Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A very jungle adventure

After several requests, here is the wedding story you have all been waiting for.

So here we are, in the jungle. And let me just remind you that we're in South America in December, 8 degrees off the equator. So it's hot. Very hot. And humid. Very humid. So I'd say it's about...oh...92 degrees or so. Plus humidity. So, like I said, we're in South America. And in South America, nothing runs on time. So when we got there to the wedding at 6 (wedding invitation said 6) I wasn't even remotely surprised that there was hardly anyone there. No problem. But my mission until the wedding starts is to keep my toddler clean in his snazzy outfit and happy. In the jungle. In the rainy season. We were doing good for about 5 minutes until Matthew saw the horse David was going to ride in on for the wedding. Matthew LOVES animals. So I asked David if Matthew could pet the horse. It was then that we found out the horse was in heat. No, I don't think it's ok for my 2 year old to pet a horse in heat. So Matthew starts to scream, "My horsey, my horsey." Oh no. Give him the pacifier (something that is reserved for bed), we're desperate now.
The pastor showed up at about 6:45 and shortly after that, we were ready to start. Oh, wait. Someone forgot to bring the flowers for the flower girls. She has to drive home and get them. Meanwhile I'm chasing Matthew around and I felt like every other word out of my mouth was "no." I hate that. He's so upset and now he wants to hold the ring bearer pillow. So I give it to him. Yes, he's 2. He carries it around, so proud. At one point one of the ring falls off and Nana double knots it back on.

So now it's...maybe...7:20 or so? And we're ready to start! Line up in the back (in the mud. My heels were sinking in...and by this time Matthew has already fallen several times and gotten his white knee high socks dirty.) One of the flower girls says to me, "can I see the rings?" I hand her the pillow. "There's only one?" "No, there's two." "No, there's one." (I examine the pillow). A million curse words go through my head. There is only one ring. Stop the wedding. Biggest parenting blunder EVER. Who gives their two year old the pillow to play with before the wedding? Apparently me. I shed many tears, but luckily not till after the wedding. We lost a wedding ring. Whose ring did we lose? We think it's Daniela's. I'm praying out of my mind as we search in the mud, under the chairs, up on the tile dance floor. No. A million people are searching for the rings. But it's dark, and if someone stepped on the ring in the mud, it's not going to be found. People are using camera lights, cell phone lights.

Nothing. I go and find Daniela, and in my broken Spanish, I tell her. She is a rock star and handled the drama remarkably well. But the show must go on, and David was not deterred from marrying his beautiful bride. So we hook up Nana's wedding ring to the pillow and start the show at 7:45.

David rides in. On the horse. In heat. Needless to say, the horse was not thrilled with it's job or David. David hurried off the horse. (are you laughing yet? This story is unbelievable).

So things start after the horse in heat. Matthew did a great job walking down the aisle.
Daniela was stunning (Latinas probably look the very best of any race in a white dress). The vows were beautiful and Daniela (who doesn't really speak English) had written her own vows in perfect English (with much help, I'm sure) and clearly had practiced them religiously. It was not simple English, either. I cried. No surprise. I don't think I was the only one.

And then, in the most unbelievable moment of the entire night, a mango fell from a tree and landed on Daniela. It didn't hit her head (luckily) but landed on and stained her beautiful white dress. She kept right on going. Have I mentioned she was a rock star? And then it came time to hand the rings. It was at this moment that David noticed we hadn't lost Daniela's ring, but his own. Both of the rings on the pillow were women's rings. So he had to ask the translator to "borrow" his wedding ring. At this point, full laughter ensued.

The wedding finished, and they were married and thrilled and beautiful. I stood up and soon realized I was being attacked by some bug or something. My feet burned and the burning got worse, and worse, and worse. I was nearly screaming, and I assumed I was being attacked by fire ants. I never did figure it out, but I had to change shoes and put loads of bug spray on my feet to stop the insane pain.

