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Sunday, May 28, 2006
The Adopted Child
One thing pre-adoptive parents (PAP's) do for the arrival of their children is read every book imaginable on the subject of adoption, attachment, and parenting. There are some pretty fantastic books out there and then there are some that are just crap. I will admit that my list of books I have read if quite limited. I need to read at least one book on attachment and re-read the chapter of The Russian Adoption Handbook on what to do once your child is home. So this post is not a book review by any stretch of the imagination. If you want one of the best book review lists ever written read THIS post by Jen. She is working on a few others, but this is one of the most comprehensive lists I have ever seen.

What strikes me is on particular is actually a book not on Jen's list. Frankly I am glad it isn't there. I am talking about Twenty Thing Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew. For those of you who have read this book will know that it portrays adoption in a less than positive light. Sure there are many books out there that are positive adoption stories, but this one book just rubs me the wrong way. I have picked it up multiple times in stores, skimmed through it and put it back in disgust.

Living with an anthropologist has taught me to be very observant of my surroundings. I think this is why I love blogs and message forums so much. It gives me the opportunity to observe individuals with a kind of anonymity. Over the last 18 months I have tried to be aware of my surroundings in the adoption community. I have read people's posts on dealing with adding a child's culture into their family structure. I have seen countless questions on how to talk to your child about them being adopted. Worries about the possibility of loving "someone else's child." So on and so forth. All of these questions are very valid. Each family has concerns about adding an additional unit to their already existing family and how that unit will impact the whole. What I want to do is give you some insight as to what it is like to be the adopted child.

I am an adoptee. This isn't a secret. You have heard me talk about it before. But for the newcomers, there you have it. I have always known that I am an adoptee. What's more is that I was an only child until the age of 8. My family structure is a little screwy and for another post all together. Anyway, I am the third oldest of 23 grandchildren on my dad's side. I am (or was) very close to my cousins. They were like brothers and sisters. They never treated me any different than them.

When we started the adoption process I sat down with my mom and asked her if I had ever asked about my adoption. She said no. I remember looking at my baby book and seeing the photos of her taking me home from the hospital. I knew she never gave birth to me and I never questioned it. There was never a specific moment in my life where my mom or dad sat down and said, "Elle, you are adopted." It was just common knowledge. Maybe I am just not a "why" asker. But I like to think that I have never felt any different than my other cousins because my adoption was treated as normal. It was never put on a pedestal. I was never singled out. Never a mention that I wasn't a "biological." I was just me. But at the same time it was never a secret. I loved telling my classmates that I was adopted. It gave me some kind of cool status.

Granted I was a domestic adoptee. My parents never had a color issue to deal with or an age issue, but I am an adoptee all the same. I don't know if this give me a unique insight on how to be an adoptive parent, but I would like to think so. I want to follow my parents' example.

Thank you mom and dad for all that you ever did for me. I only hope I can be as good of a parent as you are.

So the Elle assvice underlying all of this; don't treat your child any differently than you would a biological child. Don't keep their adoption a secret, but don't single them out as "the adopted one" either. Embrace their culture and add it to your existing family structure. Celebrate your family as a Russian/Chinese/Indian/Guatemalan/Vietnamese-American family.

This is my mom's favorite poem:

Not flesh of my flesh, Nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
You didn't grow under my heart - but in it
--- Fleur Conkling Heylinger

This is mine:

today I kissed an angel

I knew it from the start

the first time my angel

smiled at me

I gave away my heart

today I kissed an angel

this angel child of mine

though not of my creation

my child by God's design

today I kissed an angel

my heart is dancing wild

a family, by a miracle

blessed by this angel child

Wednesday, May 24, 2006
In defense of Accreditation...
You heard us talk about accreditation and re-accreditation heavily in the last year. I am sure our regular readers never thought they would hear those words uttered out of my mouth ever again. But as of May 17th a significant number of agencies had their accreditations expire. The families with those agencies were, for the most part, clueless as to what the big deal was all about. They knew that those of us with unaccredited agencies were stuck. There was a general sense of, "oh it won't happen to us. They'll get it fixed and we'll get our accreditations right away." At least that is the opinion of this particular writer. I am very well aware that there are exceptions to the norm and there are some of you who were very well aware of what was going on and I am very sorry it is now happening to you.

