Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fifth visit, good-bye for now....

Driving to today's visit, the weather matched our mood: gray and somber. We knew this would be the last visit for likely two months until we come back for court to make the adoption final. But as soon as we pulled up to his orphanage, all we felt was excitement and anticipation at seeing him again.

We found him upstairs with his groupa, and we were able to get him dressed to go outside. We were told we'd only get a short visit today, since it was colder outside.

When he was all dressed in his outside clothes, we headed down the stairs. They have a cute handrail that is down really low so the kids can help themselves down the stairs. He had no problems maneuvering the stairs, but he did stop when he noticed dad hadn't done the snaps up on his coat! He had to have it snapped all the way up, good and proper.

It is easy to see that he understands we only know a few words of his language, but he takes it in stride and gestures so well it is pretty easy to understand what he wants.

Outside we kicked the ball around again, but this time I carried him while we ran and kicked it and he giggled up a storm at that! His laugh is so addicting, sometimes he snorts when he laughs and it's even cuter.

We got to have some mom-and-son time alone in the pavilion, where he got out some wet wipes and motioned for me to sit on the floor with him. At first he didn't want me taking the package from him because he thought I might put them away, but I told him and gestured that I would help him get one out, so he handed them to me. He wiped down the walls, then came over and wiped my hands for me and then my shoes. He loves to do "grown up" things like that.

He wears a diaper, but today he told us when he was going potty so we took him in to change him. I think it won't take too long for him to go on the toilet at least during the day, since he was so aware.

When we came back outside, he was counting the stairs as we went down (our facilitator said he was saying "one, two" over and over, but with the right inflection so that we could tell he was counting. So Brian started counting his fingers and he loved it! He would stick out his hand and copy Brian for each number. It was sweet to hear him speak some English. But to me, his little words in his own language are far sweeter! Some of the photos below are of him counting his fingers. You can see him mouthing "two".

I also let him hold my camera while he was sitting down and take some photos of me. It was so funny to go through those photos later today and see all the pictures of my mouth, shoulders and head. He loves the camera, so we're pretty sure we'll need to bring him a toy one on our next trip :-)

We asked our facilitator to take some photos of us all together, and I was amazed that he actually looked at the camera and smiled when she told him to! He could teach my youngest two a thing or two about that! I always seem to get a grimace or a silly face when I ask them to smile for the camera! I love the photo, it is definitely getting a spot on our mantel at home.

Soon enough we had to bring him in. We got him changed into his inside clothes (did you notice the photo in the last post with the #1 sewn inside his pants? He has his number sewn or written on each piece of his clothing). We told him he could keep the book that says the words, and he was so proud to show it to his groupa. We also left the beach ball and a photo book of pictures of us, the kids and our home. They have told us they will show it to him often and talk to him about his mama and papa who will be coming back soon.

He gave us big hugs and a kiss on each cheek before joining his groupa. We kept it very upbeat and happy, but when that door shut our hearts broke a little. I won't complain though, because this boy is well-loved by all who care for him. And of course he has dear Olga who will visit him like always. Before we left the gates of the orphanage, two caregivers wished us safe travels and told us they hope to see us soon.

Could this experience have gone any better? I doubt it. Although it was full of different emotions, we have been beyond blessed to have many reassurances that this was our child, that we were doing what was right. I look at him and wonder how it took four years to find him, he feels already a part of us. I tried not to set myself up for disappointment if I didn't immediately feel connected to him. And I will freely admit that after our first visit, I was still terrified. But I have prayed for my heart and his, and those prayers have been answered. Even I have been amazed at the way my heart has just opened wide for this child who was a stranger to me only seven days ago! Adoption is a miraculous thing! The human heart is capable of a kind of love even we can't grasp, until we're in the moment. I know it will take time to fully become attached to each other, and I am sure there will be many bumps in the road along that journey. But I am so, so grateful to be leaving this first trip with no doubt in my mind that he is ours, and that our attachment WILL happen, I am sure.

