Adoption Trip (Part 1 of 2) (9/16/2007)
[This is part 1 of the day-by-day account of our trip to adopt Izabela. Most of it is gleaned from emails we sent during the trip so may sound familiar to some of you.]

Torun: Day 1 – 4

Our journey had a rocky beginning as we didn’t have seat assignments on our tickets. When we tried to book the seats online the night before, 3 seats together didn’t seem possible. We arrived at the airport very early, thinking we would get seats during our baggage check in. Not so. Just as the plane began boarding, we joined the very long line of people who apparently also didn’t have seat assignments. We were deemed a high priority since we were traveling with Dante, but in the end we nevertheless were not seated together, though at least two of us were, and the other was in the same row. Dante survived the flight admirably, completing 22 mazes and a large section of a new and considerably advanced invisible ink travel activity book.

Once in Chicago, the trip began to get interesting, as we had to take the train from Terminal 1 to Terminal 5. This was definitely the high point of the day and if we had not managed to find Dziadzi, I am sure Dante would have thought that riding on that train for 3 hours or so would have been just peachy. Thankfully Mommy and Daddy were spared that tedium and instead we hooked up with Dziadzi at the food court for some Pizzeria Uno followed by, naturally, several games of Uno and a bit of chit chat.

We were called to the gate about an hour before the next flight. This time we had seats all together in a nice and comfy aisle-middle-aisle configuration and we weathered the rest of the flight without incident.

Our luggage did too, which was comforting. Dante and I seemed to react badly to the air in Warsaw, and found ourselves coughing and gasping for breath shortly after landing. The cab ride to Torun was shorter this time, but we were nevertheless less than amused waiting in Warsaw traffic attempting to get out of the city while watching a worker manually painting stripes onto newly laid highway asphalt. Even Dante couldn’t fathom why they were doing it “that way”.

We stayed in a very beautiful, albeit somewhat expensive, hotel in Torun, called Hotel Spichrz (don’t even ask how to pronounce that!). It was very hot. The hotel was about a half hour walk from the foster family’s house. We made the trek 4 times each day in the grueling heat. Chris, the ultimate mapper, was amused by Magda’s lack of sense of direction and honed what started as a 45 minute walk down to just under 30 minutes by finding various “shortcuts”. Dante enjoyed the walks, especially when he became acquainted with chestnuts and quince fruit which were lying about for the taking.

One afternoon during Izabela’s nap, we all took a short cruise on the Vistula River. While waiting for the boat to begin boarding, Dante was first introduced to the idea of paying (about 50 cents) to use a “restroom” (honeypot). He was very disturbed by this and I had half a mind to just let him let it go in the grass out of protest. But anticipating that this could pose behavioral problems in the future, my sensibilities got the better of me so we capitulated and “Paid to Pee”.

While acquiring the court’s permission to transfer custody of Izabela from her legal guardian (the foster father) to us for the bonding period, we discovered that the judge was still on vacation and as usual various “miscommunications” have been occurring. So all of a sudden our court date, which we were told would be Sep 3 or 4, would actually be September 14. A bit of a problem since Chris and Dante were supposed to be back in the US on Sept 9 so Dante could start school (already a week late). So everyone’s trip would have to be extended an extra two weeks. Not what we were prepared for, but we had no choice but to adapt.

During our time at the foster family’s home, I spent some time talking with the family while Chris played with Izabela and Dante in one room and the rest of the curious kids were foisted off into a different room to “leave us alone”. Every once in a while they just could not stay away in their excitement, so Chris ended up entertaining pretty much the entire horde of kids. The poor dear used his rudimentary Polish to create games for all of them in the tiny room while making sure Dante didn’t knock anyone or anything over with his overly healthy boyish 4.5 year old exuberance. It takes a certain kind of person to be able to handle all that chaos…

