Saturday, May 30, 2009

Life at Home!

Hope meets Chip!
Great American Cookie Co. - yum
First time at Moe's
Eating her first curly fry

We have been busy since waking up Thursday morning. Hope has adjusted better than we ever imagined. On Thursday, she met her brother, Dow. Unfortunately, Dow has been sick and didn’t get to spend much one on one time with her. However, she was so comfortable with him just like she knew he was her big brother. We went to Target, Walmart, Moes (where she enjoyed her first cheese quesadilla), and then to the ball field. Hope enjoys seeing and experiencing everything and constantly points and makes a sound which we think is “look.” She made a new friend on Thursday - Chip Colee. She likes her “Uncle Chip” a lot! I think the feeling is mutual.

She likes the dogs but they are not so crazy about her. Casey does like to lick her in the face! Hope is not so sure about that. She continues to hate getting a bath and going to sleep. Sleep is really the only issue we are having. We can deal with the baths, because they are so short, but the sleep is a little more challenging.

Beth has just taken over with Hope just like Hope is a real live doll. Beth is having a ball with her and Hope loves her big sister. Beth even painted Hope’s toenails bright pink. I told Beth I may need to homeschool her in the fall, because I will be so spoiled by all of her help.

On Friday, we took her to the pool in our neighborhood. She did not like it at all and wouldn’t even let Beth put her feet in the water, but she sure looked cute in her bathing suit! All of the clothes and diapers we had for her were too large. Even some 12 mos. clothes are too big. Her appetite continues to be great. She had her first fry at the pool and was quickly looking for her second. She gets so excited when she sees a banana and you cant eat in front of her without sharing.

She was glad to see her Daddy when he got home from N.O. She went to her first tennis match FRiday night. I found myself chasing after a two yr. old again. Beth was at a friend’s house. Hope gathered leaves and bottle caps. She got so excited. She also liked seeing her big brother on the tennis court. She got to see “Uncle Chip” again tonight. They definitely cemented their relationship.

On Saturday, she met her cousin, Matthew, and aunt and uncle, Robin and Stevie. She really liked Stevie and went right to him. She still prefers men to women for some reason. I forgot her shoes when we returned to the tennis courts. She went to stand up and didn’t like the grass. She refused to walk on it.

She likes stroller rides, peanut butter, and pens and pencils. She loves to just hold pens and pencils. We are having to baby proof. Fortunately, she does not put things in her mouth. It is hard to believe that just days ago, she was a solemn faced little girl with little stimulation. She laughs out loud now. Today, she saw our cat and said the word “cat” very plainly. We are looking forward to more words in the next few weeks.

As I write this Saturday evening, Dow has started on antibiotics, has won his first round in the tournament, Andy is napping, and Beth has Hope outside. Our house is a wreck, we have dirty sippy cups by the sink, and toys scattered everywhere. Somehow, it just seems all normal. I have to admit that I have been through every emotion on the continuum from “oh, my goodness what have we done” to “this is pure joy.” As Hope continues to struggle with sleep, so do I. I know tiredness has a lot to do with my emotions. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, we will be in a better sleep pattern. Overall, I couldn’t ask for a better start. She is a joy and it has been a blessing to see another very special side of Dow and Beth.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Traveling Home!

Sorry for the lack of pictures - we went at a pace that didn’t allow pictures! Andy met the consulate at 7:00 am this morning. As he expressed our gratitude, she got tears in her eyes. We prayed that God would prepare people along the way that were sympathetic to us, and He certainly used the US consulate as a blessing.

We arrived at the airport in Bucharest in plenty of time. We were told we had to buy a different ticket for Hope, because hers was never changed from Friday. About 45 minutes later, we got the ticket and headed to customs and security. Hope enjoyed running through the airport and climbing on chairs during our long wait on her ticket - she is very much a two year old with lots of energy. We were so glad to see this. She did great for the three hour flight to London. She played the entire trip.

When we got to London, it took us awhile to get through customs. They wanted to see paper work on Hope, etc. The airport was very difficult to navigate, so we went through a line and completed paperwork that wasn’t necessary. We got to our gate just in time to grab some snacks for the very long trip home.

