Saturday, June 28, 2008

Three days and counting

Well, our travel itinerary is set and we have 3 days to complete the list of things to do before we are off on our adventure. We basically just need to pack and get a few last minute items plus get the house and kids ready for our absence. Ansley has announced that the next 3 days are "Bilyeu Family Days" and she has all sorts of plans for us, including planning and organizing both of their birthday parties. I just had to remind her that she has to promise to help me pack too. The kids are going to be in good hands with Janet (Grandma Bilyeu) and Nanny Jenny will be around to lend a hand when she needs a break. They will be busy because Ansley has swim team plus a soccer camp and Alec, well, Alec is just busy:). Boy, am I going to miss them!

Our travel to Bishkek is a little crazy because we are planning on using some Buddy passes (standby) to get to Istanbul, Turkey and then we have set tickets, round trip from Istanbul to Bishkek. Then we will fly standby home from Istanbul. By taking advantage of the buddy passes we will be able to fly to Kyrgyzstan for a fraction of the price. We will have to be away from home a few extra days but we are hoping that we will be spending that time touring Istanbul and not waiting it out at JFK in NYC. Craig has done his homework and the flights have been open everyday for the last several weeks and worse case senario we only really need one seat because Craig should be able to get the jump seat. Wish us luck!!

Bilyeu Trip #1 Kyrgyzstan Itinerary- July 2 – 10, 2008

Wednesday 2 July:
Depart Jacksonville, FL Jet Blue # 610 at 0610
Arrive JFK 2 July, 0830
Depart JFK 2 July, 1630 Delta # 72 to Istanbul, Turkey
Thursday 3 July:
Arrive Istanbul at 1000 (Thur)
Lodging in Istanbul - Hotel Ambassador
Saturday 5 July:
Depart Istanbul, Turkey at 1730, Turkish airlines # 1346
Sunday 6 July:
Arrive Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan at 0130. (Sunday morning)
Airport transportation provided by Silk Road Hotel
Lodging at Silk Road 6-10 July
Thursaday 10 July:
Depart Bishkek, Turkish airlines #1347 at 0555
Arrive Istanbul, Turkey at 0845
Depart Turkey 10 July at 1230 on Delta # 73
Arrive JFK on 10 July at 1650
Depart JFK on 10 July at 1910 on Delta
Arrive Jax at 2330 on 10 July

Friday, June 27, 2008

Baby's Bunny

Well, we are knee deep in preparations for our travel to see precious baby A ( name to be announced once we see her). We will not be able to bring her home this trip so we are planning on leaving a part of us there with her. I am attaching the picture of the kids with the bunny that we got her at Build-A-Bear this week. It was just priceless to watch them pick out the bunny, make wishes to put inside and dress her. Luckily, Ansley won on the fashion decision and she is not dressed in a Batman suit. The best part of the bunny is that she has a voice recorder in her hand that we all left a little message for her on. Hopefully she will be able to at least hear our voices when we are gone. We are also putting a little teether photo album together for her. One of our Russian nurses at the hospital helped translate the titles ( Mommy, Daddy, Sister, Grandma, ect....) I hope that the orphanage workers will read it to her from time to time. Of course, I realize that she is only 2.5 months and she will not care about either of these but it's making me feel better.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

She is BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

Well, we have had a crazy last few weeks and at the end of all the ups and downs and emotions we have a referral for a beautiful baby girl! It is funny because the day after I finished her rocking chair and got this blog started we got the first call. Anyway, she is 9 weeks old and just adorable! She is currently in an orphanage in Tokmok, which is a city about 1 hour east of Bishkek ( capital of Kygyzstan.) She is healthy other than mild bilateral hip dysplasia. This is a condition that is common here in the US and is something that I am very comfortable with. In fact, I am going to be able to bring over a harness/brace for her and one of the other orphans when we travel to meet her in July. Boy, was I happy to be a pediatrician the day that we got all of her medical information :)

We are now knee deep in making travel arrangements to the other side of the world. Our coordinator in Kyrgyzstan, Saule, is planning on our first visit to the orphanage to be on July 6th. We will get to spend 4 days visiting her and then will return just in time for Alec's b-day on the 12th. What an adventure!

