Monday, June 16, 2008
We had spent many days now with the girls and they were getting used to us. We had gone shopping in Stavropol. Mom seemed to enjoy herself...and was getting to know the girls. They were loud, funny, but they were very obedient too. We were starting to get ready for court. Michael, our translator spent a lot of time with us, mostly Vinny - explaining what and how to answer things in court. He told us exactly how to answer things and not to answer things. He told us what they were looking for and what they were not looking for. We were trying to be as prepared as we could be.
We regularly saw Aliana's family - her Aunt and Uncle - and it was nice. Vinny actually got to do some split's with the missionaries, and we met the couple he went to do the splits for. They were an older couple, very nice, and very very Russian. =). Vinny point out asked this gentleman why he was not yet baptized. He chuckled, and really didn't have an answer. We absolutely loved our missionaries over there. They were so key in helping us translate to the girls.
We were actually going to church over there. We had the translators tell the girls. Cami was not allowed to go, (grrr) but the other girls were with us constantly now so they got to go. We met at a small hotel, in a room, and I was overwhelmed when we walked in. There were maybe 20 people who were there at this small branch, living the gospel and following the guidelines of the church. They were so excited when they saw us, they excitedly announced that the DiGirolamo's (and the American's) would be speaking that day. Well, that scared Aliana and Nikki to tears. They thought they had to get up and speak too!! We reassured them that they didn't have too. I was scared!! My mom was such a trooper. The Bishop was just a young man, who had such a huge spirit. In this part, it fufilled a part of my patriarichal blessing, where it stated that "one day it would be my high honor to bear my testimony to the peoples of the earth that Jesus is the Christ". I was so touched. Well, the meeting started, and my mom got up - then me, and then Vinny. Nikki started to cry and complain of a toothache..so we didn't get to stay for all meetings. We had to take her to the dentist. But before we left, a lady who was around 60, came up and honest to pete, she asked Vinny to take home her grandson. Apparently she was raising him, and he was hard on her, and she just couldn't do it! She was VERY serious in her request. Vinny was dumbfounded. Take him home?? Just like that??? Oh, that's not how it worked. She was so very disappointed, almost rude when she found out we couldn't take him home. She really wanted to "give him to us". Vinny's advice to her was to keep him there and keep him active and raise him up to be a good person/ Elder in the church because they would need good people to run the church over there. She really didn't like that answer either. He tried to explain how hard it was to adopt, but she turned a deaf ear to it after that. That was one experience that really got to me. To just try and give someone away. I know she wanted the best for him - but she was that willing just to up and let him go THEN. At anyrate - I got to bear my testimony in a little hotel room in Stavropol Russia, that Jesus was the Christ, and that I had a testimony. How cool is that?
We took Nikki to the dentist, it was like going back in time. It looked like 1940. The equipment was old, they had no painkillers at all, they just went in and filled a cavity without deadning it at all. UGH. I felt very sorry for her.
We were almost ready for our court day. Anything could happen, we were warned, but if it went well, we could walk out with three little girls. The next night, we took the girls out for ice cream, and just sat on the street watching people. An old woman with a broom swept leaves up with a homemade broom. It was very interesting.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
So the next day we get to have all the girls together again. And we decide to walk down some of the streets of Stavropol. Suddenly, we heard excited chattering amongst the girls, and we were startled as we watched them discover DRIED FISH for sale!!! They ran to us and begged us if they could have some. Aliana was most persistent, with the others right behind her. So, we took the money out, and bought them each one dried fish. They immediately tore into it with their teeth, and LOVED it!! We stopped and took pictures of them eating the dried firsh, and they posed.
They tried to get us to eat it - NOT. Vinny was so much more of a sport than I was. We also bought some kind of crabs? or something for later at the hotel. The girls were so so excited!!! Back we went with our treasures, and the girls munching on that fish as if there were no tomorrow the whole time! EWWWWWWH!! I'm so glad Vinny was such a good sport, but I have to say, I got into it back at the hotel. I DID try it, and the small "crabs".
The girls stunk to high heaven, but it was a highlight of our trip. To see them SO happy, and so content just eating fish, really warmed my heart.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
After lunch - Cami went back to the orphanage for her nap. We were notified that the director had relented, and she would be able to spend some time with us that evening. We were overjoyed!
The two missionaries that we had met showed up later that evening when we had all three girls. It was really fun. We had them give the first discussion, and then watch in amazement as the girls asked questions. THey had never heard of Christ or Heavenly Father or the Holy Ghost. It was really a special time for us. Also - we had written down some house rules, and the missionaries translated those for us while the girls played with their barbies. They would answer the questions and seemed to really understand what was expected of them. We were VERY happy just being with them.
