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.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

As we get closer to the finish line......

...I'm getting tired but excited for this 3rd & final trip. This last trip will make Leigah an all-American girl and as soon as she steps off the plane in Chicago she will be a US citizen. Leigah is counting the days and gives us the daily reminder actually several times a day. We have plans for meeting up with her foster mom, Maija, visiting 2 orphanages, visit with embassy approved Dr, visa/passport interview & pick-up, a trip by train to Jurmala (Baltic sea town) and officially meeting an adoption networking friend, Ann. Micah will celebrate her 14 birthday there, too!

As far as school goes, we are doing so well. Leigah had officially started schoolwork and is off to a good start. On Tues, the VI (visually impaired) teacher is coming over to do assessments on her. This wonderful lady is super exited that Leigah is home-schooled and that we are wanting help for her. We will find out after our trip their plans for her with the school district. This week we will add Math & Phonics. She is memorizing the pledge of allegiance in history. Its interesting to find out that Latvia does have a country song that is sung at ball games, Latvia's birthday but no pledge of allegiance.

On the home front, the kids are not excited for school to start because they can't be bumps on a log.

Until we are there....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Short but sweet...

Well, not much has changed in our life but I thought i'd check in.

This week I'm working on lesson plans for homeschool, as well as elementary age Wed. night curriculum. Its so hard to know exactly where to start with school with Leigah but this summer she did "summer school" and that short of have me a place to go from. She forges on in her schoolwork but forgets to ask for help or just choses to get things done fast & asking would take time. We will focus on letters & sounds, beginning language skills and early elementary American history, health & science. After I talk with the VI (visually impaired) resource teacher, I will figure out a math to work on. The girls will start school a week before the boys because they will miss a week of school when we go on our final trip to Latvia.

Which leads me to this 3rd & final trip. We still haven't booked our tickets yet. I have a friend with a lot of sky miles and he is looking at buying 2 of our tickets with his miles. That would be a ginormous blessing. W we only have to buy tuckers, pay for the B&B & food while there. These final costs are overwhelming me and stress me out.

Well I said this would be short, so I gotta get off of here! Probably going to be late for work at this point. Until next time.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Outta here...for now!!

Did most of my packing Tuesday night, so I was ready pretty quickly after breakfast. I had to exchange just enough money to pay for shuttle today & taxi the next time. I walked down a block & down another 3 to get to the bank. I also got a few things at the market for home. Leigah loves the black bread they have in Latvia. It's more than traditional rye/black bread, it also is sticky & sweet with molasses. I also picked up some candy, too.

My arrival to the airport was uneventful which is always nice. I finished checking in just about the time Leigah's foster mom showed up. She came with a flash drive of pictures of Leigah, medical & school documents. I have her pictures to take home. We talked a little longer and than she had to go.

I to my gate, waited & then boarded my flight to Prague. Easy flight with some turbulence but we made it there alive. T the next 19 hours were interesting as I waited for the next flight to Atlanta. I found a place to easy that had cushy booths but was closing their service area and made a pillow out of my purse & a T shirt. When I feel asleep around midnight I was the only one there. When I woke up around 4, there were at least 12. Guess I started a trend. Got up and changed clothes, deoderized and fixed my hair. There was a grocery store in the airport with fresh pastries & fruit, so I got both + a bottle of drinkable yogurt. Mmmmm...so good!!!

My plane to Atlanta took of off on time at 11:05 am & was okay. My legs & feet started swelling & getting but I was next to the window and I didn't want to wake the college guy up every hour!! Our drank a lot pic water and never had a lot of salt but my ankles look like elephant ankles. I'm currently waiting in Atlanta airport for my final leg of this journey. Only 2 more hours and I'm homeward bound. YEAH!!!!! YIPPEE!!!!!!

At least the next trip I will have the girls. This trip was awesome besides the travel because I was so blessed to be able to spend extra time with Daina & Cathy. It gave me ideas for the next trip!!! Will keep you posted for any new things in our life. As of right now we travel from Sept 8-17. Unless prices go down!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jurmala

Daina & crew picked me up a little after noon. The drive to Jurmala only took about 35 mins. But we weren't headed to the beach right away. We headed to an orphanage located in Jurmala. This orphanage houses 45 children from 0-24. The older ones are allowed to stay in a transition house & be supported if they are willing to work hard, study hard and help around the orphanage. There are currently 4 young adults in the transition home. We were privileged to meet all the children that were there because some were in town working. We were given a tour of the home. What was extra special was seeing where some kids that I know have been adopted used to live. To know that it was a clean place with gentle care takers that love the Lord and want what is best for these children. We sat with the social worker for this orphanage because the director is on vacation. The thing that surprised me yet made me smile is that she knew child by name. We asked so many questions I don't even remrmber them all. But one was what are some of their needs...jeans (all sizes), shoes (all sizes), school supplies, money specifically for the kids older than 18 to get care for their teeth. At 18 the gov't stops providing dental care. We met a young, 21 year old girl that used to live in the orphanage. She is the mommy to a sweet 9 month old son, Maris. The social worker said that she is a prime example of one that needs serious help financially for the dentist. The cost for filling 1 tooth, incl. novacaine is around 21 lats. We had tea and said our goodbyes.

