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'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


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) ~

The blessing of family & friends...

Yesterday was such a blessing to us...

When our family skyped us last night (right after church - 11:45 am, Lebanon), not only did we get to see our kiddos and my parents but we got to see so many friends from church. Seeing our preacher, Terry & his wife, Becky and the half a dozen other friends was a boost to our morale. It is nice to see familiar faces and to speak complete sentences in English. I feel like the longer I'm hear the more broken my English is. Joe said he had adream the other night in Latvian and he couldn't understand his dream. lol :)

This morning we got a short visit from Daina. She came by to have us sign documents for court tomorrow. We also presented her with her gift. The first thing was a package of misc. scrapbook paper. She was so excited to get new pages. She opened the gift bag to find pink & blue binder clips (she was glad to get a color besides black, I told her she could use to tell apart boy & girl adopions), blue pens, sticky notes, signature/page tabs and journal. They were pratical gifts but we hoped they would be useful for her to use in the future. Daina is such a wonderful woman. She is sick right now and yet she keeps going. Today she is working with 3 different families and going into court. I am so thankful for a woman that loves these children and is just as excited for us that things are going well and just as hurt/sad when things don't pan out. She gets her boys involved with her adoptions through driving and translating ~ she does it so they can see the love that moms & dads have for these children. She wants them to better husbands and fathers. To instill a compassion and passion in their lives/hearts.

We also gave her the coat we brought for Leigah. It didn't fit her as well as her nice coat that she came with. We figured there was a young girl out there that the coat would fit. She actually said that she thought that little girl named Alina could use it. She is the same height as Leigah but doesn't weigh as much. She said she would get the coat to her as soon as possible. We are giving her a bag of clothes that we brought but didn't fit Leigah. She can give them to Alina or to foster homes that she visits. We know that anything given is used for the children. Getting rid of these will make room for all the souvenirs and extras we have purchased while here.

Today we are taking it easy. Joe hasn't felt great the last few days. He has been coughing for the last week and on Saturday surrendered and started taking the antibiotic we brought with us. He isn't one to complain but doesn't want to end up with pneumonia. Between the Advil & antibiotics, he is pressing on. We may walk around town for a bit to break up the afternoon. I have started packing a few suitcases with things/clothes that we won't use this next week. I'm sure I'm jumpin the gun but it's easier to do it now and fill the time, then wait till the last moment.

Tomorrow we will head down to meet Daina to go to Orphan Court. The plan is that we will be given custody of Leigah until October 9th, 2011. This will give us plenty of time to get all the paperwork done, pre-post placement visit from our social worker back in Lebanon and travel for 2nd & 3rd trip. Inguna will possibly talk with Leigah right before we go in but Leigah will not talk during the court time because she is unde 12. As long as our 2nd trip is before June 15th, she will not travel with me on the 2nd trip. So, that's a huge prayer request, too!! She will have to go back to the 3rd trip to see the US Embassy Doctor but it will be a short trip because she has already seen Leigah and we will just give any update and show her shot record.

Well, that's all for now! Only 5 more days & we are America bound!!!! PTL!!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Weekend Update 2

We've been doing our best to keep busy so that the time before we return home goes fast. We took our time Saturday morning getting around and finally got ourselves out of the apartment around noon. Our plan was to head to a different mall. Apparently, this mall is the largest in all of Latvia. This meant that we had to get on a tram. This wasn't too hard this time, although it was a different # tram and pick up spot. We boarded and enjoyed the smooth ride several miles outside of Old Town Riga. This mall is called "Alfa" and was a good sized mall. Inside there was a very large "Rimi" store that was kinda like Target/Wal-Mart (groceries, clothes, household needs, etc.), there was a movie theater, food court, several levels of stores. It actually reminded me of a normal mall in America. We are such creatures of habit. Guess where we went to eat lunch? Cili Pica!! Leigah & Joe found a new kind of pizza that they hadn't eaten yet. I got another salad. After lunch we walked the entire mall. Good excercise, right?!

