Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Day in Photos

Today is going to be mainly pictures. So without further ado, Alina....


The stairs that we come down from her group area to go outside.

"I like having a Papa."
 
Alina likes to swing way up high just like here sisters.

She liked seeing the hoola hoop spin on the floor, then jumped right up to try it herself.

"Look Ma, I roped me a Daddy!"

Mama and me jamming to praise music. No, Ethan, we skipped Skillet. :) Plenty of time to introduce her to them.

Mama found a ticklish spot. We love her laugh!

Trudy, Alina loves to empty buckets too. You two will have lots of fun together.

Found another ticklish spot. ;)

More pictures? Yes baby girl. Here Tom is putting on Alina's outside sandals. She has inside sandals too, we think it's to keep her ankles from turning in. Not sure though as the nannies don't speak English.

"Okay, let me get this right. I have how many sisters and brothers?"


The cat is eating something, but look at the size of that bird! This was taken on the orphanage grounds.
 
The trusty guard dog.

Dad teaching Alina something that will have to be untaught later. :)

Or maybe not.

Dad had just spun Alina around. She likes that, just look at that smile.

It's nice to have a Dad to hold you.

Time for Alina to go back to her group. Soon she'll be coming down those steps for the last time.

 Ethan, Phoebe, Lee, Sophie, Holly and Trudy - Alina is hearing all about you guys. We can't wait for you all to meet her. Thanks for everything kids! Dad, Mom and Alina love and miss you all.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Adventures in Transportation

Mary says..

Ok, before we get to the transportation part I want to say something else real quick. Yesterday  I mentioned that we think some of the kids at the orphanage do have parents that come to visit them. I realized today that this is not to unlike our foster care system in America. Sometimes it takes me a little while to process things, but I get there. :) It's sad all around when a loving parent has to give their child over to someone else to raise.

That  being said, let's move on to today's topic. Tom and I are staying about 7 miles from the orphanage. Not too far, but too far to walk. At least for us. :) So, we have to rely on some form of transportation to make it to our visits with Alina. The first day we took a taxi which cost about $5 one way. Not bad, but there are other forms of public transportation here too that we'd thought we would try. Five dollars doesn't sound like a lot, but when you travel to/from the orphanage twice a day that is $20/day for 30 days, now it gets pricey. So, with the help or our English speaking apartment manager, we have been riding the bus most of the time. There are a lot of buses, trams and taxi's in this lovely city.
One of the #150 buses. They have several of every number that continuously come around.

 We have found if we take bus #150 to a certain spot, then walk around a traffic circle to another stop and get on bus #191, it will take us to the street the orphanage is on. The bus rides only cost just over 1 American dollar a day. That's a BIG difference. Of course you have to trade for that. I mean comfort and time. The taxi's are all to yourself, and are faster. By taxi, it only takes us about 15 minutes (with good traffic) to get there. Riding the bus takes about 45 minutes and can get hot and very crowded. Did I mention that they can get crowded? :)
 
 One of the big electric buses.


They have very big electric buses and smaller regular buses. We take the smaller ones. One of them got so crammed full of people yesterday that we almost missed our stop because we couldn't move toward the door. But everyone here is used to it. Nobody minds getting bumped because it's part of the package. I'm not used to being in such close quarters with strangers, but it's what I have to do, so I'm dealing with it. As long as Tom tells me when to get up and move closer to the door, I'm ok. :) Now I completely understand my friend Trina's description of the buses.
One of the smaller buses that we use.

And this is why we take those crammed, hot buses............another day with Alina.
Dad and Alina listening to Mom's MP3 player. She loved listening to the music, we're filling her ears with praises to God. Whenever it would stop playing, she would look around like "what did it stop for, get it back."

My Love and My Newest Blessing hand in hand.

Alina led Dad to one of the playhouses, straight to the bench and climbed up on his lap. She just wanted to hang out and be cuddled this morning. Ok by us!

We found our own corner and Dad read to Alina.  She liked the different textures in the book.

Gotta go, it's time to go find that bus and visit our Sweetheart again.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A little Happy, A little Sad

Mary says...

