Saturday, March 31, 2012

Last Full Day in Russia - Day 5

Our last full day in Russia was spent on an airplane and in a car (literally, the entire day)! We ate breakfast in Perm (blini, of course) and then headed for the airport. We had about 30 minutes after breakfast before our driver was picking us up, so Troy & I took a quick walk up the street. We saw what looked like a church, so we headed that direction to take pictures. Since our time was limited we quickly snapped the pictures & headed back. Once we got back to the hotel I showed Tatyana the picture we had taken and asked her what church that was. Her response....."Stephanie, that's a mosque!" Yes, this preacher's daughter and her husband, a deacon, never bothered to look up to the top of the building to see there was a crescent instead of a cross!!!! All we could do was laugh!

We headed to the airport and boarded our flight back to Moscow. The flight was uneventful (my favorite kind)! We actually landed in Moscow early (it was around 1:00 pm Moscow time). Tatyana told us that Pasha would be taking us straight to the American Medical Center to have our 8 doctor physical and that Ludmila would be waiting for us there. We all got in Pasha's car. Not far from the airport, we dropped Tatyana off and said our good-byes to her. Pasha, Troy & I then headed for the medical center. We thought it would be a fairly quick drive. WRONG!!! We got stuck in the worst traffic jam I have ever seen! It took us almost 5 hrs to get there! 5 hrs!!! I was a nervous wreck because I knew we would miss our appointments and we were flying back to the US the next morning. We finally arrived at the medical center a little before 6 and poor Ludmila had been sitting there waiting on us since 3! Thankfully, the doctors waited on us.

The physical itself was no big deal. The psychiatrist kind of gave us the third degree, but we just answered honestly and as kindly as we could. We finished up there around 8:00 pm and headed to Ludmila's for dinner.

Dinner was fantastic, of course. She bought us some champagne so the three of us could toast our meeting of "little man". The three of us sat at the table and talked for hours. It was wonderful! Russia was actually beginning to feel like a second home.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hard Day - Day 4

Our fourth day began with breakfast in our room, with Tatyana. We had quite a spread (bananas, pears, mandarin oranges, local pastries filled with potato and chocolate cake.....YES, chocolate cake)! Tatyana informed us that she had a meeting that morning with the district inspector, so a dark blue car from the baby house would be picking us up. I don't know about you, but I was a little nervous just waiting on the corner for a dark blue car. In fact, that's probably frowned upon to get in a car, in a foreign country, with someone you've never seen before! LOL As soon as the "dark blue car" pulled up, we knew it had to be from the baby house. A nice man helped us with our bags and we got in. Sitting in the seat next to me was a woman who worked at the baby house. In her arms, she held a bundled up baby. (TINY baby) It was all I could do not to reach out and hold that sweet child! I stared at her beautiful face all the way there! It ripped my heart out to know this precious little one was headed to a baby house. In that moment, I said a prayer for her. I prayed that God would lay a burden on a sweet couple's heart that they should adopt!! I continue to pray for that baby and I don't plan to stop!

Once we arrived at the baby house, I was chomping at the bit to get in there and see our "little man"! In fact, I think I may have run inside! This time they took us upstairs to a play room. It was extremely nice! Mirrors all over the room, lot of play equipment and tons of little chairs in a semi-circle. I got my shoes off, my surgical mask on (Troy got the camera ready), and we waited. In about a minute or two, the door came open and in he came. He came to us much quicker and easier than he did the day before. I instantly scooped him up in my arms and kissed him probably 100 times! We all then got on the floor and began playing. He went straight for the backpack. He definitely remembered all the toys that had been in there the day before. In the room, they also had a HUGE (over 5 ft tall) plastic ring stacker (you know the Fisher Price toy that has been around has a white plastic pole in the center and you stack the colored plastics rings on it largest to smallest). Troy leaned it over and took all of the rings off. It has 2 rings of every color. Next thing we know, "little man" is organizing all the rings by color and then begins to take them largest to smallest over to Troy to put on. Troy tried giving him one light green ring and one dark green ring, but "little man" put the light green one down and walked around the room until he could find the dark green one. I was amazed. All the workers kept calling him "the professor". We only had an hour and a half with him that day. We had to be back in Perm at a certain time to meet with a notary, so our time was limited. Each time I looked down at my watch I felt my stomach get tighter and tighter. Then it happened. Tatyana came in and said we had to go. How do you say goodbye to your son that you just met? How do you leave him in a baby house? In that moment I have never been so thankful for my God that is "a God to the fatherless". My God who promises to "protect the orphans". I held "little man" tighter than I ever had and Troy and I both kissed him. I of course cried my eyes out and we led him back to his group room. Over the past 8 years of motherhood, that was by far the hardest moment I have ever faced. Even as I type this, tears stream down my face and the pain of leaving my child overwhelms me. As much as my heart aches to have him in my arms, I know that God's got him in His arms and there's NO better arms for "little man" to be in!