The issue the May 17th agencies face is yet another new law implemented by the Russian Government. This law states that all non-profit organizations working in Russia must be registered with the Ministry of Justice as an NGO (non-governmental organization.) After the agencies are registered as an NGO they can go through the process of receiving accreditations. This delays the accreditation process by a few months. So most agencies aren't expecting to receive their accreditation until late July or August.

Sure you heard me complain about the wait, the process and there was a little bit of the why me thrown in there, but these types of things are coming up with the families in the same situation we were in last year. To all of you I will say that I know exactly how you are feeling. For those of you stuck in between your trips I really know how you are feeling. Don't believe me? Read THIS post. I've been there.

But despite all of the heartache we have been through in the last 12 months I am a defender of the accreditation process. Don't hate me. I have very good reasons for believing the accreditation process is a good thing. I will make one caveat here. I don't agree with the long delays for the reaccreditation of agencies.

So why do I defend accreditation? First a little background on accreditation and its reasoning.

The accreditation process was started in 2000. It was designed as a way for the Russian government to keep tabs on the children placed in foreign homes through post-placement reports. Post-placement reports are a legal requirement in the United States for all families adopting domestically but not internationally. Russia had no control over post-placement reports and could not ensure the welfare of the children. The US didn't care about the welfare of the children since they have never instituted a post-placement requirement for internationally adopted children. And have yet to do so to this day.

Prior to accreditation agencies may have found that it was unnecessary for parents to file post-placement reports. The same could be said for the families themselves. The whole mentality of, "I have mine, I don't care about you." Needless to say the Russians thought something should be done. Thus Accreditation.

The original idea is that no agency could do work in Russia without accreditation. Well regions tend to interpret the laws as they see fit. So agencies started "umbrellaing" under accredited agencies. Families signed up with XYZ agency, but their paperwork said ABC Agency. The Russians overlooked this and also allowed independent adoptions to take place. Again, no recourse over these "umbrellaed" agencies or the independents. However if a family that worked with an accredited agency regretted to file their post placement reports the Russian government had the power to revoke their accreditation, thus resulting in that agency not being allowed to work in Russia.

The next logical question would be; why are post-placement reports important? The rule is that the social worker that wrote your original home study will be the one to write the post placement report. The social worker has to physically see the child and ensure that child's well being then write the report. This is an impartial 3rd party essentially ensuring that you are fulfilling your end of the "you are approved to parent" bargain. That whole 171-H permit to be a parent thing.

Well... since 1996 12 Russian children have died at the hands of their adoptive parents. To read more about each case HERE (**this writer does not agree with the majority of work the Bastardette writes in her blog. The information about these children serves as a reference only**) If you break that list down to its most basic information it shows that of the 12 children on the list 2 were adopted through accredited agencies, 2 were adopted through an unknown agency, 1 was independent and 7 were adopted through agencies that were not accredited. (at least I don't believe they were, they are not now) The list also show that of the 12, 7 children were due for their first post-placement report (due at 6 months from court.) The logical conclusion is that the deaths of these children could have been prevented if a social worker had been at the families homes to check on the children.

So back to the original question. Why am I in favor of the accreditation process? The process allows for only accredited agencies to perform adoption in Russia. The Russian government then has recourse with the agencies to ensure post-placement reports are done on time. The agency is then under added pressure to make sure the families complete the post-placement reports. Agencies often write clauses into their contracts giving them recourse with the families.

To summarize a very long and drawn out explanation; the Russians are just trying to ensure the welfare of their children. How can we fault them for that. If you ask me they are doing what is in the best interest of the children. But if you ask me the Russian government could really use an efficiency expert to assist them with streamlining the process.

I do have much more to say on this particular subject and the subject of Russian adoption in general. So stay tuned.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Coffee Talk: Life Milestones
For the record; today I have eaten 2 scones and a bowl of cherry tomatoes covered in ranch dressing. Healthy? Obviously not, but it is something. Don't worry, I am going to make a run to Trader Joe's later this afternoon for some quick and easy food.

