Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas and may Christ Bless you and your Family this Season!!!

As usual we have had a very busy December. Preparations for Little David's Birthday, Christmas and then Big David's Birthday have kept us all busy. We had a 4th Birthday party for Little David at a local park. We made the party a pirate theme party and did a treasure hunt and played pin the flag on the pirate ship. The local Bible bookstore had plastic gold coins with verses or Christian logos. We hid several around the park and had the treasure hunt. Each child that returned with a gold coin could trade it in for a visit to the treasure chest. We had a lot of fun and several of the adults dressed up as pirates too including Big David and myself.
During the preparations for the party, Little David was helping me wrap up the treasure box gifts and had his safety scissors. Well as you can imagine I was not too happy when he came around the corner with a new hair cut. My very next statement was...I hope you did not touch your sister's hair....too late, she has a new hair cut too. I remember having my bangs cut very high on my forehead because I tried to cut them myself, I think I was in second grade, my school picture had the really short bangs. Oh well, hair grows.

We had Danielle's baby dedication on the 21st. We went to Shekinah Christian Assembly where we were married, which was my home church when we met. We continue to visit several times a year, they are up in West Palm Beach, it is about an hour north of us, it makes for a lot of sit time for the kids, for that reason it is not where we attend every Sunday, but it is where we feel at home. We shared the ceremony with another family. Their son was born two months early and we waited two years for Danielle, so one baby was really early and one felt very late, but we know God's timing is always perfect. Several friends, all of our local family and one niece visiting from college were present. We went to a local restaurant after the Dedication and had a wonderful time. It was such a good day. It ranks right up there with Salvation day, Baptisim day, Engagement day, Wedding day, Birth of our son and his Dedication day, and Gotcha day for Danielle. After the dedication, David and I were sharing about the day and we came to the realization that Danielle has completely become our daughter and we are fully her parents and our family is her family. It takes some time after the legalities for this to occur, some call it the attachement/bonding period. We are pleased to announce that Danielle has become our daughter.

When we returned from Russia, we had both kids in the same bedroom. David wanted his sister to be in his room and Danielle had never slept alone in a room. This week, we moved Danielle into her own room, they will each need the extra room for the new Christmas toys and David is now at the age where some of his toys could become choke hazzards, so it was time to separate them. Danielle loves her new room and this is the third night she is sleeping in there.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to say Merry Christmas. I know there are many facing long waits for their referrals and for return trips to receive their children. I know there are also many families facing financial and health trials, as well as spiritual battles and loneliness. Some of us have loved ones in the Military doing dangerous work for our nation. Please allow me to encourage you. Jesus, who came to Earth and put on flesh, the Son of the Living God who lived a perfect life as a man, became the sacrificial lamb, paid for the wages of our sin, rose from the grave to conquer death, then ascended to be reunited with God the Father and sits at His right hand making intercession for us is able and willing to help each of us through our fiery trials. This is the true meaning of Have a Mighty Christmas!!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Wow, It's been over Three Months since Got-cha

It has been over three months since we had our "Got-cha Day" for Danielle. She is adjusting very well. She is so innocent and happy. She does not have any established safety boundaries, we must teach her everything in this area which tends to seem like all we say is no, no, no. She tests almost every situation to its limit. I tell her to not touch something and the little index finger comes out and she reaches to touch the item that is off limits. She will do this with a smile and dare me to correct her. So far I have tried to be up to every challenge and it is exhausting. But most two year olds must establish their limitations and test the waters. She smiles all the time and loves to be tickled. She has been to the Doctor and had all the recommended tests and is an average sized healthy little girl. Thank you Lord. Danielle is no longer afraid of our dog, a brindle boxer named K'Ehlyre (Kaylar) named from a Klingon Character from Next Generation Star Trek. (She looks a little bit like a Klingon with her pointed ears)

Danielle loves her big brother and he loves her most of the time. One day about six weeks ago we were driving and passed the area where the Goodyear blimp hangar is located. I pointed out the blimp as it was landing and David was very curious about the blimp and wanted to know if we could fly in it sometime. When I said that could happen someday, he promptly spoke up and wanted to know if we could fly Danielle back to Russia in the blimp when it was time for her to go back home. Funny story, but his sentiment was real. He continued asking when Danielle would be leaving for about two more weeks before he gave up on the idea of sending her back to Russia. He is still adjusting to becoming a big brother. He tries to be her parent most of the time and wants to show her how to play with toys rather than let her discover how to play with them on her own. He is coming along and each day gets a little better for him. When we meet someone new, he promptly introduces his little sister... Hi this is Danielle; she is my little sister................. we got her from Russia. It is so funny, that big David and I have started chiming in when he blurts out the final phrase.