We headed back to the touristy part. We walked through a section that had booth after booth of food, clothing, hats & socks and amber everything. We found stuff that we liked & could get later. We walked to the end of a road that went straight to the beach. The sand was very smooth and beautiful. Arvils, Daina's son encouraged us to walk into the water. IT WAS FREEZING!!! And the further you went out the colder it got. It felt like ice! We finished walking through touristy parts. Some strangely dressed folks there but we found out today was the beginning of a week long party. Everyone was awaiting a huge parade. We walked awhile longer and headed to the car. It was hard saying goodbye tonite to Cathy, her girls and Daina. But I will see them again -here, there or in the air!

I have everything packed and ready. I will eat breakfast here and be picked up by the airport shuttle at 11:50. My plane doesn't take off until 3 pm but I might as well get there. I am meeting Leigah's foster mom, Maija at 1 pm. My plane ride to Prague is around 2 hours but my layover will be 19 hours. Sp I need to figure out what to do besides sleep, which I eventually will do. Then off to Atlanta.

I am so excited to see my family at the end of the gate in Springfield, Thursday night. Then to start preparing for the final trip in September.

Monday, July 25, 2011

2nd court...

So after a fitful night of sleep, I woke up at 8:15. There were 4 girls using one small bathroom but we all got showers and were headed to breakfast by 9 am. We ate quickly knowing Daina was picking us up @ 9:30. We loaded up again and drive back to Riga.

The building for court was really a simple building with many court rooms. Apparently when Daina sends the paperwork to the court I it goes into the computer system and each case is randomly given a judge (like a lottery) by region. Not everyone goes to the same court that I went to. Another piece of important info. - most latviana take a 6 week vacation but judges take 8 weeks. If your paperwork arrives when the judge is a vacation, no court date is set until the judge returns.

I was nervous, I will not lie. Daina prepared me and her and I talked alot about Leigah and how well she is doing, attaching and learning. I had shown a video Leigah recorded for Daina to show her how much better she was speaking english. So all the typical stuff happened - showing of passport, acknowledging medical diagnosis, there were a lot of formalities with the prosecutor, orphan court representative, Daina and Dace, the translator. The judge asked if I wanted to speak or allow Daina to speak on my behalf. Ummmm...Daina can do it! She related what I had told her over our conversations and things I had told her over the last 4 months in emails. Then Inguna, orphan court rep. Spoke about our time here in Feb-Mar. Then I was asked how are relations with the family particularly me & Micah. I told then how close Leigah & Micah are, how she takes care of Leigah but also cares for her, how Ethan & her joke that they are the twins, how Joe & Leigah have bonded quickly because she has never had a daddy around and how she is an amazing little girl that FITS perfectly!! I also told how the school was excited to work with her and how we have contacted other resources for her. It was encouraging to see the judge smile. After approval from Daina, Inguna and prosecutor, the judge stepped to make her decision. Within five minutes she came back in and read the short version: grant us approval for adoption, change her name to Leigah Allana Friend and write us as her parents on her birth certificate. Then she left quickly. Daina smiled and said congratulations, it's a girl!!! That was it! From start to finish it lasted all of 45 mins.

Our group went to Lido to celebrate. Yummy!! Then I was dropped off so Daina could go work with a family for their 3rd trip. I took a small nap and then headed to the Galleria Riga for dinner. Walked all 5 floors at all the stores. I picked up some bottled tea and came back "home". The rest of the evening has been slightly boring, I can only understand one channel. Headed to bed very soon. Gnite!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Where to begin?

So today started just like yesterday...slowly get up, shower, get dressed & go eat a typical Latvian breakfast. After returning to my room, brush teeth, check emails while laying in bed, accidentally fall asleep...I woke to the sound of Daina knocking on my door. I love Daina and her incredible smile. After giving her a huge hug she came in to check out the place I'm staying to see if she would recommend this place to future traveling families. And yes, she would!

Cathy & the girls brought their extra luggage to my room and we all piled into Daina's SUV and away we went to Jelgava. This town us about an hour away. We were headed for the Palace that has been renovated to its original character of 1770's. We started our small walk to the palace and decided to use the restrooms that were on the way. All of us but Haley went in. I thought I had locked the door but apparently not because a 60+ year old man walked right in. I don't know who was more shocked him or me?! So in a very freaked out moment he tried to slam the door...but my purse was hanging on the handle and got stuck. Then he quickly tried another one, which Cathy was in-holding the door for all she was worth. Then he tried another, where Lindsey had apparently thought she locked the door but luckily for her, her reaction time was WAY quicker than mine. The hysterical laughter from his family, Daina & Haley was too much!! Daina says I have him a memory he will never forget-poor man!

We'd barely begun our day and we already had an awesome memory....
Anyway, for the next 2+ hours we walked around this palace and the outside garden. Everything was breath taking...What it's weird though & messes with your brain is how light it is outside. We loaded back up & headed to the town where Daina lives & went to her favorite restaurant... Super yummy, wonderful conversation and we were there so long that Daina asked us to her home. She stopped at the small market in town, picked up ice cream, tea & CocaCola. lol We were given a tour of her beautiful garden, home and sweet puppy dogs. We had an afternoon snack, so we thought but maybe an hour later we were leaving & it was already 8 pm but looked like maybe 5:30-6. We drive to our hotel in Jelgava, dropped off our luggage & headed to Cili Pica. We returned to the hotel around 10:30(ish) and quickly prepared for bed.

I got to talk to Joe & Keegan; Keegan left for CIY. I really miss their faces and talking with them everyday!!! But only 3 more days until I can be with them.

