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Monday, May 31, 2010

And finally, the best title yet - I am a Mama

Today at 11 am I walked into the Khabarovsk Court house donning my specially chosen "court dress" (a black and white patterned dress with a red belt and matching red patent shoes which will hopefully yield the same results as they did for Dorothy after having their heels clicked together 3x).  The drive there seemed like it took forever as we wound through an industrial looking area to the new court house.  It's an impressive cream colored building made of big masonry bricks and adorned with the appropriate 2 headed Russian Eagle emblem over the main doors.  We went through security with no issues - Ole even was allowed to enter with only her Canadian Drivers license as Anna had her passport for her to be registered (Russian Requirement).  I nervously fidgeted as we quietly stood and collected our troops near the door.  The director of the baby home (Irina) was there to greet us.  I inspected her more closely today than I have at the baby home.  Today she is here to advocate for the best interests of Grisha and is no longer donning her nurse type scrubs.  Her gold capped tooth would stand out at home but here, it seems as though it might be a symbol of wealth (dental work is frivolous I think).  Ole began charming Irina immediately.  It wasn't long before her camera was out flashing proud pictures of her son and telling tales of Canada.  I watched sadly as another couple came out from the stair way... I can only assume they were adoptive parents - I'd guess they are Spanish... and they didn't look happy - I mean the sort of relieved happy that a family is when they receive happy news.  I began to sweat just a little more.  I asked if it was OK if I didn't wear my suit jacket over my dress - thankfully it was.  We signed in saying that I understood that the details of the adoption prceedure are secret (so don't tell anyone OK?) and headed up to the third floor.  After signing in I learned that I have the "good" prosecutor (read: the less ornery one) - I felt myself take a deep breath.  I just prayed that the judge wasn't in one of her "moods" that everyone talks about.  It was cooler up there in the lobby - but not in the small court room. We sat on uncomfortable plastic chairs in the hall waiting to be called.  When it was time,  I hugged Ole and headed in.  Lena the bitchy lawyer (who I still can't figure out how she is involved on MY behalf) was forced to remain outside.  Apparently being married to the crown prosecutor doesn't get you a hall pass into the court room.  I found her strange not only in her commentary and lack of professionalism but in her personal presentation.  She showed up at court wearing skin tight jeans and a short top that showed her big tattoo across her lower back.  And to think, I was paranoid enough about the tattoo on my ankle to have covered it for the occasion.  The proceedings were formal and impersonal.  I was seated at the back facing the judges "throne" which was behind a big wooden platformed desk.  To the my right, Irina and the social worker representing my son were seated.  Next to me on my immediate right was the translator who we picked up on the way to the courthouse.  Next to her, Elya.  To my left sat the prosecutor and a court recorder.  The judge rarely made eye contact with me and I was warned not to smile unless entirely required. The fact that she didn't look at me made me more comfortable consulting (or maybe it was just gathering my thoughts?) as I stared down at the table with my notes.   I was asked the planned for questions and things went easily.  The judge smiled and chukled at some comments from others (like why peri-natal encephalopathy appears on EVERY orphans medical and then suddenly disappears???) and my questioning was quickly over (about 20 minutes maybe?).  Next, the director spoke followed by the representation from the social worker agency.  Each one of us was questioned by the judge and then the prosecutor (forgive me if that is spelled wrong... right now I just don't care!).  The judge left to consult with herself for a short (like 2 minutes) time... she returned and read the outcome and I waited on baited breath... she said yes... I am a Mama.  I really want to cry right now... as I did just then but it's not the time or place... I'll save that for later.  The translator was wonderful to me - I like her a lot.  She grabbed my hand as I sat down from speaking and squeezed it tight telling me, "you were perfect. She will have no problems at all with what you said. Perfect. Perfect.  You will have a positive outcome".  She told me to relax and try and take the process in.  I did try and study each person to remember them... but to tell you the truth, if the judge sat down next to me in this internet cafe... I'd have no clue.  I did however remember to breathe.  Once the ruling was read, the translator grabbed me in the best hug ever... followed next by the director and the social worker... everyone was so happy!  We walked out and I hugged Ole... but I didn't cry (did I mention I want(ed) to???) We took some pictures where we were not supposed to and took some good shots outside the court (they will be posted soon).  Irina joined us for a fancy lunch where I enjoyed a nice glass of wine (OK - who am I kidding - I have no idea if it was nice... it was red... it went in a glass that looked like it is supposed to hold wine... I breathed... a huge... sigh... of... relief!) The restaurant was close to Annas so we were dropped off and I was able to run and grab the gift I had for Irina.  It was nice to give it to her and explain that the big polar bear and babies reminds me of her and the children at the orphanage.  She was very happy with the gift.  Best news for last?  (are you still reading?) I get early custody. I attribute this to Ole's charm and the support she is showing me.  Irina recognized that I will take good care and that Corbin should be with his Mama.  I heard repeatedly today that between trips he would go to the window and look out and ask, "where is my Mama?"... melts my heart.  So, we will gather our forces and google up a storm over the next day to find out where to get the things Irina asked for with the money:
15 new cribs, one fax machine, playground equipment.  So, with that, I head into a contented nap, a good dinner with Anna and Ole, a massage on Friday followed by the most famous Russian Ballet - Swan Lake (which everyone is laughing about since I insist on calling it swan river).  Life is pretty perfect right now... yes, from a dingey internet cafe in Khabarovsk Russia, I am happy, contented and as the Russians say... very satisfied with the day.  In about 4 days, my son will not be alone anymore... and neither will I.

