Sunday, February 28, 2010

Honeymoon's Over :)

We had a great 1st night of sleep. He did so well! He was eating great and playing so well. We knew it had to be a dream... and it was.

I think he's getting more comfortable with us now. He's still a good little sleeper. He sleeps from 9pm-8am. Naps are a little bit more iffy. Today we really messed him up by getting him up at 6am and then getting on a big scary plane to Moscow. The flight was about 5 hours and about 90F. Jason and I were sweating! He certainly DID NOT like being on an airplane. About 10 minutes before take off he realized he was tethered to me and a seat. WOW, he was not happy. When the pilot revved the engines to take off, it scared the begeebees out of him so he was all of the sudden very quiet and loved being tethered to Mom. He fell asleep then for the first hour of the flight. After that it was touch and go. Needless to say we were thrilled when the plane landed. We made it to baggage claim, got our bags quickly, found the driver quickly and got to the Sandras apartment relatively quickly. Basically it was 11:30am Moscow time when we stepped into their apartment or 3:30pm Kemerovo time. So the journey took a little over 8 hours. With only a 1 hour nap and not much to eat, Maks had a really rough afternoon. Combination of lots of things I suppose. Little sleep, not feeling well, another new place, a scary plane ride, a scary new city... he has a lot working against him.

I won't lie. This is really tough. Tougher than I thought it would be. We feel like we are on the other side of the world (we are) and are in isolation. With phone call costs so expensive we haven't spoken to our families much at all. When he's sick, we don't know what the right thing to do is. The medicine here is very different, we can't be sure we're picking the right things at the grocery store because we can't read anything in Russian, we can't get in a car and drive anywhere and Maks HATES wearing his hat and mittens outside. The other day we took a quick walk to Travelers Coffee with him and he kept pulling his hat and gloves off. People were giving Jason dirty looks and one lady stopped to try to take Maks from Jason! What the heck? Tip for families traveling, make sure you bring boots, scarf, hat, mittens, another hat in case the child doesn't like the one your brought, snowpants, a winter jacket with a hood (much easier to keep the hat on that way it seems) and anything else you can think of to not infuriate the locals (oh and keep your child warm) :)

I did get to call my Mom and Dad earlier and Jason got to talk to his Mom. Its funny how important parents are in our lives. Even when we are struggling with becoming parents ourselves. As always they listened and gave good advice. It was just nice getting to talk to someone other than people who have no idea what I'm saying. The poor coordinators are hearing way too much about our issues. They just look at us and smile and try to be interested! :) Thanks Anna and Katya!

Maks is having some medical distresses. I thought I'd actually post some of them on here in case anyone has run into this before and has thoughts or ideas. If you've been in Russia when you've run into this it would be even more helpful, but we'll take all suggestions.

1. Maks is going poop a lot. 4-5 big poops a day. I am not a poop expert, but that seems like a lot. I wouldn't say they're all diarrhea. But sort of? Mom, I could email you a picture if it would help. :)

2. He has a goofy rash looking thing on his face in a half crescent under is eye. It looks like a fungal infection and seems to be getting worse.

3. He has a perpetual fountain of green goobly-gob coming out of his nose. And a lot of it crusts up under is nose which is clogging his nose. I could use that aspirator thing 4-5 times a day if he'd let me. Right now we're down to 1 time since we picked him up.

I'll stop with that for now. Some of the other stuff might be a little person for him when he gets older. And considering all of the personal stuff I've shared on here over the past year or so, that's saying something.

We got into our apartment at 2pm today. We're staying at the Old Arbat City Side Residence in Moscow from You can look it up. Its actually pretty nice. Its a 2 bedroom with a kitchen and a bathroom. It has a washer but no dryer. The kitchen and bathroom look recently renovated and we have lots of space. They brought Maks a crib so it will be the first night we try that angle. is a great company. They've been really easy to work with. I've attached a few pictures of the street outside. Will take more tomorrow in the daylight. Jason just got back from getting McDonalds. I'm so happy to have McDonalds!!! A cheeseburger was lovely. Old Arbat street is interesting. Its an old street that has been closed to cars and is only for walking. Apparently its very touristy, with lots of cafes and American style restaurants (Hard Rock Cafe, McDonalds, Sbarro, Starbucks). There are musicians outside on the street and a bunch of souvenir places. Maks will like not having to go far with a hat on. It will give us a few places to go explore. Tomorrow we have a Doctor coming to the apartment early, between 6:30-7:00am. And then we have to wait here for Katya to set our American Embassy appointment for Tuesday. We're free to leave after 11:30am so hopefully we'll get to the grocery store and save ourselves some money and calories this week.

One nice highlight of the day, we were giving Maks a bath tonight (first night with an actual bathtub) and he loved it! Leslie had bought him some bath toys before we left and I brought a little set with. Instead of just washing him and his hair and getting him out, we let him play for a while. I think he would have stayed in that bathtub for hours if we let him. Jason looked at me and said, "you know, I bet no one has ever let him sit in a bathtub and play before." That really hit home hard with both of us. With 15 other little kids in his group and 150 kids in the orphanage there is no way they let the kids sit in the bathtub and play with toys. A great way to end the tough day. Oh, and he went to sleep tonight in 10 minutes. Lets hope the new apartment doesn't freak him out during the night and he has a great nights sleep and can adjust to the time zone change well. The big one is coming in a week!

Friday, February 26, 2010

2 special pictures for Leslie & Don and Erin!

Les, I swear I did not set this picture up. He did this on his own! I LOVED IT and couldn't believe it! :)

Erin, I thought you'd be so impressed with the chaos I'm allowing in my hotel room. We'll see if it carries over to home. I doubt it.


Gotcha Day!

I will never forget February 25, 2010. The best of our lives so far. :) We woke up early, it was like Christmas morning, so excited to get moving and get to the orphanage. Alexei picked us up at 10am and we arrived at the orphanage at 11am. They brought Maks and Vika into Dr. Ludmilla's office. There was an inspector there that day so Dr. Ludmilla was running late. Sandra 1 & 2, Alyssa the translator, Jason and I and Vika & Maks all waited in her office for about 45 minutes. I was able to change Maks (see pictures) into his new clothes and then we worked at keeping him entertained in a small room with minimal toys for an hour. Once Dr. Ludmilla came in we had to do some paperwork and then we were set to leave! Vika was not thrilled to be in that office either for that long, but when it was time to go both she and Maks handled it very well!

