The day is winding down, and we are snug in bed. Yes, I use the laptop in bed as I am tucked in under my electric blanket! I usually lose the thermostat wars and have given up fighting, so I have found a way to make Dominick suffer in another way, by pounding away on a keyboard while he is laying next to me trying to go to sleep. That way I can say "Yes Dear, I can stop, but it is just so cold in the house that this is the only way I can stay warm without turning up the heater."!
We are pooped, plain and simple. We have been on the run the past couple of days as we have gathered last minute documents, sent off for visas, pulled everything out and spread it across the living room floor to begin stacking and packing. It is no easy feat to take 5 of us halfway around the world during the school year for several weeks! I am not kidding when I say the stack of books Matthew is taking is a foot high, at least, and that is just reading material not really any other school work. I have no idea what all we will end up with for Kenny and Josh, but I am sure we will have quite a pile to haul. We are hoping to be basically packed and have everything done by Thanksgiving Day, so we can enjoy the remainder of our time home and relax (and maybe even sleep a little!).
As it stands right now, we will be departing Montrose on Wednesday, December 2nd. The route I outlined earlier is the one we will be taking. Despite the great suggestions to fly direct to Astana rather than Almaty and then back to Astana, our agency and in-country coordinator want us to go through Astana, so that's what we'll be doing. We should arrive in Almaty on Saturday, December 5th, and then on to Astana/Petropavlovsk either that day or the next. We aren't certain what the plan is and will know more later.
Anticipation is in the air as everyone readies themselves for the trip. We were in the car today and I asked the boys how they were feeling about everything, as it is suddenly all happening very fast. The consensus was that everyone couldn't wait and was very excited. I then asked what they thought it would be like the first few minutes they met their sisters and Joshua replied "I know it will be just like with Kenny, it will be like we have always been together.". Matthew agreed saying "It might be weird for 5 minutes or so, but then I think it will be easy." I am heartened to know they are all so open to this and ready to accept new siblings so easily and warmly.
As for Dominick, I think it will be so much fun to watch him be a Daddy to girls. For years he has tried to act as if he is a full-on boy dad with no desire to have girlie things added to his life, but those of us who know him well aren't fooled. He has two little girlfriends at church whom he adores, and one who is 3 was perched on a table the other day while he was deep in conversation with her asking how to do girl's hair, and saying he needed her help because he couldn't practice on his own...as he pointed at his bald head. I think he will be incredibly warm and loving, and provide a male role model that until now has been sorely lacking.
And me? Well, I haven't had a moment for it all to really sink in yet. After all this time, where your heart has been protected like an avocado green 1960's couch encased in skin-sticking plastic, it is hard to really internalize that it is finally happening. I see the evidence all around me, I am shuffling documents like crazy, and yet it feels sort of like our wedding day. We had been dating 4 years and knew from Day 1 we were going to be together the rest of our lives, but had to wait because I was only 15 years old. When the Big Day finally arrived, it was not some sort of breathless moment where I sobbed or totally lost it. Instead it was more of a sense of relief that the waiting was over and we could finally get on with our lives together. At the moment, I think that is more where I am emotionally with it all.
Of course, the moment we walk through the doors of that orphanage all of that might change, and all bets are off. :-)
What will it be like, those first moments when we all are together? Will there be shyness? Will there be an inexplicable comfort and familiarity? Will it be awkward? How will all the kids react? Will there be doubts or certainty? Will they feel like "mine" when they are in my arms? So many questions that will soon be answered. Reminding myself that this is not a fairy tale always helps. Keeping expectations realistic is so helpful to me. This is an "arranged marriage" of sorts, and understanding that love takes time to grow helps a lot to tamp down any image of an "ideal first encounter". It is unnatural, you are being observed by others from another culture who do not speak your language and who due to cultural differences often view how we act or carry ourselves as very odd. You know you are being judged and this first sensitive meeting will often be reported on in court.
I have been blessed thus far though to find that reality far surpassed any ideal I may have carried around in my head for many months. It may have taken awhile to get there, but eventually the relationship with each of the boys grew to proportions never before imaginable.
We still have a lot to do before stepping on that plane, and we intend to enjoy our remaining time here at home for all it is worth. This will be an extraordinarily special Thanksgiving for all of us, and we will be with friends and then fitting in some pre-travel, pre-Christmas fun before we go. We will still participate in a couple of holiday traditions since we will be missing Christmas in Montrose. Black Friday specials might help with the gift buying for officials over in Kazakhstan!! We will attend the Friday evening tree lighting in town and sing carols. If we can find a Santa somewhere we will sneak in a quick visit and share with him that he needs to leave gifts here at home but can fill stockings in Kazakhstan :-) . We also have a special craft day at Matthew's art school for all the boys to enjoy. So there is still a lot to cram in the next week or so, in addition to packing, finalizing everything here, and tying up lose ends.
We have had so many kind offers of help, including a friend who is a notary coming to visit today to help us get some last minute documents done, to another bringing a pizza for dinner and a visit, knowing our fridge is dwindling on purpose. Another has offered to keep an eye on our house and help in any way, and still others have offered to help with the boys for any last minute things we might need to do...like stocking shopping.
There are, of course, a few things we will not be getting done. There will be no Christmas cards this year (I am not that obsessive!), no tree to put up, no holiday baking. But I have an inkling that much of that won't be missed all that much this year as we have the very special opportunity for our kids to experience Christmas in their birth country. What a neat thing for all of us!! And then there is the gift from God of not having to buy one more ornament for our tree this year for children who are not yet with us, for although we might not be home, we will be together...and home is wherever your family is.
I'll keep you all posted as the week goes on, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love and concern for us as we travel. And we invite you to join us this coming month for a very special "Kazakh Christmas"!!!