It's been a long way home.
With Much love from Russia
Stacey

Sunday, May 30, 2010

One more sleep - court tomorrow

Quick note... it's 9:15 am here, Ole and I made a quick stop at the internet cafe to send emails to say she has arrived safely and then go for a run.  I have court prep tonight and then 11:30 am tomorrow, court.  Say big prayers, think good thoughts... I'll be here telling the judge how much I love my son, why I want to be his Mama, why I think he is ready to come home forever... all the while remembering how much I pay for my mortgage, how much my car insurance is, how much my utilities bill is... and on and on. 
Think of me and Corbin... next note...GREAT NEWS!!!
xoxox
Stacey

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Am I the only one who thinks it's strange?

That it is snowing at home in Calgary and it's +26 degrees celcius here in Russia??? I didn't think so.  Today is "City Day" in Khabarovsk.  There was a parade, singing, dancing, celebration and shopping :)  I have seen so many pretty jackets that I had that on my to do list... today, the Canadian, non Russian speaking girl shopped alone SUCCESSFULLY.  People try very hard to speak to me when they can and especially one lady who helped me with my first purchase was so cute trying to talk and tell me it looks beautiful on me.  Love it... or should I say them :)  Again, I walked forever.  I'd say about 3 1/2 hours easily.  My feet hurt something terrible (I didn't wear my runners today and will pay tomorrow!). 
Anna teaches English to many students and regularly (annually) takes a group of her students on English language trips to foreign places.  This year she is headed for California with 10 children.  It has been fun for me and the students as I have been invited to sit in and just have conversation with the older kids and thismorning, I played games with 2 younger boys.  They thought it was a great lesson since I promised if they worked hard I would give them icecream at the end... it was 10 am lol.  Anna amazes me with her kindness for the kids and for me.  We sat up talking until after midnight last night about life, friends, travel, and anything else that came up.  Today after walking for what seemed an eternity, I arrived home to find a very nice lunch cooked and waiting for me.  I was starving and she is an excellent cook.  I can't imagine how different this trip would be if I were staying at the hotel alone, bored, stranded and without the courage that she gave me with my crash course in Khab geography.  Tomorrow Ole arrives and things will just continue to get better and more interesting. 
I received news this morning from my friend Melody and her husband and big congratulations are in order as they have arrived safely in Abudabi (I think?) Ethiopia to meet and bring home their son!  I am thrilled the we will share our leaves together and experience being moms to adopted kids all at the same time.  Life isn't always fair, but it is good and in times like these I am thankful to have wonderful people like Mel to share this with!  See you soon Mel, Dwayne and Mushi!
And, finally one last thing.  I have turned the internet off so many times and thought - ug... forgot again.  I wanted to mention a friend of mine who could use some good thoughts and prayers in her journey.  She's been delayed in her court date 2x now in getting back to Russia to bring home her son.  The details aren't as important as the fact that I'm thinking of her often and know she could use a cyber cheer to get her to her goal.  Adoption is tough... even when it's easy (not that I can speak to that particularly) but waiting is hard... waiting when you have been delayed... insufferable.  She's a strong woman with a lot of people cheering for her and I just want her to know me and my people are cheering for her too.  Here's to you :)
Now that I am chair bound while my feet throb, I will return some emails!
Paka!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Khab is amazingly beautiful

After begining to think that I might continue to struggle to find the beauty in Russia (bear in mind I was here for a whirl wind trip at Christmas and everything was covered in snow and minus 9 million followed by this trip of exploring a less than hospitable environment in Selihino and in Komsomolsk in terms of being dirty, destitued and downtrodden) I have been so welcomed by a city that astounds me with incredible sights, sounds, beauty, and culture at every turn.  Anna and I walked today for almost 3 hours.  I saw churches, squares, fountains, parks, theatres, live music, amazing river vistas... and found a ballet that Ole and I can go to while I wait for custody.  One of the things I wanted to do while here if possible was to see a Russian ballet - seems like an appropriate thing to do.  Everyone kept saying that seeing one in Khab is unlikely - they don't tour very often.  Anna and I came upon the local place (forgive me - I don't know what it is) where productions, plays and ballets are held and there was a HUGE sign saying June 5-6-7 welcoming the ballet with members of the troupe from the Bolshoy company to perform Swan RIVER (as I mistakenly keep calling it... which all the Russians get a HUGE kick out of - yes, now I know, it's Swan LAKE and CCCP means USSR when you see it on things just to avoid anyone else being embarassed!!!), Romeo and Julliet and Dan Quixote (sorry if that is spelled wrong).  I am thrilled... I will enjoy it very much and can't wait for Ole to arrive in 2 days!  We also ran into the DMP (the Canadian approved doctor that has to evaluate all children before being OK'd for immigration) at the grocery store.  He told me good luck and study my dossier in detail.  I should go do that :)
Tomorrow is City day here and there will be a parade that Anna and I will attend.  I am so lucky to have found Anna and her amazing hospitality.  She will make this trip memorable and even more unforgettable (if that is possible!)

