Monday, April 30, 2012

Day 14: Has it really been 2 weeks?

Maria's view-

I can't believe that we have been in this country for 2 weeks already!  It seems to be going by pretty quickly, actually.  I miss my girls like crazy, though, but they are doing extremely well!

My big G is still in Germany and she is staying with one of our friends for the school nights and then she rotates with other friends of ours on the weekends.  We are very, very blessed to have such wonderful friends in Germany.

Our little G is spending her days and nights with her Mawmaw who is my awesome mother.  She is also spending a lot of time with my brother and his wife and my sister and her daughter.  I am simply amazed at how well she is doing and my mother keeps telling me over and over what a great job I have done in raising her so far.  That makes me laugh because this is not how little G really is with me!   She is a STINK-ER!

I miss them more than words can express.  I can't wait to hold them in my arms again.  I don't know how my hubs does it with having to go deployed or TDY, sometimes for a year at a time.  He's amazing.  So far, it's been 3 weeks away from my little G and 2 weeks away from my big G and I'm hoping that we can wrap everything up here pretty soon... but there's still no court date.

As for our little dude (btw, "dude" has a meaning to us that I will share once we are able to talk about it), he's just thriving.  He is comfortable enough around us now to let his little guard down and drift off to sleep.  We love watching him sleep because he seems to peacefully content.  So far this is the 2nd day in the row that he has drifted off in the swing.

I am worried about him.  Today is his last day in his groupa that he has lived with for the past 2 years.  Why in the world would they change him now?  I am praying that he will have gentle nannies who will be patient with him.  I'm certain that we will start seeing some behavior that we have probably never seen before with him.  I'm praying that he will see us as his safe haven and long for our visits even more.

I worry about the little ones that we will be leaving's so very hard to walk through the courtyard and hear so many children yell out "momma!"  They are so smart to be so young.  They know why we are there or else they wouldn't call me that.  They know that the strangers who take the same child outside each day are "momma" and "papa" and they beg.  They plead to be chosen.  Will they ever know a momma's love?  You can't go to an orphanage and leave without your heart being changed, broken.

This evening, we made the decision to give a sippy cup to our little man.  We bought a sippy cup today from the grocery store and it wasn't cheap!   It was $6 for one of those Nuby style ones that I'm sure are only a couple of bucks at Walmart.  Oh well, lesson learned.  So we filled it up with bottled water and took it with us for the evening visit.  Chris held it up and he put it right to his mouth like a pro!  Drinking, however, didn't go 100% but I believe he did swallow some.  Our bottled water was chilled so he may not have liked the coldness since I don't think he's ever had refrigerated drinks in his life.  We will try it again every day until he is use to it!

I also think we have a very stubborn little boy on our hands. haha.  I can say, "come here" in Russian and he won't budge.  I'll need some pointers from all of you Been There Done That moms soon!

Also, I have heard that many of you are having problems leaving comments on our blog.  I tried to respond to you, Susan, for leaving such a sweet and encouraging comment and it wouldn't let me reply!  But thank you!!!  Trust me, we need all of the encouragement we can get!  Many of you leave comments on our facebook statuses and we really appreciate those too!  If anyone knows what could be happening to the comment section, let me know!  I know many of you are on my FB so just message me or email me at solomonadoption at hotmail dot com.

Please remember to say a prayer for our little boy tonight since he will be making a big move to a new groupa tomorrow morning! 

Love you all!  We have the most amazing support group ever!

Chris's View:

Today, let's look at the things we take for granted. 

Say you go to a grocery store and you need some cookies to take to school for your little one.  In the states, and every other grocery store I have been to (9 countries & counting now) you go to the cookie isle, grab a pack & head to the checkout.  Not so much here.  As soon as you walk in the store, at least the main one we use is in the Karavan, we are greeted with gobs of delectable treats, and you sack them up and buy them by the kilogram!  Cookies, muffins, candy (wrapped & unwrapped), chocolate, it's all like the Brach's stand in your local Sunflower or Piggly Wiggly!  Yeah, I'm from the south ya'll!

It doesn't stop there though.  A few rows down, and you can grab your corn meal, flour (I'm sure it's self-rising & all purpose), spices, grains, etc.  It's a smorgasbord of baking supplies!  This could throw a wrench in the plans of the cops who pull you over and finds a kilo of white powder in your trunk!  Right next to that is the pastas and rices.  They had every type of pasta like this, except the long strand (spaghetti & fettuccine noodles).  They did have what seemed to be broken up strands of spaghetti in 1"-2" sections though.  You think that's enough... there's more!

Yes, it's like the commissary for those of ya'll who are reading in Germany.  You sack up your own breads and pastries... this is not new to us, so I really didn't get a picture of it.  The one I missed though was the fish market!  They have literally 50' of counter that had fish & other sea life that had been preserved (maybe smoked or dried, I couldn't really tell).  They sack this up for you though, so it's not that different than many stores back stateside, other than the fact that almost all of the fish was preserved in some fashion... except for the talapia that you could pick out live in the tank at the end of the counter like we have the ability to do with lobsters at some stores.  I find that pretty humbling, while we are picking out what lobster we want, they are picking out what talapia they want.  Fresh is fresh, don't get me wrong, there's just no comparing lobster & talapia... well, unless it's Ashley's Fiery Fish Tacos & Crunchy Corn Salsa!  :)

The last shots blew my mind.  We made our way over to the cereal isle, no, it's not the cereal that you can bag & buy, it was the frozen foods that we passed on our way over there!  Yes, those are chicken patties!  Veggies, meats, fruits, french fries, all by the kilo!  I guess this is nice if you are throwing a cookout & need a TON of fries.  You only deal with one big bag as opposed to several bags of OreIda!

