‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

All is Well, and We're Headed Home

I wish very much that I had had time to write while here, but it was just not to be. Being a single mom means there is no tag-teaming during an adoption. And with the rules of her country, I had to stay here an entire month. That meant a month in one small hotel room, together 24/7, with no break from one another except brief stints in the bathroom each day (if I was lucky.) It is obvious that if we both were able to survive this imposed semi-imprisonment together, we can survive anything the future holds.

I can't say much publicly yet, but I will say this: Latvian adoption is infinitely more humane a process than Russian adoption. Everything from the social workers to the orphan court staff, to any and all Latvian officials, to Embassy staff, to the attorneys and other supports were nothing short of kind, honest, helpful, understanding, and, shockingly humane. I say shockingly because, after having suffered through three long and painful adoptions in Russia (only one successful), I came to expect and anticipate that international adoption was and would always be frustrating, unjust, fraught with dishonest dealings and misunderstandings, tyranny, abuse of power, and horrifically inhumane treatment - for the child and the parent.

I'm so glad I was wrong.

Seeing how Latvia handles and cares for its' children makes me even more angry about Putin and his many hundreds of government minions across Russia. My anger is so immense for this man, my outrage over his mistreatment of his country's children so vast, that it often keeps me up at night still, going on nine years. I could not possibly put a number on the prayers I've prayed and tears I've wept for Russia's children, and yet even one prayer or one tear is still one more than Putin has ever prayed or shed for them.

This time in Latvia has been an incredible blessing, even though I fought that blessing for the past four weeks! Being away from Nastia was excruciatingly painful. I feel so awful for my poor mother who had to endure one of the most tearful outpourings of grief I've ever experienced, and while enduring the world's worst skype connection, no less.  I missed Nastia so badly one day, that I honestly contemplated just getting on a plane and risking losing this adoption. I know that may sound extreme, but I'd rather be honest, so that other moms about to walk this path know how hard it can be. Being away from your children for that long is worse than torture. And I will never do it again.

Thankfully, the many prayers of friends and my mom, and the many words of support from the same, got me through that dark night. Nastia, experiencing her own terrible darkness at home, survived, too. And I'll venture to say now that we are both likely the stronger for having walked through it.

M is doing very well. She is grieving the loss of her foster family very hard, but that is good. It means she was strongly attached to them and bodes well for all her relationships in the future. She is still unable to call me 'Mom' more than maybe three or four times a week - but we are getting there. She is a fascinating little girl - more clever than I imagined, powerfully strong-willed, sensitive to a fault, curious about everything, fun-loving, gentle hearted and wanting to save every homeless animal and person she comes across. She is very very moody, but fairly quick to recover. She loves God passionately, and my favorite part of every day is when she stretches out her hand in the dark to find mine, and says her prayers aloud:

'God? It's me, M. Thank you for all the good things you gave to me today.I wanted to ask you some favors. Please send angels to every animal and person in the world who is alone or hungry or hurt or has no home. Send Special angels to [fostermom], [half-sisters], [bio-mom], [little brother in orphanage], Nastia, my new mom, Grammy, Emily, LeeAnne, Sarah and Maeve. Please help everyone in the world to feel as happy as I am. And say hi to My Dad, Keri's Dad, and Nastia's Dad in heaven. Amen.'

This is her prayer every night, with few changes. The fact that a little girl who has experienced so much trauma and loss in her little life can voice such a prayer is mind-boggling to me. And yet, it is her prayer, and I am so grateful she can feel and speak it.

We are leaving in a few days. We'll be home just in time for Christmas, and none too soon! I'll be able to post more once home, since I might finally get a moment to myself!  I'll try to find some photos to post below.

Merry Christmas, Everyone.

Oh, and P.S: Happy 110th Birthday to my Grammy, Margaret Sweeney Howard! I hope you're enjoying the fascinating show playing out here in your family, below, from your perfect vantage point in Heaven. I love you.

M in Old Riga, before the snow.

Christmas Market in Old Riga

The Cathedral and Christmas Market

Santa takes a break for some mulled wine.


  1. Anonymous12:02 PM

    Congrats! That's awesome!! I'm so glad to hear the adoption's going well and that you'll be reunited with Nastia soon!


  2. Anonymous5:06 PM

    Beautiful prayer, and beautiful photos!

  3. I feel like I've been on this ride with your for so many years! HORRAY! You are coming home!

  4. So glad you're both on the way home. (And, have to confess that I've mentally earmarked Latvia as a possibility for us…one day.)

  5. Anonymous12:24 AM

    So glad you are coming home for Christmas! So glad Latvia worked out for you, the photos are beautiful!

  6. I am happy that you've found the Blessing of the past 4 weeks. And, that you are coming home with your new daughter. I'm happy that Nastia is stronger, even through the pain of separation. I am happy that sweet Matilda knows God and that she can pray. Love to You and all of your family. ~ Jo

  7. I am happy to have checked back and to see your adoption completed. You are and will continue to be a wonderful Mom. I agree with you in your Putin posts. In 2002 our adoption went very well. In 2007-2009 our failed adoption was a miserable experience. Our agency, Adoption Options, shouldn't be in business. I still regret having chosen them. To me adoption should be about the children not teetering on the "agency you choose." The experience should've been similar across the board and it was never the same from family to family and from month to month. Stories are found to be drastically different once compared. I feel fortunate that we have our only son tough and we focus on him. Have a Merry Christmas and I am glad you are back with Nastia. She'll be a great big sister. Your photos are beautiful.

  8. HI there! I've been reading your blog since I began blogging in 2008 and I find you truly inspirational. I was adopted from Russia and have a chance to visit this summer finally! I need some help funding my way there, so i was wondering if you could share my donation page with your blog followers (you have way more than I do) Thank you and God bless! http://www.gofundme.com/5ucbd4

  9. Well, Latvia gets the prize, then! I love them because they don't have age limits, though I'd have so say our adopting days are over (from what my husband says frequently). If they are humane they are better than the US fostercare system, that's for sure. I'm so sorry the time was so dreadfully difficult for you, but reading this certainly makes me understand why you crashed on arriving home. You poor thing.


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