Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Order is Final

As of Wednesday this past week, the adoption order is final and no longer appealable. Klaudia is officially, fully, finally and forever ours!

Because of the order's finality, we were able to obtain Klaudia's birth certificate with her new name and a Polish social security number. Yesterday we submitted the application for her Polish passport. This week we also completed Klaudia’s immigration-required medical examination by a doctor on the embassy’s approved list. At this point we just need to receive her Polish passport then we can go to the embassy for the final immigration “interview” to receive her immigrant visa, and then home it is! Cross your collective fingers that we receive her passport on Wednesday or Friday of next week. That should ensure our September 5 return.

We continue to enjoy our days in Warsaw. We met another family who has just adopted a little boy from a town a couple hours north of Warsaw. He is an active little three year old guy, and Klaudia was really motivated to try to keep up with him. We went to their apartment the other day and, although she was shy and clingy for about 10 minutes, she was off and crawling and laughing and following him and his 5 year old brother around the apartment. She wanted to walk so bad, but at least crawled a lot, wanted to be near them, throw their toys, and just laugh. It was like a little breakthrough for her. When we got back to our apartment, she wanted to walk (with help) so much. She would stand and grab my hands and just take off into each room and turn around and go to other rooms. Then she stood in front of a full length mirror and just admired her tall self. She has been wanting to walk more and more since then. So, thank you boys for the encouragement!

Klaudia is no doubt getting a little bored with just Ryan and me. She needs kids around in a bad way. I know she spent her days, and nights for that matter, around other children, and to be mostly only with us, has to be a shock to her system in many ways. We try to get to parks daily, but it isn’t the same because she can’t really get up and run around and play with them like she could at that apartment with the other family. But at least she has some hours of at least observation and minimal interaction.

When we are home in a week (crossing fingers), she will have her cousins Keaton and Kaylee – yay!! We are thrilled for her to meet our families, and for our families to finally meet her. We have been showing her photographs of her cousins and grandparents – it probably isn’t sinking in, but maybe there will be at least a little familiarity there.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ten Days Remaining

Just when it felt like we had moved to Poland, we are actually starting to envision the end of the trip. We now have (depending, of course, on multiple pieces of the puzzle falling into place) 10 days left in Poland. In the next 10 days we need to do the following:

1) Obtain the final adoption order from the court in Gliwice
2) Obtain Klaudia's revised birth certificate
3) Obtain Klaudia's Polish SS# with her new name
4) Get a US Embassy Approved doctor to do a routine medical exam
5) Get Polish passport and US visa photos
6) Apply for and receive Klaudia's Polish passport
7) Do the US Embassy intrview and obtain the immigrant visa

It is all pretty routine, except that Klaudia's Polish passport can take a few days, a week or more. In the last couple of months, the country "upgraded" the Passport processing technology which, as with any "upgrade" means at least a temporary lack of efficiency. Two months ago it was taking 2-3 weeks. One family that we know of last week got their passport in 1 week, and there was an intervening holiday. We are hoping for 1 week which will mean we will leave on Saturday September 5.

In the next 10 days we hope to continue to enjoy the city, buy a few mementos and explore a bit more. We are planning on doing the zoo one day, and possibly the Warsaw Uprising Museum, along with plenty more visits to parks, old town, and cooking kielbasa and pasta (yes, she eats both!) .

The city is truly amazing. Warsaw is cosmopolitan, a contrast to Krakow which has more older buildings and was relatively unharmed by WWII. Because Warsaw was so damaged, it has taken that opportunity to modernize and become quite an international city. The people take pride in being Polish, even though that has meant being under others' rule at various points in relatively recent history. I could write pages on the people, sights, sounds, smells, food and the hustle that is Warsaw. Perhaps I will do that in the next week or so as we begin to say do widzenia.

I will say that I have an entire new respect for my Grandfather's heritage. One that I wish I had when he was alive.