So, now that you've seen it all, a little story about this bag your own stuff.  A few days ago, we wanted something different for breakfast.  At the Kravan, as I stated earlier, you pick what you want & bag it.  Each item has a number.  You go put your bag on the scale, type in the number, push the Enter key, and you get a sticker with the price.  I'm thinking, I got this, it's not intimidating to me since I do this all the time with breads & veggies at our commissary.  I find what looks to be a cinnamon bread ring, get the number, put it on the scale, type the number in, and where I think the Enter key should be is a bunch of Russian!  Uh-oh.  I push it anyway... bonk!  It starts screaming at me.  A middle-aged woman grabs the roll and smiles, throws it on the scale, types in the number, pushes the GREEN button (yeah... it was that obvious!), slaps the sticker on the ring & laughs.  I walk away, I'm sure several shades redder than when I walked in!

See ya'll tomorrow!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Day 13: We Were Invited to See His Living Area!

Maria's View- kind of lengthy due to all of the new info we got today!

So we had an interesting start to our morning visit.  Today, the nanny came to the door very quickly, which is unusual and had "Finn" in her arms.  (this is our favorite nanny)  She made a motion with her hands that we needed to make a phone call and I recognized the Russian word for "girl"... so we took it that we needed to call our facilitator and let her translate for the nanny.  We assumed that he must be sick because they quarantine them when they run fever.  While Chris was getting our fac. on the phone, another nanny took him and started walking back to the living area.  Well, "Finn" didn't like that at all!  He started making unhappy sounds... not crying... but definitely expressing that he wasn't happy with the situation.  From the end of the hallway, the nanny turned and motioned that he was crying for us with her hands and was very pleased with that.  So she brought him back to us and by this time Chris was on the phone getting the translation.  The nanny told us, through translation, that "Finn" will be changing groupas on May 1st and that they would like to show us the place that he has lived for the past 2 years.  We are so thankful for this!  We got a lot of insight into what he does but we are very sad that he is having to change his whole world right before we are taking him out of there.  He has lived in this room for 2 years!  I have no idea what a new surrounding and new faces will do to him...although, that's exactly what is going to happen to him once we take him out of there for good.  So I suppose this will be a trial run. 

We were led down the hall to the food and play area.  2 little square tables were by the window and a huge play pen was in the middle of the room filled with 8 of the 10 kids in his groupa.  They were all trying to get our attention and I believe they were surprised to see us in their area!  The nanny took us to the next room where their cribs are.  She showed us his crib and there was a neatly typed name tag on his crib with his name and birthday on it.  She stood him up in his crib so that we could take a picture and then she took us back to the eating area.  She sat him in his little chair and showed us how he eats.  She went and got a glass bowl and large spoon and motioned that she has to feed him.  She then handed him the spoon and he went through the motions like he knew what to do with the spoon but maybe he has never been given the opportunity to feed himself.  Understandable when there are 9 other mouths to feed!  Then she picked up a glass coffee style mug and motioned that he drinks out of one of those sometimes but then picked up a bottle and said that's how he mostly takes his drinks.  So we need to buy him some bottles until we can transition him into sippy cups!

We then pulled out our adoption phrases book so she could read some food and drink items on this list.  She said that he drinks milk, juice, and water...but I image they mostly drink juice.  And that he can eat eggs, soups and borscht.  She then turned to me and motioned what I believe to be that he can eat whatever we eat.  So I am assuming that he can chew.  Many children from orphanages can't chew yet because they are only given soups and broths so we may not know that he can do this until it happens.

As we were trying to get all of this information from them, a tiny little girl who wasn't contained inside of the huge play pen was tugging at my pants legs.  I knelt down and she leaned into me with a hug.  I gave her a huge one and took her sweet little hands in mine.  It appears that this little girl has a condition known as Ectrodactyly, possibly.  Just my observation, though.  She has a claw-like hand that resembles lobster claw.  She is just as active as an average toddler and was so lovable!  She really needs a momma's love.

After that, the nanny put him on the changing table, pulled up the bag of diapers, and made a disgusted type facial expression and then beat her fists into the air... I believe that she was trying to say that he doesn't like to be changed.  That makes perfect sense because sometimes, just before the nanny brings him out to us, we can hear him fussing a bit.  Probably because he's being changed. :-)

On our way out, the other nanny made a motion for us to go to the little side room and she drew on a piece of paper a balloon on a string... She then waived an imaginary balloon into the air as if she was telling us that he has fun with these.  So, I then opened up my bag and pulled out a balloon that I had been blowing up for him, and she exclaimed, "DA!" 

On our way out, this nanny stopped us again and said, "papa" and motioned that he has been saying this after we leave.  How precious!!   Then we were able to go outside and play with him.  He was one happy little boy!  We played in the play shed like we always do and then moved on to the swing.  We didn't have to share anything today because I guess they don't take children outside as much on Sunday's.  So we put him in the usual swing and started swinging him back and forth.  Before we knew it, he started nodding off to sleep!!  He gradually slid sideways until he was totally passed out so we just let him sleep!  This will probably backfire on us for the evening visit! haha.  This is the first time that we have ever seen him sleep, though, and we just couldn't resist.  What a cutie.  While he was sleeping, I noticed a bite mark on his hand and it was definitely his little teeth that did the biting.  He has a very crooked front tooth and I could clearly make it out on his hand.  Poor little guy probably got frustrated and took it out on himself...or maybe he was sucking on his hand as a way to self soothe and ended up biting it....who knows.  After about 20 mins, he woke up, sat straight up, looked around, looked satisfied that he was still in the swing and then went back to sleep!

It was a great morning at the orphanage and we really enjoyed the tour of his groupa.  I am just concerned that this is going to be a hard transition for him and I know that he's going to be a little off by his new arrangements.  Please pray for him!!

After our visit, we went to the mall for our usual lunch outing.  We eat out 1 time per day for less than $10.  Food is very inexpensive here and sometimes we can eat for as little as $6 total!  In the mornings, we have been eating grits or oatmeal that I brought from home, and for dinner, we have some kind of pasta meal or soup that we brought from home.  Once we finished our $10 lunch (which was 2 sub sandwiches, 2 drinks, 2 cold salads, and 2 baked potatoes) we had to find me some short sleeved shirts because it is getting hot here, fast!  I bought 2 shirts for $5 each so I'll be set now!  The clerk who helped me was very kind and through hand motions she understood that I didn't know the sizing and she picked up the size that I needed and showed me the numbers. 

