Friday, December 28, 2012

A mix of emotions...

In addition to Jacob's birthday, we celebrated Ella's Gotcha Day on December 20th.  As much as I wanted to focus on the memories of that special day when our little girl was officially ours, all I could think about was the news of the possible ban on Russian adoptions in the United States.  It seems like Russia is always threatening to stop adoptions, so at first I wasn't overly concerned.  When I read the update on December 20th that the lower Duma had approved the bill to ban adoptions, worry struck me for the first time.  Could this really happen?  Given all of the politics involved, this was surely just another threat, right?  They wouldn't actually deny thousands of orphans a loving home and family... would they?  I decided to pray and tried to maintain hope, even when I heard about court cases being cancelled, even when I heard rumors that the bill would sail through the upper Duma, even when the reality set in that this might actually happen.  My heart sank as I found out the day after Christmas that the bill was unanimously approved in the upper Duma.  The fate of these orphans was officially in the hands of Putin now.  The bilateral agreement concerning adoption that Russia and the United States had signed on November 1st stated that changes to the pact would require a one-year notice by either side.  So many people thought even if Putin did put a ban on adoptions, there would be at least one more year for families to complete the process and bring their children home.  This was not the case though.  I woke up this morning to find that Putin signed the bill into law, which completely voided the bilateral agreement.  Adoptions would be banned as of January 1st, 2013.

I could feel my heart shatter into a million pieces.  I thought about the thousands of orphans who would now grow up in an orphanage instead of in a home with loving families. The United States has adopted over 60,000 Russian orphans in the last twenty years and Ella was one of 970 orphans who were adopted in 2011.  As much as the caregivers in these orphanages do the best they can to take care of them, there is already a high ratio of children to caregivers.  With the ban of adoptions, it is inevitable that these orphanages will become even more overcrowded.  I know it's easy for some to move past, but when you've been in one of these orphanages... when your daughter has lived in one of these orphanages for over a year... you can't stop thinking about it.  I've seen way too many sad, lifeless faces in referral pictures.  Thankfully, almost every one that I've seen is paired with the "after" picture and you get to rejoice that they are so healthy, happy, and loved.  My heart sinks when I think about what the future will hold for these sad, lifeless faces now.

My emotions have been all over the place today as I have friends who are stuck in the middle.  One friend went to court last month, waited the mandatory 30 days, and landed on US soil with her daughter today!  I am so thankful and relieved over the timing of it all.  Another friend met her son earlier this month and had a court date scheduled for today.  With all of the latest news, I was under the assumption that court would be cancelled for her like it had been for others.  Thankfully, this was not the case!  Our agency called her on Christmas Day, telling her to fly to Russia immediately.  Hours before Putin signed the ban, her adoption was approved in court.  The fate for her and 46+ other families who also have met their child and been officially approved in court is still unknown.  I am praying unceasingly that they will be reunited and get to bring their little ones home.  I've been in their shoes up until this point.  You spend hours with your child, they fall asleep in your arms, you whisper in their ear that you are their mama, you lay your heart on the line, you dream about your future together.  I cannot even fathom leaving Ella in an orphanage, never knowing if I would see her again.  It's absolutely heart wrenching.

I will continue to hold onto my faith that God is in control.  I will continue to pray that these orphans would be matched with families, either in Russia or another country who is able to adopt there.  I will continue to be thankful everyday for Ella and the blessing that she is to our family.  I will continue to pray for the families who are waiting, praying, and hoping to bring their babies home next month.  I will continue to pray that this ban is temporary and our country will adopt in Russia again.  I will continue to pray that hearts would be stirred to adopt... so that as many "before" pictures as possible can be matched with "after" pictures.

Happy Birthday Jacob!

Given the fact that we were in Russia on Jacob's birthday last year, I was beyond excited to be with my little guy on his birthday this year!!  We gave him the choice of a party or going to the Great Wolf Lodge with one friend... Great Wolf Lodge it is!!
 These two had so much fun together!!
 They were really sweet about letting Gavin tag along every so often too... ;)
 Off to the pool!!
 My brave girl went backwards down the toddler waterslide over and over!
 Then we went back to our room for cake!  
(Ella is pretty sure she knows just what to do  :)

 NINE years old.  I can't believe it.


 We found this little Pikachu at the mall and I truly had no idea how much he would love it.
 They are inseparable.
 After that, we went downstairs for the story hour.

 While everyone is singing "Let it Snow", snow starts to fall!  YaY!

 The look of pure wonder...
 They spent the rest of the evening with their wands and Magi book.

 Pitter-pattering down the hall
 They crawled into bed and were instantly quiet.  I think we wore them out!  ;)
 The next morning!  
We let Jacob and his friend have some time on their own (we gave them their wands and a few dollars to spend in the arcade... they were so excited!)  Meanwhile, we had hot chocolate with the little ones.  

Hanging out in the top bunk

 Such a fun time and Jacob was absolutely in heaven... 
but whew, FIVE kids to keep track of was a little crazy!
 We stopped by Jacob's favorite restaurant on the way home.
 They have this soup that he LOVES.

 He wasn't sure about going here on his birthday because they don't sing a birthday song... but we sang to him, he got a birthday mug, and he was totally happy!
Happy Birthday Jacob!  
I am thankful everyday for your hugs and smiles and all the sweet things you say!  I love that you are so happy and positive and appreciative.  You are my favorite nine year old in the whole world and I am so lucky to be your mommy!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Snowflake Lane

We discovered Snowflake Lane when we went to Bellevue for Jacob's birthday three years ago...
and decided to make it a family tradition!
All lit up and OH SO pretty!
(You can see in the following picture what they are staring at... ;)

They entertained themselves while waiting for the show by jumping off these cement blocks over and over!  Gotta love boys!
Apparently we have gone on nights that are typically crowded in the past!  Usually, you have to stand by a drum several minutes before the show starts.  Due to the crowds, we could see some toy soldiers walking by, but mostly we would just watch the drummers and sing to the beat!  So here we were waiting by the big drums... and there was nobody to be found!  Adam kept thinking it was cancelled for the night or something!
It turns out that when the show isn't crowded, it's just a BIG DANCE PARTY!
Each of our kiddos actually got to meet and talk with the snow prince and princess this year!  So fun!
She even let Ella try out her wand!
We are now experiencing the world of little girls and how their eyes light up when they see a princess!!
It's so sweet to watch!

They even had lollipops for the kids
Here is the drummer... in the background this time!

Then the snow came!!!  Magical!
They boys were trying to catch it!

My favorite part of the night was watching Casey dance with the snow princess.
I had to coax him a bit, but it was so precious!!

Drumming to the beat!
It was so cute to see how much they got into the dancing!

It was an entirely different production on a non-busy weekday!  I highly recommend it!