Tomorrow its court. I am still anxious but not as much because Daina talked to me about the procedure. I will let you know tomorrow.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The 2nd trip is underway & so far so good!
I left Springfield @6:30 am and arrived in Latvia @7:45 am Missouri time. There were a few delays but nothing major & I never had to run to a plane. I took the Baltic Air van to the B&B for only 3Lats. They are available at the airport & your hotel every 25 mins. .

My B&B is comfortable and quiet. I did get a little nervous when we piled up because there was graffiti on the front of the building but I honestly feel safe. It is a non-smoking establishment. Like most places in Latvia there, it doesn't have AC. But it wasn't uncomfortable at all because temps are in the 70's with a cool breeze. This morning I woke up wondering what breakfast would be....they had hard-boiled eggs, lham & cheese, freshly sliced veggies, sausage, today and free lattes! It was interesting and I wanted to just sit there and take it all in because no one was from Latvia. The couple I ate with were from Spain and we laughed alot without saying much because a bee flew in the window & decided he liked our table best.

After arriving yesterday, I cleaned up a bit and walked about 2 miles to one of many Double Coffees. I met Cathy & her girls there. Cathy's oldest daughter never slept on the plane & was struggling to stay awake but had such a great attitude. We decided to head back to our separate places because it started to drizzle. I made a stop for a fresh flower to put in my room and another to get some bottled water.

I didn't have any problems getting to sleep but woke up around 3am. I played a few games on my phone & then went back to sleep from 4-9.

Todays plans are to walk to the nearest perfume store. They are all over the town and their products are made in Latvia and are not too expensive. I may make it to the market but really have no plans.

Nothing too exciting going on. Until tomorrow night...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Off again....

So tomorrow I, Brenna, will head off to Latvia once again. I am traveling by myself for this 2nd trip and am feeling okay about this. I think if I had to do the 1st trip by myself I would be more nervous but I was fortunate to have Joe by my side every step of the way. Having spent 24 days in Latvia, I feel confident enough to make my way around the lovely city of Riga, Latvia.

My plane leaves Springfield, MO at 6:30am and from there I go to Memphis, TN & Atlanta, GA. I will board the ginourmous plane for Prague, Chech Republic and then to Riga. All in all I will be in the air 14 hours and total travel time from Springfield to Riga is 24 hours. Yes, unfortunately there are all those lovely layovers. The way there has shorter layover times. On my way back I will literally have just over 24 hours of layovers in 2 airports.

So the purpose of this trip is to go to the Latvian High Court on July 25th and be asked dozens of questions and then to make it official that Liga Lukasova becomes Leigah Allana Friend. She is beside herself with excitement knowing that she will be changing her name. The name change isn't actually official until a 20 day waiting period and approx. 10 days of paperwork waiting. After that we will return (Leigah, Micah and myself) for all her US Citizenship stuff with the US Embassy.

I'm not worried about the travel and not even really "worried" about the court but slightly anxious because of uncertainty. Our wonderful lawyer, Daina, has said that the orphan court is so happy with us and that we have all blended as a family with Leigah. It's just the unknown and during those times I look to Joe. Guess I will be looking to Daina. I know some of the questions are supposed to be: "Why do you want to adopt? Why from Latvia? Why a child with special needs? What have you been doing with Leigah in the last 4 months? How have you worked on her schooling? How has her english improved? Medically speaking, what have you done? What are your future plans for her medically, educationally, socially, spiritually?" Just to name a few. I've been told this court can last 20 mins or 2 hours. I think that big gap is what has me anxious.

On the homefront news:
Leigah, Ethan and Micah are all at camp as I write this. I went to visit them last night and they are all having an incredible time. Leigah was slightly sunburned on her nose and cheeks but besides that she was having a blast. She talked a mile a minute about things people say, songs they learned, funny stories, etc. The adult staff has taken to her immediately. The campers have mixed reactions. Some thought that she was mentally retarded because she couldn't talk like them. Some love her accent and just want her to talk, some are enjoying the novelty of Leigah all day/everyday, while others are interested for a few minutes and then are off doing their own things. Micah is such an amazing big sister. She helps Leigah in everything. I'm so proud of the young woman she is becoming. She's strong of heart and mind, but especially character. Ethan was really sunburned and was glad he had his momma there for a few hours. He's already showing signs of distress over me leaving, especially since he is at camp and can't be there at the airport. I think it's a God thing. The airport is toooo hard. Keegan and Joe are currently Kayaking with Joe's older brother down the Nianga River (close to here) and won't be home till this evening.

Joe and Keegan will take me to the airport tomorrow morning, so that I can be there by 5:30am. That means we have to leave no later than 4:15am. UGH!!! I think I may just stay up all night and then be so tired later when we are on our long flights. I say we because my adoption coordinator, Cathy Sawyer, is also headed to Latvia with her two teenage daughters at the same time. We will fly from Atlanta to Prague to Riga together. Okay, that's probably another reason why I'm no too nervous about traveling. We have made plans to eat dinner together after getting settled in our hotels. Saturday they have no plans but I want to venture to the North end of Riga to a mall that has a large RIMI store (kinda like a Target) and it has tons of books in Latvian that I want to purchase for Leigah. But we'll see how it goes.

Well, I will do my best to keep you all posted on the ins & outs of this trip. No one says much about this 2nd trip because it is so short but again that instilled uncertainty in me!

Chat with you when I'm on the other side.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hello again...

When a member of our family is on the toilet a long time, it its asked of them if the fell in....

