Friday, November 27, 2009

Back to Waiting

Jason and I worked very hard to get as much paperwork done as humanly possible before we left for our Court Dossier. When you adopt from Russia you have to submit two sets of documents, one before you receive a referral and one after you meet the child referred to you. All we had to do when we got home was to pick up our blood tests, copy all of the paperwork, have it apostilled and drop it off. I think everything has been sent off to Russia. That is great news!

So now all we can do is wait some more... We were told it could be between 3 and 6 months before we get to go back. Now that we've met him and know his little personality and sizes, I've started to buy him some clothes. I bought his first pair of little pajamas today. I think I'll keep them forever. When he's 20 I'll be showing his dates his first pair of pajamas. Mom came up and we went to get a rocking chair at Little Deb N Heir in Naperville. We'll start getting his furniture soon too. Can't wait to see what it will all look like together!

I'll let you know as soon as we get any more information!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day 5 (Nov 18)-The Longest Day Ever

We got up at 4:00am to get ready and met Aloyna and Alexei downstairs at 5:30am to head to the Novokuznetsk airport. This airport was nicer than the Kemerovo airport, it had just been renovated. Aloyna could not come with us past security so she gave us direction to get up and follow the crowd once they started moving toward the door. Really no one spoke English in this airport. Luckily there was only 1 flight at that time so we didn't have any trouble.

Pictures of the Novokuznetsk Airport and my "Ice Field" :)
We were again taken by bus to the plane out on the runway. So surreal to board a plane on what I would say was an ice-field (ok that might be a little bit of an exaggeration) in the dark (it didn't get light outside until 9am in Sibera) at 9 degrees below zero. This flight was on time and we got into Moscow with no problem (5 hour flight).

Our flight was delayed in Moscow to Washington DC causing us to miss our DC to Chicago connection. It was ok though, this was our first delay and it was only a 3 hour delay. This time in the Domodedovo airport we were in gate area A and there were a bunch of cafes. We found a Sbarro, PIZZA! and ate before heading through security.

Our flight home was fine and we were able to sleep for a few hours. Got into DC, caught the 7:30pm flight and landed around 8:15pm CST. We said good-bye to Sandra and Sandra and headed out to meet my Mom & Dad for the ride home. We finally walked in our door roughly 31 hours after we left Novokuznetsk.

What an adventure. I will post pictures soon!

Now we need your prayers that our return is quick and we can bring Maks home where he belongs.

Day 4 (Nov 17)- Seeing Maks Again!

Jason and I both woke up around 4:00am on Tuesday. Our bodies were still a bit off from the travel. We met Sandra & Sandra at the restaurant for breakfast after trying to get on to our computer in the computer room. If you are traveling soon, don't bother with your computer. Just use theirs. The keyboard is in Russian but it does have English letters on it too. I didn't think about this but they have to have English letters because the Internet is all in English (Aloyna told us this). They can get on to Russian sites but still have to enter the web addresses in English.

The food is very different in Russia. Not bad, just different. The best food advice we received was to bring protein bars and other quick things to take with you. I don't think any of the Russian people we were with ate lunch. We didn't ever stop for food, so bring lots of protein bars, granola bars, cereal bars, snack packs, etc! We had a little breakfast and then met Alonya at 8:40am. She and Alexei our driver, took us back to Prokopyevsk to the Baby House again. We saw Dr. Ludmilla again and asked her any extra questions we had after meeting the children. Dr. Ludmilla is a wonderful lady, so caring and obviously connected to the children. By the way, Victoria was adorable too! She was a little blonde girl with the cutest pig-tails and sweetest face.

The caretakers brought Maks and Victoria in again. He was wearing the same little outfit as the day before and still looked adorable in it! It was a happiness I have never felt to see his face again. Like going home after you haven't been there in a really long time.

