Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Our First Full Day as a Family!

First things first. We promised some pictures and here they are. The first was taken in the Director’s Office yesterday, Gotcha Day, only moments after they brought our Gracie (yes, that’s her name) out to us. The second was one we took the other day that we just liked.

We had a really great day today. We put Grace to bed a little after 8:00 last night and she was asleep by 8:30. She slept all the way to about 7:00 this morning without waking up at all! First thing after changing her, we got her a bottle. She drank the whole thing without stopping! Then we all went down the hall and had our breakfast with Monica and Little M. They served these French toast-like things in the shape of small patties that were pretty good, along with the standard yogurt, cheese slices, and bread. Grace sat in her stroller while we ate but got pretty fidgety toward the end. When we got back to the room, we made her some cereal which she devoured. We were a bit worried yesterday because she didn’t seem to want the Biphodok (a thick milk product with nutrients, we think), but now we know this kid likes to eat!

Then we gave her a bath. The bathtub here is large and really deep, so we thought we’d try the bathroom sink. She had to hang on to the faucet to keep from sliding down onto her back. We were laughing our heads off and she just looked at us like we were nuts, or had no idea of what we were doing. It’s actually probably a little of both. We hope she’ll forgive us. Then we put her down for a nap and she went right to sleep. She slept for almost two hours. When she got up, we ate our lunch while she played. Actually we ended up all playing keep the bag of chips out of Grace’s reach. She was very determined to get that bag.

Then we walked down to the mall with Monica and Little M. Grace rode in the baby carrier strapped to Kyley’s shoulders. This was a test run to see how she would put up with being confined in the carrier and how the traffic and people would affect her. She did great! No crying or anything. On the walk back, she was even humming! She liked how the sound of her voice would change every time Kyley took a step. We’re planning on using the carrier for the airports. We have four of them to deal with soon and we wanted to know how she’d react. So far, so good.

When we got back to the room, it was time to eat again, of course. Grace had a jar of chicken, a jar of squash, a couple crackers, and some juice. She liked them all, especially the juice! She’s just learning to drink out of a cup. We don’t think the baby home had sippy cups, because she doesn’t seem to want to drink from one. When we use a regular cup, most of it goes down the front of her, so we just put it in a bottle. That worked much better. Then we played some more, and we put her down for a second nap. Again, she went right to sleep. We’re just waiting for her to have some kind of total meltdown since we’re in strange places, doing strange things, but so far, she’s been pretty happy and content.

At dinner time, we decided to go out to a restaurant, since Grace had been doing so well and since it is our (and Monica’s) last night in Astrakhan. Since the Chocolate Café was the only place we could think of that was non-smoking, we went there. Both Grace and Little M. were great! Grace ate a few crackers while we had our meals. She didn’t get a little antsy until the end of our dinner and wanted to grab everything on the table, but what one-year-old doesn’t do that?

So now we’re back at the hotel. Grace drank her Biphodok from a bottle tonight with no problems. She even cried a little when it was gone as if she wanted more. Now she’s sound asleep again in her crib. You know, we always hear people say how lucky the adopted children are, to come to the U.S. from an orphanage in Russia, where they’ll have more opportunities, etc. and I suppose that’s true. But we are the lucky ones. Our little daughter is just amazing.
As we mentioned, this was our last night in Astrakhan. We have mixed emotions because our little girl will be leaving her birth place and her country, but we so desperately want to come home. Our flight leaves tomorrow evening. Our next post should be from Moscow.

Monday, September 29, 2008


The day started with breakfast at 8:00 with Monica. At 9:00 they picked us up to go to the registry office for the birth certificate. We went right in, no waiting. They did some things on the computer and had us sign our names in a couple of places and that was it! They gave us a nice little folder with the Astrakhan 450th anniversary logo on the cover to put the birth certificate in. Galina hung on to the actual birth certificate along with Greg’s passport so that she could go get our little one’s passport. Then they took us back to the hotel to wait until this afternoon when it was time to go get our little one.

We were picked up at about 2:30 for our very last time at the baby home. We stopped at a grocery store to buy three cakes for the staff; one for the doctors, one for the caregivers, and one for the director. We also bought a bouquet of red roses for the director. Then we headed to the baby home. We met in the director’s office and a doctor came in to go over her medical information with us. We had a chance to ask questions and we had to sign more papers. Meanwhile, we gave her clothes to a caregiver to get her ready to go. Soon they brought her into the director’s office. They took some pictures of us with their camera and also with our camera. They escorted us to the door and all waved good-bye to us as we left. That was it, we’re parents now and she’s our little girl. All the waiting, wondering, worrying, the sleepless nights, the laughing, crying, and every other emotion culminated in that moment when we could call her ours. We can hardly believe it.

She did great on the drive back to the hotel. We went up to the room and we played with the toys. She had to walk around the room to make sure she saw and touched everything. Then we bundled up and went outside for a little walk in the stroller. We just went around the courtyard area of the hotel, just for some fresh air. We decided it was best to eat right at the hotel. We took her biscuit and Biphodok with us. She loved and practically devoured the biscuits. However, she wasn’t too fond of the Biphodok. Tomorrow we’re going to ask if there is a special way they give it to her, so that she’ll drink more of it. Then we came back to the room, washed up, put on her pajamas, put on some lullabies and she went right to sleep. We woke her up about 10:00 PM for her bottle, since the baby home schedule said that’s what she usually does. She was half asleep, but devoured the whole thing. Now she’s sound asleep again right here next to us. This is awesome!

Yesterday in our blog comments, Sara requested that we post the list of our little one’s diet that was provided by Baby Home #2. Here it is:

6:00 a.m. Nutrilon Comfort – 200

10:00 a.m. Cereal with Milk – 180
Biscuit – 10
Fruit Juice – 100

2:00 p.m. Meat Puree – 70
Vegetable Puree – 180
Crouton – 10
Yolk - .5
Fruit Juice – 100

6:00 p.m. Biphidok – 200
Biscuit – 10

10:00 p.m. Nutrilon Comfort - 200

Boy, what a special day! We’re as tired as she is, so we’re going to wait until tomorrow to post a picture. Sorry! Tomorrow, we’ll also let you know how she sleeps tonight!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday - Walk Day!

