Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Home on the Range

I'll totally reiterate what I said on Sunday night. MAN, it's good to be home. T is adjusting really well. She's eating really well, and sleeping pretty decent. 3am seems to be the be-witching hour for both of us. Darn jet lag. I must stop napping and power through or I'll never get back on track. I woke up at 3am today and thanks to a 3 hour nap - I am WIDE awake. Woo hoo. At least it's allowed me to get caught up on work emails -- all 698 of them. UGH!

T is also slowly getting used to the car. We took a little trip yesterday to the grocery store in town (Think tiny IGA). Today our big day out was planned to be a stop at the post office, pay electric bill, hit the pharmacy and then stop to see T's Grand Gramma Repp... however, small towns being what they are -- guess who we ran into at the post office. Yup GG Repp! So instead she came to visit after her own trip to aforementioned tiny IGA.

Tonight was a big night out on the town -- T had her first meal at Riverside - the family restaurant we frequent every Friday. I thought I'd see how she did before it got really busy. She had a great time and once again ate like a champ.

More pictures to come...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

3 Down - 0 To Go! Man It's Good To Be Home!

It's Sunday night - 9:32pm eastern time. I am happy to report that T, Rhonda and I all survived the flight(s) home. It's been a long couple days, and the room is starting to spin (darn jet lag), so I'll keep this short. Well, as short as possible.

The transit hotel in Seoul worked out really nice. We hit some additional duty free stores again this morning. Could that really have been this morning? Well I guess technically it WAS Sunday.

The first leg of today's flights was the big kahuna. 12.35 hours. UGH. I don't care who you are - sitting for 12.35 hours STINKS. Trying to corral a 2 year old who doesn't want to nap. STINKS x TWO. While it wasn't quite "the flight we shall not speak of"... there were moments when I wanted to jump out the nearest window. T slept a grand total of about 1.5 hours on this flight. She fought it and fought it ALL day. She was a trooper MOST of the time, but like any two year old, who has never flown before and is completely off schedule - she had some meltdowns. The nothing will soothe me meltdowns. Not fun. The bassinet in bulk head was just a tad too small - and didn't allow for proper head movement in "the rock" so that didn't fly much either, other to sit in while being fed.

The big action on the flight was the medical emergency we had. A girl passed out near our seats - no one but Rhonda really reacted. There was something else going on - and about 1 hr later there was an announcement asking if anyone on board had medical experience. SCARY. We didn't end up making an emergency stop - so Rhonda and I decided she must have been ok. That or something much worse - but we liked the first option.

T soared through customs like a champ and is now an OFFICIAL US CITIZEN! Wooo hooo! We didn't have a chance to replace the travel jammies with the cute red/white/blue outfit - but she still looked cute doing it! The Chicago to Detroit flight was a non-event really. Quick - less than an hour and painless.

We were greeted by my mom (Gramma!), Jennifer (cousin) & her daughter Riley (T's new BFF), Carrie (cousin's wife/oldest friend and that doesn't mean age) & her daughter Mary, and Yvonne & her son Conner. It was great to see everyone and we were super glad for the reception. T didn't fuss ONCE at the airport - even with a flock of people around her. The car ride home had it's UPS and DOWNS, but we've already covered the car challenge... no need to beat a dead horse. All in all, for a kid who missed 3 naps and essentially an entire nights sleep, she was in amazingly good spirits.

We arrived home to signs in the yard welcoming us from my awesome family. Jennifer and her kids and Gary/Rena and their kids made some great welcome signs. If you're near Croswell, check 'em out! I couldn't bear take them down!! My family ROCKS.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't send a special message to Miss Rhonda. And no, I promise I am not starting to tear... ok maybe a little but that's the jet lag right?? Where oh where would I be without you? THANK YOU for saving me in Vlad this week. Your friendship means the world to me and I appreciate the adult conversation. I love that 9/10 times if I am thinking something - you probably are too. Who else would travel the world to go to Vladivostok, TWICE? (And then who else gets their luggage lost between Chicago and Detroit...)

It's good to be home!!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

One Down -- Two to Go...

Greetings from the Seoul Incheon Airport! We have made it through one leg of the trip safely and relatively peacefully! Here's a quick recap of the day so far...

Luba (Ivan's wife) called around 11:15am to say that Ivan was about 15 minutes out. SCORE! Tatiana's VISA was in Vladivostok. Whew! We all ate a quick lunch and finished packing. When Ivan and Sergei arrived, T took one look at Sergei and immediately started crying. She associates him with the car... not good!

The tears started as soon as she saw the car. Good news: Ivan actually had a car seat! Bad news: She HATED it! Should be an interesting ride home from the airport. I ended up taking her out of the car seat because she was getting really worked up. This won't be a splurge we can afford much longer...

We got to the airport and proceeded to get checked in. The Vlad airport does things a little differently than the US. As soon as you enter the check in "room" you go through a metal detector AND put your bags through the X-ray. From this point only ticketed passengers can go through. Sounds ok, right? Well imagine me, Rhonda, T in a stroller, 3 LARGE suitcases, a huge backpack, a roller computer bag, 2 purses AND a diaper bag. Yup -- it was interesting to say the least. To add to the madness, we had the singularly slowest check in ever. Not that things are speedy in Russia anyway -- but this was SLOW.

Finally it was boarding time and we were on to the bus to take us across the runway to the plane. To get onto the bus from the airport we had to go down a mess of steps and then jump into the bus. Russia is NOT what I'd call handicap/stroller accessible. Not in the least. While I may have passed the babooska test at the store, I actually got scolded on the bus by a young guy! I didn't mess with T's hat for the 2 minutes we were actually outside. Honestly, I don't even know where it is in all this packing madness. He informed me that it was "very dangerous for child to be outside with no hat". I wanted to tell him "when infant seats become mandatory in Russia, THEN you can lecture me about dangers, my friend" - but I just said, "it's 2 minutes, she'll be fine".

The plane ride was.... GET THIS... totally uneventful. Tatiana was a CHAMP. She didn't cry at all. No fussing during take off, no fussing when ear popped, NYET! She sat nicely for 90% of the time between Rhonda and I. She would get tired of just sitting sometimes, but for the most part she was perfection. The Korean Air ladies gave her a stuffed plane -- which we lost somehow in the 4 cubic feet that was our row. AND she got her own little kids meal. I'll tell you, Korean Air does it RIGHT.

We got to the airport and got our boarding passes for tomorrow. Good news is that we are all together AND we have a bulk head row -- but the bad news is that we are in the middle (the plane is 3/4/3 - and we are in the 4). Hopefully we'll end up having the 4th seat as well. I can't imagine the fool who'd want to sit next to us!! Haha.

Next stop was check in at the transit hotel. We really scored here. I told the lady that she may want to put us as far away from other people as possible -- in case T cries during the night (new place, new room, etc). Not only did we manage to get a crib for T to sleep in - Rhonda and I actually got our own wing - literally 2 rooms, all by themselves behind the little business center. We requested two rooms - so that we would have a place to go when T was falling asleep, but with this unique setting, I am actually sitting in the hallway outside our rooms. I think she's FINALLY asleep. I can't believe she's stayed up this long -- no afternoon nap and it's 9pm in Vladivostok. She was so tired at dinner that she was putting her head on the table. She wouldn't stop eating, however... but she had to rest her little cheek on the table. Very cute.

