Sunday, April 22, 2012

Court Date!!!

The night before court we were sooo nervous!  Well, Ryan was nervous.  Strangely, I was not.  Maybe it's because I knew Ryan would have to do most of the talking or maybe God was giving me his peace that passes understanding.  But for whatever reason, I was not nervous at all.  Ryan went over and over the list of questions previous families had been asked, and I went over it once or twice and then slept.

However, once we got dressed the next morning and were waiting for Sveta and Dasha to pick us up, I started to get nervous.  By the time I got into the court room, I was feeling very shaky and thought I might forget my own name (and I almost did say my maiden name).

The court room was about 15 X 15, not that big at all.  And we all sat down at regulat desks around the room that had microphones mounted on them.  We had a court translator sitting next to us who gave us the rundown of how things would work, when we would stand, and the basic procedural questions they would ask us that we would just have to respond with Da or Nyet (yes or no).

This was our judge's first international adoption case, and we knew she had been preparing extensively for it.  We weren't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.  When she walked in, everyone stood.  She looked a little bit like Roseanne Barr, only nicer.

Court lasted an hour and a half.  For comparison, there were two other American families holding court in the next courtroom, and they started after us and were done before us.  So they asked us a lot of questions, mostly related to whether we were sure we wanted her, if we were informed of her medical history, how we planned to raise her, how our families felt about the adoption, and why we wanted to adopt when we already had two biological children.  Ryan stood first to answer questions and then me.  Ella's social worker and Dr. Zoda from the hospital also testified in support of us and to speak about her medical diagnoses and social history.  Apparently 3 Russian families had been offered to meet Ella and be her parents, but they all denied to meet her.  She never had one visitor at the hospital. This was painful to hear, but at the same time, I was thankful that God had saved her for us.

Once the questions were over, we were all ushered out to stand in the hallway while the judge deliberated for about 5 minutes.  Since there was nothing negative said about us in court, we knew this was just procedural, but it was hard to still not be nervous.

They called us back in and proceeded to deliver the most drawn out, lengthy court decision ever.  Halfway through, when I was pretty sure they were going to grant our petition, I started to bawl.  The relief we felt after months and months of worrying and wondering if we would ever get to this moment was just overwhelming.  It was as if a brick house had been lifted off our shoulders.  We wanted to celebrate!  So we all went and ate at an awesome sushi restaurant within walking distance of the courthouse. 

We ordered a platter for all 4 of us, and they brought it out in a boat!!! I can't imagine a more quintessential Vladivostok meal, eating sushi on the coast of Russia.  It was amazing.  We toasted to Ella and our new family and basked in the knowledge that she was finally ours.

After lunch, we headed to the orphanage to see our new daughter.  She was napping, but they woke her up for us.  Here is our first picture with our new daughter.

See the crazed look in Ryan's eyes?  That's because he can't believe it really happened!!!

Here are some more pics from our visit with Ella after court:

Sleepy after her nap

Playing ball with Daddy

This was one of her many self portraits.  She was playing with Ryan's phone and took a bunch of pictures.

It was an amazing day!  The next morning, we flew back to the U.S.  We will be back in 30 days to take her from the orphanage for good!

2nd visit

I want to start out with a video of the very first time we saw her on this trip.  The woman carrying her is
Ella's doctor at the hospital, Dr. Zoda, a very sweet lady who cares greatly for the children in her care. 

Our second visit was much more relaxed than the first.  Ella was more comfortable with just sitting in our laps and being held.  We saw more of the sweet personality, big smiles, and giggles we remembered.

She really enjoys putting the crayons in and out of the box.

Meal time!

She tried on the new duds we brought for her.  This 2T jacket and pant set was HUGE! I think she wears 12-18 month clothing.

These are the new shoes we brought next to her old orphanage shoes on the right.  She wears a size 4.  In comparison, Georgia wears a 7.

Snuggling with Mommy - She kept sneaking little side glances at me.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Family of Five!

She is officially Ella Rebecca Ochs... an orphan no more!!! I will post more info and pictures once we get home!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Seeing Ella / Medical Evaluations - Updated with pics!

This is the updated version of this post including pics!

Yesterday morning we got to see Ella again!  We think she remembered us a little because she wasn’t as stand-offish as she was during our first visit in November.  But we still had to get reacquainted.  One thing we noticed right off was she walks kind of funny.  She looks like a cowboy who’s been on a long trail ride; her legs are bowed out.  I’m not sure if this is a hip issue, if she just needs leg braces, if it’s from rickets, or a combination, but we will certainly get this checked out once she’s home in May.  It doesn’t slow her down; she’s quite the active 2-year-old.  She also has a baby mullet, a lot of hair in the back and not much on top.  So we’ll have to get her a haircut when we get home or maybe just put her hair in pigtails. I’m not sure yet, but it’s pretty funny.