Our evening visit went great as well!  We google translated "can he chew food?" the nanny responded, "da". (yes).  "Can you show us where his new groupa will be?"  and she walked us downstairs and opened up the room.  It seems to be a newer looking area, maybe it has been renovated.  The nanny inside seemed to be pretty pleasant and after the door was closed,  our nanny  gave us a thumbs up so we took that as meaning that he will be in good hands.  I surely hope so!

But anyway, we are about to whip up a batch of fettuccine alfredo with sauteed bell peppers for dinner.  I really hope it's good!  I'm starving!!

Until tomorrow, Paka Paka!!!

Chris's View:

First, here's how we have been seeing our girls on an almost nightly basis... we miss them!

Hmmmm... what to talk about today?  How about mid-riffs.  I have no pictures, but trust me... YOU DO NOT want to see this!  LOL!

Maria is a member of a Facebook group about families adopting from where we are.  One of the ladies in the group was reading a book about the place and it said, "It's not a sin to be poor in this country, but it is a sin to look poor."  So we have been noticing that these folks are in pretty high fashion.  It is not uncommon, even in the poor looking apartments that we are in, to see people coming and going in Armani, Hugo Boss, etc.  They really are wearing some high dollar clothes.  So much so, that we feel they might be looking at us with a judgemental eye when we are coming and going in Levi's and Nikes!  We pretty much wear the same 4-5 outfits and rotate them out each day.  Today was a bit weird though.

It seemed like everyone and their grandmother... yes, grandmother!... was wearing mid-riff shirts.  It really reminded me of the movie Hackers, when Matthew Lillard's character, Cereal Killer, sees a girl and says "Spandex, it's a privilege, not a right!"  There were every shape & size in mid-riff shirts at the mall today.  Look, I get it, you should be proud of the skin you are in, but that skin doesn't necessarily have to be shown off to everyone in the mall on a Sunday!

The worst was on our way out.  There was a lady, I promise she was no less than 50, and her shirt was probably 14" above her belly button (I am exaggerating this measurement just a little).  It wasn't as if she had been working out either.  Coupled with her pants being just a tad too tight and we had a "muffin top" situation!  I know, I am one to talk, but I am not showing off all of my glory in public either.  I keep it covered unless it just cannot be helped.  But hey, at least her shirt was Dolce & Gabbana!

See ya'll tomorrow!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Day 12-Back on Track, I believe...

Maria's View-

So it seems that the city is back on track as far as I can tell.  No one seems concerned about yesterday's events and everyone is out doing their normal thing.  We did our normal thing as well.  Orphanage, mall for lunch, pick up a few items at the grocery store, home, blogging until it's time to go back to the orphanage, etc.  We definitely have a very predictable routine going on right now.  I LOVE seeing our little guy but I wish I could go ahead and take him home so that we can all be under the same roof.  I miss my girls so much and it is getting to me a bit. 

It is getting pretty warm here!  I wish I packed more short sleeves so I may have to go buy one.  There is definitely a transition in the 2 weeks that we have been here.  People were still in winter gear and scarves when we first got here and now everyone is in tank tops and shorts!  Our little dude was wearing shorts and knee socks yesterday and was absolutely adorable!

We took him outside this morning like we usually do and let him play in his play shed until the groupas start taking them over.  A nanny had left a basket of toys in one of the sheds and we let him go to town with them.  He was throwing them out of the play shed and all over the place!  He's probably been longing to have a basket of toys all to himself!  So he destroyed it!  Soon, we noticed the groupa making their way over so we quickly gathered everything up and moved on.  We went to a different swing since our usual swing was being occupied by another little boy with Down syndrome.  Next to him in a walker was another child with some type of dwarfism.  They were both so adorable.  We swung for a good long while while he gnawed on "Giraffe Meat".  After that, we moved on to another play area that has a slide attached.  We let him play in that and we noticed him inching his way to the slide on his tummy.  So I moved to the bottom of the very short slide and waited to see if he would be brave enough to take the plunge.  YEP.  He slid on down right on his belly and right into my lap.  He laid there for a few seconds before popping his head up with a smile.  I imagine he has never done this before!

We took our usual laps around the orphanage, occasionally putting him down so that he can practice his walking.  He's getting pretty good at it!  You can tell when he's on a mission because he walks with purpose.  Other times, we kind of have to use his hands as we hold them to pivot him so that his legs will make the steps. 

The evening visit went very well.  We did our usual thing and when it was time to drop him back off to the nanny, she reached her arms out to him, and he didn't budge.  She made a motion for him to go to her and he still didn't budge and actually turned his face away. haha.  The nanny then gave me a look that said, "see?  he's yours now!"  I think they like to see that happen because it's a sign of bonding...

Chris just went to the grocery store to see if he can find hot dogs.  We are both craving some American food.  The food is actually pretty good here, much more flavorful than food in Germany... McDonald's is actually better than the ones in the states to me!  But anyway, thank you for reading... thank you for praying for our safety from yesterday's events... Please keep praying!  I miss my girls dearly and want to see them so bad.  This momma's heart is WAY torn.

Chris's View:

As promised, here's the blog on the fairy tale art inside the walls of our little dude's orphanage compound.  Like I had said, as we sat there looking at them one day, I wondered if they were depictions of fairy tales.  It turns out they are, though not all of them are of this culture, some of them are generic fairy tales, but nonetheless, here's the run down.

The one we see everyday is a depiction of Grandpa and the Enormous Turnip.  The story goes like this... a farmer, Grandpa, grows a turnip one day that he cannot pull up.  He enlists the help of grandma and all them folks, which the story usually includes animals too, and eventually they pull the turnip up.  The story teaches the value of team work.  It is of Russian/Slavic origin.