On the drive back to Perm, I alternated between sleeping and crying. Nothing like a LONG car ride to make you sit and think and CRY! (On a side note, did you know that EVERYONE listens to techno music in Russia???? I don't care if I ever hear another techno song for as long as I live! 3 straight hours of it....torture! If you think it was bad for me, my poor husband who only listens to old country was about to die!)When we got back to Perm, we had to go straight to the notary's office to sign our official intent to adopt papers. After that was done, we went to a cafe and had some lunch. We all decided we needed a nap after that, so off to the hotel we went. I cried a little more in the hotel room and then got a much needed 2 hr nap!

After our nap, we met up with Tatyana again and went to our favorite cafe and had more blini (pancakes). Have I mentioned how much I loved blini?? We tried to find a place with WiFi after dinner. We went to a shopping area (like a mall), but I still had no luck getting the internet to work on our computer. After trying for quite a while, I decided to give up. I was beginning to think it just wasn't meant for us to have ANY communication with anyone outside of Russia. HA! I do have to admit though, it was nice not having to check my phone and e-mail every 5 minutes!!!

Going to sleep that night was difficult for me. All I could see was "little man's" face when I closed my eyes. We prayed for our son and prayed for the people that are caring for him and that the next few months would pass quickly!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Too Long Between Posts

It has been way too long since my last post! When we got home, I initially intended to write about one day of our trip everyday. Well....we've been home 3 weeks & I've only written about the first few days! Ah!! The reason....things have been extremely busy! I told Troy yesterday that I'm convinced we have fewer hours in a day since coming back from Russia. Not only do we have a TON of paperwork that we're trying to hurry up and get ready, but our daily activities seem to continue no matter what! LOL This week Troy & I celebrated our 9th anniversary, one of my dearest friends gave birth to her fifth child and we attended a gala for the pregnancy center our church supports. (Did I mention that all of that happened in one day?) On a side note, I found a small Russian food market here in San Antonio. I went there today for the first time. The owner, Sasha, and I talked for about 20 minutes. It turns out that she worked in an orphanage in Russia for 19 years! It was so great to get to talk to her! By the end of our conversation, we were both in tears. Hopefully tomorrow I can finish up the last few days of our trip!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Day 3 Continued

Our visit with "little man" was way too short!! It was the fastest 2 hours of my life! I cried, of course, when they came and got him, but I knew we'd be back in the morning for another visit so I was o.k.

 We left the baby house and walked to the cafe we had eaten at for lunch. The Dr.'s assistant joined us for dinner. When we got to the cafe, we sat down and noticed a large table full of women at the other end of the room. They were definitely there to celebrate! They would make a toast and then sing a song. About 15 minutes later, they would make another toast and sing another song. I loved it!! thing we knew, all of the women got up from the table and went into the next room and began to dance. (Did I mention that these women were celebrating a 75th birthday!!! 75!!) They had disco lights and strobe lights going and started dancing to what sounded to me like techno music! (Tatyana later told us that it was old Soviet music that had been remixed.) They all danced for at least 2 hours straight!!! At one point, Tatyana said that we should go dance with them. So, we did!! (Well, everyone except Troy who sat at the table with our purses and bags.) I had SO much fun. After about 2 songs, we decided to sit back down and have some more tea. While drinking our tea, Tatyana kept telling Troy and I over and over that the two of us needed to go dance with the ladies. Guess what??? Troy did it!! I have never laughed so hard in my entire life! Those women were hilarious! They LOVED Troy. I couldn't even dance because I was laughing so hard. They kept saying things to me in Russian and of course I would just laugh and smile. (Who knows what in the world I was laughing and smiling about!)

 We finished our evening by walking to a local grocery store. We couldn't find anywhere in town that served breakfast, so Tatyana wanted to pick some things up for us to eat. You would have thought we were feeding a large group of people! She wanted us to try a little of everything. She even picked up a chocolate cake. Now THAT'S my kind of breakfast! I think I should have been born Russian, because I could definitely live on pancakes (blini) and chocolate cake!

 Once our groceries were purchased, we walked back to our hotel for some much needed rest. It was the first night that Troy and I were able to fall asleep with absolutely no problem! It's amazing what holding your child in your arms will do for you!!!

