A video about our family

Friday, April 29, 2011

Russian Holiday

Tomorrow is a holiday here in Russia – similar to Labor Day back in the US. Today the traffic was CRAZY busy and slow. Everyone was out on the streets. It normally takes 20 minutes to get to Silas’ orphanage. Today it took an hour. We had a great visit with Silas. He loves playing with Anna and he warmed up to me really fast. Iryna wasn’t interested in playing with Silas at all – I can’t figure out if she was jealous of him or if she just wanted to play with the toys. She didn’t seek out my attention, so perhaps it was just a fun room full of toys that held her interest. We got about an hour and 20 minutes with him. By the end Silas looked like he needed a nap! (He’s not the only one).

Sveta dropped us all off at the bank so I could exchange some money. All of our bills are super crisp and nice – I made sure of that – so I was frustrated that she wouldn’t accept one of the 100 dollar bills for the full amount. She said she would accept it for 8% less of what it should have exchanged for – no thanks, lady! I’ll just hang on to it until I get back in the states where they’re not so picky!

We decided to dine at the upscale McDonald’s for lunch. It was about $20 for 40 chicken nuggets, 2 small French fries, 3 packages of ketchup, and 2 medium orange sodas. I wonder how that compares to the US prices.

On the way outside of McDonalds, imagine my surprise to run into Alexei. We met him at McDonald’s a week ago when we went together with Tyler & Keith. He was sitting next to us and seemed to be very interested in our speaking English in us. We started a conversation with him and (through the help of the missionaries translating for us to him on the phone) we invited him to the game night last Friday night. He agreed and came to play games. We invited him to church on Sunday and over to our home for Easter dinner. He called (the missionaries) to say that he was feeling sick, so we hadn’t heard from him since then.

Alexei speaks very limited English, but is just such a NICE guy and he tries very hard to communicate with us. He said today that he’s going to the game night tonight and we said we’d see him there. We told him that we were on our way to do some souvenir shopping at a souvenir store (instead of the stands on the walkway) to find some souvenirs. He said he was going to eat at McDonald’s. We said goodbye and off we walked to the store. About 5 minutes later, you can imagine my surprise when Alexei and another guy were again by my side. He introduced us to Dmitri, who speaks a little more English than Alexei. They went with us to the store which was full of overpriced items and then walked us back to our apartment. Dmitri said he works with shipping vessels and that most of the workers are foreign and speak English. He seemed like a nice guy. We invited him to play games but he said he already had plans.

Now we’re back at the apartment and have a couple of hours before game night. I think that nap still sounds good! By the way, Tyler & Keith are now home and probably jetlagged. I am enjoying myself here in Russia, but I am eager to get home, myself, and get the paperwork going so we can come back to get our boys!

Thank you all for reading my blog and for giving me encouragement and support in this adoption. As you know, it’s not an easy process. There are many ups and downs with emotions all over the place. It’s nice to know that I have so many friends and family who are praying for me and helping me to continue on this journey that God has placed me on. I am so blessed to know you all. Thank you.







Thursday, April 28, 2011

Carsickness

Sveta drove Sarah, Iryna, Anna, & I to the village, Viska, to see Calvin. Remember how carsick Tyler & I have been on our drives to see Calvin? Well, poor Anna was carsick, too. In fact, she threw up in the car about 20 miles outside of Viska. We weren’t prepared for vomit, so it got all over Sveta’s backpack and the floor of the car. Bleah. Sarah volunteered to clean it up, as she doesn’t have a weak stomach. Smelling vomit makes me want to vomit. ::shudder:: Have I mentioned how amazing Sarah is and how we couldn’t do this trip without her???

When we arrived at the orphanage, Calvin was outside playing with the other children. He ran up to me when he saw me and I gave him a hug. From then on out he was playing and showing me toys, etc. I think that he has a hearing problem. When I said his (Russian) name or when other caregivers spoke to him, it was as if he couldn’t or didn’t hear them. Or perhaps he was “in the zone” and didn’t realize we were talking to him. I’m hoping that it will be something easy to fix upon bringing him home. I can hope, right?

