Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Photos from the Summer Camp

Rowan about to fall asleep

Samuel enjoying the Cheerios...and don't you just love his little do rag?

Rowan, protective of the apple

The Russian countryside, as seen from the summer camp.

The entrance to the camp
One of the play areas
The actual building

One of the play pins

Friday, October 16, 2009

August 14-August 20

First an update - turn out the boys did have a parasite, and we are not the first couple whose dog ate the poop of adopted children with parasites. While talking to the nurse, I told her what happened, and she stated that a similar situation happened a few years prior, but she did not remember the outcome. The vet got a good laugh too. Fortunately, the vet was understanding. The particular parasite is species specific, so no crossing between dog and human.

And the story continues...

The 14th through the 20th were not really eventful. The schedule went something like this: be ready by 8:30am, drive to the orphanage, play with the boys for a couple hours, drive back to the hotel, eat lunch, nap, eat dinner, repeat. We were very fortunate that the boys orphanage allowed visits on the weekends.

On the 14th, we were provided with a large shopping bag full of magazines and an orange notebook. In May, an American couple was in Novokuznetsk for work purposes. During the 60 day stay (that's right, 60 days), they meet another American couple who was staying at the same hotel during their adoption proceedings. At that point, they decided to start a sort of "helpful hints" guide for all couples coming after them. In the notebook was a list of things to do, a map of the downtown area, and a list of restaurants including type of cuisine, availability of an English menu and free wifi! SCORE! The magazines in the collection where quite outdated, but were all in English, so it didn't really matter that I was reading NCAA football predictions from 2007.

On Saturday the 14th, we made an impromptu stop at a farmers market on the way back to the hotel. I suppose when you are the mercy of someone else, you have to do what they want. The fresh fruits and veggies were everywhere. There was also fresh breads and pastries to be purchased. Our travel guides instructed us to be very cautious about eating fresh foods, and personally, I wasn't really wanting to get a bunch of fruit. The translator insisted we purchase fruit (I think her words were "I'm getting some grapes, what are you getting.") I ended up with 2 bananas and 2 pears, both things I could peel.

One day, I don't remember which one, but our van got a flat tire. It started as we left the summer camp. If you remember, the summer camp was at the top of a one lane dirt road, on a very steep hill. As we left, we stopped, were instructed to exit the vehicle, and wait while the driver inflated the tire in question with a bicycle pump. Four more times we did this before the driver finally changed the tire.

On the 16th, a woman adopting siblings came to town (that's right, a woman, as in single, adopting 2 children. She was amazing). It was nice to have some company for a couple days. She would be in town for 3 days, and was returning home during her 10 day waiting period.

Originally we would be told we would be taking custody of the children on Tuesday the 18th. When we asked on the 16th, we were told it would not be for a few additional days, as the hotel was not heated (mind you it was 75 outside), we did not have food to feed the boys (even though we brought tons of it, and there was a grocery store one block from the hotel), and we would not be able to wash the boys clothes (even though the hotel had laundry service, and we had already washed some of our clothes in the sink). We smiled and nodded, and packed clothes for them everyday, just in case.

On the 17th, we were not able to see the boys (the only day we couldn't see them), so we ventured around the town. We found a couple of malls, a movie theater, a nice park, and the grocery store. Almost all of the shops and restaurants were frequented by a much younger crowd, 30 and under. Our speculation is that the younger crowd doesn't remember as much of the socialist system, so they feel free to shop/dine/play whenever and wherever they want. We almost never saw a person over age 40 in a newer store, or a restaurant. We did, however, get a good chuckle out of the older woman, presumably in her 60s or 70s, rolling her cart down the street while talking on her cell phone:)

Visiting the boys became easier, but harder all at the same time. We were finally allowed to be with the boys unsupervised, but we were ready to take them home. We were annoyed that we had to follow the orphanage rules. We were expected to keep them dressed in all 3 layers of clothing and have a hat and coat on at all times. We could take them outside, but they could not sit on the ground, walk in the grass, or sit on any benches without the covering of a blanket. Even though at that point, they legally were our children, we could not totally treat them as such. We felt pressure to bring all sorts of toys because that's what the orphanage workers wanted us to do, but we just wanted to sit and be with the boys. Rowan of course cried most of the time, and Samuel wanted to play by himself. We expected it though. We were strange people that they didn't know. I wouldn't want to play with me either if I didn't me. And to top it all off, both boys were sick.

So what did we do, we went on lots of walks. We tried to get the boys to look at pictures of the house and family. We fed them cheerios.

On Tuesday, we finally heard Rowan speak. It wasn't much, but it was more than we had heard him say. I was showing him pictures of the family, and it was a photo of Steve's dad that sparked a reaction. He whispered a word, what I don't know, but it was more than we'd heard. Behind those massive screams was a quiet little voice just waiting to be heard.

