Sunday, May 15, 2011

the details of Vladi

It will be a month this week that my little Vladi came home forever. And we are learning so many details about him. Honestly, who he is and some of the things he does just blow me away. Things like he has dance moves that are so exuberant and fun that Josh and I just smile and laugh over and over. Or that he will come into the room and see me and put his arms out and run to me to be hugged. Or that he is always trying to help Syrus -- help him up the stairs or with his shoes or stopping Syrus from getting into some sort of mischief. Or that he loves to take a bath -- not surprising considering how much he loves to clean! Or how he is using sign language like a pro -- I only have to show him a sign a couple of times and he will use it regularly after that. He is so smart! Or how about that he cleans up after lunch by pushing in all the chairs and putting things in the trash. I mean, seriously? And he snuggles in bed with me every morning for about 30 to 45 minutes. Really?!

How did I get so outrageously blessed to have this hilarious and sensitive and helpful little treasure as my son?

Sure he still cries but it is nothing like two weeks ago. The crying has slowly begun to dissipate as he has begun to understand that he can trust and he can love. He can get kisses and give hugs. He can be comforted and snuggled. He can be celebrated and encouraged. Sure he still doesn't want to go to bed at night, but he does fall asleep so much quicker and in a bed next to ours so he can always check and see if we are there. Sure he is starting to test the boundaries, but it is because he is starting to feel a confidence that he didn't have before.

And all of this in only a month. I have learned so much about Vlad in just a month.

I can't help but stand in wonder at how blessed I am that God's crazy plan allowed ME to be this little guy's mom. But I also can't help but think about his birth mom. She really missed out on having this boy in her life every day as her son. I mean he is something else. And I want her to KNOW. To know him. To know the details of who he is. To share all the victories big and small; all the first words and steps; all the wild and crazy dance moves; all the hopes and dreams that I have for this little boy that I'm sure she must have too but doesn't get to participate in every day for forever. I want her to be a part of the daily spilling out of who this boy is. Does that sound crazy? I have this desire to share it with her -- to share Vlad with her. I just think she should know how delightful her son, my son, OUR son is.

I think I'm going to start writing her letters, a journal maybe, where I write to her and share about the details of Vlad -- not sure that she will ever see it -- maybe it is more for me because I've never understood how to negotiate the whole birth mother/adopted mother concept. Maybe it's because I watched my dad cry quietly every time someone on a talk show was reunited with a birth mother, longing to know who his own birth mother was and overwhelmed by the desire for her to know him. Maybe it's because I feel somehow guilty that I have the privilege to be the mom to this sweet, sweet boy and she doesn't.

Every day I am slowly discovering the details of Vlad and how those little quirks and smiles and moments and tears and dance moves and hugs enter into my heart and make me his mom more and more each day. And I don't want her to become less his mom as I become more his mom. I want her to take the journey too. To take it with me as two women who anticipated little Vlad's arrival into their families and loved him in a way that could not be described or articulated. Even if it is only ever a journey on paper -- letters, if you will, from one mother to another mother. Of the same boy. Hmmmm....

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Better than I think

I know, I know. I'm sorry. I have been horrible at updating the blog. It's already been two weeks! Let me see what I can do to give you a taste of how life has changed in the Burick household.

To be honest, I am overwhelmed. Good overwhelmed and bad overwhelmed.

There are times when I am so relieved that Vlad is home with us and I love being a mom of two boys -- those moments where Vlad seems to be showing off because he is adjusting so well. Like when he went to the nursery on Easter Sunday with Syrus and it didn't phase him at all. Or the times he dances with Syrus when American Idol is on TV. Or when he helps me clean up after a meal by pushing in the chairs and lining up the sippy cups on the table. The moments when he snuggles with me for about an hour in the morning when he wakes up. Or when he points to me when I ask, "where is mama?" These are the moments of good overwhelmed.

Then there are days like today when I can't seem to figure out how to get him to stop crying. I take his temperature, I hold him, I change him, I get him a drink, I feed him, I try to play with him, and nothing works. There are the times when Syrus starts to cry, and pushes Vlad off of me in an effort to still be important and Vlad slides down at my feet and begins to whimper, while I try to see him over my huge belly. Or the moments when I am standing, nine months pregnant, with nothing on but a towel, and Vlad is screaming and Syrus is crying, and all I can do is cry too because I'm not sure how I'm going to get dressed and get them lunch and down for a nap before I have to be at work in an hour. Or the moments I've convinced myself I must be going into labor because why else would this be so difficult. These are the moments of bad overwhelmed.

And I wrestle with a million questions about this little boy who I don't know as well as I know Syrus. See, with Syrus, I know all the different cries -- which ones mean I am afraid or injured and which ones mean I am two years old and want my own way. I don't know those with Vlad yet. So, when Vlad cries, the questions come. Is he afraid I am going to leave him? Is he testing me to see if I'll really always be there? Has he somehow contracted an awful fatal disease in the last few minutes? Is he just being a toddler boy and trying to figure out what he can get away with? Does he hate me because I turned his life upside down? Am I just horrible at being a mom to more than one child? Did my water just break?

Ugh. I hate the questions. I want the answers. I want the key to unlock this little boy so I know why he cries when he cries. I want to know why one night he slept in his crib in the room he shares with Syrus and now he panics if I try to put him in there. I want to understand why I can leave for work with no tears from him but if I leave the room and he can still see me, he slides down the wall, sucks his thumb and whimpers. I want to know how he can possibly learn how to use sign language so quickly -- really it is amazing how fast he picks up on everything! I want to know why yesterday at the doctor, Syrus measured two inches taller than Vlad and Vlad is a year and a half older than Syrus. And the list goes on and on. So many questions. I just want the answers.

And as I sit and write this, partly feeling guilty for being honest about how there has been BOTH beauty and stress since Vlad came home, I am as usual reminded that the essence of my stress comes from my desire to know the answers to questions that I'm sure God often has about me.

Me. The one who God must constantly shake his head at and wonder why is she crying about that?
Me. The one who makes one decision one day and turns around and does the opposite thing the next day.
Me. The one who trusts God in this big moment but freaks out in that little one.

Me. Unpredictable, stressful, crying, questioning, messy me.

Hmmmm..... Maybe I know Vlad better than I think. :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

He is home.

Here we are, folks. All of us. At last.

It has been an emotional couple of days knowing that the journey was all about to be over, yet really, the journey was all about to begin -- all in the same moment. Josh was emotional when they handed him Vlad's visa yesterday -- the LAST document needed to enter into a new life as a family of four. I was emotional last night when I was putting Syrus to bed -- the LAST moment as an only child and a goodbye to our old life as a family of three.

And then today. We waited and waited for Josh, his sister Rebecca, and little Vlad to finally arrive and for it to be official. An orphan no more. A Burick forever. They came through the doors from customs, Vlad proudly swinging his arms and walking into his new life wearing a Puma tracksuit and his hat off to one side, looking like he owned the place and was waiting for his hip hop album to be released. Perfect. I bent down to see him -- a sweet reunion after nearly three weeks -- wondering if he would remember me. I called his name, "Vladi" and he immediately turned to me. Then I said, "Mama" and he gasped. Then smiled. Done. That was all it took.

Then there were hugs and kisses and tears all around as Josh and I began to push TWO strollers out of the airport, holding hands, looking at each other and knowing life had changed. So fun. We put the boys in their carseats and off we went. Syrus and Vlad just kept staring at each other as though they were unsure if they were looking in a mirror. They shared a banana, signing "more" over and over, watching each other eat and modifying some of their own routines to try the other's strategy. I gave them each a baby wipe. Vlad immediately began to wipe down his face, his hands, his mouth, behind the ears. You know the routine. Syrus ate his wipe. Love it. My boys.

Once we pulled into our driveway, we "traded" boys to make the big entrance into our house. Josh took Syrus and they were laughing and chatting away, with Syrus giving one of his emphatic gibberish speeches. I took Vlad. He grabbed me tightly and I said to him, "You are home. You are home." And he laid his head on my shoulder and snuggled into me.

And I completely lost it.

Josh turned around and saw me doing "the ugly cry" and came back, and the four of us stood there for a moment in the driveway, taking it all in before stepping into our home. All the paperwork. The headaches. The fundraising. The worries. The prayers. The appointments. The apostilles. The signatures. The time zones. The frustration. The expectation. The moments we had said, "I just want him to be home." And there he was. In our driveway. About to enter our home. HIS home. This little boy's life has totally changed.

And now so has ours! We went inside and two toddler boys went off exploring together. They jumped on their beds. They played in the ballpit. They fought over Tickle Me Elmo. They ate cake. They tried on clothes. They played basketball. They gave high-fives. And most of all they laughed and cried and babbled to each other. Just like brothers do.

