Saturday, December 19, 2009

Russian Hoops and Legalese

Yesterday was long, exhausting, and very productive... we officially, legally got our little girl. All the day yesterday was spent making this happen. Here is a play by play.

I got picked from the hotel at 8. My driver to day was Alex. He doesn't speak a word of english, so the ride into town and all the times waiting in the car for things to happen were completely silent. Weird to spend a day sitting next to a guy and not exchange one thought or idea with him.

We drove into town thirty minutes and parked near the regional courthouse and waited for Oksana to meet us (remind me to write about my observations about the Russian people and winter clothing in general). She came and got in the van with us. I signed a form or two, then she went into the courthouse and gathered the official declaration that stated that our adoption was complete. Yes!! But our work was not done. We had to go get her birth certificate changed, listing Leanna and I as her (now) official parents. This involved another forty five minute drive to the office of vital statistics, another series of forms to be signed, then a wait to get the new birth certificate. It seems like to get anything done here even going out to pick up your cleaning or filling up your gas tank requires a forty five minute drive, submission of some official form, and then a wait for the governmental wheels to turn. I may be exaggerating a little bit here...but remind me to talk about getting around here in winter.

After the office of vital statistics, we were now officially, undeniably, and completely her parents, but the work was not done. The orphanage needed a copy of the official documents for their file, and we owed them for letting us have her early, so we had to drive over there to give them a copy, this took, guess what? Another forty minute drive, then a wait, then we were through with the orphanage. A good feeling to drive away from there knowing all had been completed.

Next was a very important step. She was ours now, but she couldn't go home with us until we got a passport for her. We got her passport photos the day before, but now we had to drop the application into the right hands. yup, you guessed it another trip crisscrossing the city to get to the pass port office. We got there forty five minutes later and found out that the person who normally deals with adoption passports was on vacation. This presents a HUGE problem, because we are scheduled to leave for Moscow Monday afternoon. NO GO. Oksana poured out our story to the receptionist, but she was stern and unrelenting. Nobody ever explained to me why, in a city of several hundred thousand, which is the regional capital for all governmental functions, there is just one individual that is qualified to do this  function. But I am just a foreigner, and I need their help, so I didn't go there. This was eleven Friday morning, and all she could offer us was to come back after two oclock and talk to one of the higher ups. We were frustrated and disappointed, but still had plenty to do.

Now that we had her birth certificate and the court decree, we had to get these documents something called apostilled. Unless you are a diplomat or a lawyer(god forbid), you probably, like me don't know what an apostille is. So I asked, "What the heck is that?" Oksana explained that due to the Hague Convention on adoptions signed by most of the countries of the world, when adoptions occur internationally, the official documents must be further certified as correct, complete and official in order to be accepted in legal systems from one country to another, THAT is what an apostille is. So, this required yet another trip to the courthouse, but what makes this trip special is the wreck that occurred in the middle of the city, tying up traffic in all directions for an hour or more. We literally sat STILL for thirty minutes at a time. To the point that we Alec turned off the van for minutes at a time until we got cold and started the car to run the heater. Remember that it never got out of the teens all day yesterday. We sat in traffic through lunch, so we shared a chocolate bar that Oksana had, sortof like some folks marooned on a desert island, except we were marooned in a sea of cars in a subartcic traffic snarl. That consisted of our nourishment for the entire day.

After we got out of traffic and made it back to the courthouse, Oksana took the papers in to be official-ized, and Alec and I sat silently together in the car once again. This gives me plenty of time to think. I begin to think about Russian hats. That is something that I noticed right away when we landed in Moscow. Everybody, and I mean every body, has a hat. And they are all made out of fur. I even saw a couple of fur covered baseball caps on some tragically hip youngsters posing in the concourse. It's a regular hat parade here in Russia. There are caps, chapeaus, beanies, wraps, turbans, toboggans, and especially that famous Russian hat, the Ushanka. I don't know what the word means, but you've all seen one, those big fur covered hats Russian men wear. Round, flat on top, with big ear-flap thingys that tie on top. Heck, I even own one, made out of rabbit fur. I got it from some one long ago and wore it once on a dare at a ski resort.

