Sunday, January 26, 2014

One week home

We've spent one week at home together!  It seems both shorter (it's very new to have a toddler in our family again!), and longer (seems like she's always been part of our family) than that.

I continue to be amazed by how brave Kavya is.  She has such good humor and vitality when so many things have changed for her, in every part of her life.  Familiar faces, sounds, smells, sights, and tastes have been replaced by new ones.  She loves to look out the window into our backyard, and I wish she could tell us what she's thinking as she looks at our white, snow-covered world.

We've had some bumpy nights due to the time change -- on Tuesday, Kavya woke up at 2:00 a.m., ready for the day, and on Wednesday, she was up at 3:30 a.m.  The rest of the week has been a mixture of 5:00, 6:00 and one glorious 7:00 a.m. wake-up . . . hopefully she will continue to do that!

Kavya is a quick learner, and is repeating many sounds.  Sometimes she knows what she's saying, and sometimes she's just imitating us.  She says "socks" (sock-ohs) and is very fond of them, for some reason.  Anytime she plays with dolls, they need to wear socks.  She also says "spoon," (spoon-oo), "uh-oh," "oh no," "again," and has her own versions of the boys' names.  Nathan's name pronunciation varies, but she calls Aaron "noodle," for some reason -- too cute!

If she wants someone's attention, she will say (loudly and enthusiastically) "Yaay!!!"  She did this on the flights home, trying to get Peter's and my sister Alicia's attention, and she does it here too, especially for the boys.

She knows the word "coffee" (she says 'coppee') a little too well . . . it's been a survival tool for me in the early mornings!  When I made hot chocolate for Anya, Kavya said, "Anya coppee?"

While we stayed at the orphanage, we saw one funny thing in action -- thankfully, Sr. Lucy explained it to us, or we would be wondering what in the world Kavya was doing.  When I change clothes, Kavya wags her finger at me and says "Say, say say!" with a grin.  Sr. Lucy told us that she's saying "Shame, shame, shame!", and that they would say that to Kavya.  Now I'm wondering if they said that when kids took off their clothes at the wrong time, or took of their diapers or something . . . since the only time she says it is if I'm disrobed!

We also hear some Kannada words from her -- "akka" for sister, "anna" for brother . . . and, though this isn't on our list of Kannada phrases, she says "kaka" every time she has a stinky diaper, so we can figure out what that means!  She also calls her dolls "baboo."  She continues to do the Indian head bobble, which is fun to see.  And instead of nodding her head up and down for "yes," she does her own unique imperial nod -- just a single nod, like Jeannie in "I Dream of Jeannie," if anyone else remembers watching re-runs of that program.

One of the biggest joys this week has been watching the kids together.  When they're away at school, Kavya points toward the door, or points at their pictures and says their names.  She really likes having them around.

It's been fascinating to watch their personalities show up in how they interact with Kavya.  Aaron, our conscientious eldest child, is most concerned about her safety.  He is the one who tells us she's trying to stand up in her highchair, for example.  He likes to carry her and explain things to her, too.  Nathan, our social guy who loves small children, takes great delight in spinning her around while she laughs and laughs.  When we were in India using Facetime with them, he laughed hysterically as she tore up the hotel room.

Anya has some little games she plays with Kavya.  She draws circles in the air and says "Lolli-, lolli-, lolli-POP!", and snaps her fingers or claps. Kavya loves to join her doing this.  She's also joined Kavya in a lot of play with dolls and other things.  It's been fun to see how she's willing to jump in, and how she still exclaims over how cute Kavya is.  Today, she woke up with some wild, curly bed-head, and Anya just loved it.

Anya has had some jealousy of so much of my time being occupied with Kavya . . . I think future weekend nap times will involve some craft/art project time with Anya, or some dates.  She is missing time on my lap, and time with me reading chapter books aloud to her.  On the nights when Kavya has gone to bed around 7:30, we've had time to read together . . . but the later nights haven't worked out as well.  We will continue to iron out the glitches as time goes on.

The weekend was just us three girls.  Back when we thought we'd be travelling in the fall, Peter committed to being the speaker for our church's middle school retreat this weekend.  We never dreamed that he would be one week back from India at this time!!  Crazy.  So he and the boys spent the weekend in the far north, and the girls holed up here.  I didn't leave the house except to shovel during Kavya's nap on Saturday!  Anya was my lookout, in case she woke up unusually early.

Everything went pretty well, except that Kavya woke up once each night crying like her heart was breaking.  She cried for about 10 minutes, and I held her and talked to her, and she fell back asleep.  It seemed like either grieving, or night terrors -- she wasn't really awake either time.  Or it could've been a nightmare . . . two dear friends of ours from college were in town, and stopped by for an hour on Saturday. They brought their 8-month-old white terrier with them, and she is adorable . . . but Kavya was afraid of her.  Maybe she was stressed out?  We will see how the next few nights go -- the rest of the night, she slept well.  Who knows?