Tomorrow our big flight is @ noon Seoul time (13 hours ahead of the eastern time zone). Then after a quick layover in Chicago and a trip through customs and it's off to Detroit. I can't WAIT to get home!! Good night from Seoul!

Friday, March 27, 2009

**Friday Night Update**

Double good news tonight... wait, it's a triple good news night.

1) Rhonda, T and I got to hang out with Kate - my wonderful translator from trip #1. She's SUCH a doll. I forgot how much I missed her. She told us she's had other families - but no one was as fun and crazy as Rhonda and I. Hahaha. We love you too Kate!!

2) Luba, Ivan the coordinator/courier's wife called and all went well at the Embassy. Ivan has T's VISA and is headed to the Moscow airport. BONUS!

3) Kate called Sergei to translate for us and Sergei said to tell us that he'd be here a little before noon to pick us up. Momentary panic. Our flight is at noon, right? NYET! I checked our reservations and our flight isn't until 3pm!!! The flight that leaves Seoul on Sunday is the noon time - tomorrow's flight isn't until 3pm. PLENTY of breathing room in case of a flight delay.

WHEW! Now I can sleep a little easier. Speaking of sleep -- T is sleeping HARD tonight. She must have had a blast with Kate etc tonight because when Luba called our hotel she kept ringing the phone in the bedroom - where T is sleeping. She stirred the first time, but the 2nd time not much of a peep at all.

Paka from Vlad -- hopefully the next post will be from Seoul with a report that all is well!

Assorted Russian Goodies...

Hopefully today is our last full day in Vladivostok. Not that I won't miss this place. It's T's birthplace -- well technically, she was born a little north of here in a town called Artesnia (or something like that - the official documents are with Ivan at the Embassy) - but man, I can't wait to get back to the states.

First things first... for her fans - a couple pictures of Little T.

Eating grapes & apricots for breakfast

Hanging with Aunt Rhonda

With all this talk of Miss T - I have been amiss in not sharing some of the other Russian goodies from the trip. So... here's some pieces of Vladivostok...

Weird, loud bird that hangs outside of the hotel...

Nestle is well represented here in Russia as well. I'd like to take credit for this distribution point... but alas, I had nothing to do with it.
Russian Wine...
Before Tatiana and Alexander arrived, Lisa and I each bought one of these wines. Lisa bought the "red", I bought the white. We broke out the white one night and it was HORRIBLE. Beyond horrible. But I guess what do you expect for roughly $3...
To celebrate what we hope is T's last day, Rhonda, T and I went for another walk to the party store. The babooska knows us now, and in my limited, broken Russian I told her "plane, tomorrow". And that the vodka was for gifts. She laughed and then I think she was saying goodbye to Tania. I'll miss the ole gal.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

New Friends

Two Girls & A Window: Tatiana & Alexandra (Sasha)
Tatiana & Alexander (also Sasha!!)
It's been a busy week of doing not much around the Vlad Motor Inn. Tania continues to grow and change a little each day. I've tried to limit her outings as she can get a little overwhelmed if we tackle too much. She had a rough night last night - seems like if she doesn't get to sleep smoothly, she has a hard time staying asleep all night. I've gone back to two naps a day - which was her schedule at the orphanage, even though they said I could cut her down to one long one. She seems to expect the naps, and even though she fights it at first - she will rest. This afternoon, however, she "woke up on the wrong side of the crib" and kept having little tantrums, so she's back napping again. Well, she in her crib singing currently!
The other fun part of her day is when we do go out and she gets to "play" with her new friends. Jeanette and Sophie left yesterday - sad for us but GREAT for them. They are probably on their long flight home currently. Wish them luck. Lisa and Andrew got custody of their little guy, Alex, on Tuesday - so she's enjoyed playing with the "lay-ya" (Russian for baby). T's other new pal is Alexandra (aka Sasha). These two girlies RACE up and down the hall and generally have a blast together. T is a HUGE copycat - so she's enjoying following Sasha's lead on things.
Things keep rolling on here at the hotel. Even with the departure of Jeanette and Sophie, two new families arrived on Tuesday for court today. They both got custody immediately, so there are two new kidlets as of this afternoon!
Rhonda and I are hoping to have a visit with Kate, my translator from trip #1. She was scheduled to come over today - but got hung up with some school problems. I think it's finals week - or close to it. Hopefully we'll see her tomorrow.
Tomorrow is Friday -- one day closer to the planned departure! I can't wait to start packing!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spawn of Gene Simmons?

Tatiana, aka Little T, aka Tania, has yet another new name. My kitties always have a bunch of names, so why should she be left out? T's new name (while eating) is the Little Bird.

When she is eating something she really likes (which for the last couple meals is EVERYTHING!) she opens her mouth, sticks out her tongue and says "aaaaaaaaa" as in "give it to me - NOW!". It reminds me of a baby bird being fed by it's mom -- so excited to get some food.

As you see she's got quite the tongue action going on. When she gets going it hangs out all the way to her chin - ala Gene Simmons. I wonder if Gene was touring Vladivostok circa January 2006?

In other Tatiana news, she had a good night last night. I may have discovered the magic touch in her sleeping habits. She seems to like having a blanket over her face when she sleeps. This may have been intentional on the caretakers behalf, attempting to make things more dark for sleeping.

Now I know what some of you are thinking... "ok she's putting blankets over her childs head AND holding her in a car (vs. a car seat)?" First, there are no car seats in Russia. Well, very few! They just don't do it. We'll tackle the car seat when we get home. Should be interesting. As for the blanket... it's a very think IKEA blanket -- and trust me, it's not smothering her. I check... this freaked me out the first night and I kept taking it off her, which wakes her up. As Tatiana's gramma reminded me today, she sleeps with a pillow over her head... so it must run in the family ;)

Paka from Vlad. 3 days to go - not that I am counting!!
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What a Difference a Day Makes...

Today was a much better day with Tatiana. She didn't sleep well last night (which translates to neither did mama) - even after going to bed really well, she was up off and on most of the night. She's either a very light sleeper (at one point there was some major stomping around/furniture moving upstairs that seemed to wake her) or we just haven't replicated the baby home experience well enough. And around 5:30am she was DONE with the sleeping.

Rhonda joined us around 7:00am and we played for a bit in the morning. In my non-sleeping last night, I decided to follow the theory of "keep her world small". We put some of the toys up and went with just 1 or 2 at a time. As much as some of things that the baby home said can be taken with a grain of salt -- this is probably legit.

She started to have a mini-meltdown this morning - likely from not getting enough sleep. She napped for around an hour and I managed to probably rest about 1/2 that over in Rhonda's room (connecting - VERY handy). Her nap may have been interrupted a little too soon, and we tried to get her to go down again later, but she didn't want to have anything to do with it.

