Monday, October 15, 2012

Consignment Sale #2 and some updates

             Soooo....we won the 100% at the Kids Sale too!!  I was genuinely blown away by how many people handed in flyers on our behalf and I cannot thank you all enough!  This has been such a joint effort and I really hope you all realize how much you have helped.  The large majority of clothes and items I had to sell at these sales were donated by all of you to begin with!  Then so many of you went to the sales, handed in our flyers, shared with your friends and encouraged others to hand them in as well.  This has been such a huge was almost like having another whole yard sale!  In total, between the two sales we made $599.50 with the 100%!  Although it is still difficult to predict exactly how much more we will spend on the adoption, it is becoming increasingly clear that we are getting very close to having enough!

           It has been so amazing to watch God provide the opportunities for us to raise money again and again.  Not only that, but He offered opportunities that make so much sense to do anyway!  The large majority of our fundraising was done by taking things that people no longer wanted or needed anyway and selling them to people who could use them for a good price.  We were even able to donate so many of the leftovers to people who really really need them.  That is why we will continue collecting any clothing and shoes, as well as any baby/kids items and toys.  While I think we've decided against continuing with the yard sales, we have found the consignment sales to be a great opportunity to raise money.  I know I already mentioned this in regards to the clothing, but here is the final new plan:
            We will collect any shoes, clothing, baby gear and toys that people would like to donate (things you are going to give away or get rid of anyway).  We will take ANY clothes and shoes and will sort through them to put aside anything that would meet the consignment sale requirements (gently used, certain brands etc.).  Those items will be saved for the consignment sales that take place twice a year and all profits will go towards adoption in some capacity.  Any clothing/shoes that does not meet the requirements will be organized and brought to the rescue mission in providence.  For baby gear and toys, these will be sold at the kids sale, as we found that these items sell better than the clothes.  They must, however, be in good working condition and toys should include all of the original parts/pieces.  As we've said before, we are always more than willing to come pick things up.  We think this will be a great way to continue supporting adoption, whether it be for our family, another family, an agency etc., while also collecting items that people in need could use right away.  We're excited to see where this leads!

          As far as what is next......right now we are just waiting to find out when our court date will be.  The projected date is somewhere in the beginning/middle of December, but there are no guarantees.  Certain documents need to be received by our region (from Moscow) that often take quite a while.  We are still praying for a miracle that will allow us to bring him home on the second trip, or with a shorter wait period (currently it is 30 days so we will wait and return sometime in January to bring him home).  I forgot to mention that we did not end up meeting his birthmom/seeing where she may live.  When we put her address into the gps it was 2 1/2 hours away from the baby home, which was already 1 hour away from where we stayed.  It was difficult to know what to do, but we really did not want to sacrifice a day with Levi since the chances of her still living there, being home, and being willing to talk to us were so unknown.  As far as his surgery is concerned, it was initially rescheduled for October 10th, but he still had a cold so they postponed it once again.  We are hoping to obtain a letter from our doctor here within the next week or two that we can send to Russia to convince them that it would be best for him to wait and have the surgery when he comes home.  So basically we are back to waiting and praying.  I feel sort of used to it at this point and although it is difficult to have spent a week with him and then come home without him, I feel much more at peace than I would have ever expected.  In some ways I think it's just because it's so surreal and I feel like I am leading two in a small town in Russia and one here in RI.  I also found some comfort in the care that he receives there and the way that the caretakers really seem to love him.  I know that a great deal of the peace comes from resting in the fact that God is in control of this entire process.  It's amazing what really "resting" in Him can accomplish.....I wish I had learned this sooner!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Our last day...

     The only thing I can think to compare this week to is my wedding. We planned and planned and then in a blur our wedding was over and it all seemed so surreal. I don't think I have attended a single wedding where I did not cry, or at least have to fight back the tears...and one thing I dreaded about our wedding day was that I would be a mess. Our wedding day came and went without my ever shedding a tear (okay maybe my eyes filled up a time or two, but it was far from normal for me). One of my big fears in coming here this week was having to face an orphanage full of children without families and most of all having to say goodbye to our little boy. I thought for sure I would become an emotional mess and the workers would see me as completely out of control (slight exaggeration). And yet....I only had one evening where I felt overwhelmed with emotion. I know that so many people were praying, and that God gave me strength that was not my own....but I also think that in situations such as these, it is just so surreal that I don't react as I normally would. It's as if I just can't even wrap my mind around things enough! This is somewhat irrelevant to the events of our trip as I have been documenting them, but something I have found interesting nonetheless.