Rowan was still cautious around Steve. He only went around Steve without crying twice. Once while he was sleeping, and once while we were cleaning up toys.

Wednesday and Thursday we were able to take the boys outside. There was a small cat that played on the summer camp grounds, and both boys were fascinated by it. We could tell the cat had experience being tortured by small children, and ran quickly from the boys. Rowan managed to catch the cat and grab it by the tail. The cat frantically ran, not to be seen again. Samuel's favorite thing to do was walk. He was not interested in stopping to look at the flowers, or playing on any of the benches. He just wanted to walk. Rowan's personality became more apparent during these two visits. He was like a new kid once we went outside. More and more words started to come from his mouth. He enjoyed playing in the play-pin type contraptions that were outside. There were small toys dangled from the rafters. He enjoyed banging the tambourine and shaking the rattles. He and Samuel even played peek-a-boo with us. It was amazing to see both of them smile big smile, gum showing smiles, with sparkling eyes. It was the first real time we saw Rowan smile, let alone laugh. I could not control the tears.

After that visit, Steve helped take the boys back inside to visit the doctor. While I waited outside, the group that Rowan belonged to walked past. I said hello to the children, and those who could, said hello back and waived. As I stood there, the woman started speaking to the children. What I gathered, based on her hand motions and what I could understand, was that I was Rowan's new mommy, and that Rowan was going to fly on a big airplane. Most of them looked at me with amazement and gave a big whoa. They were cute, and at that moment, I wanted to take all of them home.

During Thursdays visit, we went at snack time. About 10 minutes into the visit, a small girl came out of the building, and handed Steve and I each an apple to give to the boys. We were a bit surprised the boys would get a whole apple to eat. Rowan quickly chomped into his without regard. He didn't stop. Samuel, however, was much more interested in the cheerios. He ate only about a quarter of the apple, and then Rowan stole it and finished the rest. As we left, the boys were returned to their groups. Samuel was escorted inside, and Rowan to a play area near the exit. We were able to watch Rowan play with his peers and interact with his caregivers. It was nice to see him interacting with others, still with a smile on his face, and turning around often to see if we were still watching him. In a few short hours, we would be back to take custody of them, and change all of our lives forever.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Scene of a Crime

The other day there was a theft at our house. Now don't b alarmed the theif was caught and the boys are okay. Elizabeth and I, however, have been scarred for life. We have been left in such a state of shock that we are tempted to move to a different home. What makes the whole situation so bad is not that something was stolen, it's what was stolen and who stole it. We know the thief very well, she has actually been living with us in our home for around 18 months.
Now you must understand that this thief has stolen many things from us food, shoes, and most recently our innocence. It is not that she stole it is what was stolen. Let me show you the scene of the crime...
Please be warned if you are eating stop...

Every night before we go to bed we sit on the potty and brush our teeth. On the night in question Rowan went poo poo in the potty. We were so proud of him. It was a messy poo so I went to get a diaper on him quickly. Elizabeth was in the process of getting Samuel ready for bed. When I came back the potty was empty. I asked Liz if she had emptied the potty, because in our house ofter we poo we say bye bye as it gets flushed down the toilet, and this would have been a serious faux pas. She had not and the potty was completely empty. This potty was frankly as clean as the day we bought it. It quickly dawned on us that our dog had eaten or child's turd.

Now I get that some dogs eat turds, and I get that my dog has eaten other dog turds. There is a line when my dog starts eating my child's turds. To make matters even worse our children have parasites. Don't worry most kids from orphanages have parasites. It's just that now I have to worry about my dogs and children having parasites. Ahh...the joys of parenthood.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The past 3 weeks have been challenging beyond my imagination and expectations, but looking at this face makes it all worth it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thursday August 13 - Court Day

First of all, thanks to everyone for all their prayers and concerns for Samuel. It appears that he must have caught a virus of some sort, thus causing a fever, and thus the seizure. He was a bit feverish on Monday, but happy to report nothing but smiles and normal temperatures since then. It's very scary to watch your son have a seizure, and then to not fully know his medical history only compounds the fear, but we were lucky, and God was watching over us, and we survived. And next time I will know that the ER at CCHMC is kept very cold, so bring a few extra layers.

And now, back to the story.

So our court session was scheduled for 10:00am on Thursday the 13th, which was 10:00pm on Wednesday the 12th in Cincinnati. We were told to be ready by 6:45am. The court session would take place in Kemerovo City, an almost 3 and 1/2 hour car ride away. As our driver was usually prompt, we, and the other couple, were ready at 6:30. Well, both times came and went, and no driver yet. About 7:00, they finally arrived and we were off.

While it was the same car, the driver was different, which was ok with us. We lovingly called him speed racer, as was made evident by the speeding ticket he received on the drive, as well as us arriving prior to 10:00am despite the late start and stop for gas.