This afternoon we were off to the Consulate for our appointment. For all of you Russian adoptive parents - Vladivostok offers an option of having a courier go to Moscow instead of you going... so first you go to the Consulate to verify everything. I was NOT looking forward to the car ride after yesterday. I brought her bunny with us - one of the pair she likes to sleep with and I held her on my lap and let her rock as if she were sleeping in bed. She wasn't exactly calm - but it was a HUGE improvement. We may survive the flight home after all! There were tears here and there during our appointments but overall she did MUCH better.

She was SUPER tired in the car on the way home - our appointment was during a normal naptime. And she almost dozed off. She came home and tried to get into her crib, so I put her in but suddenly she wanted NOTHING to do with a nap. I was torn because if she slept then (we got home around 5ish) then I knew it was going to mess up the rest of the night. We ended up getting her up and she had a great evening. Rhonda and I even got to eat "near" the restaurant like real people!!

Speaking of eating, T has done a 180 in this department as well. Rhonda ordered the hamburger for lunch and gave some bites to T. She LOVED it. Ate every piece she could - and this was AFTER she had 1/2 a jar of baby food (think chicken stew with potatoes)and a 1/4 of a roll. Dinner was about the same. She ate burger (ordered for her), chicken (some of Aunt Rhonda's), roll and then had bites of dessert as well. I would almost say that she had a "belly" afterward - like a normal toddler!!

All in all - great progress. Thanks to ALL of you for the wonderful comments. My hats off to all the moms - you make it look so easy! I have appreciated all the feedback and it helped me realize that not only am I not a complete freak, but I am not alone in this either. It's also a GODSEND to have Rhonda here. Her birthday is around the corner -- any ideas? Somehow nothing will seem enough!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hard Days Night

We can file this "report" under the keeping it real title -- I appreciate when other Adoptive Parents give the details straight up, and I have tried to do the same throughout my journey. It's nice then when you hit a rough patch to know that you aren't the only one!

Last night was a rough night and so was this morning. Tatiana seems to enjoy being around the other children - and she's a bit of a copycat. I think being around other children is a bit of normalcy in a mixed up world for her right now. The problem is - sometimes in the hotel room she wants to go out - wants to be social - wants to be with the other kids.

Ivan the coordinator stopped by late last night (late meaning like 8pm) to do the paperwork for the consulate. T was already in her crib, but she hadn't fallen asleep. We were quiet for the most part, but she knew something was up - so she didn't go to sleep. After Ivan left, she heard the door close - which started the evening's proceedings. Then about 5 minutes later some children ran through the hall. All part of living in a hotel - no biggie. HOWEVER, in my suite her crib is right next to the spare door to the hall that we don't use. She heard the kids and she was DONE. No going back. She wouldn't stop crying unless I sat next to her crib and sang. I am sure for any hallway traffic the combination was deadly! Especially my singing.

The kicker is with adopted children you shouldn't "ferberize" them (aka let them cry it out). They need to know that you are there and that they are cared for. However, it's also important to keep them on their schedule. Well what do you do when the two don't meet? I called Lisa because I just didn't know what to do anymore. She was out of the crib and running around the room laughing and giggling at 10pm. No signs of slowing...

I ended up pushing the crib into the middle of the living room so that I could lay on my very small loveseat next to her crib. She could see me - I could touch her and yet I wasn't on a rock hard floor with not much wall to lean against. I stayed with her until she FINALLY dozed off. She woke up twice in the night and cried for about 2 minutes before she fell asleep. Then she woke around 6:30am and didn't want to go back to sleep. I resummed my post on the loveseat and we dozed for another hour and half or so until she wasn't having anything to do with snozing anymore.

All was fine after that until it was time to go pick up her passport and go to the doctor. The instant that she saw Sergei's car, she started crying. She cried ALL the way downtown until we stopped at the MOE office. While Sergei went inside she and I walked around (slid on the ice is more like it!) and she was fine again until he returned and it was time to get back in the car. She cried all the way to the passport office - all through the passport office and then all the way back to the car and to the doctors office. She had a break at the doctors office while the "men" left and the female doctor helped me calm her down. The trick? A "laughing" bunny that while you pushed his tummy he laughed. She LOVES thing like that. Unfortunately, the Baby Einstein caterpillar that I brought that did just that broke about 5 minutes after she got here. NICE!!

She cried most of the way home until I started to rock with her in the car again - by this time I had tried EVERYTHING - rocking, singing, tickling, distraction - anything. The rocking finally helped and she rocked on my lap for about the last 8 minutes in the car. I don't think Sergei approved, but it's her soothing mechanism and after almost 2 hours of crying -- she needed to calm down.

We got back into the hotel room around 12:30ish. I had asked at the front desk to have them move her crib into my room. I know most of you are shaking your head thinking NOT THAT! But I have to do something to assure her that I am here and she is safe and get her AWAY from the door. Not only does it wake her up - but I am sure she's keeping the other kidlets awake, not to mention the adults who must think I am a horrible mommy!

Rhonda should have landed in Vlad - Sergei went off to the airport to get her. She'll be a much welcome face at this point. I still miss my Sara + Steven & Heidi + Mike (Vlad's not the same without you); but I am EVER so thankful for Lisa + Andrew and Jeanette who have been my saving grace these past two weeks. Nothing like walking with someone on this journey!

If you are a prayer sayin kinda person - say a couple for Ivan's safe (and speedy) travels to Moscow for us this week. It's a really TIGHT schedule. He leaves for Moscow on Wednesday and returns Saturday morning around 9:15am. Rhonda, T and I are scheduled to leave @ noon -- so the planets need to be aligned! No delays please!! Otherwise, we may be here until Monday as I don't think there is a flight on Sunday!! Paka!

Newest Member of N'Sync

Early post today - it's Sunday in Vladivostok and Little T must mean little tantrum! I now know what the caretakers at the orphanage meant when they say T was stubborn. If she doesn't get her way she turns on the tears. I need to make sure I keep some boundaries and not give in on every wish!

It seems like she really misses being around other kids 24/7. The hotel room has run it's course for her and she's super bored. She sits by the door and taps on it - like "let's go out there". Sometimes she'll bring me my shoes and hers too - telling me what she wants. And many times we do go "play" with the other families -- but we also need to strike a balance so that she gets used to being with just me sometimes.

She took a solid 1.5 hour nap today - which for many kids is great, however compared to the 4 hours she's used to, it's not enough. She got up and started the tantrums again. We went for a couple walks - but I also suspect she's not feeling great. She finally filled a diaper if you get my drift - this am, but she still has some major gas, so I wonder if her tummy isn't bugging her. She also tugs on her one ear a little - ala Carol Burnett - so possibly she's got a baby ear infection. We're supposed to see the Dr tomorrow anyway for our check up before flying - so perfect timing.

She's back in the crib now as she seemed like she wanted to get in. She's rocking and singing, which is better than tantrums. I tried teaching her "bye bye" last night instead of "paka paka" and it seems to have stuck as her song goes "la la la, bye bye bye" so I figure if Justin Timberlake ever holds out on an N'Sync reunion tour, Tania's got a new gig for sure!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Passing the Babooska Test!