We all were in one car for the ride back to Kemerovo. They got us a very big van with 4 rows of seats. At first Maks was a little scared. He just sat on my lap, stuck his thumb in his mouth and silently cried a few tears. It was heartbreaking. I just don't think he knew what was going on. At least with Vika she is almost 4 and they were able to explain what was happening. I guess I don't know which is better. Maybe neither as its very hard for all kids who are adopted, I'm sure. About 10 minutes later Maks fell asleep leaning against my chest with his little thumb stuck in his mouth. He stayed like that for the next 2 hours. An absolutely lovely way for his Mommy to spend his first 2 hours. :) When he woke up we had about 45 minutes left of the trip. He was a very happy little guy playing with Daddy and eating Russian Cheerios from his snack cup.

When we arrived at Hotel Azot in Kemerovo we went into our new room. This time it was much bigger with a living room, big refrigerator, bedroom and bathroom. He pretty much spent last night running around exploring the room and playing with his toys. Jason ran out to get dinner as it was -20F out. Maks ate one of his gerber dinners. This kid will eat anything. He ate every bit and then had a cookie. He is also the most thirsty child I have ever met! He drinks a ton of juice and water!!!

A few things that didn't go as well, bath time and cleaning out his nose (he has a cold). At bathtime we had to use the shower as there are no bath tubs in the whole place. I filled the bottom up with about 2 inches of warm water and then took the sprayer off to use as a hand-held one. He freaked out! FREAKED OUT! At that point he was probably sure some sort of terrorist had come to take him away. Needless to say Mama ended up getting in the shower with him and it only lasted about 2 minutes. But he was clean. We would just completely avoid one tonight if he didn't have the biggest poop I have ever seen this morning. It took 8 wipes, both Jason and I, and a few serious gags to get through it. Not to mention the onesie had to be cleaned b/c it was full of poop too. He's in a competition with is cousin Rylan for the best pooper in town.

By the way, right now Jason is feeding Maks yogurt and Maks is wiping his own face with a napkin between each bite. Its the cutest thing ever. :) He's also mesmerized the girls at the coffee place. They all keep staring at him and giggling.

I put him down at 9pm (his normal bedtime at the orphanage, think we're going to move that one up a bit). After a 2 minute tantrum he fell asleep. And didn't wake up until 8am! :) WAHOO! Not sure if this is another bait and switch ploy, but I'll take it! Sorry Les.

Today was a little bit tougher. Jason had to go with Anna and Sandra to do some paperwork for 1/2 the day. Its too cold to take him out much so I stayed back with him. I think he's starting to realize he's not going back. Its tough to understand and swallow. Tantrums have been numerous today. But really, overall, he's a great little boy. He took a 2 hour nap today and ate all of his macaroni and cheese.

I'm going to post some pictures of our Gotcha Day on this posting. And then I'll do a seperate just-picture one with some of the highlights of our visits from the past week. I don't think I'll post again until Sunday. We have to walk to Travelers Coffee to get online and its a 4-5 block walk in subzero weather. And he hates hats. And boots. And scarves. And mittens. :) We leave for Moscow on Sunday morning early on Siberian Airlines. We start more American paperwork on Monday and then will hopefully have yet another miracle and get out early on Friday!

Thank you for all of the prayers. Yesterday I woke up feeling 50% better than the day before. It was a WONDERFUL day. Miss everyone. Hope to see you all soon. Wait til you meet this little man!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Things We Have Learned for Other Adoptive Parents

1. Bring more cash than they recommend. Things in Russia are very expensive. Especially in Moscow!

2. Be prepared to spend a lot more money than you expect. During our trip we have changed hotel plans, canceled 1 leg of 2 separate flights, paid for a driver 7 more days than we expected to, and had to eat out a lot more than expected because of the hotel change.

3. If you pack more than Siberia Airlines allows (20kgs or 44lbs)you will pay SEVERELY! We paid $10 for every kilogram we were over. And we were over by 22 kilograms.

4. You can buy toys to keep the kids interested at the Wal-Martski in Kemerovo. Save yourself the packing room!

5. Bring more medicine than you expect. Jason and I brought 3 boxes of Advil Cold & Sinus and we are now out of it. Medicine is very different here, you cannot buy the same stuff that we have at home. Either bring it or don't plan on using it.

6. Print out the maps that other families have drawn out. It has been INCREDIBLY helpful to us!

7. Learn a little Russian. It will help a ton. Learn how to say at least; still water, hello, thank you, english menu, no russian, and a few phrases for your kids. They will tell you that your child will adapt quickly and don't worry about speaking any Russian to them (especially if they are 2 or under). But I can say that Maks is visibly more comfortable with the people who speak Russian. We have learned to say "little bites", "good boy", "we love you", "its okay" and a few other small things.

8. Really, truly, be prepared for anything. Here are some examples of what we have experienced in the last 2 1/2 weeks...
-Passport disappeared and Fed Ex could not find them
-Snowstorm, caused Sandra to fly out a day early or miss her flight
-No space for luggage, had to rent a taxi to get us from the airport to the hotel in addition to the car we already had
-We ended up not going back to Moscow and instead went to Novokuznetsk for the 10 day wait. Expected Wi-Fi, laundry, free phone calls and ended up with none of that.
-Moved our Gotcha Day up by one day
-Moved our departure day up by 3 days on the return trip home
-Had to cancel or change 5 plane tickets

9. If you go to Hotel Novokuznia request the 6th floor. You get free Wi-Fi in your room! Only floor in the hotel with that!

10. Bring layers. Lots of layers. It is freezing outside, but steaming inside. Especially at the orphanage. I'm not kidding when I say it was about 85F in the playroom.

11. You need boots with solid tread on them. There are 4 of us here together on this trip. 2 of us have fallen once, 1 of us has fallen twice and 1 of us is waiting for his turn to fall. Ice is everywhere and the fall I took was a hard one!

