Sunday, October 26, 2008

In her Hip Hammock, enjoying the sights of Moscow...this is a cafe on Arbat Street called My My.

A few photos for your viewing pleasure...

Dr. Ludmilla, the orphanage director...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Our Journey to bring Grace HOME!

I didn't have access to a computer/internet while we were gone, so sorry it's taken me so long to post.

We left on Thursday, October 9. The flight to New York went was only about two hours. It was a tiny plane. When we arrived at the airport, we stopped at Wendy's to get lunch. If we had known what was ahead, we should have grabbed several burgers to take with us, but what did we know? The flight to Moscow seemed to take forever, and of course, I couldn't sleep a wink! It was about nine hours from New York to Moscow. We landed a bit early in Moscow, and had plenty of time to get through Passport Control and Immigration. We collected our bags and entered the "waiting" area and found our coordinator from last time, Oksana. She took us to a seating area to wait for the other couple whom we traveled with last trip. We waited only about 40 minutes. Their flight from Atlanta landed shortly after ours. We then all piled into a van and headed for the medical clinic. Now, during our flight we had "dinner" and "breakfast". Of course, you know airline was o.k., but not the greatest. By the time we landed in Moscow, we were pretty hungry. However, there were no "fast food" restaurants at the airport where we were waiting, and no time to really get a bite to eat. The driver did not stop to get us something. We hinted to Oksana that we were hungry, but we had to get to the medical clinic.

We arrived at the clinic at about 1, but our appointment wasn't until 3. Oksana told us that we needed to pay for the visit in Rubles (we had been told previously that it could be American dollars), so she took us a few blocks away to exchange money. We then stopped at a Cafe, where we had a sandwich for a snack. Actually, it was a half a sandwich...and kind of expensive. I ate it simply because I was starving, but it wasn't good. We got back to the clinic to wait our turn for the medicals.

The medicals were a joke. We were told in May that we had to have an 8-doctor medical when we arrived in Moscow, and we had to do the medical before we could go to court. It cost us about $700 a piece. We had to submit paperwork and test results from our doctor here and take all that stuff with us. For the visit, one doctor would call the couple in, ask a handful of questions, stamp a paper, and we were done with that doctor. Litereally. The questions were so stupid, I don't know how they can determine how healthy you are from that. For instance, the psychiatrist asked "do either of you have a history of mental health problems?" and "do either of you have family members that suffered from mental health problems?" and then said " based on your answers I would say that you are both mentally capable of taking care of a child." The psychologist asked " are you excited about adopting a child?" " Are you both pretty happy people?" and "Is your family excited about the adoption?" The infectologist asked "how often do you get a cold?" The only doctors that asked a bunch of questions was the general practitioner who seemed fascinated that Brian had clear lung x-ray even though he had cystic fibrosis (thanks to me who insisted he do his therapy religiously before the x-ray...) She called in another specialist to review the findings. Asked Brian a bunch of questions about his health, none of which seemed rude, smiled a lot at us and signed our papers. Another doctor came in and tested our reflexes. Another one came in and checked our breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. (mine was high, but after 24 hours of traveling and court to look forward to, whose wouldn't be?) That's about it...only one doctor actually smiled at us. The rest were all business. Only two looked at any of the paperwork we brought. Oh, and we needed a urine analysis (we were told we didn't need one by our case worker) so we gave a sample, but I really don't think the tests were run on it.

After that, we rushed back to the airport. It's a two-hour drive from the clinic, and we were going to be late for our flight. We arrived just in time. We were all starving, but of course, no fast-food at the airport, and we didn't have time to go searching for snacks. Our flight left like a half hour after we found the gate. This flight was four hours to Kemerovo. We landed at about 6 in the morning. Our coordinator, Anna, met us after baggage claim and took us to a van. She explained that we would have about 40 minutes to shower and have breakfast at the hotel before we were to leave for the orphanage. I've never eaten so much so fast in my life. The women at the hotel made us breakfast. We had fried eggs, shredded spicy carrots, cold ham, cold kidney beans, cold corn, and some other stuff too. I was so hungry I ate just about everything accept the carrots...too spicy for me! We ran out to the van for the 2.5 hour ride to the orphanage.

