Monday, December 29, 2008

A Busy-ish Week

It's hard to believe that Christmas has come and gone and 2009 is just around the corner. For really not accomplishing that much, it's been a busy week.

Once again, the weather in Michigan has not been "shy". It's been 35 degrees + the last couple days and the ground cover of snow is basically gone. Yes, what was once over a foot and a half, is now gone. All that is left are the piles from snowplows. Of course this drastic temperature drop was accompanied by MAJOR fog to the point that I couldn't see much past the end of my driveway all day on Saturday. And all the melting has caused MAJOR floods in the area. With the ground still frozen, there is no place for the water to go. My mother's "river porch" was an unfortunate victim of these floods. What was once a great hangout, covered patio right on the river is collapsed. Hopefully it can be saved or somewhat salvaged in the spring. Also, if you look in the distance of the picture, you'll see that the river is up to the top of the bridge over the street. Yipes!

So besides flooding and collapsed porches, Saturday was "Grace-aversary". My little Gracie has been with us for one year. Two days after Christmas last year I went to the "bad shelter" in the county (hint: it's NOT a no-kill shelter) and brought her home. She was spoiled this year with tuna and new kitty toys.

Finally, today is my Gramma's 85th Birthday! Happy Birthday Gram! We're headed out to dinner to help her celebrate tonight at our local hot spot (ha!).

Nothing from Russia yet... still waiting on pins and needles, but it may be a long wait with their "holiday" shut down happening this week through Jan 12th.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!!

I can't believe the holidays are upon us. Merry Christmas to you all. It's been a decent week... we've made not only our plan at work, but we made our stretch target - which is wonderful news. The payouts are very worth it ;) And to top it off, I got a small update from Lorien @ my agency -- the MAGIC FORM HAS ARRIVED!! Santa apparently delivered it from Moscow within the last couple days (or would that be the Russian version, Father Frost?) and it will be off to court this week. Could there be a light at the end of this tunnel??

Finally, I want to pass along a blog post from Karyn that truly touched my heart this morning. In my emotional state (holidays, missing my beloved Gramma and holding out for word about my Little T) it made me cry this morning, but it's a beautiful message. Please find a second to read it, http://tiger-kar.blogspot.com/. (My final Christmas wish is that someone will teach me how to add a link with just a word....

Merry Christmas Everyone!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Weather Outside is Frightful

It's not even officially winter yet, and we've had our 4th major snowfall of the year! School was called off today around most of the area for what should have been the kids last day of school before the holidays. According to my neighbor, it started snowing around 5:30am. It didn't stop until about 5:30pm and the result was over a foot of snow!

I know these aren't the most earth-shatteringly wonderful pictures, but I was limited to my angles in the snow...

Small update, it's over a foot for sure! While these pictures were updating, my cousin Gary and his family stopped by in his Ford F-250 with giant snowplow on the front. Thank you Ginthers! My usual crew hadn't been through yet, I am sure they are REALLY busy today, and this is the kind of snow that can break snowplows. I took the opportunity to shovel the walk above, and most of the snow was over my knees. It's gorgeous, though, and we have A LOT of it. Looks like it will be a WHITE CHRISTMAS for sure!! (More flakes are due Sunday and possibly Christmas Eve as well!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

This Crazy Week

It's been a crazy busy week so far, and it's only Wednesday!

1) Shower pictures. As promised, Suzy and Jenny delivered some great shower pictures. Here's a quick peek at the cake and my beautiful group of friends:
Another cool cake - and if you can see the little bears behind it, they all held hearts that said USA. Suzy saved me one for Little T -- so she'll get her own USA bear!

I know I have bragged about my family and friends before, but I really do have a great group of "ladies". Of the 8 ladies there this weekend, I have known everyone but Miss Sarah for over 18 years. We still get together at least once a year and it's really like no time has passed at all. Thanks ladies, for a great weekend and your great friendship.

2) The weather "round here has been NUTS! Sunday it was warm and kept getting warmer. Sunday night and early Monday morning we lost almost ALL of our snow. Over the day on Monday, the temperature dropped drastically - basically 35-40 degrees. My mom and I both live on the Black River in Croswell - about 2 blocks apart. She's got a great view as the river is closer to her house than mine. She called my house around 9pm on Monday night saying that there were "crazy" things happening on the river. I went down there to see giant, huge pieces of ice whizzing down the water, almost like it was spring. With the return of the COLD again Monday night and Tuesday, all the chunks froze up, making a really crazy looking river. I am thinking that the snow machines on the river this winter will have a rough ride.


3) High noon today: Today at noon ET is our last order date at work in order to guarantee delivery before the end of the year, so we've had a huge push to "make our sales number" the last couple weeks. It's been exhausting - so I am counting down to the big deadline. The good news is, I made my number! Now, I just need each of you (especially those of you in Michigan!!) to go to your local store and buy some Nesquik (the ready to drink kind) or some Coffee mate (liquid kind)!!

One week until Christmas!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Small Update - Neither Good, Nor Bad

I heard from my agency today. Apparently our agency contacts in Vladivostok are waiting on a final document for Little T, the one that releases her from the national database. This paper has to come all the way from Moscow via Russian snail mail and reach Vladivostok. I am not sure what's taking so long since I've been back since 10/25, but alas it is. They thought they'd receive the paperwork last week but they did not, so hopefully any day now. From there, her dossier and my dossier go to court together.

So that's the big kicker. My paperwork hasn't even gone to court yet. I thought it would have been there two weeks ago. Argh!!!

I realize this news is 100 times better than bad news, but the waiting... well, you can all imagine. It's KILLER. Happy Monday all.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

You're Too Much Kar!!

What a wonderful weekend! I have a wonderful group of friends from HIGH SCHOOL that still keeps in touch. Yes! I am that young! Hahahaha - actually we had our 20 Year Class Reunion this past summer, but it's that great of a group. Each year we typically try to get together twice, sometimes we only make it together once, but usually one of those gatherings involves the holidays and a shopping trip. This year's gathering was a shower for Little T and then an afternoon of shopping at a great mall. Pictures to follow when I get a chance to hit up my wonderful (SCARY!!) friend Suzy or Jenny to send me some pictures, because like the brainiac I am, I left my house without a camera. (Quick explanation: Suzy is the LEAST scariest person I know, but one of our good friends, Krista, couldn't make it this weekend as she's been really sick and called me to tell me she couldn't make it because I was "less scary than Suzy" - which I said was the funniest thing I had EVER heard!)

So I returned to a full in box and and handful of blog posts to read. I was excited to see that Ilya's mommy, Kar (http://tiger-kar.blogspot.com/) had an update, as he's such a cutie, I love hearing what he's up to. Imagine my surprise when I see she's passed along a Kreative Blogger Award to me!! Thanks Kar! That's a compliment coming from you!! :) So here's the rules...

List six things that make you happy. Pass the award along to six more bloggers. Do not give the typical answers and go for the less obvious, as you all know that family, friends, God, etc would be on the list.

1) A fuzzy nose and a furry face. I think a love of pets is genetic in my family. My Gramma Repp started it, she was always trying to feed a stray and find it a home. She's STILL doing it today! On my dad's side, I think almost every one of his siblings (7 kids total!) have pets. One Aunt fosters kitties (thankfully she does this in California, or I'd end up adopting them all!) and a cousin is a VET! At the end of the day, there is nothing better than a kitty cuddled up on my lap while I catch up with a TV show, etc. They always make me smile.

2) The "Big 3 C's" of sweets: My weakness? Candy, Cakes, Cookies. UGH. Is there anything better in the sweet department? Sugar cookies with thick frosting could make me weak in the knees.

3) Hockey Games: I sit here in my "Red Wings" office. The walls are red, Red Wings materials hang on the walls, and player bobble heads are on the top shelf of my desk. Hard to top a good hockey game! The excitement, the cool air and... yes, the fights! I live close to Canada -- you have to let me have this one.

