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 The magazines in the collection where quite outdated, but were all in English, so it didn't really matter that I was reading NCAA football predictions from 2007.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

Parenthood

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.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tuesday August 11th

We arrive at the hotel sometime around 8am. Much to our chagrin, we stayed at a different hotel. A much nicer hotel. We had traveling companions again, who happened to stay at this hotel on their first trip, and were more than happy to show us around. Since we were unsure what hotel we would be staying at, we prepared as if we were staying at the same hotel as the first trip. While we packed a ton of food, we also had to bring 16 nights hotel stay in cash, which was close to $3000, as the hotel from the first trip only accepted cash. Upon check in, the new hotel only accepted credit cards, even though I asked to pay in cash. The room was fantastic - 2 double beds, separate living room and work room, full bath tub (Steve was very happy). The room also included breakfast at the restaurant on site.

After we checked in, we were told to be ready by 9am to head to the hospital for our medical exams. In our region, we are required to complete a medical exam by a panel of Russian physician prior to our court appearance. Keep in mind, still no chance to sleep. It's quickly approaching 36 hours of travel with minimal sleep.

We arrive at the hospital, and place our bags in the office of the person in charge. The four of us (Steve, myself, and the other couple) all receive our forms, and are directed where to go. The guys head off in one direction, while I'm directed to see the dermatologist, followed by the phlebotomist. As I exit, I take a seat next to our translator on a small bench outside the office. I should note that all offices were set up like this. Each office had a small bench outside, and people came and went without really needing to check in with anyone.

As I sat, trying to relax, the translator was called into the room where the other woman was. She left her purse on the bench. As it appeared there was some commotion, several other hospital staff members also entered the same office. About that time, a man sat down next to me. He did not speak to me, and I didn't think anything of it. About a minute later, he got up and left. As I looked over, I noticed the purse was gone from the bench, and saw the handles tucked under the arm of the man who just left the bench.

I freaked. I'm in a foreign country and just witnessed a crime. I immediately ran into the office to tell the translator, the only other English speaking person there, what had happened. Once I alerted her, I started to head after the man, but was quickly pulled back in by the hospital staff and questioned about what happened. I explained everything that just happened and was questioned about why I didn't run after the man (Of which I had 2 responses in my head - 1, robbers in American carry weapons, and 2, I tried, but you stopped me). The translator, extremely pissed, went running outside to find the guy, while the physician we were working with took me all over the hospital to try and find him. After about 20 minutes of searching with no luck, I was lead back downstairs, and then lead upstairs with the other woman for more tests. We passed Steve and the other husband along the way. There was no time to talk, but Steve knew my facial expression meant good things did not just happen.

After another 45 minutes of visiting different offices, we finally met up with our husbands and explained what happened. In the meantime, I had learned that the translators passport was in her purse. In Russia, the passport is the national form of identification for all citizens, much like the drivers license in the US. She would need the passport in order to complete much of the paperwork to complete our adoption.

Around 11am, we headed back to the hotel, the mood very different at this point. The translator asked me to accompany her to the police station. I agreed and asked Steve to come with me (still no sleep for either of us). We arrived and finally found an officer to take our report. Steve and I sat in the hall on a very hard bench for about 2 hours. All the while, the clank of high heel shoes pounding on stone tiles echoed the halls. Steve curled up in the corner at one point, but was quickly reprimanded in Russian by a station employee. Russians do not appreciate shoes on furniture, even if it is a beat up old bench. About an hour into the sitting, a flurry of activity started happening via cell phone. Several officers were in and out of the office, but we remained in the dark. Finally they called me into the office for my statement, which was more of an interrogation. Yes, I was asked about what happened, and what the guy looked like, but the officer pushed pretty hard about why I didn't try to stop the guy. I stayed calm and explained that it wasn't until he was almost out that door that I noticed, and that I informed the one other person who spoke English because I was unsure if anyone else would even know what I was yelling about. The officer seem satisfied.

I was asked for a form of identification. The translator escorted me to the van to get my driver's license, as my passport was being registered at the hotel (required by Russian law). On the way out, she informed me that her purse had been located, and that her passport and cell phone were in the purse. I was relieved, and again, expressed that I was sorry and how horrible I felt about the whole situation. She acknowledged my sentiments, but was more relieved.

Soon after, we loaded into the van (which already included the driver, translator, Steve and myself) with 2 police officers and a forensics guy to go claim the purse. After a short ride, we arrived at the apartment of the woman who found it. Everyone went into the building but Steve and I, and after 15 minutes, they all emerged, including the finder, purse in hand. She was to join us back at the police station for her statement as well.

After a quick survey, the passport, cell phone, bank cards, jump drive, and anything of real value to the translator were all in the purse. The total of what was gone: 500 rubles (about 17 bucks), sunglasses, a small notebook she kept, and the battery charger to her digital camera. We both sat in amazement at the items both taken and not taken.

We then went back to the police station where I was asked to create a composite sketch of the thief. I told everyone I talked to that day that I did not get a good look at his face, only his clothing and the back of his head. After nearly an hour of viewing predrawn features, I completed the best image I could with about 50% certainty.

So, at around 4pm, we finally made it back to the hotel. That's right, about 44 hours with minimal sleep or food. Rough. We both crawled in bed, and woke up the next morning. Three days down, 21 more to go.

August 9th - Day One

Well, I've finally gotten motivated to recap all the days, and Steve may come back through and add his two cents. I was asleep in the car a lot, so didn't get to see all the near head on collisions!