We went back into one of the playrooms and spent 2 hours with Maks. Boy does he like his Daddy. Jason is like a big toy that can throw him and run with him, and make him fly around the room. Maks overall was a really quiet little man, but we got a few sounds out of him that day. As Jason says, they were priceless. I love his little giggles. We took Maks some goldfish crackers on Day 1 and some Fruit Loops on Day 2. He loves to eat!! Really the entire time he spent eating (thank you Sandra for bringing those cookies!) and falling down. His walking is still a little unstable. :)

The 2 hours were up SO fast. We didn't get a lot of warning that it was time to leave and the caretaker came to get him. We were not ready to go. It was heart-breaking to hand him over knowing we wouldn't see him again for a few months. I think heart-breaking is too weak of a word.

We met Dr. Ludmilla again and signed the papers that we wanted to proceed with the adoption.

When we left the orphanage Aloyna took us to a small souvenir shop. They had the cutest little Russian nesting dolls or Matryoshka dolls as they are called.

We went back to the hotel and asked Aloyna to take us to another cafe nearby. We found another Russian restaurant to try. They had an English menu and we were able to order some chicken wings, potato pancakes, bellinis (russian pancakes) filled with Chicken & Mushrooms and french fries. So healthy, I know.

We headed back to the hotel and started packing for the long trip home.

Meeting the (little) Man of our Dreams!

I feel this part needs its own space.

We arrived at the Prokopyevsk baby house around 1:00pm in the afternoon. Prokopyevsk is 13 hours ahead of Illinois time so it was around midnight at home. Keep in mind we had only slept about 5 hours in the past 36 hours!

We met our translator Alonya (a different Alonya than in Moscow) before we went inside. Dr. Ludmilla, the orphanage director was with some of her staff so we had to wait about 10 minutes to meet her. We used the bathroom and it was in a room with an above ground pool and a Little Mermaid mural painted on the wall. So cute! The pool was not filled as the Baby House was being renovated, but they did say they use it during normal times. Its great that they expose the kids to water and swimming in Siberia! Overall the Baby House was very clean and well-kept.

Once Dr. Ludmilla was available we were all brought in to meet with her. She asked if we were ok reviewing the information for both children together and we said of course. They started with Sandra's daughter Victoria. After about 5 minutes, there was a knock at the door and someone asked Dr. Ludmilla a question in Russian. Aloyna turned to us and said, would you guys like to meet your son while Sandra reviews her information with Dr. Ludmilla and we said "OF COURSE!!!!" 1 minute later, Elena (a caretaker) came in with the cutest little boy I have ever seen and set him down on the ground. He just stood there swinging his little arms and looking around.

I don't know how to describe what we were feeling other than "life altering happiness and elation" at that point! I went over to pick him up and he let me. He didn't cry, just looked at me. Their nap time was usually from 1pm-3pm so they had woken him up to come to us. He was a little sleepy but overall just interested in what was going on. I can't post any pictures of him, but let me say...he is perfect. Absolutely perfect. We could not have wished for anything different or better. I'm starting to tear-up just writing this, we miss him so much already.

Dr. Ludmilla went over all of the information they had on Maks with us including how often he had been sick, when he started teething, when he sat up, when he started walking, etc... And then we were taken to the playroom to spend a few glorious hours with him. It went SO quickly. If you are waiting to travel, take your video camera and video as much as possible. We keep watching ours and it just doesnt seem like enough. We have about 45 mins of video from the 2 days, but when you can't see your son for 3-4 months every single minute is precious.

They came to get us and let us know it was time to leave around 3:45pm. Maks went back with his caretaker and we headed to Novokuznetsk, a town about 1 hour away. We had to exchange some money still as we had trouble doing so in Moscow. Aloyna took us to a bank and then to the hotel, the Guest House, it was called. Our room was nice (freezing but nice). We had a bedroom, a bathroom and a separate living room with a refrigerator. There was a restaurant downstairs and Sandra, Sandra, myself and Jason went down to eat around 5pm. At this point I cannot tell you how tired we all were. I literally was falling asleep at the table and went back to bed before dinner was even over. We fell asleep around 6:30pm.

November 16, 2009 is going to go down as the best day of our lives. Really.

