the afternoon because he HAD to go to the US Consulate to get the power of attorney paperwork issued. So Irina told us to be ready at 9 a.m. instead of 12:30 and we would head downtown early to see what we could do. Justin and I then realized that we need to get him packed. We had to be ready in the event that he could get on a flight. We brought 4 suitcases, 2 large carry-on backpacks, a ‘diaper’ bag, my purse and a stroller. We knew had to get everything down to as little as possible in order for me to be able to navigate the airport alone. So we packed everything we could in a large suitcase for him to take home and one of the carry on back packs. We planned to leave two suitcases behind (just gave to Irina). By the time we got the packing done we attempted to lay down at like 4 a.m. but neither of us could sleep much.

We did get a relieving message from home that Justin’s dad was stable and it looked as though he was going to be ok. This helped ease the tension a bit.

We were in the lobby by 9 a.m. (Wednesday, April 13th). I am guessing we got 4 hours of sleep at the most. We got a call from Irina that she spoke to the US Consulate and they would process the power of attorney paper first thing so we just had to stop by and have Justin pick it up. She also found out that there was a 3:15 p.m. flight from Vlad to Moscow through TransAero airline company. We needed to stop by their office and see if we could get him on that flight. Then we would deal with the flight from Moscow to the US after that. Traffic was bad so she was going to be another 40 minutes or so before she got to the hotel. But she wanted Justin to bring his luggage and everything with him. If we could get him a ticket he would have to leave downtown with a driver ASAP to get to the airport. Irina and I had to pick up Boston’s passport at 2:00 and take him to the required medical appointment and 2:15. From the moment she picked us up we were rushed. Here are the events that took place in a VERY rushed manner.

*Irina arrives at hotel

*Load Justin’s luggage and all 4 of us head downtown

*Irina tells us how everything will need to happen from this point on while driving through the typical crazy Vlad traffic

*Arrive at the US Consulate and only Justin is allowed to go in

*Get the power of attorney paper and rush a couple of blocks to TransAero office

*They can get him on the flight that afternoon for only $200. This was a relief.

*I begin to feel the tears welling in my eyes. He REALLY is leaving…. I was trying so hard to keep up a strong front. I know that he feels bad for leaving us anyway.

*We get in the car and Irina says that we need to meet the driver so that Justin can head out of downtown and to the airport.

*Irina states we will try to get a flight out of Moscow for him and get the information to the facilitator Sasha in Moscow by the time he arrives. We have 12 hours to make that happen.

*About 2 minutes after leaving the airline office, we are pulling into a gas station and Irina announces, “Ok, Justin the driver is here we need to get your things in the van so you can go.”

*We say a 10 second rushed goodbye

*He leaves. I cry (am crying now as I type this!). So tired, so emotional, so exhausted

Irina and I stay downtown until about 3:00 to get everything we need for Boston and I to leave the next morning. In the meantime she calls her friend in Miami to help us find Justin a ticket from Moscow to the States. She said he is a pro at this and is our best bet to find something. Delta didn’t have anything until afternoon on the 14th so we knew we were going to have to use a different airline. The money from that ticket, plus the ticket change is money lost! While we were still in downtown, her friend calls and says he found a flight on Swiss Air leaving Moscow at 6:45 a.m. that would have Justin in Chicago by 3:45 the same day. This was perfect! It was not as outrageously priced as I had braced myself for and it landed in CHICAGO – in our home state! Someone could pick him up and we wouldn’t have to worry about yet another connecting flight. I wanted that ticket for sure! We had to wait until we got back to the hotel and had internet access to book the ticket. It felt like we would never get back.