So, Arnold, paka paka, until we meet again. Mama loves you...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Day 5, visit 4

I can't believe tomorrow is already our last visit. Every day the time goes by quicker. Every day we grow to love him more. Every day we see how perfectly he will fit into our family.

Today we found him outside with his groupa. It took a moment to recognize him because he was in new clothes and a different hat, but sure enough, when he saw us, he immediately pointed and started shouting, then turned back to his caregivers to ask if he could go to us, then ran like mad into Brian's arms. It is so sweet how he runs with his arms wide open, just waiting to give hugs.

We settled into the little pavilion thing and he went through our bag again. I decided today was a good day to bring out the beach ball. Other adopting families had recommended it to us, and boy were they right that it would be a hit! It was pure joy for me to kick the ball around with him today. We kicked that thing all over the yard for at least twenty straight minutes, only stopping when he would trip and fall. When he falls, he does a pretend little cry to get your attention to make sure you've seen his poor situation! Then he comes over to me so I can inspect his hands and clean them off. They have been taught to be very clean here. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to all the dirty play at our house- the kids love to dig in the garden and mud.

The other funny thing is that he was just as excited about the package to the beach ball as the ball itself at first! He carried it around as he ran after the ball. He even showed it to one of the workers who was walking by, so proud of it!

We colored some more and I was able to trace his hand. He doesn't have a lot of patience for coloring yet, but he knows just what to do with the pens.

We also did more singing and dancing, and it cracks me up how seriously he takes it all.

The most special thing about our visit today was seeing him with his dear friend and other "mother", Olga. This kind woman has been visiting Arnold since he was just a baby, and it is clear they have a strong bond with each other. He was so excited to see her. He calls her "Bola" and knows just what to do when she brings out her toys and things for him. She brought some bananas for him to share, and he was so sweet about handing each of us a napkin and a banana, saying, "for you" when he would hand it to you. He ate it like a pro and was happy to show off.

Olga then got out a doctor kit and he was a most excellent doctor! He fixed Brian and Olga right up, including band-aids and all. He listened to our hearts and made a little "shhhh" sound for the heartbeat. I caught a picture of him right as he was about to "fix" Brian's head with the hammer! Boy that is familiar. Jake and Leah love to play doctor and will be thrilled to have another colleague :-)

We talked more about how we are his mama and papa today, and boy does my heart melt to hear how sweetly he says "ma-ma", almost like a little Italian! When I point to myself and look him in the eyes and tell him "mama", he smiles shyly and tilts his head, like he understands how special it is that he has a mama and a papa now.

The other very touching thing from today was how the caregivers made a point of talking to Alla about how glad they are that Arnold is being adopted, and that they all approve of us and seem to think we are a perfect family for him. That was so wonderful to hear. This will be the first adoption of a child with Down syndrome from his orphanage. I can see that they all truly care for him, and he them, and that they will miss this little "king" of the orphanage.

Olga told us today that his dark hair and features suggest he is of Armenian decent. I knew he had to have had some middle eastern relatives because of his looks too. He is so handsome, we got to see more of his sweet brown hair today because he kept throwing off his hat! It was freshly clean and shiny and so cute. I love in the photos with Brian to think that he will now have a son with his dark hair! I have always thought we would have a child with dark hair like Brian's, I just didn't know we would get to choose him!

My heart is already breaking a little to know that tomorrow will be our last visit with him until likely November. It usually takes that long to get all the necessary paperwork filed and get a court date.

After our visit Olga took us shopping to buy some things for the kids. She is an incredibly generous woman (who would hate that I am bragging about her!) we went to an ADORABLE children's clothing shop called Mothercare and picked out the cutest things for the kids. I can't wait to dress them in their cute clothes and take some photos of them!

