PK and the Gang

Bringing Eastern Europe to Eastern North Carolina

There and Back Again

Polish Eagle CloseupAt last, here is the promised blog post from the rest of our time in Poland. While I desperately wanted to write more while we were in Poland, we were exhausted and I was quickly aware that I needed a bit of time to process everything that happened before I put fingers to keyboard.

When we last left our heroes, the Arthur family had just met. The next day, we were supposed to be at the orphanage at 10:30am. Our facilitator told us at breakfast that she was going to have to meet us there because she had to go to the court to work on details of another adoption she was working on. When Becky and I travel to a new city, we love to walk around – besides being cheaper than taking taxis, you also get to have a better feel for the town. We had already looked up directions to the orphanage and decided to hoof it for the two miles to PK. We even left a few minutes early to give us a cushion; you know, just in case.

It all started out so well. We got about ten minutes into our journey and then hit a massive roadwork project. We needed to cross the street but there was no way to get over to the next street we needed to take. No big deal, just go down a block, shoot across the street, head up a block or two and cross over, right? Not so much. There just wasn’t a street to cross over. When we did finally find one, we were incredibly far away from the directions, without a map, and the clock was ticking down to when we had to be at the orphanage. With no other options, we trudged on and eventually ended up on a street that I recognized from pictures on the internet – the Avenue of the Virgin Mary. This is the city’s main drag that leads to the Jasna Gora monastery. We knew the orphanage was near Jasna Gora but not in what direction. A few wrong turns later and we saw the city’s information center. We dove in. The ladies working in the center were a little taken aback by the crazed couple who suddenly appeared in their office, but I think they understood when I asked in Polish “Where is…” and hand them a piece of paper with the name of the orphanage on it. We were given a map and are happy to find we weren’t too far away. Some more dashing through the streets and we end up at the orphanage, only about ten minutes late. Not too bad for being in a strange city where you don’t even know enough of the language to ask where the bathroom is.

We were sent to the room where we met PK first to wait while the staff fetched Sister and

Polish Madonna

PK. We had a few moments to catch our breath and were pleased with ourselves that we had still managed to beat the facilitator. After a few minutes Sister came in the room alone. A pediatrician visits the orphanage three times a week and during her visit that day, PK and a few of the other kids had blood work done. It apparently took a lot out of PK and she was sound asleep. We were asked to come back in the afternoon. We waited until our facilitator got there and she took us to Jasna Gora. This monastery is the spiritual heart of Poland. Every August crowds of people make a pilgrimage there because it is the home to the miraculous image of the Black Madonna. I can’t imagine what it would be like in August because even on just a Friday in April, it was packed. Still, despite the crowds, the beauty, serenity and devotion that permeated the atmosphere gave a peace that calmed the franticness that had been our morning. After the visit, our facilitator left and Becky and I were on our own.

After grabbing some lunch at a KFC (which is crazy popular in Poland), we went back to the orphanage. Sister brought PK down to us. After chatting for a while, we were left alone with her. That day, PK was not feeling Dad at all. If I got too close, she’d scream. When she wasn’t screaming, she was staring at me as though she was doing commentary on a nature documentary, “The hairy one continues to make strange faces and sounds at me. Clearly, he is the slowest member of the pack, liable to be taken down by lions or other larger predators.” She loves Becky, though, and was happy to be carried by and snuggle with her. I wish I could post a picture of the two of them. It’s a snapshot of my perfect world.

While I have loved meeting PK, I realize that we’ve not seen the true her. We’re still


Though she be small, she be fierce

getting to know each other. While Becky and I have been open with her, PK has no idea what’s going on and, because of that, has no reason to drop her guard. Eventually, we’ll get to see her in all her glory but until then, we have to rely on Sister’s stories. They’re great stories, guys. She looks like a living doll, but knows what she wants. Currently, she’s the oldest kid in her room. They’ve  considered putting her in the 18-month room. This room is occupied by three boys and they’ve decided not to put PK in the room. Partly because she’s so much smaller and they don’t want her to get hurt, partly because she doesn’t suffer fools and they don’t want the boys to get hurt. She’s got very dexterous fingers and enjoys untying shoes. Hers are constantly double or triple tied. When she’s tired, she’s going to sleep. However, she wants to sleep in comfort and she knows where the cabinet is with the extra pillows and blankets. She’ll dig out the pillows and sleep on them or just climb into the cabinet and sleep there. When she does warm up to me, I’m going to have my hands full.

