Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

What an amazing ride the last two and a half days have been. As I type this, our son is sleeping beside me with his ever present Mollie the Monkey, sucking his thumb. When we left him in June, we left him with the stuffed monkey and the caregivers said that he played with it everyday. "Mine!" he would exclaim. We might have to rename him something more masculine and Russian, but Sergei the Monkey doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

Daniel has been an absolute delight for every single minute of the time we have had him. Sunday night we rested well until around 4 AM when, much like kids on Christmas morning, the proverbial sun couldn't come up fast enough. The days are still about twenty two hours long. Natalie had given us her son's cell phone so that she could contact us when it was time, with the hope that it would be around 9 AM. She had not yet been able to connect with the social worker, Helen, in the baby home to set up an appointment and the social worker's office hours began at 9. We ate breakfast and came back to the room to wait. Minutes crawled agonizingly by, first five, then ten, then fifteen, twenty, thirty and then forty. We were both silent, anxious . Finally the hotel phone rang with a frantic Natalie on the other end. It seeems that the cell phone we had wasn't working and she had been trying to reach us. We were to be in the hotel lobby in "seven minutes" and then be rushed to the bank to exchanged money and the market to buy a treat for the other children in his group. She was frantic because she anticipated how nervous we must have been feeling so we found ourselves being the ones to console her, assuring her that , as long as at the end of the day we had our son, everything else was going to be just fine.

When we arrived at the baby home, dozens of little people were in the play yard outside the orphanage. It was a beautiful day and all the children were taking full advantage of the sunshine. We assumed Daniel was among them, but we first had to go into the baby home to deliver the huge suitcase of Buddies and trinkets we had brought for his caregivers. At the front desk, however, we glanced outside and saw a little commotion. Daniel was being led by the hand by his caregiver to the edge of the little fence of the playground. She was pointing at us and we saw his face explode into a smile. Brock went outside first and he started jumping up and down and began to climb over the fence to close the distance. He had watched for us every day and it seemed that he was as happy to see us and we were to see him. At long last our family was together! Since we arrived a little later than we had intended and the children had already had their second breakfast and were outside playing, we did not have the party as we thought. We instead took Daniel and the gifts upstairs to the Helen's office, and presented the buddies to her. She covered her mouth with delight when we opened the suitcase and the buddies exploded out of the bag. We emphasized that these gifts were from our friends all over the United States and she was visibly touched by your generosity. We then changed Daniel's clothes and we all oohed and ahhed over how handsome he looked. Even Helen, who sees these adorable children every single day, was not immune to his little converse sneakers and yellow and blue plaid button up. We walked outside and his little friends came over to say "Paka Paka" one last time. We loaded him up in the car and we were off to the greatest adventure of our lives.

He rode quietly in the car. Natalie had said that when she took him to get his passport pictures, he cried when they put him in the car because he was scared. But there were no tears that day. He sat in my lap and took everything in. It was then time for our first big hurdle to overcome. We had to figure out how to feed the little man. We walked to a restaurant that we had eaten at several times. He had a truck in one hand and Daddy's finger in the other. He sat quietly in his high chair at the restaurant and rolled it back and forth. We couldn't have asked for a better behaved child. Halfway through his chicken nuggets and fries, and two glasses of apple juice-rookie mistake, we were just glad he was drinking- he started yawning and rubbing his eyes. We hurried through our pizza and made the short trek back to the hotel. He wanted "Uppa" until he saw pigeons at which time he squirmed to get down so he could make new friends. If only the little rascals would have stayed still long enough. Heaven knows he tried to catch them though and I found myself running to keep up with his short little legs while his Dad stayed back with the video camera laughing at us. Back at the hotel, we changed him into pajamas, laid him down between us and even though it took him about 45 minutes to fall asleep, he stayed still and quiet. No fussing, no fighting. Again, we couldn't have asked for more. In fact, every single hour has brought a new blessing and new wonder. Our hearts have never been so full. The next day was cold and rainy so we played inside and he was absolutely delighted to chase the ball around the room. He read books to us and came running-more like charging every single time we'd clap our hands and say, "Come here!"