These Ushankas are made out of every manner and species of animal fur, some black, probably mink or rabbit , some curly, like lambswool, and some ridiculously huge furry concoctions that look like a Mulamute decided it would be a good place to curl up and lie down. But I know why they wear them. Its because its COLD. A cold that is hard to describe to someone raised in the south. Unless you've traveled out of our region a long ways, and stayed there for a prolonged time you have no idea about the cold here. Read a Jack London novel, naked, in a deep freezer, and you begin to get an idea....So these hats everyone wears make sense.

I also understand mink coats now. They are warm. VERY warm, and offer some measure of comfort to women in this incredibly cold climate. You see them every where on the streets here, all styles and colors, hooded, or not, waist length, thigh length, or full length. All manner and classes of women have them. Some old ladies, some very young hip girls. All wrapped resolutely against the cold in some sort of dead animal. You know what the weird thing was? I didn't feel the least bit sorry for the minks, or the foxes, or the lambs that gave their lives for the coats. No more than I feel sorry for the beast or foul who was raised with a fate to rest upon my dinner plate. Its COLD here folks, and if a few animals have to die so that we might live and inhabit the earth, so be it. Let the PETA people try to stage a rally here and see what happens. They'd freeze their little cotton wearing patooties off. That's what would happen. Fur is not a statement here, not a status symbol, its a necessity.

Oksana got back to the van after a while, and we set off for the pass port office again, since it was now after two. Another drive across town, and through intersection after intersection of snarled traffic. We got there in one piece, frazzled and hungry, and went back to the surly gatekeeper at the passport place. She called in her superior, and Oksana plead our case. She reluctantly took us in, then made us wait for all the Russian nationals to pass through, before she would handle our application. I sat at the desk and signed my name again for the umpteenth time, and sat some more while Oksana talked. Later she told me that the official had scolded us for coming late in the day, and said we could not get the passport til Monday evening. Oksana said again how we were scheduled to leave that after noon and was there any way we could get it in the morning, then she threw in a little explanation of our trip over here and the delays and layovers,etc., and could she please, let us get it early in the morning. The pass port officer looked at me and said in Russian, "he looks so sad, why don't you go feed that man!". Then she said to come back at ten Monday morning, when the official comes in, and we will be in line to get our forms processed. I didn't realize that I looked so pitiful, but if that was the sum of my contribution for the day, then I guess I served my purpose.

So, it was three o'clock and mission accomplished. We drove back through town, dropped Oksana off at her car, then headed back to the supermarket to pick up milk, diapers, and baby food. I managed that mission all by myself, paid and then sat silent once more as Alec drove us towards the hotel. We encountered one more traffic snarl and was stopped still bumper to bumper in one last parting shot at the tail end of a long and exhausting day. I got to the hotel lobby at quarter to five that evening, starved, tired, but the proud new owner of a genuine little Russian bundle of Joy!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Just a short one today.Oksana will be running me around alone today taking care of administrative duties like posting the official paper releasing Anya into our custody, applying for the passport., validating some of the official papers we brought with us from the  US. All sorts of international law mumbo jumbo. Anyway, I'll be out most of the day. Just about everything will be done though after this, then we wait over the weekend for the next flight out of here!!Its hard to believe its been about two weeks here. We have settled into a very livable arrangement here and made new friends and even discovered a new game. Speed Scrabble- any of you heard of it?? Jamie and Colin, our friends from Nashvillle, introduced us to it a couple of days ago. We'll explain it next time we see you. It's kind of half boggle, half scrabble, played with out a board. We showed them Kings on the Corner in exchange. Fair trade, if you ask me.

Cant get enough of that smile...

