Sunday, June 29, 2014

Before we start our journey, please give us the opportunity to introduce ourselves.  My name is Rob, and I am married to the most wonderful wife.  Her name is Vilia.  We are blessed to have a wonderful daughter, Natalija, who is 4, and a Golden Retriever named Zoey.

I'm not a writer by trade, nor am I someone who has a way with words, but I speak from the heart, with bursts of humor, dry wit, or sarcasm.  I never know which one will come out.

But one thing that I am sure of is that we can't begin to explain the excitement of growing our family.  My wife and I are a good team - we balance each other, while pushing the other the other to be better.  It's amazing what you can do when you find that one person in life who is meant to be your other half.  Barriers put in your way?  No problem!  Hurdles to overcome?  Just a drop in the bucket.  And that, in a nut shell, describes this crazy, wonderful, stressful, agonizing, emotionally-draining journey of chasing dreams - adopting Lilija from China.

If you have taken the time to read along so far, thank you!  We hope that you will find our journey inspiring, uplifting, informative, and exciting.  We owe a big thanks to our family and friends who kept encouraging us and supporting us when things weren't too bright.  Without their love and support, this journey could have had quite a different outcome!

So, as we say in the biz, sit back, relax, and enjoy the trip with us!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

It's been a long time...

Our journey started back 2006, when we decided to start the adoption process for China.  Paper chases, authentications, running from here to there, and so on.  Those of you that have gone through this know what I am talking about.  For those that aren't familiar, I liken it to getting a mortgage for your house.  Our dossier was the size of a mortgage package at closing!  Sent off to China, we were finally logged into the China system in April of 2007.  This was our place in line - our LID or "log in date."  This was your sacred position - everything was based on this date.

We quickly realized that our wait would turn into a long one.  On one hand, emotionally, we kept hoping for a miracle and that things would happen quicker, but rationally, we knew better.

I won't bore everyone with the details of 7+ years of home study renewal, fingerprints, checks paid to the government.  Just realize that all families go through this when they adopt from a foreign country.  It is sheer madness.  But, it is something that we undertake to fulfill an emptiness in our families.

What I will say, though, the adage "Everything happens for a reason" is true.  Through this wait, which felt like an eternity, we were given our first miracle, Natalija. Fate brought us together.  Many have no idea of the things that couples encounter and go through when adopting.  Many say it is a noble act.  I say that we are the lucky ones.  These little bundles of joy bring such happiness.

So, now it is time for another addition to our family.  Time for Natalija to get a little sister, time for the brood to grow by one, time to bring our little girl home.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The chase is on!

In the last post, I said that "everything happens for a reason."  Those words don't ring any truer than in our chase for Lilija.

It's November of 2013.  Vilia is reading emails, and for some reason, she decides to read an adoption email for the Dave Thomas Foundation.  She tells me that she normally just deletes them.  But, for some reason, that day, she opens it.  Through various links in that email, she comes across the Gladney adoption website.  She goes to their Waiting Child page, and there she is!  Instant connection!  The little girl who is staring at us from that page is our daughter, which we have been waiting for a long time.

Let me take a step back for a minute.  In late spring of 2013, we had decided that we try 1 more time to get a match.  We renewed our home study, our fingerprints, and paid more money to get us current in the adoption process.  Each time a family renews their credentials, it takes time and money, and as we all know, money doesn't grow on tress!  So, this was our last ditch effort.  If, by the time our credentials expired, and nothing had happened, we were going to go with our lives, and say that it just wasn't meant to be.

Fast forward back to November, and voila, "everything happens for a reason."  We were meant to find Lilija, and she was meant to find us.  What follows is a flurry of paperwork, agency switching, and more updates.  She is locked in to us by December, and in February, we find out that we show up in the database in China as matched to her.  Officially, she is ours!  No one else can bring her home!  The only thing that stood in our way was the Chinese government approving our paperwork that has been sitting in some file since 2007.

March 31, 2014:  official documents arrive in NewYork at the office of our agency.  Our LSC is here!  LSC is "Letter Seeking Confirmation" - this is the official document from the Chinese government saying that they have approved your dossier and all supporting documents, and by signing this document, we are officially accepting our match with Lilija.  This is it, the thing that we have waited for, have worked towards, prayed for, tore out our hair for, you name it!


