Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Day in Polina's Life

The following link is a video of a day in the life of Polina. Radio Free Europe asked me to put together photos and videos of one day in her life. In an effort to keep it as pure as possible, I did this project the very next day.

Radio Free Europe Link 

I am thankful for them doing this. With the recent death of another Russian born child adopted into America, I think it is important for the Russian people to see what the lives of most children adopted in America is like. There is always going to be an exception - to everything, no matter where you go. However, most of the people around the world who adopt children love and care for them on a daily basis as I hope this video shows me doing with Polina. The cases of the now 20 children who have died after being adopted by American parents from Russian are all tragedies. I don't know the details of every case. What I do know are the details of many families I am friends with in person and through social media who love their children very much just like we do Polina. They take them to therapies, to parks, to church and to play dates with friends. We fight for the rights of our children here in America so that they can have the best life with the most possibilities - the very reason we brought them here. I hope that when Russians think of American families that adopt children, they realize that 99.97% of the 60,000 children adopted into American homes are healthy and doing well. 

I'm very saddened by the case of Max Shatto. I trust that the justice system will find the truth in the case and that Max's younger brother, also adopted from Russia, is in the safe care of those who are not under investigation in this suspicious case. I can not blame the Russian officials for wanting to follow this case and be involved - we would want the same as Americans. I don't know if Max Shatto was abused and I pray that he was not. I do not know the details of that case and leave it to our justice system to find the truth.

Child abuse is not unique to one country and has many different forms. If we are all honest with each other, we will admit that children all over the world are abused daily. Some of those are in American families, rather by birth or adoption. Some of those are in orphanages in other countries. Some of them are living on the streets in all different countries of the world, including the USA. World leaders need not to point fingers at each other, or say that one of us is better than the others. We need to love and care for ALL children and stop ignoring the fact that this does, in fact, happen in our own back yards. Children are a gift from God and are to be valued. It is my prayer that world leaders will put the welfare of children above all else and work together to find solutions to this epidemic. Please join me in that prayer!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Thursday - Bonding and Farewells

We had to wait for our final paperwork to come on Thursday, and we were exhausted from the past two days, so we spend the day inside bonding while waiting for paperwork and visitors in the afternoon/evening.

I taught Polina how to tickle her Papa. This was loads of fun. He is very ticklish!

He couldn't take it anymore - so he gave in to request to "go up!"
After they tired of that, it was time to "walk" around the house in her warm, comfy Russian boots!

After nap, we changed Polina and "Princessa Katya's" clothes and put on their matching coats.
And then our first guest arrived. Unfortunately, I am not able to post pictures with her. She helped Polina and she wants to be able to help other kiddos. So for the sake of those kiddos, she must remain anonymous. Sad. True. This woman was my sanity during the whole process of the adoption. But more than that, she was someone stable for my princess over the years and through the transition from the baby house to the orphanage. I cried when she left. I cried uncontrollably. I love this woman and will always be indebted to her. Without her, we wouldn't have Polina and Polina wouldn't be who she is!

This picture shows Polina opening gifts from afore mentioned woman.

Our next visitors were our facilitators. On the left is Alyona. We worked mostly with her. She did our translations, took us to court, etc. However, during this very busy week in Russia when American families were trying to get court information in prior to Feb. 1, she was busy with translations and representations. So, Katya stepped in to help. Katya took us to the passport office and the embassy and took care of our consulate paperwork. We are so thankful for both of them. They continue to work tirelessly for the children and families that were in the process. In addition, Alyona asked me about my interest in helping them start a program in the future for the special needs kids who would not find homes in Russia. They don't stop with our kiddos coming home. These are the faces of two Russian women who care for these children!

The light Alyona brought for Polina was a great hit!

My-My Cafe Outing

Wednesday was our first full day with our baby girl and we were excited to take her out into Moscow. We wanted to see as much as we could and take pictures with her there so that she has those to see as she grows up and remind her of where she came from.

But first, a visit from the doctor, who we paid some extra American cash to come to our apartment rather than taking Polina to the clinic. She was recovering from Chicken Pox and this was just the best way for everyone. He was very kind, took a quick look at her, told us not to bathe her for two more days, and was on his way.

We decided we would take her to My-My Cafe on Starry Arbat. It was within walking distance and it was our favorite Russian food we had had. It is also buffet style, so she could pick out what she wanted.