Hope did really well on the flight. We gave her one dose of Benadryl. She slept a couple of hours and then played and ate the rest of the eight hours. God is sooo good. When we landed in Atlanta, Hope became a US citizen. We had a brief meeting with immigration at the airport to give them documents from the US Embassy in Romania. We thought we were home free. Then we had to have our bags checked (not carry on bags) for agricultural reasons since we were coming in from another country. THEN we had to go through security one more time. To fully appreciate all of this, to our bodies, it was between 1 and 2 am Thursday morning! Through this security, they made Hope take her shoes off - not good! This was the most she cried all day. Of course, she stopped as soon as they were back on. Finally, we retrieved our bags, headed to the van, and loaded up. Hope had her first ride in a car seat. She really protested but fell asleep very quickly.

We arrived home to a big welcome home sign with balloons at the front door (thanks to those sweet Powells) and the Colee family and best of all, Dow! Words can not express how much we love all of you and thank you for your support and prayers. I hope to update tomorrow with some pics of Hope in her new home.

Please pray for Andy, he leaves for N.O. at 5 am Thursday morning!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hello Bucharest!

We got up at 4:15 this morning and left for the airport at 5:00! We were detained for awhile in customs while they read the court decree that gave us custody of Hope. Natalia (a translator) was traveling with us, and we were so thankful. We arrived in Bucharest about 8:30 a.m. It is a very crowed and noisy city. Hope was fine with all of the activity. After checking into our hotel, we took a 30 min. walk to see the doctor. This visit took about 10 minutes! It was just a formality to get her past one more clearance. Then it was back to the hotel.

The paperwork from the doctor was to be ready at 12:00, so Natalia went back to the doctor’s office to get it. Our embassy appt. was at 1:00 and 12:50, Natalia still had not returned. We could not get in touch with her either. She walked in the hotel at 1:00, because she had to wait on the paperwork to be completed.

We ran into a big hurdle at the US Embassy. We were informed we had filed an application for a visa “out of sequence.” We tried to explain to the official that we had been in constant contact with US immigration and her office regarding the process. There had been no other way to proceed with the process due to Moldovan law. She insisted on calling Washington when their office opened at 3:00 Bucharest time. She asked Andy to return at 3:15. Needless to say, we were very frustrated! He returned at 5:50. He was not allowed to take a phone inside the embassy, so I had no idea what was going on. He still did not have an answer. He met with the consulate who had been in contact with the “legal dept.” in D.C. She was still waiting to hear from them to give a decision. She told Andy she would call him as soon as she heard. If we get a favorable decision, she will have someone meet us at the embassy and give us the visa and packet. There has been no mention of what our alternative plan would be.

At 10:30 pm, we received her call; we had been cleared to leave!!! I cried with relief. The consulate went above and beyond the call to make this possible. We are coming home tomorrow.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Last Day in Chisinau!

Starting her out on a Mac!

First time in a candy store

I mentioned Marina on the first day. She was placed in the same orphanage as Hope, adopted by a national family, abandoned by them, returned to an orphanage, and then adopted by a US family five years ago. She returned to Moldova recently for a visit to find out more about her country and heritage. While she has been through a lot, she is doing well now. She just completed her first year of college and wants to become a physician’s assistant. She is smart, personable and beautiful. It was a blessing to meet her. She continues to be fluent in both Russian and Romanian.

During our season of prayer regarding the adoption, I thought of many reasons not to adopt (they were all selfish, of course). However, I never questioned our ability to love another child as our own.

I am glad to say there was no reason to be concerned. God planted that love in our hearts when He placed the desire to adopt. Our love for Hope was automatic. When I became a Christian, I immediately became part of God’s family receiving His love, eternal life, forgiveness, power, grace, and so many other blessings. He didn’t hold anything back. I got the “whole package.” That is the way we feel about Hope. Our love for her is complete and she has access to all that we have. She is ours! She doesn’t have to earn our love or prove herself to us. We just simply love her by modeling the love of Christ.

Learning more and more about the history and current political situation in Moldova, makes us even more thankful to be Americans. Moldova’s independence and our independence is not the same. They encounter many injustices from other countries as well as within their own government. As you celebrate Memorial Day, remember to be thankful for all of those who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice to ensure our freedom and privileges as Americans (thanks to Bill McCrary for reminding me of this).

Today was a crazy day! I spent much of the time trying to figure out where we were going next. We visited the director of Child Protective Services for all of Moldova. If you remember in one of my earlier emails, I mentioned an adoption official being arrested and then acquitted. This was the same official. She was so warm and winsome. She gave us a special bell for Hope, so that she will always remember Moldova. It was such a pleasure to meet her. Albina said a statue should be made of her, because she is such an advocate for children.

