Saturday, December 29, 2007

There's no place like home...

At the airport

Enjoying the snow at home
Playing the piano Christmas morning

We arrived home two nights ago after being gone 36 days. Entering the driveway - which was like a winter wonderland was the best feeling. We are loving being home despite the fact that we are all fighting a nasty virus. Our friends Brian and Betsy filled our freezer with food and our neighbor had shoveled our long driveway so we could get in. (SO APPRECIATED!!) Brady is adjusting well - he loves the fish I painted on his wall and is having a blast playing with everything. It was so fun introducing him to his new home. We are working on unpacking, opening mail and I have been fighting a fever and cold. Brady had his first appointment with his pediatrician yesterday. Overall things went well - we will be going back every two weeks for a while as he is concerned about his weight (19 pounds at 18 months) and his allergies. The poor guy had four shots and a ton of bloodwork so he was pretty sore last night. We are trying to hang around the house for a while as both kids appear pretty tired of any type of plane, train or automobile.

We had a wonderful Christmas with our families. Brady warmed up quickly and spent most of his Christmas with huge eyes...I can only imagine the thoughts going through his head - going from an orphanage to enjoying a large dinner with strangers speaking a new language who bring you more toys then you've ever seen. Can you imagine?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Couldn't be happier...

Hello from Minneapolis!!!! We are so thrilled to be here...I was in tears coming into New York. Since our last post we traveled over 30 hours to arrive in Minneapolis just before midnight last night. It was a long couple of days (or should I say a long month) but so worth it now. We were close to not making it home at all (or at least I was close....when we boarded the plane they pulled me off because I was not supposed to have an electronic ticket for Brady - apparently a paper ticket is needed for infants traveling abroad on Aeroflot. So they took my passport and me off the plane and told me they were not sure that I'd be able to fly and when we asked if I could take one of the kids with me they said no! So - Ryan nervously waited with two children under three on the plane - luckily I made it a couple minutes within takeoff but was very anxiety provoking). Traveling internationally with a one-year-old and two-year-old is not something we'd highly recommend however we were very proud of how well they behaved (most of the time). We spent our last day in Moscow at the US Embassy (an absolute breeze) and preparing for travel. The plane rides went overall well - neither kid slept more than 4 hours on the 10 hour flight to JFK but they did fairly well. We felt badly for the couple a few rows ahead of us with an adopted two year old boy who screamed the entire flight. I slept last night for 7 hours in a row for the first time since leaving home...I feel so great. We are going to spend the next few days finishing our Christmas shopping and enjoying our Christmas with family before heading home on the 26th...where I think we'll stay for a while. Thanks so much for all of your support and kind comments during our journey to Russia. We will post some pics again soon.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hello from Moscow and PICTURES!!

We arrived safely yesterday morning after a very exhausting train ride - both kids were awake most of the night and both fell asleep immidiately upon getting into the car on our short drive to Brady's medical appointment. Upon getting off the train we had quite the meltdown. It was so hot in the train that we were all dripping sweat and with little sleep for the kids (or us) we were all a little bitter. Well, somehow in between trying to lug around two suitcases, two carry-ons and a one year old we lost track of Allison getting off the train. All I could hear was her screaming "Mommy" and there were so many men in front of me and I had Brady and a suitcase so couldn't get to her. Well I get off the train and here is our coordinator telling her that she needs to put on her hat and Allie is just tantruming...bad! So in the middle of her tantrum she goes running and I dropped my suitcase to catch her just before she falls way down onto the train tracks as I am screaming in fear....we were quite the site.
The medical appointment was brief and went well - no major concerns other than his food allergies we already were aware of. When we finally sat down to eat yesterday afternoon I chipped a large piece of a tooth which has proved rather unpleasent. Right now the kids are finally napping and then we will have our appointment at the US Embassy and hopefully some time to visit the Red Square. We are so anxious to began our travels home tomorrow!!! We will leave here around noon and be in New York at 6 pm (were 9 hours ahead) and in Minneapolis at 11 PM!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Goodbye to Petro