When we arrived at the orphanage, we were pleasantly surprised. It was undergoing a rennovation. Anna explained that there is a new law stating that walls have to be a certain depth, so the orphanage added insulation and siding. There was also some new play equipment in the play yard. Glad our "donation" was able to help. Anna rang the bell, and a woman answered. When she heard what we were there for, she shook her head and told Anna that no one told them anyone would be here to visit children that day. She let us in anyway and took us to what is the Music Room. We didn't see this room the first visit, but it was right next to the Play Room we were in in June, and we could hear the children singing and someone playing the piano while we were playing with our children. About a half an hour later, they brought the children in to us. Grace cried almost the entire time. Her nose was stuffy, and we weren't sure if she had a cold. She also appeared very tired and hungry. We were only with our children about 40 minutes before the caretakers came in and took the kids for lunch. How I wish the visit could have been longer!!

We left the orphanage and Anna said that we'd be stopping to get something to eat. We stopped at an Uzbek place. I won't call it a restaurant, because it was like a truck stop. It was a small building with tables and chairs and you order your food at the counter. Then a man outside with a grill makes your food and brings it to you. The meal was very good. We had a "salad", which was cucumbers and tomatoes with mayonaise and barbecue pork wrapped in a tortilla. Brian and I had to use the restroom, and Anna showed us a door with a T on it. It was an iron door leading to a cement room. There was a hole in the ground. You get the picture? No TP and no sink. Fun!

We got back to the hotel and all of us just crashed. We had about three hours of sleep in the last 48 hours, and all of us were just zonked.

On Sunday we went down for breakfast. It was blinis (thin pancakes) stuffed with cottage cheese. Doesn't sound good, but they were sooooo good. Especially with sour cream on them. We went exploring and found an internet cafe. Well, it advertised that you could use the internet there, but no on could get a signal. There were two men there. They were trying to speak to us in English. They communicated to us that Germany and Russia played soccer the prior evening, and that Germany won. They then started talking about politics. They wanted to know what party Obama was and McCain. They told us they wanted Obama to win. They said some uncomplementary things about our present President and told us that the leader of Georgia is a terrorist. They then tried to get us to go out back for a smoke, but they weren't talking about cigarettes. We think they wanted us to smoke pot. We left quickly. We found a "mall", which was like WalMart. Well, a disorganized WalMart. Either way, we were able to buy some necessities and some food.

Bright and early Monday morning we had the egg breakfast before court. The other couple went first. It took about 40 minutes. We were called. There were four other people in the room. The judge, the social worker from the orphanage, a prosecutor, and the court reporter. The judge asked Brian to stand. She asked a lot of questions, all of which we had been prepared for and Brian was allowed to read his responses from notes. She then asked about his diabetes. She was just trying to make sure that Brian's health is stable and that he can provide for our daughter.

I was then asked to stand. The judge wanted to know why I have a Bachelor's Degree but don't use it. I explained that I wanted to raise our daughter first before I started my career. She seemed pleased with that. I then asked for the 10 day waiting period to be waived and explained that she had a doctor's appointment to see how we can start "treating her" (they made a big deal out of the fact that she is underweight and not on-target developmentally....they saw it as a "sickness"). We then listened as she read almost our entire home study. The prosecutor asked us a few questions, and then the social worker from the orphanage spoke. She said that when they brought Grace out to us for the first time in June, Grace came to me without crying and that she played really well with us while we were there. The prosecutor was satisfied with the fact that I had been a nanny-I had lots of experience with children. We left the room for about 20 seconds. When we returned, the prosecutor said that she believes we satisfy the requirements for an adoptive family and that she supports the 10-days being waived. The judge also said that we satisfy the requirements and that she approves the 10-day waive. She granted us our petition to adopt. We're parents!!!