 During nap time, I slipped out of the room to go with Natalie to pick up his Russian passport and new birth certificate. Daniel Wayne Williams. Born November 15, 2009. Son of Brock Wayne Williams and Lara Ashley Corwin Williams. No sooner had we walked out of the office than Natalie did a happy dance and confided that she had been nervous since we had had such a series of unfortunate coincidences. Every step brought us to this boy. It was a broken and hard road to walk down, but as my son lays curled up beside me right now sucking his thumb, we know every minute was worth it. We will always love and pray for Roman, but I just have to trust that God has a perfect plan for him, too. But I am convinced that Daniel was made to be our son. Perfect and precious!

 Our plane ride to Moscow was wonderfully uneventful. Brock and I were both exhausted and Daniel was so content to sit on my lap and watch Mickey Mouse on the iPad while we closed our eyes. When we were landing, though, he lunged at Brock to see all the buildings and planes. He pointed and jibber jabbered all the way down the runway and everything was amazing to him! We were met by 31 year old Alex and Daniel was strapped into Alex's son's carseat. Again, he took it in stride. Alex was wonderful with him and managed to get him to close his eyes and rest. When we got to the hotel, we all trooped up to the room with the Doctor in tow and both men commented on how happy he was and how at ease he seemed with us. The Doctor left and Alex had Brock sign a lot of papers. I was reading to Daniel when I was "summoned" to sign some of the papers. "Don't worry I will pay attention to him." No sooner had I signed my name than did I turn around and Daniel was under the covers with Mollie the Monkey, sucking his thumb and drifting into never never land. We want to take Alex home with us!

Today is Wednesday and after Daniel woke up, we took him on the Metro subway to see Red Square and the Kremlin. We stopped for a street vendor juice box, chased more birds, ran around a water fountain and pointed at every truck, bus and tractor (yes tractors in Moscow!!) We can't wait to see him on the farm. The Kremlin and Pokrovsky Cathedral were beautiful, but no sooner had we walked through the entrance than Daniel's little thumb went in his little mouth, the tell-tale sign that our little man was getting sleepy. We quickly snapped some pictures, but it's amazing how even in the most famous place in Russia, we were completely distracted by our 33 inch miracle. He needed a nap and we needed to get him to a bed. He was an absolute champion though while we navigated the Metro back to our room and then fell asleep for a loong four hour nap.

We have learned so much in the last sixty hours. He loves Mollie the Monkey and does not love the generic elephant we brought for this trip. We learned that there are a lot of things that he will not eat, but he loves Cheerios and sour cream and french fries. That's all he would eat at dinner. Natalie wrote some phrases for us to ask him. "khochesh 'pee saht" Do you need to pee? "Khochesh peet" Do you want to drink? "Khochesh 'kooh shaht" Do you want to eat? "Khochesh Kah'Kaht" Do you need to take a poo? Unfortunately, we got 'kooh shaht and kah'kaht confused so we were wondering why he looked at us funny when we asked if he was hungry and we rushed to put him on the potty. Epic Parental Fail. Today, after having received a million and five kisses from us over the last two days, he puckered his lips like a little duck and laid a big wet one right on Daddy's mouth. He wiped his own mouth off and it became his newest favoritest game. I think he repaid every single kiss with interest. And we couldn't get enough. We've learned that every time he has to go potty, he has to make sure that Mollie is safe in the arms of the non attending parent. He loves water, and since our hotel in Moscow only has a shower, he has danced in the downpour, laughing hysterically. Also, apparently teeth brushing is the most hygienic way to tickle him. He laughs hysterically every time I put a toothbrush in his mouth.

One final highlight before I surrender to my own exhaustion. Tonight the most amazing thing happened. He has been sleeping between us every night. Daniel was laying quietly between us, and suddenly sat upright, spun around so he was facing us. He put on finger dead center in Brock's chest and said, "Dah Dah" and then one finger on my chest, "Mah Mah" Brock and I looked at each other in astonishment. Did he just call us Daddy and Mommy? Sure enough, the next fifteen minutes was spent repeating the same, until each word became more and more clear. Mommy, Daddy, Mommy Daddy, Mommy Daddy. Yes, son, we are your Mommy and your Daddy. We love you so much already. You are our miracle.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Gotcha Day