Here are a few recent photos:

"Sprinkler" still works


Klaudia doing a Blog post

Dad and Klaudia at the Chopin Monument

Klaudia watching mom and dad drink wonderful and beautiful lattes at Green Coffee

First playground activity beyond watching the other kids

Klaudia is doing great. She is crawling a lot, and walking with help quite a bit. She is drinking out of a sippy cup just fine and has mellowed out on a lot of her food issues. She knows who mom and dad are, and is trying to figure out if there are rules in this new environmnet. Despite wanting her to be happy and do whatever she wants whenever she wants, we do say "no" when she reaches for an electrical outlet, stove, etc., and we laugh at her petty whining over our taking things like pens away. Our biggest issue is sleep. We will get there, but right now, she despises the crib. We won't fret too much about establishing routine until we are home though.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

10 Things About Klaudia

1) Hates anything soft (blankets, stuffed animals, etc.)
2) Loves to people watch
3) Hates the sun and the wind, but loves the rain
4) Barks at dogs
5) Sleeps through loud thunderstorms
6) Throws right handed...and hard
7) Sings in the stroller
8) Makes you earn a smile from her
9) Hates to sleep because she will miss something
10) Has very happy parents :-)

Things have been good this past week. Last Thursday, we were fortunate to meet two other families who have recently adopted from Poland. One of the children, B.J. (parents James and Melanie), is only 3 days older than Klaudia! You can see a photo below of them meeting. B.J. is so friendly and outgoing, such a smile!! Klaudia was shy, but has managed a couple smiles for the family since the meeting. It was also great to meet the other family, Jeff, Debbie, Bartek and Kasia. The kids are so great - and so loved by their parents! With the small number of children adopted to the U.S. every year from Poland (somehere around 80), we were truly happy to have been in the position to meet these folks! We expored the Old Town a bit, had traditional Polish food, ice cream (it is mostly like very good Gelato here...yum!!), received some provisions from Jeff and Debbie and family who were leaving the next day, and shared our experiences as new parents.

Today we checked in at the US Embassy and got "into the system" to facilitate Klaudia's immigrant visa processing in two weeks or so. Right now the ETA in Omaha is September 5. Below are a couple of recent photos. Note Klaudia's use of a sippy cup (yay!).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Klaudia Eve Andrews

Her proud parents present to you...
Klaudia Eve Andrews!!!

As of August 11, 2009, according to the court in Gliwice, Poland, Klaudia is our daughter!! Needless to say, this family of three is ecstatic!

The day was quite a journey...only fitting, considering the journey the entire process has been. We woke up at 6 a.m. (Klaudia wakes up soon after the sun, no matter when she goes to bed), and were picked up at 9 a.m. Rain storms and insane toll booth lines lead to us being about an hour behind schedule. This meant we were not able to stop by the orphanage on the way to our 11:45 a.m. court hearing in Gliwice. We were supposed to stop by and pick up Klaudia’s medical information, and leave her there during the hearing because children are not permitted in court. Let’s just say, we were not disappointed that we were not able to leave her at the orphanage during the hearing. I can’t imagine what she would think about us leaving her there. Maybe she would have been fine, but it was still the last thing we wanted to do.

Instead, our driver, Tom, was going to watch her in the court hallways. However, when they called our hearing, our lawyer asked if Klaudia could come in, and the 3 judge panel agreed. Apparently this is pretty rare. I’m glad that Klaudia reciprocated with being very quiet and attentive. She fussed at little at some points, but hey, the rest of us would too, if we could.

The court hearing took about an hour. We understand this is on the relatively short side. The panel was three judges, all women. I was glad to see that at first, but despite that, I do not think we received one smile! I think they want to make sure the seriousness of the hearing is not compromised by emotion. The lead judge went through our whole file. They looked up our passport numbers in some database, read through all of the documents in the file, stated the evidence for the record, asked us questions individually, and asked the orphanage director (who has been listed as Klaudia’s guardian) a series of questions. It was serious enough, that it made me wonder if there was a chance they would find that it was not in Klaudia’s best interest to be placed with us. There was no fact that made me think that, just the reality of going through every detail of our application, our reasons for adopting, our reasons for adopting from Poland, etc. added a seriousness that I had not expected. Perhaps it was just making a good record.

The director of the orphanage was wonderful. She is thrilled to place children in homes, and despite the great care they give at the orphanage, she admits that the children thrive immediately on being placed in homes. Although there have been times that I felt mean for taking Klaudia from the place and people that she knows, the directors confidence in her placement in our home and all children placed in good homes, has helped us get through some of the more difficult moments. Her testimony at court was great. She explained Klaudia’s history at the orphanage, knowledge of her biological parents, and her thoughts on Klaudia’s placement with us. She and I do not speak the same language, but we exchanged several words and smiles that, at a minimum, said thank you. It was touching when she said goodbye to Klaudia and gave a blessing with the sign of the cross on her head. I do not speak Polish, but I understood every word she said then.