Well, I've been off here for some time and no I haven't fallen in. Life happens and busyness interrupts!! The Friend family is doing good. I know we have said this and that seems like a simple answer but we are good. Let me explain...Micah has been the only little girl in our everyday lives for 13 years. Her & I went on girl outings, laughed together, had our own jokes, she was the first born grandbaby girl on both sides and I have often said if your daughter could be your best friend, next to Joe, Micah was mine. (Yes, I am getting to the point!) My biggest concern in this adoption has always been Micah. Will she feel pushed side, will our relationship change, will she worry about our love for her & will she accept Leigah as her sister after the whole Meggie ordeal. Let me say this: they are really sweet sisters! There are days when Micah needs a little space but overall, they get along so well. Micah cares for her and helps take care of her. Besides the lack of English & her low vision, Leigah has a few developmental & mental delays. Micah has the heart of Mother Tereasa (sp) w/ a streak of good humor when dealing daily with Leigah. So when I say we are doing good......we are!!! We don't have sibling rivalry or fighting (well, anymore than we did before Leigah came home). I never really worried about the boys because they both have hearts of compassion and a natural inclination to protect their family, especially us girls. Ethan is so sweet when we are out and about, because he will grab Leigahs hand and walk with her. The other day we were walking from the van at the back of the parking lot into a wedding reception and he grabbed her hand and I asked him why....his reply, "she is my twin sister and and I can!" OKAY! :) (she definitely looks like she belongs in our family with her blond hair & blue eyes - but the fact that her & Ethan are the same age makes her his twin!)

We have had a busy summer. My niece & nephew have been with us since May 24 (my niece actually went home a week ago to go to summer school & put a little more structure in her life). Tanner will be with us until the end of June. We'd love for him to stay until the end of July but my sis & BIL would miss him to much. The boys have been kayaking many times, we've made it to the pool , weddings, work & vegging out during the summer. Leigah is doing "summer school" to help her get ready for the fall. Starting next week the kids will head to camp. Leigah, Ethan & Micah will all go together. Micah was supposed to go this week for 8th & 9th graders but she would have gone by herself and her friend Faith is the only girl besides Leigah during 6th & 7th grade week, so she is going then. So it will be very quiet at our home at the end of July. Keegan, Joe & Micah are helping at a week of camp as well.

On the adoption front:
I will head to Latvia July 21-27 for our second court. I'm actually staying a few extra days because it will save me a lot on airplane tickets and my hotel room is cheap. It's safe and its a bed. While there I will met my adoption coordinator from GA for the first time. I feel like I already know her because she is been such a vital party of our adoption, not just with the logistic part but emotionally she helped me walk over some hurdles. I'm also trying to arrange an opportunity to visit Leigahs old orphanage and school. Our lawyer, Daina suggested we not attempt to go there on our first trip but since I have extra days, I'm hoping she can help me. Leigah won't be there to be emotionally scarred or fearful that she is going back and I can see where my daughter spent 10 years of her life. This trip will make Leigah officially ours, after the 21 day waiting period & the 10 day paperwork trail. We will be able to schedule our 3rd trip for the US Embassy.

We are trying to schedule another fundraiser for July. We own an inflatable business & thought that we would set up 5-6 inflatables and charge $5 for unlimited play on a Fri or Sat evening & also have concessions available. I don't know how well it will do but its worth the try.

I will do better at posting...maybe?!! ;)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day!

Today is one of those days where I look back at my life as a mom and realize I sure wish there was a handbook for parenting each individual child. I probably would have ignored some of the stuff because really that's more my personality (I like to do things MY WAY sometimes) but it would have been nice. But... then I think that I wouldn't know my children the way I'm supposed to. Each child that I live with is unique and each one has things that annoy or delight me. Let me tell you about each one from my eyes:

Keegan Thomas Friend, born October 19, 1995 came into this world with babies for parents. We were so young and so unsure of what we were doing but he thrived. Keegan is a hard worker just like his dad. He enjoys spending time with Joe learning new things and experiencing the life of a pastor. He is driven to succeed!!! Keegan is also so compassionate (when he wants to be). He has a soft heart and cares for his family, very much! He is also a protector. He wouldn't let anyone hurt his siblings (other than him) or his family. He walks with his sisters to the restroom at Wal-Mart, just to be sure no one takes them. Keegan has a lot of energy but as he matures he is showing great self-control and strength. Keeg is also incredibly smart and loves to help his sister with her math! Praise the Lord!

Micah Briane Friend, born September 11, 1997. Micah took her time coming into this world. She had to be sure she was done. She is a laid back, sensitive and yet very outgoing. Micah is probably my best friend, besides Joe and I enjoy spending time with her, whether it's heading to the doctors, going grocery shopping or just sitting next to her while we both are deep into reading a good book. Micah loves the written word. She can't wait to read the next conflict or hilarious moment in her book. Micah is so good with little chilren, even though she doesn't think so. As I said, Micah is sensitive and has such compassion for those that are hurting or all alone. She is the one to find the lone ranger out there and befriend them.

Leigah Allana Friend, born June 15, 1999 to Oksana Lukasove, a mom of two premature babies that were struggling to hang on to life. Leigah has only been in our lives for almost 2 months but she fits so perfectly that it seems like she always been there. Leigah is so happy, easily entertained and happy (did I already say that?). She loves life and loves to laugh. In fact her initials are LAF, Laugh?! That's her in a nutshell. She is working so hard a learning english and how to "fit" in this strange, new world. She is very sensitive, too. But has a great sense of humor. Leigah completes our family, like the last piece of a puzzle completes the puzzle! She sings, dances and laughs all day long!

