Sunday, December 31, 2006

December 31, 2006

Today, our Bible study lesson was about trusting God. We studied several people in the Bible who trusted God to help them through some big things.

I must admit I went to church today with a very bad attitude. I was awakened much earlier than I wanted to wake, on this Sunday morning, and it got me off to a bad start. Even with a bad attitude, I realized God was trying to tell me that I am getting anxious and worried about things with this trip for which I should trust Him to handle. I need to pray more and worry less.

Friday, my husband and I had our blood drawn for the various blood tests that have to be submitted, during the eight doc appts on the day after we arrive in Moscow. Normally I really dread having my blood drawn because they have a really hard time getting it and have to stick me multiple times. The lady who did it on Friday was a real pro. She has taken my blood once before and both times she has gotten it on one stick with little to no pain at all. She uses a blood pressure cuff, instead of the rubber band thing, on the upper arm. It is so much more comfortable and it seems to work very well. So that went well and then I had my chest XRay. Unfortunately our clinic can no longer print XRay's to film (they are all digital now) so we have to go have it redone at another clinic. Also, they were suppose to do a TB test on me and they didn't and I forgot so I will have to have that done on Wednesday.

After the fun at the clinic, I went on a little shopping spree. I bought a ton of stuff, most of which was on our registry. I updated the registry at the end of the day and deleted all of the stuff I had bought, which included the following:

baby monitor
diaper genie II
3 refills for diaper genie II
2 fitted crib sheets
1 large cup for rinsing hair in the tub (I had never seen this before; one side is rubber so it can fit perfectly to the child's head)
2 baby blankets for the trip (really soft, fluffy ones, baby blue with a cute giraffe on them)
1 baby's brush and comb set
2 baby toothbrushes
1 tube of baby toothpaste
1 bottle of baby lotion
1 bottle of baby body soap
1 tube of Desitin
2 large containers of wet wipes
1 package of Pampers Cruisers for the trip (reported to be very leak proof)
1 package of Sam's brand of diapers for when we return (hopefully we will like these - they are much less expensive than the other brands, although even the Pampers Crusiers are less expensive at Sam's than they are at Wal-Mart)
2 sippy cups (already had 2)
2 bottles (the kind that take disposable plastic refills - suppose to be very convenient for travelling)
4 fast-flowing nipples for bottles
100 plastic refills for bottles
1 can of powered Similac
4 pacifiers (just in case these might soothe them during travel; also may help to switch them from sucking thumbs and may be easier to break habit later than thumb sucking)
1 box of Oatmeal cereal for babies
2 bibs - the plasticy/rubbery kind with the pocket at the bottom to catch falling food
2 pairs of blue-jean overall's
2 pair of jeans
4 sweatshirt-like shirts, but without the fuzzy stuff on the inside (they look like they are for spring and will require at least one layer underneath during winter days)
2 packages of 12-18 month old socks

Still need to buy:
plastic pants
travel snacks for us and the boys
2 more pairs of blue jeans
baby undershirts or flannel underwear
cans of Similac, for when we are traveling and water is not convenient
lamp base for the cute little lamp shade I got on sale at Tuesday Morning for the boy's room (right now we only have the bright ceiling light in their room)
2 sets of rubber matts that protect our car's leather seats from the baby car seats

I already have P.J.'s, shoes and other winter clothes. My Boston friend sent us a really cute snowsuit, a fleece bunting and 2 adorable pair of snow boots. The box arrived yesterday and they are perfect; thanks CEP!! We have a second snow suit on order, which should arrive anytime now. We will be taking the small toys we took on the first trip, in addition to a few other small toys and a book I added to the pile. We decided not to take any movies because we don't want to lug our laptop around.

As it turns out, our digital cadcam recorder camera thing (WHAT do you call these??) is not working and will have to be sent off for repairs, so we also won't be taking that with us. Actually, we had already decided not to take it because we are trying to reduce the number of bags we have to carry/pull, with two little children in tow. We will take lots of pics with our regular digital camera though, although I'm not sure if we will be able to post any until we get home. We will if we can though. If not, we will do it just after we arrive home.

What am I forgetting?? I keep thinking of things we need and I don't write them down and then I can't remember what it was later, but I do remember it was important. It drives me nuts.

I still have to shop for more gifts for the workers at the baby home. I have already checked with the bank and they will have our new money ready when we need it. My husband ordered our visas and our travel insurance and I mailed off our passports and visa pictures. I think our visas arrive on the Monday before we leave. We leave on Wednesday so that only gives us one day for mix ups. I will have to track it better this time because we had issues with it being delivered to the wrong address last time. We still have to register our trip on the U.S. Embassy web site.

I already have our suitcases out, trying to figure out how many we can take and still manage to hold one child each. I think we will be able to each take one large suitcase and then we will take one regular size suitcase for the baby things, although I suspect that some of their things may have to fit into my suitcase. We will also each take a carry on bag with us and we will carry on the regular size suitcase also. This means we are taking one additional large bag than we took the last time we went. That's not too bad, considering we are staying a week and a half longer and we are also packing for two little boys.

One of the large suitcases will pull the regular size suitcase, with a carry on attached to the regular size suitcase. My husband will pull these bags around the various airports with one hand, while holding one child on the other hip, with the assistance of a Hip Hammock, of course. I will be pulling the other large suitcase with the other carry on attached to it, while holding our other child on my other hip with the assistance of a Hip Hammock. Does that sound efficient? Hopefully it will work out alright and we can fit all of our stuff in those bags.

The nice thing about doing it like this is that it allows us to always have one regular size suitcase and 2 small bags for carry ons. So, on the way over, if our large bags are lost for a period of time, we will have the necessaties to get by for a couple of days in these three smaller bags. And, on the way back, we will fill all three bags with things we might need for the boys, during such a long flight home. I pray our little guys will be good travelers.

OK, what am I forgetting. I know I must be forgetting something. What is it??

Thursday, December 28, 2006

December 28, 2006

We now have flights! That's one step. We have been told to leave here on January 10th. That's a bit sooner than we expected, but we're OK with it. They want to make sure we have plenty of slack time, in case we are delayed somewhere due to bad weather. Our current plan is that we will fly back to the U.S. on Feb. 3rd.

We are also planning to purchase one return child fare and one lap-baby child fare for the return flight. I believe the flights on Delta have three seats in the middle and two on each side, so we are thinking that if we get the 3 middle seats, preferably at the bulkhead, we should be in good shape. We are thinking that one extra seat should be enough, since they are both so small and we'll probably be holding them much of the time (the extra seat will probably be used more for holding stuff than for holding boys), but we are not sure on this one.  Our two sons will be around 14.5 and 16 months old when we return with them.

We have our visa pictures and will probably be working on filling out our visa apps online and booking hotels this evening.

I have done quite a bit of shopping today and still have some to go. I now have about 7 outfits for each child, which sure does not seem like very many. The bad news is that winter outfits are now much harder to find. They are already putting out all of the spring and summer stuff!! I couldn't believe it; IT'S STILL DECEMBER!! What are they thinking??

The winter clothes were very picked over and there was not much from which to choose. So that got me to thinking about what a short amount of time our sons will probably have to wear winter clothes this season anyway. Winter in Oklahoma is usually fairly mild. By the time we get back, we will most likely not have too many winter days left. It's a dilemma - how many winter clothes to buy.

I found a perfect snow suit at Lands End and my friend from Boston is sending us another one, along with some snow boots for little guys, which is very nice of her (thanks again CEP). I also bought a couple of warm tops for me and one pair of shell pants to keep out wind. I have some fairly warm pants but the wind just cuts right through them, so this should fix that. I also bought one more car seat to put in my husband's car. We have two for my car but it will be easier to divide and conquer if we have one in his car also and we found good deals on them at the albee-baby web site.

I printed our registry today and I need to go through it and determine which things we absolutely must buy before we go. I know we will need to buy the baby monitor, all of the sundry items, diapers, formula, some baby food and snacks and probably some additional fitted sheets for the cribs. I feel like I am forgetting some things so I need to go back to my lists.

Back to planning...and buying.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

December 27, 2006

We have a court date!! It is scheduled for Jan. 17th and they said they want us there by the 13th or 14th. We're not sure about a lot of the details, such as do they want us in Moscow on those dates or in Volgograd. The 10 days is never waived in this region, unless there is a serious medical problem, so we are expecting a long stay, although we will get to see the children every day. It sounds like we will probably be returning home around Feb. 1st.

I'm shaking. I think I'm in shock.

A shower was being planned for us on Jan 13th, so I guess that will have to wait. My family is still planning to have a small, family shower on Jan. 6th, which will be nice.

We have about 2.5 weeks before we leave. I feel so unprepared and I don't know where to begin. I have been collecting books and magazines that I want to read but have not had time yet, so I am good shape for that.