4) Christmas: I know this is typical this time of year... but I truly LOVE this season. It's not the commercial part, or the presents really (although I LOVE the challenge of finding the perfect present for someone I care about), but it's more the FEELING in the air. That neighborly spirit when people are just different, happy. The attitude that listening to music gives you. The smile just creeps on my face and I don't even know it.

5) Traditions. I have mentioned before that I am a creature of habit. I LOVE my traditions. And I've been known to pout when I can't fulfill them! Change can be fun and exciting sometimes, but I love traditions.

And finally...6) Cheese fondue. Yummmmm - such a wonderful 70's food. Melty cheese, how can you go wrong?

Now it's my turn to nominate some award winners...

1) Charlotte & Sue: http://sueandcharlotte.blogspot.com/ Their blog is on private for a little bit during a job search... so you'll just have to trust me, they are HYSTERICAL.

2) Angie: http://tofindadaughter.blogspot.com/

3) Stephen & Sara: http://theroadtomax.blogspot.com/

4) Rick & Julie: http://mcguirkfamily.blogspot.com/

5) Sarah: http://ourrussianchildren.blogspot.com/

6) And last but not least Barb: http://holmsweethomeblog.blogspot.com/


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lost: One Giant Beast Kitty (temporarily!)

This past Sunday when I woke up, there was something missing in my bed. Typically, I wake up to a giant 25 lb cat at my head to the left (Roo), and a sweet, VERY hungry calico (Gracie)crawling on me the minute she detects me stirring. Murphy, the king of the house, sleeps in the living room as our guard. This is our normal routine. But on this day, there was no giant 25lb beast in the bed.

This would probably not freak anyone normal out. However, I, am NOT normal! My kitties (and myself) are creatures of routine. Variances from said routine are not typical. I generally can tell you where Roo is 24 hours a day, because he doesn't usually stray to far from me. He's my total lover boy.

So I figured I'd get up and he'd join Gracie and I in the kitchen for breakfast. Hmmm no Roo. He wasn't in the living room with Murphy, and there seemed to be no sign of him. I started to get a little nervous. I know for me to be nervous seems a little strange to 90% of the world. I know. But you see, a similar event occurred years ago with my sweet (late) Nougat one morning. I couldn't locate him and eventually found him about 20 minutes of searching, only after detecting his pitiful cry from underneath my futon in the office. He had torn his ACL sometime over the night and basically couldn't walk.

I started on the search to locate the beast, much to Gracie's dismay (there was no food being served during this time because of said search!). Gracie and I searched high and low, behind couches, in the basement, under stairs, under the aforementioned futon, under my bed... etc. After a second search of the basement, I headed back to the stairs REALLY nervous this time. There he was sitting, waiting for me at the top of the stairs looking like "What's all this fuss about?". Needless to say, I was relieved, but intrigued about his obvious new hiding spot. He disappeared later that day as well to this new location.

Finally on Monday morning, I set out to trail him on the search for this new secret spot. I mentioned in an earlier post that in an effort to be organized this past weekend, I packed up all the gifts for trip #2 to Russia into a new BIGGER suitcase. The old suitcase I pushed under Little T's crib to get out of the way. Apparently there is just enough room for a 25 lb cat to go under the crib and up into the not closed suitcase. A perfect hiding spot - especially when you add the heating vent that is nearby!! I am surprised Gracie hasn't joined him yet. Here's "baby" Roo as he's usually called in his new warm spot...

Monday, December 8, 2008

There's a Stocking Missing on the Mantle

I've been posting a lot lately... this is true. Honestly, I think it's to get my mind off the wait! It's getting to the time when everyone is starting to ask "Have you heard anything yet?" - which is a totally natural question. The trouble is -- LOL -- I haven't! And it's beginning to drive me batty.

Not that I expected to hear something just yet -- but I'd like to hear anything. I'd like to hear, "she's ok, and all is well." I'd like to hear, "your paperwork has been received and it's being processed" -or- "your paperwork has been received and we need one more additional document". Something. ANYTHING! There is a family visiting their new son on trip #1 in Artem this week, so I am completely living vicariously through their posts of what's happening! http://overstreetjourney.blogspot.com/
Yes, I am still trying to keep busy. The house is fully decorated inside now, but I think with the snow, this is NOT my year for outside decorations. We've gotten more snow now - and there's a prediction that even more will come tonight! I didn't get Little T any "Christmas presents" this year, partially because I knew that we wouldn't be home before and and also because having never experienced "presents" really before, I thought it might overwhelm her as well. She also doesn't have a stocking hung on the mantle yet... part of me still goes back to being afraid to "jinx" something. Here's a shot of the rest of our stockings... me, Murphy, Roo and Gracie's.


I am still working on lots of little projects to fill the time. I bought a new giant suitcase for trip #2 and did a dry run of packing all the gifts and Little T clothes to see if it would fit. Good news is that it will, I am just unsure of the weight! I may have to take it up to my friends at the post office to see if their giant scale can measure it for me!!

I just miss her so much and can't wait to have her home. Ahhhhh, it MUST be Monday!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The State of My State

I typically shy away from "group" political (and other volatile) discussions. While I appreciate that everyone has their own opinion, I REALLY dislike it when people push their opinions on other people. So much so that I had to delete a girl I knew in college from my face book contact because her constant propaganda posts there made my blood boil! But I digress...

I live in Michigan. The Great Lakes State, the Mitten (hand geography lesson later), home of ... the Big 3. While I don't personally work for the auto industry and have no connection to them financially what so ever, I know A LOT of people in this state and others that are very closely related to it. And I have to admit, I am scared.

I'll just come out and say it - it is my personal belief that the Big 3 should get some form of support from the government. However, I have a lot feelings/thoughts/emotions behind that. I am not a black/white or right/wrong kind of girl. Never have been, probably never will be. There is a lot of grey area in my world.

So while I believe my the Big 3 should get some help, do I think they deserve it? Probably not. I'll admit that they had lagged behind some of the "foreign" auto makers in design and technology. I think they have made strides in this area lately, but is it too little, too late? Could be.

Did they poorly manage their companies for years to cause the state of domestic auto industry to be where it is now? Surely. For years I have watched on the news while jobs are eliminated and shipped elsewhere, local assembly plants are closed and boarded up, all the while the executives maintain their huge, massive salaries and bonuses. One of the problems we have overall in the US is that we don't want to pay a lot for the goods and services that we purchase, but we want to be paid a lot for the goods and services we produce. You can't have it both ways, I know. This is the dilemma of business.

Do I think another big problem of the industry is the power of the unions? Resounding YES. I don't blame people for wanting job security. But it's time to wake up and smell the 21st Century. There aren't many people I know that get free health care anymore or have guaranteed 90% of pay when laid off. It's just not realistic. I am not saying that all unions are bad. Not by a long shot. I think the UAW served it's purpose for a long time and likely did some good. However, when almost a third of a GM car's costs are in benefits for the employees, it's time to stand back and look at the full picture.

With all that I have said, (if you're still even reading and haven't tuned out!) you're probably wondering: "Amy? Sounds like you are AGAINST this bridge-loan to the Big 3". (HA got ya, I called it what it should be called, a bridge loan NOT a bail out, as they have said they'll pay it back) I guess it does rather sound like it. But the truth is, I am not. There are just too many people in this state and more importantly this country whose lively hood is somehow linked to the auto-industry. It's not just the factory worker and the dealerships. It's insurance companies, parts companies (man, there is a LOT of these people!), and other suppliers. The trickle down here is unbelievable.

I guess I'm also tired of our country giving out money in the form of aid to everyone BUT us. Let me clarify there. I am NOT saying that I don't feel that we shouldn't help in other areas of the world. That's what a global super-power does. However, when it comes at the expense of our own people, that's not right. Sometimes you need to clean up your own back-yard before you can inspect how clean others yards are.

