From the looks of it, the day was really rather anticlimactic. Court day. The day that we have been working for through all of this...the paperwork, the appointments, the apostilles, the signatures. You would have thought the day would have brought with it lots of emotions and a great celebration. But since being here I've learned that nothing is as you would expect or hope. Like when you purchase a pastry that looks beyond amazing and your brain decides it's going to taste out of this world, but upon tasting the first bite you are surprised. Not necessarily disappointed, but just surprised. It's not the experience your brain expected. And then you're reminded that different flavors aren't bad, they're just different. That's been our experience of so many things here and court was no exception.
|Ready to be parents again.|
April 24, 2014. We woke up plenty early and discussed briefly our answers to questions the judge may or may not ask. We got dressed in our "court clothes"...the one "more than casual but not quite dressy" outfit we packed for the trip. At 8:30am Ivan picked us up, said "Payeehalee" (Let's go) and we were off and headed to court. The funny thing about driving around in a foreign city with many nondescript buildings is that you never know what's behind any given door. So you never have that anticipation of knowing you're almost at your final destination. We parked across the street from a building we assumed was the court building, but didn't cross the street until Ivan confirmed our direction and we spotted the kids waiting with Maria.
"Should we run up and hug them and show excitement for our big day?" was the question my mind was racing to answer. I came up with two answers. 1) Yes. and 2) No. Answer number one would apply in America and answer number two I felt applied to being in Ukraine. Things just aren't the same here if you hadn't already noticed. There is no "warm and fuzzy". There's not a lot of emotion. Not many casual smiles. The majority of what we do feels like a business transaction. So, I erred on the side of a wide grin aimed at our two soon-to-be children as we continued our walk towards the courthouse.
Alla was waiting for us outside with a pen and paper. "You write." Yes, ma'am. Have I mentioned she's bossy? And that we love that about her. And that she is the one that tells us she's bossy. So I penned the words just as she spoke them, and added some transitional words that made the English flow a little better. "Please on the birth certificate write... Do not include the father's name. Do leave the birth city..." We were instructed to read this at the appropriate time during court. We never had to read it at all.
Then, she asked us a series of questions. "How you will respond? What is your name? Where were you born? What do you do for a living? How much money do you make? Why do you want to adopt?" Straightforward questions to prep us for what the judge may ask.
Once ready we walked inside, Alla asked for our passports and showed hers and ours to the security-type young man inside the booth just beyond the metal detector that emitted strange alien-like noises. It probably detected Americans. Once our passports were returned we headed upstairs to wait with what felt like the rest of the city in something I suppose you could call a "waiting room." There were some benches, some randomly scattered large desks and people sitting...waiting...so I think the term is appropriate.
Once the judge was ready, we were invited into his office. Not a courtroom after all. There were chairs lined up on either side of his office that seated the prosecutor, the inspector Natalia, Max, Maria, Kate, the secretary, Adam, Alla, me and two witnesses/jurors (we aren't sure exactly what they were, perhaps they filled both roles?). Court lasted no more than an hour (such a blessing) and consisted of the judge reading through many documents and statements and then questions directed at me, Adam and the kids. Everything was translated for us by Alla. Had we all spoken the same language, we would have been out of there in half the time.
What I remember from court...
The first question the judge asked Adam: "What is your date of birth?" Adam's reply, "October 1, 1978." Wrong answer to the very first question. He will not live that one down. Ever. But at least he was only two weeks off I suppose. His birthday is actually the 15th...mine is the 1st. Funny.
When asked by the judge if he would ever return to the orphanage, Max replied more than emphatically, "NO." Good answer, my son.
When asked for her name and age, Kate stood and answered in the teeniest voice ever. And I was reminded that I know my daughter and that shy, sheepish, reserved girl the judge saw is not her. In fact, she more often resembles Jim Carrey with some of her facial contortions. I have pictures to prove it.
A Bible was displayed on the shelf in the judge's bookcase.
The judge asked me what I would do if I asked one of the kids to do something and they didn't listen so I asked them again and they still didn't listen. I should have responded, "I'll let you know when I figure that one out." I don't remember my exact response but it was something regarding consequences like taking away TV privileges. Then one of the juror/witnesses added "and turn the computer on." I'd have to say I disagree, but in a culture that prefers page protectors to email, I wouldn't expect her to understand that that would actually be a more severe consequence.
The one question that caught me a bit off guard was this one, "In the last twenty years or so, there have been reported cases of adoptive parents beating their children. Will that happen in your home?" I wasn't sure how to elaborate on my "No, absolutely not" so I said just that and he seemed satisfied with that answer.
Maria gave a statement regarding the kids' time as part of the hosting trip last summer sharing that she was the chaperone and witnessed the entire group of kids have the time of their lives. She mentioned that she loved each of the families and that each child was so welcomed and so loved by their families, as was she. She then also spoke very kindly about our family specifically. I realize she could have been saying these things just because, but it was sweet to hear her words translated to English. I was grateful for that moment.
Once the hearing concluded we were escorted out of the judge's office to await the verdict. Just five or so minutes later we were called back in and rejoiced to hear that the judge proclaimed Kate and Max to be our children...to be given a new last name. This was the first time the kids heard the middle names we gave them. Upon hearing his, Max repeated it with authority and a big grin. His middle name is now Brock, from my maiden name. But what made us laugh was when someone, I don't know who, said "James Bond" in a sentence that was otherwise Ukrainian. I'm thinking perhaps the name sounds strong and masculine to them. Just a hunch.
It seemed like an appropriate time to celebrate and share hugs, but then I was quickly reminded that we are in Ukraine and that would just be strange. Instead, we took a couple of pictures and then the kids went back to the orphanage with Maria and Adam and I headed to the notary's office with Alla. That was it. Done. No celebratory meal. No cake. No balloons. Nothing that would be customary in America. While that does kind of bother me, I know we will soon have opportunity to celebrate and I eagerly anticipate that day.
|Maria, Kate and Max.|
|We are family.|
|The woman who has raised these kids and the parents that will take over from here.|
After we finished our paperwork for the notary we headed to the orphanage and got to visit with the kids for 30 minutes. So on the day that they officially become ours we get to see them the least amount of time. True story.
But we got the pictures we really wanted while locked in our room for the short time we had.
|Meet the two newest Saunders...Max and Kate.|
|Dad, Mom and Max.|
|Dad, Mom and Kate.|
|Proud parents. (Photo courtesy of Maria who insisted we stand in front of this beautiful tree)|
I have to add that it is exhausting being parents to four kids these days...two of which are being cared for on the other side of the world by Grandma and Grandpa and the other two who continue to be cared for in an institution, so we felt it critical to get a good nap.
|Yes, we sleep sideways on our couch/bed. It ain't comfortable no matter how you do it.|