And now I am the only one who is awake. For all my boys have completely crashed for the first time under one roof and I keep walking around the house, checking on them all to see if it is real. Is it? I'm not sure yet. It is indescribable when you have spent almost 9 months chasing a photograph of a child that you BELIEVE is yours, and then that child from the photograph is INDEED yours, and sleeping peacefully in the next room. I mean, seriously? And yet, there he is. THERE HE IS! My little Vladi. He is home.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Delights, trip-hazards, good people, and Vladi...

Well, it has been five days since I took Vlad out of the orphanage. It has flown by and we are ready to come home tomorrow thanks to a new visa in hand. I am very, very ready to get on the plane and fly home with my new son. I need some semblance of normalcy. I am dragging a bit, so I will put this post in a top ten-formula. I don't really have a theme. Perhaps we can call this my top ten musings before I get up insanely early for my flight.

1. Delights. If you come to Kyiv, this is the grocery store to visit. I found it just in time - two nights before I am to leave. That was a tired, sarcastic remark. What is not sarcastic is this: Delights is the Whole Foods of the city. I actually found asparagus and did not need to weigh my produce. There is a man who will carve your roast beef by hand. I was looking for a fight in the produce section but came away with nothing. Oh well. I'll just ram my grocery cart into somebody at the Jewel in St. Charles for the heck of it.

If you do not understand this last part, check some of my earlier posts in which I detail some of my grocery store encounters.

2. Vlad continues to amaze me. He loved the train ride and eats vegetables. Look out Syrus, your days of quesadillas and pizza only diet are numbered.

3. My sister, Rebecca is amazing. She flew in Sunday and her timing could not have been more perfect. Rebecca has been huge in helping me with Vlad, who has taken an extreme liking to her. An extreme liking. Meaning, when she leaves the room to go get a drink of water, Vlad breaks into tears and walks after her. Evidently I am now chopped liver. Of course, if you know Rebecca, it is hard to blame Vlad for his new perspective.

4. There are an absurd number of trip hazards in the Ukraine. I entered one restaurant, and I counted four different little steps just going through the door. They are everywhere and reach up to grab you. I only bit it twice. It must be a record. If you come here, be aware.

5. Vlad loves to change his clothes. When I brought him back from the orphanage, he went over to his suitcase and took out all of his clothes, one by one. He then tried on half of them. I just sat and watched him take off his shirt, put on a new one, take that one off, put on a new one...and then he found the shirt I traded for from the orphanage. It is the yellow one we saw him wearing in the first photo that we saw a couple of years ago. He smiled, put the shirt on and then began to walk around.


It hit me even harder that Vlad is toughing out a really hard, life-altering transition. This kid is a brave little one.

6. If anyone complains about the facilitators here in the Ukraine (and anywhere for that matter) as they try to help you with the adoption process, make sure to check yourself. We Americans have a lot to be thankful for. I, for one, am very thankful for the rights that so many have created, fought and died for so that we can enjoy them today (and I really do say that in the least cliche manner possible.) As a United States history teacher, I am completely appreciative of what our founding fathers (and mothers) went through to ensure these rights. One thing that we have to be careful of, however, is taking this pride in having personal rights and allowing it to evolve into a nasty sense of entitlement. These people work amazingly hard in their area of social work. Marina was our main facilitator here during our adoption of Vlad. To watch her work was something to behold. She was on top of everything, pushing when things needed to be pushed, and showing prudence just at the right time. God truly blessed us to have her as our facilitator. She would answer the phone at any time - even in the middle of cooking dinner for her son (and when I tried to get off the phone she refused.) When my internet cut out, it was clear that she was more worried about it than I was. She went above and beyond what she needed to do to make sure that our stay was as positive as possible. Every night, another facilitator, Luda, called to make sure everything was ok. It was a joy to hear her pleasant voice on the phone, checking in even when she probably didn't have to. Serge was cash money during our SDA appointment. If I had to go into battle with someone, Serge would be the man I would call because he wouldn't need a weapon. He would simply break the enemy with his fingers - and I say this after only meeting and hanging out with him for about two hours. And Serge cares about children so deeply - on Facebook under his basic information, he only has one thing: "EVERY CHILD DESERVES A FAMILY." Amen, brother.

Everyone - Roman, Nico, Eugene, just to name a few others, were so generous with their time and made us feel safe. I will miss Roman's jokes, Eugene's super-detailed narrative of the history of Kyiv, and Nico's willingness to be flexible with his time so my sister and I could get to know his wonderful city a bit more before we departed. Get that new van soon, Nico - you deserve it.

7. Thanks to Roman's mother who made sandwiches for me. They were tasty. I will be making them back in the States.

8. I will be training Vlad to be our housecleaner. He already has a head start. The first night in the apartment, I watched him fold his clothes, pick up pieces of paper, put them in the trash, and pull out a mop and push it around. I am not making this up. On the train, he pulled out a wipe and proceeded to clean his legs, hands, arms, neck, and face. He then scrubbed, and I mean scrubbed, behind his ears. Seriously?

9. It is almost midnight. What the heck am I doing up?

10. Best moment of the night? After I gave Vlad a bath (which he loves to do by the way...the other night, after his bath he decided to take OFF his pajamas and get BACK IN the bathtub...) and got him dressed. We were hanging out a bit and then Vlad started sobbing because he thought he could not take the broom back into the kitchen to clean while Rebecca was finishing up the dishes. Vlad's tears were mainly due to him not having a nap today and he was exhausted. I can't think of another reason why he was upset because I was not preventing him from his cleaning duties. But I picked him up and let him cry on my shoulder. Within minutes he was snoring on my shoulder, laying on me like a warm blanket. I just watched his back rise and fall with each heavy, sleepy sigh. I then thought of the fact that tomorrow night, the same scenario would be playing out in little West Chicago, Illinois. How cool.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

And all of a sudden...

I very rarely get nervous anymore. Too much has happened over the past few years in our lives for me to get amped up over something that I cannot control. God has rammed into my head over and over and over that it is His plan that we are following, not our own - a lesson that I now fully embrace.

So when I began to feel butterfies in my stomach the night before I went to pick up Vlad from the orphanage, I was surprised. I tossed and turned for what felt like hours. This was not a nervous, "are we doing the right thing," feeling but a "holy cow, this day has finally arrived and I am not quite sure what to do with myself" feeling. After finally falling asleep and then waking up the next morning I figured the butterflies would have left. But nope, they were back. I scurried around doing errands in preparation for the small party that they would have at the orphanage. I figured these tasks would take most of the day and was even worried if I had left enough time to get everything done.

I was finished with three hours to spare.

I couldn't focus. I tried to nap. I tried to read about Notre Dame football, but found it boring. I tried to grade but found myself spending about 20 minutes re-reading the introductory paragraph because I had forgotten what the student had said. I Skyped with Corbett for a while. I tried to nap again. I watched television that was broadcast in Russian. I was starting to get a bit desperate.

And then all of a sudden, it was time.

I showed up at the orphanage, signed some papers and then began to walk up to the second floor only to realize I was going the wrong way. After retracing my steps, I found the staircase that I had climbed so many times to see Vlad. Obviously, I had a profoundly different feeling this time. It felt eerie to walk up those stairs knowing it would be the last time. I almost started to cry nostalgic tears as I walked past the empty play room where we had gotten to know Vlad for the past weeks. I walked down the hall I had chased Vlad over and over again, now knowing that we would be playing new games back home in America. And then I almost lost it when I walked into the room where all the children, including Vlad, were enjoying their afternoon snack. The realization then enveloped my body that I was taking Vlad away from all that he had ever known. Ever.

That is no small responsibility to take on as a Dad.

Of course, I was absurdly excited to finally get Vlad. But my heart also went out to him knowing that he was about to go through a radical change in his life. Certainly a change for the better, but it was just a little sad for me to watch him leave a good home he had know his entire life.

I wasn't sure how long this party was supposed to last exactly. I wanted to make sure that I was able to show appreciation for all that had been done with Vlad but I also didn't want to create an awkward situation of spending too much time in the room as these nannies had to take care of 13 other children. But as soon as I walked in, it was a whirlwind. I started pulling out all the treats and toys for the kids, awkwardly explaining to the nannies who they were for. Hand lotion and chocolates for the nannies came out. Three frosty cold bottles of champagne emerged from my bag, which brought more smiles and giggles from the nannies. After making a rather silly joke through charades that the champagne was not for the children, I stood there thinking, "What next?"

One nanny promptly came over and pointed to Vlad's clothes, indicating that she would change him into whatever I brought. I brought more clothes than necessary just it case, but before I knew it Vlad was dressed in all of them. A fresh diaper went on with pajama bottoms tucked into his socks and a pair of jeans over top. T-Shirt, long-sleeve t-shirt, and sweatshirt went on top. Sneakers were velcroed to his feet. Parka and winter hat with ear-flaps finished off his outfit. I was mildly concerned about heatstroke. But then there he was ready to go...the nannies said goodbye, hugging him, speaking lovingly in Russian and wiping a few tears from their eyes. I realized that this was going to be it.