It has been two months since I posted to this blog and a lot has happened. Danielle is learning a couple of words a day. She says: Let me see - translated can mean let her see what we have or it can also mean let me do it, or let me have it. She says Juice please for any drink. She says I love you several times a day and she will also say kiss, kiss. Each day when she is dressed I put her in front of the mirror and say pretty, so of course she can say pretty and says it about herself during the dressing process. She loves shoes and can say shoes, socks, monkey, lion, elephant, tiger, dog, cat, bird, eyes, ears, hair, elbow, feet, legs, brush teeth, mouth, nose, head, tummy, body, potty, poop, and pees-pees and so much more. She wants me to give her the English word for everything she sees. She is bright and is learning very well.

Danielle has went to the Science and Discovery Museum three times, the Miami Metro Zoo once, a small water park once, swimming at a friend’s home, trick or treating, bounce house (several times), several of our local playgrounds, a huge Thanksgiving at her Great Aunt Sharon’s home where over 32 relatives were able to get together. During the time at Aunt Sharon’s she got to ride a four-wheeler, go to a bond-fire, see goats, horses, cows, pigs, chickens, rooster, and dogs. Today we were able to take out our boat and she got her first experience in the boat. She loves to go anywhere, just to go and be going makes her very happy. She has met most of our local friends and family. She seems to be fine with new people, at first she did not like strangers to pick her up, and she would look for mommy or daddy to rescue her, now she is fine with any new person she meets.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wow, Time Flies, not Flight Times

Wow, time flies. My last post was six days with Danielle, then just a quick picture posting. It is now 26 days with Danielle so let me backtrack.

We finished our ten day wait after court on Tuesday September 9th. Yea!!!!, Danielle is officially our daughter and we are her forever family. David was very busy with the business of going to vital records to obtain her birth certificates, and to court where he was able to retreive the final adoption documents. Then off to the passport office to file for Danielle's Russian passport. On Wednesday morning he went to retrieve the Russian Passport, then we went to get the required embassy physical in the afternoon. On Thursday the 11th of September we traveled to Moscow for the last step of the process.

Still backtracking, Saturday morning September 6th the last weekend of our 10 day sequester, we went down to the beach (the limit of the distance we are allowed to go until we had documents from court) with three other families waiting for the ten days to be over. We let all the children throw rocks into the bay and touch the water. There is industry in the area and the children are not used to going to the beach, so they did not go into the water. The beach is rocky and there are wood pallets, to lay out on. There is broken glass mixed in with the rocks, so shoes are a must. Summer is at an end, so this may be the last weekend for the beach till next year. For lunch we had some grilled pork with a cucumber salad from a beach vender. We had to return early to allow Danielle to take her nap, we had a great time just getting out. On Sunday, we went down to the beach after Danielle's nap. We wondered around and checked out the various venders. We allowed her to throw a few rocks into the water and took some pictures. Then we walked up to the Armenian Restaurant near the convenience store. It has outdoor pic-nic tables built into wooden cabanas on a hillside, so you can look down the hill at the trees and bushes. There is a water fountain in the middle of the outdoor area. Danielle played in the fountain water a little and really enjoyed being outdoors. Ordering food was interesting. Our waitress did not speak any english and the menu was in Russian. David clucked like a chicken and flapped his arms (like in the movie Stargate) and he got grilled chicken wings with onions. I snorted like a pig and got grilled pork with onions. She kept asking us what sauce we wanted. Or another word that sounds similar to sauce, maybe she was asking us if we wanted onions. We kind-of waived to her to let her know we would let her decide what sauce we wanted. She said something and we nodded yes and we had a good meal. It was very peaceful and the weather was perfect.

On Tuesday the 9th, the dryer broke and was taken away, it returned on Wednesday, but the repairman must have forgotten to hook up something because now it only worked on air dry. I hope it is fixed by now. The dryer is very very loud and would appear to be on its last repair. Our hotel room looked like a laundry with all the clothes trying to dry before our plane trip on Thursday to Moscow.

Danielle has been wonderful. Each day she is learing a few new words and a few new rules and testing a few new fences. She is learning quickly and is doing wonderfully. David knows exactly how many staples are in each piece of trim and how many screws are in each ceiling board. I won't tell the answers, I do not want to spoil the surprise for those who still have to experience the ten day wait at Vlad Inn. We heard that Cindy and Mama Sarah got their court dates for the end of September. Yea!!! We were very concerned about Ike hitting Fort Lauderdale, we were on the bullseye for a few days. But we never want a hurricane to go somewhere else, we always wish they would just go away. With that said, although Ike missed us, he did not miss Texas. Our prayers go out to all the people hurting from the rath of Ike.

On Tuesday the 9th, we got together with the family who had court the same day we did and has a little girl from Danielle's group. We hired a driver through the hotel, to go down town for some pizza at the water front. We got appoval from Irina and she knew the driver and gave him the directions to where we wanted to go. Again what a nice treat to get out and about.

