Wednesday, January 31, 2007

January 31, 2007

Yesterday I realized that the definition of a productive day has once again changed for me. A little over a year ago, I was working for a financial company in Houston, managing a group of approximately 30 people and our job was to host and develop web sites for our company. It could be quite stressful at times, since web sites are suppose to be up and running properly 24 x 7 x 365.

When my husband and I moved to Oklahoma in January of 2006, I quit my job in Houston and we decided that I would not get another job, since our plan was that I would be a stay at home mom. I ended up having one entire year of not having to work outside of the home, before I became a mom, which was really quite a treat for me in retrospect. I tried hard to enjoy it and remember what a blessing it was, rather than to wish it away, wanting our children to arrive at any (and every) moment. Some days that was a challenge but most of the time I really appreciated the no-stress break and enjoyed the huge amount of free time I had. I started working when I was in 7th grade and, except for two summers, had pretty much had some type of job since then. So this one year break was a real treat for me.

Now that our children are home, my definition of a productive day has once again changed. This was something I had not really thought about. It occurred to me a couple of days ago that my new definition of a productive day is a day in which both children have had three healthy meals and 2 healthy snacks, 1 or 2 good naps and some good play time that included interactive time with parents. Some days I will add a bath to that list and on Sundays I will add church to the list and, of course, wiping runny noses, ensuring nobody gets hurt too badly, providing comfort when needed and loads of hugs and kisses and laughs are all on the list. Some days it will also include a load or two of laundry and, on every day, it will include some cleaning up of dishes. Anything else will just be gravy. That's it. If the house is not very clean, too bad.

The floor in the kitchen really could use a good sweeping every day or at least every other day and it is overdue for a good mopping. The bathrooms are due for a cleaning and the furniture could use a good dusting but I'm not sure when that will happen. I'm hoping we can at least get most of it done before my husband returns to work in one week because after he does it will probably take a miracle for those things to be done again any time soon.

You are still missing one crucial bit of information, in order to put this all in perspective. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist. So this is a huge thing for me, that my house may not look spotless all of the time. There have been many times in the past that I went out of my way to make our home look "lived in" because I didn't want it to look like a picture in a magazine....too neat and perfect. That's how bad I have been at times in the past. I was kind of prepared for this part of parenting though, since I have seen it with other family members and friends who have children. So it is not too big of a surprise. But it can still be a mental challenge. I will certainly, by no means, try to be a "super mom" and have it all done at all times. I would not get to spend enough time enjoying my children if I did that.

The new definition of a productive day did take me by surprise though. It is really hard to imagine how complicated things become, when you add two toddlers at once to a family. My husband and I were just discussing how we are going to do our grocery shopping, once he returns to work. I know I am going to have to learn how to take our two sons out shopping by myself sometime but the thought of it right now kind of overwhelms me. I don't feel like I know them well enough yet...what sets off a temper tantrum and how best to handle it, for example.

My husband will go back to work in one week. In one way, I am kind of looking forward to it, because I am a person who likes a routine and I am getting to the point where I am almost ready to be back in a daily routine again. But there is another part of me that is anxious and a bit fearful of doing it all alone. The boys are going to have to learn to be more patient and I will try my best to become more efficient and to also be more patient.

I am not feeling great right now. I'm not sure if it is sinus issues, because it is so very dry here right now, or if I am coming down with the cold that Benjamin has had the past couple of days (we think he got it from Nicholas). Not sure yet but I do know that it is much harder for me to be patient, smiley and kind when I am not feeling well or have not had enough sleep. I seem to be constantly tired and I am wondering if this was first due to jet lag and now due to these sinus or cold issues or if this is just going to be how it is from now on. I hope not. Our boys really sleep pretty well, so I am hoping that this is just from this sinus or cold issue and it will go away when I start feeling better, hopefully before my husband goes back to work.

I need to pray more and to have some daily quiet time, reading the Bible. It definitely helps me to be more patient and have a more positive outlook on life in general. I'm thinking that the first nap time of the day will be a good time for this in my new routine.

As for the boys, I still think they are adjusting pretty well, so far. We decided to keep feeding Benjamin for a while and see how it goes. He was getting too upset when we were trying to get him to help feed himself so we have decided we should wait a bit longer, until he is ready. I'm sure he will get there eventually. Every once in a while, he does something to show that he is considering it. He helps to bring his sippy cup to his mouth or picks up a piece of cheese and starts to put it is his mouth. So we will keep feeding him until he is ready to feed himself. When my husband goes back to work, both boys will have to have more patience with me, when I am preparing snacks and meals. That may actually have an impact on B wanting to feed himself too.

Now, the ironic moment of the day. I started writing this post yesterday and only finished the first paragraph before I was pulled away and never got back to it. So I finished it today. Another productive day:).

Monday, January 29, 2007

January 29, 2007

Things here are going very well, although I seem to always be tired these days (surprise surprise, right?) The issue is that it seems I have still not adjusted completely back to sleeping at the right times. I am so exhausted and sleepy after we get the boys down at night that I immediately go straight to bed and then I am asleep by 9:00pm or maybe even 8:30pm, if the boys went down early, such as yesterday. I usually end up hearing one of them around 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning and I may or may not go back to sleep. Regardless, I seem to be waking up between 4:00 and 4:30 most mornings. I think I am going to have to bite the bullet and make myself stay awake until 10:00pm, or maybe try taking a nap during the day once and see if that might get me back on schedule (the nap idea is certainly more attractive). I normally never take naps, unless I am sick, because I find I don't sleep as well at night if I do.

The boys really are adjusting pretty well. I know it is still too early to tell but, so far, they seem to have very few PI issues. Nicholas has had a few temper tantrums, although not too many and mostly when he has not had enough sleep. The last two days, we have been out and about some and they have not been on a regular sleep schedule. (more on that later) For the most part though, Nick seems to be coming along pretty well. He does get a bit impatient for food still, but that's no surprise. I try to make sure I am preparing food before they will reach that point and I think we have done pretty well at doing that most of the time.

Benjamin is a little further behind developmentally. He is 16 months old and will not pick up small pieces of food and put them in his mouth. If we take his hand and help him do it, he cries. We are not quite sure what the right thing is to do with this. At the baby home, he was still in a room with younger children, so the caregivers did everything for him. He is really coming along nicely with his walking and is now at a point where he can take 10 or 12 steps while only holding on with one hand.