Do I want to pay more taxes? NO! Do I think some major re-structuring is in order? YES! But I just think it's the right thing to do. How do you feel? Just curious -- and again, I'll totally respect your beliefs :)

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Kickin New Toy Room

BEFORE:

AFTER:

Little T got a rocking new toy room today. Not that she knows it -- but I do! This former area of my basement (giant, huge, under my whole house basement) was woefully neglected since I am not a workbench kind of gal. It was dirty and run-down, although you really can't tell in the before picture just how bad it was. Imagine 5 layers of dust and guck starting from back somewhere in the 1970s.

I had a painter come in and paint the whole space. I am SO glad I had a professional do it! I could have handled it because I really don't mind painting - but Nick did a wonderful job. While paint was drying he tucked wires into the ceiling, cleaned out the cabinets, and also put down the carpet I bought. So much nicer than what I would have accomplished. I moved some of her toys down there, but as you can see, it's still rather empty. That's just fine! I have a feeling it will fill up in time with her around!! Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Checking In With Vladivostok Friends

I got an email this morning from Phyllis, a new mom of Victoriya, who I met in Seoul while waiting for our plane to Vladivostok. Phyllis's husband Ed was the recipient of the Sea Bass (head) dinner that you may remember fondly (or not so fondly) from trip #1.

Phyllis and Ed were on their second trip (aka court and pick up!!) while I was there for trip #1. She said everyone is safe and sound and Victoriya had a great first Thanksgiving with her new family and friends.

In other news, Victoriya's future potential boyfriend, Bradyn, http://findingrfamilee.blogspot.com/ is also home and doing well. Apparently he LOVED his first Thanksgiving too!

For any of you future Vladivostok families, I can't say enough about the experience at the Vlad Motor Inn. Having other families around you experience the same roller coaster ride was so much help. Each of the people I met there will each hold their own special place in my heart. Here is a "family" picture that Phyllis sent over this AM. She and Ed are missing from the picture - so it's not 100% complete... but it's all we have!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Looks a little different 'round here, eh? I know, I know, it's about time! Thanks to those of you who offered to help me "Pimp my blog" - and I meant to take someone up on it, but... I actually figured it out myself. Ok ok, I just tried a different background website -- thanks to Julie and Rick from my hometown, for the steal! (It was linked on theirs!) I am even MORE impressed with myself that my little counter is back. I temporarily lost it in the re-decorating around here, and was able to figure out how to get it back - without loosing the visitor count. I love seeing where everyone is coming from...

So not only did I decorate the house for Christmas, AND re-do the blog... the outdoors around my house got a little change as well. If you have seen a national weather cast recently, you've probably seen that the "Great Lakes" area was destined for some snow. Well -- we got it! Lots of the schools around here even had a snow day yesterday. It literally snowed from about 2pm on Sunday until late last night. Here's the result:

Hey Angie: show these pictures to the boys! I love the snow now, but come mid-February, I'll be MORE than ready for it to go away. More changes later!

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's Beginning to Look A lot Like Christmas...

I can't believe it's December, already! This weekend, instead of braving the crowds, I finished getting my house all decorated. Both trees are now decorated... and here is a quick look at them! First the living room - hard to tell but this is the "Santa" tree, and the second tree is the "catch all" tree out in the sunroom.


If you look under the Santa tree, you'll see that Miss Gracie has found a nice napping spot. All 3 have taken their turns under the tree. Murphy is very happy there currently this afternoon. He has requested that his picture be included as well. Also, he'd like it on the record that he did NOT disturb the ornament on the floor. It must have been Roo or Gracie.


Happy December, from Amy, Murphy, Roo & Gracie!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Traditions

Happy Black Friday everyone! I hope that you all had a marvelous Thanksgiving. I know I did! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, partially because of my families tradition. Traditions are a BIG thing for me. I am a sentimental fool - so I love my traditions. The older the better! And honestly, I am very disappointed when traditions are strayed from. When other people choose not to par-take in a given tradition for a year (or more) I personally don't understand it. Just my neuroses kicking in once again! I think to myself "how do they not see how important this is?" But again, I do know, somewhere in the deep depths of my brain that just because something is important to me doesn't mean it has the same meaning to someone else.

So in my big, crazy family, the Thanksgiving tradition is a LONG standing one. I hear my aunts talked the same tradition back when they were little ones. My Grandpa Clarkson (mom's dad) was one of SEVEN boys! No girls (poor Great-Gramma Clarkson!!). Five of my Great-Uncles are still with us, but ALL SEVEN families still gather every year for Thanksgiving. Now, I ask you, how can you top that? Our traditional gathering is about 70 people. On a big year, we can push 100.

You're probably wondering who has a house that can hold 70-100 people. Nyet! We actually have our Thanksgiving at an American Legion Hall. A few years back we got smart and started catering the turkey, mashed potatoes (real, of course), stuffing and gravy. Everything else is "potluck" style. So you can imagine, on average there are 5 different types of cranberry dishes, 5 different types of sweet potatoes, etc. This year, we had two FULL tables of desserts. Many varieties of pumpkin pies/breads/rolls and then lots of non-traditional desserts as well. Lemon Meringue is a family FAVORITE, yes, even on Thanksgiving. I seriously wonder if it's partially genetic. Do people of the same blood crave some of the same foods?

I literally can only remember about 2 years in my life when I didn't participate in this tradition. One year I went to Las Vegas - which was a BLAST, as Vegas always is, but I did miss my tradition. Every couple years there is a new batch of little ones running around causing havoc and generally having a great time with cousins, 2nd cousins and most likely at this stage 3rd cousins! I can't wait for Little T to be part of that crowd next year. She'll have blast.

So tell me about your Thanksgiving. How was it? Still in Turkey coma? Anything out of the ordinary that you do? Now back to decorating. Pictures to come later!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Showered With Love

This Saturday my family (and Rhonda, who is pretty much family as well), had a baby shower for me. Since I have never been married and have no other kids, this was a first for me. I have to say, while it was fun - it was weird being "on display". Thankfully, I have a very cool group of family and friends, so it was painless!

Some "shower highlights" include:
1) Rhonda's corsage: My Gramma Repp was unable to make it, a corsage had been ordered for me, my mom and my gramma. So my mother decided that Rhonda was the next closest thing to a gramma since she had met Tatiana. While I teased Rhonda that apparently my family was trying to tell her that she was OLD, it really meant that she's FAMILY. And she's stuck with us -- haha! Even though I am an "only child", Tatiana will have a line up of "aunties" to help her through life, including Aunt Rhonda, Aunt Jenni and Aunt Carrie - the new Big 3 of Michigan (sorry auto-workers), these are the Big 3 now! And that's just where the list STARTS with her Aunties!

2) The CAKE! My cousin Gary's wife Rena' is VERY talented. One of her big talents is in the kitchen, she's a delicious cook and can do wonders baking. She was tapped to make the cake - a stressful job for any shower! WOW. Rena' out-did herself. See for yourself:

Seriously - have you ever seen matroska dolls made out of CAKE? Yup - they are cake too. And to top it all off, half of the cake was banana cake -- one of my favorites!!!

3) My Girlies: Again being an only child, I have no nieces, but I do have "faux-nieces" (my cousins kids) and most of them were there this weekend. I had an un-wrapping crew - helpers to help me un-wrap all my presents. I was a little afraid the Princess blanket wouldn't make it out of the building without being stolen! And this isn't even all of "the crew"!!! (Don't miss Riley in the bottom right corner!)

Hopefully, a fun time was had by all. Since it's Thanksgiving week, it's only appropriate for me to say how thankful I am for all my family and friends. Enjoy the holiday!





Sunday, November 16, 2008

To Do Lists

I have to say this is been a rather productive weekend. Although to the untrained eye, it may not look like I have done much this weekend, I have actually accomplished quite a bit. I've decided I need little projects each weekend to help make the time go by. Even though I know that I probably won't be able to go back to get Little T until January, that doesn't make the waiting any easier! So each weekend, I'll bite off a little job around the house to make the time pass.