The reception was crazy. We're not sure how much was a cultural difference and how much was just the insanity of the night. David told us that he wasn't too happy with the caterer of the wedding, so it clearly wasn't all cultural differences. There was so much running and dancing and laughing and happiness on the part of my 2 year old. And it's 90 degrees. And there is no water. All they served at the reception was soda. So Tim and I gave Matthew all the water we brought. Tim drank the soda, but it made me sick. First, they passed out the chicken (which was, I will say, excellent). In Peru you're getting chicken on a bone. We received no knives. Only a fork. After we were all finished, we received napkins. Unreal. And when it was time for the cake, they cut the cake and slapped a piece on your hand. No napkins. No plates. No fork. Hysterical. I wasn't mad. It was just so funny. The whole night was so funny. And then all the Peruvian mothers and grandmothers were chasing my 2 year old around trying to give him cake. What on earth? It was so strange. They paid him no mind except to try to feed him cake. I tried to be so careful about what Matthew ate to avoid sickness (we were successful) and the missionaries I was with told me not to give Matthew the icing. So I thought avoiding the cake altogether was best. So I'm chasing the Peruvian women around who are trying to hand Matthew cake and repeatedly telling them, "no gracias." They must have thought I was the meanest mother.

And really, the entire night just started off funny. Tim and I were both in the wedding party as you can tell by the pictures. Tim and I were quite vibrant in our outfits. Needless to say, the gringos (us white folks) can't pull off the bright turquoise as well as the darker skinned latinos. Plus, I was standing by all these tiny little bridsemaids while pregnant. I felt like such a whale.

Matthew had a ball. He danced the whole night (and ate a few bugs off the floor) and even found a girl to chase. She played (very) hard to get.

I cannot state how great of an attitude the bride and groom had about the whole thing. I am a big fan of both of them and I am so glad we went to this very jungle adventure.

Matthew was still in good spirits when we got back to our jungle home at about midnight. First, a very gracious missionary let us use her hot water to take a shower. And even after all that fun, Matthew was still content. He was such a trooper through so many late nights and long flights. He's always been so flexible. I love my little buddy.
And the moral of the story is: if you think you've ever made a giant parenting blunder, I have to ask you, have you lost a wedding ring?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

To Russia for waiting

Well, we got word today that our documents are being sent to Russia. They have assigned us a region of Russia to where they are sending our documents. We have been assigned the region of Vladivostok. This is one of the most common regions for families to be receive their referrals from, as they are currently processing very quickly. We have to rush to get a document filled out and signed for the Vladivostok region. It is my understanding that there are many orphanages in this region. I spoke with a family in the beginning of they process and they adopted three beautiful children from this region. They all had blonde hair, which is surprising to me considering the region is most definitely in Asia.

I am excited to get this news because now I know where our little girl will come from and also where we will be traveling to. I looked it up, and Vladivostok is in eastern Russia, near China, Korea, and Japan. This is a little sad to me because when we fly we have to 1st fly to Moscow to get some paperwork done in the capital....a little out of the way. It's like saying, "well, I have to fly to Rome first, just to fill out paperwork, and then I'll fly to Chicago to get the child." We met a flight attendant on our trip to Peru who was Russian and she said that if we fly through Alaska, it won't be too bad but that if we do indeed have to fly to Moscow, which I think we do, we're looking at about a 10 hour flight to get from the states to Moscow and then another 10 hour flight to get to the region where we need to go. Oh, and we're planning on bringing both boys with us. Awesome. And, the average temperature in January is about 8 degrees. I think in August it's 69 degrees. So if we go any time from October through April (how can you not when you take two trips) we will freeze our tails off.

Never a dull adventure in our family, and this will be no different. I am still so excited to know where our little girl will be coming from. So now we fill out a few more forms, including our immigration forms for us and our daughter. And then we wait. They have told us the wait for a young girl (and we have stressed we will not accept a referral for a girl over 14 months due to the complexities of adopting older children) is 6-9 months, but sometimes is shorter. I think they are always so conservative when they give people times because it is so hard to predict. I am not going to start "counting" our months until mid January because of the Christmas holidays things move very slowly.

And so...for the next couple of weeks we hurry up. Then we wait.

In other news, I have been told that the details of the most craziest wedding ever need to be made public. When I have a moment (or ten) I will blog about Matthew's Peruvian adventure, Tim's really (really) bright turquoise shirt, getting attacked by fire ants, mangos falling on the bride, the worlds biggest parenting blunder that resulted in the loss of a wedding ring, and so much more.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Homestudy Complete...