Our first full day together!! It's been a pretty great day all in all. Tania is a serious rocker at night. It's really amazing to me to see all these children (and hear from other adoptive parents) that spent the first few years in an orphanage and how common the "soothing" rocking is. It must be a primal need in the soothing department. Maybe it's soothing to the child, but it sure isn't soothing to witness! Thank goodness for the bumpers in the crib at home.

Little T really get to sleep fully until around midnight last night. Part of it was MY fault. When she rocks she gets all tangled in her blanket - and I try to uncover her face. I know you can breathe through a light blanket -- but silly mom tries to remove it. It wakes her up and the rocking commences again. Even though the rocking is hard to watch, she's really sweet while she'd falling asleep - she makes up little songs and talks to herself in baby Russian gibberish.

Her normal schedule is to bed around 8pm and wake up at 7am. Institutional children are BIG on their schedule - and if they wake up before someone comes for them, they'll typically lay in their bed and entertain themselves or try to go back to sleep. I heard her around 6:15am - and my bad, I tried to get her to come and lay with me. Apparently if you were taken from your crib at night it meant you were doing something wrong - because it scares her to pieces. She'd rather rock it out herself.

She had a brief nap this afternoon - about 1.5 hours. This isn't much for her. She was in a groupa of much younger kids at the Artem baby home. I think she would have "graduated" to the next groupa up if I wouldn't have come along, but I think to minimize the interruptions, they left her in the smaller kids group. The little kids take TWO naps a day (10am-noon + 3:30-5:30pm) but her caretakers suggested I go back to 1 from noon to 3pm. We didn't quite hit that -- but we're on the right track. There's so much going on -- she doesn't want to miss it! I mean how would you feel if you got sprung from an orphange??

She also ate much better later today. Breakfast not so much - she didn't like the "baby oatmeal" they said she eats, but she did have bread (that's typical for them) and baby yogurt. Bananas are also a NYET - spits them right back out. Lunch was more bread and then some chunky style baby food (think a chicken based stew with tiny potatoes and veggies). She REALLY liked the baby food. However dinner was a whole other story. I ordered her the soup - a Russian soup with veggies and "beef" (alleged beef as I saw NONE) and for me spaghetti with meat sauce. She ate a bit of soup but as soon as she saw my spaghetti she opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue and went "aaaaaa" like "me me me". Needless to say, she liked the pasta. Oh yes - and more bread! She's a TINY bite eater though. I bought her "baby" type cookies and it seriously takes her about 1 hour to eat one. She takes TINY bites and makes it last. Andrew (of the now semi-famous Andrew and Lisa!) theorized that this could also be an institutional behavior similar to eating fast and wanting more and more -- but instead trying to make it last.

The big event of the day was a trip with Lisa to the local "market". This is the small market just around the corner from the hotel. Andrew and Lisa bought a stroller at the baby store on Thursday, so we used it with Tania until Madam Rhonda gets here (2 days, not that I am counting!!). One of the women who works (owns??) the store is an older lady aka "babooska" (Russian word for gramma but also used for generic older woman). Most families from North American that come to Russia report back that at least at one time or another a babooka "tsked" them for not covering their child enough. While Lisa paid and Tania and I waited I saw the babooska sizing T up. The snowsuit that Angie sent has the built in hand/foot covers - and I had uncovered T's hands while we were in the store (it was at least 80 degrees in there!!). Babooska had apparently not seen this magical new snowsuit trick and she watched in amazement while I covered her hands. Then she pointed to Tania's neck (it would be exposed) just as I was connecting her hat and zipping her coat all the way up. She told Tania "hadasho" (worst phonetic translation ever) - which means "fine/good". Then she patted me on the back and said hadasho mama. HOLY CRUD! I passed the babooska test!!

Here is the tiny one sleeping. Yes - I am living on the wild side -- I dared snap a picture while she was sleeping EVEN with the flash!!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Tania is Sprung!

Here she (FINALLY) is in all her glory... Tatiana Elizabeth Repp!!At the Artem baby home

Goofing around at the baby home

"Getting Sprung" outfit - 18M is a little too big...

Not loving the car ride to the hotel... Thanks Auntie Angie for the snowsuit!

First bath at the hotel - she LOVED it!!
What a day! It's about 9pm here in Vlad, while all you east coasters are just waking up. This morning started with Sergei arriving to kick things off at 9am. My first surprise was a stop at Sergei and Ivan + Luba (my coordinators) apartment building. Luba and her son hopped in. It was good to see them again as they helped out with the notary on the last trip.
Our first stop WAS the notary and we signed a request for Tatiana's new birth certificate. They are super big on the notary here. They even have their own office. After that was done we went to the court to pick up the judge's approved decision. 2nd surprise was the judge's team spelled my name Ammy - so we waited while it was fixed.
Next stop was the Department of Vital Records - to get her new birth certificate and adoption certificate. Friday and Saturdays are big wedding days in Russia - and some marriages even take place in the Vital Records office - so they apoligized for the delay. (Actually they suggested that next time we change our court dates so that the wait doesn't end on a Friday AND apoligized for the wait.)
From there it was on to the passport office. Luba left for a bit to finish Tatiana's picture for the passport (too cute) and by the time she returned, the passport office was closed for lunch. So we sat in the car and waited. And ate chocolate. Not suggested for lunch. The passport office reopened at 2pm and we went right in. Sergei somehow talked them into having her passport done by Monday am around 11am. This discussion also included a chocolate gift to the employee... hey, whatever works!
After a quick stop at the store to buy a nice cake, FINALLY we were off to Artem (approx. 1 hr outside of town) to spring T from the big house. The kicker was that it was Friday afternoon and imagine I-75 N on a Friday afternoon. Yup -- traffic. Worse than normal Russian traffic. We arrived at the baby home around 4pm and the Director and Doctor had both left for the day. Their bad -- they missed the cake!!
T's groupa mates were all sleeping - so you can imagine her thrill at not having to nap, getting all the attention from her caretakers, and having me arrive. She was on Cloud 9 -- totally showing off while I took pictures of her room. We changed into new clothes - a little too big... and we were off. She was excited... until about 5 minutes into the car ride. Not her favorite. She could be occasionally distracted (where is mama's eyes - and YES! she knows!!) but there were some fake tears, followed by some super big tears. The big kicker is - she doesn't like to sit still. Man that plane ride sure is sounding good right now. NOT!
The good news is that she was FINE once we hit the hotel. She's had a blast tonight and will keep me on my toes. She doesn't want to walk - she wants to run, through the entire hotel. She also has discovered what glass doors are all about - the hard way. Having never seen a full length window -- she doesn't get it quite yet and has run into them 3 times. Thankfully not at full speed.
Dinner was good -- she did sit still in the hotel high chair long enough to eat some bread, some mashed potatoes and a little chicken. Not the best eater -- hoping the Robertson, Kluczyk and Ginther girls will help with that. We tried some celebratory ice cream - NYET! She hated the cold. I am sure someday I'll wish she still didn't like it!
After food we went back to the room for a bit - Lisa and Andrew joined us for about 15 minutes of play before bathtime. I expected her to HATE the bath. NYET again! She LOVED it. Didn't even mind having her hair washed. And she LOVES to splash.
The newest Repp is now in her crib -- rocking herself to sleep. Like many of the children who come from orphanages - she's a rocker. I will try the Baby Einstein again tomorrow -- but I knew her fans were waiting....
Paka from Vladivostok - - Mama + Tatiana

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wait Day - 9 : Almost There

Tick Tock Tick Tock!! Time is drawing near...