We have this little ride-one, push-while-learning-to-walk toy and he loves to walk behind it and push it and can do so quite well now. When we first met Benjamin he did not really even want to stand, much less walk. Now he really enjoys it and we see him walking more and more on his own, between pieces of furniture, cruising along furniture, etc.

The eating thing is hard right now though. It makes food prep more complicated, with two boys to feed  I can put some cut up fruit or something in front of Nick and he can happily munch while I prepare other food. But we have to feed Ben everything and if we leave him for even a few seconds to grab a towel or get something out of the microwave, he will get upset and start crying. My husband and I have been working together so far, which has made everything much easier but he will go back to work next week. Both boys will probably have to be a bit more patient when that happens.

Benjamin also had two bad habits that we seem to making very good process on breaking. If he got impatient or upset with us, for whatever reason, while we were holding him, he would sometimes take his hand and kind of slap/scratch our faces. Also, while sitting in the high chair, if we placed anything on his tray, he would immediately shove it off onto the floor (it's very hard to encourage him to feed himself if he has nothing on his tray). We started working on these two behaviors after arriving home and he is responding nicely after just a few days. Now he will sometimes revert to slapping/scratching his own face, when he is upset or angry about something. At first I thought maybe we should try to stop that too but, for now, we are just ignoring it, which seems to lessen it. We'll see how this goes and readdress it later if necessary.

We have called Sooner Start to schedule an appointment to have both boys evaluated and they are suppose to call us back later this week with an appointment time.

Both boys are sleeping very well. Neither of them rock or bang their heads. Nicholas likes to suck his thumb, while holding something soft in the other hand as he falls asleep. Benjamin sometimes does this funny sucking thing, as if he is nursing, when he is trying to fall asleep. Nick can sleep anywhere and he falls asleep very quickly if he is tired. No problem with the car seat at all. Ben has a much harder time because he sleeps on his stomach. So he was not very happy with the car seat ride yesterday, although he did fall asleep eventually. He is the kind of kid who falls asleep 10 or 15 minutes before you get where you are going, after driving an hour or an hour and a half.

Both boys love to cuddle and hug and frequently want to be held or picked up for a little while, before running off to play again. There is also some jealousy between them sometimes. If one is headed for mom or dad, sometimes the other one will quickly head there too.

We went to my grandmother's house yesterday, so she could meet the boys. My father and his wife, my aunt and uncle and brother and niece all came over too. Everyone enjoyed getting to meet the boys. Both boys were reluctant to be held by others, at least right away anyway. After spending more time with people and getting to know them a bit better, they were a bit more willing but they still wanted to go back to mom or dad before too long. I think they responded much like any bio child at that age would have, when meeting people they didn't really know but then saw that mom and dad thought these people were pretty alright. It was encouraging for both my husband and I.

So, right now, we are still just trying to master the basics of feeding, changing, clothing, sleeping, etc. I get frustrated sometimes because I want to be more efficient at these things but we are still so new at it, I think it will take a little longer before I see that...and then, I will have an entirely new adjustment when my husband goes back to work next week. I struggle with meal planning, which is no surprise because I struggled with this for just my husband and I, every since we have been married. I found some good snack and meal ideas on the web, which helped but I need to find some more soon.

Friday, January 26, 2007

January 26, 2007

Here are the pics I promised.

This first one is of us in front of the GUM shopping mall. I was so happy to see that they still had the Christmas (New Years) lights up. I had hoped that they would because I had seen pictures and wanted to see it in person. It really was beautiful.

Another of the GUM shopping mall and the ice skating rink (just in front of the mall but a little hard to see).

The obligatory picture in front of St. Basil's. Every time I see this building I am in awe of the beauty of it. It really is spectacular to see in person.

The three loves of my life. Aren't they handsome?? Ben is looking at his daddy and Nick is looking at mommy taking the picture.

Ben, banging on the table in the hotel room and watching mommy take pictures.

Nick, playing with the toys in the floor of the hotel room in Volgograd, Russia. He is quite the ham at times.

They are both settling in nicely. They both make lots of good eye contact, love to come to both mommy and daddy for hugs and kisses and then get down and play again...or get down, then get up, then get down, then get get the idea.

I love to get them out of bed after nap or first thing in the morning, bring them downstairs, sit in the rocking chair and just cuddle with them and let them wake up slowly. I think Benjamin especially likes this, as he seems to be more of a slow waker-upper, like his momma. Nicholas likes it but only for a minute or two; then he sits up, looks around and starts jabbering.

We can tell they are both so much more relaxed than they were in our hotel room in Volgograd. They definitely still have some food issues; this takes some time before it goes away. They both have some catching up to do, especially Nicholas, who is in the lower-than-3rd percentile in height and weight. They become more aware of each other each day and they babble to each other, touch hands sometimes and follow each other around. Yesterday, Nick even gave Ben a cheerio; he even put it in Ben's mouth for him. It was really cute. Of course, much of the time, we have to protect them from each other, as they push each other away or try to hit the other one's head, etc.

Nick is a very bright child and I am surprised at how much he already understands. It really is amazing; sometimes it almost seems as if he already understood English before he became a part of our family.

Ben is such a cuddle-bug; he really is a teddy bear, loves to be hugged and cuddled and loves to play patty-cake and make lots of noises with his tongue/mouth. As soon as I put him on my lap, he immediately smiles and starts clapping his hands, wanting me to play patty-cake with him.

Yesterday, they both learned how to drink from their sippy cups. Nick can hold it himself and drink from it but sometimes he wants us to hold it for him. When it is less than half-way full, he has a harder time doing it himself. He is a very quick learner though.

They are both really drinking and eating very well. We had been trying to find some formula that they could both tolerate but have given up after trying both regular and soy types. We might try regular whole milk tomorrow. They really need the extra calories.

Our schedule yesterday went very well, although Ben and I are both still struggling with jet lag a bit. My husband and Nick seem to have beaten it though. Today I woke up feeling like I might be catching a cold. I'm not sure yet though; could just be allergies or something.

I have not left the house since we got back from Russia on Tuesday evening. But I am just fine with that. I finished all of our unpacking and laundry yesterday and am happy to have it out of the way. Today, I am taking a break for myself (during naps) and just enjoying catching up on blog stuff. Tomorrow, I must start thank you cards.