I better start taking down the tree. I don't think I am thinking rationally right now.

I'm still shaking. I'm definitely in shock.....and loving it:).

Monday, December 25, 2006

December 25, 2006

Things have been very busy around our house for the past couple of days. On Saturday, all of my siblings, their spouses and children gathered at my father's house for our annual Christmas celebration with him, his wife and my grandmother. We enjoyed good food, gifts and, the most wonderful part of all, all of us together in one place again to enjoy each other's company.

After this get together, my sister, mom and nephew came back with us to our house and they stayed the night with us that night. My nephew helped us to break-in the new ping pong table, which was a lot of fun. We rented a couple of movies, fixed some pizza and just enjoyed visiting.

The next day was Christmas Eve, which is traditionally celebrated at my mom's house but was being held at our house this year. My sister has been making our Christmas Eve lasagna for I can't remember how many years now. She is an excellent cook and makes the best lasagna I have ever tasted (and the best apple pie!). This year she made it here at my house so I was able to help and see how she works her magic on this special dish. It does take quite a while to make and, as usual, it was absolutely delicious.

Everyone arrived between 2:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon. We had wonderful food and lots of fattening desserts, we opened tons of gifts and had a great time.

Today, the house is once again quiet, with just my husband and I here. We slept in this morning, which means waking up around 7:00 or 7:30 for us. I am planning a day of relaxing and reading. My husband has already started his day of being productive. He has already removed all of the door stops and put in the kind that go on the top hinge of the door, which is one of the things on our child proofing list. Now he is cleaning up his office a bit. He wanted to continue work on the swing set but it is pretty cold here this morning and the wind is really blowing hard. It is a beautiful, clear, sunny day though so, if the wind lets up this afternoon, he will probably venture outside.

My favorite gifts this year are the fleece clothes from my husband, the plaque from my sister that says "Mothers of little boys work from son up til son down!", a book from my niece and nephew called "A Treasury of Adoption Miracles" by Karen Kingsbury, which I plan to read today, and a wooden clown stacker toy from my mom. It is similar to the colorful plastic stacker toys that we have all seen or played with in the past, except it is made of wood and has a cute clown's head on top.

On the Adoption front, we are still hoping to receive some sort of information from our adoption country tomorrow or Wednesday. We were told that our facilitator will meet with the judge on our behalf tomorrow and someone will send us an email with the results. If we don't get an email, I will assume they did not get to our case after all. Another possibility is that they may discuss our case but, for some reason or another, we may not get a court date until a later date. We have seen this play out for other couples, over and over, and you just never know what will happen or how it will go. We are praying for a court date though and we know we will get one eventually. It would be the best Christmas present of all though;).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

December 21, 2006

I just received an email from our case worker, forwarding an email from our adoption country facilitator, saying that she is planning to meet with the judge about our case on Dec. 26th and is hoping for an end of January court date. Yay!

I am so relieved to finally hear something. I just found out today that our agency is closed from Christmas Monday through New Year's Monday and I know our adoption country is pretty much closed down from Jan 1 through Jan 12, so I was really bumming out that we had not heard anything yet. I sent another email to our case worker, explaining my frustration and asking her more about what to expect and she just sent back the email that I mentioned above. So that is a huge relief and gives us something to look forward to after the New Year. Hopefully we will find out the exact date for court during the first week of January and we will travel in mid to late January. That is my Christmas wish:).

Saturday, December 16, 2006

December 16, 2006

January 13th is the planned date for the shower that my friends are throwing for us. Also, my friend from K.C., who was in our adoption country/city at the same time we were recently, is planning to come here with her two little girls for that weekend and they will be attending the shower. I am so excited about their visit. It will be so nice to see them again. I am also very excited about the shower.
Today I finished wrapping Christmas presents, yea! I really thought that, once I got married, I would start sending out Christmas cards every year, yet I still have not done this. I feel a little guilty about it because I so enjoy getting them from everyone else. I will definitely have to do this next year though because I will want to send a picture of our family, with our two little sons. I so enjoy getting the updated pictures of my friends' families; I really look forward to that every year. I am still missing a couple this year...hint hint, you know who you are.

I think I pretty much have all of my Christmas shopping done this year, except for my husband. He is very hard to buy for. I have gotten one present for him so far. We are going to go shopping on Monday or Tuesday night and get him a few more things. Christmas will be more fun when we have our children.

I sent an email to our case worker today, asking her a couple of questions. I am hoping to receive some information back early next week, although it is more general in other words, I am not expecting to receive a court date back but hopefully something a little more informative than what we have heard so far, which is nothing. Actually, when we were in our adoption country, we were told our court date would likely be in January, but you know you can't count on anything until it is set in stone, as our friend Jen says. We are thinking that our best case scenario is that our court date would be in the middle of January, maybe somewhere between the 15th and 20th. Of course, after that we would have our 10 day waiting period and then we would have some paperwork to do and then we would have to go to the capital city in our adoption country and do more paperwork. So we are thinking our best case scenario is that we would have our boys home around the first or second week of Feb. February is a big month in our house, since that is the month of Valentine's Day, our anniversary and my birthday. February might just get bigger for us in 2007. Hoping and praying....

Friday, December 15, 2006

December 15, 2006

I stayed all night with my grandmother last night, had a wonderful visit yesterday afternoon and evening and this morning, and returned home this afternoon. My mom, dad, 2 sister-in-laws, 2 nieces and one great niece stopped by for a visit yesterday evening. Today my sister stopped by to visit also, so I really got to see a lot of my family while I was there, which is nice. Grandmother is doing pretty well, although she still has times when she does not feel very well or when her back hurts. For the most part, she is getting around pretty well and stays by herself most of the time; not bad for a 95 year old.

On the drive back, I was thinking about this waiting time. I have finally gotten over my petulant child behavior and am praying and reading the Bible again, which feels great. So, on the drive back today, I was thinking about this waiting time and a book came to mind. When my husband and I were dating and contemplating marriage, we read this book called "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work" by John M. Gottman. This is an excellent book and I cannot recommend it enough; it is really really good. In his book, Gottman explains how he did his research, because everything in his book is based on actual, real-time research (not opinions), using couples who came to him with marriage issues. He set up a "love lab" in an apartment in Chicago, where couples would come for a weekend. During the day, the couples wore heart and pulse monitors and other biometrics stuff and there were cameras and microphones around the apartment, so that Gottman could observe how they related to each other and how they handled disagreements. This is so interesting and, I'm telling you, if you have not read this book, you really should.

After years of research, Gottman can predict with an accuracy of 91 percent, whether a couple will end up in divorce or not, after listening to them argue in this love lab for five minutes. He can tell 96 percent of the time whether a marital discussion will resolve a conflict, after listening to the first three mintues of the discussion.

In the beginning of his book, Gottman covers "the four horsemen of the apocalypse", which are the four negative behaviors that are lethal to a marriage. He then spends the majority of the book telling about the indicators of very happy marriages and how to improve a marriage.

At the end of the section about the four horsemen, he said something that really stuck with me. He talks about how we either assume the positive or assume the negative about a person's behavior. In marriages that are in trouble, the negative thinking has overruled the positive thinking. For example, if your husband leaves his clothes on the floor, after you have asked him many times to throw them in the dirty clothes basket and you assume he did this just to spite you or to get back at you for something, you are assuming the negative. If you assume that he did it because he just has a lot on his mind and he forgets, you are assuming the positive. If you find yourself frequently assuming the negative about your spouse, it is likely that the negative has overpowered the positive in your marriage and this is a sign that you marriage is in serious trouble.

So, back to the drive home...I was driving home today and this book came to mind, about assuming the negative or positive about a person's behavior. I do assume the positive about God's behavior and His decisions in my life. I know He has my best interest's at heart and I know that does not mean He is always going to do everything my way or give me everything I ask for because I don't always ask for things that are the best for me. Sometimes I can't see that but He always can. The interesting thing is that I know, without a doubt, that God always knows what is best and His timing is perfect. I know this and yet there are times (many of them!) when I want things to be done my way; I want Him to answer my prayers in my timing, rather than His timing.

Christians should always assume the best about God and His decisions in our lives. If we don't get what we are asking for, or if God's answer is to wait, we should assume that God has a good reason for having us wait or for saying no. There have been a couple of crucial times in my life when God has made me wait for something big I really wanted (one example is marriage). In all of these cases, I can look back and see that He was preparing me for what I had asked for; it is easy for me to see now, looking back, that when I made the request, I really was not ready. God, in His wisdom, knew this and He wanted to spend the time preparing me...when I was ready to let him begin this work.

