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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Home for the Holidays...

Craig and I spent our last few days in KZ preparing to bring home our new sons in January. We left a suitcase full of clothes for the boys in KZ, we only need to buy shoes and backpacks for their trip. We have written a letter to Aniyar and Madiyar explaining the timetable for the next few weeks so they know just when we'll return for them; our ever wonderful Yulia has translated and faxed it to the orphanage for us. We completed the necessary paperwork for new birth certificates, visas, etc. to be issued and now just have to wait for the finalization period to run its course (January 6th is the magic day) before everything can be filed.

Once the details were taken care of, we spent the rest of the time before our flight home visiting with our friends. Yulia and Jenya fed us, took us shopping, and took us to see Ice Town, an amazing collection of ice sculptures and slides made out of ice for all the citizens of Ust-K to enjoy free of charge. We walked around in the freezing cold, marveling at the beauty and creativity of the place...only in Kazakhstan, where it stays cold enough for this ice exhibit to last until Spring!

We flew out of Ust on Monday, December 22, arrived home here in Massachusetts on the afternoon of December 23. The trip was exhausting as usual but went off without a hitch; when we arrived at Logan Airport, our kids were there to greet us...there was much jumping, screaming, and hugging going on and we enjoyed every second of it!

Today has been a whirlwind of last minute food shopping, wrapping, and cooking...not to mention all the snow shoveling Craig did in the aftermath of the storm we had a few days before we got home. Craig still has a cold and we're both feeling like the walking dead...but we're home for Christmas and that's what counts. I read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to Tanya and Max tonight, we tracked Santa on NORAD, and we've left Santa a lovely plate of cookies and a cup of eggnog...organic carrots and fresh water for the reindeer...the children are nestled all snug in their beds, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon will be...here! Better get to bed myself if I don't want to run into the jolly old elf.

Happy Christmas to all...and to all, a good night.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

As promised, the details of our day in court

We were up and ready early, waiting for Alma to pick us up at 7:30 as planned. When she still hadn't arrived at 7:45, our anxiety level skyrocketed...had something else gone wrong? Yeah, I know, we sound a little twitchy and impatient...but given our past experience with this adoption, it's hard not to be. Anyway, we called Alma and she said they would pick us up in 5 minutes...OK, blood pressure returns to normal and we start to breathe again. We were on the road by 8:00am, heading to Ridder under a snow sky and in the fog. The trip took longer than normal due to the slippery road conditions; our driver, Kolya, was very cautious which is not normally in his nature so that will give you an idea of how slick the roads were. We were packed in the car like sardines, Alma in the front with Kolya and us in the back with our translator, Luba, who would be helping us in court. Luba is a lovely young woman who has an infectious smile and a love of her work; chatting with her helped me to relax and kept my mind occupied during our ride. This was especially helpful since Alma, not exactly a morning person and clearly nervous about our chances in court, was pretty uncommunicative during the whole trip. We arrived in Ridder around 10:30 and went straight to the court...well, actually we parked in front of the court building and waited for a while in the freezing cold. Alma asked me for my precious dossier and I retrieved it from the trunk of the car, handing it over like the Holy Grail. She checked it briefly, reviewed the copy as well, and then left us to give it to the judge. A few minutes later, we saw Aniyar and Madiyar arrive with Koodaibergen Kakenovich, the director of their boarding school orphanage. With that, we all hustled inside the building where we had our first chance to hug our boys. They were dressed in suits and grinning from ear to ear, clearly excited that our big day had finally come. Within a few minutes, we were ushered down a hallway toward a courtroom...oops, until we were called back by a fit-to-be-tied security guard who argued with the court clerk that we had not been properly signed in...ahh, power struggles between court employees, just what we needed. Anyway, we all produced our passports and were duly registered in the guard's book, then we continued to a real courtroom where we took our appointed places. The judge swept in almost immediately, imperious and grand in her teal robes, and ascended to the bench...after all of the past few months of false starts and stops, delays and disappointments, court was finally in session.