They put him on the ground and my little overstuffed tick, ready to pop, waddled over to me and looked up.

"Ready to go, Vladi?"

And so we did.

Friday, April 15, 2011

This is a little boy...

Tomorrow is the day when I go to the orphanage to take our 2nd son back to my apartment. It is surreal to think that this part of the journey is drawing to a close.

I have obviously been spending a lot of time with the little guy ever since I arrived here. However, my interactions with him the past two days have been very interesting. I have watched my new son express a new emotion: sadness. I have seen him quietly cry. In one sense, my heart breaks. On the other hand, it is heartwarming to see him express a new emotion.

Two days ago, I watched him go from being happy-go-lucky to suddenly sad. He started to walk back to his room and I went to pick him up. Instead of the usual laugh and smile, his little face crinkled up into sadness. I held him close and told him, "I love you. It's ok..." He rested his head on my shoulder and then his little body started to shake. He was silently crying. Sheesh. Punch me in the face. What could I do?

A similar thing happened today. I'm not sure what is going on exactly, but I know that he is mourning something. I feel like he knows that something big is going to happen. A big, life-altering, transition to a far off land without borscht, without pink leggings, and without all that he has ever known. That is hard.

This orphanage is great. It is clean, contains all of his friends, and has nannies that are sweet and caring. That cannot be easy to leave behind. I would be lamenting such a departure myself.

The good thing is that he is not running away from me, but seemingly reaching out for comfort. It is this comfort that I will provide the rest of our lives. With that said, I am realizing that this is a brave, brave boy. He has gone through a lot in his brief life. He has persevered to become a sweet and loving child despite abandonment. He has pushed Down Syndrome aside and grown physically and intellectually. This is a little boy from whom I will learn many profound truths. This is a little boy who will make me a better man. This is a little boy that God has placed in my life so that I might draw closer to my savior, Jesus Christ.

Praise be to God.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A jetlagged post...over coffee...

Hello everyone...this is the first post of my trip. Internet and schedules have been quirky. However, on my layover in Germany I typed up a blog entry that I am finally uploading...sorry for the delay!

Saturday/Sunday, April 9th/10th...

Well, I am currently sitting in a McDonald’s in the Frankfurt airport in Germany. I am enjoying a fairly tasty McCafe Latte. I am by myself. This does not happen often.

Over the past 10.5 years of marriage, whenever the opportunity presents itself, I have discovered that I usually enjoy being a “bachelor” for about 24 hours. I can read about Notre Dame football for 10-11 hours (it is an unfortunate, yet blessed, addiction that has taken me to the highest and lowest of emotions.) I immerse myself in classic World War II movies and play the HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers, from episode 1 up through episode 10. Casablanca is a must because, well, it is Casablanaca. I paint little, tiny, minuscule army men and tanks for hours. This is often misunderstood as either self-inflicted torture or extreme nerdiness. For me, it is my wife’s equivalent of an all-day spa treatment complete with a cucumber covered facial.

But when I wake up the next day, my bachelorhood isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. It’s just not that fun anymore. First, I think about my wife. I think about how each and every day she makes me laugh. And laugh. And laugh. I am convinced that this laughter adds years to my life. I think about her passion that makes me consider what really matters in this life...God, family, and making a big difference from within the dangerous comfort of suburbia.

Then I think of Syrus, a.k.a., “the little buddy.” This is the first time I have been away from my son Syrus for such a long period of time. Before I left, I went to pick him up to tell him I was leaving. He was in the midst of chomping on a cheese quesadilla. He looked at me with a face that said, “What? Seriously? I’m eating here...” He then did his classic, dive-for-the floor move that means, “Put me down. Immediately.” It just made me laugh, like so many of the things Syrus does. I miss his unintelligible, yet absurdly loud, speeches to himself in the mirror. I miss that look of pride and joy in his face when he walks around (see some of my earlier Facebook videos.) And yes, I already miss his tantrums in which he flings himself to the ground as if the world has indeed, finally, come to an end.

I miss my students, who have been incredibly supportive of me even though I have been gone for so many weeks. It is not easy for me as a teacher to be away for this long. I care deeply for my students even though there are times when I am sure they think I only care about test scores (which is the farthest thing from the truth...) When I came back after our first trip and I walked into the classroom my students gave me the biggest smiles and hugs that were simply heartwarming. Additionally, their parents have been the same way...I don’t think they realize how much it means to me, my wife, Syrus, and, whether he knows it or not, the little boy I will be bringing home to West Chicago, Illinois.

Of course I miss my friends and colleagues at Wheaton Academy who have also been massively supportive through this small adventure. It has been ridiculous. Not once have I sensed a raised eyebrow of judgement from anyone...only genuine interest, prayer, and support. It is unfortunate that I can take for granted such a workplace that God has blessed me with for the past 14 years.

But as I sit here about to fall asleep on my keyboard thanks to extreme jetlag, at the start of a 10-day trip to Eastern Europe, I realize one thing that brings a smile to my will only be about 24 hours more before I will be reconnected with my family again. I will be reconnected with my second son. It feels so weird yet so good to type those words. It fills me with peace and warmth to think that I will soon be watching him walk around in circles with the toy cell phone pressed to his ear. I start smiling when I think about the inevitable game of “chase me so that I can fall down so you can pick me up and set me down so we can do this all over again” game. Most of all, I can’t wait to have him walk over to me for the first time in 10 days, reach out his arms to have me hold him once again. This kid is great to hold. He simply rests his head on your shoulder and gently clings. I can’t wait until he raises that head back up and looks into my eyes while I look back into his. That moment of eye contact is incredibly profound for me. We are connecting somehow. It is slow, but sure. Our relationship is in the incredibly early stages, but when we look at each other, it is fascinating to feel that relationship grow.

To quote Kramer from the show Seinfeld, “Giddyup.” I’m coming to get you better be ready...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

he's a Burick

Everything is going SO well for Josh and Vlad so far. Josh has unfortunately had unreliable internet, otherwise he would be writing this himself. I miss him so much and it is strange to be apart. But I love that he gets to have this experience with Vlad -- such a special and unique time together as father and son.

Josh arrived on Sunday afternoon and got to Vlad's region on Monday. He and Vlad were able to visit with each other that afternoon and it was truly a sweet reunion. At first, Vlad came out of his room and was a bit dazed, as though he couldn't believe Josh had come back for him. But when Josh picked him up and held him, Vlad just pressed his cheek against his and wanted Josh to hold him. He was gripping him so tightly. And then it was like Vlad was completely energized by being with Josh and he was running around and playing with Josh, just like old times.

Today, Josh spent running around doing all the paperwork. Today is considered Vlad's OFFICIAL adoption day because the ten day wait is over, all the paperwork was finalized, and his birth certificate was issued as Vladislav Sorin Burick. So, we will always celebrate April 12th -- it's like a second birthday. After picking up the court decree, they got Vlad's new birth certificate, applied for his passport, and closed out his orphan bank account which will be donated to the orphanage. Vlad got to come with Josh for part of the day to get his passport photos taken. They had a great time together on their first outing outside the orphanage gates.

And Josh got a bunch of helpful information today like what Vlad's typical schedule and diet is like -- all good to know as he transitions into our family. I can't believe it -- in about a week, he will be walking into our home for the first time. An orphan no more. Now a son, a brother, a nephew, a grandson, a Burick. Yep, he's a Burick.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Tomorrow is the day! On Saturday afternoon, Josh gets on a plane to get Vlad! This is what his trip should look like:

Sunday -- arrive in Vlad's country and stay overnight
Monday -- arrive in his region and go for an afternoon visit with Vlad -- I am SO jealous!
Tuesday -- the ten day wait is over -- pick up court decree -- get new birth certificate and apply for Vlad's passport
Wednesday and Thursday -- visit Vlad in the morning and afternoon
Friday -- pick up passport (it takes four days so it should be ready by then)
Saturday -- GOTCHA DAY! -- throw a party for Vlad's group and bust him out of the orphanage for good
Sunday -- return to the capitol city and meet up with Josh's sister (so cool that she is coming!)
Monday and Tuesday -- U.S. embassy appointments for Vlad to get a medical exam and a visa
Wednesday and Thursday -- fly home one of these days depending on how everything above goes

Josh and I went out on a date tonight and we watched a bunch of the videos and looked through a number of the photos of Vlad, and we both got really excited to bring him home. And folks, he will be coming home in time to celebrate his first Easter with his new family. I can hardly believe it. In less than two weeks, he will be playing HERE in our home and sleeping HERE in his bed and snuggling HERE on my lap. HERE. All here.

