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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The smallest things can feel so good in your hands

Yesterday I bought candles for Corbins' birthday cake.  One that has the number 3, some funky, cool, multicolored ones and some sparlkers too.  From there, I went to buy him a pass for the amusement park by my house.  I held off for so long because I was afraid that it would just hurt to have bought it and him not be here to use it (frugal I guess?).  For the very first time, his name is written (albeit in black marker in hand writing) on a card.  I stood there looking at it on the counter while the young boy finished up registering the cards and my eyes were stinging with happy tears.  The boy asked how old Corbin is, and I said he turns 3 very soon.  He smiled and said he'll have fun at the park... and I replied... you have no idea... you have no idea.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Change is GOOD donkey (in the wise words of Shrek)

Update: I won't try to figure out or comment on the following - I get more perplexed by the minute - but it's GOOD NEWS!!! 

Subject: About the court
Stacey!
"Your pre-trial is May 5th and a lady Judge comes back May 6th! This gives us a chance that your court will be appointed sooner than i thought last night!"

The other family who is currently in region for a gamut of other errors that were made causing delay also have been assigned the same pre trial date - the 5th.  "normally" (seriously - I haven't dropped that word from my vocabulary either??? Normal only exists as a setting on my dryer and I KNOW that!!!) court is set 2 weeks after pre trial so we are looking at about May 19th...
For those math geeks that love to count days on a calendar like I do and cross them off like you are 5 with the really important ones circled and highlighted... The one that flashes like Vegas on mine is May 23rd... Corbins 3rd birthday.  If everything goes as it looks like it could, I not only will be with him that day, there is a reasonable chance that I will actually have temporary custody of him on his birthday.  Oh that will be amazing... finally someone there to celebrate the day he was born... what a wonderful day! 
Things are looking up - WAY UP!!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Angry emails, pointed requests and getting everyone on the same page

Well, a lot has been said and or accomplished in the last 12 hours.  Many emails have flown back and forth through cyber space to Russia.  Asking for clarification, demanding results, pointing out delays and errors, getting people involved... and there has been a little positive movement.  EDIT: isn't it funny how the trials of this process seem to suck the joyful moments flat??? I found myself re-reading this and thought wow... there wasn't even one bit of excitement or joy in the fact that I had news - good news - news of my pre trial being set... wow... this process really does suck the joy out of the journey.  Thank goodness for good red wine and great friends. I now return you to the regularly posted bulletin...

After emails pointing out delays and challenges on the Russian end of things, all of the sudden  I was notified that I have a pre trial date set.  Pre trial is being sat by THE MALE JUDGE May 5th.  My facilitator will not be there as she will be in Moscow to get travel documents for another family.  My case will be represented by the lawyer - which at this point I'm starting to think might actually be better.  HE will review my case and set a court date - not sure why he wouldn't just set the date like he has for so many years before?  I have been told that it will have to wait until the lady judge returns in June BUT that they will ask for it to be set as quickly as possible and that it COULD still happen.  Talk about limbo.  I could learn on May 5th that my court date is May 13th and I need to get on a plane immediately OR I could learn that it will be June 8th - the week after she gets back from her 6 weeks off....  I have learned that the Male judge is retiring.  I have learned that a family who (and I have all the empathy in the world for them - they have had a very difficult and delayed road) submitted their court documents a week after I did have been told that they WILL have their case heard by the Male judge in May... which would be before my case... which was submitted first.  Again, I have all the sympathy in the world for this family, but the suggestion that my facilitator holds no power of influence or persuasion in the setting of cases goes out the window with the suggestion that this family will be heard first.  I have made it clear that if I need to fly there tomorrow in order to be in front of the judge and have my case become a priority I will.  I have learned about a couple of cases in regions that have now closed to singles.  One woman was asked to go to Vegas for a quickie wedding so that she can bring her sons home - they will no longer complete adoptions for single moms.  Another case where a set court date for a single mom was cancelled and delayed by 5 weeks - both directly cited as a result of being single after the crack a doodle in the States.  I have made this very clear to my agency and in turn to my facilitator.  Delaying for 6 - 8 weeks for a total of 6 months between trips is NOT ACCEPTABLE (and yes, I used A LOT of CAPITALS and BOLDING in my emails to convey my current state of thought and urgency.  My agency is on my side and is trying to sort things out but for now, all I can do is sit and wait for the 5th to hear what happens with my trial date.  Just as someone already commented in the last post, the Male judge regularly has sat cases when the main judge isn't there and in many cases they are set very quickly... so please say a prayer, cross your fingers, send up smoke signals, do a rain dance... just put it out there that the jig is up - Mama can still get there by his birthday if I stand in front of the male judge... if I have to wait... I miss it by a long shot (which for the record, my facilitator so nicely pointed out that it's just another day for him, it's never been celebrated before, he doesn't know it's a big deal, it will be just another day for him so don't worry... he doesn't know the difference... GRRRRRRRRR (with lots of capitalization and bolding).  My agency is going to speak with her very soon here and will call me back... but, in all reality, there will be no news until next week. 
Hmmm find something positive to end on: Well, I - scratch that - WE have raised almost $3500 for the baby home.  I am so very overwhelmed and happy with the potential of what that can do for the children there.  When I get to a really cranky place over this latest development, I try and focus on how amazing it will be to video tape a thank you in Russian from the director so that I can sub title it and you can all hear in your own words what the donations mean to her and the children.  That is good... and I'll leave it there.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Angry and irrational