The drive back was vomit-free and we learned to have a plastic bag in Anna’s lap to prevent any other spewing in the car. J There was Dr Pepper ($4 per can) at the grocery store in Viska, so I took advantage of that for the drive home.

Calvin is having surgery on May 5th in Moscow. I spoke with Sveta about going to see him as much as possible before he leaves. However, the director said that he’s leaving either tonight or sometime tomorrow for Moscow – super early! If he will be there tomorrow afternoon, we’ll go back tomorrow to see him. If not, then today was my last visit to see Calvin on trip #1. L

Apparently, Tyler was supposed to arrive yesterday at 7pm in Miami. Sarah’s husband, Rodolfo, waited for 3 hours before going home. It turns out that Tyler’s flight from Moscow was delayed and so he missed his connecting flight in Atlanta. The next flight out of Atlanta wasn’t until 7am this morning, and even with that there was a chance of delay. Tyler left his cell phone at home (wasn’t that a smart move?) and so he couldn’t call Rodolfo to let him know what was going on. How frustrating! I hope that Tyler & Keith will arrive in Miami soon and start on the long 3 hour drive home from there. I’m sure Tyler is exhausted – I hope the airline put them up in a hotel since the flight was delayed…wishful thinking?





















Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The girls meeting Silas

Tyler is somewhere over the ocean with Keith right now. We miss them already, but are trying to fill our heads with the idea of “fun girl time” and enjoy the last week here in Russia. J

Sveta picked all 4 of us up and we went to see Silas today. Wow. Silas is ready for a big family. He had a BLAST playing with us. Anna really enjoyed playing with him and devoted much of the time to making him laugh and smile. Iryna was more interested in playing will all the cool toys that she’s never seen before. And so all three of my kids were happy and occupied and that made MAMA happy.

I talked with Sveta again about the 7 day requirement to see both of the boys. I guess that the orphanage doesn’t count how many visits that I make to see the boys, so I could potentially go to court and say that I saw them the required 14 times, but I won’t do that because it’s not honest. By the time we go home next week, I will have visited both Calvin and Silas 6 times each. Tyler saw them 3 times each. So we’re already in the hole on our 7 visits. Sveta said that the judge actually made this law to see each child 7x per visit. It seems to me that this law will restrict how many children can be adopted, as I’ve already stated before – who can afford to take so much time off to do the required 7 visits?! My plan is to just do the best that we can do and pray that God will make up the difference. He knows that we need these boys and that they need us and He will make it happen.

Some items I wish that I had here:

Facial lotion. The airport police people confiscated my cetaphil facial cream because we accidentally packed it in the carryon instead of the checked luggage. We bought some funky blue “spa” lotion here, but it doesn’t do a good job and it actually makes my face break out. You can imagine how fun that is.

A decent potato peeler. We bought one here but it’s a piece of junk and only works 10% of the time.
An oven. I am limited in what I can make with just two burners. Tyler was actually tired of so many homemade white sauces…I am eager to return home to my 2 ovens and crock-pot. J

A larger supply of DR Pepper. I can buy one small can of it for $4 – it’s practically liquid gold at that price! We’re trying to not spend a lot of money this trip so we can have it for the second trip, but I am missing my DP. *sniff sniff*

Microwavable popcorn. I don’t eat it often at home, but it’s a great salty snack and it’s nice to have something salty along with all of the sweet treats that we have here.

Some things I’m glad I packed:

Instant oatmeal packets. Maple and brown sugar oatmeal for breakfast – fast and easy and super satisfying! I bought 6 boxes of the packets and we have 2 left. It was a great idea that I had prior to coming and I plan to bring more on the second trip.

Ziploc bags. We were told to bring tons of Ziploc bags to Ukraine for our adoption of Keith & Iryna. So, I brought a ton with me and I brought a ton of them home. We didn’t need them. Here in Russia, however, we use them as snack bags and in place of Tupperware in the fridge. Nice and convenient and they don’t sell them here, from what I understand.

