Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Court decree day

Today was such a big day. Today Irina Grace and Artyom Malachi officially become Dahlens. Today we are listed as their parents on their birth certificates. Today was the day we have been praying over for months. Praise God that this process has gone smoothly and quickly up to this point!

Our 10 day wait was up Monday. Finally! If you have been through this process, you know how nerve wracking those days are. Your kids are not really yours until you have a court decree in your hand. During that 10 day wait, any number of problems are possible. It is like holding your breath for 10 days. Everything had gone well up to this point, but until that document was in hand, we just prayed nothing would change. This morning we could breath again. With our court decree officially in hand, we started the 2nd half of this process-getting the paperwork to get OUR kids home! On the agenda today-lots of driving, lots of waiting, and birth certificates, tax ID numbers, and passport applications. It was a never ending stream of visits and officials and paperwork. Fortunately, all went well. Tomorrow we will take the kids out of the orphanage to get pictures made for their passports, and then we wait. Their passports will hopefully be ready Monday, we will go to the embassy on Tuesday and wednesday, and then we will go home thursday! At least that is the plan at this point. Pray that all the details work out as they need to!

Today was also the day we visited the kids for the first time since the day we had court. We had no idea how they would react, but wow to see their grins when they saw us! Both of them were so excited! Ira Grace insisted that I pick her up! The orphanage director told us they had been asking when we were coming back since we left. I wish I had enough words in their language to explain to them all the changes about to happen in their lives. However, even if I had the words, I know they wouldn't understand. Their world has been within 4 concrete walls for their entire lives. They are about to enter the world. Just a few more days!

And today was the day they met Anna Faith for the first time. They had seen pictures of her since we first started visiting her and both immediately recognized her. Ira Grace immediately went and took her hand. Malachi warmed up to her in a way I have never seen him take to someone. Both were following her around, talking to her, sharing with her, copying her, and smiling at her. If she did something, they had to do it too. I can not wait till they can meet Samuel too. Thank you God for bringing these 2 home finally. It feels like they have always belonged with us. We will always be missing a piece. We will not be complete without our Abigail. Even when they are home, our family will not be together or whole, but we are so happy to welcome these 2 little ones. It is bittersweet.

Today was the day we have been waiting for. The day we have been journeying toward. All of you have been such a huge part of this for us and these kids. I can't wait to post our gotcha pictures this weekend!

Friday, May 20, 2011

They are ours!

We passed court! The experience was a little nerve wracking but God is continually amazing me on this journey. Even on the way to court, our driver happen to tell us the name of one of the roads we turned down-in English-trust avenue. Ok God, I'm listening. We had court in the judge's chambers. It was hot and a little overwhelming, but an actual court room would have been worse. Thanks for that little mercy. There were lots of questions and we really had to assure all involved that we do in fact want these sweet children. They were very thorough and concerned with the welfare of the kids. I can really appreciate that although it was stressful. It was so bittersweet listening to the testimony. We listened to them again and again saying these kids had nothing, no one. That they had never had a single visitor. That they have no family. They have no legacy. No possessions. No one wanted them. Malachi was actually named after the street he was found on as an infant and his birthdate was assigned to him by the state. My heart broke again and again. But then to hear the orphanage workers talk about how happy the kids were with us. To listen to testimony after testimony saying that our adoption was in their best interest. There were no objections. The kids would thrive with us. Praise God! Yes they will. They are loved now beyond their wildest dreams. They have brothers and sisters, grandparents, friends, a home, love, happiness, and a family. All that nothing had been before. Now God had united us in this journey and all we have is theirs. They are wanted. Needed. Loved. Praise God for the beautiful gift of adoption and love that he has given to families. Thank you for my newest 2 blessings. Born in my heart and forever united with my family. By birth order they are 4 and 5. By order of being part of us theynare 6 and 7. Irina Grace Dahlen and Artyom Malachi Dahlen welcome home!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


We were told today court is scheduled for 10am Friday morning as long as all our paperwork comes in! Pray that this happens. We are ready! Things continue to go well with the kids. Malachi is coming out of his shell and is more and more trusting. Grace continues to be quite the spitfire. They are warming up to Nathan well. Grace is doing well with Eli but a lilttle rough. We are working on gentle. Eli seems to freak Malachi out a bit lol. Keep praying for us and that th process continues to go smoothly!

We met them!

What a day! The day we have been waiting on blew away my expectations and biggest hopes. I'll start from the beginning. The train ride was pure misery for the first hour or so. We left after 11 so we were all pretty tired by that point, and Eli was completely exhausted. He was also apparently freaked out by the train moving. There was lots of screaming and pleading and rocking till he finally gave it up.

