Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday


Monday was a jam packed day. We had to take Grace for a medical exam, get the visa papers prepared, pickup the passport, pickup the medical exam, and have an interview at the US Embassy to get the visa. All that and we had to hope and pray that we could get the visa back early enough on Tuesday that we could make our flight home. If we couldn't fly on Tuesday we wouldn't be able to fly until the weekend.

The medical exam was pretty painless, then Grace and I and went back to the apartment to pack while Sarah went with Jasmina to do the paperwork and pickup the passport. There was some confusion as to who could pick up the passport, but it all got worked out. A special thanks to the social worker from Blace who took the 3+ hour bus ride to Belgrade early Monday morning to help get it all cleared.

In the afternoon we had our interview appointment for Grace's visa from the US Embassy. We were a little delayed from getting the passport, but there were only a handful of people at the Embassy when we got there. During the interview they asked when we were leaving Belgrade so we told them our situation and the workers graciously said they thought they could get it done by the end of the day. So we hung out for a little while in the waiting room and only a couple of hours after getting there we had Grace's visa and we could official depart for home!!

In the evening we meet with Vlado and he and I walked to the Police station, even though it started snowing, to terminate our temporary Belgrade address. On the way we walked across the alley from the President's offices their "White House", no fences no special bars, we could have walked over and touched the building. Next to that was the Mayor of Belgrades offices, which the workers were happily removing the snow from the sidewalks, as the Mayor's office is in charge of all the departments in Belgrade. The President still has plenty of snow in front of his offices. After leaving the police station we spotted the President's car driving down the major bullivard on his way home with only one escort car. In the five minutes it took us to walk from there to the President's offices we could already see all the workers making quick exits themselves.

That was our last day in Belgrade and now we are all packed up dressed and ready to head to the airport. It's still snowing but so far all the websites show that there are no delays. The next update will be after we make it back home and can introduce Grace to the rest of the bunch.

Bye Vlado




"Ciao, ciao" Serbia

Saturday, December 12, 2009

We're breaking out of here

Friday we got to bring Grace with us back to stay at our apartment. Before we left we got a tour of the orphanage to see many of the children there. Let me tell you there are some awesome kids in this orphanage that would be great in a family. One boy of about 6 was my best friend for awhile. He just talked and talked and talked. He kept telling the workers that he was going home tomorrow. After the tour I had to go get my passport so I could sign Grace out of the orphanage for her official file and then we took a taxi back towards our apartment.

First we had to stop at a Lilly's store to buy bottles and some food, then we walked to our appartment and settled in. We all took a nap for a couple of hours and then we made Grace a bottle with some fruit flavored baby food, cereal, and water. Grace then got acquainted with our apartment, She quickly learned that she could move well on the carpet, but only slide backwards on the hardwood floors. We played in the apartment for a while and then made supper, pasta and tomato meat sauce for Sarah and I, and Chicken dinner baby food in the bottle for Grace. She didn't really care for her food, later we got an email from Jasmina that said she prefers sweet foods.

After supper we decided we needed some more water and some bread and pasteries from the bakery. We got Grace all wrapped up and went for a stroll, of course the minimart is 3 buildings away and the bakery is across the street so our stroll didn't take but 10 minutes. I think it took longer to get Grace in her coat and hat. We played in the apartment for a little while longer and then it was bed time. It didn't take her to long to settle in and fall asleep, when I went to check on her later her legs were all twisted up. It looked like she was sitting crosslegged and just fell over asleep.

We're looking forward to spending lots of quality time with Grace over the weekend and learning her schedule. Then on Monday we've got the medical appointment, paperwork, pickup her passport, and apply for the Visa at the Embassy. Then fingers crossed, we'll be able to pick up the visa Tuesday morning and make it to the airport for our flight home.

Good morning Princess are you ready to break out?

Yeah!

One last rest in her crib while we went on the tour.

Signing the official papers so Grace can leave with us.

Party dress to celebrate leaving.

Bye, bye Jasmina

Grace has left the building

Standing at the gate waiting for our taxi.

Grace has already picked up pulling on my whiskers from Sarah.

Taxi ride to the apartment.

Our first bottle in the apartment.

Checking out the hardwood floors.

I was trying to take this picture myself. Got a good one of Grace, but the look on my face is a little bizarre.

Grace was really interested in the picture of Ivy.

Sleep tight little angel.

Did I say angel, I meant contortionist.

Please....Someone save them!