Well, I might be having my first of many adoption freak outs. We received notice that our homestudy is complete. Finally. Since I haven't had time yet to chronicle you through our entire process, and I am admittedly updating you in the middle of it, I'll give a little explanation.
Basically, the homestudy is the all necessary check that needs to be done on our home and our family to make sure that we are fit to bring in and raise our daughter. It was a lot of what you'd expect: a fire inspection, discussion with a social worker on our families, our backgrounds, our religious beliefs, our beliefs on discipline, how we met, why we are adopting, what type of child we want to adopt, child abuse clearances from both Ohio and Georgia (apparently Georgia does not have a child abuse registry, don't you feel safe now, down there in the ATL?), FBI fingerprints, our financial income, and yearly budget. And then there was some of what you wouldn't really expect, but kind of makes sense: Chester's shot records, the school district we live in and all the schools our kids will attend, the distance to the closest fire department and hospital, medical examinations for us and Matthew, the confirmation that we do indeed have running water (Matthew got to flush every toilet in the house for the social worker. He was so excited.) And then a few things that you think, "really?" What day do we take out our trash? How close is it to the nearest playground? Never once did she open a single cabinet or drawer. We had three very gracious friends who wrote wonderful letters of reference for us. All in all, we met with our social worker 3 times, visited our local notary at least 3 times, and filled out a million forms. We began this process during my surgery rotation in August when I was just 9 or so weeks pregnant. They say it takes about 8 weeks to complete, which seems right in our case, even with my insane schedule.

And now.... the homestudy will be signed, certified, and apostilled (so many legal things are at play for documents involved with international adoption) and it will be approved by the agency that works directly with Russia and our adoption agency.

So, what's next? Russia closes down for Christmas from December 15-January 15 (they have adopted the college schedule apparently) and the next step in the process for us is submitting our dossier documents. These are the set of documents that go to Russia and that put us in line to get a child. Once we submit our dossier document we will wait 6-9 months (or more or less, we never know....) for them to call us and tell us they have a little girl for us. At this point, we will still be months away from bringing her home if we indeed choose to adopt her (we can turn down the referral based on medical issues or other issues we might find.) So, Tim and I have decided that we want to submit our dossier to Russia before they close down in December. This means that our documents have to go to the agency that works directly as the liaison between our adoption agency and Russia by the end of November. That agency will then get all documents to Russia before they close for the holidays. This means that Tim and I will be very busy in the next couple of weeks trying to get all our ducks in a row. We are hoping we can make it before the deadline so that we don't have to wait until January to send things to Russia. We are both terrified and excited that we are at this new step. I will document more about the dossier process later on.

Please keep us in your prayers if you think about it, that everything would fall in place so that we can get the dossier submitted before the end of this month. We are not the only people who have to do things in a timely manner for this to happen, and with Thanksgiving fast approaching, lots of offices will be closed.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Trick Or Treat...and....

Matthew had his second experience trick or treating on Monday night. He LOVED it. He ran from house to house for an hour and a half, visiting houses the whole time. We filled up his little pumpkin with candy. I thought he would be dying to eat some when we got home (he kept asking the whole time we were out) but his Aunt Abby gave him a dump truck for his birthday (of course it makes noise) and he was so obsessed with that when we got home he forgot all about his candy. He still hasn't had a piece yet. Fear not: it will be eaten. Mostly by us. But he had so much fun trick or treating, I think the experience was enough for him. We went with his friend Cooper. Cooper was a little slower than Matthew (though he carried his own pumpkin the entire way) so Matthew kept running ahead and then running back and yelling "Cooper, Come on!" Matthew also invited himself into several houses to pet their dog. He would run in, pet the dog, give the dog a a hug, and run out, closing the door behind him and yelling, "Bye bye! See ya!" What a hoot. Below are some pictures of our little monkey.

In other news, we caved at the ultrasound and decided to find out the gender of baby Larson #2. We decided that if it was a girl (in my mind, highly doubtful. My pregnancy with Matthew was nearly identical to this one, and so from the beginning I was convinced it was another boy) we would adopt a boy from Russia instead of a girl. This is mostly because we could get a boy several months younger than a girl. So we found out at the last minute in order to be able to make a more rational decision about the gender of our adopted child.