My talks with the foster family were very revealing. I discovered that the delay in getting a court date was in part due to missing paperwork, including the loss of Izabela’s birth certificate, which I viewed with my own eyes in April at the adoption center, but which the foster family was told they had never remitted to the center. The most surprising revelation led to tears on both sides. They told me that the Judge would be asking Izabela’s guardian if we, as the adopting parents, had “exhibited any interest in the child during our waiting period or had made any contact with the foster family”. To our great horror, the foster mother told me that the answer to this question should normally be “yes, lots”. She had apparently lain awake at night for almost 2 months wondering why we hadn’t contacted them and fearing that we didn’t want Izabela after all! She had no idea we’d been forbidden from contacting them. To make matters worse, when she called the adoption center after the email I sent at the end of June, she was told that no papers had been filed with regard to any adoption of Izabela, so she was left thinking we’d changed our minds! We were later told that only the lawyers involved in the process are allowed to know “which papers had been filed” and that even the foster family had to remain in the dark during the process. It all seemed very strange to us.

Tonight, our last evening in Torun, the foster family graciously invited us to attend a party at an orphanage to meet some of the other adults who were working together to create reasonable environments for homeless children, as well as some of the children themselves. Feeling rather awkward as he had no clue what was being said any of the time, Chris immersed himself with feeding Izabela, Dante made some friends and we all had a fun time listening to guitar music and singing songs.

Ciechocinek: Day 5

Today, the foster family kindly drove us to Ciechocinek and we began life as a tentative family of four at a very pleasant bed and breakfast named Pensjonat Lila. We were all in a room about the size of our master bathroom at home, with a queen size bed, a crib, a love seat that unfolded into a double bed for Dante at night, a clothes drying rack, a table and chairs, TV, small fridge, and Wireless Internet access. In other words, not much room for maneuvering. But doable. Unfortunately the shower was badly caulked, leaking water onto the floor and causing me to slip and severely bruise my arm, knee and leg.

We were shocked to experience no major fuss (just a little during bath time when I didn’t get the water temperature *just right* on the first try) or even any “going to sleep in a strange place with strange people” anxiety and crying for which we were prepping ourselves. The three of us sat on the love seat after putting Izabela down, anticipating instant protest and a tiresome night of getting up every few minutes to comfort her. Dante behaved amazingly well and showed us that he did in fact have the ability to whisper. And though he was dying of curiosity to check in on her, not a peep came out of the crib. When we did let him check, Izabela was fast asleep, holding her cloth diaper by her face and gently sucking on her pacifier. Even Dante was surprised.

Ciechocinek: Day 6

The Bed and Breakfast has a little kitten, a rabbit, a chinchilla (which Dante immediately identified, to the stupefaction of some of the Polish staff, who were amazed that a 4-year old had ever heard of one), and a beautiful fish tank in the lobby. So there’s been plenty to look at.

The heat has been unbearable and we’ve were walking around completely drenched in sweat. Along with the heat and humidity, the mosquitoes arrived. Unfortunately, they all decided Izabela was the sweetest one to dine on, and this morning she woke with blotches on her face, as it was the only part of her body left uncovered at night. While getting information on Izabela’s likes and dislikes from the foster family, we were informed that she was potentially allergic to strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, and who knows what else. It seems mosquitoes may be on that list.

Izabela peed in her potty for the first time. Apparently she had been poo’ing in it on occasion in Torun. Seeing her amenable to the idea of using the potty, I decided we would continue the training.

We had also been warned that getting any sort of liquid into Izabela was difficult. Today she drank 2 ounces of juice in the park, instead of a snack. We considered that a big success. Normally her liquid consumption seemed limited to about 2 spoonfuls at a time.

Ciechocinek: Day 7 – Day 10

Things are going so well that no one staying at the hotel even considers the possibility that Izabela hasn't been with us since birth. Frankly, aside from the fact that we kept worrying that we weren't doing things the way she was used to, it basically feels that way for us as well.

Dante and Izabela are like night vs. day in many ways, and yet they complement each other very well. While Dante is loud and extroverted, Izabela is quiet and introspective. While he eats little and drinks a lot, she eats a lot and drinks little. While he wants attention all the time, she is little Ms Independent. While Dante shies away from things that he can't immediately conquer, she tries and tries and tries again. While Dante's bedtime at her age was a trial and tribulation, we were shocked at how instantly she goes to sleep when put down. Dante has no known allergies, but it looks like she may be allergic to various things.