I must admit, I slept most of the drive, but Steve tells me we were almost killed via head on collision 3 times. Good thing I was asleep.

We weren't told much about what to expect. The only thing we got from our translator was that we should not smile as this was a very serious thing. Note to self, don't smile. Fortunately, I had spoken with a friend of a friend who just adopted from the same region in Russia and got the scoop on the court session.

We arrived at the courthouse, which looked nothing like a courthouse. We went through security, and were told to site and wait. I, needing to use the restroom was escorted to the facilities. Restrooms in Russia are for the most part unisex. It's very common to walk in and see a man walking out of the stall, or visa versa. The bathroom itself was shocking. No seat, no toilet paper, no paper towels, and very dimly lit. So here I am, in the dark, trying to hold up my dress, while hovering over a hole, with no toilet paper!

About 10:15 or so, 15 individuals dressed in black robes came down the hall and filed off through doors. We were then escorted downstairs and through another maze of halls to reach our courtroom. John and Amanda went first. For 45 minutes, Steve and I sat by ourselves in the hallway praying. We prayed for the judge to show us mercy, for God to show his love and mercy on the judge, for Steve to speak fully and confidently, and for the 10 day waiting period to be waived. Bottom line, we knew the boys would be ours, there was never a question that the judge would say no. We didn't know if the 10 days would be waived.

About 11:00, John and Amanda came out, and we were escorted into the room. It was us, our translator, the social worker we met during the first visit, the prosecutor, the court reporter, and the judge. We were asked to state our names, address, and DOB. Then the judge read through some information about the boys, and us. All of the questions were addressed to Steve. Only at the end was I given the opportunity to add any comments. Steve was asked several questions - why we wanted to adopt, why Russia, if we had health insurance, what we knew about raising children since we didn't have any of our own. Then came the part about the 10 day waiting period. Steve respectfully asked for it to be waived based on the medical conditions. The judge stated it would only be waived in the event of serious medical conditions that required immediate surgery, and since that did not apply to our boys, the 10 days would not be waived. The judge reviewed additional information on the boys, including that they have a brother who is living with their birth mom. We were a bit shocked, but knew there was nothing we could do since mom still maintained the parental right to that child.

The proceedings only lasted about 45 minutes. In the end, the judge didn't even swing the gavel we are used to seeing. She said congrats, gathered her things and walked out. The translator looked at us, said congrats mom and dad, and out we went. It was a relief to finally have that over and done. I looked as Steve as we walked down the hall with tears in my eyes and said the boys are officially ours, and no one can take them away from us.

John and Amanda ended up having their 10 day waiting period waived as their little boy needed immediate surgery, and was scheduled to have a procedure done 2 days before the court date, but a head cold held off the surgery. They needed to stay for the remainder of the day to complete some paperwork. Steve and I left about 12:30 with the social worker who lived in Novokuznetsk. That's right, we got in a car with people who don't speak English, and we made it back alive.

Now, that's not to say that we didn't almost get into 2-3 more head on collisions on the way home. Steve and I didn't say much on the way home, in fact Steve slept for most of it. I think the driver and social worker forgot we were in the car until Steve sneezed really loud.

We arrived back at the hotel sometime around 4:00. This driver was not as speedy, and we again had to stop for gas. We pretty much slept the rest of the day. A huge weight had been lifted off our shoulders, but a new weight was about the be added.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


So over the past several weeks we have been experiencing the joys of adopting and 2 children. One thing they never prepare you for, nor can they, is when they get sick. Our oldest Samuel on Sunday night got sick. He was sluggish at dinner and didn't want to eat. He actually asked if he could go to bed and then immediately fell asleep at 7pm. At around 9:30pm we heard him in the monitor making a very wierd crying noise. I went to check on him and he was in a full blown seizure.
Now I have had seizures myself so I quickly recognized what was going on. However, being on the witness side, as apposed to the participant side, seizures are some pretty scary things. Until that moment in my life if you had asked me if I had ever been really scared I would have told you no. Apprehensive, worried, or nervous yes, but scared true gut wrenching fear no. My child was laying in my arms convulsing uncontrolably. There was nothing I could do and I knew it. With a seizure you just have to wait. The fear at that moment was almost unbearable the adrenaline of the situation kept me going. I also knew the worst was yet to come.
Now for the education if you ever encounter anyone having a seizure of any age 1) Lay them on the floor 2) Move everything that they could hurt themselves with 3) Make sure they are on their side not their back and breathing 4) call 911 Do not put anything in their mouth!!!!! The movies always show people putting something in between their teeth to prevent someone from biting their tongue. Guess what Hollywood got this wrong.
When you wake up from a seizure you are exhausted, disoriented and frankly quite grumpy. I also was aware that a trip to the ER was soon to come. We were going to get asked about family history, who are pediatircian was, what are the bruises from, why doesn't the child seem super comfortable with you. Now all of this can be answered with, "we just adopted him 2 weeks ago" but it puts us on the defensive right off the bat.
Fortunately our children's hospital in Cincinnati is top notch, shameless plug I work their, so they handled everything really well. Our oldest is now doing much better. He is still sick but we are over 24 hours seizure free and counting.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wednesday August 12

