Thursday, April 10, 2014

UPDATE!

I know it's been forever since I've blogged. I'm sorry. I just don't have the time. Here is a brief overview.

I'm working full-time teaching Special Education again.
Polina has had a couple of surgeries. Her legs are now straight. We are waiting for the okay to remove the knee stabilizer on her right leg and the journey to walking will begin.
Carter is playing baseball and doing boy scouts. He just finished drama.

I am busy running Polina's Promise in my spare time to help special needs orphans and families worldwide.

I am also humbled and honored to have been chosen for the 2014 Cast of Listen to Your Mother - Little Rock. It is a live show where I will be presenting my piece titled "RADical Motherhood." It discussed the difficult topic and things so far left unshared about the first year home with Polina. The performance will be available on their YouTube channel after the show.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"Gotcha Day" - It's been a year!


Blogger won't let me upload new pictures...so I decided to take my 2-part "Gotcha Day" posts into one....


What a difference a year has made!


From Jan, 2013


A shower or a blog while Polina is sleeping snuggly? I think there's a lot of people waiting for a blog, so the shower will have to wait.

Adoptive families celebrate the day they are awarded custody of their child as "Gotcha Day."  It's like having a second birthday and something we always celebrate. For us, that day is Jan. 29th, 2013. We never would have imagined the way it would go when we started this process, or even the day before, really. And honestly, there's so much about it that I can't tell you yet. I will try here to sum it up the best I can ...to even give you a glimmer into the emotion of the day ...telling you what I can & using pictures. If you read closely and pay attention, you'll catch some things I intend to not blatantly point out.

Our alarms went off at 5:30am. We had some "guests" arrive at 6:30 and the caravan began at 7am. We stopped to pick up a passenger in the minivan about half an hour later. I filled out some embassy paperwork before the pretty part of the drive. Then came the beauty of the forrest on a Russian snowy winter day. It's beauty made up for my freezing feet! We stopped at our regular stop just before town where we met up with the others in the caravan. Such a thing is difficult to keep together in the Moscow traffic!

At 9:15, we headed to the local Ministry of Education. It was a nasty building inside on the first floor. You never would think it was a government building except maybe a prison. I can't imagine at this point what they look like. We were directed upstairs where it was at least a little cleaner and into the office of four women. We were warmly greeted by smiles as they all knew why we were there - the last Americans to adopt their child from this region. We knew that the lady we were here to meet would help us get our daughter from the orphanage where the director had been less than friendly to us on our previous visits. We showed our passports and signed some papers. We adjusted the seating arrangements in the caravan so that she could ride with us and headed to the orphanage.

I felt like I was going to throw up. I had such a mix of emotions. Anticipation and excitement at one end and apprehensive on the other. I was going to meet my daughter for the first time & it was not a day I wanted to experienc the conflict of the past when visiting her. Most importantly, I didn't want her to have to experience that. On top of that, I had been told upon arrival in Moscow that Polina had chicken pox and I wanted to be able to comfort her during this treacherous feeling.

The unknown is hard for in general, but as a Momma who has had to fight for her daughter and would do everything in my power to protect her, not knowing is nearly unbearable. I didn't know if anyone had told her about the ban, and if they had, did they tell her that we werent coming after we had told her we were? This was the nightmare that had run through my head everyday since the adoption ban was signed. I was very saddened on the way back to Moscow when Polina told us (unsolicited and out of the blue) she had cried just the day before when a couple of the caregivers had told her that her parents were not coming for her and she was not going to America. She told us who they were by name & I recognized one of them. I can not express the anger I felt that my child was unnecessarily caused so much anguish and despair. It's just pure emotional & mental torture to do such a thing!

Moving on...

The lady from the Ministry of Ed went in, leaving us outside. We went on a little walk to have our translator tell us about some of the buildings we had always wondered about when visiting the orphanage. The city was founded in 1154 - seven years after Moscow. This could partially explain why the MOE building was so nasty. In 1941 (sorry for the incorrect date the first time, give a tired girl a break!), the Germans were stopped there on their way to Moscow. Russia lost more souls to WWII than any other nation. There was someone at the gates of what we assumed was a school because there were always children nearby. He told us that this was one of the best schools in Russia based on some "contest" they had a few years back and that they had only the best teachers. Sound like American Standardized testing to me. Just think...one of the best schools in Russia with the best teachers...on the same street where my daughter lived...