Flight to Moscow on the 11th. We had bulkhead seats, the plane had two isles with three seats in the middle, with two seats on each side. Our three seats were split by the isle. We were able to switch seats with two other very kind passengers and get the three seats together in the middle of the bulkhead. This was very nice, Danielle was able to nap on the floor between us and it made the flight much easier for us. Danielle had car sickness twice while in Vlad, I had taken along Bonine, a motion sickness medication for children. I gave her 1/3 of a pill for most of the car and air travel and when I did she did not get sick. However, I did not give her a fresh dose when we landed in Moscow, so she did get sick again in the car to the hotel. This was the last time she was car sick. I was more dilligent with the Bonine for the remainder of the travel. Since we have been home and she has been up high in the car seat and can see out the window, she has not had any more trouble with car sickness.

Friday the 12th, we visited with Natalia in the morning to complete the embassy application for the immigrant visa for Danielle. Natalia left to deliver the paperwork and we attempted to visit a museum, we started out early, successfully navigated the metro thanks to David and several maps, but the weather got too wet and too cold, so we headed back to the hotel. Saturday, I checked the weather and of all the days we were there, Saturday looked to be the best chance to visit the Moscow Zoo. We headed out early, navigated the metro and got to the Zoo two hours early. I was sure we would get lost but we did not. We walked till we found a coffee shop. I went up the steps to check the menu, walked inside, did not look down and fell down two small steps, twisted my ankle and hurt my knee. Poor David was at the bottom of the steps with the stroller and Danielle and I was in the entry on the floor crying in pain. He ran up the steps, saw I was alive, ran down the steps to get Danielle and then in to help me. The pain subsided pretty quickly, we did stay at that restaurant to rest my ankle a little. I was able to complete our visit to the zoo with only mild discomfort. Danielle loved the zoo, she fully enjoyed all the animals. The only difficulty was she cried each time we left the first few animals. We tried to communicate that we had to leave one wonderful animal to see the next wonderful animal. This must be very hard for any two year old to understand. Add to that the communication barrier and the limited experience she has had with life, and her disappointment was overwhelming for her. Till now her experiences have all been within the walls of the baby home where she had lived since she was three months old. After the first few animals and the tearing her away with promises of more animals, she began to understand and began to look for the new animal in the next cage. We all had a great time. We had lunch at the zoo restaurant. It was very good and very reasonable. We highly recommend it. You can enter it from the Zoo side or from the Street, so entry to the Zoo is not required. It has more of a German theme than Russian. The only reasonable food we have found here in Moscow. Added bonus to the zoo trip was the Harley Davidson shop just a block from the zoo. David stopped in and bought the most expensive T-shirt he has ever purchased from a Harley Dealer, ouch!!!! Here at the Marriott Tverskaya, our first night in town we were so tired we ordered room service, the cheeseburger, order of (9 each) wings and two sodas cost us over $50.00. The wifi costs about $20 per hour and lasts one continuous hour, (not a total of one hour over several days) so we have not been using our laptops. They do have one free computer on the forth floor lobby with an internet connection for free, so we have free internet, just not any skype or calls home. We are having our son call us here at the hotel using skype. There is often more than one solution to most problems. We removed the mini bar frige supplies onto the top shelf of the entertainment center and were able to use the frige for baby food, milk and drinks. We called down and got a microwave delivered to our room and we also read that we could have a coffee service delivered to our room, so we did that. It came with a hot pot. We were able to use the Foldgers one cup bags we brought to make coffee for David and use the boiling water to make soups for us we had brought from home. The hotel is close to the metro (subway) and we became fairly proficient at using it. Our last day we discovered if you walk out the rear entrance to the hotel, go right one street, then left, you are at a full size grocery store. We hear McDonalds is very close, but we did not venture to it. We also hear they have free wifi, but due to the time difference between Moscow and home, we would have to go to McDonalds at 8:00 pm to catch our son when he gets home from school. That was too late to have Danielle out, so we had our son call us in our room when he got home from school.

Our last night in Moscow, we were able to meet up for dinner with another couple on their first trip to meet their child in Moscow City. We have a mutual friend and live 30 miles from each other back home, but we met for the first time in Moscow. How ironic. We have been emailing back and forth for months, but finally meet in Moscow. Since David and I had become semi-expert at the metro, we took the train to near their hotel, and they walked down to the train station to meet us. We found an Italian restaurant and had a wonderful dinner with great company. Danielle was very good, but seemed a little off and very concerned, this was her first social interaction where there were other adults and no other children. We think maybe she was insecure wondering if life would be changing again. We have news for this little girl, she is our daughter we love her and no one this side of heaven will remove her from her forever family.