On the other hand they both adore music and like it as loud as possible. They both love to dance. They both love animals and in theory both prefer dogs over cats (much to our dismay, since that probably means we will be outvoted regarding the next animal to eventually add to our household). They both like to take each other’s toys, but only Dante seems to dislike having his toys taken, for now. They both like things with buttons and it was difficult to keep Izabela from playing with the laptop, Daddy's watch, the cell phone, and the camera.

There is no question that Izabela is delayed in development and basically behaves like a perfectly normal one year old (rather than a 17 month old). So there is a lot of catching up to do. We keep alternating between thinking she will be just fine now that she is getting several orders of magnitude more attention versus worrying whether there might be something more permanent about the delays. She’s shown definite signs of cleverness (for example during her bath when I chastised her for pouring water out of the bathtub using her ducky as a scoop, she readily complied, but then came up with a loophole and started pouring water onto the toilet instead). She easily caught on to the ASL sign for "more" and has been peeing in the potty 4 times a day. On the other hand she never responds to yes or no questions, can’t seem to identify who is who, and babbles using a very constrained set of phonemes for someone her age. Time will tell, but we will love her no matter what her potential is.

Izabela took a couple steps on her own, but she immediately tottered into my arms. Her legs and back are not strong yet, and it really feels like she could benefit from some chiropractic adjustment. Not to mention endless hours just practicing her marching around (with us hunched over her, holding her hands to keep her steady).

At this point we (and we think she) feel like we are ready to go home together, so the extra 2 weeks of waiting due to the court-date delay is really quite frustrating. Dante is beginning to make homesick noises, as we are rather cramped in this one room "mini-apartment". We go out for walks and whatnot, but there is only so much stroller time that seems appropriate.

We did manage a rather long trek to the Vistula River, where Dante did gymnastics on a bar over a precipice, and where Izabela attempted to practice walking in the uneven grass with little success. After a brief visit by the water, and the consumption of a Torcik Wedlowski (known in this family unfortunately as a “Polish Kit Kat”) the rain chased us back to our room.

Chris has been going mosquito hunting every night in the room, trying to protect Izabela from the mosquitos which seem to find their way into the room through some secret passageway. Thanks to the clove oil we’ve bathed Izabela in every night (the recommendation of a lady eating at our table), Chris’s nightly Jihad and the gradual change in the weather, Izabela’s face has slowly been returning to normalcy.

This week’s most embarrassing moment: trying to buy tampons and pads at a store. Apparently drugstores (drogeria) don't carry them. I had to go to a pharmacy. Of course they looked at me like I was from another planet because there I was speaking Polish but not knowing how/what to ask for…

Ciechocinek: Day 11 – 12

Izabela held her bottle on her own and drank from it for the first time. We didn’t feed her quite as much as she was used to, and as such she discovered thirst. Juice seemed to be her drink of choice, but we have begun getting her used to a few drops of bottled water every once in a while.

Her passion is to walk. She wants nothing more than to practice, practice, and practice. Our backs ached unbelievably, but for the first time it is possible to walk with Izabela at the park holding on to only one hand, rather than two.

She’s been peeing 3 or 4 times a day regularly in her potty over the past week, and the wait for success has been getting shorter and shorter (perhaps because there was a bit more liquid to pee).

We finally experienced our first “Izabela tantrum”. She was coloring with pencils and wanted to put them into her mouth. I told her not to put them into her mouth a few times, which she very clearly understood, until finally I took the pencils away. She suddenly let out a horrible squeal and lay down on the ground crying. I almost had to laugh, because it was such a textbook tantrum, which I had never experienced before with Dante. When I left her there, she calmed herself immediately and lifted her head to check to see if I was looking at her. The instant I peeked, she began crying again. She repeated the maneuver several times until she was finally convinced I was not about to let her manipulate me like that. Devious little critter! Later that evening she got her pencils back and this time they didn’t go into her mouth, though she did attempt to insert them into MY mouth.