In less than one hour we will be boarding the train for Moscow. We just said tearful goodbyes to our coordinator here. She gave us a very nice gift of a linen tablecloth and napkins. They are beautiful and a treasure. We are waiting to be picked up by another coordinator who will bring us to the train station. Although we have been so anxious to be home, saying goodbye is difficult. These people have changed our lives in so many ways and we are forever grateful to them. So, we are thrilled to start our venture home but this place will always be close to our thoughts and hearts.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

December 16, 2007

This will likely be our last post before arriving in Moscow (where I promise to post pictures). Tomorrow we will take the 14-hour train ride from Petro to Moscow. Since having Brady we realized how crucial the crib is for him to sleep – we had to ask to get one in the apartment even because he would not sleep in anything else, so the train and plane ride may proof very interesting.

Today we went back into the city for a short time, walked around and then came back to meet with our coordinator about final arrangements tomorrow. The cute comment of the day came from Allison, when I asked her what she wanted for her birthday she said, “Nala (our dog) and go home”. More than we do, I think she misses home but I am hoping a part of this trip will stay with her, hoping she gained a new appreciation for the things she has. I know we have. We are so much more appreciative of running water (that you can drink), prescription medication, my car, my 8-piece set of dishes, a sink in the bathroom, etc, etc.

Tomorrow we will are hoping to make it to the lake one last time and take pictures in the morning. In the afternoon we will pick up Brady’s passport, meet with our coordinator and get on the train....homeward bound...kind of.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

December 15, 2007

Today we walked around by the lake – Lake Omega, one of the largest lakes in Europe. They have a few sculptures, one of their sister city, Duluth, MN. It is a beautiful spot. We took some pictures and then went to the puppet show. Brady lasted approximately 3 minutes so he and Ryan ran around outside while Allie and I watched the rest. It’s obvious that both kids are tired of being cooped up and in the apartment, both had multiple meltdowns this evening, I think mainly because they do not have space to go to play – just one room containing multiple breakable items. We are continuing to try to think positively and get out to enjoy ourselves but honestly, we cannot wait to get to Moscow.

Friday, December 14, 2007

December 14, 2007

Not as much to post today. We intended on getting out but Brady was not feeling well and has had a horrible rash since we got him that we didn’t want to get worse in the wind. The doctors at the orphanage said he reacts to different foods but are not sure what he is allergic to. Today the rash covered most of his face and even bled. Poor thing. So we talked again with the orphanage doctors who provided us with some cream and told us not to feed him any more yogurt. He has an appointment with our pediatrician when we get back but will likely need to do some testing to determine what he’s allergic to (at one time they thought it was milk, another time meat, then citrus, etc, etc). We are excited to bring the kids to a puppet show tomorrow and hopefully stop to post some pictures.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

December 13, 2007

Today we took the trolley out to the big city of Petro, actually a fairly nice little city with a beautiful view of a lake and gorgeous trees. The region looks much like our home in Northern Minnesota, with large trees, forests and a large lake. We saw the sun for the first time since we left home today...what a difference that makes. It is still brutally cold as can be seen in the way people dress. I had thought before coming to Russia that the large hats and fur coats were a stereotype, but they are not. I cannot believe the comments we receive from strangers about Allison not wearing snowpants – someone actually stopped us to wrap her scarf around her poor face because they thought the poor thing was not dressed properly. We had to buy Brady snowpants (although we have some at home...we do live in MN) because we were told they may not let him out of the orphanage without them (a warning to pre-adoptive parents). We also learned that Allie should have tights under her pants because people WILL pick up her pants to make sure...really – it has been done countless times. The first few days I neglected to put tights under her pants. Women would pick up her pants and when they discovered that I had not put tights on her they would shake their heads and wave their fingers and I am pretty sure they were swearing at me in Russian.