Ethan Troy Friend, born November 26, 1999, the day after Thanksgiving that year. Compassion...That's Ethan! He is a sensitive soul and he is the snuggler, lover. Ethan loves to play games and interact with his siblings all the time. He is thoughtful and considerate of those he's around and when he goes to a friend's house, they often say how well behaved he is, which makes us so proud. Ethan has always struggle with school but he has never let that get him down. At each milestone for school, he would want to display his accomplishment to the whole family. This year he has "wowed" us with all that he has done. In fact, we are 2 weeks from being done with school and he has been done with English and Science for 2 weeks. He has been doing 3-4 lessons in Math to get done quickly.


I am so proud of my children and how the have grown into amazing young adults. I pray that they grow into adults that Love the Lord with all their hearts and will one day meet a person to fall in love with that also Loves the Lord with all their hearts.

***Adoption Update: I will travel around July 25th for the 2nd court with the Latvian High Court. This will make Leigah ours officially. We will have one more trip to Latvia. Leigah, Micah and I will travel for approximately 8 days to get all the US Citizenship paperwork done at the US Embassy. It will happen before Oct 9 because we have to be in Latvia by then per Leigah's Visa.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

We are doing good and learning to adjust to having a new member of the family. Because everything is new or newer, we repeat a lot. Leigah is picking up on english and continues to surprise us with new phrases. Everyday we work on "routine" - get up, make your bed, get dressed, straighten your room, brush your hair, fed your animal (Leigah has had the same one for 5 weeks because she can't remember to feed and water the birds without her sibling partner reminding her - routine), eat breakfast, brush teeth and start school work. Everyday its the same thing, over and over again. But she is getting so used to doing it, she doesn't need reminding. Which this mom loves! We have had no problems with eating or sleeping, no issues of defiance, and no noticeable issues with attachment or lack of it. She is not perfect or lacking in annoying tendencies. But she is our daughter and much like her three siblings! They ask have days where they annoy each other our us parents, there are days when they something wrong but on the end - so what...they are our beautiful children. God has blessed its with for children that are alot alike and yet so different.

I have tried to download pics from my phone and it doesn't work (at least for me). I quill go to Joes office and try to download homecoming pics, easter egg hunt, and easter day pics!

Now that we have been home for 7 weeks, we can look back at our trip to Latvia and see that 26 days is a long time but it gave us the chance to get to know Leigah on her turf. The leaving the kids part was awful but God took care of is. My kids are not forever traumatized from our lengthy stay. They, of anything have learned to appreciate us more and not take for granted that we will always be there. They are more prepared for me to go on our second trip but maybe that has to do with Joe is going to be home.

Are there days when I'm exhausted and just want to crawl into bed and try to forget that ou hage for children that still need me? Yep but it doesn't last too long and I am reminded how previous a gift each one is and how blessed that they call me mom!

Until next time!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter, social worker visit and misc....

Easter morning in Missouri: Yep, it really was that dreary outside but our hearts are happy and truly feeling blessed.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

so sorry, it's taken soooo long!

So, I said I'd post every week until we traveled... Well, sorry life is just so crazy and we are down to one vehicle, so you'll get an update when ever possible.

But that's how life is, isn't it? Crazy busy and a few moments of slow down and wait...

Okay, so we have been home for nearly 3 weeks and honestly we are doing awesome. We've a few "moments", mostly mine but those were all about God stretching me into the mom, wife, friend, daughter and sister He wants me to be. BECAUSE all my issues/moments are about me and life isn't always about me - so I'm stretching. Anyhoo...Leigah is an amazingly smart young girl. She is a part of our family like she was always meant to be, if that makes sense? She's a night owl and definately not an early bird (at least in America, Latvia was a different story). She likes musicals and Pixar & Disney movies with music. She loves to be girly and laugh and enjoys to be tickled and to lightly tickle your face. She is learning English at such an amazing rate. Not always can she say "English" phrases but she understands SO MUCH!!! But it is fun when our non-english speaking daughter says things like, "What are you doing, Ethan?" and "Mommy, What is that/this?" She gets a kick out of phrases like, "Baby cakes" and "smart cookie" ~ both of which revolve around food of course but she would protest and say, "I'm no cookie" "Me not a cake!" We put in a Bible CD-ROM program on the computer (it's for Kindergarten/Early Elem) and she was glued to it. I didn't feel right pulling her away. Joe would ask who is this person, "Lazarus, Elijah, Moses, Joseph, Jesus"! She knows her Bible stories and was able to connect her "latvian Bible stories" to our "english Bible stories" and it was clicking. We have done math worksheets from pre-k to 5th grade to test where she is at. Because of her eyesight she is considerably behind. She knows her multiplication facts and simple division and can do most adding/subtracting problem but when you make them problems like 32 x 12 =.... She's lost. Why? Well, it's a spacial thing with her eyes and it's hard to do math when you see so little. She loves her magnifier that she was given by the Institution for the Prevention of Blindness. She loves to read her Latvian Animal Fairytale book and her Latvian Bible. During Sunday School, she reads her Bible because she doesn't understand the teacher. But she is still learning. Our worship leader is printing the lyrics out for her each week so that we can introduce her to the songs at home and so she can read them in a larger print. We have a powerpoint with the lyrics but she cannot see it clearly on most of the songs because of their backgrounds.