Izabela’s drawing (scribbling) skills are superior to Dante’s at this age, and she will happily fill a page with scribbles, though she does like to switch colors frequently. She is obviously right handed and right footed (when she attempted to go up stairs she would only use her right foot first; she still can’t handle going down stairs at all).

Dante has been on his best behavior lately. He spent 3 hours a day speaking in a whisper, and he seemed to actually enjoy the exercise. We reserved a “special time for him” after Izabela went to bed and he felt “older” since he got to go to bed later than Izabela. We received nothing but compliments from the other guests at the bed and breakfast with regard to his behavior, as we eat all our meals with them at the same time. He’s had his moments, of course, but all in all, we are proud of our big boy.

Somehow, Chris managed to damage a ligament in his left arm and so we finally went for a medical consultation. He was sentenced to 8 sessions of cryo-therapy, otherwise described by Chris as “a very expensive, very cold ice cube”.

Ciechocinek: Day 13 – Day 14

This weekend was a big treat for us. Since we’ve been restricted from traveling beyond the jurisdiction of the province, some of my family opted to come visit us. On Saturday, Ciocia Ewa (my father’s sister) drove up with Tomek (her older son) and Malgosia (his wife) and Julia (their, also adopted, daughter). On Sunday she arrived with Marek (her younger son) and Joasia (his wife).

Dante was thrilled to have a playmate more his own size, and although they couldn’t understand each other very well, Dante and Julka grew attached to each other fairly quickly and seemed to really take a liking to each other. Once the initial shyness wore off, the two very extroverted children were attached at the hip all day, roughhousing, mimicking each other and trying to outdo each other with their antics. We figure that's more what Dante originally had in mind when we said he was getting a sister. She even gifted him with a helmet, sword, and shield from a medieval fair she had recently attended, which she herself loved to play with and which she had picked out. We had gotten her some Polly Pockets.

We went to the children’s park first. It was the only park in Ciechocinek with a play structure (clearly the town was designed with the elderly in mind) and Dante and Julka had a blast on the see-saw together until it started to rain. We huddled under a tree en masse to escape the worst of it, and finally decided it was time to go find some ice cream to brighten the spirits of the wet adults. Ciocia Ewa, who had spent considerable time in Ciechocinek “recuperating”, recommended her favorite “Viennese Café”, where we had ice cream and delicious pastries.

The rain was frightened off by our consumption of frozen delicacies, so we decided not to return to the bed and breakfast and instead went to visit the salt towers all together, as we had never been there, to “breathe in the salty healing air”. Chris, with Tomek’s full approval, made fun of this, inserting his hurting hand into the “healing waters” and entertained the two munchkins, who constantly vied for who could climb the more dangerous pillar. Monkey see, monkey do. Izabela absorbed everything from her stroller and calmly seemed to enjoy herself while I chatted with Ciocia Ewa and Malgosia.

The next day, this time with Marek and Joasia, Ciocia Ewa attempted to find other parks and routes that we had failed to discover on our own.

We had a great time during their visits and it made me even sadder that we couldn’t travel around Poland visiting my family for a month after the court date, like we had originally planned. We also enjoyed getting positive feedback from them regarding Izabela as a member of our family.

Ciechocinek: Day 15

Someone from the Adoption Center came to "observe" us with Izabela today. Magda said we should "act naturally". We were not sure how we were supposed to do that when 1. we were completely terrified of screwing something up in front of someone who could unilaterally call the whole thing off and 2. we had two anxious parents, a hyperkinetic 4 2/3 year old, a 1 1/2 year old drama queen desperately trying to practice walking, our translator/coordinator and the "observer" all jammed into a space with barely enough room to turn around without running into someone. She didn't take Izabela with her when she left, so I guess we passed :)

Izabela has become even more comfortable with us, to the point where she has shed her Good Little Girl routine and will now pointedly throw a well-acted but short-lived temper tantrum if she doesn't instantly get what she wants. While previously we'd commented on how readily she plays independently, accepting but not demanding attention, it appears she has decided that she really enjoys being the center of attention and has begun competing with her big brother for it, much to his dismay.

