PK and the Gang

Bringing Eastern Europe to Eastern North Carolina

Archive for the month “April, 2016”

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

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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)

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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!

 

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