We're home!

Back home to 3 very excited children whom we missed like mad. 2/3 of our luggage is still on vacation but the honey and it's "really cool" container (a quote from Michael) and a few of the other wonderful gifts we were given made it home. Our Matroshka with its bottle of vodka is in Randy's suitcase and is still missing in action, along with a suitcoat and 3 pairs of Levis.

I spent much of our first day back cleaning and getting ready to decorate the Christmas tree. Randy spent a great deal of it sleeping. He said he felt hung-over. I guess he was more tired than I was. I will post the rest of the photos when I get a bit of rest.

We already miss Masha. I think we will be taking down the crib. Our little angel is a climber and she would definitely be trying to escape it. So Big Girl Bed or Toddler Bed? That is the question.

Thank you to Masha and Dierda for taking such good care of us while we were in Moscow! We had a wonderful time.

Meeting an angel...twice!


We have met our daughter. We are going to name her Masha Alexandra. She is everything a mother (or father) could want in a child. She is sweet, lovable, inquisitive and has a sparkle in her eyes that says she is full of joy. She loves to play and she is always giggling.

I was very nervous about meeting our new daughter. It was so difficult with Lera because she was older and really did not see why these strange speaking Americans insisted on playing with her and disrupting her reign as queen of her groupa. She was very cautious and it took days for us to get her to enjoy being with us.

Masha was told that Mama and Papa were waiting and very cooperatively entered the little room that we were in. It took her about 5 minutes to decide that she adored Randy. It always takes a bit longer for them to decide about me. I just don't do that cool tossing them in the air that Randy does - especially when they weigh over 30 pounds. (That's a guess, based on my nephew Chase who is also a pleasant armful at slightly over a year).


She was dressed in an especially lovely little dress, white sweater and a sparkly rhinestone bracelet. We played and played until almost lunchtime. She was very tired and allowed Randy to hold her and rock her around the room. I even got a chance to snuggle her. She almost fell asleep in my arms.She went to have her lunch and waved sleepily and departed with a very sweet paka.

We went to the hotel and had lunch and rested a bit before returning to play some more. It is important to get in all of our visits before court so we get to see her twice a day before we leave.

She was still sleepy but the same incredible little girl for our second visit. She is so obviously loved by everyone at the baby house. And I think she is a indulged. She has lots of clothes and the most amazing snowsuit! We tried it on her but it is too bitterly cold to go outside.
She gives wonderful hugs and kisses. She moves toward you making little bubble popping sounds and fish faces before she plants one on you.

Waiting for the Permission

The paper that we were supposed to pick up after 10am is now going to be available after 2pm.

The paper that we were supposed to pick up after 2pm is now being couriered from the outskirts of Moscow where the woman with the signature lives back to the MOE. It will be ready after 5pm. Another day without our official visit.

We have the exaulted permission!!!! We get to visit the baby house and have all our questions answered about our little girl!

I will be falling asleep as soon as we get to the Hotel. Which means I will wake up about 2am our time to Skype our family.

Our MOE Appointment

We had our MOE appointment and received our referral for a little girl with Down syndrome, heart condition, crossed-eyes and low development...Level 5 they call this.

Her picture is beautiful but we are not allowed to meet her until we have a paper signed by someone who is out. We must come back 10 am on Wednesday. We are both exceedingly tired now. Jet lag really catches up on you. The food here is good though and Alexey seems determined to keep us stuffed, bless him. He insisted we try Russian pelminia - little meat stuffed raviouli type pasta, and now Randy loves them.

Caeli has a bad cough and Michael sounds bad as well (Lera is healthy as a horse) so I told Grandpa to take them to urgent care. The results: Caelia has a cough and Michael has an ear infection. I really hate being away from my kids!

Moscow is beautiful - but really cold!

We arrived very tired but safely. Customs is a long wait and I was extremely anxious to meet our friend, Alexey. It is quite wonderful to see someone that you recognize (and who is just as excited as to see you) when you walk through the gate. I feel as though I have new family before even meeting our daughter!

Our translator, is a very nice woman - coincidentally named Masha - and has been very helpful. Our hotel (and staff) are excellent. Most of them speak perfect English. There are several restaurants here in the Hotel that serve all kinds of food. So much for Randy's plan to lose weight on this trip!

