Category Archives: Adoption

I can’t believe this day is upon us already.  This summer was such a whirlwind with our month-long trip to Latvia right in the middle of it, that I still have not caught my breath (especially since the adoption process will not let me).

Today I sent two of my three off to their new school…a charter school again (oh how we – meaning I – missed uniforms)!  One of them is old hat at this and the other, well, she’s my baby.  And she’s all grown up and off to kindergarten.  Since her school orientation was Monday and technically had already attended school for a half day, I did the brave mom thing and dropped her and C in the carpool lane at the front entrance.  I almost maintained my bravado until the last second that I saw them walking hand in hand into the school.  Then the tears flowed.  I honestly don’t know what to do without my baby!

Of course I am not completely child-free.  I need to homeschool P until this blasted adoption process is complete.  I’m hoping for him to start at a real school after Christmas break, but like I’ve said before, this process is long and unpredictable.  And we always seem to be the ones waiting the longest for things to move ahead.  As much as I love my new son, and Latvia, I really don’t want to go through this again.  It’s just not nearly as efficient as it was with Hungary, and they are both Hague countries so I don’t really get the vast difference in processes.  Oh well, such is International adoption! :-\

Anyway, back to school.  I of course had to take some photos of this momentous day.  And let me tell you, I’ve been spoiled these past few years with only having to worry about one child getting off to school on time!  Now it’s three and it’s nutso in the morning.  Hopefully we will get into a rhythm here soon!

 

Happy 4th of July!!

We are so priviledged to be able to meet some of Tom’s relatives while we are here in Latvia.  Don’t ask me to explain the family tree, but the gist of it it goes back to Tom’s Great-Grandfather, who migrated to America in 1905 during WW1.  The relatives we had the honor of meeting here come from Tom’s Great-Grandfather’s brother’s side (his great uncle??  I’m bad at this stuff).  I’ve tried my best to follow this, but don’t know if I understand it all completely.  :-/

Anyway, the family we met this week include Daiga, who is from the Recke (or Rekis, as it’s know here in Latvia) side, her husband Janis, his son (Daiga’s step-son) Richards, and their two boys, Niks and Oto.  They live in Renda, a city right outside of Kuldiga, where we have been staying for a few days.  What a treat to have been to meet and hang out with them!  They are such kind-hearted and sincere people, we truly have enjoyed every moment with them.

The homestead (ca. 1930??)

Our “welcome” spread. So delish!

Niks showed us his (self-taught!) guitar skills. He’s good!

E has been obsessed with bunnies lately.

oh, and birds too.

This is Ahora. No idea if that is spelled right, but it sounded like the word “now” in Spanish so I’m going with it.

Chickens. Why are they more novel here than at home?!

E telling Oto how to drive the tractor…even though she has never driven one in her life.

P and Niks. They are both 11 and were fast friends. :)

Janis and Oto.

Daiga and the kids.

The whole clan!

Two days later we met again and this time we drove a bit around Renda, visiting Tom’s Great-Uncle’s grave at the cemetery where many other relatives are also buried. It’s a beautiful, tranquil place overlooking a large pond. Quite an emotional visit, particularly when Daiga said her relatives are smiling from their graves knowing that the Latvian and American families have finally been reunited. Backstory: Daiga had all but given up hope in finding American relatives when Tom’s Dad, with help from some missionary friends (in which I firmly believe was divine intervention), found Daiga & Janis on a trip here not too long ago. I don’t want to go into details here, but it really is a cool story about how everything came together with little more than a last name.

Tom’s Great Uncle’s grave site.

E was putting acorns she had been storing in her pockets on the graves “for Jesus”. <3

After that visit we headed over to a different pond / lake (Tom and I differ on what it was) to let the kids swim a bit. We hadn’t brought swimsuits so we did it old-school in underwear. :)

Yeah, I stayed out of this water. :-/ Daiga just laughed and said, “crazy Latvians!”

Finally it was on to visit another relative, Marta, who is Daiga’s Aunt. She is 90-something and still a firecracker! She lives by herself on an old 1924 farm with really basic electrical and an outhouse (inside which my FIL inscribed “Al was here”…something they still chuckle about). I wish I spoke Latvian, Marta was so incredibly affectionate and sweet. I could have picked her brain about the old days for hours!

Marta’s house

Another Latvian meal. These folks know hospitality! :)

Tom & Marta

Marta and her four-wheeler! The kids all took turns riding it around her old orchard & loved it!

I wish we had big trees at home so we can have a rope swing.  So fun!

Daiga was trying to help get P to jump while I take a picture…a la some internet sensation. I don’t know, it was Tom’s idea. And clearly didn’t work.

We returned to Riga yesterday, after a difficult good-bye to people we’ve come to love this past week. I hope it’s not too many years before we can return for a visit.

Thank you Daiga, Janis, Richards, Niks, Oto, and Marta for an amazing visit. You all are the best!