The first four seasons of HOUSE, compliments of my best friend, Sarah (Thanks, girl!). We watch it almost every evening. Sarah introduced it to me during my surprise visit to see her and now I’m hooked on it. It’s great to have something entertaining to watch at the end of the day.

The wii. Seriously. Anna plays it. I play it. It’s a lot of fun and who doesn’t like Mario party? So fun.

Games! Quirkle and Yahtzee are played almost daily. I love games and they help pass the long hours.

Picture time:





Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Visit with Calvin

Last night I was feeling overwhelmed and emotional. I was wondering if I could handle 2 more children when I feel that I’m already busy with the 3 kids that I currently have. I spoke with Tyler about it and he gave me a priesthood blessing. The blessing confirmed our plan that we should adopt both boys and that it would be hard. However, God has promised us that we will be blessed and that our boys will be blessed eternally from this adoption. So, press forward we shall!

Today we had our best visit with Calvin, yet! When we arrived at the orphanage, all of the children were playing outside. It was a beautiful, sunny day. When Calvin saw us, he ran towards us and said “Mama! Papa!” It was so sweet to see that he remembered us, as it had been 5 days since we’d seen him last. J We played outside for 30 minutes and then went inside for another 30 minutes in the playroom. Anytime one of the workers at the orphanage walked by, Calvin would point at us and say “Mama! Papa!” He was so proud to introduce us to everyone. We got a lot of video and pictures with him. Calvin is such a happy boy. He was calmer today, which was nice. He is smart, too, trying to fit things together in a very engineer-like fashion. Of course Tyler was happy to see that. J When we said his name (we’re still using his Russian name while in country), sometimes he would respond and sometimes he wouldn’t. I wonder if he needs his hearing checked or if he gets in his little zone and doesn’t notice we’re talking to him.

At one point in the playroom, the director walked in and asked me if I would sing and play the piano for the children/staff. Soon the room was filled with sweet little children and their adoring caregivers. I sang about 4 songs from our church songbook for children and then I sang ZDES KHOROSHO by Rachmaninoff accapella. Everyone seemed to enjoy the music except for Calvin who was trying to play with some toys instead of listening. Nice, eh? Ha ha.

Sveta didn’t drive us today to the orphanage. She had her friend, Dmitri, drive us, instead. The good news is that we arrived there in 2 ½ hours instead of 3 hours. The bad news is that he is a speedy driver who came really close to crashing into other cars throughout the drives. I think I would rather have it take 3 hours than arrive 30 minutes earlier with my stomach tied up in knots. ::shudder::

We came back and I took an hour long nap. It was wonderful, but hard to get up afterward! I played some Mario Party wii with Anna and then Tyler, Sarah, Anna, & I played some Yahtzee. Tyler packed up his things and he & Keith are heading to the train station in an hour or so. I’m not thrilled about Tyler leaving early, but hopefully it will help us spread out his leave throughout the year. We’re even talking about me coming out early for the second trip to get some of the 7 visits in prior to Tyler flying out. I don’t know how anyone can afford to take off so much leave from work, but I guess not everyone adopts two children from orphanages that are 3 hours apart. I pray that God will open the way for us to do what we need to do to bring these boys home. I just want them home.

Observances: it is light here outside from 5:30am until 8:30pm.

The majority of women wear boots. Most are high heeled. All of them are black.

McDonald’s is a happenin’ place. It’s considered a nice date to treat your sweetheart to some McDonald’s food.

We stick out as foreigners wherever we go. In Ukraine I tried to fit in by wearing black and gray everyday. Not here. Today I wore my orange glasses and orange shirt with black pants, complete with my orange crocs. Oh yeah, I scream AMERIKANKA with my wardrobe.

They sell hazelnut m&ms here.




Outside with Calvin. Isn't he a doll? Don't you love the masculine pink scarf?



Calvin's orphanage.


It was the best visit yet!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Visit with Silas

This morning Sveta picked us up and we went to the MOE to drop off some documents and to further confirm that we do not want to see another file of a child. I think we'll be plenty busy with Calvin and Silas.
J Then we went to the train station for Tyler to buy some train tickets for himself and Keith. And finally, we went to see Silas. It’s a nice sunny day so they thought we might take Silas outside to play. They brought him to me all bundled up in a pink coat and off we went. He was breathing like he has a cold, so we thought we should bring him back inside and go to the playroom, instead.