This weekend was all around cleaning/straightening weekend. Friends and neighbors have given me gently used toys for Little T - and I have purchased some toys at Mom 2 Mom sales. Which makes me realize that I really don't have a great area for her toys. I hope to turn one end of the basement into her play area. However that will take a paint job that is MORE than I wish to bite off, so I am debating calling the pro that did the outside of my house when I moved in. The other major task for this weekend breaks every holiday rule in my rule book. Yes, I did it. I put up the Christmas trees - MINUS ornaments.

For those of you who haven't experienced a Christmas with me (yet!), I am a decorating FOOL. I have a whole storage room in the basement full of boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations. I also have 2 full sized Christmas trees and 1 baby Christmas tree. The first full sized tree goes in my living room - and is a Santa tree. All ornaments on it are Santa - with the exception of a few red and silver balls. The other full sized tree is the catch all tree -- ornaments from when I was little, ornaments I have collected - anything NOT Santa!! The baby tree is a red, white and blue theme - all patriotic ornaments.


All this decorating can be quite exhausting. My rule has always been no decorating until the weekend of Thanksgiving. Last year, I think I put the trees up (no ornaments) the weekend before Thanksgiving, but next weekend is my first baby shower. So, see? I had to do it this weekend! Plus it falls into my category of things to do to make the time go by. My last justification reason is Gracie. My sweet little calico came to live with us last year on 12/27. She was very overwhelmed when she first got here, so while the trees were still up, I truly don't know what her reaction will be to them. She doesn't seem like a climber traditionally, but her little jaunt outside this summer didn't exactly prove that statement to be 100% true. Trees up, but no ornaments will give her some time to get used to this whole idea!!


Finally, I'll leave you in my tradition of late, another picture from Vladivostok. As I understand, this a memorial to Nikolai II - a former Russian Duma (president? I think). Either way, it's gorgeous!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Court Documents? CHECK!

As another week draws close, one more milestone can be checked off. Last week I sent a majority of my court documents off to my agency for arrival this Monday. While they were in process and getting ready to be sent to Vladivostok, my final document arrived - State Police Clearance is here! So today I rushed to get it apostilled and overnighted it to meet up with the rest of my paperwork. Everything should be together tomorrow and hopefully be sent on it's merry way to Russia.


In keeping with my theme of uploading different pictures from my trip - today's picture is of the little "convenience stores" that dot the side of the road. Imagine the cross between what we'd call a newspaper stand and a kiosk convenience store. They were all over the place - some specializing in breads, some in snacks and some containing meat. Yes meat. Very handy - but very different! I love how our cultures are so similar in some ways, and in others, so different!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday, Monday

Happy Monday, all. In a quest to "update" and jazz up my blog today, I accidentally deleted all the "blogs I follow" -- I tried to recreate it, but if yours is usually there and now it's not, please tell me! I'll go through withdrawls!

So as you've probably noticed, there is no new "jazz" to the blog either. I must be horribly html challenged. I swear I followed all the directions to get a nice pretty new pink background in honor of Little T -- but it just didn't work. Maybe some nice soul will take pity on me and help me! I need jazz... I am not a furniture re-arranger. You know -- there are people who love the constant change and re-arrange their furniture often. I wish I was. I do like the change -- but I just don't do it. Especially in these high tech days, when disrupting TV etc. cords could leave me without Grey's Anatomy - or worse yet, this week's new season of Top Chef! So instead of furniture re-arranging, I think I need to freshen up the blog...
In other world news, you may have read about the Russian submarine tragedy over the weekend. It particularly caught my attention as having traveled to Vladivostok, I knew that likely any Russian sub was bound to or from that port. Sure enough - the submarine was headed back to Vladivostok. Sad news. In their honor, I've chosen as my picture of the day from Vladivostok, part of the WWII Naval Memorial. It's a beautiful Memorial overlooking the Sea of Japan. Very moving as all War Memorials typically are. Coincidentally, this is very fitting as tomorrow is Veteran's Day here in the United States. A huge thanks to all our former and current troops.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Cabbage House

I am taking a small break while watching the "magic map" of who will be our next President. May the best candidate win. Seriously, I hope that is the result. Whoever is the choice, I hope that the next 4 years in the United States are glorious ones! After all, I'll have a daughter to share them with!

So I have decided to continue to share bits and pieces of my Vladivostok trip over the next couple weeks. Just little bits here and there. I know that I personally love seeing the sights of other people's trip, but all at once and my little pea-brain starts to tune out....

Here's another gem from the trip. Rhonda and I started calling it "The Cabbage House". Honestly, there were more than 1 of these cabbage houses. Once you get "out of the city" you see these cottages that are painted the most wonderfully fun colors. Sometimes the paint is fading, but that just adds to the character. Many of the houses had large gardens out back and they would sell the fruits (or veggies) of their labor on the road. Cabbage was VERY popular. Unfortunately, Rhonda did NOT get to sample the cabbage soup (shi) that she had her heart set on -- perhaps next trip!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What I Miss About Russia...

Can it be Thursday, already? The week has flown by - which is good as I prepare for my countdown to get a court date.

I have found it amazingly hard to get used to whole normal sleeping. A 15 hour time difference really stinks on the way home! I think I adjusted more quickly over there because I was so excited about everything that was happening and my 2nd day there was an emotional overload. That will help you sleep for sure!
There were so many big events last week, it's hard to pin-point all the highlights, but here is a quick list of things I miss about Russia:
1) Meals with the "family": Most of the times we would eat breakfast and dinner in the Vlad Inn with the other adoptive families on their journey. Because everyone is going through the same experiences, the compassion is endless. We'd sit for hours - and not just because we had nothing else to do - and laugh at each other's stories. On one particular enchanting evening, one of the pre-adoptive fathers, Ed, ordered the "Sea Bass" from the menu. I can't help but sharing what arrived. Now I am NOT a vegetarian, but it's rather hard to eat something when it's staring at you...

2) Fireworks: Rhonda and I had heard rumors of nightly "gunshot" sounds from around the hotel. We hadn't heard it, so it really didn't concern us; until one night at dinner. The sounds of two rounds of gun shots were heard for sure. After returning to our room and starting to fall asleep, both Rhonda and I woke up to the sounds of ... more gunshots. Being the stealth creeper that she is, Rhonda crawled to the window to see what was going on. These shots sounded close! And she didn't to get shot through the window. Imagine our surprise to find out that it was only fireworks! And nice ones at that! We aren't sure what the celebration was, perhaps just our being in their city was celebration enough!

3) Beautiful scenery: Being a stone's throw from the Sea of Japan has it's highlights! Other than almost loosing Rhonda's camera under a train, we had a great jaunt down to the beach. My other favorite piece of Russian scenery - the gorgeous Cathedrals. They are timeless and classic and make you think of Russia instantly when you see them. Here is one for your viewing pleasure...


4) And finally, of course.... Little Tatiana. I wish I could post one of the 258 pictures Rhonda took of her while we were there... but alas, you'll have to wait until January. With the holidays, it looks like we'll be targeting a January return for court. It could happen before Christmas, but looks like January. Keep your fingers crossed!

Monday, October 27, 2008

By Popular Demand...

Didn't think you'd hear from me so soon, did you? Little Tatiana's admiring fans demand some answers... so I don't want to risk a fiery hoard at my door...

She's a petite little thing. Since she was born a month premature, she's small for her age. I think she's also a smaller framed girl. Thankfully for her sake, she won't inherit the Clarkson curse - long torso, short legs.

On her birthday, her caregivers had put her in an outfit that I brought as part of the donations. It was a 12 month outfit and it fit her well. So likely when she gets home, she'll be between a 12 - 18 month size. My friends who have adopted also mention that typically when the little ones get home, they have a growth spurt after adjusting to the nutritional benefits of products here.

So that's the latest update. I went back to work today - catching up on the weeks missed emails and gossip. For some reason it has been harder coming home and getting adjusted to the time, than it was when I got there. Maybe because I was so excited and jumped into everything right away. Hope you are all well. Thanks for the love and support!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

There's No Place Like Home...

