Thursday, May 03, 2007


So now we are home. My mind has been swirling about me. So many thoughts, so many fears. It has just made me ill. I don't know what I am so worried about. I am soooooooo excited to see our children and bring them home but at the same time I am not looking forward to the long trip. It was really hard. I get really homesick. I also sort of developed a fear for flying. Anyway, I have just been feeling so odd and not at home yet. I think maybe it is because it is a time of transition and our lives are forever changed, in a good way, but none the less - changed. And of course the flying. These feeling have been tormenting me. I love the people of Russia, I love all people but the whole experience and culture and language shock was difficult. I discovered I am not a world traveler. I kept praying and praying against all my fears and nervousness and I knew God was with us even here once we were home and he was answering prayers and keeping us safe and helping with the bonding but still I could not shake it. I am happy to say that finally today I am free! I feel confidant moving forward, I feel strengthened to face the challenges of the future and the travels. I feel so much better. I spent a lot of time waiting on the Lord this morning and it was wonderful. He has given me peace. I debated whether or not to write this blog and I decided to do it and be honest. So many are walking this journey with us and I am so grateful for the the support, prayer,and finances! I felt I owed it to everyone to be completely transparent in the journey during hard times and great times. To sum it up- now it's all good.


St. Petersburg

Our last couple days were spent with our tour guide Alex (female) and driver Igor. They were very kind. In St. Petersburg there is so much history and sooooooooooo many museums that to be a tour guide you need a license. She worked very hard to get hers and she said she is lucky to be employed because many do not find jobs before their license expires. She knew so much knowledge and imparted so much history on us. We visited Pushkin, Pavlosk's Palace, Catherine the Great's Palace, The Cathedral of Nicholos the II, St. Isaac's Cathedral, The Hermitage Museum, President Putin's favorite restaurant, The Church on Spilled Blood, The place where Rasputin was killed, and many more. We learned about all the leaders of Russia and their families- Peter the Great, Paul, Alexander, Catherine the Great, Elizabeth, etc. We viewed the Amber Room, Palaces, original works by Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, Michaelangelo, Matisse, Picasso, etc. It was pretty incredible and overwhelming. We also learned about the seige on Lenigrad (then changed to St. Petersburg) during WWII which was extremely sad. We ate at some good restaurants and enjoyed our comfortable hotel. It was really hot in the hotel though. Alex said they were flattering their guest by having the heat on. Well,I felt trapped- you couldn't open the window and no heat control in the room! Aah! But it ended up being fine. It is much colder in St. Petersburg and Moscow than Kaliningrad. Kaliningrad was kind of like home but it actually snowed in St. Petersburg the day we left. Our airport experiences were much better on the way home. Everything went smoothly- Kaliningrad to St. Petersburg to Moscow to Los Angeles to Portland. 17 hours flight time! 24 hours in travel! I felt like I was still flying, my body trying to balance, the entire day after arriving home.


Before we left we were asked to make the decision whether to adopt the children or not. Of course we said yes! We signed the paperwork and stated our decision to the Ministry of Education and the Court. We were then given a court date of June 15th. Wow- that was quick! We will be traveling (most likely a different route this time) on June 9th. We will spend three weeks in an apartment in Kaliningrad. We must spend 5 days with the kids visiting their orphanges before court, go to court on the 15th, and then spend 10 more days (actually 14 or so because of all the paperwork processing) in Kaliningrad until the court decree is final. We may or may not have the children with us during that time. Most likely we will. Then we travel to Moscow for two days to finalize everything and obtain their visas at the Embassy and then we will return home July 3rd- just in time for Independance Day! By the way- The day after the 10th day- the court decree is final is exactly 9 months to the day that they were conceived in my heart. God is a God of meaning and confirmation and planning isn't He? We also were given the option to change their birth date and place of birth. We have declined. We had to write down their new given names so the court documents could be prepared. We decided on Jones Ellis Jones because it is totally unique and close to Joey's name and Ellis which means "The Lord is M God." For Masha we have chosen Mollie Joy. Mollie stems from Mary & Maria along the same lines as Masha and it means "wished for" and Joy because of the joy that she brings, J=Jesus first, O=Others second, Y=Yourself last, and also similarity to Joey's name as she is proving herself to be Daddy's girl.