Our last day, PK was not feeling well. She’s teething which made her miserable and even had a bit of a fever. She did let me comfort her a bit, which thrilled me to no end. All too soon, though, the time came when we had to leave. Sister came to take her and told us how nice it was to meet us and that she knew that she was going to have a good family and that she would be safe at our house. It might sound strange to some but having a nun trust me with one of her precious little ones means the world to me. Full of tears, we kissed PK and told her we loved her. She reached out for us and Sister smiled and said, “See, she wants to go with you.” Talk about twisting the knife. We tried to hold it together but were both crying. There was a lady in the lobby who was probably visiting a grandchild. She saw us and gave us us a look of love and sympathy that surpassed language. It was so sweet, but also opened the floodgates. We left the orphanage in tears but quickly pulled it together since we had to walk two miles down the main street of a big city.

So now, we’re back home, an ocean away from our heart. We have some work to do before we get to see her again. Besides preparing the house, we have paperwork. The fact that we’ve accepted a referral means that we will have a better chance applying for grants as well. It’s a lot but it’s good because we’ll definitely need something to do to keep us from just wishing the days away until we see that sweet face again.


The First Trip

poland-151461_1280 (1)As I write this post, I am sitting in a hotel room in the same city as PK. That’s a sentence I couldn’t have imagined writing two weeks ago. Life has happened fast and, although there has been some panic and nerves through the last fourteen days, it has been wonderful. Exactly two weeks ago, we received a phone call and an email asking us to consider a little girl and today we met her. She’s real and I’ve fallen in love for the second time in my life.

Before I continue, let me say thank you for all the prayers and well wishes sent our way as we travelled to get here. We could definitely feel them and, surprisingly for an Arthur trip, the traveling was pretty smooth. It was also long. Very long. The flight across the Atlantic gave me a glimpse of my future. We sat behind a row with four children in it, ranging in ages from around a year to four and at some point during the seven-and-a-half hour flight they each took their turns having a melt down. It is nice to know, however, that Lufthansa has little kid cots that they can mount to the wall for a little one to stretch out in. When we got to Poland, we were met at the airport by a very nice driver who got us to Czestochowa. When we reached the hotel, we had been up for about 28 hours straight. Although I woke up for an hour during the night, I managed to get a much needed 11 hours of sleep.

This morning we met our facilitator/translator who is amazing. She’s fun, spunky and really loves her Irish Setter. Lesson 1 for in-country visits: We can bond with pretty much anyone through what seems to be a nationwide love for dogs. It is deep and it is real. She took us to the Adoption Center to meet the Commission. For all my nerves, it was two ladies who were very sweet, gave us more in-depth information on PK and her history, gave us some tips for how to speak to the judge on our second trip, and then asked us about Rex. A short time later, a group of us traveled to the orphanage. There we were taken to a small room, where we sat around a table and met one of the sisters who works there. This particular sister is fluent in English and worked in the UK and a few places in Africa during her life. She is PK’s primary caregiver and that makes PK a very lucky girl. After introducing ourselves and a little more chatting, the sister stepped out and a few minutes later came in carrying PK.

She’s small, like a doll and I just stood there like a fool, slack-jawed and staring for longer than I would like to admit. Not just because of her size but because she was there. This little girl who wasn’t even born when we started this whole adoption process. This little girl we had travelled so far to see wasn’t a dream after all. Many people imagine that first meeting and have images of the child running into her parents’ arms and there’s an instant connection. Music may even play in the background. Honestly, that’s not how it happened to us and it isn’t something you want to happen. A young child who just happily accepts strangers is the sign of a child who may have attachment and social issues. When they let us take her to a corner of the room with some toys, just across the room from Sister, PK started crying and it was a beautiful sound. That cry tells us that she has been loved on and cared for during her time there. She trusts them. That cry is a foundation that Becky and I can build our relationship with her out of.

That first trip lasted an hour and in that time we’ve learned that, while small, she may very well eat us out of house and home once she’s officially ours. She loves videos of Rex, which means that she’s just like any other kid in our family. She also let Becky hold her for a while and fell asleep in her arms. Sister let her sleep there for a while and then took her for her nap and lunch. We thought that we would leave and see her tomorrow but before she left Sister told us we could come back in the afternoon. We headed back to the hotel and Becky and I journeyed to a nearby mall to explore and have lunch.