12. Buy some of your souvenirs in Novokuznetsk if possible. The matrushka dolls were 1/10th of the price in Moscow. The souvenir shop (there is only one) only takes cash!

13. Peace Travel is a great company. We haven't stayed at the apartment yet, but when we had to cancel the original booking, they took care of it in 3 minutes and refunded our credit card within a few days. Very helpful people too!

I hope some of this helps!

Things I've Learned About Russia

I know our nephew Derrick is learning about Russia in school and we've been trying collect tidbits of information for him. Not to mention now taking pictures of everything we eat (see above for our dinner from last night at the hotel, creamy chicken & a prawn kabob). We get a lot of funny looks when we do that. :)

I thought I would offer up some things I've learned about Russia during the 2 weeks we've now been here. Maks will hopefully find these things interesting and can compare them to what things are like when we come back...

1. The women in Russia are WAY more on top of fashion than back home. I am always underdressed. The majority of them wear tall boots with high heels, dresses, fur coats, etc. Even in Siberia! NONE of them wear jeans. That is very rare to see.

2. They have ice cream kiosks everywhere on the street. I would say there is one every 5-6 blocks in Siberia. Doesn't that strike you as odd? Its -25F today and people are buying ice cream on the street.

3. They LOVE dill. And put it on everything from French Fries to Soups. I never knew that about Russia.

4. They also LOVE sour cream. Again its served with LOTS of the foods and ALL of the soups.

5. The people are very interested in us when we speak English. Everyone in every place we go to stares at us. Sometimes I think it has to do with the fact that many of them are young and do speak English. The girls at the restaurants we go to all "practice" their English on us. They are very sweet and friendly.

6. The highways in Siberia are very good! I don't know what I expected, but apparently they fix them every single summer. Can you imagine the potholes they get with the weather as cold as it is!

7. No one says Excuse Me. Its not that they are being rude, they just allow each other to go ahead of themselves at grocery stores, in doors, etc. I haven't heard one person say Excuse Me in the past two weeks.

8. I think I've said this before, but I'm now INCREDIBLY passionate about this. Children in the USA absolutely NEED to learn a 2nd language. We are one of the only countries that I've been to that do not require their students to learn a 2nd language. We are already WAY behind folks! We need to help our students!! Young Russians all seem to know English and Russian and in many cases another language as well. Everyone we spoke to in Sweden knew English.

9. Service is very slow compared to American restaurants. It seems that many Russian people order multiple courses and multiple drink courses. They have salads, lots of soups, some type of liquor, a glass of wine AND tea.

10. When you eat at a restaurant you will most likely all be served at different times. They bring the food out as its ready. We have not received our meals at the same time at any restaurant we have eaten at so far.

11. The colder it is outside, the warmer it is inside. We were told by our interpreter that they do that to avoid depression during the long winter months. We have absolutely found it to be true.

12. Pigeons are very big here. I mean VERY big. They were the fattest pigeons I have ever seen in Siberia. I think they have to bulk up to be ready for the winter. I don't know why anyone would care about this information, but I found it fascinating.

13. Russian people seem very healthy. We have a lot more people who are overweight in the USA. A lot of their food is fresh here. They order lots of juice and portion sizes are much more reasonable. Good job Russia! I'm impressed.

14. Russia is no friend of PETA. 99.9% of the women have some type of fur on their coat. Many are all fur coats. I am the only woman in Russia right now without fur on my coat. I swear.

Thats all for now. I wanted to get these down before I forgot them!

Bump in the Road

Sorry I didn't update yesterday. Its been a rough past couple of days. The other night I started getting a sore throat. When we went to see Maks yesterday the rooms we were in were really hot. After being there for an hour, I felt incredibly sick. My throat is nearly swollen shut on one side and I'm achy everywhere. I'm hopeful that it will go away mostly by tomorrow. I rarely have sore throats for more than a few days. I hate to even ask, as I have already asked for so many prayers. But please pray that I'm better in time to get Maks. Which is now less than 24 hours away!

Jason and I both stayed at the hotel today instead of going to the orphanage. We didn't want to get Maks sick and we weren't sure if I was going to go to a Doctor or not. We called Natasha and she said that most of the people who are sick end up calling an ambulance and those people come prepared with mostly anything you would need. I don't think a sore throat and being achy calls for an ambulance.

We also got the sad news that my Mom & Dad are not in fact coming. Dad did something terrible to his back and has been in a lot of pain. Mom coming alone just didn't make sense. Dad could use her help (even if he thinks he can do it alone) and I didn't want her making this trip by herself. If we were in Moscow to meet her that would be one thing, but she would have to come all the way to Siberia alone. I'm really sad about that as we were really looking forward to them being here with us. One day we'll hopefully be able to get bring our whole family back so they can see where Maks is from.

So the BIG news of the day is that we have LESS THAN 24 HRS until our Gotcha Day! Thats what the day of the actual uniting of parents and child is called in many adoptions. Tomorrow morning the car will be here to pick us up at 10am. We'll make the hour long journey to Prokopyevsk, probably meet with Dr. Ludmilla a bit more to ask any final questions and then dress Maks up in his new little outfit and off we go! It will be a 3 hour car ride to Kemerovo. We'll be there until Sunday doing some paperwork for Maks's Russian Passport, etc and then head back to Moscow. We have a small hope that we'll be able to catch a flight home on Friday the 5th instead of Sunday the 7th. That would be such a blessing!

When we get back to Kemerovo, I'll try to get online and FINALLY post a picture of the cutest little boy you will ever see. :) Thanks to everyone for the well-wishes and Mommy pep-talks. I appreciate it! I can't wait until we get to Moscow and I can call some of you without being charged $5/minute! I miss talking to my Mom & Dad, my sisters and my friends. I have so much to tell people about!