We had a lovely dinner with Masha and Alexey the first night and then stumbled up to our room. I should say something about the room. The bathroom floor is heated, it is big and quiet and it has an amazing view. The bed is comfortable and it has wonderful linens. This does feel like a pampered vacation. It is also WARM. (I remember the Hotel Izmayl being so chilly that I slept in my coat.) Ok, it's really warm...we sleep with the window open. Which brings me to the weather. It is REALLY REALLY COLD. Yes, we are Minnesotan and get these same temperatures but we also tend to drive everywhere when its this cold and plan indoor activities. We rarely spend a long time walking from place to place. Our second day in Moscow, we did.

You have to see the great sites in the world to appreciate how fantastic the world really is. Anyone coming to Russia needs to demand a visit to Red Square (which, by the way, is not a reference to communism but closer means, beautiful square). The forecast shows that the weather is going to be warmest on the Monday we are here and that is before we have official appointments to maintain, so this was the day to do the things that make communication here possible and the day to relax with old/new friends. A friend from high school for Randy and her boyfriend. Small world, huh?

Francesca was great. We walked ten minutes to the Metro (a marvel in transportation to be certain) and met her there. She bought us a pass to ride, showed us how to use said pass and took us to the heart of Moscow. It is an amazingly fast ride (she said she really didn't want to know how fast they actually were traveling) and it was warm. I will dwell on warm many times. Even for people who live in Moscow, it is really cold and short walks are an endurance test of sorts- even if you are wearing long underwear, heavy Minnesota coats and gloves and dressed in mummy layers.

We bought a SIM card to communicate with everyone and get internet (we do have it in our room but it is nice to have access while out and about) and then we got a short tour through the theatre district and finally into a great little Russian restaurant. I tried Russian beer (and liked it), several cheeses (loved those) and borsht. Randy, yes Mr Fussy eater himself, tried a pork "hotpot" which is kind of a stew. We did pass on the cold boiled beef tongue appetizer. Babysteps, know what I mean?

After catching up and having a wonderful time, we went to brave the elements and see Red Square. I wouldn't have missed seeing this place, especially the Cathedral for anything in the world. This should be one of the seven wonders and thanks to Caelia who dunked my camera into my cup of gingerale while I was packing, I have a wonderful new camera that takes great night photos.

This one is of Saint Basil Cathedral. I think that is how its spelled. The most beautiful cathedral I have ever seen. Ivan the Terrible thought so as well. He gouged out the architects' eyes after they designed it so that they could never make anything more beautiful. Russian stories are frequently this way.


This is Lenin's tomb. It is right in front of the Kremlin and there was a very cold guarding walking in front of it. He does get relieved frequently we were assured.


This is Russia's first shopping mall. The last Tsar took his children there (think 1910 or something like that) to shop. Now it is filled with super expensive shops that only the super rich can afford but they are beautiful.


This is also in Red Square. This is where they beheaded people during the revolution.

We then walked to a coffee house to meet Francesca's boyfriend Charles (also American) and warm up before we got back on the Metro to go back to our hotel. Thank you so much Francesca for the tour and for showing us the basics of functioning in Moscow.

TRAVEL TIME!

We have our official appointment date. December 15th! We will be departing for Russia on Decmber 12th and will arrive the evening of December 13th. We are thrilled to finally being moving on in this process. I am personally a bit overwhelmed - I never expected to be given so little notice to plan our trip (although, I was told repeatedly by our agency)! I suddenly look about my house and see a hundred things that I wanted to take care of before leaving and put off because its more fun to play with the kids. So they are now on my dizzying list of things to do in a really short amount of time - wouldn' t you think that I would have learned with Lera's adoption?

Russia is different than Ukraine for adoptions. Ukraine has 2 trips - Russia has 3 trips. On the first trip in Ukraine, you choose a child from the SDA registry, travel to meet the child, accept the child, have your papers sent back to the SDA and then wait for your court date - you get acquainted with your child leading up to your court date. You then have your court and go home to wait out the 10 days wait period. You can stay but when you desperately miss your children, going home is wonderful but hard. Only one parent needs to return (or one parent and her parent, since her husband and her parent are protective) for the second trip. It is very nice to have someone to help with the child since she is an active child and not inclined to being carried or staying in a confined space. On this trip, you obtain her passport, her medical and her visa and then you may leave. There is no set time except for your first appointment date. You sort of leap into the whole thing and trust that it will work out.

