Saturday, February 26, 2011

Home on the Range…

It’s good to be home again!  Rhonda and I touched down in Detroit on Thursday late afternoon.  Since you can’t turn on cell phones until AFTER completely clearing customs, I couldn’t call my mom to tell her we had landed and I had no idea what her arrival time was.  As Rhonda and I exited the “secure” area of customs into the greeting/arrival area, I heard my mom telling Tatiana “over here, Tatiana, here’s the bathroom”.  And then she saw me – and I got the BIGGEST hug!  Man, did I miss that girl!  Perfect timing! 

I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked “don’t you wish you could have brought him home on this trip?” in the last couple days.  Well, not to be rude, but DUH!  Of course I wish that!  However, I can honestly say, when you know going in what the program is, it’s easier to accept going home and waiting.  Waiting is NEVER easy, but it seems to be more understandable when that is the plan from the get go. 

So now we wait. 

Thankfully, the wait this time around SHOULD not be nearly as long and painful as two years ago.  (I am knocking on every piece of wood in my eye sight right now!!)  The average turn around time for court is 6 weeks in St. Petersburg.  Compared to Vladivostok, where the average is 3 months (with some families waiting as long as 6 months or more!) – this will be a walk in the park.  Plus this time I have nothing done.  And I have a Tatiana to help keep me busy and preoccupied. 

Speaking of Tatiana, she’s SUPER excited to be a big sister.  She saw pictures of Baby Soup and proclaimed her love already.  She’s been picking out movies for him to watch.  I realize that approximately two days after his arrival she’ll be ready for him to leave again, but for now we’ll settle for excited! 

I made good progress on the pre-move office clean up today.  I don’t think my office has been this clean since I moved here.   I may try to talk Gramma Darlin into heading down to Art Van (furniture store, for those of you non-Michiganders) tomorrow to check out some dresser options.   Even though I feel like I have lots of time – 6 weeks will fly by before I know it. 

Another teaser for the day – sorry that’s all you get for now!

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Last Night in St. Pete's (for now)

It's Defender of the Fatherland Day in Russia - a holiday. It marks the day in 1918 during the Russian Civial War, when the Red Army had it's first major draft. I seriously would like to read a really good book on Russian history. (Next stop: Amazon) Even though it was "Defender's Day", we still got to visit. Yea!

Another fabulous day with the Soup Master. He's seriously such a good, calm boy. One of the calmest babies I have ever seen. (Everyone, quick, drop what you're doing and please knock on wood for me - that was a serious jinx move I just pulled) I think he's cutting some teeth - from evidence of the teeth just poking through in his mouth in the back and sides, and the runny nose occasionally. Today he seemed a little sleepy. But instead of showing the sleepy side in cranky, whiny baby-hood, he was really cuddley and lovey. He rested his head on my shoulder and sucked his thumb. And... to be EVEN MORE CUTE, when he sucks his thumb, he rubs his nose with his fingers. So beyond precious.

They have had him the same outfit all 3 days, I know - totally shocking, right? It's a 6 to 9 months, but it's a little small. I suspect he's in 9 months or 12 months. So that's my shopping plan. The challenge may be a winter coat. Even though there is still snow on the ground at home, most of the stores have moved into bathing suits already. Even the clearance is well picked over. But... I love a challenge!

We said good-bye for now and while it was bittersweet, I really wasn't sad. It's time to get busy at home. I am NOT ready for him. I have MUCH to do. This time around, the bedroom was put on hold. During Tatiana's adoption, EVERYTHING was done before she came home. And I mean everything. Some of my friends will witness this as they received BOXES of boy clothes (hand me overs -- not downs, really). With nothing to do between trips #1 and #2, I was restless (translation = CRAZY). It was hard staring into that empty room. It needed a little one. This time around, I have made minor preparations. However, it seemed like everything I did jinxed the road to "Soup". When I received referral #1, I bought a car seat during a super sale. Rhonda now refers to it as the "Cursed Car Seat". Well, now we can call it the "Formerly Cursed Car Seat", cause it's here to stay! The office needs to move to the basement (ooooohhhh Jenni.... I have a project for you!) and the office needs to turn into a bedroom (here's where you come in Tina... I need a couple more custom canvases. Think blocks.). And SHOPPING. Yes, we'll be busy. 4 to 6 weeks will FLY by.