The judge's first decree was to remove the boys from the courtroom, admonishing them to sit quietly in the hallway until they were called. Then we got down to business by producing our passports yet again and having our personal information duly recorded by the clerk. Craig and I each stated our name, date and place of birth, and occupation for the record; all the other parties assisting us did the same. Then the judge read aloud our petition to adopt and asked us to make our court speeches. She and the prosecutor asked us detailed questions regarding our petition; with that completed, she began the dossier review...page by page, she identified each and every document for the record, slowly working her way through all 183 pages. Once that process was done, she asked to hear from the boys; the clerk retrieved them from the hall where they had been not so patiently waiting (apparently running around and making a nuisance of themselves, to be precise).The judge spoke with Madiyar first and we all held our breath...did he want to be adopted? He faltered a bit at first, then said that he did in fact want to be adopted by us. She asked him more than once and each time, he became a bit more definite. She asked if he was unsure of his decision and he said he was nervous because it was his first time in court...but yes, he wanted to be adopted. Satisfied, the judge asked to speak to Aniyar and we finally exhaled...Madik had done well and we were confident that Aniyar would happily tell the judge of his enthusiasm for the adoption just as he had related to us every day we saw him. Well...when the judge asked our adorable boy if he wanted to be adopted, he seemed confused. Then when she asked him, “What do you want?”, our Aniyar replied with a sweet smile, “I want...to dance!!” Well, this brought smiles to the faces of everyone, including the judge who told him he could dance later but for now, she needed to know if he wanted to join our family. He said yes but he was clearly nervous and confused by all the questions. Although not totally satisfied with Aniyar's response, the judge excused him anyway and we moved on to the other testimony in our case. The orphanage director made a beautiful speech on our behalf, telling the court that he had observed us with the boys and saw our obvious dedication to them. He gave examples of this, saying we supported Aniyar during his holiday dance performance and recognized Madiyar's athletic ability. His speech was eloquent and very personal; it touched us greatly when he told the court that over the course of our bonding period, he came to believe the boys belonged with us. Natasha, our ministry of education official, spoke next and she also was very kind, telling the court that the boys would be best served by joining our family and stressing the positives of the life we could offer them, not the least of them being our love. The prosecutor asked questions of the director and Natasha, then the judge and the prosecutor asked several times about the boys' birth family and received the same answer each time... no relatives had ever visited or inquired about the boys since they entered the orphanage system six years ago. This sad fact was important to our case; contact with relatives would mean that family members might contest the adoption. (At one point, the judge even asked Madiyar if he had contact with any relatives. He replied, “Yes, I have my brother...he's waiting in the hall.” and we all smiled again since that isn't quite what the judge was looking for...but ironically, his answer summed up the reality of the boys' situation. For the past 6 years, they've had no one but each other to rely on.)