We headed back to the orphanage and played some more with PK. She warmed up a lot faster and pretty soon, she was running to Becky to be held (or, quite often, to use Becky as a means to get closer to toys). It is amazing to watch the two of them together. Becky’s a natural and the two of them just go together. And PK and me? Dad-to-be is looked on with more confusion that anything. There’s not been a lot of men in her life and beards aren’t nearly as popular here in Poland as they are in the USA. I’m a bit of an oddity. She’s the most fond of me when I can be used as a means to get her hands on a phone – a dynamic that I’m sure will play out many times during our life together. She’ll warm up to me, I know, but I’ve been very amused by the look she gives me. It’s along the lines of, “What are you doing, man? Act like you have good sense.” Between that and the way she screamed when we all left her in her room at the end of that visit, we have seen the attitude and fight that has gotten her this far in life and I am sure will cary her far.

I have written a lot and am crashing (apologies for any bad grammar or typos), so I think I’ll end it here for now. We get to visit her a few times tomorrow and, I believe, once on Saturday before we head home. If there are more adventures, I’ll do my best to jot them down!


It’s Getting Real, Folks

When I was in 10th grade, a teacher asked me two questions: “What would I do if the most beautiful woman in the world walked into a room but didn’t speak English?” and “What would you do if you woke up one morning in a country where you didn’t speak the language?” Well, I lucked out and the most beautiful woman in the world spoke English and some German on the side but in the next few days I get to find out the answer to the second question.

Tomorrow, Becky and I get on a plane to go meet PK. The plane flies out of Raleigh a little before 3pm and, after three planes and a long layover in Frankfurt, Germany, we get to Poland around 2 in the afternoon, local time, on Wednesday. We’re both incredibly excited but also quite nervous. First, we’ve had some interesting experiences flying which means we always end up wondering what weird thing is going to happen on our next flight.

When we do finally make it to Poland, we’ll be in a different world. My Polish could all be written down on an index card and you never want to be “those Americans” when it comes to international travel. We trust our agency completely to take care of us. That’s a huge amount of trust – trust that our facilitator or another representative meets us at the airport and trust that they made a reservation for a place for us to stay are currently the ones that weigh heaviest right now. They do this often, so I know it will be taken care of but there’s always that niggling “what if?” in the back of my head. I have come to realize that I may be a small bit of a control freak. We also have to figure out our foreign city on our own when we aren’t doing official business.

Thursday morning, we meet the Commission and then meet PK. We know that, while important, the Commission meeting isn’t something we should be anxious about but, again, there’s that anxiety of a big meeting. Actually meeting PK is the part that I’m the least worried about. I think a lot of the questions in my head will be answered by just seeing her. Currently, my brain is running through the four pages of medical information and four pictures that we’ve seen of her and, as much as I hate to say it, running through worse case scenarios. This little girl is our daughter, I don’t doubt that. Those words on those pages though are big and I find myself afraid that I won’t be…enough. I realize that no one is really as ready as they think they are when they become a parent, that plans just go out the window, but right now it all seems so surreal with way too many variables. I know that a lot of that will melt away when I see that little face in front of me and I can play with with this little person.

That time is going to be too short this trip. In all, it will be just a few hours spread across Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Saturday we will have to walk away from this new, little person in our lives and trust the wonderful staff that has been her family to take care of her until we can come back months later. Sunday morning (6am Polish time), we climb on a plane to journey back home, probably a bundle of nerves and tears again, but for different reasons this time.

As you can see, we can use all your thoughts, prayers and good vibes that you can throw our way. We know that it will be all right but the nerves are definitely real. I know that we will bring back amazing stories and will then be looking forward to the long trip. I also know that I’ll be cramming in several more Polish lessons before then.

AHHHHHH! (In a good way)


Crayons we made on Saturday at the Crayola Experience in Easton, PA

It has been a long time since we posted on the blog. Why? Because we were in a waiting period while the Polish government searched for PK. We received two referrals that we had to pass on for various reasons. While this was heart-breaking, those little tykes have a few more people praying for them as they wait for their forever families.