All credits for the pumpkin go to my former roommate, Marni. I am totally not that creative!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Step Number 1: Where

Starting the process of international adoption was somewhat daunting. Where do you even begin? Well, Google, obviously. So I did this and found Holt International's website to be particularly helpful. Holt international is an adoption agency that has the license to practice in most (if not all) states. Rule number one is that the adoption agency has to be licensed in the state in which you reside. Holt is a huge agency and adopts from multiple countries. We are not adopting through Holt, but I used them and a few other large adoption agencies (as well as phone conversations with their adoption counselors) to learn about the different countries that participate with the US in international adoption as well as the rules and regulations particular to each country. As I researched the countries available through Holt I found one piece of startling information: it is so difficult to adopt an infant. Most countries do not adopt infants and may not start adoption until age 3 or even 5. Countries like the Ukraine, Peru, Romania, the Philippines...all these countries do not adopt infants. In fact, after talking on the phone with an adoption counselor at Holt I found that the only countries where infants (considered any child under the age of 2) are placed for adoption are Russia, Ethiopia, Korea, China, and Thailand. Here is what I learned on each:

In Russia the children are kept in orphanages where conditions are not that great. They are not eligible for international adoption until they are 8 months old in order to give the local Russians time to adopt. At 8 months they can be placed into international adoption, but because of paperwork and traveling done by the adoptive family, the time from when they first meet their family at 8 months until the time when they go home to their new country is typically 4-6 months. This means that the adoptive family is bringing home a child AT YOUNGEST 1 year of age. Typically, only boys are available at 8 months, and girls become available a little older, closer to 10, 11, or 12 months. The total time for the process in Russia is about 9 months for an older boy (the shortest time) and about 14-16 months for a young girl (the longest time). You can select your gender.

Ethiopia is very similar to Russia. The children live in orphanages and are brought home a few months earlier than in Russia, so you may be bringing home a child who is 11 months old rather than over a year. The timeframe is about the same as Russia. The children are also kept in orphanages. I do believe it is also easier to get a boy here. You can select your gender.

If you want to adopt a healthy infant girl China is the place for you. That is, if you have 5 years to wait. In China infant girls can be brought home I believe around 6-10 months old, but the current wait time in China is about 5 years (for a healthy infant). I believe 3 years if you are lucky. If you are open to children with special needs the wait it less and you will most likely get a boy.

Korea is the most lucrative place to adopt a baby. Infants are given to their forever families around 6 months. Adoptive families do not have to travel to Korea if they do not wish, as the child is sent over on a plane with an escort to JFK airport where their new family meets them. The children in Korea are kept in foster homes, and the mothers in Korea that give up their children are kept in a home during their pregnancy and have supervised pregnancies. The moment babies are born, they are placed in individual homes with foster families. The children coming out of Korea are healthy and have virtually no emotional and physical developmental problems since they are cared for in utero and are placed in foster care immediately. The time frame to adopt from Korea is about 2 years. They have restrictions on the adoptive families. Minimum years of marriage is 3, maximum number of children in the home is 4, and the youngest child in the home must be 2. You cannot specify gender. Oh, and you have to live in one of the following: CA, KS, MO, NE, SD, NJ, OR, or TX. If not, tough luck. Why Korea does not adopt to people in other states is beyond me.

Is much like Korea except with the nonsense state requirements. They have similar rules about marriage (3 years) and state the youngest child in home currently must be 2. However, you cannot have more than 2 children in the home when you apply for adoption. Children here are also well cared for and are placed in foster care at birth. The wait is long and is currently running 3-5 years. I am unsure about gender selection. Children are also young (6-9 mo).

So, given the fact that Tim and I definitely wanted an infant (I was wanting a child around 6 months, but it became clear to me this would not be possible) and that we wanted to get this done ASAP our options suddenly became Russia and Ethiopia. In fact, when I began searching for adoption agencies that were specifically in Ohio, it seemed these were the only two countries doing infant adoptions with these agencies. We are still lamenting the stupid state restrictions with Korean adoptions because given the age and amazing health of those children, I would have gladly waited the two years. I guess we'll let them know when we move to Kansas. Yeah, right.

The decision between Russia and Ethiopia was not that difficult to make. While we could get a child a 1-3 months younger in Ethiopia, I have family heritage in Russia and have always considered Russia as one of the top places I'd want to adopt from. Also, the children are mostly Caucasian, and while we did not begin this process only wanting a child that looked like us, having the option seemed nice. I believe it will be one less thing that our child has to contend with as she tries to find her identity in our family.

In the next post I will talk about the adoption agency we are using, why we chose a girl, and what we are expecting the process to look like. But I think this is enough for now.