The Happy,
So we have had two full days of visits with Alina. They have been wonderful. She is showing us what she can do and areas where we'll need to work with her. She has been in this orphanage all of her 5 1/2 years. With that being said, it is easy to understand some of the little things she does. She can climb, catch and throw a ball, ride a rocking horse and even manuever things to where she needs them to be. :) We are thrilled with what she can do and look forward to all the things she will do.  We have heard her wonderful laugh and felt her hugs. She gets our undivided attention for 4 hrs a day. We are learning about her and loving her more with every visit. She likes being in motion, such as swinging, rocking, twirling. We told her that her sisters love to swing and that her brother will keep her in motion. :) She's going to love her siblings! God created her the way she is. Thank you Lord for bringing us to her.
















 The Sad,

While we were having our first visit with Alina this morning, we noticed several other people there "visiting" different kids. We weren't sure if they were adopting too because we were told that local adoptions were on the rise. We are very happy to hear that.

Our other thought was that maybe these adults were actually there visiting their own children. We're not sure as things are confusing without a translator.  We believe sometimes if a family cannot afford to keep a child, they can take them to the orphanage and let the "state" take care of the child. The parents contribute some "child support" and can have visits. My heart was very sad as I thought of parents that have to do this. To leave their child/ren somewhere and only get to visit them. Then I thought of Alina. Did anyone come and visit her over the last 5 years? She has seen other kids get visitors and has seen other kids' new parents come for them. Does she understand any of this? Does she wonder why not her?

Most of the other children in her group are not special needs as far as we can tell. They do understand when visitors come. Eventhough we have only been there two days, the other kids in her group (ranging in age from about 2-4), see us and start saying "Alina Mama" and "Alina Papa". They are full of smiles for us and several come up and hug us only to be called back by an orphanage worker aka "nanny" or "mama". And the ones who don't come and hug us want to. I can tell by their faces. They are holding back when what they really want is to run up to us and hug and say  "my Mama" "my Papa".

When we visit Alina, we get her ready and take her outside to play. There is only a small space inside to visit and only if it rains. Outside there are 4 main play areas, we take time at all of them. Only we have to make sure to stay away from the other kids when they are outside too because we can be a distraction. When we are around other kids, they stop what they are doing and come up to us for hugs. Even when we are holding Alina in our arms, they still hug our legs. The kids that don't venture up to us will wave at us and get as close as they can. It breaks our hearts. We would scoop them all up if we could. There are about 14 kids in Alina's group. Then times that by 4 for how many are there from birth to 4 yrs.

The "mamas" are with them 24 hrs a day.  They do what they can, but they are not "Mamas".  The workers have been very friendly and cooperative with us. We appreciate their care of Alina.

I can't help but think about the other kids. When they turn 5, they will be transferred. Either to an older child orphanage for typically developing children or to a mental institution if they are special needs. If we would not have committed to Alina, she would have been transferred to an institution, but she turned 5 during our process so they have held her for us. Thank you again Lord!

I'm sorry if I seem all over the place, I have a lot of emotions going on right now. It's hard to put them all in logical order.  Please pray that someone's heart would be touched for all of these children, whether they be local or international. That all of these children will get forever families and won't have to watch other people come for other kids much longer. They are all so precious. 

One of the buildings where Alina has spent the last 5 years.

One of the outside "playhouses" where the kids go.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The most important meeting yet!

Tom Says:

Yesterday was a very, very long day (so long Mary didn't finish her Blog post.)  As Mary mentioned we got in early and sat at the pub for few hours, after that our facilitator came and picked up us and our stuff.  She gave us a 20 minute tour of the downtown, and like a bunch of other people told us to go to the opera.

 ...Military Hardware, always a cool picture to post...

 ...I'm not lost (my webfoo needs much practice danielsan)...

After that She took us to the Government office and we met our lawyer (S) who took us in for our local referral.  The boss who had to sign our paperwork was out, so we waited for awhile, Ok, it was a long while; after getting the necessary Hancocks, we jumped in the little 4-door sedan (2 of us, facilitator, & agency rep,) went to pick up our translator,  now 5 people in a tiny car with Luggage and no AC, but actually quite good as we were on the way to see our baby Alina.