We would love to have all of your prayers for traveling safety and for all of the documents to be easily acquired. And please pray for Vlad's transition out of the orphanage and into our family. It is time. Time for him to be here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

home feels so good

We are home. Home feels so good.

After our court date on Friday, we went to visit Vlad once more. Just being with him and knowing it was official was so sweet. I whispered in his ear that we are his parents for real now. I love that kid. I think he knows it. I was surprised that I didn't cry when we had to leave. I thought it would be hard, but the moment was just so full of hope and future that I couldn't be sad. He will be home in a few weeks.

We left super early on Saturday morning and took the train back to the capitol city. The train was actually quite nice since it was during the day. We were in a private compartment and got to see the countryside filled with little homes and farms. We stayed overnight in the capitol city and got up at 3am to head home to Chicago. Wow. Long day of travel. Syrus was a champ, but we were all exhausted by the end. And it was SO nice to finally walk into our house.

Home feels so good. I went up to the boys room that Syrus and Vlad will share. Their names are on the wall above their cribs. And it looks so different now. Before, seeing the name Vlad on the wall didn't mean the same thing as it does now -- it was in many ways just a name and a dream. Now when I see the name Vlad, I really know who that little boy is -- what his smile looks like, what his laugh sounds like, how he nibbles a grape when he eats it, why he lets out a yell when he can't find the cell phone, what his hands feels like when they grip me for a hug. Now when I see the name Vlad, it carries weight like the name Syrus does. Now it is the name of my son.

And what a name! We decided to keep his given name, Vladislav -- it is the one thing he owns and all of the nannies and kids call him Vlad. He knows that name -- and that's how we know him, too. His middle name, Sorin, we chose for him because it is the name of the priest who founded Notre Dame. If you know anything about the Burick family, they are a Notre Dame family. I got my football jersey when I got married to josh. And we wanted to give Vlad a middle name that would make him a Burick. Thus, he got a piece of the Burick heritage -- haha! Notre Dame, baby! It is in many ways a second home for Josh and his dad. Josh can't wait to give Vlad his jersey when he gets home.

That's right, home feels so good.

Friday, April 1, 2011

he is ours

And now, for the first time ever, allow me to introduce


Today in a courtroom in Eastern Europe, we were named Vlad Burick's parents. It was an emotional moment to be sure.

Imagine a long rectangular room. At one end, is a woman in a suit -- the judge. In front of her sits her assistant. At the other end of the room, are eight other people. On one side sits me, Josh, and Marina, our wonderful translator and facilitator. On the other side sits the prosecutor. Along the wall are two women who are the jury as well as a representative for the social worker's office and a representative for the orphanage. And though they weren't technically there, Syrus and Baby #3 would play significant roles in that courtroom, too.

At the beginning the judge was given our magical photo album and as she was looking it over, she made a speech to the room about how in other countries, families believe that children with Down syndrome are people like everyone else who deserve to be educated and raised by a family who loves them. She then passed around our album to everyone else so everyone could see that our family includes such a child, named Syrus. Syrus to the rescue. Quite a moment.

Josh and I each had to speak to the judge and tell her about ourselves, our family, our home, and why we want to adopt Vlad. Then the prosecutor was allowed to ask any questions. Josh spoke first and I immediately began to weep. It just got to be too much for me. She had our dossier on her desk which represented the last seven months of paperwork and she wanted us to then express what cannot be said in a bunch of formal documents -- that we want this child to be named legally ours though in our hearts he already is. It was all so official. Josh spoke so well about our finances, insurance, our home, everything you can think of -- and he was emotional a few times as he spoke about our lives and our desire to be Vlad's parents. Very powerful to watch your husband do this for a little boy you hope will be your son.

When I spoke, my voice was choked away a few times by tears. The prosecutor asked me the same question the social worker had asked us two weeks ago, "if you already have a child with special needs, and one on the way, why would you want another child and one who will require so much care?" I told the courtroom that my tears were because we love Vlad so much and want him to have the kind of life that our other two boys will have. That when we started the process to adopt Vlad, I was not pregnant, but that Vlad was already our son in our hearts and this third child was just another one of God's blessings to us -- the same as Syrus and Vlad. The judge had a tiny smile on her face and was nodding as I spoke.

Then the other people in the courtroom were allowed to speak. The social worker's representative said that they believed it was in Vlad's best interest for us to adopt him as we understood his diagnosis and not one member of his family or anyone else in his country had expressed an interest in adopting him. They wanted us to be his parents. The orphanage representative said that Vlad had never once been visited at the orphanage and had been there his whole life. She said when she saw us playing with him, it was like he was our own son. They wanted us to be his parents, too. I was struck by how many times it was said in court that "the child has nothing. He has no home. No family. No one in this country who will want to be his parents." It was said over and over again. And here we sat, wanting to give Vlad everything -- a home, a family, parents. Again, quite powerful.

Two things were then brought to our attention. First, evidently how we were given this date for court and this judge, was not the way things are normally done. Marina had to jump through many hoops and the judge had to do a number of things to make that happen. She said that because I was pregnant, that an exception was made for us. We were so thankful because evidently we should have had to wait a month to have a court date. Thus, baby #3 came to the rescue.

Second, we were given the option of having the 10 day wait waived -- an incredible gift as this has not happened in this region in 15 years. However, it was explained to us that there were great risks involved in doing so which could potentially and ironically keep us here in the country for 2-3 more months because it is so rare and would therefore raise some eyebrows. We therefore decided to decline. We would rather wait 10 more days than 2-3 more months and have Vlad come home with us AFTER baby #3 is born.

The judge then looked at us and said, "Congratulations. You are now the parents of Vladislav Sorin Burick." The room was suddenly excited and everyone was on their feet and people were hugging us and saying congratulations. Josh and I both wept and held each other in the middle of all the excitement.

After all this time, he is ours.

And we are coming home! We are very excited and at peace. We will be home this weekend and Josh will return next week to bring Vlad Burick home. Forever. Starting today, no one can say that this child has nothing. We are his, and he is ours.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

all we want

After 8 long days, we saw Vlad yesterday. Many of you have probably seen the video Josh posted of him on facebook. It was quite the visit -- when he first came out of his group's room, it seemed to take him a moment, as though he was just waking up, blinking, and saying, "is that really you? you came back for me?" By the time we had him down in the visiting area, he was back to his old tricks and had Josh chasing him around again. After about an hour, he just wanted me to hold him, rock him, and sing to him. It was very sweet. And of course, he was wearing the same shirt that he is wearing in his original Reece's Rainbow picture -- the photo that started it all and captured my heart.

When we went to get Vlad this morning from his group's room, we opened the door and he came running with arms outstretched and a huge smile on his face while the other kids all yelled "mama" and "dada" -- he definitely was excited to see us. And since it was a beautiful day out (like 50 degrees at least), we got to take Vlad outside to play on the playground equipment. But first, he had to be properly bundled by the nannies. If you have seen the movie, A CHRISTMAS STORY, he looked like Randy when his mother puts him in the snowsuit and he can't put his arms down. Like a tick about to pop. It was pretty funny because it gave him a waddle that seriously rivals mine as a pregnant woman. We played on the swings and had a great time. And every time he got to the bottom of the slide, he would sign "more" and Josh would take him back to the top. So fun.

This afternoon, we went again and this time were joined by the Carlin family -- they are adopting Danil, Josslyn, and Parker. AND they brought their son Kellen and we brought Syrus. So that visiting room was hopping! And the Carlins are great -- our kind of people. We love them.

It was great to watch Syrus and Vlad together again. Syrus is so kind, always sharing his toys or food with Vlad. And the two of them played together on the floor for a bit. I love seeing the two of them together. There are moments when they look so alike which I love and also moments where they are clearly two very distinct boys with their own personalities which I also love.

And shout out to the Beauty and the Beast cast, Vlad sported his B&B sweatshirt today! He looked very cool.

Tomorrow is the big court date. We will visit Vlad in the morning and then Marina will go with us to translate and facilitate the proceedings. It will all happen at 3pm here and 7am in the Midwest. Please pray that all goes well and we are named Vlad's new parents. That's all we want.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

let's see...

We still haven't seen Vlad but he doesn't have a fever anymore and has fully recovered. He is still in the hospital because the orphanage doesn't want the other 100 children to get sick or for Vlad to have a relapse. They are hoping he will come out today (Wednesday) and we can see him this afternoon. I can't wait to see his sweet face and hear that laugh. Hopefully that laugh is all he has that is contagious.

Syrus has grown up on this trip. He is walking everywhere and pointing at everything -- neither were skills he had mastered before we came. I think he is ready to get home to his own bed and some new episodes of Sesame Street. We are too! :)

I am going to be 8 months pregnant next week and my body is definitely feeling it. I am huge and baby #3 is all over the place, making it more difficult to sleep and such. I can't wait for this little one to arrive, but Josh and I keep telling him to stay in there till his due date! Josh has tamed the produce section of the grocery store and they now fear him. :) He even discovered soy sauce and has been making some sweet dishes the last few nights. Nancy (Josh's mom) has been an AMAZING help the whole trip -- couldn't have done this without her.

