Saturday, November 7, 2009
October 22, 2009:
As usual Casey and I popped up around 5:00am as we had been doing every day. However, there wasn't any daylight until around 9:00am and so it seemed as though the morning time was much earlier. We got a free breakfast with our room and so we made this our main meal of the day. In the evening, we tried to eat inexpensively, to save money. This entire process is so extremely costly and money is very tight right now with the economic recession. Plus, the fact that we are such a big family is quite expensive.
Each step of this adoption has been a financial struggle for us and we are quite dependent of the foreign fees being covered (for the most part) by our $6800 grant from Until All Have Homes. Which I have been stressing about, as when I wrote to Ann Grabeman (several times) before we left to see Vika, I had not received any response. In the past she has also responded to me within a day or so. It had been several weeks and many emails later that I had been trying to contact her. Plus, we have now been required to do the 8 doctor medical exam in Moscow which is an extra $1700. Sadly, we have already paid and completed these exams in the USA!!!
Anyway...after breakfast we went to the lobby to wait for Yuri to pick us up. He and our translator, Tatiana, we already waiting for us in the lobby. He had documents he wanted to go over with me. After our discussion we all got into the car to see our precious Vika. When we arrived at the orphanage she was working on her math in her classroom. I think she is at about at a beginning third grade level in my home-school.
She is not multiplying or dividing. But, she is adding and subtracting two digit numbers. The twins learned that last year and refreshed it at the beginning of this school year. They are now adding and subtracting four digit numbers and learning their multiplication table. Further, they have had experience in measurement and fractions. I did see measurement but, did not see fractions or multiplication until much later in her math book.
Anyway...back to our visit....she was thrilled to see us and ran over to give us a hug and some kisses. After she resumed her seat with the other little boy in her class, her teacher had her finish her current work and then released her and the little boy from class. The little boy ran off to play and we remained in the classroom to visit with Lexi. I asked her if she could read a little reader I had found on the bookshelf which had the number three on it. I assumed it was a third grade reader. She took the book and began to read smoothly....in Russian, of course. Which is wonderful, as it means, she will also be able to eventually read in English as well.
The best part was it gave me some insight into what level of learning to begin with her. Of course, learning English will be our biggest goal, along with dealing with her medical issues. I think math will keep her confidence up. So, if she gets frustrated with tasks which require English, I can switch her to math where she can regain her confidence. She is very bright and not too far behind, academically, when one considers she is living in an institutional setting. I know she will get to her grade level quickly. She is so smart. I love her dearly. Not only is she smart, but, she is such a sweet and loving little girl!!!
Tatiana said we were moving to the room we were in yesterday. Shortly after that a lady came in and we followed her to the playroom. Casey was carrying a Walmart sack with several things we had brought for her. Once we settled into the play room she asked if the bag was for her;-). Funny girl....of course it's for her!!!! She was carrying the photo album I gave her the day before and she had placed all of her pictures into it.
I had a package of labels for her to stick onto the pages and label the pictures. I gave this to her and with our translator's help we explained to Vika what they were for. Next, we looked through the pictures stored in my camera and if she had one of those in her album she would point it out to me. Her memory skills are excellent. She made quite a game out of finding pictures that she now owned. Again and again we went over every one's names. She was especially interested in the girls' names and asked several times; "Now, what are the names of my girls?".
When she saw pictures of Duane she would point and say " my Papa". It was so cute, as she has such a love for her family, and for a Papa she spent so little time with last year. I had brought a package with two disposable cameras and I explained to her how they worked. She insisted on taking a picture of Casey, Tatiana, and myself. Sort of practicing with working the camera. I explained to her that she should take pictures of her orphanage, her friends, and care providers that she loved and wanted to remember. She agreed and put the camera away with the other one. I brought two of them for her. Then she spied the Barbie doll!!!
Casey pulled the doll out of the bag. She was jumping up and down and her smile was huge. He got this big hug from her when he gave her the Barbie doll we had purchased yesterday at the toy store. She was so thrilled!!! It was very cute and I knew she would admire her new Barbie doll long after we returned to the USA. She was so cute about it with her face glowing brightly!!! After she had calmed down a little bit, we talked to her about, her upcoming move to America. She is very ready to go and happy about it. The little darling has complete trust in me and knows that she will be well cared for in her new home.