Keep those prayers coming. Keep your fingers crossed. I would SO love for tomorrow to be nothing but happiness and smiles, no illness. :) Talk to you all again soon!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Another Day

Not a lot of new things here this week. The week seems to be taking forever! Our day with Maks was cut even shorter today. Again, I'm not complaining, we are grateful for every moment and know this is a rare opportunity. They came to get him at 11:35am this morning. It is the "Celebrate Men" holiday here today, so the staff was very low again. I'm sure having to get 2 children ready each day separately from the rest of the group can be tough and annoying. I know I've said this before, but these women really do deserve a HUGE commendation. Every single one we have met has been fantastic with Maks. He is always excited to see them, has no trouble going to them, and they all look excited to see him too. They are strict with the kids, know them well, keep them on schedule and are very concerned that we know everything humanly possible about them before we leave. I really do appreciate everything they have ever done for Maks.

I think the novelty of two new playmates is wearing off with Maks. The past few days have actually been tougher than before. He looked at me today with a look of "you again?" He didn't want much to do with Jason or I today. We had access to both the music and playrooms and he would just keep running to the one we weren't in. I would be lying if I said it didn't bother me. I know this is not a fairy tale and that it will take a significant amount of time for him to bond with us and to really look at us as his Mom and Dad, but that doesn't stop me from wishing for a miracle or magic. Something that would make him know right away that I was his Mom.

It really was a reminder today of what a long road we have in front of us. The days are going painfully slow at this point. Neither of us can wait until we get home with him so we can start to get him comfortable with his room, his bed, his house, bath time, eating with us... It might actually be more confusing for him to see us every day, play for a while and then we leave. On Thursday he'll be wondering why he's going with us this time. I just pray that he isn't very scared and that he can adapt quickly. I want so badly to not mess this up.

It is frigid here again. Today it didn't get above 0 and "felt like" -26 degrees Fahrenheit. We walked to Travelers Coffee today for lunch and our noses froze right away. By the time we got there my ear was so cold it was burning. (Its about 2 1/2 blocks) Natasha the translator came with us again today and after the orphanage took us all to a little souvenir shop. Its the same one we went to the last time we were here. The difference in cost compared to Moscow is astonishing. The Matrushka dolls were 10 times more expensive in Moscow. We were able to buy 2 little ones for 330 rubles ($11 US Dollars) They are hand painted and super cute. I got one for Grandma (don't tell her if you read this and see her) and Jason got one for La.

Another night in our room of a carpet picnic (leftover crackers, etc) and the Olympics in Russian. I do not remember the American announcers ever talking this much, but the Russian ones never stop talking. Ever. A memorable Olympics for us though...

Mom and Dad are supposed to leave for Russia today. My Dad may not be coming after all. He's having some very bad back problems, the flight to Russia and all of the crazy car rides will not be a good idea for him. Pretty bummed that he can't come, but I think maybe one day we'll all make it back to Russia with Maks and our families so everyone can see where he comes from. Mom still wants to come, but we'll see. Not sure that's the best plan either. Either way, we'll know today! Sounds like the snowstorm in Chicago is over for now. I'll let you know how it goes in the next day or so.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Jason's Update

I thought you all might like to hear a bit from Jason's perspective, so here you go...

Day 5 to visit Maks!

Today we arrived at the orphanage and were ushered into the music room to await Maks' grand entrance as always. With in a few minutes he waddled in-in his usual fashion. Everyday I have the camcorder ready for this grand entrance. He was sporting a big smile, saw his mom and ran with outstretched arms to meet her. The camera man never gets the glory...guess I am just the unsung hero. We brought him some juice we purchased at the local Novokuznetsk grocery store and diluted it with water and poured it into my empty Power Ade bottle. This works much better than a regular water bottle and he seems to really love it. The music room is a bit bland for his personality as their is not much for him to play with. So he decided to have some gold fish crackers/animal crackers/ and a few cookies.

The Sandra's gave Maks a pair of green plastic sunglasses that he loved to wear and run around with. He also loved to put them on mom and dad as well-then laugh at how cool we looked.

At the end of every meeting I turn the camera back on to catch his classic good byes. Paka-Paka means Bye-bye in Russian. As soon as that is said he knows to throw us a big wave.

After the hour long drive back to our hotel, we went to our room and rested a bit before going to lunch. We went to the Russian restaurant next to our hotel for some local Russian fare. Then we went to the grocery store to grab some water and things for dinner. We walked to both places in a blizzard, hard snow accompanied with sideways driving winds. Chicago would shutdown with such snow in Siberia, life must go on and is an everyday occurrence in the winter. Snow shoveling and removal is an all day and never ending process.

I am attaching a pic of the aforementioned restaurant we have frequented.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Short Visit Today

Woke up around 7:45am, got ready, ate my Russian Cheerios and we were off again. No translator today, just Alexei the driver and us. Its a Saturday so the Orphanage is primarily closed. We were allowed to come in to see the children, but did not stay as long. We had to ring the bell to get in this time and then were led back to the playroom and music rooms to wait. We had to wait about 15 minutes and then heard the kids coming. Vika came in leading the way with her baby-doll stroller that Sandra brought her. Maks came toddling in behind her. He was wearing the same blue jeans and a little blue t-shirt today. Same Winnie the Pooh shoes. Love those. :) The nurse said something to him that I didn't understand and then said another sentence containing the word Mama (the only word I understood) and he turned and started running to me with his hands outstretched. Melts my heart every single time. I have never loved anything more.

Yesterday when we saw him, his little face had developed a red rash/freckle like appearance. Apparently he has some sort of allergy to fruits with colorful skins like strawberries, raspberries, oranges, etc. The only thing we had given him other than cookies were those Peach Gerber Yogurt Melt things. They must have caused the skin reaction, so we donated them to Sandra and Vika today. His skin looked better today, still had some red spots but they were fading. I brought him some of my Russian Cheerios and he of course loved them! I haven't found anything yet that he won't eat. We brought a Powerade bottle today filled with water, one that has the top that pops up and you drink out of. He loved that and it worked MUCH better than the water bottle, he was actually able to keep the water in his mouth this time. I have some sippy cups but am keeping those until we pick him up.

Sandra had brought some little sunglasses for Vika and Maks loved them. He was so cute, putting them on, taking them off, putting them on Mommy, taking them off, putting them back on and then smiling for the camera. Such a ham. Every time the camera flash goes off, he looks at the camera, makes this rushed noise that sounds like "hi" and smiles a big smile. Keep in mind this is all AFTER the camera flashes. Jason got some video of it because its so goofy.

