3 months

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Leonard is his favorite dog * rolls over in private * loves receiving bad news * laughs out loud at DJ Lance Rock * is suspicious of his feet * will stop crying with coffee milkshake * likes to give open-mouthed kisses * had his first cold, RSV * doesn’t like the camera * dad is his favorite parent * stares and smiles at Zipper *  still hates the car * cellulite baby  butt * major nudist * engages you in a good laugh * big boy still 96% * 3 is my favorite month yet

Jack’s Funds $$$

Once we definitively decided that we would not be immediately moving forward with another adoption, we had to turn our attention to the money that was raised.  Each time I would think of the money sitting there, my stomach would do a little flip flop.  I think a large part of me feels guilty that we raised all of this money to complete Jack’s adoption, and now that he is safe we aren’t moving forward to save another child with that money.   We were so conflicted.  One of the main reasons we choose to step back from adoption was money itself.  We spent around $10,000(ish) of our money and $2,000(ish) of the money we raised.  We started Jack’s adoption 1 year after purchasing 2 medical practices (immediately out of residency).  We were completely tapped out. That $10,000 was all we had left.  And it’s gone, and it didn’t even go towards benefiting anyone- just totally wasted.  Grrr….. But anyways, told ya it was going to take a village to get the boy outta there! And you all pulled together like we could have never imagined.   If we were to move forward for another child we would have minimal funds to contribute, and would have to heavily rely on fundraising.  That didn’t sit well with either of us, it felt a bit irresponsible on our part.  There are other reasons, that I won’t bother going into.  Some medical issues with our little guy that need to take priority, etc. blah blah.

We fully intend to resume an adoption in the future.  One option was to leave the donated funds sitting securely until that time comes.  Selfishly, this was my go-to choice.  But, the more I thought about it, the more my stomach flip flopped around.  The money was donated to bring Jack home now, there are kids out there that need families now, this money should be used to bring them home noweven if we aren’t the ones bringing them home.  It was decided.  Jack’s funds would be re-donated to help other kids.

Then we had to decide how to allocate the funds.  I remember how excited I would get everytime a $20 donation would come in.  During an adoption every penny is like a million bucks- and we/Jack have a whole lotta money to dish out!  Should we give it all to one child?  If a kid is sitting on an enormous grant fund he is most likely to be chosen.  Do we give it to a few kids? The amount would be lower to each individual, but it would give exposure to several needy children. Do we give it to a few families that are desperately trying to get their kids out of institutional life sooner than later?  It was SO hard to decide, but we took the job very seriously.

Side-note: Before I start announcing the transfers, I wanted to let you all know that the 2 waiting boys I blogged about have started their new lives!

This little dude was adopted.  Can’t believe it!!!

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And Denis, the boy that I posted the teary farewell video of, is safe with his new dad!  They haven’t left his home country yet, but they are scheduled to be in the states before Christmas.  His new mom sent me a few photos of them all together, and Denis is all smiles.  YAY!!!!

Ok, the money.  The funds are staying within the grant agencies that they are currently securely sitting in.  We are transferring funds to waiting children and families that already have grant accounts set up- the money is not directly going to anyone’s personal bank account.  I will post each grant link individually as a photo after their story- maybe one of the stories will resonate with you and you may be inclined to bless them further :)

1.)  $4,000 to the Stephens family.  I don’t even know where to begin.  This family has been through the wringer, and they remain completely committed to saving a life.  I’m not being dramatic, listen to the skinny version of their story.  They were adopting a beautiful little girl with Down Syndrome from Russia.  They met her, held her, loved on her, and then the adoption ban hit.  Determined for their little girl to have a life out of a mental institution, they put forth great effort and finally found a family in Canada that was willing to adopt her.  Then, adoptions were also banned from Canada.  So their little girl still waits. The entire time that they were selflessly trying to find a new family for a daughter that they considered their own, they also began to pursue the adoption of a little boy from China.  Also a little one with Down Syndrome (and I believe a heart condition?).  Shortly before they were set to travel to pick him up, he passed away.  See, I wasn’t being dramatic. How many emotional blows can one family take before they just step away? They are now pursuing yet another little boy in China.  He is just darling!  I know how sick I feel about the money we lost, and I can tell you that on their Russian adoption alone, the Stephens are already out somewhere between $30,000-$40,000.  Ouch.  And yet they truck ahead.  They deserve a little break, a $4,000 little break – and hopefully this will allow them to get to their son sooner.

How freaking cute is Milo?!?!

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An article about the situation with their daughter in Russia: http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/08/09/heartbroken-would-be-parents-imploring-canadians-to-save-pipeline-babies-after-russia-bans-u-s-adoptions/

2.) $1,736 to the Coleman family.  The Coleman family is actually a single mom.  Also caught up in the Russian ban with us, she has been one of the main voices fighting for our kids overseas.  This woman has become a personal friend of mine, and I can attest to the fact that she works 7 days a week, a bajillion hours a day to be able to afford the multiple trips to Russia to fight in court for her daughter and on behalf of all of the kids stuck waiting for their families.  In the meantime, she is pursuing an adoption in India.  I don’t know how she holds it together.  This money will bring her one step closer to her daughter in India.    This photo is of her baby that is stuck.  