We’d seen pictures of the orphanage on another family’s Blog and Mary recognized the gate before I did.  The Staff were very friendly and we had no more troubles about the paperwork.  The Doctor gave us a rundown on her medical condition (V our translator was very good, how impressive to hold two conversations in two languages simultaneously).  They told us she has allergies, I told them that since I do too, it must run in the family, this made them laugh.  And then we got to meet her…

She was brought in by one of the staff, walked up to Mary, and jumped right into her lap.  The Doctor and Staff all started talking real fast, we weren’t sure what was up, then the translator said they were excited as this was atypical behaviour for Alina (remember we were told that she was picky) and it made them happy to see her like this.  Mary says that this is because she knows that we are her Mama & Papa   



I held her for a few minutes but she did not react the same way.  They told me it was because all the Staff  are female, but I’m pretty sure it was my beard (did I mention the beard)



After  meeting her we had to run across the city (literally all the way across the city) to a Notary’s office, it was about 3:30pm by now and the notary called our Facilitator to make sure we were on the way, got there, signed our formal petitions for the court and couple of other documents, and then drove back into the city to check into our apt (about 5pm.)  After that we walked four blocks to the supermarket, did the grocery shopping (bought too much, remember, you have to carry your groceries the whole way back), went back to the apt, cooked dinner, skyped for a couple hours talking to family and friends and then did the Blog (well, Mary did, I was playing spider solitaire) and went to bed entirely too late.  But it was a great day and well worth it as we got to meeting our daughter.

Today we started our regular visiting schedule but more on that later.  Well, one more pic

...I fixed the beard!...Happy Baby!...

Next…Adventures in Transportation…

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Today's the Day!!

Mary says....

Hello all! We are officially in Alina's city! We rode an overnight train from the capital arriving here about 6am. The train ride was interesting. We had a sleeper car with four bunks although we were the only ones staying in the car.




Right after the train took off, four local young people asked if they could sit with us until their stop one hour later. We agreed and had a delightful hour with them. Two of them spoke English, one spoke a little and the other understood it, but couldn't speak it.
They practiced their English and we tried some of their language (with the help of a little language book that we brought with us). They tried not laughing too much at my attempts (or massacre) of their language. We discussed everything from children to making pizza dough. We hope to run into them on the way back as they are commuters to the capital city and ride the train everyday.
After our new friends departed, we settled in to our sleeper car by making the beds with the fresh linens that were provided. We watched the countryside fly by our window ,it really is beautiful here, as we ate our dinner consisting of burgers and fries from McDonalds. Crazy right! We were thrilled to see a McDy's. Ok, I was. Tom would rather eat the local food. We will. Soon. :)


 
Soon we discovered that sleeping on the train would be more difficult than we had expected. I loved the movement of the train which was smooth for the most part, but it was hard to fall asleep. Probably from excitement, nervousness, etc. we both stayed up really late and then only slept in small increments. The attendant came by about 5 am to wake us up and let us know that our stop was approaching. Our facilitator had asked her to do that. The last time we were both up and functioning that early was the day we left for Arkansas.
After exiting the train and heading toward the station, I noticed a man walking toward us very fast with a piece of paper that I thought had Tom's name on it.

So the nice taxi driver didn't quite know where to take us. You see, we have an apartment in this beautiful city already reserved. But no one was in the office at 6am. So he took us to an Irish pub so we could have breakfast, kill time and wait. We've been at this pub for almost 3 hours! We had breakfast a long time ago. :)
They have been very good about letting us hang out. Nothing can dampen this day, we're going to meet Alina in just a few hours! I can't believe this time has come.
Gotta go, our local facilitators are here to help us begin the paperchase! Love to all!  What a day!! God is good!!

Gassy, No Gassy?

Mary says......