Pictures of our Room/Hotel in Novokuznetsk

Day 3 (Nov 16)- The Best Day Ever!

Siberian Airlines freaked me out. I'm not a good flyer and the thought of flying into Siberia on an airline that only handles Siberia worried me. It shouldn't have. They were great. The service was great. They came around with newspapers, then with food, then with drinks, then with coffee & tea, etc... They did speak limited English. The Russian people definitely fly differently than us (at least the ones on our plane). Someone was smoking on the plane and then they were standing up getting their luggage while we were still on the landing runway. Very interesting stuff. :) By the way, we landed in a blizzard. Not a Siberian blizzard, but a blizzard by any United States standard. My courage was at an all time high. Maks really does help me in that way... :)

We got into the Kemerovo airport (very small but efficient place) and finally met up with the other family traveling with our adoption agency. Sandra Parra and her Mom, Sandra. (not a typo) We knew they were on our flight to Kemerovo but couldn't find them before we took off. They were great! We were so lucky to travel with them, a lot of fun and made the trip even better than it already would have been!

Pictures of: Loading up the car out of the Kemerovo Airport, Our Breakfast of Champions!, The streets of Kemerovo, The highway to Prokopyevsk, The Town Name Sign

The four of us met our Coordinator #2, Anna in the airport. Basically all of our travels were incredibly smooth. All flights on time and all Coordinators/Translators were on time. It really was a blessing. Anna took us to a cafe, Travelers Coffee and got us some breakfast and read through the medical files of Maks and Sandra's soon-to-be daughter Victoria. Overall Maks is very healthy! Yeah!

She then sent us on our way with Sergei our driver down to Prokopyevsk and the baby house to meet Maks! It was a three hour drive through Siberia on snow covered roads. If you've ever been to Jamaica, the drivers drive about the same way. The only difference was that the roads in Siberia were covered with snow and ice. Sergei was an awesome driver!

Finally we arrived at the baby house! We were going to meet Maks!!!

Day 2 (Nov 15)- Moscow!

The view of Moscow from the plane was non-existent as the sky was overcast and gloomy. No big deal, we were thrilled to be in Russia! We got off of the plane and headed straight to immigration. They didn't speak much English, but it went very quickly. It definitely helped being toward the front of the plane as the lines got long after we were through. We got our luggage after waiting about five minutes and headed out of the baggage area to meet up with our Coordinator #1.

We found the sign saying "Petersons" and met Alonya our Coordinator. She was very sweet, friendly and her English was perfect. One of the other families who had traveled before us gave us the tip to get a room at the nearby hotel after they spent all day in the Domodedovo airport in Moscow. We had emailed our Caseworker before leaving and asked if this was possible. She connected with our Coordinator Alonya before we arrived and set up the plan. I would HIGHLY recommend this to any family traveling in the next month as it was $170 well spent! Our flight arrived at 10:30am Moscow time and our next flight to Kemerovo did not take off until 11:30pm that night so we had 13 hours to kill.

Alonya helped us find the shuttle and went with us over to the Airport Hotel. She got us checked in and up to our room. We said good-bye and then were able to sleep for 5 hours or so before getting up to take showers and head back to the airport. The shuttle picked us up right outside the airport (although they say its every 15 mins I think its more like every 30 mins) and dropped us off. One interesting note, the traffic in Moscow is CRAZY. It took us about 25 minutes to go a 1/2 mile!

We got to the airport and checked in as Aloyna had directed us to earlier. The check in counters are a bit different in that they are not set up for specific airlines. They have electronic monitors above each one and they change as the flight times change! Finding food in the Domodedovo airport was not easy. There are lots of cafes but everything was in Russian and we were surprised by how few people spoke English in the Moscow airport. We were in Russia though and of course Russian people don't expect us to speak Russian everywhere in the USA, so you have to just go with it. We ordered some tempura shrimp and some mozzarella sticks. We had pointed to the Chicken Sandwich on the menu (they had pictures) but the waitress shook her head and said no. :) We didn't know why but, what are you gonna do?

