Thursday, June 26, 2008

We're home!

Wednesday was such a bittersweet day. Aliona picked us up at 9:00 and took us to the orphanage. We went into Dr. Ludmilla's room and presented her with our gifts of clothes for the children, money for diapers or formula, and chocolates for the caretakers. She must have been impressed, because she took us on a tour of the orphanage! There are pictures on the Kemerovo yahoo group of these rooms, so I'd seen them before, but we were treated with a tour. It was amazing to see the rooms I had only thought I'd see in pictures. First we saw the pool room. It is a three-leaf clover-shaped pool. She said the children learn how to swim at an early age. She then showed us the sauna. Now, when I saw the picture on the yahoo group, I have a sauna. However, Dr. Ludmilla explained that they don't use steam. Instead, they put herbs and oils on the rocks to help children with soar throats. She then showed us a little table set up with tea cups and explained that the children with soar throats drink herbal tea to relieve the pain and promote healing. Next, she showed us a large cedar barrel with a hole in the top. It is a steam chamber, and the child sits inside with his head out. The steam helps open nasal passages and lung passages. It was a gift from our agency, and she is very thankful for it. We then saw the therapy room. There were a few very old nebulizers for children with asthma and other breathing problems. Then there were little cots and electo-shock devices. She didn't explain all of it, but I'm assuming it might be for the children with CP. There was also a tanning light there. We at first were thinking...ok...lucky kids get a tan....but Dr. Ludmilla explained that there aren't enough sunny days there and the light helps the children absorb enough vitamin D.

We were very impressed, and we were amazed that she allowed us to see these rooms. When we arrived back at her office, a caretaker came in with Grace. She cried when her caretaker left, but she didn't fight me to get down. Dr. Ludmilla offered her a cookie and she stopped crying and even put her head on my chest while she chewed on the cookie. We then went back into the play room to spend time with her.

It was nice having the room all to ourselves. She wasn't distracted by what was going on with Jacob, and her attention was on us. We held her for a little while, and then let her down to show us what she wanted to do. She loves the stackable cups we brought, and the balls that make noise. She also loves to walk. When she was sitting on the floor and wanted to get up to walk, she would grab our fingers and pull herself up. That was an encouraging sign. If she didn't like the finger you offered her, she would move your hand until she found the finger she wanted to hold. Today I let Brian play with her a lot because the children aren't used to men. She took to him pretty well. She allows him to hold her, but when he kisses her she turns away...but I think it's more the mustache and beard rather than anything else.

We laid her down on the mat and found her tickle spot. She has a really cute giggle and we love her smile. Most of the time she pushes her bottom lip out. This makes her look mad all the time. I don't know if that's a nervous habit of hers, or if it's a mannerism. She smiled quite a bit for us today and was really using her voice. She was really comfortable with us.

All to soon, our time was over and we had to surrender her to her caretaker. We took one last moment to take pictures of us holding her and then gave her to the caretaker. I was waving bye-bye and saying "bakah bakah" in Russian (bye-bye) and for just the slightest minute, she waved her hand like she wanted to wave. We also gave the caretaker the blankie for her, the monkey that has our voices, the picture album, and the one-time use cameras.

Dr. Ludmilla was going to a meeting, so she said good-bye to us in the hall. She told us not to worry about our daughter, that she will be well taken care of while we are gone, and she will see us when we return in four to six weeks. She then shook our hand and gave us a kiss on the cheek and wished us a safe journey home.

I was surprised that I didn't cry when it was time to leave. We did get a chance to take a few pictures of the playground and the building before it was time to go. The rest of the day was spent in our room, as we don't have the translator all day. We didn't want to try to explore on our own.

We woke up at 4:30 on Thursday and began getting ready for our trip home. The flight in Novokuznetsk departed at about 7:40. The flight was four hours long, but because of the time changes, it was only 8:05 when we arrived in Moscow. We used the restroom on our way to baggage claim. The line for the women's room was really long. When we got out of the bathroom, I thought it was strange that our luggage hadn't arrived yet. We heard an announcement that said if you hadn't received your baggage to see the desk, and sure enough...there it was! We couldn't believe how fast the baggage was claimed off that flight.