How much time have I wasted in my life by becoming a petulant child, pouting, not praying, not reading my Bible and basically on hold....until I finally get over it and move into the proper waiting position....on my knees, asking God to teach me what I need to learn to prepare me as QUICKLY as possible! Yes, I have prayed this prayer many times and God has faithfully answered it many times. He is so faithful. When I trust Him, wait patiently for Him, and ask for His wisdom and His peace, He always provides it. And, when the time comes for Him to answer my prayer, I can always look back and see how He prepared me during that waiting time. It seems that the more willing I am, the faster I am prepared, although I guess that is really hard to say for sure...but it feels that way sometimes.

I know there could also be other reasons for waiting; maybe God was also preparing my spouse for marriage; maybe God was also clearing the way for our children to be adopted (while we were waiting for our referral). The only thing I can think of right now is that God wants to prepare us for our children, if we will let Him. He could also be using this time to build our faith in Him. The Bible tells us to rejoice in our tribulations. I read this the other day and I kept reading it over and over trying to understand it. The Bible also says that we should appreciate the times we are enduring tribulation because it is a time when we will grow closer to God and He will grow our faith...or something like that. That was definitely loosely translated from memory but I think it was close. We are to consider our tribulations a positive thing.

So I guess my lesson is that assuming the best of God is not enough. I need to assume the best of God but I also need to humble myself and realize that I am not always ready for the things I ask for, the good things that God wants to give me, and I need to be patient and trust Him to provide what I need, when I need it....because I know He is always faithful and He wants the best for me.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

December 12, 2006

We have been to two Christmas parties in three days. The first one was on Saturday evening and it was a formal Christmas party. My husband looked dashing in his tux and I wore a simple, black dress with a really neat black wrap. It was freezing cold and very windy that night though and I just about froze to death.

Yesterday we hit 70 degrees here, which is just amazing. There is still snow on the ground, in places like parking lots, where it was plowed in huge piles and has not had a chance to melt yet. On Sunday, half of our yard was still covered in snow but, in Monday's 70 degree weather, it disappeared very quickly. What strange weather.

Last night's Christmas party was just lovely. It was a family event, so there were lots of children there. It took place in this old mansion and it was decorated beautifully. As people were arriving, seven of us (including my husband and I) were standing on the grand staircase, singing carols. We had such a fun time singing and everyone really enjoyed it. It really added some 'fest' to our festive evening. A catered buffet was provided with wonderful food. There was a huge Christmas tree and, towards the end of the evening, Santa made an appearance. The children went wild and were hugging him and so excited to see him. He sat in a huge chair and they each took a turn at sitting on his lap, as parents were quickly trying to take photos. He had a bag of toys that he handed out; it was really sweet. There were tons of desserts, including the 50 cupcakes that I made:). They were really pretty too; they were chocolate with white, cream cheese icing. Some had red sugar crystals on top, others had green and a few had both. I was very proud of them because I had never made cupcakes before and they came out great. So, a fun time was had by all and we are now into the Christmas spirit.

We have no new news about our adoption, although we did enjoy showing our pictures of the boys to our friends at the Christmas party. The more we look at the pictures, the harder the wait is though. We are still hoping to hear something soon. We will have to hear something by the end of December, if we are going for a mid-Jan court date. Please keep us in your prayers.

Monday, December 11, 2006

December 11, 2006

The subject in our Bible study class yesterday was "frustrating times". What things have you been through or are you going through that are frustrating. Of course, I spoke about the process of adoption and how frustrating it can be at times.

Compared to many others, we have not been waiting long at all. But to us, it seems like forever. I thought the wait for a referral would never end and was really hard sometimes, but the wait for a court date and trip #2 is really much harder. And you have this fear that something will happen to delay it much, much longer than the normal 2 to 4 months for our region. Every week, every day, you think about it and wonder if it will be this week or this day. Every time the phone rings, during working hours, you wonder if that's the call. It is hard, it is very stressful at times and it can really get you down some days.

When we were waiting for our referral, I think most of the time I really handled it pretty well. I had a lot of faith that God's timing is perfect and He would make it happen precisely when it should happen in our lives. I could see how He was preparing us.

I have had a harder time with waiting for our court date. Part of it is probably just that I don't have as much to keep me busy. But I have not been as trustful in God's timing either. It is harder to understand and be patient when you have already met your children and you know they are growing a day older and we are missing it, each day we wait. I have not been studying my Bible as much and I have not been praying as much. I know I would feel much better if I turned to God but I have struggled against it. That is hard to explain, although it is often much like a petulant child, responding to a parent who will not give the child what they want, when they want it.

It is funny, the different ways that God speaks to us. Those of you who know God know this is true. He speaks to us through other people. He speaks to us through His word, when we read the Bible. He speaks to us through songs. And sometimes He speaks to us directly. You just hear Him in your head, as if it were your own thought, but you know it was Him because He is telling you to do something or think something that is not what you want, but you know He is right and it is best. The great thing is that He even speaks to us when we are not speaking to Him!

Yesterday He spoke to me through our Bible study lesson in class. Yes, it is frustrating but He is in control, His timing is perfect and He will give me the strength to get through this gracefully, if I will turn to Him during my time of need.

And then, after class, we were in the main worship service and we were singing a song. I heard Him say to me, in a very clear, small voice "I love them more than you do." My eyes immediately filled with tears because I knew it was true. He created them and He loves them more than we ever could.

God is love. There would be no love in this world without God. He loves everyone equally, no matter what we do. His love is perfect and it never changes, no matter what we do. We are not capable of that kind of perfect love and we cannot even really comprehend it.

I know He is taking care of His children, our sons. He loves them and He brought us together and He will bring them home when it is the perfect time.

Friday, December 08, 2006

December 8, 2006

Well, the temptation was too strong so I called our case worker at CWA and left her a message, asking if she had heard anything about our adoption, court dates, etc. She left me a message later, saying that she had not heard anything yet. This is about what I expected, but still, I was hoping for a little more news than least something. Oh well, that's life in the world of adoption.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

December 5, 2006

We have our Christmas tree up. It looks pretty with the snow in the background, through the windows. It also smells really good.

We had to take the tinsel off the bottom 6 inches or so of the tree and move it higher because Dancer would not leave it alone. He kept trying to play with it and, once he had it in his mouth, he had a really hard time getting it out of his mouth. These cats really have been good practice for the kids, in many ways.

Another funny thing that came up was that we were trying to remember how many stockings we had. I was thinking we had purchased 4 stockings, 2 for us and two for the cats but I could not remember if the 2 for the cats had their names on them. I told Paul, if they did not have the cat's names on them, we could use them for the kids. He thought we could still use them for the kids, even if they did have the cat's names on them. He said we could just turn them around and put the kid's names on the other side. So, our kids stockings would have their names on one side and the cat's name on the other side. I thought it was pretty funny that he thought this was acceptable. Once we got the boxes out of the attic and unpacked them, we realized we had only purchased 2 stockings anyway. So it isn't an issue and our children will get stockings that were not handed down from our cats.

But we do still have another issue with the stocking hangers. We only have three of them...they spell JOY. Very nice, except we need one more letter. We agreed it would be nice to find a stocking hanger that is an exclamation mark, but I am doubting that we will find that. I saw some other ones at Walmart the other day that would probably work though. I am going to have to do some shopping for some of these things, as soon as they go on sell.

This is our first Christmas here, both in this house and in this city. We are really liking this city a lot and I think we are going to like this house a lot too. It is really starting to feel like our house these days, very comfortable and homey. I think it will be a nice place to raise our two sons.

We have not heard anything about our court date yet. I am so tempted to call our case worker and start asking questions but I don't really think she will have any answers....and it has really only been two full days, yesterday and today, that were really days that we could have had a call. So, I think that would be the ultimate in impatience. I must wait a little longer....maybe:).

Tomorrow I will register at Babies R Us and Target. I need to get this done and it will be a fun thing to do. I also have to return the stroller we bought and exchange it for another one. This one seems to have a problem, as the middle wheels do not touch the ground...even with the cats in it.

A funny story about the stroller: I came home one evening from an event I attended and my husband was pushing both cats around in the stroller. It is a side-by-side twin stroller and both cats were sitting on their own side and it was obvious they were enjoying the ride. It was really funny. I should have gotten a picture but I missed it. I'm afraid our cats are not going to know what to think when our children arrive.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

December 3, 2006

So tomorrow, our real wait officially begins. We knew we would not receive the call with our court date in November. We are hoping we get that call in December and we are really hoping we get it in the first two weeks of December. The facilitator in Russia seemed to indicate that we might receive our court date in the first half of December. My husband heard her say this but I missed it, so I don't know the exact words she used. But, still, we are hoping....

