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Friday, December 20, 2013

Guess who came to dinner?

So I was puttering around the kitchen on a Thursday afternoon, doing food prep and chores, when the phone rang. It was an old friend, the social worker who wrote all of our home studies for our 4 adoptions and she was calling to invite us to a gala in Boston. Hmm...a gala? On a school night? In the city? Not a chance that was going to fit in the schedule at the last minute so I thanked her and said we couldn't make it. Too bad because it was a concert by an orchestra from Kazakhstan and diplomats from the Kazakh government would be in attendance. Since Kazakhstan is currently closed for international adoption and is once again considering reopening, our friend thought it would be great if we could meet some officials and show off our 4 success stories. Even though we couldn't attend, she asked if she could talk about us with the officials. Sure, why not? Then she asked if she could tell them we would extend a warm welcome to have them come visit the children some time. Why not? I mean, what were the chances that diplomats were going to show up at my door, right?

Well, about 7:00 that evening, she called me back. She said she was standing with the Consul from the Kazakh consulate that is based in New York City and he was wondering if he could come visit us the next day. I said "Ummm...sure!" I thought OMG...seriously? She said he would love to come for dinner and meet the kids. I said, "Oh, we'd be delighted!" while I was thinking, AHHHHHHH! What does one feed a diplomat???

I got off the phone and filled in Craig and the kids on the surprising plans for the next afternoon. The next day was busy. Kate was a gem, she cleaned the house. Tanya helped me to police the kids' bedrooms for tidiness. Craig took off early to be home for the visit. The kids were prepared to meet and greet our guest. I made a pot of borscht at the kids' request and rounded out the meal with roast chicken and salad...no idea if there were any diplomatic faux pas involved but I went with my gut and the advice of my children.

 The consul arrived around 3:00 and we sat down at our dining room table for tea and a discussion of post-placement reporting, the health and history of our children, and dual citizenship rules. The kids were amazingly open and polite; the consul was gracious and kind with them.He turned out to be a laid back guy in his 30's who has kids of his own so the atmosphere was pretty relaxed. Our adoption agency friend joined us and we all shared the story of how each of our kids came to our family. Dinner was served family style around 4:30 since our guest was driving back to NYC that evening. Our guest requested a tour of the house; he took pictures of the kids' rooms (good thing they were tidy, huh?) and asked to take pictures with our brood. I'm pretty sure all of that info was being gathered for a higher reason but we were fine with that; I was actually delighted to show off our kids to a government official. By the end of the visit, he agreed that the kids looked great and thanked us for our good care of them. In turn, we thanked the government of Kazakhstan for entrusting us with them. Our guest left around 6:30, after giving the kids gifts of books and music from Kazakhstan and inviting us all to visit the consulate in NYC. We may just take him up on his offer of a tour...what a treat that would be for our children of Kazakhstan.

The possibility of a visit from the government of Kazakhstan was something we agreed to when we adopted the kids but we never really expected it to happen. Who would have believed it? This was diplomacy at work right in my own home and we were suddenly the poster family for adoption from KZ...what a surreal few hours! Just hope we helped to put a more positive face on allowing Americans to adopt from KZ in the future.

The diplomatic dinner
The official group photo...the consul is the guy in jeans and a sweater
After all the excitement (that's code for stress), I was totally exhausted, fell asleep by nine. Guess I'm not cut out for international relations...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Guess what my youngest can do?

See the platter of French toast on my stove? Looks like it came from the Food Network kitchen, doesn't it? See the disembodied thumbs-up in the pic? That would be the chef...my youngest made breakfast for the family this past weekend...and it was delicious. So proud of my boy!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Five years ago and half a world away...

Our life was different 5 years ago. We only had 3 kids then. We were embroiled in a fight with the government of Kazakhstan to adopt 2 more children and had spent a big chunk of the fall in Kazakhstan, away from our home, our jobs and our children. By Thanksgiving 2008, Craig and I were back home after a series of frustrating delays in our petition process. We were hoping for a court date in early December and a quick second trip back to Kazakhstan to finalize the adoption of our 2 new sons. Didn't work out that way...Here's what I wrote back then:

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving...and fear

We've been back from Kaz for 2 weeks now. If all had gone as we had hoped, we'd be on our way back for our anticipated Dec. 2 court date...but it didn't happen.

On November 20th, we were notified by our agency that our judge had decided that our adoption dossier was out of date and we needed to redo it. For many, this would have been the death knell of the adoption. Never mind all the updated docs that we had given to the judge in Kaz while we were there...she wanted the full dossier, 30+ docs, all approved by the Kaz Embassy. She gave us until Dec. 9 to accomplish the near impossible...assembling an adoption dossier generally takes 2-3 months, then another 2-3 months to get it approved at the Kaz embassy in Washington, DC. If we can meet her goal, then she says we can have a court date of either Dec. 17, 18, or 19. Sigh...I did a lot of whining and not sleeping for the first few days, then I kicked it into high gear and started assembling a dossier...for the fourth time. Our adoption friends have been a great help...our home study agency and social worker have moved the world for us to update our docs; our friend and personal notary even showed up at our house in her bathrobe late one night to notarize docs for us. Our international agency arranged for emergency translation services so that each document could be translated as I completed the notarization and apostille process, even over Thanksgiving weekend. People we don't even know have hand-carried docs for us from Kaz to the US which they will send to our agency tomorrow to complete our dossier...and yes, after I finished whining and complaining, I did manage to assemble a 25+ document dossier in a week's time. Craig and I sent it via Expressmail yesterday to our international agency. Our new docs and the updated docs that were returned to us from Kaz will be married up, checked for accuracy, and sent to the Kaz embassy this week. We have been told that the person who reviews dossiers there understands our special circumstances and will review our paperwork on an emergency basis. We can only hope...

Yep, Thanksgiving 2008 was a real nail biter. and the weeks that followed were equally filled with drama and intrigue. Suffice it it say that we survived and prevailed....that which doesn't kill us really does make us stronger, I guess.

Fast forward 5 years. The highlights of Thanksgiving 2013 are as follows:

  • TADA!! we have 5 kids, all teenagers who alternately delight us and drive us a little batty not just on Thanksgiving but every day
  • there was no drama in our house other than the adolescent kind
  • there were no trips half way around the world; the closest we got to Kazakhstan was the giant vat of Russian winter borscht I made for Thanksgiving lunch
  • we watched the Macy's parade, cooked all day, and ate too much
  • we counted our blessings

    • Our blessings included a very special dinner guest; Craig's nephew David is working in Boston for a few months and he joined us for the holiday...sooo nice to have extended family at our holiday table, a rare treat for us.
    •  Did I mention that David is my favorite relative right now??? He gave up an afternoon of his time to hang wallpaper in my dining room and I'm ecstatic with the results. Talk about something to be thankful for!
    • Then there's my DH who took the week off from work and installed copper back splash tiles in my kitchen. Gorgeous! 
All in all, it was a pretty normal kind of Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving with some Black Friday shopping thrown in on the side. Five years ago, I was afraid we'd never get the chance to be a family of 7, to celebrate holidays together that were just traditional and maybe even a little mundane. Grateful doesn't begin to describe how I feel about that.