My husband is truly a gift from God. He is such a loving, kind and patient man and he loves being a dad. Yesterday he brought me two dozen roses. He spends lots of time with the boys and is helping me a lot while he is still home. He really loves to spend time with them and feed them, change them and help care for them. But it is truly a gift, that I have some time to adjust to taking care of them full-time, daily, by myself. He will return to work in about two weeks. Hopefully, by then, we will have the schedule and routine down and I will manage it just fine. It's really not bad when I am organized and well rested. Being organized and well-rested are the challenging parts.

Yesterday evening, after we had finished dinner, all four of us were sitting in the floor playing with toys. The boys loved it and it was such good family time. I thought to myself, I can see this evolving over the years and turning into playing board games and stuff like that in the evenings after dinner and before bed.

The only time we have had the TV on since we have had the boys is during their nap times or after they have gone to bed for the night. I try to catch up on the news once or twice a day, since I am a news junkie. Other than that, we really have not watch any TV at all. We decided before we adopted that we did not want the boys watching TV or videos until they are at least three years old. They have a lot of catching up to do and the more time they can spend in interactive play, the better for their development. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should watch no TV (or videos/dvd's) until they are at least two years old. So I think it makes sense that ours should be at least three, since they basically missed out on a lot developmentally the first year of their lives.

I am still feeling that it is so very good to be home. As I walked through the kitchen a few minutes ago and saw the high chairs sitting there, with bibs laying across the tables, I thought "it is so nice that they are now being used". It just feels so good to have them here.

I must go start preparing lunch for my sons (I just love the sound of that). They will wake up from naps soon and will be very hungry and ready to eat. More pictures to come.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

January 25, 2007

I started this yesterday afternoon, during nap time, and got interrupted (end of naps...surprise surprise) so I am trying to finish it now, during morning nap times. This is my new life AND I LOVE IT!:).

We made it home last night (Tuesday night), safe and sound, thankfully. Our remaining time in Russia went forward without a hitch.

Our flight from Volgograd to Moscow went well; both boys were great on the plane. They had fun crawling after each other down the small hallway in our Moscow hotel room. It was really cute. They have been excellent sleepers and they were good little campers when we were running our many errands in Moscow.

Their physicals went very well; no problems. We got in and out of the embassy pretty quickly and had a chance to chit chat with five other couples from the U.S. who were also there for adoptions, which was fun.

After the embassy, we spent the rest of the afternoon revisiting Red Square (Revolution Square) with our sons and taking lots of pictures in front of St. Basil's and the Kremlin. They had an ice skating rink set up in Red Square, with a large, decorated New Years tree (Christmas tree in U.S. language) next to it, and the GUM shopping center (high dollar shopping mall in a beautiful, very old building) was outlined in white lights. It was very pretty and a wonderful way to spend our last afternoon in Russia. We had a bite to eat at GUM. The boys were great tourists, even though it had gotten a bit chilly by then.  They stayed toasty warm in their snowsuits.

Our trip home was pretty much perfect. We could not have asked for anything better. Our flights were all on time or early. We were able to get the seats we wanted, next to the bulkhead, and they had the bassinet hanging from the bulkhead wall for us. Between the bassinet and the extra seat we had purchased, we had a good amount of room. The boys really did great. Nicholas had an easier time catching cat naps and even had one really good nap on the long flight. Benjamin had a harder time falling asleep and, except for maybe a one hour nap, did not get any sleep at all until our flight from Atlanta to Oklahoma. He still did very well though. We made it through immigration in record time and made our flight from Atlanta to Oklahoma with no problem. We got the seats we wanted on that flight also and, since it was half empty, got an extra seat to spread out in. We only had to wait ten minutes to board and our flight was first in line to depart out of Atlanta, which our flight attendant said was a first for her. The boys slept the entire flight, my husband and I slept a little also and we made it home right on time.

My brother, sister, two nieces and a nephew were all at the airport to welcome us home and help us with our luggage. We were really happy to get home. Benjamin never woke up after finally falling asleep on the flight to Oklahoma.  Nicholas woke up and played a little and pet the cats (pulled Dancer's tail). We slept fairly well last night, or at least the guys slept well. I kept waking up because I heard Nicholas cry out a few times and I was worried about him waking up in another new place and being scared.  He stayed asleep though; must have just been dreaming.

Today has gone well but I have not gotten much done. Just tending to the boys and a little cleaning here and there. I am hoping we can all get caught up on our sleep and get on a good schedule quickly (we're all doing better with this today). The boys are a bit off on their nap schedules today so we'll see (much better today).

We still have to unpack and do lots of laundry (it has started) and cleaning up around here and I have a ton of thank you cards to write.

We have been so incredibly blessed. I keep thinking I need to sit down and count the number of prayers we had answered on this trip but I have not done it yet. Here are a few:

1. Safe trip to Moscow
2. Our physicals in Moscow went well
3. Safe trip to Volgograd
4. Both boys remembered us
5. Both boys were/are in relatively good health, despite the colds they had when we arrived.
6. Court went GREAT!! I didn't have to speak first; my husband answered the hardest questions. We got the 10 day waiting period waived, which was a miracle.
7. The boys are both great sleepers. (no night terrors, sleep through the night almost every night, take good naps)
8. Safe trip from Volgograd to Moscow with the boys.
9. Boys did great on that flight and we got bulkhead seats (the bulkhead seating area was so wonderful; it was easier sitting in these seats with the boys than it was to sit in non-bulk head seats without the boys!)
10. Boys physicals and paperwork at the American embassy went like clockwork. No issues; relatively quick.
11. Had time for an afternoon of sightseeing and picture taking with the boys at Red Square. (It was a perfect afternoon; this was such a blessing to my husband and I both.)
12. Trip home was excellent. Flight from Moscow to Atlanta went by so quickly; more so than any of the other flights we had taken between those two cities.
13. Boys did great on the long flight. We got the bulk head seats and bassinet that we had hoped for. Flight arrived in Atlanta on time.
14. Immigration processing in Atlanta went quickly.
15. We made our connecting flight from Atlanta to Oklahoma, with time to spare.
16. Flight from Atlanta to Oklahoma went great. We got the bulk head seats again and had extra room to spread out on this flight. Boys slept the entire time. Flight was on time.
17. Arrived in Okla safely. Family met us at the airport and helped us with luggage.
18. Arrived home safely.
19. Boys are adjusting wonderfully and are attaching much better than we had even hope.
20. Both boys are still sleeping very well. Yeah!