We are expecting some severe cold this week -- my kids are hoping for school to be cancelled Monday or Tuesday.  It would be kind of nice to have them home after the boys have been gone this weekend -- and I think Kavya would love having her people home during the week too!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Home, sweet home!

Friday was our last day in Delhi.  We stretched our legs a bit before our flights by visiting Humayan's Tomb;  he was an emperor and a significant historical figure.  His tomb is the building that the Taj Mahal was modeled after.

We visited in 2007, but wanted to return to see the results of a restoration project since then.  The tomb building was in significantly better shape than when we saw it last -- there were domes that had been rebuilt, and ceramic and paintwork that was 3D imaged and redone.  There was also an exhibit about how they conducted research and decided what to refurbish.  

The other portion of the grounds hadn't been restored, but the grounds and walkways and signage were much improved -- it was fun to compare to our memories.  And it was a great excuse to walk around before our 30 hours of travel to go home.

There was a wall around one portion of the grounds, accessible by very steep stone stairs.
Outside the wall, we saw wild peacocks:

We stopped at the embassy to pick up Kavya's visa, and headed to the airport.  In the interest of helping future travelers, I wanted to share that we had some issues with motion sickness.  Anya doesn't get carsick at home, and has been on many amusement park rides with no problem -- but the combination of fatigue, air pollution, and the stop-and-start, weaving nature of city traffic did her in.  

She was sick three times during the trip, (once on the plane, where fatigue was a huge factor).  Kavya got sick twice in the car.  I was SO glad that I had brought along little rolls of plastic bags (found in Target's baby section).  I was planning to use them for stinky diapers in our hotel room and on the planes, but they were a godsend for carsickness too!  If you have kids traveling with you, it might be a good idea to be prepared.  I only "missed" once -- the first time Kavya got sick, I thought she was just fussy or tired . . . but I was ready a few days later for the second one!  TMI, but I thought other families would like to know!!

What can we say about the trip home?  LONG.  Tiring.  But Kavya was such a trooper -- she only cried for about 15 minutes as we landed during one of the long flights.  I think her ears were hurting, and she didn't appreciate being seat-belted.  And our last jumper flight home was cancelled due to snow in Chicago . . . but my sister's boyfriend was picking her up, and kindly agreed to drive us to Milwaukee, where some dear friends picked us up and drove us the rest of the way HOME!  

We were missing our boys terribly, and the friends who had them for the weekend brought them home to us.  We spent 9:30-midnight watching them meet and play with Kavya -- she had slept for 2 hours on the drive home, and needed a little awake time before bedtime.  And we were all so happy to see each other, there was no way we were going to bed right away!  They love her so much, and can't believe how cute and funny she is. We spent all of Sunday at home together -- Peter's parents and our friends Todd and Tina cooked for us, which was so appreciated!  And my mom had vaccuumed and straightened up so we came home to a neat house.

Tina & Todd, and baby R -- our flight cancellation rescuers!
Their baby boy just turned 1, and outweighs Kavya by 4 pounds. 
Aaron and Nathan, with the dear H family, who helped care for our boys while we were gone.
Kathy knit the little cap Kavya wore home from Chicago. We were so happy to be back!

Kavya is sleeping in a "sidecar" crib (three-side crib pulled up next to our bed) in our room, which is working out well.  I can only imagine how confusing this all is for her -- 5 days in a hotel (which, for all she knew, was her new home), 30 hours of waking up in airplanes and airports, then this new place, with new boys.  She is such a brave little trooper, and is doing very well with all the changes.  

At first, she would only eat carbs -- rice, potatoes, idli, cous cous, crackers -- but finally today she tried chicken and oranges.  She's also a big fan of warm milk with a little Nesquick in it . . . I hope that helps her gain a little weight.  She's in the 8th percentile for height, and isn't on the charts at all for weight, so anything that helps her fatten up a little is a good thing.  

Her behavior is also very different here.  In the hotels and airports, and also in the orphanage playroom, she was very sensory-seeking.  She was extremely hyper and mobile, and I thought we were in for a little tornado!  But here, with many toys and new ways to exercise her fine motor skills, she is happily occupied.  It makes us want to purchase indoor toys for the orphanage -- but we don't know if we're allowed to do that while we complete our two years of post-placement reports.

On Sunday, our first full day home exploring toys and play, she didn't want to stop playing to nap.  I brought her into our room, and she didn't cry -- but she stood in the corner of the crib, pointing toward the door.  It was so funny -- her eyes were drooping closed while she stood there!  I got her to sit down, then lay down, and she conked out.  When she woke up, she was happy and excited to see that the toys were still there.

She is doing well with bonding and attachment, seeking comfort when she's hurt or tired from me especially, and looking to Peter for tickling and Daddy-style play.  She loves to snuggle on a shoulder, and is a little jealous if Anya climbs on my lap.  That is good to see so quickly -- we haven't even known her for two weeks yet.  She uses some self-comforting behaviors when she's tired or scared -- she rubs her bellybutton and her ears.  We've had to improvise with pajamas so she can reach her belly . . . most of her pajamas are one-piece fleece sleepers, so we're using lots of comfy two-piece clothing for her to sleep in.  We've also raised our thermostat to accommodate her warm-weather self.