Hard to believe it’s already been 2 weeks.  It feels like at least three. ;)  I think we are now entering the official “boredom” stage where the newness and excitement is wearing thin.  The first week had a lot going on and now we are into the “let’s just figure out what is cheap and fun and time-consuming” phase.  I am remembering Hungary quite vividly right now…

That’s not to say we are not enjoying our time here though!  We love it here in Latvia.  It’s truly a beautiful country and it’s steeped in rich traditions and national pride.  The people are great too.  It just takes some adjustment to the non-use of “excuse me” when pushing by or the lack of smiling back when you smile at them.  It’s not that they are rude, I think it’s just a cultural (European?) thing.  I noitice this about formerly occupied countries, it takes awhile to warm up.  So I’m not taking it personally…anymore. ;)

On to adoption news…which isn’t much.  We had our first and second social worker visits the last 2 Thursdays and they went really well.  The SW looked at our apartment, chatted a bit with P (formally “J”), and talked to us about what to do while we are here.  And of course Tom, being Tom, had to get their opinions on changing their primary currency over to euros next year (for the record, many say they see at as a good thing, but are conflicted about it too).  We will have one more social worker visit our last week and then 2nd court the day after.  And then the home stretch!! :)

Here are some photo highlights…

church by our apartment

Bubbles off the balcony.  How come all bubble makers don’t attach the wand to the lid? It’s so convenient!

Love their caramel latte here. mm-mmm.

Lido! Kind of like the Casa Bonita of Riga, but with waaaay better food!

Hand-carved carousel in the park near us. Very cute.

We went to Jurmala twice, once to visit Majori Beach (lots of Russians there), and the waterpark where C reveled in being more courageous than P on a ride I affectionately call “the toilet bowl”.

Jurmala

Ligo / Jani Celebration occured last week. We had to check it out…even though the crowd was crazy big.

This coming week we will make a trip out to the country, west of Riga, to see some of Tom’s relatives.  It will be nice to get away from the “big city” for awhile!

Finally!  Hard to believe.  We had an pretty uneventful flight, except for the fact that airlines seem to not care to seat families together these days.  I had to work the charm to get people to switch seats so I could at least be close to my small children.  Small price to pay I suppose since all flights were overbooked.  Flying = blech.

Anyway, we are here!  We were met by J at the airport, a surprise that wasn’t a surprise since he told me ahead of time. ;)  His great caretaker had brought him and he had made a sign and everything.  So special.

Afterwards we headed to our apartment in central Riga, and very decent location thankfully.  We spent the rest of the afternoon getting our bearings, finding a market within walking distance (4 minutes asway!), and getting money changed to Lats.

The next day was court day.  We had to head out to J’s orphanage to talk with the nurse about J’s health issues…most of which we already knew about.  J showed E and C around while we talked to her, at one point they were jumping with all the other kids on the trampoline.  Can I just pause a moment and tell you how hard it is to visit an orphanage, particularly with older kids, who know why you’re there and look longingly at you as you pass by?  Those eyes.  The eyes of grief and heartache.  I had to be the one to break a stare with a child whose intense gaze made me want to cry.  My heart just breaks for these kids.

Ok, compose.

After the orphanage we went to the orphan court where we sat in a room with a judge, our attorney, a translator, and some other official personnel.  They asked us if we knew about J’s situation, they talked about his behavior, and they asked us why we were looking to adopt J.  Tom had to answer as I would have started crying in telling them all the reasons why.  All in all it was painless and lasted less than 30 minutes.  They agreed to let him live with us here in Riga for the next few weeks and informed us that a social worker will be visiting us periodically to make sure everything is going smoothly.  This part is much like our adoption from Hungary so we are old hat at this. ;)

On to the pictures!  Most of these were taken yesterday after orphan court when J was now with us and we could fully start to appreciate being here.

The “courtyard” outside our apartment

Breakfast before court

This is a Russian Orthodox church. I just love the architecture. :)

Old buildings, so pretty.

Tour boats. May have to go for a ride!

City scenes

We ate at the “Steak House”, there on the left.

Bruschetta. Loved the presentation.

Spaghetti…with ketchup. Kids love their ketchup here!

Lots of outdoor eating. It’s so beautiful and quaint.

My cup runneth over.

feeding the ducks.

My son, the handwalker. ;)

This is the Lock Bridge in Riga Park. Tradition is that newly married or engaged couples inscribe a lock with their names and date and lock it on the bridge. Families adopting from here have taken to having locks inscribed with the date of the adoption or a quote and attaching it as well. Tom and J will do this on the 3rd trip. :)

Latvia’s Freedom Monument. It is inscribed “For Fatherland and Freedom”. I so appreciate this kind of statement and pride in a nation.

Stay tuned for for updates and photos! :)

Yes!  Finally we have officially been offered to adopt J!  It took a long while, there was an orphan court that sat on a critical document since the beginning of April so we were really tested on our patience.  Patience that I think we need to draw on frequently when in the midst of an International adoption!