Thank you all so very much for your prayer support during this challenging adventure of ours. This trip could not have gone better!! God is awesome and has just blessed us incredibly!!  We love them so much already!  Next update to include pictures:).

Thursday, January 18, 2007

January 18, 2007 Part 2

I almost forgot the pics! Here are three; not the best, but we didn't have time to take very many today. These are in reverse order; since everything is in French, I am having a hard time working with blogger. Better than nothing though, yes?

The first one is of the boys, standing at the coffee table in the small living room in our hotel suite. They were having a great time, banging on the table.

The second one is of the boys (Ben in blue and Nick in green) getting ready to have their passport pics taken.

The last one is of me and Nicholas, when I was changing his clothes, getting him ready to leave the baby home.

Unfortunately after the husband/dad took this picture, he had to rush to get Benjamin while I finished dressing Nicholas so we didn't get to take any other pictures of leaving the baby home with the boys.  The CWA workers were in a hurry that day.

January 18, 2007

Today was a great day. First of all, the day started off with sunny skies; no cloud in sight. This is the first time we have seen this since we have been here. The local people kept saying it felt like a spring day and I’m sure it really did for here. The clouds did roll in later in the afternoon but that did not ruin the beauty of this very special day.
The best thing that happened today, of course, was that we went to the baby home and got our children. They were both so happy to see us. We changed their clothes (for the first time ever!) and put on their little snowsuits; they looked so cute and were just so happy that we were there.

We stopped along the way to the baby home to buy cakes, champagne and chocolates and we also brought all of the gifts that we brought for the caretakers and doctors/directors. Everyone was very happy for our family. It was very sweet.

We took the boys to have their passport pictures taken and then had to make a couple of stops to sign paperwork. It was all very rushed because our interpreter, facilitator and driver had to take another couple to do something.  We thought they would take us to the grocery store to buy diapers and baby food, because that’s what they did with our friend when we were here last, but they did not have time. So, as soon as we returned, my husband had to run over to the grocery store and buy diapers and he also got some water so we could mix their formula.

When we came back, we mixed their formula and they were very eager to drink from their bottles. Benjamin drank in such a hurry and cried if we took it out of his mouth for anything and he also cried when it’s all gone. Nicholas is not quite as anxious about it but he had been eating cheerios and goldfish snacks while we were waiting for my husband to return. Benjamin does not seem to care for the texture of the snacks yet, although he seems to like the flavor somewhat because he eats them if I squish them before I put them in his mouth. He still makes a funny face though.

We put them both down for their naps, probably about thirty minutes later than they normally go down. Benjamin cried for a few seconds before crashing and Nicholas babbled a bit before he crashed. They only slept about an hour though and then they were back up and wanting another bottle and more food. After nap, they had some banana, which they both really liked, and some pizza, which they both also really liked.  They did a lot of playing in between eating and sleeping and they both want lots of lap time from both mommy and daddy. It is very sweet; they both love to be held and cuddled and they melt right into us when we are holding them.

This evening, we gave them both a bath. Mommy got in the tub first, with a few toys to make it less scary. My husband brought Benjamin in to me and I bathed him while he played. He was very happy throughout his bath and really enjoyed it. When I finished, my husband brought in Nicholas and he took Benjamin. I bathed Nick and he also enjoyed playing in the water, while my husband dried, diapered, lotioned and clothed Ben. Then he came and got Nick and did the same with him, while I finished my bath. Daddy did a great job too!

After baths, they ate some pureed meat that comes in a can. (It smells just like canned cat food; yuck!) I thought they might need a bit more protein in their bellies, to stay asleep all night. I’m hoping they don’t wake up hungry during the night. After their chicken-in-a-can, we sat and held them for a while and played for a few minutes and then it was time for night night.

Bejamin pretty much went down without crying at all. Nicholas started crying as soon as my husband started to put him in his crib. I picked him back up for just a minute and soothed him a bit. Then I got them both the really soft baby blankets I had brought for them. I took the very corner of it and put it in Nick’s hand and he immediately put his thumb in his mouth and was fine when I laid him back down. He went right to sleep with no more crying at all.

My husband and I cleaned up our small sitting room a bit and then I started typing this update. He laid down on the floor with the news on and promptly fell asleep. He is very tired but I must admit, I think I had the easy part with the baths.

At one point in the evening, My husband went out for a couple of pizzas for us. I didn’t eat a whole lot of them but I’m not feeling hungry so I guess I’m doing OK. I barely had any breakfast because our interpreter showed up earlier than we had planned to go run some errands for the adoption. For lunch, I ate a bag of chips with a Pepsi (yes, that made my day:) - we actually have a larger fridge this time and it even has a small freezer that has one ice tray in it, so I was able to make some ice from our bottled water (yeah!) and I have had two Pepsi’s since I have been here.) My husband ate the majority of the pizza. He was very hungry.

We were able to change our flight home so we will definitely be flying in on Tuesday evening.

This may be our last update, since we will now be quite busy and, when we are not busy, we will probably be quite tired, but happily so:). It is definitely a juggling act to take care of two babies in a hotel room in a foreign country.

We need to get to bed at a decent time, since our boys may be up at 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning, so I must sign off. Once again, thank you all for your many, many prayers. We had a near-perfect day; everything really has gone very well and the boys seem really happy with us. Please pray they will be good night-sleepers!

Also, thank you for your many comments, congrats and encouraging words. We read each one and they mean so much. We don't have much time to reply, since computer time here is quite expensive. Someone did ask if we got to see the boys yesterday after court. We didn't get to because it was too late by the time we finished. I was worried about what they would think but, after seeing them today, it seems we are fine now:).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

January 17, 2007

We had our court appointment today and it was very successful. We are now the proud parents of two wonderful little boys. Our court session went very smoothly, as has our entire adoption process, for the most part.


Can you believe it??? This is so unusual for this region. I don’t think I have ever heard of another case where the 10 day waiting period was waived in the Volgograd region. It really is a miracle from God. We had so many people praying for us; I could not even count them all. We appreciate your prayers so much. Thank you all!!