I'm posting this in hopes that someone reading my blog may be feeling led to adopt a child with Down syndrome. Please consider saving one of these precious angels before they spend their life "behind bars" in a mental institution where they will surely die. 90% don't survive 1 year in these places and once transferred, they will not be able to be adopted. Maybe not you, but maybe you know someone who's considering adopting. Please share as these kids are SO worth it!!

Please Grab This Button!
URGENT PLEA!


Please Grab This Button!
URGENT PLEA!


Please Grab This Button!
URGENT PLEA!


Please Grab This Button!
URGENT PLEA!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fundraiser for another family

Please visit this link and consider making a donation to this family's fundraising efforts.
http://joneseeadoption.blogspot.com/2009/12/what-can-happen-in-6-days.html

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Just One Big Family Now

Well, it's official. Grace is ours!!! What a very long, amazing, emotional, happy, sad day all wrapped into one. We met at the orphanage at 7am to make the 3 1/2 hour drive to Blace which is where the adoption ceremony took place. We met around a table with Jasmina(our facilitator), Jasna(lawyer and translator), the director(who happens to be a relative of Grace's), the lawyer for the social center and the social worker. Documents were drawn up for the birth certificate and we had to verify the information was correct. We signed the papers, shook hands and that concluded the "ceremony". What happens next is really amazing. We drove to another town to get the birth certificate but this is also where the hospital is that Grace's 2 sisters have been at. Grace's mother wanted to meet us so we all met in a room at the hospital. Grace's mother and father and 2 sisters were there and we had a nice visit. It wasn't too emotional as Grace's mother had really prepared herself and did not cry. She is very thankful for us and is happy that Grace will be with us. We got to take some pictures and I gave her mother a bracelet "from Grace". Our goodbye's started to get teary but we had to leave in a hurry to go back to Blace to apply for the passport before the police station closed. I am so thankful we got to meet more of Grace's family and get photos. This experience is truely priceless as this NEVER happens with international adoptions. Very very few families ever meet anyone from the child's family much less stay in touch. We look forward to updating Grace's birthfamily over the years and they have access to our blog. We've made the decision to post a few pictures of her family. So...after the lengthy process of applying for the passport(old and slow computer equipment), Jon and I took everyone out for dinner at a nice restaurant for typical Serbian food. Grace's father joined us and surprised us by bringing the oldest sister who had been at school before. She is beautiful and a very good student and gifted in music. They brought a gift for Grace(a little gold cross pendant) and a gift for me(a little pair of gold hoop earrings with crystals). We had an enjoyable meal(these people LOVE meat!!!) and then went to the village where Grace's paternal grandparents live. They wanted to meet us too. How amazing is that? Grandma had lots of goodies for us to eat even though we only had about 15 min to visit. We also got to taste some of her homemade brandy. WOW did that warm me up inside. I think I actually breathed fire, lol!! Grandma and Grandpa are so adorable. The whole family has asked us to bring Grace back for a visit one day and Grandma wants us to stay with them. I love this family and feel like I've known them for years even though I can't understand a word that is spoken. Grandma sat down next to me and was asking us to take good care of her granddaughter. She broke down crying and could barely talk. Of course, I started bawling as well. I can't even imagine how hard this is for them. I won't even pretend to know how they feel. All I know is how much they love Grace and how much they will miss her. It was very nice to hear how much they like us and are happy that Grace is going home with a family that will love her unconditionally and help her reach her fullest potential. They all loved seeing pictures of us with our other kids and asking us questions about them. The last few minutes of our day were the hardest for me as we had to say our goodbyes. We all just kept hugging and kissing and then hugging some more. Grandma and I cried and so did Grandpa. I think a few others were as well but I couldn't see anymore as I started sobbing as I got in the car. By the way I was carrying on, you'd never have guessed I just got a new daughter and whole new extended family. I will cherish these moments forever and look at our photos often. Grace Nadja Maples is one blessed little girl to have "1" whole big family that loves her very much and we are so blessed to have had this time with her birth family to be able to share this with her one day.

Social workers from Blace

Grace's Birth-Mother and baby sister

Everyone but the oldest sister and Grace

Etno Kuca Gedzo Resturant in Blace where we had a celebration lunch

Mixed Grill dinner; veal, sausage, pork and cheese filled meatballs

Lamb, potatoes, bread, and cabbage

Treats at Grace's birth-Grandparents house
This is how they have water, with jellied Strawberries and Turkish candy

And then the Hazelnut Brandy with Grandma!