We arrived at the hotel around 4 in the afternoon. We gathered up some toys for Boston and the laptop and headed to the White Rabbit to make the reservation. I could not wait to get this done. It was important for Justin to have this information when he landed and I felt I could not relax at all until it was done. I have ordered tickets online a number of times without a single issue. So Irina and I sat side by side and began the reservation. The site was in Russia – the English version of the page mixed both English and Russian. So Irina read the directions and I filled out the information. We clicked submit and I thought I would get confirmation and all would be well….. Of course not! This website is powered by a Russian company and my credit card is a foreign card. They want additional documentation from us. So about 45 minutes later it is determined that they want a copy of Justin’s passport (thankfully we were smart enough to have one!) and a six digit authorization code from the credit card company. Unbelievable! Keep in mind that we are dealing with a 16 HOUR time difference and all correspondence is through a netbook with (a true God – send) Skype! So I have to call home to get the number to the credit card company. I didn’t have the actual card on me. I had to wake up my poor aunt who was at our house with Brady, Madison, and Blake. I believe it was just after midnight at that point. She had to find the information for me. I then called the credit card company and was transferred to the fraud department. They were very friendly but insisted that they had no 6 digit number to give me. They said if the company is legitimate then they should process the order and they would get the authorization needed. They stated that they did not have any request from the company to try to process an order. I was trying to remain calm. At this point we are over an hour into trying to get these tickets. I said I would call the company back and ask them to try to process the payment.

Irina has to do all of the talking with the company because their personnel are Russian. The guy she speaks to tells her that they did process the payment and that they actually had the approval number but they needed us to verify it. Irina is a spitfire of a woman. I love her!! She wanted to know if they had approval what was the problem. They insisted we need to provide this 6 digit number and the first digit is a 0. Grrrrrrrrrr. Boston is doing well, but he is two. We are trying to entertain him while all of this is going on. So I call the credit card company again. I explain the entire situation and am getting more desperate by the minute. They again are kind but insist they do not have such a number to give to me. Because we placed a travel advisory on our account before leaving and because of my call they guaranteed the charge would not be blocked and they would process the payment immediately. They still showed no attempt by the company to make the transaction and they are questioning whether or not they are legitimate. Irina is back on the phone. Her friend in Miami that uses this service often said he would call on our behalf (even though it was like 3 a.m. his time). We are now over 2 hours in to this process. The company then tells us if we can email or fax them a copy of Justin’s passport and a copy of the credit card they would process the order. I am on the verge of tears again. I don’t have the credit card to copy and send to them PLUS my gut instinct is telling me this is not a good idea anyway. I am trying to come up with a plan B, C, and D in my head. Irina’s phone is about dead. We decide to take a 15 minute break so she can go to her car to charge her phone, and I needed to gather myself and give Boston some much deserved undivided attention.

Irina returns to the White Rabbit room looking hopeful but completely put out. She must have talked to another person at this company while her phone was charging in the car. They asked her if we had cash to pay for the ticket. Of course we have cash?!?! How is that going to help?!?! They stated that they have an office in downtown Vlad that is open 24 hours and that if we processed a new order we would get a confirmation number. She would then need to take that number and the cash to the office and they would issue the tickets. The reservation would be held for two hours. So after 3 hours of frustration and numerous calls we are just now learning about this option?!?!? So it is now 7 p.m. Irina takes the money and heads downtown. It will likely take her all of 2 hours because the traffic to downtown was horrendous still. She told me she would stop by the hotel on her way back and that I was not to worry.

So I hadn’t eaten. I still didn’t have a ticket for Justin. I hadn’t begun to pack for the next morning. Etc… Boston and I head back to our room and order room service. This is the first time in four trips to the VMI I have ever ordered a meal for the room. The highlight of the day is to get out of the room and go eat. So it felt weird to have the food delivered to the door. I really was holding it together until… there was a knock on the door. Boston’s eyes lit up and he said “PaPa? PaPa?” At first I thought, ahhhh how sweet! That time it was Angie (another adoptive mother) coming to give me a card. The card was sweet and she also gave me all of her contact information and the information of people she knows in Moscow that she will be visiting while there. The couple knows perfect English and said to call if Boston and I need anything at all. I am still on the verge of tears. It was nice to have another contact number in Moscow…just in case. Then another knock on the door - Boston again says, “PaPa? PaPa? This time my heart broke. I open the door and it is Christy. She and her husband are from Illinois and they bought me a banana split to try to cheer me up. I gave her a hug and the tears started, but again I pulled it together quickly. After all there is much to be done. Christy stayed and chatted while I ate dinner. It was nice to have adult conversation with my meal and a bit of a distraction from all of the tasks still at hand.