We will pick up our sons tomorrow, as soon as the judge has finalized the papers. We still have to have their passport pictures taken, which we will do tomorrow. We have paperwork to finalize here in the region Thursday and Friday. They said we could fly to Moscow on Saturday or Sunday. We have chosen to stay here and fly out on Sunday because it is cheaper and we also know our way around here better. On Monday in Moscow we will take the children to the doctor for their physical and then to the embassy to get their American visas. We can fly home on Tuesday, although we are still working on rearranging our flights, so we are not sure about this yet.

As for the details, in court we had a woman judge and she was very nice. We had spent yesterday evening and last night preparing our speeches to give in court today and I was pretty nervous about this. It turned out that we did not have to give our speeches at all. (Yeah!) The judge called on my husband first (another answered prayer) and she and the prosecutor asked him all of the more difficult questions. She called on me second and I had the easy questions, although more emotional ones. They asked me how I felt about “the babies”, what my emotions are about them. As soon as I started talking, I teared up; I just couldn’t help it. It was a very emotional topic for me, because both of the boys have been sick and it has been so hard to leave them each day, knowing they are not getting the love and attention that everyone needs, especially when they are sick and most especially babies. But I did answer the questions through my tears and the judge felt so bad for me that she told the prosecutor to quit asking me questions and let me sit down. So we did not end up having to talk nearly as much as we had planned.

Our interpreter was most impressed with our speeches though. Our facilitator had prepared us for court yesterday evening so we knew what information needed to be included in our speech and what type of questions might be asked, which was very helpful. Our interpreter came to our room an hour before court and she practiced with us saying our speeches and she interpreting them. It was also very helpful. They did an excellent job of preparing us for court.

As you can imagine, we are so very happy this evening. We are spending the evening letting everyone know about the decision, rearranging our travel plans, reading and relaxing.

Today we became parents. Tomorrow our lives change forever, as we will finally have our sons in our care.  Please continue to pray for our health (ours and the boys) and for our trip home.

Monday, January 15, 2007

January 15, 2007

Another good day with the boys, although our visit was the shortest yet. Our interpreter could not meet us until 1:00pm. Since we were later than usual, we decided to pick up Nicholas first and take him to the music room, play with him for a little while and then take turns going to visit Benjamin. That way, both boys would get the maximum amount of time with us.

We both played with Nicholas for a few minutes and then my husband went to see Benjamin. When he got there, Ben was still sleeping so they woke him. They had told Anya (our interpreter) that he was already awake but they were confused and told her about another child. It worked out well though because my husband was allowed to feed him. They use a tablespoon to feed the children and my husband said the spoon was so big that he couldn’t fit it into Ben’s mouth. He also gave him a cup of something to drink. Afterwards he held him in his lap and played with him for a few minutes and then it was time for us to switch places.

I am happy to report that Nicholas was feeling much better today and he seemed much more like the little boy we got to know on visit one. We were so happy to see this. Thanks so much for all of your prayers.

Nicholas and I had a fun time together, while my husband was visiting Benjamin. I was sitting on the floor, with my legs crossed Indian-style in front of me. Nicholas was sitting on my legs/lap. He would sit with me for a little bit and then get up and play with some toys I had put on a child’s chair, just beside us. Then he would quickly look back at me and sit back down in my lap real quick, with a big smile. He did this over and over for a while and it became a little game for us. I had to watch him because sometimes he was not close enough to land in my lap but he would fall back, expecting me to catch him. It was very cute and we had fun at this little game of his.

 After this, we went across the room to where they have these long benches. I put some toys on them for him to play with. He likes to bang toys on the bench; he enjoyed this during our first visit but had not felt well enough to be interested in it again until today. Again, he would play for a minute or two and then come quickly to me and hold up his hands for me to pick him up. It was again our little game and I would pick him up quickly, with a “weee”, and hold him close. Several times he just put his little head against my chest and wanted a cuddle. So sweet!

When my husband returned, I left to go visit Benjamin and Nick had a bit of a cry when I left him. Not long after I left though, he and my husband had a fun time playing together. My husband said Nicholas walked all over the room many times and was playing everywhere; definitely much more like the little guy we remembered.

I had a nice visit with little Benjamin. He was in his crib when I arrived and he was happy to see me. I put him on my lap and took out a few toys. Pretty much the only thing he wanted to do with the toys was throw them on the floor. He might look at them for a couple of minutes but I spent most of the time trying to catch toys before he threw them down on the floor. I held his hands so he could walk around the room for a little bit but he did not enjoy this for very long. He did enjoy reaching up to swat at a mobile on another crib in the room and watching it spin around. After that we sat back down in the chair and he threw toys some more. I tried putting them on the changing table, so he could play with them there. He played with them for a few seconds and then started throwing them again.

He did this some on the first trip also but we were usually sitting on the floor in the music room and he could pick them back up and continue playing, or pick up a different toy or crawl a bit or something. When he drops the toys on the floor, I tried leaving them for a bit, thinking he might think twice about dropping them again. But then he wanted to get down and started to cry so I picked them back up. Obviously this is not an ideal visiting scenario. At some point, I put him back in his crib with all of the toys and I sat in the chair right next to him and leaned in and played with him. He enjoyed that for a while and we were still doing it when I had to leave.

I always make sure I am touching the boys a lot, holding them, stroking their little head, etc. also. I think that is so important, as I know that do not get that kind of interaction normally.

At one point during our visit, I held Ben while I was standing and he put his head against my chest and I just kind of rock us back and forth. They both enjoy that a lot and Ben and I did that for a while. There was another cute moment when I read a little book to him. It is a tiny book, with numbers 1 through 5 on the left side of the pages and pictures of barnyard animals on the right side of the pages. I always make the sounds that the animals make, which normally gets a few smiles. This time, I read the book several times to three children; Ben in my lap, another younger baby in the crib across from him (this baby was not there yesterday) and a little blonde haired, blue-eyed boy was in the next room, watching us through the glass. So I held the book so they could all see the pictures and spoke loud enough so they could all hear. They all thought that was great and I got three times the smiles. It was sweet.

My heart just goes out to these little children, especially when they are in isolation. They basically spend the vast majority of the day in their cribs. The caregivers are good about giving them toys to play with, which Ben usually throws out pretty quickly, I think. He was playing with a stacking toy they had brought him when I left and he was having a good time with it, and not throwing it out of the crib yet.