Well, tonight is our last night before we go to the baby home and take our little one with us forever. Yes, tomorrow is “Gotcha Day”. If you’ve been following our blog, you’re probably thinking, “yes, we know that already”, but we like to say it just the same. And we’ll say it again tomorrow, but then we’ll be able to tell you how it went. It will be a huge change for our little girl who has spent the majority of her little life in the same place, surrounded by the same few people. We’re praying that we can make this as smooth as possible for her.

Tomorrow they pick us up at 9:00 AM to go get her birth certificate. That would be the one with our names listed as her parents. Should be exciting in itself, but then in the afternoon we go pick her up and take her with us. Finally! We’ll need to bring clothes with us to dress her in for her big adventure. Kyley is working on a perfectly matching outfit right now.

As for today, we walked a lot again. (We left the hotel at 11:15 a.m. and returned at 5:15 p.m.). After breakfast at the hotel, we went back to the souvenir shop by the Kremlin where Monica got a couple more things. Then we walked over by the courthouse, looking for a museum that Vala drew us a map for. We think we found the place, but it appeared to be under construction just like most buildings in the area. A nice woman who spoke very little English tried to give us directions to where the museum was now located. We did end up finding a museum, but we’re not sure it was the one she was referring to. The one we found is right across from the park near the Kremlin. We think it was the World War II museum that Jamie mentioned in her comment on our blog. It was pretty interesting, but with everything being in Russian, it was a little difficult to tell what things were. There was a very sweet older woman there who, even though we explained that we only spoke English, followed us around and described everything in Russian for us.

After that, we were getting a little hungry so we headed to the Megastore, which is close to the Victoria Palace Hotel. Its kind of a Home Depot meets Best Buy, with several floors of merchandise. On the top floor off the lobby is a Subway where we had lunch! You know, the sandwich shop just like back home. They didn’t have an English menu, but there were numbered pictures on the wall from which we could order. The BMT is called the same thing in Russian so that helped as well.

After that we walked along the river back to the big church with the green roofs and headed to the Astor Mall to pick up a few things, and then back to the hotel for about an hour’s rest. Then we headed out again, this time to Camilla’s for dinner, because we noticed that Amy William’s blog mentioned that they had an English menu there. It’s right along the river, close to the Krem Cafe. When we got there, we asked the gentleman that met us if they did in fact, have something in English. He disappeared for a minute and came back with a menu that showed both Russian and English for each item. However, they were having some kind of private party and he apologized but we would have to come back some other time. He spoke very little English, but we somehow figured out what he was trying to tell us.

So from there we walked to the Chocolate Café, one of our standard places, and not very far away. We had a nice dinner and when we tried to look over the desserts, our waitress brought out a really nice fruit plate with chocolate fondue that she said was on the house, because we were such good customers. So if you ever want a free dessert, just visit the same restaurant every three days or so over several weeks and you just might!

Tomorrow’s blog should have all the highlights from Gotcha Day! Hopefully we’ll sleep tonight but we’re not counting on it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Our Last Visit!

Today was our last regular visit to the baby home. We stopped on the way and picked up her passport and visa photos that were taken yesterday. She has quite a worried look on her face as it was such a new (and a little scary) place for her. Our visit was in the morning this time and lasted fairly long – about an hour and a half. Time flies when we’re with her though – it always seems like less than it really is. During the week things are very strict at the baby home, with lots of rules we have to follow. But on Saturdays, things are more relaxed and we have a little more freedom to do what we want, and for her to do what she wants. Our little one was pretty good today. We played with toys mostly on a blanket laid out on the floor. At one point, there was a little crying for no apparent reason, but she got over it quickly and we went back to playing.

After our visit, we went to BananaMama, a children’s store, to get things for her that we’ll need until we get her home. Things like tights, mittens, food, diapers, etc. We found some tights, and some baby food of the meat variety there. We had to go to the big grocery store (the one like Sam’s Club – blue front, big yellow letters) to get the rest. We never did find any mittens. Shopping for food was pretty tough. The list provided by the baby home was fairly generic so we had lots of questions about exactly what foods she is used to. There are many choices on the shelf, but with our interpreter’s help, we did the best that we could. Hopefully, everything we picked up will agree with her.

Since tomorrow is Sunday, we don’t get a visit. But Monday we get picked up at 9:00 to go get her birth certificate and then in the afternoon, she becomes ours for keeps! It should be quite a day for all of us.

For dinner tonight, we walked to the Krem Café. This was our only walk for the day. We brought a taxi back to the hotel because it was dark by the time we finished our meals. Tomorrow is Sunday and we are on our own. I’m sure we’ll make up for our lack of walking. The temperature is supposed to be cooler tomorrow – high of 58 degrees. We’ll have to walk fast to keep warm!

Andy and Kathy flew to Moscow today on their way home. I know we said it yesterday, but again, we wish them safe travels and a short wait to come back and make their journey complete.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Baby Road Trip!

Today our visit at the baby home was very short. We didn’t really get to spend any time with our little one there. Instead, she met us at the door with one of the psychologists, and we took her to get her picture taken for her passport and visa. The office was just a few blocks away, so we had the pictures taken and headed right back. They said that since we did this, it would take the place of our visit. We were probably only with her about 20-30 minutes. Oh well.

Overall, she did pretty well. She cried a little when we first got into the car, maybe because the driver was paying a lot of attention to her, and she had never met the driver before. But we got her calmed down in about a minute or so. Then, when the pictures were finished, a group of about five people came into the little office, all seeming to talk at once. That was a little much for her too, and she cried a little more. When we went back to the car, she was fine again. Determined to get Kyley’s sunglasses into her mouth, she forgot all about those scary people at the picture place.

And that was the end of our visit. It was in the upper 60s here today, and they had her dressed in a fleece snowsuit with a hat and a hood. Under all that, she had pants, tights, socks, and shoes. I was getting warm just looking at her! Everyone here seems to have a lower tolerance for cold than we’re used to. I noticed when we were walking today, that I was the only one around with short sleeves and the temperature was near 70! Really, there were hundreds of people on the street and we didn’t see one without long sleeves. Weird.