Today it was off to the stores. Sergei arrived around 1pm and Andrew and Lisa came along as well. Two birds, one stone! We went to the baby store first and picked up the necessities like diapers, wipes, baby yogurt etc. I also bought some great soft blocks that instead of english are in cyrillic. Very cool. Sergei pointed out what we thought was a shape sorting tub - one of T's favorites at the orphange - but it turned out just to be generic legos. I also got some tub toys to help ease her transition into water. If you are counting that's 3 toys - and I got tsk tsked about spoiling her!! Sheesh!

Then we went to the grocery store to stock up. More tsk tsking - this time over Coke (even Light!) and Pringles. A girl cannot live on borscht alone! I was told to get "baby juice" as opposed to big kids juice for T. And I was even tsked for buying wheat bread and not a darker bread - like a rye etc. I can't imagine rye and peanut butter. YUCK.

Tomorrow is the BIG day. Sergei is arriving at 9am (7pm Michigan time) and it's off to the courthouse to pick up the judges decree. Then we are off to get her new birth certificate and run a bunch of errands including dropping off the decree at the social workers office. FINALLY, it's off to the baby home to get T!! More tomorrow night -- including PICTURES!! I promise...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wait Day - 8 "Crazy 8s"

So after I posted yesterday, my new friends Lisa and Andrew and I wandered out on what was Lisa and I's second excursion of the day. Big happenings in Vladivostok!! We wandered down to the ocean again and -- walked out on the frozen water. The weather has been pretty nice the last couple days - mid to high 40s, so the ocean isn't as solid as it probably was back in January. No worries of falling through, but I am sure we won't be able to do that much longer! Check out my cool pink UGGs!

I moved into a suite yesterday at the hotel as well. It's super nice to actually have additional places to sit! I never thought I'd get so excited over a loveseat and chair. There is an ajoining door to the room next door, so I am hoping that's the room that Rhonda gets when she arrives. If we leave the door open she can come and go as she pleases, and also take advantage of the kitchen and living area.

Today it was back to see Little T - hopefully our last visit in the "visiting room". Compared to what many of the other families tell me about the visiting rooms at their children's baby homes, it's quite a large room - but we're all really tired of being cooped up in that room. Tatiana seemed like she's getting a little scared of Sergei for some reason. The last couple days she won't "bring him things" which used to be a favorite game of ours. Hopefully she's not creating a fear of men - although that's typical of many of the children from orphanage.

Tomorrow it's off the store. Other than the small "market" I posted a picture of a couple days ago, I haven't hit a store yet since arriving on this trip. Now that I have a kitchen we can make things more in the room and potentially save on the restaurant charges. I don't care HOW good a restaurant is, after eating the same menu for almost two weeks, it's hard NOT to be tired of it. Lisa and I decided that we'd like to look for break and bake cookies tomorrow at the store -- that would be most excellent. Come on Nestle -- come through for me.

I'll sign off now -- this week's American Idol is on for what I am sure will be the first of MANY showings. Paka!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wait Day 7

Another fairly uneventful day in Vladivostok. Although, this will likely be my last "uneventful" day here! Tomorrow it's off to see Little T again for a visit, then Thursday we've planned a small shopping excursion to stock up for her (and Rhonda's!) arrival which SHOULD be on Friday. There is some question as to if the 10 days is up ON day 10 or the day after, but because the baby home isn't usually open on the weekend, they will probably let me take her that day. That's the hope at least.

The picture above is the music room at Little T's baby home in Artem. It's a cute little room right off the main lobby of the building. I haven't actually been fortunate enough to catch any of the tykes in the room, but I have seen pictures of events in there. When I was here for my first trip in October, I was told there were 110 kids at her orphanage. And for 110 kids, it's amazingly quiet!

The Vlad Inn is finally starting to fill up. There are 3 families here now that are all with the same agency. They all have (or had) court this week and will have custody (at least two of them will for sure) so by the end of the week there should be 5 kidlets running around! And 4 of them are girls! We'll even the scales soon after when Lisa and Andrew get custody of their little guy.

Last but not least a question for those "in the know". When did Cheddar Cheese Pringles turn completely ORANGE? I had a can in my travel suitcase from a trade show at work (just a few weeks ago, but feels like a year!) and I opened them yesterday to find they are completely ORANGE. I can't seem to get past the jarring color to enjoy them -- so I'll leave them for Rhonda or pass them along!!!
Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wait Day 6 - Over the Hump

Happy Monday from Vladivostok. Never did I look forward to Monday so much -- a day with Tatiana! So this morning at 11:00am sharp my fierce protector, Sergei, arrived for our trip out to Artem. He plays the role of "tough Russian man" really well, but inside he's a big teddy bear. Don't tell him I told you!

It was a great visit day with Tania. She came pitter-pattering down the hallway after her lunch and believe it or not there were NO tears... until she walked smack dab into the wall. Kids living in the baby home don't see men much - so sometimes it takes her a minute to stop looking at Sergei! She was too busy looking at him and ran into the wall. THEN the tears came out. But she calmed down quickly. We had a blast. She was in rare form today - there was singing, dancing, laughing - quite the performer she is! I can't wait for Friday to finally roll around...

I also realized today that I have been remiss in filling you in on a couple MAJOR events of the past week. I keep forgetting about them -- and I am not sure how, as they have been some highlights of the otherwise slow week! (Ok only slow after court, haha!)

A brush with the "Fuzz": On the way home from the orphanage last Thursday, Sergei got pulled over by the police! The police are super efficient here -- they stand on the side of the road with a black and white stick and if they want you to pull over, they point the stick at you, and you are expected to stop. Somehow, I don't see this going over in Detroit!! I asked Elena, my translator, if Sergei was in trouble - and she said she didn't think so, that unlike the US (she was an aupair in the states for a couple year) - the police can stop you for any reason. So I think that Sergei showed his ID and pretty much, we were off. Big events!

More Shotgun Blasts: For those of you who have been loyal followers on my journey may remember a post from last November about things I was missing in Russia. I talked about how Rhonda and I kept hearing "shot gun blasts" at night - and since we are near a big miliary building, we figured why not? Turned out that it was actually fireworks!! Saturday night after the wedding, we had more fireworks! Must be part of their "wedding package"!!