We were met at the train station this morning by our amazing facilitator and our awesome driver. I can't say enough good things about this pair. They are efficient and get it. I really appreciate their hard work today. We were shown around our perfect little apartment and how to get to the mall and all the restaurants and the we were left for about an hour to get ready to go.

When we were picked up it was a flurry of activity. We went first to meet the social worker. We had heard that she can be a bit difficult somedays and we had been praying about the situation. Turns out, she was out of the office today on an emergency and her assistant, who happen to take a liking to us, filled in her place. Thank you God for that small mercy. We then went to the orphanage and met with the doctor. It is clear that both our children have been well taken care of over the years.

Then the big moment came and the kids walked in. I can't even describe that moment. It was beyond anything I even thought it could be. Grace is a firecracker. She walked right up to both of and started charming us right away. She was saying hi mamma like she says to all unknown adults. The moment was priceless though when she realized something was different this time and she started to say Grace's mamma (but using her given name of course). Wow. Malachi is more cautious and reserved. He is very comfortable with me and completely fascinated by Michael although he won't really go near him yet lol. Soon.

We went back to visit this afternoon. Bubbles were a huge hit for both of them and Malachi really relaxed then. He was chatting a good bit by the end of the visit. Leaving them was really hard and I am sure it will only get harder. Grace was so sad. I should also say she is quite the parrot. She will be speaking English in no time. Malachi reminds me so much of my nephew. We brought both kids a little photo album of home and they were mesmerized. Neither wanted to put them down. We talked and talked about each picture. I have no idea what they understood but we could hardly get the away from them to put up. Malachi in particular seemed to be processing the my momma and daddy idea this afternoon. Both made great eye contact, wanted to be with us, didn't run off with friends or other adults, and were very open to hugs and touch. It is just the first day I know but it was a great start.

In between visits, we finalized paperwork to start the process to get a court date. It can't come soon enough! Our schedule now is visit the kids twice a day and wait on that court date. Pictures coming!

This is what you've been waiting for...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Worth it

There is a certain level of depression you go through being in a new place when you don't know anyone. That isn't helped if you add in a language barrier and a feeling of dependency because of lack of transportation. I know all of this. I was ready for the culture shock and the adjustment. It doesn't make it easier. I didn't quite realize the emotional exhaustion of leaving the kids each day. I expected it would be hard but not as hard as it is. I did expect how hard it would be to leave the others at home. Skyping with them both helps and hurts. I am so thankful that I have part of my family with me. I am thankful I have access to email and facebook and connections from home. And I'm thankful we are here doing this no matter if it is hard.

These kids needs families. They need families willing to go through the stress that is international adoption. They need moms and dads who will fundraise and paper chase and fly across the world. They are worth it. I look into so many little faces each day hungry for their turn. The kids at our orphanage are loved and taken care of. Their nannies really care about them and do their best. And still these kids need homes. The best that they can do at the orphanage is not a substitute for a family. It isn't good enough. Each little pair of eyes seeking mine. Each little hand reaching for me. Each little voice asking momma? My heart breaks for those we will leave behind. The hope in their eyes each day tears my heart to pieces. I think of my children at home. Of Abigail. Of Eli. What if they were here? What if it were their sweet little face filled with hope and anticipation again and again-watching other children being picked. If I could take them all I would. How do we sit by and let these kids wait? How did I for so many years?

All of that and I think I am trying to say it is worth it. It isn't easy. But it is all completely worth it. Temporary discomfort for me. A lifetime of reward. For Grace and Malachi, I would have swam here. They have no idea of the life and love waiting on them. They are just thrilled to get a little special attention and extra playtime. Neither ever knew it before. Neither ever had a mother in their life or a relative visit. The others deserve to be picked, love, wanted as well. Be courageous. Be willing to sacrifice and step out in faith. Do you part to end this crisis. Even if just one remained, this would be a crisis. It means everything to them, but it will change you as well. For those of you on this path still waiting to meet your little ones. Hang in there. It is worth it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

So far...

The last few days have been nothing short of amazing. The only things missing are my other kids. It is hard to leave them and we are longing for Abigail more now than ever in so many ways. I could never have imagined things would be going this well with the kids. Our days for now consist of 2 visits a day with the kids (one time with Nathan and Eli and one without). Then we walk to the mall and use the Internet. We won't get to visit them tomorrow so we are going to try to explore a bit more.