After all the testimony, speeches, and the dossier review, we were hopeful that a decision was near but the judge wasn't quite done yet. She said she wanted to talk to the boys without us in the room...so we trooped out into the hall and she questioned them one at a time about whether or not they wanted to be adopted. Madiyar was unwavering at this point and he took only a minute or two to convince the judge of his desire to join our family. Then it was Aniyar's turn...he was in the room for several minutes but he still couldn't quite answer the judge's and the prosecutor's questions about his own feelings. Again we moved on to other required steps in the process and we thought we were done...the judge asked the prosecutor if she had any more questions for us or for the boys and she said no. The judge thought a moment and said she still wasn't confident that Aniyar wanted to be adopted or understood what that would mean for him. She questioned him a third time...and this time, she was quite stern, pressuring him pretty heavily. She asked him if anyone had coerced him to say he wanted to be adopted, if anyone had promised him gifts, if the director had prepared him and told him what to say...and finally, she asked him if he understood that being adopted meant he would leave Kazakhstan forever and never return. The poor kid didn't understand half of what she said and the director told the judge that, protesting that the boy was overwhelmed and confused by her questions. The director rephrased the questions for Aniyar...and then the judge asked us if we were willing to bring the boys back to Kazakhstan for visits. I told her I was willing to vow in open court that we would return to Kazakhstan for visits just as we had done already with Tanya and Max...and if they wanted to return to Kazakhstan to live after they turned 18, we vowed to help them do that as well. The judge said to Aniyar, “So do you understand that if you are adopted, you will go to America and you will only come to Kazakhstan for visits every year or so?” but at this point, Aniyar had turned to look at us and he was all smiles again...and Aniyar said, “I want to go to America!”. “Are you sure?” This was met with another big smile and “Da!” The judge looked at the prosecutor and asked if she wanted to question Aniyar again; she said no, she had no more questions. Aniyar took his seat and the judge asked the prosecutor to make her recommendation...would she support or contest the adoption? The prosecutor rose solemnly and said she would support our petition to adopt the boys...and Luba translated those words with a smile in her voice. As I looked around the room, I could see the relief on everyone's faces; now the only thing left was for the judge to deliberate and announce her decision. She swept from the room to deliberate in private but wasn't gone long...when she returned, she announced her decision to grant our adoption and we all finally exhaled. We offered our thanks and the judge left the courtroom again. There were hugs all around and even a few tears (mine, of course); the director shook the prosecutor's hand and the previously stern faced woman smiled warmly and offered to have her picture taken with us. Alma sent Luba to the car for our camera and we posed arm in arm with Madame Prosecutor and our new sons...and when she asked for a copy of the photo with our signatures on it, we realized that she was a bit proud of her role in this adoption! As for the judge, she didn't stick around for the photo op and she certainly put us through the ringer getting the job done. Did she hate the idea of international adoption or was she just trying to follow the letter of the law by being so very strict? We'll never know for sure...but she gave us the one precious gift we all wanted and for that, we'll always be grateful.

With our hearing complete, there was nothing more to do than pass out the little gifts we had brought to the boys. Standing in the freezing cold in front of the court building, we gave our new sons robot bugs that Madiyar declared very cool, also some small games to pass the time until they can leave the orphanage. Tanya, Aniyar was delighted with the little yellow duck you sent to him...he really was excited to know you wanted to share it with him! Kate, Madiyar was equally thrilled with your gift...Juma now has a new crowd of kids to entertain with his blinking eyes and funny noises and Madik couldn't wait to show him to his friends!

Under Kazakh law, there is a 15 day waiting period before the adoption will be finalized and we'll all have to just wait that time out before the boys can come home with us. Madiyar had already counted up the days and knew just when the time would be up...we told him that there would a few extra days for the final paperwork to be processed (new birth certificates, visas, etc.) and we explained that we would be returning to America to get things ready for their arrival. Aniyar asked me about the remote control car he had requested for his New Year gift and I assured him that gifts would be waiting for both of the boys in America. There were more hugs and then the boys headed back to the orphanage without a single look of sadness...they know that it's only a matter of a few weeks until they'll be on a plane to America. We can't think of a better way to start the new year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

We'll be home for Christmas...and we already got our present!

We made it to Ridder today for our court hearing. It was a long session, lasting from 11:00am-1:30pm and it was full of the dramatic moments that have punctuated our entire adoption process. It involved a judge in richly colored robes, a page by page review of the precious new dossier, an orphanage director and a ministry official who stood firmly at our side, a prosecutor who was both tough and kind, and two handsome young men in suits who were very brave during their day in court. I'll be happy to regale you all in detail after I've had some rest...but for now, here's the only thing that really matters:

On 19 December, 2008, our petition to adopt Aniyar and Madiyar Tatimbekov, citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan, was granted by the court in Ridder. Pending completion of the required 15 day finalization period, we will officially become parents again, bringing the number of kids in our family to a total of five. We couldn't be more thrilled...or relieved! Almost exactly two years to the day after we began this journey, we've made the dream come true, proving that it pays to be persistent.

All's well that ends well....

