Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Our Embassy Appointment and Saying Good-bye to Christina

We woke up before the sun today.  Still no water.  We bathed with wet wipes.  We couldn’t even use the bathroom.

We had a quick breakfast of cereal (Fruit Loops -- Christina was in heaven!) croissants and coffee.

We loaded up the car with our suitcases, tidied up the room and headed to the US Embassy just as the sun came up.  I couldn’t believe how busy the roads were already.  People and cars everywhere.  

We arrived at the Embassy at 6:15 am for our 7:00 am appointment.  Sonia did not want to wait in the Embassy with us, the air conditioned waiting room hurts her injured arm, so Margarette from BRESMA , who also had an adoptive parent with an Embassy appointment, met us and waited with us.  There were already at least 50 people waiting in line, standing outside the Embassy in the hot sun.  We took our place in line.  Christina was a bit apprehensive, it was noisy, dusty and crowded, so I held her.  

We waited in line in the hot sun for about an hour before a guard looked at our paperwork and told us to stand in yet another line.  A group of people had already been let inside the building, but we had to continue to wait outside.  At one point I asked Sam to hold Christina for a few minutes, my arms and back were killing me.  She allowed him to carry her for a few minutes but then asked for me again.  How could I refuse?

A little Haitian woman standing in front of me could tell my arms were tired and she said to me in broken English, “You should put her down, she is big enough to stand.”  But how could I explain to her that if Christina requested I hold her, I was going to hold her, no matter how much my arms ached and back screamed?  So I said I was ok, and I could tell she was thinking “that crazy American, holding that child when she should stand on her own.”

Finally we were allowed inside the building.  We went through 2 security lines.  I had given Christina her little purse to carry with a few toys inside to keep her occupied while we were waiting.  One of the toys was an empty bubbles bottle -- the guards had no idea how to handle that: did it have liquid in it?  Why was I bringing in an empty bottle? I almost just threw it out for all the trouble it was causing.  

We walked into a waiting room that looked like any standard government agency in the States, rows of hard plastic chairs filled with waiting people armed with paperwork, a wall of receptionist stations behind glass.  Except instead of waiting for hours to renew a driver’s license, these people were trying to get permission to enter the United States.  

At first Christina sat quietly on my lap.  But after an hour she warmed up a bit and played with the toys in her purse, chattering in Kreyol.  At one point she repeated a phrase over and over, trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t figure out what she was saying.  A woman sitting across from us finally spoke up and said “she wants something sweet”.  She had just watched me put a mint in my mouth and she wanted one too!  It made me realize how many people were listening to and watching us, three white Americans with this little black child.  

During the first two hours of waiting only two people got called to the window.  Most of the time the reception windows were empty of workers.  Didn’t seem very efficient, if you ask me.

But Christina was an angel.  She played quietly, never fussed and was very patient. 

Finally it was our turn.  We went to the window, handed over our paperwork, answered a ton of questions.  We were told to sit back down and wait until our name was called again.

Another hour passed before we were called up again.  We were given a sheet of paper with checkmarks next to our missing documents, as well as a date for Sonia to come back to the Embassy for an interview to verify that Christina is a true orphan, since it is impossible to interview Christina’s biological parents.  We were told we have to turn in all of our paperwork or ask for an extension by October 29.  I am sure we will be asking for the extension, because until we get through Parquet Court we won’t have the required paperwork to turn in.  

Margarette says the interview is a new requirement.  Thank goodness Sonia will be back from her trip before her interview so we don’t have to reschedule.

After 5 hours of waiting, we were finally done.  We met up with Sonia outside, who had waited in the car that entire time.  Since Margarette’s parent had to go to the airport as well, we loaded his suitcases into our car.  Sonia told us she would go back with Margarette and our driver would take all of us to the airport and then drive Christina back to the orphanage.

While we drove to the airport I tried to explain to Christina that we had to leave, but we would be back.  Her face turned sad and she stared into space.  The same blank stare she gave us the last time we left her.  I held her and rocked her, trying to get her to understand what was happening.  My heart was breaking.

We arrived at the airport and she tried to get out of the car with us.  We sat her back on the seat and buckled her in, telling her we had to go, but would return to visit soon.  She started sobbing, big tears streaming down her face, her little arms grabbing for us.  I think she would have gotten on that plane with us if we had let her.  

Leaving her in that car was the hardest thing I have done so far during this 18 month process.  

We made our way to the check in line, being pushed and shoved by people trying to get in front of us.  An airport employee noticed Weston’s arm and took him to the front of the line.  But he wasn’t going to let us go with him, until he looked at me and decided I must be Weston’s “petite fille” (little girl) and he let us join him.  I wasn’t going to try to explain I was an adult if it meant we could get to the front of the line -- we would be lucky to make our flight, as busy as the airport was.  Of course the employee wanted a tip, which we gladly paid.  

Another employee grabbed my suitcases and shoved them through the first of three security checkpoints.  After our belongings made it through he too demanded a tip.  Weston offered him a few bucks and the man said it wan’t enough.  Weston would not budge and the man stomped away.  I guess 5 dollars wasn’t good enough for him and his 30 seconds of work.

A few more lines and we were on the plane.  We never stopped walking and didn’t even get a chance to use the bathroom or grab a drink.  But we made it.  

Two hours and we were back in the States.  Amazing.  I will post one more blog with my final impressions of the trip...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A quiet, relaxing day.

Sunday.  We all slept in.  A night with AC allowed us better sleep.  Christina woke up happy and full of energy.  She excitedly looked over the clothes I brought and decided she needed to wear a yellow top and blue skirt.  She was very happy to pick out her own clothes.  We let Sam sleep and went to breakfast, which was pancakes, juice and coffee.  Christina ate her usual container of yogurt as well.  

After breakfast we played on the back patio.  Christina picked flowers and put them in our hair.  Then she wanted flowers in her hair.  It was a sweet, sweet time with her. She took pictures of us, we took pictures together.  We got a taste of who she really is -- a delightful, playful little girl.  

Putting flowers in our hair.
The kitten returned and this time Christina was willing to watch Weston pet it.  She would slowly approach the kitten, but if the kitten moved towards her she ran away, squealing.  
Sam finally woke up, so he ate breakfast and we all got ready for the day.  I had a chance to ask him how he felt about Haiti, the orphanage and our trip so far, now that he had some rest.  He said he loved all the kids.  But of all the kids there, he knew that Christina was meant to be ours.  And he missed his brother and sister and was ready to return home.