We are settling in pretty well, all things considered.  Peter's and Anya's body clocks are a little messed up -- they were both awake at 3:00 a.m. today, so we didn't send Anya back to school today.  Hopefully, tonight goes a little better for them.  Thanks to all who have followed this final chapter in our adoption story . . . and welcome to the first chapter in our next "book" as a family of six!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Wednesday and Thursday

Wednesday found us back at the doctor, to a negative TB result.  What a relief!  After our quick visit, we decided to make a quick stop at Safdarjung, a dwelling and tomb built by a son in honor of his father.  It was a very atmospheric place, but sadly in a state of disrepair.  There were some workers doing paving -- including women breaking rock by hand with hoes, then carrying piles of rock gravel on their heads to the pathway they were constructing.  This tomb and surrounding walls and buildings are noteworthy for being one of the latest examples of Mughal architecture in India.  It reminded us that the US is such a young country -- I wonder how people decide which places to preserve in a country that has centuries of history.

Anya and Kavya seemed tired, so we called it quits after our brief visit there.  On the way back to the hotel, we experienced a parenting milestone:  Kavya threw up on Nancy.  Our driver didn't seem as impressed by our milestone, however . . .

* * * * * * *

Thursday was our embassy appointment.  It is so different from our last visit -- much more efficient and structured than our visit 6 years ago.  Many modernized features have been added; last time, it seemed we sat in a series of rooms with little directional signs, and hoped for the best.  The video monitors and queue system were terrific, and the employees were really helpful.  Afterward, our phone was saying it didn't have coverage to call our driver, and a security guard let us use his phone.

With nothing else on our agenda, we headed back to the hotel for Kavya's nap.  While Peter was on Daddy duty for our napper, Alicia, Anya and I headed out to do a little shopping.  I wanted to find a tablecloth for each of our girls when they grow up, and we chose a few other gifts for people back home.  I'm not a huge shopper, and neither is Alicia -- but we wanted to make sure to have a few special items to remember the trip.

This afternoon (and one day earlier this week), we went to the hotel's outdoor hot tub -- or more appropriately, the warm tub.  As before, we were the only guests using the pool.  There are always a few employees on pool duty to keep the pigeons out of the pool, and you could tell they thought we were CRAZY for swimming in the winter.  Today was a little chilly (about 58 or 60 degrees), but when we were in the water it was fine.

Kavya was very subdued in the water on Monday, and sat quietly on Nancy's lap taking it all in.  But today she was a wild child!  She was splashing and squealing and having a grand time -- even the pool workers commented on how different she was.  Anya LOVED being in the water, and showed off her swimming skills for us.  It was definitely a treat for us, knowing that our hometown got 6-10 inches of snow yesterday!  

A lull in the action

We had no "official" business on Tuesday, so we decided to make a visit to one of New Delhi's newest  cultural sites.  Swaminarayan Akshardham is a museum/shrine/tribute to Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1731 - 1830 AD).  It celebrates the values, architectural forms, artisans' techniques, and Hindu heritage of India.

It is a complex of buildings that opened in 2005.  The centerpiece is the Akshardam Mandir building, constructed of pink stone and white marble.  It was built using traditional materials and techniques, using no steel at all.  The exterior contains relief sculptures of elephants, tells facts about elephants' social lives, and shares parables about elephants.

Inside, there is a shrine to Bhagwan Swaminarayan.  The shrine is magnificent, featuring an 11-foot-high gold-plated statue (murti) of him.  The entire room is gilded and encrusted with gems, and the ceiling and chandelier are beautiful.  Anya was enraptured by this room, since this was the closest thing to pirate/castle/fairy tale treasure that she's ever seen.

There is also an IMAX presentation (which we did not see, knowing that our 2-year-old would not last through the 50-minute film), and a Hall of Values (also 50 minutes) that includes films, robotic figures, and light/sound displays.  Instead, we chose the 15-minute boat ride, the Sanskruti Vihar.  It presents 10,000 years of Indian culture as though you're riding along the river Sarasvati.  Scenes of early bazaars, village life, and India's first university and inventions appear along the boat route.  Anya really enjoyed it, and Kavya was interested in the scenes as we floated by.

We had no idea before visiting that we would spend several hours there -- it really is an extensive experience, and there was another major section under construction that would've added more time.  It is worth visiting, however -- it's a contrast to the older historical sites we've visited, and it was interesting to see how modern India perceives this person/part of history, compared to the interpretations of ancient sites such as Qutab Minar.

* * * * *

We came back to leftovers for lunch from our hotel fridge, and spent the rest of the day quietly.  Kavya napped, and we played in our rooms.  Some dear friends kindly loaned us two Kindles, and they've been great to have on the trip -- we've read the first two Narnia books to Anya, and begun the third, and Peter has been reading Lincoln, the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin (especially when he wakes up early due to time zone issues!).