A few short hours later we boarded a bus to be taken to our Siberian Airlines plane. They don't have gates, so you are taken outside to board. We were headed to Kemerovo!

Day 1 (Nov 14)- Leaving for Russia

Pictures of our pre-trip packing, Jason with the Obamas, Us having a drink before our long flight to Moscow, & Landing in Moscow

Woke up early, Mom & Dad picked us up, we went to breakfast and then were off to O'Hare for our flight on United to Washington DC. The flight was uneventful and quick to Washington (on time!) We had a slight layover in DC of four hours and then were boarded on our United flight to Moscow around 4pm EST. (again, on time!)

A few things about the flight to Moscow...
-We learned our lesson and will do whatever we can to upgrade to Business class in the future. Those little seats were grueling for a 10 hour flight!
-Paying for the annual pass for Economy Plus was the best $$ spent on the trip. Only cost $400 but got us both 5 extra inches of leg room on all United flights. Its good for one year so we can use it for the next 11 mos too! Plus you get closer seats to the front of the plane!
-Never order the chicken :)
-United is a great carrier internationally. The crew was great, gave us free drinks once they knew we were adopting (perfect plan, get the new parents tipsy)

We had our choice of movies and they ran in a loop on the individual screens in front of our seats. We could watch Harry Potter, Julie & Julia, and some other smaller films. I managed to sleep about 1 hour, Jason didn't sleep at all. A mixture of uncomfortable-ness and excitement!

We landed in Moscow right on time.

We're Back!

So Jason and I landed last night around 8:15pm. I'm updating my blog ASAP today for all of my fellow adoptive families. I know these updates from other families were critical to us when we were planning our trip!

Let me start out by saying 2 things...
1. What an adventure!
2. We love Maks & are now working our bum-bum's off to make sure we get back to him as soon as humanly possible!

I'm going to break up our journey by day so its easier for everyone to follow and so I don't forget anything!

Friday, November 13, 2009


I just finished packing. We went shopping tonight and got big black puffy coats. I think I can use one no matter what, but in Siberia it will be perfect. We are taking tons of stuff for the orphanage and for Maks. We are taking a truck, a bear (that has our voices recorded on it, thanks Aunt Leslie), his blanket (thanks Grandma Brockman!), fruit loops (we're going to bribe him to like us :)), goldfish crackers, and a disposable camera to leave at the orphanage for pictures of Maks in between trips 1 and 2 (thanks Adoption Ark Forum Moms!). I'm sure they're going to look at us like we're crazy people.

Dad is sending 2 John Deere tractors, one for the orphanage and one for Maks, although I'm' sure he'll share!

Tonight Jason and I went out to dinner and realized the next time we make this trip we will bringing him home with us. What a life changing moment and time. My friend Tenny said today there are so few moments in your life that are really earth-shattering and life-changing and how great it is that we are about to embark on one of them. He's right, its such a blessing! I can't wait to tell you all about it! Stay tuned!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

1 1/2 days!

I'm posting today b/c I don't know if I'll have time tomorrow. We're only going for 5 days but you would think we'll be gone for months with the amount of anxiety I have about packing. Don't want to forget anything! I'm starting to get more nervous about the plane ride, but am headed to the Doctor tomorrow morning for the latest development in pharmacological courage. :)

Our Russian lesson went well. Vera was awesome, telling us all about the dos and don'ts of Russia. She is Russian and lived in Lithuania with her husband. Russian is NOT an easy language. I still have not mastered how to say "hello." I did learn how to say, I love you, My name is Wendy, Whats this, Bathroom, Water, Stop (its the same as stop), Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, Dad, and pancakes. :) I should be good. Vera even offered to have a play date with her 4 yr old son when we get back so Maks can keep up with his Russian! That would be awesome.