Next week, I start back to work... I really am excited but I'm not sure how Leigah will do with the change. Joe will come home during the afternoons so that I can go into work. We waited the 6 weeks for me to start back up and it will be good for me but I don't want to upset the basket with her, especially since we are doing so good!!!

In other news, I broke my foot last week. I thought I just broke my toe but apparently I broke the bone above that toe and will be in a boot for the next 6 weeks. Should be interesting...

Well, I must go. We have to get the kiddos to bed. Please pray for Miss Leigah, she does have a horrible cold right now. I'm not sure if it started out because of allergies, weather fluctuations, or caught it from someone but she is feeling pretty miserable. In all her paperwork it said she only struggled with her asthma when she had an upper-respritory infection and I think we are headed there. But for a sick kiddo she is so sweet. She was laying her head on Micah's shoulder while watching a movie tonight - so sweet.

Good night y'all!!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

After 1 week home...

Well, almost one week ago we walked into the airport in Springfield, MO to a wonderful crowd of 60+ family & friends. Joe & I had talked about what we thought Leigah would do or how she would react and she did exactly what we thought... She smiled from ear to ear, I said "this is for you" and she said, "no, no, no! Yes? YES!" About 10 feet from the gate, she ran into the arms of Ethan her new brother. Then was surrounded by Keegan & Micah. The crowd chanted, sang, cheered and loved all over us. What a wonderful homecoming! When we were leaving, Leigah said, "Mommy, you have BIGGGG family!!!" hehe so funny!!! I will try to load pics from the airport this week.

What can I say about this last week? AMAZING!!! Yeah, I probably overuse this word but it is a perfect word for this week. We slept in late the first few days and showed her the ropes at the house. She has tried new foods without complaint, gone to bed everynight happily and maintained a sweet attitude that she had while in Latvia.

We have gone to several Dr. appts for her eyes and just general well-care checkup. On Tuesday, we went to the eye Dr. and found out that her left eye is 95% blind and her right eye will only see 20/200 at best with a new lense. She has a severe astigmatism and some other issues, including scar tissue on her optic nerves and around her eye that prevents periferal (sp) vision. But if I never told you that and you saw her, you would never know. She has learned to adapt to her circumstance and does an incredible job of coping with her disability.

We went to the Family Dr. on Friday for a check-up. She had her blood drawn and it will be testing her thyroid as well as doing a CBC to know how she is doing all-around. She was also given a TB test. During all the testing she smiled and said it's okay. We are still waiting for her Immunization records from Latvia and once we have those we will be able to know exactly what shots she still needs.

When we came home, several people blessed Leigah with gifts and she has cherished all of them. She was given more in that one event than she has gotten in 10 Christmas'. One of the gifts was a dress...you'd think - no big deal but she loved and was so excited about it. In fact, she wouldn't put it down...WHY? It was her first dress that belonged only to her. She also was given puzzles and some other clothes and a pillow pet. She loves the pillow pet because she can snuggle with it and because it's red - her favorite color.

Today, our church had a carry-in dinner in honor of Leigah and our family. What a blessing to be prayed over before we left but then to be prayed over and welcomed into our church family. She was given lots of yarn, puzzles, a singing monkey and another beautiful dress, that is all hers. She was excited to open cards that had cash and Walmart cards in them.

We are currently waiting for Maija, her foster mom to get on skype so that Leigah can see her. She is very excited to talk to her.

So, overall, how are we? AWESOME!!! We couldn't have asked for a better week, one that was easy and comfortable. At dinner last night, Leigah got up to use the restroom and during that small time we asked the other 3 kiddos what they were thinking and we got: It feels like she's always been here (in a good way). I love her and wish I could understand her better. She is such a good sister.

This next week we have a wonderful lady from the Prevention of Blindness coming to help us fill out paperwork and show us what resources we will have for Leigah. We could look at the negative but with her bubbly personality... there's just no way to look at things like that. She has been given eyes that don't work as well as yours or mine but she will have opportunities for college, computer programs and curriculum that will be provided by the state subsidies. Things that we couldn't help her with and she may even have a better opportunities for college than we could have given her. We are also looking into teaching her braille (sp) while she can still see so that she has that to fall back on as an adult.

Well, we do our best to post at least once a week until we hear more about our next trip. I'm waiting for paperwork from Daina to send with our I-800 and as soon as that is in, I'm sending out everything so I can get back to Latvia and make her officially ours (at least in Latvia's eyes). She doesn't want to go back to Latvia at this point, I think she doesn't know that she will get to come back to America.

Well, chat with ya soon! If you have any particular questions about our trip or being home, just leave a comment and I'll try to cover it!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Our last hoorah in Riga!

Our morning started out like normal but then the cleaning and "wrappin up" began. It was funny to watch Leigah's excitement level rise as we took pictures down, removed labels, and packed the suitcases. It's like it sealed the deal and that we were really leaving for America very soon.