Oksana met us after baggage claim and took us to the American Airlines desk to find out when our check-in was. We were a bit early. She was unable to take us further into the airport, so she wished us a safe journey, gave us a hug and said good-bye. We waited in a waiting area for about 3 hours, then checked it. It was so long. First, we were met by a security worker who asked us about our luggage...who packed the bag? How long have you owned the luggage? Where did you pack it? Do you have any battery-operated devices? How long have you owned them? When she was satisfied with our answers, she let us through to check in. That went easy, but then we had to go through Migration, and they had to check our visas to make sure we were leaving on the day we said we would. Then we had to go through passport control, then security. Once we reached the appropriate gate, we had to wait about an hour and a half before they announced our flight. It was another security check. They took our tickets and then we had to randomly get patted down. I was randomly chosen. She searched my bags and then I had to take my shoes off so she could check them, and finally she used the wand to check for metal and such. We were then shown to another waiting area where we waited another half hour for boarding.

We boarded about 2:00 and took off around 2:40. The flight was about 9 1/2 hours, and because of the time zone changes, we arrived at O'Hare at 3:00 pm. We disembarked and went through immigration then had to collect our baggage and go through customs. We took a taxi home...and here we are!

I have to say that there are a few blogs of people who have made the trip to Russia to visit their child and they have painted a very...hectic....negative view. Sure, the airports were confusing and it was a hassle to go throught all the checkpoints. My husband is diabetic and has an insulin pump attached to his stomach. I can't tell you how many times I had to tell the security people "He has diabetes" in Russian. They mostly understood and just shooed him through without further questions. We were also worried about all his medications. We were never asked about them. The only time it was an issue was when one lady accidentally put a sticker on his carry-on, labeling it as a check-in. The next lady was going to take it, and we had to tell her no, it's a carry on. We just opened it and showed her the prescription bottles, and she took the sticker off and that was it.

As far at the people...we had heard from some blogs that the people know why you are there and are very cold towards you. We did not find this at all. The translators were very friendly, and most of the people we met were friendly too, once we showed kindness to them. The people on the street didn't show any interest at all, and that's just Russia culture. But the staff at the hotel and the staff at the restaraunt we visited were all very nice (plus, we left BIG tips!) We left 10 rubels each time we ate, which is about fifty cents, but that 10 rubels was like 20% of the bill, and most people don't tip that much. At the restaraunt Brian was concerned we didn't leave the waiter a big enough tip until I pointed out that his tip was 40% of the bill! It doesn't seem like a lot to us, but it is a lot to them. Anyway, we found that if you showed kindness...allowed a pregnant woman to go first at the bathroom, let a single person sit at your table while you had breakfast because there were no other chairs...they were friendly.

We had a great trip. We can't wait to go back and see some more!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Today went very well. Yesterday after we used the internet room, we went back to the room and just relaxed. The other couple we met here from our agency were exhausted and wanted to rest. I ended up falling asleep around 9pm and woke up at midnight. The sun was just setting at that time. I couldn't get back to sleep until 4:30 am. I woke up again at 6:30, and because I was afraid of not waking up on time at 7, I stayed awake. We ate breakfast again at the little cafe on the same level as our room. We were downstairs waiting when Aliona came to get us to go to the orphanage.
When we arrived, we went into Dr. Ludmilla's room again, and she updated us on their health and to see if we had any questions. Grace was healthy. They brought her out first, and she cried when I took her in my arms. The crying didn't last long, however, when Brian brought out the balls she liked to play with yesterday. After they brought Jacob out for Beth and Jason, we were taken into the play room. We got two hours with her today. She was really starting to warm up to us today. We started out holding her and playing with the balls and the crinkly book. We showed her the monkey, but at first she was scared of it. Eventually, I took her hands and stood her up and she started to walk around the room. She led me where she wanted to go. She actually walks pretty well with assistance. It won't be long until she's walking by herself. Perhaps when we are here for two weeks next time we can work on that so that by the time she's in the US she'll be walking alone.
We took a lot of pictures and videos. I was giving her lots of kisses, and twice she gave me baby kisses. I was so thrilled. We started using the name "Grace Tanya" for her. Tanya is what they call her at the orphanage, and of course we are changing her first name to Grace. She was using her voice a lot today. We couldn't tell sometimes if she was unhappy, or if she was just baby talking to us. Finally, noon came, and the caretakers came in to take the children away. We each gave her kisses and hugs and said our good-byes. It was heart-breaking to let her go, but we know that we have one more day with her.

Aliona then took us back to Dr. Ludmilla's office, where we had to sign some papers accepting her as our referral and agreeing to continue with the adoption. Another form stated that we agreed to all the paperwork we'll have to fill out after the adoption to allow the Russian government to check on her, and the last was a form that would tell them what name should go on her birth certificate. It was so nice to write Grace Tatyana Reynolds for the first time!