     It feels as if we have been here for months, while at the same time it feels as if it can not possible be the end of our short trip. I can't believe we have said goodbye to our precious boy, and I know this realization will soon set in. We have, however, had an incredible experience here and our time with Levi was truly blessed as we have asked so many of you to pray for time and time again.

     Today we arrived at the baby house about ½ hour later than the rest of the week, only to find that Levi was still sleeping!  He was certainly exhausted yesterday, so we were glad that he had slept well.  They woke him when we arrived which we felt badly about, however they insisted that they were going to wake him soon anyway.  He clearly needed some time to wake up so we held him and just played a little until he was ready.  He soon found his energy and began crawling around as he played with his various toys.  I think his favorite has been the book that we made him….not necessarily for it’s purpose of the pictures of our family, but rather for chewing, licking, sliding on the mats, and flailing around in the air.  Everytime he sees it on the mat, he crawls over, grabs it, flips right onto his back and holds it up.  For some reason he always chooses to hold it by the page with Luke and I on one side and Caleb on the other.  This would be exciting, except that he hardly ever held it right side up, but always upside down or sideways.  If you tried to take it from him to turn it around, flip a page, or control it in any sense, he would immediately whine and express his displeasure.  He is very particular and is not afraid to let you know.  I love it!  When we were walking around yesterday we wanted to get him one small thing that is from Russia, and at first this proved rather challenging.  Most toys, clothes etc. are made in China and are written in English with some Russian words added, but everything looks just like what you could find in the US.  Our facilitator suggested we look for the famous Russian toy which comes from a popular cartoon there.  We found one (Cheburashka) that talks and sings in Russian and brought this to him this morning.  He seemed to enjoy the familiar language and the song especially, and we played with this for some time as well.  After a couple hours, it was very evident that he was tired once again.  He just stops being so active, starts to be more cuddly, and eventually starts to cry.  When I picked him up, he immediately stopped and rested against me.  It is so simple to make him happy again…he just wants to be held and loved.  Oh how my heart melts every time I pick him up and he rests against me.  We stayed that way until he had to go for lunch and a nap and I treasured every minute!

        During his time away we again went downtown and walked around a bit, exploring more of the town.  It was interesting to see where he goes to the doctors for checkups, etc.  We returned to the same restaurant as the other day for lunch and experienced a little more Russian cuisine and then headed back to the baby house.

         We had three hours remaining with him, and he was much more awake and ready to play.  It’s crazy to think that it was only a few days ago that we met him for the first time.  He comes so easily to us and our time together has become such a routine.  We set up the mats when we arrive, put out some toys, sit down and wait for him to come play!  It makes me cringe to think that tomorrow we just won’t come and he won’t have the slightest idea why.  I understand the process, and yet this is the part I cannot fully agree with.  Yes it is hard for us, but we understand what is going on….I wish so much that he KNEW we were coming back and did not want to leave. 

         We thoroughly enjoyed our last few hours, and ventured out a bit with the toys…..we pushed him around on a toy train (he seemed indifferent to the ride, but liked the horn and my saying “choo choo, all aboard”), had him ride on one of those inflatable bouncy animals, and took out some large rings used for I don’t know what.  He seemed to enjoy himself and of course loved the random rings the most.  He flipped them back and forth on the mat for what seemed like forever.  That and playing with Luke’s pinky finger seemed of the greatest interest to him for quite some time. : )  His attention span is quite long, and as I said, he knows what he likes!  Finally, we gave him a stuffed dog we made at build-a-bear that has a voice box inside with us saying “Hi (real name)”, “We love you”, and “we’ll see you soon” in both Russian and English.  He really seemed to love the dog…..twice he sort of bent his head down to look into the dogs eyes….it was quite cute.  Unfortunately I don’t think he can press the Russian toy or the dog on his own, but the caretakers there seem very sweet and I do believe they will do it for him from time to time.  There must always be someone there with us, but here and there others would come in to watch us play with him, and they would interact with him as well.  A few took pictures of us with him on their phones.  They really love him and it shows.  This has been a tremendous comfort in having to leave, and I know we should be grateful.