I thought it was going to be time to go in and get my daughter. My emotions were high, but it turned out we had some more business to take care of. So back in the car we went to do that. It took us hours  filled with stress, conflict, a security guard and an escorted trip to the "chief's" office for some. But in the end, it was all resolved and we had what we needed. Now the question was if we were going to make it back before Polina went down for her nap and the director had another reason not to let her leave immediately. we were all pretty hungry at that point - but it didn't matter. We were going to get our girl!



I know many of you have been awaiting this. I'm sorry it's taken so long, and this may not be the greatest post as I'm trying to do it while myo princessa dochka is sleeping.

We were starving...it was almost 1:00 pm. There was no breakfast, it was a long night and a longer morning in the car and taking care of business in various buildings. But, there was no time for food because if we didn't make it by nap time, I was sure that we'd have to wait a couple more hours and we still had to go by the passport office on the way home.

Back to the orphanage we went...everything we needed. The cameras would have to wait outside. Poor Kirill had been waiting outside for hours in the snow. We went in, past the guard, and up to an office I'd never been in before down from the Directors. That was a relief. To not be in her office was a positive thing. Friendly faces of three women greeted us. The MOE representative gave her what she needed. She was filling out more paperwork.

I was asked for Polina's clothes. I handed them over...disappointed that I wasn't going to get to dress her yet. A few minutes later...she was wheeled in. There she was...my daughter wearing a shirt that said "Little Sister." She now had a family. Belonging. Identity.

And she was beautiful as always with her hair in two braids down each side. Pretty sure Angie did that. Thank you Angie! Thank you for all you did for our little girl and for all you do for the others!

Polina's first words to me? "Do I get to go with you Mommy?"

I got to say YES! I didn't have to leave her behind again! I have tears in my eyes as I type that.

I took her picture with Angie and we gave her a picture frame with a picture of Polina - one for her and one for another caregiver. And then, the director came in.



She didn't address us personally. She talked to some others in the room and then told us best wishes to our backs and left. We didn't know she was talking to us, but we were told. I had a nice picture frame with a picture of Polina in it for her, so I ran down to her office to give it to her. Kindness kills the heart...or something like that.

A few minutes later, she came back and things got tense. We couldn't make it out of there one time without the arguing? Really? Polina didn't need that! I didn't know what was being said, but she did.

I was told, "Let's get out of here as soon as possible."

You don't have to tell me twice.

I left the other three picture frames on the table to be given to the other caregivers. I shoved everything in the bag and picked Polina up without figuring out the broken zipper on her jacket. I could hold her against me to the car and it would be okay. So off we went...for the last time...leaving that.......place. Later, I was told that the picture frames were given back to one of our escorts, saying that they were just junk.

I had my daughter in my arms. That was jubilant.

But I was leaving others behind. Katya, Vika, Igor, Sasha, Valeria. I could go on. I will never forget those kids. I will never forget one of our translators telling me, "You're right, (she) isn't numb...she understands you!" or another crying for me and being put in the hallway and left alone in her wheelchair for well over an hour, because they think she's "numb" too. I will never forget these two girls just longing for human touch or their ecstatic squeels and delightful smiles when they got it. For Heaven's sake...just because a kid can't talk doesn't mean they don't understand. They should not be ignored and left sitting, in the back of the room or in the hallway, ignored. Play hand-over-hand with them. Tickle them. Hold them. Watch them bloom! As they say in America, I "triple-dog-dare you." It will change their lives, and it will change yours!

Sorry for the tangent.

We were in the van, on the way back to Moscow, with our daughter. It was a trip filled with wonderful moment and heartbreaking moments. Bittersweet was a recurrent theme this day. Polina would love on me. We listened to music and rocked together.