Some things here feel very European and comfortable for us. Some things are very different. We are having a good time remembering all those European cultural things we had forgotten over the past 10 years and learning the specific features of this culture. We have found the people here generally friendly and proud. They don't smile at you like in the south, but don't let that fool you. They are warm and friendly. We have felt very welcome. Our biggest difficulty is the language/alphabet. Since the letters are different we can't even really guess as to what signs say etc. We can pick up quite a few words now in conversation but we have a hard time trying to learn more because of the alphabet. We are communicating with the kids really well regardless.

The kids. I know that is what you are really interested in, but first for my friends. You are cracking me up with the wardrobe comments. I do in fact own clothes that aren't t shirts and blue jeans. I just don't in general wear nice clothes to the park or playdates or the places you usually see me lol. Expect t shirts and jeans when I get home.

Things continue to go really well with the kids. Grace the parrot is really smart. She repeats most of the English words we say. She remembers everything. And she is terrified of bugs. Terrified. She distinguished between another little girl's momma and her own today. That is huge. She makes great eye contact, checks to make sure I am following her around, loves to give hugs, hasn't tried to leave to play with the other kids or adults, and is just doing really well. She plays with michael's beard and can point to her nose when asked in English. She loves to be pretty. And I hear she is opinionated with her clothes. Love it. She cries when we leave her. It breaks my heart. And oh the squeals when we come back.

Malachi is a worker. He really reminds me of my nephew in features and mannerisms. Even his ears are like my nephews. He is now grinning and running for a hug when we pick him up. He doesn't cry when we leave him but he stands and stares and waves. He has become quite the daddy's boy and is much more chatty. He is calmer and loves to do his work-whatever that is at the moment. He can focus on one task for a long time. He is repeating english words too now and is checking in while he plays. He has become a hugger although he wants less touch than Grace. And today he kept wanting to touch my face. Today I was talking to him and mentioned Nathan and Eli and he lit up. He remembered! He started saying Nathan, Eli, Anna Faith, and Samuel.

Nathan and Eli met them for the first time yesterday and it went really well. Both kids were really cautious at first but by the end of the visit, both were playing well and having a great time with Nathan. Grace kept rubbing Eli's head. Malachi didn't seemed overly interested in Eli but he watched from a distance. He would tell me if Eli needed me every time. We are showing them pictures of the others and that is their favorite thing to do-look at pictures of home. They love all books, but especially those picture albums.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More pictures

Got our letters!

Got our referral in hand! And we brought our passports this time-ha! Michael fortunately caught that they only gave us a letter for one as we walked out the door and we had to run back in to get the other. I'm so thankful he noticed that! This basically givea us permission to meet the kids.

Today was good. We took the metro in and walked and saw the sights. We visited a beautiful church and I bought a cheap scarf so I could go inside. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but wow. I don't even have words to describe the beauty of this cathedral. Then we walked to the adoption center and waited...and waited...We met several families there adopting from all over. After we finally got our referrals, we stopped and ate and hit the metro back to the apartment to rest for a minute. Michael is having so much fun ordering in a language we don't speak much of ;). And here we wait until about 9:30 my time when we will be picked up to head to the train station. We will arrive in our city at about 7:00 tomorrow. I will post again from there as soon as I'm able!

Pictures from today coming. I took pictures of all kinds of normal things just for you Kathy. Please keep praying for a fast court date!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Today's appointment

Well we just rode the metro home to our apartment. Interesting experience. And super cheap which is always good.

Our appointment went very well this morning except for the fact that we left our passports at home. Oops. The lady was really nice even though she must have thought we were complete idiots. We were asked a few questions and then were read bits of the files on the kids. They told us what little information they know on their history. We will find out more about their life after arriving at the orphanage when we arrive in their city. We also got to see baby pictures of each and a toddler picture of Malachi. Oh my heart. We were told we could trade out for these pictures soon.

As of tomorrow we will be able to pick up our official permission to meet the kids and we will take the overnight train to their city. We have elected to stay at an apartment closer to the orphanage so we can just walk instead of having to pay a driver each day. The downside is there is no wi-fi in the apartment. We will be able to walk an get internet access though so I will be keeping up this blog as much as I can. The apartment is also about half the cost as well, so it seemed like the best choice.

We are headed back out to get lunch and see the city!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Today's pictures

Pray for us tomorrow. Our appointment is early. I will post when we get home from it. One of these pictures took me by surprise. We were just walking through the streets of city and this word was right in front of me glowing in red. I have no idea what it says in this language, but I know what it said to me.

