Monday, August 20, 2012

Bittersweet Homecoming...

Well, I can't believe its been just over two weeks since we arrived home from Russia and our precious Vika. I have so much to share.... We left SLC on August 28th. It was difficult to leave the girls but I knew they were in great hands with my Mom and my older Sister. The girls absolutely adore their cousins. We had some rediculous delays which cost us nearly a whole day in Russia but we finally arrived in Moscow at 10:30pm on August 29th. We left Moscow and headed for Tver. About a 3 hour drive... Yaaawwwn... We arrived at our hotel late and woke up to a beautiful view of the Volga River outside our hotel window. We ate our first meal in Russia which was delicious and headed to the Education Department to get approval to go to the orphange to meet Vika. They asked us several questions, showed us her file and we had to agree that she was the child we wanted to see. We had a translator with us and he read us the paperwork and showed us where we needed to sign. After we recieved our permission, it was off to the Notary office. About 1 hour later we were on the road headed to Vika's home town. It was a 2 1/2 hour drive and because I knew we were going to meet her, it felt like twice that. We started to drive down dirt roads that were leading us deeper and deeper into the thick trees that surround the town. Down one particularly small dirt path we came upon the gates to the orphange. A big school like building with little playgrounds and playhouses surrounded all sides of the building. Once inside we were led to a small office with a round table with chairs all around it. We sat down with our fasilitators, a translator, the orphanage doctor, the orphange administator and a Social Security administrator. They took turns asking us very detailed questions about our personal lives, our home, health, jobs, kids, family, they wanted to know why adoption? Why Vika? We answered all their questions and then had our chance to ask our own. We asked about Vika's health, how she behaves socially, her education. We wanted to know about her biological family and why they made the desicion to put her in the orphange (I didn't like the answers to these questions and niether Dustin or myself could hold back our tears) We wanted to know about the medical history of her bio family. Vika's health mirrors Kaiya's almost exactly. We of course wanted to know if "Vika" was her real name and what her birthday is. He name is Viktorya and her bithday is May 27th :) She is called Vika for short. She prefers Vika. Her middle and last name are her biological fathers. Our final question was.. "Can we meet her now?" The staff smiles and nodded, held up a finger as if to say "one moment" and left the room. About ten minutes later they returned and asked us to follow them. We have been staring at Vika's pictures for nearly a year. All of which were taken in the same room. Toys in the background, large red area rug with a swirly pattern on it. They led us into that same room. Dustin said it best, It was like stepping onto the movie set of your favorite movie that you've seen a million times. It was so surreal. The shock of the room lasted about half a second when I saw Vika on the far end of the room with her caregiver. I was so nervous. We walked over to her and sat on the floor in front of the chair she was sitting in. We said hello and told her our names. She seemed indifferent. We handed her the coloring book, crayons and ball we brought for her and she lit up! It wasm't long before she was patting the seats next to her, inviting us to sit. Holding our hands and laughing one of the most contagious laughs I've ever heard. We got to play with her then, Monday night, for about 1 1/2 hours. Starting Tuesday morning we were able to visit her twice a day for 3 hours each visit for the rest of the week. Each hour, each minute, we grew to love her more and more. On our 4th visit, so Tuesday evening, she walked in the room to visit with us, jumped into my arms and then Vika, the girl who doesn't speak, looked me in the eyes and called me Mama. From the moment on, if I wasn't before, I was hers, and she was mine, and we both knew it. Each visit seemed to fly by while we learned about her love of plays, music and the outdoors. She is amazing. On Friday morning we went a little early for our morning visit because we had to leave early to head back to Tver for our meeting with the Judge. It was the shortest 1 1/2 hours of my life. The staff came in and expained to her that we had to leave now and wouldn't be able to come back for awhile. She shook her head over and over and latched onto me. I tried to keep it together but couldn't hold back the tears when they had to literally pull her from my arms. It was heartbreaking. We left the orphange and headed back for our meeting. We were able to check into our hotel with enough time to clean up a little. We met with the judge at 3:30pm in her office. We had our traslator, Olga, with us. The judge wanted to know everything about us. I do mean EVERYTHING. She asked many questions, some I wasn't sure how to answer but we did the best we could. Before I knew it our translator said it was over. The judge accepted our paperwork and asked for 2 weeks to review our case and let us know what additional documents she needs. We should be hearing back from her soon with a court date. I have left many details out but that is the basics of our trip. It was wonderful coming home to our girls, family, friends and Country but left with a heavy heart that we couldn't bring her with us. I miss her terribly and hope she understands why we had to go for now. Your donations are needed now more than ever to help us get back for our court trip, then again to bring her home. Thank you to all of you who are so supportive and loving. We are so blessed.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Away we go....

