Monday, November 21, 2011

The Wait Begins

Thank you so much for all your prayers. Despite taking off in a blizzard in Moscow, we made it home safely! It's wonderful being home with Colvin and Georgia again. The hard part is that now it feels like someone is missing - Ella. We put up our Christmas tree tonight, and I wish she was here to share it with us. We knew this second wait would be harder since we would know her and miss her. And it is hard.

On our last day with Ella, I had our interpreter sit next to us and tell her, "Mommy and Daddy will have to go away soon, and it will seem like we're gone for a very long time. But we promise we'll be back. And the next time, you'll get to come home with us and meet your brother and sister. So don't worry. We'll be back. We love you, and we'll be thinking about you every day." It's hard to know how much of that a just-turned-two-year-old can understand, but I hope she understood a little. My biggest fear is that she thinks we didn't want her.

Ugh, it's gonna be a long few months.

Also, you may have noticed I'm calling her Ella. All this time I was calling her by what I thought was her alias, Elvira. We thought her real name was Ella. Well, turns out Elvira (El-veer-a in Russian) is her real name, and Ella is her nickname! So since her real name was already out there, I figured there was no point maintaining the charade. We are naming her Ella, which won't even seem like a change to her since that's what she is already called. Ella means light, and her middle name will be Rebecca, which means 'to bind'. Rebecca was the name of Ryan's mom's Russian grandma, so that makes it even more perfect. So the cat's out of the bag - Ella Rebecca it is!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Elvira Days 3 and 4

The past two days have been very busy.  It’s hard to believe we’re already starting our long journey home in the morning.  Praise God that it did not snow anymore!  Continued prayers that the good weather will hold for our plane’s departure tomorrow would be much appreciated.  Good weather for the past 2 days has meant that we were able to get everything done that we needed to, plus a few extras.  We got our forms notarized, did some sightseeing, and of course, visited with Elvira two more times. 
Yesterday, we taught Elvira how to clap her hands and say, ‘Yay’! We were amazed at how quickly she picked it up.  So much for not being able to talk because I also heard her say her nickname, ‘Ella’, and then today she called Ryan ‘Daddy’ and ‘Papa’.  Russians say ‘Papa’, and we have been saying, ‘Daddy’, so she realized he was both.  Ryan says she also called me ‘Mama’, but I didn’t hear it.  It also doesn’t have as much significance since all the caregivers at the orphanage are called ‘Mama’, but it does show that she can talk.

Today we threw a little party at her orphanage, or as much of one as we were allowed.  We couldn’t bring cake due to dietary restrictions, but we could bring cookies and marmalade candy, so that is what we brought.  Elvira’s age group (age 2) is too young (according to her nurses) for cookies or candy, so she had her party with the older kids, and Elvira had to sit there while everyone around her ate.  If I had known this ahead of time, I probably would have just left the cookies and spent more time with Elvira in the playroom.  But she didn’t seem to mind, and the older kids enjoyed their cookies.

I got to put Elvira down for her nap the past couple of days.  It was hard because they were ready for us to leave, and I had to hurry.  I couldn’t rock her as much as I wanted to.  Plus, there were other children in the room (one of whom was snoring very loudly both days, lol), and I didn’t want to wake them up.  I held her and rocked her a little bit, then layed her down and rubbed her back and head.  The second day, the little boy in the next crib was sitting up and rocking himself to sleep.  So sad to see. 

We also realized that Elvira does this thing where she chews/sucks on her tongue when she’s tired.  We think this is a self-soothing mechanism.  She would do it after lunch when she was ready for her nap.
I’ll leave you with a couple more pictures of our last 2 days.
The first is of Elvira playing with a ball.  You can see our translator, Dasha, and our facilitator, Sveta, in the background.  You will not find two sweeter ladies.

The second is of me reading our birthday card to Ella.  She liked the scratchy glitter on the bottom of the card.