D is officially on an airplane to Minnesota. I bet you can feel his joy at having to get back on an airplane. It was quite humorous watching him yesterday. He kept checking with the airline trying to get an exit row seat. It is a 4 hour flight from Seattle to Minneapolis and he is worried about an exit row? He flew to freakin' Korea with no exit row! His theory... there is less leg room on domestic flights. To his credit he is correct. So in comfort my dear husband flies to the great midwest and leaves me home alone.

So onto a coffee talk subject.

My birthday is in exactly 31 days. One month people. Normally when I get worked up about my birthday it is to remind people how many more shopping days until the big day. This year the twitter is because I am turning 30.

Sure, many of you who are over 30 will say, "oh it's no big deal. You are just another year older. Oh just wait until you turn 40."

Turning 30 in and of itself is not that bad. My issue is that within the span of 3 months I will experience 3 major life milestones. I have my birthday in June, then hopefully a court date in July (thus becoming a parent) and our 10 year wedding anniversary is in August. These things combined into such a short period of time are really freaking me out.

As I was pulling tiny little clothes out of the dryer I had a sort of epiphany (if that is what you want to call it.) I realized that I am going to be responsible for another human life. While the prospect of becoming a parent is exciting it is also frightening. What do I feed this thing? What do I do with it? Why on earth do I want to be a parent?

And the anniversary thing. It doesn't seem like we have been married that long. I look at the photos and see these 2 naive little children. In fact we do make it a point to stress to others how stupid we were for getting married so young. But despite the ups and downs we have had over the past 10 year I still love my husband more everyday. In fact he has only been gone 2 hours and I miss him already. I does seem like it was only yesterday that we were saying our, "I do's."

Sure, I will only be another year older and another year married and I will become a mom, but I realized something in the process. I have become an adult. I am entering the pool of the thirty-somethings. What I would consider true adulthood. One of those people with the nice house, 2.5 kids, careers and a generally happy family.

Don't get me wrong. I am happy. It just seems like such a big deal to me. So my coffee talk topic is; have you ever had these types of feelings at a major life milestones? What did you do to deal with it or are you ignoring the fact that it ever happened? If you could go back to those milestones would you do things differently?
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Virtual Chicken Soup
I wanted to give a big thank you to all the well wishes from everyone. It has been a very long time since I have been this sick. I did have strep throat last fall, but wasn't very ill with it. This time I am just wiped out.

I will say that I made the mistake of doing a little too much yesterday. We had bell choir rehearsal in the morning and then off to the docs. From there we went to our local Fred Meyer store (grocery/clothing/ everything store) to get my prescriptions filled. We decided to wait it out and wandered around the store. Once my drugs were ready I noticed that the cough syrup the doc prescribed way Mytussin. The same stuff I already had at home, but my old stuff had expired. Anyway, from previous experience I knew that this stuff tastes nasty. I mean drinking soap nasty. Well thanks to the miracles of modern medicine they can include additives to your medications to make them more palatable. I asked the pharmacy assistant if they could add something to my cough syrup. This woman looked at me like I was the biggest baby in the world. (The stuff flavorings are really meant for children) I did get my way, but it took another 15 minutes for the pharmacist to add the stuff. So more wandering around.

I did spend most of the afternoon on the sofa, but did get up to walk around my garden. We had previously made plans to go see the DaVinci Code with Kathou and PayPay on Saturday. The smart person would have said I'll take a rain check, but I was so excited to get off the couch I thought I would be fine.

You know the person that sits behind you in the movie theater and coughs through the entire movie? Yeah that was me. I felt awful. I started coughing everytime I inhaled. I think it was God's way of saying, "see you should have stayed in bed."

Today I am taking the advice. I did have to attend church this morning since it was our big bell "concert" and then our semi-annual congregational meeting. When your husband is the council secretary you kind of have to attend these kinds of things. After that I parked myself on the couch and have been here all afternoon.

I must say though that this antibiotic they gave me is the grossest stuff. The pharmacist warned me it would give me a bitter taste in my mouth. Bitter is an understatement here people! It tastes like I have been throwing up all day. This is worse than the smell of the stinkiest cheese or feet. Fortunately it doesn't make food taste gross.