Will post pictures when I get a chance. Know all is well and I am relaxing and preparing for court!
Good night!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Court - 10 days wait

So, Irina (the director) was back today from her vacation.  Elya spoke to her about having temporary custody granted during the 10 day wait... Irina has no problems with me or custody BUT the new social worker in Komsomolsk makes a report too and is NOT giving early custody since starting in January.  It is unlikely that I will get Corbin before the 11th of June.  There is one more try before court that my lawyer will make to see if people can be convinced... but hope is thin.  I was confused by the conversation - it was like a cross between talking in tongues and in circles... really, it was like in circles of tongues (read: made even less sense).  I thought the baby home director decided... then it was that the social worker has a say... then no... then some comittee... in Khabarovsk... and social worker reports... and I stopped trying to figure out who had votes and whose vote counted... I just have to wait to see what the judge says.  I made a new friend through the fence at the orphanage yesterday... our driver laughed and said he wanted to come back to Canada with me... there were some funny charade moments in trying to communicate.  Today, a table of men at lunch bought us a bottle of bubbly - which we tried to return but they told us it was rude and to take it... I guess we have pre bought celebration for days to come.  Now to the important stuff: Corbin was awesome today.  We played inside for awhile then went out.  We play a game where he climbs up on the tires and I count to 3 then he jumps down.  We've done it so many times now that he surprised me with "One.... two.... freee!!!!"  first spontanious English.
Well, better run, internet is low and we are headed back for my final visit until after court.  This is going to be one last hard goodbye. 
Will update from Khabarovsk when I settle in with Anna again.  And YES!!! Julianne - please email me the secret answer to the place of birth change - I have not heard of the question or answer!!! THANKS!!!
Dhas vhi danya!

They have Ravens in Russia

I remembered this thismorning as I wrote an email to a friend who touched me in telling me that she had a dream she was in court with me holding my hand.  I told her I'd imagine all of you there with me.  It will help I'm sure. 
Yesterday as I said was emotional and stressful.  This is something that in retrospect helps to make me smile at the very least... if not find a moment of calm.  Corbin was gettig tired and climbed onto the swing with the other children to be pushed by one baba.  She chattered away with them about things - the sun is in the sky, the moon is in the sky, the birds are in the sky, the big bird says... the little bird says.... the owl says.... and then one of the girls pointed at a bird circling over head and asked what he says... Baba looked up and responded, "CAAAA! CAAAA! CAAAA!" I looked up to see a big black Russian Raven flying around over the playground.  I managed to get my camera out and take a picture.  this camera is finicky and slow - it doesn't just snap when you push the button so I'm not sure how I managed to get the Raven in flight... but I did... and then he left - flew away. 
I think that I needed that Raven yesterday... I just needed to feel a little peace and hope and calm. 
Ravens are the see'er between two worlds... Hi Scott... This is my Corbin...

Things that cross my worried mind... and a happy ending

I am going to go backwards on the day because that’s where my worried mind settled at least for awhile. There are certain things that a birth parent will never consider – concerns that will never occur to them… today, I was tormented by the thought of “what if”. I know I’ve mentioned before that Corbin’s parents live somewhere very close to the orphanage but have never been to visit since their rights were terminated. I know I talked about walking and wondering if I passed his birth parents home… I wondered for my son and for me… but not for them. Today, I wondered about them… in a way that made me nauseous. Rewind: a new regulation has a social worker coming to observe us every day. Yesterday was brilliant – as if on cue, Corbin did everything he does that makes my heart melt. Today… not so much. He was tired and wanted to go outside to play – he had ants in his pants and wasn’t interested in showing the new social worker his uncanny ability to color very carefully (at least for awhile) inside of the lines, or that he could identify colors in English or that he would answer questions that I might ask of him in Russian. He did however eat cookies and feed them to me and whisper quietly the responses that she wanted to hear. Elya over heard her ask the care givers at the end of the visit if he was always shy – they said “No, it is the language barrier and he isn’t sure how to respond”. Sure – I’ll give them that – of course there is a language barrier… but he talks to me, he yells on the play ground, he laughs and engages… when he isn’t being poked and prodded and observed by a stranger. So that made me uneasy – what will she write in the report? I’m not worried about it impacting the adoption – just the potential for early custody. Strike one on the nervous scale. Next, a question to Elya, “has she taken him for a walk around Selihino?” – answer, “no… should she?” answer, “absolutely not… his parents live very close and I wouldn’t want them to see and cause problems.”… enter nervous scale part two. To add to the details, I found out also that his birth mother was pregnant with another child at the time of my first visit. They fully expect this child to enter the home soon. This makes anyone with a baby carriage suspect to me as they “could” be his birth mom. I also understand that I (by law) will be given first opportunity to adopt this child... just extra details to weigh on my mind… not to truly be contemplated… they are just taking up rent in my head. This afternoon, we spent the visit outside. At first, it was just the two of us. We spent it jumping from tires, finding flowers, chasing butterflies and learning his first English words – Puppy, bubbles, truck… I am thrilled! yet the statement of “they live very close” echos in my head. Suddenly every person in Selihino became a person of interest to me… especially if they showed the remotest interest in the baby home or in me. First, there was the blond lady who stood outside the apartment building just watching us… for half an hour. Next, the two ladies with the baby strollers came by and again… just watched. A blond man with big blue eyes came out and walked along the fence from the apartment building. I couldn’t help but be distracted and wonder who they are and are they actually watching or just sitting on the steps? Corbin was tired by the end of the day and was content to sit on the swing and be pushed along with the other children. I clung particularly tight to him when I had to say goodbye tonight… the fear of “what if” was weighing heavy on me. I got in the car tonight with tears in my eyes and I asked, “I am sure I know the answer to this question but I have to ask… If his parents saw us outside the baby home and were to try and make trouble… could they??? Do I need to worry??? Elya reiterated that they live close – always have… they have NEVER visited… their rights were terminated… they wouldn’t come now and it wouldn’t matter if they did. I know that… but it’s a queasy feeling just to feel watched and to wonder. I just want court to come and go so that my little one can stop begging at the end of the day to come with Mama in the machena… I am hoping that Irina will request early custody – it will be best for Corbin as he cries every time I leave.