We enjoyed walking through Petro today, looking at the city so that someday we can explain to our son what it looks like. Our trolley experience went well again, another piece of evidence against the desire for personal space though. My most embarassing moment of the trip ( far) was when we got on an extremely crowded trolley to come back to the apartment. There were of course no seats available and I got separated from Ryan and Brady and stuck in the middle. I could not hold onto a bar because there were too many people in front of them and was holding my very tired daughter. So the trolley comes to a sudden stop and I fly back, falling onto about 20 strangers with daughter in hand. Whoops.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

One Week Left!

We have just entered our final week in Russia! During this time we will be spending another 4 days in Petrozavodsk and another 3 in Moscow (we leave Petro 12/1 7 on the overnight train to Moscow). While in Moscow we will have Brady’s medical appointment and will meet with the US Embassy twice before flying out on the evening of 12/20 (that gave me the chills). We have been looking very forward to Moscow as we will be staying at the Marriot Grand thanks to Ryan’s aunt Patti who generously gave us Marriot points. We cannot wait – plus we hear the sights in Moscow before Christmas are amazing and I have missed my favorite time of year at home.

With Brady being sick our time here has been pretty uneventful without much to post. He is now feeling much better, some sibling rivalry has begun between the two (I am not sure if it’s better here because of so few toys or that were going to be in really big trouble when we come home). Yesterday (12/13) was a better day, we took the trolley to the main part of the city and walked around, I bought some inexpensive Russian dolls for Allison and she adores them. We came home and later that night walked around the street market near our apartment. The smell gets me every time...I literally had to leave sick – there are fish, meats and fruits outside on boxes everywhere with the occasional dog grabbing one or knocking them into the slush a foot below.

We’ve decided that now that we are all well, we are going to try to leave the apartment more, it costs us less than $1 one way to take the trolley into the city so we are going to take advantage of that during our last 4 days in Petro. I’ve also decided to post daily about our adventures during the last week so stay tuned...

Monday, December 10, 2007

OUCH...that hurt!

What’s that that just hit me? Oh, yeah...a big dose of reality – right in the face! The past couple of months have been so filled with excitement, anticipation and energy along with a little frustration...but overall feelings very different, far beyond the real world. So, we are going along on this high and BAM – it hits, for us it hit around 2am a few nights ago – and it was a very large dose of our first case of a very disgusting Russian flu – caught by our little man. we are in the small, one bedroom apartment trying to keep the two children who we had just been encouraging to play closely, now apart. There has been heavy amounts of crying, sickness and frustration 24 hours a day (some admittedly by yours truly).

Because our 10 day wait is not over they wanted to put Brady back into the orphanage to incubate him, worrying that we would all catch this as well and be unable to travel when we leave for Moscow in 7 days. We really did not want this, fearing that this would only confuse and traumatize him more. As it turned out they were unable to do this due to the fact that they had other children incubated who were sadly in worse conditions. We do have to say that our coordinators here and all the people in the orphanage are wonderful, caring people – they do so much with what little they have, with one coordinator here very late in the evening on Sunday and the orphanage doctors consistently telephoning to check on Brady. I have vowed again and again to not take for granted all of our freedoms and luxuries we have at home.

In other news...CONGRATS to my very dear friends Jody and Laura! Jody was married yesterday in San Francisco, I am so sorry I had to miss being a part of her wedding. My friend Laura had a baby girl on Sunday! I am so sorry I missed your both of your big events – I love you both!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Cooped Up

While we've only been gone 10 days were starting to feel the drag of the wait. When we finally return home we will have been gone 35 days (22 in Russia, the rest spent elsewhere prior to and after for the holidays...were 4 hours from the airport)..we will be home December 26. We are spending most of our time running around the small, one bedroom apartment saying, "no, put that down" or "get off that". We could easily bear the cold outside but it is incredibly slippery and we are not in the friendliest of neighborhoods (either that or it's a little too friendly).

We are getting in some great bonding time. Allison and Brady are getting used to each other, mostly running in circles. Brady is doing very well, he has become more inclined to go to Ryan now and his sleeping has improved a little each night. We are hoping to take a trolley into a different part of the city tomorrow and I'm hoping to bribe the kids with ice cream to stop at the internet cafe to post more pictures.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Introducing Brady James

These were all taken the day of court at the orphanage. I apologize for the delay and the editing (or lack of).