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jet lag and thoughts that go bump in the night

It's early morning here in Kazakhstan and I've been awake for several hours already...my body is convinced it's mid-afternoon here just like it is in Massachusetts and my brain is steadfastly refusing to stop whirring away a million miles an hour. Must be time to write a blog post and share with you, my faithful band of readers, some of the random thoughts that are keeping me company in these pre-dawn hours.

Caution: Be warned that these mental meanderings will not necessarily tie together at all or make sense to anyone but me. The point is just to preserve the moments, to get it all down so that one day, if I'm very lucky, Aniyar and Madiyar will read these words and get a sense of what we experienced here, complete with the sights, sounds and feelings, and what was in their Mom's mind as she waited anxiously to adopt them. This is for you, boys...but that's what this process has been all about, isn't it?

I've been pretty product-driven lately (focused on getting the dossier updated, getting us back to KZ, getting everything ready for our kids at home to be cared for during our absence) that I haven't taken much time to truly enjoy the holiday season. Oh, yes, we've done most of the same things we always do...but it's been more like a “To Do” list this year than the fun it usually is....tree trimmed, check; house decorated, check; presents wrapped and under the tree, check. I've been so well organized this year that all my holiday preparations were completed by December 15, a full 10 days in advance of Christmas. (So what the heck, as long as we're not doing anything, why not leave our kids, get on a plane, fly half way around the world to Kazakhstan? There aren't many things in the world that could make me miss seeing Tanya and Max singing in the holiday concert at their school...or the chance to bake cookies to give to the kids' teachers...or to visit our friends at the holidays. In fact, there are only two reasons I'd leave home at the holidays...and their names are Aniyar and Madiyar.) Now that we're on our journey, I'm forced to stop doing and start living once again; here's some of what I've seen.

Wow, the holiday decorations in Frankfurt Airport were really pretty! There were white lights everywhere...angels and snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, Christmas trees and wreaths festooned in ribbons and silvery balls, giving everything a winter wonderland feel to it. I admired the sights as we sipped our very large lattes at the McCafe...and I can testify that at least in Europe, Ronald McDonald makes darn good espresso drinks...Starbucks, be very afraid.

I finally fell asleep on our flight from Frankfurt to Almaty and dozed for a couple of hours. At one point, I woke up with a start and didn't know where I was, then the thrum of the engines reminded me. Sitting there in semi-darkness with flight attendants passing silently through the cabin like wraiths, offering water or juice, I was struck by the surreal quality of it all. I felt like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. For us, the adventure begins again in Kazakhstan...who will play the part of the Cheshire cat? Who will be the queen? What will be our fate? We'll just have to wait and see.

What fun to experience Kazakhstan in December! To my delight, we found Almaty decked out in holiday decorations. I was expecting to see preparations for the traditional New Year celebration but the huge decorative displays everywhere took me by surprise. As we drove to our hotel, thousands of white lights illuminated the roadways and images of Father Frost and his granddaughter, the Snow Princess, were everywhere, also Santas and reindeer. When we arrived in Ust, we saw more holiday lights and decorations. There is even an ice town being constructed in preparation for the New Year celebration, a whole village of ice sculptures and small ice slides for the children to play on...our friend Yulia pointed it out to us as we drove by last night...I hope we get to see more of it before we leave here; I'd love to get pictures. It's clear that this season is much loved here even though the date of celebration isn't December 25.

More holiday thoughts and late breaking news: We went shopping tonight and saw more evidence of the holiday traditions in KZ. There were lots of artificial trees for sale in all sizes (Even a purple one, Kate!) but no real trees, my friends...Yulia says if anyone is caught with a live cut fir tree, there is a huge fine and the sale of them is forbidden. There were also all kinds of gift items and fancy paper bags and cardboard boxes filled with candy. Yulia tells us that as a girl, she and other children used to make the fancy gift bags with paper and scissors...but kids rarely do that any more.

Kate, Tanya and Max...guess what Yulia and Jenya just bought? They now have a Honda van, it's very nice; we rode in great comfort from the apartment to Arzan last night. We're so happy for our friends because they waited a long time for a car they ordered from the US which never came...now they have just what they need!