I’ll end on an amazing note: I can’t remember but I don’t think I blogged this: a part time worker told Elya yesterday to bring a memory stick and that she would give us some pictures of Corbin from when he arrived to now. I didn’t think much of it… thought there would be a few photos… how is 60 photos from the time he arrived!!! He was not quite one from what I can tell from the date stamp in the photos properties. That also means that he has never had anyone say happy birthday to him other than me. He arrived at the orphanage the day before his 1st birthday… and now, he just turned 3. I am so thankful that I worked to arrive to spend that day with him. And at the end of an emotional day, I’ll take that to the Mom bank…

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Birthday Blast!

Yesterday I was happy he remembered me... today, there were so many amazing things - too many to count!  I brought Russian leggo for him and he quickly mastered the task of "all yellow" or "all green" - we built 4 houses - one in each color and he loved it!  He did the next puzzle (some sort of Russian cartoon character that Elya said the kids are crazy for) it was harder for him and the language barrier didn't help.  We played cars on the floor, did the other puzzles I brought from the first trip - they are a snap now for him.  We stayed there all day much to the chagrin of Elya.  She pouted the entire day and acted like a spoiled brat.  She never left the baby home save for about 20 minutes at lunch.  I went for an hour long walk around Selihino... not much to say other than I need to get my boy out of there (but the sights, sounds and scenery is a blog note that will have to wait) this one is all skittles and rainbows.  I stayed outside in the sun (I even got a little color today) and after the kids were up from their nap, Corbin came to the window and waved to me outside... it broke my heart but there is baby home proticol to attend to and there were lessons or things to be done inside.  I'm pretty sure Corbin was distracted at best and finally, one of the Baba's came outside and said that "Grisha" could "egrat na-ou-litsa" (outside).  It was a little hard to avoid the heavy stares of the 4 or 5 children that stood in the window and watched as "Grisha" got to play with his Mama.  The greatest gift I got today was Corbin YELLING at the top of his lungs "MAMA" when I walked back to the picnic table to get the camera.  Over and over today he would call for me, "MAMA" and I got so many spontanious kisses - it was perfect.  I watched him share his bubbles with the other children - giving them each a turn to try to master the bubble blowing. My heart melted.  One of the things we adoptive parents are hopeful of yet don't really want to figure out is, will my child come to me for comfort when they are hurt?  I found that out today too.  Corbin was running with 2 of the children towards one of the climbing thingies (I'd like to say structure but that is a little advanced for Russia)  and as he reached it, he tripped and fell face first into the base of the metal rungs.  He hit it pretty hard and burst into tears.  I was on the ground (I was sitting up a few rungs on the thingie) immediately and he reached for me and cried into my shoulder.  Again, not something we look forward to but I was relieved to know I am his person.  We spent probably 45 minutes riding around on the tricycle.  The day closed with him crying hysterically when we said I had to go.  He ran for the gate to come too... and leaving was hard... but he knows I'll be back tomorrow.  They will have cookies tonight and some corn puff things I left... but there will be no mention other than my own to him that it is his birthday.  There will be Cake at Anna's back in Khab after court and likely again with the twins and some new little friends at home. Elya did manage to see the end of the day on her way to the car and she said to me on the way home that the Director will have a hard time delaying custody because when a child reacts like that to "Mama" leaving they become difficult to manage and it is better for the child to allow them to go quickly - it is too stressful for everyone but most of all the child- so I'm hoping that Irina will say this in court to the judge.  Turns out it will be her NOT the social worker after all which is in my favor.  Better run - internet is at a premium and my sand is running out on this card.