Really this is August 9th, 10th, and then into early August 11th - all travel just to get to Novokuznetsk, Russia. Honestly, nothing really exciting happened. We left the house at 9:00am on the 9th. Got the the airport and made it to the gate with no problems. Luggage was a bit exciting, I guess. We were going to be gone for 24 days, with a guaranteed 8-10 days with the boys, so there was all the boys related items, food for 24 days (since last time we weren't sure if and when we were going to eat), clothes for court, and clothes for us (which we really only packed about 2 weeks worth). We ended up with 2, 50lb suitcases, 1 40lb suitcase, and a 25lb duffel, which we carried on, plus 2 backpacks, which each weighed roughly 20lbs. That's right, 205lbs of luggage! We had no problems on Delta, but S7 in Russia is a story for later.

We were delayed slightly out of CVG. There was rain forcasted for our arrival in JFK, and per FAA regulations, there has to be an inclimate weather plan in the event we couldn't land at JFK. Sure enough, it was sunny without a cloud in the sky when we arrived.

Let for Moscow as scheduled. This time we had the plane with the individual video screens in the headrest, so we could watch what we wanted instead of the mass movie shown to all. We also learned that while exit row seats are great for leg room, they are not great of wider bodies, so we sat further back in the plane, skipped the exit rows, and had a much more comfortable ride. We didn't sleep very much, which was not such a great thing. It was an 8.5 hour flight, and the only one who slept was me, at a whopping 2 hours.

We learned on the flight that we would need to complete a swine flu verification card, including where we had been 10 prior to flying, and where we were going 10 days after we arrived. Once we landed, we were greeted by a doctor who was going to take every passengers temperature before deplaning. Thankfully, the temperature was taken via infrared, and nothing was probed.

Our driver arrived to get us, and head to the other airport on the other side of town. This meant a 2 hour car ride (yes, Moscow is that big) for us to sleep. We slept off and on for about an hour of the ride.

We arrived at the next airport around 1:30pm local time (5:30am Eastern for those keeping score at home). We checked in for the flight and got rid of the luggage. Remember that 205lbs of luggage? Well, on the flight within Russia, we were allowed 20kg checked at 7kg to carry on per person, which amounted to 120lbs total. The other 85lbs? We paid handsomely for it, to the tune of $300. We looked at it like this: it would cost way more to ship it, and if we had to buy all the things that we took with us, it would have cost us more than $300. Anyway, we got several looks from the airline employees as we checked 4 bags. Oh well.

We found a quiet corner to try and catch some shut eye. Our flight out didn't leave until 1030pm, so we had plenty of time to sleep. We slept off and on for around 5 hours. None of it was good continuous sleep though, and it was in very uncomfortable airport seats. About 7:00pm, we finally grabbed some dinner at Sbarro (so glad it's a universal airport food), and made our way through security. For the next 3 hours we walked in and out of every store in the airport, as well as sat in every seat in the airport. We found and outdoors store that sold the Russian fur hats, but as airports are oft to do, the price was so jacked up, it was over $1000. We didn't want it that bad.

The good news about the S7 flight - it wasn't 90 degrees this time! I actually had a blanket and was quite comfortable. We also knew what we were asking for when the food was served. Again, little sleep on the flight. It seemed to be a theme. We finally arrived in Novokuznetsk around 7:00am on Tuesday, August 11th, which was 7:00pm Monday, August 10th in Cincinnati. The rest of the day was quite an adventure, but I'll save that for tomorrow...I have a 3 year old who can't stop saying "momma."

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Wife of Noble Character

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (Prov 31:10-31)

This describes my wife to a T. Without her this adoption, this blog, and anything I have done successfully would not have happened. The last verse says "and let her works bring her praise at the city gate." I live in Cincinnati, I have no city wall that needs a gate. My city gate is the Internets. The entire world should know how awesome my wife is.

To this end the other day I called my wife a baby elephant. Don't worry it's a good thing. I was watching a PBS special the other day about Herbert von Karajan (he's famous trust me). To motivate someone he called them a baby elephant. Everyone laughed at the reference and then he explained what he meant. "A baby elephant is not someting to trile with by itself it is stronger than most things on Earth. The problem is that the elephant doesn't know it yet. It hasn't realized it yet." My wife is like that. Stronger than most people on Earth.

Over the past couple of weeks I have seen her deal with three children in Russia (two adopted, and one spouse). The only times I have seen her truly frustrated is when she has so much love that she can't express it, because the kids won't let her. Our children are beautiful, but don't exactly know how to receive love yet, as they've never really had it from another human being. She is currently upstairs with them napping and my prayer for them all is that they grow in love with each other. They learn to trust one another and that the Holy Spirit come over this house and bless us all with a little/lot of extra patience and love. I also pray that my children despite the horrible beginning to their life (due to man). That from here on out their lives be blessed by the fruit of the Father in heaven. That they experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That they learn that as parents we have the best intentions but won't always get it right. That we loved them from the moment we saw them.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My cup runneth over

It really does.

We made it home, about 7:30 Tuesday night. We were greeted at the airport by my parents, and the tears could not be stopped. I've dreamed of the day I would make that final ride up the escalator to baggage claim, child in my arms, but the emotions were too much.

Now the real hard part begins. The past 3 years, cake. Teaching 2 toddlers that they are loved, and it's ok, and someone will come to the rescue and hold them, or bath them, or change the diaper, or feed them, that's the challenge. The only way I can describe it is that we have literally walked into the pits of hell, and are fighting our way (and the boys way) out of it emotionally and physically. This my friends, this is parenting.

Soon I'll go back and recount the journey in greater detail, but for now, I'm too tired to even think about writing. Hang with me, and I'll post more in the coming weeks, that is, if the sleep deprivation doesn't kill me first.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Moscow

We made it to Moscow. It's currently 1:30 Saturday afternoon, and all 3 of my boys are asleep. Monday we visit the Embassy, and Tuesday we head home.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Live, from Novokuznetsk, it's...