I was hoping that Silas would warm up to us faster today since it was our third time visiting him, but that was not the case. He came to me, but was still unsure about me and very unsure about Tyler. We made complete fools of ourselves, making all sorts of silly faces and sounds…and Silas just looked at us, no smiles or laughs. Finally, I pulled out some Pringles chips to eat and I gave him a very small piece (he only has 2 teeth on the bottom). After he gummed it to death and swallowed it, he was hooked on them AND he was smiling. Success! Next time we’ll bring something softer like a nutrigrain bar. At one point, I tickled him on his sides and he was giggling so much – it was adorable. We got a little video of it, but it was the fifth time I did it so he didn’t laugh as much. Whenever we leave Silas, I feel like we’ve made a bond with him. But when we first come see him, it’s like we have to start from the beginning. I’m sure that will improve with time. I hope.

Oh, the director told us that Silas’ heart condition is a mild version of Tetralogy of Fallot. I don’t know what that means. I am sure a pediatric cardiologist will have some answers for us. I really hope that we can bring the boys home in July! It’s so urgent that we get them the medical attention that they need.

Tyler and I did a little souvenir shopping and then went to McDonald’s for a late lunch. Ketchup isn’t complimentary there – it’s about 50 cents per small packet. They do have a sweet and sour sauce that is free. Tyler likes it, but I prefer my expensive ketchup packets. It was nice to have some alone time before he leaves to go back home.

Some more observations:

We now have pink toilet paper that smells like raspberries.

Here in Russia (& in Ukraine, too) you wipe yourself with toilet paper and instead of putting it in the toilet, you put the used toilet paper in a trashcan next to the toilet. I guess the plumbing here doesn’t allow for toilet paper. It takes some getting used to. There is a great need for air freshener in restrooms here.

Mullets are alive and well here in Russia.

Recent pictures:


Our Easter dinner. It's sliced deli ham, cooked slices of potatoes in a homemade white sauce with cheddar & Russian cheese and some drained canned peas mixed in, plus some delicious white bread we found at the store. We bought 3 cakes: a white cake with strawberry frosting, a pastry-like layered cake with whip cream in between the layers, and finally a traditional Russian Easter cake which is more like a dry sour bread with raisins mixed in and powdered sugar on top.


A famous cathedral here in Nizhny Novgorod. It was the model for a bigger one in St Petersburg and is also the model dome for the US Capital Building. Pretty neat that some architecture for the US Capital Building came from Nizhny Novgorod.


The exit signs here are these green signs with this person running towards the exit. These signs make me laugh. Here I am demonstrating how to head towards the exit. I'm pretty sure that you should have your mouth wide open while proceeding in this fashion.


Silas' orphanage. The outside of the orphanage has some rough patches, but the inside is fairly nice. There are 3 full playground areas outside, which is nice.


Silas all dressed up for his 5 minutes outside, playing with cups, and hanging with Papa. This will be Tyler's last visit with Silas on this first trip. :(

Sunday, April 24, 2011

7 visits

Yesterday we weren’t able to visit either of the boys – since they don’t allow visitors on the weekends. I wish they did – because that would help us meet the quota for visiting them. There’s a new law that adoptive parents must visit their soon-to-be-adopted-child(ren) 7 times during the first trip and 7 times during the second trip (prior to court). This wouldn’t have been a problem in Ukraine because we visited both Iryna and Keith 2x per day for 2 hours at a time and they allowed us to visit them on the weekends.

Here in this region of Russia, they only allow us to visit either orphanage between noon and 1pm Monday through Friday, so we can only visit one child per day. That means we need 14 business days to get all 7 visits in per child, BOTH trips. And that’s not including all the other adoption-related things we need to do on both trips (notary, court, passport, visas, etc). See the problem here? That’s a LOT of days for Tyler to take leave in addition to the AF giving him 3 weeks for adoption leave, especially with our hoping to drive to OK this December for Christmas (we only go home to OK every other Christmas and my whole family will be there this year).