So this was the day we would finally get to see the boys, but first, a morning to ourselves. After the previous 3 days, we actually slept in until about 9:30am. We discovered we had ESPN America as one of the TV stations, and it was actually in English. We could catch a live baseball game in the morning, but usually got replays of memorable games throughout the day. About 11, I was out in the hall looking for something when John and Amanda (the other couple traveling with us) came by. We invited them in and struck up a conversation. They were adopting a little boy, almost 2, from a nearby orphanage. Six years prior, they adopted a girl from Russia. We talked about what court was like, what to expect when we get home, when to start using the boys new names, how best to transition foods, all the stuff that only another couple who has adopted would know. We also talked about the shops around the hotel, where to eat and what to eat, and of course, how long 24 days in Russia would be.

Around 2:30 we headed downstairs to meet our translator. We would be leaving at 3 to visit the boys. Upon arrival at the orphanage, we were told to wait in the van. Shortly after, the translator returned with a packet of papers and we drove off. Steve and I just looked at each other a bit befuddled. According to Russian law, we were required to visit the boys prior to the court session. I spoke up and asked why we did not visit the boys. Turns out, the boys, as well as all the children in the orphanage, were at the "summer camp" a few miles outside of town. The children spend the entire summer there, and we would go to the camp to visit there.

Well it turns out the summer camp is about an hour drive from the hotel. Along the way we passed one of the largest steel mill in Russia. The plant, primarily on one side of the road, but at points was on both sides, spanned a 3-4 mile stretch a highway just northeast of town. Twice a day, once going and once returning, we were greeted by many a tall smoke stack spewing blue and copper colored smoke. The environmentalist in me cringed. Another 15 minute drive put us on a one lane dirt road that lead up a steep hill. As we drove up the hill we passed through a small village. Think Fiddler on the Roof...plots of land the size of my house, and houses the size of my living room, all with steep roofs that looked like they were original to the houses. Some were brightly colored with well maintained gardens. Others were as old and worn as the owners. I wasn't entirely convinced the village had electricity or running water until we came upon the summer camp at the top of the hill.
We drove through a large gate that at one time had been painted, but was in obvious need of touch ups. A bit further of a drive led us to the actual building. This was a 2 story brick building, about one quarter of the size of the actual orphanage. What we don't know is how many kids were actually at the summer camp.
We were escorted into a small office and greeted by the director of the "baby house." She scurried off to get the boys. Samuel was the first to enter. Just as in April, he seemed very unsure about the introduction. The orphanage workers who brought him reassured him that we were momma and poppa. Rowan was next, and entered screaming. We didn't quite expect this, as the only time he cried during the first visit was when he saw Steve for the first time. He continued to scream for about 30 minutes, open mouth, tongue shaking, tears streaming crying. After a couple of tissues worth of tears, he finally calmed down, and we hope, realized I was not going to hurt/leave him. He spent much of the time clinging to me with the tightest grip ever. He did not smile, he did not talk, he quietly ate some Cheerios with his head down.

Samuel seemed to be the same Samuel we met in April. He was a bit bigger, but not much. His right side seemed to be a tad more developed as he seemed to be using it more than before. He was a busy body. He wanted to sit at the small table and chairs, then wanted to move them, then back in that chair, then on the couch, and back to the small chair. We brought some paper and makers (thanks Brooke!) for him to color. He colored all right, all over his lips. We quickly learned that Samuel did what he saw, and most likely saw the ladies putting on lipstick or gloss. The markers were about the right size for that. Thank goodness for wipes. The worker with us thought he was quite funny with green lips. We also learned that Samuel called all the women in the orphanage momma, and really, every woman he had ever seen was a momma. I gathered that all the ladies told him they were not momma, but that I was momma, eventually pointing at me. He brain just did not compute.

At one point, we saw another challange...doing things to get attention. Any time the door would open, Samuel would run over and yell momma. When the woman left, he would do the same thing. Samuel wet himself twice in 5 minutes, and we a pretty sure he did it the second time so that his "momma" would come back and get him. Samuel waved bye, and was off. Shortly after, Rowan wet himself, and was wisked away.

Here are photos of the boys from that first re-meeting.

We left the summer camp and drove back to the hotel. After a quick dinner at the resturaunt upstairs (with English menus), it was off to bed. Court was the next morning, and we were leaving at 6:30am.