...well, it was going to be a video of Sam snoring, but my connection wouldn't let me load it.

That said, we did get the boys, about noon on Friday. It was rather unceremonious. We went in, changed their clothes, and walked right out.

The first 48 hours of parenting have been insane. Steve and I can only hope it gets better. The boys are exact opposites. Rowan is very timid and gentle spirited. He can't go anywhere without me by his side. Needless to say, every time I got to the bathroom, I have a 2 year old standing next to me. He also is not a good sleeper. If we lay him in the crib he immediately starts blood curdling screaming. He also has to be rocked to sleep, but has a keen instinct for knowing exactly when he is about to hit the bed. I haven't gotten much sleep. He loves getting dressed and eating, but hates bath time.

Sam loves bed time. About 8pm, he grabs Steve's hand and walks over to the crib, telling him in broken Russian that it's time for bed. He then lays quietly until he falls asleep. Naps are a different story. He hates them and refuses to look at the crib. Toddler meltdowns are pretty common starting 5:30. Really toddler meltdowns are common all day. Sam was the beloved one at the orphanage, and is used to getting his way. He also thinks that hitting and biting are the best way to get what he wants. Sam is a pretty good eater, but usually wants what Steve and I are eating. Sam loves bath time. The only way Steve could get him out of the tub was to let the water out.

The plan is still to leave Novokuznetsk on Thursday the 27th, and then leave Moscow on Tuesday the 1st. Continue to pray that these coming days go fast, and that we can remain patient and sane. (And I really was going to upload some photos, but Firefox gave me the thumbs down, check facebook).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Back in business

I lied.

We aren't quite in Moscow yet, but thanks to some awesome families who came before us, we found a cafe with free wi-fi! In mid May, an American couple came to this area of Russia for a business trip. Along the way, they met the American couples here to adopt. They started a notebook of local resturaunts, shops, attractions, helpful tips/tricks, in hopes of making the trips of those that come after easier. Needless to say, we have located a cafe with an English menu, American music (top 40 stuff), free wi-fi, and friendly service. Life is good again.

We have been here for 8 days now. We are told we will take the boys from the orphanage on Friday the 21st. We were supposed to get them on Monday the 24th, but the orphanage does not allow visits on the weekends or Mondays, so it will have to be earlier...oh darn :)

The boys are doing well, growing and bonding more everyday. Rowan still thinks Steve is the hairy, scary monster, and cries for the first half hour of each visit. He did look at Steve and acknowledge him as pappa today, which is more than the kid has done all week. I was actually able to get him to laugh and smile quite a bit today, and he was talking up a storm. He is definately locked in a shell that takes a while to open.

Sam still thinks that every woman he sees is momma. It also makes it hard for me to bond with him because I've spent so much time with Rowan. Rowan has to be within a hand reach of me at all times, which makes it hard to chase a 3 year old all over the place.

Steve and I are doing well also. The hotel we are staying at this time is much nicer than the hotel we stayed at in April. Our hotel now is in the business section of town, so the accomidations and location are more geared towards business travelers. This hotel has a full size tub, so Steve can actually take a shower. For why this is important, reference here. It's amazing what accomidations will do for ones emotional state.

At some point, probably over the coming weeks or once we get back, we will chronical each day. Stay tuned as the adventures from this trip completely shadow the adventures from the last trip.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Quick update

Hey everyone!

It's currently 5:30pm on Thursday, August 13 in Novokuznetsk, Russia. We had our court date this morning. While the judge was cool, and Steve did well answering questions, the 10 day waiting period was not waived. In spite of that, the boys are officially ours! Sam and Rowan are officially Myers'. I don't think it has really sunk in yet, and they must remain in the orphanage until the 24th.

We've already had some great travel adventures too! I can't wait to tell you all about the stole purse, the day at the police station, the speeding ticket, and the near fatal car ride...ok, Steve will have to tell about the near fatal car ride. Again, I was oblivious as that happened.

We will update much more once we get to Moscow.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The day has finally arrived. I can't say that I feel any different yet. I also don't think it has truly set in yet. The only real thoughts in my head are about whether or not I can get everything on my list done before we leave (and yes, this is one of them).

Big Russian bear hugs and thanks to everyone who has partnered with us, be it financially, or through prayer, or those who have been our sounding boards during times of frustration. This has been a very long journey for us, and we couldn't have done it without you.

I'm not sure what the internet service will look like in Siberia, so you may not hear much until we return to Moscow, on the 27th.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

T - minus 17.5 hours

We leave at 9am tomorrow.

We are packed. Do you have any idea what it's like to pack for 2 people for 24 days, in addition to 2 boys for 8 days? 3 large suitcases, a large duffel, and 2 back packs later, we got it all. I think only packed a couple pairs of pants and a few shirts, but I feel like I grabbed everything including the kitchen sink!

We have been challenged by baggage restrictions also. On Delta, we can take all our bags for no fees. On the Russian airline, we can only take 1 checked bag each, weighing 44 lbs, and one carry on each, weighing 15 lbs. We finally decided the headache was worth the $10 per extra bag. On the way home, the boys will be ticketed passengers, so they can check bags, and of course, on the way home, we won't have nearly as much stuff with us.

Starting at 9am tomorrow, we will do about 36 hours of traveling, finally arriving in Novokuznetsk around 6:30am on Tuesday (6:30pm Monday EST). Prayers are appreciated for safe travel, and actually sleeping on the flights.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The room

As promised, photos of Sam and Rowan's room. We went Dr. Seuss themed, inspired by some furniture we found at IKEA. While we didn't end up going with that set (we are on a budget), we made it work. I think the boys will like it.