I am certainly missing things from the US by now. I am not homesick - because I love being here and soaking in the culture and seeing T -- but there are lots of things I am missing. Here's the short list:
- I miss my kitties. A furry face at night would be sooo wonderful about now!
- A couch or soft chair: hotel beds get old after sitting in them for so long.
- A nail file: hint, hint Rhonda!
- Riverside: Yes, I know - I can't believe I miss that place... (it's a restaurant at home)
- A multitude of TV channels: I have found where old TV shows that have been cancelled in the US go after they die... Asian satelittle. October Road, Eli Stone, etc... and the repeats. UGH!

Paka from Vlad! More tomorrow...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wait Day - 5 : 1/2 Way There!

First a note Lanotch and his wife who left a note on my blog yesterday. Congrats on your upcoming first trip! I don't know how to reach you, so hoping you get this message. Please feel free to email me: danivann@aol.com. Yes, I get to visit some during my 10 day wait. I visited her Thursday and next week, I will go Monday, Wednesday and Friday should be the big day. Typically the baby homes are "closed" on the weekends. When is your trip?

Now onto "Wait Day 5". Nothing much to report today. Another family arrived in the last 24 hours - the Jones Family from Georgia. They're adopting a little girl who just turned 3 - so it looks like we'll have quite the girly group going by the end of the week!

I have a follow up to my post about the big yellow building next door... it IS a "spa"/vacation spot for high ranking military officials. The Russian word is "sanatoria" - which is why I was getting "sanitorium"!! In fact this whole area is referred to as "sanatoria" - meaning vacation spot. So mystery solved. Not that it was really much mystery.

I really wish I would have gotten a picture of the bride last night. I may have to pressure my new friends Lisa and Andrew to publish. Ahh the things that entertain us. Lisa and Andrew are really good people -- hoping to keep in touch with them long after. I really miss my original "Vlad Family" from trip 1 -- Sara + Steven, Mike + Heidi and Phyllis + Ed.
Ok I think that's all for today --- Paka from Vlad! Leaving you with one last teaser pic of Little T :)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Wait Day - 4 Saturday in Vladivostok

Saturday. Does it seem possible that I have been here a WEEK? Nyet! 1 week down, 2 to go!! Saturday in Vladivostok was - err a mixed bag!

I will admit that boredom is setting in! I turned on the TV to find American Idol TWICE again today! Enough! Sheesh with the American Idol. I thought I'd miss most of the season - even though I DVRed while gone, I rarely go back and watch the whole Idol episode. Nyet - I am overdosing on American Idol. I did watch an episode of "Nip/Tuck" from Rhonda's DVDs last night. Very good - will watch again tonight assuming I don't zzzz.

So my "Vlad family" (Lisa + Andrew, Jeanette + Sophie) and I hung out at the hotel for a good portion of the morning and afternoon. We met another new arrival family - The Traylor's from Florida. Their first visit was in September, so I can no longer complain about my timeline! They are adopting a little boy who just turned 3 - and is from the same baby home as Sophie.
Later, Lisa and Andrew took me on our adventure of the day: we wandered out to the little "party store" near the hotel. I wanted to get some "Coca-Cola Light" for the hotel and other assorted items. Then we walked back via the railroad stop. It was chilly but not horrible.

When we got back to the hotel there was a wedding party taking pictures in the lobby. WOW is all that can be said. The bride was -- ummm -- endowed and hmmm showing off her goods. Quite the lowcut bridal gown. To "top it all off" (literally) she had smothered herself in body glitter - well at least "part" of her if you get my drift. Andrew and Lisa were able to get some pictures... enough said. The rest of the eve we hung out in the gathering room upstairs called "The White Rabbit" (you Vlad alumnae know it well!).

Paka from Vlad!

Abandoned "house" in front of the Vlad Inn. This is a former school that moved up the road to much more spacious digs!

The "restrooms" near the market (read: party store) by the hotel.

The aforementioned "market"

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wait Day - 3

Nothing major to report today. A lazy day around the Vlad Motor Inn. I got up this morning and watched the American Idol results - AGAIN for the 2nd time. The Vlad Inn has a "satelitte" service for TV - and the main 2 channels are "Star TV" and "Star movies". They also have National Geographic and FOX News -- but I can only watch the snakes bite people so many times. I may have to break out the DVDs this evening.

I went outside to "play" with Jeanette and Sophie this morning. The hotel has a wonderful playscape for the kids to play on - and even though the weather isn't great, it's actually not muddy down there - quite the reverse, the problem is rock solid ICE. They don't shovel much other than a main sidewalk - so the rest gets beaten down under feet and tires.

It's starting to snow this early evening - weather reports had been reporting this since yesterday. I'll try to get some pictures of the snow! Paka!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wait Day - 2

Sergei: My driver and Coordinator. And fierce Russian protector!
Elana: Sweet, sweet translator!

Artem Baby Home - "Gym" (above & below)

Today was another great day in Vladivostok! Sergei and Elana came to the Vlad Inn to pick me up around 11am and we were off to Artem. We were greeted at the door by the Baby Home Director, Natal'ya. I met her in October and she was back today after the "holiday" - she's as kind and generous as I remember!
My translator, Elana, asked if we could see a little boy that a blogger friend of mine, Heather, is adopting. Heather and her husband, Justin, made the BEST book for their little one, Blake, and asked if I could deliver it to him. I was honored! At first the director said "yes, I will give him the book" but Elana (the Great!) said that I would also like to get a picture of him for his mama and papa. And Natal'ya agreed! She brought Blake into the visiting room and he was such a doll! Huge smiles. I didn't want to confuse him, so it was great to have Elana around - I asked her to tell Blake that I was a friend of his mama. He loved the book and quickly picked out both mama and papa. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to deliver a piece of his new home to him!
As if that wasn't a great day in itself a minute later Miss T came tromping down the hallway. She teared for only about 30 seconds today - and she sat on my lap and was easily calmed. Natal'ya had some wonderful advice - she said T is stubborn (hmmm I wonder if she gets that from me! hahaha) and that I need to be firm, but calm with her. And most importantly, don't give into her every whim and spoil her. Uh huh! I'll have to seriously try on that one.
Natal'ya the director was followed by Natal'ya the doctor. She gave me all sorts of great information on T -- no allergies, they have started to try potty training her etc. It was great to talk with her as well. She said they have been really happy with how much more interest T has in "learning" lately. All good.
Natal'ya the director mentioned that when many of the children in the orphanage figure out that they are "important" to someone, that they have a tendancy to get really bossy in their groupas. So she said "maybe you don't come everyday". So we decided I'll go next week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday should be pick up day. Sergei, Elana and I will go to the store on Thursday. Ahhh, things to look forward to!
Finally, T and Elana and I got to play in the Gym this afternoon - it was good to get out of the visiting room and see some other parts of the baby home. We had a great treat at the end - one of the other doctors and Natal'ya the director came up to play Ping Pong. T was FASCINATED!!
One last note, my social circle is growing! I met a fabulous couple last night - Andrew and Lisa from Vancouver, BC. It's great to have more people to spend time with and talk with!! Paka - it's dinner time!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wednesday in Vladivostok - Day 1 of Wait

No visit with Little T today -- as I was getting out of the car yesterday after court (my translator had left already), I said to Sergei, my driver "das zaftra, 11?" (meaning see you tomorrow, 11am - which is our normal time these days). He said "zaftra - nyet". So not sure why, but today is an off day. I miss visiting her, but I also don't mind saving the $15/hr each for the driver AND translator.