We stopped in the Rimi store and enjoyed the familiar feeling of home. We found several books for Leigah (in Latvian) for the airplane ride. We also found lined notebook paper. That's one thing I forgot - a notebook or paper. You can easily find graph paper but lined is a whole other story. We also bought a cheap box of Dominoes because Leigah likes to play Dominoes. We found a great deal on some fish, so of course we purchased that as well for dinner this week.

Our ride back to Old Town and our walk to the apartment was cold. The temperatures are actually considerably warm but the wind is awful. It was almost 40 degrees out when we left but the wind made if feel like 15. Anyway, our evening ended with a small dinner & ice cream, talkin to family on Skype and an early bedtime.

We woke up this morning earlier than normal and everyone got ready for church. We watched funniest home videos for a little while before we had to leave. We are getting really good at getting to places. I, who am really directionally challenged, could even give you a tour of Old Town! Services at this church are every Sun. @ 11 for an English service. It was a little more low key this week without the Gospel choir. Leigah followed along better on the songs this week.

After church we went to a place called, "Dada". It's a mongolian BBQ place; it was good - well, Joe & I thought it was good - Leigah not so much but she ate enough to make her comfortable. You could tell she wasn't hip on it because of the faces she was trying to hide that she was making. She picked what went in but she wasn't a fan. (After we left, Joe found a pastry shop, where we got 2 different pastries - in the hopes that she would like them and fill up some more).

Sunday's a day of rest and we have done just that today. Lounging on the couch, watching movies that I'm familiar with but they are in Latvian. Leigah loved the movie and giggled but I struggled to stay awake.

Things are still going well... She doesn't have a huge English vocabulary but she uses everything she knows daily. Yesterday, I was laying in my bed and she came in and snuggled next to me and we just sang a couple songs and she tickled my arm. It was a simple moment but it was one that a momma & her daughter should have often. She is getting excited that we leave in less than a week. She can't wait to meet & hug her brothers and sister. We have a busy week, which is good because we are soooo ready to head home. The kids at home seemed to be doing a little better yesterday when we skyped. Ethan got through the entire call w/o tears ~ IMPROVEMENT!!!! Keep praying, though!

Hope I didn't bore you with the play by play. Gotta go put groceries away, Joe walked to the store for me. We gotta have Milk & TP, ya know?! :)

Friday, March 4, 2011

1 week & 14 hours until we leave Latvia! But besides that...

It's 9:13 pm (Latvia time but 1:13 pm Lebanon time) and we are completely exhausted. It's not like we've done anything to get us this way, either. Anyway, Leigah fell asleep on the couch and we woke her up to get her in bed and now the apartment is really quiet besides the occasional Russian or Latvian show on TV as Joe scans through the channels. I'm sure he's hoping I finish this quickly so we can go watch a movie.

Well, this morning we spiffed up the apartment for Inguna, the Social Worker to come visit with Gartis, Daina's son. It was a really good visit. She asked Leigah a bunch of questions about what we have done, how she feels, what she has liked that we have done. All good answers. She then asked us have we changed our minds - NO; What are we doing to improve her language skills? - practice daily, we also put words on everything in the apartment so she can begin to read the words, as well as say them. What do we plan to do for the remaining days on the trip? - go to a concert tonight, another movie next week, finish shopping for souvenirs. How do we feel about adopting Leigah? - we have been parents at a children't home and wanted to adopt several of the children there but it wasn't meant to be; we feel blessed to be Leigah's parents and have enjoye our time together. Then they helped interpret Leigah's questions to us: When do we leave for America, so I can meet my brothers and sister? March 12th!!!! Then they helped us: Has she ever gotten sick to her stomach while riding in a car? - YES!!! What has been her favorite thing we have done? - EVERYTHING!!! Inguna told us that she was happy with our family and that everything looked really good! She will see us in court on March 8th @ 9:45. Leigah then started telling funny stories on Joe and me. Like how Joe yells at the top of his lungs while walking down the street, "I LOVE YOU LEIGAH!!!" and how momma danced and shook her bottom while ice skating. How Joe named the ice skating Penguin "George", She loved the movie "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and repeated lines from the movie. Inguna & Gartis got a show and enjoyed laughing along with Leigah. After they left we worked on the puzzle and Leigah finished her 3rd scarf. While preparing lunch I got a strong smell of pickles and went looking for the smell. Yesterday when we returned home from the grocery store, we asked Leigah to put the pickles in the fridge and she accidentally put the glass jar of pickles into the freezer. Well, needless to say, the lid to the jar flew off and pickle juice was all over the freezer. Oh well!! So I finshed up lunch and we ate grilled ham & cheese sandwiches (trying to americanize her) and cheese balls. YUM!