After that, we were taken to a small souvenier shop, where we purchased just a few items. We then went to a cafe near the hotel for a late lunch. Brian had a sweet and sour chicken dish (very good, but not the same as you get at Chinese restaraunts), and I had counrty fried potatoes (round new potatoes fried in butter and onion) and pelminis, Ravioli stuffed with a mixture of pork and beef with sour cream. They were very good.

Aliona told us that there was a mall across the street from the hotel and we decided to go in. I wish we hadn't. It was like a flea market. We were in there for maybe 10 minutes.

Tonight we are hoping to stay up a little later and get some good sleep. I am exhausted. Tomorrow we will have our last day with Grace. Yes, I can call her Grace now. We asked the interpreter if there were any cases where a couple were called to court and the judge said no, and she said it's never happened. She said that if the judge is going to say no, he'll say so before the second trip. I also asked if it were common for a couple to go on the first trip and not be invited to court, and she said no. So, we don't have many concerns there.

After we visit with Grace tomorrow, we will present Dr. Ludmilla with our gift of clothes. She seemed quite pleased with the fact that we were spending an extra day here to get to know Grace better. She also told us that we should expect to be back in four to six weeks for court. She seemed very pleased with the way we were acting towards the children.

Thursday morning we will get up at the crack of dawn (literally-the sun starts to rise at sets at midnight and rises at 4) and be ready for her to pick us up at 5:30 am. We will be taken to the airport to begin our long journey home. I don't know if I'll post again tomorrow.

I can't wait to get home so I can show some of you our pictures and video. Pray for us as we begin our journey home on Thursday. Start praying on Wednesday because that will be our Thursday....

Monday, June 23, 2008

We made it!

It took a while, but we made it to Russia. We left Chicago at about 5:30 pm, and the flight was 10 hours long. We arrived in Domodedovo, where there was a little confusion about where we were supposed to go, but we just followed everyone else from the flight. We had to go through "Migration", which is where we turned in a paper stating what we were there for and where we were going. We then found the baggage claim. Exiting baggage claim, we found Oksana, who was holding a sign with our name on it. She took us through the airport and then asked us if we wanted to stay at a hotel. Of course, when she called the hotel, there were no rooms, so we ended up waiting 10 hours in the Moscow airport. It was a long wait. We found a cafe and I bought a sandwich. Every time we tried to buy water, though, we always ended up with mineral water. Oksana met us again at 7pm and took us to where we needed to go for the next flight. We made it to Novo. and Aliona met us. We then went to the hotel. We arrived at about 8 am local time, and took a shower. We then fell asleep and woke up around 4pm. We ate dinner then just spent the night in the room. I didn't sleep well that night.

We met Tatyana the next day. The workers call her Tanya. We went with another couple and the directress, Dr. Ludmilla, told us each about our child, then a caretaker brought the children to us. It was so amazing! What an experience. After a few minutes in the office, they showed us to the play room, where we got to spend an hour and a half with the children. It was amazing! I'll never forget seeing her for the first time. I couldn't stop hugging and kissing her!

I'll write more later. Of course, there are more stories, but I'm paying by the minute at the internet cafe and I need to write another blog.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


We sent out our visa applications last Wednesday. They arrived at the travel agency on Thursday. The consulate was closed on Thursday due to...Russian independance day????..anyway, so they arrived at the consulate on Friday. I don't know if they were processed on Friday or Monday. I thought we would be getting the visas directly from the consulate, but I guess not. We did end up receiving them on Wednesday. I was so nervous about it. We hadn't received them on Tuesday as expected, and I was out of the house all day on Wednesday. I got home at 5 pm and was afraid to open the screen door. There they were! We also received our plane tickets and itenerary. Now I have all our things for the trip.

We have decided to have two check-in bags. We each have a carry-on stuffed with our clothes. We are only taking three changes of clothing. We wear one on Friday, and we will still be wearing it on Sunday (where are you going to change-at the airport? what kind of clean facilities will they have???). So, we will have M,T, W and the clothes we wear Monday we can wear home. Also, I believe the hotel we are staying at has a laundry, so I could do a load while there if I need to. We will also each have a second "purse" carry-on. Mine will be stuffed with our paperwork, books and other activities to keep me busy, and other important things, and Brian's will have his medications and food.