I wanted to send good wishes to all the others who are sick out there too. Margaret, Caroline, and any others. Also, please keep Derek's Grandma "Bunny" in your prayers. Bunny has suffered from heart related issues for quite a while now and she is in poor health. D's parents are back in Kansas with her now and Mom did report that she is quite puny. Her doc said it was a little touch and go the week before last, but they are adjusting some of her medications and that should help. We really are wanting her to get better. She has a new great-grandson to meet! Despite the fact that I really wanted to go up to Alaska this fall to see my good friend Jake and meet Olga, and Rhonda we are making sure that our first trip anywhere with Pickle is to Kansas to see GG Bunny and the rest of the Bartel/ Lindholm family.

Hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. I have to take D to the airport tomorrow for his trip to Minnesota. So would someone please send me an email on occasion reminding me to eat. I have a tendency to overlook meals when I am alone.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Congratulations! You have...

D finally comes home at 10:00 last night and I am already in bed. I try to carry on a conversation with him. His reply... "We'll take you to the doctor tomorrow." I think I liked it better when he was gone. So he loads me into the car late this morning and drives me to the "doctor in the box," as my SIL calls it. Very nice doc declares that I have Bronchitis. Great.

The good news is I do feel much better. I only lose my energy when I do a lot of walking.

In even better news we got our paperwork mailed off to Olga this week. We only need our new fingerprint clearance and the appointment for that came yesterday. The appointment is for June 1st, but we are going to try to sneak in on Monday. I have to take D to the airport and his flight doesn't leave until the afternoon. So we might make a trek to Seattle, the Dept. of Homeland Security and then I will drop him off at the airport.

We are hoping our much anticipated release letter will come sometime next week. After that it should take about 3 weeks or so for Pickle's paperwork to be gathered and for our facillitator to file to court. From that it is taking about 2 months for the actual court date. Two of our AIA families got court dates this week. The one I know for sure is on the 15th of June. Their paperwork was filed to court April 12th and they heard about the court date on the 19th of May. So you do the math. The other benefit that will hopefully work to our advantage is right now one of the other agencies in Khab had their accreditation expire on the 17th and another expires on June 9th.

While we are saddened that there will be a delay for those families waiting for referrals and 1st/2nd trips we are somewhat happy that the judge won't be backlogged with those cases. We do wish for a speedy reaccreditation process for those agencies. We never would wish the horrible wait on anyone else. Especially since we know some of you have referrals and some have already travelled on your 1st trips. You are in our thoughts and prayers.
Friday, May 19, 2006
down, down, down...
in a burning ring of fire. Ok did anyone else see that movie and love it? I will say that I thought it was awesome!!! If you didn't like it then too bad for you.

My health matters have seemed to take a turn for the worse. I had quite a bit of energy yesterday, but by the time I got home from my day at work I had little to no voice left. I had planned on spending my evening on the couch watching the season ender of That 70's Show and the season finale of CSI. Unfortunately I had to attend to some urgent friend matters. In other words a girlfriend called and needed someone to talk to. HA!!! She had just talked to me a few hours earlier and knew the sorry state of my voice, but she insisted that she would do most of the talking. HA again!! I thought she knew me better than that. So... being the good friend that I am I armed (ok D armed) my trusty Tivo and out the door I went.

We met for drinks and she told me what was bothering her. We had a nice "conversation," but by the time I got home my voice was shot. Without even speaking to D I managed to get myself ready for bed and climb right in where I erupted into death coughs.

My sweet husband asks if there is anything he can get for me. I said no. I had already taken cough syrup with codine. The problem was that the drink I had gave me a rockin' headache. So dutiful husband gets me something for the headache and I drift off into drug induced sleep for about an hour. Then up to pee then to sleep, up to pee, then to sleep. Do you get my drift here?

No sleep and D's alarm going off at 5 am was not helpful. He left at 6:30 this morning and I thought I was dying. I finally drug my sorry ass out of bed at 7:30 since I was not getting any sleep anyway.

In the upright position I do much better. Feels like someone is sitting on my chest when I lay down. I did manage to make it to the drug store for some non-narcotic cough syrup. I have no voice whatsoever. I mean none! That does not make yelling at the cats easy. Of course D left to go to Portland for an all day meeting and then he is having dinner with his sister. So there is no one to take care of me. This sucks. Someone feel sorry for me. This might be my last opportunity to be taken care of before Pickle comes home. Because let's face it, with a little person around Mommies aren't allowed to get sick.

