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. :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

plane tickets, check!

Well, we are working on all of the details that have to be done before we leave to meet Vlad. Making a list and checking it about a million times! Today, we got our plane tickets -- we leave on March 11th -- in ten days. Can you believe it?!