More again maybe tomorrow!
I am so very happy... thanks for your emails and notes! I'm feeling more like a Mama every second :)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Couldn't have been better

It's been almost 5 months since I said goodbye... I wondered and worried about how today would go for those same 5 months.  I wondered if he would remember me? Would he be shy and afraid all over again?  Would he be a little bit mad that I left him?  Today was nothing like I wondered or worried.  When we arrived at the baby home, there were children playing outside.  I was nervous and excited as I scanned the children playing inside the fence. I had walked on ahead of Elya so I couldn't understand anything that was being said - nor was I listening.  I think my heart was pounding louder than would have allowed me to hear anyway.  I was walking forward towards the gate for the play area and front door... when I looked down and there he was walking towards me - all mis matched in pink and red with a spider man hat on... he was walking towards me and I dialed into the Baba's saying "Mama's here! Your Mama's here!"  I told him that I missed him (Ya Ochen Za to boy sa-sku chalas) over and over just like I had imagined it... and I told him that I love him... and he hugged tightly into my neck... just like I had never left.  I have video of him playing in the playground, on the big swingset with some of the other kids, playing in the log cabin and smiling... and giggling that sweet little giggle that I played over and over and over in the videos.  Many of the Baba's are different and I didn't even hardly say hello to Irina the director since I was too busy hugging Corbin tight and exploring the grounds with him.  He was WAY more chatty today - told me all about the cat he saw and the things he was doing.  He named every picture in the book out loud today and I finally heard him say "Paj-a-ousta" (please) when he told me he wanted something.  Different than last visit, (maybe I just brought better treats this time?) he gobbled up teddy grahams - little chocolate chip ones (ole could you bring another bag of them!) and cheerios.  We played inside in a different visiting room and he continued his love affair with cars and puzzles.  Today couldn't have gone better - I am relieved, thrilled and exhausted.
The train was fine - I slept well (I think?), we are at a different hotel (Julianne - it's the one you talked about? Voshod?) internet is not free - but OK - I'll send pictures later, food is cheap here, we have a better (read: not insane) driver (a girl named Natasha I think?), we went to Super Foods to buy breakfast and upstairs they have a childrens store where I bought a new puzzle, some Russian Leggo and another small puzzle that you put together and a little wind up car runs on for Corbins birthday tomorrow.  We also bought some cookies and treats for the kids.  Elya told me that Irina (the director) asked her if I had found a husband yet - and asked if she thought I would find one to be Grisha's Papa - Elya told her no - I didn't have one yet but she is sure I'll find one.  She is also happy with the donation Elya told her about and she will have a list for us on Monday of things they could use.   Today, there were fewer children than were here in December.  I think there are only 8 in the "toddler" group - I don't know how many babies.  This is good - that means some have found homes.  I have pictures of the other kids this time - and would love to take one girl in particular home - what a ham! She followed me and asked me a million questions I didn't understand. 
Well, for tonight, I am going to look at my videos and pictures and go to sleep with a smile on my face and in my heart - he's so amazing and being back here feels almost too easy and natural.  I can't explain what I mean - but everything just feels right and I'm not afraid anymore - I can't wait to bring him home.
Paka for now - things simply couldn't be better!
Stacey

Friday, May 21, 2010

Safe, sound, showered and sane!

The trip went smooth(ish) this time around and I didn't have to spend extra time in my favorite airport hotel!  I had resigned at one point to having to do it but things turned on dime and I ran for my life to make the connecter... and I'm here!  I made it through passport control this time no problem (did take a picture of the lonely bench from trip one in the passport control area) and went directly through to the other side - WHEW!!! right??? Nope.  Luggage - nowhere to be found.  So, I started the complex process of jockying (is that a word) it is for now - into position to start a baggage claim file.  After about 20 minutes, the lady left me standing there for awhile came back and said, "Is your last name XXXXXX?" and I said why yes it is! and low and behold it had mysteriously appeared on the belt.  Thus began the RUN phase of my "there are 2 speeds in Russia - STOP and RUN!!!" I hit the floor running and grabbed a transit bus for 60 rubles. jumped the cue at domestic check in, blasted up the stairs (as fast as you can blast with 50 lbs of carry on luggage) and got to the gate in time for boarding.  I had to wring my shirt out (changed it for the luxury of my seat mate) got a seat at the front of the plane and there was no one in the middle!!! Score!!! I had a decent sleep, arrived here, collected my baggage, and was dropped off at my home stay to get cleaned up and rest.  Anna is a wonderful host and a very nice person.  I am looking forward to spending time with her over the next month or so!  BUT for now, the big thing is getting on the train tonight and seeing my boy tomorrow!!!
Not sure when I can post again - Elya didn't book train tickets or hotel in advance so we are staying somewhere else (which is a bummer) and I don't know if they have internet.  So, you may have to hold tight until I get back here for news on the reunion.  But it's gonna be great!!!
Paka from Khabarovsk!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

PAKA!!!!

It's 12:55... my mom and sister will be here in about an hour to have a quick visit and then take me to the airport.  My bags are packed (who knew 50lbs actually amounts to so little???) my back pack (carry on) is bigger than it should be... and I'm hoping I can camoflage it because the alternate is checking it as another piece which I don't want to do.  All the items on my check list are crossed off... now I get to go.  3 days until I get to see Corbin again... I have pictured this for so long - I can't wait for the real life adaptation of my dreams.  I can't wait to hear that little laugh and to ask him if he wants to play outside... I can't wait to watch him fall asleep... in my arms.  I can't wait for everything so I better stop listing those one by one now.  I know travel will be smooth, arrangements will be made, I'll have the 8 doctor medical (AKA the Saturday night skit - going to the Russian medical clinic) and just being with my son.  I am looking forward to it all.  A person who I haven't thanked nearly enough (and never will) is Ole.  You've been my friend for about 10 years now and you've humored my adoption stories for about as long.  I've watched you balance your life as a single mom and know that you will be here to help me do the same.  But, there are few - or likely closer to NO people who would do what you are doing for me.  Ole has made arrangements to have her own son cared for and has volunteered to come in for court and stay with me until we touch down home.  Almost a month away from home, work, friends, life... all to be there for me.  I initially thought Ole would come for the last 7 days or so to help me bring him home - to that she answered - no... I want to be there for you for court and for when you pick him up from the orphanage.  I want to be there for you to make things easier.  30 years from now we won't remember how much the paycheck was that I lost... but it will matter that I was there.  Folks, now that's a friend.  Thanks to Ole, and to every other friend who has wiped tears, shared stories, and encouraged me on in this journey.
Let the fun part begin!!!
Love to many, friendship to all!
Paka!!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

