Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 6 in Moscow - Meet the Family Day!! - 5th Day with the Kids

Mr. Beaver -

What an amazing day! Today began with great anticipation. For Daria, Alexander and Oksana, the day was to be a day of happy reunion. They were both excited and a little nervious at the thought of seeing Momma again. I knew it would be an even sweeter day than they imagined, as they were actually going to meet their new brothers and sisters as well!

I asked the kids what they wanted to do this morning while awaiting Momma's arrival. I offered up various types of sights to see, shopping or playing games. Instead, they all agreed they wanted to make a "Welcome to Moscow" sign for Momma, much like the "Happy Birthday" signs we had made, photographed and sent to them by e-mail on their birthdays.

We had no art supplies so our vision required some shopping, and I knew we needed to hurry as Mrs. Beaver had texted me that they had already landed... 30 minutes ahead of schedule! I figured we had time to shop because the family had the daunting task of getting through immigration, customs, and Moscow traffic. So Daria took the enormous Moscow yellow pages and identified a likely shop just up the street - Noviy Arbat is a very 'happenin' place - and off we went to buy poster-board and markers for the joyous task.

The store turned out to be an amazing 2-story book store (which I knew would not escape the detailed scrutiny of Mrs. Beaver if ever she saw it). With MUCH help from Daria, we purchased the supplies we needed and headed back to the apartment to create the sign of love for Momma.

While Daria, Alexander and Oksana were shopping...
Mrs. Beaver and the rest of the crew were on their way!
Just as the kids were finishing up the sign, Momma texted that the family had arrived downstairs. This was an amazing blessing from God. I had been praying for His intervention to make things work on this special day, as we had simultaneous appointments at the embassy and the apartment building... not to mention that those appointments generally coincided with the time I expected Mrs. Beaver and the family to show up. As usual, the Author of all time and space orchestrated things far better than I ever could. 

I hurried the kids along to finish their poster, bundled them up and headed down to the first floor with them to what I knew would be a big, happy surprise. As we exited the building, the family was nowhere in sight. But as we headed around the corner to the front of the building I saw the large group of people I had been missing... and their equally large pile of luggage mounded on the sidewalk. This was just the first unusual sight of our family that Moscow would see! I was sure we would be a spectacle many, many more times before traveling home.

There is simply no way to adequately capture the meeting. It started with our American kids nearly flying over the sidewalk toward their new siblings who were in shock that their whole family had come to Moscow. We had done enough with pictures and SKYPING that they knew their new siblings when they saw them, but I think there was a mixture of surprise, joy and a feeling of being overwhelmed... we ARE an overwhelming bunch!

After quick introductions outside on a November morning in Moscow, we assembled the tribe and their amazing pile of bags for the trek up to our apartment. At this point we were balancing our desire to get to know each other with our need to get off to our required Embassy appointment with the new kids. We had about 20 minutes to get things moved upstairs before we had to go.

First group picture standing just outside our apartment building in Moscow
But this was where we hit our first "large group" glitch. The desk clerk (quasi-security guard) in the lobby of the apartment building was NOT happy with our group of 14 heading upstairs. I think he was concerned about all of us going to stay in just one apartment... an understandable concern if that had been the case. There was no way he was going to let this giant crowd go up in his building to a single apartment! Not on his watch!

I did the best I could to explain that we had enough apartments for all the family and promised to bring back the paperwork to prove it. Then, I just did what I have frequently observed since arriving here... I did the Russian thing -- I went ahead and led the family up to our apartment over his mild protests. It seems the assumption here is that someone will object to just about anything you do and you need to just push ahead and let them stop you if they really mean it. At least that how it seems to work amongst Russians themselves... from an outsider's perspective.

Momma and I quickly "settled" the troops in our apartment, gathered the three newest Beavers and headed off to the embassy. There was no time to check in to rooms and spread people out before we left, so we left this jet-lagged group as comfortable as possible considering that we had 9 jet-lagged people occupying a single apartment with only 3 beds.

It was a bit tight before we were able to check in to our other apartments

An amazing quiverful and blessing from the Lord!

Lissie and Jaynie with their new sister, Oksana

Tessa with her new brother, Alexander

Cassandra with her new sister Oksana

Natasha and Princess Bink with their new sister, Daria
We actually headed out a little early, as I had kept the Foat's waiting on more than one occasion. This time I was determined not to be late! We used our extra time to stroll down the noisy, 10-lane street on which the embassy resides to one of Stalin's magnificent old buildings which sits back from the main street behind a small park-like setting. The setting was somehow ironically idyllic.