And what's a Dr. Suess room without the Cat in the Hat, a couple of things, Horton, and the Lorax.





Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Myers, party of 4...

...your table is almost available.

In a month, my family will have grown by a factor of 2. Wow. It's less than a week before we leave again, only this time it will be for almost a month.

Our passports and visas arrived today. We can legally get into the country (take note for those who really want to see Iran or N. Korea). Our Rubles arrived today as well, so we can pay for our hotel and food while there. Now, that's not to say we didn't load up on stuff that we could make with hot water...pasta, oatmeal, tuna, and tons of snacks. 16 nights will be a long time.

I just booked the rest of our airline tickets. August is apparently a popular month to travel in Russia, and it's reflected in the price. Thank God we didn't have to pay much at all in travel for the first trip.

I think we finally have everything we need for the trip. I did have a bit of a moment last week in Target. I went to buy some items Steve and I would need for the trip, and suddenly found myself in the baby aisle realizing I hadn't purchased any diaper wipes, or baby powder, or toiletries for the boys. Steve reminded me that those were needed, and to grab a red basket to carry them.

The room is finally done. I just have to remove the paint cans. I'll post some pics before we leave.

The only thing left, other than packing, is maintaining my sanity. God help me with both.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 29th

Today is baby Rowan's 2nd birthday.

It's been a bit weird. I've tried hard not to think about it today. It's the first birthday with him as my son, and I wish he was home with us, but at 2, he's not going to understand what a birthday means anyway.

I wonder if the orphanage celebrates birthday's of the kids, or if it's just another day. In mind, I'll think that today was the second best day of his life (the first of course will be when he becomes a Myers'), filled with lots of love, well wishes, and special treats.

Sam will turn 3 while we are waiting out the 10 days (provided it's not waived), so I guess I will find out what orphanage birthdays are like.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A gap in the space/time continuum

That's really what I need right now.

In 2 weeks, I'll be on a plane to Novokuznetsk. 2 weeks. I'm about as far behind the 8 ball as it gets.

We spent the weekend at a friends wedding, enjoying our last big fanfare of a party before the kids come. And of course there was not internet or cell service to start working on details.

I really feel bad for the folks who get a weeks notice.

With 10 business days, or 13 real days left until we leave, everything that needs to happen gets way more expensive. Sent our passports off to get visas this morning. Expedited processing on those set us back an additional $300 bucks. Most of the "cheap" plane tickets are sold by now, so it's going to be a bit more expensive than originally estimated. I spent about 30 minutes on the phone with a Delta agent trying to work through the best way to get the boys from Moscow to Cincinnati. Her response - one way tickets for $2600 each! After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I discovered I could by round trips tickets out of Moscow, not use the second leg of the trip, and save $1600 on each ticket.

On the other side, much of the cost we thought could only be paid in cash can actually be paid by credit card. The only downside there is that I've come to acquire the elusive American Express and Discover cards...not accepted in Russia.

All of our paperwork is in order. I just need to gather a few more documents that need to go with us.

We decided we are going to stay in Siberia to wait out the 10 day waiting period if it is not waived (continued prayers for it to be waived are appreciated). With that, we will be gone for 24 days. I have 2 weeks to prepare for 2 children to come into my home. Did I mention that yet?

So here is what I need before I leave -
- A gap in the space/time continuum so that I can get some stuff done.
- A winning mega millions lottery ticket (at this point we are about $7000 short of having all our expenses covered).
- Nothing else in, on, or around my property to break (a car, and toilet and a roof all in a week).
- Continuous sleep over the next 2 weeks, because we all know it's not happening after that.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

August 13

We finally have a court date. While August was what we were hoping for, it seems so far away. The other thing we have to way now it to stay in Russia during the 10 days or come home, wait out the 10 days, and then go back. It will actually be more cost effective to return home, but it also means a week without the boys. Granted, they have to remain in the orphanage, so it would only be about an hour or so each day anyway.

So, we leave on the 9th, and either way will be back on September 1st. We may be back for a week in the middle, but that is yet to be seen.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Link

I found an incredible website today while reading up on this guy. The organization is called Project 1.27. They are based out of Colorado, and the vision of the organization is to have every child without a permanent home adopted, not in foster care, but adopted into a permanent family, by 2014. Best of all, the government in the state of Colorado is totally behind this organization and its vision. Check it out at www.project127.com.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Confessions of an (international) adoptive parent

First an update.

We did end up making that whirl wind trip to Columbus a few weeks ago to finalize our documents. It went down something like this...we both got fingerprinted on a Monday (that makes 3 times for those keeping track), I got a physical on the same day, Steve's was on Wednesday. All the documents were notarized that Thursday night. Steve returned to the doctor on Friday morning to have his TB test read. I went to the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts about 11:30am on that Friday followed by a quick trip home to gather items for the weekend, and picked up Steve from work. We made it to the Ohio BCI office in London, OH around 2:00pm to pick up the fingerprint records, only to discover my DOB was wrong (and thank God there was someone in the office who could sign and notarize an updated copy). Made a 5 minute drive to the Madison County Clerk of Courts to have those certified, and then office to Columbus to have everything appostilled. In just over 4 hours we had gone to 5 different offices in 3 different counties, but got it all done. At least this time we knew what we were doing.

Our documents are in Russia, but we haven't heard anything yet. The most recent weekly update is that we probably won't hear anything until mid July...more waiting.

It's been 2 months since I've seen my boys. Two months with no updates. While I like to play it cool, I wonder. Are they growing, are they eating, will they remember me, has Rowan started talking yet?