Someone send me some chicken soup.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
The Weekly Update
Well I haven't done a true a true weekly update for a while so here you go.

This week's update is brought to you by "Derek Fancy Beer." Evidently I did not have a choice in this evening's alcoholic beverage choice so I was served some kind of Belgian Blond Ale. It was actually pretty good.

So you want some adoption news? Too bad. There isn't any. You get a weather report instead.

Today's weather was beautiful. Monday's weather was hot, Tuesday was hot, Wednesday was hot, but today was nice. Tomorrow... also supposed to be nice. This weekend, wouldn't you know it Rain.

In other news; I am still suffering from D's bird flu. My throat no longer hurts and I can swallow things, but now I have no voice. I sound like Phoebe in that episode of friends. You know where she has the "sexy voice" but the proceeds to erupt into a nasty hacking cough. Yeah that one.

Today in sports; I think the world is coming to an end. I have not watched any of the hockey playoffs since we have been home. I think I am mentally deranged or something. I have somehow just stopped caring.

So onto who we are going "out" this week. Visitor from Birmingham, Alabama please introduce yourself. You have 69 returning visits to our blog. If you are a regular reader and have commented on a regular basis I apologize. I blame any sense of stupidity on the bird flu.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Coincidence or divine intervention?
I am a suffering miserable mess. D gave me his bird flu and it sucks big time. It is the strangest illness I think I have ever had. I have a sore throat that is killing me. I can barely swallow, open my mouth or speak. There is crap in my sinuses, but no sinus headache. All that crap is running into my already sore throat and it also feels like someone is sitting on my chest. Fortunately the joint pain has subsided for the moment. Last night my feet hurt so bad I could barely walk. I am sorry sweetheart for not being sympathetic when you were sick.

So with the illness returns the lack of sleep. Did you know we have a pack of wild coyotes in our area? Oh yeah. Fun times at 2 am.

While laying awake I started thinking. I realized that it was September of 2004 that I had my last visit with Dr. Indifferent. The one who told me we could keep trying to get pregnant or he could just cut me open to find out what is wrong. A while later is when I started thinking about adoption. I can't remember the exact time as to when I heard "the call," but I do know it was in late October of early November 2004. My first journal entry was Nov. 27, 2004. So it had to be a while before that.

The reason this is distinct is because if you recall the process to this adoption started with a call from God. I sat at the computer looking at different programs. I felt this unmistakable push from behind and words whispered in my ear, "I gave you your child, I put him in Russia." Something that strong cannot be ignored. What's more is that Pickle's birthday is in late October of 2004.

So is it just coincidence or divine intervention that this particular little boy was chosen to be our son?
Monday, May 15, 2006
Because I want to
Since this is my blog (ok, it really belongs to D and I, but he rarely posts)... anyway, since this is my blog I am going to do what I want to.

I will say that my regular readers have been very good at commenting. Thank you all. I appreciate you and will try my best to reciprocate as much as possible.

So I have what I call my "Secret Squirrel Stat Counter" hooked to all of my blogs and websites. You can't see it, you can't check it because only I have the power!! And I like it that way. Even D doesn't know the password. Of course that isn't because I don't want him to know, it is just because I have never gotten around to giving it to him. Although, he is pretty bright so I am sure with a little deductive reasoning and time he could figure it out.

Where was I? Oh yes. Today my stat counter told me that I had a visitor from Barbados. Hello, whoever you are. Probably someone who happened upon us by accident, but Hi anyway. This got me thinking. One of the cool things my stat counter shows me is what countries people have visited from. Yeah sure, the map does too, but that means I need to know my world geography and as illustrated by my last 2 posts on Life of Elle, I am dumb.

When we started Unexpected Miracles I started writing down all of the countries that people have visited from. Wanna see the list. Too bad! I am going to show it to you anyway.

United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, Australia, Scotland, Hong Kong, Philippines, Finland, Netherlands, India, Kazakhstan, Puerto Rico, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Barbados, South Korea, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand, Sweden, Israel, Mexico.

There are few others, but I didn't get them written down. I have regular readers in Australia and Germany, but I don't know who they are... hint, hint.

So now, since this is my blog and I can do what I want to, I am going to start pointing out those locations that are regular visitors, but not regular commenters. HA! I'll make you de-lurk. So do it now before I make a spectacle out of you.