The next image is of Riaba the Hen.  The story, which to me is a very odd tale, is about a hen, Riaba, who lays a golden egg.  The old man and old woman (not pictured) try to crack it, but they cannot.  The mouse runs by the egg waving his tail and it falls and breaks.  The old man and woman begin to cry.  The hen says not to cry that she will lay another egg, not a golden one, but a regular one.  That's it... that's the story.  I do not know what it is supposed to teach, but it is of Russian origin.  Maybe it is similar to our "don't cry over spilt milk" thing, but in today's economy, I'd cry over a broken golden egg too!  LOL!

This last one is of the Frog King.  Basically the girl loses her most prized possession, her ball, in a lake.  A frog on a nearby lillypad offers to get the ball for her in exchange for her being his companion.  She accepts and gets her ball back, but is reluctant to follow through on her end of the bargain.  When all is said and done, it turns out that the frog is actually a king's son, and they are married.  This is actually a German fairy tale.

There are others, but these are honestly the highlights.  It is neat that they had someone paint these, even if they are not the best works of art.  I hope the kids enjoy them as much as I did learning about the stories!

See ya'll tomorrow!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Day 11: Too Much Excitement and NOT the Good Kind!

Maria's View-

Our little boy is just blossoming before our very eyes.  Every day just keeps getting better and better because he's trusting us more and more!  His beautiful little smile just  melts my heart. 
The weather is warming up and this evening, the nanny put him in shorts!  His skinny little legs are SO cute!  I just love this little stinker!

Today, we had the pleasure of meeting another precious little boy listed on Reece's Rainbow that I hoped to see at this orphanage!  He's adorable and the nanny let me shake his cute little hand.
I'm sorry for the short blog... I'm a little rattled by the events that happened today.  There were 4 bombings that happened about 20 mins from us and I'm praying hard that it doesn't happen again.  I'm going to cut this short tonight and spend some extra time talking to my babies!
I keep telling myself that we came here because God sent us and He will provide the hedge of protection that we need to get our son safely out of here.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7
He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you.  Psalm 91:4-8

Please pray for the people who were injured by these bombs.  As of right now, I don't think there are any deaths, Praise God.  But please, pray that we remain safe and that God will help us get our little one out of here with no problems.

Chris's View:
Alright dudes!  That's enough of that garbage!  We were planning a trip into the city center tomorrow to go find some souvineers at the market we went to last weekend, but yeah, not so much anymore.  I have been around bombings and mortars and rockets and things such as this before, but this time it's a little more personal.  I mean, I have a wife & kid here I need to protect.

As soon as our facilitator called and told us of the events downtown, I immediately went into Force Protection mode.  Those of ya'll in the military, or have been in the military since the Kobar Towers attack in 1996, can relate to what I am going through.  We get this stuff drilled into us and we must redo the CBT's (Computer Based Training for those of ya'll not up on the military lingo) each year, and to many of us, it becomes so repetitive that it seems like a joke.  Rest assured, that knowledge is stuck in there in one of those little brain folds.  It was almost as if I was running a checklist on the entire situation.

Enough of that, hopefully it won't happen again, and it will turn out to be some stupid soccer fans or something.

Today was pretty good... man it's getting hot.  I am missing my shorts right now!  All I brought was jeans and my court outfit.  At least I had sense enough to pack my Under Armor Polo shirts.  Those keep me somewhat cool in these temps.  It was 87 today, and only forcast to get hotter as the days and weeks go by.

As we sat on our normal bench this morning before our visit, we talked about the artwork that decorates the interior walls of the orphanage compound.  It seemed like fairy tales from this culture.  Sure enough, when we got to lunch, I checked and they are.  I plan on doing an entire blog post about them, so we are going to try to get pics of all the major pieces of artwork... maybe we can do our little dude's walls in these fairy tales.  Maria thinks I'm nuts, but he may really like these pictures!
Above the main piece of art we gaze at when we sit on our bench, we see an apartment building.  It is nothing to look at really, in fact, it is almost a constant reminder to these children of the conditions that lay in wait for them on the other side of the orphanage walls.  It struck me, and I looked at several other buildings today just to be sure, but this culture has a weird construction method.  They build in boxes.  Almost as if you don't pay your rent, some magic arm will move up the outside of the building, grab your apartment, pull it out and dump the contents, place it back and disappear again.  It is pretty crazy, almost modular.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a little less tense.

See ya'll tomorrow.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Day 10 - It Got Really Real Today

Maria's View-
This morning at the orphanage we saw and experienced a lot.  Some good, some bad.

To begin with, we took our little sweetie outside to play.  We had to compete for a place this morning since the weather is so beautiful and warm.  I don't mind sharing, though, because the little swing that we usually use for "Finn" was being used by another precious little boy with Down syndrome.  He was being sung to by someone who I assumed must be his babushka but I was wrong!  It was a nanny!  Another nanny brought another special needs child out to sit in a walker beside the swing set and they spent a good 1 1/2 hours outside.  God bless this woman for being so kind to these 2 boys.

We moved to the next area over for a swing that I could put him in and all of a sudden we were surrounded by 2 groupas of toddlers!  They were absolutely precious.  One little girl kept coming over to hug us.  She would hug my legs and then hug Chris' legs.  We reached down to rub her back and say hello.  She would look up at us and smile as big as she could.  The 2nd time she did this, I tried desperately to get my camera out in time but I was too late.  I felt comfortable being mixed in with these children because the nannies brought them to our area so I didn't feel like we were intruding.  So I think I will start "accidentally" going to this area every morning in hopes to be surrounded by these little ones again! 

Our little one enjoyed every moment of being outside today.  We pushed him in the swing for a good long while and then we decided to just walk him around the outside of the orphanage.  He relaxed himself in to his Papa and we just enjoyed the light breeze and sunshine.  As we were walking around the building, I noticed a car parked right outside the front entrance of the orphanage.  The next lap, I noticed a nanny sitting in the back seat with a special needs child probably 4-5 years of age.  I believe he could have Cerebral Palsy just by a quick glance.  We made another lap.  This time, beside the nanny sat another nanny holding another special needs child.  I believe we witnessed a transfer to the mental institution from what I gathered from the situation and that crushes my heart.  The 1st little boy in the car was obviously very worried because he was crying as he sat facing his nanny.  The nanny was trying to comfort him the best that she could.  Unfortunately, this is reality.  I pray that these children were not being transferred but it happens here.  When they age out, they are transferred, no matter how great the orphanage is, it happens.  So very, very sad. We made another lap and as I made the corner, a little groupa was passing by us and a little girl reached out and grabbed my hand.  I held it until our directions caused us to let go.  What a sweetie.