Dinner at the cafe in Kudymkar

Our hotel
Walking back to our hotel after dinner

Saturday, March 17, 2012

One of the Greatest Days of My Life - Day 3

We began Day 3 in the cafe eating blini (my new favorite Russian food). As soon as we finished, we headed straight over to the administration building to meet with the regional inspector. The meeting was fairly uneventful. We just had to sign a piece of paper that stated we wanted to visit "little man" that afternoon and the next morning and that we were interested in pursuing adoption. Of course, when they showed me his database picture (which we already had at home), I cried. We were going to be holding that sweet face in our arms later that afternoon. I could hardly wait!

Once the paperwork was signed, we headed outside to meet our driver. Once loaded in the car, we began the 3 hr drive to Kudymkar. It was a LONG, but beautiful drive. There were miles of gorgeous snow-covered pine trees and then miles of snow-covered fields. We passed through a few villages along the way and in each one all the people were out and about walking around (in Texas we'd all be inside complaining about how cold it was)! The entire 3 hours I felt like I was either going to cry my eyes out or scream. We COULD NOT get there fast enough (for me, anyway)!

We arrived in Kudymkar at about 1:00pm. All the children in the baby house take a nap until 3:00pm, so we went to check into our hotel. There is only one hotel in Kudymkar (it's a very small town). Again, I was quite nervous going in but was pleasantly surprise at how clean and large the rooms were. We dropped our bags off in our room and headed to a restaurant to have lunch and waste a couple of hours. We stopped and asked some people walking down the street where we should eat. Off we went! We were all surprised once we got inside. It was an extremely nice restaurant! The food was incredible. We later found out the chef had won many awards throughout Russia and Europe for his cooking. Although the food was fantastic, I think I was only able to force about 3 bites down because my stomach was in such knots. I kept checking my watch every minute or so to see if it was 3:00 yet. Once the clock struck the magic number, we loaded back up in the car and headed down the street.

I don't think I'll forget that short drive as long as I live. Every turn, every building....I was taking it all in. We were about to hold our son for the very first time! The car began to slow down and my heart began to race faster and faster. I don't think I've ever experienced a feeling like that in my life.

As we pulled up to the door, what I saw was not at all what I had expected. The baby house was very nice! It was a newer building and it even had a new playground out front. Troy, Tatyana and I went right inside and headed for the director's office (the baby house doctor). We all sat down and the doctor began to go over all of "little man's" file. I was trying my best to write down everything he was saying, but all my heart and mind could think about was seeing and holding our son. I think the doctor could tell I was having a hard time concentrating because he asked his assistant to go ahead and get "little man".

The next minute seemed like an eternity! They asked us to put surgical masks on and led us into what looked like a small clinic. I stepped through the doorway and there stood....our son! Every fiber in my body wanted to run straight to him and scoop him up in my arms, but I knew we'd have to take this first meeting slow. He turned and looked at me and in that moment I completely melted. All the paperwork, all the money, all the traveling was completely worth it in the one moment!

I walked towards him and sat next to him on the floor. He wasn't quite sure what to think about us at first. There was a toy car sitting on the floor and so I began rolling the car all over the floor (and making crazy car noises, of course). The next thing I knew, he was down on the floor wanting to push the car with me. Once I knew he felt a little more comfortable, Troy handed me the backpack we brought (filled with toys) and I got out the toy cell phone. It was a HIT! He would push the buttons and put it up to his ear and then put it up to my ear. Then I pulled out the bubbles. He LOVED them (but then again what child doesn't)! I would blow them and he would pop them. Troy would blow some more and he would pop some more! Minute by minute he was becoming more comfortable with us. Then it happened, he let me pick him up. I will never, as long as I live, forget exactly how he felt and smelled at that moment. Even as I type this, I can smell him and tears begin to roll down my face!

It's extremely hard to put into words exactly what that moment was like for me. What I do know for sure though is that in that moment, God's love for me has never felt more real. I realized right then just how much God truly loves me. He gave his one and only son for me, so that I could be one of His children. So that He could adopt me! I've known that my entire life, but God used that moment with our "little man" to show me just a glimpse of how much He loves me.....loves us. "Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes." Ephesians 1:4 "But God is so rich in mercy, and he loves us so much that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's grace that you have been saved!)" Ephesians 2:4-5 "How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings." Psalm 36:7

Day 3 to be continued.....

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pictures from Perm

An ice sculpture in the center of town! (Definitely NOT something we've ever seen in South Texas! Ha!)

The cafe that we ate all of our meals at.



Our regular meal...blini with jam (On a side note...unless you like to chew your coffee, stick to hot tea!!!)

The outside of our hotel.

Our hotel room.

The administration building (where we met the regional inspector and singed our letter of intent to adopt "little man").