We played ball for a long time.  She’s got a great arm.  She may have softball in her future.  We also colored in an animal coloring book we brought with us.  I don’t think she had done that before, so she was quite intrigued.  She especially liked to take the crayons in and out of the box, but she also did a little bit of coloring, too.  Her marks started out very weak, but they got stronger as the day progressed.

She let us snuggle with her and seemed to enjoy it very much.  She would be secretly smiling over the shoulder of whoever was hugging her.  She had a limit though and would push away if she was feeling uncomfortable.  Since we hadn’t seen in her 5 months, we figured any snuggling was good! 

We brought goldfish crackers with us (the multi-colored ones), and at first I think she thought they were inedible like the crayons (she had tried to eat those, but we said nyet).   She fed both of us for a while, and then she finally ate a few herself after Sveta told her to eat them in Russian. 

Ryan picked her up and made her into a baby airplane, which she LOVED.  She and Georgia will get along great since they’re both dare-devils. 

Soon after they brought in lunch, which was the same as we remembered – mashed potatoes with little bits of meat and carrot, plus a cup of fruit compote.  We were very excited to see that she had learned to use a spoon!  And she was quite good at it!  We took turns feeding her as well to promote a bond with her, and she ate the meal quickly.  We gave her some Pediasure at the end to try and fill in her nutritional gaps.
After lunch we played a little bit more, and then it was time to go.  She didn’t seem all that sad about going back to her friends, which tells me she still doesn’t consider us Mama and Papa, but that’s ok.  It will come with time.

Then we left to go have lunch with Sveta and Dasha at a pizza place not too far away.  It was mediterranean style pizza and very good.

Yesterday we also had our big medical exam.  I was more nervous for this exam than for court  because of their concerns about the nodule on my right lung.  We went into this old historical building (no one could tell us what the history was though) with ornate tile and moldings all over the ceilings, big chandeliers everywhere.  It was really beautiful. 

We went into this big ballroom (would be great for a wedding!) with a long table filled with about 10 doctors all gesticulating wildly and talking loudly.  This made us a little nervous.  We were directed into another large adjoining room with yellow walls and curtains and more elaborate moldings.  There was an area on one side with two patient tables covered in paper, separated by a curtain.  Ryan went on one side, and I went on the other, and they said to take our shoes off. 

The doctors came in one after the other and asked us to stick our tongues, touch our noses while our eyes were closed, do a squat, and a few other things.  The dermatologist asked me to take my shirt off to look at the skin on my back.  But overall, it was pretty painless.  Then we put our shirts and shoes back on and sat at a little table in the room, where another  couple of doctors  came in to ask us questions.  One asked what we did on major holidays, if we spent them with family. We said yes.  I think he was checking to see if we were anti-social drug users or alcoholics.  Another asked us why we were adopting when we already had biological children.

After we passed these questions satisfactorily, we waited in the room with our translator while the doctors in the next room did more gesticulating and loud talking.  Dasha (our translator) assured us they were not talking about us.  Then we were invited back in, and they looked over our x-ray and CT scans.  This was the part I was most nervous about because of the nodule.  The pulmonologist looked at it for a while but said the nodule was very small, and she was not concerned about it.  Wooohoooo!  Talk about relief!  And we were free to go.  Waiting to pay, we realized there were 2 other American adoptive families in the big room at the same time as us, so we all got to know each other and realized we were all staying at the Vlad Motor Inn.  It’s so nice getting to know other adoptive families because they know EXACTLY what you’re going through.

Once we got back to the Vlad Motor Inn, we had dinner with another adoptive family, the Knolls, which was a lot of fun. 

All in all, it was a very successful day. Today we get to go see our Ella again.  Afterwards, we’ll do a little sightseeing.  And tomorrow is COURT at 10:00 am.  Ryan is the most nervous for this because he’ll have to do most of the talking.  We’re told it will last 1-2 hours, and this is our judge’s first international adoption case, so please be in prayer for us and her! 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Leaving for Court!!!