Jasmina and Jasna

Saying goodbye for now.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

MckMomma HP Touchsmart giveaway

Blogging friend MckMomma is part of the contest to give away an HP Touchsmart computer. Go checkout her blog for many great things including the giveaway. http://mckgiveaways.blogspot.com/2009/12/hp-touchsmart-giveaway.html

He Signed!!!

We got the signature today that we've been waiting for. The adoption ceremony will be tomorrow and we get to spring Grace Nadja from the orphanage when we get back. We are so excited!! We are hoping to leave here on tuesday. Look for an update of the ceremony tomorrow night.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bittersweet Day!

Well, today was the most amazing and emotional and sad day all in one that we've ever had throughout our 5 adoption experiences. We got to meet Grace Nadja's birth father, his sister and a maternal uncle. They travelled several hours today to come say goodbye to sweet Grace. Let me just tell you how much they love this little girl and how hard this meeting was for ALL of us. As soon as they came in the room, we all started crying. Very few, if any, families ever get the opportunity to meet birth family so we are totally blessed to have experienced this today. We now know why we did not get our signature yesterday. If we had, we would have travelled for the adoption ceremony today and they may not have been able to come say goodbye. I will never question God's timing again! Sadly 2 of Grace's sisters are in the hospital with pneumonia so her mother was unable to come. However, we hope to meet her after the adoption ceremony. Grace won't be with us then though so she won't be able to see her again and that breaks my heart. We got many many photos today and a little video as well to show Grace when she's older. It is so obvious how much they love her. They have our blog address and will be able to watch her grow up and thrive in our home. We are so thankful they want to keep in touch and they have invited us to visit them if we are ever back in this country. They are such warm and loving people and we feel like they are now a part of our family too. I just don't even have the words to express the love we felt today. We got to spend a total of about 3 hours with them today and even though they don't speak English, we were able to communicate. The embrace I got from Grace's father was the biggest, tightest, longest, and most heart felt hug I've ever received from ANYONE!!! We both just sobbed. I cried equally as hard when he and Jon embraced. I would love to post a few pictures but I will not unless I get their permission. I want to protect their privacy and do not want them to feel any shame or embarrassment for placing her for adoption. If they could, they surely would have kept her. Resources for a child with Down syndrome just don't exist here and her surgeries for the cleft palate are just too expensive. They asked us MANY questions today about resources for her and were pleased with what we will be able to offer her. We shared photos of our other kids and saw pictures of Grace's siblings as well has her paternal grand parents. We may even be blessed to receive some baby photos of her. God's timing and plan are perfect all the time and we couldn't be happier with the way things are going right now. I'll stop now as I'm starting to cry again visualizing Grace's father saying goodbye and looking back as he walks to the elevator.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Today we had a nice visit with Grace. She was being very cute today playing with us and crawling over my leg on her own {with a little backstop assistance}. Then Sarah put her in the baby carrier, and she fell fast asleep. She's been over tired on several occasions but has refused to let herself fall asleep. Needless to say we were pretty excited that she feels comfortable with us now that she'll fall asleep with us.

Then while we waited to get word if we would get the Ministers' signature today or not, we decided to go on a minibus tour to see the sites. It was a little hard to see somethings today as it was foggy, but we figured if we have Grace with us all the time soon we wouldn't get another chance. We did get to have an excellent lunch and wonderful conversation for several hours with our tour guide and the only other member of our tour a gentlemen from Malta.

Late in the afternoon we did learn that we would not be getting the signature we needed today, so we'll have to pray that we get it tomorrow. That pretty much blew our chance that we could all fly home this weekend. :( So our homecoming arrangements are still up in the air. Now we have to decide if I will come home this weekend and then Sarah and Grace would fly home when everything is done, or if I can strech things with work and we all fly home early next week.

This evening Vlado, who we rent our apartment from, and his wife Svetlana invited us and the other family here adopting out for diner at a traditional Serbian restaurant. We had another great meal and several hours of awesome converstation.


Grace crawling over my leg, with minimal assistance

Grace fell asleep for the first time while Sarah was holding her in the baby carrier wrap.

Such a precious little angel

Sarah and I standing in front of a giant tree in the garden where most Serbian couples have they're wedding receptions in the springtime.

Standing in front of the Prince Mihailo monument in Republic Square with our new friend Renault.

