We were a bit concerned since we were left completely on our own...no facilitator and even worse, no translator. It was tricky because we had to call a taxi to pick us up at the hotel. Thankfully, our translator had written important communication on a piece of paper, including "Will you call a taxi?" and "Please take us to the orphanage." Thank goodness! We arrived at the orphanage at 9am and were told we could stay with Dillon until noon, then leave and come back at 4pm. Two visits! Yay!
Dillon was brought to us in that same visitation play room, and we were so happy to see him again.
The worker who was assigned to stay with us actually spoke a little English and we asked if we could take Dillon outside to play. The weather was so nice while we were there and all the flowering trees were in full bloom. She brought out a coat and hat for poor little Dillon to wear again. After he was bundled up, we went out to the playground, but the worker motioned that we could go for a walk outside the gate. We wondered how often, if ever, Dillon went outside that fence.
He was especially fascinated by the passing buses and would stop and stare when they drove by. We also pointed out all the stray cats and dogs (there were many) and he would respond with smiles and pointing.
A playground was around the corner and he loved going down the slide (with Glenn's help, of course).
He absolutely loves the way his new daddy plays with him.
During our two previous visits, we found that Dillon did not like to be held and was resistant when we tried to do so. We can only assume that being held hasn't really been a good thing for him, or that he is just not used to it. Either way, it saddened us. We wanted to hold him so badly! We discovered on this walk that when he became tired he would let us hold him.
And when we got back to the room, he let me cuddle him for a few minutes. I was loving every second of it!
It didn't take long before he was ready to play again. We played a little game of peek-a-boo around some of the play equipment and he caught on right away. He was so adorable!!!
He has the sweetest profile, don't you think?
The worker stayed with us during our visit and since she spoke a little English we were able to ask some questions about the orphanage. We found out that there are 80 children in that orphanage (another person told us 60, so we are unsure which figure is accurate) and they are all under the age of four. It is bizarre how quiet this building is when you imagine all the babies within the walls. We never heard any noise at all! This orphanage is a "baby house" and once the children are past age four they are moved to a different orphanage. (That is typically when special needs children are sent to mental institutions.) She told us Dillon is the only child with Down syndrome at the orphanage now, but that there were others who were transferred out in April. Of course our minds go wild wondering where those poor children were transferred, and if Dillon would have been transferred had we not been coming for him. We will probably never know, but we do know that God has given our process wings and brought us over to him much more quickly than was predicted.
This worker also asked us questions about Dillon's future in America. She was obviously intrigued as I explained to her that Dillon could attend school. I threw in a few more tidbits...that he will get therapy for speech and motor skills, and that we plan to enroll him in swimming lessons and music classes one day. She looked surprised but seemed very happy for Dillon. We also showed her a photo album we had made of our family and our home (we prepared it to show to the Ministry of Science and Education and also to the judge in court). She took the album and circulated it around to all the orphanage staff. I had intentionally added several pictures of Glenn's brother Doug, who has Down syndrome. There were pictures of him with our family at the beach, in the mountains, on Easter Sunday in his suit, etc. We are praying that seeds were planted that may help those staff members see these children differently. Keep in mind that in this orphanage Dillon is listed as a "child with no promise."
They brought Dillon's lunch up to the visiting room. He had a bowl of broth and I don't know that even half of that soup made it into his belly. What a mess!
It was almost noon, and Glenn and I were so thirsty from all our walking and play time. We knew Dillon had to be thirsty too, but all he was given with his meal was a half cup of warm tea. We honestly don't know how he is not dehydrated!
We were told it was his nap time and we had to leave, but we could return at 4pm for our final visit. We took the bus to a stop near our hotel and walked the rest of the way. Our walk took us past a lovely building...the boyhood home of Tchaikovsky, which is made into a museum.
The lake across from the house is said to have inspired "Swan Lake" and it was a lovely spot in this tiny little town. Our interpreter took our picture here the day before.
We returned to the orphanage for our afternoon visit, but we were a bit early. The director ushered us back to the room where Dillon and the rest of his "groupa" eat, sleep, and play. It is a medium sized room with eight little beds on one side, some toys against the back wall, and a sink area near the front. When we walked in, we were greeted by a table full of little 3 year olds eating their dinner. We heard a few say "mama, papa" when they saw us. I was scanning the group for Dillon, but the director pointed to another table behind this one and there was little Dillon, eating all by himself with his back to the other children.
We went right over to him and sat on the floor next to him while he finished eating. I was already very emotional knowing this was our last visit, and now I was fighting back tears as it sunk in that Dillon spends his meal times separated from others.
After Dillon finished eating, the worker bundled him up in his coat and hat again in preparation to go outside with us (never mind that it was 75 degrees outside). She then pointed to the beds and said something in Russian. Dillon walked over to one of the beds and the worker motioned for Glenn to take a picture. He was showing us his bed!