The long trip home, to save money we opted to go through Prague and connect to JFK. This added about 2 hours to our day, but saved us around $1,500. The first flight was short. We were actually flying on Aeroflot, commissioned by Czech Airlines. The flight was uneventful. The second flight, the long one was gruelling. We did not get the bulkhead as requested. We got the next seat back. There were babies everywhere, so someones child cried most of the time. Danielle was very good and slept when we asked her to and played as best as she could between us. The bulkhead people in front of us all put their seats all the way back for the whole trip so our space was very tight. Plane ettiquite as I have learned is to slowly recline your seat to allow the people behind you to adjust to the seat change. The people in front of us did not know about plane ettiquite because they just slammed their seats into full recline on several occasions. My poor husband who is 6'2" had his knees slammed so many times, he was holding himself back from some dastardly plot to teach the rude man in front of him a lesson. Fortunately the plane flight did eventually end and my husband did not completely loose it. Previous to this flight I thought Vlad Air was the least pleasant flight I had ever been on. Now they are the second least pleasant flight. We will never fly Czech Air again. The flight attendants did only what was required, if you did not give them your garbage on the first trip through the cabin after they dispensed only the required drinks or food, there was no such thing as any additional garbage trips. Since Danielle was eating more slowly then their required schedule, we had to go back to dispense of her tray ourselves. The flight attendants had closed the curtains around themselves and had a gossip session. If you wanted an extra drink of water, soda or juice, they made you feel like you were putting them out and interrupting their most important gossip. Finally, the flight ended.

It took the airlines forever to find our stroller. They were cleaning the plane and preparing it for the next flight and security had done their checks and balances by the time they found our stroller and brought it to us. We were the last people to be at the plane and security followed us as we found ourselves to the Passport Processing Desk, the blessing here was there was no one else in line by then, so we walked right up to a very joyful and kind passport processing agent. He was very happy to be processing Danielle into her new citizenship in the United States of America. Thank You God, the USA, the Russian Federation, Children's Hope International and all of our family and friends for making it possible to bring our daughter home.

A brief stop to retrieve our luggage, go through customs and then we had to change terminals and recheck our luggage for our final journey to Fort Lauderdale. We had about three hours to wait till we could board the next flight. Here is where the most difficult time began for David and Me. Our friends Vicki and Greg who had done this twice before had wisely sugguested we get a hotel in New York and fly back home the next day. We should have followed their advice. We wanted so much to get home to be ready to see our son we choose not to follow their advice, this was a mistake. We were so tired and Danielle who could sleep on the flights was full of energy. We were so exhausted, we took turns walking Danielle around the terminal. Then when we would trade her off, we were so tired we would actually get angry with each other. Time did slowly pass and we did not kill each other. Finally we could board the plane for the last leg of this never ending day. Somehow our seats were in front of an exit row and did not recline. David would not have been able to fly this way. These seats were just too tight for his long legs. Fortunately, the flight was fairly empty and he was able to switch to an exit row, bulkhead and had plenty of room. Danielle and I stretched out on the three seats and we both slept most of this flight. Yea!! It was finally over, we were home at the Fort Lauderdale Airport. Again, our stroller came up last. By the time we got to baggage to retrieve our luggage, the three pieces were set off to the side and were about to be taken to the secured area for baggage. David went over got the three pieces and our sister in law was there to pick us up.

Finally home. David goes into the house to see our dog and calm her down. I bring in Danielle and the dog is so excited, she walks up my body and puts her Boxer face right in Danielle's face and sniffs before I can stop her. Danielle replies by screaming in complete terror. We have been home a week and although it is better, Danielle is still afraid of our dog. Now if you can imagine, I am dealing with a terrified little girl and the phone rings... it is the airline, someone had taken one of our suit cases by mistake and we had theirs. Remember our luggage was sitting on the side, we did not think to check the names on it since it was all together. But someone with a matching suitcase had taken ours by mistake, and they needed their medication tonight. So poor David had to jump in the car and take the 45 minute round trip back to the airport to exchange the suit case. We put the dog in our room and I began letting Danielle explore her new room and we started the bed time routine with Danielle. Finally, we went to bed in our own bed 29 hours after we woke up in Moscow.

Wednesday morning September 17th, we woke up and began our morning routine with Danielle. Our friend Vicki who had made our son part of her family for the last 24 days dropped our son David off at school and then came by our home to meet Danielle and drop off David's luggage. We are so blessed to have family that watched our home and dog and friends that were able to take care our our son as one of their own. Thanks Dottie, Cecil and Travis for watching the dog and to Vicki, Greg, Alexander, Veronica and Maria for making David part of their family. Danielle was slow to warm up to Vicki at first, she did begin to warm up a little by the time Vicki left. Then at noon, David went to retrieve little David from school. They stopped to buy Danielle and me flowers. It was such a joyous time to all come together. Danielle warmed up quickly to her new big brother and David was so excited to be home with us. We hugged and kissed and I may have even shed a tear or two. What a great day.