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3.) $1,736 to the Warner family.  The Warners were the family that attempted to adopt Jack just prior to us.  The mother became pregnant, and due to the timing of the pregnancy they were disqualified from adopting per Russia’s rules.  They were such a huge emotional support through the process for us.  Lucky for me, they live rather close and I actually get to hang out with them!  Their baby has arrived and the Warner Family is now adopting a 14 year old boy from one of Jack’s neighboring countries.  Their new son has had the opportunity to come and stay with them for a short-term exchange type program (called hosting).  By all accounts he’s already a part of their family- they just need to make it official via a court hearing and a very long stay overseas!

Their handsome new son is already in their family photo :)

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4.) $1,414 to waiting child “Anthony”. All we know about Anthony is the country he is located in, that he is 10 years old, and that he is HIV+.  The lack of personal information certainly doesn’t do him any favors in the way of finding a family.  But come on, look at those kind eyes. He’s posing like he’s on a job interview for a family, the poor thing.  Before you write him off based on his health condition, I implore you to do a little research.  Jack, too, is HIV+.  We kept his medical information confidential, but now that he will never be adopted to the United States I think we are safe that disclosing won’t come back to bite him in the butt.  No one has EVER contracted HIV from living with someone who is +.  We were not concerned at all with the medical aspect of adopting an HIV+ child, it was pretty much a non-issue.  However, I’ll be honest, we were initially worried about our ability to handle/parent the emotional aspect of the disease.  We learned there is an enormous network of families that have adopted HIV+ children.  A huge support system that we were already relying on as we expressed some of our concerns.  We weren’t embarking on unchartered territory- more like, we were late to the party!  Our initial concerns were eliminated, one by one, as we spoke candidly to the other families.  Anthony is located in a country that is much more affordable to adopt from than Russia.  $1,414 will bite a decent chunk out of the fees for this country. 

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5.)  $1,414 to waiting child “Barry”.   There are grant organizations that primarily advocate for children with Down Syndrome and HIV, but none that I can find that focus on other congenital physical anomalies such as Cerebral Palsy or Spina Bifida.  Barry lives in a country that cuts off adoptions at age 14.  If he is lucky enough to be in a good orphanage he can remain living there for a few extra years, if he isn’t so lucky he will be turned out on the streets.  At 14.  With 0 life skills.  In a country that places 0 value on people with a physical disability. He would pretty much be screwed, if…….the Smith’s hadn’t recently committed to his adoption!  Sometime between re-donating Jacks money (about 3 weeks ago) and writing this post- a family has come forward for Barry! Celebration!!!!

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6.) $1,414 to waiting child “Huntley”.  Huntley reminds me of Jack.  They look nothing alike, but it’s something about him- I can’t quite put my finger on it.  A family has met Huntley!! This is an amazing resource- people from the United States have witnessed this boy first hand in his environment.  They can tell you about his orphanage, about their adoption experience, and most importantly,  a little bit about Huntley.  

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7.) $1,414 to the Greene family.  The Greene family is another single mom!  Alison is another Russia sob story as well.  She was pursuing the adoption of a little girl with Down Syndrome.  She has since transferred her homestudy to another country.  The new country has such strict rules she can’t share a single photo, any information about her child, not even the country that she is located in until the adoption is 100% final.  That makes fundraising nearly impossible.  I know that Jack wouldn’t have half his following if he didn’t wrap everyone around his little finger with his cute pictures and his sad story! Even though we can’t see this little girl, she needs a family and a home just as much as the rest of the kids. 

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8.) There is no #8, but I know you are all interested to know the fate of your donated dollars and will be reading this blog post, so I’m using it as an opportunity to show of my baby.  This cuteness must be shared.  Ok, I’m totally biased because he belongs to me, I know.  Just humor me, people.

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Our Next Move

So where do we go from here?  We pushed that conversation aside as long as we could, until we eventually had no choice but to lay out our options and come up with a plan.

The short answer: we will not be moving forward with another adoption anytime in the near future.

The longer explanation: We felt comfortable adopting Jack.  There is always some level of risk in adoption.  Children growing up in orphanages have been hurt, and they carry those scars with them forever.  We were very fortunate to have so much personal information about Jack.  Of course we had to prepare for the worst case scenario- or rather I should say, the situation that would pose the largest challenge to us as first-time parents.  For us, that would have been RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder).  We were learning all we could about the disorder for the just in case, but knew that it would be EXTREMELY unlikely that Jack would come to us with RAD.  He had made secure attachments in his life, he was kind to people and animals alike, and possessed a laundry list of attributes that made us feel comfortable committing to becoming his parents, forever.  As one of my friends put it (but in reference to her own child), this was a very ‘Jack specific’ journey.