Tonight was Andy and Kathy’s last night here, so we let them chose the restaurant for dinner. They picked the Chocolate Café and it was again, very good. We wish them a safe journey to Moscow, and then home. And we hope they are able to hurry back to bring home their new addition to the family.

Tomorrow we get to visit in the morning. We hope it’s a long one since we don’t get to visit on Sunday. We’re supposed to get a list of her daily schedule and what she eats, etc. so our translator can take us to the store so that we can buy everything that we’ll need to get her home happily. Cross you fingers, say a prayer for that.

In less than three days, she’ll be all ours! We can’t wait!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Only Two More Visits

Today’s another day in our countdown. We always post on our blog at the end of the day and it serves as a checkmark on the calendar as another day closer to our forever time. We only have two more baby home visits. After that, the next trip will be to bring her with us!

Today started with us all meeting for breakfast. After breakfast, we went across the street. There is an open market, similar to a flea market. There were definitely some interesting things there. After that, there is a store that we have walked by numerous times, but never gone in. By the pictures on the windows, we thought it might be a bookstore. We were correct. It had some nice things. We bought a couple of plastic block-like toys and a CD of Russian lullabies. Then it was time for Andy and Kathy to head for their visit.

The weather was pretty nice today. It was sunny and in the upper 60s. However, it is supposed to drop to highs in the mid-50s on Saturday, so I knew I couldn’t postpone buying a coat much longer. Monica walked with us to a store down the road. I found one coat that was in my size and that I, at least, kind of liked. If nothing else, I will be able to stay warm.

Our visit was great. It was about an hour long. It seemed very short, since we have been lucky enough to get some longer visits lately. We took the new blocks with us that we had bought at the bookstore. Mostly she enjoyed playing with these and with the stacking cups.

Dinner tonight was at San Pizza. We had a waitress that spoke English really well. Yeah!

Okay, Mom and Dad! What’s with the Internet? We had expected an email from you by today. Since calling you is so expensive, I’ve been holding off hoping that I could email you instead. You must have had a delay in your installation. Just email us when you can so that we have your address and can respond back.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

She Does The Twist!

Well, the good news turned out to be true! We bought our tickets today for our return flight to Moscow on October 1st, the same day as originally planned. If all goes as planned, that means that our flights back to the U.S. won’t need to be changed at all! We should be home on October 4th. We’re really happy about this because it means that we will be able to celebrate our little one’s first birthday at home, rather than on a plane or in an airport somewhere. Four weeks in Russia is long enough, we really weren’t looking forward to a fifth week.

This morning was very overcast and rainy, so we just hung out at the hotel. At 1:00 we were picked up and taken to the Aeroflot office to buy the tickets. After that, we dropped Monica back at the hotel and went right to the baby home for our visit with you-know-who. She was great today. Kyley sang “Let’s twist again” (Chubby Checker) while twisting her waist back and forth. When she would stop, our little one would bounce her knees a little like she was dancing. Too cute! Even one of the caregivers started doing the twist!

They don’t let us play with her on the floor, I think because they feel the floor is drafty and cold. So we were limited to holding her, or playing with her on a little kid-sized couch they have there. It was a bit awkward, and we could tell she wanted a little more freedom to move around. So we held her hands and had her walk around the room, like we do on most visits. She really seems to enjoy that. It’s where we get the biggest smiles. Since the cold season is coming around, they told us we might have to wear surgical masks when we visit starting tomorrow. Not sure why, as long as we’re not sick. But we’ll be happy to comply for the last few visits. The last time someone with a mask tried to pick up our little one while we were there though, she wanted nothing to do with her. It must bring back memories of immunizations or something like that. Hopefully, they won’t make us wear them.

After our visit, we met back up with Monica, Andy, and Kathy at the hotel. We all walked down by the Kremlin to the little souvenir shop again since Andy and Kathy hadn’t been there yet. We bought a cute framed picture of Astrakhan, done in sort of a cartoon style that we thought would look great in our little one’s room. When we got back to the hotel though, we realized that it is just barely too big to fit in our largest suitcase. I’m going to have to figure something out to get that home somehow.

We went to the Chocolate Café for dinner, since its right down the street from the Kremlin. The food was really good as usual. I think they may have the best food of all the restaurants we have tried here. It also seems to be completely non-smoking, which believe me, is the exception, rather than the rule. If they had wi-fi, it would be the perfect place!

Only five more days until Monday, when we leave the baby home for the last time, but as a family for the first time!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Potential Good News!

Happy Tuesday to all! We had some potentially good news today. There is a big celebration coming up in honor of Astrakhan’s 450th anniversary. Apparently, Galina has been working hard to try to get all of our needed documents in order for us to leave town before the celebration. The celebration is to last about a week and a very large crowd is anticipated. Well, Vala told us today that we are going tomorrow to get our tickets to fly to Moscow. We are supposedly going to buy tickets to leave here in October 1. They are picking us up at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow to go buy them. We’ll let you know more tomorrow, but we’re thinking we’ll be flying home on our original date!!!!!! Cross your fingers!

We had an awesome visit today. We were able to spend about an hour and forty-five minutes with her. She was having a great time with the stacking cups. Not stacking them, but putting one in each hand and hitting them together to make some beautiful music. (okay, noise!) But it’s a start toward being our little musician. There was a lot going on today. They left the door to the room where we were open and there was quite a bit of traffic in the hallway. She is definitely curious. She needs to know exactly what is going on around her. She will just break her neck trying to see and make sure she’s not missing anything.

It was another windy day! We went for a walk, but we were only out for about two hours. We walked down by the Azimut and then around by the Krem Café. We headed back and stopped at the Astor mall again. We went to the children’s store there, because we wanted to get another teether. We didn’t find anything that we liked. I believe we will be taking a trip to a larger children’s store later this week, so I’m sure we’ll find something there.

Greg seems to have some problems with walking here in Russia! He has twisted his ankle on three different occasions. Of course, it was the same ankle each time. Now he’s hobbling along. The sidewalks are not exactly flat. You have to really watch for holes and uneven areas.

My parents are finally entering the 21st century, actually I should probably say the 20th century. They are supposed to get Internet on Wednesday. Mom and Dad, we had better be the first people that you send an e-mail to. That way we can e-mail you back!