I went back to the music room where my husband and Nick were, as we were expecting the social worker to arrive and watch us interact with Nick and ask us some questions. (Apparently she only had to observe us with one of the children.) She was not there when I arrived so I watched Nick and my husband for a few moments and just got caught up on how things had gone with them while I was gone. They had clearly had fun.  But soon after I arrived, I was standing near Nick, watching him play, and I put out my hands to see if he wanted to come to me. He came immediately, was so happy, and put his head on my chest again and just rested against me for a while. I think he had been pretty busy while I was gone, he is still getting over his cold (still has a really bad cough), and was probably getting tired. I got to cuddle him for a while and then the social worker came. We went over to her and she asked us some questions…has anything changed (jobs, income, family members, etc.) since we did our paperwork or since our last visit, have the children changed since our last visit, how did we know that the boys recognized us when they saw us again, do we still want to adopt them, do we have doubts, etc.)…nothing difficult to answer.

N was still cuddled up to me. She wanted us to see if he would go to my husband, which he did readily. While we talked to her, N would get down, walk around or play for a minute or two and then come back over to be picked up and cuddled again.

We had a meeting with the doctor after our visit today and they are hoping Benjamin might be ready to rejoin his group in 2 or 3 days but they do not really know for sure. We asked what medicines he was taking and they tried to tell us but I don’t think we know much more than we did before we asked. We also found out their current weight, height, head and chest measurements.  We don't get to spend as much time with Ben while he is in isolation but the good news is that he does give us a lot of eye contact and responds easily to our efforts to get him to smile. He is always happy to see us and once today, when I put him in his crib, he immediately put his arms up for me to pick him up again. This is when we had our nice, long cuddle, which was good. Hopefully we can have some more moments like this tomorrow.

We will get to see them a little longer tomorrow (hopefully from 12:00 to 3:30). When we are finished, we will come back to the hotel and meet our facilitator to start preparing for court, which is on Wednesday at 2:00pm. That is 5:00am on Wednesday morning Oklahoma time.

I am bummed that this probably means we will not get to see the boys on Wednesday. I think they both look forward to our time with them and I worry about what they will think when we don’t show up. Please continue to pray for both of the boys, that they will not be emotionally damaged from any of this, that they will both attach easily and quickly and that they will adjust well when we finally get to have them with us (and that we will adjust well also!). Please also continue to pray for a successful court hearing and that a miracle will happen and the 10 days of waiting will be waived, if it is God’s will. If it is not God’s will then I will take that to mean that the boys really needed the extra days for a smooth transition and we will get through it one day at a time. God knows best.

We have decided not to update the blog or send or check email tomorrow (Tuesday). Unless something unexpected happens, our next update will be after we finish with court on Wednesday, although it may be later in the evening our time because we may take some cakes and gifts to the baby home to celebrate (and see our babies!!).

Thank you all so much for keeping us in your prayers. It means so much to us to know that so many people are praying for us. We know there is so much power in prayer to our awesome God and we so appreciate your love and support.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

January 14, 2007

Well, another day in baby-home world. Actually, we are not getting to spend nearly as much daily visiting time with the boys as we did on our first visit. Maybe we are with Nicholas but definitely not with Benjamin, since he is still in “isolation”.

They were both very happy and excited to see us today. We saw Benjamin first, since Nick’s group was just getting ready to get up from nap time. Ben was bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

The bummer about his situation is that we are only allowed to visit with him in his little isolation room. It is a small room with three small cribs lining two walls, a window on the outside wall and a door and windows on the inside wall, looking into the larger sitting room. They have it kind of set up like a hospital ward, with windows and doors to the isolation rooms all the way down the wall, so they can always see all of each isolation room from the sitting room area. Also, there are windows between the rooms, so they can see into the other rooms when they are in one of the rooms.

Anyway, there were two straight-backed chairs, like old-timey kitchen chairs, in Ben’s isolation room and that’s where we sat to play with him. There was no place to get down and play on the floor. But we had fun with him anyway. We brought our CD player and a tiny little speaker set and we played a children’s CD with popular kid’s songs. He really enjoyed it and it was cute watching him bounce to the music.  It seems that both of our boys have learned how to clap their hands since we were here last and he was doing that a lot too.

When we were in his room, I saw some bottles prepared near his crib so I asked our interpreter if they were giving him bottles while he was sick. They said they were giving him bottles, so that is good to know because we want to get him back on a bottle, once he is in our custody. Our IA doc said, if they will take formula, it will provide all of the nutrition they need and then, any food on top of that is just gravy. This is great for our kids, since they are behind, and the IA doc highly recommends we get them on formula ASAP if they will take it. We were able to visit with Ben for a little over an hour and then we had to leave so it was time to go get Nick.

Nicholas was sitting at this little kid’s table and when we walked in, he walked straight into my arms. It was very sweet and he was very happy and excited to see us. His walking is still a little bit tipsy but, if there are no obstacles, he does very well. He was all smiles and was very excited when they put on his little coat and hat.

When we first picked Nicholas up, we thought he might be feeling better because he seemed in very good spirits. Once we got to the music room, it was kind of touch and go. It seemed like the smallest thing would make him cry and it was very obvious that he did not feel well again today. He was not active at all and did not even want to sit on the rug next to us to play. He wanted to be held the whole time, which I am not complaining about by any means. He was a real little cuddler today, which I loved, but I hate to see him feeling so poorly. The last time we were here, he was the complete opposite; he was very active, laughing and smiling all the time, crawling and cruising all over and he loved to walk all over the room, holding our hand. He is definitely not himself right now but hopefully he will get over this cold before we leave with him.

Today, my husband and I took turns holding him. He wanted to hold his favorite toys, most especially the little plastic spoons, which he loves dearly and gets upset if he drops them and they are not returned to him very quickly. Other than that, he just really wanted to be held close. At one point, he fell asleep in my husband’s lap, with me singing to him with the kid’s CD. It was really sweet and he slept for a several minutes.

When he woke up, it was like a new day. He seemed happier and seemed to be feeling just a tad bit better. He played with us more but still while sitting on one of our laps. He enjoyed the music and looking at the small books we brought.