Right after court, we went back to the hotel to grab our diaper bag and some paperwork. We first went to the Vital Records office. Anna had previously filed our paperwork for us, so when we arrived, it was all ready. We received her birth certificate and her adoption decree. Anna held on to them, however, because they needed to go through more paperwork with them. We then went to the Police station where we applied for her Russian passport.

Prior to court, Anna had told us that Dr. Ludmilla wished for us to pick up our children that day instead of Tuesday. So, after we were done at the Police station, we loaded into the van and left for the orphanage. Our translator, Alyssia, had the driver stop at an Armenian place (much like the Uzbek eatery) for a quick bite to eat. It was pretty much the same meal, only the barbecue sauce was different and not as good. We raced to the orphanage and arrived at about 5:30. Dr. Ludmilla met us there and went over any questions we had. She then talked about the schedule at the orphanage and their sample menu. It went something like this:

7am wake up
8am breakfast (oatmeal)
9am activities /exercises
10-12 snack and play time (juice and fruit)
12 lunch ( something like bread product and eggs)
1-3 nap
4pm snack (sour milk product like yogurt or kefir)
5-7 activities like massage and walks outside
8pm dinner (casserole, milk and fruit)
9 pm bed

Ok, so it's not exact, but that's the general idea, and yes, 9pm bed and 7 am wake up....

I had to use the restroom, and when I returned, a very confused Grace was sitting on Brian's lap. As soon as she saw me, she burst into tears. We had to hurry and change them (diaper and all) and had time for one quick photo with Dr. Ludmilla before we left for the hotel. She cried until I gave her a bottle of juice, then she fell asleep.

When we returned to the hotel, Grace woke up so we decided to give her a bath. Well, actually it was a shower because there was no tub. She hated it. She went to bed, though and went right to sleep.

On Tuesday we all just stuck around the hotel. Brian went to the Police station to pick up her passport. On Wednesday we ventured outside and took her to the internet place to send some quick messages. People were getting worried because they hadn't heard from us. It was a quick message, though, because Grace refused to go anywhere near Brian, so Brian had to type.

Thursday morning bright and early we boarded a plane for Moscow (it's now the 16th of October). Grace fell asleep during take off, cried most of the trip, and slept during landing. Again, she didn't like Brian so I couldn't just hand her over to him while I took a break. Let's just say I was very tired. We landed in Moscow and we were dropped off at our apartment. It was very spacious and was located on Novy Arbat Street. Very nice place...I would highly recommend it. It was very close to food and shopping.

We couldn't find the grocery store right away, so I did have some panic moments when our supply of baby food was winding down. However, we did end up finding one and I was able to feed my child. We were also able to buy chickens for ourselves that I could boil with our pots and stove at the apartment. Friday we went to the medical clinic for Grace's check up. Dr. Boris called her a Drama Queen, and I have to agree. He declared her healthy but underweight. He urged us to stick to the diet the orphanage director gave us. Good luck with that, the girl wouldn't drink milk or formula or water. We also didn't have access to all the foods the directress told us about. Anyway, we did the best we could.

On Saturday and Sunday we went shopping and exploring. On Monday we went to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and received her American Visa. Tuesday Brian took her passport to the Russian Consulate and registered her. Wednesday we went to the Kremlin (although we didn't pay to see anything. We just took photos of the outside....we never made it to St. Basil's because you had to pay to get in.

Early Thursday morning (October 23rd) we began our LONG journey home. She slept for take off, cried most of the way to New York, and fell asleep for landing. During the flight from New York to Chicago, she slept the entire flight. When we landed at O'Hare, my Father-In-Law was there to get us, and my Mother-In-Law and her sister were there, too. They went to our house during that day and had baked us cookies, made a pot roast, and decorated the house for Halloween. They only stayed a few minutes, though, and we went to bed right after we put her down.

