Thursday, November 30, 2006

November 30, 2006

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.

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.

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 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.

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

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. 

I'm not sure if I mentioned that we 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.

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.