Our message today at church was very relevant to what we are dealing with (isn't it always, if we are receptive?). In our Bible study class, we were talking about trusting God, trusting His timing and His capabilities. We discussed how God wanted Moses to go speak to His people and bring them out of Egypt. Moses did not think he could do that; he did not think he was a good speaker and he did not like speaking in front of large groups of people. But God was the maker of Moses and He also made Moses' mouth:). The overall point was that God does not necessarily always call those who are equipped. But God does always equip those whom He calls.

The discussion question asked was "how do we face opportunities"? The answers indicated that it depends on how confident we feel in accomplishing the challenges presented with the opportunities. If we have a lot of self-confidence in our abilities to accomplish the challenge, then we will likely accept the opportunity and challenge. If we don't feel confident in our ability to accomplish the tasks required, without embarassing ourselves or failing in some way, we are likely to avoid the opportunity or challenge. What we should do is to rely on the confidence we have in God, who is always faithful and will supply all our needs.

He loves us and He is always faithful. He has started a good work with us and He has promised that He will finish it.  His timing is always impeccable.

Lord, please bring us peace and help us be patient while we wait for Your perfect timing.

Friday, December 01, 2006

December 1, 2006 Part 2

I took some pictures around our house, of all of the snow we received yesterday. I think we got about 10 inches of snow, on top of the huge amount of ice that had already come down. This is quite an event for Oklahoma. It is not unusual to get snow but it is unusual to get this much this early in the year. It set a record for the day; the prior record for that day was 4.6 inches, I think.

Here is the first picture I took. Believe it or not, I took this AFTER we had already been outside, shoveling snow for an hour and a half!

Isn't this pretty? I took this from inside of our bedroom. I thought it came out pretty good, considering it was taken through glass, although Zoe's head was in the way. It was a beautiful sunrise and we are having an absolutely beautiful day today...completely clear blue skies and bright, beautiful, white snow EVERYWHERE! Yea!!

And, this is why we were up at 4:00am this morning. My husband had to go to work today so we had to get the driveway cleared out.

This is our house. There is a small circle drive in front of the house and there is a sidewalk from there up to the front door, but you can't really tell there here.

And this is the road in front of our house. That is our mailbox on the left. You can get a feel for how much snow we got. They have now plowed the road.

That's it for now:). Hope you enjoyed it.

December 1, 2006

You are all going to be sorry that I now know how to upload pictures on the blog:). Today, I am making up for the past, for all of the times that I told you about stuff I was doing around the house but never produced the requested pictures. Now, here they are!!

OK, you didn't ask for this one but I thought I would include it anyway. Here is a close up picture of us:). As you can see, this is from our wedding day. We were married on Feb. 19, 2005, so we are coming up on our 2nd anniversary.

We had a lovely wedding. We were married in Tucson, AZ at a resort. We were living in Texas at the time but my mother-in-law was not well enough to make the trip to Texas so we decided to have the wedding in Tucson.

For our honeymoon, we went to Australia and New Zealand. Since we were planning to have children asap, we knew we would probably not be able to take a trip like that again any time soon. We had a wonderful time and have some beautiful pictures to remember it by.

Here are pictures of the baby room. The pictures on the wall were my craft project. I found a calendar that had all of the old pictures from the old Dick and Jane readers. These were books that were used for many, many years, in first grade, to teach children to read. I learned to read using these books (See Dick run. Run Dick run. etc.) so I was excited when I found this calendar at a book store. I bought 12 unfinished frames and I finished them myself using a technique to make them look old. Hard to see in the picture but they really came out pretty good. I'm not much of a crafty person so I was pretty happy with the results.

The little rocking chair was mine and my brother and sister's when we were little. They are twins and are only 15 months older than I am. We also have two older brothers. So, when I was born, my mother had twins who were 15 months old, in addition to a 3 and 5 year old. Can you believe that?? And we think we have it hard!

When I lived out east (Boston), I bought the rocking horse for my niece, about 15 years ago, and my sister kept it all this time so we are borrowing it for the boys.

My friend from Texas got us the huge teddy bear, just before we moved to Oklahoma. Isn't he cute?

My mom gave us the antique rocking chair she bought the antique dresser for me a very long time ago, as a graduation gift when I graduated from junior college.

I found the changing table and one of the cribs at a consignment store and we bought the other crib from BRU with a gift certificate from the wonderful people I worked with in Texas.

So, that's the baby's room. I would like to find some more fun things to put on the walls, more colorful. Hopefully I will find something fun soon.

The boys will share a room, if it works out OK. I was thinking it might make them feel better, since they are used to having other children in the room when they sleep. There is another room right next door, painted the same blue color, and they share a Jack and Jill bath. So, eventually they can have their own rooms and share the bath.

Next. These are pictures of the library/playroom. This used to be the formal dining room in our house but we are not formal people. We do, however, have a lot of books and we love to read, so we changed this into a library/playroom. We had the shelves built and they go all the way around the room, except for the area in front of the windows.

I found the little table and four chairs on the internet a while back, along with the play table with the toy boxes underneath.

Next, we have our cats, who are our current/first babies. They are Bengal cats and they both have great personalities. The cat on the left is Dancer, who is male and is bigger than Zoe, the cat on the right, who is female.

I thought this was pretty funny and now you can see our two high chairs. My sister gave us the smaller one; she used it for her two children. My mom found the larger one at a thrift shop.

I know we will have bigger messes with these small trays but I really like the older, wooden higher chairs a lot. I guess because that's what my sister always used and they kind of match the cribs...not that you would necessarily know that, since they are upstairs in the baby room.

Anyway, isn't this funny? Zoe is on left and Dancer on the right.

That's it for now, since this is getting pretty long. I will post again though because I took some great pictures of the snow around our house.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

November 30, 2006 Part 2

Ok, here it is, finally. I am finally going to try to post a picture. This is a picture of my husband and I while we were in Russia. We were out for a day of sightseeing and our translator/guide took our picture in front of this monastery. It was very pretty and it was very cold that day.

So, now you know what we look like, sort of. I purposely picked a picture where we are a bit further away because I did not look so hot that day:); very little make up, still recovering from jet lag, get the idea. I'll have to look for a better close up picture of us, although don't hold your breath because neither of us think we are very photogenic.

These were the coats that we ordered from Lands End before our first trip to Russia; they are very warm. This evening we decided to go for a walk. In case you have not seen my earlier post today, it has been icing/snowing here for going on 24 hours now. It started icing between 9 and 10 yesterday evening and continued until after lunch time. Then it started snowing these great big snow flakes and, boy!, did it accumulate quickly. We have been housebound all day. So, just before it got dark, we went for a quick walk, which was fun. Then we decided to shovel the driveway some. Our driveway slopes downwards for a little ways, as it approaches the road, which can be a bit hazardous when it is covered in ice. So we were able to get the snow and icy layer off of that area and the snow off of the other areas...not the whole driveway; just two wide-ish tire tracks for the car to drive on.

All that really just to say that this very cold, snowy, icy, windy weather was good practice for us. It was about 17 degrees, with a wind chill of around 6 degrees, when we were outside. This is a good test for our winter wear and good for us to get more accustomed to the very cold weather. This is all good preparation for our next trip to Russia. Yea.

Here are some pictures we took from the plane, on our way home from Russia on our first trip. These are pictures of Greenland and I thought they came out pretty good, considering we were really high up.

It may not be pretty but, oh well, good enough. Well, I will call this post with my first pictures a success. Yea.

November 30, 2006

It is here!! Snow, or actually it is really ice and lots of it! It started last night, around 9:00 or 10:00 and it has pretty much been coming down consistently since then. There was a short period of time when it was more snow than ice but that did not last long. It is predicted that it will turn into snow sometime today and we should get around 6 to 10 inches of the pretty white stuff. I love it!!

I'm not really a fan of cold. I hate being cold. But I guess since I lived in southern Texas for so long and did not see any of this, except when back to Oklahoma for visits, I kind of started liking it again. It is so pretty and the sound of the ice hitting the windows is somehow very exciting.

We got our Christmas tree!! yea!! Actually, my husband got the tree night before last, when I was staying the night with my grandmother (who is pretty much back to her old (95 years old!) self these days:). He did good. We have a beautiful tree and it is so perfect it almost looks fake. We have not started decorating it yet because I was at my grandmothers night before last and last night I was at a friend's house helping to prepare for an upcoming Christmas party. There was a small group of us ladies and we had so much fun, working together while chatting. It was very nice.

We have not had any news on the adoption front. I sent a question to our case worker, to be sent on to our translator in our adoption country and I got back a response. I was concerned about some paperwork but everything is fine; our paperwork is in order and up to least for now. We are still hoping for some news in December, hopefully saying we can come for court sometime in mid to late January. That is our hope and that is what we spend much of our prayer time on these days.

