Thursday, March 15, 2012

WOW...How time has flown!

It has been a year since we met Leigah in the small apartment of her foster mom, Maija. So much has happened and at this point I wish I had been a better "blogger" to record all the events, firsts and down right funny things that have happened. Let me try to pick up where I left off in September.... Our flight left Riga on September 16th, 2011 after we spent some time with Maija, Valdies and Kate at the airport. They came bearing gifts and chocolates for everyone, even the boys back at home. After many tears, kisses and pictures, the three of us girls got on our flight to Helsinki and then to Chicago. As soon as Leigah stepped off the plane in Chicago, she was an official US Citizen and she literally jumped all the way to the gate. I didn't turn to see the looks of the surrounding passangers but could only imagine, cuz I knew what I was thinking. And I knew why! We went through customs without any problems and then headed to take care of her immigration paperwork. We were given this bundle of papers from the US Embassy with detailed directions to not open, hurt or basically breath on these papers until they were handed to the right people in Chicago. These papers were super important because at every check in at the airports we used these to show her new name that matched her passport but it also gave her alias (original name) which matched her airplane ticket. Going through immigration wasn't to hard either, except I forgot to throw away the banana from the plane and forgot that I had packed several pomegranets (sp). When we were done we went to wait for our flight to St. Louis, which was one delay after another. It was such a blessing to finally get on the plane and be headed to our boys! Back to present time.... The last year has had it's ups and downs, all days are good, just some days are better. Leigah has done an incredible job learning English, American social skills and trying to make friends. As the year has progressed we have been able to see more mental delays, short term memory issues and frustrations that come both those areas. We have moved to New Mexico from Missouri and she is making friends with children at the Children's Home we are at. I'm praying that the novelty of her being from Latvia doesn't wear off like it did with some of the kids from church in Missouri. I want her to be like any other kid that walks into a room, with exception of an accent. She still doesn't know how to start or hold a conversation with her peers but we are working on this and hoping that she is learning. Well, that's all for now. Maybe I'll try to write again...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Knowing that our plans were almost non-existent, we slept as long as possible today. I ended up doing the same thing as yesterday but this time I also brought up bowls & spoons so the girls could at cereal we brought. We watched a movie & some cartoons on TV and then called for a cab to take us to the Embassy. As I said it is a new building & the taxi driver didn't have a clue where it was and even though she had the address, she got semi-lost, on my dime! There are 3 entrances and we hit dropped off at the delivery one...needless to say, we got back in the cab and she drove to the other entrances. We asked her to wait because it was only going to take 5-10 minutes. We went on & waited, when a last walked in with very good english and I asked if get name was Shelly (because Shelly was supposed to pick up visas for her two boys they were adopting.) The huge grin told me yes and we embraced each other. You know, there is a bond between adopting families that can't be completely understood by everyone else, so the hug was a natural response. For the next several minutes we talked until my name was called and I was given Leigah's travel documents to give to the authorities in Chicago. She gave me the citizenship low-down and I asked a few questions...but not without bawling - for soooooo many reasons! We are done #1, she is officially our daughter & we are headed home!

When we arrived back at the B&B we cleaned up and headed back out to meet with Maija, Leigah's foster momma. She came with Valdis & little Kate. We went to a nice Italian restaurant and truly enjoyed each others company. Leigah alled Maija to tell me how to make her favorite soup, so when we were she with dinner she walked with us to the grocery store and pointed out all the ingredients. A few I'm not certain we have at home, so I bought them. After many hugs and pictures, we headed back.

Ann and fam showed up shortly after we did (9:45) and the adults talked & laughed ourselves to tears in one room and the girls watched a movie in the other. Around 1 am, we figured we should head to bed. But of course I'm writing this, so it's considerably later!!

More tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

US Embassy!!!!

No one wanted to get out of bed today. But I really wanted to talk with Ann before the headed out for Daugauvpils. I quickly got dressed, brushed my hair into a ponytail (which was interesting because the curls were so tight from the rain storm that I looked like Orphan Annie on Steroids!) I wasn't hungry but knew it would be easier to wait in the breakfast area with a cup or two of coffee than stand outside their door. I must have dozed because I didn't even hear or see them come in until Ann in a strange accent said, "may we join you?" Ok, I'm awake now!!!

We talked over coffee or tea and a lite breakfast. We headed back to our rooms around 8:45, they packed their travel bags and went to the lobby to wait for their cab. I attempted to wake the girls but they weren't budging. So I laid down to read and fell asleep until 10:50. Breakfast ends at 11 and I was suppose to pick up Leigah's passport after 11... we were gonna have to get moving. I went back down and grabbed the girls a hot cup of water for each of them (for hot cocoa) and more coffee for me. Toasted a few pieces of bread and slathered butter on. The girls showered, quickly ate and we dashed out the door. The passport was ready and we were in and out in less than 10 mins.