He had a diaper on today, they must have figured it would be difficult to get him changed if anything happened as they had a lot less staff there today. So no potty-problems. We were only allowed to stay an hour and a half today. We got back to the hotel around 1pm. Jason and I decided to try the "Snack Bar" Cafe for lunch. I ordered some sort of chicken and rice and Jason had beef and an egg. Strange order I know, but the menu was a little strange. These were some of the most "normal" choices. My rice was really odd. It was plain white, but had a very distinct flavor. Jason's beef came out like a small hamburger and had an egg sunny-side up and potatoes with mayo and cheese. It was interesting. After lunch we walked across the street to a little mall. The stores are very different than home. There were 15 stores or so that were all very small, maybe 50 sq ft each. Each store had one type of product, hats or shoes or candy or watches. They are wild about boots and shoes here. Lots of very cool boots. My little sister looked for a pair of black boots that she liked for months, I should have just bought her some here. :)

Tonight we're going to venture back to Travelers Coffee to try it out Novokuznetsk style. I'll let you know how it goes.

I'm attaching a picture of the outside of our hotel.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Had a #1 on Day #1, Got #2 Today!

Yep, it is what you think. The first day we saw Maks after court he was a little nervous/anxious. I was holding him in Dr. Ludmilla's office and all of the sudden felt something warm run down my side. He had peed. The poor little man is in the early stages of potty-training and didn't really know how to say he had to go pee-pee. He was breaking Mommy in right away. They took him back to change his clothes and put on a diaper. Apparently in the orphanage they start potty-training early out of necessity. Diapers are very expensive and they cannot afford them for 1/2 of the orphanage. Maks is only 20 months and is no longer wearing a diaper.

Today he was in a feistier mood. They put us in the "medical room" because there was a music show going on in the playroom and music room. This weekend is a holiday when they celebrate men. Kind of like Fathers Day, but really just men in general. (Women get the same thing on March 8th) Some of the kids were putting on a musical/skit show for the men who have helped the orphanage in any way. Vika was in the show, but we didn't get to watch. Anyhow, the medical room had a lot of glass bottles, beds he wasn't supposed to touch, a cactus (a big one) and some tubing connected to some machines. Basically a potential house of terrors for a little almost-2 year old. Luckily Daddy is very fast and could catch him before he got into too much! (no, there were no children in the medical room)

When we went back into the playroom, Jason picked up Maks to play and smelled something a little off. He handed Maks to me and YEP he had pooped. Poor little guy was again not wearing a diaper, so we had to have someone come in and take him to be changed. We would of course do it ourselves but they don't let you wander the orphanage. I think I'll bring some diapers for him for the next few days so he doesn't have to worry, or hold it very long. Basically the way they potty train is by putting the kids on the potty before and after everything they do. They wake up, go to the potty, eat breakfast, go to the potty, go for a walk, go to the potty, etc... So taking him out of his routine is probably really confusing him. We're going to transition back to diapers for a while when we pick him up. I don't think 3 flights, one of them being trans-atlantic are the best time for him to be potty trained! Although we will have Grandma and Grandpa's help! :)

He was really talking today! Lots of gibberish (or Russian, its hard to tell) but he got close to saying Mom. It came out as Ma. I'm not sure if he was trying to say Mom, or "fix this" in Russian. Every time he said it, he was handing me something to fix, take apart, put together... Either way, I'll take it!

As far as non-Maks time, we have been spending our time watching movies, on the computer or eating. Yesterday was 0 degrees Celsius, which is 32 degrees Fahrenheit. It felt like a heat wave after the weather we experienced last week! Today its -10 Celsius and windier, so walking around is no good. We ate at a Russian restaurant yesterday for lunch that is down the street. I had some beef/mushroom thing with a potato pancake and Jason had a Turkey-Kabob. Both were very good. For dinner we went to the hotel restaurant. We get 150 rubles per day each to spend at the hotel restaurants. They have 2. Right now 30 rubles equal 1 dollar, so basically 5 dollars each. Not too much, but it still helps. I honestly don't know what I ordered for dinner. I thought I ordered chicken, but it was not chicken. It was some type of meatloaf. Jason thought he ordered beef, and it came out a beef stew. So we switched dinners! We had found a little grocery store yesterday and bought some milk (at least we hoped it was milk), some chocolate, and some bananas. We're going to save some $ by eating breakfast in the room every morning. Mine is the Russian version of Frosted Cheerios with milk and bananas. Sort of like home!

Note to the Future Maks- Sorry buddy that I had to post about this, but it was a big part of the 10 day wait. Your first potty times with Mom and Dad. :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Great Days Just Keep Coming!

Today is a wonderful day! We got up at 6:30am this morning, took showers, finished packing up, ate a Nutrigrain bar and went outside to meet Sergei at 7:30am. We were then on our way to the Orphanage to see Maks and Vika again. The 3 hour drive was cut down to 2 1/2 by Sergei's world famous-hair raising driving. :) We waited in Dr. Ludmilla's office for the children and for Natasha, our translator from Novokuznetsk. She arrived around 10:30am.

A few minutes later the door opened and in walked Vika, followed by the most handsome man ever. Maks was dressed in a long-sleeve polo shirt today with a white collar, jeans and those Winnie the Pooh tennis shoes. He looked ADORABLE! As usual!

This time we were able to separate and Jason & I took Maks into the play room while Sandra 1 &2 went with Vika into the music room. It was wonderful to have 2 hours with him by ourselves. Tuesday he was a little bit reserved, almost tired and seemed somewhat anxious. He must have had his Wheaties today because he was ready to play! He was giggling, running, throwing the ball, dunking the basketball with Mommy and Daddy and of course eating anything he could get his hands on. I let him drink out of my water bottle today. He drinks just like my nephew Rylan. He covers the opening with his whole mouth and all of the water goes into his mouth and then comes right back out into the bottle. But he loved it! Sometimes he would keep the water in his mouth and then when I took the bottle, he would open his mouth and let it just run out. :)

We brought him a few new toys today. A teddy bear and a few books. Maks loves books! He loves to look at them, carry them, turn them all around, sit on my lap and read them... He wasn't quite sure what to do with the pop-up book, he ripped all of the pop-outs out. So much for the pop-up books!