After a very emotionally draining morning, we unfortunately had to stay inside the rest of the day as it was pouring. The kids danced to music the whole afternoon, but even Izabela felt claustrophobic and kept going up to the stroller and attempting to unfold it.

Ciechocinek: Day 16

We took a taxi back to Torun to meet up with the foster father and to go get Izabela her next set of (18 month) shots. She only saw him and Marta, as everyone else was at the summer house. The whole apartment was in disarray as they were getting new floors put in, so it was very different, but I am sure she “recognized” the place. She wasn’t happy about the shots, but did fine and we returned to Ciechocinek in another taxi without incident.

Ciechocinek: Day 17 – 18

The shots, or perhaps the return to her previous home, made for a slightly distressing night, as every once in a while Izabela would wake and squeal a little bit and lose her pacifier. I spent the night vigilant, recovering the lost binky or moving Izabela from squishing herself into the corners of her crib every half an hour or so. As such we were both yawning at breakfast and I was happy to nap during her nap as well.

Magda had informed us that Chris would need to take a bus to Warsaw on Friday, Sept 7 to go to the Embassy and sign some papers and get them notarized. The night before she called to let us know that the notary was unavailable and that he would have to go on Tuesday the following week, instead. We started rearranging our flights and tickets to account for the change in court date.

Ciechocinek: Day 19 – 22

The weather has taken a 180 degree turn to downright cold and constantly raining. Although Chris and I have been getting much needed massages at the place we are staying, we haven’t yet felt comfortable enough with Izabela to try to take her swimming. The indoor pool is in an adjacent “medical” building a short walk away, where Chris has been going to his cryo-therapy treatments. We finally decided to try to go. Kids under 7 are free, but adults cost 7 Zl per hour (about $3). You receive a special electronic wristband to wear that keeps track of the time you entered and the time you left the pool. You pay ahead of time at the bed and breakfast reception area and then take your “ticket” to the “cashier” at the medical building, where they give you the bracelet, which also doubles as a locker key. We had to purchase special pool shoes and pool caps as well.

The ozone water pool was a big hit. Dante immediately began devising tests and tricks for himself to take advantage of the various high powered sprays and currents in the pool, the likes of which he had never seen before. He swam pretty much on his own, or with a board, and seemed to make friends with everyone, young and old, with his boyish exuberance and competitive nature.

Izabela was no doubt in shock and did not let out even a tiny peep the whole time we were there. We were worried she might begin crying immediately, but she was happy to remain attached to my neck and to float on her belly as I swam backwards in the water and paddled her feet a bit. She seemed to like the bubbles in the adjacent tub, which was in theory a hot tub, but which was barely lukewarm. When I asked the life guard about the temperature, I was informed it was exactly the number of degrees it was supposed to be, so apparently their definition of “hot tub” is a bit different than ours.

Anyhow, we’ve spent the last 4 days completely wet, either from the pool or from the rain getting to and from the pool. Chris has been feeling particularly water-logged and is almost beginning to look forward to his solo trip to Warsaw tomorrow.

Ciechocinek: Day 23

Chris left for Warsaw early in the morning, armed with the necessary paperwork, reading material for the bus, some snacks, and a piece of paper to show the bus driver where he needed to get off. I was nervous the whole day, not knowing how he was doing.

The kiddos decided that without Daddy, it would be only fair to see who could monopolize Mommy more effectively. They suddenly became terribly jealous of each other for my attention.

Izabela learned a new trick to get me to pick her up. She would crawl up to me, catch a hold of my legs, stand herself up, and then release me, putting her arms up for me to pick her up. Naturally, in her still unsteady state this would cause her to very quickly start to topple over backwards, forcing me to pick her up before her head would come crashing down to the floor. I was reluctant to “just let her fall once or twice until she learned not to”. Of course Dante, in his zeal to protect Izabela from hitting the back of her head on the floor, did manage to help her get a rather nasty goose egg on her forehead from the radiator instead. Don’t even ask about the physics involved in that situation.