Well, after 9 long months (how appropriate) we have FINALLY received our invitation from Vika's country to come meet her and have our First Court hearing. Ohhhh Myyyyy Goooodness! We couldn't be more thrilled and can't wait to see her beautiful face. She will finally know that a family is within reach for her. This will only be the first of 3 trips required, but now is when the fun truly begins. We have some amazing fundraisers in the works...
The founder of Cahoots Duo Challenge wants to be in cahoots with Vika! They have offered all those who register using the promo code "Vika" $40 OFF their registration fees and they will match that by donating $40 to our adoption costs. Vika is a beautiful little 7 year old girl who has Down Syndrome. We are adopting her from Eastern Europe and saving her from a life cut short, spent in an adult mental institution. By joining this race, you are literally helping us to save her life.
Hurry and get your team registered! Join this AMAZING, new to Utah, mud/obstacle team race! Register at and remember to use the promo code "Vika"
Who wouldn't want to be a part of this amazing day (for a discount, I might add) and be saving the life at the same time?
What is Cahoots? When facing the chill wind of trial and adversity, a trusted friend is sometimes the only thing that can get us through.
The Cahoots Duo Challenge is a race series where you and a friend combine wits, strength, strategy and stamina to negotiate a barrage of nearly two dozen unique obstacles and challenges

COME ON UTAH!! Let's show Cahoots that Utah knows what it means to work together to do something truly amazing.

I will post more as things develop but the fact that we are finally going to be traveling is the good news I have been waiting to share for so long :)

Stay tuned... The best is yet to come.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Almost there..

First let me apologize for not posting an update sooner. I went through a phase where I felt pretty discouraged. I never stopped pushing forward, not even for a second. But the hoops I've been jumping through and the redoing of documents that have been keeping me busy since January have felt very heavy.
Well, finally some good news :)
Our registration dossier is FINALLY complete, approved and in our babygirl's Country! It has been translated and should be submitted on Tuesday :)
If all goes smoothly we will know within the next 3 weeks when we get to go meet her. Our agency is guessing we will be traveling within the next 6 weeks :) :) :) Fiiiinalllly!
This news came at the most amazing time because just last week we finally received a letter from the United States Government saying that our adoption is approved in the U.S. and they have "determined that Shalee and Dustin Booker are able to furnish proper care if an orphan." This was such a wonderful moment for us in the process. Soon she will know how loved she is and how many people want her to come home :)
Stay tuned, folks. This is about to get very exciting :)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mile 13

In the beginning I made the mistake of looking at the adoption process as a whole. Each document to collect, every form to fill out and so on and so on. The list seems to never end and the number of hoops to jump through is yet to be determined. I made myself so overwhelmed and wasn't even sure where to begin. It all became this mess of a do-to list that I was more afraid of than I was motivated by.

I am a Marathon runner. Running is my therapy and my vise. My motivator and my mental organizer. Running, I can do.
So Dustin sat me down on one particularly overwhelming day and explained it me in one of the best ways he could. This is what he said....

"When you are gearing up for a Marathon you don't think about all 26.2 miles at once. You go into it knowing that you did your training, you put in the work to earn each mile and each mile is an accomplishment. If you went over your route and allowed yourself to feel the exhaustion you may experience in those miles, you might not start the race to begin with. You think about mile one... and then mile 5... then 8.... until finally, you hit mile 13. The half way point. From there you celebrate a little knowing that you have come this far and remind yourself that you can, and will, make it to that finish line. You just need to continue focusing on one step at a time and celebrating each mile passed knowing you are one step closer. You need to look at the adoption process the same way. Don't overwhelm yourself with mile 20 when you are only on mile 2."

From there, I actually took the time and broke down the adoption process and figured out each "mile" stone. Well, I am happy to announce that we are at Mile 13! Our halfway point! We have our Completed Homestudy in hand and have sent out our I-600a form (which is basically asking permission to take a citizen of another country and make her a citizen of the U.S. as our child.) We are now working on compiling our dossier. Once this step is complete, we will get a travel date from Vika's Country and we will finally meet our sweet girl.

I love running, but Mile 13 has never been more beautiful.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Waiting Place...

  • The Waiting Place…

  • for people just waiting.
    Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come,
    Or a plane to go or the mail to come
    Or the rain to go or the phone to ring,
    Or the snow to snow, or waiting around for a Yes or No
    Or waiting for their hair to grow.
  • Everyone is just waiting.
  • No! That’s not for you!

Well, I believe Dr. Seuss is right that the waiting place is not for us. We have been here for quite some time and I know that even when we escape to that place where banners are flying, we will find ourselves in the waiting place again and again.

We thought and were told that our Homestudy would be complete and in hand over a month ago. Our social worker is fantastic. He has been a social worker for many years but is new to international adoptions. Our homestudy has been reviewed and sent back to be reformatted or have items added 3 times now. Each time adds a week. We waiting on our completed homestudy to file our I-600a form and compile our registration dossier and our court dossier.
I spoke to our placing social worker yesterday and received some good news. We do NOT have to wait for our "Golden Ticket" from USCIS or have our court dossier completed in order to receive our first travel date :) :)

We do need our homestudy... *sigh*... and we need to compile our registration dossier. Once that is translated, we get to take our first trip and, for the first time, see the sweet face of our daughter across the globe.

It may not seem like a huge milestone but it was a glimmer of good news and progress that we so needed. With any luck we will not be waiting on our homestudy for to much longer and we will not be waiting too much longer to meet our Vika.