I decided to go private so that I can say exactly what I think about the process from here on out.  I received news from my facilitator today that casually informed me that the main judge who hears adoption cases in Khabarovsk is gone until May 28th.  It was sort of like - oh hey, by the way... all while trying to distract me with the "fact" that the judge can take up to 2 months to review my documents and set a trial date... this just simply buys time given that my documents have been there since April 15th and it is entirely possible that the judge won't even be contemplating setting pre trial until early June.  I am infuriated. There have been so many delays and concessions made due to the fact that my agency is new to the region and that the facilitator is a new facilitator... I'm done making concessions and I'm done allowing for excuses.  It is time to call a spade a spade and say that this process has been riddled with mistakes and delays that can quite simply be attributed to lack of professionalism, caring, and attention to detail.  I can't tell you how many errors I have caught in documentation or process.  For example why is it my job to follow up and check in and chase down why the DMP had not been to see Corbin after their Christmas break?  Finally after asking about 8x I was told that he made it there by January 26th... one can only wonder how long it would have taken for someone else to catch the mistake.  There are so many mistakes it would take all night to remember and log them.  I am so frustrated with this team of "professionals" that I pay to adovcate for me and my son.  So, what does this all mean?  I sent a 4 page long "snot-o-gram" to my agency DEMANDING that they do something to figure this mess out and I went so far as to suggest that I am happy to contact another facilitator who I have come to know in the region to complete the job that our facilitator is so obviously inept at doing. 
Net net... why am I losing my mind??? I will miss Mothers day, I will miss his birthday, I will miss the entire month of May and likely most of if not all of June before I am back to hug my son again.  6 months... I can not forgive this lack of attention to detail and complete disregard for the children left to wait for Mamas they are told haven't forgot them.  How do you spell hurt and abandonment to a child in an orphange who is being told that Mama is coming back??? Try 6 months... he doesn't think I'm coming back.  Hell I wouldn't.  Angry and Irrational... there's not enough red wine and tranquilizers to get me through the next 8 weeks.

This blows.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Private time

Hi to all readers - I am going to start collecting your emails to go private.  Email me at chuckstar454@hotmail.com and let me know you would like to follow along.  By making it private, I won't have to audit my thoughts and can post pictures without worrying that I've offended anyone or hurt my adoption.  Not positive when private day will be but hoping it's sooner rather than later.

P.S. in your email please let me know who you are and if we have connected through a comment or your blog.  I will need to have "talked" with you over time or commented on your blog... going private isn't really private if I don't know who I'm adding.  Hope that makes sense.  For anyone who has followed but that I've never "met" I will make it public after I am home and everyone can catch up. 
Thanks!

Hatin' the wait

Today is April 22... tomorrow it will be 4 months since I left to meet my son.  Updated documents have been with the judge for over a week now and still no news.  I was told that maybe I'd hear by the end of last week (came and went) then that I'd hear early this week (came and went) now... I just hope for news.  The estimate from the facilitator that pre trial could be April 30th is looking like a fantasy - I just would like some reality - some real news - I want a date. 
It's getting embarassing going into clinics that have bid me good luck and farewell... repeatedly... month after month... yet here I still am.  It's getting harder to grin and bear it and keep hoping for news.  I just want to get on with it.  The "what if" of not being there with him for his birthday are starting to creep in as a potential reality.  Add in a little PMS and it's good times at Chez Stacey.  Popcorn is a decent meal right???