After we left baby home #6 today we convinced Nadia to take us shopping. She took us to a Department Store that also has Russian souveniers on the main floor. We scored some great finds but alas, no updated Russian dresses (sorry Tamara, next time!). When we got home we wandered out again on the icy streets to a local store and restaurant. Exciting last night, haha!

Tomorrow we head home and we'll arrive before most of you are home from work! Paka from Russia.

Morning Musings from St Petersburg

It's Wednesday morning in St Pete's. We are heading out in 30 minutes to go to baby home #6 and see the Soup Monster for the last time. Before we leave, here's some general thoughts from the city.

Isn't She Lovely? St. Pete's is beautiful! I haven't had much time to go out and see the sights that I wanted to. But the architecture is amazing. I saw lots of beautiful cathedrals in Vladivostok, but here they are on every street corner! Rhonda was able to do a private tour (@ $50/hr!) yesterday and I am drooling at some of her pictures. Amazing. The history here is so rich.

Ice Ice Baby! Vanilla Ice has nothing on this town. Not only is it cold, but since it's Russia and their snow removal outside is sketchy at best. The streets are clean but the sidewalks are another story. Those of you who live in the north can attest to what happens when you don't shovel and then walk on it. Snow gets beaten down. And turns to ice. Nasty, fall on your butt ice. The ice here is 3 inches thick on the sidewalk. Or thicker. I can tell from the few cut away spots. Walking on it is taking your life into your own hands. Rhonda and I have wandered out a couple times and even when we are out with the in country team, every time there is a near miss.

More musings later. I think jet lag still has a hold of my brain. I seem to have 100 ideas, but putting them on paper (or computer screen) is another topic. Ahhh... story of my life! Finally, excuse any typos or mis-spellings. The spell check here thinks we're in Russia (oh right, we are!) so EVERY word is a mis-spelled word.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Look Ma!! No TB!

Baby Home #6

Happy Tuesday from St. Petersburg, Russia. It's almost 4pm and I have returned from a busy day. Here's a quick run down on the daily events, because you know that you want to hear all the nitty gritty!

Today was the BIG day - Medical Test Day. I have silently, sub-consciously stressed about this day for the past 9 months, since starting adoption #2. Most regions are requiring this lovely step now, so I knew I probably wouldn't be able to dodge it. I didn't WANT to stress about it, and I told myself it was no big deal. But let's face it. Seeing 8 doctors that don't speak your language - not on your list of top things to do. If it is, we need to talk.

I was picked up promptly at 7am and off to the medical clinic we went. I left Rhonda in the hotel to sleep - *I* didn't want to go to the medical so I can't imagine her wanting to follow me around. She's touring the city with a tour company right now (highly jealous!!) It was quite a drive, I don't think we arrived until 7:45am or so. It was a very non-descript building that was very clean inside. Seriously, with the amount of snow and ice they get here, their floors are remarkably clean. The folks in Michigan could take some serious lessons from them. We proceeded down to the super secret big lady in charge's office that apparently only American families get to go in. I came to this conclusion after witnessing the icy stares of some of the other "patients" as we came and went as we pleased many times. That or wait, I *am* in Russia.

There was another family waiting inside the super secret office. The same family that I ran into on the elevator in the hotel last night. They had bags of McDonalds in their hands, weren't dressed in 100% black AND had welcoming smiles on their faces! So yes, I stalked them. However, I am a poor stalker because after that elevator meeting AND spending almost 3 hours (off and on, mostly off though in my defense) I still don't know their names. They're from Colorado though, if that helps. So we'll commence calling them Mr and Mrs Colorado. For now. Until I see them again and can stalk them further!

First stop for me - blood tests. ICK! I hate giving blood. I honestly had the choice of having all the blood tests run in the US and a chest x-ray as well. Then you have to carry them over and have them examined. So am I nuts for not doing this? Possibly - however, here was my logic. It was approximately $50 more to do it all here. The # of tests they run is comical. Between that and explaining to my insurance company why I needed a TUBERCULOSIS test, an HIV test, and every other communicable disease under the sun and then expecting said insurance agency to pay for it, and finding the TIME for all those aforementioned tests in the week and a half before I left -- wasn't going to happen. I was assured it was all clean and safe - and it was. Other than the 5 minutes it took the nurse to find a vein that she wanted to attack, it was about as easy as blood draws go. I'll give her props, once she liked what she saw, it was a tiny little pinch and then I felt nothing. And no, that doesn't mean I passed out! I didn't look at the 6 vials of blood being taken. Yes, I said 6. I know.