Confession: This is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. This is the most emotional time of my life (yes, that includes the 6 months of fertility treatments).

It's hard to put into words the emotions I feel on a daily basis. I've met my children, but can't have them yet. I broke down twice last week while traveling. Both times I saw parents playing with their small children in the airport, one, a little boy about Rowan's age, laughing and giggling. It made me want him home more.

Overall the process has moved quickly, but length of time in relative. There are days I wake up and say "Wow, this 2 months has gone by so fast," and then there are mornings I wake up and feel like it has been a year since I waved bye to the little boy at the end of the hall.

Confession: It's getting hard to be around parents and kids again.

It used to be pregnant moms, because they had the one thing I wanted, but couldn't have. Now it's parents and their young children. They have the one thing I also have, but they rarely go a day without seeing their children, let alone 2+ months, almost 6 if you count the time from when we first got picture. Sometimes parents will joke about how they would love to take a vacation from their kids. This is not a vacation. I've tried to throw myself into my hobbies to easy my mind, but even that doesn't seem to be helping.

Confession: I am an expectant mother, and just because I don't have a large round belly doesn't mean that I'm exempt from being emotional.

I do it myself. I tell pregnant women they have "pregnancy brain," and even expect that pregnancy brings about an emotional irrationality that society has come to pass of a just being "pregnant." It's not a big deal, it's what's expected. While I'm not sad that random strangers aren't coming up to rub my belly, having to constantly justify my emotional state is a bit much. I'm not pregnant, therefore, I have to reason to be forgetful, or emotional, or irrational even. But I do. I have to fight for my boys everyday. I have to constantly justify why I've made the decisions I've made, and why I chose to adopt, and why Russia, why not the States. Fighting for my boys is very dear to my heart, and it can get very emotional.

Confession: The process has worn on me physically, mentally, and financially.

Everytime I think about going back to Russia, I can't help but wonder if I can really do it. One week in Russia with the traveling, changing time zones so dramatically, limited food options, language barrier, and culture shock was rough physically and mentally. This time I will do almost 4 weeks in Russia. I sometimes wonder if I'll have the strength to do it. I lost 6 pounds while in Russia last time. It's not so bad in Moscow. We as American's can blend in much easier than in Siberia. Not to mention that this time we will be in front of a judge who still has the power to say no (although it hasn't happened yet).

Financially times are tough for everyone. I hear it over and over again. Basically, we have about $20,000 worth of expenses remaining to get the boys home, and that includes airline tickets, hotel, passports and visas for the boys, medicals exams in Moscow, court costs, attorneys fees, transportation, translation, and food, all of which either has to be paid before we go again, or in cash. It's been hard. We believe we have heard a very clear call to do this, and so are trusting God to make this happen, but it gets very frustrating when time and time again the response we get is sorry. We have applied for numerous grants to offset the high cost of international adoption (they pretty much all use the same phrasing). And most of them are faith based organizations that use the James 1:27 principle of taking care of orphans. However, they have a limited supply of funds, and use financial need as a primary basis, so we face the double edge sword of not being able to afford the high cost of international adoption, but making too much money to require financial assistance.

So we make decisions, and get asked more questions about our decisions, and justify. And the mental and emotional drain continues.

Confession: Some confessions aren't suitable for this forum.

It's true. I know who reads this, and if I put it all out there I would make more than a few people upset. Few of my friends or family are on a similar journey, and just don't get it. They don't understand the process or the expectations or the mental/emotional toll, or any number of aspects of adoption. Some try to understand, other smile and nod.

Confession: I will do this again.

I won't go to Russia to adopt. I could very easily see that Russia would make the process even more difficult in coming years. I can say that I've done it, but there has to be a better (and when I say better, I mean more cost effective, less paperwork) way. Don't get me wrong, I have valued my experience in another country, and I value that I was able to experience the culture of my boys. I also live in a country were the opportunities are endless, and I'm spoiled rotten. So will I take care of a orphan again, yes, it may just be from up the street instead of across the globe, and maybe a girl. I think Sam and Rowan will need someone to stick up for.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Has it really been more than a month?

Unbelievably, yes.

I think there have been many things to keep our minds occupied. Despite all attempts, we returned to our daily lives. It was only about 2 weeks after we returned that it finally kicked in that something, someones rather, were missing. Sure we talked about them, and thought about them, and looked at pictures, and captured our trip on this blog, but it wasn't the same.

Ironically, during this time I haven't once been worried about them. I haven't wondered if they are growing, or eating, or missing us. I think Steve and I both saw they were taken care of (albeit, not like we want to) in the orphanage.

We have also felt the attacks of the enemy during this time. About mid May, we started ramping up for the next round of paperwork. Just as we were getting ready to complete a crucial part of the paperwork, we got a notification that we needed to stop. Because of all the events with adoptions from Russia, the officials have really started cracking down and enforcing the rule. The officials is Russia have complied a list of American agencies that prepare homestudies, for which they are no longer accepting paperwork, most likely because a post-adoption requirement was not met. Our agency happens to be on that list, which meant we would need to find a new social worker to complete the remainder of the work. We finally found one, and hopefully we can get the rest of everything completed quickly.

Yesterday we got an email from our adoption coordinator stating that the officials are ready to assign a court date, and were inquiring about the rest of our document. Holy crap! Most everything was done except the background checks and physicals. Quick scheduling should have those completed by Wednesday next week. It looks like we might be making another whirl wind trip to Columbus to get all of our documents finalized!

