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. 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


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.