Also at court, there was a prosecutor present. She is in the position of scrutinizing adoption petitions to ensure the placements are in the best interests of the child. She asked us both one question related to the care of Klaudia when we return to work. We answered to her satisfaction, and she did not have anything further.

Following the hearing, we waited for the court to issue the decree/order. After about 20 minutes, they called us back in and read it to us for accuracy. It was all good in our book, so they said it would be issued that day, and considered final after 21 days. Then our lawyer stood up and talked, and the prosecutor responded. Magda turned to us and said, the prosecutor is fine with shortening the waiting period from 21 to 14 days! Apparently this is VERY rare in Silesia, but she agreed to it because our US Embassy expiration date is approaching in 2 weeks. We were amazed and grateful! This means we should be able to return home on September 5 instead of September 12, giving us one more week to settle in at home. 

Following the court hearing, we lugged all of our luggage to the train station and took a 3.5 hour train to Warsaw. The train was fine, and Klaudia (although getting tired, but not tired enough to nap) was a trooper. In the pouring rain, we got to our Warsaw apartment and are thrilled with it. It has a washing machine, bathtub, deck you can stand on without getting accosted by pigeons, a couch that you can get up from, internet access from one spot in the kitchen window, and a bed that creaks, but not every time you breath. Sigh . . . we can stay here for a few weeks just fine!! We had our first day of exploring today, and there is a lot to see here. It will be a fun few weeks. We even went out for thai food for dinner.

Klaudia is doing well. She loves the apartment, probably even more than we do. She has been crawling like crazing and pulling herself up on every doorway, chair, etc. She only crawled once at the Krakow apartment, and now she doesn’t even want us to hold her, she wants to explore! She even drank out of a sippy cup tonight for a few minutes (here is hoping it wasn’t a fluke). She despises naps unless she is in mama’s arms, but we will work on that one.

OK...enough for now. We will update more soon! Looks like we are meeting up with two other families in town tomorrow – yay!

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Few More Days in Krakow

It is kind of crazy to think that now we only have a few more days in Krakow! Although we have been here for 10 days or so, I feel like we have barely scratched the surface.

We did venture to the Wieliczka Salt Mine yesterday. It is an incredible labyrinth of hundreds of kilometers of mining passageways. It had been worked for about 900 years until pretty recently when it was retired in favor of tours only. The sites are amazing, complete with sculptures, caverns, carvings, and recreations of some of the technology used over the years.

The tour was supposed to be 3.5 hours or so, and we perfectly timed it before lunch and naptime. However, 3.5 hours was Polish time, and that really meant 5.5 hours! One of the hours was spent waiting in line outside in the pouring rain. We just huddled under our little umbrella until our tour was called. It was slightly miserable, but eventually worth it.

Klaudia did great on the tour. She was (rightfully) a bit frightened by the mining elevators, the dark passageways, and the massive groups of people. Thank goodness for snacks and a baby carrier! All in all, we were glad we did it, but we need a day or two off before undertaking the next tour/adventure, which will likely be Auschwitz.

Other than the tour, we have been on many more walks and to more parks. The city isn't the most kid-oriented, but wherever there is a fountain, usually some families follow.

We had our visit with the social worker on Wednesday, August 5. It was about an hour long and Klaudia was great! She was reserved at first, and quiet and clingy, but opened up a bit and stacked her stacking cups, threw them, clapped, and talked a bit. The social worker talked about Klaudia's improvements and attachment to us, and her sleep and food habits. She seemed impressed with her progress. Since the social worker saw us and Klaudia in April, she could see the difference herself. Magda said it all went well, and she will be in touch to discuss next Tuesday's court hearing when we will be official!! Then the plan is to be in Warsaw for about one month before coming home.

P.S. Klaudia is doing better with Daddy - As I type, she is sitting in his lap eating her favorite chocolate hazelnut yogurt.
P.P.S. She still hates bottles and sippy cups. We are still doing the straw thing, but are headed back to the mall tomorrow to buy every other sippy cup option that we haven't tried yet!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Yesterday morning we received our first Klaudia smiles! Since then, we have had 100 more smiles and all kinds of giggles and doubled-over laughs!! She is a totally different girl when she smiles. Her face just lights up...amazing!

The first smiles came because of sprinklers (thus the Blog title). We were walking around the grounds of Wawel Castle, and there were sprinklers watering the lawn. She seemed interested so I pointed and said "sprinkler"! She cracked a huge smile! I couldn't believe it (because we only got a half smile in April, and hadn't seen one since), so I called Ryan over. Sure enough, every time we said "sprinkler," she smiled and sometimes laughed! I wonder if there is a word in Polish that is similar that would have made her laugh? Or, maybe she was just ready?!

