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.