Okay, so I made my first purchase the day we arrived. I wanted to buy a bottle of water, so I made my way to a kiosk in the airport. After I put the bottle of water on the counter, the lady says to me "Gassy". Looking at her with bewilderment on my face, I repeat what she said. After she said it quite a few times, I shrugged my shoulders in the typical foreign "I have no idea what you are trying to say to me" way. She then turns around and gets a slightly different bottle of water and places it next to the one I put on the counter. She points to my bottle and says "Gassy", then to the new bottle and says "No Gassy".
I'm sure that she saw the light go off in my eyes, because all of a sudden I understood what she meant. The Gassy water is carbonated!  "AAhhh, no gassy!" I replied.
I don't like to speculate, but I can imagine her thinking "they come to our country and don't even speak the language!"
Thank you water lady, I appreciate your patience. Without your help, I would have ended up with "Gassy" water. :)




 Cool Non Gassy Water Throwing Firetruck!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oohhh the excitement!!! (Mary's title, Tom's post)

Tom says:

Our appointment with the government agency went very well. We talked through the interpreter for a few minutes, told them about our family and how we are preparing to care for her, showed them pictures of the rest of the family (they were impressed and thought the kids look great.)  They mentioned that her record indicates that she's picky, which is great, she'll fit right in.  We got to see two pictures of her, one as a baby and one from only a year ago, she's a cutie pie.  We go back for some additional paperwork tomorrow and then on the train to our next destination, the city by the sea. 


After the meeting our interpreter told us we're free for the day, shoo, so we did a little sightseeing (and walked and walked and walked) we also saw three different cathedrals, our interpeter mentioned that the oldest of which was 1,000 years old, the "baby" young one is only 300 years old.

I forget which one this is, we'll let you know later on.  The rain cut short our adventure so we went back to the apt and I cooked spaghetti, with some locally made breaded chicken balls (kind of like chicken cordon bleau, only no ham, just cheese in the middle) very tasty.

And we also want to say what a great thing skype is...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Delayed.....delayed.....cancelled

Mary says....

First we should start off by praying for the people in Joplin, MO and MN that got hit by tornadoes. How devastating. Lord, that You would comfort them, be their strength and hope, help them to rebuild buildings and lives. Thank you for the people that will be/are going there to provide fresh manpower and shoulders to cry on. In Jesus' name. Amen
May we all see that life is but a vapor. Where will we go after our vapor disappears is the question we need to ponder. I know where I'm going, do you? I've never been through anything like that, I can't imagine the sorrow that they are feeling. But my God knows them intimately and can embrace them with His fullness of love.

Now onto the title info....
We had a lovely Sunday morning with our children and extended family, was blessed to visit their church then said our goodbyes directly following the service in order to get to the airport which was an hour away. I tried really hard not to cry in front of the kids. It was difficult. And didn't last long after I got in the car. ;)
My 16 yr old son hugged me (ok I made him but it still counts) and his arms did NOT fall off contrary to what he believes. To see them get in the van without me was tough. This is not a simple weekend away where I could happily watch my children leave knowing that I would be with them again in two days. This was much harder. Now I have a taste of how my husband feels when he goes away for work. I tried to let them all know how much I loved them in the few seconds when I hugged them or waved. I hope that Tom and I have showed them enough how much we completely love them. 

The first leg of our multi flight trip to our daughters' country was supposed to leave at 5:49pm yesterday. I say supposed to because it obviously didn't. It got delayed for hours because of weather at OHare in Chicago. then finally around 10pm, it was officially cancelled. So, we had to rebook all of our flights and found a hotel with a shuttle bus. It was all pretty upsetting. So many ups and downs as it was going to go, but late, then later, then maybe later, then not at all. It worked out though because we would not have wanted to fly through the bad weather in Chicago. That is what Pastor Joel would call an interruption. We very much tried to view it as that during the process and asked God, "what is it that we're supposed to be learning or doing with this interruption?" Of course we prayed, but God was keeping us away from where we were going for a reason. We fully realized that later. :) Better late than never.

So we went to the hotel which turned out to be really nice and less expensive than we originally thought. Score! We've had a good breakfast, coffee, and Lord willing will be leaving in one hour and get to our final destination tomorrow afternoon.