We didn’t have any plans for the day and we weren’t sure where Sonia was.  We played with toys, I pushed Christina in a stroller we found, and we basically just had a relaxing, quiet day.  Weston napped a bit and I played matching games and building blocks with Christina.

In the afternoon we went outside to the back patio again.  Sonia arrived home, she had been working all day to secure a missing signature on our IBESR paperwork.  Although we have officially been approved by IBESR, one signature had been missed accidentally. And we needed the signature in order to file our paperwork at the Embassy the next morning.  Sonia doesn’t like to drive (I don’t blame her, I wouldn’t want to drive there either!), but because it was Sunday her driver was off and she had to get behind the wheel and brave the traffic herself.  After driving to the person’s house and waiting for hours, she was successful and our paperwork was signed.  I was so impressed with how hard she was working on our behalf.

Playing on the patio

Over ice cold Sprite and pear juice we looked over the paperwork, making sure it was filled out properly.  We asked Sonia the question I am sure she dreads: when does she think we will be able to finally bring Christina home?  

We were told the next step in the process requires a signature from a judge who happens to be on vacation for a month.  Rats.  But we were finally given a loose timeline.  Before when we asked, we were told “who knows”, but this time we were told anywhere from October to January.  (I am afraid that October is probably out of the question, we haven’t moved at all since we entered Parquet Court, but I think Christmas is actually quite possible, which makes me smile!)

We talked a bit about all of the new kiddos in the orphanage.  Sonia says IBESR has been sending her new children, many of them older and not adoptable.  A few weeks ago she was told to take in three teenagers that IBESR found living on the streets.  Sonia doesn’t have the facility to take care of older children.  She has to keep them separate from the little ones.  And she doesn’t run a jail.  She can’t force the older children to stay in the orphanage, and the older children have no desire to be there.   They keep leaving the grounds, causing the nannies to have to search for them.

Her hands are tied.  If she says no to IBESR she will no longer be in their good graces.  She has no choice but to take in the children and then try to find a facility better suited for them.

I can’t imagine how difficult it is for Sonia and all the other orphanage directors in Haiti who are trying to do the right thing, play by the rules and still have the children’s best interest at heart.  Must be very frustrating.

We had a final dinner of traditional chicken and peas on rice.  Very yummy.  After dinner Christina played a few more minutes and then looked at me and said “mwen fatigue” (I’m tired).  So I took her back to the room, gave her a quick bath, put on her pjs and she motioned she wanted me to pick her up.  Snuggled into my shoulder when I picked her up and was fast asleep within minutes.  I carefully sat down on the bed and just snuggled her.  This is the first time she requested snuggles from me.  She has always been agreeable to snuggles given to her, but never initiated them. 

While I snuggled her Weston took a shower.  We had to leave for the Embassy at 6:00am the next morning, packed and ready to go to the airport.

Sam got ready to take his shower to discover that the water had been turned off.  So no flushing, no showers.  Hopefully it will be back on in the morning so we can be clean for our travel day tomorrow.

More pictures of our day:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Day two in Haiti

Christina slept until 7 am.  She didn't make a peep all night.  When she woke up she didn't fuss, she just waited for me to pick her up.  I brought her to our bed and she snuggled me for a few minutes so I could wake up.  It was a hot, restless night for Weston and me, so I was still exhausted.
We basically spent the entire night tossing and turning and sweating, so both Weston and I needed to rinse off in the shower.  We woke Sam, who was also still exhausted, for breakfast.
Breakfast was not so good.  Room temperature pineapple yogurt, nasty processed turkey slices, American cheese, over ripe bananas and stale white bread.  But the coffee was strong, which I desperately needed, and there was some sort of fresh squeezed juice that was pretty good.  I have no idea what citrus fruit it was, maybe grapefruit?  But it was sweeter than grapefruit, and the color was dark reddish orange, but it wasn't orange juice either.  I am glad I brought some snacks, none of us really ate anything.
Christina likes to tell us she needs to use the potty.  It is a game to her.  She runs to the potty, sits on it for half a minute and says she is finished.  But I think she really had to go, so I decided after the third trip to the bathroom to make her sit on the potty for a while.  She was not happy that I wouldn't let her get up.  She kept saying “fini, fini”, and trying to flush the toilet.  I kept setting her back on the potty, telling her “pas fini.”  Finally she settled down and really went to the potty.  I can tell we are going to have a few power struggles when she gets home.  
The driver was supposed to pick us up at 10am to take us to a shop where we could buy handmade Haitian items.  I am pretty sure he showed up a lot earlier than that (I have lost all sense of time here) so Sam didn't get to shower.
There must be a crack down on wearing seat belts, because after our driver got a phone call (I assume from Sonia) he put his on and told us to put ours on too.  Easier said than done in the backseat since two are missing.  
Sam still can't believe how people drive in Haiti. He kept commenting on the traffic and the crazy drivers and how narrowly the cars miss each other as they pass.
The driver dropped us off at the shop and told us (through broken English and lots of hand motions) while we shopped he would take Christina to get her picture taken for our Embassy paperwork.  I tried to explain to Christina that we would be back but I don't know if she understood.  I asked the driver to tell her we weren't leaving, hopefully he did.
Just a few of the treasures we bought at the market.
The shop is full of Haitian handmade items, from statues to jewelry to dolls.  We bought lots of things for Christina; our plan is to give her something from Haiti for each birthday.   We also bought things for our house and lots of presents.  The prices are great!  
We finished up just as the driver returned with Christina.  Perfect timing.  He parked the car and got out to help us load our bags and she burst into tears (I was almost to the car but she hadn't seen me yet).  I think she thought he was leaving her in the car alone.  He quickly returned to the car to comfort her, which made me very happy.  He seemed genuinely concerned he had upset her. I like to think he cares for the children he drives around on a regular basis.
I got in the car and put her on my lap.  This is the first time I have ever seen her cry but she stopped pretty quickly once she knew she wasn't being left alone.
Playing in the courtyard at the orphanage.

So cute!
We went back to the orphanage for the afternoon.  Christina sat with us on the patio area for a little while but then took the photo album I made for her and showed it to all of the nannies.  Madame Michelle seems to be Christina's favorite nanny.  She is an older woman, very pretty, very patient and kind.  Christina seems very attached.  
Sam, who was exhausted, really struggled with being back at the orphanage.  He held back tears as he told us that he really wanted to just go home.  He was tired of not being able to use the water, of the heat, of the craziness of the driving. He was sad about the kids having to live in the orphanage. And he did not want to leave Christina behind when we went home.  It is a lot to take in, and he was overwhelmed.  We talked for while about Haiti and his experiences. He laid down on the outdoor couch and took a nap, which he desperately needed.