Enjoy the picture of the sleeping beauty.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Video trial

In hopes of travel in the near future, we are experimenting to see if we can successfully add videos. Wish me luck!!! Here is a recent video of Alec at the beach. It isn't that exciting but I am hoping that if it works we will be able to share videos while we are in Kyrgyzstan PS: We have a referral and hopefully we will have details to share soon!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Current day thoughts and the Rocking Chair

To those of you that actually read the first post, thanks and I promise to keep future posts to a tolerable length. Ansley and I ( OK, mainly me) have been planning out the baby's nursery for some time and today we put everything together to see how it would all look. " Everything" is really just some bedding, a painting and some little bugs that will hang from the walls/ceilings. It is a fairy garden theme so the bugs are really OK. Looking closely at it all was particularly important because we finished decorating the little rocking chair for the baby. The rocking chair is special because when I was pregnant with Ansley I redecorated my rocking chair from when I was little. She still uses it for her dolls and tea parties so when we started our adoption process I bought an unfinished chair for this baby. I have had it for several months but had been afraid to start work on it mainly because of fear that things were not going to happen. Then a few weeks ago I realized that my fears were taking away the potential joy of this process and because I needed something tangible and concrete to do ( other than obsess over emails, ect..) so I started painting it. It has been a family affair, minus Craig who hates this sort of thing. Alec, with all of his 3 year old flare, helped with the first coat of primer and to my displeasure his attention span was way longer than I hoped it would be. White paint everywhere ;). Then Ansley and I finished the final touches this last weekend. She helped me pick the location of the flowers, the colors and even did a little bit of the painting. We are both very happy with the final product and think that it will be the perfect gift for the new baby sister. The whole process was exactly what I needed too. Something happy, something exciting and something that kept the positive thoughts about this adoption flowing. I must admit that some days the whole process with all of it's unknowns is overwhelming. Unknown timing of the referral, travel, bringing her home and even more scary the unknown of her family history, her orphanage experience and how all of that will start forming her little personality and life to come. I have to remind myself to step back and remember why we are doing this and in moments of silence, I find encouragement and strength because I truly believe that this is what God wants us to do.
Maybe between blind faith and the rocking chair being completed, our referral will be close to follow. Keep your fingers crossed for us.
PS: I have no idea how to move the pictures to the bottom of the post so for now they will remain at the top.

International Adoption Journey

This blog is long overdue especially since we have been knee deep in our adoption plans for the last seven months but better late than never right? I thought I would start with a "brief " summary of our journey so far. For many of you this will be old information so please feel free skip this introduction post. If you are new to our story or crave more details then read on.

December 2007:

Well, this is not where the story really begins but we will start here anyway. We, my wonderful husband, Craig, and I, have always talked about adopting a child. In our younger years, I ran into some health problems that had us concerned that we may never be able to have any children of our own and it was at that time that we first started talking about international adoption (IA). Needless to say, we were blessed with two absolutely precious biological children, Ansley and Alec. Our thoughts of adopting did not end there though and as we started batting around the idea of having one more kiddo the idea came into the fore front again. To make a long story short, we decided to try the old fashioned way of adding to our family first but when that was just not meant to be we jumped head first into the world of international adoption. In my heart, I know this is exactly what we are meant to do. I never felt good about the prospect of being pregnant again and I think that we are meant to have the joy of parenting a child that needs us for other reasons. So in December 2007, I started learning everything that I could about all the different countries, agencies and options. On December 27th, we told our parents ( the grandparents to be) and children that we were planning on adopting a baby girl from Kyrgyzstan!!! Everyone was very excited to say the least.

Why Kyrgyzstan? Or more commonly, "Where?????". Kyrgyzstan is a small, former Russian republic that borders China and Kazakhstan. It has only been open to US adoptions since 2006 and was a great option because you have the ability to bring home infants, less than 12 months.

The Process.

It starts with finding an agency, completing a homestudy, compilings a ton of documents which will make up the dossier. After that you wait for a referral for a child. This typically comes with a picture, maybe a video, and medical information. After that you take the first trip to Kyrgyzstan to meet the child and formally accept or deny the referral. If everything is OK then you return home and wait for the court proceedings to occur in Kyrgyzstan. Once that portion is done then the child becomes yours and you return, after a undetermined amount of time for a second trip to pick the baby up and bring them home. The typical wait between the first and second trip varies but is a minimum of 6-8 weeks. Lots of waiting.