Our Children

Tuesday morning Tatiana and her father picked us up at our hotel. We first had another appointment with the Ministry of Education and then they took us to the baby home. We met with the in-house physician as well as the director of the orphanage. As they were talking to us and telling us about Marya (pronounced Masha) they just brought her in and sat her right on Joey's lap. She looked nothing like her picture but still very cute and was much smaller than I expected so at first it was shocking. She didn't cry, she just sat there a little tense and shy but very calm. After just a few minutes she started opening up and smiling like a little flower. They tried to continue the meeting but it was very hard as we were more entertained by her so our listening skills were not at their best. We then went outside and played with her for about an hour. It was really amazing. I just couldn't get over how much she looks like Joey. The staff said to him "You must have been in Russia before!" Ha ha! They also kept saying "You can't take her, we love her, she's our favorite." We quickly learned why. She is very easy going and cheerful. She has a very pleasant disposition. We quickly learned that she does also have a very persitant spirit as well. All she wanted to do was get on the ground but we were not allowed to set her down in the grass because they said it was too cold and dirty but she tried all kinds of tricks like dropping her toys just to get closer to the grass. It was a little ackward because here we are entertaining this beautiful one-year-old trying to soak it all in while being observed in this unkept yard with only the toys we brought and a couple stumps to sit on. We were used to it by the end of the week but it was odd at first. Then it was time to leave.

After our afternoon break they picked us up again and we went to the older orphanage to meet Vadim (more commonly referred to as Vadick such as Joey is to Joseph.) We spoke with his teach for quite some time and then the director and doctor. Both children are extremely healthy although Masha did have a cold and passed it to Vadick. His teacher explained that he is very outgoing and likes to be the center of attention. She said he is very smart and likes to explain everything. They say he is the last one sitting at the table at every meal because he likes to talk about everything. They say he adapted very quickly to the orphanage. The plan was to bring him in with a friend, get aquainted, and then they would ask him if he would like to come back again, and eventually tell him about the adoption. They brought him in and my first thought was that he was so cute and sooooooo small. Of course they brought him in with a stocky 7-year-old friend who we were also quite taken by however Vadick is very small. We talked for awhile although we couldn't talk much directly to the kids except through Tatiana because of the language barrier but we did give them goldfish crackers and Hot Wheels cars which they liked very much. Afterward they asked him if he would like to visit again and go see his sister tomorrow. He said yes. He left the room and then we were bombarded with questions. They obviously really care where he is going which made us feel very good. We showed them the picture book of our home and family and they were very pleased after that.

That night we went to a little restaurant called 12 Chairs. It was really cool, cave like, and romantic although after awhile it felt a little claustrophobic especially with all the smoking (it would never pass code in the USA.) It was located below a theatre in a beautiful old building. We had a hard time communicating of course but the menu did have everything in English so we received what we ordered. I was not feeling well so I just had a vegetable soup covered with a blanket of dill and Joey had a Mexican chicken. That was something I read in a travelers book- in Russia they do not use a lot of spices so to us everything seemed a bit bland but they do LOVE dill and it is on everything! I found this to be quite true in most cases.