Bedtime was a little hairy -- I think we started a little too early, and she wanted to play longer.  It reminded us that she is still new to us, and still accustomed to her routine at the orphanage . . . we think she played until she dropped off to sleep in her tracks.  She tends to get kind of hyper when she begins to get tired, then she abruptly crashes into sleep.

We've been discovering so much about her personality this week, and we can't wait for Aaron and Nathan to meet her!  She is a bundle of energy, which we think is part of her personality -- and she's super expressive and animated and FUNNY.  But observing the kids at the orphanage, we also think she has some sensory-seeking behaviors due to her environment there.  The kids were very rough-and-tumble with each other, and climbed the handles of cabinets to get to the windows . . . and then they climbed the security bars on the windows!  It will take her some time to unlearn the playroom rules from there, and learn our house rules.  Hopefully, having brothers and a sister, and a mom and dad who spend time playing with her (not to mention toys), will satisfy her busy-bee nature and active little body.

She has a 1,000-watt smile and laugh, and is a typical 2-year-old who gets focused on  what she wants. Often, that is her toothbrush -- which has come in handy when she's upset or hurt (she slammed her hand in a drawer, for example, and it was the only thing that distracted her).  At bedtime, she kept pointing to her stringing beads, and had a plain old temper tantrum about not being able to play with them at bedtime.  It's good to see that she's feeling comfortable enough to show those kind of feelings with us already.

Kavya is already so much more settled with us -- it shows when she wakes up from sleeping.  The first few days, she was very confused and disoriented, and took a long time to wake up.  She was very cautious and quiet.  Now, she's begun to wake up with a smile, and reach for one of us when she wakes up.  When we go home, she will probably have a few more days waking up confused -- at this point, I'm sure she thinks we live at this hotel, and has no idea we will be going somewhere else.

She is such a little trooper!  What a generous child, to invite us into her heart already.  She already has certain things that consistently make her laugh -- "inside jokes" for us.  She also snuggles up to us at night, and prefers me, Peter, and Alicia to strangers already.  I'm sure some of that because she fears more new things, but it's a gift we don't take for granted.  We have Sumi and the other staff to thank for how well she is doing.  We are so grateful for the way they loved her.  What a blessing for us.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"Doing the needful"

Sunday was spent traveling to Delhi and settling in at our final hotel. Monday morning was all about "doing the needful" (one of my favorite Indian expressions), with visits to a medical clinic and the CARA offices (the national/governmental department that oversees adoptions).

Our visit to the doctor confirmed that our girl is tiny!  At  2 1/2, she is 31 inches tall, and weighs 17 pounds, 10 ounces.  That's less than Anya weighed when we brought her home on her first birthday!  The doctor was kind, and asked a few more questions about her, then a nurse did the TB test. We have it read on Wednesday morning.

The dreaded TB test!

Then we headed over to the CARA office. Most families don't have to do this step, but we'd had some crossed wires about one piece of paperwork that the embassy needs from them. There was some confusion between our Kavya and a different Kavya placed with another US family, so the embassy hadn't received our Kavya's Article 23. After spending over an hour there, the confusion was cleared up, and they couriered our document to the embassy (and gave us a copy too). Anya was a trooper with our morning spent in waiting rooms.

After being cooped up, we decided to get some fresh air. We had snacks in the car for the girls, and we headed to a peaceful outdoor historical site, Qutab Minar. We visited last time, but due to a camera malfunction, all our photos were tinted purple!

We spent an hour or so in the sunshine seeing a magnificent stone tower -- construction began on it in 1193. It is also the site of India's first mosque.  The site is in amazing shape, with beautiful textures and different hues of stone. Everywhere you walk presents amazing views of arches, walls, foundations, and a blend of different architectural styles, all framing the tower from every angle.

The tower has been struck by lightning twice in its history.

Then we headed back to the hotel. We wanted to make sure that a lot of the day contains playtime and just being together in our rooms with Kavya. We ordered some excellent room service for dinner -- they offer a variety of cuisines, but the Indian dishes we've had have been wonderful. Anya's favorite dish at one of our hometown Indian restaurants was featured with a slightly different name, Tikka Murg Mahkni. Delicious!  For future traveling families: be warned that the spice levels here are a few notches higher than in the US!

We also talked to our boys Aaron and Nathan via FaceTime (a feature of Apple devices). It was so great to see their faces, and hear them laugh and laugh at the things Kavya was doing!  My mom was watching them that day, and got her first sighting of Kavya in action -- she was absolutely taken with her. We are just a few days away from going home, and we're really anticipating seeing our family again. *I promise I will add photos, but it's late and my blogging time has been greatly reduced by a certain active, energetic 2-year-old!

Alicia and Peter had a little field trip one day to this spot next to our hotel . . .

Monday, January 13, 2014

A glimpse into her world

Warning -- this is going to be a long post!  I want to record as much about our days at Kavya's orphanage as I can, so she has a record of what her home for 2+ years was like.