Now I will be brief about this last week, it has been a week of physical recovery from jet lag and of bonding and adjustment. The most difficult adjustment has been for Little David. He had expected his sister to be his equal, to be able to play the same games, to understand him and to play at his level. He did not expect a little sister that has to be taught everything, even to speak in his language. We had tried to prepare him, but how much can you prepare an almost four year old for such things. He has been our only child and now he has to share his toys and parents. His sister does not do what he asks her to do and he wants to show her how to do everything instead of letting her learn how to do it herself. It has been difficult. We did expect it, but had hoped it would go a little smoother. As of last night, they were actually playing chase together and getting along wonderfully. Little David had been very close to learning to swim when we left and we had hoped he would learn to swim while staying with Vicki and Greg since they have a pool. We were able to go over to visit with Vicki, Greg, Alexander, Veronica and Maria on Saturday evening to see David swim. He did learn to swim while we were away. It was such a nice evening to relax and allow David to play with his friends and show us his new skill in the pool. I went in the pool with Danielle and expected her to be frightened. The little girl that is afraid of Dogs is fearless of water. She had such a great time in the pool. It did not take her very long to get used to wearing water wings and be able to splash around just like one of the bigger kids. When we got out of the pool we had hot dogs and Vicki was able to play with Danielle and by the time we left, Danielle was hugging Vicki and did not want to leave. What a great evening out. God has truly blessed us.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Introducing Danielle

Papa and Danielle during our 1st trip.

Mama and Danielle also back at our 1st Trip.
Danielle 25 months old during our court trip to Vladivostok to finalize her adoption.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Six Days with Danielle

We are at day six of our ten day wait for court documents. There are currently eight adoption families here at Vlad Inn. Two are on their first trip and have accepted their referral s and will be leaving this weekend. They are both with other agencies. There are three families from CHI. Two of these families complete their ten day wait today and will get court documents tomorrow. One of these families will have a Gotcha Day tomorrow when they pick up the little brother of the two boys they have adopted. We are very excited to meet the new little guy. We are the third CHI family and will end our ten days on Monday and be able to get documents on Tuesday. There are three families from other agencies in various stages of the ten day wait. One family left today for Moscow to complete their adoption journey. We have had lots of company during our wait, which helps to make it more enjoyable.

It has been a very busy week here at the Vlad Inn. The restaurant was closed due to a wedding reception here on Saturday afternoon and evening. On Monday former President Putin and his staff were in Vladivostok. Some of his staff either stayed here or had business meetings here. There was security everywhere you could see. The restaurant was closed to guests in the afternoon, we could still order from the White Rabbit or from Room Service. There were helicopters overhead, it was a little exciting. We had hoped maybe former President, Prime Minister Putin would drop in but he apparently was hunting in the region for Siberian Tigers (with a tranquilizer gun). Tonight there is another event in the Restaurant. Seems like it is a birthday party, we can hear the music from our room, the singers are very talented.

Due to the number of families completing adoptions, the four suites and the one connecting double room suite here at the Vlad Inn were already taken. We are in a standard room with two double beds. We do have a small refrigerator, a microwave and a crib. We have two chairs pulled up under the dresser desk to make an eating area. We have borrowed a booster from the restaurant so Danielle can have her meals. For the sake of continuity, we have continued the baby home practice of using the oversized bib with the plate of food on top of the bib like a table cloth. She uses a spoon and feeds herself. She even wipes her lips with the spoon to clean up excess food. One of us sits with her to eat and one of us eats at the night stand. We brought several packaged meals from Nutri-system (they do not require any refrigeration some require water and microwave to eat, some only require hot water or microwave to heat) We also brought tuna in the plastic envelopes and mayonnaise packages acquired one at a time per each visit to Chick-fil-a with my son David. We brought some trail mix, oatmeal breakfast bars and nuts. We were able to buy Danielle the food she required at the Babies R Us right beside her baby house in Usserysk. We purchased bread and butter from the local store. We got extra hangers from the Inn to be able to hang all of our clothes, and use the three drawers in the dresser. We were able to put our empty luggage on the top shelf. We have one open suitcase with Danielle’s clothes sitting in the closet area on the luggage stand. We set up a play area between a bed and the outside window wall. We have managed very well and are just so grateful to have her here with us. Out of boredom with our room and packaged meals, we have had one restaurant lunch, three breakfasts and two White Rabbit meals. David can tell you how many screws are in each ceiling panel, how many panels are in our room. Today I noticed that the treads on the stairs to the second floor had been cleaned very very well last night. They look almost new. Are we a little bored with the Vlad Inn or what?

We did take Danielle to breakfast Monday morning at the restaurant for her first restaurant experience. We thought it would be quick and easy. Due to the Putin staff having a buffet breakfast; it took over an hour to get our food. Danielle was very good considering. We did go move our clothes from the washer to the dryer, go back to our room to encourage her to go peez-peez then back to sit in the restaurant to wait for breakfast. At that time we did not know about the government officials visiting. She was very good considering it was such a long wait for food. We had taken her breakfast with us, she did have trouble understanding that she needed to sit and wait for our food to arrive even though she had completed her food.