Two of our friends have offered to give us a baby shower in January. I am very excited about this and can't wait to go register. I was planning to do it this week but not sure now, with this beautiful snow storm upon us. I think I could still get out today but it just feels so good to be here at home taking a snow day:). It feels like when we were in school and we were so happy to get a snow day and get to stay home and do anything we wanted. So far, I have spent almost the entire day reading adoption blogs. That happens so easily when reading adoption blogs.

I also had a phone conversation with my friend from K.C., who was in Russia at the same time we were and brought home her little girl. This was the first time we have talked since she got back so it was really nice to catch up and hear how the rest of their trip went. Her daughter is doing great which is really nice to hear. We may have to plan another visit to K.C. to see them. They want to come visit us here in OK after we get our boys home, which will be fun. Our stay in Volgograd was so much more fun, since these friends were there at the same time.  It really was a great bonding experience and it just made the trip so much more fun to have someone else with whom to discuss everything. I am really hoping that we will meet another couple when we are there on our second trip. Maybe we can befriend someone who is there on their first trip and help them the way our friends helped us. That would be nice.

I am looking forward to registering. I keep thinking of all of the things we still need to get and, everytime I am at Walmart or Target or BRU, I wander over to the baby stuff and start putting things into the cart. Then I remember that we should not buy everything we need now because our friends and family want to join in our excitment and give us gifts for our children. So then I spend another 10 or 15 minutes putting everything back. I have done this at least three times now, if not more. It's just that I want to be ready for our next trip. I want to be doing something to get ready for the trip. It is hard to be still, which is funny because that is what our lesson was about last Sunday at church..."Be still and know that I am God" still and listen...just be still. It is really hard to just be still sometimes. We spend so much time, either listening to or as background noise, with radio, tv, ipods, dvd's, cd's, etc. There are so many things to keep our ears busy that we (I) really spend very little time these days really just being still and listening to God. I know I need to do more of this. It is hard for us to hear God when our ears are always busy, and our minds are too much of the time, listening to everything else in this world.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

November 25, 2006

We bought a double stroller yesterday and I hope it will work out for us.  So many of the reviews I read on double strollers were negative. We ended up going with the Combi Twin Savvy Sport. It is a side by side and I know they have drawbacks but, from what I read, they all do. It is a trade off for the things that will bug you most and I thought the negatives on this one would be less bothersome to me than some of the others.  I like that this stroller is very light weight, it folds up easily and pretty small, and both of the kids are right there in front of you where you can see them and hand them things easily. It also has a pretty good size canopy thingy that comes out over them, which is nice. So many of the double strollers have very small canopies and, from what I have read, were more or less good for nothing. We will probably use it more for taking walks, going to the zoo and stuff like that, rather than for shopping.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. My sister and her husband always host Thanksgiving dinner at their house and it was fantastic, as usual. She makes the best homemade pies, including the crust, that you will ever taste (in my humble opinion). My favorite is her homemade apple pie; I am convinced they will definitely be serving it in heaven. This year she made 4 pies, pecan, apple, pumpkin and cherry. She made the cherry for my husband and it was the first time she had ever made a cherry pie. She is awesome! We brought home half of the cherry and half of the apple and I finished the apple off yesterday. Yum! My mom also makes this wonderful chocolate dessert that we call Mississippi fudge, although I have also heard it called Mississippi mud and my husband calls it mud pie, which I thought was funny. It has a chocolate cake layer and then a marshmellow creme layer and then a chocolate icing/fudge layer on top. She makes it every year for Thanksgiving and also for our Christmas Eve get together and everyone loves it. Unfortunately, I only got a small piece of it this Thanksgiving but I plan to snag more of it on Christmas Eve. Of course, we also had a wonderful Thanksgiving feast with our desserts:). My sister is an awesome cook and my mom is also a great cook and she brings over her specialty dishes to complete our traditional Thanksgiving meal. It was terrific and our family has many things to be thankful for. God has been very good to us.

Traditionally, we celebrate Christmas Eve at my mother's house and we have been doing this since I was a little kid. Since this is our first year living back in OK and close to my family, I offered to host Christmas Eve this year at our house. Another important thing about our Christmas Eve celebration is that my sister bakes her wonderful homemade lasagna, so everyone won't have to suffer through my bad cooking:) They were not sure about it at first because we live a little further away from everyone than mom does but our house also has more room for everyone. So yesterday mom called to say that having it at our house this year sounds like a good idea. I am very excited about this because we have not had everyone over much since we moved here. Just once for a cookout this summer. But it will be nice to have everyone here. We will put up a real Christmas tree and I can't wait to have that wonderful tree smell in the house. I am hoping we can also get our fireplace working by then. I think it works but we have never used it since we moved here in January. So hopefully we can use it this winter. I am excited to start decorating the house but I think we are going to wait until next weekend. It will be especially nice to have everyone here this year because the house won't seem so quiet and empty. Next year we will have our two sons here with us so that won't be a concern and Christmas at our house will take on that special children magic:).

My husband has been very productive this weekend, as usual. He has finished sanding the slide platform of the swing set, he replaced the wood on the part where the kids stand before sitting and sliding down. And he has been designing new stairs, with rails. The old one was really just a ladder with the rounded rungs, that little feet can slip off of easily, and no handrails and we didn't think it was very safe. The one he designed will be much safer. So he is off to Home Depot, our home away from home, to buy more materials for building the stairs and rails. Yesterday we bought the stain/wood sealer that we are going to use to paint the wood and protect it from the weather. It has a redish tint, which I think will look very nice. We still have to order the swings and maybe a teeter totter. I think the slide we were given is still in good working order though, which is nice. Overall, I am still wondering if we will end up spending so much money on this thing that we might as well have bought a new one:). Hopefully not.

By the way, the weather here this fall has been absolutely beautiful. We watched the most beautiful, pink sunset yesterday evening; it was incredible. The skies have been pretty clear, although there are a few clouds hanging around today. But it is still very sunny and pretty warm. Thanksgiving day was in the low seventies! That was a bit warm for this time of year here but we enjoyed it anyway, knowing it won't last much longer. Today it will probably get up to the mid-sixties. It really is very pretty fall weather. There are still some leaves on the trees and, those that remain, are very pretty colors. Many leaves are already on the ground, which is also pretty, in it's own way.

After we got home from my sister's, on Thanksgiving evening, we decided to go to a movie (the new James Bond movie - I was happy to see that this one is rated PG-13, rather than R, as has been the case for the past ones. There were still a couple of scenes I could have done without but I like the new James Bond guy). Before we head out, we drove around our neighborhood to see who had their Christmas lights up already. There were some very nicely decorated homes; the lights looked really pretty. We have not started ours yet and are still not sure what we will do or how much. We will have to buy some lights, since we have never decorated outside before at our townhouse in Texas. It's hard to believe it is already that time of year. This year has flown by so quickly; it really amazes me.

We have had so much happen in the span of one year. I quit working, no more corporate world, after almost 20 years. That was a huge change, for which I am still very thankful and continue to enjoy. My husband finished his research fellowship in Texas and started a new job here in Oklahoma. We moved, from Texas to Oklahoma and from a smaller-sized townhouse to a fairly larger sized home (it's the largest house I have ever lived in anyway). We now have a yard to take care of and I have a huge house to clean. We are very thankful for this house and our beautiful neighborhood, although we will definitely sell this house as soon as our kids are out on their own. It's too big for just the two of us. Speaking of our kids, our biggest blessing of the year is that we got to meet our two sons. They are not home yet, but we were able to spend a nice amount of time with them at the beginning of November, we have lots of pictures that I look at everyday and we are hoping and praying that we get to return in mid-January for a court date and to bring them home. That will be the best Christmas present, new year's present, birthday present (my birthday is in Feb), and anniversary present (also in Feb - 2 yrs:) that we could ever receive.

If you would continue to keep us and our two little ones in your prayers, we would greatly appreciate it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

November 20, 2006

I have been shopping! I normally don't enjoy shopping much. I'm the kind of person who knows pretty much what I'm looking for, find it, and get out...and I try to do it at times when nobody else is shopping or at least that's my goal anyway because I like shopping even less when tons of other people are shopping, it's crowded and there are long lines.

But, I have been shopping for our sons, which has been fun! I have bought them each two pairs of jeans, two little sweat pants (navy and grey) and a little matching fleece jacket and pants. I got them each 3 little turtle neck, long sleeve cotton shirts, the kind that come down and cover their diapered bottom and button in the crotch (I hate it when their little shirts ride up under their arm pits when they are picked up). They are really cute and they were only $3.77 each from Target:). I got three other little cotton shirts each that are different colors with no turtle neck but otherwise made the same. And I also got two more pairs of footy pj's for each of them, so that makes three pairs of pj's total. I got them each a pull over fleece and a really cute sweater. I had also already bought the two one piece little outfits for them; I think I mentioned this in an earlier post. I also got 12 pairs of socks and fleece caps and gloves. I still need shoes but will be totally guessing on size.