Lilija is no longer just a dream; she is real, and she is OURS!  Welcome to the family, little one!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

It's getting closer!

Wow!  Has this been a whirlwind of a week for the Gaikis Family!  On June 3rd, we were notified that our TA (Travel Authorization) arrived at the adoption office in New York.  This is the last step before actually traveling to China.  With the Consulate appointment set, Vilia and I embarked on separate but complimentary journeys:  I worked on our airline tickets while Vilia worked on getting our travel kits finished and filled.  Tasks accomplished, and with the weekend off, we decided to take some time for family - a visit and impromptu barbecue on Sat., and bike riding along the Fox River on Sun.  I know for me personally, sometimes I get so wrapped up in work and traveling, that I forget the little things and how important they are:  like a smile on Natalija's face when she gets to jump in the Burley bike trailer, pretending to be a princess in her royal carriage as daddy pulls her along on his bike.  And, it's equally important to have a best friend remind you of this once in awhile - thanks honey!!!! :-)

With our departure just a little over a week away, we have many little things that need attention.  Trying not to get tied up in the little stuff, but attempting to remember to enjoy the journey.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

time for reflection

Now that my school year is done, plans for my sub are complete and the suitcases are getting packed, I am able to sit down with my own thoughts and acknowledge the emotions that have been placed at bay.  With tears in my eyes, I reflect on the years of waiting and wondering if our dream of adopting a little girl from China would ever come true.  I remember the desire to adopt started many, many years ago in my parents TV room in Marquette Park when I watched a documentary on “the lost girls of China”.  Full of indignation I thought: girls are not throw-aways, people who do not meet some perceived ideal of what is desirable or perfect should not be cast away and forgotten about.  At that moment I decided that someday I would adopt one of those girls and teach her that she is valuable and lovable.  Rob shared my dream and we embarked on this journey.  So many people tell us that Lilija is such a lucky little girl.  Actually, Rob and I are the lucky ones.  We are being blessed with the privilege of parenting both Lilija and Natalija.  Our path to parenthood has been a difficult one; one that has made us stronger and more supportive of each other.  Now, with great trepidation and anticipation, we get to embark on our journey to the other side of the world to complete our family.  We will become parents to a toddler who has never known family life.  It is mind boggling to think that when we arrive back home our lives will be entirely changed.  We ask for you to pray that our journey is safe, healthy and that Lilija is able to acclimate to her new life! 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Beijing Day 1

 (NOTE:  please ignore the date on the outside of the post.  The relevant date is in each post.)

We departed Chicago for Beijing thankfully on a non-stop flight.  Bad thing though:  it is a non-stop flight!  13+ hrs. 

But we made it!  Nati actually handled the flight like a champ.  Plenty of movies, books, and princess dolls to get her through.  I tried my best to get us complimentary upgrades to biz class by using Nati and getting her into the flight deck before we left the gate for a tour (and shamelessly using my job as a pilot as well), but it didn't work.  Man, I need a chiropractor after sitting in those seats!

The rest of the flight was uneventful, landing in Beijing just about 15 min behind schedule.  We were worried about the air pollution, but it really wasn't too bad.  Then, off to the hotel for some sleep... (or so I thought...)
June 20th
As our luck turns out, the blog that we are using is a Google product that we can't access here in Beijing.  The VPN which should allow us to access it and Facebook, but they have blocked it here as well.  I’ve never had a problem before in other Chinese cities, so I expected things to go smoothly, but the Chinese have so far taken away my  bag of tricks.

The first night was rough for us.  The three of us didn't get much sleep.  Nati, in all her awesomeness on the airplane, had a rough time settling herself.  Who can blame her?  It is hard enough for an adult to adjust themselves to the jet lag and 13 hr difference, much less a 4 year old.  But, we got through the night somehow.  A byproduct of the rough night was our poor Vili waking up feeling very sick.  But, like her daughter, she was able to take some medicine, and compose herself enough to get going on the touring this morning.  She quickly rebounded up to about 85% energy, and was able to maintain that through the day.  I am so proud of my girls - every hurdle that has been placed in front of them, they have been able to overcome and be real troopers!!! 