One important thing....Yuri needed to know a name for the court petition and so I asked her about her name. She really made me laugh as when I said that I wanted to talk to her about giving her a name...she responded with "Mama, I already have a name!". That was so very cute!!! I told her that her "Russian" name of Vicktoria is very beautiful. It is a name she should always keep. But, she needed an American name also.
She asked if I had a name in mind for her. I said I did and it was Alexis. A short way of saying Alexis is Lexi. So, most everyone would actually call her Lexi. She gave a big grin and said "A-lex-is". She would say it a couple of times and continue to play. Then, after a short while, she looked up and asked me; "Now what is my name again, Mama". We all just laughed at her serious question. She laughed too once it occurred to her that she was funny.
Then she said it several more times until she was smoothly saying it. That was precious to hear!!! She also asked if all girls in America had this name. I told her maybe some did, because it was a beautiful name, and that many Americans loved it. But, it was not likely that anyone would have the name of Alexis Vicktoria Gartner. it was something that only she would have in America. This seemed to please her as she responded with "Good". Since I had her attention, I also asked her if she knew, who God was. She said it was a really nice man who lived in the beautiful part of the blue sky;-).
After a little time admiring her new doll, and practicing her name, she came over to me and took my face into her hands. Then she asked me in Russian "Mama, will I really go to America to live with you??? Will I really and truly??? Tell me so I will know." This brought tears to my eyes and to hers as well. I took her onto my lap, held her close to me, and told her that Mama and Papa loved her very much. We have every intention of taking her to America, to be our little girl, our daughter. I also told her that the other children at home are waiting for her anxiously!!! Particularly, Ana is waiting for her and everyone will love her dearly.
As I looked deeply into her beautiful blue eyes, I also told her that we would be back for court in November, and then she would get to go home in early December. She hugged my neck and was satisfied. Lexi said to me "I am glad I will be with you in America. I will have my Mama. The mamas here can't take care of everyone in one day. Then each night they go home to their own family. Now I will be home with my own family and you will not go away." I assured her that she was correct. I will be her mother forever. She went to look into the bag again.
Next, she pulled out the game-boys in the bag and asked "What is this?". Boy, was that a mistake, as it was all consuming for her!!! Casey sat beside her and played Mario on two players. I had brought an extra game-boy so she and Casey could play together. Guess I am "Americanizing" her from the word...."go"!!! She was completely enthralled and would scold Casey if he won. Of course, it was playful scolding, as she is so sweet natured. Casey just loved it...but, he let her win most of the time while showing her new skills. They had a blast for the rest of the morning.
As our morning visit concluded, she did what she had for the previous visits. Lexi painfully went down all five flights of stairs to see us to the exit. She was quite the little trouper. Her love for us has given her a strength to do what we are told is not often done by her....climb stairs. Casey and Tatiana got their coats on. I was in such a rush that morning that I forgot my coat. Casey had worn his to breakfast and I did not. Since Yuri and Tatiana were waiting for us, I became so excited to go and see her, that I walked right outside the Hotel without it. The sharp cold immediately reminded me of my mistake.
The Russians always have very warm cars and so I declined to waste any of my precious time with her on returning upstairs to our room for my coat. I told Tatiana (who was a bit freaked out over not getting my coat) that I would only be going from the car to the back door of the orphanage. It was warm in the car and so I was not really cold. Well, Lexi did not quite see it that way. As when I told her I forgot my coat...she shook her little finger at me and clucked!!! She told me "Mama...you will get sick. Promise you will never go out again without your coat!!!" So I had to make a solemn promise to "never" do that again...haha;-).
Casey and I went on our walk once we were returned to the Hotel. When Tatiana dropped us off she said Yuri would have our petition for court ready for me to sign this afternoon. She also said that our visit in the afternoon would only be a couple of hours as they had much work to do to prepare for Lexi's adoption. This would be our final visit with our little lamb. Oh how I dreaded returning without her. I can only imagine how difficult it will be to leave her after court. However, soon she will be with her family and home with us for many years.