It's the final countdown (da na na na... da na na na na na)

My title is a lame reference to the song from junior high school that we all rocked out to at the regular dances performed both by the hair band Europe and any pre pubescent teen with a hairbrush - but I digress. It is, the final countdown... 4 more sleeps until I leave. I had a really great time the last few days since I shared the excitement with Melody and Dwayne who have been impatiently (like all of us) waiting for travel dates to bring their beautiful little Kayan Mamush home from Ethiopia. It’s such a wonderful story of friendship and adoption although from completely different countries but coming together at the same time. Last night we shared a celebratory meal, great wine and the amazement that in a short time we will all finally be parents to little boys who have been in our hearts for months and months (and for them add in a few more months). Dwayne installed my car seat this morning and showed me how to do it on my own. I stood back and looked at it... finally... in my van... this is getting more real by the moment and I am thrilled. There's not much left to do other than a few odds and ends for work, packing and trip logistics. Ole my Russian friend is a Godsend for this trip. She'll be a friendly face, a Russian speaking trouble aversion feature, a tour guide, a menu reader, a travel planner for the local sites, a taxi fetcher and independence giver that I will be forever grateful to. Oh how this trip will be different and so much more amazing with her there to proverbially hold my hand. Flights are booked, insurance bought, reservations made for Moscow (staying at the Marriott Courtyard June 21/22/23 departing on the 24th) We will have 2 full days of relax time for sight seeing while the Moscow coordinator manages the processing of the documents at the Canadian Consulate for me. In Khab, thanks to Julianne my blog friend, I have arranged for a home stay for a much more reasonable price than the hotel. The weather is great, I will have freedom and autonomy with Ole and we will have the time to explore both Komsomolsk and Khabarovsk. I am looking forward to this trip being much more relaxed and enjoyable than the fight or flight trip over Christmas. Yes, the judge will likely grill me with more questions since I am single but in all honesty, I've had 29 months to contemplate the answers and my heart - I'm ready and I'm not afraid. I am actually looking forward to court and being able to state why I'm ready and why I think I'll be a good Mama - I don't scare easily...


Not long now - KLM here I come! I have a long flight with them where I look forward to enjoying an in flight beverage or two and not worrying about tight connections or where I'm going in Moscow - I know - I'm ready... bring on the GO!!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother(ish) day

Today was good - not great (that would mean I had my boy and I REALLY felt like a mom) but it was good.  I spent the better part of the day with my Mom and my sister over brunch and coffee with my Aunt later.  I was spoiled - it just sort of happened - not entirely associated with Mothers day - just a happy coincidence.  My one 7 year old niece made me a picture for my fridge that said, "I love you Corbin" with her name signed at the top.  My mom brought me a BIG bag full of things she's been collecting including a sweat suit from the Olympics for Corbin - she had to be quick and nimble to grab one of them when she saw it since they are out of production after the games ended.  This will truly be a keepsake for him.  I talked to her yesterday as she shopped and she had found a great deal on a 2 piece suit and Lord knows I don't turn down a good deal.  She picked it up and had to guess at the size.  Well I guess there must be enough pictures for her to have gotten it darn close - the other size would have been HUGE and this one will be perfect and likely the best color for him so Baba has him all set up :)  Mom had also been out to visit my Grandma and had spent some time with some of her extended family.  She had told them that I was adopting and one of her cousins who is a retired teacher offered an absolutely AMAZING hand made quilt for her to bring for Corbin.  I have never seen anytihing like it.  It's shaped like a lady bug - it's backed in polar fleece and fronted in quilted black and red with wings and spots and eyes and fuzzy seams... my description does it no justice at all but suffice to say I LOVE it!!!  Another awesome thing that was in the bag is a great "baby book for adoptive families" titled My family, My journey - I love it and will have a great time filling it out for Corbin.  I have so many thank you calls to make and notes to write... I'm going to get cramps :)  And finally, one of the sweetest things was one of the quietest things today.  My 15 year old niece who started working at McDonalds about 3 months ago to start saving for cell phones, and cars and make up and skinny jeans slid some folded bills across the table and said quietly in her nonchalant 15 year old this is no big deal sort of tone, "this is for Corbins orphanage".  I looked down at the bills and with big eyes said, "from who?" she said, "Me".... I said (yes I was feeling particularly stunned) "YOU?"  and she smugly answered, "NO, the me behind me".  and that was that.  My little niece gave me $45 of her hard earned money.  My family has given me so much already that every little thing just sort of blows me further away.  From flights for Corbin to come home from my Mom, to refrigerator drawings and small gifts from the twins, to car seats and collections at my sisters work for the orphanage, to my oldest niece giving so much of her make up money for something she thinks is important.  Oh yeah, and I creeped on her FaceBook page where she was answering some random list of questions and one was, "what are you most looking forward to this summer?" Answer, "My Aunt bringing her son Corbin home and going to the lake" (p.s. she goes to the lake with me). 
Really, it was a great Mother(ish) day for me... in lieu of the better option, I'll certainly take it!  I need $90 more to break the $4000 mark in donations - I'm pretty sure I'll get there - and if I don't - I'm still COMPLETELY blown away.  When I first sent out the email, I said I'd be happy with $500... now... this is incredible.  Today was Victory day in Russia and it's celebrated by a 3 day weekend. Happy Mother's Day, Happy Victory day too... in adoption, we take the small victories and hold tight.  When those small victories are all stitched together, they become a quilt of memories that is the landscape of our path.  Today's color was a nice fuzzy Red... I'll take that.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Flights booked - birthday candles packed