After we debated whether to get out in the weather to go to Lido (it rained all night and then it was a mix of snow & rain all morning), we finally decided that we could go to Lido for lunch, feed the ducks our stale bread in the park near the US Embassy and then go to the Embassy between 3-4 to pick up Leigah's Passport/Visa. We took #7 Tram to the Lido stop.
While walking around the outside amusement section of Lido I heard English being spoken. Okay, I've said it before but when you hear your language being used it's such a rush to figure out who is talking. I looked at the lady and asked, "Are you all from America?" She smiled and said "Yes, Where are you from? Me: America!! Her: Ya I know, what state? Me: Oh, Lebanon, MO we're here for our adoption & you? Her: Charlotte, NC - oh, you're the family Daina was talking about!!! Thus starting our conversation that started at 11:30 and ended at 3:00. We went inside with Kirk & Beth Bleavins and their new daughter, Vanda, as well as Vanda's foster mom's son, Eddy. We sat together and shared a wonderful meal & conversation. Joe even had the opportunity to tell Eddy about Jesus and explain that being a christian is about a relationship with the Lord. Eddy was taught that his good works got him to heaven but that there was no hell. Anyway, Joe was in his element and having a hayday! Kirk, Beth, the girls and I talked about everything. Leigah became preoccupied with her camera and Vanda was doing Math flash cards on her dad's Droid, so it gave them a chance to talk about some of their great moments and some of their frustrations/struggles. They were not as fortunate as we were to have such an amazing apartment. They were in a 1-room hotel room for 2 weeks - no privacy, no private conversations, no space - you get the picture. It was a blessing for all to sit and just talk.


We got desserts in the middle of our time together and I got a mousse dessert that looked like a pig, in Latvian it is a Chukga Cuka, makes Leigah laugh when we say it.


After we said our goodbyes we quickly got a few pics of the beautiful windmill outside and then rushed to catch the next tram that would drop us off near the Freedom Monument, which is only a couple blocks from the Embassy.


We got to the Embassy before 4pm, which we were really nervous we were runny late. After we were done there, we took our time and walked to the park across the street to feed the ducks, pigeons and sparrows. These birds are so familiar with people that they walk right up to you and will even eat out of your hands, even the tiny sparrows.

After dinner Leigah skyped with her foster mom, Majia.

After that we skyped for the last time with our family in Lebanon. The next time we see them it will be in Springfield, MO. We will make a call from Chicago but we can't wait to actually see them and kiss their sweet faces. But above that, we can't wait to see the interaction between all of our kids. That will be the best moment and the one we've been waiting for. Only 51 more hours until we land in Springfield. Yeah!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

45 HOURS TILL WE LEAVE LATVIA!!!

Let me start off this blog with a huge THANK YOU! This trip and the road to get here has been tough! BUT...I cannot imagine how it would have been had we not had friends and family, like all of you, to pray for us, Leigah and the entire process. We still have 2 more trips to go but I know that we will be prayed for and that God has made the way possible. So, from the bottom of our hearts ~ THANK YOU!!!!

So, today we went into town to eat lunch at Cili Pica (#5) before we had to meet Daina this afternoon at 1:30. We each tried something new this time. Leigah picked something off the kids menu but I am sure it was more of a dessert pizza than an actual meal but we only have a few days until we are home so what the heck! Instead of tomato sauce it had raspberry sauce, in place of normal toppings it had two pineapple rings for eyes and a strawberry puree for the smile, kiwi eyebrows and Crushed, sweetened cherries for the pupils of the eyes. Yeah, she loved it. Usually Joe & her share a 30 cm pizza, this pizza was 25 cm & she ate the entire thing w/o help. She studied her pizza as she ate it but then again she studies everything before she eats it. I don't know if it's because she's never tried it before or because of her eyesight but either way, Joe & I get a kick out of it.



The other day we saw people carrying flowers all over town and it was because it was Int'l Woman's Day. It's not just for mom's but for any woman or girl. Well, today there were a lot of police around. But no one knew why. But there were also two guards standing in front of Freedom Monument and there were flowers at the base of the monument. We don't know if some diplomat was in town or there was a parliment meeting or if it was a memorial day for something but it's always fun to watch the changing of the guard and when they change positions.


Daina got to our apartment at 1:30 and explained some things to Leigah about traveling and then we left for the US Embassy. We needed to do our VISA interview for Leigah. The gentleman was very friendly to both Leigah and us. His first question was what we planned to do for school... Homeschool, of course. He asked if we understood our VISA only lasted for 7 months and to make sure no matter what that we were back her by Oct 9th ~ Okey Dokey!!! Then he said we could pick up he passport & VISA tomorrow between 3-4. Then we can officially leave Latvia!!!! YAHOOOOOO!!! Sorry, just a little excited!

Well, that brings me to our travel info. We've received a few emails and messages asking when we get where...

We leave Riga on Saturday @ 2:40pm and head to Frankfurt, Germany. We will spend the night in Frankfurt at the Holiday Inn, with free continental breakfast and airport shuttle! We will leave Frankfurt @ 8:40am and arrive in Chicago at 11:15am. We have a 5-hour layover in Chicago but that's okay because we need some time for customs, eating lunch and cleaning up before we board our plane to Springfield, MO and arrive in Springfield at 6:20pm.

Tomorrow is our final day in Riga and we are going to pack, head back to Lido for lunch(the one with the skating rink), feed the ducks in the park near the US Embassy, then pick up Leigah's VISA and clean the apartment. We have done a pretty good job of eating all the food we have purchased. We will only have a few things that will be wasted. The time is finally about done! We are almost there kids! Anyway, that's it for now.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Orphan Court #2 ~ sorry, another long one!