         At one point in the middle of our time, I could tell he was starting to get tired again and when he started to cry Lucas tried to pick him up and calm him down.  He just kept crying and pulling towards me.  I picked him up and he immediately stopped crying and lay against me.  In four days he has learned that I am his momma.  I am the one to go to for comfort.  Not that Lucas couldn’t and I am sure if he had persisted, Levi would have calmed with him as well.  But he has seemed to enjoy playing with Luke more….I know he has enjoyed playing with me as well, and he has expressed this, however the belly laughs have come when Luke is flying him in the air, or being downright silly with him.  He has learned too that daddy is a lot of fun and loves him a great deal.  This is amazing to me…I truly could not have dreamed of a better time with our son.  He clearly has his own adorable personality and we have absolutely adored getting to know him.  I cannot wait to bring out the toys at home and to sit down and play as a family with both of our boys….and then to cuddle and hold them close.  Yes, I think reality is starting to set in and the real test of patience has only just begun.  Praise God that He cares about every detail of this adoption, every hair on that precious boy’s head, and that He WILL see it to completion in His perfect timing!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Days 3 & 4

Just a warning, this is going to be a long one!  The past two days have been very busy and full of things I don’t ever want to forget the details to.  This is the one place where just about everything has been documented, even if I wasn’t able to post….so here we go!

   Yesterday morning we arrived at the baby home and as we were waiting for Levi to come out, we were given some personal advice/opinions about possibly refusing the referral and trying to obtain a different one while we are here.  I was hesitant to include this, but it is too big to leave out.  Not because of what was said, but because of the 100% certainty we have that Levi IS our son.  This person was not trying to be negative, hurtful or controlling….it was simply their desire to give their personal opinion and to be certain that we have considered all of the possibilities in our situation.  The amazing thing is that there is nothing to consider!  This may cause us to appear flighty or as if we have not seriously considered the possibilities of the future, but this is far from the truth.  We have probably thought of every possible outcome there could be, but none of these things matter when God has asked us to simply follow Him.  This is one of the few times in my life I have ever felt such certainty about anything, and I know now what it feels like to have His perfect peace because I am not in control.  He has equipped us with the finances and resources to come this far, and I know that at this moment Satan is working overtime trying to stop this adoption from becoming a reality.  I have waited expectantly for the roadblocks that he would try to throw our way, but it has more often come in the form of those small doubts, or what ifs that can drive you crazy.  Yet time and time again, I have recognized them for what they are and have been able to move forward with peace and joy in knowing that God is in control. 

       Immediately following our conversation, Levi came out with a caretaker and as soon as he saw us he smiled!  We had only been with him for one day and he already recognized us and greeted us with a smile.  He looked older as he was wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt as opposed to the onesie pj’s from the day before.  It’s funny how clothes do that.  He was also ready to play…he crawled, rolled over and sat up again and again.  He loved playing with the book we made for him and became frustrated whenever it wouldn’t cooperate and stay the way he wanted it…it was serious business!  Luke laid on his back and started to fly him up in the air….he loved it and even started laughing…it was priceless.  At some points, the woman in an office by the room we were in, would peek out the door when she heard him laughing.  I think they all enjoyed seeing him so happy.

      One of his caretakers came in at one point and laid down on the mat to play with him.  She saw the book we made and read it to him in Russian, pointing to our pictures and being silly with him. (She then asked if she could come home with us and him!)  Then she showed us a massage that they do with him (which he seemed to thoroughly enjoy), and also shared with us that she was his godmother.  She left briefly and came back with a baptism certificate which included a piece of his hair….a Russian baptism tradition we were told.  We played for about 2 ½ hours and when lunch/nap time came, he was more than ready for a nap!