Fast forward several months and it is time for the annual Arthur family vacation. This has been a tradition for several years now where my parents, my sister and her family and Becky and I head off somewhere for about a week around Easter. This year we headed up to Lancaster County, PA and were excited that Becky’s parents had a chance to come down for several days for one big family get together. Right before we pulled out of New Bern, Becky looked at my sister and I and said something to the affect of, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if we got a referral while the whole family was together?” We both agreed, of course, but didn’t even think about it again. Thursday, the entire crew headed down to Lititz and right before Becky and I left to hang with her parents, we saw we had gotten an email from the owner of our agency. It just said, “Please give me a call.” In the middle of every irrational fear (Is there a problem with the paperwork? Has Poland decided we’re too weird and doesn’t want to play with us?), Becky called. While on the phone, she signed the details of call – Girl. A birthdate. We’re asked if we’re interested and we quickly agree with a promise of more information in a few minutes.

As soon as we got the email, we stared at a few pictures of a little girl and what there is of her background and history. Both moms teared up, Becky teared up and I about threw up (my natural reaction to these kinds of situations – it’s nothing negative, I promise). Thankfully, we have family with some medical background that helped interpret measurements and history into something we could understand and think and pray on. Friday morning brought on a little more discussion and the realization that this little girl was our little girl. We decided to make the call to formally accept the referral on Monday, after the weekend and at the end of the vacation, which we hoped may give us some time to really wrap our heads around everything.

Before we continue with our story, a few notes about PK: She’s adorable, first of all. She’s had a rough start in life but I have no doubt that,  as Shakespeare said, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” We know her name, birthday and the rest but, until she is ours, we can’t share the information. We still plan on keeping her name but, for now, she’s still PK.

Today, just outside of Baltimore, we called and accepted the referral! We thought that after the call we wouldn’t hear anything for another day or so when we would get information about our first trip. The first trip typically happens about a month from accepting the referral. It lasts about a weeks and is basically a meet and greet time with both Polish officials and PK. Imagine our surprise when, a few hours later, we get another call saying that Poland wants us in the country on the 12th. A week and a day. We were still a hour and a half from home and now had to get plane tickets along with more paperwork and, honestly, who knows what else.

Kevin ScreamThank you all so much for the encouragement, well wishes, and offers of help. It has really meant a lot to us during this insanely crazy time. The mood in our house right now is somewhat akin to Kevin McCallister’s scream in “Home Alone.” We’re incredibly excited but terribly overwhelmed. For those of you who have asked what we need here’s the short list: First and foremost, prayer. Like I said, our brains are having an incredibly hard time processing the speed that everything is happening. Pray for calm and that God continues to provide and open doors for us. For those who have asked us about our finances, we’re actually good for this first trip. We do still need to raise $8,000 plus plane fare and living expenses for our second trip. This trip will last about six weeks and at the end of that trip we will bring our daughter home. The last thing, right now, is to ask us how we’re doing and remind us everything is going to be all right. We may just smile and assure you everything is fine but, trust me, our inner monologue is rather insane. Between the speed that things are happening, the excitement and the doubts and nerves (which I’ve been assured is natural for all parents-to-be), we don’t really know whether we’re coming or going.

We can’t thank you all enough. We’re massively excited and could not do this without your support. Look forward to more posts as we dive head first into this next phase of our journey!


Today in Poland

Polish Eagle CloseupToday Americans celebrate Veterans Day. We remember and pay respect to those who dedicate their lives to protect our freedoms. In other countries, such as the UK and France, will hold Armistice Day celebrations. Armistice Day celebrates the end of World War I (and our Veterans Day has the same roots) remembering those who participated in the Great War and paid the ultimate price. Poland also has a celebration today. A major celebration. November 11th is Independence Day.

Polish Independence Day also gets its start from World War I. While Poles remember their countrymen who died during the Great War, the end of the War was a time of great celebration because, after over 120 years of not existing on the map, the end of the war brought back the Polish state. Poland, once previously a great European power, had been divided up between Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Russia. Poles relished the rebirth of their country and celebrated with relish. Of course, they only had a few years to celebrate before Hitler invaded and Poland disappeared again. After the war, Poland became part of the USSR and the November 11th Independence Day was replaced with a day marking the beginning of Communist rule. Independence Day returned when the Third Polish Republic was founded in 1989 and have continued ever since.