Me and Cam playing in the snow. I'm the one freezing my tail off on the left. We haven't seen 20 degrees since last Friday!

Finally! I DO exist....

Lounging on the couch...

This is what its all about.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dinner Party

Like I had said earlier, Jamie and Colin got their little one home yesterday. They changed his name from Anton to Jake. They have been very lucky. He slept in Jamie's arms the first day, and is calm and quiet most of the time. Bath time is when they all seem to get squirrely. Every one with their child seems to report that bath time frightens the child. Don't know why, but seems to be the same throughout.

Leanna was inspired today, and decided to whip up a chicken soup from scratch today. Cooking here is an adventure in itself. Starting with the trip to the supermarket. Imagine everything on the labels being in another language. Frequently packaging is different too. Milk comes in little square boxes. Leanna thought she was buying milk in a bottle once and we still have the quart of buttermilk in the fridge to remind us everything is not as it seems in Russia. Mayonnaise and other condiments come in foil squeeze packets with a nozzle on top. Things like butter vs margarine are indistinguishable, as are canned goods and cuts of meat, unless the label pictures are particularly well drawn. Baby food, thankfully, always has a picture of the food stuff on it.

Anyway, the food we buy is a bit of a guess, and we don't have a fully stocked kitchen with spices and what not. Leanna worked her magic though, and came up with a delicious soup for us. We had heard that Jamie and Colin had gotten Jake, so we invited them down for dinner and a toast with the champagne that we had been saving. They came down and we really enjoyed the evening. Jake and Anya got along really well. Jake is very calm and Anya is always wanting attention and to be the life of the party. (Sound like any couple you know???) We had a blast watching them play. After dinner and our toast, they just got to play with the few toys we have on the floor of the room.They left after a while and Anya went right to bed. Just a few moments of crying and rocking this time.

We got a post on the blog from Amy Monroe, who is a sister in law of one of my partners. Her family adopted a little girl from Russia a few years ago and says that the rocking at bed time is common and has persisted for her child for quite some time. It's good to have so many others who have experience to draw from. Thanks to all of you for your comments and observations.

Cameron has been very diligent in keeping Anya's food straight and sorted by type for us. I'm afraid he may have some of my freakish organizational tendencies in him....

Nap time. Must be really tired from keeping up with Cam...

Play time... Lots of smiles always...

Here is Jake. He has beautiful blond hair and grey-green eyes.

This is Jamie and Colin on the floor with Jake and Anya. They are a great couple. Definitely some that we would hang around with if they lived near by.

Here is Leanna joining in the fun. Jake looks like he has super power xray vision in this picture, but I think he is perfectly normal.

Cameron was so wired to have some new people around, he was jumping around the room like a spider monkey after three red bulls. Here he is on top of the fridge after bouncing all around the room without touching the floor. The demonic, possessed look in his eyes is all Cameron.

Tracy, one of my employees noted that there were very few pictures of me with Anya in here. I am doing the writing and picture taking for the most part. I guess I was voted trip historian. ( I must've been in the bathroom when THAT vote was held.) Anyway, I will request that some one take some pictures of me as well to document that I was in fact a part of this wonderful, adventurous, amazing journey.

More to come....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Latest Addition

Cameron and I went out to play in the snow while Anya took her nap. Leanna said she went to sleep after just a couple of minutes. That's good news. After Cam and I were sufficiently frozen in the six below temperatures, we came in and got something to eat at the restaurant.

Afterward we came to the room and started watching a movie we borrowed from Jamie and Colin. We were interrupted by Oksana, who was down in the lobby and had some papers she had prepared for us. She had translated all the papers we need to get notarized before we got to the consulate in Moscow. She is so good at taking care of everything for us, and takes all the little stresses of the adoptive parents in stride. I guess if this si what you do for a living, it is no big deal. Sorta like a brain surgeon or a bomb defuser. Just another day at the office... She says we will go downtown tomorrow at two and get these things done.