After a whirlwind trip and the Saturday that would never end... I am safe at home! Rhonda and I left the Vlad Motor Inn at 1:30pm on Saturday 10/25 - Vladivostok time. Since they are 15 hours ahead of Michigan - that's 10:30pm Friday night at home!

The trip was not without it's small hiccups. At the super modern (sarcasm) Vlad airport, there was a "system problem" (all we could get given the language barrier) and Rhonda's boarding pass wouldn't print. They hand wrote her a boarding pass for that leg of the flight and told her to see an agent in Seoul. (However, to add to the mystery, all of the bags were able to be checked under her name!)

Upon arrival in Seoul, we were once again pushed and shoved (and literally CLIMBED over) on the plane by our Russian comrades. That was probably the most odd thing about the trip. I had been warned about this by the fabulous Jesse and Jason (who should, by the way, write a book on travel tips to Vlad as they nailed EVERYTHING!), but it's the most offsetting thing to actually experience. We made it off the plane and were ready to start locating our next gate, when we realized that time was not on our side. We had to do the proverbial OJ Simpson through the airport (and I don't mean holding someone up at gunpoint!) to get to our next gate, which we decided was far enough away to be in Japan, not Korea. We made it in time to get Rhonda's new boarding passes and collapse in our seats.

Touching down in Atlanta was a welcome sight. We dined at TGI Fridays (food!), and the bathrooms actually had TP (more on that later). At the gate, we splurged for the $75 upgrade to 1st class, which turned out to be so worth the money. As we started heading out the runway in Atlanta, we had not quite reached full speeds yet (but almost), when suddenly the captain slammed on the brakes and pulled off the runway. Apparently some warning indicators had turned on, and they wanted to check it out. Thanks Delta! It turned out to be nothing, and while the delay was annoying, it's good to be home safely.

Some general musings from Vladivostok:
1) The city is very cool. Being right on the Sea of Japan, the bay views are amazing. It was foggy there many mornings, although we weren't so sure that some of that wasn't pollution. No EPA there...
For anyone who has traveled in Europe, the city could look like almost any major European city. Lots of apartment buildings that look old and run-down on the outside, but are likely kept up well inside. They max every inch of space!
2) Traffic Devices... or the lack there of! We saw a total of about 4 traffic signals in the downtown area. Now this is a city of 700,000+, not 7000. No stop signs, etc. Road lanes, sidewalks, etc are merely a suggestion.
The trip downtown was probably 15-20 miles, but would normally take 45 minutes to an hour because of the complete chaos on the roads. You want to turn? Just edge out, someone is bound to stop (right?). It's the ultimate game of chicken. AMAZING. And not for the faint of heart!
3) Toilet Paper - my new best friend. You don't know what you've got until you loose it, right? Oh yes! People told me to bring TP on the trip - and I did... but until you experience this, you can't actually believe it. Public bathrooms are lucky to have toilet seats (yes, seats) and NEVER have paper.
4) It's getting hot in here... maybe it's just me because I tend to be scrimpy on the heat in the winter (old house!), but MAN do they like the heat. The baby home was kept at about 80-85 degrees. The Korean air flight had to be about 80 degrees. Same with Scary Tatiana's office. The weather was very comparable to fall here - about 55-65 each day, yet I rarely wore my coat...

More later, I am sure, but I have two kitties who are begging for attention. Roo (the giant beast!) slept with me all night, and I awoke to 7 toys delivered to the side of my bed. It's good to be home!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy Birthday Tatiana!!

I can't believe it's Friday already!  Tomorrow Rhonda and I jump on the big tin bird to head back to the good ole' U.S. of A.  I am NOT looking forward to the flight.

We went back to Scary Tatiana's office today, but this time the "official door" was re-opened (it's been closed due to construction) and we got to take the lift!  That's elevator in our native tongue. Imagine a small box that jolts on the start and stop - enough to make the most brave person shudder.  So first bonus was the elevator, 2nd bonus was I didn't have to go in the office.  Rhonda, Kate (my translator) and I waited in the hallway while Sergei delivered the big hot documents.  So now it's officially, official!  I have signed my intent to adopt little T and the paperwork is filed.

From there we departed on our "small excursion".  Translation:  A 3 hour tour.  It was great to see the city - and I swear I'll upload some pictures when I get home on my own computer.  The city is much like any big city, crowded and they use every inch of space.  Because Vladivostok is the former home of the Russian Naval Fleet - they have a great bay.  There's a wonderful memorial to the Russian men lost in WWII and lots of ships.  

We had to purchase the customary Russian gifts:  Matroiska dolls, Vodka and cavier.  What a combo!  And we also ate our first meal outside the Vlad Motor Inn - bilini's (think crepe with great filling) in a cafe.  So minus the furry hat (sorry Charlotta Cum Laude) we've hit almost all of our Russian milestones.  Next time.... next time.

Finally it was off to the baby home to see Tatiana on her birthday.  She was a little overwhelmed again for about the first 5 minutes.  I think these children are so used to their routine and the little room that they live their lives in, that a change can be scary.  After she warmed up - it was giggles, smiles and LALALA (her version of a song, I am sure).  Very funny for me as this is also Emma and Katie Ginther's favorite word.  I am telling you, she's going to fit in well!  She and Emma are only about 1.5 months apart in age.  It will be great for her to have so many built in buddies!!

I gave Tatiana a bear from Build-a-Bear for her birthday.  I recorded my voice so she can listen to me while I am gone.  We also bought some yogurt, apple juice and cookies for her group to have for her birthday celebration.  She also got a balloon that said Happy Birthday and my coordinator and his wife (Ivan and Luba) gave her two bunnies joined at the hands.  I left the caretakers two disposable cameras to take pictures during my wait and also a photo album of me, my parents, our home, Bernie (daycare!), and all her new cousins.   And I got a present too for Tatiana's birthday!  Rhonda gave me the best necklace that says "mama" in Russian.... it's wonderful.  The best.

Tonight we are dining once again in the Vlad Inn.  We had our dinner party minus Sara and Steven tonight (we miss you) but always good to hang with Heidi and Mike, who keep us in stitches.  Now we are listening to the live entertainment -- a singer/karaoke type band.  They're actually really good!

Paka from Vladivostok!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hook, Line & Sinker...

That's it.  I am done.  Tatiana has truly stolen my heart!!  Today was a wonderful day with her.  She's just so completely precious.

We didn't have to go back to see Scary Tatiana today - so Rhonda and I even managed to squeeze in a morning nap.  AAAHHHH.  At 12:30pm we were off to see Little Tatiana again.  We arrived after her lunch time - and after a few crocodile tears, she was in great spirits.  She's cried a little each day we've seen her, but today it was MUCH less (only in the beginning).  I believe that the change from her daily schedule is so abnormal for her, that it was upsetting at first.  Now it seems that she's reveling in the added attention.

We played inside for a while and then we were allowed to take her outdoors again.  Such a welcome break from the sauna temperatures of the baby home.  I was expecting COLD weather here this week and packed a couple sweaters.  It's been VERY mild, and they keep the baby homes toasty warm - getting outside is wonderful.  

Tatiana likes being outside.  She's super curious and fascinated with leaves and sticks.  Thankfully we have lots of those in Michigan!  She loves to cruise around and gets so excited that she will trip her feet on the very uneven payment outside.  We saw a koshka (kitty!) in the yard today while we were outside - and she wanted to chase after him.  My 3 furries at home are going to LOVE that!  (not)

She's really a sponge for knowledge right now too.  She was saying "yes" with me today and my newest most favorite word... MAMA.  Yup, she called me mama today.  Not sure she knows the meaning just yet, but I'll take it all the same!  My little Riley is going to have a ball with her!

So now it's official.  I signed the letter of intent to adopt her while at the notary this afternoon.  Her birthday is tomorrow -- she'll be two, and thankfully, I get to spend it with her.  We purchased some yogurt, juice an cookies for her and her group - along with the bear I brought with to leave behind - for her birthday celebration.  