Weston and I went inside and Christina didn't mind at all that we were holding and playing with other kids.  She seemed content to color at the table.    Not sure how I feel about that.  On the one hand I guess it's good, on our other visits she was clingy and possessive of us when we were at the orphanage with her.  But in the back of my head I wondered if she didn't mind because she would rather be there than with us.
Over the next hour or so Weston put four boys to sleep on his lap.  One would crawl up on him, lay on his lap and in a few minutes be fast asleep.  I would take the little guy, put him on a cot and another would crawl into Weston's lap and fall asleep.  They just needed someone to snuggle them!
Whenever one of the children gets sleepy, they fall asleep wherever they are.  On the concrete, at the table.  One little guy, eyes rolling back in his head and head bobbing back and forth, almost fell asleep while sitting on a bench.  Had I not caught him and laid him down, he would have fallen off the bench and onto the concrete floor.
One little girl really wanted Weston to snuggle her and she laid her head on his leg as she played with her doll.  She and several other little girls have some kind of red powder on their scalps. I assume it is some sort of medicine.  Maybe for lice?  Let's hope it comes out of Weston's shorts!  She has the sweetest smile, her whole face lights up when she smiles.  She loved to be tickled.
Several of the children have runny noses and one little boy (who walked around most of the afternoon in pants he peed in) has an awful sounding cough.  There is a nurse on staff for the very sick kids and she came downstairs both days with some sort of liquid vitamin (I think vitamin C) for every child.  

We were served lunch and Christina ate with us while the rest of the kids ate in the other room.  Lunch was fried egg with turkey lunch meat and tons of onion and a veggie medley of carrots and beans. I was hungry, so it tasted pretty good, even the onion and turkey.  Sam ate a lot, but got tired of so much onion.  I don't think a Coke ever tasted so good.  We gave Christina a straw for her water and she thought that was the best.  She drank so much water I wouldn't be surprised if she has an accident later today.
At one point Christina went upstairs to go potty so I followed her up.  They don't have toilet paper (Weston thinks to prevent the kids from stuffing it down the toilet) and the sink doesn't work so they can't wash their hands.  I guess since they don't wipe it isn't as big of a deal, but I still think that's pretty gross. I imagine their little bottoms get pretty 
Itchy and raw.
Along with the one toilet and nonworking sink and shower there are four rooms full of toddler sized bunk beds.  Two of the rooms have twin beds for the nannies.  Christina sleeps in the room for the older children, one of the rooms without a bed for a nanny.

Christina sitting next to Mme. Michelle, her favorite nanny.
After lunch we went outside and watched the kids run around.  Christina played outside for a few minutes but went back in and looked through a book and then matched dominos together.  She gravitates towards books, coloring, sorting.  She can spend a long time just coloring and making shapes with her crayons.  
We watched some of the older kids play in the courtyard.  It was all I could do to not police them as they ran each other over with cars and climbed too high on the monkey bars.  If kids played like that in the States all the parents would be freaking out.  But here, it is just normal play.  At one point three kids laid down on the concrete, waiting for two boys to try to run them over with riding cars.  At the last moment they would jump up and barely escape being run over, screaming and laughing the entire time.  I was a nervous wreck watching this, but the nannies weren't concerned.
Each child was given a cookie and a piece of sticky candy.  The littlest ones (not even walking yet!) we're given some sort of soft candy on a stick to suck on.  And no one choked.  But boy were there sticky hands and faces.  The candy was savored, pulled out of mouths, shared, dropped, put back in mouths.  They had a big time.  They tried to share with me, but I politely declined.
I went back inside to find Christina, who was still playing with dominos.  I sat with her and a few others who were coloring.  A little girl whom I had not seen before on either day came over to me to share her doll with me.  She had been shaved bald. She seemed sick.  I wonder if she was new to the orphanage and had to be shaved for some reason.  She was very sweet.
Finally it was time to go.  Christina seemed happy to be leaving with us.  I forgot to take her to the bathroom before we left, so I hoped she wouldn't wet her pants if she fell asleep.  I tried to keep her awake for the car ride to no avail.  She was sound asleep on my lap within minutes.  But she didn't wet her pants, thank goodness.
Our AC still wasn't working in our room.  Thankfully Sonia offered to have us move to another guest room where the AC was working.  It only had one bed and a crib, so she had Sam's bed moved to the new room.  This room is actually nicer and the attached bathroom has a shower that works a lot better.  
Dinner was shrimp and rice and some veggies.  After dinner Christina was full of energy so we took a walk through the neighborhood.  We took a walk on our last visit and Christina insisted on being held the entire time.  This time she walked by herself, saying “bonsoir” to those we passed.  The only time she ran back to us was when a car drove by.   The neighborhood atmosphere was not as friendly this time and we saw two armed guards watching us through the gates of people's homes.  Not sure what is going on, but we decided to make it a short walk.
We sat outside again and Christina played.  She is a chatterbox.  I wish I knew what she was saying.  She repeats things over and over in a sing song way, but I can't figure out what she is saying.
After a cool bath I put on her pjs and she snuggled in our bed for a few minutes.  I asked her if she was ready to go to sleep in her bed and she said yes, so I tucked her into her crib.  She wiggled for a few minutes and then fell asleep with no fuss.  I think the AC is bothering her, she has been coughing for about an hour, so I tried to move the fan and AC so it doesn't blow directly on her.  Hopefully that will help.
It was a good day overall.  She seems like a normal active preschooler. She loves books, coloring and playing matching games.  She is very smart and once she feels comfortable in her surroundings she talks and sings nonstop.  For the most part she is a good listener and will be obedient if I force the issue.  She knows what she wants and is persistent.  She seems very comfortable with us.  It is going to be very hard to leave her on Monday.
I am exhausted and hope that tonight sleep comes easier.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Returning to Haiti, day one