When our time was over, we headed back to Novokuznetsk to check into the new hotel. We're not staying at the Guest House this time, we're staying at Hotel Novokuznetsk. From the outside it looks very plain, but when we got to our room we were very happy! We have a desk, king sized bed, nice bathroom, great view, arm chair, refrigerator, towel warmer, etc...Its lovely! The best news is that we have wireless internet in our room for free!! YEAH! And a few English-speaking channels. Thanks to Monica, we found the Travelers Coffee! Absolutely no complaints here today! WHAT A GREAT DAY! :) We'll be here for 7 nights and then headed back to Kemerovo next Thursday after we pick up Maks for good! We're still on track to leave Russia on March 7th. Keep your fingers crossed!

We decided to post a few photos of the hotel.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In Between Day

Nothing really exciting to report today. We're back at Travelers Coffee this afternoon. Had to update our itinerary and get it back to our adoption agency. We were able to do a few loads of laundry yesterday and this morning. We just relaxed a bit and watched Sweet Home Alabama, poor Jason is going to be watching a lot of chic-flicks. We just don't have a lot of options, other than the Olympics in Russian. Which really is not so bad, they just don't show a lot of Americans (which of course makes sense!)

Travelers Coffee has an amazing selection of desserts. So every time we come we get one, which means we need to stop coming to Travelers Coffee! :)

After this we're headed back to "Wal-Martski" to see if we can pick up some small groceries to take with us tomorrow to Novokuznetsk. We're just not sure where a grocery store is there and thought we should take advantage of this nice, big one!

We'll be headed out tomorrow morning again around 7:30am. We'll be going to the orphanage again (YEAH!) and then after a few hours with the kids, Alexei and Natasha (the new driver and translator from the other part of the region) will be picking us up to take us to The Guest House, the same hotel we stayed at the last time we were in Novokuznetsk. Thanks to Monica for confirming there is a Travelers Coffee there too! If you are reading this, email me back your email address on the forum or on this blog and I can email you more details. And if you're reading this, can you give me more direction to the Travelers Coffee? Is it down to the right when you come out of the gate of the hotel? Or down to the right when you are on that main street in front of the hotel? Thanks!

I have to stop typing now. Its Jason's turn to use the computer. :) More in the next few days!

Mr. Maksim

Another wonderful day! We got to see our little guy again today! 3 months to the day from the last time I saw him.

We woke up early as Sergei was coming to get us at 7:30am. Alyssa was our translator today. It was a 3 hour drive South to Prokopyevesk and the Orphanage. Jason tried to take pictures of the highway for our blog, but it was bumpy and his phone isn't very good at action shots. It was crazy blowing snow across the road!

We arrived at the Orphanage around 10am. We went directly into Dr. Ludmilla's office to speak with her and ask her more questions. She truly is a very caring, wonderful lady. I feel so blessed to have her watching over my son when I can't be there. I know she cares, and I know the other ladies working there care as well. Its obvious when they're with the children. About 5 minutes into being there, the door opened and in walked a little blonde angel. Ok, a little blonde, I'm not so sure about the angel part. :) He looked a little confused, carrying his little truck that we left him last time. He was so cute in a little brown & white striped shirt and overalls, with Winnie the Pooh shoes! He seemed a bit more timid than the last time we saw him, but still came to us without much hesitation.

We went into the music room with the kids to play for a few hours. Once again, Maks was enamored with our food. We were so much better prepared this time, with lots of variety and lots of cookies! He always kept an eye on where the food was. :) I loved that he loved to be held by his Mommy today. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I am a woman and that was more familiar than a Daddy was. Regardless, I'll take it any way I can get it! The time went by so fast! We were able to play, read a book, and try on some of his new clothes. When we came on the trip we weren't sure of the sizes to bring. He was wearing 9mos clothes today and his 12 mos new clothes fit fairly well. Still a little big, but with that appetite they'll fit soon!

One big change of plans today, due to some unforeseeable circumstances we are going to stay in Siberia for the next week instead of heading back to Moscow tomorrow. We'll be in Kemerovo one more day and then head down to Novokuznetsk to be closer to the Orphanage. Its about an hours drive from there, instead of 3! The great news is that we'll be able to see Maks more! We won't have a laundry, wi-fi or international calls though. All small prices to pay for that little face. So my blog updates might be more sporadic. Not sure how easy it will be to get online. Who knows? Maybe it will be easy! There is a Travelers Coffee there too. Jason checked it out online already.

9 more days until Maks starts his journey home with Mom & Dad! YEAH!

Monday, February 15, 2010

We passed court!

What a great day! We passed court and are now officially Maks' parents!! Unfortunately the 10 day wait was not waived, so we will be sticking it out here in Russia. We woke up early this morning. Jason had a hard time sleeping. Went into the dining room to eat breakfast (eggs, cucumbers, tomato and bread today) and then were picked up by Anna and Sergei. The ride to court was very short, only a few blocks. Not something we would want to walk in dress shoes though! Once in the court we sat and waited in a hallway for the judge to appear. When she did, Jason & I were called in first.

We each had to stand and state our names and some other general information. Then the judge read through the application for adoption. She asked Jason to stand and asked him a bunch of questions about the adoption. Why did we want to adopt? Why from Russia? What was our post-adoption plan for Maks, etc... Then it was my turn. Similar questions. She read through Maks' personal file and asked us if we had anything else to add. We requested the 10 day wait be waived based on medical information. The Social Worker and Prosecutor had a turn to give their opinion and then we were asked to leave the room while the judge made her decision. A few minutes later we were called back in and she read through her decision to accept our application for Maks' adoption! The whole thing took about 50 minutes. We were so nervous coming into the day. You just never know what can happen. We were so excited to have the court's approval though! Sandra was next and had the same outcome. Smiles all around. :)

After court we went back to the hotel to change. Anna and Sergei then took us to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. After lunch Jason & I were dropped off at a Wal-Mart type place. Other adoption families have dubbed it "Wal-martski". It had a little bit of everything! At least I know where I can find diapers now! :) We went back to the hotel to watch more DVDs and are now back at Travelers Coffee for some dinner.