We left Bangalore on Thursday morning, stopping to visit the ISKCON Temple which was on our way out of town.  It was by far the largest and most elaborate temple we've seen, with gold and jewel-encrusted statues.  The temple sponsors a feeding program for impoverished children, and part of their tour included is asking for sponsorships to feed children for a year.  Fazal, our driver that day, was excellent -- he knew a lot about the city, and we had some great conversations with him.  As a life-long resident of Bangalore, he had a lot of pride in his city, and knew a lot of history.

We arrived at the Society of Sisters of Charity at about 1:00 p.m.  We put our luggage in the room they had prepared for us.  A homemade, family-style meal awaited us -- and we shared it with a family from Munich.  The mother, Celestine, and 20-year-old brother Mark were visiting to bring 11-year-old sister Maya back to see the orphanage.  Maya was cared for there until age 1, when her family met her and brought her home.  They were great conversationalists, and it was fun to tell them about Anya's visit to ISRC just days earlier.  They said that everything at the orphanage was exactly as they remembered it from 10 years earlier.

After lunch, they brought Kavya to us.  She was a little reticent again, but warmed up before too long.  We took her back to our room, and Kavya explored the room while we unpacked a few things.  A pack of Crayola Twistable colored pencils was a huge hit for her -- she didn't color with them, but took great delight in dumping them out and putting them back in the container again.  She would laugh and laugh -- that took up a lot of time.  Anya was endlessly thrilled with everything Kavya did, and kept exclaiming about her tiny hands or how cute she was.

The sisters had said she needed to nap yet that day, so I picked her up and sat on the bed with her.  She was looking a little spacey, so I rocked and sang to her, then laid down with her on top of me.  She melted into sleep quickly.  We were all quiet and rested along with her.  Tears of joy were running down the sides of my face as I lay on my back -- I couldn't believe I was finally doing 'mom' things with her.  Anya looked at me and asked, "What is that liquid on your head?"  It cracked me up -- she knows the expression "happy tears," so I whispered that and she nodded.

We didn't know the schedule for the rest of the day, except that the sisters would be taking care of all our meals.  We were also told to go to the same "parlour" where we had our meals and met Kavya for teatime.  We did, and afterward walked outside.  A child care worker saw us and asked if we would like to see the "creche" -- their term for the building where the children eat, sleep and play.  We went into a large playroom, and Kavya began playing with the 25 or so other children.  We took that opportunity to take pictures of a little boy who is matched with another family.  We also took photos of the caregivers who have played such an important role in Kavya's life.

One of the caregivers was especially attached to Kavya.  Her name was Sumi, and she held Kavya and asked us what we were going to call her.  She seemed happy that we are keeping her given name.  She tried to put Kavya down, but Kavya was having none of that.  She kept pleading with Sumi to pick her up -- I think she thought our visit was over, just like the day before.  Kavya kept slamming into Sumi's legs, while Sumi's eyes filled with tears.  It was heartwrenching to watch, and showed us that the workers there really care about the children.  Kavya was crying in the most pitiful way -- her cry isn't piercing, but soft and husky, with the saddest imaginable expression.  We peeled her off of Sumi's legs and beat a hasty retreat to our room.

On the way, Sister Lucy saw us and brought out a sucker to try and soothe Kavya.  She wouldn't have it, though -- it was pink, and Sister Lucy said she only likes chocolate.  She stepped back into an office and returned with some chocolate, and spoke to Kavya in Kannada.  Our sweet girl finally calmed down, and we went back into our room.  Sister Lucy said, "Tomorrow, you stay in room only."

We had dinner at about 7:30, and then went back to our room.  I wondered how bedtime would go.  She was hyper-energetic, and then suddenly had a glazed-over look.  I picked her up and sat on the bed, and once again she dropped off to sleep as I sang to her and laid down.  She slept all the night through.

We heard dogs barking in the night, strange (to us) bird songs, and the call to prayer at 5:45 a.m. for the mosque in Soluru, the nearby town.  There were noises from the Snehalaya hospital next door too -- it's part of the Society of Sisters of Charity's work, and where most of the children in the orphanage come from.  It was good for us to hear the sounds she's used to at night -- and very different from the honking horns and city traffic that Anya was used to.

* * * *

The next day, we literally only left our room for meals.  The sisters were very busy that day, since there was a state official visiting to evaluate the orphanage.  Sister Cynthia told us later that she was happy and impressed with the facility.  So were we -- it was apparent that the place is filled with love.  Every employee, from gardeners to nannies to kitchen help, all knew Kavya by name and talked to her anytime we left our room for meals; and several even stopped by and talked to her through our open windows throughout the day.  It was amazing, and made us even more grateful for the care she'd received.

Kavya was wonderful -- she is a resilient little girl, and so open to kindness and care.  She played and laughed with us, and was easy to keep busy all day.  We noticed that the children mostly played with each other indoors, and there were only a few toys -- perhaps that's why it was easy to keep her busy with the limited number of toys we brought out.  (We are trying to save some of them to be "new" to her during our week in Delhi, and for the flights home.)  Their outside play area had metal rocking seesaws and some wheeled toys, and the children play outside for 2 hours each morning and in late afternoon.  We could hear the kids playing, and Kavya noticed the sounds a few times too, but she didn't seem upset by it.