The walk back was much more relaxed and not as rushed.

We exchanged money at the bank and the girls tried to be very patient because it takes forever to do so.

We grabbed a few pastries and peragies at a nearby cafe. We looked at the time and realized we were running late again. But Micah kept stopping for pictures:

Daina and Arvils were going to be at our place to pick us up for the Embassy in just a few minutes. So we became speed walkers!!!

The new US Embassy is no longer easily accessed from the main part of Riga. It has recently been moved by the airport. It is very nice inside but looks much like a prison on the outside. Daina had gone their earlier today and dropped off all the necessary paperwork besides what I had. I gave our notarized income verification (hubby is a minister and they have untaxed housing allowance, so it looked like we were making thousands of dollars less than what we make - almost stopped adoption at one point but this paper cleared it all up), Joe's notarized copy of his passport and the Joe's notarized signature on the Acknowledgement of health concerns/issues. We waited about 25-30 minutes and we were approved for Leigah's immigrant visa. We will go back tomorrow between 3-4 to pick it up and then we are officially done with the adoption besides making it in the states and past customs. As soon as Leigah steps on US Soil she will have a US citizenship status, as well as a Latvian citizenship. She will have this until she is 18 and at that time will need to choose a country of citizenship.

We are happy this is over but fall more in the tired and cranky category. Hoping to sleep in and really have no plans for the day tomorrow other than to pick up Embassy paperwork. We are trying to set up a time to meet with Leigah's foster mom, Maija and the children in her home but so far it hasn't worked out. We have all afternoon tomorrow and all day Thursday.

I'm heading to bed y'all! The pictures throughout this post were ones Micah took on our walk this morning. Some are the Embassies for other countries - we'd love to show you the Latvian, Ukrainian, Russian and American but none of them allow pictures to be taken!!!! So hope you enjoyed the random pics. Micah really likes the Art Nouveau style and the moldings on the buildings.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dr. Appt., a trip to Lido and emotions!!!

That was an interesting nights sleep! Anyway...

Daina got here a little early and we headed down to see her. The trip to the Dr.'s office took about 3 mins because it's literally just a few blocks from here. We handed over all the medical documents we had and she reviewed them, filled out all our documents for the US Embassy. Leigah was supposed to give a urine sample and for my child that usually has to use the restroom at least 1-2 times/hour ~ SHE COULDN'T GO!!! So while waiting for them to finish the paperwork, we headed to the cafe in the building we were in, which by the way is: The World Trade Center Riga! We enjoyed coffee or Coke till Leigah's bladder was full!! We went back to the office so she could do her business and the secretary could finish the last line of paperwork.

From there we went a few blocks down the road to the Latvian Republic office for a new passport for Leigah that has her new name. It was a very easy process, especially since Daina is there with you. The funniest part is because it is a Latvian Passport and I'm mom ~ I had to write a sentence in Latvian stating that I agree with all the dates and names. They said I wrote latvian very well (they did have a cheat sheet)! The lady thtat helped us told me to return tomorrow after 11am.

We quickly returned to our place, Daina came and got the suitcase full of jeans, hoodies and sweatshirts for the orphanage in Jurmala. She was headed there with another adopting family. We also brought a bag of "dum-dum" suckers and a couple jump ropes for the children. We checked in on the Kimmel crew but they were not there. We changed clothes and headed to the trolley bus/tram stop and rode #7 to Lido on the other end town.

Lido is a cafeteria style restaurant and the servings are ginormous. So we picked 2 meat choices, french fries and mashed potatoes,

Peragi for each of the girls

strawberry pancake, banana pancake and a ham & cheese pancake (this one isn't shown).

The girls thoroughly enjoyed eating in the old, medieval style restaurant. The food was yummy and they were so concentrated on their food, they didn't even know I was busy taking their pictures. :)

We were too full to eat dessert but they are so pretty and not very expensive desserts, so I let each of the girls pick their favorite visually and had them boxed to go. We walked around the complex but the sky started to get really dark and we decided we should head for the tram stop.

A few minutes after we got on the tram, the rain started. Then we had about 8-9 blocks to walk and the rain came down in sheets. By the time we reached our place Micah had given up on her umbrella, even though we had one Leigah and I were drenched.

After changing into dry PJ's, we spent the next 3+ hours with the Kimmel family. The young girls watch cartoons and us adults gabbed about everything from home school - adoption - organization skills. We finally gave up and went to bed around 11pm. The Kimmel crew had to get up early the next morning to head to Daugavpils for their adoption court on Wednesday. They had to take the express bus from Riga to Daugavpils, which is at least a 3 hour bus ride.