We have court on Friday at 3pm -- that is 7am for those of you in the Midwest. We are just praying that the judge and prosecutor will agree that we should be Vlad's parents. That's all we really want is to be his parents so we can become a family of five!

Hopefully we will update later today that we have seen Vlad -- at this point, that would be the best thing ever.

Monday, March 28, 2011

culture shock: a top ten list

Hello. This is Josh the husband. This entry will not be a beautiful, touching, artfully crafted post like my wife's, but rather a simple reflection on my cultural adaptation process during these past two (or is it three?) weeks. I will arrange my thoughts in a top-ten format.

1. Shopping for groceries is not for the faint of heart. You better keep moving in the produce section or risk a shopping cart in the achilles. No lie, my wife witnessed a woman, who was disgusted with my pace of movement, lift her cart in the air and slam it into the ground. I believe it was supposed to be a warning shot, but I ended up with a slight flesh wound.

2. Produce section, continued: You have to put your veggies in their own plastic bag (which I am accustomed to) and then take them to a scale. You press the appropriate button that has the correct picture of the vegetable or fruit on it and then print out a little sticker to put on the bag (which I am not accustomed to.) One must be aware that when you are standing at the scale, assertive people simply cut in front of you, throw their vegetables on as you are in mid-measure. Example: I placed bananas on the scale, put on the sticker, put the bananas in my cart, went to put peppers on the scale only to find that a woman had cut in front of me with potatoes. I mean, I am up against the scale, protecting it like a pseudo-rabid raccoon, and she slipped in anyway. This has now become a game. It doesn't matter if my opponent is an 80 year-old grandmother (especially since she pushed me out of the way in the checkout line.). All is fair in love and war and grocery shopping. In the words of Charlie Sheen, I shall be victorious. But it will have to be tomorrow...hopefully.

3. I don't know Russian. But I walk around with a tough look on my face and a stern strut to compensate. I'm sure that it is not working. Perhaps it is my Wheaton Academy fleece that gives me away...

4. I am fascinated by the history here. Ancient, complex, profound, passionate. You can walk down the block and encounter the modern, the communist legacy, and then a medieval church. I'm enthralled.

5. I love my newly adopted coffee shop. They know my order and greet me with big smiles everyday. The barista painstakingly writes something in english on each cup. These messages range from "Good morning!" to "Smile today!" And I love the fact that on the door it says, "Welcome to Chicago!" I don't really get that, but it makes me feel a little closer to home.

6. When I say I am from Chicago, people's eyes light up with excitement and respond with either "Ahhhh! Capone!!" or "Gangsters!" Couple that with the fact that the restaurant next door to our apartment building is called "Capone's Bar" and the Chicago stereotype is complete. This only reinforces the perception of my history students that Capone is awesome. Or, as one of my AP students posted to my Facebook wall the other day, "See Mr. Burick!! CAPONE IS BOSS!" Ah yes, I am truly developing young lives to make a wholesome impact on our world...

7. Our facilitator, Marina, is amazing. Every time I talk to her on the phone she sounds like she is sprinting to the next court appointment ready to save another child. I don't think people thank her enough, because when we do, her face breaks into a big smile and she thanks us profusely for thanking her.

8. Our driver, Roman, is also amazing. I would have gotten into four or five accidents by now. Plus, he plays Michael Jackson's, "Bad." This, of course, starts my wife dancing in the back seat.

9. The cyrillic alphabet drives me crazy. It is really weird to have no idea whatsoever at all what most things say. But my main frustration is that I don't know something that looks so cool.

10. I am reminded of the reason why I never say in the states, "Why don't they just learn English!" Just let that marinate...

Well, I will have more of these because I am sure I am forgetting for the moment about 10 other experiences...perhaps more in the future...

I really hope I can see Vlad tomorrow. Sheesh. It's been too long.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

let the games begin

A week has passed with no Vlad in our lives. Booooo. I miss him. I really do. I miss watching Josh chase him down the hall at the orphanage while Vlad swings his arms and looks over his shoulder expectantly. But make no mistake about it, my friends, we are still chasing Vlad. We have been chasing him since August when we made the decision to adopt him. And we are going to be chasing him all week right into our court date.

PLEASE pray for our court date on Friday. It is the next step in the process to become Vlad's parents. When we go to court, there will be a social worker, an orphanage representative, our facilitator, a judge, and us present. I'm not sure if there will be anyone else like a prosecutor or anything like that. But essentially, the judge will hear the case, ask any questions of us, allow anyone else to speak, and then determine two things. First, she will decide if she believes it is in Vlad's best interest to be adopted by us. So, we could get this far in the process, go to court, and be denied. It is possible. Let's not even go there. Second, she will then decide whether or not to waive the 10 day waiting period. This period of time is essentially an appeals period where any other party could contest the judge's decision to make us his parents. In some regions, the 10 day wait is routinely waived. In this region, it is NEVER waived. So we would either legally become Vlad's parents on Friday in court or we would legally become his parents after the 10 day waiting period is done. In other words, a lot is riding on this court date on Friday. Both for us and for Vlad. And we are SO ready. Ready to see him. Ready to go to court. Ready to start our lives together.

So, as they say, let the games begin. :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

this time forever

Sorry I haven't posted in a few days. There hasn't been much to report. Vlad is still in the hospital so we haven't seen him although he is recovering and getting better. We are hoping he will bust out of there on Monday or Tuesday so we can finally see him again.

We have been hanging out and wandering around the city -- thankfully there is a lot to do and see here. We found a great Italian restaurant -- wonderful pizzas and salads and sweet staff. It's like the Prasino of the area (for those of you who have been to that restaurant in St. Charles!). Marina took us to a history museum today and we did a bit of shopping. We have watched a zillion Seinfeld reruns and a bunch of movies. I have become a solitaire and sudoku addict and we have had lots of time to read and just hang out. We STILL don't have a name for baby #3 although that has been the topic of many conversations. If you have any names you would like to throw out there that will go with Syrus and Vlad, feel free to send them our way!

Other than that we are just biding our time until Vlad gets out of the hospital and we can see him again. Josh made this little video of him that I thought I would share (actually Josh tried to post it on here about a million times and it won't work, so he put it on facebook instead) -- it shows him probably exhibiting what is called "orphanage behavior" -- something a child does as a result of spending time in an orphanage. In the video, he repeatedly takes his toys into the house and hides them, then comes out to make sure that I am still there, then returns into the house to make sure the toys are still there. He is all about making sure that the things he now has, like a mom and toys, are always going to be there. Very sweet but also shows how our little guy hasn't had a mom or toys of his own.

I can't wait for him to remember this week that he still has those toys and a mom and a dad and a brother. This time forever.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

so you wanted a faith journey, huh?

We got a lot of news today.

1. Vlad is in the hospital. He has a high fever and an infection of some sort. He is stable and not in a life-threatening situation. We won't be allowed to see him until he is out of the hospital and fully better. The doctor says it will be a week. I can't write more about it or I will get upset, thinking about our little boy in the hospital alone, with no one by his bedside. Tears. :-(

2. We got the judge our facilitator, Marina, was hoping for -- this judge is very experienced with adoptions. Woohoo! :-)

3. Our court date won't be till Friday, April 1st. Hmmm.... :-/

Please continue to pray. Obviously we weren't expecting to get all the way to Eastern Europe to meet Vlad and then not be able to see him. And I hate that he has to be alone when we are HERE!!. It just seems so ridiculous! I mean we haven't been here his whole life, and NOW he is taken to the hospital. We are IN his country and we can't be with him. AAAAAARGH!!!

I know I said I wanted a faith journey, but this just seems unfair. So, I'm just holding on to the fact that God, as usual, probably has something up His sleeve and soon we will see what that is. In fact, I'm counting on it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Vlad is sick. So we are on SHUN. We had to miss our morning visit in order to go to an office to sign some documents, and when we went to our afternoon visit, we were turned away by the nannies. SHUNNED. They said Vlad had a fever and was in bed, so we weren't allowed to see him. And we can't see him tomorrow. STILL ON SHUN. Hopefully we can see him on Thursday if he is better. UN-SHUN?

I was so disappointed. And when we got in the car. My eyes began to fill and big hot tears began to run down my face. When it comes to your son, you don't want anyone else to put you on shun. And when your son is sick, the one thing you want to do is hold him and comfort him. I was so angry. Not at the nannies. It's not their fault. That's what you do when a child is sick in an orphanage. You get him away from all the other kids so he can get better and not get anyone else sick. I was angry because there was nothing I could do. It hasn't been made official by a person in a judge's black robe that I am Vlad's mom, so I am still a nobody without any say in what he needs or wants. But, to me, in my heart, I am his mom. And the person you want when you are sick is your mom. I know. I still want my mom when I am sick. And the big hot tears roll down my face even now because she isn't here to make it all better. And that's what I want for Vlad -- I want to make it all better. Not just his being sick. But everything in his little life. I just want to make it all better.