Our evening visit went very well.  We have now stretched our 20 min allowance of outside time into our entire visit of 1 1/2 hours.  I think they are pleased that we want to stay outside with him since it's so pretty outside.  Our little dude is so pleasant and peaceful.  He just seems so content and he is smiling more and more with those serene, natural smiles.  Those smiles make me think that he's saying inside that cute little head of his, "yeah, this is nice."  I hope that one day you can meet him and you'll understand what I mean!

He is loving his stuffed giraffe more and more.  He held it for almost the entire time we were outside.  We have lovingly nicknamed it "giraffe meat".  I think we will leave giraffe meat behind on the 10 day waiting period so that maybe he will think of us.

As we were making our laps around the orphanage toward the end of our visit, a little girl kept going crazy when we would pass by!  She would yell out his name almost with panic!  It was like she was worried about him.  It was so cute!  And I love how she knows his name and they aren't even in the same groupa!  Maybe they were at one time or another.

But anyway, like I said, today was good and bad.  It is awesome seeing our little boy happy but so sad to see those little ones transferred to where a child should never have to go.  Please pray for them...

I learned today that a baby house very close to ours is shutting down for good and a 15 month old adorable boy listed on Reece's Rainbow is headed for the mental institution.  Please pray for him as well! 

Sorry that there is such sad news today but I don't want to sugar coat this experience.  These children are in need and it's pretty hard to sugar coat that.

Until tomorrow!  Paka Paka!

Chris's View:

We had the chance to see some of the local animal population up close & personal!  For those of you who have been following along, you may remember Maria writing about one of the little girls surprising her nanny with a handful of beetle... yes, singular beetle!  We usually get to the orphanage 5-10 minutes early, so we go to a bench that sits under a small pine type tree and talk about our little dude.  This morning though, all attention was on one of these massive beetles rooting around in the dirt and grass.  The only problem is that there are tons of ants that roam the grounds of the orphanage too.  The ants would run up grass blades and get on top of the beetle and try to bite it, thinking it would make a stupendous meal for the queen of the colony.  We have seen several that were being pulled apart by the ants on the pavement around the place, but thought that those were probably the beetles that somehow got flipped over on to their backs.  Once they get in this position, it seems like they are similar to turtles and either cannot, or it is at least difficult, to flip back over.  So, Maria, being the kind-hearted soul that she is, stomped the ants to keep them away from the beetle we were watching... I was all in to the National Geographic aspect of the situation and watching the circle of life happen!

Anyway, I guess the beetles figured they'd exact their revenge.  Since our normal area with the swing was occupied this morning, we roamed to another swing near where we normally play.  We decided against putting our dude in this one, since it looked like some sort of "droppings" were occupying the seat of the swing!  Just then, I felt something fly by me, then something hit my neck!  As I wiped my neck, there was a small wet spot... I looked at my hand and it was brownish-yellow!  Oh no!  I got "dropped" on!  I did not see any birds, so I am assuming it was a beetle!  Grrr!  Off to the bathroom to wash my hand & neck!  Guess I should have tried to help the beetle after all.

When I got back, Maria was at the swing where we hung out for the majority of the morning.  One of the little girls walked up & hugged Maria's legs, then turned to me, with an outstretched hand and eyes wide.  I look, and there was another beetle!  LOL!  These things are everywhere.  I guess the kids use them as pets & toys, as several of the boys were playing with them, not really afraid of them or anything, just picking them up, walking to another boy, and handing him off.  Another boy picked one up in a cup, then buried it in the sand, then used the cup to scoop it up out of the sand.  He seemed to wait until just before it dug its way back to the surface of the sand in the cup, then he'd dump it again and the beetle would be buried again.  I guess when you are in this type of environment, you make use of everything around you to help entertain yourself and the others.

Speaking of entertainment, there was a puppeteer out today, giving each of the groupas little shows.  The kids seemed really into it, and I am glad that people take time out to spend with these kids, who are unwanted by the society they were born into.  I am impressed with some of the nannies here.  They really seem to play with the children... at least most of the ones we have seen do.

One of the other things we have been curious about is the trees here on the orphanage property.  They are currently being redone.  Yes, these trees are being painted white on the trunks, from the ground to maybe 4 feet up.  All of them seem to be painted about the same height, except for the new trees that are still really small, but even those are painted.  Does anyone know why tree trnks get painted like this?

See ya'll tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Day 9 - Don't Settle For Ordinary

Maria's View: 

Today was another beautiful day!  The nanny sent him out without a coat for both visits and without a hat for the 2nd visit.  He was a happy little boy!  He doesn't like being bundled up at all.  We did our usual thing around the playground and play shed and got lots of tickles in.  He is such a sweet little boy and full of curiosity!  We walk with him in our arms outside around the orphanage and he is constantly reaching for the leaves on the bushes and trees and of course we will let him grab a handful and pull with all his might!

He is a very smiley boy but I believe it's because he is so ticklish!  Just the lightest touch causes him to smile so I feel like most of the smiles he gives us are because of that.  However, today, he gave me 2 smiles and I'm positive they weren't from tickles!  That really made my day!  One happened while he was in the swing and I was crouched down in front of him... I said something silly and he smiled.  Then the other one was after he bonked noggins with me and I said, "ouch" in an over dramatic voice and he smiled. 

Another emotion that we saw today happened when we were headed up the stairs to his groupa to return him to his nanny.  On the landing of the stairs, Chris got my attention and he looked like he could explode with tears but nothing came out.  He made a moan but that was it.  This is the closest he has ever come to crying with us.  I'm not exactly sure what happened but I'm guessing that he knew that our time was up.  Or at least I hope that's what he was thinking because that's a very good sign of bonding!