We know we want to adopt a child that is otherwise unlikely to find a family.  We have spent an insane amount of money and time on the adoption process.  We’ve also raised a great deal of money that a ton of kind folks donated in good faith, to help Jack.  Our paperwork is still current and can be transferred to another child for a small-ish fee, and all of the donated money is sitting in it’s account.  Now that Little G is in the picture, the timing was certainly a bit off to start a brand new adoption- BUT we desperately did not want all our time, money, paperwork, donated funds to go to waste when we know that adoption is 100% something we want to do at some point.  So, we tried to push forward.  I researched the adoption process in a million different countries.  Even the obscure ones like Azerbaijan (bet you don’t know where that is!)  When we narrowed it down to the short list of countries that we could logistically adopt from, I started looking at the children that were waiting for homes.  Which, side-note, sounds so stupid to me when there are waiting lists years and years long of people looking for the ‘perfect baby’ to adopt in Every. Single. Country.  Talk about setting yourself up for major disappointment.  Waiting 8 years for the ‘perfect’ child to become available- when there is no such thing as the perfect child.

We feel passionate about adopting a child that missed the boat for a family, based on their age. Without much searching, the file of a beautiful girl in India practically fell in my lap.  Her special need was a problem with her leg that would possibly require an amputation. Um, talk about right up our alley!  She was waiting 9 years for a family to choose her, and ironically another family jumped forward to commit to her before we could even sign our names on the paperwork.  Then we found an older girl in Ukraine.  I was slightly apprehensive because there wasn’t much information on her, and I couldn’t find any adoptive families that had met her- but we took the leap anyways.  During the gathering paperwork phase, it was found that she has a 14 or 15 year old brother that she must be adopted with.  Rats, we definitely aren’t prepared to adopt 2 teenagers.  The door kept getting shut in our face.  Meanwhile, in our non-adoption lives, we were experiencing a change of pace.  Justin had been working 70 hours a week to ensure that we were funding as much of Jack’s adoption ourselves as possible (and because he is just generally a workaholic- can’t blame it all on he adoption).  Once Little G was born, Justin cut his hours way wayyyyyy back to spend some much needed family time with us.  Great for us, not great for funding an adoption.  The short of it is, we are going to revisit adoption again in a couple of years. It’s what makes the most sense.  I will keep my eyes open for the next child that other adoptive families have spent time with that steals my heart. The more we know about a child, the more comfortable we will feel committing to being his/her parents.

We don’t feel right letting all the donated money hang around until we resume the adoption process.  1. Selfishly, it makes me feel pressured to jump into another adoption when we really just aren’t ready. Like the money is burning a hole in my pocket.  2. There are kids living in crappy orphanages (and good ones too, but no orphanage is nearly as good as a family) and the only thing keeping them from their adoptive parents is money.  This money should be used to bring kids home now, that is what it was donated for in the first place.  We decided to split up the funds 7 different ways and gift them to children waiting to be chosen and to families currently in the adoption process that are doing everything possible to get their children home as fast as they can.  I will write a separate post  later in the week, explaining exactly who the people are that the funds will be benefiting.

While I was searching waiting children all over the world I came across this dude.  He looks so much like our Little G, I had to find out more.  He is, unfortunately for him, in Russia.  He actually lives in the same exact baby house that Jack grew up in.  There is a group of advocates in Moscow that are very successful in finding adoptive families for children  in Jack’s city.  They are actually the reason that Jack was noticed in the first place.  If they could get a 13 year old boy with a health condition adopted in Russia, then they are pretty good at their job.  What we call ‘advocating’ they call ‘public relations’, hehe.  They plaster these kid’s stories all over the place.  Except, I noticed that this is the only little boy in the entire baby house that they haven’t so much as even written a single blog post about.  How sad, he is invisible.  I asked them why.  The paraphrased version is that Russians take kids that look like them. They wouldn’t take an ethnic minority, so there was really no point in even advocating for him.  Being Asian is his downfall, practically a curse! What the heck?  It makes me look at Little G and have nightmare daydreams that it could be him in that situation.  This kid isn’t even being seen! How can his parents ever come forward if they can’t even see that he exists?!

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Now, I know Jack had fans all over the world.  Literally.  If you live in a country that is still allowed to adopt from Russia, I am begging you to do the job of the advocates and plaster his face everywhere.  He lives in the best baby house anyone could hope for.  I know quite a few parents that have adopted from this particular orphanage who’s kids are all well-adjusted.  I’m sure they would be happy to talk to you about their experience if you are seriously considering making this gorgeous boy your son.  Most of you probably remember the video of the little boy that I posted about 6 months ago.  Spreading his story got him adopted.  His new parents have already flown to his country and met him, and he should arrive home around Christmas.  Sharing these kid’s faces and stories works- so lets share this boy all over the world! Please do it so I don’t need to figure out how to relocate my entire family to Russia, become a family of Russian citizens, and then try and defect back to the US.  You don’t want that for us.

Watch out, you’re about to die from the cuteness.

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The Post I’ve Been Dying to Write! (It’s a long one)

Happy endings all around!

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2013 started out as a rough year.  After processing the blow that our adoption was in major jeopardy, we received the amazing news that we were expecting a surprise biological baby.  However, this good news was overshadowed by the fact that I would need major abdominal surgery during my 4th month of pregnancy.  Both of our kid’s lives were literally in danger, and there was nothing we could do to improve either situation.  Scary stuff.

