Well today was THE day! Unlike past posts that have documented our days in chronological order. We thought we should handle this day a little differently. We'll start by sharing our thoughts as we first met our children (with some pictures!), and then share more of the day's details.
Seeing the Children for the first time (Jim)
Without question, today was the best day of my life.
I held my new son and daughter in my arms for the first time today. For the first time I was able to stare into their eyes, kiss them on the head, and experienced that awesome feeling when your child wraps their little hand around your finger. For the first time I felt like a father of two beautiful children. I'd played this experience out in my head at least 100 times in the days and months leading up to today... but all those thoughts fell well short of the joy of experiencing it first hand. To be honest, I am still numb.
Aside from the obvious (and really indescribable) joy, I feel the overwhelming need to thank God for all I've been provided... for my wife and best friend Carla, for our health that allowed this trip happen, for choosing Kai and Sierra, and for the safe journey that allowed us to hold our children today. Carla and I both feel strongly that everything happens according to God's plan. We are certain that this was his plan for us!
Seeing the children for the first time (Carla)
Today's the day I became "Mama" (what they call mother in Kazakh) and Jim became "Papa" (what they call father in Kazakh) - although not officially since we have to wait until the judge says YES.
After much anticipation, I was overwhelmed with emotion when they brought Sierra in and I started to cry. I kept it to a minimum so the staff wouldn't think I was unhappy with her. She looks just like her pictures/video and has a great disposition. I immediately was trying to make her smile and it worked. She not only smiled but laughed within the first 7 minutes - it was the same laugh she had on the video and the best thing I'd ever heard. By the way, my little angel already has 6 teeth and is gnawing on any finger she can get in her mouth.
When they brought Kai in, I couldn't believe how big he'd gotten - he's a real bruiser, but the cutest thing you'd ever see. He "Mr. Serious" and makes you work a little harder to make him laugh but we accomplished that in the 1st visit as well. I'm thinking he weighs so much because he has no teeth and they just keep shoveling it in him since he doesn't have to stop and chew -- just a theory.
I can't put into words all the emotion and "rightness" that I was feeling (and still am). When I look at them they just feel like our children already. It's hard to believe, but if I had gotten pregnant a year ago, we may have never gone down the adoption route. I sit here today and it breaks my heart to think of never having them in my life - I truly believe this is what God had in his plans for Jim and I. My miracle was not getting pregnant so we could bring little Kai and Sierra home. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!
Pictures from our first day with the babies
AM visit - Carla and Sierra - who can open their mouth the widest?
PM visit - Daddy with the two best Christmas presents he could possibly receive!
AM visit - "Hey, who is that kid?" - this is the first time Sierra and Kai have seen each other so there was an element of intrigue to our day.
PM Visit - our new little family - everyone is almost looking at the camera - we'll work on that.
Ministry of Education meeting
The day started at the Ministry of Education. This was the first "official" interview regarding the adoption so it was a little nerve wracking. The Richardson's and us all went in together but we got to go first. They started by asking us to tell about ourselves, including: (1) what we did for a living? (2) where we lived? (3) did we own our home? (4) did we have siblings? (5) did we have biological children? (6) why we wanted to adopt? (7) why Kazakhstan?
Jim took the lead and did an awesome job for us. They had follow-up questions like: (1) who will watch the children since we both work? (Carla is going to part time but in our Dossier, it states she works full time), (2) have any of our friends/family adopted before? (3) how does our family feel about us adopting? (4) do we have health insurance for them? (5) do we realize that they could end up with some disorder/disease later?... and were we prepared to deal with it? (i.e., they've been rejected once, they didn't want them rejected again), (5) if something happened to us, who would raise the children? While they were asking questions, they were flipping through the photo album and Dossier (thank goodness Assia had "screened" the album the day before so I could take out all the "questionable" labels).
After were were finished, the Richardson's were asked similar questions and did a great job.
In conclusion, they asked Les if he had anything to add. He was awesome! He stated that he thought what both couples were doing was admirable and he was very supportive. The board stated that they were happy that Jim and Carla were including the "family" in making our decision. It was very positive and we were basically told "we passed!" Yeah - one hurdle over with. Now it was time to move on to BabyHouse #1.
Babyhouse Visits and a Traditional Kazakh Lunch
Wow - we thought this day would never come. Here we are getting ready to meet our children for the first time. We were packed and ready to go, so we left directly from the Ministry of Education meeting for the babyhouse. When we arrived, we met Irena, the baby house director. She asked us to confirm our children's names so she could bring in the correct babies for each of us. We were then escorted to the play room to wait. They had a "dignitary" in the building that day, so they were finishing up prior to tending to us. It was torture hearing people passing by the outside of the door and it not opening for us. Les was snapping tons of "pre-pictures" (by the way, Les is the official photographer for our trip - he's been doing a great job of documenting everything) and Jim was taking some video.
Finally they came to the door and brought Sveta (Sierra) and Ana (the Richardson's little girl) - they are both in Group #2. The caregivers never left the door. They watched us the entire time. They have been the "mama" for these babies since they were born, so it's hard to turn them over to someone else... but at the same time, they are happy for the children.
After several minutes of visiting Sierra, the next caregiver came in with Jude (the Richardson's little boy). And finally Erkin (Kai) was brought in by his caregiver. We played with them for only about 15 minutes and then we had to turn them back over to the caregivers (it was a timing issue - close to eating and nap time).
Prior to our afternoon visit, Olga, Assia and Masha treated us to a traditional Kazakh lunch for Christmas (they don't celebrate but knew it was a holiday for us - by the way, the panel at the Ministry of Education also wished us a happy holiday). We had an appetizer of horse and tongue with Kazakh beer, wine, vodka and apple juice. Our main entree was called 5-fingers (Kazakh word = Beshbarmak)- it was noodles, potatoes, carrots, beef and horse, topped with sauteed onions. Desert was ice cream with nuts on top. It was all very good. We've included some pictures below of the food. - YES, we did try the horse meat! In a future post, we'll detail that, but this post is already getting to be long.
Our afternoon visit was scheduled from 3:00 - 4:00pm. We were able to visit with them by ourselves this time. They never cried on either visit - actually we had them laughing on both visits. Jim, Carla, and Les all got a chance to hold them and crawl around on the floor with them (and get drooled on my Sierra - who is teething - already has 6 teeth. Kai is still gumming it). We brought our daily "drop" for the children in the afternoon. This contained: 5 diapers for each child and an clean outfit (tomorrow they'll give us the dirty one to wash). Upon recommendations of other families, we brought 3 layers of clothes for each of them - only to find out that BabyHouse#1 doesn't require that many clothes. They actually asked if we have anything lighter for them (i.e., they were in a short sleeve onsie and lighter sleeper when we got there). Kai has gotten so big that we have to go out and buy some onsies for him - they gave me his long johns back because they didn't fit (they were 12 mo size - YIKES!)
We were given our schedule for the baby house: AM visit from 1015AM - 1130AM, PM visit from 230PM - 400PM. Tomorrow can't come soon enough!