Hopefully our next update will be within the next week telling you that we have our homestudy in hand :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Be Prepared"

One of the steps of the adoption that made me the most nervous was the homestudy. I have heard so many horror stories about how homestudies can last anywhere from 2-8 months and how the Social Workers are so intimidating. "Be Prepared" is what I heard many people say. Prepare yourself for the never ending list of personal question and a very thorough inspection of your home. Prepare to feel vulnerable and intimidated and just remember it's their job.....
Who wouldn't be nervous.
Well, yesterday I received a call from Mr. Saunders, our Social Worker. "I'll be there at 4pm, if that's ok." he says. Trying to hold in my excitement and nervousness I hung up the phone and let Dustin know we had a big day ahead of us. The next couple of hours I ran around the house cleaning up any little messes and checking and rechecking all our baby proofed outlets and door knobs. I couldn't hold still.
Mr. Saunders was right on time and we sat in our living room talking for over 2 hours. He wanted to know all about us, including the girls. What our hobbies are, what we did for work, do we enjoy our work, how was Kaiya doing in school, how do the girls get along, what schools Dustin and I went to, what did we do after High School, How long did we date before getting married, what are our finances like, how do we feel about our communication with one another, what was it like growing up in our homes, and so on.. and on and on......
After we answered every question he asked, he asked to see our home. We showed him every room, including closets. Once in our room Kaiya wanted to show him her favorite game. She took both her socks off and stood on mine and Dustin's bed. She throws her socks how ever many times are required until each sock in on a different blade of the ceiling fan. She squeals with excitement and jumps off the bed and yells "Watch this!" She turns the van on and watches as the fan picks up speed. The socks fly off one by one, the second hitting Dustin. He plays his usual role in the game and falls to the ground. Kaiya and Ryan laugh so hard that the social worker starts laughing hysterically. We should have played this game at the beginning of the visit :) Would've been a killer ice breaker.
After he sees the rest of our home, including Vika's future bedroom, he tells us that our home is great. Nothing to change. He says that we have a wonderful spirit in our home and he is very happy he gets to work with us. He told us that if we can get all of our documents in within the next week, our homestudy will be complete in 2 weeks!! 2 WEEKS!!!
I told him that he is not nearly as scary as I thought he'd be. Another round of laughter :)
So, here we go. One more step in this journey down. This week we will be working on getting together all our documents which include Birth Certificates, Letter from Doctors, financial statements, to name just a few.
Let's do this!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Additions

Well Hello Fellow Bloggers,
First let me apologize. I am new to the world of blogging and am afraid I'm not very good at it. Like many other things, I will learn and improve through patience and practice. I am finally doing this because I feel that I am embarking on a journey that deserves more attention than my daily Facebook status update.
Let's start with introductions.
My name is Shalee Booker. I live in Farmington Utah with my Husband, Dustin, and our two beautiful daughters, Kaiya (7) and Ryan (20 months). Kaiya has Down Syndrome. If you have never heard the Down Syndrome saying "Angels are made of 47 pieces" you can take my word for it when I tell you it is a very true statement. She is an Angel. A very beautiful, loving and stubborn Angel :) We are involved with the Utah Down Syndrome Foundation and participate in the Buddy Walk every year. The Buddy Walk is a one mile walk and a day full of festivities to raise awareness for DS and funds for the foundation. This year, September 10th to be exact, our lives changed in a very significant way. We discovered we were missing a member of our family.
Let me back up...
At the Buddy Walk I noticed an Easy Up tent covered in balloons and full of tables that were covered in photographs. After this tent caught my eye for the hundredth time, I wondered over with my daughters to see what was so exciting. I met some of the most amazing and inspiring people. The tent was for Reece's Rainbow, an adoption ministry for children with Down Syndrome and other special needs. We met several families that had adopted from RR and heard all their stories. I was learning about how in other countries, when a child is born with special needs, most are placed in over populated orphanages. They are not always properly cared for and very rarely have anything (toys, clothes, etc.) that belong to them. Their heads are shaved and they are sometimes left in bed, often by force, when an orphanage is understaffed. These few things are the most minor problems these children face in this situation. When they reach a certain age, typically 5-7, they are removed from the orphanages and placed in adult metal institutions where 90% die within the first year of their transfer. After hearing all of this and looking over the dozens and dozens of photographs of "available" children, my husband and I decided right then and there that we needed and wanted to help. We talked about it so much and were so heart broken about how many children's faces we saw on that table. How does anyone just choose one? I got emotional at the thought of not being able to save them all. After some time to think about it and coming back to reality, I excepted the fact that... No, I can't save them all... But Dustin and I can and will save one.
We have begun the process of adopting a beautiful little 6 year old girl who has Down Syndrome. She is currently living in an orphanage in Eastern Europe. We have sent in our first fee to Global Adoption Agency and I am mailing off another round of paperwork and fees tomorrow. We know this will be a long and emotional journey, but it will all be worth it to see our sweet Daughter take her first step on American soil as a Booker.
I will keep posting throughout each step.
Thank You :)