Last night I ordered a pizza from the hotel restaurant. I had the pizza when I was here in October, and while it's a little different, it's actually really good! It's got some cheddar cheese on top as well, sounds odd, I know, but trust me! I stayed up LATE last night and waited for those of you in the eastern part of the US to wake up! I got to talk to Angie last night and get caught up! Suddenly I realized it was almost midnight here, the latest I have stayed up by a LONG shot. Since I have been waking up around 4am, I was exhausted.

After my wild and crazy night, I actually slept in until 6:30am! Wooo hoo! More internet time, and "skype" which has been a godsend to be able to talk to people back home. Then I figured it was time to get outside and get some fresh air, so I walked down to the Sea of Japan again. Note to Rhonda, I did NOT almost get hit by a train unlike some people I know hehe AND if you will want to do this in a couple weeks, make sure you bring some grippy boots. Imagine at home when it snows and nothing gets plowed and then it gets driven through and walked on and finally freezes. Frozen ruts are hard to walk on!!

Here are some pictures of the trip so far... enjoy! More tomorrow!

Giant building next to the Vlad Inn - possibly a sanitarium

"Cottage" near the Sea of Japan - unsure if it's occupied!

"Pier" out to the Sea of Japan - hard to tell where the beach ends and the Sea begins!

The Courthouse where I became Tatiana's Mom!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Tatiana has a new Mommy!

The big day! COURT! This morning at 10:30am, Vladivostok time (which was approximately 8:30pm at home) I was pronounced as Tatiana's new mommy! The Tatiana that was yesterday is no more - she is now Tatiana Elizabeth Repp!

I was SCARED out of my wits this morning. You think of court as a "bad" place where you go when something is wrong. We arrived at the Courthouse around 9:30am and went inside the room about 10 minutes to 10. The judge had not arrived yet, and everyone else inside was very friendly. I had made a picture book of Tatiana on Snapfish for the judge to see - and they all looked at it. The prosecutor said "future super model - Miss USA". And then there were jokes that "too bad she can't be President" - but I told them by the time she's old enough "AH-nold" will have fixed that!

The judge entered as the proceedings began. While I was still scared, it was really painless. The questions were exactly as expected with a couple small, but easy exceptions. My translator (a new one, specially for court) was GREAT! Very helpful and reassuring. After about 25 minutes of questioning and discussions from the social worker and prosecutor, we left the room for the judges decision. 1 minute later we were back inside and I was pronouced a mommy! And yes, Rhonda, I did tear up :)

I just had my celebratory lunch with Jeanette and Sophie and I think it's time for a nice nap!! Paka from Russia!
~ Tatiana's Mommy!

Monday in Vlad

I think the Russian's are on to something with this whole "Women's Day" thing... they had a day off today as well! Sheesh! But no day off for me today -- around 11am it was off to see Tania again. Yea!

This time the social worker, Svetlana, was there and we were able to talk more about Little T's background and some more information on her medical "diagnosis". I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say, her birth momma stinks. Sounds like T had a rough couple first months, but it's all in the past now.

Today started about the same as yesterday - big tears after leaving her room. I got to be very overwhelming to leave a room you hardly ever get to go out of. Essentially she eats, bathes, sleeps and plays in the same two rooms. For those of you "Artem" parent's, T is in the "Duck Groupa" at the top of the Pepto Pink stairs. She may be one of the older kids in her room, and I think possibly if she had not been getting ready to leave, she may have graduated to another groupa.

After jumping on her favorite "low-shet" (Russian for horse, say it like it's spelled there) she started to calm down. The social worker says she likes to "swing" I suspect she means rock. And she said she does this at night too -- which doesn't surprise me since so many before me have told me about this coping mechanism. From there it was 95% smooth sailing! She LOVES the attention - loves "peek-a-boo"/hide and seek type games, and "Uncle Mark", "Uncle Gary" and "Uncle Boo" will like to know that she likes to be tossed in the air. And man when those giggles start - she could melt an iceberg!!

Court is tomorrow -- Svetlana helped me get prepared and was really nice. Icing on the cake was the all of a sudden I had a bloody nose! Thankfully my translator, Elena, was there to help watch T while I got it to stop. Weird. I think I have had like 3 nose bleeds in my entire life.

Update on my social life: Apparently it's "singles week" in Vlad! Haha! I met two other single mom's yesterday that are here. Jeanette, from Davis CA, is my "neighbor" in the hotel. She had court last Friday and took immediate custody of her sweetie - Sophie Elona. Gail, from PA, is leaving today with her new son, Jonathon. She's here on her 2nd adoption! So for the time being Jeanette and Sophie and I will hang out. A friend of Jeanette's will arrive on the 16th, T should be with me starting on the 20th and then Rhonda arrives on the 25th.

Last but not least, I'll try to answer some popular questions. See above for other families. Not in the suite yet - hope soon. I could potentially get Gail's after she leaves. Hotel in Seoul was nice but small. ROCK hard bed, but super handy. I haven't had the stuffed toast yet -- but I promise I will try it SOON!

I will leave you with a tease of what's to come. I can't post any pictures of T just yet -- so you'll have to do with her "haircut". Her adoring fans will have to wait until approximately March 20th! Paka!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Reunited and It Feels So Good

Happy "Women's Day"! Nope - I am not kidding! It's "Women's Day" here in Russia. The closest thing I can compare it to is Mother's Day for all women. The restaurant here in the Vlad Motor Inn is more crowded than I have ever seen before. I should have known something was up because they kept bringing in more and more tables while I was eating breakfast.

So since it's "Women's Day", I guess it's only appropriate that I got to spend my day with Little T! Yea! We headed out on the journey to see her around 11am this morning and arrived at her baby home just before noon. The whole building smelled like they were baking bread. It was lunch time so we waited for a few minutes while T had some food. Finally I heard those little footsteps coming down the hallway. She was here!

As suspected her curls are gone. She's now got what I'll call a "shaggy Dorothy Hamil". No biggie - hair grows! I can tell she'll be fighting those curls though at times in her life -- as even shorter some of it wants to curl! Isn't always when you have straight hair, you want curly and vice versa? Either way, she's as cute as a button.

The first 3 minutes or so she was NOT a happy camper. She must have been thinking - you rushed me through lunch to see 3 strangers? At 2, my guess is she doesn't remember me much from 4 months ago - and I am not sure how many times she got to see the picture book I left. She cried some pretty big tears - but you could tell she was just scared. But after a quick 3 minutes, she started to warm up. And then she was perfection, once again!

We looked at pictures - some of the first trip and some of home, kitties, grandparents, etc. And then she discovered my bag. She wanted to see what was inside and we she could see. It wasn't a nosey, naughty, tearing through the bag, but a curiousity. Sergei, my driver, started a game where she brought an item to him and then he'd say (in Russian), "bring it back to mama". And she did! She even whispered "mama" to me a couple times.

