Fifth Letter. May 12, 2005

It's Official - We're Parents!

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It’Official – We’re Parents!

We went to court today and the judge approved our adoption!! What an experience…never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d be sitting in a foreign court for any reason. Lena, our translator, went with us so we knew what was going on, but it was kind of surreal. The director of orphanage was there, the children’s doctors, our facilitator, a court reporter (taking down everything by hand), a prosecutor, the social worker who interviewed us, and of course, the judge. We had to answer questions and make a brief speech about why we choose Kazakhstan, why we chose Andrei and Vera, and why we wanted so "large" a family (they think two children is a large family). I was a little nervous, but it wasn’t too bad and only lasted about 20 minutes.

Now the 15 day "waiting period" begins. I didn’t understand what this was before we came. There is a law that says all court decisions are subject to appeal for a period of 15 days. Despite this law (which really means the adoption is not final until it’s expired), the orphanage will release the children to us. The hotel where we are staying, however, will not allow children…..so our facilitator is looking for an apartment for us. Until she finds one, we will continue to go to the orphanage on the same schedule to visit the children (we have all dubbed this daily routine "ground hog’s day" after the Bill Murray movie because it’s the same thing over and over).

After the court proceeding, it’s traditional to hold a "tea party" for the staff of the orphanage. So, we had to go shopping for cakes, cookies, juice, wine, and of course, tea. Since the doctors and higher lever staff won’t mix with the caregivers, we had to hold one tea party for the doctors and the orphanage director and another for the caregivers in Vera and Andrei’s room. The parties were very nice…our translator attended so we could talk to the staff. We asked them questions about the children and their own families. We also wanted to learn their names and take their pictures, after all they were our children’s first parents. We want to be able to tell Andrei and Vera about them.

Andrei and Vera were allowed to attend the parties. Andrei was in awe of all the different food. He just sat there looking at everything and pointing to ask if he could have this or that. He ate two pieces of cake (yep, he’s my son alright!), cheese, cookies, bread, juice and whatever else we put in front of him. When I put the things on his plate I thought there was no way he would eat it all….but, he did. The doctors told us this is a common problem for older children who have lived in orphanages…they learn to eat all that is given to them (because there won’t be anymore until the next meal) rather than eating when they are hungry. They have a starvation mentality, they think what they are getting might be their last meal. The doctors said it takes the children a few weeks to get over this after they leave the orphanage and to be careful because they will eat until they make themselves sick.

We took Andrei to the circus this past weekend. He liked it, but I think it was overwhelming to him. As soon as they turned off the lights, he jumped into my lap! He enjoyed it, especially the clowns. During the intermission he was able to shake hands with one of the clowns….he liked that!

Monday was a holiday (VE Day) so the orphanage was closed. We went to watch the big parade they had here….it was interesting. All the veterans were wearing their medals around, including many women. Women are treated as equals (which is surprising considering the country is half Muslim) and many served in WW 2 and were honored with medals. We were surprised this holiday was such a big deal here, but it was fought on their soil so it was a lot different for them than Americans.

I would like to thank everyone for all the advice we received about Andrei….everyone seemed moved to send an e-mail….we don’t mind though, we need all the help we can get! He really is a sweet kid….we try to remember how hard this is for us, so it must be much, much harder for him. Several people cautioned us about making Andrei jealous of Vera. Thankfully, he shows no signs of that at all…after competing his entire life with other kids for adult attention he seems to have no concept of jealousy. In fact, one pleasant surprise is the children seem to genuinely like each other. Andrei kisses Vera and wants to share his treats with her. Vera is fascinated with Andrei (most little kids love to watch bigger kids)…she reacts to him the same way she does to us when she first sees him…she starts hollering and squealing with delight!

Andrei seems happy to be part of a family. One day I drew four little stick figures on a piece of paper and I told him one was Mama, one was Papa, one was Andrei and one was Vera…and that we were a family. I kept the paper because he likes to take it out and look at it over and over….he points to each of the stick figures and asks who they are and then he smiles.

Andrei is picking up a lot of English words. Thanks to Jan and Carol at my office for the Richard Scarry Word Book. Andrei looks at the pictures and wants me to say the words. He can say "shoes", "cat", and "dog". Of course he’s learned "no" and "stop" from me.

Only 28 more days until we can go home….while things are fine, we really miss home. We miss eating at Castello’s and our friends there. We miss our mattress. You wouldn’t believe the mattress in this hotel or should I say the lack of a mattress. There is only a box spring and no mattress. One of the American couples told us they almost went down to the front desk to complain they didn’t have a mattress on their bed the first night…we’re not really sure if this is normal. We’ve all just asked for extra comforters to sleep on…..hey, you make due.

Again, I want to express our appreciation for all your e-mails and prayers….it really means a lot! I can’t wait for you all to see Andrei and Vera!

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