     We had a few hours to wait until we could go back so we walked around the town and talked with our facilitator.  We learned that although there are about 53 children in the baby home where Levi is, the reason it has been so quiet is because they are doing renovations and many of the children have been placed in other homes for a short period of time.  We also learned that baby homes have twice the staff of children’s orphanages.  There is a main doctor, and then different nurses, therapists, caretakers etc.  It seems to be run very well and is clean and neat with a good amount of resources in terms of educational toys and materials, strollers, etc.  During our break we ate at a restaurant and tried some Russian pizza….the primary difference is that there is no sauce, but rather tomato pieces are put down on the dough, then the cheese and toppings. 

     After lunch and nap time, we returned to the orphanage and learned that Levi had only been able to sleep for about 20 minutes, due to a trip to the children’s hospital for a routine vaccine.  He was clearly tired and showed some more emotions, whining and becoming easily frustrated….it was adorable! : )  Honestly, with the many stories I have heard of children in orphanages, I was so happy to see him expressing his frustrations and crying.  He was easily distracted, however, and we were able to play for a while inside and then outside as well.  We had requested to meet one particular caretaker who we had been told was his favorite, and she came to meet us when we were outside.  She immediately took him and squeezed and cuddled him….our facilitator translated for us that she doesn’t want him to go!  I can understand why….he is so sweet!  All in all we were able to spend about 5 ½ hours with him which was such a blessing. 

    Today was very different, yet just as priceless.  When we arrived this morning, Levi was clearly still tired and not as interested in crawling around.  We played with him for a short while and at one point I put him down on the mat after picking him up for a moment and he started to cry…like really cry!  I picked him up and he immediately laid on my shoulder, rubbing my other shoulder with his hand.  He just wanted to be cuddled and staid that way for a while.  Eventually he squirmed his way into a laying down position in my arms and I rocked him for no more than 2 minutes and he was sound asleep.  It was so precious….he slept in my arms for almost 2 hours before they finally said he had to eat lunch (they let us stay past when we usually have to leave for lunch and nap in order to let him sleep more).  As I looked at him sleeping in my arms (sometimes with his eyes half open! So cute!) I laughed to myself thinking of the advice to possibly look for another child.  How could anyone say no?  What a precious little life I held in my arms…..I cannot wait to bring him home!  Unfortunately I think he had a fever as he was quite warm, and it seemed to be a reaction to the vaccine, so please keep him in your prayers!  I know that is typical and nothing to worry about, but I hate that I can’t be there to care for him or know how he is doing.  It’s so hard to feel like I am his mom, but to know that really I am no one just yet.

   We weren’t able to go back this afternoon as we had to get his passport and visa photos edited at a photo shop, however we were able to go to and old traditional Russian restaurant and see a little more of the city.  Tomorrow we go back to spend the whole day with our little boy before having to say goodbye!

Monday, October 1, 2012

First Days in Russia

   Where do I begin?! There is so much I want to share and have written so that I don't forget....I apologize in advance if this is all over the place!

   Our journey here was surprisingly smooth....I think I just kept waiting for us to hit a major traffic jam, our car to break down, or the plane to crash. That sounds terrible now that I am typing it, but for some reason (partially due to my tendency to worry that the worst will happen) I had assumed we would encounter at least one major obstacle. Our flight to Moscow was long, but really not all that bad with the exception of my apparently excessive motion sickness when on a plane over 5 hours. We quickly learned that Russians eat well, as we were fed 3 meals during the 10 1/2 hours we were on a plane, all of which had several "courses" to them. We somehow managed to miss our escort in Moscow who was there to help us make our connecting flight to Krasnodar, however there were signs in English and the people who checked us in managed to communicate with us well enough.

   We arrived in Krasnodar on Sunday (Saturday for all of you!) and our facilitator and driver met us there to bring us to our hotel. Our hotel is comfortable and nice and overlooks the main street here in the city. When we arrived the main road was blocked off, which is tradition on weekends (it is quite similar to Boston in our opinion), and there were street performers, vendors, a concert, and lots of people walking around. This is the custom on weekends, but it was also the birthday of the city, therefore the celebration was a bit larger than normal. We quickly put our things away and walked around taking pictures and exploring briefly. It's really quite beautiful, and the weather is perfect (high 70's). That was pretty much day one as we were beat and after skyping with our little man we were able to get some rest!