The two check-ins will have all of our "gifts" for the drivers, translators, orphanage staff, and the orphanage director. They will also contain the donation of clothes for the orphanage and food for Brian.

I'm glad that we are taking the donations and gifts now because when we go back, we will be there two weeks, and we will not only have to have our stuff, but hers as well.

I'll try to post here on our trip. We aren't allowed to upload pictures from the hotel computers, and it's illegal to post pictures of Russian orphans. So, these pictures will be the sight-seeing ones.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Update on Travel arrangements

I spoke with the travel agency on Friday, June 6, but the travel plans were only good for 24 hours. I didn't realize this, or I would have purchased them that day. Anyway, our agency called on Tuesday and said that the travel arrangements were good, but when I called the travel agency, we could no longer book the same days. So, we are leaving on Friday, June 20 instead of Saturday. This actually works out pretty well. We will arive in Novokuznetsk on Sunday, giving us an extra day to sleep before meeting our daughter on Monday. We will visit her Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for about two hours each. According to the orphanage schedule, we can visit from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm. Those are the only times we are allowed to be in the orphange to visit.

There is another family traveling that week. We were supposed to meet up in Moscow, but since we are now taking an earlier flight, we will be meeting at the hotel. Their child is also at the same orphanage. We will be able to see our children together. We might even go sight-seeing together. We do not have access to a driver or translator for non-adoption related tasks. However, if we are willing to pay a little extra, we can ask the driver to drive us around if he isn't busy. On the other hand, since we will be with another couple, it might be nice to just walk around and explore Novokuznetsk.

We found out a little about the orphanage. Our hotel is in Novokuznetsk. Our orphanage is in Prokopeyvsk. We are hearing very good reviews of this orphanage. We are hearing that the directress is very nice and that the children are very well taken care of. We also received a sample menu of what the children eat during the day. Although it's not much like an American diet, it's not all porrige and mush.

Please keep us in your prayers as we plan for this trip. I am very busy from now until then. Friday I work, and then in the evening we have the appointment with the psychologist. That evening we leave for Indiana for the weekend. We will be there all day Saturday and Sunday for Father's Day. On Sunday we return home with my neice. I will have her Monday and Tuesday. I don't know if I work on those days. My father-in-law is supposed to pick her up Tuesday night. I work Wednesday, Thursday I don't know about yet, but Thursday night I'm supposed to do stamping cards, and we leave Friday night. In between there somewhere I'll need to do some laundry so we're not overwhelmed when we come back home.

Please pray for us on our journey as well. We leave Friday at 5pm and arrive home on Thursday at 4pm. We don't have anyone to take us there, so we'll either have to drive or take a Taxi.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Wonderful News

Towards the end of May we had the first part of our psychological exam. It was easy, yet thought-provoking. It was a series of true-and-false questions. However, it was "false, slightly true, mostly true , very true". Some of the questions were really good like "I have value and worth". Others were really funny like "my favorite singer is Celine Dion". Others made you look bad no matter what you answered. These were usually about drugs or alcohol. "My drug use affects my family life". If you answer true, you're a druggie. If you answer false, you're still a druggie, but it doesn't affect your family life. There were 343 questions. I finished fairly quickly and then asked the doctor's permission to read the questions for Brian because of his reading problems. He's half blind, so it's hard for him to read. We would have been sitting there until midnight waiting for him to finish.

Our second half of the exam will be Friday the 13. Yes, Friday the 13. We will each meet with him for an hour, then together for a half hour. He will then type up letters for each of us and then forward them to our agency.

I was at the zoo on the 5th of June, when I noticed that I had a voice message. I called back, and it was our agency. WE TRAVEL ON JUNE 21 TO MEET OUR DAUGHTER!!!!! I was so surprised and psyched. We are overwhelmed with feelings. There are a million tasks that need to be completed between now and then. I spoke with the travel agency today, and we will need to send them our visa applications and passports to get our visas. We are lucky. Most people only get a 7-10 day notice. We get a 16-day notice! Still, there are a lot of details to attend to. I'll write more once I get some more details. Our itenerary needs to be approved by our case worker before we can purchase the tickets, and the hotel is booked through the agency. Our case worker is at a wedding and won't be back until Tuesday, so I won't know if I can buy the tickets or what the hotel rate will be until she gets back.

Anyway, it looks like about $5000 round-trip for the two of us, and that doesn't include spending money or food.

Please pray for us as we prepare to travel.