The neat news was that Jamie and Colin went and got their son Jake from the orphanage. A phone call to them revealed that, and they have had a good first day with them. We still have the bottle of champagne we bought the first day here and we have been saving it to share with them when they got Jake, so looks like we have plans for that tonight.

We took a ton of photos of Anya to try to get the passport quality photo we need. She is cute and adorable, but not very prone to sitting still and looking straight into a camera. After about fifteen attempts, Oksana says she had enough to work with and we'd see tomorrow what she got. We can always stop at a photographer after the notary tomorrow.

More pics to download tomorrow...

BTW I'm having problems with my email account. Mediacom chose the WORST time to change and upgrade (supposedly) their format. So I may not get updates and emails, you have been sending. Just send me a message on FB and I'll get the notification there. Much Thanks!

Playing catch up

Yesterday, I finally succumbed to the cold I have been fighting for a few days. I felt like poo, so i didn't do much of anything. Which from this perspective, is really saying something, because even on a busy day, I don't do a whole hell of a lot around here. Remember Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray? Its kind of like that around here. Wake up, look out the window, its still snowy, sunny and cold. Look around, its still the same room decorated in the mauve and blue color scheme of an 80's nightmare flashback. Go down the hall, see the same residents and the same employees. Go to the restaurant, the same food on the menu, go to the White rabbit, play darts with the same one red dart we have available, try to play pool with the duplicate balls- two one balls and two thirteen balls (is there a message there??). Everything is just a repeat of the several days we have already spent cooped up here in the Vlad Motor Inn.

Do I sound like I have case of cabin fever??

Guilty as charged.

The bright spots though, are Anya and her progress and the remarkable benefits of modern technology.Yesterday, I finally got Skype working again, and we were able to speak with a big chunk of our family from Culllman who had gathered at Grandad and Grandmama's house. We talked and showed off Anya to them and it made things much brighter and reminded us that we will eventually be back home and surrounded by all of you, our friends and family.

Anya's progress is likewise remarkable. Mainly in the sleeping and bonding department. I have been the one putting her down for her naps and night time rests usually, because Cameron can't stand to hear her cry, so he wants momma to take him to the white rabbit then so he doesn't have to listen. At first, she would cry and rock for an hour, then fifteen minutes, and last night, it was only about three minutes before she plugged in her two first fingers on her left hand , started sucking, and nosedived for the pillows. She is also enjoying our hugs and kisses much more, and today was a couple of big milestones. She actually let Leanna cradle her in her arms while she fed her a sippy cup, and also Anya cried when she set her down. These are important, because even though it seems like she is regressing somewhat in her development and independence, those of you not in the know with adoptive kids, this is very important building blocks in the bonding process. We must revisit theses things which would normally occur in the first few months of child rearing to establish the care giver bonds that are necessary for further future development. Enough of the child development lesson, how about some pictures???

Here is Anya sleeping yesterday, she fell asleep with both feet dangling out of the crib and stayed that way for almost an hour.

These are just some of her playing. She loves to smile and laugh. Such a joy to see!

Cameron has been playing with her too, as only a six year old big brother can. Strengthening her core muscles!

He has also been very inventive without his toys around. Here he is "tran-kill-izing" animals with his corkscrew gun to fly back to the zoo. The next Steve Irwin.

This little fella is Ivan, the new son of Teddy and Jason (their real names are something we can't pronounce). They are a couple from Bulgaria, emigrated to the US and living on the west coast. They have had Ivan about as long as we have Anya, so it is good for us to compare notes and progress.

Now for a little Momma time on the bed. Much joy and love to share...

OK. Momma finally wants to read all that I have written, and your responses. I will sign out for now and may add more later.

Love to you all.....

Monday, December 14, 2009

For blog junkies only....