Deep breath. Okay. A few prayer requests....

If you could pray for little Vlad who is sick, that he would get better quickly...
If you could pray that we would get a court date, so we can get the process moving...
If you could pray that we get assigned the right judge, that would grant us favor...
If you could pray that when we have court, that the judge would waive the 10 day waiting period, so Vlad can come home ASAP...

Those are things that can make it all better.

Monday, March 21, 2011

under the influence

They are already rubbing off on each other. It is pretty incredible to watch. Such a blessing to watch Vlad and Syrus influence each other and in turn influence me as their mom.

When we arrived in Vlad's country, I wouldn't have classified Syrus as a walker. He CAN walk but it hasn't been his mode of transportation. He is still a bit wobbly and prefers to walk while holding your hand than on his own. Until he met Vlad. Vlad is a walker AND a runner. Syrus has watched, mesmerized by his older brother, and suddenly, Syrus is beginning to transform into a walker. He walks to try to get to Vlad. He walks all the time now in our apartment. He walks in front of the mirror to see himself walk. Try as we have, we couldn't get Syrus to choose to walk. But Vlad could.

Syrus is a communicator. He makes a lot of sounds but he also knows a number of signs. His favorite sign is "more." Big surprise. What two year old boy doesn't say "more" on a regular basis? And Syrus is especially good at signing "more" when there is food involved. We thought we would try a Grape Experiment with the two boys during one of our visits. Syrus is slightly obsessed with grapes and he will sign "more" a million times to eat as many grapes as possible. Now I'm not sure if Vlad has ever tried a grape, but I know he doesn't know American Sign Language. Until he met Syrus. Within minutes of the grapes coming out of Josh's backpack, and seeing Syrus signing "more" and getting grapes, Vlad has now mastered one sign. "More." Try as I did the day before when it was just me and Vlad, I couldn't get Vlad to understand the purpose of the sign. But Syrus could.

In a few short visits, I have seen how I cannot force their relationship. Much like how I cannot force anything else in life, try as a might. Syrus and Vlad will do this in their own way and on their own terms. But it sure hasn't taken long to see them at work in each other's lives. I mean this has been in a few short days! A good reminder to me, to step out of the way, and let it happen. I guess I need a couple of little guys with extra chromosomes to teach me the big lessons in life. Sounds just like how God would influence me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

hello, my name is dad.

I really didn't want to do it.

I had to build a stage in the chapel at Wheaton Academy. I had to refinish the basement within two months. I had to finish a massive simulation for my U.S. Military History class. I had to work on developing a new role at Wheaton Academy. I had to make sure I was creating formative and summative assessments for each one of my classes.

I had to cook dinner and pay bills for crying out loud. Yes, I am the chef of the house.

These were just some of the thoughts running through my head as my lovely wife was proposing this idea (for real this time, it seemed) to adopt a little boy named Vladislav from Eastern Europe. I did not have warm fuzzy feelings enveloping my body, taking me to a place of epiphany where angels sang from on high, "Yes, Josh! Yes! This is the way!"

I had feelings of nervousness, frustration, stress, anger, and, most of all, guilt. Guilt that this idea of adoption was not an automatic "yes" in my mind. I simply did not feel at peace about this whole thing.

I told Corbett I would pray about it.

And so I did.

Kind of.

I found myself praying those prayers that you spout off real quick as you are just pulling into work when you realize you forgot to pray that morning. The, "dearlordthankyousomuchforthisdayandmyfamilypleasegivemeagooddayandgivemeguidanceonVlad. Amen." type of prayer. An, "all talk" prayer, if you will. I was talking to God but not listening at all to what he had to say. It was like I was talking to someone while having my fingers in my ears at the same time.

After about a week, I still didn't feel at peace about the whole thing. But I realized why that nagging feeling of guilt still remained. I hadn't really prayed about it. I could technically say that I had prayed about adopting Vlad but in reality I had not. So I took a deep breath, told Corbett I was still thinking, and genuinely approached the next week with an open heart of prayer.

Then, a few nights later, I awoke to a strange glow emanating from the corner of our bedroom. As I sat up with great anticipation, an angel appeared holding a sign that said, "BURICK. ADOPT VLAD. IMMEDIATELY. I WILL FINISH THE BASEMENT."

Ok, not really...

Of course, I wish God would communicate with me that clearly on a daily basis and I was certainly hoping that was going to be the delivery method of His choice during my decision making process, but alas, it was a bit less dramatic than that. After praying and listening, praying and listening, the negative feelings I had were replaced with a sense of peace that is really hard to describe. And what is fascinating is that sense of peace has never left me. Even as I sit here in an apartment in a city whose name I still can't pronounce, the same feeling of assurance is present within my soul. It was not a dramatic answer to prayer. But it was an answer that has given me unshakable faith that this is where we are supposed to be.

Ever since that point in late August when I was enveloped by the warmth of God's calling, there has never been a point where I have felt unduly stressed by this whole process. Sure, there was a time or two (the fingerprinting incident or the possibility of a particular government changing the entire adoption process) where I felt a butterfly or two in my stomach. But in all honesty, I have sold out to the idea that God is in control and has a plan for my life and my familiy's life that is for the best. And if that is the case, what do I have to worry about? How is stress going to change things? In the week leading up to our departure to get Vlad, I had a number of people at Wheaton Academy ask me, "Are you nervous? Are you freaking out?" I honestly answered, time and time again, "Not really..." I am not in control...God is. And that is a very, very good thing.

Pretty sweet. And pretty sweet that I have two boys that love the iPad as much as I do...

Friday, March 18, 2011

that cell phone

We are starting to settle into a bit of a routine here in our new apartment, and getting a feel for where things are in the city. Josh and I visited with Vlad in the morning and, man, was he a ball of energy! Josh spent most of the morning chasing him and Vlad would just laugh as soon as Josh would scoop him up. Vlad would start to run and kept checking over his shoulder to see if Josh was following him. Very sweet. Soon he was tired out and sat on my lap to play with Syrus's toy cell phone. Yes, even a little boy who has spent his whole life in an orphanage knows what a cell phone is and how it works.

In the afternoon, Nancy and Syrus came with us to spend time with Vlad. It is fascinating to watch the boys together. For all their similarities, they are quite different in how they react to each other. Vlad spends his entire day with about a dozen other kids. So, I think it is a welcome relief for him when he hangs out with us -- it is quiet and there is no competition for toys or attention. As a result, he likes to play with us or play independently. He is constantly collecting the toys we bring and taking them into the little plastic house in the visiting room. It's as though he is guarding his belongings even if they are only his for the time we are there. Syrus, on the other hand, doesn't spend much time with people his size or age. So, to him, Vlad is a fascinating mystery. He is constantly giving his toys to Vlad and following him to try and play with him. He isn't possessive of his toys because he has so many and can play with them whenever he wants to.

And then there are the differences in communication. Syrus is a chatterbox because we celebrate anytime he communicates. And he is given choices throughout his day, from what he wants to eat to what he wants to play with to what Sesame song he wants to watch on YouTube. Syrus knows his opinion matters so he is always sharing it. Vlad, on the other hand, has his day dictated for him. He is told what to eat and when and is given toys to play with or activities to do at certain times. Vlad's opinion is not asked so he does not voice it. So, the only sounds we hear are his laughter but not much else in terms of communication.

It's just interesting to watch. Two boys with the same diagnosis but very different starts in life are now trying to navigate what it means to be brothers. It will take some time and trust from all of us. And little seeds begin to grow each day as they spend time together. Little moments like when they take turns playing with a toy that Josh puts between them. Or when Josh holds both of them and Syrus attempts a group hug that makes Vlad smile. In time. All in time. For now, they share a common love of that cell phone and for me, that's a good start.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

we love our boys

We are BAAAACK!!!! Online that is! The last few days have been an exhausting and emotional ride for sure. Allow me to get us all on the same page.

Rather uneventful, we spent the day relaxing and picked up our permission from the SDA to visit Vlad's orphanage. We packed up and headed to the overnight train. It seemed fun at first. The four of us were packed into this teeny sleeper compartment. Even Syrus was up for it. However, once the train was in motion I discovered how LOUD it is. Sleeping, at least for me, was quickly not an option. It was simply too noisy and I was too excited to meet Vlad anyway. And I have to admit, I got pretty emotional. I was laying there, trying to sleep, and I started to reflect on everything that brought me to that point. Here I was, 7 months pregnant, riding in a sleeper car across a country in eastern Europe to adopt a little boy with Down syndrome. Sounds crazy, right? Only God could match me up with a little boy named Vlad and know that I am supposed to be his mom. And I was going to meet him the next day. I looked back over my life -- how my dad was adopted, how my mom always pushed me to champion the cause of the least, how I had worked with people with Down syndrome all through college, how my life has been all over the place the last number of years with losing both my parents, a miscarriage, and our first child born with Down syndrome -- I could go on and on. And it all seemed like these key moments and facts about my life were all leading up to this moment on this train ride to meet a little boy God knew was my son.

