Monday, January 9, 2012

Reflections on our Adoption

Greetings from our family to yours! Our Christmas holiday was sweet and special - for the first time ever we had a little princess running around the house, all caught up in the excitement of Christmas. We baked Christmas cookies, visited Santa (not the most positive experience) and simply delighted in watching our daughter's eyes light up over the lights and sparkle on the tree.

Angelina will be two the end of this month, and we are amazed how much she's grown and changed since we came home last March. I was recently reflecting about all we went through to adopt Angelina. All of the tests (how many tb tests must a person take?), paperwork, money spent, traveling and anxiety that we went through for the approx. 14 month long adoption process. While we were in the throws of the process, the adoption defined us; it was all we talked about and all we thought about. We shared what we were going through with everyone we met - regardless of whether that person wanted to know or not.

Now, only 10 short months later, that experience seems like a world away. The three of us are tight; we are indeed a family. When we meet people, or talk about our daughter, we no longer feel compelled to volunteer information about the journey we went on to become a family. And while we are extremely proud of how we became a family, and of our daughter's Russian heritage, we now feel it is no one's business but ours. I guess we are developing our own identity as a family; no longer singularly defined by our adoption experience. We are a family. Period. It is awesome.

I wonder how many of my fellow ap's feel the same way?

I hope my friends in the blogsphere (you know who you are) had a wonderful, blessed holiday. I read your blogs often, but for some reason, am no longer permitted by Blogger to leave comments on your blogs (OMG! HOW FRUSTRATING!). If any of you know how to overcome that problem, please - do tell!

Best wishes to you and yours for a blessed New Year,

Eric & Kathryn

Monday, September 5, 2011

Where Have We Been?

Hello there!

You may have wondered we we've been; how we are doing and whether we will continue this blog. We are all doing well. We have simply been wrapped up in each other and embracing our new "identity" as a family of three. As for my hubby and me, well we are crazy-nuts-in love with our daughter, Angelina. We feel like we are the luckiest Mommy and Daddy in the world and cherish every single moment we have with her. We are so, so happy and grateful.

As for Angelina, she is doing great. She is 20 months old now and is on track developmentally. She is generally a happy baby and brings sweetness and joy to all who are with her (though like any pre-toddler, she does have her defiant moments). She has almost outgrown the urge to swat Mommy's face (see previous posts) - only happens every now and again - and has officially become "Daddy's girl". We feel we have room in our hearts and home for one more child, and are considering adopting a second child from Russia (a son!).

We will continue this blog, though my posts may be less frequent than before. I will post some new photos of Angelina - you won't believe how much she has grown in such a short time!

Hope all of our friends in the blogosphere are doing well!

Talk soon,
Kathryn :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

Remembering Trip #2

We returned home from our first trip to Russia the last week of December and prayed for a quick court date. We ritually looked at the photos and videos from our first trip. Was this child really going to become our daughter and be here with us? The holidays came and went, and 2 1/2 months later we were given a less than one week notice of our court date. Things kicked into high gear. We scrambled to obtain visas, make travel arrangements, and get things squared away at our offices for a nearly month long absence. We packed smarter for ourselves and tried to anticipate what we would need for the nearly two weeks we would be with our baby in Russia. As first time parents, it was difficult to know what to bring.

Arriving in Russia for the second time felt great; it was so good to be back! We stayed at the same hotel as during our first trip, and ate at the same restaurants. The familiarity was comforting in the face of all the emotions that were swirling around in our heads. The next day, we went to visit Angelina. We were so nervous! Would she remember us (no, not really)? How has she changed from our first visit (not that much)? That night, our translator prepped us for court in the morning. We were expected to address the court about why we wanted to adopt Angelina and were provided with a bullet list of issues to be included in our speech. We stayed up late writing our speech, like a couple of college kids working on a paper at the midnight hour. Pure adrenaline.

Court was an emotional experience. We "plead our case" to the court, and the social worker, chief nurse from the baby home, and prosecutor all spoke in support of granting our petition to adopt Angelina. After the judge granted our petition, we held each other and wept in the court room. I will never forget that moment. From there, we went to visit our daughter. It was surreal.

According to Russian law, we had to wait 10 business days before we could officially sign Angelina out of the baby home. We decided to make the most out of this wait period and committed to having fun while overseas. We acted like tourists - we went sightseeing, saw an opera, dined at fancy restaurants and even hopped a train to nearby Latvia to see the land of my husband's ancestry (see our earlier posts about the details of these adventures). We visited Angelina nearly every day - save for our time in Latvia. We believed we had firm control over the transition that was taking place and there was nothing we couldn't handle. Ha!

Gotcha day finally came and things initially seemed to move along seamlessly, despite warnings from our agency to the contrary. As gotcha day moved into gotcha night, we realized our relief over Angelina's seemingly easy transition was premature. Angelina was clearly very distressed by the uprooting of her life. She cried - screamed - A LOT. The days and nights began to blur together as my husband and I handled the baby in shifts to allow the other person a bit of relief. It was utterly exhausting and - if I am being honest - I have never felt so pushed to the brink of my own sanity. It wasn't that we didn't love or care for our child, it was just we didn't know how to comfort her. She was so, so upset. The days and nights blurred together and sleep deprivation started to become a problem. That first week was really tough. I guess Angelina finally accepted the reality of the situation that yes, she was stuck with the two of us well-meaning, albeit novice, parents. Slowly, she came out of her funk and returned to the baby we had come to know and love. Throughout it all, we began to slowly evolve into a family.