It's really funny how comfortable we are here. It flies in the face of common sense for many, I'm sure...we are after all on the opposite side of the planet from our home...but for us, coming to Ust is very much like coming home. We arrived at the apartment, unpacked a few things and then walked to Yulia's apartment where we visited with Yulia and played with Vlad who now has spent enough time with us that he calls us by name. Yulia fed us soup and bread and homemade fudge, then we walked through the snow back to our apartment. We set up the computer, answered some emails, made a store list, and watched a little CNN on TV. Around 8pm, we went to Arzan, the Costco type store here in Ust where many of the locals shop. Yulia and Jenya were going shopping and invited us to go with them last night; we were happy to have the chance to stock up on a few essentials like fruit juice and tissues to help Craig's cold. When we returned to the apartment, we snacked on cheese, kielbasa, fruit, yogurt, and a glass of wine, did some reading, surfed the internet, then went to bed...when I couldn't sleep, I made myself a cup of tea and started writing. I'm sitting in the kitchen listening to the now familiar sounds of the apartment building waking up; our neighbors are running their shower, someone just took out their trash, and I can hear the heavy metal entrance door clang from time to time as people leave for work. The sky is beginning to brighten; the air is cold and crisp, and the snow and ice on the trees is beginning to sparkle in the growing light. Soon I'll make us a breakfast of eggs, yogurt, bread and cheese, and tea. Later this morning, we'll walk into downtown. We'll stop to exchange money (dollars for tenge) so we can buy coffee at Pizza Blues and a new internet card from the Rating store; the one we're using now is left over from our trip last month and should run out of time soon so we'll pick up another 10 hour card to keep us going. Yep, that's life here in Ust-K...it's like we never left and that's oddly comforting. We feel safe and calm, surrounded by the support of our friends and family on both sides of the earth. Time to finish what we started here even though we know it won't be easy.

Are we nervous about court​? Oh, you bet...we wonder what the judge will be like; we wonder what the prosecutor will be like; we wonder how the boys are feeling and if anyone has told them what's happening. I wrote and faxed them a letter about our court date which I hope the director gave to them but I don't know for sure if they got it...and Alma tells us that Madiyar is still upset about all the delays and he thinks we've all lied to them because we haven't been to court yet. After all, his friend Borya is being adopted and he went to court already (in Ust where adoptions are quite a bit easier but try telling that to a 13 year old ). Borya and his sister will be going to the US soon and Aniyar and Madiyar are still waiting...sigh...it's hard to argue with Madiyar's disappointment and frustration. Serenity prayer time...back to my Lamaze breathing; as my darling Kate would say, I must align my chakras and not allow all this negative energy to continue harshing my mellow.

Stay tuned for more adventures from Wonderland---we are T-minus 27 hours and counting to our assigned court hearing time in Ridder.

How many people do you know who have been to Kazakhstan five times?

Once again, we have made the long journey from the US to Kazakhstan, arriving in Almaty around 1:00am this morning. We grabbed a shower, a few hours sleep and a hot breakfast in the Kazhol Hotel, were back at the airport 11 hours later to travel on to Ust-K. Our Air Astana flight from Almaty to Ust was very pleasant, just 90 minutes and no delays so we got in on time at 2:00pm, were met by Alma and her staff. After a brief chat with Alma, we were driven to “our” apartment which Yulia's mom is once again graciously lending to us...how lucky can you get? We found the apartment warm and the refrigerator stocked with food...it's good to be in our home away from home!

Our trip was pretty uneventful unless you count the adventure we had with the fishing rod Craig brought as a gift for our friend, Jenya. We hand carried the rod onto the plane from Boston but when we got to Frankfurt, we were told by security it had to be checked as luggage. This resulted in us trekking around the airport at 6:30am looking for baggage services where they wrapped it in plastic wrap to protect it. Then we stood in line to check the rod in, then we had to go back through security again. Oh, well...since we had an 8 hour layover, this gave us something to do to pass some time...and we saw quite a bit more of the airport, getting our exercise in the process. Our luggage issues continued when we checked into our flight from Almaty to Ust. For the first time ever, we had to pay an additional fee because our luggage exceeded the weight limits...we brought an extra bag with clothes for the boys and some gifts so we weren't too surprised that we were over the limit and the fee wasn't awful. If these are the biggest problems we have on this trip, we'll be happy.

