Thursday, June 29, 2006

Two More Days and Counting...

Just two more days here and I'm off to Tver, Russia again. I can't wait to see my little darling! My mom is going with me on this trip and we've had so much fun going over packing lists and trying to plan for everything we think we'll need. I managed to get most of the last minute errands done last night and today was my last day at work until the middle of October. All that's left is a trip to the bank, a trip to the bookstore and packing those suitcases!

It will be interesting to see my mom's reaction to everything in Russia. Having been there before (way back in the 1990's) I had a good idea of what to expect when I was over there last month. Yes, many things had changed, but so many things were still the same.

I'm also looking forward to finally being able to post some pictures here of Alivia. She's such a cutie and I hate not being able to share that with all my friends. Stay tuned to this spot on July 7 though! I plan on uploading a boatload of pics!

So--what am I going to do these last two days at home without the baby? I had planned on driving down to Port Canaveral to watch the shuttle launch, but between the launch and a race in Daytona, they are predicting the interstate will feel more like a parking lot. That also nixed the alternate plan of going to Disney. Instead I think some friends and I will be checking out the new Superman movie at the IMAX theater. Should be interesting to watch it in 3D.

Here's wishing everyone a terrific 4th of July weekend!

~ Jeana

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Almost Ready...

I managed to gather the last of my Trip 2 documents today and made the round trip drive to Tallahassee to get them all apostilled. Everything's been faxed to the agency as well, so unless there are any last minute things that pop up I'm ready for Trip 2!

Next comes the packing... always a chore! For this trip I will need to take things for Alivia, too. Thank goodness the city we'll be in has a nice shopping mall--I know I'll end up forgetting something!

It's hard to believe that in just a little over a week I'll be on my way back to Russia to get my daughter!

~ Jeana

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The IA Doctor

One of the hardest things for most families adopting a child internationally is trying to determine the medical status of their prospective child. In Russia we have particularly significant problems to face with high incidences of fetal alcohol syndrome, attachment disorder and related issues. Like most adoptive parents I did a ton of research beforehand to familiarize myself with the symptoms and problems associated with these common problems. Some of it can be quite scary and some is totally unpredictable in a child as young as my daughter-to-be. There is a lot that can be gleaned from photos and video, but there is also a lot that might not reveal itself until much later. How do you decide whether or not the risk is acceptable to your family?

One of the ways is through the use of an international adoption doctor--a specialist who knows what to look for and how to interpret it. I'm fortunate to have a doctor in my area who treats many other adopted children and who, having adopted from eastern europe himself, knows the ins and outs of the system and the conditions that the children live in before being adopted. He listened to all my concerns, reviewed the medical information provided by the Russian doctors, studied the photos of Alivia and watched the video. Then we talked. While he did stress that there's always the risk of problems showing up later that we don't have any indication of now, he was able to reassure me that the behaviors and developmental delays exhibited in the video are consistent with those of an otherwise healthy instutionalized child. He also said that he saw nothing to indicate any untreatable problems.

A friend of mine is so worried that I might be biting off more than I can chew with this adoption and I admit that I allowed her worries to upset me. After speaking with the doctor, though, I am much more at ease about the situation and even more certain that I'm making the right decision. Yes, there is the possibility that Alivia will have some tough problems for us to deal with, but that possibility exists with every child--adopted or bio. You never know what God is going to give you until it happens. What I do know is that God has brought me and this child together for a reason. We each have something that the other needs. I know this with every fiber of my being.

I strongly believe that it's in every family's best interest to consult with an IA doctor and to do the research and educate themselves about the risks involved in international adoption. Ultimately, though, the decision to adopt belongs to the family and has to be a matter of faith. Either it feels right or it doesn't and either you're ready to take the risk or you aren't. Alivia and I feel right and I'm ready to take the risk. And court is just 16 days and counting...

~ Jeana

Monday, June 19, 2006

The forecast: a cold and showers!

It's been a busy week and a half since I returned home and the next week and a half promise to be the same. I've had the nastiest cold ever since I got back... nothing seems to touch it! It's finally down to just a bit of congestion and sneezing, but I'm ready for it to be gone! On the adoption side of things, I've seen the psychiatrist to update his letter certifying me sane enough to parent an adopted child, and I've gotten my drug tests done. I've also made all the arrangements for trip two--July 2nd is when Mom and I fly off to Russia. Thankfully, the agency confirmed travel dates today for the dates I had booked. I wasn't looking forward to change fees, but didn't want to risk fare increases, either.

The rest of this week shapes up with a visit to the pediatrician to get a letter requesting they Russian government waive the 10-day waiting period and a trip to Tallahassee to get everything apostilled. The fun just never ends...