She's VERY inquisitive! She saw the zipper on the little bag that I keep my Flip video in and wanted to see how it works. She then saw me pushing the red "record" button on the Flip - and then she had to do it too! Riley's going to have a lot of "teaching" to do, Jenni - because judging by today -- T is one curious girl!! Reminds me of some girlies I know!!

Court is Tuesday -- I'll keep updating here, because let's face it -- I have nothing much else to do!! Last but not least, it appears my spell check is not cooperating, so please forgive any typos. Paka from Vlad!

Safe and Sound at the Vlad Motor Inn

Finally here! After what seems like days (oh wait! it was!!) I have finally arrived at the Vlad Motor Inn in grand old Vladivostok, Russia! I did NOT get to see Little T today -- as my flight arrived around 2:15pm - and even though I pushed my way through customs and luggage claim (ask Rhonda about her experience last time!), apparently the baby home in Artem suggests 12-3pm as "visiting hours" so there was no time today. Good news is I get to see her tomorrow AND Monday before Court on Tuesday.

I am just getting settled for a bit and will eventually wander out to the restaurant for some dinner and in hopes of meeting some other families - although NO ONE on the Vlad adopt board OR FRUA responded to my post about being in Vlad in March. I can't be the only American here can I?

Random thoughts about the trip so far...
* I have turned into one of those crazy people who talk to themselves. Ok, well not really in public, but if there would have been a camera or microphone in my room at the Seoul airport hotel you would have thought I had lost it. It's harder than you realize to go for basically two days without really talking to anyone you know!
* It's also weird to be without a cell phone. I left mine at home this time as it was one thing less to carry. I use my phone as a "watch" as well -- so it's hard to get used to having something around your wrist all the time again. I brought my Christmas present watch from mom - a dual time zone watch. Very handy for not having to figure out what time it is back in Michigan! Funny story -- I got her the SAME watch for Christmas.
* Korean Subway food = not so great. I think when I go to a "chain" like that I expect the same taste -- always dissapointed.
* And last but not least for today -- as there will be many more random thoughts... I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE LITTLE T!!!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Man, That's One Big Pond

Whew! What a day. I'd make some crack about flying so long that my arms are tired -- but I'll leave those comments to my dad!

I have arrived in Seoul, Korea. Best I can tell - as I just left my watch back in the hotel room, it's like 3am at home. Something like that. And did I mention I got up at 5:30am? It's technically 4:47 pm here in Seoul, but I am ready for bed. I'll try to hold out for a bit, but I am not sure what the hotel room TV holds in my future...

I did manage to grab a few moments of sleep on the plane. WOW was business class worth it. Ok still WAY expensive -- but the seats are light years ahead of what they cram you into in steerage - I mean coach. I even supported Nestle on the plane -- they served Haagen daz... woo hoo!

So tonight I have big plans with a pillow in my very tiny but nice room at the Hotel Air Garden. (I know you warned me about it Jesse and Jason, but since I was alone this time, I wasn't feeling all that adventurous!) And tomorrow @ 10am it's off to Vladivostok. I have asked to go right to Little T's baby home as it's super close to the airport - but we'll see!

Paka from Seoul!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

In the "D"

This will likely be my last post from the US as a "childless" adult! I am at the Marriott by the airport and headed out tomorrow morning! Next stop? Seoul, Korea via Chicago, IL!! I'll try to send a quick post from Seoul.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Final Countdown!

The time is drawing near! I am headed down to the airport tomorrow night and staying at the Marriott before leaving early on Thursday morning. My brain is moving a mile a minute and I am feeling a bit scatterbrained... so forgive me if this post is all over the place!

Leading up to today I had TWO things hanging over my head: trading some final cash for crisp bills AND the fact that my VISA had not arrived yet. I can gladly say that as of 8:30pm - check and CHECK. WHEW! What a relief. It was almost as if planets aligned today.

Earlier this week was a comedy of errors... a money plan I had lined up fell through and suddenly I was left to figure out how to quickly locate A LOT of crisp bills. For any of you that have traveled for adoption, you know this dance. The best plans go awry!! So yesterday it was back to the drawing board. My bank got me about 1/2 way there -- and then I hit a couple others to exchange -- no crisp bills to be found.

Today was a different story -- the bank had TONS of crisp bills. The customer a couple people before me had just come from the Duty Free shop at the bridge to Canada -- and BOOM - fresh bills. When I got home -- my VISA was there! I was nervous that my VISA that was being sent overnight from New York would get slowed down because of the big storm they had. Breathing is good!

The last panic of the day was the 4pm email I got from my agency informing me of 1 final document that needed to be notarized and taken with for the embassy. WHAT? I am leaving TOMORROW! Nothing like last minute. But I'd soooo rather be over prepared than under prepared!! So I took off like lightning to the bank and had no issues getting the final document notarized.

Next stop -- Detroit!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Additional Additions

I have added another family member... and yes, you'll think I am crazy. But there is story behind my madness...

Back in January as the weather was getting really brutally cold here in Michigan. My mother and I discovered a tiny little kitten near her house. She wouldn't let us "get" her, so we started leaving some food out at night and my mom even made a bed for her out of an old computer printer box covered in plastic. Every time we'd get close, she'd run away around the side of the house in some bushes and cry and cry. It was horribly sad. Honestly, it was stressing my mom out, because this little kitten was so young and small and it was getting SO cold at night.

One night mom wandered outside and looked in the box - guess who was inside! Before the kitten could react and run away, mom swooped up the box and brought it AND the kitten inside her house. My mom's neighbor across the street had seen the kitten and asked if it was my mom's. She had said it wasn't, but we were trying to capture it. The neighbor said, "if you can catch it, we'll take it" (they have one cat already). GREAT! We had a built in home for this little homeless kitty.

Turns out the neighbor didn't like having two cats. My mother had heard from a lady at church who also volunteers at a local humane shelter that the neighbor was asking her to take it to the shelter. But since they are ALWAYS full, we didn't think this would really happen.

After Murphy's passing, my mom mentioned the situation and said "we should have kept that kitten". She told me what she had heard, so I asked her to call the neighbor and offer that I'd take the kitten. Guess what? The neighbor had already given it to the shelter lady! Little kitty had already been at the shelter for almost a week! I was floored! So up to the shelter we went, and $75 and two weeks later we had her back! At first I was highly annoyed that I had to pay $75 to rescue a kitten I had already saved once, but while at the shelter she got ALL her kitten shots, tested for diseases AND fixed. That would have cost me MUCH more at the vet.
I thought Roo would have the hardest adjustment... but really, it's been Gracie. I think it's the female competition. I have named the little squirt "Sunny" because she's (get this!) a Red Siberian tiger -- so her reddish orange color reminds me of a sunny day. Plus she's got these really cool striations in her fur that look like sun rays.

This week when I leave for Russia, all 3 of the furries will move down to my moms for the stay. I tease her that by the time I get home, she'll have fallen in love with Sunny -- and Sunny will have another new home. Otherwise, Little T will have her own baby! Here is Miss Sunny...

And here is Gracie's reaction for the first week, plus her plush new bed.