Today, Poles celebrate with a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, parades and the Independence Run – a massive race throughout Warsaw. The city of Poznan also celebrates the Feast of Saint Martin, the towns patron saint. This involves a parade where a man dressed as a Roman soldier who receives the key to the city. The Roman soldier represents St. Martin who was a soldier before becoming a Christian (the early church refused to allow soldiers as members) and eventually being chosen as the bishop of Tours. Also popular in Poznan is a croissant-like pastry representing the horseshoe that features in one of St. Martin’s legends.

In Warsaw, though, Independence Day often does not end happily. As the the afternoon turns into the evening, the last several years have seen more and more demonstrations from extreme right-wing groups. Poles are extremely proud of their Polish-ness and, in recent years, these groups have gone out of their way to press their ideas. These groups have had clashes with police or each other that have grown in their intensity over the last few years. Last year there were 41 criminal cases from these clashes and many people were sent to the hospital. Muslim immigrants have been spat on or attacked and last year and this year, IBM told its Polish employees that those who felt safer working from home should do so. The acceptance of Syrian refugees is not a popular topic in Poland and these feelings could serve to fan the flames. The American Embassy even put out a notice to Americans of places and times that should be avoided to keep away from the trouble. Warsaw is where all international adoptions are finalized in Poland so please keep the families there in your thoughts as much as the minorities who have come to approach what should be a day of freedom with trepidation.

A Bumpy Ride

poland-151461_1280 (1)Sometimes the trip to PK seems to take forever. In fact, a lot of the time the days seem to drag out. This past weekend, however, has been an intense rollercoaster ride of emotion.

Thursday afternoon, Becky and I got an email around 3:30pm saying that the agency had accepted the dossier and that Friday it should be on its way to Poland. Mission accomplished! The paperwork that we’d been working on for a year and a half was FINALLY finished. Now, we just had to be patient and wait for a phone call saying that Poland had a child for us to consider. We’ve been told that it takes about three months to translate the paperwork and so that would put us around mid-January staring at our phones and willing them to ring. Imagine my surprise when I get a phone call from our agency about ten minutes later saying that they had a child for us to consider.

We had been told that, on a rare occasion, a situation like this could happen. Occasionally, a family has to, for one reason or another, turn down a referral. When this happens, sometimes Poland allows the agency to look through its other waiting families and see if there is another possible fit. Since our agency had accepted our dossier, we were eligible, met the stipulations for this particular child and the fact that they had just read our dossier made them think of us. We said that we definitely would be interested in considering this child. They told us that, instead of the usual 14 days to consider, we had until Tuesday. After that, Thursday is a blur of me acting out of my head trying to process the speed at which this all happened, figure out where we could pull the needed money out of thin air, calling family, reading medical info and watching a video of this little boy who could possibly be our baby. It was hard to get to sleep and I kept telling myself that this needed to not just be a heart decision – the head had to get included as well.

Friday morning brought about strange feelings. It was all still a bit surreal. The rush had worn off some and I think the pressures of everyday life – going to work, giving a lecture, etc. – helped ground us a bit. A look back over the medical records, showed that a bit of information we had glossed over and explained away the night before really was the potential to be a big issue we just weren’t sure we could handle. To top it off, for all the praying we had done, we just didn’t feel a peace about it. Some good conversations and some tears later, we decided to wait until Saturday to really make the decision. When we woke up, both of us were on the same page – he wasn’t ours.

Those words were so hard to say, they were hard to say when we called our families, when I told our agency that we were passing on this referral and they’re hard to type. How do you, in essence, tell a child that you’re not their parents? It may sound silly but the moment we saw his picture, he’s stolen a little part of our hearts. He’s adorable. He’s got a fun personality. He’s just got another family out there, somewhere, that can meet his needs better than we can. It doesn’t make it hurt any less, though. Becky and I have been grieving the last few days for ‘what-might-have-beens’ and been feeling massively guilty. Words just really fail to convey everything that is going on inside. We went to the internet, since it apparently knows all, and searched for people who had experienced what we were going through. One page described it like a miscarriage. I don’t know. Thankfully, Becky and I have been spared the pain of that type of loss. I do know that I still feel like I’ve been punched in the gut and that someone’s tap-danced on my heart. You comfort yourself with the fact that PK is still out there, that this little boy has parents who are dreaming of him like we are PK but, honestly, the best comfort is that even though he isn’t PK, he’s always going to have me rooting for him. When I hear the song that he was rocking out to in the video, I’ll think of him and toss out a prayer. When I’m looking at the adoption Facebook groups that I’m a part of, I’ll hope that one day his face will pop up there with his forever family and thank God that they are better able to care for him than we would have been.