Speaking of fun, though--my family and friends held a shower for me this past weekend. What a great time! The gifts were wonderful--and all very needed--but the best part was being surrounded by so many supportive people. The ladies I work with are hosting another shower for me next week, too, so I'll get a second little energy boost right before I leave for Russia. It's easy to forget as we go through each day, but when I sit back and think about it I am so amazed at the wonderful people I know!

~ Jeana

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Sorry for the delay in posting--the trip from Tver to Moscow was awful. I got horribly ill from the gas and exhaust fumes and went to bed as soon as I arrived in Moscow. I didn't end up doing any siteseeing there at all. My flight home from Moscow was equally retched in its own way--way too long and exhausting. At least the person in front of me was a young child who did his best to keep me and my fellow passengers entertained. I also arrived home with a horrible cold.

On the upside, I can't wait to go back to get Alivia. I re-read the developmental info for babies and it's clear that while she is behind in some things, as expected for an institutionalized child, she is only that way because of her situation--not because of any physicial or mental abnormality. I'm hopeful that a lot of love and attention will help her to catch up with her peers.

I SO wish I could post pictures here now. She's such a cutie! July 7 can't come soon enough for me!

~ Jeana

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Last Day in Tver

Today was interesting--I had to visit the notary office this morning to have the official petition for the adoption drawn up. Afterwards, Luba took me shopping. There's a lovely little pedestrian street not too far from the hotel where I was able to pick up a lot of souvenirs. Then we had lunch at this great little cafeteria style restaurant. It's old-style Russian cooking and the food was terrific as well as very inexpensive.

After lunch Luba dropped me back at the hotel to wait for the preliminary court hearing. On the way to court she and Alexey went over all these questions they expected the judge to ask. She only asked me two questions, though--what my job was and did I have a flexible or a rigid work schedule. We were in and out in about 5 minutes. Wouldn't be nice if the actual court hearing went that quickly and easily!

Speaking of the court hearing--she set a date of July 7. I would have liked it to be the week before (court is only held on Fridays for adoption cases) but she was afraid the documents wouldn't arrive from Moscow in time. Better not to have to wait in the hotel for a week if there is a delay. Alexey knew I would be disappointed in the later date, but promised that he would take me to the orphanage on July 5 so I could spend Alivia's birthday with her.

Tomorrow I head off to Moscow. I'm staying at the Courtyard Marriott hotel there which is just a few minutes walk from Red Square. Should be fun!

~ Jeana

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Baby Visit #2

We were a bit delayed getting out of town to visit the orphanage today, but did finally make it there. We arrived right around 3 p.m. and stayed until about 5:30. It was a great time to be there--she had just woken from a nap, so she was a little subdued to begin with, but she quickly got back to the business of exploring my mouth with her fingers. We played for nearly an hour or so and she seemed much more relaxed than yesterday. Around 4:30 they came to take her to dinner while I met with the inspector to see what new information I could get about her birth mother--which wasn't much.

I was surprised when they brought her back to me after dinner. With a full stomach she was happy to just relax and actually ended up falling asleep in my arms. If I hadn't been totally sold on her by that point, there was no question in my mind from then on. This little girl is mine! And as predicted, I did cry when I had to say goodbye. It's amazing how quickly they squirm their way into your heart.

I have an appointment to meet with the judge tomorrow to set the court date. We expect that it will be June 30, which means I'll be traveling back to Russia on the 26th. It also means that the next time I'll get to see her is June 28th... 22 days from now. It's going to be a long three weeks...

Tonight I had dinner with the Garretts who are here on the second trip to adopt a baby boy. Their excitement at getting to see their son-to-be tomorrow and knowing that he will soon be their's forever was something to see.

Thanks, everyone for the notes! It means a lot to me to know I have so many people sending good thoughts our way!

~ Jeana

They Did Say to be Flexible and Patient...

It's Tuesday morning and I'm whiling away time on the computer while I wait. We were supposed to leave at 8 a.m. to go to the orphanage. That got pushed back to 10:30 and has been pushed back yet again to 12:30. I wish I'd known it would be so delayed sooner... I could have done some exploring this morning. Instead I've been stuck in the hotel all morning waiting... I'm beginning to hate that word...

~ Jeana

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Orphanage

Today I was taken to the orphanage to meet my little girl. First, though, we had to go to the Ministry of Education which is housed in the old KGB building here in Tver. Sadly, I didn't find out it was the old KGB building until after we left--if I'd known that I would have tried to look around more. Next we stopped at the bank so I could exchange some money. The exchange rate was 26.55 rubles to the dollar. I only exchanged $600, but I have this HUGE wad of Russian bank notes in my wallet now. Finally we wrapped up all the preliminary business and got on the road to the orphanage.