Craig somehow developed a full-blown cold on the flight from Frankfurt to Almaty...good thing I packed plenty of cold medicine...and we're really tired but otherwise, we're fine. Tomorrow, we will rest and prepare for court. Alma says she'll pick us up around 7:30am on Friday and we'll drive to Ridder; our court hearing is scheduled for 11am (midnight at home) so while you're all sleeping, we'll be pleading our case for our adoption of the boys. It's funny...I don't look much like her, but these days I feel Zena, Warrior Princess preparing to go into battle. (I am armed now with almost 600 pages of documentation...our new dossier, a copy of our new dossier, and a copy of the original dossier we filed in 2007 when we began this process...all these papers are in my carry-on bag and would make a dandy weapon just by their weight alone.) Wish us luck and the strength to face the battle ahead!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

183 pages later...

You know, lately it seems that everything we do is fraught with drama. I don't know why...I wish life was a bit less exciting...but it's just the way things are. For example, in my last post, I told you that we were approved, legalized, and good to go back to KZ for our December 19 court date...because I thought we were. However, it seems nothing is ever simple with us...so when our courier went to the embassy on Tuesday, Dec. 9 to pick up our legalized dossier and was told to come back on Thursday, I was a teensy bit nervous...and then on Thursday, when she was told it still wasn't ready, I was terrified. You see, I knew if the dossier wasn't released on Friday, we wouldn't have it in time to hand-carry it to KZ with us on our flight on Monday afternoon (12/15). The first thing Friday morning, I started making phone calls...our courier told me she had been informed that she shouldn't come in again to the KZ embassy until they called her...don't call us, we'll call you...never a good sign. I called and emailed everyone I could think of and our agency director did, too (even the State Department) (Eek...KZ embassy is only open for dossier business from 9-12 and it's almost noon...are we dead?) Finally, at just before 12, I got an email from Oleg, our Almaty, KZ coordinator who knows the dossier guy at the KZ embassy...he says our courier should show up at the embassy at 4pm to pick up the dossier. Phew...but will it really happen? I spend the next few hours sweating, praying, trying to figure out the difference between an anxiety attack and a nervous breakdown. Finally at about 4:45, I get a call from the courier...she has the dossier! She had to wait for them to finish it but she has it in hand and is on her way to FedEx with it...would we like it delivered on Saturday or would we prefer to save a few bucks and wait until Monday AM? Ha!!! I wanted that puppy in my hands ASAP and intend to keep it on my person until I see a judge in Ridder...so we opted for Saturday delivery. It arrived yesterday morning, all 183 pages of legalized and translated glory....and a copy to boot. Seeing it actually made me cry...so much blood, sweat and tears and so many hopes and dreams riding on these pages. It will be in my carry-on all the way to KZ...and I'll guard it with my life.

We fly out of Boston at 4:35pm on Monday, 12/15. We'll arrive in Ust on 12/17...our next post will most likely be from there. Court will be in Ridder on Friday, 12/19 at 11:00am. If all goes well, we'll return home on 12/23. We're ready...as for what lies ahead in the next phase of our battle...bring it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's been a long morning...

It's December 9...so of course, I woke up and went straight to my computer, hoping for an email re: our court date. Nieto, zip, nada...no messages from Alma or Oleg. Not a good sign. Sigh...Craig handed me my acid reducer medicine along with my coffee and we went about getting our day started. I got the kids off to school, Craig headed to work, and I tried to focus on something other than compulsively checking my email. OK, I admit that means I wrote emails begging for info from Alma and Oleg...and yes, I did call our adoption agency and leave a phone message...but can you blame me for being a bit anxious after all we've been through?

