Letter 7

Our First Four Days with the Kids Ė May 21st

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Our First Four Days with the Kids Ė May 21st

As you might have gathered from the slow down in photos and e-mails, we now have the children with us full-time. We were promised an apartment would be available for us this past Tuesday or Wednesday, but for some reason that never came to pass. When we showed up at the orphanage on Tuesday, they told us they had spoken to the hotel and that they would permit us to bring the children to stay with us in our room (explanations and rules seem to be fluid here and we are at the mercy of those who are paid to help us). They told us an apartment would be available soon.

We received no notice that the children would be released to us on Tuesday, so we were somewhat unprepared. We had bought clothes and shoes for them since the clothes belong to the orphanage, but we didnít think they would be coming to stay with us in the hotel room so we didnít have an opportunity to child proof the room or buy groceries.

The childrenís departure was less dramatic than I expected it would be. Iím not sure the caregivers in Veraís room knew she was leaving for good. Andrei was outside playing when we went to get him and all the other children and his caretakers waved good-bye. I felt kind of sad for him because while I knew he was really excited, I also knew he was leaving behind the only home he had ever known.

Andrei had ridden in cars before and was so pleased to be able to ride away in the same van he had seen us come and go in everyday. Iím not sure Vera had ever been in a car more than once (the trip from the hospital to the orphanage) and she just stared out the window and looked confused. When we arrived in our room it was mass confusion. As soon as the children set foot in the room they started checking everything out. Within two minutes Vera had pulled the plug to the coffeemaker out of the wall along with the outlet itself. Andrei was playing with the TV and looking in all the drawers. Both Dave and I were just following them around trying to keep them from destroying thingsÖ..mass confusion for sure!

In addition, it was one hour before lunch and we had nothing to feed them (we had decided to hold off shopping until we moved into the apartment). We had no choice but to take the children out to a restaurant. We had no idea how they would behave, but we had to eat. The hotel is a little distance from most of the restaurants we eat at, so we had to walk for about 20 minutes to get there. Andrei was sooo scared. He was afraid of all the people and kept giving me these pained expressions. Every store front we passed he pointed at wondering if it was our destination. Iím not sure he even understood whether we were taking him to get food. Once we got inside he calmed down. Thankfully, he was very well behaved and ate like he was starved. We ordered some mashed potatoes for Vera and she also ate like she couldnít get enough.

They learn to eat large quantities in a very short time frame at the orphanage and trying to get them to eat slower is a challenge. If you could see the spoons they use to feed the babies (large serving spoons) you wouldnít believe it. They literally pour the food (mostly cereal and mashed potatoes) down their throats. They have so many children to feed they canít spend a lot of time doing it, so meal time is very fast and there are no second helpings.

We have been working on training Vera to eat from a baby size spoon. We have had to work to get her to open her mouth rather than just sip from the tip of the spoon. If you pause to let her breath while youíre feeding her she starts to cry. We can feed her a lot of food in less than ten minutes. We have also been reintroducing a bottle to Vera (this is important for bonding). At 18-months, she drinks (with assistance) from a cup.

With Andrei we have had to work on only eating until he is full (he has no concept of this). He wonít leave any food on the table. He has actually eaten so much he has made himself sick. After the first two days they both down their eating and Andrei now leaves food on his plate.

The first night in our room was tough. They (the orphanage, not the hotel) gave us a small bed, pillow, linens, and blankets which were supposed to be for Vera. An 18-month old as mobile as Vera cannot stay in a bed (they told us there were no cribs available), so we decided Andrei would sleep in the bed and Vera would sleep between us on the rock hard bed. Vera was easy to get to sleep, but Andrei wanted to sleep in the bed with us. Not only was there not room for the four of us, but our pediatrician warned us not to do this. The poor little guy was so upset and so scared. We both felt sad for him, but also knew we had to be strict about this or we would never get him in is own bed. We put his bed right next to ours and Dave laid on our bed and put his hand on Andreiís stomach. If Dave tried to move his hand Andrei jumped up. We also had to leave the light on. He did eventually go to sleep. Neither Dave nor I slept much, but both the children did sleep straight through the night.

The second night we followed the same routine for both children (bath, read books and then to sleep) and he went to bed without any trouble. Andrei recites where all of us are to sleep each night now and points to the little bed and says itís his. He needs some routine to begin to feel safe again.

Andrei really likes the new clothes we bought him. He has a Spiderman shirt and a Harry Potter shirt. He seemed to like our slippers, so we bought him some of his own. Itís quite a feeling for him to actually have things that belong to him. He likes to open up the dresser drawer and point to his clothes and say "Andreiís" and then point to his sisterís clothes and say "Veraís". I actually cried when I bought them their first clothes. Whenever I think about the fact that Andrei is 6-years old and has never had anything that is actually his I feel so sad.

These children have the best personalitiesÖ.Vera is so happy all the time itís hard to believe. She sings and plays and entertains herself. There is a full length mirror in our hotel room and she loves to stand in front of it and dance around, singing to herself. She also loves the big bed. She seems to think it exists solely for her to roll around on. Everytime you put her down on it she giggles. She is just a delightful child. She seems to just go with the flow and not get too upset about anything. Weíve had no problems or concerns with her what so ever.

Andrei is also a delightful child. He is very friendly and says hi and waves at almost everyone. He is also a ladiesí man. He loves women. Iím not sure how, but he manages to get women to kiss him and hold him everywhere we go. He is a little timid around men as there werenít very many at the orphanage, but certain men he will approach and shake their hands.

I took Andrei shopping with me today while Dave stayed with Vera while she napped. Iím not sure he had ever seen a mannequin before. He kept approaching them and saying hello and waving. It was soo cute!

We hope we will be able to get into an apartment soon. Itís a little difficult trying to live in a hotel room with these two children. We have to prepare some of our meals here, wash dishes, and do our laundry in the bathtub (using the laundry service is very expensive)Ö.at least we have two rooms (a bedroom and a sitting roomÖ.with two really uncomfortable chairs). We are managing, but counting the days until we can go home (we will really appreciate out washing machine!).

The court decision about the adoption will be final this Wednesday, May 25th (the end of the 15 day appeal period) and then our facilitator will file all of the final court paperwork; new birth certificates will be issued; and everything will be translated into English (from what I can see this is all done by writing things out longhandÖ.no one seems to have copy machines). All the paperwork will have to be hand-delivered to Astana (the capital) which is a three hour drive each way. This all takes about three to six business days.

Once all the documents are in order, we will travel back to Almaty where the U.S. Embassy is located. The children have to be examined at the SOS clinic and given approval by their doctors before they are allowed to enter the U.S. (this is mainly a check for infectious diseases). We also have to go to the Embassy to complete some paperwork and be interviewed. This all takes about two days. We could possibly leave as early as June 4th if we can get our court paperwork through in less than six days. There are only two flights a week from Almaty to Frankfurt, so if we donít get our Embassy paperwork completed by Friday, June 3rd we wonít be able to fly out of Almaty until Wednesday, June 8th as originally scheduled.

Thanks again for all your e-mails and prayers! We feel truly blessed that you have shared this experience with us!

(Editor:  Thank YOU for sharing your experiences with us.  We're a little in awe of what you're doing!)


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