My nifty neato country stats also work for cities. I can tell you stuff like Californians read my blog more than Washingtonians. And that some of you need more to do with your days.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
That whole Mother's Day thing
One would think I would be ecstatic about that whole Mother's Day thing. Sure... I am somebody's mom. As Caroline puts it, I am the mothering kind of person. I am the "mother" to Fat and Dumb. But all of that does not make this upcoming day any easier.

I distinctly recall last years Mother's Day. We had recently found out that 3 of my very good girlfriends were pregnant (for the 2nd time or accidentally.) All of them due within 3 weeks of each other. Let's just say I was jealous. Little A's referral was very fresh for us. We had the photo for all of 2 weeks. I was excited that I finally had a face and a name to put with all of those prayers for "my child." I wanted people to dote on me. I wanted to be in that "expectant mothers club." I received cards from a few people, but D got busy and it somehow went a little over looked.

I brought up my disappointment to him. To which he said, "I'll be right back." He returns 30 minutes later with a beautiful pink hanging basket. "Mom's deserve pink," he tells me. I held on to that basket until the bitter end of its life. In fact I think it is still sitting in the side yard. Dead, but still there.

This year I find myself sitting back and remembering my thoughts of "next year I will have my child in my arms." I never thought I would have to go through another Mother's Day without a little face to wake up to.

At the same time I have Pickle. This little boy had stolen my heart. The photos and videos we have of him nearly bring me to tears every time I see them. He is just that special. I have had the opportunity to hold him in my arms and he is real. Not just a photo.

I am trying very hard to be happy this Mother's Day. It helps that I do get to spend it with my Mom. Without this lady I would not be the woman I am today. She is the strongest and most determined woman I know.

So to all of you, I wish you a Happy Mother's Day.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Movie Preview
D is frantically working on the "feature length" version of our movie. He is trying to finish up the family version for his parents to take to Kansas and for us to show my family on Mother's Day. He will then start working on the public version. We have to cut all the photos and video of Pickle since we can't show them on the internet.

So in lieu of the "feature length" film I direct you to my personal blog to check out my preview of the movie. Ok, it really is just my account of the trip in a creative way. And yes... I really did take all of those photos. Please don't think less of me.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006
From the perspective of 'the dad' (part 2)
The trip to the orphanage was filled with nervousness and apprehension, and we had a 30 minute car ride for it to grow. We were picked up at 3:15pm by Lena and Irina. We had to drive out to the south part of Khab and we stopped along the way to drop Jamie and Suzanne off at the detsky dom to meet their children.

I remembered so vividly our last trip and pulling up to A's orphanage. I was so nervous and thought the car ride would give me time to compose my thoughts. That was before I knew that BH #1 is only about a 5 minute ride from the Amethyst Hotel. When we got there however, we had to wait for Irina who was coming from court. Talk about torture... Here we were sitting at the front gate of the orphanage, staring at the building and wondering what would happen once we were inside.
The trip to BH #2 couldn't be more different. It's a much longer trip with plenty of time to 'compose your thoughts' (which really means you just have more time to fret and worry). The first thing that I noticed was the door. As L mentioned in one of her posts, the door to BH #1 is large, made of wood and ornately carved. The door at BH #2 is a plain metal door. That's it. A plain metal door that is painted grey. The building looks pretty run down from the outside too. It's a typical Soviet style building, built for function and not for aesthetics.

Once we got inside, we put on the obligatory shoe booties. They keep the inside of the orphanage very clean and don't want anyone to track in dirt and mud from outside. From there it was a very quick trip to Pickle's group room (partially because Lena walks so fast... she's hard to keep up with). We walked through the corridors, down the long hallway with all the plants (that we would be seeing much more of), up a flight of stairs and into the little office outside of the group room. I kept thinking that it was all happening so fast. It was so different from the way that we were introduced to A. Not that one way is particularly better than another, just that my expectations were based on our prior experiences.