Monday, December 3, 2007

With us at last...

I will (really...I will) be posting pictures later today (we cannot post pictures from the computer we are using here and will be going to an internet cafe later to post them...really).

We picked up our little man at the orphanage yesterday and watched as caregivers, teachers and doctors said their tearful goodbyes. We met with the orphanage director for a while and gave her a very large donation of diapers that were purchased with money kindly supplied by staff members at the school at which I am employed (A BIG THANK YOU FROM RUSSIA TO HORACE MAY ELEMENTARY!!) I had hoped to take pictures of the donation but had to set the large bags down and when we walked into the orphanage for our meeting and when I came out the diapers had already been put to use!

We took the advice of some folks on FRUA (Families for Russian and Ukraine Adoption) and asked if a caregiver or two would write down some hopes or memories of him during his first 16 months. We received four very nice letters - two of them from doctors. I think we will be thankful we did that someday. Right before we left the orphanage director (who is normally a rather stearn woman) pulled us aside and handed me this large bag tied with a ribbon. She whispered to our translator that we are always welcome in Petrozavodsk and that she hopes we will come back to bring home a third child! She then handed me the bag and said she wishes us a warm heart and much health and happiness. Inside the bag was a beautiful winter coat and snowsuit, an outfit, two warm hats and a wonderful pair of boots for our little man to wear next year - it is seriously the nicest winter clothing I have ever seen. Our coordinator was totally taken back - she said she has never seen anyone recieve a gift from the orphanage before. It was a great moment and I could tell our little guy had touched a really special place in her heart as she wiped tears away when we left.

We then took him on his first car ride (other than when he was taken from the hospital to the orphanage at 4 months old). We had to run into the busiest (and only) supermarket. He did really well but had huge eyes the entire trip. We thought when we got to the apartment he would take a few days to warm up, that he would likely be quiet and reserved for a while (that was how he was most often when we visited him at the orphanage). WOW - were we wrong!! He ran up and down the hallway until nearly 10:00 at night, laughing and giggling the whole time, stopping only to eat (and eat and eat!!). Ryan finally got him to sleep by laying and blocking him from getting out of bed, putting him back in his bed numerous times after he tried climbing over him. Our makeshift crib (two large chairs together) did not work for a moment as he boosted himself over the back of one within seconds. He is very busy and we are absolutely loving every moment of it!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

здравствуйтё (hello)

Hello from Petro. We are currently experiencing technical difficlties (ok, and possibly some operator problems also) so please excuse the delay in not posting pictures...they'll be here...I promise!

We visited our little man twice now since arriving yesterday. Our visits with him have been great - I think he remembered us but it has taken him a little while to warm up. Yesterday we spent a couple hours getting reacquainted and introducing him to his sister. She fell quickly in love with him and began crying when we had to bring him back to his room saying, "no, we take brother with us" to the caregivers. Brought tears to our eyes. He played with Allison very well today and by the end he was following her around and she was calling him her "secret agent" (no idea where that came from). He now runs to me when our coordinator asks "where's mama?". He is not talking at all yet and has been given a diagnosis of "delayed speech development". It really seems though that it will come at any time. He makes some noises and responds well to other noises (so we are not concerned about his hearing).

Our 10 days were not waived (we did not expect them to be) so we will leave Petro on December 17 (we have to stay the mandatory 10 day waiting period and then an additional week to get his passport) and then we'll take a train to Moscow (where he will have his medical check-up and we have our appointment with the US Embassy) on the 18th and 19th, flying home December 20th. He will become a US citizen once his little feet touch US New York.

We will not be able to see him tomorrow (Sunday) but we are going to be able to take him back to the apartment with us Monday - whoo hoo! We will spend Monday picking up and delivering orphanage donations, talking to his doctors and getting any information that we would like from his files (were going for as much as we can). It should be a great day and hopefully I will have by then figured out how to get pictures posted.