We are so excited to introduce you to our beautiful daughter, Keira Lee Cruse!! Today was a whirlwind and we didn't quite accomplish all that we had hoped to in this short visit, but court was successful and we were able to spend time with our daughter, so altogether it was an amazing whirlwind. Can I just say it feels amazing to be able to say we have a daughter!!!
Our wonderful facilitator was faced with the predicament of having two families with court at the same time in two different cities. Since our case was a bit simpler, we had another translator accompany us to court today. It made us slightly more uneasy I think, but she was very nice and all went well. We arrived at the courthouse and waited for Olya, her aunt and sister to arrive. We originally thought maybe her grandmother and cousin were coming as well, and really originally thought we'd be picking her up at her aunt's apartment, but the details were unclear until this morning. Of course every time a car went by, we stared obnoxiously trying to see if it was them. They finally arrived and it was so nice to be able to meet some of her family. They were very nice, though her aunt still had some hesitations so we tried to answer her questions as best as possible. They were not allowed to go into the courtroom with us, so they waited outside when we went in. Olya was so sweet.....she wore a dress that had belonged to her cousin when she was young, with her crazy sneakers that we had bought on our last trip...she looked adorable. We gave her the shoes we had brought and she eagerly put them on (with her bright striped socks :) ). She was so excited when her caretaker arrived (the one we spent time with in Kiev) and we were really happy to see her as well.
Olya was asked to wait outside of the room, and we went in along with the prosecutor, social worker, caretaker who represented the boarding school, two jurors, the judge and the woman who assisted him. It was just a small room, so much less intimidating that I pictured, and much more similar to the court setting in Russia. We were asked several questions, documents were looked through etc., and Olya was asked to come in and give her consent. I was holding together fine until she came in, and then I lost some control and could not hold back a few tears. She was so brave...so certain....so confident and unwavering as she stood before so many adults and made it known that she wanted to leave all that she knows behind, to come to America with us. They asked her to leave after hearing her consent, went through a few more steps and after waiting ten minutes for a decision to be made, we were called back in to hear that the decision was favorable!
As we left the courthouse we gave Keira a gift we had brought. I had wanted to find something special...something meaningful and just recently as I cleaned out my jewelry box to find things that I could add to hers, I found the perfect gift. I had long since saved some jewelry from when I was much younger, and came across two things I had almost completely forgotten about. A gold chain and ring, both with a "K" on them. I had hoped someday to be able to pass them on to a daughter, or to someone else if we didn't have a daughter with my same initial. And as I took them out I was amazed that our daughter had chosen a name with my same initial, and that I could indeed pass them on to her. She was so appreciative and put them on right away.
We spent most of the day from then on with Keira and her sister. She chose McDonalds for lunch so we spent quite a while there, trying to communicate. Her sister spoke some English which was helpful but we had quite a few moments of thinking we possibly understood each other, but then again maybe not. At one point, a girl and her mom sat beside us and after a few minutes of listening to us struggle, she came over and offered to translate. She was probably the same age as Keira and was so sweet and helpful. It was a great chance to throw out some questions we had and make plans for where to go next. We ended up heading to an outdoor kids area which was actually pretty neat once we finally got to go. On the way Keira realized that her dress wasn't exactly suitable for this, and we remembered that we'd packed some clothes to have her try on to be sure she'd fit in what we had at home. She was so excited so we went back to McDonalds to change and then back to the play area. On the way we met her aunt and her aunt's friend and then were able to spend some time together. She was so cute, again excited about everything and enjoying herself fully. There were bumper cars here too and once again she yelled "nyet papa" anytime Luke tried to bump her! We spent the rest of our time there before taking Keira and her sister to the bus station to say our goodbyes. It's so hard having to leave her here, but knowing Luke will return in just a short time helps some. I can't wait until we are all under one roof at home.
We had some documents to take care of as I'm not returning, and were able to bring all of the gift bags to the orphanage for storage until Luke returns to give them out to the kids. And then we drove right back to the airport where we are now waiting to return home. It went by way too fast, but we are so grateful for the time we had...with our daughter, with her family....getting to know more of her history..... One of her aunt's hopes is that we would love Keira as our own....not differently as an adopted child, but just the same as a biological child. I know it is so hard for her to know us and who we are, how we feel etc. but I so wish I could convey how much that is already the case.....that we fell in love with her on the first day. It's both so different and so similar to when they place your newborn baby in your arms....hard to explain and imagine if you've not been there...but we fell in love with each of our children when we first laid eyes on them. They are gifts from God....He knew before time began that they would be our children...it doesn't matter how they've come to us.....
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After meeting our daughter we were asked what her new name would be. We were taken off guard since she is older and we really hadn't considered this. It was suggested that we ask her if she desired to change her name (and that we have some options ready just in case), so that night Luke and I were on google looking up names. Of course Luke was fixating on all of the ridiculous names so I suggested we narrow it down in some way. Maybe we were just beyond exhausted and overwhelmed, or maybe it makes sense, but I suggested we choose several names ending in "a" so it didn't sound so foreign to her (pretty much all Ukrainian female names end in "a"....at least that we could think of). We picked a few and the next day tried to casually mention that she had a choice if she wanted to keep her name, which we thought was beautiful, or to have an American name. We suggested that she just think about it before giving an answer and waited until the next day to ask again. (we did need to know before leaving to go home as it was needed for court documents). She seemed certain that she wanted to change it, but as was mentioned, she did not know what name she wanted. We asked if she wanted to hear some names, she did, and we listed a few. She picked Keira out of the list right away and seemed confident that was it. We asked if she wanted Olya as her middle name and she said no. Trying to think quickly, we suggested Lee.....this is Luke's middle name and one that has been carried on in his family for many years. It is typically a first or middle name of one member of each family, and we had hoped to make it the middle name for our next child. We thought it would be neat to have her carry on that family tradition, and as soon as we mentioned it, she said yes! We had some hesitations about changing her name, especially at this age, but she seemed so certain and we felt this should be her choice.