So now comes the waiting (AGAIN!).   My coordinator, Ivan, says that typically it's 2 months.  But if you do the math - that's Christmas.  They celebrate here from 12/31-1/10, and he's not sure we can pull everything off by then - paperwork, court and wait time.  So keep those fingers crossed!  It's going to be a long couple months!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From Blue to Pink - In One Quick Wink

As promised, here is the daily update.  First, before I get started, I have to say thanks to everyone for the wonderful comments.  Your thoughts, prayers and love have meant the absolute world to me the last couple days.  This roller coaster has been crazy!  I am lucky to have a great set of friends, real, cyber (and heck, imagined too!) and family.

And while we are on the subject of family... I am unofficially announcing that the female dynasty sprung forth from Lock and Liz Clarkson is adding one more strong willed female!  

I haven't signed the official paperwork, but I know in my heart that Tatiana is the one.  Yup, folks, you heard it here first, please welcome Tatiana Elizabeth.  I will likely send her documents over to the IA Doctor tonight, but more for a "what could potentially need attention in the future" vs. ruling her in or out. 

She's a pistol.  Imagine that -- another feisty female to add to our crew.  For those of you who don't know the background... I come from a long line of strong women.  My mom is 1 of 5 girls (1 brother too, poor Uncle Larry!), and my father also has 5 sisters (and yes, 1 brother too!).  My Grandma Clarkson (mom's side) is no longer with us, but I am so fortunate to still have Grandma Repp and live 1 mile from her.  Tatiana will make Great-Grandchild #11 on the Clarkson side, and get ready for it... Girl #10.  A Female dynasty in the making!!

One other note and additional thank yous.  Sorry for the outpouring of emotions here, but like all those before me, I am keeping it real.  So that's who this final note is for.  All my blogger, adoptive family friends who have completed their process or are still in the works.  Without you, I probably would have lost my mind with doubt and questions this week.  I feel the need to say some specifics -- and I am sure in my lack of sleep, I will miss someone - so if you are missed... please forgive.  To Tamara and Angie... my LH crutches... what do I say.  You two are a blessing.  Thanks for all your love and support.  To Ondrea, without you realizing it most likely, I am devouring everything you pass along.  I know the road ahead with a feisty little girl will be a challenge, but I think I'll make it.  Thanks for the inspiration.  To Nancy, Karyn, Becky... I've loved reading about your experiences... you helped me prepare for this more than you know!  Jesse and Jason -- wow, I don't know where to start.  You two are the best.  I can't even begin to thank you.  I feel like I have followed you down a crazy path and you prepared me for every step.  Sara, Phyllis & Heidi (and of course, Stephen, Ed and Mike...) my neighbors in the Vlad Inn - thanks for the great times this week and sharing all our experiences this week.  I can't wait to hear more about your kids.

Finally, (whew! yes!) special notes for Amy aka Wong, Pam, Jennifer my cousin/sister and Suzy.  I am lucky to have you in my life.  And last but not least... my partner in travel and soul sister, madam Photog, Rhonda Marie.  I can't thank you enough for everything.  Keeping me sane and grounded and helping with every step.  Even all the steps of the 5 flights of stairs!  I'll leave you all with some of the very talented (but she'll deny her talent everytime) Rhonda.  She took this precious shot today...  Paka!


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

You Just Know

Where do I start?  What a day.  Last night after my blog posting I met with another coordinator for the agency here locally.  If I was nervous by the comments earlier in the day, my talk with him made it worse.  He knew the background of the referral and not in so many words basically thought it wasn't a good situation.  

I went to bed nervous, scared, upset and frustrated.  After a midnight (here) phone call from Lorien at my agency, she talked me down off the cliff and emphasized the importance of one step at time.  Every little thing was stressing me out this morning - hair, temperature in the room, etc. anything to avoid the giant elephant in the corner, staring me in the face of what could potentially be a really rough day.

We were off to the Department of Education.  The first stop of the journey.  The DOE gives you the permission to visit the baby home and that specific child.  Imagine a very small, warm room at the top of 5 flights of stairs in an older building much like at a University.  The woman was scary, and asked some questions and then explained the policies.  No smiles.  Hard to get used to because you don't realize until you don't get them how reassuring a simple smile is.  

After the scary stop, we were off to the baby home in Artem (about 1 hour away).  We made a quick stop at the local Department of Education to pick up a facilitator - this time not so scary, who came along with us.  Another 20 minutes in the car and we arrived to a complex of apartments and old abandoned factories.  Just as I am wondering where we are, we pulled into a cute, sparse, but nicely decorated baby home.  Inside we went...

We waited about 2o minutes while the little guy and his group finished their lunch.  Finally, it was time for the BIG moment.  They brought the little guy in, and just as everyone said, I knew instantly that unfortunately, I was not the mom for this little guy.  My dreams and hopes are that he finds a wonderful caring family to take care of him.  We played with him a bit, and listened to the brief description from the doctors, not knowing when was the appropriate time to say "Nyet".  

As we walked to the car, I really tried to be strong, but the tears did start to flow.  Not the first time, however.  I felt horrible leaving him behind, but knew in my heart that it was the right decision.  We stood by the car while our driver went inside for a minute.  One of the caretakers from inside, walked out with a little girl (dressed in boys clothes) who was walking around the adorably cute playground area smelling the flowers and playing with her caretaker.  Rhonda made a quick joke about "don't bring her down here, we'll be tempted to stash her in the car" because she was so cute.   Sergei, the driver, returns with news that they'd like to introduce me to a little girl - almost 2 yrs old.  So back inside we went.  

By now, you can probably guess what happened.  The little girl who was outside smelling the flowers -- that's her.  Rhonda started to tear up and I really had to hold it back, thinking what so many of the families who have traveled before have said "You Just Know".  While I still have some questions about her background - we have an appointment to go back and visit her tomorrow.  So while nothing is finalized, I am a very different frame of mind tonight vs. last night.

More from Russia tomorrow... it's late and to quote another adorable little girl... "The Sun Has Gone, To Bed and So Must I..."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Whenever Yesterday Was...

Famous Quotes from the trip (so far):

- "Don't make me go get Sean Astin.  He'll kick your butt."  (Amy to Rhonda, plane to LAX)
- "You are very lovely and beautiful".  (Sergei, our driver to Rhonda)
- "And that's sugar...." (Mike Lee to Amy as she almost "sugared" her fries instead of salt)
- "Ummm I'm typing in Korean" (Rhonda in the Icheon International Airport)
- "What's my name?" (Rhonda post arrival)
- "I did that yesterday, whenever yesterday was..." (Rhonda, again)

And to quote my favorite tween time movie from oh so long ago... (Poltergeist) "They're HERE"!!!

We have arrived.  After what seems like forever of planes (no trains) and a few automobiles, Rhonda and I have landed in Vladivostok.  Everything everyone has told me (especially you Jesse and Jason!!) is right!  The airport is small - and people were pushy, yet in some way I loved every minute of it.  We hooked up with Sara and her husband in the Seoul airport (my blog stalker with the scary weird same dates!) and also met another great couple waiting for their #2 trip to bring home their new daughter.  Sara and I kept up our magical timelines, but literally going through customs at the same time!!

Tomorrow we are off to the Department of Education and then to meet the little guy.  I am nervous and excited and anxious - all in one.   Sergei, my driver, and Kate the translator, had a couple comments today that made me VERY nervous... but no use dwelling on anything until we see for ourselves tomorrow.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.  Have a great Monday all those of you on the other side of the pond.  Thanks for the comments -- it's nice to have a touch of home so far away.

And finally, to explain the Sean Astin comment -- the semi famous actor was on our flight from DTW to LAX.  I, in my star struck nature, noticed him quickly.  I did some minor stalking and got a picture -- which I'll upload later!!  Peace out.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I've lost Sunday -- Do You Know Where It Is??