Towards the end of our visit, I was holding him, while my husband was packing up all of the toys so we could take him back to his room. He had been sitting in my lap but then he decided to stand up next to a small child’s chair and bang on it with a toy. As soon as he realized he was no longer touching me, he turned around to see if I was still there and then quickly sat back down in my lap. A couple of seconds later, he stood up again next to the little chair, I moved my leg to get more comfortable and he immediately sat back down in my lap again. I do believe our little guy is really starting to attach to mommy a bit. Oh yeah, and he did get a kick out of repeating “da da da da” quite a few times today and my husband got a big kick out of it too. We saw a glimpse of Nick’s old self today, towards the end of our visit. Hopefully he will be feeling better tomorrow. Hopefully Ben will be over his illness soon also and they can both leave the baby home feeling good.

It sure gets dark here early these days. It is already dusk at 4:30pm and it does not get light until late too. Today it was pretty warm, for this time of year, and it was misting a bit as we walked to the baby home. The humidity is preferable to the extreme dryness in Moscow, although it does terrible things to my hair. I don’t even bother to fix my hair because it just kinks up as soon as we walk out the door in the morning. I hope it is less humid when we go to court.

I should have brought more to read and I wish I had bought a couple of CD’s to watch. The time goes by slowly when we are not with the boys. But tomorrow is Monday…then Tuesday and then court on Wednesday afternoon. We will get through the wait one day at a time.

All in all, it was a good day with the boys. We are looking forward to seeing them again tomorrow.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

January 13, 2007

We arrived safely in Volgograd and we got to see our boys today. Both of them are sick. Nicholas has a very bad cold and is clearly not himself. We saw him eight days in a row the last time we were here and we never saw him cry once. He was always happy, loved to play with us, smiled a lot and was very active. Today, he started to cry several times, although he responded well to our attempts to comfort him. He was not very active and was really not his normal smiley self at all. When we took him back to his group room and handed him over to his caregiver, he started crying again. He stopped when they told him we would be back tomorrow. I’m sure he was tired because it was time for his nap but I also think he was clearly not feeling very well. Hopefully he will get over his cold quickly.

Little Benjamin is in “isolation” because he has been ill also and he has a fever. We each spent about 10 minutes with him, while the other stayed and played with Nicholas in the music room. Benjamin seemed really the same as he did last time. If he had not been warm to the touch, I would not have known anything was wrong with him. He was happy and smiley and playful.

Both boys seemed to remember us pretty quickly. Nicholas was on the other side of the room when we arrived and we were talking to him from the door. After just a few seconds, he started smiling real big and he got so excited. When they were changing his clothes, he kept waving at us and clapping his hands. It was really cute and it warmed our hearts that he remembered us.

 I think Benjamin remembered us even more quickly because we got to hold him right away. The first day we met him, on the first trip, he was real quiet, no smiles for us and he held his arms and hands very close to his chest, like he was a bit scared. We saw none of that today; it was as if no days had gone by since our last visit, which is really wonderful and just what I prayed for.

We go to court on Wednesday afternoon at 2:00pm. We will see the boys each day and can hope that the 10 days will be waived, although it is seldom done in this region. Either way, we get to see them every day we are here, which is wonderful. It is so good to see them again. We just can’t wait to take them with us.

Please continue to pray for us, for the improved health of the boys and for a successful court appearance.

Friday, January 12, 2007

January 12, 2007

We arrived safely in Moscow yesterday. Today we had our 8-doctor exam. Both were uneventful and we are glad they are finished. Tomorrow morning we leave for Volgograd. We are hoping to see our boys in the afternoon.

So far, so good. The next big event is court on Wednesday, 1/17. We will be relieved when that is over. Please continue to pray for us.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

January 9, 2007

This is our last night in our house, without children. Doesn't that sound great?!

I'm sorry I have not been able to update the blog more often over the past few days. Things have been pretty crazy. Two weeks ago, I thought we had plenty of time, no problem, we will be ready early. NOT. There were just so many things still left to do. It has taken up all of my time and I just finished packing. Packing took HOURS; we have so much stuff to take. It was a miracle that it all fit into the bags and it required a lot of creativity.

We split up our stuff and put some in each bag, in case a bag is lost for a period of time. Hopefully that won't happen. It didn't happen last time. With only one change in Atlanta, I think our chances are pretty good that our bags will all arrive with us. Please pray for that for us.

Getting out money turned out to be an issue yesterday. The bank felt very badly about it and bent over backwards trying to find the newest bills they could find. They even went to other branches and gathered as many of the newest bills they could find. Unfortunately, at the last minute, their central bank in OKC found out from the Fed that they could no longer get new money for adoptions. Our local bank had called their OKC central bank three times over the past few weeks and verified they could get the money. Oh well; I think we will be OK. God is in control so everything will work out for the best.

My brother arrived today to stay at our house and take care of our two cats while we are gone. That is such a relief. He lived with me for one year when I lived in Texas, before I was married, so the two cats know him well and they really like him. The cats always know something is up, when they see us packing our bags. They kind of mope around, wondering what's going on. I kind of feel sorry for them because life as they know it will never be the same again. They are not very fond of loud noises:) and they are used to getting a lot of attention from us. Hopefully they will get used to it quickly and enjoy playing with the children.

My husband has been in the garage for hours, trying to put in the car seats. He is a very bright man, can repair/build just about anything needed around the house, is also a doctor, and he is currently very frustrated at the instructions that came with the car seats. We had planned to do this last night but got busy with other things. He is still out there working on it now.

While he was in the garage, putting the car seats in the car, we realized that we are going to have to have a second car to help get us home from the airport, when we return with the children. I called my sister tonight to see if she could be here that night and follow my brother when he comes to the airport to pick us up. We get in late, so they will both spend the night with us. She was excited because she does not have to work that night so she can come and she will get to meet our children.

I must get moving; still have some things to do before I can call it a night and we leave very early tomorrow morning. Thank you all for your prayers and well wishes. I'm sorry I have not been very good about responding to everyone; I really have just been swamped, getting everything ready to go.

My next post will be from Russia!

Friday, January 05, 2007

January 5, 2007

The other day, I was at the Bank of America and the manager who is ordering our new money was telling me that she has another client also adopting from our adoption country, who is also ordering new money. I told her to please give her my name and number. This evening, she called. She lives within a couple of miles of me. She and her husband are leaving tomorrow morning to meet their two children-to-be. They are adopting from the same region and possibly the same baby home from where we are adopting. They are adopting two biological siblings, a girl and a boy, between the ages of 3 and 6. It appears that we will be in the capital city at the same time. They will be on their way back through and we will be stopping in on our way over. We may even be staying at the same hotel, although they are not for sure yet. Isn't that amazing??!!