I stopped by StrideRite one day and talked to them about shoes for the boys. They suggested trying to get someone to measure their feet not long before we leave for trip 2. They guessed that the boys would probably wear a size 4. What is everyone else doing about shoes?

So, they each now have 6 long sleeve onesy cotton shirts, 5 pants, 3 warmer type tops (sweater/fleeces), a cute little one piece outfit and 3 pairs of pj's.

I have been buying 18 month clothing. I know this size will be huge for them from a weight perspective, however I think they will probably need this size from a height perspective. I think this size will get them through the entire winter (winter here is fairly short) but then, what do I know??? I have no idea how fast they will grow.  I am pretty sure we will need more clothes than we have bought so far.

On another topic, I have been working on lifebooks. This is a much harder task than I had thought it would be. It is taking me much more time than I ever thought it would. I worked on it a lot this weekend. I think I may have 4 or 5 pages mostly written, which is good. But I still have a ways to go before I am finished. Part of the reason it is taking so long is that I spend a good deal of time searching for the right graphics but mostly it is working on wording and searching for information about Russia, Ryssian names and surnames, famous Russian's and others who might have the same first name or birthdate as our children (their Russian first name), etc. I am learning a lot though, some very interesting things about Russian history. I still have a ways to go but at least I have the time to do this right now, which is a blessing. I am planning to work on it again tomorrow. Today I had to do a bunch of other things...including shop for my boys!

I need to get focused on Christmas shopping and decorating. That will keep me busy for a little while.

Friday, November 17, 2006

November 17, 2006

While driving home from my grandmother's house today, I was listening to Christmas music in my car (I keep my favorite Christmas CD loaded all year long and listen to it sometimes. My nieces and nephews get a kick out of it if I happen to turn it on in the middle of the summer so I surprise them with it sometimes:). It made me start thinking about how much we have, many of us here in the U.S. How much abundance of everything we have in the U.S. And I was thinking of how little all of these children in these orphanages have.  They don't even have enough diapers; they are lucky to have enough to use when the prospective parents visit. It made me very sad for them and, of course, I had to cry half the way home. I seem to do some of my best crying while I am driving in the car.

I think I had been really needing to cry, since we came back from visiting the boys. I think about them every day and I pray for them every time I think about them. When I wake up during the night and am trying to go back to sleep, I think about them and pray for them. I pray that the Lord will wrap His arms around them and protect them, comfort them and make them feel very loved. I pray that He will meet all of their needs and that He will protect their little hearts and heal any wounds or scars that they might have from the past. They are His children. He is loaning them to us for a short period of time. I think He is teaching me to pray for them, starting now, and continuing forever. It seems that praying for them will come naturally, or at least it does now, and so does loving them. Today, while driving back, I prayed for them, I cried for them and my heart ached for them.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

November 14, 2006

I really have a one track mind these days. Honestly, I don't know how I am going to survive the next couple of months, and I feel very badly saying that after reading the blogs of those who have been waiting way to long for their court dates. I have just been so weepy these past couple of days. I think I just need one really good cry, which I have not had since leaving the boys in Russia, and then I will be OK again. I know it is coming; it's just a matter of time. Everything gets me teary eyed right now. My husband left me the sweetest card this morning. I found it next to my sink in our bathroom after he had already left for work. I almost cried, again. He is so sweet; a very sweet, thoughtful person and I am very blessed to have him as my husband.

I got some pictures of our babies developed yesterday, to be able to show people and also because the ladies in our Bible study class met yesterday evening at one of those scrapbooking places to create a page of our families to hang in our classroom. They came out really nice and what perfect timing for us! It was fun and I learned a lot. That was my first scrapbooking experience and I think it will help me with making the lifebooks for our sons. It was a fun experience and my husband enjoyed showing off the page I created to his co-workers today.

I made ANOTHER trip to OKC today for MORE apostille's. When I was modifying all of the past posts, I lost count of how many times I said I thought this would be my last trip to OKC for apostilles. I give up. I am not going to say that again because I think I will be going back for more apostilles for the rest of my life. The good news is that I am pretty friendly with the kind people who help me at the Secretary of State's office. Today I took pictures of the boys so they could see the outcome of their fruits of labor. Hopefully this will make their jobs more meaningful to them too; it would to me, to see how my work really helps families who are adopting, really helps these beautiful little children in some small way. Anyway, they really enjoyed seeing the pictures and asked me to bring the children by to see them, when we finally get them home.

So the reason I had to go to OKC was that, when we were in Russia, we found out that some of our paperwork had the wrong address on it. Fortunately it was an easy fix and I will send it off tomorrow, along with an updated proof of employment for my husband. After that, we are still waiting for the updated FBI background check, which also has to have an apostille, so I will be making another trip to OKC soon. Once we send that off, our paperwork should be up to date through Feb. 19th, after which our home study and everything related to it will expire. If we have not heard anything about a court date by the end of the year, we will most likely start working towards updating our home study documents also. We are hoping that won't be necessary.

Oklahoma is beautiful right now. It was beautiful before we left and it is quickly fading, but there is still enough of it to take your breath away here and there. It is so refreshing and exciting to see the changing colors and also to wait for the winter. I feel like a little kid again.  I find it very entertaining when I am driving around and waiting at various intersections. Bright shades of yellows, oranges, reds and some greens are still around, mixed with some of the more muted browns and browny-orange and is truly spectacular. It is God's glory and I bask in it every time I look out the window or go outside. I feel like I can't drink it in fast enough because it will soon be gone. But the winter has it's own beauty also and I look forward to that too. This is what happens when you live in the far south too long, where there is not much change between seasons. I can't wait to share it with our two sons.

Please pray for our children, that they will get the attention and nourishment they need, that God will heal and protect their little minds and hearts and keep them safe, and that we will get to bring them home in January. Thank you for your prayers.

Monday, November 13, 2006

November 13, 2006

I feel so disorganized! My head is spinning. There are so many things I need to get done; I really have to start my lists again and get organized. This is going to be a busy week and I can't believe Thanksgiving is next week already!

We have bought 2 car seats!! Yeah!! We have also bought two "Hip Hammocks", which we hope will make things easier for us when we go to bring our children home. It is hard to hold on to them when we are all wearing big coats and snow suits so these should make the traveling a bit easier. We tested them last night with an almost-child-size teddy bear:). Isn't that funny? It was actually helpful though because we were able to get them fitted to our bodies properly.

The next thing I want to do is to pick out several outfits to bring them home in. This will be fun, since I have not bought any clothes for them at all yet.

Benjamin is 13 months old, weighs 19 pounds and is 29.5 inches tall. Nicholas is 12 months old, weights 16.5 pounds and is 27 inches tall. It will be exciting to watch them gain weight and grow very quickly after they get home.

We have our cats back home now, which is nice. The house was so quiet without them and I had missed them a lot. My husband started back to work today. Life is getting back to normal.  I had better get busy. Much to do, much to do.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

November 11, 2006 Part 2

Today is Nick.'s first birthday and we are not at the baby home to celebrate it with him. That makes me sad but we will make it up to both of our sons on their second birthday, when they will hopefully be here with us. I say hopefully because we still have to get through court.  I have heard from others that CWA does a great job of preparing us for court. I hope this is true.

loveys: Several things I read suggested that we take something, some type of lovey/blankie or small teddy bear or something, to leave at the orphanage with our child. The idea was that, when you brought your child home with you, this item would also come home with the child and provide a sense of security, as the child would be familiar with it and the object would also carry the familiar smells of the orphanage. Our experience with this is that it was not practical. First of all, our children had no interest in the lovey object at all. If you could not bang it on a table or the floor and make noise with it or use it to make your gums feel better, it was not very interesting. Secondly, they do not allow anything in the crib with the child and, if the object is in the main room with all of the playpens and stuff, any child can and will play with it. Also, any toy left at the orphanage stays at the orphanage. I had purchased two extra identical loveys, with the thought of trading them for the one that had the orphanage smells. Since our children had no interest in the loveys and it was not practical to leave them, we brought them home with us. I'll see if they show any interest in them later but I am guessing I might end up giving them away.

baby photo albums: We had prepared two identical baby photo albums for our children, one for each child, with the intention of leaving them there so the children would see pictures of us, our cats and their bedroom while we are between trips. It was not practical, for some of the same reasons listed above under "loveys". We ended up taking one close up picture of us out of each album and the caregivers in both group rooms said they would hang the picture on the wall above the child's crib (they do sleep in the same crib each time they go to bed - I asked that question:). So, we brought the photo albums home with us also. We will keep them for the children. Benjamin. really liked his photo album and played with it some each day but Nicholas was not very interested in his.