Right now we are at the Krem Café. We had a nice dinner and now we’re all on our laptops. Free wi-fi! The Internet is down AGAIN at the Korvet. We’re having a bit of a celebration because Andy and Kathy had a good day today as well

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sunday and Monday

Sorry for not posting yesterday (Sunday). We, along with Monica, had dinner with Andy and Kathy, who arrived here yesterday afternoon for their first trip. We talked and laughed until after 11 o’clock, so it was too late to post anything. We had a really nice time though. It’s great to share this adventure with others who are going through the same thing.

Earlier in the day we walked for about four hours with Monica. One of our stops was at the souvenir shop near the Kremlin that Jamie recommended. We bought a little Astrakhan plate and a few other little things. We also did some other shopping to look for a jacket for me, but I couldn’t find anything that I liked at a price I was willing to pay. The highs have been in the mid-60s, which doesn’t seem that cold, but it’s been much cooler in the evenings. We walk pretty much everywhere we go, so I’ve got to find some kind of jacket. In Moscow, it’s been highs in the low 50s. I’m really going to need something then. I know jackets will be much more expensive there!

Today (Monday) we all met for breakfast here at the hotel. Andy and Kathy had to leave at 10:00 a.m. for their appointment at the Ministry of Education. Monica, Greg, and I went for a walk. Surprise! We walked to the Kremlin. Monica hadn’t had a chance to go inside any of the buildings. Greg got some good pictures today, because it wasn’t cloudy like our last visit. The wind is still unbelievable! It makes walking and enjoying things almost impossible. Tomorrow is supposed to be the last day of these big winds!

We left for our visit at about 2:30 p.m. It was a little shorter today. Traffic was pretty heavy trying to get there, so it slowed us down. Our visit was great though! We took a lot more pictures. We are counting down! Since it’s 11:00 p.m. now, that means only six more days until she’s ours forever!

We all met up for dinner. We chose San Pizza. Because there are five of us now, we took two taxis to get there. We had a nice meal with a lot of chatting!

We found out about our phone bill today! Ouch! I’ve called home to my parents three times because of our paperwork dilemmas. The charge is about $2.00 a minute. So we’re going to try to buy some phone cards here to see if they will work. The ones we bought at home worked in Moscow, but are not working here at the Korvet.

That’s about all for today!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Internet’s Back!

Well, it’s the weekend again. It seems difficult to keep track of what day it is here. Our Saturdays are much like our weekdays, as we get to visit the baby home. Sundays are the only days we don’t get to visit. Our CHI people need a day off after all. We should mention that our little one is at a “baby home”. We’ve incorrectly referred to it as an orphanage before, but technically the orphanages are for kids over four years old. Sorry about that.

Today we met Monica at the hotel restaurant for breakfast. There is no menu, they just serve what they have that day. Usually we get two eggs sunny side up, a juice box, yogurt, some meat, either sliced salami or a hot dog (yes I said that right), sliced cheese, bread and butter, and a dessert thing that I can’t really explain (not so good). Oh well, its included with the room and we probably wouldn’t eat breakfast otherwise, so it isn’t all that bad.

Then we went for a walk while Monica had her visit to her baby home. We tried a different direction today, going right out of the hotel instead of left where the Kremlin and downtown are. We walked about 45 minutes until we got to a bridge over one of the rivers here. This one had quite a few boats on it, something we haven’t seen much of so far. Then we walked back, for about a 1 ½ hour trip. Not all that interesting since so many of the buildings here are the same. The government must have built hundreds of apartment buildings all about the same time because they all seem to match. They’re usually five stories high and eight apartments long on each side, so it looks like about 80 units per building, and they’re everywhere.

Then we ate lunch back in our room. When Monica returned from her visit, Galina took us all to a store to get groceries and supplies. The store is kind of like a Sam’s Club or Costco. You need a membership card and its kind of warehouse-like inside. No free samples though. I found a jacket, since it’s been getting fairly chilly here in the evenings and should be worse when we get back to Moscow. We tried to find some tights for our little one, but they didn’t have much. And we bought more food to restock the room.

Our visit to the baby home was another good one. Since it was Saturday, there didn’t seem to be as many people working there, at least not management-type people, so our visit was like an hour and a half or so. Much longer than the usual 45 minutes. She was really good. There was a cute little boy in the room too, about 3 or so. She didn’t know what to make of him at first. His little choo-choo train that he pulled around made lots of noise and she didn’t seem to like that very much. We brought some of the clothes that we bought for her to check sizes. Even the 9 month stuff was a little big. We also brought some little plastic balls for her to play with. She still seems to be most interested with things she can put in her mouth, like Kyley’s necklaces and her buttons. We’re trying to redirect her to the teething toys that we have for her.

Then we went back to the hotel to meet Monica to go to dinner and found that the computer guy was finally here! Yes, we’re posting from our hotel again. Incidently, we forgot to mention yesterday that we posted from the Krem Café, since they have wi-fi. I’m not exactly sure what he did, but now it works, and we don’t have to log in anymore. Go figure.

When that was done, we walked to a restaurant with Monica that we hadn’t tried before. This one was called La Vanilla (we think) and it is right around the corner from the Chocolate Café. From the Korvet, you go straight instead of turning left to go to the Chocolate Café and its down about a block or two on the left. They didn’t have an English menu so we tried to translate some things using our Russian-English dictionaries, but didn’t get anywhere. We asked if we could take a menu with us so we could translate it and return later. They seemed to agree, so we took the menu and went to the Chocolate Café for dinner. We’ll try La Vanilla some other time if we can make any progress with the menu. I had pork with raspberry sauce and baskets with bacon (a potato side dish). Both were very good. Kyley ordered the same thing she got last time, the chicken hips, and the same potatoes I had. Monica tried the Mutton, which she said was good too!

Since it was a little chilly, we decided to try the hot chocolate for dessert. What we got was a small expresso cup filled with what I can only describe as a melted chocolate bar. It was REALLY thick, not like hot chocolate we’re used to. It was good, but after a filling dinner, was a little much. It was dark by the time we were finished, so we took a taxi back to the hotel.

And now we’re back in the room, finally with Internet access again. It means so much to have this connection with all of you and the rest of the world. What did we do before email and such?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Catch Up!