I am just amazed at where we are today.  God issued a call and we obeyed.  It was a very scary call, the kind of call that turns your world upside down.  God has taken care of every aspect of this journey so far, most importantly our children and funding.  God has given us everything we wanted in our adopted son.  It's almost like He put the exact desires in our heart for this specific child.  He can do that, you know.  He's pretty awesome like that!

Why settle for the ordinary life?  How many times have I been so scared that I have ignored the voice of God?  Yeah, I'm guilty of that, so many times.  But I THANK GOD for this child.  I THANK HIM for slamming me so heavily with the desire to adopt that there was no denying it.  I THANK HIM for breaking me to the point of laying flat on my face, praying, and crying out to Him to lead me to the one who is meant for us.  And He did. 

Please, don't settle for ordinary.  Listen.  Obey.  Go.

Chris's View:

I need to apologize in advance as there are no pictures of the events I will be speaking about below, but trust me, they would be utterly disappointing!

So as I alluded to yesterday, we were told there was a bazaar across the main street from the Karavan.  When I say main street, I don't mean like yours & our main street in our town.  This is what we Americans would see as a 4 lane street 2 going, 2 coming... that somehow the local driving population turns in to a 10 lane super highway!  The road is littered with huge potholes, not a single lane line to be found, and thousands of cars driving at break-neck pace, even though our driver tells us that the speed limit is 60 kilometers per hour.  (Admittedly he says the cops will not ticket you unless you go 81 km/h)  There is a major intersection right beside the Karavan, and it is the closest place to cross the street with the international green walking man... well, it really isn't a green walking man here, but just a green light for pedestrians.  We have to make a "U", since you cannot directly cross from the Karavan to the area that was denoted as the bazaar to us.  I hope that is clear.  So we have to cross a major road, the MAIN road, then another major road to get to the bazaar area... hope that is understandable, since I know no other way to explain it.

We arrive at the first light.  There are about 5 people waiting.  The light turns green, we hold our breath and cross.  Mind you, we cannot run due to my joints, so if it turns on us in a hurry, I'm taking the hit!  Safely across the first major road, we turn and face the MAIN road.  Surprisingly, we navigate it pretty well.  We walk along the path on the other side, and over the fence made of tin sheets, I can see a pedestrian crossing sign.  Unfortunately, when we came to the end of the path, there is no light, no painted crosswalk, just a pedestrian sign suspended above the street.  Great!  This is where we are going to eat it, huh?  Nope... again, it was pretty mellow crossing, other than Maria getting a huge mouthful of car exhaust.

So we are now at the bazaar.  We walk into the tented area to find..............hardware.  I look at Maria and mumble "hardware section."  We continue walking... hardware, hardware, electrical supply, fishing rods & tackle, hardware, hardware... UGH!  We are in the outdoor version of the Home Depot!  Great!  We are deep in this place by now, so I head for the nearest bright light at the end of the tent, turn and begin walking like I think we can get out of the place... NOPE!  It was a lane that led to storage sheds, like semi trailer boxes where the individual shops kept their back stock.  So, we walk all the way back out of the place, dodging guys carrying rolls of plastic tubing, past light fixtures and fishing shops.  FAIL!  We risked our lives crossing that crazy street to walk through a hardware store... but hey, at least I know where to go if I need to fix a leaky toilet!

On the walk back, yes, we had to cross the MAIN street again, we took the route that paralleled the MAIN road.  Maria pointed across the street and quietly said, "That looks like the place."  Sure enough, another area, similar to the hardware bazaar, but it just might be the spot we were looking for.  At least she didn't rub it in my face!  I love her!  Looks like we will have to cross the MAIN street again another day!

See ya'll tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Day 8

Maria's View-
Morning visit-

We have a good routine going!  We do pretty much the same things every day, especially with our little man.   Getting to the orphanage was a little different this morning due to our driver needing to take another family to the train station.  He called to let us know that "Egor" would be taking us to the orphanage but it came out as "Eu-dor"... so we went out to the curb, a taxi arrived, I walked up to his window and in my best Russian, asked him "what is your name, please?"  He didn't understand a word of it and I'm certain that I said it right. ha.  He just motioned for us to get in.

We arrived and everything was pretty quiet... no groupas in the halls, not many people out walking around, we traded our passports for "Finn" and headed outside.  We did our usual things with him, play, tickle, swing, walk, and he's still just as adorably sweet as ever.  After about 30 mins (yeah, we try our best to stay out longer than just 20 mins), he started tugging at the sleeves of his furry suit.  We headed back inside.

The moment we put him down on the carpet to remove his suit, he stuck those 2 fingers into his mouth and started shutting down.  He is SO cute when he does this, but we don't want him to go to sleep!  So we pulled out the cellphone and that was enough to perk him back up.  (UGH, and I just realized now that we forgot to buy him a toy one at the store while we were there.)  He crawled and cruised around a bit but he was tired.  I really think that our visits must run into his nap times. 

He played a lot with the little giraffe rattle that I made for him.  It was actually one that I made for another adorable little boy but it didn't turn out just right so I kept it and made another one for my friend.  I brought it just in case and I'm glad I did.  He has really enjoyed playing with it!  I'm going to make him a few more when I get back home because I think I will probably leave this one with him at the orphanage when we go home for our 10 day wait.

Another part of our morning visit involves his daily poop. YUCKO.  When this happens, there's not much more we can do but take him back to his nanny.  And since he's pretty tired anyway, we don't mind it so much.

Afterward, our driver took us to the mall and I tanked up on a McD's cheeseburger and fries.  I don't mind exploring new foods but every other day I need FOOD.  I felt like I was starving all day yesterday.  I just sent my hubby out to see if he could locate some Reece's PB cups and I guess they don't have them here.  I don't know how I will make it X amount of days without my PB cups!!  I'll make due.  He did, however, find me a KitKat Bar.  I love him.