One more thing.....this is for Stephanie, our gate ticket worker (not sure of correct job description),
Be Nice to Your ticket counter workers.  She was there when we got there 3 hours before our flight was supposed to leave (and was still there when we left) and had to deal with telling the whole lobby of passengers multiple times that the flight was delayed and re-booking for HOURS. She had some pretty rude people, but she handled it all well. I understand frustration and often exhibit it, but really people control yourselves. There is a difference between being assertive to get what you need, and being downright rude.

Hello to the kids......Mama and Daddy love you!   Hello and thank you to anyone else who ventures this way. God bless you.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Day 3: Jump right in…



             
Tom Says:

Nope, this is not a post about swimming, though it’s hot enough here that we could have.  The bad thing about time zone changes is that sometimes they work against you as well, after staying up too late last night it was really hard getting up early today.  The kids are having a good time hanging with the dogs, did I mention that my sister has 6 of them, while Trudy still wants to be held while near them, she is now willing to pet them.  The other kids hung out, watched a couple of movies and lounged for awhile before Mary took them to the store to do some last minute shopping before we leave.

My sister started a dog grooming business and is building her own shop in back of the house, (they’ve got a double lot with streets on both sides of the house, so there’s easy access for the customers out there,) I spent the day helping to level the floor in the bathroom and putting up paneling on the walls it was great fun and the least I can do to help a wonderful sister who’s there for us.  Ethan and his cousin did a great job helping us with the construction.   We’re going to my nephew’s graduation tomorrow, and then a little more work on the shop.  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Day 2: Road Trip Over

Tom Says:

The nice thing about time zone changes is that sometimes they work in your favor.  I got up at 5am today, and my body thought it was 6, which is about the time I usually get up.  I had a quick shower and a leisurely breakfast (waffle) and then got Mary up and started on the kids.  They ate breakfast while I repacked the stuff we'd pulled out.  Because we did so well yesterday, we got on the road a little after 7 and still managed to make it to my sister's by 4pm.

We have the most wonderful friends and I was remiss in not mentioning them yesterday.  The usual game the kids play is called: "are we there yet," however, our friends gave us a bunch of wrapped gifts that had directions on them (something sweet, something salty, open when leaving the state, open on day 2, open on arrival), so we wound up playing the: "can we open a package yet" game for most of the trip.  The kids were actually very good about this and the presents were all well thought out and most delightful, helping to pass the time and distract the kids from the ride.

After seeing the scenery the kids have decided that they want us to buy a farm, with a castle on it, and horses, lots of horses...and dogs.  Trudy loves the dogs, only she's scared of them at the same time, which is cute, because they're toy poodles, she's bigger than them, she'll crouch down and call to them, and when they come running to her, she'll shriek and run away, only to start the whole thing over again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 1: Beginning of a life changing road trip.



Ethan Says:

I was woken up at 4:00am this morning. Shortly after finishing packing my stuff, I helped my dad load stuff on the trailer and in the car. As 4:30 came along, my mom woke up one girl at a time and helped them get in the car. Finally after checking our luggage one last time, we departed on a trip that will change all our lives one way or another; especially Alina’s. Dad, Mom, and I; being the representative for the children of the back seats, made the decision to travel only two days in the van instead of three. My sisters awoke in the van after a good two to three hour nap. To keep themselves busy, they looked at books and watched “Clifford the Big Red Dog” over and over again. 

Every three hours we would take a break, pull over to a rest stop, and have everyone use the bathroom, stretch our legs and eat some snacks. Every now and then my mom would point out crosses that were put up by an unknown person on their land by the highway. Swapping seats every time we stop, Phoebe and Leanore would take turns sitting next to Trudy and sitting in the jumper/seat. Also switching seats, Dad and Mom took turns driving through heavy rains and up ’n’ down steep mountains. An hour before arriving at our hotel, Trudy started to get really cranky. After unloading everyone into the hotel, dad ran next door and ordered some pizza. Eating our food I turned on the TV and flipped through every channel we to find out there was only one kid friendly show on. When “The Return of Nanny McPhee” ended, the family split up into our separated rooms and fell asleep.