Well, with our own personal tour guide, today we went to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, an authentic tea house, Hutong Tour, silk factory tour, and an acrobatics show.  The square was interesting for its historical value, the Forbidden City was enormous and ornate, the Hutong tour gave us an opportunity for a rickshaw ride through an area of Beijing that is typical living, and had an authentic lunch at a family's house, and the acrobatic show was very interesting.  The tea house exposed us to some wonderful tasting teas, and the silk factory tour gave us an opportunity to look over some Chinese silk goods.  On a side note, our guide, Susan, is extremely nice and caring.  She is really enjoying Nati's company.

Tiananmen Square:

Forbidden City:

Natalija was treated like a movie star everywhere we went.  People were pointing at her and staring at her.  Several families wanted to take pictures of Nati posing with their young children.  At first it seemed strange that people were so interested in us (by us I really mean Nati J) until our tour guide mentioned that seeing a foreign child is rare.  Living in such a diverse country seeing people of different cultures is a daily occurrence for us, however, in China the population is completely homogenous.  As Rob mentioned, our first day was very busy!  Natalija and I especially enjoyed the tea tasting at the tea house.  Nati thought that our tea teacher looks like a princess!  We sat around a table set with three beautiful porcelain tea cups.  We sampled five types of tea, each prepared in a specific way.  They were so fragrant and naturally sweet.  I can see why tea is the drink of China.  At the end she mentioned that the temperature of the water is extremely important.  She then pulled out a naked little boy figurine called pee-pee boy.  If you pour cold water on him nothing happens.  When you pour hot water over him he pees it out.  This of course was Nati’s favorite part of our tea party.  When we purchased tea, we were given a pee-pee boy of our very own!


At the silk factory we learned about the entire process of where the silk comes from and how it is stretched.  Nati especially enjoyed seeing the silk worms and watching 5 ladies pulling the silk into a blanket.  The entire process is done by hand.
The rickshaw ride was quite an experience.  I was sure that we were going to crash on several occasions.  Driving, riding and walking are like participating in an extreme sport.  People drive, bike and walk with no road rules.  It is common to see cars on the wrong side of the road, cars routinely cut each  other off, do random u-turns, drive on the shoulder, and honk.  Everywhere all through the day and night you hear people honking at one another.  Despite all of this, no one seems to be mad.  And by the way, CARS DO NOT YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS!!

Now back to our lunch.  We arrived at what I would describe as a tenement or compare to Chicago public housing.  With caution we wound our way down an alley to an apartment where an elderly lady had an authentic lunch prepared for us to enjoy.  With trepidation we tasted the food, which was very good.  Nati would only eat the rice.  Eating the food here has been difficult for her but she’s trying.



Sunday, June 15, 2014

Beijing Day 2

June 21st
The main event for today was climbing the Great Wall of China.  It is amazing that man could construct such a massive structure.  It almost looked like a mountain!  It took 200 years to build with the purpose of keeping the Mongolians from invading China.  Natalija completely surprised us today and demonstrated a level of determination that we didn’t know she had.  Our Guide mentioned that you cannot be considered a champion or hero in Chinese culture until you have climbed the wall.  Our spunky and spirited 4 year old girl climbed the entire way up and down all by herself!  Rob kept asking if she wanted piggy-back ride but she was determined to do it “all by herself”, as many of you know that is one of her favorite phrases J.  The view is truly awe inspiring!  We are so grateful to have had this opportunity!!    

Prior to conquering the Great Wall, we were able to learn all about the significance of jade in the Chinese culture and see how it is carved.  Again everything is done by hand by very gifted artists.  We purchased jade pendant necklaces for both girls with the Chinese characters for love in the center of the jade.  Tomorrow we leave for Nanchang!  We will meet our daughter tomorrow night.  Nati will become a big sister tomorrow night.  Our family will be complete tomorrow night!!!!  We are so excited, I don’t think there will be much sleep tonight.

As a total coincidence the doctors that have cared for Lili are in the same hotel as we are and the liaison arranged for us to meet them and get first-hand information and ask questions.  Not many families get this opportunity, so we are feeling very lucky tonight!