As our appointment time approached we walked the short distance back to the embassy, arriving just before the Foats. Together we re-entered the embassy for our final visit there, where the screening process was much easier since I had not brought a lot of electronics this time (see Day 5 blog).

The Day 2 embassy process was mostly similar to what we remembered from the past. First, we were ushered into a packed waiting room with several other American families and their Russian adoptees. After a few minutes of waiting, one of the embassy workers came out and addressed all the families to let us know what was going to happen. She had us all raise our right hand and swear that the information in our paperwork was truthful. Then she provided a very helpful briefing about the process we would go through that day, and the process we would go through on the trip home.

There was one important addition to this briefing versus what we remembered from prior adoptions - critical information about citizenship. We learned something here that we had only stumbled onto when we tried to get visas for our Russian children a couple of weeks before this trip - namely that our adopted Russian children would be dual citizens unless and until they chose, as adults, to renounce their Russian citizenship. They also told us it would be impossible for our Russian children to return to Russia on an American passport (once again, our experiences provided more evidence that God is sovereign over even the most powerful nations in the world as He provided IMPOSSIBLE visas for our Russian kids for this trip! Praise be to our sovereign God!).

Finally, the embassy worker told us that the young men being adopted were subject to mandatory military service if they entered Russia between the ages of 18 and 35 years old. We have much to research to understand the pros and cons of our children retaining dual citizenship, but in the mean time we'll be keeping Speedy and Alexander clear of Russia from about age 15 on! They could literally be conscripted on the spot... it has happened! Hmmm... come to think of it... this does give us some leverage as parents... hmmm...

Next, we were called as a family to a little cashier-style booth where the embassy worker went through all our paperwork, checking names, spelling, etc. for accuracy. The person helping us was the one who had provided the briefing for the group, so we took the time to say a BIG thank you for the citizenship information, and explained that it was news to us who had adopted twice from Russia over the past 9 years. After our paperwork was processed the embassy workers spent about another 25 minutes issuing the US visas for our kids (in their Russian passports), and then we were free to go. We went outside where we met Marina and waited for the Foats to finish the process themselves. It was a VERY happy gathering at this point.

Now we were anxious to get back to our other kids and start being a family of 14. Off we went to be reunited with the jet-lagged crew in our apartment! I also needed to check into the other apartments and then move the troops so people could settle in. The check-in process itself took about 45 minutes as the apartment manager had to take me around to all 4 other apartments, two of which were in a building about a block away, making sure all the keys worked and making sure I didn't have any questions. This was important because every single apartment is different, especially the key/security aspects of the apartments.

Finally, it was time to feed this enormous crew. Even at home that task will always be at least a bit challenging, but on foreign turf, particularly in a large city not especially open to children and large families it was daunting. We prayed and God led us to a "Coffee Haus" on the first floor of our own apartment building. Amazingly, God went before us and the staff not only allowed the 14 of us to sit in their very busy restaurant, they actually helped pull together tables for us! It was crowded but sweet! We did the best we could to keep the orders simple for the server who had a sweet, patient countenance and had a glorious first meal together!

Our first real meal as a family of 14! Coffee Haus on the first floor of our apartment building in Moscow

After dinner we had a few more minutes to enjoy together before calling it a night. We settled in like any other family... of 14!

Did I mention that Oksana LOVES bubbles?

Alexander LOVES drawing and other forms of artwork

Cassandra was a hit reading English language children's books
To close the day I escorted each group of kids to their rooms, stopping at the local "prodookti" store to buy water and yogurts for morning. While it was difficult to be apart, we really had limited choices to house a group this big in Moscow. After escorting everyone to their appointed apartment and praying over them, I think we all grieved a bit to be separated, but remained grateful to God for His provision and just determined to spend only the nights in separate apartments. The rest of our time would be spent together, praise be to God!


The Nordstroms said...

Very beautiful!

Noah & Amber said...

What a great post! Loved it, and it brought me to tears. Love you guys, and thanks for sharing a great story of God's grace, love, and awe inspiring power. He is in control, and He is our Daddy! Hope that one day we will get to meet the rest of the family now. We are always praying for ya'll, and if you need anything, just let us know if we can help.

n, a, a, and soon to be q

MacMeister said...

What a beautiful family! :-)

Elizabeth said...

I love the one of your family all crowded around the table - so wonderful to see you finally all together. We are so excited for you!!!! And thank you so, so much for keeping us updated with blog posts!