Preparing for our trip

Preparing for our third trip to Haiti has been a bit stressful.  The week before we were to leave Weston was in a mountain biking accident and dislocated his shoulder, broke his humerus bone and scraped up his face and arm pretty badly.  For a few days we weren't even sure he was going to be able to go.  He was in immense pain, hardly sleeping and on pretty strong meds. Meanwhile, due to his accident I skipped both of my long runs for my 50 mile training.  And I can't run while in Haiti, which means I will be  two weeks behind in my training when I return from the trip. I realize this is not the end of the world, but was still tough to work through, emotionally.  Running this race means a lot to me.  Once Christina comes home my training will be drastically reduced, so this is my last time to train for a race like this for a while.
The Tuesday before we left Weston's doctor cleared him for the trip, saying he can be in pain at home or in pain in Haiti, it really didn't matter.  
So we left for Haiti at 11:50pm Thursday night, after a long day of work for Weston and packing for me.
When originally booked the flight, Weston Sam and I had aisle seats scattered all over the plane.  But the lady at the ticket counter was nice enough to find us three seats together in the very last row.  I wonder how three seats were suddenly available in the same row when there weren't even two seats together when I booked the trip a few weeks ago. I am not complaining, I am grateful she accommodated us, more than anything just curious.
The first 2 hours of the flight were pretty turbulent.  We tried to sleep, but the bouncing keep jarring me awake.  I am pretty sure I dreamed that the plane was ripping apart due to the rough air.
It finally settled down and I was able to get a couple hours of restless, uncomfortable sleep.  
We landed in Miami at dawn and had about 40 minutes until our next flight boarded.  Just barely enough time to make it to the gate, get a much needed cup of coffee, buy some bottles of water and use the bathroom.  Again we were able to get three seats together, this time the second to last row.  Unfortunately the lady behind me was obviously sick and kept coughing all over my head.  Her cough was so violent that she kept grabbing my seat back to steady herself, jerking me backwards and whacking me in the head with her rings.  Not a fun flight.  It will be a miracle if none of us catch whatever it is she had.
Arriving in Haiti

It is never dull on a plane to Haiti.  As we arrived at the gate and waited to deplane, a woman who was wearing at least 5 dress hats of various sizes, shapes and colors (I kid you not, they were stacked up on her head!  Remember that book you read as kid, Caps For Sale? She had them stacked up, just like in that book!) started shouting and singing and using giant arm motions.  I have no idea what that was about but it was entertaining to say the least.
Sam had expressed nervousness about two things: getting through the airport without being mauled by people trying to take our bags, and meeting Christina and discovering she doesn't like him.
So he was a bit nervous as we entered customs, but he did a great job.  He wheeled the heaviest two bags and navigated the crowd like a champ.  We got through customs with no trouble (I have mastered filling out the customs forms!).  But I accidentally made eye contact with a guy at baggage who took that to mean he could grab my baggage stub out of my hand and find our bag for us.  That little mistake cost us a tip, although he did find the bag fairly quickly.
We walked the long, hot sidewalk to the parking lot, where we hoped our driver would be waiting for us, saying "no, meci" to anyone who tried to "help" us.  Our driver found us almost immediately and we carefully navigated our luggage through pot holes, weaving in and out of the sea of cars trying to get out of the parking.  The whole airport experience is one great big chaotic mess.  
We arrived at the car and while our driver opened the trunk for our bags, a man grabbed Weston's bag, lifted it two feet to the trunk and demanded a tip.  We refused.  He was slightly put out, but at least he left without making a scene.
Ahh, at last, safely in the air conditioned car!  Traffic was typical Haiti: crazy driving, honking of horns, motorcycles weaving between cars, cars making their own lanes.  Sam was fascinated (and a bit nervous).  He couldn't believe the insane driving and was very impressed with our driver's ability to weave in and out of the cars.  
Arriving at the orphanage

Weston saw Christina first when we arrived at the orphanage.  He said she had a hint of a smile and seemed to recognize him.  But by the time I walked in, after unloading the car, she was shy and withdrawn, no smile to be found.  We sat with her for a few minutes.  She sat on my lap but was mostly unresponsive to questions or snuggles.
A little reserved at first...
Meanwhile a few of the kids had tackled Sam, sitting on his lap, tossing their balloons at him for him to bat back to them.  Sam was so good to the little ones, snuggling them, playing with them, letting them climb all over him.  He really seemed to enjoy playing with everyone.  One little girl was smitten and spent most of the afternoon on his lap or in his arms.
There are a lot of new faces at the orphanage.  Lots of toddlers, probably 10 months through 3 years.  At one point I counted 19 children in the main area but I know I missed a few who were upstairs. The baby room was full, too.  The little girls we played with during our first two visits were gone.  We found out two had finally joined their adoptive families and two were at some sort of summer day camp and would return later that night.
Christina was a bit nervous about Weston's arm being in a sling and was pretty standoffish towards him.  So the little boy who latched on to Weston during our last visit once again found his way onto Weston's lap for a while.  
We played with all the kids for a couple of hours, watched them dance to Boy George, Michael Jackson and a weird remix of Abba instrumentals. 
 We were served very strong, thick coffee and a snack of saltines.  Christina enjoyed playing a game where she hopped up onto the third step of the stairs and tossed her ballon down to Sam.  Pretty soon 3-4 little ones joined in the fun, until I, the overprotective American mom, stopped the game because I was afraid someone would tumble down the concrete stairs.  
A little while later we ate lunch with Christina: canned tuna and onions (sounds gross, but it was actually pretty good) and some sort of potato dish. And a cold beer which tasted great, it was so hot and humid!
The rest of the children ate in the main room, but the routine was not the same as it was the last two times we visited.  Before, they all prayed and then ate together at the large table.  This time I never heard them pray and they ate in shifts. It seemed a bit chaotic. Maybe because there are just so many kids now, and some are so young they can't really feed themselves.  
Finally Sonia arrived to take us to her house.  She was late for a good reason, earlier that morning IBESR had called her asking if she would take in a five day old baby that someone had found abandoned in the streets.   So she had an unscheduled trip to pick up the baby and get paperwork filled out.  She let us see the baby for a minute, she was so tiny!  And so very lucky to have been found.  A few hours in that heat and that baby would have died.  I fear that this is going to become even more common now, moms abandoning their babies.  IBESR is implementing new rules on August 20, 2012 that will make it harder for parents to relinquish their children to orphanages.  And children will not be adoptable until after their birthday.  You can read the new rules here, on our agency's website.  I know IBESR is simply trying to protect the children, but I wonder if these new rules will end up creating more abandonment situations.
We shared the ride to the guest house with Stephan, a german man who is also staying at Sonia's house tonight. He and his wife adopted twin girls from her orphanage 2 1/2 years ago and he was back to meet with the girls' biological parents.  They had not been able to meet them during their adoption process.  Stephan and his wife were in Haiti to bring the girls home when the earthquake happened.  He said they had considered staying at a local hotel instead of Sonia's guest house that trip, but at the last minute decided to stay at Sonia's. Their change of plans saved their lives.  The hotel was devastated in the earthquake.  He said hardly anything even shook at Sonia's.  He talked a little about being in Haiti during the week after the quake, and that they couldn't get a flight out in the confusion.  Luckily they were able to get one of the last buses to the Dominican Republic and took a flight home from there.
The driver drove us by the hotel where he and his wife almost stayed; it is beautiful and slowly being rebuilt.  
At the guest house