Irina came by on Tuesday and took the other two families and me to the baby store and grocery store. David chose to stay here at the hotel with Danielle to keep her on schedule with lunch and nap. He has been so wonderful with her. I am really glad he has had this bonding time with her. It is truly an opportunity every dad should be allowed, but in our society it is often impossible to do. At the store, I was able to supplement our food with some fresh fruit, yogurt, potatoes, sour cream and butter for baking in the microwave. Irina helped me pick out some meat and cheese for sandwiches. I borrowed a steak knife from the restaurant to cut up the meat. I did pick up four freezer microwavable dinners that just fit in the tiny freezer in the little refrigerator. At the baby store I was able to buy more food and juice for Danielle and some pull-ups. She was doing very well in the mornings with the potty, but in the afternoons she would go through three pair of underwear and pants. Not quite ready to be potty trained. Since I was able to buy enough to get us home, I will just keep her in pull-ups for now. I assume she was used to being in wet clothes often as the caretaker would have around twelve children in varying stages of potty training, they use diapers/pull-ups only for naps, night time and visitors due to cost. Perhaps the pull-ups will allow her to know the difference between dry and comfortable, and wet and uncomfortable.

Today we were able to visit the Vladivostok port areas. It was a real treat and unexpected. We were able to visit a World War II Memorial area with a Submarine that has been turned into a museum. We were also able to visit a bunker/fort up on a hill. David had a wonderful time looking at all the history. We are both history buffs. But I will admit he is more into the military history than I am. Danielle had her first car ride since Got-cha day. At first she was still and quiet. We asked Irina to reassure her that Mama and Papa would not leave her and she did not need to be afraid. We stopped at a lookout for pictures and took her out of the car to get some pictures with her. When we got back in the car she began to cry. We tried to calm her down. We quickly went to the next overlook for more pictures. We were trying to understand the crying. We figured maybe it was because she loves to be outside. The next stop was the Submarine. She stopped crying when she got out and was fine going to all the sites at the port. Back in the car and more crying till we got up to the fort. When we left the fort the crying had reduced to a soft moaning. It was time for lunch, but after the car sickness from the first car ride, I decided to allow her just a few puffed fruit pieces. She fell asleep on the ride back to the Inn. We put her in the crib and let her nap. We had purposely let her have a huge breakfast, followed by a large snack before our trip to town knowing she would probably fall asleep before we could feed her lunch. When she woke up, she had a late lunch, then outside to the playground for our afternoon play. She now loves the swings and can almost pull herself up to the swing seat. The weather has been beautiful. We do not know if she is afraid of cars, or was concerned that her life may change again as it did last week when we took her from the baby home. I know she is too young for her conscience thoughts to be that clear. The unconscious is still a big mystery to us all.

Danielle has been very quiet since Got-cha day. We can tickle her to get a quiet laugh. She smiles and is very happy. She seldom speaks and is very quiet when she does. She does sing to herself and likes to hear us sing. When she wakes up in the mornings, we start moving by playing a CD we bought which incorporates her name into several children’s songs. She has said papa, mama, koo-klah (doll), oh-boof (shoes), when looking at pictures of animals, sometimes she will say what they are, and sometimes she makes the sound of the animal. David determined she knows the names of all her clothing. She now answers to Danielle, she knows that she must hold a mama or papa finger when outside. She knows to hold the finger when requested. She goes to the potty when requested and gets her bib for us if she is hungry. She has been allowed unlimited juice and water, we have kept it on the dresser top and she gets it when she is thirsty. I am sure this is a new freedom for her. She gets out one toy at a time plays with it, puts it back and gets out another toy. If something is out of place she must put it back in place. She is very smart and is very quick to learn. She is just a little quiet and will take some time to overcome a couple of years of not having a mama or papa available to listen to her. At night our routine has been to give her a bath, bundle her in a towel and her blanket. She uncovers part of her body and we put baby lotion on that part as we dress her in PJ’s one part at a time. Then she snuggles into papa’s or mama’s arms and looks at the First 1000 Words in Russian picture book or a children’s video such as Baby Einstein. She points and speaks through the book or video. It is the time of the day she speaks the most. She gets excited to see the animals and tries to say the names of the animals sometimes in Russian if she knows them, or she tries in English when she hears us say the names.

Tonight after dinner we took the play-doh to the White Rabbit room to visit with any of the other adoption families. We did meet up with one other family. Danielle became anxious about something and papa interpreted it as a request to go potty. She was looking in the bathroom and was looking around and kept trying to go to the door of the room. Papa and Danielle left to go take care of the potty request. When they got back to the room, she began looking on the floor and in her suit case for something. She did not want to go potty, but something was bothering her. She found my shoes, picked them up, handed them to papa and said clear as a bell, mama oh-boofs. They brought them back upstairs to the White Rabbit room where David asked me as he entered the room if I had worn my shoes to the room. I had walked up to the White Rabbit in my socks. When Danielle had noticed, she had to find my shoes. Papa and I are very proud of our little shoe police.