Needless to say, I got NO sleep on the train. We arrived in Vlad's region and were met by this beautiful ray of sunshine, our facilitator, Marina. She whisked us into a car and took us to a place to stay for the night -- she kept saying this would not be our apartment, this would just be where we would stay for tonight. When we got there, I could see why. The location was rough and the apartment, well.... I climbed 12 flights of stairs, carrying Syrus, while Josh and Nancy carried all the luggage. We quickly got changed to hurry off to the orphanage, and I kept praying that Nancy and Syrus would be able to at least relax while we were gone even though the place was not ideal.

We went to the social worker's office and Marina told us that you never knew what questions she would ask or how long the meeting would be. We went into her office and sat down. She asked how I thought I would be able to raise a child with significant needs when I already have a child with Down syndrome and I have another on the way. So, to answer, I pulled out the photobook I made for Vlad with pictures of his new family. Well, that did it. She went CRAZY for the photobook -- how professional it looked, how it took her back to her childhood because I had put a photo with a caption like "my brother" or "my dad" under each photo. She evidently did a project called "my family" in first grade. And I entitled Vlad's photobook "my family." She asked if she could KEEP IT for a few days so she could look at it again and again! So sweet. She signed off on some paperwork and that was it! Marina kept giggling in the car. She said she had never seen the social worker have that reaction before. It was definitely good.

We got to the orphanage by driving through a bleak and downtrodden residential area. As we walked in, I was impressed from the start -- the place was very clean and quite sweet with pictures of children on the walls and lots of rooms and nannies. First, we met with the orphanage doctor who gave us a rundown of Vlad's medical history since he was born. Nothing surprising or unusual. Although again I was impressed by how many tests and vaccinations he has had -- they have really taken excellent care of him. Then a knock on the door and Marina said, "the child is here." And in Vlad came. He looked a little nervous or scared because the room was tiny and there were a bunch of adults. I took his little hand and he looked up at me with these big brown eyes. He walked over and sat on my lap. It was so sweet. Josh took out a little toy truck we brought him and I rolled it up his little leg to his tummy and there it was -- a smile. He took the truck and then threw it to the ground and started to giggle. We only spent about fifteen minutes with him and Marina asked if we were ready to begin the process, meaning did we want to adopt him. Josh said yes before I could even start to say yes. It was a perfect moment. We walked him up to his group's room (all the kids are in age groups and spend their day with their group). We opened the door and a bunch of little heads peered around the corner and started crying out, "mama" and "dada." So sweet. So many faces. Vlad went running into the room and did a victory lap as though it was FINALLY his turn, his turn for a "mama" and a "dada" and came back to the door. I knelt down to say goodbye and he threw his arms around me. The first official hug. :)

Then we were off to the notary's office to sign a bunch of paperwork to officially start the process and request a court date. We were there for over two hours. I was hitting a wall. I was exhausted and the morning had been a whirlwind. When we finally got back to the apartment, Syrus and Nancy were just waking up. I had some grapes, a granola bar, and laid down for about an hour. Then, back up to go to visit Vlad again -- this time with Nancy and Syrus.

You get a real feel for Vlad's size when you see him play with Syrus. They are about the same height -- Vlad is maybe a little bit taller. But when they are sitting next to each other, Syrus just seems bigger because he is more filled out. And Syrus just seems like the older brother somehow. He kept offering his toys to Vlad and was great about sharing us with him too. He would watch Vlad and laugh. It was really sweet. I, of course, started crying like a baby. Vlad is so tiny and he is almost two years older than Syrus. And Syrus seems older than him in part because he has been loved and has a different level of confidence about him than Vlad has. It made me weep a bit for all Vlad has missed by not having parents celebrate him and love him and cherish each wonderful new thing he has done. And it was also hard to watch Syrus at times. He was totally happy and having a great time, but I got all weird and started having "mom" guilt, wondering if Syrus was feeling confused or replaced. Totally my issue. Not Syrus's at all. The sweetest thing the two of them did, was go into this little plastic house they have in the visiting room. It has a door and little windows with shutters. The two of them were inside and kept opening and closing the shutters together with their two little faces both in the same window together. Brothers. Together for the first time.

We left and I climbed the 12 flights of stairs again and I just physically hit a wall. Everything started to ache. I got in and started to sob. Partly because I was physically exhausted. Partly because I was emotionally spent from meeting Vlad. Partly because the apartment we were staying in just seemed to be a symbol of the kind of life Vlad would have if God didn't have a crazy cool plan for him and for us. It was just rough. And I was afraid. Afraid of what we were getting into by adopting Vlad. Afraid of how I was going to be a mother of three boys. Afraid of what would happen to Vlad if we weren't here to adopt him. Just afraid. And it was okay to be afraid. Because then we sat together and ate pizza in our dumpy apartment and talked it all out. And we remembered that God has this all figured out. He has from the beginning. That's been made obvious time and time again. And I was able to breathe in and out and go to sleep, remembering again who was in charge and thus able to rest.

We slept in! I woke up and my amazing amazing AMAZING husband had found a place to get me a vanilla latte. Haha! Ah, the little things. We packed up and moved. Now, Marina had told us a number of times that we were only staying in that place for one night till our permanent apartment was available. I had NO IDEA what this new apartment was like. Seriously, Marina is amazing! It is a swanky urban apartment right downtown with everything we could possibly need within walking distance. It is clean and honestly feels almost TOO nice! We went from one extreme to the next. Today I have felt like we are ready for anything. Honestly, we have slept, we have eaten, we are in a beautiful apartment, AND we have a darling new son who we spent the afternoon with -- life couldn't be sweeter.

Josh and I went to visit Vlad again today. We went to his group's room and all the heads peeked out again yelling "mama" and "dada" and around the corner came Vlad. He LOVES to be held. He sat on my lap for about 45 minutes wanting to be tickled and held -- he is such a delight. Such a sweet and tender spirit about him. And he LOVES for Josh to chase him and pick him up. He just laughs and laughs. We played with him for two hours and the time flew by.

And tonight, my sweet husband made some delicious chicken stir fry dish and we all hung out and unpacked and relaxed. Well, folks, if you made it to the end of this post which I KNOW was long, then know that life is good. We love our apartment. We love this city. We love Marina. We love the orphanage. And we love our boys.

Oh, and of course, a couple of photos. More to come. :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

i know my son

Our SDA appointment was this morning. It was in a really beautiful part of town where all the photos of ornate churches and golden domed buildings are usually taken. The meeting was very brief. We met with a woman from the SDA and Serge, our facilitator. He is spectacular. Very sweet but someone you don't mess with. I love that. The woman had Vlad's file and in it wasn't much. A tiny tiny bit about his parents and that was it. There was a photo of him in there that I have never seen. Probably taken within the last year. An absolutely adorable photo of him playing at a table. He looks so sweet and so much like Syrus. Serge gave it to me to keep. The one snag we ran into at our appointment is a paperwork issue that could set us back a few days. It won't prolong our stay here in the capital or delay us meeting Vlad. It is an issue that will need to get worked out in the city where he was born. Ugh. Serge didn't seem to feel that it should be a problem. And he DEFINITELY knows what he is doing so I am going to rest in that.

We spent the rest of the day hanging out and making travel arrangements. We are taking the overnight train tomorrow night to the region where the orphanage is. And by overnight, I mean very "murder on the Orient Express" kind of overnight. We get on a train at 11pm and sleep in a private compartment, arriving in the region at 7am. Yikes! Last time I was on an overnight train was when my senior class went to Lost Valley Ranch in Colorado for senior trip. (Shout out to WCHS class of '94!!) Should be an adventure, but worth it because we will meet Vlad for the first time on Wednesday morning.

Tonight we had pizza at this awesome place in the city. All you RR people who are coming through, you HAVE to go to this place. It is tiny and right across the street from TGI Fridays. The pizza was SO good -- just like you can get on the east coast. I would eat there every night if we were staying here longer! Seriously, check it out.

So, having watched the video of Vlad dancing again, I kept getting the feeling that it wasn't him. Maybe that's why I hesitated to share it on the blog. I had the same feeling when I watched it the first time. I'm not sure why. It just didn't seem right. Maybe his size or his hair color or something. I sent it to a friend who met Vlad in the fall and she also said she's pretty sure it isn't him. Josh said the same thing.