Few more pics


I forgot to add a couple of details of our day yesterday. First of all, our adorable summer cottage had an outhouse. And a shower in the basement next to an empty tiny indoor pool. Good times. Second of all, our driver's dad was apparantly some important guy in the KGB. It was beyond fascinating to hear his take on current politics in this part of the world. We also went to visit his friend who is a iconographer and we were able to see some of his work. And I loved his mother. She just didn't believe me that I don't understand and keep motioning me to follow her so she could tell me all kinds of things. It was a very warm welcome to this country in a way only they could have done it.

Today has been slow and relaxed. We are supposed to take a tour of the capital this evening and then hopefully sleep well before our appointment tomorrow.

I promised lots of pictures (and even of normal, every day things right Kathy?) so here they are!
At the airport

On the plane

Sunday, May 8, 2011

On the ground...Europe I have missed you

After a long day of traveling (or day and a half-not sure how that works with the 8 hour difference) we are finally here. On the ground. In the same country where my children live. We are finally now in an apartment with wi-fi. Sorry for the delay in posting. What can I say? It has been an interesting weekend. Eli did great. Slept on 3 out of 3 flights. We were as comfortable as can be for flying that long and all our luggage made it. Success!

We were met at the airport by an intelligent, history-loving driver. Because of some issues with our apartment, we actually spent the evening in his family's summer cottage while his mother talked to us in rapid Russian fully expecting we were understanding. Ha! The cottage was adorable and surrounded by beautiful blooming trees. We were treated to a tour of the local village and schooled in local history. My kind of evening. Michael was still recovering from jet lag and the local driving including a tendency to stop and turn off the car in the middle of a busy road to answer a phone. Nathan has been anxious for wi-fi but is going with the flow very well.

Now we are back in the capital in a very modern comfortable apartment. I can almost see mcdonald's from here.

Europe I have missed you and all your quirkiness. We are trying to soak up as much of our children's culture and heritage as we can. I love the pride in the people. There is much here that reminds us of England, but there are elements that are definitely distinct to this country. The countryside is beautiful with blooming trees everywhere. We will be here for a few days and then we will travel by train to our city.

Please keep us and the details in your prayers. Our appointment is tomorrow at 11 our time, which is about 3 am central time. We are so excited to find out any details about our kids at that meeting and to find out exactly when we will take a train to meet them.

Today is victory day here. Victory day celebrates the liberation of Europe at the end of World War II. Most european countries still consider this day a very important day in their calendar. I hear there will be a big parade in the city today but we have no clue how to find it right now so I think we might settle for a nap and a walk instead.

Sorry this jumps all over the place. I have tried to put snippets down along the way and want to catch you all up. Email me or post here. I would love to hear from you all. I can't text here or call, but I will be checking email frequently. I will post pictures soon!

On our way!

We are currently in the air somewhere between Birmingham and Chicago on the first leg of our adventure. It was painful to leave Anna Faith and Samuel behind. There were lots of tears at my house over the past few days. We are beyond excited to go and meet the two we have yet to meet though. It is a big mix of emotions.

As many of you know, our beautiful state is still suffering in the face of tremendous devastation from the tornados of April 27. My heart is broken for those families hurting, especially for those who lost family members. I know the weight of sudden loss. The feelings of panic and dread. The overwhelming urge to somehow burst out of your skin or the feeling it is going to crawl off without you. And I live with that still. But for me, I had a home to go to. I have a rock of a husband to physically carry me. Some many of these people have nothing left. Nothing.

We flew over a sea of blue tarped homes and debris on our way out of the city. The path of the tornado (one of the many that hit our state that day) looks like claw marks across the ground. It makes my stomach turn.

Last time I flew to Europe was less than 2 weeks after 9/11. This time it is less than 2 weeks after the worst local disaster I have ever seen. It is hard to leave in these times of great suffering. Our prayers continue to be with the grieving and all you amazing people sacrificing time, money, and energy to help.

As for us, please continue to pray for us on this next exciting step. I'm listing some specific needs below. Thank you for partnering with us to cover this adoption in prayer.

- safe, low stress travels (so far so good! Eli has slept so far on this flight but 2 more to go)
-peace over my family in the time we are separated
-a fast court date and a favorable judge
-prepare Grace and Malachi's hearts for a family
-attachment and transition
- finances and timing on this trip

I hope to blog as we go as much as I can. For now we are headed to the capitol city to be given our referrals and then on to our city in a few days. Email anytime. Love and miss you all!