On Wednesday we went and picked up Vadick and drove to the orphanage to see Masha. It was so neat to see them together. He just observed her and his eyes were just smiling at her. He started to get more used to us too and smiled up at me as I rubbed his back (caught it on video!) I asked Tatiana to ask him what he thought of Masha and he said he thought she would be bigger by now and able to play more. He liked her though. It's funny, I thought he might imagine her smaller because the last time they were together she was only 2 months old. Anyway- it is such a pleasure to be used of God to reunite the two. We were in a small room and it was pretty loud because there was another family there. They are from Tennessee. It was refreshing to communicate. They were on their second trip waiting for court so they could take their little girl home. We ended up seeing them and talking with them during every morning and afternoon visit which made things much more tolerable. They had so much good advice for us as this is their second time through the process. They had adopted their son (who was so cute and was with them- southern drawl and all) a couple years prior. You would never even know he was adopted. He fit so well into their family. At 12:00 we had to end our visit because the orphanages never deviate from their schedules and the kids have lunch at 12 and nap from 1-3pm. We had another similar visit in the afternoon from 3-5pm. This time we played outside. Vadick didn't want to do much- just observe. Joey let Masha hold a stick and Vad kept repeating something in Russian and finally Tatiana said that he was saying " Be careful with that stick, she could get hurt." So sweet, melted our hearts. He then proceeded to remove every stick from the play yard. He did enjoy the bubbles we brought a lot though, they were a big hit!

On Thursday Vadick's orphanage would not let him leave because he had a temperature (caught from Masha.) He was also separated from his group but he was okay with that. We just played on his playground and brought out more toys which he was very happy about. More cars, balls, sidewalk chalk, etc. We really had to entice him to play. He just wanted to observe which I totally understand. He also was very protective of the toys we had given him. Joey played ball with him for awhile and then I sat on the bench with him and we worked on communicating with the little Russian I have studied and learned. We also went though a baby book with pictures and I asked him "What is that?" in Russian and he would tell me and I would repeat it. I think we will be using this technique a lot in the beginning. It was definately a bonding moment. I did get him to say one English word, shoe. At the end of our visit Tatiana asked him if he would like to live in a place with all of his own new toys to which he said "I have lots of toys." Then she asked him if he would like to live in a family forever with his sister and if he liked us. He was rocking with his head down, on his feet, but in sort of a fetal position (because he was playing with his cars on the ground) and he contemplated it and said "yes." We were so happy. At this point he did not want anything to do with the picture book we had brought nor did he want his picture taken. I had to sneak around to get pictures of him. It was kind of a good thing that we didn't go to the other orphanage because the time alone with him was very defining for our family and neccessary for our bonding. He is very fluent in his language and would hold long conversations with Tatiana so it was hard for us at times especially as I kept thinking of the challenges that lay ahead and I long for him to continue speaking and not feel like he has to be mute just because we can't understand. His voice is so pleasant, and quiet, and raspy. That afternoon we visited Masha and tried to play outside again. She was so hot. They bundle them up so much with sweaters and heavy jackets and hats even though it is like 70 degrees out. All we wanted to do was get all those clothes off her but we followed the rules.

Friday was our last day. Also during the week we had many more appointments such as the Ministry of Education, Court and the Chief of Staff at the Children's Hospital.

We picked up Vadick and had a nice morning visit at the baby home and then took him back to his orphanage and we were able to go inside for a quick second and see the little room he was staying in with another sick child. They had two twin beds that looked cozy and a little table with all the toys he had collected from us throughout the week. Oh I forgot to mention he is really good at sharing his food. Tatiana tried to get him to take off his socks and shoes so we could trace his foot and know what size shoe to buy him but he refused even after bribing him with yet another car and threatening to get his caregiver. He really didn't want to so the caregiver brought us a shoe that fits him well to trace. But then surprisingly he tried on the shirt and pants we brought him in exchange for a car. The shirt a 4T fit well but the pants 4T as well were way too big. I don't know how much shopping we will do before hand because it was hard to tell plus some brands are different. I will probably buy him a couple 3T's and mostly 4. He finally took an interest in the book of our home and family and I got to go through it with him in his language explaining that it is his new home, grandma, grandpa, etc. He seemed excited although he may have been showing off for his friend. I had Tatiana tell him that we loved him and would come back for him in 7 weeks and that we don't speak Russian but we are trying and we hope he will try English also. I gave him a hug and we left. It was difficult to leave but not quite as hard as I expected because I do know that he is happy there and they do take good care of him.