After the blood test, it was back to the super secret office. We were offered coffee, tea and a variety of chocolatey dessert type items. Not exactly what I'd expect in a medical clinic. I sampled one of the cookie type items, and I'll give it two thumbs up! My Nestle friends will be happy to hear that she of course served Nescafe. And she was highly impressed to hear that I worked for Nestle.

Step 2 was the an older female doctor who did two roles, infectious diseases and neurologist. Because those two so often go hand in hand? I didn't ask, it saved a step. Lots of questions, nothing major. She was very nice.

Step 3 was a chest x-ray for my new friend in infectious diseases. Shirt off, bra off, stand against a cold machine and hold your breath. Done. No TB. Yahoo.

Step 4 was upstairs for an EKG. Weird little suction cup stickers all over my chest, with shirt pulled up and bra un-done. The details are not to gross you out, but for those who may have to endure this in the semi-near future. Also, odd clamps on feet and wrists. Done in like 10 seconds. "Relax and breathe". Un-huh, sure. Whatever you say.

Step 5 was Psychologist - in the basement. I wonder if this was on purpose. No jumping out of windows, perhaps? My translator friend (who has now seen me shirtless essentially twice, poor girl!) provided him a copy of my homestudy and I had to answer 70 questions (true/false) about a variety of different things. Mostly how you feel. (Do you wake up rested, etc.) Some questions I openly laughed out loud when I was filling out the form. Thankfully he didn't see this part! Apparently, in Russia, I am sane. Thankfully!

Step 6 was 3 more doctors. I don't know why these 3 poor ladies all got lumped together. They were the "general doctor" (really? then why do I need the rest?), the dermatologist and the onocologist. Yes, I got felt up. By a chick. In Russia. Shirt off, bra off - stand up. Then down. Very typical breast exam. Blood pressure taken. Lots of questions asked.

DONE! We said our good-byes in the super secret office with the bigwig lady and we were out the door by 10:30am. Really, all in all not too shabby. And... if that weren't enough, I get a copy of my x-ray that's "good for two years". In case I want to adopt again. WHAT? No thanks, two is good!

We got to the baby home around 11:45am. Traffic stunk. Yet another big surprise for those of you who have been here before. Another difference between St Pete and Vlad? St Pete actually has traffic lights! Seriously!

Baby Soup came teetering again and was shy for about 2 minutes. My translator friend went off to make some phone calls (and clear her mind from seeing the breast exam, I am sure) and left Soupy and I to play. Same outfit today, with an added hoodie. Super cute, smiley boy again today. Not a single tear. At the end of our play date, I got to take him back to his room and see inside. VERY cute little room. He pouted when I had to leave, which of course, made mama happy. And sad.

From there we went off to the notary to sign the official paperwork to send into the court. Yahoo!!

Tomorrow is a Russian Holiday - Defenders Day. Thankfully, we received special clearance to go see the Soupmaster tomorrow. One more visit and then it's time to hit the road Thursday morning. Lots to do to get ready for a little boy who puts EVERYTHING in his mouth! And shopping. He's a chunkochunko, so with his weight, I assumed he'd be in a bigger size, but not so much. Mama needs to get her shopping on! Who wants to meet me @ Birch Run?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Little Boy - Take 2

Where do I start? What an AMAZING day. Day "1" in St. Petersburg (thankfully) went DRASTICALLY different than Day "1" in Vladivostok. Even though Day "1" in Vladivostok ended well - I am happy to say that everything about Day "1" St. Petersburg was fabulous. Perfect, even.

Rhonda and I both slept like ROCKS last night. I remember waking up around 5am and thinking, "I really hope I can go back to sleep". NO issues. She woke up around 6:30am and I woke up about 7:30am. We were told to be ready @ 11:00am, and yes, knowing me I thought "Really? That late? Let's get this show on the road". Thankfully we were ready early, because at 10:20am our phone rang and the front desk told us they were here for us.

