Was the process any different this time?
It was much faster. We of course had a child chosen, and we'd been through it before. We had to start from the very beginning, though. All of our paperwork had expired. And we could not safely secure Daria until all that paperwork was done! But we were amazed at how quickly things moved. The FBI check usually takes about three months and it was done in six weeks. We only had to get our homestudy updated since it was current. All the clearances went through very well. Here again we had to notice that something just kept opening up for us to get everything done in time. We were worried, of course, that Daria might be taken by someone else while we were waiting. Later we found out that the orphanage and the Russian coordinator had pretty much told anyone else that inquired that she was already adopted by a family in Denmark. They, too, had cleared the way for us.
Were the costs the same?
No, we actually paid quite a bit less since the US agency decided to consider it a second adoption within the same year and waived most of the US fees. Plus for this year only, the US Congress voting on a $10,000 Adoption Tax Credit. And we were lucky enough to get very good airline and hotel rates once again. So we were very happy to have this work out as well as it did. This time the trip to Russia was much more of a vacation. We saw all the same coordinators and drivers and personnel, and we were heartily welcomed. It felt like we were returning to old friends. Alena was thrilled to see the director again and to visit many of her friends still left in the orphanage. It was better weather and we had more time to sightsee in Moscow as well.
What is Daria's background?
Daria was born to young parents who divorced shortly after her birth. She was born in Kaliningrad area, a part of Russia right above Poland on the Baltic Sea. (This is where we traveled to adopt her just as we did with Alena.) Her mother remarried and moved to another area of Russia. She had two more children, a boy and a girl. Shortly after the little girl Sophia was born, the family has hard economic times and returned to Kaliningrad expecting to live with the grandmother. The grandmother had another family by now and could not care for more people. The family lived on the street for six months and then gave the children up. Daria and her two siblings were placed in the Dyetsky Dom (children's home). She went into the orphanage in December of 1997 (just six weeks before we arrived to adopt Alena). Her half brother and sister were adopted by Russians in September, but Daria was left because she was too old. The family was split up because of the half brother and sister situation, although the sister and brother went to different homes as well. Daria misses her brother Yurislav very much and writes to him often in hopes that she will hear back from him. Actually we have gotten word from the orphanage that her brother's new family is very willing to correspond with us and help keep the siblings in contact. Sophia's family, however, does not want any contact. Since she was very small when adopted, the family wishes to not make the adoption public and will have no contact.
Did she speak any English?
None, but our Russian is now much better. Our basic communication was good and Daria has been very good with sign language when we were stumped. Erin was very helpful since she has picked up a lot of Russian. After about a month or so Alena started to pick up her Russian again, too. We have been amazed that there was none of the chaos that we had with Alena. Everything was very much easier. Our Russian friend Olga was with her from the first day to help us translate and communicate. Now Olga still comes to help both Alena and Daria retain Russian. Alena has started to speak Russian again although just a little bit. She still understands it but before Daria's arrival would not speak Russian anymore. Daria has learned a great deal of English already.
Is Daria her Russian name?
Yes, as with Alena, we kept her Russian name. We call her by her Russian nickname (Dasha - Dah-shah) which is what she was called in Russia and we decided to stick with it. Generally, when the children complete school, they start using their formal name. We added her middle name (Alexandra). We like the name very much; it is also a Russian name and the director of her orphanage had the name Alexandra as well.
How does Erin like having another sister?
She loves it! Erin was thrilled with the idea of a sister when Alena came. The reality was a little different, especially since she expected a quiet, shy sister who would need a lot of help and care. Oops! Alena is very outgoing and very independent (probably why she survived). With the arrival of Daria, Erin found a common soul. Here is the sister who likes the help and care of others. Erin and Daria have very similar personalities and bonded instantly in Russia. For the first few weeks they were practically inseparable. Now Erin and Daria still have that special bond, but Alena and Daria play a lot more with each other and share quite a bit more than initially.
Okay, be honest, are you going crazy with three girls at home?
Well, we were prepared for chaos and a big adjustment period. Everyone told us it would be nuts with three. We'd had lots of problems with two girls close in age and with radically different personalities. What a surprise when we found things much easier and smoother with three! Somehow the addition of Daria defused the sometimes-hot emotions between Erin and Alena. Sure, the logistics of getting three ready for school and out of the house and doing their homework later are busier, but overall the tone of the family is more relaxed. Not to say, it's quiet and boring. No, indeed! But we're having lots of fun!
So what's Daria like and how has she adapted?
She has adapted wonderfully well starting school just five days after she arrived. She.is less outgoing than Alena and much more like Erin with her fairly quiet, harmonious nature. But she doesn't hesitate to stick up for herself when needed and won't be pushed around. She is shy at first with strangers. We had spoken with the orphanage and knew that this was her personality so we expected a slower approach to things and a little more time to learn and adjust. Not at all. She, too, has demonstrated that wonderful adaptability that kids have, learning English quickly and fitting right in with most situations. After her initial shyness, she is talkative and loves to clown around. Because she spent most of her life in a fairly cohesive, loving family she has been very comfortable with her new family. She and Alena are only six weeks apart in age and both in second grade (different classes!) so we call them our non-twins. They like to play together. All three girls share the same room (their request) even though we have space for separate rooms. Dasha takes gymnastics with the other two, but doesn't want any part of karate and is leaning more towards wanting dance classes.
So should we expect another announcement soon? Are you adding more?
No, No, No! Really and truly, this is it! We realize that we are pretty busy now and feel that we have all we can handle. With four kids (Scott's out on his own but living close so we can see him fairly often) things are plenty busy. We do know that there are many kids waiting in Russia and in many other parts of the world, and we are certainly doing what we can to help others learn more about the possibilities. We won't bring any more children into our family but we hope to match up some waiting kids if we can. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we're enjoying having three lovely, talented, bright daughters at home.