We all waited patiently in the car at the Romanian Embassy while Albina went to get the visa at 3:00. Actually, Andy was walking Hope around, because it was way past her nap time and she was a bit cranky. Albina returned saying it would be ready in an hour. She returned in just under an hour and was told to wait. Around 4 pm, employees began leaving, because the embassy closed at this time. I was not there, but apparently Albina became furious. She said she yelled at the ambassador while he was walking out and explained our situation. While he was not very pleased with her, he went back inside, and Albina got the visa!!!

Hope realized she could scoot on her bottom and thought it was so funny. She also learned that Beth would chase her if she ran. Beth played with her for about two hours this afternoon. Beth is enjoying being a big sister. Our biggest news of all is that Hope had a BM - yea!

We have another big day tomorrow. We fly to Bucharest early in the morning, Hope is examined by an embassy appointed physician, and then we have our interview at the US Embassy. We are looking forward to have this step behind us. Please pray that we have all the right papers and documents when we get to the embassy. Also, we think Hope has had all of the required immunizations but will not know for sure until she sees the doctor.

One last thing. Hope came to me without any problem today!!!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Day Well Spent!

She sees a cat and claps
Getting tickled!
Loving on Andy
Andy loving on Hope

Today was such a good day. Hope woke up in a good mood and wanting Andy. I fed her breakfast while he held her. We are just amazed at how much healthier and “alive” she looks in such a short time. Albina and Aurelia (our favorite translator) picked us up around 11:00 a.m. Our first item on the agenda was to find a potty. Hope has not had a BM since we got her and Aurelia and Albina thought it would help to get a potty. They said that in Moldova and especially in the orphanage that as soon as a child can sit up, they are placed on a potty at appropriate times. They do this because diapers are expensive. They said she probably didn’t want to use her diaper. After finally finding a potty (went to three places), we had no success! In fact, she cried and seemed to be scared of it. During our “potty” expedition, we visited a supermarket. Hope was so excited pointing and “talking” about everything. She even got excited about seeing detergent.

We ate lunch at a really neat place outside the city. It is new but built like an old fortress. It was designed by a German architect. We were the only patrons at the time, so we got excellent service. It was made of wood and natural stone. Hope enjoyed soup, chicken, bread and strawberries. She never seems to get full. The waiters were dressed in traditional Moldovan costumes. While, the restaurant is new and the bathrooms were very nice, the toilet was a hole in the floor. Beth opened the door to the stall and turned right around and headed back out. Then Aurelia explained to her that she needed to “squat” over it.

Then we rode out to a village close to town. Some of the homes had been abandoned by people who had found work in countries like Romania or Russia. Some new homes looked nice. Aurelia said these were owned by rich people. They heat mostly with coal and have no AC. Most of the homes had a small plot of land for growing vegetables, strawberries, and grapes.

After a few more stops, we headed back to the apt. I scraped the meat of an apple and fed it to Hope per Albina’s instructions. We still have had no success with the BM. I thought I brought a remedy for anything. I even brought Pedia-pops, an antibiotic, and “gas” medicine, but I didn’t bring anything for constipation!!!

Beth played with her on the floor and Hope started giggling and laughing and loving all over her.

She was hugging her and climbing on her. She also hugged on Andy earlier today and slobbered on his cheeks. She just grins when she hugs them. I haven’t experienced this yet, but I know my time is coming. She did come to me this evening and I held her while we took an evening walk. We put little tennis shoes on her today that she loved. When we put her pj’s on she screamed when we took her shoes off. We had to let her go to sleep in them. Beth got her to sleep tonight. She and Beth are so precious together. While Hope will eat anything, she hates the new experience of getting her teeth brushed nor did she like getting a bath.

On another positive note, she gets so excited when she sees cats and dogs. She clapped several times today when spotting one of them. She has also made a lot of sweet baby talk today. Beth and I really think she said “bubble” today as well.

Tomorrow we have a few loose ends to tie up including picking up her visa at 3:00. We hope all you have a wonderful Monday celebrating Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Wonderful Day!

Finally, she lets me hold her!
Sweet big sis and little sis

Laughing at Beth
Getting her hooked on TV already
Hope is beginning to show a little personality!