Leigah's foster mom, Maija and Yuri's foster mom, Natalia invited us to a concert this afternoon/evening. This was the 2nd concert we were invited to but when we went on Tuesday, there was no concert so we were a little worried it would happen again. Leigah was so excited to see Maija on Tues and so we didn't tell her this time. We walked to the Dome Cathedral to meet them at 3:30 but after waiting for 40 mins, no one came. We did meet a sweet couple from Sweden. Their names were Oka (said OK) and Gunella. They came from Sweden to deliver a pipe organ to their sister Baptist church here in Riga. They were going to the concert that was at 7pm that night and cost $10/person. We were suppose to go to a free concert at 4pm. After starting our walk home we stopped into a French pastry shop and each got a special treat. Joe got a meat/cheese turnover (looked yummy but he said it was just ok) and Leigah & I each got a piece of triple chocolate cheesecake with thick chocolate shavings on it. It was so good but super rich and neither of us could finish our piece, so Joe got an extra treat! We stopped by the small grocery mart and picked up a new jar of pickles and a few other needed items and headed home.

Our evening was very relaxed and comfortable. We ate dinner, had ice cream for dessert and worked some more on the puzzle.

We are so excited about the next week that follows. Saturday - finish souvenir shopping, Sunday - church, Tuesday - court, Thursday - visa interview, Friday - pick up visa, Saturday - fly to Frankfurt Germany, Sunday - fly home to Springfield, MO. This past week really went fast (faster than I thought it would) and with the full schedule for next week, we are hoping it goes just as fast.

Pray for our children back in the states. They are starting to struggle with us being gone. Keegan is trying to be the happy, strong brother; Micah has things going on her life and really needs her momma; Ethan is really having a hard time again. Last night our time on Skype ended abrubtly because of internet connection but it ended with Ethan sobbing and I was trying to talk to them and then we lost them. They are crying daily and it breaks my heart when my mom tells me this. I know they are doing the best that they can and this isn't easy for anyone. Just when I thought they were okay... Please pray for them.

Going to bed! Love you all and it's because of your prayers that we have survived this journey thus far. Thank you!!!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Just some thoughts!

Everyday we give you the play by play of how our days are going, what we do, how Leigah is doing... I do this because I really don't want to forget any moment or event. Yesterday was a really relaxed day. Not a whole lot happened ~ we went to another Cili Pica, we walked the Galeria Mall for excercise and got some groceries. We watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory after dinner. We did buy another puzzle today. It is a 1000 piece puzzle of Riga. We thought that we would put it together here but could put it together again at home, seal and frame it for her room. But that's it... That was our day in a nutshell!