For our first trip to Russia, it has really set times. We will meet with the MOE to choose our child from their registry, go meet her, accept her and get to play with her and then return home in less than a week. At which point we go home and wait for a court date. On the second trip we have court. Both parents attend court and this is a short trip. Russia has the same 10 day wait rule. I am hazy on the details of the last trip - I know that only one parent must return for the 3rd trip and at this point, I can only think about the first trip.

Accepted!



Our dossier was submitted to officials in Russia on Tuesday. It was reviewed and ACCEPTED! We now have a travel date of January 26th. This may change to something earlier but not to something later and that is the best you can hope for in an international adoption. It has been a very long time but we are finally to the part of the journey that makes the story have a happy ending. I cannot wait to meet my new daughter!

Halloween 2009

It was a cold and wet October...or something like that. This year was our sort of goof-off year in regards to our Halloween decorating. We did not have our annual party because Randy and I are just plain tired. We are finishing projects before it gets too cold and Randy's nights are full of homework. It is really hard to go to college and work a fulltime job and then spend time with your family! We could not bring ourselves to disappoint the neighborhood kids though so we did do some decorating but not the full enchilada. One child did ask why there was no glowing red under the porch this year (crawling under a porch when its raining to connect electric lights is not a good plan, kid) but other than that I don't think anyone else noticed. So here are the pictures of our house.



And here are a few of the photos the girls let me take of them in their costumes. They enjoyed trick or treating but only for a short time because it was very chilly and they seemed a bit out of sorts. We had 50 fewer kids this year, I think the flu is taking its toll or perhaps, just making everyone a bit more cautious. At any rate, we didn't disappoint the neighborhood kids, our kids had a good time (although Lera seemed convinced that she could talk everyone out of more candy and tried.) and we are done until next year.


Speaking of next year, any suggestions for what to add? Keep in mind, no gore or serial killers, I prefer spooky or creepy. The creepy guy standing next to our skelton witch (Hattie) is a bit much for the smaller crowd - he moves if you get too close, so we warn those with small children. Seriuosly, we would love to hear suggestions.

Halloween, Weather and a Bit of News


We have gone ahead and decorated for Halloween (we are almost done) but we will not be having a Halloween party this year. There is too much to be done and too many upcoming expenses. It has been a challenge to put up the decorations due to the weather but we couldn't disappoint the kids. I am kind of glad there is no party planned this year - our guests might freeze! We will have a great party next year, I am very sure.

We did add a new addition to our display - the only thing that Caeli and Lera are less than happy about. He moves - so they don't like him after it gets dark - they talk to him in the morning while waiting for the bus, but then the power is off and he is not so scary.

We have an update. Our dossier has been sent to Russia. We are looking forward to receiving our appointment date sometime in the near future and we will let you know when we will be traveling.

My father will be watching our kids while we are gone but it is our understanding that the first trip is under a week in length - much easier than the 17 days we spent in Ukraine our first trip. I think Michael, Caelia and Lera will quite enjoy the time we are gone - they adore Grandpa and Ryan is always fun.

We had a visitor...

The kids had the day off yesterday and we had a visitor...Chase. He is my nephew and adorable (no bias here). He is just starting to walk and he is almost 11 months old. Do not adjust your screen, he is a very big boy!

video

It was very nice to have a little one here for the day. Caelia loves him and is always kissing the top of his head and she is now trying to read to him. Lera is not impressed. She is actually a bit jealous. Doesn't hit but if he manages to pull mama's hair - she immediately starts "NO CHASE!" It's sweet that she is so protective. Mostly, she ignores him - he doesn't play the cool games. Anyone notice the change to the girls' playroom?

Good Morning, Minneapolis!



Okay, this is just not right. I love this kind of snow - just not in October. The girls have no bias as to what month it occurs in though. They were thrilled. Oh- and they don't ask if this means no school!