Exhausted and ready to come home, the 3 of us traveled to Moscow to take care of the final bit of adoption related business (at the US Embassy), then onward to Orlando, Florida. The finish line was in sight! By that point, we were easily able to communicate with Angelina, even though she didn't understand English and we didn't speak Russian. Somehow, it all worked out.

We arrived home to Orlando on a Saturday night, covered in dried baby food and baby vomit and looking like we both rolled in a dumpster. We were parents! Our family met us at the airport. We were overjoyed to see them and proud to introduce our daughter, Angelina.

The next day, our families came from out of town for a quiet gathering to behold Angelina. Another day we will never forget.

Angelina has been with us for about 3 months now. We were told our lives would never be the same and that is indeed true. We are a pack of 3 now. A diaper bag full of baby snacks, a change of clothes, random toys and a spill-proof sippy cup is how we roll. We now know the words to all of the Wiggles songs and plan our weekends around Angelina's naps. We have settled into a comfortable life as a family, and we wouldn't change it for anything.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Remembering Trip #1

Angelina is now 17 mos. old. - I can't believe how quickly she is growing! How much she has changed in the short 2 1/2 mos. we've been home! I find myself reflecting a lot these days on our time spent in Russia, with Angelina.

I remember the referral pictures we received. Angelina was bright-eyed and smiling, she looked like a cherub. In December, we arrived in Russia to meet her. A caretaker carried her out to us. She was wearing a red, velvet dress with a pink bow headband and light pink leather sandals. She looked so much smaller than in her pictures. I remember focusing in on the petite baby being carried out to us and thinking "Oh my goodness, is that her? She is so small!" The handed her to us and led us into an office, to become acquainted with Angelina. During the first few moments, we all just looked at each other. Angelina was 10 1/2 mos. old. She was inquisitive, just learning to walk, and very, very sweet. She wasn't interested in most of the toys we brought for her to play with; we were the focus of her attention. I remember feeling a bit bewildered - I didn't have any children, and frankly, wasn't sure where to begin to get to know this child. Angelina sat on my husband, Eric's lap. She began playing with the buttons on his shirt. She was so curious about those buttons! At that moment, I touched the fine, brown hair on her head. I just couldn't believe we were finally meeting the child we dreamed about for so long, the reason we went mad over paperwork and other requirements for the last year. She was real and we were together! From there, our love for each other took root. Each visit during that trip was better than the last. By our third and fourth visits, the 3 of us were in our own world; we were already becoming a family.

After our third visit, we informed our agency representative that yes, we wanted to adopt this child, Angelina. We knew she was the child we were meant to parent. The morning of our fourth visit, we met with the social worker at her office. She shared with us the details surrounding Angelina's biological family. I openly wept; it was just so sad. Then we signed the first of many Russian documents required in order to adopt Angelina and headed to the baby home to visit our baby for the last time on this trip. During that last visit, I held and kissed Angelina repeatedly. In my mind, I was "loading her up" with love and affection that I veinly hoped would sustain her until we returned.

That trip was nearly perfect; in fact it exceeded our expectations. We left Russia with hearts full of love for that child, wondering how we were going to bide our time as we waited for our court date.

I gaze at the child who is now our daughter, and am filled with a sense of gratitude beyond words. When I hear her stir in the morning, my heart skips a beat with the anticipation of seeing, holding, smelling my child. I no longer feel bewildered by this tiny person who now occupies so much of my world and my thoughts. And with each passing day, I become more assured of my position as "Mom" in Angelina's heart.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

This weekend we took our first overnight trip as a family. We went to Ormond Beach, which is just north of Daytona Beach. Angelina had fun playing in the sand with her cousin Emily, and spending time with her Grandma, Grandpa and Aunt Mary. Angelina also tried ice cream cake for the first time (LOVED it) and met her great-grandmother. Today is Memorial Day, and we plan on doing the usual - having a quiet family day by the pool, where we will surely have fruit salad at some point in time.

To all my blogger friends who shared their tips about how to handle Angelina's eczema, a big THANK YOU! I am happy to report that - with your help - her eczema has cleared up and her soft, tender baby skin has returned. I followed your advice, and re-laundered her clothes and sheets in Dreft and changed her shampoo and skin products and wha-la! Her skin cleared up in a matter of 3-4 days! What a relief!

Hope you all are enjoying this Memorial Day weekend with your kiddos . . .

Talk soon,

Friday, May 20, 2011

Test Results and . . . Eczema?

Well we received Angelina's test results. Everything looked A-Okay. Angelina has gained nearly two pounds - she now weighs just over 21 pounds - and has grown 3/4 inch since our last visit to the pediatrician, in early April. Amazing!

About 2 weeks ago, Angelina broke out in a kind of rash on her trunk (back/stomach & chest) and it is starting to creep up around her neck. The rash stops almost exactly at Angelina's diaper line around her waist, and it is not on her arms or legs. It is red and blotchy in some places and her tender skin now feels bumpy and rough. It is a dry rash. She didn't have it in Russia, or for the 1st month home and it doesn't seem to bother her in the least bit. The doctor told us it was eczema that was caused by either an allergy in the air or a chemical irritant, such as dye in fabric or chemicals used in detergent. The doctor also said it was very common in children Angelina's age and that is usually resolves itself prior to puberty.

Today I re-washed all of her clothes, sheets, etc. in Dreft and we are applying lotion regularly to the rash, which seems to calm it down a bit from being too red or inflamed.

So my question is: do any of you have any experience with eczema to share?