Tomorrow morning Sergei will pick us up at 7:30am for our trip down to the orphanage to see Maks and Vika! We're going to take some clothes to try on him to see if we are anywhere near the right size. Especially the snow pants. All of the kids here are completely bundled up. It makes sense though, its very cold!!!

I'm attaching a picture of the "Wal-martski" and our picture right outside of court this morning!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Made it to Kemerovo!

Vlad and another driver came to pick us up last night at 6:00pm from the hotel. We were able to get a late checkout which was really nice. Allowed us to take our time packing and cleaning up. We had so much baggage between the four of us that we needed 2 cars!

It took us nearly 2 hours to get to the airport. You really have not experienced traffic until you've been in Moscow. Chicago, NY, LA, have nothing on this place. Cars park wherever they want. Sometimes in the middle of intersections. There are a lot of nice cars in Moscow. We stopped at a BP gas station with a Wild Bean Cafe on the way to the airport. How weird. It could have been somewhere in Illinois!

We got to the airport 3 1/2 hours before our flight. When we checked in we had a bit of sticker shock. You are only allowed to bring 20 kilos of luggage each. Jason and I had 70 kilos combined and Sandra had more than that. We ended up having to pay $200 in extra baggage fees! We're going to try to find a work-around on that one when go back to Moscow. Maybe we can leave the kid's bags here in the Kemerovo hotel as we will be coming back here when we pick them up. Went to a small cafe, had some interesting kabobs and a Corona. We were sitting right next to our gate but they changed the gate literally when they started boarding. We had to run downstairs to get to the gate. We had to go outside again and get on a bus to take us to the tarmac and the plane. Its crazy madness. No order in boarding, just a rush to get on the bus and then on the plane. Probably because people know how cold it is outside and have learned how to be the 1st ones in line. Smart people! The flight was uneventful. We had an interesting seat-mate (that's all Jason thinks I should say on the blog about it). When you get to the Kemerovo airport, everyone files past the baggage room and into a holding room. Once the baggage starts coming out, everyone rushes back in the baggage room to get their bags. It truly is a learning experience being immersed in another country's culture. Not a bad experience, just a unique one. One thing I will say is that I am convinced Americans need to start learning a 2nd language as a mandatory part of school. We are the only country that thinks its not necessary. It is! We found our luggage and then found Anna.

She took us to Hotel Azot, met with us and helped us understand what court will be like tomorrow morning. We have court at 10am Kemerovo time on Monday, February 15th. Thats 9pm CST the day before. Jason, Sandra and Sandra ran to the grocery store (see picture) thats only a block away for some water, snacks & toilet paper. I went to bed. I ended up sleeping 3 1/2 hours. I finally woke Jason up about an hour later (3:15pm Kemerovo time). We're going to have a tough time falling asleep again tonight. Kemerovo is 4 hours ahead of Moscow, so our time zones are all messed up. You really have to rely on your body to tell you when you're tired or hungry. We walked over to Travelers Coffee for some dinner. Its a cafe that Anna took us to last time we were here. Nice place with an English Menu and good food/coffee. They also have free Wi-Fi! Which is how I can update you guys on our travels!

We're going to head back soon, watch another DVD and study our home study for court tomorrow morning. We feel ready, but you never know! We should be all done with court around 12pm Kemerovo time (11pm the night before back home). I'll certainly update you all on how it goes. We have court and then our 10 day wait, and then Maks will officially be our son. It has been such a long, wonderful, sometimes painful journey that it makes me tear up just to type that. Poor Maks, I hope I don't smother him. :)

Thanks to Leslie for the Rylan email updates! I'm so sad I won't see him for a month! And to Ang for getting our mail. :) And to Erin for sending us baby-bump updated pictures! And to our parents for always emailing us supportive, encouraging emails. It means a lot to us!! We love you and miss you already. Its very weird to be half a world away.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Leave for Kemerovo Tonight

Wow its cold here! Jason and I walked down to Red Square, the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral yesterday. The hotel we're staying at is only 4-5 blocks away. It was the coldest walk! Luckily we were able to find a beautiful indoor mall right in Red Square that we could get warm in and then come back (yep Dad, I found a mall!). That mall will be a great day trip with Maks when we come back with him. Its a huge place with lots of space for him to run. I think I would like to take a tour of Red Square/Kremlin with someone who knows where they are going. It was a little tricky to figure out what was what.

We had lunch in a "Beer Restaurant" on our way back(that's what it was called in English). Jason had a hamburger and I had chicken wings & onion rings. Very healthy. :) We had our 8 Doctor Medical exam yesterday at 3pm. We saw a dermatologist, neurologist, infectious disease doctor, oncologist, general practitioner, a TB specialist, a psychiatrist and another few doctors that I can't remember. It was so well coordinated. All at this American Medical Facility. Only took 2 hours to see all of the doctors. We had to wait until 6:30pm for our blood, urine and Xrays though as Jason and I had only been in the night before to take those tests. Everything came back fine and we all passed! YEAH! One more hurdle down!

We came back to the hotel to meet up with Sandra 1 and got a recommendation for dinner from the concierge. We went to an Italian place called "Pepperoni". It was only 3 blocks away and had awesome food! I would highly recommend it if you are going to stay near Red Square. I had a nice version of cappelini, Jason had a pizza with ham, cheese, potatoes(yep potato) and onion, and Sandra 1 &2 had some type of other pasta. All very good! We came back to the hotel around 8:30pm. I could not fall asleep though! My sleep schedule is all messed up. I was finally able to fall asleep around 12:30am. We just got up a little bit ago and are headed down for breakfast.

Sandra 1 &2 are headed to the Bolshoi today for a ballet. We're going to join them for another one on the 22nd. That should be fabulous. Even Jason is willing to go for the experience! We lose our internet in an hour or so, so I thought I'd give one last update before we leave Moscow. Jason & I will be keeping ourselves busy today walking around some more.