In the afternoon, she was not in class, as she had been during the morning. Lexi was wandering the hallway looking for us to arrive. She was so excited when she saw us walking toward her. Her sweet little face just lit up like a glowing sun. The rays of her smile warmed my heart as it pounded with the joy of seeing her. She limped quickly to us and threw her arms around my waist. Then in Russian she said good afternoon to me and was quite surprised when I returned her greeting in Russian. I then told her "Ya tibya lou-blue...dara guya dochinka" meaning "I love you, my dear darling daughter." Her eyes got bright and she looked into mine and she said "I love you too, Mama."
We followed her to her bedroom this time. There were three other beds in her room. The three beds were on one side of the room and Lexi's bed was on the opposite wall. Unfortunately, the others in the room were boys. I just hated to know she was rooming with three little boys. It just seems to me that she needs more privacy. We all sat down at the table in her room. The little boys kept running in and out of the room and distracting our visit. Finally, Tatiana became frustrated with the situation and went to talk to one of the caregivers. A few minutes later the director came to us and took us to Lexi's classroom.
This worked out fairly well after the boys were locked out of the classroom. I asked Lexi if she would let me measure her for her new clothes that I would bring for her upon my return. She was very excited to know that she would have all new clothes. She asked if these clothes were really brand new from the store and just for her only. Lexi had a huge smile on her face when I told her that they were her clothes, brand new, and only she would wear them. Although, I would not bring them until Papa and I came to take her forever. I just wanted to cry...but, I gulped it down and just held her in my arms for a moment.
I then began to measure her body and arm length. I also measured her legs and I did not see a difference in the length, but it could have just been the way she stood to compensate for the difference. I almost think she has issues with her hip joint on that side. I'm sure walking lop-sided is also affecting her opposite hip. She is in pain with every step. I also noticed that she looses her balance. Although, she is very good at catching her balance and steadying her stance. Lexi is a hardened veteran of this situation and seldom expresses pain verbally. As she walks, it is apparent that it hurts her, and to climb five flights of stairs to be with us that extra couple of minutes just breaks my heart.
How I look forward to the day when she will get on that jet to America with us and never return to poverty....or so I pray, as her mother, that she will be prosperous here in America always. Next, I placed a piece of copy paper on the floor so that I could mark her feet. As I knelt before this darling child, I felt extremely honored, just to touch her feet. What a miracle of God to be in Russia and kneeling here with my child He has given to us. She giggled as I drew around her little foot. They were so stinky and I giggled, too. Although, she did not know I was giggling at her stinky feet. It was a very cute experience with her.
I look forward to the day I shampoo her hair and bathe her thoroughly. As my friend Charlotte...asked one time; "How long does it take to bathe all of your girls?" I said about 30 minutes. She laughed and said "What are you doing...spit shinning those kids!!!" It was very funny and it popped into my mind as I drew her feet....I can't wait to "spit-shine" my girl. All of the clothes that I have bought for her are waiting to be her own. I could just visualize her excitement when she sees the cute jeans and tops. Soon!!! Lexi is quite a bit smaller than I remembered her to be.
Tatiana told me that she had visited yesterday with the workers while we played with Lexi. They told her that for the last year and a half Vika has told everyone that "Ana's mama was her's too and that Mama was coming back for her". This worried the workers as she had no appetite during this time and lost about 6 kilograms or about 13-15 pounds. Each day she would ask "Is this the day my Mama will come to see me?" they knew she meant Ana's (Katie Aunna) mother. Lexi's faith just makes me weak with the desire to make her dream come true. Also, they said she missed Ana and felt alone. It just broke my heart.
The woman who is partial to Lexi told Tatiana that, a few days before our visit, Lexi asked her usual question. They told her "no, but soon your mama will come". They said she was so excited that she could not concentrate on her school work that day. She also got up very early the last few mornings and had watched for us to drive up to the orphanage. Apparently, unknown to me, she had been watching out the classroom window when we pulled up. But, she did not see our car drive up because we came into the back entrance rather than the front where her classroom window is located!!! That's how we surprised her when we opened the classroom door;-).