Sorry, it’s been so long since we’ve posted a ‘real’ blog. The Internet service at the hotel has been down since Tuesday evening. Errrr! Every time I ask, they tell me the guy will be here today to fix it and I have asked everyday! Luckily, we were able to get our Tuesday post in before it went down. Here’s a brief synopsis of what we did each day!

On Wednesday, we went for our visit in the morning. Each one gets better! We went for a walk trying to find the toy store that Jamie commented on. We weren’t able to find it. We’ll try again another day. We did find (by accident) a pedestrian bridge over the waterway. It is a tradition here for a couple to bring a lock to the bridge on their wedding day and attach the lock to the bridge. The bridge is amazing. There must be thousands of locks. What a neat tradition! In the evening, we met up with Russ and Monica and went to San Pizza for dinner. While we were there, we noticed that a person at another table had a laptop. We decided we would bring our laptops the next time we came to see if they had Wi-Fi. We spent most of the dinner talking and worrying over our court appointment. When we got back to the hotel, Greg and I spent the evening quizzing each other for possible questions the judge might ask.

You already know the finale of Thursday, but here is a brief synopsis of how the day went. First, we met Russ and Monica for breakfast. Then they headed off to court. Their court was at 10:00 a.m. They got back to our room at about noon with huge smiles on their faces. The news was great! Everything went well at court for them! We tried to eat a bit of lunch, but didn’t have much of an appetite. We practiced some more, then it was time to change our clothes. We met Galina and off we went to our court appointment. Vala met us there. Of course, we were so nervous. We started a little bit late at about 2:10 p.m. The judge started by asking Greg a bunch of questions. Then it was my turn. He asked me a bunch of questions and the prosecutor had a few questions for me also. If you received the list of questions that CHI put out a few months ago, practice them. Almost all of the questions that we were asked were on that list. We had expected questions about our ages (I know I’m only 29, but I do realize that I have been saying that for a few too many years!). We expected more questions about our finances. Apparently, the new financial information that we had to submit sufficed, because we had few questions about finances. The Ministry of Education representative gave a positive conclusion for us to adopt. Then the prosecutor also gave a positive conclusion. The judge left the court room to finalize his decision. He returned about 15 minutes later. He announced that the adoption was approved. I, of course, broke into tears unable to contain my emotions any longer. What an unbelievable moment! We now have the 10 day wait period. It’s actually going to be 11 days because the 10th day falls on a Sunday. It was two successful court appointments for us today. Galina suggested that we all go out to dinner to celebrate. We went to San Pizza. We took our laptop with us so we could see if they had Wi-Fi. As you found out last night, they do! It was a wonderful evening of many toasts with champagne.

Today is Friday. Russ headed to the airport bright and early this morning to Moscow. We wish him a safe flight home tomorrow. Monica met us for breakfast. In the middle of breakfast, the power went out. After breakfast, we decided to go for a walk. We headed toward downtown. The power was out the whole way. The traffic was awful! There were jams at every intersection and tons of horns honking. The wind was extremely strong. Dirt and who knows what else was blowing around and getting in our eyes and mouths. It was not a very pleasant walk. Greg and I wanted to stop at the grocery store for some more lunch supplies, but it was closed because of the power outage. We decided to just head back to the hotel. It was about 1:00 p.m. and we had to leave at 2:00 p.m. for our visit. We ate a quick lunch and the power finally turned back on at about 1:30 p.m. At 2:00 p.m., Vica met us to head to the baby home. When we got there, we told our little one the news and she was so excited! (Okay, I’m sure she didn’t understand anything that we said, but we’re going with her being so excited anyway!) When we got back at the hotel, we switched. We stayed at the hotel and Monica went with Vica for her visit. Greg and I decided to try to get to the grocery store, because we were pretty much out of all lunch supplies. It started raining on the way back from the store. We walked pretty fast, so we didn’t get too wet.

I’ve got to tell you the mosquitoes are vicious here. Mosquitoes bother me at home, but it’s nothing compared to here. It started with three bites and those turned into huge welts that itched like mad for about five days, then finally started to heal. I was finally feeling better when I was attacked by more mosquitoes. I have 15 bites on my left ankle and leg. It is unbelievable how painful this is. They have swollen up to huge welts. Greg was nice enough to take a picture of them. I luckily brought hydrocortisone with me, but I’ve been using it way too many times a day and night, just to survive. I asked Vica, our translator, if she had any suggestions. Vica has a sister who is a doctor and she recommended something for me to try. When Vica brought Monica back to the hotel today, she went with me to a pharmacy to get this cream. I can’t wait to try it tonight. I hope it helps. If you’re prone to mosquito bites and are on your way to Astrakhan, make sure you bring something to prevent you from getting bitten or something to put on the bites if you get them.

Boy, this has been really long post. We are done for now. Hopefully we can post again soon!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Great News

Just a very short one today since we're in a restaurant (hotel Internet still not working) but everthing went GREAT today. We're actually celebrating at San Pizza with Monica & Russ, Galina, Vala, and Vica. Russ & Monica's court went great also!

We take custody in 11 days and should be home about October 10th. We're ecstatic! Thanks again for all your kind words. Hopefully we can post again soon.

Kyley & Greg

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tuesday, September 16

Good News! We found out today that one of our major obstacles is out of our way. We now just have to get though our rescheduled court hearing on Thursday and everything should be back on track. This was such a relief to us. Most of you don’t even know what we’re talking about but believe me, it was a BIG DEAL! Thanks to all of you for your prayers and kind words.

More good news is that Russ and Monica arrived safely today. We just had dinner with them here in the hotel and while tired, they were in good spirits. It was great to see them and now we have someone else here to keep us company. Another family is scheduled to arrive on Monday for their first trip, so we’ll have a whole gang here. It should make the days go by a lot faster.

The documents also arrived safely with Monica and Russ. Thanks, Mom, for the Altoids and Gummy Savers. You always know exactly what we need, even if we don’t.

Each visit with our little one gets better than the last. Today she did lots of walking again, with handholding of course. I would hold her hands and Kyley would sit across the room with her hands out, encouraging her to come to Mamma. She did it grinning the whole time. But here’s the funny part. In her concentration to keep her feet moving she had her tongue sticking out. Does that sound like RB’s great granddaughter or what? For those of you in the dark, RB was Kyley’s grandfather, and sticking his tongue out when he was concentrating on something was one of his, well, trademarks, I guess.