She picked up my phone and knew just what to do: she said "Hello?"
And she LOVES her toothbrush!
Sister Lucy had told us that they do a prayer service to commit the child to her new family, and officially say goodbye.  She came to get us at 5:30, inviting us to vespers and mass, which would precede the prayer service.  She walked us through the kitchen, then to the small chapel.  It was painted sky blue and yellow, and had open windows down both sides. At first, there were 12 sisters there, but the small chapel filled as the sisters sang and read vespers.  It was peaceful and beautiful to hear their voices filling the small space.  To our surprise, everything was sung and spoken in English, making it easy for us to participate.

Mass was also in English, and Sister Lucy prayed for Kavya and our family during the intentions.  Her words were simple, direct, and heartfelt, and spoke of a profound calling from God to raise children in the love of Christ and prepare them for a successful transition into a family.

The prayer service after Mass was short, but deeply moving.  Sister Lucy asked us to the front of the chapel and prayed for us as we commit to raising Kavya as our child.  The chapel was full, and she told us afterward that Kavya was well-loved, and this was the most sisters who had ever come to a service.  We feel so indebted to them -- one of the biggest reasons she is doing so well during these first days is because of how well they cared for her.  Peter and I cried, and were so aware of the huge changes ahead of Kavya -- and how grateful we are to God for bringing her into our lives.  We feel keenly the awesome responsibility of a child being entrusted to us for life, and it is our heartfelt desire to love her well.

Sister Lucy gave us tiny medals to commemorate the occasion -- they depict Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a child.  Peter's mom had given us a medal of Pope Francis to give to the sisters as well, and he gave it to Sister Lucy at the end of the service.  Many of the sisters stayed afterward to ask us questions about our families, and to say goodbye to Kavya.  Several asked for kisses on the cheek, which Kavya was happy to do.  They used English and Kannada words for "kiss" -- the Kannada word sounded like "kishoo", so she understands when we have asked for a kiss on the cheek too.

We headed back to our room to settle in for an early bedtime.  We had to wake up for a 2:30 a.m. drive to the airport, so we packed up quickly.

The stay at the orphanage was unexpected for us, but we are so grateful to have the chance to see how the nuns talked to Kavya, and see some of her daily routine, and what kinds of foods were served.  There was always a curry (vegetable, plantain, and chicken) and a cooked vegetable (which Kavya never ate!), along with chapati and rice.  That has helped us try different foods with her -- and we've seen how much she loves "biscuits," or shortbread-type cookies!  We also heard that the nuns used some English words with her, such as praising her by saying "good girl, Kavya!", and a few phrases such as "chocolate," "biscuits," and "kisses."

What a gift to be in her environment for a few days.  Another unexpected benefit was being completely out of our element all of a sudden -- we had to change our hotel plans, didn't know when meals were served, didn't know what kind of food would be served, didn't know much of anything . . . it helped create a lot of empathy for all of the new things that Kavya will be experiencing over the next weeks.  How much we ask of our kids when they first come home!  They are so brave, so trusting, so vulnerable -- and we pray that we will be sensitive to her fears and needs as she undergoes a complete change of environment in joining our family.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Part 2: When in India, be advised to kindly remain flexible

Today was Kavya Day!  We went in a little "blind", since our adoption agency had never worked with the Society of Sisters of Charity before, or known anyone else who had completed an adoption with them.  They had provided no details about how this day was going to work, so we went in with an open-ended attitude.

We've followed other families who adopted from India, and heard a range of stories about having scheduled visits with the child for two days, then bringing them home on the third day.  Or, as with Anya, we've known many families who meet their child and bring them home right away on that day.  We didn't know what to expect, and found out quickly that we would need to be flexible.

The nuns who greeted us seemed surprised to discover that we had come from a hotel.  They explained that families in the past have come to them right from the airport, stayed there for a few nights, then leave with their child to drive right to the airport to fly to Delhi.  Up until then, we hadn't heard any details from them about how the transition for Kavya was going to happen.  The nuns told us that, because she is older, they want her to spend a few days getting to know us before we leave with her.  We can see the wisdom in that plan, and decided to talk to our hotel staff about an earlier check out than we first thought.  It looks like we will be checking out of our hotel tomorrow, and spending Friday night and part of Saturday there . . . until it's time to go to the airport at 2:00 a.m.

So that was our first surprise.  With that straightened out, we headed in to meet our daughter!  They took us to a room, where we waited for a few minutes.  At last, we saw a nun coming down the hallway carrying our precious girl!

She had just woken from her nap, and was pretty quiet and groggy. The sisters brought us a tube of English biscuits (cookies) to help break the ice, then they left us alone with her.  We talked with a very quiet little Kavya at first.  Then we got out the Color Wonder supplies, which were a big hit!  She loved playing with them, and also with the Color Wonder markers and paper we brought along.