We had dinner (which consisted of some sort of beef, rice and beans, avocado and tomato salad and some sort of fried tuber veggie-- Sam is in love with the food!) with Stephan, who said meeting the girls biological parents was hard but worth the trip.  They answered questions about their family and why they made the decision to relinquish the girls.  They have two older children and simply couldn't afford to care for the twins. The unemployed father is in his late 40's, and the average lifespan for a Haitian is around 50, so he knew he probably wouldn't even live to see the twins grow up.  The parents made the incredibly tough decision to relinquish their girls hoping they would have a better life.  I can't even imagine having to make that choice.
After dinner we sat outside on the back patio.  Christina decided it was time to explore the house a bit, so I followed her around to make sure she stayed out of trouble.  For the most part she is obedient.  I sometimes have to repeat myself 3-4 times before she follows directions, but overall she is pretty good about listening.  
She brought us book after book after book to look through (I couldn't actually read them, they were in German).  She loves to look at books.  A kitten appeared from the bushes and came over to us for us as we sat on the patio.  When Christina saw the cat she leapt up onto a chair and started whining, visibly frightened.  I am not sure she has ever seen a cat.  After a few minutes she was willing to look at the cat, but did not want to get anywhere near it.  It will be interesting to see how she reacts to our cat and dog.
I took Christina upstairs for a bath.  The air conditioning in our room does not seem to be working; I think it must be 95 degrees in our room.  And we cant open the windows because the mosquitos are thick.  The cool water in the bath felt good to her, and we got on her pull up, pjs, brushed teeth and snuggled into our bed.  I rubbed her back for a few minutes and she was asleep.  
I put her into her crib and took my own shower, which felt great.  I was feeling so slimy and gross.  Our room is so hot that the minute I stepped back into it from my shower I started sweating again.  It is going to be a rough night in the heat.  Weston's arm is pretty swollen and very sore and the heat isn't helping.  But we are all exhausted so I am going to call it a night and attempt to sleep.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

On to Parquet Court!

God continues to amaze me with His sovereignty.  More new from the adoption front, which is awesome.  But even more awesome is the gentle reminder (or perhaps loud thunk on my head) that He is in control, and has been since the beginning.
Just days after the long awaited phone call from our agency telling us our dossier received dispensation we received an email telling us we were OUT of IBESR and moving to Parquet Court.  I was not expecting to hear this news so quickly!  
With this news came a flurry of activity -- more paperwork to fill out on our side, court dates and Embassy appointments to schedule.  We were informed that we needed to be in Haiti within the next 2-3 weeks for two court appearances and one trip to the Embassy. I had just booked a trip to Haiti less than a month earlier for the end of July--Friday through Monday-- perfect timing!  Or so I thought.  Turns out we need to be in Haiti for 4 business mornings in order to accomplish all the court appointments.  No big deal, I can just change our trip to include a few extra days, right?  It's not that easy.  July happens to be the busiest month of the year for Weston’s business.  And the week we need to be in Haiti for 4 business days happens to be the busiest week of July for him.  The rest of his year hinges on the summer, with July being the most important month.  He simply can not afford to be out of the office for 5 days, much less be out of the country with no access to internet or phone.  
After 8 months of waiting for our dispensation we are told we now must head to Haiti during the one and only week Weston really needs to be in the office.  Seriously?!?
I immediately started praying that all of Weston’s business would miraculously be taken care of before we had to leave on the trip. Please Lord, I prayed, make it so we can be gone for 4 business days!  

After a few emails back and forth with our agency and a phone call we were told it would be no big deal if we needed to change our trip to sometime in August.  Traveling in August meant changing where we stayed in Haiti and having another orphanage director take us to our appointments because our orphanage director would be out of the country (which is why we booked our weekend July trip in the first place, to be there when the orphanage director would be there).  We were so grateful for the flexibility and accommodations being offered by both our agency and the orphanage directors in Haiti.  We were also told our delay in going to court would only delay the adoption process by the extra couple of weeks it took us to get to Haiti, which made me feel better.  I mean, after 8 months of waiting, to then find out you are delaying the next step?  That was stressing me out!
I found new flights for August and was ready to book them when I figured I should quickly run the dates by our agency just to double check and make sure our travel week was acceptable to everyone in Haiti, before I spent money to transfer our tickets (a pretty penny, I might add).
I received an email back the next day -- We don’t have to appear in court because we have already been to the lower courts. Our paperwork can be submitted directly to the higher courts.  We don’t have to change our trip, and we don’t have to be in Haiti for 4 business days.  I almost cried.
How in the world did that happen?!?  When we made our first trip to Haiti our orphanage director took us to a building where we signed some paperwork in front of a witness and then to an appointment to see a “Dean” where we were asked a lot of questions and had to show a picture of us with Christina.  We had no idea we were going to have these appointments, nor did we really understand what they were.  Those were our lower court appointments.  
God knew.  He knew when our Dossier would be released from IBESR and that we would need to be in Haiti the exact week Weston needed to be at the office.  And He handled it.  My prayers were totally answered, but in a way so much bigger than I could have possibly imagined.  Miraculous.
We were able to make an Embassy appointment for the morning we leave.  Our appointment is at 7am, our flight leaves at 1:15pm.  We don’t even have to change our outgoing flight.  Another miracle!
I have no idea how much longer the process will take.  It feels like everything has sped up considerably, but the truth is it could all stall again.  Our paperwork could languish on another desk.  But the last couple of weeks have given me hope on so many levels.  Hope that the Haitian system does work.  Hope that our adoption will be finalized and we will bring Christina home.  But mostly, it has bolstered my faith.  Faith that God has it all under control.  That He is in charge.  And He answers prayers.  But in ways far beyond what my brain could even think to imagine.  Although I know this to be true in theory, I love it when He shows me in a tangible way.  Sometimes I just need that reminder!
I will have new pictures and new stories of Christina in just two weeks -- can’t wait to go back and love on her!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Finally! After 9 months we have our Presidential Dispensation!