The girls brushed their teeth finally and went to bed and here I am writing this. I am missing my boys. I can't wait to hold them in my arms on Saturday night. I know they are enjoying hanging out in their boxers but still have to do school work. Right now I am really struggling with lots of stuff. Besides jet-lag, I had a tooth pulled surgically before leaving and I think I have a dry socket. The only things you can do for it is: salt-water rinse, antibiotics and pain meds ~ Check, check check! But in addition to that: Leigah had a weird day today. She is normal inquisitive but never intentionally disobedient but today she has a talkative spirit without filter and has directly disobeyed me on more than a handful of occasions. I'm not sure if she is insecure because we are here, tired, just hormonal or a combination of all and more. So I'm missing my other, better half - in pain - tired beyond belief - and dealing with a mess of a 12 year old. I have really gone out of my way to be snugly, encouraging and complimentary but she is struggling. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day. Guess we will see...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Happy 14th Birthday Micah!!!

So what does a 14 year old girl want for her birthday, well mine wanted to come to Latvia to complete the adoption of her younger sister. She actually paid for her passport and over $200 of her ticket. She brought her own spending money and is doing well holding on to it until today.

We got up, showered, ate breakfast and walked to the train station (2+ miles away) to go to Jurmala, a Baltic sea town. We made a few stops along the way for something to drink, Latvian made perfume, a few souvenirs for the boys at home and a small snack. I very confidently purchased our tickets (only had said confidence thanks to Stephanie Norman & Linda Smith's instructions). We made up the stairs in perfect time to board the train and take off. Leigah started having a good
conversation in Latvian with a Russian Babushka (grandma). The kind lady asked her about Micah and me, where we were headed, why was she with Americans and then asked her how she liked America and her new family. After a short 30 min ride we got off at Jurmala. This is where Micah wanted to go. I think it had more to do with the train ride because I promised her years ago we would take one.

We didn't waste any time getting to the beach.

After hanging out on the beach for at least 2 hours, we walked the length until we came to a WC - TOILET!!!! The WC was the first thing on the road that led off of the beach to the shopping strip of Jurmala. We found a very busy cafe and bought the girls each a bottle of Coke, tea for me and Peragies for each of us and 2 sweet pastries to share. Micah, the child that is super picky asked for another peragi. These are meat, onion w/ salt & pepper wrapped with bread dough, brushed with egg white and baked to golden brown. The first ones we tried were shredded pork w/o onion. Then we tried the bacon & onion ones. MMMMMMmmmmmm!!!!!!

After a little more souvenir shopping, we headed back to the train station. It was a quiet and relaxing ride back to Riga.

I was trying to have a full day at the beach but was chomping at the bit to get back to the B&B. Why? Well, Ann Kimmel, her mom, Diane and daughter, Alina were due to arrive at the B&B anytime in the middle of the afternoon. You see Ann & I connected in early Feb 2010 because we were both attempting to adopt foster sisters, Inessa and Meggie from Viesite. We traveled this journey together yet never meeting in person. In the fall of 2010 we were both heart broken with disappointment and confusion when both of these girls (separately) changed their minds. We have privately shared our emotions with each other, bared our ugly, our crazy, our determined, our confused, our pull-your-hair-out-why-in-the-world-are-we-still-doing-this "sides" to each other. But it just so happened to work out that Ann was going to be in Riga at the same time I needed to be here for my 3rdtrip and Daina knew it all along. She asked if I wanted to come this week because I might actually know the family traveling then. ???The Kimmels, she said???? Ummmm, YES MA'AM!!!! So, when we got back and there was an email from Ann saying they were in but napping but would pop their heads up in about 2 hours....I got all antsy!!!

When a small knock came on the door ~ imagine two little kids at Christmas!!! I opened the door and we both did a happy dance and ran into each others arms!!! My Ann was in front of me. The one, besides Joe that has been unloaded the weight of my "stuff" during this adoption was in front of me! As she said, "There's a real person to attach to the name" (paraphrase)! Leigah and Alina looked at us like we were nuts ~ rightly so! We cleaned up a bit and headed to the grocery store with them, back to put away groceries and then to Double Coffee for dinner. The conversation was sweet, company comfortable and the food yummy! When we got back to the B&B we parted ways and headed to be but not without one last hug from the new "old" friends!

Tomorrow Daina will pick our family up at 11:45am to head to Dr. Caunes office for a physical of sorts. She will be clear on the medical concerns related to Leigah, look for any others and complete her latvian medical history. We have brought reports from our pediatrician, the lab work and immunization records.

The day has ended wonderfully and I think we will all be able to sleep very well, without waking up much tonight!!!! GoodNight!

Our trip to Latvia!