I gave Boston a bath and tried to get him to sleep so I could begin packing. He was rejuvenated after the bath and not sleepy of course despite it being like 10:00 at night. A third time there was a knock on the door. Thankfully Boston did not hear it and ask if it was PaPa! It was Irina. By the look on her face, I could tell she had been through the wringer. She said “First things – we have a ticket for Justin!” FINALLY!!! We quickly emailed it to Sasha in Moscow so that Justin would know all of the details when he landed. I was so relieved! Then Irina shared that it took her so long to get downtown. When she arrived, the reservation for the ticket had expired by 8 minutes and the person was not going to give her the ticket. She called the companies number yet again. This time they are very aware of our situation. Somehow or another it got accomplished, but not without one last bit of drama.

Now Boston is whiney because it is 10:30 or so. I haven’t packed and Irina still needs to drive 45 minutes to her home to prepare all of the documents I need to bring with me to Moscow. Justin and I had envisioned on Wednesday night (that night) we would have a nice dinner with Irina and Lana and present the gifts we had brought for them. They are such special ladies in our lives. Instead, I handed Irina her gift as we she was headed out the door. She stopped and quickly glanced at the items and was very grateful, but we had no time for sentimental moments right then. We had a lot of work still to do. It took Boston another 15 minutes or so to fall asleep. So I began the packing process a little after 11:00 p.m. At that point I was thankful for the natural drug – adrenalin!

I kept finding so many things to pack. It wasn’t long and I realized that there was no way I was going to fit everything – even with using the pack-mate vacuum bags our friend Jennifer lent us. I had to start finding things to leave behind – like toys for the White Rabbit and our clothes line and clothes pins for Christy and Frank, etc… I finally squeezed everything in. I could barely move the suitcase and I was going to look like a pack mule with the huge backpack, diaper bag, purse, stroller and child! I have no idea what time it was that I finally fell asleep. I thought I was very organized so I set the alarm for 7 a.m. I needed to be in the lobby by 8. I thought for sure an hour was more than enough time since I thought everything was done. After a few hours of sleep, my alarm went off and I quickly grabbed a shower while Boston was still sleeping. I then quickly got ready, woke up B, got him dressed and warmed up some cereal for him. I then looked at the time thinking I still had about 30 minutes. Nope! I forget what it is like having a toddler. I had only 15 minutes left and of course B was ready to have fun time like we have every other morning – not to sit and eat before we head out for the airport! We did the best we could. The phone rang and Irina was there at 8:00 a.m. sharp. She helped take things to the car while I quickly paid the hotel bill, gathered a few last items, and left the items at the front desk for Frank and Christy. Thankfully Boston’s favorite waitress, Karina, was in the lobby and she played with him one last time so I could take 5 minutes to deal with those things. Once again everything was rushed. Lana met Irina and me at the airport. I gave her her gift bag as well. She too was very grateful but only had a minute or so to look through everything. They helped carry everything in to the airport and get me checked in. Of course this is always a bit stressful in a foreign country. Multiply that by my lack of sleep, a line full of Russians staring at you because they can tell you are taking one of their children, a boisterous 2 year old in my arms happy as can be, and the emotions of leaving the girls and the birthplace of two of our sons….. yet again emotions were running high. When we got to the counter Irina did all of the talking. I could tell there was some kind of issue. Lana explained that they were asking where the 3rd person was. They explained Justin’s situation. We of course knew we weren’t getting a refund. I didn’t care about his ticket at all. Apparently the ticketing agent wasn’t able to process the transaction because the computer wanted her to do something with Justin’s ticket. She couldn’t process a ‘fake’ ticket without his passport and apparently she didn’t have the ability to separate his reservation from mine. A man came over and tried to help. Several minutes passed and he was on the phone. Then he says something to Irina and her ‘I-don’t-think-so’ Russian started to flow. The man took my bazillion pound bag off the check in belt thing and the stroller and set it on the floor and motioned for the lady after me to step up to the counter. Apparently they needed me to wait while they tried to straighten out how to issue the tickets. That really got Irina going and next thing I know the luggage and stroller are back on the belt and I am being handed two tickets! We then said a very teary goodbye – or as Irina says, “until next time – no goodbyes!” and B and I were off through security to embark on the next leg of our journey.

Irina, Lana, Yuri (the Russian- American in Miami), Sasha, VMI staff, Frank, Christy, Angie, family at home, blogging friends, etc… so many people went above and beyond the call of duty to help us out. We are so grateful!