I fell into a bit of a self-pity funk for most of the spring.  While soon-to-be moms were taking care-free maternity photos all around me, and professional photographers were documenting the heart-warming homecomings of adoptive kids in my online adoption network…I just couldn’t catch a break.  Most of the time I was consumed with panic for my two children, but I was also feeling really bad for myself.  And then, feeling really bad that I was feeling bad for myself, since this wasn’t about me.  These are the life moments that you are supposed to enjoy and indulge in, and that just wasn’t the case for us.

As we entered deeper into 2013, we were optimistically expecting new developments out of Russia, that never came.  Many people are holding out hope that when Putin’s term is up in 5 years, Russia’s next leader will resume inter-country adoptions with the proper child protections in place.  This notion was never comforting to me because of Jack’s age.  He was about to be screwed out of a family, simply because of poor timing.  I was able to develop a relationship with a volunteer that takes Jack out of the orphanage on the weekends to provide him with enriching experiences.  My heart would skip a beat each time I would check my email and there would be a message waiting written in the Cyrillic alphabet.  She loaded us up with photos of our boy.  I was dying to share them with y’all, but she specifically asked me to keep them private.  Yes, you are totally missing out.  He is growing into such a handsome young man!

I had my surgery in April.  The procedure itself went off without a hitch, but we spent the remainder of my pregnancy, on pins and needles hoping that our baby was unaffected.  See- it was shaping up to be the most stressful year ever!

It was a long nine months for both boys.  I just chalk up Spring and Summer ’13 as a total bust.

Don’t get depressed and stop reading yet.  Things get better.  Once autumn rolled around we were showered with unbelievably good news from every angle!  As you may recall, Jack was transferred to a rotten, remote institution over the summer.  I believe this was the blessing in disguise, that gave his long-time volunteer the push to take him into her home.  She emailed us announcing that she had applied for official guardianship of Jack!!!! Never in a million years did we think he stood a chance of remaining in his home country and landing a family.  He was, what some people refer to as ‘the least of these’.  A teenager (strike 1), living with a life-long illness that is misunderstood and feared my many (strike 2).  If any kids stuck in the adoption ban were going to be adopted within Russia, it was going to be the healthy, blue-eyed babies.  But low and behold, Jack will safely live under her roof until he is 18.

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Signing his official consent form to enter into guardianship!! Check out that shiny new watch- woohoo!!

We are so fortunate, not only to know that Jack is safe in a home, but also that we have regular contact with his new guardian.  She could have been anti-American.  She could have been suspicious of our motives (the media over there paints a very poor picture of adoptive American families).  But, she kept an open mind, and soon learned that we care about his welfare as much as she does.  Heck, she could have had less than ideal motives herself- there is a financial incentive to take orphans into your home in Russia.  This often leads to a bad situation for the child.  But, that is 100% not this woman, she is truly one of the people in Jack’s life that has his best interest at heart and wants to make a difference for him.

Of course we felt a bit empty when we processed the fact that Jack will never be a part of our family.  But our primary gut reaction was truly enormous relief.  I was worried every single day that he was not ok, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.  We couldn’t even send encouraging letters to keep his spirits up- we were totally behind the scenes.  I didn’t know if he was getting his medicine at this new institution.  No idea if he was enrolled in school.  Knowing that he would finally be safe in a real home, even though it wasn’t going to be ours, was overwhelmingly comforting.  After all, I’ve been saying all along (mostly to remind myself), this isn’t about us.  This is about Jack, and we are celebrating that he finally found HIS happy ending (even though it is the alternate ending to the book I wrote :) ).

Practically speaking, I believe this is the best family for him.  Of course, either loving family would be far superior to his life in the orphanage, and post-orphanage!  But, having to adjust to life half way across the world while adjusting to life in a family for the very first time, was going to be a challenge.  I think it will be an easier transition for him to adjust to life in a family while still speaking his native language and being surrounded by familiarities.  Jack’s new foster mom has a bit of a different take on the situation.  She was really pulling for us because she believes that Jack badly needs a father in his life (she is single).  Who knows, maybe this will open up an avenue for us to still play a role in his life.  Maybe Justin can fall into the part of positive male role-model from afar, or something like that!

About a week after Jack moved into his new home, our little guy was born.  Meet Greyson Theodore Lewis! He came into the world (after 40 hours of labor) healthy, huge, and screaming.  We are enjoying every second with him.  Justin is #1 Dad.  I know my husband is smitten when Mr. 80 hour work week has indefinitely cut his hours down from 10-4.  We just can’t get enough of the little guy.  I’m hoping he stays this tiny forever!

Some photos for everyone to coo over….because I’ve turned into ‘that mom’.  Wish I could share the photos of Jack’s first day at his new private school, they are precious.  Maybe I will beg his guardian to let me share just one.  He even brought his teacher a bouquet of flowers!

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He was a little disheveled looking right after 40 hours in the birth canal. Please excuse all the major boobs, there is really no controlling them now that I have a baby. Yikes.

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The world’s most precious porcelain doll. Ok, fine, I’m biased!