We didn't do a very good job of getting the cow in the picture, but at least we have the My-My logo in the background. (It's pronounced Moo-Moo)

The walk was nice, but now we had to figure out what to do with the stroller. The wheels were muddy from the walk and we couldn't just leave it outside for fear it would be stolen. Luckily, we found a table right inside the door and were able to fold it up and lay it on the entrance mat where it was out of the way and not causing a muddy mess. That was a blessing!

Cabbage & Meatball Soup? Yes Please!
I'm not sure what you call this - it looks like a chicken leg, but it's the skin stuffed with stuff.
I've talked a lot in my blog about how Moscow isn't accessible to those with handicapping conditions requiring ambulatory assistance. We didn't take a wheelchair with us for that reason and bought a very expensive stroller partly because of that reason. The wheels on this stroller pop off very easily so that we were able to get it in and out of the very slim doors in the Moscow buildings. It also has rugged wheels that allowed us to maneuver through the bumpy sidewalks and potholes. Our agency facilitators told us repeatedly what an amazing "machine" it was and it made me feel better about the purchase. 

The next two pictures are of us using the stroller tracks on the stairways to go underground and cross streets in Moscow. There are some intersections that require you to go underground. There were tracks for the strollers, but no access for a wheelchair. 

I'm really glad we decided to take the trip out to My-My. Polina still talks about it. Going to a cafe is on her top 5 list of favorite things. That being said, it was a difficult trip for a short walk and we didn't really look forward to the challenge again. The only other time we ventured out was to Red Square - and even then, we used a driver instead of walking there.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Bitterness in Bittersweet

It's Tuesday. That means my daughter has been in my care for two weeks. What a difference two weeks makes! 
In my last blog, I told you what we did that first night in the apartment after arriving at 7 pm. I didn't have the pictures available at the time, so I'm going to re-cap with photos here. However, the real purpose of this blog is to tell you why I think it took Polina 3 hours to go to sleep after such a long day with no nap. 

Taking a picture in my "little sister" shirt before my bath. My mommy chose this shirt for me to wear on "Gotcha Day" because it is representative of me being in a family - an orphan no more!
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the bathtub, even though I don't like water in my ears! I haven't had a real bath since the baby house...over a year ago. 
Check out my super-awesome blanket from Russian friends! It is sooooooo soft!

Mommy's first chance to do my hair. She never realized just how long it was. I'm not a real big fan of having my hair done, but we are getting better at it!

All done and looking pretty!

I was quite captivated by the lights and traffic from the window of our apartment. My mommy writes about this below. 
Okay, in bed. Look at those eyes...curious...what's going to happen next?
Mommy read me a book called "I'll Love You Forever." I listened intently to the first half, and then I started counting the rest of the pages to see how much we had left. The second night, I sat and listened to the whole thing.

And here is the bitter hidden in the sweet...

I thought after such a long, exciting day with no nap and a nice warm bath, my little princessa dotchka would fall asleep quickly with her mommy laying by her side. Not so. If you scroll up to that picture of Polina sitting in the window, you will see a seemingly happy little girl. What you don't see is what is going on in that amazing little mind of hers. On the way to Moscow from Dmitrov, Polina asked several times who would stay with her in Moscow, if she would be by herself, etc. We of course reassured her that she would be with us. She also told me what was my worst nightmare - some of the caregivers had told her that we weren't coming to get her and she wasn't going to get to go to America. One of the older boys at the orphanage had told her that her mom and dad weren't coming because she was a (bad name). I just told her that they were wrong, that we had come for her and we were going to take her to America in a few days. I really didn't think she had a concept of America other than it meant she would live with us in a house, but I have realized since then that she does in fact have the concept that it is a totally different place. All of what I just told you was in the presence of interpreters who told us what she said and translated our response to her. But when we got to the flat, we were on our more translator.

I took a video of her in that windowsill...and it wasn't until 3 days later that I found out what she said in the video. 

My precious baby girl said, "I bet I'm not going to America, I bet I'm only going to the hospital." 

After nearly 6 years of being an orphan, and being told by her caregivers and other kids that she wasn't going to go to America, our reassurance in the car just wasn't enough. What else was she supposed to think? The only time she had been outside the baby house or orphanage was to go to the hospital. The hospital is in Moscow, and there's a pretty good chance she saw the same sights and sounds from her hospital window. And so, in addition to the excitement of the day was the many questions going on in this little girl's mind. Questions no little girl every, anywhere should have to worry about. And so, it took her 3+ hours to finally fall asleep. And when she did, it was the most precious sight...

She was mine and no one was ever going to take her from me!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Gotcha Day, Part 2 (FINALLY!)