But, the good news is the wait is over.  We sent an email yesterday morning accepting the referral, so the next step will be receiving travel dates.  I anticipate it will be approximately a month from now, but you never know.  It could be sooner, it could be later (I kind of hope it’s in July since I will really need the month of June to raise money for final adoption fees and, ahem, well, we don’t have our kid’s passports yet.  #momfail).

Last week I posted on facebook that the referral was bittersweet.  I didn’t intend for that to sound negative, and really it’s not.  It’s just that with the referral came information about J’s mom and his subsequent admission to an orphanage.  It was rather overwhelming.  Without going into too much detail, the jist of it is he has suffered neglect and abuse, and has been diagnosed with FAS.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

It took the wind out of our sails.  Now, we weren’t completely ignorant to the fact that it might be an issue, and he certainly bears some behaviors and physical attributes consistent to it.  But we assumed that maybe he was just malnourished.  Maybe he was suffering the typical grief of an orphan, and we could somehow fix it all through this adoption.  Maybe all he needs is a family and all will be well with the world.  Nope.  Anyone who knows anything about FAS (you can google it, if not) knows that it is not an easy road.  Kids born with FAS are generally consistent in everything from improper behavior, mild retardation, hyperactivity, and lack of focus to biological issues like congenital heart defects, horseshoe-shaped kidneys, and stunted growth.  And that’s just a handful of the symptoms.  Symptoms that are permanent.  There is no “cure” for FAS, which is completely heartbreaking considering it’s 100% preventable and the kids did nothing to deserve this lot in life.  Sins of the mother, if you will.  So incredibly sad.

I know people will think we are crazy for adopting a child with FAS.  I know some will judge and criticize what we do, wondering if we are some kind of masochists for choosing to go down this hard road.  But the thing is, I think we already have.  I have been beating my head against a brick wall for the better part of 5 years trying to figure out C’s behavior and his quirks.  As many know, he was adopted from an Eastern European country too, and people like to imbibe in those parts.  As I’ve been studying and digesting FAS, light bulbs have been going off.  C has so many of the traits of FAS!  He was born with a congenital heart defect, is hyperactive, cannot focus, has midline brain issues, and just recently I’ve noticed he has a social awkwardness…all symptoms under the umbrella of FAS.  Suddenly it dawned on me that perhaps I’ve already been dealing with this disability and haven’t known it…maybe??  Now, since I have NO history on C prior to his arrival at the orphanage, I am only speculating.  A brain scan at some point might confirm or deny this.  But, either way I am pretty sure I’ve been exposed to the behaviors we likely will experience with J.  And I truly think God has been preparing me for this moment.  The moment where we either say to God, “thanks but no thanks” or “Your will, not mine, Lord”.

So, we are choosing obedience.  God led us to this boy and, truth be told, it was not something we sought out.  I was ok with 2 kids, a nice round number where we could all fit in a booth at the restaurant, and where family prize packages for 4 works much of the time (not that we EVER win anything).  And with C’s ever-emerging issues, I didn’t think I was capable of even caring for another child.

And then, almost a year ago, we hosted J.  Suddenly we were a family of five and somehow we seamlessly adjusted to life in restaurant chairs instead of booths.  Suddenly life was more vibrant and exciting. Suddenly our family felt incomplete when we put our little boy back on a plane to Latvia.  Suddenly Tom and I looked at each other and said, let’s have another!  It all happened so fast.  We stepped out in faith then, and it’s time to step out in faith now.   There is a little boy in Latvia who “craves to live with the family he was hosted by in the USA” (in the Latvian ministry’s own words).  We are literally that little boy’s last shot at a family.  His future is grim of we decline, and I personally could not live with myself if he fell prey to terrible things.

And you what else is interesting?  I’ve been reflecting that, as a younger person – before I ever started having a family – I always thought to myself, “I would just die if I had a child with disabilities, or if my child was considered abnormal.  I couldn’t bear it”.  But suddenly here I am with two kids (jury is still out on E…jk) who not only were not born to us, but who we chose…despite their abnormalities.  We chose this life of hard knocks and blind faith.  And you know why?  Number one, it’s plain old obedience to God’s calling.   I’m just not one to say no to God (Lord knows though, I’ve had my share of mistakes in the past!)  Number two?  Because God loves these children more than anyone can ever know.  I’m sure He weeps for them.  And He has asked us – little ol’ imperfect us – to care for these children who I know He loves unconditionally.  There will be days ahead that are super hard, and I am sure I will question my sanity at times.  But God has our back.  I totally trust that He will provide and He will equip as we muddle along in this unexpected journey…and now I can just inwardly grin at the naive younger me. :)

‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’                         -Matthew 25:40

{because of the sensitive information contained in this post, I ask that no one shares the password without going through me first.  I wanted to share my heart, but only if people will respect our privacy.  Thanks!}

**We are still raising funds for the final stages of our adoption.  Please go HERE if you’d like to donate!**