And then she told me, "I cried last night Momma. (Two of my caregivers) told me you weren't coming to get me and I wasn't going to go to America." My heart sank. My throat swelled. I was angry. I was disgusted. But I had to hold it together for her. And so I told her they were wrong, that Mommy was taking her home to America in a few days and she would never have to go back there. She went on to tell us about a boy in the orphanage who told her we weren't coning to take her because she was a (b****).

He was wrong too Polina. You are myo princessa dotchka now and I will take you to America!

She asked who would be with her in Moscow, if she would be alone, where she would sleep. We reassured her she would never be alone and we would always be with her.



The passport office was quick, we got some groceries, and we made it to our apartment around 6:30 that night.

I lived my dream that night. I fed her, gave her a bath, did her hair, read her a book and snuggled her. It took her three hours to fall asleep. I'll post in a future blog why I believe that is. But for now, my princess daughter is awake, and I have to go!

If you haven't seen this ABC news story (Thank you Kirit Radia!) you should watch it!

http://abcnews.go.com/International/video/american-couple-finally-leave-russia-adopted-daughter-18429896

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Thankful for Fear

It's been a long week!


I went back to work teaching full-time this week. It shouldn't have been a long week because we actually only went to school Wednesday and Friday because of weather closings. So what made it so long you ask?


Fear.


Polina has decided she's afraid to sleep in her own room. She has been coming into my room 3-4 times a night. Now, let me explain something to you. I am a night owl. I would give my left arm to be a morning person, but I'm not. I never have been. I have a terrible time falling asleep at night and rarely do I get good sleep until after approximately 2am. I'm also a very light sleeper. I am awakened with the lightest of noises and cannot sleep with any movement in my bed, much less someone touching me. We have a king size bed comprised of two twins and I make poor Jason stay in his zip code when it's time to sleep!


If I don't get my sleep, I'm a BEAR! No qualms about it. So this week, has been long and rough.


Why NOW? We used to put her in her room and shut the door and she went to sleep and stayed in her room all night. Now, she cries and begs us not to shut her door (a problem because she's hyper-vigilant and will not go to sleep until everyone else does if her door is open) and gets out of her bed several times a night with ever-growing excuses.


The fear is genuine. This momma knows when the tears are real, and these are! But why now, after 11 months? If she did this when we first came home, I would have done some co-sleeping in her bed - after all, I could nap during the day then.


Well, I had an epiphany tonight. You see, Polina loves to be rocked, but when she gets ready to fall asleep, she asks to be taken to her bed. Sleeping anywhere other than her bed or my bed (where I let her nap with me during the day sometimes) is a challenge. She hardly sleeps in the car and hotel rooms or visiting family is extremely difficult.


And then, a momma's dream came true! My daughter fell asleep on my lap in the recliner. It was the first time she has completely fallen asleep in my arms in the 11+ months that she's been home.

(I'd really like to post a picture here but either I'm too tired to function or Blogger is glitching)
It was as if fireworks were lighting up and booming awake my brain cells that seem to have died over the past 13 months. I'm thankful for her fear because of what it represents.


For the first time in her life, Polina is experiencing safety and assurance. She wasn't fearful before because without having truly felt safe, you can't truly fear. She's been numb. Things that should have bothered her haven't, not because she is so tough, but because she is....no...because she WAS numb.


Praise God my baby girl is no longer numb!


Hebrews 11:1 says faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
We've been doing a lot of talking about things (concepts) we cannot see or touch. We've been trying to teach her to trust us and that she is safe with us. These concepts are abstract - you cannot show her a picture or let her touch it. She has to experience it with her heart, mind and soul. She has always had anxiety about uncertainty. She needs her day laid out before her, step-by-step, person-by-person.  She's been working on familial relationships and gaining confidence in her status as a daughter, sister, granddaughter and cousin.


Tonight, when she fell asleep in my arms, I realized she has found confidence in our promise to always love her and protect her. This is such a huge step in attachment and right then, I prayed over her for continued progress in our attachment, for our relationship as she grows and matures, and for my wisdom in guiding that process.