So far, Grace has adjusted very well. We are still tweaking our sleep schedules. Friday she woke up at 4:30am and would not go back to sleep. She took a nap in the morning and another in the afternoon. However, she wanted to sleep longer and I woke her up at 3:30. She was NOT happy. She was a bear the entire evening. She had an absolute fit during dinner. Wouldn't eat-just got hysterical. I gave her a bath and put her to bed.

This morning she woke up at 3:30. I changed her diaper and put her back to bed. I was NOT going to repeat Friday. She cried for a few minutes and then went back to sleep. She slept until almost 7am. She was very cranky at breakfast, but I think it was because she was so hungry and she didn't like being in the high chair. She has been in a very good mood since she woke up.

She loves the cats, but still is a bit rough with them. Lyla really likes her, and will rub up against her...until Grace grabs her tail....

She loves daddy now, and loves to play with him. That was a huge relief. She loves the house and loves her toys. Her first medical visit is on Monday, where I can ask the doctor how to get her to gain weight.

Well, we're off to Babies R Us, where I need to buy a diaper pail and a Sleep Sack. The girl twists, rolls and moves so much at night she can't keep a blanket on! I'll post pictures once we've had a chance to get them on our comuter!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Just a few more hours

Well, just a few more hours to go before we leave and change our lives forever. I have been reading the blogs of people who have recently returned from their second trips to get an idea of how things go. One couple used the same agency, and completed the adoption in January. Their daughter was the same age as ours and it was interesting to read their experience.

We currently have one suitcase and two carry-ons each. The suitcases are five lbs over the weight limit for the Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Kemerovo. I am considering splitting some of the things into a third bag so that we won't get fined. I will have to check to see if three bags for two people is acceptable.

We are unable to take the laptop with us, so we will have to be content with using the computers at the hotel and apartment.

We are traveling with the same couple we traveled with on our first trip. Our apartments are only about 1.5 miles away from each other in Moscow, so it will be nice to have another couple to sight-see with.

We'll write more once we're in Kemerovo.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Less than a week to go...

It is now six days before we leave. We have made all our travel arrangements, and received our Visas today. We leave on Thursday, October 9th at 11:25 am. There is a stop-over at JFK, then we land at 10am on Friday morning in Moscow. We will be joining Beth and Jason (the couple who went with us on trip number one) and will go to our medical appointments. Later that evening, we will catch a flight to Kemerovo. We arrive in Kemerovo around 8am Saturday. We will be visiting our children on Saturday. On Monday, we have court. We pray that the judge waives the 10-day wait. If the ten days is waived, we will pick Grace up from the orphanage on Tuesday the 14th. We are required to stay in the region one full day after pick up (Wednesday). On Thursday morning we go back to Moscow. Our flight leaves Kemerovo at 8am and because of the time zones we land in Moscow at 8am. It is a four-hour flight, and Kemerovo is four hours ahead of Moscow. On Thursday, our children will go to the U.S. Embassy for their check up. Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday will be spent doing passport and visa stuff. We will leave Thursday afternoon/early evening the 23rd. Because of the time zone differences, we will arrive at O'Hare at 7pm on Thursday.

We are trying to pack lightly, but we still have two huge suitcases along with our two carry -ons. I am trying to stuff as much in the carry-ons as I can so that if our suitcases get lost, we will each have some clothes until they catch up with us again. Brian won't pack until the last minute, so I am going nuts thinking we are going to forget something.

My friends are thowing us a baby shower on Saturday, October 4. I am so excited! My mom and Grandma are coming. They are driving out tonight and staying the night until tomorrow. My Grandmother has never been to our house before. I'm not sure where she will want to sleep. My mother has never come here by herself, so I'm a bit nervous about her driving here for the first time. She doesn't have a cell phone, so I hope she doesn't get lost!

I'll post again once we return!