She is bright, spunky, funny, and AMAZING.  We had such a great time with her, and saw smiles and laughter from her.  The nuns described her as "very smart" and sometimes "naughty."  They also said she loves to eat.  She is petite, and seems small compared to my boys at her age.

She wanted to go to Peter at first, then came to Nancy.  We could hardly believe this experience was real.  We took turns giving her pieces of biscuit, and she ate almost an entire tube by herself.  She has a great sense of humor, too.  Anya had picked out a stuffed duckie for her, and we had a lot of fun sitting the duck on a shelf and knocking him off.  Anya was so sweet with her, laughing and giggling, and talking in a high voice to her.  It was just unbelievable to finally be in the same room together!

We did have one last surprise . . .we asked about her medical conditions.  Her Child Study Report said she was born with a cleft palate, and the nuns noted that she had some degree of "hearing defect."  Over the past year, we've educated ourselves about cleft lip and palate, and started to learn American Sign Language to prepare for whatever she needed.

Turns out there's not much need for that!  The sisters said she had a repair surgery done when she was 6 months old (though it's nowhere in her child study report).  And the sisters said her hearing is just fine!  Talk about an answered prayer!  We will still have her examined by an ENT specialist, just to make sure everything is okay with her ears, and that her surgery healed well.

So things are a little up in the air . . . tomorrow, we eat breakfast, then pack up and head to the orphanage to stay for a few days.  Then we will wake up at 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning,  and head out for our 7:00 flight!

We just want to take a moment to thank each of you who are reading.  All of you helped us fundraise, prayed for us, kept on asking how the adoption was going even when months went by with no news.  And I'm thinking especially of Rick, Jeanne, and Jon -- whose commitment to children, and to our child, set them apart.  How I wish they could be here for the final chapter of this particular story . . . and the first chapter of a whole new one.

And we also thank my sister Alicia, who has been present as each of our four children entered our family.  She took all of the photos in this post (and many more), and has been a huge encourager during this nearly-five-year process.  I can't believe she willingly signs on for long flights, unpredictable travel plans, and hanging out with us for 2 weeks.

We are so incredibly blessed, and look forward to seeing Kavya again tomorrow.

Part 1: Out and about in the morning

Sorry to do this in a two-part post!  But otherwise it's going to be super long . . . we thought that we'd better get out and see a little bit of Bangalore before we have a new two-year-old along for the ride.

When we set off in the car, Anya started talking about things she was seeing outside her window.  That started a conversation about what was different between Kolkata and Bangalore.  She asked for paper, and began writing up a list of things that were the same, and thing that were different about the two cities.  She has been doing very well with having her schedule thrown so dramatically off kilter.  She is such a trooper about traveling, and has done remarkably well with the different environments we find ourselves in, and the sightseeing and travel schedule. Her main obsession during the trip has been counting dogs that are loose on the street: we have seen 52 so far!  A close second for her is counting cows, which are allowed free reign in India.

We began our day by visiting one of the well-known Hindu temples.  We've noticed that there are many more temples here in Bangalore than in Kolkata -- you don't have to go far before you see tiered sculptures ornamenting a roof, telling you that you're near another temple.  We visited Belurmath, or The Bull Temple.  There is a massive sculpture of a bull there, and we walked through the temple to see it from all sides.

Next, it was on to Tipu Sultan's Palace.  Built in the 1700s, this summer residence is harmonious and symmetrical, and was completed in 1781.  There were fire buckets and extinguishers all over the place because it's made of teak wood, and is very flammable.  There are museum labels on the first floor showcasing the history of the structure and Tipu Sultan.  Here again, young people asked us to take their photos -- so we insisted on taking their picture in return!

We then went to a park in the heart of Bangalore.  As we walked, we saw the Parliament Building, the High Court for Karanataka state, and a public library.  We loved the park -- there were lots of people enjoying the sun and trees.  There was a tiny girl named Manya startling a flock of pigeons . . . we loved watching her run toward them, only to become shy at the last minute while they rose in a startled flurry.

Then it was time to head to Kavya's orphanage . . . so we began the one-hour drive, thinking that we would soon be stuffing another little person into our already-full car.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Revisiting our first days with Anya Rashi

Today's plan of action was centered on Anya Rashi. Ever since we began Kavya's adoption process, we hoped to bring Anya along for the trip to India. We wondered if she might be too young to find the trip meaningful -- but then the adoption process helped us out by taking a really long time!  We decided to visit some of the same places we went when we first ventured out of our hotel room with her, St. Paul's Cathedral and the Victoria Memorial.

She's seen photos of our previous visit  in her scrapbook, but since she was only 1, she has no memories. It was fun to tell her about how we walked through crowded streets to the Cathedral and the Memorial with her in the baby carrier.  We spent lots of time walking in the beautiful gardens and grounds.

We were surprised and delighted to find that the same Nativity scene we saw 6 years ago was still on display at the Cathedral!  They'd moved it to a different location on the grounds, but it was so much fun to show Anya the life-size figures, all of whom had tan/brownish skin and black hair (except for one wise man, who was causasian), even baby Jesus.  The interior is beautiful, with breathtaking stained glass.  And one detail made it very Indian: dozens of ceiling fans to use during the 8 hot months of the year!