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Dad on Duty.

Dad on Duty.

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Inklings of a smile.

We are taking a minute to celebrate and bask in the new life of both of ‘our’ kids.  I will update soon on our next move, and also on the funds that are still securely sitting like a lump in their respective non-profit accounts.

Let’s Celebrate, Y’all!!

I have some exciting news to deliver on behalf of a very special little boy!

Remember this guy?

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His teary-eyed farewell to one of his orphanage-mates touched so many people.  One family in particular, just couldn’t let it go.  That family is now going to be HIS family!  Soon Denis will have his very own family here in the states!!

I received a phone call from Denis’ new mom about a month ago.  She recanted her story on how her family came to their decision to take the plunge and adopt him.  It was deja-vu for me, that’s for sure.  Your usual; can’t stop thinking about him, loosing sleep over this,  if not us then who, his video (or bio in our case) was so touching, etc.  She is such a warm person.  I imagine her to be the type of mom that has a fresh pie baking on the weekends and really does it up good for the holidays.  She may be snorting with laughter while she reads that last sentence, but it’s the lovely impression that I got and I’m sticking to it!

I don’t believe that Denis’ family is blogging through their adoption journey, so I want to be sure to allow them anonymity.  I can tell you that he is headed to a state much warmer than this one (totally jealous) and he will be in good company, as the family has 2 daughters originally from the same home country as Denis!  I have such a good feeling about this, I just know that this family was meant to be his all along.  They are hitting the paperwork hard, and most likely (unless President Putin gets in touch with his softer side, overnight) will be home before Jack is!

I had fun watching the pieces fall into place for this young man.  It didn’t happen overnight, these things usually don’t.  But each step had to happen exactly so for his happily ever after to play out like this.  I’m going to walk you all through each significant step in Denis’ journey towards his family.  The most important takeaway point is the impact that a tiny bit of exposure can have on a child’s life (or any worthy cause you are passionate about, it doesn’t have to be orphans).  It may initially seem silly to ‘share’ on Facebook, or show a photo of one of these kids to your next door neighbor.  You may think that doing something so small isn’t going to result in something so large as finding an actual family for a real live kid.  Speaking from experience, it might even seem like you are annoying people and everyone is rolling their eyes at you.  You may think that none of your social media followers would ever be interested in adopting a pre-teen, and you are probably right.  It certainly is the non-conventional way to build a family.  Even if you are spot on and not a single one of your friends would ever consider something like this, it doesn’t mean that the story won’t strike a cord with them.  They might be led to share the story with someone in the HR dept. at their work, who is also touched and inspired to share the story with one of the moms at their kid’s pre-school, who would absolutely consider welcoming this special boy into their family.  How the heck do you think we ended up with 4 dogs?  I definitely didn’t go out looking for them! Information travels fast.  Unbeknownst to Denis, here is all that was going on behind the scenes:

1.) A website that advocates for the adoption of children living with Denis’ health condition adds him to their roster.  Positively Orphaned

2.) A family travels to Denis’ country to adopt a beautiful little girl from his orphanage.  Family takes emotional video footage of Denis wishing her well, with her new family.

3.) Now that Jack has a family, one of his primary advocates moves on to advocate for the next waiting child.  She finds Denis on website in #1, and decides he is her next project.  The Wonder of Boys

4.) I randomly become friends with mom in #2, and notice private photos or/and? video she has of sweet orphan boy.  I mention to advocate in #3, ‘hey, isn’t this the new boy you are advocating for?’ side-note- as many pictures, video and first hand accounts of their personality always helps these kid’s cause 10 fold.

5.) We both post these newly found video and pictures on our blogs.

6.) Many people fall for him and share these same pictures and video.

7.) Advocate in #3 gets Denis set up with a grant fund so that people may donate to his adoption with Reece’s Rainbow. banner_01

8.) Amazing woman in a completely different country reads my blog an offers up an extremely generous amount of money so Denis may be hosted in the United States over Christmas break.  When people have the opportunity to meet the child themselves, or speak to someone who has, they tend to feel more comfortable moving forward with an adoption (especially if it is an older child).

9.) So many people were interested in hosting Denis, that they actually had to be turned away.  Ultimately the family that hosted him was not in a position to move forward with an adoption.  But, lucky for us, they were local and we were able to spend a day with him!

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10.) Patricia Heaton sees Denis’ grant fund with Reece’s Rainbow and becomes his ‘Angel Tree Warrior’, advocating for donations into his adoption grant fund over the holidays.

11.) Amazing young girl down south takes note of ‘Angel Tree’ and donates upwards of 5k into his adoption fund.

12.) Months go by, many people inquire on Denis but no one decides to move forward with his adoption

13.) All involved start to wonder if this is ever going to happen for him, or if after all the efforts he will become another statistic of a young boy on the streets.

14.) A family sees his emotional video.  They are hooked on this kid.  But adoption is too expensive.  How can they save his life without the necessary funds?  The family sees his $6,000 grant fund with Reece’s Rainbow and sees that finances are an obstacle they can conquer.  Still slightly apprehensive, they are able to contact the people that have advocated for him.  This info is not made up- real live people here in the states have met him and can let this prospective family in on his personality a bit.  Their minds are put at ease, and……THEY GO FOR IT!!