In other news, I have gotten an amazing amount of things done since I last posted. We have all of the medical tests and chest XRays done, we have received our visas, I painted/stained the new wood my husband used to build the ladder and platform for the slide that goes with the swing set that we have been working on, I have washed all of the clothing for the boys and I also washed all of the bedding in their room, so it would smell fresh. I washed and ironed all of my husband's Docker's, which was a huge feat. I hung those really cute car pictures in the baby room. I finished all of our shopping for everything we needed for the boys, in addition to all of the gifts we had to buy for the caretakers and directors at the baby home. I still need to buy thank you cards and additional gift bags and tissue paper though.

We received the extra snow suit and car seat today. I put the two snow suits into one of those space-saver bags; those things are amazing! I highly recommend them, although I would not put my clothes in them because I don't think there is any way they would survive without looking as if they had been waded up and thrown in the dirty clothes basket for a month. I put two good size, fluffy baby blankets in another one. I'm telling you, those things are really amazing. Both packages are now almost completely flat and will not take up nearly as much room in our luggage.  I spent today determining how many and which baby clothes to bring, opening all of the little packages of everything we bought and preparing everything to be packed.

Once I had everything organized and put in a bag, I started cleaning the house. I just finished for today and I am exhausted. I wiped down all of the countertops in the kitchen (this is more work than it sounds), washed and put away the dishes in the dish washer, dusted the furniture, cleaned the laundry room and cleaned the downstairs bathrooms. The only left to do for the house to be clean is to vaccum and I will do that first thing tomorrow morning. Oh, and I also clipped the cats' claws today, since we have visitors coming tomorrow.

My friend from Kansas City is coming to visit us and attend the family shower tomorrow afternoon. She is bringing one of her daughters. She adopted both daughters from the same baby home from which we are adopting and she was there to bring home her second daughter when we were there to meet our boys. I met her through our agency (we are both using CWA) and my husband and I drove up to KC to meet her and her family before we ever even found out that we would be in our adoption country at the same time. God works in wonderful ways!

So, she and her daughter are coming tomorrow and we will be attending a small family shower in the afternoon. It will be nice to see them again and very nice that they can make it to the shower. My family is so excited for us. I am very thankful that we have so much support and encouragement from our friends and family. My husband's sister lives in Tucson and she is very encouraging and supportive also. We are very blessed indeed.

So, that's what I have been up to for the past few days. Shopping, running around to the doctor's clinics, painting/staining wood, hanging pictures, more shopping, laundry, etc. I am feeling better about where we are with our lists vs how many days we have left before we leave.

 I am going to bed now. I can't store up sleep but I will get as much as I can while I have the chance. This morning I slept until 8:00am!! I couldn't believe it; that is really unlike me these days...but it felt so good.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

January 3, 2007

That is how I am feeling these days...a bit scattered. This morning I woke up at 3:15 am and could not go back to sleep because I kept thinking of all of the things I still need to do. I gave up trying to go back to sleep pretty quickly and got up and started making my list.

I have already bought almost everything we need for our trip and for our arrival back home. I still have a few things left on my list to buy, most notably gifts for the caretakers at the baby home. I have so many tasks left to do before we leave, it is a bit overwhelming. I will definitely need God's help in staying focus and being extra productive.

Last night, my husband and I had a long talk with a friend with whom we have so much in common. He and his wife adopted two children, almost exactly the same ages as our children, from the same region, same baby home, same adoption agency (CWA) and same in-region facilitator as us. It was good to talk with him and hear how things have been going for them. He provided us with information about getting Early Intervention help to evaluate the children for physical, occupational and speech therapy and he advised us to do it within 3 months or so after getting home. He said they did this and it has really helped their children so much. He also gave us some really good tips for attachment strategies and let us know that our adoption agency provides a phone number for free counseling advice, specific to issues our children might have, for when we return. He told us how this worked out for him and his wife and it really sounded good, although every situation is different of course. He and his wife went out of their way to follow the instructions of our agency, in regards to attachment strategy, and they had very positive results. They were very careful to be the only ones to feed or care for their children and they were also careful to keep the environment around the children low stress and low stimulating, so the children are more focused on the parents and on attaching. It was a very interesting and eye opening conversation, which is saying a lot because I have already read a ton of books on attachment issues and strategies. I didn't know, for example, that it is best to keep the children away from really busy, over stimulating places like malls and to keep the number of toys to a minimum. They did these things and many more for at least 3 full months and possibly more. He said our agency recommended doing these things for a full 6 months but they could tell their children were pretty well attached after 3 or 4 months so they started easing up and slowly introducing a bit more stimulating environments or time with relatives. He has now had his children home for about a year and a half, they are about two and a half years old and he said they are now just like any other child, with no indications of any adoption issues whatsoever. Of course, each child has their own background and reacts differently to different situations. But this was interesting information regardless. I will re-read our agency's recommendations on attachment strategies.

One thing that every one I have spoken to who has adopted has said, "It is much harder than I/we realized it would be but it is also much more rewarding than I/we ever imagined". This should help set expectations.

There is no doubt in my mind that God put this man in our lives. When we were trying to decide which agency to go with, our agency gave us his name and number to call and he spent a couple of hours with us on the phone, telling us about their experience. They had been home with their children for a few months when we first called him. After talking to him, we knew without a doubt we were with the right agency. He posted tons of useful information on our agency's web board that I have referred to several times. And last night, he again proved to be a wealth of information. It has been so helpful to have someone, in pretty much our exact same situation, who has gone before us and can tell us what worked for them and what didn't, things to look out for, what can make the trip home with two little ones a little easier, etc. Of course, we also have a very good friend who has already BTDT two different times to adopt one child each time. She has also been a huge help, providing tons of information, support and encouragement. There is no doubt in my mind that God provided these friends for us, exactly when we needed them, with exactly the kind of information, support and encouragement we specifically needed. He does provide for all of our needs and then some. Sometimes we are so busy, we don't even notice.

Please keep us in your prayers. We leave one week from today.