Oh my, so much has happened. Let me start where I left off with the last post.
The next morning (Wednesday) we woke and got right to work again. We came downstairs and got on the internet to find that the New York Times had published their piece, and that the Reuters piece had been picked up by several outlets. Progress. We felt that soon the news would reach Russia.
Our facilitator had set up a visit for us with Gabe that morning. She had plans to talk with an attorney at the baby house while we visited.
The visit was amazing. He had a new haircut! It is short now, but still long in back. He was in such good spirits and so happy to see us again. The first thing he said was, "beep beep beep?" That's how he says "car"-he was asking us if we were going in the car today. It was heart wrenching. But being a four-year-old, we were able to distract him with playing. He was so affectionate, giving lots of kisses and hugs and looks of affection. My favorite part of the visit was when I opened the blinds and held him up to look out the window. He LOVED looking outside at the deep snow and the birds flying around. It reminded me of the story of the bird in the golden cage-no matter how nice the cage, the bird is still not free. My little bird was still not free.
At one point Brian was teasing him, sneaking up on him to tickle him and I held him in my arms close, like rocking a baby. As I squeezed him tight to me, he glanced up at me with eyes that just had the realization: "this closeness really feels good." He leaned his head on my chest, the trust clear. It felt heavenly.
Soon it was time for his lunch, so the caregivers came for him. We waited in the cloakroom since our facilitator had not come for us yet. When he was finished with lunch, they brought him back out to us and we just continued where we left off, playing and singing and reciting nursery rhymes. This boy LOVES to recite little poems that have rhythm. We sang Eensy Weensy Spider with him and he easily did all the actions with us. Like all kids, he LOVED making the sun with his arms overhead and swaying back and forth.
Brian got out his English book we left with him on our first trip, that has pictures of things like an apple, train, truck, etc. on little buttons you push to hear the words. He knew many of the words already! I think Olga must have been reading this book with him. He said every word so beautifully, with his cute little Russian accent! I can't wait to post photos and videos of it all when we return home.
We had never been able to have a visit this long before, it was so wonderful. But eventually it was his nap time and his caregiver came to get him. He didn't want to go and protested, but I carried him in my arms to his caregiver and told him it would be okay, we would come back for him. He calmed down and as he was carried down the hall he held out his little finger as if to say, "just a minute, I'll be right back! Stay right there!" It was so sweet.
When we spoke again with our facilitator, she said she had drawn up some preliminary papers to file an appeal to the judge's not issuing our decree. She said she would work some more on it that night, and on Friday we could file the appeal if that is what we wanted to do.
The phone began ringing again as soon as we returned back to the hotel and turned our phone on, and soon we had agreed to three more interviews. This time two of them were local Russian news outlets. This was good, because we wanted the Russian people and press to put pressure on their officials to resolve our cases. But I have to be honest and say during this whole time we spoke out to the press, part of us was terrified that it might backfire.
We did the interviews in our hotel rooms this time. The Russian reporters asked more questions about why we would do this, saying the people here would not understand. We explained the best we could that Americans in general have an attitude of wanting to change the world for the better, and if we could do that in some small way, it was something we should do. We spoke about friends who had adopted, and our own extended family members who were adopted and how it has always been close to our hearts.
Exhausted once again, we went to bed, no closer to picking up our children that we had been the day before, but feeling good about speaking out and finally giving a voice to all of the families back home who were in process of adopting a child from Russia.
That brings us to today. This morning when we came downstairs and hooked up to the internet in the lobby of our hotel, we began to see just how far our story had spread. The interviews we did with the AP and Reuters had been picked up by the Washington Post, the Canadian national news, Yahoo, and many local stations in the US. My email inbox was full of requests for interviews. The New York Times, BBC, AP and others were asking for updates. Man, how did our life turn into this?