We've really had a good experience while staying in Latvia. We have tried to make it feel like a vacation and yet realistically show Leigah that you don't have to spend a ton of money to have fun. We laugh all the time. Sometimes it's because we have no idea what the other is saying and instead of being frustrated we just shrug our shoulders and giggle. Sometimes it's because my goofy husband draws a "George" face on his hand and talks to Leigah. She loves George. She tells George that he is crazy and deep down, she's right. (he he) We dance, sing and kick the bouncey ball around. We are working on our new puzzle, Leigah knits scarves (we had to buy more today) and we watch movies or old episodes of TV Series (we brought a good friend's external drive w/ hundreds of movies & episodes on it). We are tired but probably because we miss our own bed back at home. We miss our 3 kiddos back at home. We miss the routine of life. BUT... this is all worth every ounce of tired, every thing we miss and every luxury we are without. We are spending one-on-one time with our new daughter. This time with her is priceless. Our "bonding" time is good, not w/o moments (usually mine) but this is how life is ~ it's in those moments that God refines us. Plus, it's moments like today that when Joe used the IM Translator and asked her best moment in life and she typed, "MEETING MY MOMMA & DADDY"! 26 days away from all that is normal in your life to spend building a relationship with a precious child, YOUR CHILD ~ 100% WORTH IT!!!!!!

Tomorrow will be an uneventful day as well. We may go walking just to break up the time in the apartment & of course, excercie. :) Who knows but that's okay! This is our "vacation" and we are just building memories for her. Because honestly, everything we have done with her in the last 2 weeks are all firsts for her. Besides riding the tram! She was one up on us in that category!

That's all for now... Will chat with you later!!!
Love from Latvia!!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Yesterday we waited and waited for our Social Worker to come but she never came. Joe & Leigah killed time by doing crafts. I worked with her on school basics.

Anyway, apparently, Daina sent an email on Friday that we never got, that said Inguna, the social worker, needed to reschedule the appt. We have a new appt for Friday @ 10. After we waited, we decided to get out of the apartment & blow some stink off!

There are over a dozen historical places to go see. Our aim was The House of Blackheads. There are several souvenir shops and we found the tourism office. They gave us a great map and other interesting pamphlets for Riga. We bought a few things for our family and just aimlessly walked through town. When the temperatures started to drop, we set our sights on Maxima, the grocery store. We needed more water and things to drink. I will say that that is the hardest thing to do here - keep hydrated. When you are dehydrated you are sleepy, grumpy, feel yucky and many other issues.

Today I let Brenna sleep in and Leigah and I ate breakfast. When we were all up and ready we went to get on a tram and go to a restaurant called Lido. It was fantastic!!!

The food was great and the atmosphere was also. During the summer there is an amusement park at the restaurant. During the winter the rides are shut but there were climbing things open and Joe & Leigah had fun.

All the electric rides were closed but there was an ice skating rink that stays busy. So we prayed for safety and dished out $11 dollars or $5.50 lats and proceeded to take our life in our own hands and head out on the ice.

Leigah was very nervous but got the hang of it by the time we left (they had a cool thing you could rent that helped small children or anyone really that couldn't skate - worth the $2). We paid for an hour but after 30 minutes Brenna and I were dead tired. We asked Leigah if she was ready, and she laughed and said very enthusiastically, "Yes, Please done!" Thank goodness she said that, I am not sure I could have gone another 30 minutes.

One of the most amazing things that could happen when you're in another country is see someone you know when you are out and about. Today as we were leaving Lido we literally bumped into Daina our adoption Lawyer. She was with a family from Atlanta Georgia that were also adopting a child. We gave huge hugs and visited with them for awhile before we left. What a blessing.

After ice skating we walked to a gas station got something to drink and got on the tram to head to our apt. Once we got to the apartment Brenna worked with Leigah on home schooling stuff. Brenna mostly worked on writing and flash cards. Leigah is very eager to learn and a great student.

Tonight we are going to St Peter's church for a clasical concert. Leigah absolutely loves everything that has to do with music. Her face almost glows with excitement as she listens so intently. I can't wait until we get back to our church and she gets to hear Ryan Showmaker and the Southern Heights Christian Church worship team lead in praising our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.