January 2008:

At the beginning of the month we finalized our decision to use Nightlight Christian Adoptions ( in California) as our placement agency. I had contacted the consulate in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to find out the list of agencies that were working in Kyrgyzstan. At that time, there were just 7 and after contacting all of them, we felt the best with Nightlight. They had been successful in bringing home babies from Kyrg, the waiting list was not that long and the length of the two trips that would be required seemed doable. We also started and FINISHED our homestudy with a local agency. At the time that we sent in our agency fees, we were #9 on the list for a baby girl but three of those families were open to either gender. Our coordinator thinks thought we should have a referral within the next 3 months. Our kids were getting excited too. Alec was thinking of all the ways that he was going to be able to protect her and Ansley was telling everyone, thinking of names and asking lots of questions about orphanages.

February 2008:

I worked hard and by Feb 12, just 6 weeks after starting our homestudy and picking an agency, I had the dossier complete, certified by the state and sent off to Nightlight. For those of you not in the IA community, the dossier is a packet composed of many official documents ( marriage licenses, medical, financial, homestudy, ect...) that are all notarized and then certified by the state ( of FL). Once arriving at Nightlight, the dossier was translated into Russian and sent to the Kyrgyzstan embassy in Washington D.C. to be authenticated. We also submitted our I-600A which was the form sent to the US Immigration office requesting that we be allowed to bring home a foreign born orphan. At the end of February we were #3 on the list with one family wanting a baby girl and one without a preference. Things were moving along great and Ansley and I even picked out a few baby blankets and some nursery items for the baby. It was starting to feel "real". We were going to be blessed with another child.

March 2008:

Our dossier made it to the embassy in D.C. and at the end of the month we received our I-171H. The I-171H is the form from the US govt that approved us to adopt a foreign orphan. We were #2 on the list and things were just going too smoothly. We had actually been #1 but one of the families in front of us lost a referral when the biological mother returned. We were OK with that and glad that the rights of the mother's were being protected.

Apring 2008:

At the beginning of the month, our dossier completed it's journey through the embassy and was authenticated and sent off to Kyrgyzstan. Things were just going too smoothly - our homestudy and dossier document gathering process was done in 6 weeks, our I-171H took only 5 weeks and our dossier made it through the embassy in just over 4 weeks. And people said that IA was difficult.....

Shortly after that another family in front of us lost their referral and we moved BACK again, now we were in the #3 spot. The court system in Bishkek had also completely stalled out and there were concerns because families had been waiting over 4 months between their first and second trips and still no sign of when they would be able to go and pick up their babies. This was a huge concern because our agency's main source of referrals is the baby house in Bishkek. By the way, Biskek is the capital of Bishkek. There were also some big changes at the Ministry of Education in Kyrgyzstan and with that came some "re-organization". Referrals stopped and the Embassy stopped processing dossiers. Thank goodness ours made it through in just the nick of time. We were starting to understand why they say that IA is not for the faint of heart. It seemed like the further we went along on this journey the more scary it was becoming.

Luckily, I have had the pleasure of forming relationships with several other women in the same position ( same agency and all of us in different stages of waiting) and it is through that network that I have been able to keep the hope alive and at the same time have an ongoing dose of realty, whether I like it or not. Thanks Posse'!!!!!

May 2008:

May started out tough for all of the above reasons. In fact, I was so discouraged that our hope for a baby from Kyrgyztan was about to end that I even started returning some of the nursery items and gathered all the receipts to see when things had to be returned by. Ansley was picking up on my fears and had even started telling her teachers that we were not going to be getting a new baby sister. However, as the month played out things in Kyrgyzstan started moving again and on May 27th we got an email from our Nightlight coordinator telling us that we were in the #1 position!!! The Bishkek court issue has still not righted itself but the referrals infront of us are not from that region and we have been told that ours will not likely be from there either. We have also been told that the court issues are isolated to Bishkek only and we should be able to move through the process "smoothly" if the baby comes from elsewhere. Notice that I am definitely worried about this rollercoaster ride that we are on but can't help but be excited about potential for another little person in our family.