Three little bags of security


One of my biggest fears is that Caelia or Lera will get lost. We watch them closely, we have locks and alarms but it only takes a moment for them to go wandering and children with Down syndrome are notorious for wandering (although no one told us this when Caeli was born). Most children by age 7 can give you their names, addresses and phone number. Both of our girls are considered non-verbal, although they talk a lot. It is just not always clear for people who are not familiar with them. So I worry that they will be separated from us and have no way to find their way home. The solution arrived in 3 red, satin bags. Can you guess what is inside?

These are their very pretty, and very sturdy, beaded medical alert bracelets. I orderd them from Unique Medical ID and they are wonderful. These have the medical alert symbol on the front with their name and vital information on the back. Emergency personel are trained to look on the back of these for information. These have the pronounciation of their name, Down sydrome and mom and dad's cell phone numbers. We have been working on "if you get lost and want mama or daddy, show someone your bracelet". We considered putting our address on it, but decided that 1) if they were missing we wouldn't be at home and 2) we have our cell phones on us at all times for security reasons anyway. They really like them but Caelia doesn't like to wear bracelets so it has taken a few days to get her to accept wearing it without pulling on it. I am very impressed with the abuse her bracelet has withstood. The bands are interchangeable and they have lots of choices. Both ends of the band have a lobster claw clasp but not even Caelia (who has good dexterity) can take them off. We started out with simple and smooth.

Oh, and I said 3 bags, right? We got an extra one. :)

Sometimes its a rollercoaster...

It has been a very eventful six weeks. This is the first sort of break I have had to blog so here goes...

The Minnesota State Fair was a wonderful (but chilly) adventure this year. Lera has become Mama's shadow. She clings very delightfully. Last year she was excited to try everything - this year she was hesitant and needed reassurance and coaxing...except for the food, of course. Caelia threw herself into everything with gusto and even convinced Lera that it was fun - er- most of the time.




We began to accept that our plans to adopt from Russia would not be obtainable, so we took advantage of the "Cash for Clunkers" program to get rid of Randy's old truck and buy a new Dodge Grand Caravan. Randy really wanted a vehicle to drive that would have heat when the temperature dropped below 20 degrees. He has our old van (with a really good heater) and I get the new one...he should have specified a bit better! The new van is very helpful. The doors open with a push of a button on the key fob and the rear hatch opens and closes automatically. NO MORE JUMPING TO CLOSE IT!!!! Randy was picking up the new van when I received word that there had been progress and our adoption could continue! Unfortuantely, our dossier had expired so we needed to redo it all again. That has taken a large part of my time the last month.

Valeria is 7 years old! This year we didn't get a picture of her cake before she got into it. It was a ladybug made of cupcakes (I think she really liked the red frosting). What a change a year makes! She now understands birthdays and presents as you can see - she has embraced them whole heartedly! Caelia however is not so impressed.
The kids all got school pictures - did I mention that Michael is attending regular school again? He is doing great. All of my kids took wonderful, accurate photos this year. What I am saying is that, yes, Caelia is telling the photographer "uh, no!" when asked to smile.



Randy's cousin got married. The girls were dressed beautifully. Caelia picked out the dresses.
They were pretty but the girls both decided that something more comfortable (preferrably without shoes) was needed to dance!


And lastly, have you ever wanted to take your camera to a flu shot appointment? I may have to consider it. Randy and I took the girls in for flu shots. Michael already had his. Randy took Caelia for a walk, while Lera and I stayed to get our shots. As soon as Lera saw the nurse put on the gloves she started protesting but she hugged me and I hugged her while the nurse gave her her shot. She was not happy. She was incensed when the nurse pushed up my sleeve to give me my shot. She smacked the nurse's hand and said in that gruff way of hers "NOOOOOO" I showed her I was okay and went to get Caelia. Randy was walking back with Caelia - she wasn't happy and was hanging her head. "She heard." was all Randy had to say. We had to hold Caelia down. It takes more than one person, so Lera stood across the room and yelled at us. Caelia got her shot, slid off the table and walked sobbing to Lera with her arms out. Lera hugged her, patted her back and kept saying, "luv you, luv you". Now the really bad part - they need the second shot in 2 weeks...