Got great news yesterday! In the middle of my 20 mile training run my cell phone ran (it is a miracle I heard it and then answered it in time -- usually I don’t hear my phone when I run). On the other end was our adoption agency, telling me we have received our Presidential Dispensation! I could hardly keep running -- it is difficult to run while you are crying!

We still need to find out where exactly our paperwork is: Has our Dispensation been published in the Le Moniteur so that it is official? It can’t be signed off on by IBESR (Haitian Social Services) until it is published in Le Moniteur -- and Le Moniteur only comes out every month or so. Once IBESR has signed off on our paperwork and granted us an Authorization of Adoption, we move on to Parquet Court, which is a series of steps and processes between multiple Haitian offices. Then our paperwork goes to the Ministry of the Interior, then finally Christina can get her visa.

But let me back up a bit and explain what has happened in Haiti since our paperwork hit the system in November, 2011. There are going to be a lot of changes in the near future in Haitian adoptions.

In May, 2012 the Director of IBESR made the decision to close IBESR to new adoption cases in order to work through the back log of files. They are trying to streamline their process so that a dossier only sits in IBESR for 2 months (ours has been in IBESR since November, 2011.) IBESR says they will begin accepting new cases in August.

On June 11, 2012 Haiti ratified the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. This will change the way adoptions are processed in Haiti. Most countries who ratify the Hague convention end up having to put a halt on new adoptions until they get their systems in place. Fortunately, adoptions already in process are usually grandfathered in. There are a lot of uncertainties at this time regarding the future of adoption in Haiti. We are hopeful that in the end this will mean better systems, less corruption and a shorter wait for all those sweet kiddos waiting to go home.

If you are interested in learning more about what Haiti is doing, check out All Blessing International's Haiti Blog and Adoption Process page.

But even with all of the unknowns and changes to the process, we are thrilled that we have finally moved forward in the system. We have been waiting since November for something to happen with our file. This is huge!

Last week I booked plane tickets for Weston, Sam (our 16 year old) and me to visit Christina at the end of July. If our paperwork moves quickly through IBESR we could end up having our court date on our trip! But if our paperwork isn’t out of IBESR in the next couple of weeks we will have to postpone our trip until we are in Parquet Court because once in Parquet we are given two to three weeks to show up in Haiti for a court appearance. It doesn’t make sense to visit Christina and then just a couple of weeks later have to fly to Haiti again for our court date. (Well, if finances were unlimited, I wouldn’t mind doing that, but since they are not, and plane tickets are expensive, it make sense to combine our next trip and our court date, even if we have to change our tickets.)

We know we still have more waiting to do. Our prayer is that our paperwork will continue to move smoothly through the system. If it does, there is a good chance Christina could be home by Christmas! What an amazing present that would be!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Our last day in Haiti...and reflections of our trip.

March 30, 2012

We woke Christina up just as the sun was coming up. She did not want to wake up. We got her ready, packed her bags and went down to breakfast. Sonia was nowhere to be found, but we figured she would show up when it was time for Christina to leave. I think this was the sweetest, most fun Christina had been for us yet.

She chatted and smiled through breakfast. We played on the patio for a while; she decided I made a terrific jungle gym and climbed all over me, laughing and talking.

We headed back to our room to finish packing and she helped us put things in our bags and tidy up the room. Suddenly there was a knock on our door and Sonia's husband told us he was ready to take us to the airport. (No time to take a shower, I guess not taking one last night was a huge mistake, now I had to travel all sticky and gross!) I asked who was going to take Christina and he replied that a driver was waiting to take her back to the orphanage. We picked up our bags, and Christina, thinking she was going with us on another fun excursion grabbed her things and happily carried them down the stairs to the carport. She was chatting and giggling as we loaded her bag into one car and our bags into another. We hugged and kissed her goodbye and Sophie and Weston began to cry. She was not sure why we were so upset until she suddenly realized she was not going with us. The driver buckled her into the backseat of his car and the look on her face broke my heart. Once again she had that sad, withdrawn look that she greeted us with only two short days earlier. A vacant stare.  She wouldn't even look at me or say goodbye.

We got in our car, Sophie was sobbing, but trying to keep herself composed. And we drove away. Knowing that Christina was the back seat of the car completely alone, with no one she trusted to explain to her what just happened was almost unbearable. I forced myself to look out the window and not think about it. Sophie continued to cry for most of the drive, which should have been 30 minutes but ended up taking us almost two hours. The night before it had rained pretty hard for a couple of hours and the roads were a muddy, flooded mess. Rivers of dirty water and trash raced down the gutters and the mud was a foot thick, swallowing tires and shoes that tried to get through it. Pedestrians did their best to avoid the puddles and muck, but most were covered to their knees in grey dirt. But at least they were making forward progress on the road as we sat in a true traffic jam. I have never before experienced the chaos of Haiti traffic like this. Cars made their own lanes, trying to pass anywhere they could. A two lane road turned into 7 lanes, cars drove on sidewalks, on the opposite side of the road. Horns honked and at one point a police officer, trying to direct traffic through an impassable intersection actually drew his pistol to get cars to stop. I watched as men took small shovels and attempted to clear muck and water from the flooded roads.  What a hopeless job, because the minute it rains again all the work they did will be back in the streets. It reminded me of the story I had heard about prisoners being forced to carry rocks from one end of a yard to the other, only to carry them back again when they were finished, until they went crazy.  We started to worry we wouldn't make our flight. Although I was never afraid for our safety, it is amazing how safe you can feel enclosed in a car, I marveled at the craziness of the street in front of me. 

We finally made it to the airport, said good bye to Sonia's husband and did our best to ignore the men trying to take our bags and "help" us check in. One man tried to tell us if we followed him he could get us checked in faster. We had to pay him $3 just to get him to leave us alone.

We checked in. The ticket agent asked us is Sophie was a "garçon" or "fil" and did not believe me when I said "fil". I could tell that behind the hands they had over their mouths they were discussing Sophie's short hair.

We went through two security check points and arrived at a large crowded, noisy waiting room with no gates, no clock, no signs, nothing to indicate where our flight was going to board. We asked an airport employee where Insel air was and we were told to sit anywhere. Our boarding time came and went. We noticed that others had boarding passes like ours, so we figured we had to be in the right place. And since no planes had taken off, at least we knew we hadn't missed the flight.

After an hour or so an employee yelled "Insel" and we stood up and followed a crowd through a door to a flight of stairs, where people jockeyed for position to be first in line. No rows were called, just one giant exodus to the plane. It was all we could do to stay together. It wasn't as though people were rude, but at the same time they were certainly not going to do anything to help a fellow passenger. It was every man for himself.