Someone was ready to go!  If only he were the only thing I had to worry about packing that night!

And for the record...the VMI knows how to make an amazing banana split!! 


Anonymous said...

I'm emotionally exhausted reading about your last few days. We're so thankful Justin's dad is doing okay. Praying the Moscow leg of the trip will go smoothly & quickly & before you know it, you'll be headed for home.

Heather and Chad said...

Holy moly........WOW!!!! Just think it is all behind you now though! What doesn't break us makes us stronger!! Hoping for smooth sailing on the last leg of your journey and that all is well at home!

Carol A said...

Wow!! But everything did get worked out!! Thinking of you!! I can not wait to meet Boston!!

Melissa B. said...

Wow. I have no other words. Except to say that we are SO glad that things got ironed out, and that Justin's dad is doing well. And, that we'll keep y'all in prayer until you make it safely home. Oh, AND, that Irina will have some very special jewels in her crown one day!!

Tracey and Chuck said...

Wow....I too don't have any other words. As I have said before, you are a very strong, brave lady and you and Boston can make it through together!! I can't even begin to imagine what these last few days have been like for you and I am so sure that the memories will last a lifetime but soon you will all be reunited and your family will be together! Irina and Lana are angels and I am so glad you had them by yourside to get through all this. Your family is constantly on my mind as I pray that you can get things done quickly in Moscow and you and Boston get on that plane from Moscow to home!

Doug and Shelly said...

Oh Heather!!!! I was crying reading your post this morning. You have been through the ringer to say the least. Please know we're praying for your safe journey in Moscow and for Justin's dad. I can just tell from your posts that you have such a special bond with your coordinator and translator in Vlad. That has got to make the adoption journey so much easier! Can't wait until you and Boston are home safe and sound!

Joel and Clarion said...

All I can say is "Wow!" I'm thankful that the Lord saw you through this and that He provided such wonderful people to support you. We got to meet Yuri when Irina visited the states. He lived in St. Louis at the time. Having these great people as our advocates makes me even more glad the Lord has led us back to Vlad to get our boy! Hope you have a relaxing flight home! god bless!

Kenny said...

Thank you lord for watching over this family and getting them through this! I'm drained from reading your story and seeing it through my minds eye. The VMI the airport...running around in downtown Vlad. What a great staff from your agency! So glad to hear that Justin's dad is doing better and that you guys are safe and through this part of your Journey.

Sabrina and Giorgio said...

During this journey, we seem to all face some unexplainable obstacles yet we always seem to get through them. This journey is not for the weak of heart and I'm so glad you were chosen to take it. You'll always remember this experience with it's good and difficult and think back and just smile. What wonderful friends you have in Irina and Lana and such a supportive husband. I'm so happy for your family and pray for your safe journey the rest of way home and hope it's uneventful.. :-)

Jennifer said...

Holy cow!!! Reminds us that God is good! I hope you get some much needed sleep soon!

Nancy said...

Oh my gosh! What an ordeal. I hope the rest of your journey goes quickly and smoothly!

Nancy said...

Oh my gosh! What an ordeal. I hope the rest of your journey goes quickly and smoothly!

Jody said...

Oh Heather. I'm tired. Just reading this drained me. I'm so sorry that you are there alone....but totally understand how Justin wanted to get home to plant. Jason would have been the same way, being a farmer. It's in their blood. :) So thankful that his dad is doing okay. Praying for you and Boston as you are in Moscow.

sonflowerjax said...

WOW. I can't even believe all of the events that unfolded and how many roadblocks there were. But, in the end, you are in Moscow, and SO CLOSE to being home and reunited with your family...with Boston! :) I am praying that somewhere along the road you will get a little rest, I can not even imagine how exhausted you must be!

Amber D said...

Seriously adorable picture of Boston in the suitcase!!

Kate S. said...

WOW, I am exhausted reading your post...can only imagine the emotional roller coaster you all have been through....

Praying for all of you!!

Christen L said...

Just read through your post. What a crazy day/night! I'm so glad we were able to help in even the smallest way. We miss you guys here at the VMI, but we'll see you on the flip side!!! :)

Vicki said...

Oh wow! Thank God for helpful people and Gods grace.