We got a late check out approved, Vlad will be here at 6:00pm to take us to the Domodedovo Airport. About an hour and a half ride from here. Our flight is tonight at 11:30pm, gets in around 7:00am Kemerovo time. Only a 4 hour flight but there is a 4 hour time difference. I guess we use tomorrow to prepare for court on Monday. Yeah court! We are praying that everything goes well!

I'm uploading some pictures from our adventures in Moscow yesterday (Red Square/Kremlin/Indoor Mall). Talk to you all again soon!

Friday, February 12, 2010

We're Here!

We have made it! Jason & I got on a flight on Wednesday at 4:25pm from Chicago to Stockholm, Sweden. It was an 8 1/2 hour flight. Pretty smooth, no real issues. It was pretty empty. We were able to get 4 of the middle seats on the plane to ourselves. One of us would sit up and the other then had 3 seats to lay across. The flight was on time and we got into Stockholm at 7:45am their time or 12:45am Chicago time. We had a 3 hour layover and then got on another plane to Moscow. Finally got in around 3pm Moscow time or 6am Chicago time. Both Scandinavian Airlines and Aeroflot were pretty nice.

We got through immigration quickly, found all 3 of our bags laying on a bag carousel together and then found Vladimir our driver. He took us right to the Medical facility for our blood/Xrays. We finally got to the hotel around 6:30pm Moscow time. We were pretty tired! Only had about 3 hours of sleep total in the past 36 hours. We are staying at Peter the 1st. (I'm attaching some pictures of the lobby that Jason just took) Its a very nice hotel only a 5 minute walk from Red Square and the Kremlin. We ordered some room service and went to sleep around 8pm Moscow time. Got about 4 solid hours of sleep and then another few hours on and off. Finally got up around 5:30am. I'm feeling a bit under the weather with a head cold so the dry air and no sleep are starting to take their toll.

The hotel has a nice breakfast buffet thats included in the cost. Had lots of choices, cereal, pancakes, omelets, pastries. I would definitely recommend staying here if you are on your way to Moscow soon. We took a walk to get some rubles and then some water. A bottle of water in the hotel costs $12 US dollars! Down the street its only $2!

We have our 8-doctor medical visit this afternoon and then will be off to Kemerovo tomorrow night on the 11:30pm flight. Only 4 more days until we see Maks! Our court date is Monday morning, hopefully everything will go smoothly and the judge will like us!

Sandra and Sandra made it too! Sandra's flight was cancelled out of Washington DC so they had to make some last minute changes and fly in on the 9th.

I'll try to update the blog again in the next few days! Dosvedonya!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What a Crazy Day!

We leave tomorrow! But that almost didn't happen. We were supposed to receive our Passports/Visas from FedEx before 10:30am yesterday. 10:30am rolled around and no passports! Jason called FedEx and they said they were in Memphis, TN but still in a container. Apparently the container was the size of a small bedroom and would be difficult to go through to find our package. They would have to wait until our package was sorted through the normal process. 6 hours, 50 phone calls and countless tears later they had sorted through the container it was supposedly in, but our package was not found.

We reached the Administrative Assistant for the CEO of FedEx and she was able to sort out that our package wasn't even in Memphis yet. It was "most likely" still in Washington DC. WHAT?!?!?! How could they not know where our passports were! Mom, Dad, Leslie, everyone was calling anyone they knew to help us. Leslie used to work at Senator Durbin's office, so she connected me with a very nice lady there. They could help us with our passports, but not our Russian Visas. In order to travel to Russia, you have to have a Russian Visa attached to your passport. To get that Visa you need to send your passport to the Russian Embassy in Washington DC. It takes 5-7 business days at the accelerated rate! This is why our passports were caught in transit.

To make a really long story short, the Admin Tanya was able to narrow down the containers that may be holding our passports, and get security and the evening crew on the lookout. They located our package and had it flown to Memphis at 1am. It must have been sorted quickly as it was on the plane to Chicago 3 hours later. It got in right before the airports pretty much shut down! The FedEx man came to our house at 9:00am with our sacred package! WE CAN GO!

We had LOTS of people praying for us. Sandra even had Nuns in Ecuador praying! So now we are hopeful that the snow will slow down and that we will get out on time. And it will be time for our BIG ADVENTURE to begin! I can't wait.

Sandra and Sandra made it safely and are currently in Moscow. We can't wait to join them! Here we come Maks!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Date Change

We leave in 5 days! WAHOO!!! Its getting closer!

Yesterday was a little crazy. Sandra called on Wednesday and said her VISA paperwork was messed up. They had processed it with her leaving Russia by March 7th. A little tricky considering the fact that we were supposed to leave on March 10th! Understandably it was incredibly upsetting.

The next day I got a call from Sandra letting me know that our caseworker had called the coordinator in Kemerovo and they were going to speed up the process to get Sandra out of the country by March 7th. They were going to include us too! So now our schedule will look like this...

Feb 10th- Leave
Feb 11th- Arrive in Moscow
Feb 12th- Medical Appts
Feb 13th- Leave for Kemerovo
Feb 14th- Arrive in Kemerovo
Feb 15th- COURT DAY! Everybody say a prayer!
Feb 16th- We received permission to go see Maks this day! YEAH!
Feb 17th- Leave for Moscow
Feb 18th-Feb 24th- Hang out in Moscow
Feb 24th- Leave for Kemerovo
Feb 25th- Arrive in Kemerovo and GO PICK UP OUR SON!!!!!! (1 day early!)
Feb 26th- Feb 27th- Process Paperwork
Feb 28th- Leave for Moscow
March 1- March 5- Process Paperwork in Moscow & do all of appointments
March 6th- We could fly home (but couldnt get a flight)
March 7th- Coming home! 3 days early! YEAH!!!

We are so excited to get the date moved up by 3 days but I will tell you, moving everything around was crazy! Our travel agency gave us the wrong info, we couldnt change our flights home, changing the tickets in general was going to cost an arm and a leg, we had to now change apartment dates, it goes on and on...

So what though! We are going to get Maks on the 25th! SO EXCITED!