Dante already has an arsenal of attention-demanding tricks, so he doesn’t need any new ones to make my life more complicated. And of course when they both end up not getting what they want, Dante manipulates Izabela into cleverly ganging up on me!

The sun came out finally in the afternoon, so we went to the park, where Dante met a 6 year old boy named Kuba who was eagerly taking English lessons. They attempted to communicate and after romping around on the play structure a bit, spent some time searching the sand for treasure.

Dante was so tired from a day filled with aggravating Mommy as much as possible and then running around all over the park that he fell asleep in the middle of the Polish Dobranocka (a 20 minute program for children „for goodnight” that is shown every evening at 7 pm and which usually consists of old episodes of American favorites such as Bob the Builder and the Backyardigans).

Chris returned from his 12 hour trip quite exhausted. He was at the Embassy all of 10 minutes. And of course despite our asking for specific details as to what needed to be filled out, and a whole lot of papers being filled out, not all the information was there, and Chris and Magda had to guesstimate some of the “facts”.

Ciechocinek: Day 24

Today was the pinnacle of what will henceforth be known as “the 8 Zloty saga”.

Some background: The day we were observed by the social worker from the Adoption Center, Chris was unable to go to his pre-paid and scheduled cryo-therapy. I was told that I should be able to get reimbursed for this. I figured it would be worth it to reclaim our almost $4, if at least to get an hour’s worth of swimming for it.

On Sunday, I took Chris’s “treatment schedule” to the medical building’s “cashier”. Although there were people there taking money for swimming and such, they informed me that they were not opened for that type of transaction on Sundays and to come back on Monday.

I came back on Monday late afternoon because that was when we were swimming again. I was told the “cashier” was only open until 2 pm.

Today (Wednesday) Dante and I went swimming at around 10 am, so I decided to go to the cashier on my way in. It turned out that first I have to have some sort of ticket from some lady who was supposed to “be right back”. Half an hour later she finally showed up. She asked why Chris had missed his appointment and I told her we had a visit from the adoption center at that time. At first she didn’t want to write out the ticket because she felt “it was our own fault”. I told her that when I had paid for the treatments I was assured that if he missed any we would be reimbursed regardless of cause. She finally reluctantly wrote out the ticket and told me to go back to the cashier.

At the cashier, they decided I was at the “wrong cashier” and that I needed to go to some administrative building and find the cashier there. After a rather long description of how to get to this building supplied by three extremely idle cashiers, I headed in that general direction with Dante and did manage to find it. But once inside the building, which was open, all the doors along the hallways were locked! I finally managed to find an unlocked office of a director of something or another, who told me to knock on some locked door (which was not marked, cashier, or otherwise). Two ladies sat at their desks drinking coffee. I showed them the ticket. They immediately wanted to see ID. I explained that we were going swimming and were already changed, so I was not carrying around ID and that the amount to be refunded was tiny. And when I mentioned it was for my husband, they informed me that I could not complete the <$4 transaction in his name! They also told me the cashier was closed from noon to 1 and that “in the interest of not causing anyone inconvenience” it was open during that time “where the pool is”.

Back at the pool, when we left our swim session, it was between noon and 1 pm, so I reattempted the pool cashier just to see if perhaps they wouldn’t be quite so demanding of ID for a <$4 reimbursement. They of course decided they were on lunch break and told me to go back to the administrative building.

Needless to say, by this point I decided the $4 was just not worth any more of our time.

Which is probably what they were counting on.

Ciechocinek: Day 25

Today, the plan was for Magda to visit us and “get us ready for court”. She was also going to arrange childcare for Dante and Izabela, as the children are not permitted in court. At 8 pm we still had no word from her, so I started trying to call her. At first I was unable to get a connection at all, but when I finally got a hold of her, I found out that she was in a bus on her way to Torun, but that she had missed the bus that would stop at Ciechocinek, so she would not be stopping by that evening. So much for us getting prepared.

When I asked about the childcare plans, her response was “in the very worst case, they can stay with the taxi driver”.