So the current estimated timeframe is late July/early August for a court date. We had initially hoped for August as it looked like this might be the soonest. We have definitely been blessed that our timelines have been shorter than projected. The sooner the boys come home, the best!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Headed home

While I was sad to leave, the general consensus was that the bare minimum time in my childs birth country is enough. We has a noon flight out of Moscow, and would arrive in Cincinnati around 7:00pm.

Our driver was coming at 9:00 to get us, but had a track record of being early, so we were ready at 8:30. As expected, he arrived at 8:30, and we packed the van to head out. Since it was a holiday weekend, there was minimal traffic. We wanted to record the drive, just so people would believe the stories we told about traffic, but there was nothing to report.

We arrived at the airport about 9:15 and headed for the green channel through customs - nothing to declare. Best line ever, except that everyone goes through that line, so the wait is about 45 minutes. Fortunately, while in line, I recognized a couple who was on our flight from Atlanta to Moscow the week before. This time, they had a little boy with them. I introduced myself, said how I recognized them, and we struck up a conversation. Turns out the little boy was their son they just adopted...and they couldn't have been more glowing that morning. This was their third trip to Russia. The judge in their region did not waive the 10 day waiting period, and the orphanage told them they would not be able to see their son during that time, so they went back to the US to wait. They actually said it was cheaper to come home than to stay in Russia for those 10 days. We shared stories and experiences while we waited.

At the end of the line for the green channel all of our bags went on a belt to be scanned (security check number one). We then proceeded to a line for the Delta ticket counter. After another 15 minutes in line, we were greeted by a checkpoint that verified our passports, checked our destination, and made sure we understood the regulations of flying an American airline. The couple we met said that at this point we may have our bags searched (security check number two). We then proceeded to the ticket counter. At this point we waived our checked luggage goodbye and hoped we would see in at JFK. After we got our tickets, we waited another half hour in line at passport control. Here we had our visas stamped saying that we officially left the country (security check number three). From there we went on to the traditional airport security - remove the shoes, liquids in a baggie, electronics out, etc (security check number four).

Two hours later, we finally made it to the gate. Fortunately for us, if we had come 15 minutes later, we would have had to enter a random security checkpoint at the gate. Four was enough. We found a seat and began to relax. At this point, we were ready to park ourselves in a seat and fall asleep. Then we hear our names as we are being paged to see the gate agent. The only thought in my head was "what is wrong with our checked luggage." The gate agent wanted to trade our seats for upgrades to business class! *Side note - I travel a lot for work, and have enough status with Delta that I get complementary upgrades and companion upgrades if available.* What? Upgrade? OK! Since I used my miles to pay for the flights, I wasn't supposed to be upgraded, but I wasn't going to complain. 10 hours in coach was not what I called fun.

Our seats weren't next to each other, but the gentleman next to Steve offered to switch. As we got comfortable, Steve looked at me and asked if this was how I lived when I flew. Not even close. On international flights, the seats recline like la-z-boys, you get multiple meals on fine china, noise cancelling headphones, large blankets, down pillows, unlimited video entertainment options on a personal TV, and all the alcohol and snacks you can eat. Steve, how originally was ready to sleep for 10 hours, was now ready to enjoy his in flight experience.

We arrived at JFK on time, and more ready to make a potential sprint as we didn't have very long before our flight to Cincinnati. We got off the plane and navigated the many tunnels to passports control (security check number five). After that it was on the claim our checked luggage. Lucky us, our bags came in on a different carousel than posted. After about a half hour, Steve started looking at the other carousels. By this time, all the bags had been pulled off and were laying on the floor. After the 4th black bag, we found ours and moved on. At JFK, to make a connection from an international flight, you must re-check your luggage, and go through airport security again (security check number six).

We made it through and found our gate, only to learn the flight was delayed, and then the gate was moved to the other side of the airport, and delayed again. We finally made it to Cincinnati around 7:45, and home about 8:30 (made a couple stops). My own bed, and my own shower never felt so good.

Despite the time change, we only slept for about 8 hours. We were up and ready to go to church at 9:30 on Sunday morning. The dogs were really excited to see us, and so were our friends. The weeks since have been a blur, but that is another post for another day. Now the waiting game begins, again.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I've lost count of the day, but still in Russia

I'm not sure how many days we were in Russia at this point, but I knew it was May 1. Why you ask? It was a holiday, May Day. To celebrate, we would travel back to Moscow.

Our flight left at 7:40, so to ensure that we were able to make the flight, we were up and moving about 4:30am, to leave the hotel at 5:30am. After yet another exciting ride, that this time included almost hitting a few pedestrians as they crossed the street, we arrived back at the airport. This time we were smart...we dressed in layers. It was kind of chilly, I would say upper 40's outside, but we knew it would be hot on the plane.

We arrived at the airport, went through the 3 levels of security checks, and waited to be herded like cattle out to the plane. Russians have no real sense of "forming a line" and always seemed to be in a hurry, so we sort of waited at the back until everyone else boarded. We found our seats and immediately took off as many layers as possible. We know what was coming. Most others on the plane remained in coats.

We were very fortunate that at least one flight attendant on each flight spoke some English. We were at least able to communicate food options and the type of drink we wanted. I think we both fell asleep sometime after the meal, maybe midway through the flight. This flight would be almost 5 hours, on an Airbus A319 (a bit smaller than a 737), with no video entertainment. And I think my 4 hour flights a painful.

We woke up from our nap and started shedding clothes. The ride seemed to be hotter than the first flight. Steve opened his portable alarm clock to check the time, and remembered there was a thermometer on it...85 degrees Fahrenheit. YOWSAH! He kept it open for a few minutes. 87...89...91! 91 degree on an airplane! We started noticing that the flight crew had also removed some of the layers they had been wearing. The folks sitting around us seemed unfazed though. Many had on long sleeve shirts, blazers, and coats. We could see the sweat running off faces, but all clothing remained on. Fascinating.