And the last is of me getting in some snuggle time.

We leave early tomorrow morning.  So again, please pray for good weather – no snow!  We can’t wait to see our little ones at home.  Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can come back and bring Elvira home to meet her brother and sister.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Elvira Day 2

We had such a great day with Elvira today!  She surprised us with how much she showed us today.  She remembered us and was excited to see us, so we didn’t have to warm up this time.  We just started playing right away.  Elvira LOVES back rubs, so I rubbed her back and head a lot today.  We tried to give her as much physical affection as we could while we were there to try and fill her little tank. 

Here she is getting a back rub from Mommy. Can you see her amazingly long lashes?  They're close to an inch long!
She also loves the phone we brought her yesterday, especially when it plays music.  She dances side to side and keeps pushing the button that plays it.  She also learned to put her ear up to the phone like we showed her, pretending to talk.  She did a lot of babbling today, mostly ‘Loodle-loodle-loodle.’ She also did some ‘bababa’ and a lot of squealing and laughing.  I sang her some songs, which she was very interested in.  She put her little hand up to her ear and stared at my lips.  She also played at a toy piano.  She seems to love music just like our other children!
Here she is playing her piano:

We showed her our family photo album that we brought for her to look at while we’re gone.  She was completely enthralled by it and kept turning the pages and pointing to the pictures of her ‘sistra’ and ‘brat’.  Yes, you read that right.  Brother is ‘brat’ in Russian.  Pretty stinkin’ hilarious.  We certainly don’t think Colvin is a brat, but it was funny just the same.  Some of the nurses also looked at it, and they were very impressed with the size of our house and car.  Most people there live in apartments. 
Here is a pic of Elvira's favorite nurse - Eula.  She is a very sweet lady. I can see why Elvira likes her so much.

Our gift for Elvira today was a set of stacking cups.  She really enjoyed putting the cups inside each other and was quite good at it, especially considering she may never have tried it before.  They have stacking cups at the orphanage, but they’re all up on high shelves where the children can’t reach them.  I think they only use them for visiting adoptive parents.  Here is the playpen that the children spend a lot of time in.  As you can see, there aren’t many toys in there.

I got to feed her lunch again today.  This time she sat in my lap while I fed her and kept squeezing my arm with her little hands.  She’s a slow and steady type of eater, and I’m wondering if that’s part of why she’s so skinny.  Maybe they can’t give her the time she needs to finish her meal.  She ate all of it, and I got her to drink about half of a PediaSure.  Ryan tried the drink they brought her, and we were happy to find out that it was not tea.  It was some sort of fruit compote, so we felt much better about that.
Elvira during lunch:

And here she is stealing Daddy’s heart:

We talked to her doctor again today, but she didn’t tell us much more than what we already knew, so it wasn’t that productive.  But that’s ok.  Most importantly, we signed our Letter of Intent to adopt Elvira! 
Please pray for better weather the rest of the week.  It snowed today, which was beautiful, and ordinarily I would be very happy to see snow.  But it made the downtown traffic even worse than usual, and it could keep us from getting to see Elvira tomorrow. 

We have to get documents notarized, which has to be the priority.  If the weather causes it to take too long, we may not have time to see Elvira.  It could also make it difficult to see her on Friday or even cause our flight to be delayed on Saturday.  So again, pray for good weather!


Pics of Elvira

Ok, so I think I figured out how to do this from the laptop!

Here she is checking out Ryan:

Giving us a toothy grin:
 Playing with blocks:
Reaching out to touch Ryan's hand:

Isn't she precious?  I have never seen such skinny legs on a toddler though. This baby seriously needs some fattening up!

Meeting Elvira

We met Elvira yesterday! She is absolutely precious, so sweet. 