Where does this leave us? Where we were at 3:30pm Thursday. We’re back waiting for our dossier to get over to Poland and to be translated. For now, the roller coaster ride has smoothed out. We’re thankful for this experience, this preview of coming attractions. We’re thankful for the encouragement and the support that we’ve gotten so far. For now, we’ll keep day-dreaming, work on fundraising, and be very grateful that we have months instead of weeks to try and master Polish.

Holding Our Breath

20771997640_7c1047ffbd_zGoing through the adoption process, it can feel like you spend a lot of time holding your breath. While lot of people hold their breath for months looking at negative pregnancy tests or for results from a doctor, Becky and I were mercifully spared that phase. We went into marriage knowing adoption was how we were going to add branches to our family tree. Our breath holding started with finding an agency and waiting to hear they accepted us. Then waiting for the process to start, followed by towers of paperwork and the anxiety of the home study. You get small chances to catch your breath before you dive under for the next round. There’s holding your breath when you send off stacks of paperwork (that you realize are now your most prized possession) to be signed by shadowy figures with golden stickers and the intake of breath when you’re at USCIS and say mental prayers that the government will process the paperwork quickly and a thousand other times.

You might have seen on Facebook that we recently got the last stack of paperwork back from Raleigh with all of our apostilles. After making a few copies and getting some pictures taken of us and the house, the dossier is done. It is a massive accomplishment and we both breathed a huge sigh of relief. Breathing feels good.

Our next step is to send our dossier to the agency and have them go through it to make sure everything is right and acceptable for Poland. If it isn’t, they let us know so we can get everything perfect. As a guy who finds out that he is wearing his socks inside out more often than I’d like to admit, part of me suspects we may have to redo something. We’ve been in contact with our agency about this and they’re ready to receive the papers and they let us know the next batch of fees.

I don’t know whether it is the fact that we misinterpreted things, have been in the process long enough for a price increase, the drop in the Euro or some combination of the three, but it was a bit more than we expected. It isn’t an earth-shattering amount but enough to sober you up a bit. Adoption paperwork has its surprises. I understand parenting is similar as well.

We’ll press on. The dossier should be in the mail sometime next week. As we send off the stack of documents that I have come to think of as our “paper baby,” we’ll find we’re holding our breath again as we toss up prayers that we’ve done the paperwork correctly, that the papers are safe on their way to Poland, and that our translator doesn’t go insane turning our friend’s recommendation letters, our doctor’s notes, and our life stories into Polish (how does one explain Tourette’s in Polish anyway?). It’s understandable why it takes three months to do her work.

Around late January, we’ll start holding our breath and looking at our phones wondering when they will ring to say that the Authorities in Poland have a child for us to consider. I’m sure I’ll hold my breath when I get the first look at PK’s face on a computer screen.

Until then, thankfully, there are ways to keep busy. I’m convinced the world is not ready for Becky whenever she hits her full-blown nesting phase. There’s Polish to learn and money to save and raise. We’ve reached a major milestone. It reminds me of Samuel raising up a stone as a reminder that they had gotten that far through God’s help. In total, we’ve gotten around half of the funds needed for the adoption. We still have to get the fees we have to send over before each of the two trips and figure out how we’re going to live in Poland for two months.

We have been so blessed by all of your help and support. We have had a GoFundMe page for a while (the link is found at the top of the page) but have hesitated saying much about it. Every little bit helps us get closer to PK. We understand tight finances, believe me. If you can’t give, please consider sharing the page. Every bit of awareness helps. Thank you all for your love and your support and, the next time you see me, make sure I remember to breathe.

You Can Go Home Again…With Some Delays

Last night/early this morning, Becky and I got back from Connecticut. It was the first time we had seen Becky’s parents in about a year, the first time Becky had been home in two years and it had been a while longer for me. It was nice to visit with friends and family and to relax after some craziness. The few days prior to leaving were rather insane.