Off we went to the Ministry of Education (aka "The Committee"). Completely different. No 6 flights of stairs to climb, and NO scary Tatiana. Instead, Nataylia met us with a smile, provided us with lots of information about the little man (including his birthday which is dangerously close to mine!!) and then sent us on our way. No scary questions. And no blue eyeshadow - an inside joke for those of you who have been through Vlad.

Next stop: Baby home #6 in the city of St. Petersburg. What? No hour plus drive out on scary country roads? Nope! Score! A short drive through the heart of the city. Baby home #6 is very cute outside with a great playground hidden under mounds and mounds of snow. We went inside and eventually proceeded up to the greeting room. We arrived around lunch time and I'll let you imagine the smells. If you can't imagine, you'll have to ask Rhonda for some specifics. She'll explain it much more colorfully than I ever could. I almost lost her at one point. I literally had to wave my hand sanitizer under her nose for a diversion. Disaster averted.

After the longest 5 minutes of the day, in walked "Baby Soup". Teetered/walked. Same difference. Actually for his age (not quite 18 months) he walks REALLY well. He is BEAUTIFUL, as gorgeous in person than in the pictures I got. No tears, but some shyness for the first 5 minutes. I brought out some toys, a small ball, a car and stacking cups. Score one for mama. The toys were a huge hit. Within 10 minutes we were laughing, giggling and having a great time. We spent over two hours with him.

I don't need two days - although thankfully, I've got them. I am ready to sign now. He's perfect, he's amazing and I am super lucky!

Most of you know the drill. I can't post any pictures of him, but I will leave you with a teaser. Of course. How could I not? I can't wait to show his adorable face to everyone, but for now, this will have to do.

We found a cute little "bar" (I think it's really a restaurant that serves alcohol, but they called it a bar) that had pretty good food, so after a walk around the neighborhood, we had some pizza and pasta.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Somehow the Same... Yet TOTALLY Different

We've arrived! Aunt "Whonda" and I are safely in St Petersburg. We left Detroit @ 6pm on Saturday, 2/19/11 and arrived this evening at 6pm St Petersburg time.

Comparisons - ANY flight compared to the murderous 14 hour flight from Chicago to Seoul is a walk in the park. Seriously, tonights 7.5 hour flight was NOTHING! I felt like we were barely in the air. Neither of us slept much, but that's to be expected.

The St Petersburg airport wasn't quite what I expected. I can't describe WHAT I was expecting, but maybe more like a larger European city (like Amsterdam, maybe?) but while it was larger than Vladivostok, it was smaller than I expected. Customs was no big deal.

The hotel - Courtyard by Marriott - makes The Vlad Motor Inn look like a shack in the woods. Big, beautiful with two restaurants (a Bierstobe!) and nice room.

I am hoping this is where the comparison's end. Last time around, the first day didn't as expected... this time, I am hoping for no surprises. I feel very confident about this referral. I don't want to go out on a limb and say he's amazing, so I'll let you read into that. Then again, amazing on paper doesn't always mean real life is the same.

I am less nervous than 2.5 years ago. Maybe because I know the process and have been there, done that this time. I can't say that I am NOT nervous -- but the nerves are different. The whole trip has had a different attitude this time, much more laid back, much less stress.

It's COLD. Like a rare cold day in January in Michigan. Really cold.

Excited about tomorrow. Missing my Russian princess at home. And tired. That's it for now... more later. Say some prayers for us tomorrow... Baby Soup... here we come!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Singing Along With the Beatles

Yes!  I am going “Back to the USSR” – or more politically correctly, I am going back to the Russian Federation!   It’s finally time to meet Baby Soup!

I’ll be leaving on February 19th, arriving in country on February 20th and heading back home on February 24th.  Aunt “Whonda” will be my chaperone, once again.  I don’t know who is more excited, me or her. 

Am I ready?  Hmmm, good question.  I think so.  I have been preparing for this day since last March, and really in overdrive since September.  I learned a lot about “counting eggs before they hatch” during T’s adoption…. so I’ll be leaving myself LOTS to do between trips #1 and #2/#3.  

Excited.  Nervous.  Etc.  The whole gambit of emotions!

More to come…  however, I’ll leave you with a picture (or 3) of Snowmaggedon, 2011. 

IMG 032 IMG 007 IMG 025When the snow is as tall as your 4 year old… you have a lot of snow!