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Orphanage donation letter

I wanted to post to say thank you to anyone who received my letter in email or saw it on FaceBook and then came here to find the paypal button (which for the record is at the top right hand corner - it works... someone already tried it out!).  I didn't want to post the letter here as it talks directly about the BabyHome and the people there and to the Russians, this is a private matter and having my impressions plastered on the WWW for anyone to see could be interpreted differently than I mean for it to be.  I posted my email and FaceBook note less than 2 hours ago and I have already received 2 very generous donations.  I am moved by the generosity of both people and their families and the notes they sent along with their donation.  I can not imagine nor wait to see the look on the Directors face when I tell her that the people in Canada want to help her little home and the children.  I also thought of something that I can do to say thanks.  I will make sure that I print out a photo of the donation and send it along with a personal note for anyone who may want to post it in their place of work to illustrate the good will and way that the business or the individuals there chose to get involved.  I am already so moved by how you have supported me along the way and how you are chipping in now to help.  You are making a difference - I can promise you that.  You will see it in the eyes of the children and the Babushkas who lovingly care for them. 
From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  For anyone wanting to read the letter and donate, please contact me through my profile email address and I will send it along to you privately. 
Thankyou... from the bottom of my heart. 
Stacey & Corbin too...

EDIT: now that I'm private, here is the letter I sent:
The Difference

On December 27th, I took an audible deep breath before stepping inside the solitary cream-colored brick building that is home to 20 orphaned children under the age of 4 in Siberia. Before entering I looked at the playground. A swing hung broken, the wooden merry go round didn't look very merry and the fence is in need of repair. I turned away and climbed the three small steps to the vestibule inside the first set of heavy wooden double doors. It smelled like bleach and the halls echoed with the clicking of our patent black winter boots as we made our way into the heart of the orphanage. We passed a room filled with 14 cribs - it's where my son sleeps. One blanket each lay folded neatly at the foot of the crib. The 'groupa' room where the children spend the bulk of their time playing, eating and learning is across the hall. Tiny potties are lined up against the wall for communal use - they are industrial and worn - but clean. I watched them eat lunch where each child was dressed with a long bib to protect their thread bare, mis-matched, orphanage clothing. The bib itself is about as old as dirt and looks like it was issued right after WWII. I asked the facilitator about the tights and shorts... what gives? She told me it's a hang over from the Soviet Union. In short - she doesn't know. It's not normal here in Russia either... but it's the orphanage, it's the way it is. I remember the books they read looking tired, torn and worn, and that there weren't many toys but what they had was respected and cared for. This is what I expected... it's not summer camp in Canada. What the orphanage lacks in amenities, they make up for in the love of the caregivers.
What I didn't expect was this: I either carried with me or bought after arriving, medicine, children's vitamins, diaper cream, head circumference measuring tapes, thermometer, toothbrushes, shampoo, laundry soap, cookies, bananas and clothing. The way they were received would have made you think I had handed them a winning lottery ticket to the 6/49. The director thanked me heartily especially for the diaper cream, measuring tapes and thermometer... they have never had a thermometer. They asked if I could bring more next trip and I promised I would. And I will. This time, I will buy there what they need rather than lugging it thousands of miles in my suitcase. I am hoping that the labels that my facilitator wrote on in Cyrillic will be clear enough to have the baby Tylenol not gather dust on the shelf while babies run fevers that have gone unchecked until now.
After 2 paragraphs, I'm getting to what I'm asking. If your heart hurts just a little for the kids without moms and dads as you've tucked your child in and said a silent prayer for those who go without a goodnight kiss, if you consider for a moment that many of these children develop rickets because the food they eat is what we would consider 'left overs' comprised mostly of watered down potato stew, if you give pause for a moment the next time you are at the Starbucks drive through window as you order your Vente, extra hot, half sweet vanilla, extra foam, skinny latte for the 5th time this week... I'm asking that you help me donate to Corbin’s orphanage and send a little bit of hope and comfort to these children left behind that deserve so much more. They deserve a family and they deserve to be loved... but unfortunately, as the song says, money can't buy me love. (but it does buy a lot of medicine, vitamins and supplies). And finally, if I haven't laid the need on thick enough, I would also like to mention that I've bought more entertainment books than I can remember, sponsored skip-a-thons, Terry Fox runs, Spell-a-thons, hockey fund raisers, girl guide cookies and the list goes on so I feel like I have earned the right to be in the ask column this time around. This one really matters... it's for kids that have nothing - not those that "need" new uniforms. I have a blog where you can donate by clicking the paypal button at the tip right hand corner (My blog address is www.frogssnailsnpuppydogtails.blogspot.com) If you don't have a paypal account, I humbly provide my address: EDIT TO REMOVE  and will amalgamate all the donations and let you know before I leave what we collectively have raised to donate.
From my heart I thank you. I promise to bring pictures of what I can home for you. I will photograph the director receiving the supplies and anything else that will help to illustrate what we can help do. I am donating a significant amount to the baby home that by virtue of it's remote location and small size is overlooked by foreigners and local public. I am one of the very first to adopt a child from this destitute little town – they get by on Soviet scraps – we can do better.