We finally landed in Moscow just before 9:00am Moscow time. Again, the Russians on the flight proceeded to bundle up before heading outside. We didn't put another piece of clothing on all day. We walked off the plane and into the baggage claim area. The airline we traveled on had a strict baggage claim policy. No claim tag, no luggage. Each tag was checked against the luggage tag to ensure the proper bag was leaving with it's rightful owner.

The ride to the hotel was uneventful. Even though it was rush hour on a Friday, it was a holiday, so the ride was only about a half hour. A friend from work recommended we stay in a part of town called Arbat. It's basically known for one street that is all shops and restaurants, theaters, and artists selling paintings, books, crafts, knick knacks, etc. We spent the night there with the other couple traveling with us.

The first thing we did was take a nap, and a long one at that, and them shower. All we, both couple included, really wanted to do was be with our children, and since we couldn't do that, we wanted to go home. About 5:00pm we decided it was time for food. The other couple mentioned there was a Hard Rock Cafe just around the corner, that featured an English menu and staff that spoke English - SOLD! All I really wanted was some American food. I didn't care if it was from a restaurant that I wouldn't consider in the States because every time I've gone the food has been horrible. I wanted a burger, and I wanted someone to speak English to me! The waitress laughed as we all ordered burgers and fries. Best meal I had in Russia.

After dinner we walked along Arbat Street. Since it was a holiday, there were several impromptu parades, live music, and dancers. We stopped in some of the souvenir stores. Steve hadn't gotten anything for himself yet. He ended up with a t-shirt that was totally marketed towards American tourists. It said "I've been to Russia. There are no bears." Both true statements, both funny, both touristy. As we walked back, we found some humorous things. There was a lady with a monkey in a coat. For a small fee anyone could get a photo with the monkey. I think it was the fact that the monkey was wearing a coat that made us laugh. Also, port-a-potties can only be used for a fee. In all instances, there will be one stall with an attendant, and she must be paid before you can enter. The fee totalled about 50 cents, but it was still humorous.

After we got back to the hotel, we talked with the other couple for a while, exchanging photos, stories and experiences. About 10:00pm, we called it quites. At 9:00am the next morning, we would be headed home.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Photos from the last day

In front of the orphanage

Sam being a cling on

More books

I found his ticklish spot

The fam

Rowan petting the tiger (and no, this does not make him a Bengals fan)

Rowan and momma

Rowan and the cups

Sam dragging the toy bag down the hall

He stopped to wave bye

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Novokuznetsk Day 2...and then some

The afternoon of day 2 was a bit bittersweet. We knew it would be the last chance we had to see the boys until we returned, but we also got to spend almost 2 and a half hours with the boys. Steve started playing with Sam and I with Rowan. Not to far into the visit, Rowan got a horrible look on his face. When I looked at him, I discovered he had wet himself, which brought about the potty training question. The children start potty training early. They are training to a schedule - when they get up, before a meal, after a meal, before bed. They don't yet understand the connection between the urge to go, and going in the toilet. Looks like I will need some books on potty training. Rowan was taken away to get changed and was soon back to join us. After that, we decided that it would be good for Steve to spend most of the time with Rowan, to help him get used to Steve, and boy did it pay off.

The other couple that traveled with us took their son into an adjacent room and played with him. I played with Sam in one corner, and Steve played with Rowan in another corner. Quickly, Rowan began to start playing, which was more than we had seen him do in the previous visit. He found some stacking cups and began to pull them apart, stack them in order, and put them back together. Steve hid some cookies in the center cups for Rowan to find. When he opened the last cup, he saw the cookie, and began to put the cup back together. As he was doing that, he realized that was a cookie, pulled the cups back apart. This time, instead of smashing the cookie, he picked it up and started eating it as expected. I think I even caught a smile in there.

Sam was a bit of a cling on during the visit. I'm pretty sure we interrupted nap and snack time. He wanted to be held, but not really. He wanted to play, but not really. He wanted to do what he wanted to do, but couldn't really, because he had to stay in the room. He was fascinated at looking outside. I don't know if it was the rain, or the fact that he could hear other children playing outside, but he wanted to look outside.

He continued to run around like his hair was on fire. One moment with the balls, the next with the bubble, and the following with the books. He was incredibly fascinated by the books, especially the books with textures. He enjoyed flipping the pages, getting to the end and starting over again.

At one point we were playing in the ball pit and he decided that he was done. I knew this because when I tried to play with him, he reached up and smacked my face. I said the only Russian word that fit the moment - NO - except I said it in Russian. The translator saw the event go down, and started verbally disciplining him in Russian. He immediately corrected his actions. And this is how I know he understands Russian.

Steve and Rowan explored textures during some of their play time. He would take Rowan's hand and feel his beard, then would take his hand and feel the soft stuffed animal. After a few times of doing this, Steve said that Rowan could recognize the two were different. Steve said he would make different facial expressions as he touched the different textures.

Before we knew it we got the ten minute warning. It was good to know that the time was ending soon, and that the boys would not just be whisked away as before. We sat with each of the boys and prayed over then, asking God to protect them until we return, for the time to go quickly, and for their continued care by the workers until we return. We took some quick family photos, and surprisingly, everyone was looking at the camera. Soon, the head caregiver came in, and we knew what that meant.