And though I was really excited about the video yesterday, I'm not in the least bit disappointed today to figure out that it isn't Vlad. First, the fact that it isn't Vlad means that the boy in the video IS a little guy that is being adopted by my dear friend who just got her travel date! Woohoo!! (Shout out to Texas!!) And second, the fact that it isn't Vlad means I KNOW HIM. I knew somewhere inside me that the little boy in the video wasn't my son. And to feel like I know Vlad, at this stage of the game, is more priceless to me, than any adorable video footage. Pretty sweet, huh? I know my son. Now I just have to meet him.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

hands full

We are here! Have been since last night. The first flight was long -- we made a mad dash to make it to the second flight just in time. Syrus was a trooper on both flights. He slept and was entertained and it really couldn't have been better. Our suitcases all arrived -- it was all good.

Niko was there to meet us at the airport. He is awesome. We packed into his little car and off we went. We had one kind of shady moment where he pulled over and said, (imagine in a cool Eastern European accent) I need to have a cigarette and see a guy." He got out and stood on a busy street and sure enough "a guy" showed up. They talked for a few minutes and Niko got back in the car. Very "Bourne Identity" if you ask me. Although all he was doing was picking up the keys to our apartment. But at the moment we felt very cool.

Our apartment is really nice -- it is up a number of flights of stairs. I lose count at about seven. But it is clean and bright and spacious. We have all the things you could want -- hot water, amazing water pressure, beds for all, even a washing machine. It is great. Syrus has enjoyed investigating it for sure.

Josh and Nancy have been to the grocery store a few times -- the chocolate is wonderful and so is the fruit. Seriously, the grapes are the size of small apricots. Syrus is in heaven! For those of you who don't know, Syrus could live on grapes and cheerios if his diet was up to him.

We went out for dinner tonight which was great -- the walk was fantastic and so great to hear the language and watch all the women in their skinny jeans and stiletto-heeled boots. Tonight we hung out and watched some Seinfeld. Good times.

Tomorrow is our big SDA appointment. This is an official meeting where we find out any information about Vlad's family and his birth. And then we officially accept his referral and wait to receive the document that gives us permission to meet him at the orphanage. That document should be ready on Tuesday afternoon and then we should head out to his region. So, we are only here for another day and a half.

I can't believe we will meet Vlad on Wednesday. A friend who is adopting from the same orphanage has been there since Friday. She sent me a video of Vlad and the little guy they are adopting. It is the best thing ever because Vlad is dancing in it! And he is full of smiles -- laughing and yelling and so happy. And since all I've ever seen of him is seriousness, this was such a great sneak preview of our son before meeting him. She said that he is smiley and always coming over to talk to her. Have I mentioned how excited we are to meet Vlad? Haha! Well this video only made us more so. Although, it also crossed my mind that between Vlad and Syrus, I am really going to have my hands full. I'd say that's a good thing, wouldn't you? :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

leaving on a jet plane...

Our bags are packed. Our tickets in hand. Our hearts at peace. I can't believe we leave today. Such an exciting and crazy couple of weeks are ahead of us. Syrus is sitting on the floor watching Sesame Street and I can't help but think that the next time he is doing that, Vlad could very well be sitting next to him. I don't have my heart or mind completely wrapped around it yet.

Everyone keeps asking how we are doing. I think the answer is peaceful. I feel very calm about this adventure we are taking. I'm just thrilled to meet Vlad.

Some prayer requests:
1. Easy travel -- we will arrive in Vlad's country tomorrow but we have long flights ahead of us. I am feeling physically great. I just pray that Syrus will sleep and actually enjoy the flights. He has flown many times before, but not across an ocean for such a long time!

2. Big V -- I keep thinking that Vlad is about to go through a major life transition where he is taken from everyone and everything he has ever known -- all his friends, the nannies, the food, the language. And while he is going to get a family, I'm sure he will grieve and it will be hard on his little 3 year old self.

3. Little Sy -- Syrus is also about to go through a big transition. He is getting a brother and is going to have to share his mom and dad and his place as the center of attention. I'm sure there will be some grieving on his part too.

4. Our court date -- once we meet Vlad we will wait for a court date. Once we have that court date, we are praying that the judge will waive the ten day appeal period that comes after our court date and let us take Vlad home immediately. I know this may seem to some as a ridiculous thing to hope for as the region he is in never waives the ten day wait. But, I am still going to ask God for it. I have asked Him for a lot of things that seemed equally if not more ridiculous and He always has the best answer.

5. Health for Syrus, for me, for Josh, for Nancy (Josh's mom) -- that this trip would be an amazing time of bonding with each other and with Vlad and we would stay healthy.

Thanks for all the support and encouragement from all of you -- all the comments here and on Facebook are always SUCH a huge blessing to us. We couldn't do this without the tangible embrace we have felt from all of our friends and family. I will keep the blog updated -- and of course there will be pictures and videos which are far more exciting than my ramblings. :)

So, I guess we are "leaving on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again" but I do know who will be coming back with us. Big V, himself -- our son, Vlad.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

a word from the Director

Beauty & the Beast closed last night -- it was a great production. However, I woke up today in a bit of a panic. All along I have been distracted from our adoption by directing the musical. Today that distraction is now gone and ALL I can think about is the fact that we leave on Friday. This Friday. FRIDAY!!!! And I am SO not ready -- logistically, emotionally, spiritually, every which way you can imagine. I have all the general things to do before you leave the country -- laundry, packing, last minute run to Target, etc -- but I also have all the heart things to prepare as well. I mean, this morning it started to sink in that we are going to bring a new person into our family. A son. Vlad. All this time, he has been more of an idea or dream than an actual reality. Until this morning.

I feel like I did the night Syrus was born. He was born a month early -- without notice, without time to finish preparing the nursery, without my hospital suitcase packed -- and I was suddenly thrust into a whirlwind of crying and freaking out, trying to figure out how I was going to do this when I hadn't had time to mentally prepare to be a mom. And here I am again. Sure, the process is different, but today it still feels like a shock to the system. I am going to be a mom.

And yes, I am already a mom, but not a mom to Vlad. I am a mom to Syrus -- I know what Syrus is like, which foods he refuses to eat, how he likes to be rocked to sleep, when he wants to watch Sesame Street, why he is grumpy around 5pm. I know these things because I am his mom. I have spent two years getting to know all the hairs on his head, every cry, each one of his laughs, all the needs he has. I know Syrus. But this is where my anxiety is coming from -- I don't know Vlad. Not at all. I have a few photos and bits of information about him. I've heard a few pieces about his personality. And that is all -- which is why this seems so crazy and ridiculous. That we are going to get on a plane and bring a stranger back with us!

Of course, when I think about it, I had the same vague information on Syrus when he came into the world -- I had a few ultrasound photos, but that was about it. I didn't really know him. The irony is I actually know MORE about Vlad than I did about Syrus before he was born. I know that Vlad has Down syndrome but when Syrus arrived, I was completely blindsided by the news that he had it. I know that Vlad has lived in an orphanage for 3 and a half years, taking music class and surrounded by kids his age. I know that Vlad's parents couldn't or didn't want to raise him as their son. However, I don't know if knowing all of this is more or less comforting as I take Vlad in my arms for the first time as our son.

Maybe this is the reason for my panic this morning. Having spent the last number of weeks directing the musical, I am in the habit of calling the shots and molding and shaping the story, of correcting things that just don't look right and having people listen when I say to do it this way or that way, of providing the vision and guiding the process. There is comfort in sitting in the director's chair. I don't have to TAKE direction. I give it. And here I am, about to get on a plane and go into a story where I am certainly NOT the director. At all.

Awwwww, man! Not this lesson again!! This is the lesson God is always teaching me. ALWAYS. I get to play "director" in my job but not in my life. HE is calling the shots and molding and shaping this story. HE is correcting things that don't look right and expects me to listen when He says do it this way or that way. HE is providing the vision and guiding the process. Not me. In the words of Nacho Libre, "Sucks to be me right now!"

Or does it? I am always slightly relieved when a show I am directing is over, because so is the responsibility and the worry and the organizing and the managing and the problem-solving and the late nights and, well, all of it. It's not my job anymore. I can rest and not be in charge. I can just play my part instead of direct.

Ok, God, I get what you are saying here. You have this one planned out. For me. For Vlad. For all of us. It's not my job to have all the answers and direct this one. I don't have to know Vlad. YOU know him. Every hair on his head. Every cry. Every laugh. Every need. Every piece of the story YOU have been directing in his life for the last 3 and a half years. I get to enter stage right into his life, not to direct it, but to play the part of his mom. And that IS my role. I'm not the director of his story. I'm a part of it.

And I gotta say, that takes away a lot of my anxiety all of a sudden -- just remembering who is in charge here. I guess I just needed a word from the Director. And by Director, I certainly don't mean me. :)