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14 steps later, this child’s life is drastically changed, forever. Other than the extremely generous financial donors involved, and the family that will ultimately take on the difficult job of raising a child- the rest of us just took a few minutes here and there to spread the word.  No blood and sweat, just spreading the word and it made all the difference.   I’m not being overly dramatic when I say, that it most likely saved his life.  I hope stories with happy endings like this inspire people to do a little (or a lot).  Everyone has that one injustice that makes them tick and gets them thinking, really gets under their skin.  Instead of shuffling it to the back of your brain because there is nothing you could possibly to do make a difference- spread the word.  You never know who is listening.  And selfishly, it feels might gooooood when something you are passionate about has a sweet ending.

Making Room for 2

And we wait…….
And while we wait for our sweet boy in Russia to come home, life threw us a major curve ball. We found out that I am pregnant.

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Apparently this announcement was confusing. Multiple people thought we were getting another dog. No, we aren’t that crazy. And for the record, in case anyone is thinking about adding to their dog pack- 4 dogs is too many dogs.

A baby is something that I definitely want in my life, for totally selfish reasons. I want to raise a little one from the ground up, go through all of the life stages with *her*. Just the one, that’s all I need. Had this news been delivered a year and a half ago, I would be jumping up and down in celebration. This year…..not so much.

I’m trying to choose my words carefully here. I don’t want to come off sounding like I think we are martyrs or something when I say, we chose to pursue this adoption for Jack, not for us. All very dramatic as if we are sacrificing our own dreams for a baby, to take in this older boy that is a couple years away from doom. No, that’s not it at all. As much as we wanted a baby, being able to give a family, love, safety, a future, etc. etc. to a child that otherwise wouldn’t be chosen for any of these things, will be completely fulfilling for us. Looking through the photolistings of all the babies that need families, I kept saying “OMG, Justin, I want her!!,” “Aw, look how cute this baby is, I want this one too!” There was a whole lotta ‘want’ talk, but not a real drive for what we felt we ‘need’ to do. Someone would come for those babies, but we felt that years later we would still be looking at sweet Jack’s picture b/c no one would come for him. We needed to be the ones to step up to the plate simply because we were qualified. On the technical side: We fit his city’s unusually strict requirements: We don’t have too many kids at home, we are in excellent health, we possess the correct amount of assets and income coming in. On the subjective side: We are capable in our hearts of loving this child as if he had been with us from day one (biology just isn’t that important to us), we can handle his medical needs, we did lots and lots of research to be sure that we could handle the emotional needs that he would probably arrive with. We fit the bill, and needed to focus all of our energy into getting him home to safety.
From the day we committed to Jack in July, to present day, our emotional place has changed. The drive to ‘help this boy’ has disappeared, and now he is just our son. Our son who has got to come home soon, for his sake and ours. I have no idea if he is getting the correct dosage of his medication, the volunteer that I was able to receive updates from has not been to visit him in quite a long while. The situation is unnerving and all-consuming, and we are still stuck waiting for an absolute green or red light.
So now, throw a little pregnancy into the mix and I really don’t know what to make of it all!
My overwhelming feeling (which I blogged about in my last post, geez) is guilt. For so many reasons.

1.)    I feel guilty bringing a child into this world when there are so many existing children that need loving homes.  We only have time/finances for 2 kids- so there you have it. We’re maxed out.

2.)    Lately I’ve been starting to get more excited about the baby, which is the worst provoker of guilt ever.  It’s very bizarre to have something very good and very bad going on in your life at the same time.  How dare I get excited about this baby when one of my children is suffering on the other side of the world, with no precise end date in sight? I’m finding it difficult to consider this pregnancy a blessing under those circumstances.  But at the same time, this baby deserves excitement just as we were thrilled when we made the announcement that we were adopting Jack.  It’s a huge internal war in my head!!

3.)    Feeling a bit guilty for everything that has been piled on my husband this year- I’m set to have surgery next month, which is going to leave me laid up in princess Tania mode for quite a while, and he’s going to be solely responsible for everything while I’m capable of zilch.  Should be entertaining to watch that one play out, though!

It’s not all emotional doom and gloom in my head, I promise.  We are busting outta this rental and moving into our home in May, the baby is arriving in September, and our goal is to have Jack home by the end of the year (maybe ‘goal’ is a poor choice of words, since it is completely out of our control).  If all plays out like this we’ll be done with living out of boxes, maternity pants, and adoption paperwork….wait for it….wait for it……FOREVER!!!!  We can just go on living happily ever after with our new, little instant family.

Oh yea, and Justin recently landed the coolest gig ever.  I’ll squeeze Jack in there somehow- yea, I’m totally that mom!

orioles

Hanging on by a Thread

It’s been 2 months since our little adoption world was rocked.  It’s been 1 month since I’ve blogged, hoping that if I held out a little longer I would have the ultimate celebration entry to post.  I’m sad to report that there will be no celebrating in this post.