While we were finishing up our McD's, our facilitator called and said that we are to meet our driver outside and he would take us to the social worker's office and then to court.  So we jumped in and headed to the social worker's office where we had to sign a document.  Then she followed us out to ride with us to the courthouse.  On our way to the curb, we were all looking at traffic in order to cross the street, the social worker decided to wait for traffic but Chris decided that he wasn't... and he practically pushed her out into the street!  She was like, "ahhhh!" and we grabbed her and pulled her back onto the curb, and then I gave a look to Chris like, "please don't kill our social worker" and thankfully she was laughing, which made us laugh... then of course, she had to give our driver the Russian version of it.  Thankfully, everyone is still alive and well.  I have no idea what she did at the courthouse.  We had to wait in the car.

Evening visit-
Our evening visit went great!  It is a beautiful day outside today, warm, and in the 60s.  We made our way to his room and the nanny opened the door with him in her arms, dressed and ready to go outside!  AND he wasn't dressed in 3 layers, only 2 this time!  He also had on shoes that weren't too small!  YAY!

So we spent a lot of time outside this evening.  I took him into one of the play sheds and let him cruise around.  I grabbed one of the cars that he could sit on and scoot around, thinking that he really wouldn't know how to use it, WRONG.  He immediately started scooting that thing all over the place.  Loved it!  It's not that I think he's not capable of doing these things, it's just that I don't know what they have taught him, so we are learning as we go!  He's teaching me things!  We then moved on to the rocking see-saw and I put him on one side and I hurried to the other and he was already rocking it, trying to make it go!  I'm one proud momma!  He is so smart!  He's also very determined!

He seems to get overstimulated once he's played a bit so we took that as a cue to go indoors.  Once inside, he immediately began to shut down on us and tried to fall asleep.  We were able to perk him back up with his toys.  He was particularly interested in his Mickey Mouse book this evening.

One thing I have noticed about him is that he doesn't multi-task at all.  Once he sets his mind on something, it's just on whatever THAT is.  If he's cruising, he's cruising, so he won't hold his rattle and cruise at the same time, etc. 

He's definitely a fun boy!!  Very, very fun!  And kissable and so lovable!

Chris's View:

Last night was pretty crazy!  All night long with the dogs & cats in the courtyard going at it.  We have noticed since we got here that there are stray animals EVERYWHERE.  Dogs are the most out in the open, while I have only seen a few cats, just in the courtyard at the apartment.

Last night it started with the dogs.  It sounds like roaming packs of dogs encroached on another pack's turf and a war ensued.  It would get loud and then calm down again.  It is much what I think Michael Vick's place sounded like on weekends before he went to jail!  LOL!  Sorry, poor humor, but it's funny cause it's true!  Anyway, as we got into bed last night, it sounded as if a cat magically appeared in the middle of the turf war.  Man, it was all out chaos and that cat surely sounded on the losing side!  Screeches and hisses all over the place.  It was much the same as the dogs too, with the ruckus then calm.  Eventually though, one side either must have won, or all of the animals got tired and laid down and went to sleep.

I am throwing some photos on here of our walk home from the Karavan.  It's not the cleanest, nor does it look like the safest area, but so far, we have felt reasonably safe.  The first is the Karavan itself.  The next, just on the other side of that wall is the roughest looking storage sheds... at least I hope they are storage sheds and not where people live... that I have ever seen.  The next is more of the sheds.  The last is our apartment building.  It looks pretty bad on the outside, but the lady we are subletting from has fixed it up real nice and it is more than adequate for our time here.  She works at the orphanage as a cook... can't speak a word of English, but she is really nice!

Sorry for not having much to write about today, the call to go to the social worker's office and court kind of took up much of our exploring time today.  I think we are going to go do lunch... at the Karavan of course... then go across the street to what our facilitator called the bazaar.  I know I saw that we could buy an air compressor there, but hey, who knows what other gems we may find in there!  LOL!  What we are really looking for is some small items to give to our little dude on the anniversary of his "Gotcha Day".  Hopefully tomorrow we will have more pics to share.

See ya'll later!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Day 7- Blue Jeans

Maria's View:

Morning visit-

This morning the skies were so gloomy but then the sun broke through and it was so beautiful and warm!  Did we still have to wear our jackets?  YUP.  That's just the way it is.  We arrived at the orphanage and had no run ins with the little ones today.  Walked by the kitchen and whatever they were cooking smelled good!  Are we starving or what?  haha.  Then on the left, we noticed that our facilitator was in the office so we stopped by and she needed us to sign some papers.  Then she told us that there is a paper missing from our dossier that has been removed from an appostilled packet.  It's a paper that explains our military status in Germany and it's pretty important.  Our facilitator is on it, though, and has called the Adoption Department in hopes that they will find it.  If they don't, I'm not exactly sure what will happen.  Yeah, I'm a little stressed.

We went on upstairs to get our sweetie and he was all bundled up and ready to go outside within minutes of ringing the buzzer.  We really like this nanny.  We took him outside and did our usual thing with him.  We did mix things up a bit and put him in the swing.  We put him there 2 days ago and he didn't hold himself up in it too well but today he did!  It seemed that he was enjoying it so we kept him in there for about 10 mins.  I really think he enjoys the wind in his face.  Afterward, Chris wanted to hold him for a bit so I took out a giraffe rattle that I made for him and he loved it!  It's perfect for him because when he hits himself in the face, it won't hurt him.  He even turned it on Chris and bopped him in the face a few times! haha.  I see a lot of soft toys in the future for him.  I'm sure it's just an orphanage behavior but he goes straight for his face with whatever is in his hands, whether it's a hat, shoe, car, blanket, anything.

We noticed that the door to "Finn's" groupa opened on the outside of the 2nd floor and the nannies brought down 3 little cuties all dressed the same way and led them to the play shed.  They played right next to us and they were so enjoyable.  We stretched our time outside to 30 mins because it was so pretty outside and then made our way very slowly indoors.  As we were leaving, I heard a little boy of "Finn's" groupa yell out "Finn's" real name.  It was so sweet.  I heard his name again from the response of the nanny in what I imagine was her explaining that his family was taking him inside.