Rockin' and Rollin'

The past few weeks the baby has kicked into full gear. I feel movements all the time, and they are getting strong enough to see from the outside of my belly. This near constant movement has been incredibly reassuring to my anxious soul. The baby is incredibly active, just like its brother. Matthew was very active in utero and how now progressed into an extremely active little boy. The other day Tim was doing some yardwork and had a ladder out going up to the roof. I turned my back on Matthew for just a second, and when I turned back around he was on top of the ladder and had one leg on the roof of the house. He climbed down all by himself. He has only just turned two! I know now from these little baby movements that Matthew will have a partner in crime.

Yesterday we had our 20 week ultrasound. We have been calling the baby "Take Three" since we found out we were pregnant, reflecting how this is our third take at baby number two. Well, we saw a perfect little Take Three on the screen, flipping all around. The ultrasound tech had trouble getting pictures of the heart because the baby was so active. She even commented that this one will be a handful. I wouldn't have it any other way. I cannot comment how the relief I feel at finally having a healthy, growing baby. Seeing Take Three on the screen felt like a miracle, and I can say that I appreciated this one a lot more than the ultrasound we had with Matthew. With Matthew, I so desperately wanted a girl. This time, I am just so relieved at the presence of a little baby in there that I don't really care all that much.

For those who are wondering, our due date is March 20th. The baby will be about 3 months younger than one cousin and about 9 weeks older than another. Babies everywhere! I have not taken a recent picture of the baby bump, and I have not yet scanned in our ultrasound pictures. I will do that soon and post it. For now, here is the first baby bump picture we took. It's at about 15 or 16 weeks.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why we are now halfway to Russia

To begin blogging about our adoption of our daughter from Russia I thought it best to answer everyone's question of how in the world we ended up here, scheduled to bring home a baby less than a year after having one biologically. Well, the reason we are here is precisely because we did not think we would be.

We have always wanted to adopt a child internationally. From before we got married this is something Tim and I have discussed as a plan for our family. To be honest, I did not imagine this plan to begin unfolding itself on our second anniversary, but that's what happened. On our second anniversary, in January of this year, Tim and I lost our second pregnancy at about 8 or 9 weeks. Miscarriages happen, we said, and we moved on. Of course, the "moving on" process was not as easy emotionally as I would have liked, but in April we found out we were pregnant again, due Christmas eve. Things went along much better. We saw a healthy baby on ultrasound at 6 weeks and then at 10 weeks. At 11 weeks, one day before I was to take my boards for medical school (only the most important test of medical school) I began bleeding and went to the doctor to find out that our baby at died. We miscarried naturally 3 hours after I finished my test the following day. To say I was devastated is an understatement. Why did this happen? Were we ever going to be able to have another child? What was wrong with me? These and other questions raced through my mind as we got up at 4:30 the next morning for our vacation. Only 5% of couples miscarry two consecutive times and I had a hard time grappling with this statistic. We were unsure of our future and so I told Tim I wanted to begin researching what adoption might look like for our family. At the very least, I thought, it would give me something positive to focus on so I did not enter the pit of despair. It worked. I called a million adoption agencies from the middle of nowhere Vermont. We discussed at length what we wanted, where we wanted to adopt from, and all the other logistical things that come with adoption. I am not one to start something and then back off and so it should be no surprise to anyone reading this that we selected an organization, a country, a gender, an age range, and started the process of adopting. (I will tell you why we chose what we chose in another post). Focusing on this pending child helped ease the pain of the miscarriage and helped me think to a more positive time when that child would be home with us. We began filling our ten million forms (again, I'll tell you about these in another post) and planning for our future with a little Russian girl. Before we had even finished the initial set of forms my morning sickness began and I was shocked to discover we were pregnant again. It turns out we had been pregnant for most of this process and did not know it. But I was skeptical.

I was still so worried we'd lose this baby, too, so we kept going with the process. At about 14 weeks pregnant, when I had begun to contemplate the possibility that maybe this pregnancy was a good one, we were so invested with the adoption that we could not turn back. We are proceeding as planned because we have already made room in our hearts for our daughter and begun to anticipate her arrival. We will postpone the process for just a few months, which we have already discussed with our agency, in order to ensure that we are not traveling and giving birth at the same time and also to allow me time to finish my 3rd year of medical school. We are hoping to take our first trip to Russia next fall, about one year from now. This seems like a long time for me to wait, but the baby kicks I feel as I write this remind me that perhaps right now a little more time is better. Our hands will be quite full in 20 more weeks.