“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems."
Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Court dress... check.

Since there is very little left to get prepared for my departure, I decided to focus on what I would wear for court.  It's true, I could select from any number of perfectly appropriate suits or skirt suits in my closet or any number of the plethora of dresses but I wanted something special that will always be part of my memory from "THAT" day.  It occured to me that as a girl, we get dresses.  I got a dress for baptism, I got a new dress every Easter, I got a dress for graduation, and I got a beautiful gown for my wedding.  As girls, we celebrate monumenal occasions with a dress.  Today, I set out to find the right dress.  I wanted it to be formal enough and serious enough but comfortable, packable (read I hate to iron pretty much anything).  I wanted it to have at least a splash of color.  I found it and it's perfect.  Black and white with a cute flower ish print and a red belt.  Goes perfect with a black suit jacket and red shoes.  So now I'm set.  Ready for the pre trial date... c'mon court date. 
Not that I should speculate (I wish my speculating bone would die!!!) but I was likely the very last family in Khab this year.  After that, things were closed for 10 days for Christmas.  After that, a new director of the MOE took over meaning there were no referrals for a period of time (like a couple months)... SOOOO... since we took a little extra time to get things figured out, there is a reasonable chance that the judges schedule is looking pretty sparse these days and I could be back a little quicker than I think.  For now, I'll expect a little longer but hope for quick news. 
Mama wants to wear her new dress... Sorry fellas, a whole post on a dress and shoes???  I must be feeling better :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Your Honor

When I stand in front of the Judge in Khabarovsk and she asks me questions about the little Russian adopted boy who was callously returned to Russia with a backpack and a note saying simply - please return - item not as described, I will say this:
Your honor, I want you to know how I feel about the woman who returned her adopted son to Russia alone with no more than a backpack and a note.  I believe that what this woman did should be punished both in the court of popular opinion and in the court of law. I believe this is a travesty of trust and of promise to Russia and more importantly to her son. I am embarassed as a woman who has chosen to be a single mother that someone else could become the poster child of American adoptive single moms for something so incredibly wrong. I am saddened that the hundreds if not thousands of single moms who have been amazing spokespersons for adoption and who are raising healthy, happy, well adjusted children are being overshadowed by this one ill-equipped womans actions. I hope that TN throws the book at her and lets Russia know that we do love and protect their children as they do their own and that this behavior is unacceptable on so many levels. I am embarassed as an individual, as a single mom and quite simply as a human being that someone could live with so little respect for another human life that they swore to love, honor and protect. While I did not enjoy the 29+ months required of me in waiting to bring my son home, I can assure you that I filled my time with researching and learning about children who come home after living in an institution.  While I can not profess to be an expert nor a perfect parent, I think that is just the perfect answer.  I know I will not have all the answers and I know I won't do everything right BUT I DO know that there are people out there who are better equipped to help me find the answers that I promised I will find for my son.  He is little and I am big.  I stand here today to promise that I will do right by him and stand true to my promise to always put his health and happiness first in finding solutions to even the questions he doesn't know how to ask.  Even when we have hard days, even if he doesn't like me very much some days, even if he gets mad and doesn't behave well some days, I promise to be his advocate, his protector and most of all the person who loves him the very most in this world.  My son is entiled to excellent heath care just as every citizen of Canada is entiltled to and I will move mountains to ensure that he has the best of care should that need arise.  And even when I'm tired and frustrated in life, I am surrounded by amazing people who I call friends who carry me forward when I can't seem to move on my own.  In my circle of friends there are Doctors, Psych Nurses, Lawyers, Police Officers, Child Psychologists, Speech pathologists, Physio Therapists, Dentists, Teachers, and so many other loving and kind people that I know I have a hundred ways to turn for help - I simply need to ask. 

Finally your honor, I don't ever quit. I have never walked away when things got tough - I find answers, I find people with answers and I find the strength and courage to continue fighting until I know I have done everything I can.   And yet, I have never had anything so precious and worthy of fighting for as a son before in my life.  I can only try and assure you with my words that I have lived a life of honor, integrity and compassion and will continue to do so where this child and his future are concerned.  I feel so very blessed to be able to be his mother and look very forward to proving that I am an excellent choice when I send you the post placement reports and photos of our new life.  Thank you for trusting me - I promise, I won't let you down.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Exhaling... Documents will make the deadline