We drove to the baby home for our last visit with Masha. She was happy as usual. We asked to stay inside and surprisingly it was the first time we were alone. Just Joey, Masha, and myself. We played with her and took lots of video. We walked her around the room and tried on the clothes I brought for her. They were too big as well. I think she is probably 12 months clothing but I will probably buy her 18-24 so she has room to grow. She has little feet too. We had a very nice bonding time and I undressed her feet which was fun. She had on shoes, socks and tights wadded up in the socks. I showed her belly to her and she liked that. I raspberried her tummy and I think she thought I was nuts but she did smile when I tickled her. We went through the picture book with her also and she looked intently at it. We left one for each of them along with all they toys, clothes, and snacks. It was a nice visit. She likes to laugh. Then it was time to go. Tatiana said if we were sneaky, we could take her back to her group. We weren't supposed to go in because it is under construction (but her area wasn't.) Tatiana said next trip we will get to spend more time in the orphanages and also with the caregivers. We went upstairs and saw her groups quarters. It was very nice. They had a nice toy room, a room with all the beds and a couple play pens with no toys, a little kitchen with tables and chairs, and a potty room. I think it was potty training time so two at a time the children sit on their own potty chair until they go. The rest of the children wait in the boring play pens. We sat her in her chair and took a picture and then I was told I could set her in her crib and take her picture. I sat her down and she started crying hysterically and threw herself down on her blankets. We had not seen this side of her. It clarified two things to me- #1 We have some major challenges ahead, and #2 my heart broke- obviously she does not enjoy that crib which makes me wonder how much time she spends there. I picked her up immediately and she clung to me digging her nails into my skin. It was so good to hold her and so devestating to see her like this. A few minutes later she was playing with the toys we brought in a play pen. We said good bye. It was a little harder because of the meltdown situation. I was crying quietly. We learned that there is one caregiver to 10 children in Vadick's orphange and one to 15 in Masha's. All of the baby's except Masha had their head shaved. Please pray that they don't cut it. It is beautiful and I would like to continue to let it grow.

Overall meeting our children was an amazing experience. We cannot wait to get them home in the USA and in our home.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Safe & Sound!

Wow, where do I begin? What an experience. We left on April 20th headed to Russia to meet our children for the first time. If I am going to be completely transparent I will tell you that the first half of the trip was extremely trying and difficult and the second half was wonderful. The Lord saw us through it all and answered all of our prayers. We met our children which has forever changed us in the best way possible and our home now does not feel home without them.