If you are a momma struggling with a lack of attachment with your adopted child, I'm praying for you tonight. I know there are times you may feel like you'll never get there. I've felt that way many times! Put your faith in God and keep pressing on with hope. Be confident. He called you to this with purpose.


If you're not one of those mommas, please join in praying for them tonight. I know they'll feel a renewed strength in the morning!




Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Merry Russian Christmas

It’s Orthodox Christmas Eve in Russia. This time last year…


Oh man, my nose burns as I fight the tears just writing that.  Now they just fall. No use fighting them. It astonishes me how the pain I felt then, I can still feel now.  Deep, cleansing breath. Continue.


This time last year, I didn’t know the fate of my daughter. I had just told her two weeks prior that I’d be back to take her home. It was the next morning, that of American Christmas Eve, we were told we might not ever see her again.


We might not ever see our daughter again.


She, along with the other orphans, was becoming political prisoner.

As cold as the December Russian air was, those words were like chest crushing heat. I found it hard to breathe in the back seat of that car I choked down my tears on the way to the courthouse. I was about to stand in front of a judge who partially held our daughter’s fate in her hands. I couldn’t appear shaken. I had to prove my strength, ability and desire to care for my precious little girl.

The stale air in the courtroom was suffocating as I plead our case with the judge. Repeatedly, I assured her we knew our life wouldn’t be easy but we were dedicated to caring for this child we already loved as our daughter in our heart. There was but a flash of relief when she said yes, because she then continued to tell us she was sorry that her judgment may not matter. She wanted to make sure we knew the unspeakable possibility. There was a political law looming over our heads like a blanket of darkness.

I put on my poker face and thick skin. We packed our bags. I don’t remember every really crying. I couldn’t let myself feel the depth of despair in my heart. I had to hang on to the thin thread of hope that resided in my soul. Without it, I couldn’t exist.  

We went to a Christmas party that night. Wonderful people, delicious food, fun gift exchange. There was even a mixed Russian/American couple that had adopted a special needs child at the party. Naturally, there were questions. I answered apathetically. It was all I could do to avoid hysterics.

It seemed a distant walk back to the apartment in polar temperatures. I don’t know if I slept that night. Our driver picked us up in the morning and we flew back to the US.

Christmas Day. Heavy heart. Stone cold face.

Thoughts and emotions churned in my soul for three days before they found their escape on an airplane to my mother’s house near Los Angeles. The tears flowed uncontrollably as I typed a blog through blurred vision. A few hours later, I was blindsided by middle-of-the-night calls from phone numbers I didn’t recognize and found myself doing interviews with the same media I’d turned down requests from when we were in Russia. We had intended to fly under the radar. I had no idea then that my blog would be translated and shared via popular Russian news sites, or that 40,000 people would read it. ABC World News Tonight , Good Morning America, CNN Early Start, Wall Street Journal, Yahoo!, Associated Press, Daily Mail (UK), The Telegraph (UK), KABC Los Angeles.

None of it ever on my radar. It consumed a week of me.

And then, by this time last year, it had died down. I was back home in “small town” Arkansas not knowing what would happen. My hope hung on God, and the Russian people who were reaching out to me and made it clear they would do anything to get Polina home!


To all of you, too many to name, thank you! I know you haven't forgotten the orphans and that you will continue to fight for them.


I pray you have a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Anniversary of a death sentence...

Last year at this time, our family was all over the international news as the world cared about what was going on. Tonight, it's quiet. People have moved on and forgotten. I cannot. I will not.

I've taken this blog entry over to our Polina's Promise blog. Please take the time to go over there and read it, share it, and follow us.

If you haven't already followed us on facebook, you can find us at www.facebook.com/polinaspromise

Thank you.
~Kendra

Monday, December 23, 2013

Finding Joy in Jesus

One year ago today,

through cloudy eyes,

barely able to breathe,

I told my daughter I had to get on an airplane and fly back to America

without her

one more time.

I promised her I'd be back -

It wouldn't be long this time.

I believed that.

That promise would begin to haunt me just a few hours later.

It had been a good day.

The "Baptists" had come to play carols for the kids & give them each a hydrangea to represent hope.