The girls for days have been super excited to travel and as I said a few days ago, Leigah kept giving us the countdown several times a day. We took several hours on Wednesday packing and finished the rest of it on Thursday night. We each had a backpack, a carry-on and we had 2 large suitcases. One of them was filled to maximum weight allowance with jeans, sweatshirts, sweaters, shoes, boots and few other items that were donated from us and friends for the Spiridtis Orphanage in Jurmala. The other large suitcase was just our shoes, hangers and all of our food and toiletries. Yeah it weighed 46# - heavy shoes, right?

Anyway, the cheapest flights this time were out of St. Louis on American Airlines/Finnair. I don't think Leigah ever got nervous but was giddy all day, clapping and jumping around. Micah on the other hand - she was excited but her tummy was butterfly filled. She almost hyperventilated on the first flight.

Take off from St. Louis

We made it to Chicago early but were given incorrect information from the information booth to take the tram from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5 for Int'l flights. So we waited and boarded the tram. When we made it to the actually terminal the information desk there said that we were supposed to be in Terminal 3. What I haven't told you yet is that we only had an hour layover. By this time it was 3:10 and our flight was to take off at 3:45. We quickly go back on the tram, headed for terminal 3 and ran to the AA information desk and they scrambled to get us boarding passes and praise the Lord we were given priority access because of the girls. Which meant we didn't have to stand in the long line for security. As soon as we got through there, which we got stopped because Leigah had packed scrapbooking scissors, we took off running. We had to run down a long stretch of gates from K-1 to K-37. We were the last 3 passengers to board and it was 3:35. We, with sweat dripping down our backs, quickly found places to store our carry-on baggage and then found our seats! Whew - we made it!!!!

The girls read their books, colored, enjoyed their drinks and started watching the movie that was showing. During dinner I gave each one a Melatonin to help them start getting sleepy - which worked but only for a VERY SHORT WHILE! Micah slept about an hour and Leigah slept about 2 hours but only 10 mins at a time. Every time the screen for the movie would change scenes the brightness changed and woke her. If I moved, she woke up. And every time she woke up, she asked, "how many more time till we get there?" I tried to sleep but between Leigah constantly waking and asking (and with waking came the inability to sit still and she elbowed me EVERY TIME) and Micah shifting - Yeah I might have slept 10 mins! Oh Well!!! I did eventually tell Leigah that I was on the boarder of grumpy, that I needed to not be asked anything or elbowed and maybe just maybe I might come out of it! Micah gave up sleep and watched another movie, played on her Ipod or read. I put in my ear buds and cranked up 70's & 80's music and enjoyed the ability to escape for about an hour. Then they served breakfast and we were good from there on out. We landed in Helsinki, Finland with only an hour layover and easily went through passport security and to our gate!

The final flight was really short and we landed in Riga at 10:30 am. It was just long enough to get in the air, have juice passed out to everyone and then we landed. Leigah's giddiness was back!!!!! It was actually tough trying to reign her in by then. Lack of sleep and completely excitement - rough combination.

Our baggage made it there in one piece and we made it to the taxi station, paid, found an available taxi and were on our way to our B&B. The shuttle is 3 lats/person and can take up to an hour to get to your destination. The taxi is 10 lats up to 4 people and took about 20-25 mins. We checked in, unpacked, lounged for long enough to know we had to get out of here or we were going to out for the day!

We took the long way to the Cili Pica by Freedom Monument. We walked in and out of every shop on the way, just to kill time. By the time we got back to the B&B, it was around 3:30 and the girls could barely keep their eyes open and each one fell asleep by 4. They woke in the middle of night and watched a movie and ate some snacks but were back asleep within a couple hours and we were up and feeling fresh at 7:30am.

Will tell you about today's activities tomorrow!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Purpose of 3rd trip

What is the point of 3rd Trip?
* Visit with Embassy approved Dr. Caunes to verify medical records, immunizations and recognize any health concerns to notify the Embassy. Possible xray for older children and immunizations if not caught up. For future Latvian travelers: Have your child drink lots of fluids before go to the doctor. They have to give a urine sample and if empty bladder doesn't halt the process, nerves will.
* Visit Latvian Passport Office to get a new Latvian Passport with new name. We will pick up Passport the next day. Latvia recognizes the child as a citizen of Latvia and of United States - they will continue to have dual-citizenship until 18 where the child must decide where they want their citizenship to lie - Latvia or USA (unless Latvia law changes by then and states they can maintain dual-citizenship, which is actually possible.
* Go to US Embassy to give all documents from Dr. Caunes, I-800A, etc. to obtain immigrant visa.
* Pick up Visa the following day.

It's really not a long trip and as long as flights work out for you, you only have to be in country 3-4 days.