Wow... what a trip so far. Rhonda and I left Detroit around 7:45pm on Saturday evening. After landing for a brief but WARM stopover in LA, we were onto Seoul, Korea. The longest flight of my life. The flight was 13 hours. And somehow we have misplaced Sunday. I'm sure it's around here somewhere, but not here, because it's 7:29am on Monday!! Korean Air is wonderful - even in coach they have the best amenities. However, instead of being icy cold like most long distance flights, our flights have been super warm.

We're in the Icheon International Airport - waiting for out next flight, and man, what a transition! Some people speak English, but not so well. In order for us to get food (and kill 4+ hrs) we had to go out of customs/immigration, which we weren't expecting! But alas, we survived.

Next stop - Vladivostok! And hoping to meet a little guy in the next day or so. I am filled with excitement, nerves and the unknown. Keep you posted later!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

S-A-T-U-R, D-A-Y, NIGHT!

It's almost here! Saturday night is the big night. Rhonda and I take off from Detroit around 7:30pm. With a 3 hour stop at LAX, we'll be off to Seoul after mid-night on Sunday. With the time-change/international date line, we'll arrive in Vladivostok at 2:20pm on MONDAY!

I'll check in from Vladivostok to update everyone! Thanks for your thoughts and well wishes.

Monday, October 13, 2008

New Presidential Candidate

There's an effort to elect an unknown random person as President... and it's someone we know! Watch this online video about the surprising new nominee:

http://www.tsgnet.com/pres.php?id=370617&altf=Bnz&altl=Sfqq

Let me know what you think!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

It's Fall, Do You Know Where Your Sugar Is?

If you live in the north, the answer could be.... CROSWELL, MICHIGAN!
I live in a small town about 4 miles from Lake Huron (hold your right hand up, palm up: just by your thumb knuckle is me!). Small towns have always fascinated me. One of the big factories in town is a (you guessed it!) SUGAR factory. Formerly known (ok, still is known as around here) as Pioneer Sugar, the Michigan Sugar Plant in Croswell, MI is up and running at full steam.

For those of you not in the know of sugar, in the north sugar is produced by sugar beets, not sugar cane. Giant brown potato looking things. Grown locally and then trucked to Croswell and dropped off to produce sugar.

With all that you'd think I lived in the sweetest smelling town in Michigan. Not so much. The odor is ODD. Very odd. Hard to describe, but it's not good. Worse on the days when the cloud cover is low.

So now you've had your sugar lesson for the week - you can go back to scouring the internet for other useless trivia and knowledge. And yes, I am trying to keep pre-occupied so the week goes fast!! Can't you tell?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Leavin, On a Jet Plane

Quick update!! After an exhausting, whirlwind of a trip to Chicago for work, I returned home late last night for a date with Obama & McCain. I quickly cleared my emails, only to hear the sound of a new email arriving shortly after I just emptied the mailbox. I have my travel dates!!

Rhonda and I will be heading out on 10/18 late in the evening with quick stops in LA and Seoul, Korea. The trip is so long that we won't arrive until mid-afternoon on Monday 10/20! Now that's some frequent flyer points!! I am so glad to have Rhonda going with me -- and huge thanks to Rhonda's husband Dave for helping make her part of the trip possible!

Double bonus during the trip is the Mike & Heidi Lee will be in Vlad at the same time! http://findingrfamilee.blogspot.com/ I've long stalked their blog and am so hoping we can meet up in Vlad. For my agency, Moscow is the "big region"; larger, so more families tend to go toward that region. It's wonderful to hear the stories of how they are able to meet up for dinner. I was hoping to share this with my partner in crime, Angie and her husband, Rick - but now I will hopefully get to meet Mike & Heidi!

Finally, one more small milestone to share. I received my FIRST registry present this week!! One more surprise waiting for me when I got home last night was a congrats present from my lifelong friend Pam. We met when I was around 4 years old!! Thanks Pam!!!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Again???

I got tagged again!! LOL

Just two days later - and before all my taggies were able to tag (tap, tap, tap), I was tagged again. This tag comes from Karyn (http://tiger-kar.blogspot.com/) a very funny new mom that I blog-stalked. I love reading about her adventures, she's honest and fun.

So you know the rules -- you get to hear 6 more random facts about me (yea, you!) and then I get to tag 6 more of you! Haha. So here goes....

1) While I have already mentioned that I am an only child, I actually have a VERY LARGE extended family. My mom is one of six kids, and my dad was one of seven. I have a bevy of cousins, all of which I know and for the most part see on a semi-regular basis. I feel VERY fortunate to have such a great, close family. We aren't without our issues and challenges, but we're family.
2) Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Notice I said ONE of -- I love them all, really! However, with my large family, we have a spectacular Thanksgiving tradition. Not only is my mom 1 of 6 kids, her father was 1 of 7 kids (all boys!), and ALL SEVEN families still get together each Thanksgiving. 5 of my Great-Uncles are alive and 4 live in this small town with me. Our gathering ranges from about 60-100 people. Big range, I know, but typically every other year it's "big" as people have multiple places they have to visit. And with those #s, as you'd imagine we have to rent a hall.
3) You probably know by know that I am a close relative to the CraziCatLady. No seriously, that's my aunt's email address. And the apple doesn't fall that far from the tree. What you don't know is that each of my kitties have their own Christmas stocking. Crazy, I know.
4) I have a sweet tooth that won't stop. It's my biggest weakness. Someone mentioned Cadbury Cream Eggs recently - YUM! But this time of year the BEST treat is: Brachs Candy Corn mixed at home with salted peanuts. Try it - you won't be sorry!
5) I am a serious picky eater. Combine this with the fact that I don't like my food to touch, I have bad food problems! On the list of no, no, nevers: seafood - if it can walk in the ocean, I am NOT eating it; salad - not sure what the issue is here, but I don't get it; most of the green veggies - I just do the basics, corn, carrots, potatoes, green beans and peas are ok.
6) I am fully hooked to fountain Diet Pepsi. But it has to be fountain. If I won the lottery, I'd put a Diet Pepsi only dispensing fountain machine in my house!!!

Ok, now on to my latest group of 6 victims:
1) Jenny: http://ouradoptionjourney-jennyandron.blogspot.com/
2) Lindsay: http://clmclaughlin.blogspot.com/
3) Danette: http://azlittlepatchofheaven.blogspot.com/
4) Sarah: http://ourrussianchildren.blogspot.com/
5) Becky: http://russianpeanut.blogspot.com/
6) Nancy - Her blog is on private right now - so no link :)

The rules are:
1. Link to the person that tagged you.
2.Post the rules on the blog.
3. Write six random facts about yourself.
4.Tag six people at the end of your post.
5. Let each person know they have been tagged.
6. Let your tagger know when your entry is up.

Good luck all!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Belated Birthday Present

Yup!!!! You guessed it! Today, of all days, I got the magic phone call!! It was a "perfect storm" of sorts with a lot of things leading up to "the call": my sadness last week, birthday this week and to top it all off I was away from home on a quick trip for work. Since suddenly (yesterday) this turned into an overnight trip, I did actually have my laptop with me. Lorien from my agency called and said the magic, wonderful words, followed up with some additional information on my computer.

More details to follow, but it looks like soon I will be off to meet a wonderful little boy!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pay It Forward...

The childhood game of tag has gone high tech! Blog tag is running rampant around the Internet these days, and today I got tagged!! Thanks Angie! http://tofindadaughter.blogspot.com/

So the rules are like this -- I have to tell you 6 random things about myself and then "pay it forward" to the next 6 unsuspecting victims, I mean bloggers!! So here goes:

1) Today is my birthday!! I am 21 today, hehe
2) I had an uncle with no nose (legit, it's true)
3) Angie may be addicted to Bath & Body Works "Coconut Lime Verbena", but I am fully addicted to "Vanilla Bean Noel". So much so that I have to stock up for the full year each holiday since it's only available Oct-Dec.
4) I am an only child (big surprise since I am a spoiled brat!!)
5) I eat at the SAME restaurant every Friday night (with a rare exception!!)
6) I am a sales person - and all the sales jobs I have had have been for food... candy, chips, beer and now, chocolate milk!!!