We won’t give up on our boy, but we are certainly more discouraged than ever.  When the ban initially hit I was an emotional basket-case, but I still felt that we were somehow making progress towards Jack.  There were petitions to sign, letters directed at congressmen to write, weekly conference calls with the Dept. of State to participate in.  There was hustle and bustle that was a continuation of our previously smooth adoption process.  But now we’ve got nothin’.  We’ve already done everything the little man can do to try to guide our situation in the right direction,  now all we can do is wait for the big government guys to do their thing.

Important Govt. Guy #1- Pavel Astakhov.  Whoever is able to reason with this man deserves a Noble Peace Prize. He's a tough cookie.

Important Govt. Guy #1- Pavel Astakhov. Whoever is able to reason with this man deserves a Noble Peace Prize. He’s a tough cookie.

So, we just do life again.  Regular life, that feels a little bit different now.  Many days I feel guilty sharing time with friends, or laughing through a movie with my husband.  When I’m enjoying myself I feel like we’ve somehow forgotten about Jack, or are giving up on him.  Afterwards, logic prevails and I remember that we haven’t, we won’t falter on the  commitment we made unless the door is shut and locked in our faces.  But it is still extremely surreal to be investing yourself 100% into something and stop dead in your tracks before the goal is achieved.  And there is A LOT riding on the goal in this case.

To bring you up to speed I’ll hit you with the dry, factual info:

1.) Our adoption agency is still in business.  It is illegal for them to be actively processing adoptions at this time, but they are still open and that is a very good thing.  Many agencies have run out of funding and closed their doors for good already.  Our agency is one of the select few that handles exclusively special needs children.  If anyone is going to be allowed to continue with their adoptions, we have good indication to believe that it will be those adopting kids with significant illnesses or cognitive delays.  (Jack falls into the illness category….many people have asked, and although his condition is nothing to be worried about if correctly managed, we still don’t want to blast his personal info all over the web.)

2.) The good- both governments have been exchanging dialogue on a regular basis.  Talking is always good.  The bad- literally 0 progress has been made.  As long as people keep talking, we’ll keep waiting.

3.) Both 501c-3 tax exempt organizations that are holding all donated funds for Jack, have assured us that the money will sit there untouched as long as he waits for a family.

4.) The really bad- there is an investigation launched into the death of a young Russian adoptee in Texas.  If it is found that this death was not an accident, I hope Texas nails this woman (and it’s Texas, so come-on, justice will be served if necessary).  Russia has always complained that people who commit crimes against their former children get off too easy, sometimes with no jail time at all.  And I agree, no one should be able to murder a child and get away without a maximum sentence.  I’m not referring to poor Dima Yaklovlev- that was simply a tragic accident, it could have happened to any decent parent.

Don’t forget about us!!! But, in the meantime you should take a peek at some kids enjoying their new lives in a family. I guarantee it will make you smile.  I met all of their moms on the internet- I know that sounds so creepy, but they have turned into genuine friends that I value.

Amy, who is my age, recently adopted a child that is nearly Jack’s age from Russia:

a

Amy spends too much time on the wrong side of the camera! This is her beautiful family.
http://www.tinygreenelephants.com

Becky adopted a little boy from the same city that Jack lives in.  We share the same adoption agency and have the same team working with us.  Becky was caught up in the adoption ban while in Russia, and spent an extremely intense month (or so?) there, fighting to bring him home to his new family.  She has been a huge advocate for the rest of us dying to bring our kids home. This photo was taken at the airport when Gabe first stepped foot on American soil:

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Reunited with their family after a VERY long, scary process. <3
http://preecefamilyadoption.blogspot.com/

I’ll end on a high note, while everyone is still smiling.

The People’s March

Every morning, while my eyes are still half closed, I roll over and check the Russian news on my cell phone. While our day is fresh and new, theirs is winding down with a 9 hour time difference. Yesterday morning, I woke to photos that brought tears to my eyes. I was daydreaming that our sweet boy was peering out his window and watching the whole thing unfold right before his eyes. Lots of people care, Jack.

People's March in Moscow, against the adoption ban.

People’s March in Moscow, against the adoption ban.

 

moscow 5

It is reported that, between 20,000 – 40,000 people showed up in the freezing cold to march.

 

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The signs say, “Shame”.

 

moscow 4

Tania and Denis’ First Time at Chuck E. Cheese

The past couple of weeks have been extremely emotional. One minute, national news sources are reporting that all adoptions from Russia will continue throughout 2013. The next minute, they backpedal and announce that no adoptions will continue, not even the 46 children that have passed court and already taken on a new last name.
The situation is so stressful. I find comfort in having access to the latest breaking news at all times, and checking in with the other Russian adoptive families on Facebook at all hours. After I publish this post, I vow to limit my internet check-ins to once daily. Initially, staying connected was keeping me sane, but at this point it’s just taking away from being productive in other aspects of my life. So that’s the update on our adoption……. Life will carry on as we wait for news. Life that recently, involved a trip to Chuck E Cheese.

Last weekend, Justin and I had the privilege of spending the day with a young man, a bit younger than our Jack, who is available for adoption.  You may recall a post I wrote about him back in August.