We climbed up a steep metal staircase each carrying two carry-on bags. We had not checked any of our bags, in hopes of being able to put them in the overhead bins and avoid a long line at customs in Miami.

Finally we were in our seats, luggage stowed and ready for the 2 hour flight home. The flight was uneventful, except for the occasional bout of tears from Sophie-- she missed Christina and couldn't believe we had to leave her.

Another trip behind us.

As I reflect back on the trip, I have mixed emotions. It was amazing getting to spend one-on-one time with Christina. I loved that Sophie and Christina got along so well and that Sophie fell in love with her little sister. I loved seeing the true Christina emerge. A smart, chatty, fun-loving, energetic little girl. I was glad to see what things made her come out of her shell and what made her withdraw. It will help so much to know this before we bring her home. But my heart breaks with the knowledge that even though the orphanage is a good place, it is not a place where Christina's personality thrives. She prefers quiet, calm environments and the orphanage is anything but that. Just like some kids do well in day care and others don't, Christina just doesn't do as well in crowds or lots of activity.  We never saw Christina cry.  I wonder if she has taught herself not to.  And she never truly hugged us or kissed us.  Yes, she snuggled up to us and wanted us to hold her, but there was never a real hug or kiss that she initiated.

I am overwhelmingly sad at the way our goodbye transpired. I had no idea a driver was going to load her up in the back seat of a car and transport her the hour or more drive back to the orphanage. What was going on in her head that entire time? Did anyone tell her where she was going? Did she cry? Did the driver console her? Or was he wearing his earbuds like he did when he picked us up from the airport on our first day, and keep to himself? Did she withdraw back into herself like I watched her do every time she was in a new situation? And once she got back to the orphanage, was she glad to be back? What did she tell her friends about her time with us? Did the nannies help her process her experience? How long did it take her to get back into the swing of orphanage routine? And has she forgotten us?  Or worse, decided she doesn't like us because we left her?

The culture is so very different, I can't imagine that our visit was explained in a way that would make sense to me, as a mom and American.

But more than anything, if I am honest, I am angry. I am angry at the Haitian government for having slow, antiquated processes. I am angry at the people who took kids illeagally after the 2010 earthquake, making the process slow even further. I know that was not their intention, but the fallout of that was a further distrust of the Haitian people towards Americans and adoption. Our paperwork has been in the Haitian government system since November, 2011.  We have not yet gotten one of the many signatures required to move forward, and according to Sonia, she has no idea when we will.  Presently our paperwork is sitting on the President's desk awaiting dispensation, and it could sit there for months.  He has no incentive to sign our paperwork, except when an American celebrity, like Oprah, visits.  Then he signs a few as a gesture of "goodwill."

And if I am truly honest with myself, I am angry at God. Because ultimately He could perform a miracle and cause our paperwork to go though faster. He could do something. You can’t tell me that Christina’s life is not being damaged in some way by living in the orphanage. Her little personality is not meant to be there. She is meant to be with us, a calm, laid-back family who gets that sometimes you need quiet. We already have one kid who didn’t do crowds and noise well when he was little. We know how to deal with that. I can’t even really think about it or I get so mad/hurt that I want to scream. How can where she is be best? Why won’t God do something?

And yet, I have a choice. I can choose to turn from Him, to tell Him he is not being fair. Or I can choose to really trust that He does have her best interest, and ours, in mind. That He is holding all of us in the palm of His hand and loves us immeasurably and is guiding our steps. I don’t feel like that, but I have to choose that path. He is the one who turned our hearts to adoption. It was His voice that told both Weston and me this was the path to choose. And He has it under control. He wouldn’t have placed us here without a plan. It is simply a plan that at this moment I do not see or understand. And I know that through it I will grow, Weston will grow, Christina and all our kids will grow. Our choice is to grow closer to Him through it. Ultimately, isn't that what He wants for us?  Isn't that His best plan?

Today, with tears stinging my eyes, that is what I must cling to in the midst of my anger and hurt. I will continue to pray with all my heart that He move the government to quick action. That Christina comes home in record time. I will pray for a miracle. But a miracle has already happened. She is my child. A little girl, born a world away, years after I decided I was done having kids, has become mine because of Him. So I know He can perform miracles and if He chooses, will perform another. But regardless, I will continue to choose Him, and trust Him, because it is not about what He can do for me now, but what He has already done for me on the cross.

Christina day one

Christina day three

Can you see a difference?

She was meant for our family.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Haiti day three -- best day yet!

March 29, 2012

Today I woke up and had a small heart attack because Christina was not in her bed. I jumped out of bed in a panic and Sophie, who was still in bed, shushed me to be quiet, Christina was asleep next to her.   Sophie told me she was awakened to Christina pulling on Sophie's toes, trying to wake her up. When Sophie opened her eyes, Christina climbed into her bed and fell right back to sleep. So sweet! She had stirred a couple of times through the night, but never actually woken up, and I am pretty sure she did not wet her pull up either.

We got dressed for breakfast and went downstairs to another feast. Once again Christina loved the yogurt and wanted me to feed it to her.   She smacked her lips with delight after each bite.

After breakfast we packed our bathing suits and towels because we had arranged for a driver to take us to a hotel with a pool for the afternoon. He arrived promptly at 10am and Christina willingly piled into the car with us and was so excited to be on an excursion!  Huge change from yesterday when she shut down when we got in the car for lunch. Today she pointed at things, cried out "chen" when she saw dogs walking on the side of the road. She was very interested in everything we passed. We arrived at a hotel with a nice pool, outdoor bar and patio area. It was not at all crowded and it looked as though we were not the only Americans. Our driver arranged for us to stay at the hotel for a couple of hours. 
We changed into our bathing suits, which Christina was pretty happy about but when we went to the pool area she got very shy and quiet. She really does not like to be in new situations. Can't really blame her. She sat on my lap with her head on my shoulder and was silent. Weston and Sophie got in the water and I walked over to the steps, but she wanted none of it. Eventually she let Weston hold her and her took her into the water about waist deep. She was not so sure about that and wanted to get out. So he gave her back to me, I dried off her legs and we sat quietly for a few minutes under the umbrella. She wanted me to sit on the towel, so we arranged the towel beneath the chair until it was to her liking. (Over and over and over. She did not like it when the towel moved around when she wiggled on the chair.) 