We brought some brightly colored stacking cups with us for the first time today, but all she was interested in was chewing on them. She has two bottom teeth now and at least one on top. It’s kind of hard to tell. Kyley put her finger in there today and got bit! It even left a mark! So we know they work, we’ll just have to count them some other time. Vica, our translator took more pictures of the three of us today. Sorry we can’t post them yet but hopefully in a couple weeks we can.

We did less walking around town today. We walked to the local mall to buy some water since we were about out. We also found a store there that sells pretty nice jackets by Columbia, Adidas, Nike, etc. at pretty normal prices, which we may need to take advantage of. The weather has turned cooler here, with highs around 70 and lows in the 50s. That’s about ten degrees colder than when we arrived. We’re told that it’s pretty cold in Moscow already. Due to luggage restrictions, Kyley only brought one light jacket and I brought two sweatshirts. We’re thinking that by the time October rolls around, we’ll need something warmer, especially for Moscow.

We also walked down one of the more major streets near the hotel, hoping to find where it crossed one of the many rivers here. Astrakhan is at the delta of the Volga where it meets the Caspian Sea, so there is the Volga, and lots of smaller rivers nearby. Anyway, we didn’t find it. That road actually takes a turn and ends up being parallel to the river. We thought it was like not being able to find Lake Michigan while already in Michigan. Sorry, Treadwell family joke that Kyley asked me to include.

It’s Tuesday evening, about 10:00 PM as I’m typing this, 2:00 in the afternoon back home. We don’t have Internet access AGAIN, so we’ll try to post this in the morning.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday, September 15

We got a little bit of good news today regarding issue number 2. Vala called us this morning to tell us that the necessary papers were being prepared and that signatures were expected. As far as we know, there had been no signatures yet, but at least we heard they were expected. We’re praying, praying, praying! Maybe we’ll know more tomorrow.

Galina picked us up at 10:00 this morning to take us to the orphanage. We have been so lucky to have longer visits with our little one. We did a lot of walking again today. She had the squeaky shoes on, so I think she likes to walk even more. I was lifting her up over her my head. She loves that and it always makes her smile. I did it like four or five times and then I stopped. She started moving her head up and down. It looked really funny and we were wondering what she was doing. Then Greg and I figured out that she was trying to get me to lift her up overhead again. It was so cute! She played a lot with the moose today. (Thank you again, Amy, Abby, and Becky!) Since she always has to have something in her mouth, we were trying to get her to use one of the moose’s teething rings. She just didn’t want to. All she wanted was one of the soft hooves that crinkled when she chomped down on it and the tag. Yes, the tag! It is her favorite part of the moose! Too cute!

We had the rest of the day on our own. After lunch in the room, we went for a walk. We have been wanting to walk the perimeter of the Kremlin, so we could try to see what was going on with the construction. We got about half way around and there was a place where you could go inside. We had thought it was completely closed for construction. We went inside the gates and there was one building that was open. It was absolutely beautiful inside. Greg got some good pictures. We continued the walk around the outside and then took the path along the water back to the hotel. As we were walking, we saw the waitress that we had at the Krem Café. She remembered us and we remembered her. Does it mean that we’ve been here too long, if we start to pass people we know as we’re walking down the sidewalk?

Dinner tonight was San Pizza again. We had the same taxi driver as the last time we went to San Pizza. She started laughing when we got in the taxi. She said ‘San Pizza?’ She is also the one who picked us up at San Pizza to bring us back to the hotel, both times. Again, does it mean that we’ve been here too long????

Russ and Monica are scheduled to arrive tomorrow afternoon, so we’re looking forward to that! They should have taken off about a half hour ago. Safe journeys!

More tomorrow, hopefully we’ll have a connection. It’s been out a lot lately so we’ll see.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

It's actually Monday morning now. We couldn't get an internet connection last night. But here is Sunday's post just the same. We'll have a new one this evening, hopefully.

Since it is Sunday, we were on our own today. We decided to skip the breakfast here at the hotel and just ate breakfast in our room. After breakfast, Greg was doing some things on the Internet. The air was on in the room and I was getting cold. Surprise! I decided to walk outside while Greg finished up. While I was sitting out there, I met a couple that was here from Germany. They spoke English! They had adopted a beautiful, 17 month old little girl. They are only in Astrakhan for three more days and then they head to Moscow to finish up at their Embassy. They were so nice. It was great to have a conversation with someone in English!

We ate lunch in the room also. Then we decided to go for a walk. We walked along the water as far as the path went. There was a pedestrian bridge that crossed the water. We crossed that and continued back along the water on the other side. As we were walking, we came across a noise that sounded like a kitten crying. We found a little white kitty with really blue eyes stuck up in a tree about 8 feet high. Greg found a branch down by the water and we propped one end on the tree and held the other end a few feet off the ground so the kitty could climb down. Yay! The kitty was saved!

Having done our good deed for the day, we continued along the water and turned down one street and after walking a few blocks, found a beautiful surprise. There was a very nice waterfront area. There was a beach where people were swimming. It was a beautiful view of the Volga. We continued walking down the riverfront to the Azimut Hotel. It has been under construction, so we weren’t able to stay there, but we’ve heard a lot about it. We went inside just to look at the lobby. It was completely under construction. We didn’t stay long because there wasn’t much to see. We’d been walking for a couple of hours now and getting a little tired. We headed back to our room for a drink of cold water!

We decided to walk to dinner. The Chocolate Café had been recommended to us, so we thought we’d give it a try. I would definitely recommend it. They have easy-to-read English menus and the food was really good! We were stuffed and didn’t have room for dessert, but the desserts looked wonderful! Not only was the food good, but no one was smoking! We didn’t even see ashtrays on the tables! It wasn’t dark yet, so we walked back to the hotel.

That’s pretty much our day! We hope to know tomorrow about issue number two. It’s all we can think about. Everything has just got to work out!!!!!!!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Saturday, September 13

We are having problems with the correct date showing, so we’ll start putting it at the top of our posts.