Anyway, after I measured her, she asked if Casey brought the game-boys. He did not have his, but had instead, he had brought the other one for her to play with. Casey wanted to spend time just teaching her some skills in playing the game. It was very cute, as she would ask him to help her, and show her new tricks. It just amazed her and she enjoyed playing it like a true American kid!!! I must admit that she did amazingly well in gaining skills. Watch out kids...after the long plane ride she will be pretty good at it!!!
As she sat there playing and concentrating I said; "Lexi".....and her head popped up. I smiled as I realized that she had accepted her new name and was responding to it. Our two hours was flying past us as I watched the hands on my watch almost in fast motion. I wanted to just stop time for a little while to be with her a few extra hours. Really, I wanted desperately to take her and run from the building. But, I knew very good and well, that would blow everything. So I just watched her playing and soaked in her presence.
Several times, I would stand behind her and memorize every detail. I watched how her little hands worked the toy, the braids in her hair, her shoulders rising and falling as she breathed. Periodically, I would wrap my arms around her where she sat playing and hug her. She would bow her head down to my snuggling arms and give me a quick kiss on the arm. She did that every single time I hugged her. She continued to play the game, although I could tell, she loved me hugging on her and kissing the top of her hair. I think the hugs and kisses were more wonderful to her than the game. It enhanced her desire to play as she knew she would continue to get affection from me regardless of her activity;-).
Only too soon Yuri came into the room. He talked to me a little while about the court petition and court. He also told me that he asked the orphanage director to have Lexi's paperwork ready by the 6TH of November. Yuri said he felt like the third week of November was likely to be our court date. My heart raced as I dreaded hearing the words that would end our visit. While Yuri spoke with me, Lexi stood there with her arms wrapped around my waist, looking up into my face. I knew she was memorizing me as I had done earlier with her. She laid her head on my chest and I almost think she was listening to my racing heart.
Before we left the classroom, she went over to her desk, and took out a beautiful piece of art she had made for me. Apparently, Yuri knew about this project of hers. Back in the summer Lexi gathered flowers and she dried and pressed them. Then she managed to get a small cardboard backing. Like one that would have been behind a tablet of paper. She painted highlights onto the cardboard and then glued the flowers and leaves onto the painted cardboard. It was a gift to her Mama. She was so sure that I was coming she prepared a gift for me!!! I can not tell you how that blew my mind. It was carefully protected inside of a magazine she had been given. Oh how my heart soared with pride and swelled with love. This child has the faith of a Saint!!!
Yuri lead us out of the room and down the stairs as she came along in her labor of love. Her desire to see us for just a few extra moments over rode her pain. Oh, how I treasure those few moments!!! Lexi was pleased when Casey got my coat and helped me into it. She said I am a good Mama...LOL!!! I wanted to cry as we left, but, I did not want her to have that vision in her mind and so I smiled as we walked off. She turned to go to her floor and begin her journey of love back up those stairs. It flew into my mind that Casey and I would not be helping her back up the stairs and it saddened me. Even though, I knew it was only temporary, it still made me feel sad and alone as we left.
Each time I turned around to look at her...she also turned and kept blowing kisses to me and I the same. As I got into Yuri's car, I looked at a motion I saw in the second floor windows. Apparently, she had rushed to get to those windows to waive goodbye. Her little hand was enthusiastically waiving goodbye to us and throwing kisses!!! As we pulled away, she went form one window, to the next waiving to us. I could only imagine how difficult that was for her and it is still a memory so fresh...it seems only moments ago. For as long as I live, I will never forget those moments, where she raced from one window to another along the second floor hallway;-).
Once we returned to the Hotel...Casey and I splurged and went to a restaurant called Leto's to celebrate our new family member. As we walked along the street in Murmansk, my heart throbbed with the stinging pain of not seeing her again for the next month. Also, I felt a heavy burden of knowing it is unlikely, I can afford to remain in Murmansk during the 10-day post court waiting period. It would cost us an extra $3,000 to stay all that time, and this is such a financial stretch, as it is. So, I am praying God will keep her safe and that the other children will not pick on her, now that she is leaving them for a life in America. Please, pray with me as we wait...that she will be safe, comforted, and the adoption process will be completely successful. Many blessings...Lexi's Mama!!!