But before we got to meet her, we had to go to the Department of Education to get our permit to go to the orphanage. The social worker asked us a few questions about why we wanted to adopt, what our children and families thought, and about our finances. She acted all stern, but I could tell she liked us. Her main concern is that we're so young (why thank you!) to take on such a responsibility. But she seemed satisfied with our answers and gave us our permit! We gave her a Dallas cowboys mug in the shape of a helmet that was filled with butterfingers as a gift. She looked thrilled! They love American candy here.

Then it was on to the baby hospital to meet Elvira. It was such a contrast with American hospitals. The stairwells all had cracked concrete and several layers of paint showing through. It was well worn. We waited in the emergency room waiting room with sick children and their parents before they took us to the main office to give them our permit and take a potty break. I'm glad I brought my own toilet paper!

Then they led us to Elvira's hallway.
I saw one of her caregivers carrying her through the hallway, and I recognized her instantly! When we walked into the room with the cribs, the toddlers in her group were just leaving to go play in a different room, and I think she wanted to go with them because she kept craning her neck to see where they had gone. 

After her friends were gone, she walked right over and offered me the ball she was holding. She walked! Her favorite caregiver, Eula, told me she started walking about a week ago. We were so thankful to see that! We started clapping and getting excited, and then we brought out the gift we brought for her. And she clammed right up. I think we scared her or overwhelmed her because at that point, she kept standing there and staring at us, but she did not want to play with her new phone or anything else.

After a while, I got her to sit in my lap and rubbed her back a little bit, and then Ryan snuggled with her for a while. She started to warm up a little and rolled a toy car back and forth with us a little bit and tried out the buttons on her phone.

Then it was lunchtime. Eula asked if I would like to feed her, and I said yes. So they brought in her highchair and her meal, which looked like mashed potatoes in broth with a little bit of ground beef (I think). It smelled great, and she ate every bit of it. I spoon fed her. I don't think they've ever let her try feeding herself. I get the feeling they don't want to have to deal with the mess because at one point, they brought in another child (I think she was a girl because she was in pink, but who knows), and that child was also spoon fed - in record time, I might add. 

I'm pretty sure the drink they brought for Elvira was tea. We brought some Pediasure with us and got her to drink a few sips before she realized it was not tea. Then she refused to drink anymore, so we gave her the tea, which she gulped down. We were just happy she even got that tiny bit of Pediasure.

After lunch, we moved into a playroom and tried to get her to stack blocks. Instead, she thought it was hilarious to pass the blocks to Ryan or me and have us stack them. She did this over and over and started to giggle and smile. It was so precious! She also laughed when I made a pink stuffed mouse pretend to talk and give her kisses. Ryan did motor boat lips, and she kept trying to imitate him.

She is so timid. You can tell she wants to respond and interact with us, but she's not sure how. When we first started with the blocks, we kept offering them to her, and she would look at them and twitch her little hands like she wanted to reach out. Finally, we put it directly in her hand, and then she started picking them up two at a time and handing them to us. 

This was over the span of about an hour or so. We're hoping today's visit will be even better and that she'll open up more with us. 

We will also get to ask the head doctor more about her medical and family history.

Today we also presented the suitcase of donations from Orphans At Play to Elvira's doctor, and she seemed very pleased with the clothing and Desitin. She said 'spaseeba' (thank you) many times! The other suitcase we brought over, which was filled with coats and hats for older children, will be taken to that orphanage by a local catholic priest.

Please pray that things continue to go well. We are being well taken care of by our facilitators here - Sveta and our translator, Dasha. 

I wish I could post pics, but our laptop does not automatically log me into my blog, and I can't figure out how to do it since it's in Russian. So I'm posting everything from my iPhone because it automatically logs me in, but it won't let me post pics. So I will have to post pics when we get back to the US.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

We are in Moscow!