Snacks for children: We brought cheerios and teddy grahams with us, in case we were allowed to give the children treats during our visits. This baby home in Volgograd does not allow this, so don't bother to bring them on your first trip if you are going to the same place we went. I gave them to my friend, who was on trip two and bringing her daughter home, and she really appreciated them and her daughter loved them. They came in very useful on the plane rides and when food prep took longer than her daughter thought it should or when the food was all gone and her daughter was not finished eating yet:). We will definitely be bringing these again on the second trip.

Buying diapers for the orphanage: They may ask you to buy some diapers for your children and also for the other children, for when other parents come to meet their children (they don't typically keep diapers on all of the kids all day, every day; they can't afford it). Buy them at one of the grocery stores, rather than at a specialty childrens store where they will be very over priced.

Returning home: Our flight got us back home somewhat late (around 9:00ish PM) and we were just really exhausted (and this was without the children!). My friend picked us up at the airport and had stopped at the grocery on her way and got us some basic breakfast groceries so we would have something to eat for breakfast the next morning (do I have the most thoughtful friend or what??!!). We were so thankful for this. It was soooo nice the next morning to be able to wake up slowly and have something to eat for breakfast, without having to race out to the grocery store. (Actually, I woke up at 2:30 in the morning and could never go back to sleep, but I was very happy to have eggs, orange juice and bread for breakfast). This was a great thing for us on this trip but I would say it will be even more important for the next trip, when we have two little ones to care for.

Paperwork: We found that some of the docs are no longer needed, or at least that is what our facilitator in the orphanage city has told us. Since it is now required to have the medicals done in Russia, we no longer need the medicals and psych evals that we got here in the U.S. Also, our doctors had written on these documents that they were good for one year, which we were told would mean they would be good for one year:). The facilitator said this is no longer true and they are only good for three months....not that it matters anymore, since we don't need these documents because we have to have it done in the adoption country...and yes, the conversation went something like this...a bit confusing.

Anyway, if you are adopting from this same country/city and you are still working through the paperwork phase, you might want to double check with your agency to see if you really need to go to the trouble of the medicals and psych evals.

My friend got all of her blood work done here, along with testing for AIDS, HIV, etc. and also a chest xray and took all of it with her when she went for the medicals in Moscow. Although she said nobody looked at what she brought, they also did not make her re-do any of this. We plan to take this same approach.

That's all for today. I will continue to add things as I think of them.

November 11, 2006

I'm not sure if I mentioned that we were not able to take the train from Volgograd to Moscow. It turned out that the train would not arrive in Moscow until around 10:30am and our plane back to the states left around 12:00 ish, so that did not allow us enough time. We ended up flying back but that turned out for the best because our friends were on the same flight and she and her mom had her little girl with them and lots of luggage. So we were able to help them out a little and she (again) showed us the ropes a bit, for when we bring our kids back on the next trip. We learned that we can pay a little extra at the Volgograd airport to wait in the VIP lounge. It is not as crowded and they take you out to the airplane in a small van. If you wait with everyone else, you go out to the plane in a bus and you end up standing around in the cold for a while; it is not as pleasant as the VIP van. So this was good to know for our next trip with the little ones.

We also ended up not getting to spend quite as much daily time with our children as we had thought. I mentioned in an earlier post that they are in two different groups/rooms in the orphanage and they are on two different schedules. We would see Benjamin in the mornings from around 10:30 to around 11:30, we had a break from 11:30 to 12:30 and we would normally try to find a snack of some sort for lunch, and then we would see Nicholas from 12:30 to around 2:30 and then we would see Benjamin again from around 2:30 to 3:30. We had thought we could see them both together from 2:00 to 3:30 but it turned out that they would not allow this. Since they are from two different groups/rooms, they don't want them playing together. They are trying to prevent the spreading of colds and germs. There was one day when we did get to see them both for about 10 or 15 minutes but it was kind of on the sly. It was nice though because it was long enough for us to take several pictures of all of us together. All in all, we did get to spend a good deal of total time with each of them on this trip and we are very thankful for that.

We were very please with the amount of information they provided to us about the children's medical histories and their background information. We were told we will get copies of everything in their record when the adoption is finalized and our friend received this information with her two daughters, so that is good. Of course, the amount of information received for each child is dependent on how much is know about the child's past, so some children will have less information than others. But we were please with the amount of time they spent going through it with us and answering our questions.  Everyone at the orphanage, the doctors/directors, social workers and care givers were all very, very nice and friendly to us always.

We were also very pleased with our adoption agency facilitators, translators, drivers, etc. They were very efficient, they really know their stuff and we felt we could trust them. They were always where they said they would be on time and they handled everything very professionally. They try hard to set appropriate expectations. They also really seemed to care about us, that we had everything we needed and we were happy with how things were going, etc. We did not take gifts on this trip and I am glad because, after meeting everyone, we will have a better idea of what to get, how much, etc. But the nice thing is that these people all seemed to be very good people, we enjoyed our time with them, always felt safe and cared for, etc. I highly recommend our agency (Christian World Adoption). So far, they have done a stellar job for us, both in the U.S. and while we were in our adoption country.

I am just posting as I think of things so that's it for now.

Friday, November 10, 2006

November 10, 2006

Yeah!! We're home at last! It is so good to be back, although we hope to get back again very soon to bring our children home.

We just arrived home late last evening. I think we had been up for almost 24 hours by the time we actually got to bed. I slept very little on the trip home, just tiny little cat naps and only maybe 2 of those, so I thought I would sleep straight through the night and be pretty much back on schedule on Friday but, not so. I woke up and started thinking about our children and whether they missed us and were sad when we did not show up on Thursday to visit them; how many times did they look towards the door, wondering where we were?

We had a very long first visit with our children, relative to others I have talked to or read about, so that was a huge blessing for us. We saw our one of our children for 8 days and the other one for 7 days, so we had a long visit with them. We were away from home for just under two weeks. We were ready to come home but very sad we had to leave without our children and anxious to get back to get them.

We are hoping and praying to get back in mid-January to bring them home but you never know. We will wait and pray and prepare. We have some additional child proofing to do around the house and lots of clothes, toys and other things (car seats, diapers, etc.) to buy before our children arrive.

We really had a very nice trip, although a long one. The people who helped us were very friendly and professional. We took one morning to go sightseeing in Volgograd and we saw the beautiful statues and memorials. Russia has such a long and interesting history. We were happy to find at the larger grocery store, which is very close to the hotel (within walking distance) that they have many of the things we will need (diapers, baby food) so we won't have to take as much over with us on the second trip.

The biggest lesson we learned on this trip is that we need to make sure we pack light for the second trip. We packed pretty well for this trip, although there were some clothes that we ended up not needing because it was not cold enough yet. Most of the stuff we took, we used.

I wish I had taken more books. I ended up reading some of my husbands books and also playing cards some. In our hotel, we had two English-speaking TV channels and they were both news channels, which was great for me since I love news. One was the BBC and the other one was out of Germany I think. They tend to repeat the same news throughout the day; you really get the fresh news reports first thing in the mornings. I guess our cable news stations do that too, but a bit differently. They usually change it up a little and it is normally live, whereas these were often recorded and they played the same thing over. It was definitely better than no news though. In Moscow they also have an English newspaper which was pretty interesting. It is also available on the Internet. I love the news and love staying up to date on all of the political happenings so I dislike being out of the U.S. during elections, so the latter part of this trip was especially hard for me:). When we got to Atlanta yesterday afternoon, we bought newspapers to find out who had taken control of what. That kept us entertained during our flight delay.

Our two little guys are absolutely adorable. We saw so many children in this orphanage and they are truly beautiful children. We feel so very blessed with our two children and I was wishing we could take at least one more home with us. The people caring for our children have big hearts and are doing their best to take care of them with the resources they have. Even so, it is obviously better for children to be in homes with parents, rather than to be in an orphanage. There is only so much the caregivers can do, when they are taking care of that many children and have limited resources.

We were very impressed with how diligent they are with trying to keep the children's environments clean and germ free. We were also impressed with the development of our children. Every child is different but most of the children we saw seemed to be doing pretty well developmentally. The rooms were bright and cheerful and the caregivers do a great job of keeping the children on a schedule. Everyone was very friendly to us and the caregivers were obviously happy that we were there to fall in love with some of their charges. They are obviously happy for the children when they are adopted into good homes, even though they are sometimes attached to the children and they cry when they leave. That would be such a hard job.