Thursday morning, the 20th, Becky and I had an appointment with USCIS for our biometrics, which is just a fancy word for fingerprints and a photo. We drove up to Raleigh the day before. After staying in a motel that can best be described as “slightly murder-y,” we got to the building for our 8am appointment. We were ushered to the room where the citizenship ceremonies were held with lots of other people. A little after 8, a lady came in the room and asked if anyone had an appointment for 8am. Becky and I stood up, along with around thirty other people. We found ourselves in the midst of a cattle call. A bit of paperwork, another set of fingerprints and a photo reminiscent of a mug shot later, and Becky and I were done. This information would be paired with the other information sent to USCIS to see if they would approve us to bring a child into the US.The next evening, we were supposed to fly out to Connecticut.

They're called a murder of crows for a reason.

We don’t know what we did, but the birds were angry.

The plane we were supposed to fly out on was late originally due to a crew member not getting to the plane on time. It would have made making the connection tight but doable. Then the plane hit a bird while landing and caused maintenance issues. We were going to miss the connecting flight and, by extension, miss getting to Connecticut and a cook-out with Becky’s high school friends. Some tears and a little light manipulation later, we were scheduled for an early morning flight out the next day and bump to first class on the flight out of Charlotte. Both of those flights were delayed as well, one for birds who decided to camp on the runway and the other because the plane was missing 19 of those emergency cards that tell you what should do in the unlikely event of the plane experiencing troubles. Still, in the end, we got to Connecticut and a pleasant surprise was waiting for us in the airport.

There in the baggage claim were a crowd of people with signs saying “Welcome Home James.” Our pre-adoptive parent instincts kicked in and Becky headed over to them and asked a woman if they were waiting on someone coming home from an adoption. They were – a little boy from Ethiopia was about to meet up again with his family and a massive amount of cousins and friends, many of whom were adopted as well. We, and Becky’s parents, had the honor of watching James get back together with his family and we all about did the ugly cry. It was a nice picture of what we will experience in the future and while I’m thankful we got to see that, I could have done without the drama that got us there. I’m still not sure what we did to anger the birds.

On our return home last night, there was envelope from the Office of Homeland Security. Inside the plain envelope was a single piece of paper stating that we had been approved by USCIS to bring a child into the country. The piece of paperwork we have been waiting for is here! Now we just have to send it and a thick stack of papers to get apostilled in Raleigh. We are planning on tackling that Monday and when they come back, our dossier is done! We can then send it to Poland and we’re officially waiting.

Along with the waiting, we will be filling out grant applications, Becky is planning on a massive amount of nesting and, in all likelihood, more fundraising. Several folks have asked if we had a Gofundme page. I recently put one up, which shows the amount needed for the money we have to send over before each of the trips and a bit more for extra expenses like the apartment we’ll have while we’re in Poland. We’ve been so blessed with your love and support both spiritually and financially. If you wouldn’t mind, please, feel free to share our story as well our blog and the Gofundme page. You can get to that page by clicking the button at the top of the blog or here. There’s a button there that you can easily share to Facebook with.

On the Polish front, today is the anniversary of Hitler’s invasion of Poland which precipitated World War II. Also, Becky and I have been asked about what PK’s name is going to be. Since PK is likely going to be at least two and their name will be the only thing they have in the world, we want to keep whatever name they come with. There’s a great website dedicated to strengthening Polish cultural impact through the world. They have lots of great pages dedicated introducing Poland to the world at large and have recently done a page on Polish names. If you want to know more about Polish naming traditions and the baby names that were recently popular, click here. Who knows? Maybe PK’s name is on the list. We’re excited to find out!

Polish Holidays and a Huge Thank You

I want to start this post with a huge thank you! Our Chrome Buffalo drive ended on Wednesday and Becky and I feel so blessed. Through your generosity, we received $330 through the drive site and with other gifts and donations during the drive we raised another $150! This money will go towards sending our dossier to Poland. Next week, we actually head to Durham to have our fingerprints taken by USCIS which will lead to the last form we need for the dossier. After that, we just have one more (very large) stack of papers to send to get apostilled!

Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Polish Black Madonna

Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Polish Black Madonna

While we are doing our own little celebration because we’ve been so blessed, today is a pretty big holiday in Poland as well. August 15 is a kind of double holiday there – the Feast of the Assumption and Polish Armed Forces Day. The feast of the Assumption celebrates the belief that Mary was taken bodily up into Heaven. The Catholic churches will have special masses today and many people will make the pilgrimage to Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa where Poland’s famous Black Madonna is kept. There are several legends surrounding the icon including that it was originally painted by St. Luke on a tabletop belonging to the Holy Family (though studies point towards it actually being a Byzantine icon) that came to Poland in the 1300s. Another legend surrounds how it got its dark coloring and the scars on Mary’s face. Hussites (a protestant group predating the Reformation and very opposed to icons) stormed the Pauline monastery in 1430, plundering the sanctuary. Among the items stolen was the icon. After putting it in their wagon, the Hussites tried to get away but their horses refused to move. They threw the portrait down to the ground and one of the plunderers drew his sword upon the image and inflicted two deep strikes. When the robber tried to inflict a third strike, he fell to the ground and writhed in agony until his death. Despite past attempts to repair these scars, they had difficulty in covering up those slashes as the painting was done with tempera infused with diluted wax. Another legend states that, as the robber struck the painting twice, the face of the Virgin Mary started to bleed; in a panic, the scared Hussites retreated and left the painting. The painting is still kept as Jasna Gora and many Catholics travel to pay homage the painting.

Today is also Polish Armed Forces Day. It is in honor of the Polish military and a way to remember the victory of the Battle of Warsaw in 1920. During the battle, the largely outnumbered Polish forces held off the invading Red Army, ensuring Polish independence for a time. Many national cemeteries will have a reading of the soldiers who died in battle. Today will also hold a very ceremonious changing of the guard at the Poland’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

I’m loving learning more and more of the culture of PK’s home country and want to share it with you all. While we might not celebrate all the Polish holidays when we have PK here, I’m going to have to start making a note of which days I should wear red and white – the Polish colors.

Again, thank you all so much for all of your support and love! Until next time!

Paperwork and T-Shirts

Well, the days tick on and we are slowly but surely making progress. Two weeks ago, we mailed off a few of the documents that we needed to get apostilled and then the I-800A, which will eventually lead to us getting approval from Immigration to bring a child into the country. These forms are starting to make their way back! We have the documents that we need from Connecticut back and two days ago, our FBI checks came back with their apostilles too. The Connecticut documents make both Becky and I happy since they have a big, shiny, gold seal. It just looks official. The FBI pages aren’t nearly as impressive, but what’s important is that they get the job done. While we haven’t heard much back from USCIS and the I-800A, we did receive a letter saying that they got our paperwork and forwarded it to the office in Missouri that processes those. Hopefully, we’ll hear back about our fingerprints before we head to visit Becky’s parents in Connecticut at the end of the month.

The "official" shirt of this fundraiser.

The “official” shirt of this fundraiser.

We’re currently in the middle of our fundraiser with Chrome Buffalo as well. The drive will continue until August 13. This company is awesome. Essentially, they are a husband and wife team who do this because they know from first-hand experience what the cost of adoption is. When they found out that there were some technical issues at the beginning of our drive, they not only fixed the problem but extended the drive by three days to make up for the time. This may sound a bit strange, but Becky and I set a fairly low fundraising goal because we like the company so much. Each drive that meets their goal raises the statistics of the number of successful drives they have facilitated and we wanted to do our part in helping make that number a little higher.

We are so blessed that we have so many family, friends and strangers that have shown us love and helped us already reach that goal of $250. That being said, adoption is expensive and we will certainly welcome and can put to good use any other money that is raised. We often get asked about the cost of the adoption and I know I have laid some of this out before, but when we send all the paperwork that we are currently trudging through to Poland, we have to send over $6000.  After we accept a referral (and, no, we don’t know how long after the papers get to Poland that it will be when we get a referral – we know of families who waited months and even two years), we have two trips to Poland. Each trip requires us to send over $8000 before we travel and then we have the expenses incurred by having to live in a foreign country for about two months. Thank goodness that there’s a good exchange rate between American dollars and Polish złoty (pronounced zwol-teh)! We currently have a good amount of the $6000 and any funds that we raise will go towards that and the other fees.

If you’re moved to help us out, please, know you have our thanks and love. If you want to buy a t-shirt you can click here to purchase shirts until 13 August. Some folks have asked if they can just make a donation and you can find a Paypal donate button in the sidebar or at the bottom of this post. There’s also our JustLove Coffee storefront and it, too, has a link in the sidebar.

Thanks to everyone who has given, asked how things are going or even just sent a prayer in our direction. Becky and I are constantly overwhelmed by just how loved we (including PK) are.

Until next time!

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