We are in the final hours. Our trip went smoothly except for only the smallest hiccup in Moscow. The printer stopped working at ticket counter for our connecting flight but after only a few moments, they had fixed the glitch and we were all set. "You are very lucky," we were told. "Normally, if it breaks it takes hours to fix and we wouldn't have been able to print your boarding passes." I don't know that we've ever been told that we were lucky while our feet have been on Russian soil. It was surprisingly delightful! * When we arrived at the hotel, we had just barely beat the torrential downpour that danced its way across the river. Another small blessing to not have had to pull our 130 stuffed animals and all our other luggage through the rain. We took our standard Sunday afternoon nap for a world record of six hours, got up, walked to a nice little restaurant and then to the grocery store to make sure our son had milk and yogurt, cheese and juice. The temperature is very cool here and I'm thankful that in my praying for wisdom on what to pack, I thought to grab some sweaters and long pants. It was so hot here last month that part of me thought it would be silly. Although, the time before that, only three months prior, the ground was covered in snow and ice and the river was frozen solid. Such changes in such a short amount of time.

As silly as it seems, there is a tiny, minuscule part of me that is a little sad to not have any more trips to Russia in the foreseeable future. There is a much, much greater part of me that is grateful to have this process behind us. More than anything I am relieved to leave this holding pattern of uncertainty and dive headlong into all the work and all the wonder of parenthood. This process has been a huge part of our lives for almost three years and now we get to dance to a new rhythm.

We have become masters at charades. When we ordered dinner tonight, our waitress did not understand what we were trying to communicate until Brock tappped his water glass and then wrapped both arms around his chest and shivered violently. She laughed and returned with a big bowl of ice. I would have thought that food would have been the most difficult thing to order, but thanks to bilingual menus, we are able to point. My favorite part is the way every waitress nods her head as if we've made a wonderful selection, and then repeats our order back to Russian. We smile and nod and hope for the best. Last night I ordered, "chicken in the capital style" which turned out to be a piece of very done fried chicken breast.

Two years, seven months and eleven days ago, Brock came up quietly behind me, put his arms around me and whispered the words that have changed our lives. "I'm ready to adopt if you are." Nine hundred, fifty four days, almost one hundred thirty seven weeks, twenty two thousand eight hundred ninety six hours, one million, three hundred seventy three thousand, seven hundred sixty minutes, and approximately, eighty two million, four hundred twenty five thousand, six hundred seconds. We have been on forty three different flights and have three more to go. We have fallen in love with two small Russian boys and have the amazing privilege to take one home. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this journey would have taken the twists and turns that it did. I couldn't have conceived the number of people to whom we are forever indebted for helping us, praying for us and encouraging us to take one more step when we felt like we couldn't even crawl. (Granted, I couldn't "conceive" even one person!! :) We have experienced every possible emotion. And we will finish with tidal waves of gratitude, amazement and the greatest peace that this part is finished and we have finished well. We got discouraged, but never quit. We got angry, but never stopped trusting God. We got disheartened, fatigued and sorrowful, but we held on. "...if you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on until there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold On!..." Rudyard Kipling If 

I am not in any way saying that WE did anything miraculous. Heaven knows that without the prayers and support of His people, we would have abandoned this a long time ago. I attribute all of our successes to His provisions of people and power.

In about three hours, we will walk into that baby home for the last time, bearing gifts and sweets and have a party with Daniel's caregivers and the other children and we will celebrate our family. We have had far too many days of mourning and heartache and today is the day of celebration and great rejoicing! Then we will walk out, with our forever son in our arms and bring him to his forever home. July 23, 2012 is Daniel's Gotcha Day. We will give him the best we can give him. We will shower him with love and affection and forever change not only his life but his legacy. But we are the lucky ones. We are the ones who have been chosen for this incredible privilege. For to love any child is a gift and the love of a child is the greatest measure of success.

It is finished...and then it will have just begun....

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Let's Bring that Baby Home!