First of all, let me preface this by saying i have not slept in 24 hours... or something like that. We made it to Moscow after a 3-4 hour flight from Dallas to New York and a 10-hour flight to Moscow. At least, I think it was 10 hours. It was so long that I kind of lost track. Plus, we went through a few time zones to make it more confusing. But it's 4:15 pm here right now, and in another 4 hours we'll be boarding to fly to Elvira's city, which will take another 7 hours. I'm hoping I'll be able so exhausted this flight that i'll be able to sleep despite my discomfort. Ryan has the gift of being able to sleep anywhere at any time at a moment's notice, of which I am insanely jealous. So at least one of us is lucid.

We met with the Moscow agency coordinator here. Marina is so incredibly sweet, just what you would expect of a babushka. I think she was afraid to leave us naive Americans alone in the airport, despite our reassurances that we have traveled internationally before. Marina gave us a rundown of what our schedule here will be like. As soon as we get off the plane, we'll be taken to the Department of Education for questioning and to be approved to visit Elvira. I'm glad Ryan will be answering the questions because I am NOT with it right now. Then we'll go to our hotel for some much needed rest.

And... the next day we'll get to meet Elvira!

That's all for now. Please pray for safe travels and that all goes well at the DOE. I'll update again tomorrow.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Letter to the Birthday Girl

I'm so sorry I can't be with you to wish you happy birthday and give you kisses and hugs on your special day. I'm so sorry you have to spend another birthday not knowing what a birthday should be. I had hoped we would be there today to bring you cake and presents, but we just couldn't get there in time. You probably won't even notice the lack of celebration or the lack of attention. To you it will be just another day in the orphanage. But I notice. I care. We all prayed for you tonight before bed, that you would have a joyful day and feel loved and special. I know that God sees you and has you in His hand, that He remembers your birthday. And I pray that you would be surrounded by His love, that you would feel your worth. I promise that when we visit you later this month, we'll bring you the cake and presents that you missed and try to make up for some of the kisses and hugs you've missed.

The woman who wants to be your mommy

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Orphans At Play / Etsy Listings

We are so thankful that an organization called Orphans At Play offered to supply our orphanage donations to take on our first trip. They are sending us 2 suitcases full! What a blessing it is to be able to take these over and be present when they are received. The orphanages in Eastern Europe are badly underfunded. The workers there do the best with what they have, but any donations are a huge help to them and can make a big difference in the quality of life for the children who are left behind. Here is a link to their site if you would like to learn more or donate to their ministry.

We originally planned to ask our church family to provide donations for the orphanage, but because our travel date came so quickly (praise God!), and because we mistakenly thought we wouldn't need donations until our second trip, we did not have time to organize a drive. So when our agency put us in touch with Orphans At Play, we were so relieved. They needed someone to bring donations, and we could check 2 more bags on the plane. It was a win-win!

Our travel date is quickly approaching, and our expenses are really piling up. So I've sewn some placemats for my etsy shop. Right now I have Christmas placemats and everyday floral placemats in a lovely graphic fabric with birds. They are available in sets of 4 and 8. If you need 12, you can buy both listings for that pattern. If you need 6 (or another quantity), just shoot me an email, and I can edit the listing for you. These would make perfect Christmas gifts!

FYI - Purchases from my Etsy shop ARE NOT tax deductible. Donations through our Reece's Rainbow button ARE tax deductible. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

We can fly, we can fly, we can fly!

Since we're flying to meet Elvira in November, it was fitting that our family dressed as characters from Peter Pan this Halloween.  I made all the costumes myself except for mine.  For mine, I just bought a blue nightgown and put some elastic in the sleeves to make them puffed.  Here are some pics of us in our costumes taken by my fabulous mother-in-law.  Our pumpkin patch pics didn't download for some reason, so these will have to do.

Tinkerbell and Peter Pan venturing outside.  We have a black widow problem in our neighborhood, so Peter Pan was understandably nervous about the spider.

Here we are pretending to be scared of Captain Hook.  Peter Pan is 'saving' me.  ;-)

Here's one where you can see Captain Hook's menacing eyebrows