   So today was the day we've been waiting for! After attempting breakfast (fried chicken and macaroni were amongst the items at the breakfast buffet at our hotel!), we met our facilitator to prepare for our meeting. The meeting was scheduled for 10:30 and they made sure to remind her not to be late. We met and discussed various questions she said they ask everyone, and then walked over. We were a little early, however they invited us in and we sat down in an office ready for our interview. About five minutes, and several statements later (we were not asked a single question), we were given our refferal and asked if we would like to meet Levi today!

   We had to wait for him to eat lunch and have his nap so we walked around the city a bit and talked with our facilitator before driving to the town where the Baby Home is. When we pulled up, I was surprised at how pleasant it seemed. I wasn't really sure what to expect as I have heard of and read about such a variety of experiences people have had in orphanages. This, for children birth to age 5, is called a Baby Home and had two play areas in the front with a variety of swings, slides and toys for the children. It was rather quiet when we entered, however I am not sure where the children were, as we had gone up several flights of stairs.  There were a few offices and a large room with various toys, a television and a piano.  This is where we waited to find out if we could see Levi or meet with the Director.  After several minutes a woman came in with Levi….he is just so precious!  He just stared at us, looking from person to person as if trying to figure out what was going on.  Our facilitator put out a mat and we sat down to play with him.  She handed him to met and his little heart was beating so hard!  I can only imagine how nervous he felt with all of these strangers, and not having any idea what we were saying to him!  Luke made funny faces and played with him and he started to warm up.  He stared so seriously and intently at him, just waiting to see what he would do next.  Then he discovered all of Luke’s jewelry (yes, Luke’s….many of you agree that he wears more than me half the time!).  He wanted to touch and pull his bracelet, play with his watch and feel his ring…it was so cute to watch him interact with his Daddy!  We gave him his little bunny blanket which he enjoyed swinging around by the ear and chewing on (he is most certainly teething!).  Our facilitator gave him a small tambourine and I think we played with that for almost an hour!  He was so sweet….he would copy what we would do, and then if we did something silly he would wait for us to do it again….and again…and again.  I would have played with that tambourine with him for the next 4 days if they let us stay!  As time went on, he would start to smile at our attempts…he also seemed to love it when I clapped and said his name and would often smile if I did so. 

     He was taken to have a snack at some point so we were able to meet with the Director of the house.  She allowed us to ask questions and provided us with the little information she did have.  Then she asked us questions about our family and about Caleb, provided us with some copies of documents, and even left us with an address for Levi’s birthmom.  We are hoping to go to her house and attempt to meet her, so please keep this in your prayers!  Information she could offer would be amazing to have for the future to share with Levi.

      After the meeting we were able to take him outside to play….his favorite caretaker was with him and we pushed him in a stroller to one of the play areas.  We were able to push him on a swing, have him ride a see saw and play with a toy truck….so simple, but so priceless.  He was obsessed with our sunglasses and as soon as he had the chance he grabbed them and began to chew on them : )  There were other children outside in the other play area (probably all around age 4) and he loved to watch them play.  At several times they were standing along the fence calling out to us.  I wish I could have understood and answered, but we waived and smiled.  They were so precious! 

      Although we didn’t see many children and not to the effect I had pictured, I have still been amazed at the peace I have felt.  I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for all of the prayers on our families behalf.  God has truly blessed this process and gone before us and paved the way.  We know that even if we do face obstacles, He is in control, and we have had some setbacks and delays, but everything is happening in His perfect timing.  I have not broken down emotionally as I was so afraid of, and I have not felt nervous or uneasy about meetings and potential interviews which is so far from my personality.  I know this is a peace that can only come from God and knowing so completely that this is His will and therefore I truly don’t have to be worried. 

       As much as I hated to leave, I must say that the caretakers at the baby house truly seem to love and care for our little boy.  They all stopped to talk to him and get his attention and were so sweet with him.  It all still seems so surreal, but I am so thankful that we have finally met him and been able to love on him! 

      We were told there is little chance of him coming home before January, but I am still going to hold onto the small chance that they will allow him to come home sooner for medical reasons.  He will likely not have his second surgery there and we are so grateful that we may be able to be there with him through that experience.  We will certainly share more details once he is home and officially a Cruse!  But for now I will try to keep updating every couple of days!