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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A year is a very long time...and some years are even longer

Shortly after we returned from KZ in August 2007, we got a call from our agency...could we travel back to Kazakhstan as soon as possible to adopt the boys? Huh??? What happened to the problems in the boys' file?? But OK, sure, we aren't ones to look a gift horse in the mouth so we said we'd move Heaven and Earth to make it happened. We updated paperwork and figured out childcare for our kids who couldn't miss school...and we waited to hear we could travel. We waited through the fall of '07...and the winter of '08...and then the spring of '08 was over and summer arrived. We encountered one problem and delay after another...we began to wonder if we would ever get the approval we so desperately wanted. We even started to wonder when we should throw in the towel.

Each time we got close to the elusive LOI (letter of invitation to travel to KZ to adopt), something went wrong and the goal seemed to move further away. We agonized over our decision...were we being fair to our kids at home or to the boys we had offered hope to in KZ? We took what we hoped would be our first family portrait in KZ...but would we be able to translate our dreams into reality? As we updated our court documents only to watch them expire again and again, we wondered how long we could remain in limbo.

We wrote letters to the boys in KZ, sending pictures of our home and our activities; we never received a letter back but we kept sending the letters anyway. It's been almost a year since we visited the boys in KZ (and many more months than that since we began the adoption process); they celebrated another birthday and completed another year of school. We told them we would try our best to return for them by the spring of 2008 but they are still waiting. If the wait is hard for us, what is it like for them?

Friday, July 11, 2008

3+2=5 (we hope!)

Even after we got home from KZ with Max in the fall of 2005, we didn't stop thinking of Aniyar and Madiyar. We told everyone we could think of about the boys in hopes that a family would give them a home...and slowly, we came to realize that the family was ours. In the summer of 2006, we asked if the boys were still available for adoption. It took months to get an answer...but just before Christmas, we were told that the boys were still available. We started assembling our third mountain of paperwork and jumping through the hoops necessary for an international adoption. By early spring 2007, we were approved once again to adopt from Kazakhstan. We were hoping to travel in the summer of 2007...and then the problems began. We were informed that there would be a minimum of 6 months delay in our process. The reasons we were given were many and ever-changing; we won't bore you with the details. The bottom line was that we would have to wait until the spring of 2008 before we could even attempt our adoption of the boys. We ranted and raved to all who would listen...and when we calmed down, we decided to visit the boys anyway.

We left for a two week trip to KZ in August. Our agency and our friends in Kazakhstan made our visit possible. We took our family of 5 to KZ as tourists who just happened to be visiting our children's friends. We also visited Tanya and Max's former caregivers at the pre-school orphanage in Ust-Kamenogorsk and made an amazing trip to meet Tanya's birthfamily in a rural village. The good friends we had made on our previous visits took care of us, providing us with an apartment, transportation, and translation services whenever we were in need.

It wasn't easy getting permission to visit Aniyar and Madiyar since they were both in the boarding school for older kids in Ridder; we didn't know a soul there who could help us. We explained our plight to the director of the pre-school orphanage in Ust-Kamenogorsk who knows us well...and she solved our problem with one phone call to the orphanage director in Ridder. We were allowed one 3 hour visit with the boys...and it was a 3 hour ride in a van over rough roads to get there...but it was worth every bump and bruise! Our friend Olga served as our translator during the trip which was very hush-hush...the orphanage director approved our visit and called the boys to the room where we would meet with them but then he took a long walk. We had been cautioned that this was an unofficial visit which had not been sanctioned by the Ministry of Education. We didn't care...we just wanted to see the boys and ask them how they felt about being adopted.

The boys were shy at first but quickly relaxed; they remembered Tanya best and warmed up quickly to us all. We asked them if they knew why we had come...and Madiyar quietly said, "To adopt us...". We asked them what they thought about being adopted...and they said they wanted to join our family. (Big sigh of relief here...what if they had said they weren't interested?) We explained the delays before we could ask the court for permission to adopt them. We cautioned that it would take a long time but that we would try our best to return for them in the spring of 2008. Then we sat back and watched our children play with the toys and videogames we had brought...and dreamed of the day when we would officially become parents of five. We took lots of pictures...after all, we needed another picture to hang on our refrigerator just as we had done with Tanya and Max before we brought them home!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Boys Left Behind

Life is full of choices that we have to live with after the fact, not all of them easy. When our girls told us that they wanted a brother, Max wasn't the first boy we considered. In fact, we asked about adopting two boys we had met when we hosted our Tanya during the summer of 2003. Aniyar and Madiyar visited the US with Tanya's Kidsave group and we never forgot them...they were charmers, 6 and 8 year old dynamos when we met them. They were very close to each other, bio brothers who looked out for each other. We asked if they were still available for adoption and were told that they were being adopted by another family...so we began to consider other boys from Tanya's orphanage who might fit into our family. We found Max and committed to his adoption through a different agency...and one week later, our social worker told us that Aniyar and Madiyar were available for adoption after all. That day stands out vividly in my mind...Craig and I were faced with an awful choice. Would we honor our commitment to Max...our would we adopt Aniyar and Madiyar, thereby leaving Max in KZ? We knew that Max wasn't aware of the fact that he was being considered for adoption so he wouldn't ever know what he had missed...but we had made a commitment as a family to the boy with the knobby knees whose picture was already hanging on our refrigerator. We took a deep breath and moved forward with our adoption of Max...but Aniyar and Madiyar remained in our hearts.

When we traveled to KZ to adopt Max, we couldn't resist asking about the boys and were told they were doing well. Madiyar had moved on to the boarding school orphanage for older kids in Ridder while Aniyar remained in Ust-Kamenogorsk at the pre-school orphanage. We saw Aniyar while we were visiting Max; it was heart-breaking to have him bring me little trinkets and climb onto my lap for hugs, knowing we couldn't bring him home...

Mad Max

We brought Max home in September 2005 after a long and difficult process in KZ...we had a contentious prosecutor who made sure she delayed everything she could including getting Max a passport. Craig and the girls had to return home so they could start school in September while Max and I stayed in Almaty chasing the elusive passport. After 8 long weeks, Max and I finally arrived at Logan airport...Max was exhausted and frightened so I shouldn't have been surprised at the major tantrum he threw when I had to wake him to get off the plane in Boston. He literally entered the US kicking and screaming that he didn't want a new family and he wanted to go back to KZ...an omen of what was to come.

Max's first months in our family were difficult for us all...he was angry and frightened most of the time and we were at a loss as to how to console him. His tantrums were the stuff of legends, nuclear meltdowns that left the whole family exhausted. There were times when we wondered how much we could take and we were glad we had a good support system. Thank heavens for the great therapist we already used for Tanya's adjustment period! She really helped us through those months...but the other important thing we did was search for and find Max's birthfamily in KZ. When we made contact with Max's birthmother, we learned of the terrible abuse that Max had endured at the hands of his stepfather. Suddenly, it became clear why Max was such an angry and terrified boy who was having a hard time trusting family.

It's been a long haul for us all but I'm happy to report that Max is no longer Mad Max...he's my bright, funny boy who tells me that he isn't so scared any more...and that maybe he can trust us after all. Max turned 11 yesterday but he gave me the best gifts, telling me that he loved me several times...and when he blew out the candles on his cake, he told us that his wish had already come true. We're pretty sure he's actually starting to believe that a family is something worth wishing for...and we know he's right where he belongs!