Yikes - that's harder than it looks. I mean, I didn't want to bore you to tears! If I have tagged you, here are the rules!!!
1. Link to the person that tagged you.
2. Post the rules on the blog.
3. Write six random facts about yourself.
4.Tag six people at the end of your post.
5. Let each person know they have been tagged.
6. Let the taggers know when your entry is up.

So I will tag the following:
1) Rachel: http://journeywiththewilliamsfamily.blogspot.com/ I've raved about her $ saving blog, well now here is her adoption blog.
2) Charlotta Cum Laude: A long time college friend and HYSTERICAL person/blogger. Her blog is private during a job search, so for now, you'll just have to trust me.
3) Sarah: http://sheisfabulous.wordpress.com/ Wife of a classmate of mine (funny how you meet people, eh?) and all around funny friend.
4) Robbin: http://fromaddisababawithlove.blogspot.com/ A fellow Michigander, single PAP who keeps me laughing through her blog.
5) Heidi: http://findingrfamilee.blogspot.com/ Waiting for her court date, so she needs a quick distraction!!
6) And finally, last but never least: Amy: http://ahandfulofdeffenbaughs.wordpress.com/ My college partner in crime and sorority sister.

Enjoy all :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Spa See Ba"

Спасибо, Gracias, Merci, Bedankt, Danke, Grazie, धन्यवाद, Mulţumesc, Obrigado

To everyone for the well wishes and kind thoughts over the past week. It's been a trying week, but it truly helps to know that your friends are behind you. I am blessed to have each of you enter my life at some stage - even if our friendship has, at this point, only been "cyber"!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Any News Yet?

A few of the blogs I read have posted items on "keeping it real". I guess this topic could enter that field...

3 full months after my documents were sent to Russia, it's not uncommon for family and friends (especially those I don't see everyday) to ask "any news yet?" or "what's the latest?" or more specifically, "got the referral yet?". I have to say, I LOVE and at the same time, HATE these questions! I know that sounds silly and bratty and contradictory all wrapped up in one spoiled package.

This whole adoption business is a roller coaster of emotions. While my timeline is by no means the longest, there are families who for a variety of reason wait for years, with no major "issues" holding families back, it's hard to sit here and wait, wait, wait. It's frustrating knowing that there are (as reported many places) 600,000 - 700,000 orphans in Russia in need of homes and tick tock, tick tock, tick tock, here I sit. (I have warned you that I have no patience!!)

Watching other families celebrate their referrals is WONDERFUL, but it also brings home the realization that you are still waiting. Rumors fly on the adoption community forum message boards that some agencies are offering "instant" referrals for boys. The economy hits adoptive families too - and rumors are there are fewer now than "other times".

So please, keep asking the questions! I LOVE everyone showing their interest in my journey, but now you'll know why you may hear exasperation in my voice! It's not aimed at you, honest!!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Good-bye, My Friend

Today I lost a wonderful friend. My little Russian Blue, Nougat, went to play in the catnip fields of heaven this afternoon. I am sure he was greeted by his old friend Gertie, who couldn't wait to see him again. I hope they are dining on their favorite treat, yogurt. My little Russian blue won't be here to meet my little Russian man.


Nougat came to me in 1997 after the passing of Snickers. Snickie's passing was sudden and left her companion, Murphy, and I missing an extra couple sets of feet in the condo. Murphy started his midnight howling in those days, and I knew I needed to find him a new friend. It was spring time and not many batches of kittens had been born yet - so believe it or not, I was struggling to find a new baby. I went to the local county shelter and they turned me down because I lived in a condo that would only allow us to have one pet. I finally located a pet store near me that had 3 kittens looking for a home. Against my normal judgement of not getting a "pet store pet", I went to visit - looking for a little girl. Before my eyes were 3 adorable solid grey kittens. One greeted me with such excitement that he ran up my arm and started nuzzling at my face. Sadly, this was a little boy kitty and I thought Murph would be better off with a female. I grabbed the female and went up to pay for my new kitty. Imagine my surprise when the man at the register says, "no this one is a boy too...". So I headed back and realized the one I really wanted was the nuzzler. And Nougat joined my family. We nuzzled for 11 1/2 years!


He was a wonderful cuddler, great pillow sleeper (hog) and all around mama's boy. I will miss you Mr. Nougat. Say hi to Gertie for me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

True Hollywood Adoption Story

Do you ever watch True Hollywood Story (or THS for those "in the know")? If you do, you are likely aware of the bizarre "plot" line that accompanies most of the THS stories. Person X starts with nothing; struggles for their "art"; makes it big; finds drugs/alcohol/sex addiction; something tragic happens; redemption and happiness.
Oddly enough, after reading blog after blog, I have found a similar plot line in adoption stories. Sadly enough, it seems like right before many people's happy news of a referral/first trip or a court/second trip, something tragic happens in their family/lives. Typically, a close relative or pet passes away. I am BY NO MEANS making light of these scenarios. It is never easy to loose someone you love. Combined with the roller coaster of emotions that is the adoption process, I am surprised there aren't more meltdowns along the way.
So... get prepared, I have my own True Hollywood Adoption Story in the process. About two weeks ago, my 2nd oldest kitty, Nougat, started acting a little "wonky". That's a very scientific word, mind you. Years ago, he torn his ACL - just like a human can do, and ever since then he's been a HUGE mama's boy, but never really my social butterfly. But lately he has stuck to himself even more - hanging out under my bed or 1/2 behind the couch. So I took him to the vet and blood work commenced. His white blood count came back high - and she thought it was a virus. So he was on Clavamox for about 10 days and that ended Monday. She wanted to see him again after the blood work to see if it fixed things.
A couple of times over the last two weeks I have seen glimmers of the old Nougat, but he really still isn't himself. If I put him in bed with me, he'll purr and purr and purr. He still LOVES his attention, but he won't jump up on the bed or the cat window - seems like he has no energy. He hasn't been eating much either. So back to the vet we went today. She re-ran his blood work and the white blood count hasn't changed much at all, in fact some of the factors even increased. Her suspicion? Leukemia - not the feline (highly contagious) leukemia that they are vaccinated against, but the blood cancer leukemia. She did offer to hook me up with a specialist in the Detroit area, but I really can't see hauling this poor guy in the car all the time for 1.5 hours or so for kitty chemotherapy.
Her suggestion was to put him on some meds and see what happens. Prognosis? Not good. I'm spending my last time with Nougat. Not sure how long it will be, but it's happening. He even lost a full pound in the last two weeks since we were at the vet last. Not good on a 14.2 lb kitty. She assured me that he's not suffering - and in fact other than feeling not so peppy, he probably has no clue. So that's good -- if he was suffering I wouldn't have brought him home.
Keep my little grey boy in your thoughts. It could be a rough time for his mom!!!

ACL Surgery
On his window perch





Thursday, September 11, 2008

7 Years Later

It's hard to believe it's September 11th again. Where does the time go. Even harder to believe that it's been 7 years. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was living in Grand Rapids, MI, driving to Detroit for a meeting with some co-workers when the receptionist from our office called and told us what was going on. We tried to have the meeting, but obviously no one's minds and hearts were in it. When I reached home that night, I was shocked at how QUIET it was. I lived 8 miles from the airport in GR and was really used to hearing the planes.

Politics aside (I hate talking politics with groups of people because I think that everyone has their own views and isn't likely to be swayed), it was really nice to see the candidates attending the various memorials today. Like the days following 9/11, I found myself glued to the TV today watching all the various programs. Some of the channels (Discovery, History etc) have been running some great programs regarding that day and the events surrounding it. I can't get enough of those shows.

So, now I want to hear from you. Where you you that day? What do you remember? Do you watch the memorials/shows? Or is it too much?