Today, we were trying to skype with my sister Mary. We have been having some trouble with the audio, but now I hope I have it worked out. Anyway, while we were messaging back and forth, she wanted me to "show her around" our room. I gave her a video tour, but then remembered that I had taken several pictures at the start. I'll try to organize them now and give you a 360 of the lay out of our digs.

Warning: This is not terribly interesting except to those of you who are hanging on our every word. We won't know and don't care if you want to stop reading now and go on with what I'm sure is you're busy and exciting life. For the rest of you (Bless your hearts) here goes.....

This our bed and the crib for the room. The bathroom is off to the left.

OK. Rotate 90 degrees and here is the nerve center of our room, the couch. Camerons bed in the background.

Standing next to Camerons bed with the window at my back, I am looking at our dining table ,and the kitchen.

Now standing at the door to the suite, looking toward the beds.

Thats pretty much it for now. If things are slow later, I'll finish the story of our trip over. I know I said we'd go out for passport pictures today, but that was nixed by Oksana. She said it was too cold to take Anya out. I guess we'll take it day by day. Thats kind of hard on me, since I am an organization and planning freak, but its good therapy for me too.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Sign up for Skype. Lurk online late in the afternoon or early evening. If I see your'e logged on, we'll chat...
Talk to you soon.

Day Three

Another quiet day of playing and bonding. Anya woke up in a good mood and ready to play. She is more and more comfortable around us and is starting to like to be held and kissed. That makes Leanna so happy. We are kind of stuck in the hotel because no businesses are open on Sunday. Cameron wanted to go out and try out his snow suit so we bundled up and he and I went out for an hour or so.

The meeting room upstairs called the White Rabbit, is a lifesaver. It gives us someplace else besides the lobby and our room to go, and we meet and hang out with other families there. There is a TV, a pool table, and a dart board in there, plus you can call down and order food from the restaurant to be brought up.

The first night, we met Jamie and Colin. Last night we had dinner with them. They are interesting people. He was a football coach, now hes a drug rep while he is working on a book. She is mother of three, a marathoner, and works as a school teacher. They have adopted Jake, a two year old, but they cant get him from the orphanage until this Wednesday. It's neat to hear all the other families stories and their journeys to bring them here.

We will take more pictures of everyone and upload them in time for your reading tomorrow.

Thanks to all of you who have commented so far. We are enjoying your response and support.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Day Two

Not a lot to report today. We spent a full day getting to know one another. Everything that we've found out is very much along the lines of what we were told to expect from a child raised in an orphanage. So no shocks or surprises. That is good. Her diaper rash is mostly gone thanks to the "nappy rash creme" we found in the store. (Boudreaux's Butt Paste is not available here for some reason). She walks very well and she feeds herself with a spoon and drinks from a cup or bottle with little spillage. She is very thin (18Kgs right now) and has skinny little legs, but Leanna's cooking will straighten that out quickly. We think she will have a small frame though, sort of like her cousin Mary-Claire. Her hair is very fine and light brownish with auburn highlights, she has chocolate brown eyes and obviously, a very fair complexion.

She loves to laugh and smile and cries only when she falls down or is put to bed. She is beginning already to enjoy being held and snuggled. This pleases us all greatly since snuggling up on the couch in the evening is one of our favorite family times.

Her diet is delayed. She has a full complement of teeth, but is not used to solid foods, and manages pureed foods or cereals much better. We have been instructed to keep her diet unchanged until we get her home and can experiment a little at a time since we know very little about her possible allergies and such.

Play wise she likes to walk to you and be picked up, but then she wants right down to move on to the next person. We have some toys here but her favorites thus far have been one of Momma's bracelets and her toothbrush. (definitely trying to impress me, I think) They must brush their teeth regularly, since it took no coercing to get her to open her mouth and let us brush them even the first night.

Today is another day of rest and learning. We have met another couple adopting a little boy. They are Colin and Jamie, and their little boy will get to come home next Wednesday. They have invited us to dinner with them tonight, so we look forward to exchanging more stories.