It's 4 AM and my brain is doing cartwheels.  We leave in less than 36 hours and, while I couldn't be more excited, I am completely and delightfully overwhelmed.  Brock and I have been around children our entire lives and we've never been scared of a miracle wrapped in skin, but this little 32 inch, 23 pound gift has me terrified!  I keep telling myself that every new mother I've ever known has had many of the same feelings when the doctor hands them a little bundle and sends them home.  "What do I do if he gets sick?  How will I know what to feed him?  How will I know when he's even  hungry?  What happens if he doesn't like me right away?  How do I keep him from getting scared and overwhelmed?  How do I keep me from getting scared and overwhelmed?  What if his ears won't pop on the plane ride home?"

Okay, that last one might be a little unique...

Then I hear the voice of our case worker.  "All you have to do is keep him alive.  He doesn't have to be eating all his vegtables and get on a perfect routine right away.  You just have to keep him alive..."  We can do that!  Lord willing!!  We will figure out something that he will like to eat and, even if he doesn't sleep in his adorable little toddler bed we have ready, we will figure out somewhere that will be comfortable to sleep.  We've done everything we know how to do to prepare-we've covered outlets, we've moved medicines, we've put family heirlooms away, we've read books and we've put all my bead projects in the basement.  Now, we just have to roll with it.  We get to enjoy it all.  We get to be there for his first English words.  We get to enjoy every run-across-the-room-jump-into-your-arms-bury-the-head-your-neck kinda  hug.  Life as we know it is over and now the party-and all the hard work-can start!

When events started spiraling out of control with Roman, we shut down.  I stopped all the nesting projects (Granted, first I DID have to get our home livable again!) and closed the door on preparations.  I never thought I'd say this, but I have been extremely grateful for this 30 day waiting period.  Of course, if we had had the choice, we would have brought him home right away, but since we didn't have that option, it has been nice for the prep time.  Neither one of us had  let ourselves feel too attached and up until the court hearing, we were on a bit of auto-pilot.  There was a big part of us that was scared of another drawn out tragedy.  But Perfect Love drives out fear and God gave us all the resources we need to take each new step when it was time.  Now, we are less than five days away from holding the little boy who captured our hearts.  That still voice I heard the very first day in the baby home, "This little boy is going to heal my heart" was happily prophetic.  We still pray and will continue to pray for little Roman, but we are also absolutely convinced that Daniel was destined for our family.  My heart is full.

We are leaving to drive up to St. Louis tomorrow and we will fly out on Friday.  We are scheduled to get to Arkhangelsk on Sunday around noon, just in time for our Sunday afternoon nap!  We aren't sure yet if we will pick Daniel up on Monday or Tuesday, but we will fly out to Moscow with him on Tuesday afternoon.  We will spend the rest of the week finalizing paperwork and getting ready to bring him to his forever home.  We will take the early flight from Moscow home on Saturday the 28th, spend the night in St. Louis and come home on the 29th.

It seems so simple condensed into five little sentences.  Our world is going to be upside down and backwards.  We are as  ready for it as we know how to be.  His world is going to be upside down and backwards, and he has no idea what's in store for him.   Please keep remembering us in your prayers!  First and foremost that we will have wisdom.  Wisdom to know what toys, medicine and what size clothes to pack!  (This relatively simple task has me completely bumfuzzled!) Wisdom to know what to do to help him feel safe and protected.  Wisdom to navigate a foreign country with a new addition.  Pray for Daniel, too.  It's always amazing to me how resilient God made most children.  Pray that he will have peace and not be confused and frightened.  Pray that he will be able to rest comfortably away from the only "home" he's ever known.  Please pray that he stays healthy as travel and stress can wear on an immune system.  Pray that he will feel safe and protected and loved.  Because he is.  More than I can begin to put into words.  He is that peice that's been missing in our lives for what feels like far too long.  But God's timing is perfect and Daniel is a good and perfect gift from Him.  What a treasure!  What a miracle!  And that miracle would have never been possible if it had not been for the prayers and support of God's people.  Words cannot begin to express the overwhelming gratitude we have for every prayer lifted and every gift offered.  You've all been a critical part of changing a child's legacy.  Brock and I just get to be the lucky ones he will call Mommy and Daddy :) 

Ahh, cup runneth over!

By the way, we will be bringing a stuffed Buddy for every single child in that Baby Home!  Waaahhh-Hoooo!!!  Thank you to all who made that possible!!