I don't know who invited Debbie downer to the last few posts but I kicked her off the bus.  Yes there have been issues - major issues - things that will be discussed later but after bitching it out for a day or so and getting a going away evening with my hockey team, I feel better and a little more settled on moving forward.  So, flights are booked - just need to give the go ahead on payment and it's done.  And yes, BIRTHDAY CANDLES ARE PACKED... I've made arrangements to come in 2 days early so that I am there to celebrate that day with him... Just like I promised him :)  Funny thing, as much as I loathed the round the world adventure last trip, looks like I'm tee'd up for round two of the journey via Moscow.  Seoul / Tokyo were not options that worked at all.  Flights were around $4k each and connections via the milk run made my head spin.  So, gingerly, my travel agent suggested a muligan on my Christmas trip.  The difference this time, I've been there, it's not scary and even if I do miss a flight, it's ok we've built in a little extra time and I know where I'm going in the mean time.  Plus, KLM flights were really nice.  So, all said and done, I'm leaving May 19th at 6pm via Amsterdam then on to Moscow where I'll do the passport control scramble, dodge the customs officers and leap to the baggage claim to sprint to the other terminal and get checked in for my onward flight to Khabarovsk.  I'm tired just writing it.  At least it's not winter anymore so delays shouldn't be severe... but hey, maybe this time if I have to I'll try out the other airport hotel - maybe they have a better breakfast buffet?  Ole will come in for my court date - she arrives on May 31 at noon - court is June 1st at 11:30.  She will be with me for the rest of the trip.  It will be great to have her along for Moscow where we'll have a day to do some sight seeing... looks like I'll get that picture in front of St. Basils after all.  AND, just found out that I'll overlap with my new bloggie friend Steph who will be in Moscow long enough to share a starbucks coffee and hug - what a journey for us both.  We will all be coming home on a flight to touch down at 3:30 pm on June 24th.  Home forever.  Hope to see you at the airport (even though you will have to tell your boss you have a doctors appointment in order to skip out of work early)
So, in an effort not to make anyone cry this post (I was told last night that my friends now come armed with kleenex and that they have learned not to read it in public) I wanted to say thanks... thanks to the people who have reached out to me through this whole ditty and thanks to the friends who have donated so generously to Corbins orphanage.  We are getting really close to having FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!! to donate to them.  I am so greatful... but more so, thanks for the cards you sent with the donations and the kind things you said, thanks for sharing the email request at work in your team meetings, thanks for forwarding it on to others who just might need a reality check and to know how really good we have it, thanks to the friends who with hidden tears in their eyes have told me that what I'm doing makes a difference and that they are proud of me.  Now let me re phrase that: I don't think you should be proud of me - I wanted to be a Mama - full stop.  My son is along for the ride in that dream.  Selfishly, my dreams are shared by him in the opportunities that he will be afforded in life -but that doesn't make me a hero - I'm just selfish and want to be a mom like all the rest of you out there.  For me, what makes me happy is the fact that so many of you have told me that this process, the email, the stories, the pictures - you've told me that in one way or another you have been moved by it.  And in that interpretation of what MY journey means to you, good things are happening.  Donations have been made to my cause but more importantly, I think people have stopped to think about what THEIR cause is.  One of my very favorite quotes is
I don't care what you believe in, as long as you believe in something
So, with that, I am feeling pretty smug that in following my dream, my cause, I might just have inspired or reminded others to think about what they believe in. And that, is a good thing. (No tissue required ladies - this one's for you)


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Court Date granted

My court date is June 1st.  Not when I expected, hoped or thought but it's June 1st.  I need to have 5 days of visits with Corbin before court so she wanted me to arrive on May 24th... the day after his birthday.  I have suggested that I arrive on the 22nd so that I can be with him for his birthday and I am working on flights.  I should be happier... and I am sure I will get there but... the other family who submitted documents to the judge a week after me was given a court date next week.  I know I couldn't have been there in time but I'm upset because she put their request first - she asked for first available for them even though my documents were submitted a week ahead.  I get that it's been tough for them and that they are in country already due to errors that were made along the way BUT I worked hard to avoid errors I went 100 extra miles... and she put them first.  She said the lawyer asked for a favor and the judge got mad so she couldn't ask for 2... so my court is in June... 4 weeks away.  I'll get to happy... I'll get past the part where I thought I could... I planned in my head... I checked the flights... to leave next week.  But not tonight.  Tonight I am angry that my facilitator acted unprofessionally and unethically and put another family first to cover her ass.  I had the picture of celebration all picked out for this post... instead, it will say it in words only... no picture because I can't find one to say I wish I felt this way but right now I feel let down.  June 1st... I should leave on May 20th. And that, I've waited a long time to say.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

