Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - GOTCHA DAY!

Today was court - great news - both our APPLICATION FOR ADOPTION and PETITION FOR IMMEDIATE EXECUTION (immediate execution means they wave the 15 day waiting period) were granted --- YEAH!!!


       Erkin Maksatovich Ualiev became Kai Erkin Higgins

       Svetlana Pavlovna Ivanova became Sierra Svetlana Higgins

We're beyond thrilled, as you can imagine. Our court appointment wasn't until 4:00PM so we waited all day with a nervous stomach. It's amazing to think that it all comes down to one man that determines whether we will be good parents to these children and that it is in their best interest to have us as parents. All the details we slaved over in the paperwork and the wonderful work by the adoption agency and all their partners here in Kazakhstan have paid off.

We love Kai Erkin and Sierra Svetlana as if they were born to us. Over the last 2 weeks, we have loved watching our relationship evolve with them. They went from them looking at us like complete strangers to having them smile or gyrate (in Sierra's case) when we walk in the room. We can't imagined our lives without them. Everything worked out as it was meant to - we feel like this was part of what God had planned for our lives and we can't wait to get them home and start being a real family.

As you can see from the pictures below, we did get to visit with the children this morning. Unfortunately, we couldn't see them in the afternoon because of court. Wait until they see their new Mom and Dad tomorrow. I'm sure to them it will be another visit but to us, it means so much more (and will to them shortly when we begin our gradual journey home). We are letting the children stay at the baby house tonight and tomorrow night and will pick them up on Thursday before going to the airport. This was a tough decision, but the staff there takes such good care of them and they have Doctors on staff all day (since both Kai and Sierra have been sick recently this is a bonus). We don't have cribs at the apartment so it would be disruptive to bring them here and then start the "change" all over again when we take them to Almaty. At least this way, they will only be uprooted once to Almaty and then again when we go back home.

Details of Court

Court went EXACTLY as Olga said it would. It was like having the script of a movie and then watching it. The same parties were present as in pre-court with 2 additional characters - the prosecutor (a young women) and a representative from the Records Dept (she attested to their original birth records and the forms signed by mothers relinquishing their rights). This session was a bit more formal. We had to stand when the judged asked us questions and sit when we were told to. At the beginning the judged asked for our pictures. He didn't look at any in our albums - he was only concerned with the new pictures of the children. He wanted to take some to attach to their files. Our one comical moment was when he kept flipping through and asked which one was Erkin (there were several in the stack). He kept flipping through and finally asked if this other child was Svetlana - when we and the baby house director said Da (Yes), he laughed and said she doesn't look like a Svetlana Ivanova (a very traditional sounding Russian name and Sveta looks very Kazakh).

That was the last laugh/smile in the court. Jim stood first and the judge asked all the same questions as before (except there were a few questions Jim was asked in a different way so he had to list out points - but we were prepared for this). The prosecutor then had an opportunity to ask questions of Jim but she didn't have any. Next it was Carla's turn (who surprisingly didn't cry). She was asked the same questions as last time and again the prosecutor had no follow-up questions so she sat back down. This pattern continued for the Baby House Director, the Ministry of Education and the Records Department (by the way, the judge actually answered the phone during the Baby House Director's portion - she didn't skip a beat and fortunately he didn't stay on the phone that long). The judge then announced that the adoption hearing was over and asked is we have anything to add.

Jim stood up for his speech and did an excellent job recapping all the "right things" they wanted to hear about why we would be good parents and provide a good home to the children. After he was done, the judge asked if Carla had anything to add. Carla took the emotional route, crying in the beginning but then composing herself through the remainder of the points. Whatever we did or said.. it worked. The prosecutor stood next and granted our adoption application but denied our petition for immediate execution but the Judge granted both, which is the most important decision because it's the only one that counts (NOTE: it is normal for the prosecutor to deny the immediate execution).

Afterwards, everyone went back out in the waiting room where Jason and Keely were waiting their turn. We showed the group some pictures of the children and wished Jason and Keely luck and then came back to the apartment to wait for them.

The Records Office

After drinking a little champagne and calling home, we went to the records office to pick up the new birth certificates with Erkin and Svetlana's new names and the adoption certificates. Of course we can't read anything, but all paperwork is translated in Almaty before we go home. We had to sign a book to get the documents but then we were on our way to the Kamelot restaurant to celebrate.

It's been a long day but a rewarding one - here are the pics:


Guess what? I'm getting adopted today...



Throw me again Mama!


This bear tastes good...



Daddy - swing me again.


Masha and Assia in the sports room.



Say what? You're adopting me today...what's that mean anyway?


Kiss my feet again.


Kai winding down for his nap.


Jim ironing his shirt before court.



Carla stressing out before court.


Jim and Carla ready for the big event.



Ministry of Justice


Jim and Carla after court (don't we look a little more relieved than the before picture above?).



Jim breaking out the champagne to celebrate.



Igor opening his gift.



Jim, Carla, and Les toasting to our adoption.


Keely and Jason toasting after their final adoption.



Carla, Jim, Jason, Keely and Assia - a big toast.


Olga, Jason, Keely, Carla, Assia and Jim at the Records office - waiting to get the new birth certificates and adoption certificates.


Jim signing for the new certificates (Carla also signed for each).


Jim and Carla being presented with the new certificates.



The new certificates. The adoption certificates are in Russian on one side and Kazakh on the other. The birth certificates are in a hard cover (similar looking to a passport) and are all in Russian.


Outside of Kai and Sierra's new birth certificates.



A group picture outside of the records office. (from left to right) Keely, Jason, Carla, Jim, Igor, Assia, another driver, Phillipivich.


We celebrated at the Kamelot! Vodka and beer for all!



Carla and Jim at the Kamelot.


Jim ordered Vodka shots and this is what he got - a roll of cotton. We're not sure how this translated to cotton, but we all had a good laugh about it - even our server.



Jason and Jim with Natalia, our patient server.


Les and Keely.


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  A Jim & Carla Creation - 2004