We have been monitoring the weather back in the USA. We live on the hurricane dart board. Eventually we become the target. So far so good for South Florida, we all want to keep those in the path of Gustov, Hanna, Ike, etc. in our prayers.

We really miss our son David. We have a video clip of him saying goodnight and that he loves us. It was emailed to us by his guardians. We love the video, I wish we were home to tuck both our children into bed tonight. David, mama and daddy love you too, we will be home in less than two weeks to introduce you to your little sister. Thanks for being a good boy while we are away.

I know I get really detailed in these blogs, I consider them a two fold ministry. One purpose is a record for our daughter. We want her to always know how much we wanted her and chose to have her become part of our family. The other purpose is to help future families still planning their court trip to get ideas for their trip. Hope it helps and praying for you all to have quick returns.

Thank you all for your prayers.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Two Days with Danielle

Today is Sunday and we woke up wanting to praise the Lord. We are in our ten day wait for official papers and can not take Danielle beyond a short walking distance of the hotel property. She is still the responsibility of the Director of the Baby House and it could cause great difficulty if we were asked to show papers and did not have a passport for our daughter. So we had to stay on property and praise the Lord within our family. Then I opened my emails and discovered my brother a missionary in Honduras had prepared a word for us from the Lord about Adoption:

In roman times a natural child and parents could be legally divorced.(Israel/Gent) But an adopted child was permanent and the parents could not separate from them by law.When Paul says we have been adopted…And uses it in this context. These passages will now carry a heavier truth in your lives that will always be with you… amen

Rom 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

Rom 8:23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

Gal 4:5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Eph 1: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Again God has the answer before we ask the question.

The last two days have been wonderful getting to know our daughter. She has been so happy. I have chosen to have Papa to do most of the bonding right now, before we know it he will be back at work full time and will never have this much time to spend bonding with his daughter. She has instantly become a daddy’s girl. She still loves the mama, but she is really enjoying getting to know papa. The weather is perfect, late summer with cool mornings and evenings and warm afternoons. Danielle loves to go outside. She understands when we ask her, in English, if she wants to go for a walk. Vlad Inn has installed a playground, it is very popular for the neighborhood. On Sundays it is full of children and there is a clown. Today the clown picked up Danielle and we got a picture. She was not afraid. I do not think she has had any fears since she has been with us. At the playground she has tackled all the slides but the big tube slide. I think I counted six slides on the playground. She did go down the tube slide once, but got all turned around and came down on her back head first. She did not seem scared but for now she did not want to go in it again. She did create a game, she climbs us the stairs, goes over a bridge and goes to a landing about three feet above the ground, she then leaps into papa’s or my arms. She must really trust us and that feels good, it keeps us on our toes, we do not know if she will leap even if we are not there waiting for her. For now we just want to be there to continue building the trust. I am sure we will have opportunities to make what if discoveries at home where the playgrounds have protective ground cover. She has been eating well, and goes to bed and sleeps through the night and at nap time. What a blessing. When we put her shoes on, she loves to hear the shoe stomp on the floor or sidewalk, she sounds like such a big person when she walks. We have been enjoying every moment of this special bonding time.

I think there are seven adoptive families here at this time, three have babies, close to one year old, four of us have toddlers to 5 year olds. The older group has been getting together after dinner in the White Rabbit room to let the little ones play with play dough or coloring books. It has been a great release and social time for the kids and the chairs in the White Rabbit are much more comfortable than sitting on the edge of a bed. Last night some of us ordered dinner in the White Rabbit, tonight we just met after dinner. The families with babies are welcome too, the social interaction with other adoptive parents helps with the ten day wait.

There has been a change at the Vlad Inn. On our first visit, they took dollars and did the exchange for us. The new policy is to accept rubles or credit cards only.

We do miss our son and can not wait to reunite our family soon. Little David, we love you.

Thank you all for your prayers,

Friday, August 29, 2008

Court Date and Gotcha Day Too

Today we went to court in Vladivostok. We were scheduled at 11:00. We arrived about 10:20 because traffic was in our favor. Irina had us leave extra early because sometimes Vladivostok traffic can cause major delays. When we arrived, we saw Jeff and Jennifer’s Rep in the lobby waiting; they had a 10:00 appointment. They came out at about 10:30 to wait for their Judges decision. A few minutes later, they had a positive conclusion and it was our turn. Since we were early, our judge went ahead and started the proceedings at about 10:45, I was impressed. I am used to having to wait at official proceedings.