So yesterday we had our day in court. That sounds so serious and formal... well, it kinda is. The setting of the room is rather informal really. It's a large table with 3 ladies, a small table connected at the end for the secretary and 6 chairs in front. Daina, Joe, the interpeter & I sat on one side of the door and Leigah & Inguna sat on the other side. After all the formalities of our names & DOB, our representative, Daina and all the important other people, we were asked if we were still in agreement of adoption. That one was the toughest question of the day but the easiest to answer ~ ABSOLUTELY!!!! They asked several other questions but kept looking to me (Brenna) and so I answered all the questions, when the lead lady said that Joe was quiet and that I had answered enough - What did Joe think? He did an awesome job! They all got a kick out of my "talks-a-lot" personality, when I didn't understand a question and yet tried to answer it. They also enjoyed Leigah. She was quite a character... after everything Daina, Joe or I said she answered "Ya" in agreement. Which put smiles on the faces of the ladies there. She showed them her knitting and impressed them with her beautiful handiwork. One of the things she loudly agreed to was when I said that her english was improving remarkably, she could understand basic commands and common phrases; she may not be able to verbalize but she does understand & Leigah said "YES!!!!" Too funny! One of the ladies asked Leigah if she wanted us to adopt her and her reply was simply, "VERY MUCH!!!" They smiled and then asked us to step outside while they talked.

While waiting Leigah spoke with Daina and our interpreter about a common Latvian folktale. She retold the story for them but in the end they said they were not familiar with that version, so they asked her if she was sure about it and she said, No, I was telling you another story. They all laughed and laughed - we finally were given the translation of the interaction and when we laughed Leigah lit up because she knew she was being talked about.

They ushered us back into to the room and pronounced their approval for our 2 applications submitted to the Orphan Court. 1) To be approved to be the adoptive parents to Liga Lukasova and that it was in the best interest of the child 2) To be approved to take Leigah to the states to continue our "bonding time (orphan care time)" because it too was in the best interest of the child. The court approval also states that we can seek medical attention for any of her needs, which is important because we don't have a medical VISA. The asked Leigah what she says when she gets good news: She said "forshay - Cool!!" We thanked the court and left the courtroom!

We celebrated with lunch at Lido (#4) and she enjoyed some of her favorite foods. We came home and enjoyed the rest of the evening together.

Today Leigah was excied because she was going to see Majia, her foster mom and all her foster brothers. We were to meet Majia and the boys at 11:30 at the theater. Their family was given tickets to a pre-show of a Repretorie Theater show that opens tomorrow night. Daina said it was a chance for us to have a few hours without any kids and to enjoy a date! We dropped Leigah off and walked for nearly an hour. We finally stopped and ate at TGI Fridays. We enjoyed our meal and the conversation with our sweet waitress, who is from Riga but speaks incredible English. She is a teacher 2 days a week and will be leaving for Belgium in June to teach and be closer to her boyfriend. She asked about our story and why we were in Riga - we told her the shortest version possible. When we were leaving she said thank you for caring for our Latvian children and we were hero parents. I wanted to grab her and hug her but felt that I shouldn't do that when she was working. We walked around until we came to a pastry shop and we shared a fruit and cheese curd torte. It was super yummy. We bought enough cinnamon twist pretzels (they're crunchy not soft like an Auntie Anne's Pretzel) for each of the children & Majia and headed back to the theater to pick Leigah up. The children enjoyed the show and Leigah was dancing as she came out. We gave the bag of treats to Majia, took some pictures and headed outside to leave. Majia asked if they could come to the airport to say good-bye to Leigah and we were so excited that they love her so much to want to come. We gave them the times and we all headed our own separate ways.

Tonight was the first time since Sunday that we were able to Skype with the kids and it is just so awesome to see their faces. Everyday I kiss my hand and touch their pictures on our family quilt that hangs on the column in the livin room. I just miss them so badly. We had a great time talking and got off with only a few tears (I made her laugh in the end).

Tomorrow we meet with Daina at 1:45 pm to go to our VISA interview. We will do all the necessary paperwork and answer all the questions needed to get her VISA. On Friday we will pick up the VISA and that will be the last thing we need before leaving on Saturday morning. We are very thankful that our flight on Saturday isn't until 2:45 because it means we won't have to check-out really early - in fact, we're not checking out until 11:30! Anyway, I'll try to post before we leave Latvia but until then...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Medieval nights and DONUTS!!! and a bunch of other pics!!!

So we didn't get out until this afternoon but we decided that we would go on a long walk to eat at Pie Kristaps Kunga, a medieval themed Latvian/Russian style restaurant. Joe ordered Grilled Lamb steak with grilled vegetables (zucchini, beets, peppers & mango); I ordered an appetizer: Porcini mushroom, gorgonzola cheese & mashed potatoe AuGratin; Leigah ordered Potato Pancakes and salted Salmon steaks. It was wonderful!!!! We shared from each others plates and every bite was enjoyed thoroughly!



When we were on our walk to the restaurant we spotted an actual Donut Shop. We were so excited. We stopped on our way home to get a dozen donuts for tomorrow. Since we have to get up early, donuts are a perfect solution to a quick breakfast. They have so many different flavors. The yellow ones are lemon, the striped ones are cappacino, there are 2 coconut flavors, the caramel/maple colored one is an irish cream, the ones with dots is chocolate-banana. We had a chance to talk to one of the employees there and ask his favorite kind and he gave us a free sample of it. He said make sure to come back and tell anyone we know about them. So... if you're headed to Riga, there is a neato donut shop called "Ze Donats (The Donuts)" They are 1 1/2 blocks East of Elizabetes iela on K. Valdemara iela on the right hand side. If you get a map of Riga, its super easy to find.




Here's some other pics of Leigah:
Busy working on her brother's scarf~


Working on her 1000 piece puzzle of Riga and when it's finished ~



Her and Joe watching/laughing at funniest home videos~

Leigah's Family Tree & word label (all over the house) ~