Our day started with Vica picking us up at 10:00 a.m. We went straight to the orphanage. We got very lucky again and spent over an hour and half with our little one. She did so well with us today. Greg held her a lot and she was great with that. She did a lot of walking with each of us holding on to one of her hands. She didn’t have the squeaky shoes on today. I think she was missing them, because she kept picking up her foot and putting it back down. She did this yesterday and got the squeak, but not today. There was another mother and little boy in the room with us today. It was so funny, because our little one needed to know what they were doing the whole time. If something was in her way of seeing, she would almost fall out of our arms trying to find a place where she could see. So we walked, played with toys, read books, and danced. When our time was up, her caregiver came in the room to get her. As soon as she saw her, she started crying. I don’t know for sure, but we’re saying it’s because she didn’t want to leave us!

When we returned to the hotel, we had lunch with the things we bought at the grocery store. Then we checked and answered our e-mails. Then we headed off for a walk. We had decided to have dinner at the Krem Café, so our first stop was to see if we could find it on our walk. No problem! We walked right to it. It was too early for dinner, so we decided to walk around the perimeter of the Kremlin. We got about half way around and we found a park. It was really pretty with green grass and everything! We walked around the park. There were many wedding parties at the park. I bet we saw at least 10 different brides. There were several different things that we saw each bride and groom doing, so we’re going to ask Vala or Vica more about these traditions on Monday. At the far end of the park, there were some shops that looked really nice. We didn’t go in, but I definitely want to go back and take a look. We sat down on a shady bench and just did some people watching. We probably had more people watching us than us watching them. We just stick out like a sore thumb. There is no way that I can wear the high stiletto heels that these women wear. I don’t know how they do it! So I have to be the only woman in this whole town who wears tennis shoes. Oh, well! At least I can walk around comfortably. After awhile, we decided we should head back to the Krem Café for dinner. We had a wonderful waitress, who spoke English very well! Yeah! Since it was almost dark when we finished eating, we had to take a taxi back to the hotel. Now we’re here blogging. That’s our day in a synopsis.

Since it’s Saturday, we heard nothing new about the status of our court date. My parents are probably at Russ and Monica’s right now dropping off the documents. So we’re confident that issue has been solved. It’s the second one that is tearing us apart. Please continue to pray.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Help with Blog Date

We're not really sure why, but the date doesn't seem to be showing properly for our posts. Friday's post should say 9/12/08, but comes up as 9/11. If anyone knows how to fix this, please let us know. Thanks.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

No News Yet

Well, it’s Friday night now, and we think we have the document situation under control. Thanks to Mom and Dad and everyone else back home, things are moving in the right direction. We should have our new paperwork here by Tuesday or Wednesday. We can’t say thank you enough to everyone who is making that happen for us.

We had hoped to get some news today about the other issue that came up in court. But there is still no word on that yet. The earliest we should know will be Monday now, so we’re in for a long weekend I’m afraid.

On a better note, we were able to spend more time with our little one today. We had about an hour and a half again, which was nice. With some hand-holding, she was able to walk about ten feet! They had these cute little shoes on her that squeaked every time she took a step. She kind of liked that she could make noises by moving her feet. We’re going to have to find a pair of those. She was also more vocal today, making little noises for who knows what. There was still a bit of crying, especially when the nurse in the white gown and the surgical mask came to take her at the end. I guess she thought that meant a doctor visit! Anyway, they had someone else come for her instead, and everything was fine. It gets harder each time we have to say “da svidanya”, which is “goodbye” in Russian.

After our visit at the orphanage, our translator, Vica, took us to a grocery store where we could stock up on food and supplies to keep in our room so we wouldn’t have to eat out as much. We had heard about Vica from Russ and Monica, but today was the first time we met. She was very friendly and helpful. We eat our breakfasts at the hotel because they’re included with the room. Lunches we try to eat in the room, and we usually go to the hotel restaurant or take a taxi to a local restaurant for dinner. Today it was San Pizza, a small pizza place that would fit just fine in any American city. It’s just more difficult to order there. At least they have an English menu. Without that, we’d be totally lost!

Our visit to the orphanage was in the afternoon. In the morning we took a long walk from our hotel, to the area where the Kremlin is. It took us probably forty minutes each way. It seems that everything in the city, especially around the Kremlin, is under construction right now. The Kremlin itself is closed and the gold leaf towers are surrounded by scaffolding. Apparently, the 450th anniversary of the founding of Astrakhan is next month so everything is being spruced up for the big celebration. By the looks of things, they’re not going to make it. Should look really nice for the 451st anniversary though.

Another Setback

Well, let’s just say, that court did not go as we had hoped. Two major issues came up, which caused our court time to be canceled. We were only in there about ten minutes. They did give us a rescheduled date. We have been working all day trying to get one of these issues resolved. We want to extend a huge thank you to Jon, Mom and Dad, and Russ and Monica. Since we are here in Russia, we obviously cannot produce any new paperwork, have it notarized, and apostilled. So we have sent my poor parents on a series of wild goose chases for today and tomorrow. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Hopefully, the judge will find our efforts acceptable and we can get past this one.

The second issue is completely out of our hands. We’ll just have to wait and see if it works out. Sorry for not being more specific. Prayers are all we can ask for this.

With all of this happening, we stayed by the computer all day. So we ate lunch here in the room. We just walked down the hall for dinner at the hotel restaurant. (Not so good! But close and fast). We did fit in a game of Travel Scrabble. Whoopee! That’s all for today.

Visit with our Little One

We’ve been having trouble getting access to the Internet, so we have posted two times today. We were able to get on for a little bit yesterday. I went into Word to type up our blog post. When I went to sign back onto the Internet, I got nothing! Anyway, go down to the previous post for information on yesterday.

Today started with Galina and Vala picking us up at 10:00 a.m. We went straight to the orphanage, so we could see our little girl. She has grown a little bit taller, has a little more hair, and has two bottom front teeth. They look so cute! She didn’t really want to show them to us, but we sneaked a couple of peeks anyways. We don’t really think that she remembered us, but she did really well. There were a couple of tears when someone that she knew would walk in and/or out of the room. We spent about an hour and a half with her. That’s about the longest visit that we’ve had!