After the missionaries left, Aliana's Aunt, Uncle and sister came for a bit. It was nice visiting them, and they were so nice, making sure we had addresses and small gifts. They were very thoughtful. We spent about an hour visiting with them, and the girls just played and jabbered in Russian. It was beautiful. Too soon, however, our extra translator and chaufffer came to pick up Cami to take her back to her orphanage. We let her go with hugs and kisses and promises that on the morrow she would be back with us, and be in our arms and have lots of fun. She did not want to go, but obediently did as she was told.
The next morning, we got the girls ready for a fun day. We were so happy to be with them. We couldn't wait to be with little Cami again, and had to wait at the hotel for our translators to come and get us.
They showed up and knocked on the door. Luba was her name, and she was different this time. She was very curt. She told us we could not have Cami that day. "What"???? we cried?? She then informed us that Cami had been hurt in our presence the night before, she had hurt her ankle bad and had had to go to the hospital. We were stunned. Cami had not been hurt. We frantically went over in our minds what would have hurt her. Nothing. We were stumped. We tried to explain to Luba that Cami was fine with us, but we were ignored, and we were told that the orphanage wanted to talk to us about the "incident". GLADLY. There had been no "incident".
A few hours later, we were at Cami's orphanage in the directors office. We explained through translators that Cami was just fine the night before, and she was not hurt in anyway. She looked down her nose at us, and told us that Cami had come home hurt, (a HUGE allegation - one that could cause us to lose all the children) and complained of us hurting her ankle.
I don't know why - but I suddenly insisted on seeing Cami. I wanted to see for myself this "injury'. I kept insisting until they finally frankly got sick of me? I don't know. But finally we were allowed out back where the children were playing outside.
Cami indeed had her ankle wrapped with some gauze. Big deal. It kept falling off. She RAN to us when she saw us. She said "Mama", and took me by the hand, and started doing tricks for me on the monkey bars. HMMMM. If a child had an injury, how could she run and jump so well?? We sat there for over an hour and watched the girls play with Cami. She certainly was just fine.
The director was red in the face as she called the translator back, and we got told the news that we could take her for the rest of the day!!! HAHAHAHHA! We were so so happy! The first thing we did, was find out what had happened. Cami, anxiously explained that she didn't want to leave us, so she made up a story of getting hurt, hoping she would be able to stay WITH us, and much to her chagrin, it had worked against her. Poor thing. But now we had all the girls together again - and we we were walking down the road - admiring things, and suddenly, the girls spied DRIED FISH.
Wait for THAT story. It's next!
Saturday, April 26, 2008
It was morning. The girls had slept well that night. Vinny and I looked at each other and smiled. The girls were so excited at the hotel, they had been into everything. They had giggled and fussed over the simplest of things. We let them play and play until they were spent, which didn't take long. They were pretty spent.
Soon, our phone call came, that we could spend the day with Cami. This was going to be the first time that we would have all of us together. Grandma, us, and the girls. How exciting!!
We had to wait in the hotel room. After breakfast (which we had made sure we had bought at a grocery store the night before), the waiting game began. We didn't have to wait long. Pretty soon we got a knock on the door, and we were led down the hall to go to the Van.
We showed the girls Stavropol. We knew it somewhat at this point. When we got to the Detsky Dom, the girls were allowed in with us. Yeah! We went in to claim our littlest one.
This orphanage was very strict and not so kind. We were only allowed to take Cami for a few hours and not ever for overnight. Not until we had the court date, that was. We were disappointed, but at least she lived close by, so we felt better about that. Apparently, as you will see in a bit, Miss Cami did not! I will explain in a while.
We took the girls back the "zoo". There were also carnival rides and bungee rides. We also saw the missionaries again, and made arrangements for the girls to be taught the first discussion at the hotel that night!! How cool was that??? We were SO excied! The girls rode in cars, looked at animals, and walked around. They had a blast. We took them to a restaurant similar to McDonalds to eat lunch. Their stamina was high, they wanted to play and be everywhere! Aliana was really really good to help us translate to people. She helped us get our correct money back and it was amazing. It was if she had the gift of tongues, and knew what was being said, even though she didn't have clue. It was amazing.
Cami started getting tired around one pm. This was right after we ate. Just before we took her back to the Destky Dom for a nap,, we got a startling phone call. You see, in Russia, if a member of a family does not approve of an adoption, they can stop it. Well, we were notified at lunch, that Aliana's immediate Aunt and Uncle who had adopted her youngest sister, Oksana, were there in Stavropol and wanted to meet us right then. Would we wait?????