Those of you who know Chris can, I’m sure, imagine the expression on his face.

So Magda called the foster family and asked if perhaps they could watch the kiddos. This turned out to be possible, and we were very grateful for their assistance.

Chris then reminded me that in Warsaw the notary they were supposed to see was actually out sick, so he never had the opportunity to notarize his permission for Izabela to obtain a passport. Magda promised we would do this the next day as well.

In the meantime, Izabela has by now learned to put 6 of the 10 shapes into a sorter, and can do the 5 piece wooden animal puzzle. Our dual language exchanges have caused great hilarity, as Chris frequently points out the elephant, to which Izabela looks at him curiously and points at the telephone, convinced he is using the wrong word. I purchased a book from the series “My Favorite Words” and Izabela loves to “read”. She seems to be understanding more and more and has started waving her hand goodbye and saying “pa pa” (“bye bye”) instead of “da da”. She also really likes American “finger play” songs such as "Itsy Bitsy Spider", "5 Little Ducks Went Out to Play", "Patty Cake", "The Wheels on the Bus", and she is completely enthralled by "This Little Piggy" and constantly asks for it by pointing at her toes and then signing ”more” .

Ciechocinek: Day 26

It's official!

Now we wait for it to become official official.

Thankfully, the foster family was thrilled to be able to see Izabela again and had no problems with putting up with Dante for a few hours, despite his completely hyper-rowdy-boyish nature heightened by his excitement about our going to court to make Izabela part of our family. I arranged for a taxi to take us to Torun to their home in the morning. Our only minor tragedy occurred on the way to Torun in the taxi, where for some unknown reason Izabela threw up all over herself, the car seat, and my formal dress while crossing the bridge. The poor thing was most distressed. I smelled of pear flavored rice cereal the rest of the day, like a true mom.

When we arrived at the foster family’s home, we discovered that they were never in fact informed of the date of the hearing via official channels and that it was a good thing the foster mother had remembered the date I had told her was told to us as "most likely". So the foster father called the court yesterday to find out what was going on and gave them a piece of his mind. Not that that did any good.

He drove us to court and we met Magda and... instead of Ika (the lawyer, yes, you saw that correctly, her name really is IKA!), her young assistant, Marta, because it turns out that Ika was on vacation (since she had arranged for the court date to be Sept 3-5). Marta was pleasant enough and looked cute in her formal robes (the lawyers wear black robes with green or red bibs while the judge wears an even more decorative frock with chains around her neck) and we briefly talked about what we might be asked about in court.

We were finally called into the room with the judge and two other "accessories?" on each side that did nothing throughout the proceedings except smile. There was also a court reporter and the child advocate lawyer. The judge hemmed and hawed about there being errors in the petition that had caused delays. She even went so far as to say that the Washington state adoption law (RCW) had changed midstream and had to be retranslated. We had already heard at least 3 different stories as to the reasons behind all the delays, so we were just amused.

We were expecting to be grilled. Instead, we were only slightly sauteed. Chris testified first, and used all the appropriate verbiage which Magda translated as if from a script. I went next and chose to testify in Polish, which seemed to be the right thing to do. They used my testimony to get more detail and fill in blanks.

Basically, they wanted to know why we wanted to adopt in general, why from Poland, what our financial status was, what our health insurance was like (to deal with health issues, potential heart surgeries, potential special education/special needs care). We had been warned not to downplay the medical and developmental delay issues, regardless of our personal opinions regarding Izabela’s potential, as apparently there have been cases where children at the last minute have been deemed too healthy to be adopted out of country. They wanted to know whether our home is prepared for Izabela, whether we have pets or a yard. Most of this was already in the several hundred page long dossier the judge had in front of her, so I suspect there were simply some things they wanted to hear from us personally.