11 Long years

Yesterday - April 30th was 11 long years since our accident.  April 30th 12 years ago, Scott asked me to marry him.  Down on one knee in the red Utah dirt, he told me I am his best friend and that he wanted me to be his wife.  I, for the only time in my life, was speechless... I cried the biggest, happiest tears and he knew... but I didn't tell him for 4 days until he reminded me at the turn off for Vegas that I should probably make it official by saying yes... so I did.  11 years ago I went from having my heart race from finally being called Mrs and from the anticipation of what our lives would be like as we continued to grow together as a family to the devistation of starting over at 25 as a widow.  Who knows how to do that? Who knows how to say goodbye to their best friend, their husband and the father of the children we had all planned out while trying to say goodbye to your own childhood?  Nothing like a fat brick wall introduction to life isn't fair.  I struggled - I struggled hard - I'm not sure that anyone really knows how hard I struggled - I hid it well - kept a stiff upper lip and hid behind a persona of I'll be OK - it's what I do.  Saying goodbye to dreams, to a life, to your best friend, to my everything was devistating and has taken a long time to crawl back up from.  Time passes, people move on and forget.  Only a couple people even remembered or noted that yesterday was the hardest day of my life... followed by about 2 years of unbearable pain and muddling through the day to day.   At the very least, 2 years were a blurr... I don't remember how I made it through but I know I finished my degree, made the deans list, competed in triathlons, did the half iron man, raced, trained, swam (because you can't bawl under water), started a career, said goodby to Scott's company, clung to friends and family, and lived by the mantra, "remember to breathe" - I was numb... for a long long time. 
I still feel him with me - although not as often or perhaps as strong as I did before... but he's here.  I don't know how often I dream about him... but on the night of the 30th I did. Vivid and clear - he was with me for that night.  And when I remembered in the morning, I was glad... glad that he still is with me...
Scott was my best friend, my encouragement, the person I aspired most to be like.  He was smart, and funny, and honest, and kind not to mention tall dark and so very handsome.  He made me want to be a better person.  I loved the way he made me feel and how he did that for everyone in his own special way.  He had a knack of making people feel good about themselves and a knack for making them smile. 
I wanted what every wife wants - I wanted to grow old, I wanted quiet walks on the beach hand in hand, I wanted to raise a family, I wanted to celebrate life.  Oh how dreams change.  Now, as a result of changing the way dreams happen  but not the dreams themselves, I am bringing home an amazing little boy who I can't wait to be Mama to.  I will get to hold someones hand on a beach - it will just be smaller.  I will have a new life to celebrate and I'll see it through brand new excitement and little innocent eyes.  I will raise a family - I'll be raising a son.  Sometimes the dreams you think you lost, they just take awhile to take new form and maybe it takes awhile to recognize that they are the same dreams, just wrapped up a little different than you thought.  Sometimes, those dreams just take extra time to come into focus... sometimes it's just a long way home. 
11 years ago I lost my best friend, this year, I am so looking forward to reclaiming some of my dreams.  I'm looking forward to having a place to put my heart each day and night.  While I don't want my son to carry the burden of my happiness or of my saddness, I do want him to know that I have thought about him for 11 long years.  I remember being in Revelstoke looking for Chuck and announcing that maybe I'd had my one true love in life - maybe that would be all that I would get... and if that were the case, I'd still be a mom.  I'd adopt - and I'd have a family.  11 years ago, long before you were even a thought, I wished you into my life... and soon, here you will be.  Happiness shared is happiness doubled - I can't wait for icecream, and playgrounds, and play dates, and running through the sprinkler in the sun.  On a day that was so filled with dispair and tears, Corbin, you now give me the dream to look forward with fresh eyes of hope.  Meeting you has given me a reason to smile... and to love.  Baby boy, I can't wait to fill my time with happy gigles, laughter and so much love.  The best thing Scott taught me to do was love with my whole heart, ripped wide open ready to accept the most innocent, honest and amazing love... that's what Scott taught me... and I can't wait to give all of my heart and all of my soul to you.  Thank you Scott for teaching me to love in a way that I am looking forward to teaching a little boy who is so very deserving of it. I wish you could meet him... I wish he could meet you... somehow, I'm certain that you already have.  Thankyou for whatever hand you may have had in bringing Corbin into my life. 
I know that someday in heaven, we'll get that walk hand in hand on the sandy beach and maybe then, I'll understand.  For now, I'll just love, the way you taught me... I'll go on loving you and my son and whatever life may hold because loving you that way - even though I lost you... is the only way I know how to love. Thank you for that. Thank you for you. I miss you always and am thankful for my Ravens and the times I know you are near.  Stay with me Boo, I still like you being around.
Love always Kid.