Our hears stopped. We didn't know the cause for the visit. Was it to wish Aliana well? Was it to talk her out of going with us? We just didn't know!! We said a quick prayer, and Vinny said "Yes, let them come'. We waited with nervous trepidition.
They showed up ten minutes later, the Aunt a round jovial woman, and the uncle, shy, but thoughtful. Oksana and Aliana ran to each other, each crying hard. It was a hard moment. We were overjoyed, when we learned that they approved of us, and told us that Aliana had not wanted to be adopted by them when she was younger, and in fact had been sent back to the orphanage because of it. (She was waiting for us!!). They asked if they could see us later, we said yes, and gave them our address. They were and are wonderful people. They finally left, but they kept telling the translator that Aliana looked like me. That made me happy. =). It was time to take the wee one back for her nap.
Friday, April 25, 2008
The time had come. We were finally herded together, and suddenly, out of the blue, we realized that Aliana's two older sister's, Luba and Angela had been notified of the adoption, and had been sent to the orphanage to say their goodbyes. I don't remember which one, but one was NOT happy at all - (I don't blame her) and she cried and cried and cried. (They both cried). I tried to translate that we would be good to her, and give her a good home... it was obvious that Aliana wanted to be with us, and loved us, but she was so torn with her sister's there. With Nikki, it was somewhat different. Svet wasn't anywhere to be seen, and Natasha watched nervously until the end, and so just before we left, I hugged her and NIkki together, and pulled my watch off and gave it to her. She was crying then, and it was breaking my heart. Just before we got in the van to leave, another surprise!! We found out that both times we had been there, Aliana had a brother there named Hassan. He was thirteen!!! So, I marched him over and had him hug his sister goodbye also. Parting was such bitter sorrow for Aliana. Now, for NIkki - she just hopped in the van. She wanted OUT. She was so ready to go. It was like, "C'mon you guy's, lets GO!".
We finally got Aliana away from her sisters and got a group shot with the orphanage. Then we got in the van and we left. It was late, and Aliana sang to us all the way back. I think I wrote that already in another posting. She cried a little, but held on for dear life. We all felt relief. We did get pulled over by the Russian police at one point for quite a while, we were nervous, it was dark, and so we prayed. We were basically in the middle of nowhere. Finally, they left. We were at an old gas station, so we allowed the girls to run in for some drinks and treats. How they enjoyed that!
We got back to the hotel very late, and everyone was very tired. The girls would not be ours for about five - seven more days in Russian court, but the orphanage had been VERY kind, and had let the girls go at the point, so we wouldn't have to keep traveling the three hour ride every day back to see the girls while we were there. So technically, at that point, we were parents!! It felt so good! Tomorrow, we had an appointment to go see Cami. We were so tired, but before we went to bed, we showed the girls how we prayed. We saw smiles and giggles, they didn't know what to do, but the Spirit was strong, and they were very obedient. How lucky we were.
More to follow.....
Friday, March 28, 2008
Finally seeing the girls before they become officially ours - and two more girls who literally broke my heart.
We got to spend a lot of time with Cami that day. We played ball with her outside the orphanage, and she was so happy. She was excited, and seemed to understand what was going on. During this time, one of her instructers came and got her and explained to her again that she would be going with us. She got a bit weepy again - but quickly overcame it. We just had too much fun.
We were taken into the Director's office, where they waited for "money". It was custom for them to receive a token of appreciation for an adoption. We were told Cami would not be able to spend the night with us, like we had hoped, and we were not very happy about that. What helped us was knowing she was about seven days away from being ours.
Saying goodbye to her was bittersweet once more, but this time I was at least there, and knew she would be going home with us. So we returned to the hotel to talk about our adventures of the day, and to do some site seeing in Stavropole. It was fun taking Mom and showing her the sites. We found where the church would be held on Sunday and determined to take the girls to church with us.
We would be on our way to Bolsha Dolhgha in the morning to collect Nikki and Aliana. Technically - they didn't have to release them until the day of court - but it was a three hour ride both ways - so we prayed fervently that they would release the girls to us that next day. We were so frustrated. We waited until about three or four pm until they finally took us to see our girls. Alex had us stopping at a bunch of orphanages dropping of paperwork. That will forever haunt me. We saw rows and rows of children "lying down, taking naps" on cots - up to the age of about fourteen. (We had to use the bathroom - and were directed to a couple of holes in the ground while we waited for Alex.) We were a bit put out with him because we could have been with the girls - and it seemed he just had too many other things he tried to tie in the day with. UGH. Finally - we were off.