Lena poked here head through the door into the group room to announce that we had arrived. We were then ushered into the group room and could hear one of the caretakers calling to Pickle. He was in the play area and way in the back corner of it to boot. She went in a pulled him out... our very first Pickle sighting! He was all smiles and giggles and you could tell that he was very comfortable with his caretakers. Then they brought him over to us for the big introduction. The smiles were replaced by confusion and apprehension on his part. The look we got was like 'who are you people and what do you want with me?' L and I were all smiles, of course. Here was this beautiful little boy, our boy. With his chubby little cheeks (chapped and all) and freshly cut hair. In almost an instant, all the hurt and pain that accumulated over the last year melted away. In that one moment, we were a family.

From there we took Pickle down to the little play room so we could get acquainted, so to speak. I felt really bad for the little guy. Here we are strangers (especially me since he'd probably never seen a man before) who don't speak words that he understands, and on top of that we take him out of his element and into a room he's probably never seen before. He was so scared that his little hands were shaking. We tried to bribe him with the snacks we brought with us, but he wasn't too sure about banana puffs or goldfish crackers (again, two items that were completely foreign to him). Finally L took out the 'Who Loves Baby?' picture book and Pickle sat down in her lap to help turn the pages. Momma was very happy and hopes that we have a bookworm on our hands.

Over the next 2 days we got to learn about Pickle's likes and dislikes and to see his little personality. We could tell that he wasn't feeling 100% because a couple times we had mini-meltdowns. Even those were special times because he started to learn that he could come to both of us for comfort. One time in particular he wanted to go for a walk but it wasn't time. He tried to pull Momma in the direction of the door. When it was clear that he wasn't going to get his way, the lower lip began to quiver. I opened my arms and Pickle flung himself against my shoulder and sobbed. It didn't last long and he was soothed as I rubbed his back. I was glad to be able to share this moment with him since he spent most of the time sitting in Momma's lap.

The time we spent at the orphanage was amazing. I was happy that we got to spend more time there than last trip. All of the fears and doubts that I had are completely gone. There is no longer room in my heart or mind for them... there is only room for the love that I have for Pickle. I will never forget little A and the love I felt for him but I no longer have doubt. It was hard to say goodbye as Pickle sat at the lunch table waving to us with his spoon in his hand. Now we trust in God that this is His plan and we will be reunited with our son soon. I can hardly wait until there are no more goodbyes.

Friday, May 05, 2006
From the perspective of 'the dad' (part 1)
As with the last 'first' trip, all of the posts made from Russia (and Korea) were written by L. So I thought that I might chime in and give my thoughts on the trip, Pickle, and anything else that comes to mind.

Last time we made the trip, I was excited and very nervous since it was the first time either L or I had been overseas. We had traveled to Canada and Mexico but that doesn't really count for "international travel" if you ask me. So not only were we traveling overseas, but we were going a country where hardly anyone spoke English AND meeting our child for the first time to boot. When it came to traveling this time I was still excited and much less nervous. We knew the routine in Seoul and what to expect when we got to Russia.

Arriving in Khab (beside the bumpy landing) was a lot like seeing an old friend. We didn't spend a ton of time there last trip but we had many lasting experiences. It wasn't exactly the feeling of being home but I think we both feel comfortable there. We were excited to revisit some of our favorite places from last time and have a chance to more thoroughly explore the city, to see things we missed last time. Stepping into our room at the Amethyst Hotel was a little weird considering the room was identical to the last time except that it was mint green instead of bitchin hot pink.

It was almost surreal to be standing in Lenin Square nearly a year later. Everything was basically the way I remembered it but something was different. It took me a while to realize the something different was me. So much had happened in our life since the last trip. I attribute it as something similar to the loss of innocence. The first trip we took in everything like wide-eyed children, basically living in the experience. Everything was so new to us: the travel, the country and it's people, even the thought of being parents. This trip, we still loved the town and it's generous people but we carried apprehension and grief with us.

It was nice to have a day to rest and settle in. Since we had a full week in Khab this time, we were able to have more free time to explore. On our first trip was only 3 days and activity happened like a whirlwind. We were always on the move. This time we could take a little time each day to recharge our batteries without feeling like we weren't going to be able to do all the activities we wanted. When Monday and Tuesday rolled around, I wasn't worried at all about the medical exams. We knew that the doctors were well trained and would take good care of us, which they did, and everything worked out fine.