One reporter from a local news agency here called me and urgently said the President's Children's Ombudsmen was holding a press conference at 11:00 am and she wanted to take me there, to possibly set up a meeting for us, or at least to approach him on his way out from the press conference. You have to understand that before we ever came here, we had read many,many things this man had said regarding the orphan situation. He was the once who said that no child would leave Russia after January 1st, no matter where they were in the process. He was the one who said the children like ours, who had already been granted parents, would be the first he would find Russian parents for. He is the one who said Americans only wanted Russian children so we could harvest their organs, or build up our armies, or use them for twisted purposes. THIS was the man she wanted us to confront? Part of me thought he was holding this press conference just to tell all of us American parents to go home. I closed my eyes and asked for courage that I didn't have. I told her yes, we would do it.
Jeana had already had an appointment set up to visit her little girl, so our facilitator took her while we waited for this reporter to pick us up and take us to the press conference.
After many phone calls, finally she arrived and gave us the lowdown. We would not be allowed inside the press conference room because we didn't have press credentials, but we could wait in a cafe below the press office. She pointed out the government cars that were parked outside, waiting to whisk the Ombudsman away after the press conference. She said she would call us on the phone and if she didn't say anything when I answered, it meant he was on his way out, and we should go out to try to intercept him. If she called and spoke to us, it meant he was trying to get out another entrance and she would meet us there. It honestly felt like we were in a movie. Black government Audi's parked outside a government building, cell phone code talk. Is this real life?
We waited and waited and waited. Suddenly our phone began to ring, but it was other reporters we had done interviews with, saying the press conference was over and it was good news for us! They all came and found us and before we knew it, we were surrounded on the sidewalk by cameras and all the reporters we had come to know in Moscow. Many of them had tears in their eyes as they explained that the Ombudsman had specifically addressed our case in his press conference and had assured them our case would be processed and our children would be going home with us. I began to weep, but still I wanted to hear it for myself because so many times over the past few weeks we have heard good news followed by bad news and nothing seemed certain. I had brought with me my photos of my children and home, to show him that they are not neglected and are healthy, happy children. I brought the ruling the judge had given us on Tuesday, to show him she would not issue the decree.
All of us waited outside the doors for the Ombudsman to come out. Finally, his spokesman came out and immediately the journalists bombarded him with questions, taking our ruling and showing him what a predicament we were in. Talk about the power of the free press!!!! It was interesting because he would not look at me, even though I was only a foot from him. I stared him straight in the eyes the entire time, but he wouldn't so much as glance my way. I don't know if this was out of disgust for me as an American, or if he was ashamed of the whole thing. I will probably never know.
He told the reporters that he would take our paper from the judge and go back inside and make a copy to give to the Ombudsman. He came back out with it, and suddenly said the Ombudsman was doing a live interview upstairs and wouldn't be down for another half hour. The reporters knew this really meant that he did not want to meet us or the reporters and would probably try to sneak out another exit. The spokesman took off in the government car.
Soon we realized we would not be seeing him at all, and we headed back to the hotel after doing a couple more interviews there with our reaction to the press conference. We were so hopeful that his words would finally put our judge at ease and she would issue the decree. If only it were that easy.
Our facilitator immediately headed to the court and met with our judge. She had not heard anything about the press conference, and still will not issue our decree without hearing from the Supreme Court. I could scream! I tried calling the spokesman (the press gave me his cell number-love them!) but I only got some Russian voicemail message. I left a message. Our dear facilitator said she would stay at the courthouse until she was the last to leave, hoping word would come to the judge. No such luck today.
So here we are, again sitting in our hotel lobby and hopeful for tomorrow. We heard from the reporters that in the press conference the Ombudsman that he kept acting incredulous about the whole situation, like "what's the problem with all these officials refusing to do their jobs?" He accused our judge and other lower officials of creating a scandal.
This is so incredibly frustrating, stuck in the middle of the miscommunication between the people who make the laws and the people who have to enforce them. We are praying it won't take long for them to finally get things straight and issue us the decree. Then we can face the vital statistics office, the passport office and immigration at the airport. At least I can say this: if I can face the highest officials in Moscow, Russia, I can face anyone.
We are so thankful to you, more than I can ever express. The love that has come out of this could conquer the world, I know. We love you all. I will write more later. I think I could write a novel about all of this.