As we finally got close to the familiar looking village - seriously looked like "fiddler on the roof", some ducks ran out into the road. Alex the driver did not stop or miss a beat. He hit one, feathers were flying every where. Someone had duck for dinner that night! People from the village saw us coming and started coming out of the houses, and walking to the orphanage. Suddenly, we were greeted with a yell, and a HUGE company of children running towards us, waving. I couldn't see Nikki or Aliana yet, but there were so many children!! As we slowed down, and got out of the van, I looked around, and finally I saw something that I will never forget. I saw the two of the most beautiful girls running towards me as fast as they could, hair in french braids, faces rubbed as clean as they could be, all in old but clean clothes that matched one another. I held my arms out, and Nikki made it first, diving head first into me and just holding on for dear life. Aliana was a close second, with tears running, and much hugs and kisses. I introduced them to Babushka, who in turn was crying. "Pops" as they called Vinny - also got his share of hugs and kisses. We were tugged and pulled into the orphanage, and there sat the PIANO!!! They were all shouting at me to play it - in Russian of course. Alex translated, and I obliged them. I played everything I knew, and they seemed to be a captive audience. Suddenly - two little girls around nine years old, (Vika and Nastia) grabbed me, and tugged my shirt. They shyly pulled me away, and gave me two of the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen in my life. I remembered them from the first time I had been to the orphanage. They had been shy - but hopeful. They remained by my side ever so much. So now, I hugged them close to me, and told them thank you - "Spaciba". And - broken Russian - I love you, "Ya tya bila bleu" in Russian... I tried to hold them close, and to my utter heartbreaking saddness, they started to wail and moan, and ran as fast as they could, crying their hearts out. How they wanted to come home with me!!!!! I will NEVER forget that. I cried and cried and cried. For days and weeks and months after I saw their faces. I STILL think of them, and if I could go find them, I WOULD. All they want is a Mama and a Papa, with a family to love!!!! It makes me so so sad..
More to come...
Sunday, March 16, 2008
So now the time has come. We are so excited we can't stand it. Mom flew in from Utah, and then we flew to NYC. We flew from JFK to Moscow. What a hectic airport that was!! It was tension filled, and we were so ready to go, but almost frantic, hoping we hadn't forgotten one thing. After many hours, and a delay, we finally were in the air.
I reflected back on the seven months that had started and been this process. What once had seemed an eternity, now was flying by me - going ever so fast. I was amazed. Could this really be happening?? Was I really about to become the mother to three little girls?
After many long hours, we finally made it to Moscow. It was as the same as before, where we had to wait in line for our passports to be recorded. It took hours. Sergey was there again to help us and transport us back and forth to hotels. We stayed in Moscow for a day and a half. He made sure we got checked in again to the Marriott hotel. We were exhausted, but we went and saw Lenin's tomb, and Kremlin's Square - changing of the guards, etc. Mom was such a champ. Remember, she had just had shots in her back, and I was worried about her. I truly tried to be there for her every need.
We got Mom her own suite so she could have her own privacy. We were so excited that night. Vinny and I talked late into the night - it was magical. We were so thankful to be there, and so anxious to see the girls. We would get to see Cami in the morning,
We nervously boarded those small crappy planes again in the morning. Sergey was there to big us goodbye. We had so much luggage it was hard to sit in his car. We were packed like sardines. The three hour flight was un-eventful.
We got to Stavropol bright and early and Alex and Mike were there to meet us again. We were immediately taken to our hotel - a different one than we had stayed at before - with a little suite for Mom. It was perfect. We waited about an hour, and then they came to get us to take us to see Cami.
We got to her orphanage, and I was so so excited. I talk WAY too much and way too fast when I am excited and that day was no different. I had to silently remind myself several times to SLOW down as we waited for her. We were finally ushered in to see the Director. The Director was stuffy and cold. She took her sweet time and we waited anxiously - and I was hot - sweating again because of no air conditioning. Finally - Alex told us they sent for Cami.
A few minutes later, Cami came RUNNING into the room. She was scolded to slow down, but I held my arms out, and she ran to them. I had tears and hugged her. She grinned a toothy grin, several teeth were loose. I looked at my Mom - she was crying. "Vika" I said. "Babushka". (grandmother). Cami jumped up - ran to my Mother, and snuggled right in her lap. That was it. The bond was instantly and forever made. It was one of the sweetest moments of my llife. Cami and my Mother adored each other instantly. I was such a blubbering fool. But a happy one at that.
So much more to write....