Chris was asked if his family was supportive of the decision to adopt; somehow I was spared that question. They noted that the adoption center report stated my family in Poland had come to visit us in Ciechocinek and asked Chris what their opinion of her was. Anyhow the whole process probably took about half an hour. Because the judge knows the foster father well due to his frequent presence in her court, she simply asked him if he was in favor of us as parents and of this adoption. He responded in the affirmative and that was it. He was actually very surprised that they didn't ask him anything else. The lawyer asked for a reduction in the waiting period from 21 days to 14 days. So after half an hour of question and answer, we went outside to wait.

And wait.
And wait.

The court reporter came out asking how to spell the name of the city in which we got married. Our names were spelled out several times. The lawyer went in to check all the details and brought my camera in with her, on which we had put a dozen pictures from our stay in Ciechocinek. Apparently they were very well liked. All in all, we probably waited there for an hour, which was also amusing...

We were finally called back in and the judge announced that they had approved our petition to adopt Izabela Simetra Hays. She will be issued a new birth certificate with us listed as her parents.

For those of you wondering about the middle name, it is the Greek goddess “Artemis” spelled backwards. We were originally going to name her Simetra Izabela Hays, but since we waited for so long for a court date, by the time we were back in Poland the second time and saw her again, we realized that Izabela was very conscious of her own identity. And since we were already changing everything else in her life, we decided to keep her given name.

They also granted the reduction of the waiting period to 14 days, which I suppose makes up for the delays a little.

Marta and Magda really needed coffee at that point. We were eager to either get back to the kids or to get to a notary. Magda claimed we didn't have enough time for a notary and that Chris could do it in Warsaw on Monday morning. She says she believes in the philosophy that she shouldn't do today what she could do tomorrow. I was starting to look a bit apoplectic. Chris and Dante had to be at the airport no later than 9 AM. So she agreed to go ahead and try finding a notary in Torun. Finally, after everyone had coffee on us, Magda and Chris went to the notary, the foster father took me to their place, and everyone else scattered.

The kids played while we waited for Chris. And waited. And waited. He finally arrived. Sans Magda. Apparently the whole process simply took forever and he mentioned to Magda that it was a good thing we had not left it until Monday morning. Magda disappeared to take yet another bus but promised to call me with news regarding where in Warsaw we should go and with a departure date so I can change my and Izabela’s tickets.

Warsaw: Day 27 – 28

My cousin Tomek picked us up in the morning and drove us to Warsaw where we discovered we’ll be staying in a hotel for 4 days. Izabela and I are supposed to then move to an apartment for the rest of the duration. In order to be “in the center of everything”, Magda put us in Hotel Novotel. Weekend rates are 120 Euros a night. Weekday rates are about 200 Euros a night. In other words, not a Motel 6.

We did some shopping so I could stock up on food for Izabela and decided to be adventurous, eating what turned out to be a terrible dinner at the hotel at a “Pan-Asian Fusion” restaurant that was trying to be too many things and as a result failing at all of them. Surprisingly, even the pierogi were inedible. (In contrast, breakfast the next day at the hotel was pretty nice). But for the next night’s dinner, we completely abandoned adventurousness and visited our first Polish McDonald’s.

Izabela surprised us today by combining two signs independently. She suddenly started asking for "more" and then making the sign for "milk". She doesn't actually drink milk yet, but she seems to have adopted this sign for "drink". We were thunderstruck because not only did she sign without prompting, but she also actually ASKED for liquid, which is amazing. When we first got her she basically would not drink anything, and the foster family warned us that she "hated to drink" and they had to force eyedroppers full of fluid and then later spoonfuls of fluid into her just so she wouldn't have to be hospitalized (again) for dehydration. We’ve discovered that Izabela is perfectly content to drink as long as she isn't being fed all the time. She daily guzzles about 6 ounces of (unfortunately) juice now, which has finally transformed her "micro-pees" into something more resembling normal quantities. We have been slowly giving her a sip of water here and there, and today she spent the day occasionally grabbing her little bottle from the desk and squirting a few drops of water into her mouth. Later she reused the double sign, and when I tried to give her water, she refused and started signing again vehemently complete with verbal editorial comment. So I guess "more milk" actually means "give me juice NOW". Communication at last!

Chris and Dante leave for home tomorrow to get Dante back to school.