I know many of you have been awaiting this. I'm sorry it's taken so long, and this may not be the greatest post as I'm trying to do it while myo princessa dochka is sleeping.

We were was almost 1:00 pm. There was no breakfast, it was a long night and a longer morning in the car and taking care of business in various buildings. But, there was no time for food because if we didn't make it by nap time, I was sure that we'd have to wait a couple more hours and we still had to go by the passport office on the way home.

Back to the orphanage we went...everything we needed. The cameras would have to wait outside. Poor Kirill had been waiting outside for hours in the snow. We went in, past the guard, and up to an office I'd never been in before down from the Directors. That was a relief. To not be in her office was a positive thing. Friendly faces of three women greeted us. The MOE representative gave her what she needed. She was filling out more paperwork.

I was asked for Polina's clothes. I handed them over...disappointed that I wasn't going to get to dress her yet. A few minutes later...she was wheeled in. There she daughter wearing a shirt that said "Little Sister." She now had a family. Belonging. Identity.

And she was beautiful as always with her hair in two braids down each side. Pretty sure Angie did that. Thank you Angie! Thank you for all you did for our little girl and for all you do for the others!

Polina's first words to me? "Do I get to go with you Mommy?"

I got to say YES! I didn't have to leave her behind again! I have tears in my eyes as I type that.

I took her picture with Angie and we gave her a picture frame with a picture of Polina - one for her and one for another caregiver. And then, the director came in.

She didn't address us personally. She talked to some others in the room and then told us best wishes to our backs and left. We didn't know she was talking to us, but we were told. I had a nice picture frame with a picture of Polina in it for her, so I ran down to her office to give it to her. Kindness kills the heart...or something like that.

A few minutes later, she came back and things got tense. We couldn't make it out of there one time without the arguing? Really? Polina didn't need that! I didn't know what was being said, but she did.

I was told, "Let's get out of here as soon as possible."

You don't have to tell me twice.

I left the other three picture frames on the table to be given to the other caregivers. I shoved everything in the bag and picked Polina up without figuring out the broken zipper on her jacket. I could hold her against me to the car and it would be okay. So off we went...for the last time...leaving Later, I was told that the picture frames were given back to one of our escorts, saying that they were just junk.

I had my daughter in my arms. That was jubilant.

But I was leaving others behind. Katya, Vika, Igor, Sasha, Valeria. I could go on. I will never forget those kids. I will never forget one of our translators telling me, "You're right, (she) isn't numb...she understands you!" or another crying for me and being put in the hallway and left alone in her wheelchair for well over an hour, because they think she's "numb" too. I will never forget these two girls just longing for human touch or their ecstatic squeels and delightful smiles when they got it. For Heaven's sake...just because a kid can't talk doesn't mean they don't understand. They should not be ignored and left sitting, in the back of the room or in the hallway, ignored. Play hand-over-hand with them. Tickle them. Hold them. Watch them bloom! As they say in America, I "triple-dog-dare you." It will change their lives, and it will change yours!

Sorry for the tangent.

We were in the van, on the way back to Moscow, with our daughter. It was a trip filled with wonderful moment and heartbreaking moments. Bittersweet was a recurrent theme this day. Polina would love on me. We listened to music and rocked together.

And then she told me, "I cried last night Momma. (Two of my caregivers) told me you weren't coming to get me and I wasn't going to go to America." My heart sank. My throat swelled. I was angry. I was disgusted. But I had to hold it together for her. And so I told her they were wrong, that Mommy was taking her home to America in a few days and she would never have to go back there. She went on to tell us about a boy in the orphanage who told her we weren't coning to take her because she was a (b****).

He was wrong too Polina. You are myo princessa dotchka now and I will take you to America!

She asked who would be with her in Moscow, if she would be alone, where she would sleep. We reassured her she would never be alone and we would always be with her.

The passport office was quick, we got some groceries, and we made it to our apartment around 6:30 that night.

I lived my dream that night. I fed her, gave her a bath, did her hair, read her a book and snuggled her. It took her three hours to fall asleep. I'll post in a future blog why I believe that is. But for now, my princess daughter is awake, and I have to go!

If you haven't seen this ABC news story (Thank you Kirit Radia!) you should watch it!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

We are HOME!

Jumping ahead in the story...we are in our HOME...a family of four. The kids are both asleep in their own beds & very much love each other!

I'm sorry I haven't had time to blog the rest of gotcha day yet, but I'll get there.

Thank you all for your love, prayers & support. Please continue to pray for Polina and Carter both as we all transition into this new, amazing life!