We pulled out the items we brought for the boys - the bunny blankets I knit them, the pictures of momma and poppa, and the bubbles for orphanage to keep. Sam was not interested in the pictures. He wanted to see what all the commotion was about. Rowan was fascinated by the photo. He would look at the photo and then at Steve, and again at the photo and up at Steve. You could tell his little brain recognized the guy in the photo as Steve. We kept saying "poppa" as he would look at Steve, but we know he has no concept of what "poppa" means.

We said our goodbyes and gave hugs and kisses. The Russian word for goodbye is pronounced "da svidanya." Both boys knew what that meant. Once we said it, Rowan headed for the door and was escorted out by another caregiver. Sam lagged behind. The head caregiver had placed all the toys to be left into a plastic shopping bag. Sam was determined that he would carry the bag to its final destination. He would pick up the bag and fall over. He'd get back up and try again, and fall over, and he'd try again. Steve said he already has his mother's stubbornness. It eventually became comical to watch him pick up the bag that weighed as much as he did. After about 5 tries, he decided that dragging the bag was a better idea, but just as comical. We got some photos of him dragging the bag down the hall. As he was halfway down the hall, Steve and I said da svidanya. He stopped, turned, waved bye and said da svidanya back to us. He was smiling from ear to ear, and I think Steve and I were too.

We fought back the tears. It was hard to watch our sons walk away, them not knowing any different, but us knowing we would leave them for a few months. It was apparent, or at least they made it seem, that the boys were cared for. The workers knew their names, they were fed, clothed, had a bed to sleep in and a roof over their heads. They had others to play with, and the boys didn't have a care in the world.

We went back to the hotel both happy and sad. We met our sons, the boys who would be ours, but we had to leave them. That night we completed the formal petition to adopt the boys, including giving them their new names (hope I spelled them right). We would fly back to Moscow in the morning, 7:40 to be exact, happy to head home, but knowing a part of our heart would be left behind.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

More photos from Day 1


Walking up to the orphanage

Showing Sam how to draw

Rowan, finally not crying around Steve

Reading books with Sam

The two on the left are the other husband who went with us, and their son, Benjamin

Rowan getting comfortable with Steve

Sam still fascinated by the camera

Monday, May 11, 2009

More adventures

Yes, it's true. I was looking the other direction as a giant orange dump truck came towards us. I really think I was watching all the other cars to our right enter the roundabout as we waited for the "perfect" moment.

We did have quite a few laughable moments. After we left the orphanage the first day we returned to the hotel. Our translator told us there was a restaurant in the hotel, which featured good food, and an English menu (Praise Jesus, and English menu!). We (Steve, myself, and the other couple traveling with us) headed to the restaurant about 5:45. We were greeted by an older Russian woman who spoke sternly in Russian. The gist - we aren't open.

We returned to the rooms, and gave it a half hour. About 6:15, we went back downstairs. This time, no lights, no answer. The place was empty. And then we remembered to corner market. That morning our translator took us to the store just behind the hotel to get some water. The four of us remembered the electric tea pot in the room (I told you it would be gold later). Surely there would be something that we could cook with boiled water?

We hightailed it back to the room for coat and umbrellas (it never really did stop raining while there), and headed to the store. When we walked in, we were spotted as Americans, and followed around the store. Most of what was in the store was fresh food...and then we found it. Pre-packaged boxes with pictures of what looked like noodles. All the words were in Russian, so we had no idea what flavor we were getting, or if it even was roman noodles. We also located an array of Lay's potato chips. We were intrigued by such flavors are crab, mushroom, and ham and cheese. I found the standard cheddar, while Steve located the sour cream and onion. A few bottles of water finished the trip.

Russians also have a thing for exact change. Few take credit cards. Our total came to 386 rubles, just over $10 American. Steve handed the cashier 500 rubles. She gave Steve a funny look, and said what we took to translate to "do you have exact change." Steve gave her a funny look and said what she took to translate as "I dunno." She quickly realized the language barrier and gave us our change.

We headed back to the room, boiled the water in the awesome tea pot, and had roman noodles and potato chips, and watched ESPN dubbed over in Russian.

The next morning, we couldn't go to the orphanage, so we headed out for some authentic Russian souvenirs...Matryoshka dolls. Our translator took us to one of the shops. We presumed she knew the owner. We primarily were wanting toys for the nieces and nephew...traditional toys of Russia. The cool thing about this shop was that you could see the shop workers making the toys and the dolls in the back, so you knew they were the real deal. I got a hand painted scarf. These are very popular amongst the Russian women. As I was paying for the scarf, the shop owner showed me the signature of the artist, and asked if I would like to meet her, and watch her paint. Before I could say sure, the motioned for me to follow her. We walked into a small room in the back where a woman was painting another scarf. The shop owner told her I had purchased one of her scarves, and she asked me if I wanted to paint. She picked up a brush, handed it to me, pointed to the color she wanted, and the location on the scarf. I felt a bit like I was on the Amazing Race. Here I was, halfway around the world, painting a scarf. Who does those things?!?

After we left the shop, we drove through the downtown area, on our way to the roundabout. Good thing we ate after, of lunch might have repaid a visit! Lunch was at a local restaurant. We had fried chicken breast, and cubed potatoes with cheese. The cheese looked almost like butter, but tasted so good. We had Russian hot chocolate for dessert. It's not like American hot chocolate. This is more of a pudding that a drink. According to this recipe, it's 2 parts dark chocolate, 1 part white chocolate, and one part chocolate ice cream, melted together. It was very rich, and even the dark chocolate lover Steve couldn't finish it.

Our lunch conversation was interesting. We learned more about our translator. We discussed the current climate of international adoptions in Russia (it is not favorable of Americans). We talked about what to expect during our court session with the judge.

After lunch we headed back for a quick nap. The afternoon would bring the last chance to see the boys before we left.