The drive took about two and half hours. It was some of the roughest (bounciest) roads I have ever travelled. Alexey, Luba and I talked music on this trip and the miles passed fairly quickly. One thing I noticed, though--there are LOTS of police on the roads. It definitely doesn't pay to exceed the speed limit in Russia.

The orphanage was a rather small and dreary looking building on the outside. I didn't get to see anything really of the inside other than the children't play room. They had me wait there for the baby and then I got to spend about an hour with her. She's a doll--but even tinier than I imagined. She turned 11 months old today, too, so it was quite the eventful day for her.

I wish I could post more details about her here, but by Russian law I'm not allowed to do so until after the adoption is completed. I'm utterly delighted with her, though, and am looking forward to going back to see her again tomorrow even if it does mean another long, bouncy drive!

Anyway, I didn't get much sleep last night (anticipation and the fact that the sun never really set kept me awake most of the night) so I'm going to hit the bed early tonight. It's a few minutes after six in the evening, so perhaps I can get a good 10 hours or so and be a little more lively tomorrow. I have to admit that sheer exhaustion is making everything seem very surreal right now.

Cheers everyone!

~ Jeana

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Arrival in Tver

Well--my travels to Russia were quite interesting. There was a scare on my first flight--about halfway through the pilot announced that due to weather conditions in NY we would be about an hour late. Since I only had 50 minutes between flights that looked to be "problematic", but somehow the pilot managed to get us there on time after all and I made my connection. The flight to Atlanta was uneventful. The flight from Atlanta to Moscow was a nightmare, though. I was fortunate enough to get a seat on the aisle with no one sitting next to me, but there my luck ended. There was no leg room at all, the man in front of me kept his seat fully reclined the entire flight, and it was extremely noisy the entire flight. The route we flew took us around the northern edge of darkness, so it was daylight the entire (excruciatingly long) 10.5 hour flight and everyone seemed to be in party mode--walking the aisles, talking and laughing loudly, etc. It seemed no one but me wanted to sleep. I managed about an hour or so, but that was it. I was exhausted by the time we landed in Moscow at 11 a.m. local time (8 a.m. at home.)

Passport control was no problem other than having to wait in line a bit, but it wasn't too long. My luggage was waiting when I cleared there, so no problems there, either. Luba, my translator, arrived just a couple minutes after I cleared the crowd of people waiting on arrivals and we left immediately with Alexey, my driver and facilitator to drive to the Hotel Osnabruck in Tver--about two and a half hours.

The drive to Tver was nice and passed quickly. Luba loves American films and we talked movies and actors for most of the trip. Luba, like me, is a big fan of Johnny Depp. She and Alexey were also interested in hearing about my previous travels in Russia and seemed surprised to hear that I had stayed in private homes and travelled so extensively in their country. They also encouraged me to practice my Russian and only laughed at my pronunciations a couple of times.

We arrived at the hotel in good time and Alexey went over our schedule for tomorrow. I'm to meet them in the hotel lobby at 9 a.m. to go to the Ministry office and then to the orphanage. My daughter is in Villy Vishnu (sp) which is about 2 hours away from the hotel. Alexey couldn't tell me much about my daughter other than to warn me that I most likely wouldn't be able to get much information about her birthparents. He did say that I would be able to find out her birthdate and Russian name (if she has one, he added) at the Ministry office and that I should ask all my questions regarding her birth family there as the orphanage staff likely would have no information on them.

Let's see... the hotel is very nice. My room is small, but clean and has a nice view of the street. There seems to be a lot of pedestrian activity in the evenings. It's 9:45 p.m. right now and still very light outside. I think sunset is around 11:30 or midnight. I had a terrific dinner at the hotel restaurant--grilled salmon with fried potatoes, onions and mushrooms. It was quite yummy. The hotel and restaurant staff are all very pleasant and speak English.

The town of Tver is a study in contrasts. The hotel I'm at is very modern, but immediately across the street I've been watching the local residents come to a well/fountain to get buckets of water for their homes. I'm not sure if it's for drinking or washing--I'll have to ask. I'm too tired to do much exploring today, but I plan to get out tomorrow evening for a bit and see what I can see. Until tomorrow...

~ Jeana

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Down to the Wire

Yesterday was fun--a two and a half hour drive each way to Tallahassee and back to get my documents apostilled. I'll have to do it one more time right before trip #2. Thank goodness for cruise control! All of the documents for trip #1 are ready, though, and all that's left is to pack for the trip. I'm SO excited! Just a couple more days...