Irina and Lana had spent time describing to us the court proceedings and had told us how to act in court. When addressing the court you should stand to state your answer. Remember to direct our answers toward the judge and not to Lana who is speaking to us in English. It seems adoption court is a little different than any other court. In other types of court proceedings you answer with simple yes and no’s, to say more may cause confusion or self incrimination. But here in Vladivostok adoption court it is best to answer with emotion and the full embellishment of the story. The judge will stop you when they have heard what they need to hear. Irina and Lana also told us some of the questions the judge may ask to help us prepare for the correct answers. Even with this preparation the questions tend to make you nervous. In our case most of the difficult questions were directed at David. They were concerned with the amount of hours he spends away from home doing his work and the ministry. They asked questions about the stability of our marriage and wanted to know if divorce was a possibility. They asked if he would have enough love for our daughter. There was also a question about his family life when he was a child. Why he knew Danielle was the right child for our family. She asked him to tell her the medical and family background. There were several other difficult questions that are still swimming around in my head. When it was my turn, I was asked several probing questions. I was asked what I could give to Danielle. Why should the judge consider waiving the ten days? Then the most difficult question came to me. The one question I had hoped would not be asked. Some of you may know that about a month ago a West Virginia Real Estate Broker had went to his office with his new son adopted from Russia, as I recall they had the child for only three months. The father forgot to drop the son at daycare and left the baby in the car all day. The little boy died. I was asked what I thought about this. I choked up and started to cry right in the court before the judge. When I had first heard the story, I had cried and prayed for this family for 3 days. My heart still hurts at this tragedy.

There were some paperwork formalities and then the prosecutor had the opportunity to ask questions. She argued against waiving the 10 days by stating that according to Russian law the 10 days may only be waived for severe health issues. She chose not to ask us any questions. We were then asked to leave the room. A few minutes later we were asked back in to hear that we had been granted the parental rights for Danielle and would have our official papers in 10 days. Yea God!!!! Two years, six months into Danielle’s Journey, we have adopted our daughter.

Now the surprise. Jeff and Jennifer’s rep from another agency and Irina were able to double team the social worker and had her overrule the director of our baby home to give us custody of our children during the 10 day wait. Yea God it is also GOTCHA DAY!!!!! Future adoptive parents from the Usserysk baby home please understand this is very rare. We thank God for this decision and we were fine with custody or no custody during the 10 day wait and did not press this issue. There are pros and cons about early custody, so we came to Russia prepared to handle the wait either with our without the custody of Danielle. It is normal for Irina to try to request early custody, but most of the time she is turned down. The biggest reason I am currently looking at the beautiful face of a precious little girl sleeping in her crib is because the weather is very very nice right now. The two girls released today have not been prone to severe or repetitive colds. And both couples have one child at home already, so we have some experience with children and illnesses. When I heard it was a strong possibility that we could have Danielle during our 10 day wait I prayed and asked Jesus to allow the decision to be the best situation for Danielle.

I was actually very concerned about taking Danielle from the baby home today. Yesterday she was more upset than comfortable with our return visit. Today they woke her up just a little bit early from her nap to bring her out to us. She cried when she saw us. I picked her up and she buried her face in my shoulder and cried. I took her over to the window to see outside and she calmed down. We played for a while and then papa wanted me to hand her to him. When I did she buried her head in his shoulder and cried, he also took her to the window to look outside which calmed her down. Then she realized papa was holding her and she likes being held. She began warming up to him quickly. Our paper work was now done and we signed for the custody of Danielle during the 10 day wait. We had already stopped to buy the orphanage gift of diapers and a cake. Then we changed Danielle. The moment we began to change her clothes, she changed too. It was like she was ready to put off the old and put on the new. Her attitude changed and she was ready to go on her new big adventure with mama and papa. We put her between us and put the lap seatbelt on her. Filled her lap with dolls and drove two hundred feet away to the grocery store. Papa and Danielle stayed in the van and Irina and I went in to get about a weeks worth of food for Danielle. She rode the whole hour and a half back to our hotel between us in her seat belt. I wanted to start the pattern out properly because it will be a car seat when we get home. Unfortunately, we gave her some snacks and she got car sick twice on the way back to the baby home. We got back to our room, changed her and papa took her outside for a walk. I put away groceries, unpacked the toys we took with us and prepared Danielle’s dinner. Papa left the room for a minute and when he knocked on the hotel door I said papa, and she said papa three times. Her first word we understand is papa. David is flying high as a kite. After dinner, we went for another walk outside, then inside for a bath. She really liked the bath and liked the toothbrush cleaning I did on her toe nails and finger nails. We wrapped her up in a towel and then treated all of her little scratches, scrapes and bug bites, as well as a rash on her rear. We put her PJ’s on and papa sat with her and went through the 1000 first words in Russian book. We were surprised when she started pointing at animals as either making a sound the animal makes, or calling it by name in Russian. She was one happy little girl all snuggled into papa’s lap looking at her book and communicating. It was definitely the right decision to have custody of her for the 10 day wait. Thank you Jesus for orchestrating (again).