The director took us out to the playground and motioned for us to put Dillon in a "jump up" that was hanging between two trees.
The director didn't speak any English but did somehow convey to us that she was leaving for the day and we recognized the Russian words for "thank you" and "until we meet again." We thanked her as well, and she left us alone with Dillon on the playground. It was so nice to be out from under all the watchful eyes for a little while!
Dillon LOVED the "jump up" and we got some of the cutest video of him jumping and "talking" to us while in it:
We tried to play with him around the playground, but it was a very difficult place to be with a small child. The ground was uneven, and tree roots and concrete chunks were terrible tripping hazards. There was a wooden boat that had rotted and had splintering wood dangerously sticking out. There was a "play house" of sorts, but Glenn and I said it was the most depressing place to play we've ever seen:
Dillon truly enjoyed all the attention we were giving him.
We had been alone with Dillon for an hour when his groupa came outside to play too. There were seven other children and they all came over to where Glenn and I were playing with Dillon. It was truly heart breaking for both of us. One little boy and girl in particular would not leave us and kept saying "mama" and "papa" to us. They are the two in this picture (along with the groupa leader):
We were not supposed to interact with them and the workers kept calling them away from us. I also wasn't supposed to photograph any of the children, but they were so close to us and Dillon they made it into some of our pictures.
This precious girl kept calling Glenn "papa" while he played with Dillon. It was ripping our hearts out!
I know the orphanage workers try their best to care for these children, but you can probably tell from these pictures how dirty the children were. Their clothing, faces, hands...everything. I had been dismayed at how dirty Dillon was, but then I saw all the children were in the same condition. Honestly, I don't know how these ladies could keep the children clean when they go out to play on that dirty playground.
At one point, the groupa leader brought out bubbles and all the children gathered around her. Bubbles are universal when it comes to entertaining 3 year olds!
These two little girls sat in this swing for at least 45 minutes. No one ever came and pushed them...they just sat there quietly the whole time.
We knew our time with Dillon was growing short. Glenn and I were already fighting back tears over all these sweet children, but we knew the worst was yet to come. We were pushing Dillon in a swing and he loved it and gave us some of the best smiles of the day.
The bigger Dillon smiled, the harder I cried. We had stayed past our visiting time, and the groupa leader motioned to us that it was time to leave. As we gathered our things, she held Dillon and kept saying "paka, paka, paka" and motioning for him to wave goodbye. I walked over and hugged him one last time and started sobbing. Glenn had tears in his eyes too, but he took me by the hand and we left the orphanage.
We were picked up by our facilitator and taken back to the "city" and back to the creepy hotel. I have never felt so emotionally drained. I cried off and on the rest of the evening and wasn't able to eat dinner that night. I was broken hearted over the other orphans and overwhelmed with sadness at leaving Dillon behind.
The next day our translator asked us to be ready at 7:30am. It would be the first of two full days of medical visits for us. Glenn and I had to be examined by eight different physicians, including an oncologist, a neurologist, a psychiatrist, a narcologist, and others. Never mind that we had all this done here in the states, too. We went from clinic to clinic all day (both days) without even taking a break for lunch. I won't go into detail here, but it was very difficult. The medical buildings were run down and the floors were dirty. The equipment was old and outdated. Each building had its own distinctly awful smell. I struggled through those two days, and won't go into too much detail here. I think most families opt to have their medicals done in the capital city, which has better facilities and doctors who are used to doing adoptive medicals and the exams are more cursory. Had we known this, we would never have done our medicals in region. However, it gives me strength knowing that every thing that happens in my life is dealt from the hand of a loving God...even the trials and tribulations. One friend made the observation that perhaps all these difficulties will make our "gotcha day" that much sweeter. I agree. I'm pretty sure I'll do some sort of victory dance when Dillon is handed over to us as our son.
Friday was our 16th wedding anniversary. We spent most of the day having medical exams (we actually had Electroencephalograms performed on us that morning...I kid you not). Happy anniversary honey! We don't have epilepsy! Yay! (I can joke about it NOW...at the time it was far from humorous!)
After a long day of medicals, we were taken to an office where all our court documents were ready for us to sign. Glenn pointed out that all our adoption papers are dated May 27th...our anniversary. Of course, that brought more tears. God has revealed Himself to us over and over again through this adoption process. It is such a comfort to see His hand in every detail.
After signing the papers, we raced back to the airport and flew to Moscow. We were so tired, but had not had a good meal in 10 days and were determined to find a restaurant where we could celebrate our anniversary. We walked to Red Square and found an Italian restaurant where we enjoyed the best Italian food EVER. Or at least we thought so at the time. We were so happy to have such a hard 10 days behind us.
May 27th - Married 16 wonderful years!
Now that we are back home, the hard part is waiting to get our court date. We were told our region moves quickly and that we may be able to travel in July. All of our paperwork is completed and in their hands. We are praying for God's perfect timing.
They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.