I don't think I have ever been more excited! No worries, I will post a play by play as soon as we get home!! Thank you everyone for your well-wishes and advice!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Day Off

God bless the Veterans. Of course they have done great things for our country and I'm grateful, but I'm also grateful that banks choose to close for Veterans day. Today has given me the opportunity to start getting things organized. At the suggestion of others who have gone before us, I went out and bought cereal and power bars for the trip. I also went to NY & Company to buy some of their dress pants. They are super comfy, no belt pants that will be perfect for the last leg of our journey before we get to the orphanage.

Jason and I are going to meet a Russian Language teacher tonight for a Russian lesson before we go. I know, you can't learn Russian in two hours, but I'm betting you can learn some basic Russian to help you get around. We'll see!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Great Video

Adoption Ark has posted a video on You Tube that is a montage of "First Moments". The first moments that parents met their children. How fitting considering that is exactly what we will be doing 6 days from today. This one will make you cry...
(cut and paste the link, I don't know how to add them on this blog!)

4 more days!

For the past 10 months Maks has been the lifeline we have clung to in a tumultuous, endless sea of challenges and disappointments. No matter what has happened with our pregnancy last year, our inability to carry a child of our own, our failed attempts at IVF, our incredibly challenging and unfair moments with our quest to have a child, Maks has been our sanity, our rock, our chance, our future, our hope. Probably unfair to put that much on the shoulders of one little guy who lives half way around the world and doesn't even know we exist yet. Regardless, he has been the joy and the light that keeps us walking forward. A little guy who helps us believe that we will have a family.

This past week has brought another dose of what feels like insurmountable challenges. So insurmountable that we thought our trip to Russia may not be possible. But Jason and I decided that no matter what, we would find a way to get to him and bring him home. He is already our son. We love him and need him as much, if not more, than he needs us.

It feels surreal that we are leaving to meet him in 4 days. I will finally get to hold him, to hug him, to feel his heart beat and to see him smile! (I hope!) I am so incredibly grateful for all of your support, well wishes, prayers and love. Just know that we are incredibly happy and cannot wait until the day we get to bring him home.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

6 more days!

After months of what seemed like endless waiting, these last few weeks have been flying by. We're working hard at getting our court dossier done and now we only have the medical exams remaining. Last night I started packing. My Mom gave us a suitcase we can take all of the orphanage donations in and then leave in Russia, which will make the trip home a bit lighter. Jason's Mom collected a ton of stuff at her church and it fills up the entire suitcase. Here's our itinerary just in case you wanted to know...

Saturday, Nov 14- Leave OHare at 11:00am, Arrive in DC at 1:59pm
Saturday, Nov 14- Leave DC at 4:05pm, Arrive in Moscow (DME) at 10:30am (next day!)
Sunday, Nov 15th- Hang out in the Moscow Airport until late!
Sunday, Nov 15th- Leave Moscow at 11:30pm, Arrive in Kemerovo at 7:30am (next day!)
Monday, Nov 16th- Travel by car from Kemerovo to Novokusznetsk and MEET MAKS!

I'm starting to feel anxious. Anxious about the flight and anxious about meeting Maks. Of course we are SO excited, but you can't help thinking, "what if he doesn't like us?". Never has there been an introduction with so much build up and anticipation (in my life anyway!) As always, keep us in your prayers for a safe journey and quick return to bring him home.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

13 days until we leave!

Its going by quickly, and thats a great thing! We will officially meet Maks in 15 days. You would think we're going for 4 months instead of 4 days with all of the stuff we are planning to take. One of the first families to travel just got back and she was gracious enough to share her trip details with us. It went well, but was definitely an adventure! It feels like we're part of a small fraternity with all of these other families. We're so grateful not to be going through this alone.

We're having a hard time finding a phone that will work in Siberia. We looked at renting one through a travel company. For $80 American dollars they will meet you at the Moscow airport and drop off/pick up the phone. Apparently though, even their phones have a hard time with signal in the region we are traveling to. Jason and I tabulated that we will be traveling for 31 hours to get to Siberia! I don't like to fly, but I can honestly say I am willing to do just about anything to get to him. Maybe somehow I can sneak him back in our suitcase. :) Just kidding, DCFS.