So, it’s overwhelming. Tyler is leaving this Wednesday to go home with Keith to FL. He can’t afford any more leave and we’ve done everything we need to do this trip, except for the 7 visits for the boys. By the time Tyler leaves, he & I will have visited Calvin and Silas 3 times. After Tyler leaves, I will go see the boys by myself every business day until we leave (2 weeks from now). Another issue is that the first week of May – actually the whole month of May – is pretty much full of Russian holidays and vacation days, so I’ve been told that I may not be able to visit the boys the first week of May, making it more difficult to meet the 7 day quota for the new law for our first trip.

I don’t know how it will all work out. Sveta said that perhaps the judge will be flexible with us, since we cannot visit both boys in one day. We asked each orphanage if they would let us come earlier or later to accommodate visiting both boys in one day. They both said no. We asked to have permission to visit on the weekends. Both orphanages said no. We are doing our best, but it’s hard to meet that quota and I don’t know of anyone who is working fulltime who can take off so much time to bond with two children who don’t live in the same orphanage – Calvin & Silas are 3 hours apart, just like it was with Keith and Iryna except there wasn’t a magical number of times that we had to visit Keith and Iryna in Ukraine prior to adoption. Please pray for us to visit them enough times so we aren’t denied at the court date.


Buildings, including the Kremlin.


Note how small the tv is! And yet, the wii is on all the time. I guess size doesn't matter after all?


Some food items. Milk jug with bags of milk. Delicious mixed fruit juice. CocaCola Light (instead of Diet) with American (?) Orange soda. Mayonnaise and ketchup. Bagged whipped cream ice cream.


Our trip to McDonalds! We bought 40 chicken nuggets, 2 bigmacs, 2 medium french fries and 3 bottles of fizzy water. We didn't mean to buy the fizzy water and we were happy that they exchanged the ones that hadn't been opened. We met a nice guy in there, Alex, and invited him to the game night on Friday. He was really nice and we hope to get together with him again while we're here, at least, with the missionaries present as his English is limited and our Russian is pretty much nonexistant. :)

Today is Easter Sunday! The Easter Bunny brought Easter treats for the kids and they loved them! Here is a picture of the Easter treats, a neat statue, and the souvenir market.

We got all gussied up and went to church. The branch president asked me to sing and I accompanied myself singing I AM A CHILD OF GOD (in English). I really felt the Holy Spirit as I sang and I hope that the other members did, too. I really enjoyed our Sunday School class. Elder Lovett taught about Christ and His resurrection and I felt the Holy Spirit during the lesson. It was a great meeting. I love how I can go to church here in Russia and feel uplifted just like I feel in FL or OH or OK or Panama or Ukraine or Taiwan! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the same across the world and I feel so blessed to be a part of this church. I know that it is true. I hope you all have a blessed Easter and find some time to think about our Savior and all that He has done for us. God bless you all. Here’s a video that I’d like to share with you:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

New name for Elijah

Yesterday we went to see our fifth child here in Nizhny Novgorod. Elijah’s new name is:

Silas Richard Pierce!







When they brought Silas in yesterday, he was shy (again) especially with Tyler. He came to me which was super exciting. Over the hour, however, he started to really warm up and started smiling and making verbal sounds. By the end of our visit, Tyler was throwing him up in the air and he was L O V I N G it! I hope that with every recurring visit that he will become more and more comfortable with us.

Silas has a heart condition: Tetralogy of Fallot. There is surgery which can correct the problem. We will be looking into that upon our return from our first trip and can hopefully get an appointment in the works for Silas' return with us.

Calvin also has a heart condition: Mitral Stenosis. He has had one surgery and is scheduled to have the second surgery next week. The first surgery was a success and I am hoping the second will be be successful, also.

If anyone reading this blog has had a child with either Tetralogy of Fallot or Mitral Stenosis, please email me your experience(s) at jilldpierce at yahoo dot com