We made our way through the main doors and he instantly leaned to the side to put that sweet little hand on the wall and kept it there all the way up to the 2nd floor.  We removed his coat.  He is so cute today in his little blue jeans.  We looked at the tag and they are size 9-12 months and were hanging down around his hips.  He needs the length though so anything smaller than 9 months would definitely be too short.  I hope that 12 month pants will work with the adjustable waist.  I brought along with me a pair of 18-24 month jeans and I know without even trying them on that they will swallow him.

I gave him his giraffe rattle and ball to play with but he was so, so tired.  I guess he is more comfortable around us, at least enough to rest when he needs to rest.  He popped his 2 little fingers in his mouth and put his other little hand over his eyes, laid down and was done.  I tickled him to revive him back up again, took him to the window to stand and it was there that he took 2 steps for us! Then I noticed that he had a dirty diaper.  We had about 30 minutes of time left and when you let the nannies know that he needs to be changed, your visit is over.  So we dealt with the stench as long as we could, haha, and we could tell that he was ready for a nap so we had to take him back to his nanny.  Our driver was no where near ready to pick us up so we sat outside the orphanage for about 45 mins until he arrived.


It was still sunny and warm so the nanny had him dressed in the softest, fluffiest outfit.  He felt like a little cuddly bear cub.  We took him outside and it became clear to us that he was in a grumpy mood!  He still played pretty well.  We took him under one of the play sheds and let him cruise along the walls and gate.  When he was done with that, we headed back to the main entrance.  I was holding him to where his bottom was actually on my chest so that he was sitting pretty high and facing away from me.  I noticed him reach for a tree branch so Chris pulled it lower so that he could touch it and grab a leaf off of it.  I love his curiosity!

Once we got to the door, a little groupa was headed out to play.  We opened the door for them and watched as the nanny lined them up against the wall.  Then she gave them permission to make their way outside.  The nanny took the hand of one of the little girls and then screeched!  I saw her throw a huge bug into the air.  Apparently one of the little girls had picked up a huge beetle on her way out and the nanny had tried to hold her hand unknowingly!  This is the first time that I have ever seen one of the nannies laugh.  It was pretty funny!

Once we got to our play area, I took off all of his fuzzy clothes and before I was done, he had already put his fingers in his mouth and was about to call it a day!  I tickled him and he was pretty much done.  UNTIL our facilitator called us.  He saw that cellphone and had to have it.  Chris handed it over and he put it right up to his ear.  It was ADORABLE!  The nannies are always on the phone so there is no telling how long he has wanted to hold one and play with it!  So we will be going out tomorrow to look for a toy phone for him.  We let him play with the phone (shhhh!  don't tell our facilitator!) until it was time to say goodbye.  As we handed him off to the nanny, he leaned back in to Chris and acted like he didn't want to go with this particular nanny.  She is new to us but she seemed pretty nice.  So maybe our little boy is beginning to bond a bit with us.

Until tomorrow!!  This boy is too stinkin' cute!!!!

Chris's View:

Okay, sorry for not having many pictures on yesterday's blog, but I will make up for it today.  Let's start with a quiz:

What is black, round and has an enormous amount of uses in this country?


We all know tires help us get from point A to point B, keep us safe in the rain on slick roads and heck, the MythBusters just did an episode on square tires.  Here, they take tires to new heights though.  They are not just for cars anymore!

On a side note about our visit this morning, when we arrived and took the little one outside, we rounded the corner & there was a lady sweeping the ground... with her witch's broom!  Talk about straight out of Wizard of Oz!  Maria looked at me and said she sweeps, then flies away on the broom!  Lol!  The rest of the morning was filled with sayings like, "And your little dog too!"  It was too much!

After our morning visit, which was beautiful due to the sunshine, fresh air, and our little man's willingness to try new things, we had our driver take us to Karavan for lunch and relaxation time.  We had this little counter service that had a ham panini and baked potato, choice of cold salad (like cole slaw, beet salad, etc) & a coke for like $6... (THIS IS JUST FOR YOU LUIS!)  So we split it and it was really good!  We have been lucky the last couple days on the food frontier, but we haven't really been adventurous!

After lunch, we walked around the shopping center a bit before we headed back to the apartment.  We usually take one of a couple different routes home... my military folks will understand for the force protection aspects about making us hard targets.  Yeah, it may be "safe", but let's not tempt our luck.  We have noticed since we arrived here that they love using their old tires for things. 

There's planters for plants.

There's blockades to prevent parking.

There's markers to denote areas like playgrounds.

There's garden boundaries (I think these may also be property lines)

Then, right in front of our apartment, there's this creative use!

Oh yeah, they can be used on cars too!  Lol!  I guess when you live in a marginalized economic system, you make due with whatever you can get your hands on.  It is really eye opening since we are so used to the American way of life, which has become a disposable way of life.  You get new tires, you have the tire store recycle the old (for a nominal service fee of course), when we could be taking them home and burying them in our yards to make all sorts of benches and playgrounds, and cemetery fences.

Speaking of cemeteries, our driver took us a new route to the Karavan today.  Today is actually the continuation of "Father's Day" that I spoke on yesterday.  He took us by, what we can only imagine, is the main cemetery in the city.  It was monstrous!  I think it could probably match up to the size of Arlington National Cemetery.  For those of you who have been there, you will understand the size of this place.  For those of you who haven't I really cannot describe the sheer size of the place.  There are roads criss-crossing it.  This one was a more modern place than the other cemetery we pass.  Yes, it still has many old metal crosses marking the grave sites, but this one also has massive marble headstones, many with amazing laser engraved photos of loved ones lost.  Each familial grave site seems to be marked off by low, heavy iron fences, and many families were sitting inside the fences eating and spending time together.  I don't like cemeteries, and never have, so this would be a rough custom for me.

I am running out of things locally to highlight on the culture side of the house.  Hopefully we can get out and explore our surroundings a little bit this week and I can keep these write ups fresh so ya'll can get a glimpse into the culture and life of our little guy.

See ya'll tomorrow!