Have I ever mentioned that we have 3 greyhounds? Well, let me tell you that these greyhounds are great therapists...they love to cuddle, they're great listeners, and their favorite thing in the world is not racing after a mechanical bunny...it's being at home with their humans. Today my doggie therapists knew just what to do as I paced around the house, muttering to myself...they rubbed against me like oversized cats, then trotted over to the stairs. In greyhound language, that means, "Hey, Mom, let's go have a nap in your room!" (Greyhounds are really the biggest couch potatoes and they like nothing better than a mid-morning snooze!) Well, it didn't seem like a bad plan so the 4 of us headed up to my cozy bedroom, me with an armload of Christmas catalogs to peruse. It wasn't long until the pups were snoring and I was less stressed...one of the greys always joins me on the bed so I have at least one furry friend within arm's reach at all times...they seem to know that a snuggle and an ear scratch makes us all feel better...wish I could take these guys to KZ with me when we return for our court date...

"Court date?", you ask..."What court date?" Well, once I decompressed with the dogs, I took another look at my email...and there was a message from Alma. We are in fact now scheduled for court on December 19 at 11am. Wahoo!!!!! More details later...but right now, I have travel arrangements to make!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Refreshed and waiting...

We had a great weekend making Christmas magic and appreciating our hearth and home. I began the process of decorating the house and the kids were duly impressed when they got home from school. Friday evening was very laid back and the atmosphere was lighthearted...hope is a wonderful tonic for the spirit. We ate Thai takeout with Rick and Deb, our dear friends and the unofficial godparents of our kids...this is a regular Friday night ritual that we all look forward to.

Saturday, we bought our Christmas tree and the kids got into the decorating mood. Max helped me with our wreath for the door and put up window clings while the girls hung paper snowflakes all over the living room. We had everybody's favorite pizza delivered and ate it while we assembled and decorated our gingerbread train. (Tis the season of busyness...thank heavens for takeout food!) At 9:00pm, I settled the younger kids into bed and my teenager and I went Christmas shopping. (Kate has been begging me to take her out shopping late in the evening ever since I told her that I used to go to all the Midnight Madness holiday sales with my mom.) We left the house about 9:15 and returned home around 11:15, shopping 'til we dropped at Kohl's...my 13 year old was on Cloud 9 to be out and about so late!

Sunday morning was my Tanya's turn to shop with Mom; Tanya is an early riser who was thrilled to hop in the car and head to Wal-Mart at 7:30am while almost everyone else was still sleeping. The first snow of the season was falling and all the trees looked magical under the dusting of white...as Tanya said, "Look, Mom, it's a winter wonderland!" We finished Tanya's holiday shopping, then went out to breakfast. We had a lot of fun being silly and just talking. Spending one-on-one time with my kids isn't always easy in our crazy lives but it's so worth the effort!

Sunday afternoon was Mom and Dad's time to Christmas shop sans the kids; we finished all the important stuff and headed home for our traditional Sunday family movie night. I actually managed to cook a meal (pot roast and gravy, potatoes, carrots, peas, even ice cream topped with crushed candy canes for dessert) to assuage my maternal guilt over all that takeout food. We watched the new Prince Caspian movie...a hit with everyone. After that, it was time for the kids to head to bed...and Mom and Dad kissed each of our 3 kids as we tucked them in and thought of the two who are still waiting for us.

OK, the respite is over and it's time to turn our thoughts to our adoption process again. Alma will meet with the judge tomorrow; allowing for the 11 hour time difference, we should hear some news in the next 24 hours. I already have butterflies in my stomach and am beginning to compulsively check my email for any word...it's too early, I tell myself...then I check again anyway.

Keep your fingers crossed that the judge will meet with Alma in the office building pictured on the left and assign us a court date of December 18 or 19. While you're at it, visualize us walking into the courthouse building pictured on the right and having our hearing...