Tomorrow morning we are leaving on our court trip. 3 days ago, I had serious doubts as to whether this would actually happen. We got an email informing us that the doctors in Ella's city were not happy with my x-ray and CT scan that showed a very small granuloma on my right lung. They told us we needed to get a report from an oncologist and a pulmonologist within 48 hours or they would not approve us, and we would have to reschedule court in 3 months. This would mean Ella would not come home for another 4 months and would miss out on so many fun things we had planned - a family vacation to Florida to see the beach, multiple birthday parties, trips to the science museum - all things I had imagined her enjoying with us. Instead she would have to spend another 4 months in an orphanage because of a stupid benign granuloma. Well, I lost it. I cried, and I begged God to make a way for us. How in the world was I going to get in to see not just one, but TWO specialists in 2 days' time?! But God had a plan. There was a reason this particular obstacle was chosen for us and not some other family because we had the connections to make it happen. Ryan's work in clinical research gave him a lot of contacts, and he did a lot of begging. We have an oncologist in the family, so we took care of that quickly. But we were really worried about the pulmonologist. Not 5 minutes after we prayed as a family, we got a phone call that a pulmonologist had agreed to come in ON HIS DAY OFF to examine me. Thankfully, his findings were in agreement with the other doctors, and the doctors in-country agreed to approve me. It was amazing, and I am going to be baking a blue million Russian tea cakes when we get home as a thank you to all of the doctors who went above and beyond to help us. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, and thank you again. So now here I am all packed and ready, getting to make the trip after all. Thank you, Jesus, for making this happen. And thank you for making a way for us even while I was doubting it would happen. Please pray we have safe travels and get there with all our luggage. We are taking 4 big suitcases and 2 carry-ons, and I promise it's not because I took too many shoes. We have 2 full suitcases of orphanage donations, plus tons of gifts to give out. So also pray that we don't slip any discs at the airport. I will be blogging in-country, so check back soon for more updates!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Quilt Winner/ Easter/ Travel Preparations

The winner of the handmade quilt is... Vicky Burnett!  Laura still needs to draw for the other prizes, but I'm already working with Vicky to design her a lovely floral quilt.  Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to the Bailey giveaway.  We raised a total of $1,486.50 which will go a long way in helping them pay for their home study.

I hope you all had as wonderful of an Easter as we did.  Our church had a beautiful Easter service, and at the end, our dear friend C.M. called us up to have the whole church pray blessings over us for our trip this weekend.  We love our church!  Everyone is so excited to meet Ella, and the thought of showing her off to them makes me positively giddy.

As of today, we are officially in frenzy mode to prepare for travel.  I am making a lot of lists ... and even lists for my lists!  I can't believe we are leaving in 5 days!!!  We had a little hiccup with a granuloma showing up on my x-ray and follow-up CT scan, but my doctor thinks it's just inflammation from baby girl sharing her RSV with me last month.  So I'm not worried at all about my health, but I am a little bit worried that the doctors in-country will be concerned.  Please pray about that.  We have our medical exam on the 17th there, I believe.  Our court date is April 19th, and God willing, we will be back to bust Ella out of the orphanage for good around May 19th.  It's coming.  It felt like it would never happen, and I'm pretty sure our kids think Ella is mommy's imaginary friend, but it really is coming.

The thought that we will have the privilege of bringing one of God's little children who had nothing to her name into our home and giving her a life filled with abundance and the knowledge of who she is in Christ is so amazing. It is a small picture of what Christ did for us on Easter, giving all of us orphans access to a heavenly father we didn't even realize we were missing until we experienced his love for the first time and our eyes were opened.  I pray that each and every one of you will get to experience something like that in your lives. 

I will update later this week.  Off to go make more lists!

Monday, April 2, 2012

God's blessings poured out

I just want to say thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has donated clothing and desitin for us to take to Ella's orphanage to bless the children left behind.  It kills me to think of each one of their faces and know that most of them do not have anyone coming for them.  In Ella's country, a big bow on your head means you are an orphanage favorite.  A friend of mine, Leanne Barton, is making some bows for me to take to Ella's orphanage on our final trip, so that all of those little girls can feel the favor of their heavenly father. Thank you, Leanne!  Also, a lady who lives near us, Sarah, saw our profile on RR and offered to donate toothbrushes, toothpaste, and baby wash for us to take to the orphanage.  And Orphans At Play sent me a suitcase full of donations for the older children in another orphanage nearby.  It makes me want to cry when I think of all the blessings we will have the privilege of pouring out. 

Here are some pics of the items donated by the ladies in my neighborhood and church:

This suitcase is packed to the gills!

And thank you to everyone who has contributed to the Baileys so far! 
We have raised $466.50 to their FSP and $1,010 to their chip-in.  That's a total of $1,476.50!!! They can only access the chip-in money for their home study (FSP can't be cashed out until their first trip), so they still need $990 to pay for their home study.  There are only 2 days left in our giveaway.  Can we raise $990 for them in 2 days??  I know we can do this with God's help, so please share, share, share!

Here is the link to the Baileys' page for their chip-in:

Here are the items in the giveaway for those who share or contribute.  For more extensive descriptions, see my previous post.   

Hair bow holder

10 bows of your choosing

Handmade earrings and ring

Custom wall plaque

Wickless candle

Custom crib size quilt