The first plane rides were very difficult. I don't know what is wrong with me but in the last few years I have developed quite a little fear of flying. I prayed and breathed my way through the beginning of each flight as my heart pounded rapidly through my chest. I continued to ask myself and anyone that was nearby, "What is my problem?!" Never did I figure it out but regardless the Lord provided us with safe flights. We took off from Portland and flew to Los Angeles and then Los Angeles to Moscow. This is where the problems arose. NO ONE spoke english but acted like they did. There was a customs and passport control line that we were told to stand in. We stood for almost an hour knowing we would probably miss our flight which was set to take off two hours within our landing in Moscow. When we arrived at the front of the line, the lady seemed annoyed with us and told us to go to baggage. We didn't need to be in that line! At this point we were looking for a guy- Alex with our names on a sign. There were others with signs but not ours. We waited and collected our baggage and then began to panic. When I finally saw Joey get to that point then I really started freaking out. I just wanted to use a phone! We couldn't read the signs, no one spoke english and we didn't know our way out! Finally I saw the line to claim what you are bringing into the country, we were told there that we could just go through because we were not bringing in over $10,000. Whew. We walked out and there was our sign. It was not Alex but Pasha. Pasha said "What happened?" He had been waiting over two hours. I tried to explain the situation but we had to hurry to catch our back-up flight to St. Petersburg after missing our first flight. The domestic terminal is in a different location so we drove there and ran in literally running, injuries obtained. They wouldn't accept us, they said check-in was closed. Then they made an exception and sent us running upstairs without Pasha (couldn't go past security) and when we went upstairs they said "No, go downstairs" in broken english. There was no use explaining. The communication was not working. We missed the flight. Pasha then toted us all around the airport to different counters to figure out what to do. we could either buy $600 tickets to leave that night on another airline or stay the night in Moscow and fly for no additional cost. Well, we felt $600 was way too much and we didn't feel we could bear another flight after flying for 15 hours. Pasha booked our new morning flight and we ended up receiving a free hotel stay at the Holiday Inn in Moscow because our flight had been delayed about 10 minutes or so coming in! Thank you Jesus! Pasha took us to the hotel and we had a late night dinner that we were told was free but was not. Oh, well. The room was free. Then the melt down occured. I was so disturbed. I really need to calm down. I'm trying. Actually just talking about it is helping. Anyway that night I was shaking and crying and soooooo homesick. I thought, if something happened to us, no one would no where we are. We are not on our schedule. I just wanted to touch base with home. (I didn't realize that I actually had severe underlying anxiety about meeting our children that would disappear once we met.) I tried to call home but I did not have the country code which I though might be 1 but Russia is 077 or something so I didn't think 1 could possibly be it. I called the front desk and asked and they said "We don't know, it's your country." The next morning Pasha picked us up and we took off to St. Petersburg. When we arrived Alex (female) & Igor picked us up. They were right there which was a huge relief. We had a few hours before our flight to Kaliningrad so she took us to the hotel that we were supposed to be at the night before to rest for a few hours because we had to pay for it anyway because we didn't cancel in time. This was fine with us, we felt like we were in heaven. We plugged in the laptop and emailed home and it was a very comfortable room and large hotel. They picked us up a few hours later and we hopped our flight to Kaliningrad.

Our flight arrived early but Tatiana (our AAI contact) and her father Alexander arrived shortly. It was a very small airport with military looking men allowing us off the plane into the airport. Tatiana introduced herself and we drove to the hotel. On the way, we saw this park full of families, and trees, and ponies with pink hair. It was crazy, very idyllic, like a fantasy. It was a children's park. The city of Kaliningrad is much larger than I expected. She took us to the Hotel Chaika which has 24 rooms. It was fairly simple but in a nice neighborhood and very clean. She left us and let us know she would pick us up in the morning to visit the Department of Education. Since no agencies are accredited in Russia we have to attend every meeting and complete our adoption independantly (with AAI by our side assisting us at every turn.) She showed us a couple stores and restaurants with English speaking menus within walking distance and then left us to settle in. We were celebrating. No more flying for 5 days!!! We get to meet our children!!!

On Tuesday we met with the Ministry of Education and told him what we were looking for. He had them check the files and of course they brought in the files on our children. Mollie (Masha/Marya) looked totally different. I questioned whether it was the same child. He gave us some background information on their family and circumstances and we agreed to meet them. He said he would have approval in the morning. We went back to the hotel for the rest of the day. I was sick all these days. A little physically but mostly mentally. Again I repeat- I don't know what was wrong with me. Maybe part jet lag and part nerves. Wow, I was a mess. I think we walked to a restaurant that day called 12 Chairs. It was really cool down below an old theatre. After awhile it got a little claustrophobic. It would never pass code in the USA but it was good food and a good experience none the less. I forgot to mention that the first night in Kaliningrad Tatiana ordered us pizza to our room. We ordered half canadian bacon with pineapples and it also came with bananas- ewhh! We also found out that none of the converters we brought worked so again we were disconnected from the world and all our modern conveniences we brought (computer, DVD's, hot pot, hair straightener, etc.) would be of no use.

In the afternoon Tatiana took us to meet our children. (This is a picture of our hotel and our pizza.)