Friday, December 5, 2008

We have news...and for once, it's good

I'm sitting at my computer and the tears are flowing...I've been waiting on pins and needles all morning to hear if our dossier made it to the KZ embassy today and the call from our agency came a little while ago. Our dossier was delivered and reviewed page by page for accuracy. One minor error in page order was discovered and corrected, everything else was deemed accurate and the dossier was accepted for registration and legalization! The even better news is that our courier was told to return on Tuesday, December 9th to pick up our dossier and our travel visas. Sooo...it would appear that we're out of the woods and we will make the judge's deadline after all. We are still aware that there are no guarantees here...but we intend to savor the moment and allow ourselves a little ray of hope.

As for me, I'm thinking of starting a new business when all this is over. Now that I hold the World's Record for dossier preparation, maybe I should go professional...let's see, more paperwork, more apostilles, more waking in a cold sweat...uhhh...never mind.

New plan...spend the weekend buying a Christmas tree, decorating, making a gingerbread train, shopping for gifts for my wonderful family...better, much better. We'll rest a bit, then gear up for the next step on Tuesday when Alma is supposed to get a court date from our judge. The saga continues...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hurdles overcome in our race to December 9

Well, since my last post, there's been no end of the drama here. We did finish updating our documents and we sent them off to our adoption agency as planned; they arrived on Monday, were reviewed and translations were completed but we still needed the updated documents we had carried to KZ in October and given to the judge. Of particular importance were the FBI clearances and the medicals that usually take weeks to complete. Suffice it to say that we really didn't want to have to redo those...so over Thanksgiving weekend, a flurry of emails between Kazakhstan and the US resulted in finding out where our docs were, connecting with the family who hand-carried our docs back from KZ, and getting them to FedEx said precious docs to our adoption agency to complete our dossier. (Many thanks, Thomas family!) The docs arrived at our agency on Tuesday morning...so that should have been good, right?
Yeah, well, Tuesday night, the agency director called me in a panic...the packet from KZ was missing our FBI clearances. Without those, we wouldn't have a complete dossier....who knows what happened to them and how they got pulled out of the packet that I hand-carried to KZ, but they were gone. Without FBI clearances, our dossier would not be legalized before December 9, our judge's deadline in order for us to be given a court date.

Luckily, I had a 2nd set of FBI clearances in my adoption file. (Believe it, yes, I am just that paranoid...but see, being somewhat obsessive about paperwork/multiple sets of original docs can be a good thing.) I made the trip into Boston to have our precious FBI cards apostilled on Wednesday. I was a bit nervous since I had problems when I tried to get these same docs apostilled a couple of weeks ago. However, I'm now on a first name basis with Cathy of the Certifications and Apostilles office who has been awesome about helping me on my last 2 visits. (It might have helped that I brought all 3 kids with me on the day before Thanksgiving when I was dropping off some documents...Tanya asked her if she was going to help us get her brothers home...everyone thanked her for helping our family...and we made a human connection that broke through the red tape barrier.) Anyway, Cathy apostilled my FBI cards in five minutes flat yesterday and I scurried over to FedEx to overnight them to our agency. They were delivered today (Yes, of course, I tracked the delivery, silly...our package was delivered at 10:37am!) which means we should have everything for a brand-spanking new dossier.

So what happens now? Well, the dossier was assembled, the translations were attached, and copies were made today. The file was FedExed to Washington DC this afternoon...I got an email from our adoption agency at a little after 5pm saying that they had completed everything and the dossier was on its way. It will be delivered to a courier by 10:30am tomorrow, has to be filed at the Embassy by noon. The courier is standing by...if there are no glitches (frantically knocking on my wood desk as I type this), our dossier will be registered and will be officially under review on December 5.

The next hurdle is getting the dossier approved/legalized before Dec 9. If the guy at the embassy treats this as an emergency, he will review and legalize it in time...if not, we're dead in the water again. The judge won't give us a court date until we have a legalized dossier. If we can't get it legalized by Dec 9, I'm not sure what that means...but I'm sure I'll be awake in the middle of the night worrying about it until we get an answer.

Keep your fingers crossed for us...and to all of you who have emailed and left us comments, thanks for your support. It means the world to us, especially right now.