To represent hope!



We were invited into the teaching and meal with the older kids. I'm sure the director would have choked if she knew.

In our discussions, we found out they weren't Baptists as the director had told us. They were actually Seventh Day Adventists. Basically, if you're not Orthodox, you're "Baptist."

(If anyone from that group happens to reads this, please, please, please contact me at polinaspromise@yahoo.com)

The best part of the day was when I was able to talk to a couple of the ladies about a sweet, non-verbal little princess with CP who never got attention or human interaction. I showed her how to take her out of her chair (insert more director choking) and play with her. Since the group visits four times a year, I cling to the hope that Vika has been held 4 times in the past year. I fear though, that Vika has been transferred.

Now I'm the one choking. The thoughts of what could be happening to her are too much for my heart to bear.

Moving on.

They thanked us and asked us about the impending American adoption ban and if we were sure we were going to be able to take Polina home.

We were.

We had been told as long as we passed court the next morning, we would be safe from the ban.

Christmas Eve would be our last night in Moscow for this trip. We would go to court in the morning, were confident we'd pass, and then we'd celebrate Christmas & our adoption with a gathering of both Russians and Americans.

The unspeakable happened the next morning.

Before court, our facilitator told us she had been wrong. Even if we received court approval, we may not be able to take our daughter home.

I dug deeper within myself than I'd ever dug before to find the strength to speak in that courtroom.

The judge put me through the wringer. I plead... repeatedly. Our facilitator told me I did amazing. I don't know how.

We passed, but it was somber. The judge, the representative of the Education of Ministry and the other representative all had a very bleak look in their eyes as they wished us the best. There wasn't a lot of hope in that room. It was inexplicably torturous.

I was numb. There wasn't relief in having passed court and now we had to go to a celebration where I knew the questions would fly & I'd have to admit the hardest thing of my life.

I wasn't in control and I didn't know what the outcome would be. All I could do was walk by faith and I haven't always been good at that.

We had advent & celebrated Jesus.

Jesus!

He came to Earth to live as man and give us hope for our futures. He taught us how to love sacrificially. He came to give us peace.

He gives us joy in the absence of happiness.

We chose Joy as Polina's middle name.

Please join me tonight in praying for joy & peace for the mommas who didn't get to bring their babies home. Pray for a God-sized miracle and that the doors will, in-fact reopen someday. Pray for safety, care & families for the orphans.

Please check out what we are doing at www.polinaspromise.com (and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/polinaspromise) and let us know of any way you can help.

May your family find Joy in Jesus this Christmas!



Monday, December 9, 2013

A Visit to Ded Moroz

We are so blessed to live in Northwest Arkansas where there is always a family-friendly event going on. We took advantage of our Thanksgiving break to take Polina to several holiday events. We went to the lighting of square in Downtown Bentonville and got to watch an ice skating show at the outdoor rink. We also went to see "Ded Moroz." 

Ded Moroz, or Father Frost, is the Slavic version of Santa Claus. He is the symbol of Russian winter, New Year's and presents. It's just one bit of Polina's Russian culture we can keep alive for her. She is now convinced his last name is Santa Claus...so for us...it's Ded Moroz Santa Clause. While we make sure that our family's focus is on Jesus' birth as we celebrate Christmas, we also incorporate the cultural traditions as a "side" to the fun and celebration.

Here are a couple short videos and photos from our evening at the Pinnacle Hills Promenade. It was perfect timing - a Monday night at 7:00. No one was there and we had him all to ourselves for about 45 minutes!

video

He greeted her with a Russian phrase. She was so confused.


Reading "The Night Before Christmas" so she could see what his reindeer were.

video
 

Showing her his magic key he wears around his neck because we don't have a chimney. She had a dozen questions about this, including what he did with it when he sleeps.

A kiss goodbye
And then we went for a walk to look at the lights and decorations around the Promenade.

Polina and Daddy love fountains
 
Stopped in for a picture with the pretty tree at Pottery Barn.

Close Up

A magical Mommy-Daughter moment

Pretty Girl in front of the big tree