Svetlana, Mary, Jim, Sarah, Jon & Vlado at the "Just Like Home" restaurant.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day 7 videos

Here are a couple of cute videos from today. First we finally caught Grace laughing on camera! She likes it when I jump with her and lift her in the air. It takes her a little while to warm up and she gets bored after only a couple of turns, but eventually she gets going.



video

Grace playing with Mommy. She's copied Sarah signing Mommy for several days. I thought it was so cute when she would grab Sarah's hand and hold it against her cheek. I really love our little angel.


video

Home Happenings

Here is a note we got from Holly who is the young gal taking great care of our kids while we are gone. She is so great with them and sounds like they are having a great time. We are soooo thankful for Holly and at total peace that she is running the show while we are gone. Truely amazing. THANKS HOLLY, WE LOVE YOU!!!
p.s. I was in stitches reading this :)

Hey there Sarah,We had a great day today. We went to Chatau Theatere as planned and then to Playland McDonalds for lunch with some of my family. (I added some pictures.) Sam has been really good. For both him and Ian I've had a pretty much no tollerance rule as far as whining and willful disobedience goes. And, even though they didn't appreciate it too much at first, knowing what to expect from me is helping them allot with first time obedience. We really had a very great day with both of them. I praised them up so much tonight for how good they did, especailly Sam, and he about popped with pride. It was pretty cute. And of course after that he put out a double effort with helping me with things and helping the other kids. I have three funny/cute stories for you. (I hope this doesn't get too long, lol, it might!)The first is that Sam informed me that you can say bad words with your hands/fingers. He then informed me that mommy said he should NEVER EVER EVER do it EVER. Then all four of them proceeded to show me how it was done. Pretty funny.Second, was that tonight I left the kids pot pies on the table while we came down and read your blog posts. Well, we were sitting there and all the sudden heard a fork hit the floor. Ivy looks at me, eyes wide and said, "I think Barney ate our pot pies. Do you know how I know? He just doropped his fork!" The imagery was so funny that I really couldn't hardly be upset at Barney, even though he did indeed eat three out of the four. What a crazy dog! We'll know better now!Third was just a cute thing that happened tonight while putting the kids to bed. I always say, "Do you want me to pray for you?" And then proceed to thank God for all the good things we did that day and ask him to bless tomorrow. I was just about to leave for the night and Iris says, "Holly! Holly! Holly!" very urgently and then said, "Pray for Barney, too." So, we prayed for the stuffy, too. Pretty cute.Oh, one more thing, while I was watching Grace's movie clips I randomly said, "She's so cute, I could just take her home!" I of course was just using the expression but all four of the kids, Ivy, Iris, Ian, Sam were like, "NO!" Sam grabbed my face and looked me straight in the eyes and all the while Ivy is saying, "She belongs to us, WE adopted her!" Oh boy, some kind of love you got going on in this family! :) :) :) Anyways, I'm sure loving your kiddos! Praying for things there, Goodnight, or goodmorning. :) Holly

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Saturday's Visits

We had 2 visits with Grace today and when we went to her room to get her, she actually put her arms out to me. Talk about melt my heart!! She is just such a sweet child but she does know what she wants and does not want. She also cried when she bumped her head which is GREAT!! Most kids in an institution won't even bother crying as their cries will not be heard. Grace shows appropriate emotions and reactions which is wonderful. She's starting to show more interest in toys as well and played ball with us today by rolling it back to me. Very smart little girl we have here.

We really had a great day all around today. Jim and Mary(the family here adopting sweet Milos) and us spent a lot of time together today. They showed us how to use the tram which was so easy and will save us $15/day in cab fare to and from the orphanage. We then had lunch together at a Mexican restaurant. It was a cute little place and the food wasn't bad either. We then hit the open market but didn't find anything that we couldn't live without. We were in search of a nice dress for Grace to wear the day we spring her from the orphanage. The one we brought is WAY too small. She's much bigger than we expected :) With no luck there, we continued walking to the pedestrian zone which is like a big mall area similar to our outlet malls in the states. We did find her a sweet dress and leggings but failed to look at the price and it was around $70...yikes!! Oh well, we haven't spent money on souveniers yet so I felt I could splurge on Grace. We then took the tram back to the orphanage for our 2nd visit. The weekend staff is a little more laid back, should we say, and the children were hungry and fussy. We decided to walk the halls a bit with Grace and one of the nurses yelled at us. Oops!! We are confined to a very small visitation room. Not a lot to do in there with a 2 year old who doesn't have much interest in toys. ANYWAY....we then hooked up with Jim and Mary and decided to try a hamburger at a "fast food" joint. Umm....disgusting!! It certainly was not beef and I actually had to spit my bite out. Oh well. Next Jasmina(our facilitator) met us and took us to a professional basketball game. We were invited yesterday but didn't have much interest but decided to go tonight for something to do. I'm sure glad we did. We had a blast and the game was very exciting. We did lose by 2 points but it was very nerve wracking. We weren't sure what was going to happen after the game as there were many helmet wearing police officers at either entrance to the gym. The crowd was rowdy and would throw rolls of toilet paper and other objects on the court floor if they didn't agree with the ref's calls. Did I mention how LOUD it was in there? However, at the end of the game, the team players shook hands and there were no riots going on. We made it back to our apartment and are now catching up with emails and having something to eat. We're hoping to get some sight seeing in and had actually planned a tour today but the weather wasn't nice and the fog rolled in which would have made it difficult to see the sights. Maybe monday.