I was also finally able to give Olga the necklace I had ordered for her. I wanted to bring her something special, because how on earth do you thank the woman responsible for you finding your child? How do you say thank you to the person who has been like a mother to the son you didn't even know you had until he was nearly four years old?! Anyway, I had a beautiful sterling silver necklace made with two intertwined circles, to represent Olga and Arnold, and how they would forever be joined through the love they share. They will always be a part of each other's lives. We will always consider her a part of us, and hope that she will be able to visit us in Idaho soon. She has shown us such kindness, even arranging friends of hers to show us around the city when she is working. There really are no words to describe actually meeting her and seeing us all together, with Arnold. A large part of a long and winding puzzle has come together, finally. I am posting the photo of Olga wearing her necklace here. She took us to a cafe for lunch, which was delicious, at a shopping center (mall). I posted a photo of that too, because it was funny to see people leaving the mall with grocery carts. They have an actual grocery store in the mall, which I guess makes sense! Why not grab some groceries while you're out? It was a very modern mall, with many familiar stores. I have been impressed with how modern this city is, and how fashionable all the people dress! It puts me to shame, with all my casual clothes. I mentioned the fancy way the women all dress to Olga's friend Julia, when we were at Gorky park here in the city. She said,"do you want to know our secret? There are not many men in [this city]!". It made me laugh.

Well, congratulations if you've made it this far without skipping straight to the photos (I wouldn't have made it myself!). I wish I could insert captions on the photos, but this will do for now:)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Day 4, visit 3

Our visits just keep getting better, and I am so thankful. I found myself so ready to see him again. We asked to see him unaware, so we could see how he interacted with his groupa, so we were kind of hiding behind a building waiting for the kids to come outside. That's why I am peeking out from behind the building in one of the photos. But he actually snuck up on us because his groupa wasn't coming outside at that time. He saw us again from a long ways away and waved at us then came running with open arms!

Alla told me today that he's been talking to his caregivers about us, his mama and papa and our visits. That was good to hear.

Today we spent the whole visit outside again and he loved it. First he rode on a little car, then he saw some workers using some power tools to fix a door, so he immediately went running to the sound and made all kinds of words about it. He is such a good imitator, making the power tool sounds and imitating our words. I think he will pick up sign and English very quickly.

Brian played with him in his playhouse (did you notice that it's the same one from his Reece's Rainbow photo??!). But then I got out my umbrella and he thought that was amazing. I showed him how to open it and he took off with it. He was cute, holding the umbrella over each of our heads in the pretend rain.

He played a lot with Brian today, running and chasing, pretend watering the grass again, collecting apples. When we came back to a little pavilion, I started singing him a song and that was it. The boy LOVES music and dancing. He had the whole stage to himself and strutted around like a king. When we would get done with one song, he would say, "la la la" which meant sing another song. We got some good video of this (I'll try to post it here).

I know that in older child adoption especially, it takes time to bond with the child, and he with you. But I felt my heart grow for this boy today in a big way. I pictured myself with him at home and it felt so right. He let me carry him today and didn't try to wiggle out of my arms. It felt heavenly! He also let me hug him for more than a second! He seemed calmer at the end of the visit, like he was figuring out he didn't have to rush to try every little thing at once.

Too soon it was time to say goodbye. We took him upstairs for his lunch with his groupa, where he sits on a small bench to take off his jacket, hat and outside shoes. He then brought over his inside shoes and handed one to each of us then sat back down on the bench and gestured for us to put them on him. He gave Brian a big hug before saying "paka paka" (bye bye). Then we heard him go in the lunch room and tell his caregiver about the "da da" (man) and woman and being outside.

He has such a large personality stuffed inside a very small person. There are many things about him that remind me of Jake. I can already imagine them dancing to music together. Anyway, off to the photos from today. I have more photos from my camera that I can't put on yet, so when we get home I'll have to do a catch-up post with photos and video.

P.S. the blue bootie he has on one foot he found on the ground. They are the booties you have to put on inside the orphanage when you're on the carpet. He thought he was SO cool with that thing on. He used his little foot like a broom to sweep up the entire pavilion floor. We have added "toy broom" to our list of things to bring on our second trip :-). Sweeping is his favorite thing it seems.