We also went to a real sit down restaurant for lunch yesterday. She did so well and tried a bit of our food. She was a typical toddler - grabbing for anything within sight on the table and trying to throw things on the ground. We were able to complete the meal without getting too many dirty looks, a success indeed!

We have done a bit of sightseeing around town. Krakow is incredible. It is beatiful, tragic, rich, artistic, deeply religious, and cosmopolitan. The events of Schindler's List took place here (and much of the movie). Auschwitz is not far, and we are planning a visit later this week. It is just unfathomable to imagine all of the events that occurred here during the occupation. We saw a Jewish cemetary yesterday that the Jews covered in trash to convince the Nazis that it was a dump, and not a coveted place. We also saw a synagogue that survived the occupation, only because the Nazis coverted it to a stable. Seriously...did this really happen? Right down the street? It is all difficult to believe. But the city seems to take pride in their perseverence and finds strength in the history.

We have the visit with the social worker today - wish us good thoughts that it is routine! Then...countdown to final court next Tuesday! After final court, we are headed to Warsaw. We were originally headed back to Krakow, but have changed our plans and will be in Warsaw beginning on the end of August 11.

Here are recent smiles and sleepy time...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Report from Krakow

Hi All!

Well, we are settled into our apartment in Krakow with Klaudia. (That is, if you can call no laundry, pigeons roosting above our back door, no air conditioning, no bathtub, a horrible 5 inch mattress of a bed, a hot water heater that you have to periodically turn on, and constant construction, including jackhammering, outside our window throughout the day, settling in).

Other than that...we are doing well. Klaudia is the sweetest, and has gone through a lot this week. She is confused, but is doing well. She is eating fine and sleeping pretty well (despite the crazy dreams or anxiety she has that make her toss in her sleep). Favorite foods include bananas, McDonald's hamburger bun, fruit juices, this Polish cheesy fruit thing, yogurt, and cereal. She also eats this milk/formula stuff, but I don't think she likes it all that well.

She refuses to drink out of the bottle we brought, even though it is very similar (glass) to the orphanage's bottles. She also refuses to drink out of the sippy cup we brought. I take total blame for that one, because I was the one who decided to bring the neon green and hot pink one. The interim resolution is feeding her juice and milk with a metal spoon. She takes it just fine then, it just takes 30 minutes to drink a bottle!

Despite my already apparent shortcomings in the motherhood department, Klaudia has completely (at least for now) attached to me. She wants me to hold her all the time...and I mean ALL the time. We can hardly put her down on a blanket, crib, stroller, to Ryan, etc. without a bit of hysteria (complete with arching the back, shrill screaming, etc.) As soon as I pick her up, she is calmed immediately. This is a great problem to have right now though. She is feeling attached, and we can work on detachment another year.

It is just a bit frustrating in the past day or two that she hardly lets Ryan hold her. That will change, no doubt, just hopefully sooner than later. She is very interested in everything he does though. She barely lets him hold her, but when he leaves the room she watches the door until he comes back.

Our last few days have been busy trying to help her feel comforted and trying to best meet her needs. Our next days are more of the same, and that is alright with us. We are very fortunate to become her parents!

Speaking of becoming her parents, that is scheduled to happen on August 11, at our final court hearing. Prior to that, on August 5, we have a visit from a social worker to see how things are going. She will report back to the judge and recommend her placement with us.

Three photos are attached. The one of Klaudia on Ryan's lap is Klaudia viewing the Wiggles (and a dvd for that matter) for the first time. She is wide-eyed to say the least.

Another photo is leaving the orphanage. I debated whether to put this one in, but is a major part of the journey. That was probably the hardest part. I felt so mean to pull her away from all of her comforts, and everything she has. They even asked us to bring clothes for her to change into so that they could keep the clothes for the other children. They gave us some old pjs for a familiar scent. Other than that, she left with nothing but her new parents whom she barely knew.

The orphanage has more children there than beds...they need to place the children in homes and know it is the right thing, but that doesn't mean that the sisters there don't get attached. It was difficult for Klaudia's main caretaker to say goodbye...she even ran to the front of the orphanage as we drove away and was waving with a huge image I will never forget.

The last photo was taken a block away from our apartment. Krakow is covered in graffiti. It is a stark contrast to the architecture. But we had to capture this one example.

Jen, Ryan & Klaudia