Galina and Vala talked to us about what to expect at our court appointment tomorrow. We were back at the hotel by 12:00 noon. That left the rest of the day on our own. We read through our home study and other documents several times. We’ve drilled each other with questions. We’re going to go through everything one more time after we finish typing this. Then we’ve probably done all that we can to prepare.

We went for several walks today. First we walked to the mall. It’s not too far – about a fifteen minute walk. We did some window shopping. On the first floor, there is a market, so we bought a few groceries. Then we came back to the hotel and ate a little lunch. After lunch, we ventured out on another walk. We walked down one road that is by the hotel. There was absolutely nothing to see, so we turned around and came back. We walked to a church that is a couple of miles away. It is a beautiful, big church. I don’t really know the significance of it, but there are several pictures posted around town of the church. It’s a bit overcast today with a few sprinkles, but Greg took a few pictures of it anyway. We’ll probably head back over there on a nicer day. We walked back to the hotel, hoping that we would have an Internet connection, but no luck. We decided we might as well as go to dinner. We went to San Pizza (our old standby). We made it there by taxi, enjoyed pizza and dessert, and made it back to the hotel safely. We were pretty proud of ourselves!

That’s about it for today! Tomorrow is the big day. Please pray that we can answer the questions to meet the judge’s needs.

Greetings from Astrakhan!

Well, now we’re in Astrakhan.

When we woke up this morning, it was raining pretty hard in Moscow. So we just hung out at the hotel. We ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant. A bit expensive, but it was good and we didn’t have to go outside in the rain. Mia (our translator) and the driver picked us up at about noon. Traffic was pretty heavy, so it took us a little longer than usual to get to the airport. When we did get there, Mia found that our flight had been delayed. We had to wait around a bit before they would let us through security and in to the check-in area. We only waited about 20 minutes or so. Once we got through security, we headed to check-in. This is where they weigh your luggage. Uh, oh!!!! We were about 30 kg over our limit. It cost us over 4000 rubles for the extra weight!!!!!! Woah!!!! I thought that was pretty steep! Especially since one whole suitcase is just for our little girl. We’re hoping that on the way back we won’t have this charge, since she will be with us. Anyway, we paid the fee and headed up the stairs to wait by the gate. We took the tram to the airplane and it looked like we’d be about 30 minutes late. Then security pulled up to the plane. Two security people came on the plane. I don’t really know what was going on, but there were a lot of loud voices! After a while, the security people left the plane and we were able to take off. All in all, we ended up being about an hour late. On the plane, we sat next to a man who was from Arkansas. Go figure! We were probably the only people on the whole plane who spoke English and we ended up sitting next to each other. He and his family recently moved to Moscow. He is here on a 3 year work visa. He works for Wal-Mart and he is coordinating the opening of Wal-Mart stores in Russia. (Sorry, Bridget! I know you’re not going to like that). Anyway, it was nice to talk to someone who was also from the States.

We ended up not getting to our hotel here in Astrakhan until about 7:00 p.m. By the time we got settled in, it was getting pretty late to go out to dinner. So we just ate here at the hotel.

Of course, you know the main positive reason of being here in Russia – our little girl. But as we were watching TV (all in Russia, so we have no idea what they are saying), we thought of another positive reason for being here. We get to go a whole month without hearing all about Kwame Kilpatrick’s woes. That’s quite a positive too.

Tomorrow we get picked up at 10:00 a.m. to go to the orphanage. We can’t wait to see her! We’re hoping that she somehow remembers us! That’s all for now.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Back in Moscow!

Well, we left our home at 7:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Thank you again, Sean, for taking us to the airport. Our plane landed in Moscow at 10:00 a.m. on Monday. It’s now 7:30 in the evening. We went for a late lunch and a short walk. Now, we’re ready for bed! Neither of us could sleep on the plane, so we’ve been up for over 30 hours straight! I don’t want to go to sleep now, because I’m afraid I’ll wake up at midnight and be up the rest of the night. (Greg is snoring away!) So I thought I’d catch up on the blog. Let me go back a few weeks, since I haven’t had a chance to post since we received our court date.

Life has been hectic! My school is going through many construction renovations this year. My classroom was completed gutted and started over. At the end of the last school year, I packed up my classroom and most of it was moved out to pods in the parking lot. So on August 22, we were allowed back in our classrooms to unpack and get ready for the school year. Teachers started back to school on August 26 and there are weekends in there, so that really didn’t allow much time to unpack and get organized. For most, it was a real hurry, but a lot of boxes could be put in a closet and slowly unpacked as the school year began. BUT I wanted my room all unpacked, so that it would be easier for my guest teacher (God Bless You, Megan!) to find things! Needless to say, I’ve been working in my classroom from the time the building opened in the morning until they kicked me out at the end of the day. I was able to get all of the boxes emptied, but I can’t promise that I’ll remember where I put everything! Anyway, I have a relatively organized classroom and I had four great days with my first grade students.

Thank goodness that we had all of our documents completed for this trip. With all of the time that I was spending at school, I never would have had time to complete all of the running around it takes to gather documents.

On Saturday, August 30, Greg’s sisters had a shower for us. And on Saturday, September 6, my aunt Janice had a shower for us. Thanks again, Julie, Diane, and Janice! It was so much fun to get together with friends and family. As my aunt Janice said, it truly takes a village to raise a child and the support of our family and friends makes a beautiful village for our little girl to come home to.

We have also been working really hard getting her room ready. My friend, Jacqueline, painted my childhood rocking chair and a bookshelf to match. They look so cute. We have the crib (thanks to my parents) and matching changing table all set. For our anniversary, my parents bought us a rocking chair to rock our little girl in. And, of course, there are all of the bunnies. We're up to 50 something! There are still some details to add to the room, but it's pretty close to done.

So now we’re in Moscow and staying at the Holiday Inn Lesnaya. It’s not as new as the Holiday Inn Sokolniki that we stayed in last time, but it is fine. We’re too tired to do too much sightseeing, but it seems to be a lot closer to the heart of Moscow. When we return to Moscow at the end of September, I’m sure we’ll spend more time looking around.

Our flight to Astrakhan leaves tomorrow (Tuesday) at 3:15 p.m. We’re waiting to hear what time the translator and driver will be picking us up to take us to the airport.

I think that pretty much brings us up to date. Next post will be from Astrakhan!