On Friday when we picked her up, she looked so weak and unhealthy. In the back of my mind I was thinking have the doctors missed some diagnosis such as leukemia. We were very concerned about her. Then changing her clothes and diaper, we realized just how small she was! She went to bed on a pallet around 9:00 and slept until 9:30 Saturday morning. She wasn’t scared when she woke up which was surprising. By the way, the orphanage director was so grateful for all the donations, so thanks to all of you for helping us fill three really large duffle bags with items. We also helped the orphanage by buying carrots, potatoes, and other items. Again, thanks to those of you who sent cash donations. Vegetables are very hard to get this time of year, so they are more expensive.

We were on our own Saturday - no driver or translator. We walked to a restaurant and market. Hope would only let Andy carry her. On the way, we passed an event in the park that was like a local talent show. There were also lots of children an balloons. Hope loved this. She is very curious and aware. We tried to keep a hat on her, but the wind kept blowing it off. She liked this and loved wearing the hat. We completely blew her orphanage schedule our first day with her. We returned to the apt. about 3:30 which is the time she usually wakes up from her nap. She went to sleep immediately and we woke her up around 5:30. As a result, she was awake until midnight! This is why I didn’t update the blog last night - I spent three hours trying to get her to sleep. She finally let me and Beth play with her and hold her after her nap. She really attached to Beth and Beth got her hooked on the Cosby Show.

She came such a long way just in one day. We are so amazed. We are headed to a village outside the city this morning, and as usual, I am running behind. I will try to update tonight. Hope everyone enjoys their Sunday. We miss you Sunday School class!

Friday, May 22, 2009

We Have Hope!


Hope riding in the car after we left the orphanage.

Much of the day was spent getting Hope’s temporary visa, so she will be allowed into Romania to get a permanent visa. What we were told would take no less than five days will now be done in two. We are scheduled to pick her visa up on Monday at 3:00! Andy and Albina tackled this challenge and Andy having an American passport made all the difference. The embassy official was much more cooperative toward Andy than toward Albina. Once again, we are humbly grateful to be Americans! Our embassy appt. has been moved to Tuesday instead of Thursday - YEA! This means we should be home Wednesday night.

Finally, around 4:30, we picked Hope up from the orphanage. We took her around to several employees to say goodbye. One of her caregivers cried which was so touching to us. Our favorite caregiver was not there which was disappointing. When we took her to say goodbye to the doctor, she grabbed Andy and hung on tight. She did great on the car ride to the apt. She sat very still in Andy’s lap with her hands folded taking in all the sights and sounds. While she was very curious, she was not overwhelmed by sensory overload. She was just very calm.

At the apt., I quickly changed her into some what more fashionable clothing, and we headed to Andy’s Pizza for her first restaurant experience. Of course, we didn’t feed her pizza. Instead, she had a bit of soup and bread. She also had her first taste of Goldfish. She seemed to be a little shocked at first, but loved them.

On our walk home, we saw several cats. This evoked more excitement from her than we have seen. She was pointing and making sounds. We were so glad to see this. We tucked her in on a pallet on the floor, and she went to sleep with no problem.

For all of you who are wondering if I ever got to hold Hope today, let me just say yes but very little! She is attached to Andy and just tolerates me. I was prepared for this, so I am handling it fine. I do look forward to getting a little attention soon.

Thank you for all of your prayers. I was up at 4:30 a.m. with butterflies about the day. I am glad to report that I experienced Phil 4:6-7 as the day went on.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Beth Meets Hope!

Kat, Ally and Beth

Beth meets Hope for the first time.

First, let me explain the top two pictures. On Tuesday, Beth had two friends over, Katherine Rowell and Ally Sanders. They had the great idea of painting their arms and legs. I am not sure who initiated this idea, but the name Beth does come to mind. We got some great pictures and stained clothes out of this idea. Our white Bichon, Molly, came away with purple and pink ears. I was told it was an accident, but I have my suspicions.

Now, I get you up to date on our second trip to Moldova. We arrived in Atlanta with six very large bags to be checked along with three carry ons. We were not able to print our boarding passes from the kiosk, so we proceeded to a line (with all of our luggage!) in order to talk with a Delta agent. However, we were told we needed to be in another line (the kiosk assistance line), so here went again. However, the agent who told us about the different line, came over and pulled us out of this long after just a few minutes. We think she felt very sorry for us! She took such good care of us, and we were on our way feeling much lighter having checked all our large baggage.