Now for prayers. 1. the adoption minister to sign our case on monday. If this happens, we can have the adoption ceremony on tuesday and get the passport and medical on thursday. Then all that's left is the visa. However, the US embassy doesn't do visa appts on fridays so we'd have to wait until monday. 2. please pray they will make an acception(they've done it before) to do our appt friday so we can all leave as a family on saturday. More details on that later in the week once we know in the minister signs.

We are very excited to know that Grace's birthfather will be coming here on monday to meet us. Her mother most likely will not be with as she is suffering emotionally from all of this as are Grace's 2 older sisters. So sad. Please pray for Grace's birth family that they have peace with their decision knowing Grace will be so loved and given the best opportunities to reach her fullest potential.

Well, that's today's adventures. Tune in tomorrow for more....
Good night!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Day 5 videos

Just a swingin'


video

Determination


video



Grace was determind to get to her bottle. This was the first time we have seen her crawl on her hands AND knees. So far to get around, she's done the Indian crawl and dragged her legs. Now that we know she CAN do it, we will be finding lots of things to motivate her to crawl MORE. Oh how I love this girl!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day 4

No words today just a video of our baby girl. We do suggest you turn down the sound before you watch, so you don't have to hear the corny laughter. :)



video

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Day 3

Today was an odd day. We got to spend a couple hours with Grace this morning and then did not have an afternoon visit. However, things are going very well and Grace is bonding with us and we have fallen head over heels in love with her too! She LOVES to give kisses which usually involve her tongue :) Our adoption facilitator wrote up the adoption report today and is submitting it tomorrow in favor of this adoption. This is a few days ahead of schedule so we are praying the adoption minister can be located and will not delay signing. Once it's signed, we can set a date for the adoption ceremony in Grace's birth city which is about 3 1/2 hour taxi ride away. Then the rest can fall into place and maybe...just maybe...we can come home a bit early. We miss our kids terribly. We've been able to have video calls with them through Skype though which has helped. Sam seems to be having the most difficulty and told Holly today that he is too old to cry when he misses us. Of course I bawled and then bawled some more today. It was very emotional today as I'm very homesick and knowing that Sam is having a hard time makes it even worse. I almost called Jon's parents to ask them to go get him but decided not too. So please pray for Sam and the kids as well as Holly. This trip is not easy on anyone but this is all a small price to pay for being entrusted to another of God's beautiful children. Grace is an absolute angel and will teach us all so much. I can't wait for the kids to meet her and Holly has told me how much they adore her already when they talk about her. God is so good....ALL the time.....He is good! We also got to meet another American family that is here to adopt a 10 yr old boy with Ds from the same orphanage as Grace. We enjoyed a nice dinner with them and really enjoyed the conversation...in English!
Ok, now for a few more pictures:


Having a little taste before I bite daddy's nose!


I love kisses from my mommy!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Happy 2nd Birthday Grace!

OK, this is going to be just a quick recap of the day since Jon's writing it instead of Sarah. Today 12/1/09 is Grace Nadja's 2nd Birthday. Happy Birthday Grace. We got to visit Grace twice today in the morning and the afternoon. In the afternoon we brought her a tutu and angel wings to dress up in, some presents to open and a few decorations. Grace really warmed up to us today, even in the morning she was smiling and by the afternoon we had gotten her to giggle a little bit. Well that's about all I'm going to say, I'm sure Sarah will elaborate further later when she's feeling up to it. Here are some pictures from our day, enjoy.

Jon.

Happy Birthday Grace Nadja

Trying out the snuggie

Playing with Daddy

Giving kisses


smiling

Playing with Mommy's earrings

Big Birthday Girl


Reading one of the birthday books with Daddy

giggling

Birthday girl in her tutu resting on her new blankie