Meanwhile, we were quite the spectacle for those staying at the hotel. We got plenty of stares from the locals eating lunch, and even the Americans felt it was ok to stare at us. Guess I will have to get used to that. The hotel had wireless Internet, this was the first time we were able to contact anyone back home to let them know we were safe, so we sent emails and iPad texts to family. I worked on my iPad as Christina got used to her surroundings. We had ordered some bottled soda to drink, not knowing if the water was safe, and I made the huge mistake of giving Christina a couple of sips. When the sugar and caffeine hit her system, she was crazy! (We asked a couple of Americans who sat near us if the water/ice was safe, and they said yes, so we had water with lunch.  So nice to have clean ice!)  We Skyped a few people and she was extra hyper! She decided I made a terrific jungle gym and proceeded to climb all over me. At one point she jumped off the chair and if I had not caught her she would have fallen straight on her head onto the concrete. Totally fearless and unaware of the possibility of getting hurt. She waved to family and friends on Skype, blew kisses and acted silly. After we hung up, we took her back to the pool and she braved the water, but only up to her knees. She was very content to sit next to me on the step and splash Sophie. I image she had never before experienced a pool; it must have been quite overwhelming.

At one point she was happily running around the patio area and ran straight towards the water. Right past Weston, who wasn't paying attention. I screamed for him to grab her and at the last second he got ahold of her arm, before she splashed into the water.  It dawned on us that we haven't had to worry about one of our kids falling into a pool for YEARS.  Our kids are now old enough that we have been able to let our parent guard down.  Our parent radar is rusty!  So we have to figure out how to get back to being aware of where she is at all times.  Especially because I have a feeling she is going to be into everything.  She is very active and loves to climb and jump.  We are going to have to kid-proof our house and retrain ourselves to keep an eye on a little one 24/7.

We played in the pool, ate lunch (rice, again. By this time Sophie is getting tired of rice!). And soon our driver returned to pick us up.

We asked him to take us to a market before we went back to the guest house so he dropped us off on the side of the road near the airport where Haitians were selling paintings and other trinkets. Now this was an experience. We, obviously tourists, with a little black girl, walking through the trash and dust to look at paintings. Three men immediately accosted us and told us to look at their things. "You like? You like?" They kept repeating. We picked out a couple of paintings, two wooden bowls and a small Haitian flag that Sophie really loved. They gave one to Christina as well. We haggled over price, came to an agreement, paid and walked away with them still trying to sell us more. Meanwhile, Christina was visibly unhappy about being on the side of the road where it was loud and crowded. She buried her head into my shoulder and held onto me for dear life.  All I wanted to do was get her back in the car where she felt safe. Sophie was a bit overwhelmed too, once the vendors realized Sophie was a little girl they tried to push necklaces and bracelets on her.  I was not worried about our safety, but the girls were a little stressed, so I was glad to wrap things up and get back to the car.
Where we stopped for paintings and wooden bowls.
The men followed us to the car and still tried to sell us things from the window as we drove away. Now that was a true Haitian experience. 

Traffic on the way home was terrible, bumper to bumper craziness. People were driving on the sidewalks on the wrong side of the road to try to get ahead. It was insane! Our driver was great at maneuvering through the traffic without being (too) crazy. Sophie occupied Christina by having her repeat English words. It delighted both of them. Finally Christina fell asleep, which was good, she was tired and needed a nap.

We finally made it back, and relaxed in our room for a while. Christina and I read a book, sang songs and played. She livens right up when she feels comfortable. She and Sophie played with their flags and played repeat the English word again. We ate an early dinner -- none of us were the least bit hungry-- of rice (Sophie was almost in tears over having to eat rice again), some sort of fish or scallops so neither Sophie or I ate it to be safe, avocado and potatoes and fried plantains. I don't think I will ever get tired of plantains, they are so good!
Sophie and Christina relaxing in the room.
Weston sat next to Christina to help her and she was a nut all through dinner, chatting and wiggling and smiling. She would point to which ever bite she wanted to be fed next.   She does not like red onion.  There were slices of red onion in the avocado and potato salad and she chewed on a piece of onion for a while, but could not swallow it.  Finally she spit it onto her plate.  She then took her fork and pushed all the red onion into a pile, picked it up and put it all on Weston's plate.  

We wanted to take one last walk throught the neighborhood, but the front gate was locked.  Christina watched us try the door, then she went up and tried it herself.  I was looking around the house for someone to open unlock the gate; Christina was talking a mile a minute, saying who knows what.  When I found Sonia and asked her to open the gate, she heard Christina jabbering away and said "Christina is telling you to go get the key.  'Le kle, le kle', she is saying to you.  She wants you to find the key".  One smart little girl.  

We passed by a house with two mean sounding dogs who barked and growled at us. I was very glad they were behind two fences.  Christina was not phased by their barking but kept calling out "chen, chen". We passed by other people walking the streets and said "Bon Soir" which some replied to with a smile and others totally ignored us.

After a short walk we went back to our room, once again we had A/C! Sophie and I bathed Christina, this time it was like wrestling a watermelon. She was full of vinegar, squirming, laughing and not being cooperative at all. It was a great big game. At one point she tried to climb the tub wall and I had to hold her down to finish her bath. To her defense, the water was really cold and she did not want to sit still and have the water splashed all over her. She did everything she could to get us to stop splashing the washcloth on her.

I had not touched her hair at all while we had her, the nannies had fixed it into pretty corn rows for us and I was afraid to mess it up. But by now her head was getting a bit smelly and her hair was not quite as neat. There as no way I was going to take her hair down and attempt to wash it and fix it, so I rubbed baby powder on her scalp to make it smell better and hoped the nannies wouldn't think I was a terrible mother for not changing her hairstyle the entire time we had her.

We put her in pjs, and snuggled up in our bed, all 4 of us. We put the movie on so Christina could finish watching it and she rested on Sophie's chest and tried to keep her eyes open. She finally gave up and fell fast asleep. We knew we had an early morning, Sonia told us she would take Christina with her back to the orphanage by 6am and her husband would take us to the airport a little later. I was too tired to take a shower and figured I would have time in the morning before we left. I also was not in the mood to freeze my tail off. Neither was Sophie, so only Weston took a shower. 
Her smile melts my heart!
Hamming it up for the camera

Today was our best day with Christina, by far.  I feel like we got a chance to really see what a fun, goofy, smart, happy little girl she is.  The pictures I got of her tonight as she was coloring capture her personality so well.  It is going to be hard, hard, hard to leave her tomorrow.  And we can't explain that we are coming back.  In fact, I have no idea if she even understands who we are or why she is staying with us.  My prayer is that she sees it as one fun field trip and falls right back into her routine with no problem.