We got to see a couple of babies get their massages. It was very cute and we could tell they really enjoyed it. There is a music room where the three and four year olds go for their music classes. This is the room where we spent most of our time visiting and playing with our children (when they were not having music classes). For the children younger than three, the music teacher goes from room to room and plays music for them on her accordian and maybe a couple of other instruments. She was in the music room with us a few times and it was clear that she really loves the children.

So the children have music time, play time, eating time and napping time. The number of naps and schedule depends on the particular group room the child is in. Benjamin is in a room with younger children where there are many babies. We were told that he is still taking three naps a day; he is about 13.5 months old. Nicholas is in a room with children more his age (around 12 months old) and he takes two naps a day. We believe that Benjamin will be moved to another room with children closer to his age as soon as there is an opening, which will most likely be before we return.

Both of our children took a day or so to really warm up to us and at least two days before they started recognizing us and smiling real big at us when we came to pick them up. We would stand in the doorway of their rooms, waiting for the caregivers to finish what they were doing (usually feeding a child) and to put another layer of clothing on our child. We were only allowed to visit with one child at a time, because they are in two separate groups/rooms. They do this to try to keep down the spreading of germs and illnesses. They also require you to take off your shoes before walking in the baby rooms and also the music room. One time we also had to wash our hands before taking Benjamin. We only had to do that once so that must be dependent on who is working and how busy they are but, since Benjamin is in one of the younger baby rooms, that may be more normal for that room. As I said, they really try hard to keep the environment clean and to prevent the spreading of germs.

They keep the baby rooms very warm. They want to keep it warm enough so the children are comfortable with one layer of clothing. They don't have enough diapers to keep the children in diapers all the time so they also probably want to keep it very warm so that the children stay warm if they are wet, although they try to change them quickly. They keep the music room a bit cooler, so they put another one or two layers of clothing and a diaper on the children before you take them there. Our children were usually sweating when they were playing in the music room.

One thing that we discovered that is good to bring, depending on the age of you child, is the little socks with the dots on the bottom where they don't slip when they try to walk. The orphanage has a lot of these little booties made with thick yarn, that are really good for keeping their little feet warm but they slip easily on the floor when they are trying to walk or pull up. When we would take them to the music room, we would take off the thick booties (there was another layer under them) and put the little, no-slip socks on them. It made a world of difference when they were trying to walk. Nicholas loves to walk. He is really good a cruising and pulling up but still needs to hold one hand to walk, although we did get to see him take a couple of steps on his own. When we first met him, it was obvious that he was already pulling up and cruising well but he needed to hold two hands to walk. After just a couple of days of practicing with us, he was walking pretty well while holding one hand and, before we left, we got to see him take a couple of steps on his own. We won't be surprised if he is walking on his own when we return. Benjamin can also pull up, although his legs are not quite as strong and he is not yet as interested in spending as much time trying to walk or cruise as much. It looked as if he had spent some time in one of those jumping things that you hang in the doorway because, when we would stand him up to try to walk, he would start jumping up and down and would not try to take steps, most of the time. His room has one of those jumping things hanging in the middle of the room, so I am guessing he has spent some time playing in it.

There were quite a few toys in both of the rooms we saw, including this jumping thing, a couple of rocking horses, and other toys. The rooms are pretty well designed for how they use them and the main rooms are pretty big, with at least one or two large, built in play pens that are padded on the bottom. The padding makes it a little harder for them to learn to walk but protects them when they fall over or accidentally knock each other down. They get a lot of experience at pulling up and cruising along the outer rail of the play pen. They clearly like doing this and, when we visited the rooms, the children in the playpens were standing up, holding on to the rail, and watching us the whole time we were there. I think they let them out to play on the floor during the scheduled play time. The rest of the time, they are either in the play pen, on a rocking horse, in a walker, in the jumpy thing, in a high chair being fed or sleeping in their cribs. The rooms are painted nice, soft colors and there are large, colorful murals on the walls. They have a large changing table with pads where they can be changing two or three children at the same time. The children seem to know the ropes and they do not seem to try to get away when they are being changed or dressed. Usually our little guys just sat on the changing table and smiled at us and babbled, while the caregivers were dressing them for our outing to the music room.

I thought I had probably gotten carried away on the number of toys that I took but I was really glad we had them all. I focused on small toys that would be easy to pack. The big hits were the colorful stacking cups (three cups), these two little rings that they could easily get their little hands around and they kind of made a noise when they shook them, the child's photo album (very small, with only 5 pictures and made of that cloth stuff that kids can chew on, with pages of that crinkly material between the picture pages), children's spoons (our friend brought these and our boys had one in each hand most of the time) and these little toys I got at Tuesday Morning that are suppose to be good for developing fine motor skills. They are different shapes and, when you push a button or move a lever, they turn into an animal. For example, one of them is a circle and, when you push a button, it turns into a duck; another is heart-shaped and it turns into a little horse. One is a square and it turns into an elephant. They really liked the toys, the toys were all pretty small so they were easy to pack and light enough that carrying them in the back pack to the orphanage every day was easy and they were also easy and quick to get out and put away (we kept all of the toys in 2 large zip-lock bags - zip-lock bags are your best friends on a trip like this!). We also brought a couple of books that the boys enjoyed looking at.

Well, this is long enough for now and I am starting to get sleepy again so I will try to go back to bed. Thanks for all of your prayers for us while we were traveling. 

Thursday, November 02, 2006

November 2, 2006

Yesterday we met N and today we met B. We are very excited!! They are both in the same baby home and they both appear to be in relatively good health. They are in two separate groups with different schedules so we will be splitting our time equally between them. We can not spend time with both of them at the same time because they don't allow children from different groups to spend time together, as they are working hard to prevent the spread of colds and germs.

The boys' birthdays are only six weeks apart, so they are very close in age. They are both doing very well developmentally and are pretty much right on track with their ages, although Nicholas is a bit further along. Our international adoption doctor was also very pleased with both of them. One funny coincidence is that they both have the same Russian first name.

We have been very busy today and yesterday, meeting and playing with the children. We have had play time with the children at the same time that our Kansas City friends and her daughter has play time so we have all gotten to spend a lot of time together. Our KC friends have been showing us the ropes while we are here...where to eat, where to buy groceries, how to take public transportation to the baby home, etc. They have been very helpful and it has been nice to have them around to visit with and have dinner with.

We are planning to leave Volgograd on Wednesday around 4:00pm local time and arrive in Moscow around 9:00am on Thursday, when we will head straight for the airport for our flight to the U.S.  Overall, Volgograd is very nice; it has some very nice shops in very pretty areas.

Thanks for your continued prayers during our trip.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

October 31, 2006

We made it to Volgograd today. We are so happy to be here. We should be meeting our children tomorrow. Please keep us in your prayers. We are very excited!

We had a great time in Moscow and got to see quite a bit of the city. We had dinner last night at the Hard Rock Cafe and the food was very good. It was nice to have familiar food again. We did use the subway and we also did a bit of walking. They have very good public transportation here. Our hotel was a pretty easy walk to the Hard Rock and some main tourist areas, where we got to do some shopping.

We will be meeting up with our Kansas City friends later this afternoon. They had a successful court appearance and are visiting their daughter. We are excited to see them again.

We'll post again when we have more information.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

October 29, 2006

Just a quick note to let everyone know we made it to Moscow, Russia safely. We spent the afternoon exploring Red Square. Moscow is such a beautiful city! It's hard to believe we are really here; very surreal. We are going sightseeing tomorrow with a guide and then we are off toVolgograd early Tuesday morning.

We'll update again from there!

Friday, October 27, 2006

October 27, 2006

That was fast huh? Well, we showed up at the airport this morning, two hours before our flight, like good international travelers should, only to find that our 10:15am flight from Tulsa to Atlanta was cancelled yesterday. They re-booked us on the 6:00am flight; didn't we get a phone message on our cell phone or our home phone?? They asked us this at least five times. We did not get the message. They tried to find another flight out for us but the first thing available is tomorrow. So we are booked on the same flight tomorrow. So, we will have one less day in Moscow but it is good that we had the extra days up front so we will not be late to arrive in Volgograd.

Our case worker is out of the office today so she will have a surprise waiting for her when she returns. I called our driver/interpreter in Moscow to let him know we would be one day late. He seemed like a very nice guy and he speaks English better than I expected. I was told that we would need to speak slowly but I thought he did really well.

The biggest bummer (other than missing a day of sightseeing) is having to unpack some of the stuff and repack again tomorrow but I guess we'll live. Now we have to think of something fun to do today, since my husband has taken a vacation day today and we don't want to waste it.

Well, this will be my last-last post from the U.S. (hopefully). God willing, we will take off tomorrow and our next post will be from Russia. Thank you for all of your prayers. We are very grateful to have so many people praying for us.