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Trip 1 - Day 2

Day 2 began with a delicious breakfast by Ludmila. While we were in her home she definitely kept us well fed! We then had a few hours to get a little more rest and then Ludmila insisted on feeding us an early lunch before we headed to the airport. Pasha and Tatyana picked us up around 11:30 and we headed to catch our flight to Perm. They require you to be at the airport three hours before your flight leaves in Russia. So, that gave Tatyana, Troy & me LOTS of time in the airport to drink hot tea (which I drank more of in Russia than I have in my entire life)! We flew to Perm on a newer Russian airline called S7. It was a very nice airline. It was an Airbus 319. The airplane itself was painted a very bright, almost lime green color (of course I loved that)! The flight to Perm was only 2 hrs, but they served us a full lunch during the flight (hot tea included, of course)! There is a 2 hr time difference between Moscow & Perm, so when we landed it was about 7:00pm. A driver that Tatyana had hired picked us up at the Perm airport (which was TINY) and we began the hour long drive around town trying to find our hotel! Our hotel wasn't at all what I was expecting. It was in an alleyway behind a cafe. I was nervous, to say the least, when we pulled up. Once we got inside though, I realized the rooms were very clean. We got our bags put away and then walked down the alley to a 24 hr cafe. There we discovered Russian pancakes with jam. I was in love!!!! We finished up our pancakes and hot tea and went back to the hotel to get some much needed sleep!! I wasn't quite sure yet what to think of Russia, but it was definitely starting to grow on me!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pictures From Day 1

Here are a few pictures from Day 1 of our trip. They were all taken at Ludmila's home. Have I mentioned how much we loved her? :)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Trip 1 - Day 1

Over the next week or so, I want to write all about our first trip to meet our "little man". I'm not the world's greatest "journaler", but I want him to be able to read, someday, all about our adventure to bring him home. I don't want to forget a single detail either because this has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Last Friday, March 2nd, we left San Antonio around 7:15am for Moscow. We arrived in Moscow on Saturday, around 11:15am. After we got our bags and went through customs, we were greeted by our driver. He was holding a sign that said "Coul". I figured it was close enough to "Cole", so we went straight to him and shook his hand. I felt a little better that we had found the right person when he said "Stephanie". He helped us with our bags and we headed for his car. It did feel a little "uneasy" getting in the car with someone you've never seen before and with whom you can't communicate at all. (Lots of praying was going on!) Pasha (and I'm sure I'm spelling his name wrong) then took us to Tatyana's home. (our Gladney Russian coordinator) Tatyana went over our week with us briefly and let us know what time we would be leaving the next morning. Pasha then took us to our host's home (Liudmila) so that we could rest. When we arrived at Liudmila's home we were greeted by the kindest, warmest woman I have ever met! I couldn't have hand-picked a better person for us to stay with while in Moscow. She already had lunch on the table for us to eat. As soon as we finished eating, she took us to our room and told us to get some rest. I think I was asleep before my head even hit the pillow! Troy and I were able to get 3-4 hrs sleep and then Liudmila woke us up for dinner. She is a fantastic cook and an even more wonderful hostess! I have never felt so welcomed and comfortable. I instantly felt like she was part of our family. After dinner and tea, Troy and I headed back to bed to get rested for what was going to be an extremely busy and emotionally exhausting 5 days!

I will try to upload pictures later. For some reason, blogger isn't letting me upload any photos right now!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What A Trip!

We are back in the USA! We are currently at JFK waiting for our flight back to San Antonio. The past 6 days were CRAZY and WONDERFUL!! Our precious "little man" is the absolute cutest thing you have ever seen! I was in love from the moment my eyes first met his. Leaving him was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do as a mom! I'm so thankful that I serve a God that's got our "little man" in the palm of His hands! That is what allows me to sleep at night.

I plan to blog ALL about our trip, but I'm going to wait until we get home and I get some sleep! I don't think I'm able to put together too many coherent thoughts right now. We're exhausted!!!

Thank you so much for all of your prayers! Troy and I are overwhelmed and amazed at all God is doing in and through us right now! To Him be ALL the glory!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Hanging Out At JFK

Troy and I made it from San Antonio to JFK. Now we get to sit around and hang out for 4 hrs!! Then we're off to Moscow! I cannot believe this day is finally here. It was hard leaving our four kiddos behind, but they're in GREAT hands (grandparents)! They all made pictures for "little man" and made me promise I would show them to him! Our youngest was running around the house yelling "baby brother Russia"! It was so cute! Please keep our parents in your prayers as they take care of our kids at home. Please continue to pray for us! I'm nervous and excited all at once. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! He does "place the lonely in families"!