When we got to our gate, our name was called out, and we had been bumped to first class!!! The flight had been overbooked. What a blessing. Beth did a great job during the journey even during the eight hour lay over in Frankfurt. When we arrived in Chisinau, another plane de-boarded, so the airport was packed and the customs line was long. Customs was passing people through quickly, so we had no problems.

Despite requesting Albina have two vehicles at the airport for all our luggage, she arrives in one small compact Toyota along with Marina (more about her later). I was thinking no way are we going to get all our luggage along with five people in that car, but we did. It was not a comfortable ride being in the back seat with two large suitcases and three people on the road filled with pot holes to Chisinau, but we survived. On our way to the orphanage, Albina handed Hope’s passport to Andy! She had gotten it today. We didn’t ask any questions about “how,” we were just so glad to have it!

We arrived at the orphanage late. Hope’s group had just gotten in bed. We think the caregiver woke Hope up for us (we were not quite clear on this), because she really cried when we took her. While we didn’t like to hear her cry, it was good to know she could protest about something. It was reassuring just to see this emotion. We took her outside, and she began to notice Beth. Beth was the only one who got a little smile from her. She liked being outside, especially watching and listening to two dogs close by, but she seemed very tired. After our visit, we were able to kiss her good night and put her to bed. Tomorrow, we will get her “for keep.”

Thursday, May 14, 2009

God Had Done It Again!

Our son, Dow, in India
"Street children"

God is amazing! Albina made it to Bucharest to submit our parerwork by the skin of her teeth! Her purse had been stolen the week before along with her passport and visa. Due to diligence and perseverance by our adoption worker, Albina picked up her passport and visa just prior to boarding the train on Tuesday. All went well at the US Embassy in Bucharest. Albina received Hope’s new birth certificate today and an important letter from the embassy in Bucharest. She will begin the process of applying for Hope’s temporary visa and passport on Friday. This is the real praise. The expedited passport that would take two weeks will now just take one week! Therefore, we will be able to leave on Wednesday, May 20th. We should be able to take Hope from the orphanage on Friday and into our family. Our visit/interview at the US embassy in Bucharest will probably be on Thursday, May 28th. This will put us back home on Friday in time for Andy to watch Dow’s first tennis match in the State Qualifying tennis tournament! God is good and in control!

I want to remind everyone that the Orphanage Shower was canceled. We appreciate all the items that you have given to us for the orphanage. We have three very large duffle bags full of items! Thank you all for your continued prayer support. Hopefully, our next update will be when Hope is with us!

God bless!

P.S. The pics above are of our son, Dow, on a mission trip to India in Feb. 09.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Adoption Update!

Hope with caregiver

On May 7th, Hope officially became part of the Birchfield family! Once the judge signed the order, there was a 20 day waiting period for any family member to come forward and agree to adopt her. We can travel to Moldova to take custody of her now, but we can’t take her out of the country.

I will try to explain the situation. While Moldova has a US Embassy, no one there has the authority to issue a permanent or immigrant visa. Therefore, we will take her to the US Embassy in Bucharest, Romania during our second trip where they do have the authority. In the past, this process has gone smoothly. However, since we are the first family to adopt from Moldova under new guidelines, the process has become very complicated. Political tension between Moldova and Romania is not helping either. If you will recall, the Moldovan President ousted the Romanian ambassador following the riots of the April election. Now, Romania is requiring that Albina present documents in person on our behalf even before they will give us an appt. for Hope’s visa application. Albina will travel to Bucharest (8 -9 hour) drive on Wednesday, May 13. Her appt. is at 1:00 pm. That is 5:00 am Alabama time, so if you happen to be up, please pray. If things go well, she will apply for Hope’s passport on Thursday. It supposedly takes two weeks to get an expedited passport.

Getting Hope’s passport is just one of the many, many details that need to be worked out in order for us to travel on May 20th. Just looking at the situation, it seems impossible. However, we know that with God all things are possible! We are really pushing for this date, because we are sooo ready to be united with Hope and if the trip is delayed, Dow will not be able to travel with us. Dow has a very important tennis tournament scheduled to begin on May 29th. It breaks my heart to think about leaving him again and also that he would not have us with him at this tournament. Please pray that all of these details just fall into place and that Hope’s passport can be expedited within 3 - 5 days instead of two weeks. Ultimately, however, please pray that we will just trust God’s timing in all of this and remember that He is in control and sovereign.

Pics above: Hope with two of her care givers.