I was actually surprised that I was able to sleep on Tuesday night. Wednesday was officially "Pickle Day" but we had to wait around until mid-afternoon before we would get to go. We spent the day trying to keep ourselves busy, but most of the day we were lost in our thoughts. All the emotions came flooding in: fear, excitement, apprehension, doubt, nervousness, you name it, we felt it. Of course, there were also the what-ifs: What if it's too soon? What if he doesn't take to us (or vice versa)? What if he cries or is scared of us? We had talked at length about the fact that Pickle was a different child and not a "replacement" for A, nor would we want him to be.

Then it was time. Not only time to go to the orphanage but also time to open our hearts again. I knew we would always love A, but I also knew that we had plenty of love for Pickle if we just let ourselves be open to it.

In the next installment I will share my thoughts and experience of the first "Pickle sighting".

Thursday, May 04, 2006
Ok you are all mandated to run on over to Rhonda's blog and send her a big huge gigantic colossal congratulations!!!! She and Brian got their referral today. 2 in fact. So what are you waiting for? Go now!
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
So What's Next?
First off I have to say jet lag sucks ass. Despite the fact that I was able sleep the first night home, that novelty wore off quite quickly. This is worse than my usual insomnia. D also had a bout with the can't sleeps Monday night so he drugged himself to sleep with Tylenol PM last night. This caused him to snore all. night. long. So not only could I not sleep. I couldn't sleep with a snoring giant next to me and me kicking him all night long. Add 2 cats that think sleeping on my legs would be fun... I am one tired lady.

I have had multiple questions from my readers about where we go from here. When does Pickle get to come home? So I thought I would give you an estimated time line as to what we are thinking.

Our in-country facilitator is doing some final checking on Pickle before she files the release letter request. I think (really I have no clue) that this is to make absolutely sure that he has no eligible siblings in the system. Wouldn't that be a shocker. Oh, by the way, would you like more than one? You know I couldn't turn them down if that ever was a possibility.

From the timelines set by other families the release letter should take about 3 weeks to arrive once the request is sent.

Once the release letter arrives in Khabarovsk (from Moscow by Russian post: see map here) it takes our facilitator approximately 3 weeks to assemble Pickle's paperwork. Of course this is pushing it. We hope she works this fast, but anything is possible.

After Pickle's paperwork is assembled and we have all of our final paperwork in the whole batch is filed to the court in Khabarovsk.

The judge has 56 (or 60) days to schedule the court date or request additional paperwork. There have been differing schools of thought on exactly how many days it is.

Once we have the court date we will then travel back to Khabarovsk to attend our court appointment and finally take Pickle out of the orphanage. Khabarovsk is notorious for NOT waiving the 10 day wait. So with travel, the 10 day, going to Moscow and traveling home our trip back will likely be over 20 days.

So that gives you some kind of idea of what we have ahead of us. In the mean time I plan on learning much more Russian, toddler proofing my house, and attempting to maintain my "sane" status.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
So blogger was being stupid this morning and I could barely read all of your blogs let alone post anything!!

The good word is that the Oilers knocked out the Wings in the first round... Oh, wait! I suppose it is that we are finally home. Sorry about that. 10 days without hockey does that to a person. (I also apologize for my miss step earlier in saying that Ottowa was up in the series against Detroit. It was Edmonton)

So we finally made it home at about 10:30 Sunday night. I was just so stinkin' tired yesterday. Thus the no posting. I was also battling a personal war against my computer. It was not letting me download our photos off the memory cards. I think it had a grudge for lack of use in the last 10 days.

I am not sure if I told you all or not, but I had grand plans of bringing home a suitcase full of Vodka and Chocolate. Well... you remember that suitcase full of orphanage donations? Let's just say that little suitcase exceeded United Airlines 50 lb. weight limit. Gee I don't know why...

All in all the trip was good. Just for the record, there is no ill will toward Jamie & Suzanne for getting on the earlier flight. After my little meltdown in the airport I was able to entertain myself with the Lost special features disk until it was time to board the plane. We only wish we were able to say a proper goodbye to them. Go check out their site. Suzanne posted some fantastic photos of the trip. There is even one of me with my fancy new glasses.

I know you are all dying to see photos of Pickle. Most of you know that it is illegal to publish photos of Russian orphans on the internet or in any other public place until that child is legally yours. So you will have to settle for this...
Established March 19, 2006