The Victoria Memorial includes some old-school displays of Indian history and Victorian-era art.  The exterior and the grounds and gardens were the main attraction for us this time.  It is a green, peaceful oasis in the midst of a city bustling, congested city of 18 million.

I don't know if I can adequately describe how busy Kolkata is.  During our last visit, our hotel was just a few blocks from these two places, so we decided to walk there with Anya strapped into the Baby Bjorn carrier.  Let me tell you, we suddenly realized we could literally die on the way there!  Between the traffic driving on the "wrong" side of the road, the six lanes of vehicles crammed into space for two, and sidewalks that are as busy as the road -- walking anywhere is an adventure!

After our tourist/memory lane stops, we relived the walking experience.  Our afternoon plan was to visit ISRC, the baby home that cared for Anya.  We wanted to bring a little something with us, so we asked our driver Pintu to bring us somewhere to buy children's medicine and candy.  We went to a place called New Market, where we found a pharmacy.  The customer service in Indian shops is unbelievable -- everything is behind glass, so you point out what you need, and a clerk gets it for you, and another clerk writes up a bill so you can pay.

Then, to find a candy shop, Pintu led us a few blocks away to the Old Market, which began in 1847.  It was a rabbit warren of open air and enclosed shops, selling food, clothing, home items, jewelry and more.  It was colorful, chaotic and energizing.  We stopped at a shop to buy some nuts for the staff, and Anya picked out a bag of lollipops for the children.  I don't know how many of them are the right ages/will be able to eat a lollipop, but in her mind suckers are the pinnacle of treats, so we went with it!

Then it was on to the two locations operated by ISRC.  The first place we went was the building where they care for children with more profound special needs.  The ladies do a great job caring for children, some of whom have been there for their entire lives.  With the help of Illuminate India (a non-profit started by several adoptive moms!), the children receive speech and occupational therapies and several of them are making great progress with the new therapies.  There were a few kids there who really captured our hearts -- gorgeous children, each created lovingly in the image of God.

When the ayahs first opened the door for us, we told them that "Rashi" (the name Anya was given when she arrived there) was visiting.  Three of the women worked there when Anya was a baby, and remembered her!  We remembered Durba and Gita too, and have photos of them from our 2007 visit.  They cried out "Rashi! Rashi!", and caressed her cheeks.  They asked how old she was now, and a few other questions (there was a little bit of a language barrier) -- and showed us around the place.  We remembered seeing Swarnadip and Prasun in those same rooms -- both of those boys are now home with their families, and thriving!

After our tour, we went to the baby home where Anya spent her first year.  Ms. Roy, the director (who gave Anya the name "Rashi") was there.  She had a terrible cold, and had missed a few days of work this week -- we suspect she came in just because we were there.  We talked for a while in her office about the new India adoption process, and about some other families who adopted children around the same time as Anya -- and I said hello on behalf of a recent mom (Maggie!).  She held Anya's face in her hands, and asked about her age and schooling.

Then we headed in to see the room where Anya spent most of her baby days.  It seemed smaller than we remembered, but it brought back vividly the emotions and experience of meeting our girl for the first time.  We showed Anya where her crib was, then took some pictures -- and then we oohed and aahed over some of the beautiful children being cared for.  Most were napping, so we tried to be quiet . . . but three little girls were awake, and it was so fun to see Anya smile and talk to them.

Since we're on the verge of doing the same thing all over again, it made me have butterflies in my stomach . . . I was newly impressed by how many lives are changed through an adoption.  The parents, of course, are blessed with a new child to love, and challenged to love selflessly, promising to provide whatever that child needs.  The child leaves one culture behind, and leaves the only home she has known -- what an enormous thing we ask of them when we ask them to trust us!  It breaks my heart to think how vulnerable and brave our children are, and how scary those first days must be for them.  And the people surrounding the adoptive family are changed too -- that's often how the idea of adoption spreads, and more children find a family.  Adoption can be such a glorious reflection of God's love for us, and how He invites each of us to be part of His family.  It is also a reminder of the value of every person -- every child deserves a family, and every child is worth the time and effort it takes to adopt.

It was such a blessing to have another chance to thank Ms. Roy for the care Anya received there.  She and her staff are dedicated, amazing people who truly want to help children who would otherwise be destined for life in an institution.  We headed for the car, hearts full.

We spent Wednesday morning at a scary children's museum that was frozen in about 1961 -- think creepy dolls and dioramas!! And then we had a great rest of the morning outside at a brand-new Eco Park.  There was a huge rose garden, a lake with boat rentals, broad walking paths (a rarity in Kolkata!), statues, Bonsai trees, and more.  It was lovely -- and a great way to get some fresh air outside the city, before we headed to the airport for our flight to Bangalore.

Tomorrow is the day we meet Kavya -- a day nearly five years in the making.  We are overwhelmed that it is finally time to meet our daughter in person, and so grateful to each person who has played a role in getting us here.  Our next post will be all about her!