Denis6

This is Denis.  He is 10 years old, and lives in a country in Eastern Europe that is much easier to adopt from  and much cheaper, than Russia.  He has lived in an orphanage his entire life, and hopes for a family of his own.  Denis was enrolled in an awesome program that hosts orphans from other countries for a few weeks every year, here in the US.   Most of the children that are hosted, end up being adopted by their host family.  Denis’ situation was a bit too last-minute for that to be an option. An extremely kind, generous, stylish, entrepreneurial (basically, I want to try to be more like her) woman, read my original blog post about Denis and offered up the fees for someone to host him.  It was very last-minute, and it would have been too difficult to find a potential adoptive, host family.  Not wanting Denis to miss out on the amazing opportunity, the director of the program stepped up to host him.

denis2

We met Denis and his host family at Chuck E Cheese.  Whoever came up with that concept is pure genius.  Overpriced pizza, cheap plastic prizes – but you have to keep going back because the kids LOVE it.  And Denis was no exception.  I kept searching for the ‘classic orphanage behaviors’ that we learned about in our 80 hours of adoptive parent training, but they weren’t there.  He was supposed to shut down due to the insane sensory overload.  He wasn’t supposed to respect other’s personal space.  I was going down my mental checklist, but this kid just didn’t fit the bill.  He seemed like any other 10-year-old boy who was homegrown in a family.

Excuse my screechy voice (I had a cold) and my rotating video. Oops.
Justin works in the same office as a pediatrician that spent a substantial amount of time with Denis during his stay (a relative of the host family).  He is very familiar with internationally adopted children, and had nothing but excellent things to say about Denis.  He was quite impressed with his Lego creations, and his paddle ball skills.

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All in all, our visit further solidified our confidence in adopting an older child.  Denis is a great kid that has been waiting 10 years for parents.  I’d say it’s his turn already.

If anyone is considering adoption, or has specific questions, feel free to email me.  No topic is off limits- I had some pretty embarrassing questions that I needed answers to before we could commit to Jack’s adoption.  I didn’t want to make this blog post sound too much like a personal ad for poor little Denis, but I can give more observations on his personality privately, for those who are seriously interested in him.

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Forging Ahead

On the blog, I’ve always referred to the area we are adopting from as ‘Eastern Europe’.  For security reasons I wasn’t allowed to publicly declare the country and link it to any information that would identify the whereabouts of our specific child.  So, vaguely ‘Eastern Europe’ and the alias of ‘Jack’ it’s been! Ooh, how mysterious.  In light of recent politics, I’ve set all the posts specifically highlighting our boy, to private.  The political situation is so delicate, we aren’t in a position to take any chances.

Since you can no longer view the info on our child, I can proudly declare that the country we are adopting from is Russia!! So beautiful in the winter…..

basil

Fiscal Cliff talk is all the rage right now, but for our family there is a much more serious political situation that you may not be aware of.  There have recently been fighting words exchanged, between our president and President Putin.  Too many egos, and too much silly pride led to an extremely controversial bill being signed on the US side.  Somewhere in the middle, innocent orphans got dragged into the mix.  As if they haven’t already endured enough injustice in their short lives, President Putin may sign a bill in the next 2 weeks that cancels their adoption agreement with the US.  What this means for us, is that our adoption is on the line and our son’s life truly hangs in the balance.  It is vital for us to move forward as quickly as possible.

Anyone who knows me in person will admit (cautiously, to my face) that I am anxiety ridden, and hugely pessimistic – the ultimate Negative Nancy, if you will.  Expecting the worst case scenario and being motivated to accomplish things through panic is what makes me tick, I suppose. Luckily, my polar opposite other half balances those super endearing qualities out.

Oddly considering my character, my gut is telling me that the adoption is going to work out fine.  Logically speaking- our son has absolutely no chance of being adopted in Russia.  His medication is phenomenally expensive. His food/housing/and the cost to incarcerate him when he is turned out on the street and inevitably breaks the law to make ends meet, are additionally costly.  Removing all emotion from the situation, he is an unwanted child that is a huge suck on government resources.  If there is an adjustment to the current inter-country adoption agreement, I am confident that there will be some sort of a special needs child exception.  There has already been discussion of this nature. So, we are plowing ahead.  As long as they are willing to continue to process our paperwork, we will continue to make forward motion on this end.  We are so freaking close now, I refuse to slow down!!

We are deep into ‘Step 2’ of our 5 step process.  We are educated up the wazoo, the government accepted our 1600-A (cha-ching $$), and we’ve been cleared as non-criminals, phew….. Finalizing our visas is the last item to clear ‘Step 2’.  We are sitting on a tentative February travel date, and are gently encouraging everyone in possession of our paperwork to light a fire under their rears to keep it moving. So far, all is progressing as planned.

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Positive thoughts! We made a commitment to this child, and we will jump through as many hoops as necessary to bring him home to safety. I’m trying to find humor so we don’t go crazy over here. Maybe it’s a simple case of conflicting personalities? Surely these two can find some common ground.  I leave you with a funny…..

their guy

our guy