Tom Says:

Packing actually started over the weekend as Mary and I got items together piece by piece and started jig sawing the whole thing together.  After staying up too late getting the van packed I awoke to my beautiful bride showing me a whole nother pile of stuff to get into the van.  I love her dearly but how much stuff do the kids need for six weeks?  That and we’re bringing the motorcycle to my sister; she loves to ride and is looking forward to that challenge of getting it to run again. Needless to say, the trailer and van are packed to the gills and I love my wife.

We intended to start the day with a family prayer; getting an early start it didn’t happen that way.  The kids were out of it from the get go and we were just trying to get on the road before rush hour hit.  So, with a quick “Lord, don’t let us crash” we were off. Even though it rained most of the day, it was light and didn’t slow us down much.  And here we are, not crashed yet, the Lord suffers the fools and the innocents, not sure which, but I’m grateful for all His love.  Before bed, Mary did a quick lesson from Sophie’s kindergarten book, from Creation on God creating Man’s helpmate, and that she is, I love her dearly and can’t wait to see what the next 13 years bring...

Tomorrow we don’t go as far, pray for a safe arrival at my sister’s.

p.s. some pictures to follow soon

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Packing for the "Alina" trip

Ethan says:

    I must say, I am a professional last minute packer. I've been packing that way ever since I can remember. On the other hand my sisters love to pack(especially the little ones) once they are told their going somewhere. For this trip my sis's have been packed for over four weeks. :0! I don't understand why my mom is still worried, after more than fifty trips in all different places ranging from a whole week of backpacking in the Smoky Mountains to weekend campouts with my scout troop to months of traveling around America visiting family, that I will not be prepared for this trip. Maybe because its just a mothers instinct.? My parents have been packing a little at a time and their almost done. They have been studying everything where their going for the past few weeks, especially my dad being a person who travels a lot for work. They'll have an assistant that will be with them to help with everything they....well I guess need help with. LOL.

More coming,
Ethan

Monday, May 9, 2011

I have no idea how to use this......

Unfortunately I say that all too often. Hi, I'm Mary, the mom of this adorable family. (I'm also very humble)

So, I thought I'd come on here and add some things and make it all pretty like other blogs that I've seen, then I found myself sitting here staring at a screen and having no idea how to make anything work. I have been reassured by my dear friend that I will learn things, eventually. Over time. I'm not an over time kinda gal. That's why I like that fast food place (sidenote: it should be named McMary's for as much as I support the franchise) and get upset if my fast food isn't fast enough. I have to say that this adoption has made me sit back and wait. over. time. We have not been able to speed things up, we have had to wait on other people to do their things to get our paperwork done. We have to wait and trust that people whom we have never met are doing what they are supposed to be doing.
It really boils down to me having to trust God. Do I trust Him and where He has directed our lives? Do I trust that He'll do what He says He'll do? Yep. I do. I have to. If I put my trust anywhere else, it will fail. The truth is that Jesus died in my place so that I may have my sins forgiven and be right with God. Therefore I owe Him no less than my life. Before I was happy to admit that Jesus was my co-pilot, now I'm ready to completely give the wheel over to Him.  So our wait is almost over. We will be going to get Alina soon. We've almost made it. We're coming Sweetheart! Soon we'll be hugging and kissing that beautiful little girl that has grown in all of our hearts. Okay, maybe it's good to wait sometimes.
So, I'll wait some more and try to work at this blog thing a little at a time. I wonder if there is an "Under Construction" banner that I can put across the screen. I'll have to ask my dear friend. Can I do that? And if so, will you walk me through it?

Welcome to our family blog

Welcome to our family blog. My name is Ethan and I will be your guide. My family has been on a adventure to adopt a five year old girl from Eastern Europe. Within two weeks we'll all be leaving our home to embark on the last steps of our jouney (LOL!) to bring my new sister home. Me and my five other sisters will be staying with family while my parents fly to EE to finish the paperwork, meet and bring back Alina.

 
PS: My mom bought a dollar store poster that said "Education is a jouney, not a race." I just thought it would be funny to spell it like that---if you're from New Joysey please disregard. :)