This post is all good news.  My travel visa has arrived well ahead of being needed so I won't have to hug the FedEx guy (girl as it was last time lol) on my way out the door with my bags this time, my two sets of documents have been compiled and processed in Ottawa and now safely delivered to Vancouver to be hand carried over by Heather.  The judge should have them on her desk by no later than Wednesday.  From there it's time for pre trial and trial. 
I'll save details on the prior week... it gives me shivers to think of what they needed and the exhaustive ends that had to be gone to in order to get things done.  Suffice to say that I have plenty of angels in my world. For now, eye on the prize... eye on the prize. 
Final note: Through all of last week, there were Ravens.  Middle of downtown - traffic everywhere, noise, people... After a stop at the lawyers office, I got to my car which was parked under a tree and  I happened to look up.  There, quietly looking at me from the branches was my friend the black bird.  I snapped a picture on my cel phone and drove on to the next stop.  At the end of that day, I scrambled to FedEx and when I turned out from the drive, there was another one sitting quietly on the fence post directly in front of me.  A day or two later I arrived home after another mad scramble and re-do, I drove to a look out point near my house to try and find a moment to breathe. There, playing on the wind tunnels over the ski jumps, were 2 Ravens who stayed and entertained me for 10 minutes before flying off into the horizon.  This morning, as I sit on my couch looking out the back window and typing this post, 3 Black Birds flew through my yard and chased one another over the houses out back.  And I smiled.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Alternate post

In the vein of "build it and he will come" I wrote a celebratory post about how the judge approved my documents and set a pre trial date last weekend- but that didn't happen.  After writing this, I sadly will hit delete on those dreams in that post.  I got news (what now seems a lifetime ago and many miles of scrambling to say the least) on Tuesday morning that I would require more documents - not many (actually only 2 of the ones I prepared in advance) were needed but there were two of the additional ones that were a challenge (to say it lightly) to aquire.  Lost in translation is the polite way to say that what some people want doesn't exist in other worlds.  In Alberta, we have "land titles" not "deeds" which causes some confusion for people and my being widowed seems to have brought up some question as to my right to retain my last name.  Interesting and very stressful. 
The past 2 days have been nothing short of a mad dash and pulling out every contact, person of influence, friend, co-worker, person met in passing, professional afiliation... anyone who is or has been anyone to me was fair game over the last 48 or so hours.  I secured documents that I needed, I found ways to get to the ones that seemed impossible and most importantly, people who love me (or are at the very least quite nice to me) came through in a HUGE way.  I can never find the words to thank people who went beyond the "box" to do what needed to be done (you know who you are).  People who stepped in and got the job done because they are tired of seeing me wait, the people with tears in their eyes for me at the bank while they told me Rick was on a mad dash across town to get the manager to sign what I needed and met me on the road  the friends with amazing Lawyer titles (Cam and Sean) who offered services last minute some at no cost, Russian lawyers who advised and couriered documents to DFAIT for the second time, Cam who endured (I'm sure with rolling eyes - I could see them from here) the phone calls and ubundant emails to check, double check and see if things seemed OK (don't worry - there's more on Monday), Corrie who I don't even know that well who is sacrificing the first morning of her long weekend to drop documents in Ottawa for me, Heather who has unselfishly offered to carry documents to Russia to avoid another courier adventure, Jason and Craig and Chris who teamed up to get my document managed from point A to B without ever crossing paths with me, Ole for helping me with things that no one else could, Marie for coming early and staying late and for doing exactly what needed to be done in that moment, even to FedEx (who is now officially my favorite courrier - not that Puro has let me down but FedEx is consistent and has AMAZING customer service!!!)... I'm sure I've missed so many people but to all of you - I say Thanks.  I broke down just a little yesterday saying that for such a stressful crappy day that I wasn't sure if I'd get through, it felt amazing to be surrounded by people who stepped up and kept stepping up to help me - for no other reason than they said, "you'd do it for me and we want to see him home too". 
So, today, I'm exhausted and completely worn out.  But that's the game.  It's the way it's always been for me.  Leave it all on the field - no questions left to ask, no "I should have's or wishes"... exhaust myself, brush off  my hands at the end of regulation time and rest.  I'll have a couple weeks of rest now waiting to hear if the documents are acceptable.  I think they are... but I'm not the one who gets to think these days. 

Someone said to me yesterday that I should enjoy a hot bath and a couple of great glasses of wine tonight.  I responded, "I'm sleepy, sweaty, smelly, and sober... do I NEED to wait till TONIGHT???"  Well, it's officiallypast tonight and I'm spent.  Not sure that there will be anything much worth saying for awhile... time and hope and prayers.  On that note, I think I need more prayers... they didn't seem to work last round or perhaps were delivered by DHL and are just arriving now.