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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Russian Adoptions

I spoke with Sveta and she said that since we have already gone to court that the current flurry of articles about Russia preventing adoptions to Americans will not affect us. In fact, it seems more like a political stunt since reelections are happening now.

We are looking to return to Russia in mid-March. And our saintly friend, Danielle, has agreed to watch the children here for us again. (Thanks, Danielle!)

I am trying to figure out what I can do more to prepare for the boys coming home. The only thing I can determine is to go through their clothes again. I wasn't sure what size Silas or Calvin would be wearing so I have 12 months - 18 months for Silas and 3T-4T for Calvin. After trying on clothes in Russia this past trip, Silas is 18 months and Calvin is 4T. So I need to reorganize the clothes and probably go to Once Upon A Child for some more clothing for Calvin.

I hope you're having a lovely Valentine's Day today! I wish two of my valentines weren't so far away this year. For now I am planning to return to blogging on my regular blog and will post on here when I have more news concerning our adoption. Thanks for your support! :)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Court and Flying home

We arrived at court about 9:50am. We climbed what felt like several flights of stairs (don't the Russians believe in elevators??) and went to use the restroom before court began. This is what the toilet looked like - sorry for the blurriness. No toilet seat (?) or top of the tank and to flush the toilet you had to reach into the tank and pull up the lever. Oh, and no toilet paper. This is in the official courthouse. Interesting...

Above is the hallway leading to the courtroom. The courtroom was medium sized and had a big desk in the front with the judge behind it, the prosecutor sitting on one side and a secretary sitting on the other side. We sat in rows of chairs with a wooden desk in front of us. Sveta printed out all our answers that we had prepared for the judge. 

Tyler spoke first - he was standing for about 1 1/2 hours answering questions in English while Sveta - also standing - translated the answers into Russian. There was a social worker from Vyksa, a social worker from Nizhny Novgorod, and a doctor present in addition to us. The doctor did her very best to appeal to the judge that she should waive the 30 days for the sake of Silas' health. The prosecutor said that the doctor was lacking a document from a pediatric cardiologist stating that Silas could die if he didn't have the surgery immediately. The doctor said that she doesn't know which document he wanted and that it was clear on Silas' medical records that he needed surgery and didn't need another document stating what they already knew. 

As the time went on, I became less nervous with how the court session was going, although I did feel more and more that the 30 days wouldn't be waived. When it was my turn to answer questions, I stood up for about 30 minutes. There were moments when I felt the Holy Spirit as I told the judge about my love for Calvin and Silas and also Anna, Keith, & Iryna back home. I am grateful to have the calling of a mother. And feeling the Holy Spirit during the court helped me realize that God was with me during that moment in time. 

The judge went to her office to deliberate for about 5 minutes. She came back into the courtroom and said that she approved Tyler and I to adopt the boys. She then said she did not waive the 30 days. Now, to be fair, it is written in Russian law that there should be a 30 day waiting period after court. It is only when there is a life threatening issue with the child that they waive the 30 days. Whereas Silas' issue is severe, I do not think he will die in the next month, so all is well. Although, I was very disappointed. However, now I realize what a miracle it is that we were approved to adopt the boys. It is a miracle in and of itself. We met a woman in Moscow at our medical appointment. She had been to another region and met a girl, bonded with her, went to court and the adoption was denied. Apparently, this judge didn't like Americans adopting children there. This woman was coming back again - a year later - to appeal to the judge to adopt the girl. I hope she is successful this time around.

After court, it was a whirlwind of getting things ready to go. We bought train tickets for the overnight train and then began packing up our apartment. Andre picked us up to go meet a guy who makes Russian hats from real animal fur. Tyler got an "old man's hat" made from muskrat. It is awesome. I will post a picture after I take one of it. They didn't have the style of hat that I wanted, so he is going to make me one for when I come back. We packed, er, Tyler packed up all our things - for the record, he won't even let me try to pack as he deems it most inefficient - and I cooked a cheese souffle to eat and helped where I could. 

Sveta and Nicolas took us to the train station and we got on it around 10:30pm. We were in a cabin with 4 beds, but thankfully no one else showed up in the room so we had it to ourselves. We went to sleep around 11pm and at 4:30am someone came knocked on the door to wake us up. We were told that our stop would be at 5:20am in Moscow, but we became worried that we were arriving earlier, so we got ready and then just sat there until we arrived at 5:20am. Do you have any idea how early that is?? And we only got 5 1/2 hours of sleep to begin with...sheesh. So we packed up our stuff and went out looking for our taxi that Sveta had set up to meet us. We walked all the way out to the main street and didn't see him, so Tyler left me with the luggage while he went back to look for him. It was FREEZING cold. Tyler did find Eugene and so we set off for the airport. It seems that every time I am in Moscow, I am so tired that I cannot take in the city much. Pity. So, we arrived at the airport around 6:30am and our flight was scheduled for 1:10pm - lots of waiting. I went to the bathroom and washed my hair and tried to clean myself up. I fell asleep some in the lobby area.

The flight was typical - 11 hours long - except for a stopover in Canada. The pilot said that we needed to refuel so we were making an quick stop there. After landing, two policeman came on the plane and handcuffed two men 3 rows back from us. Apparently, they were causing problems for passengers around them and the flight attendants. As they escorted them away, one man said "Freedom to Russians!" over and over. It was crazy. We thought that perhaps that was the real reason we stopped over in Canada, but they did actual refuel the plane and we were there for 1 1/2 hours. UGH! During this time, they had one of the back doors open so we could see outside from the plane. Tyler snapped these two pictures of Canada - looks a lot like Russia to me.

Thankfully, the stop in Canada didn't make us have to reschedule our flight to Orlando. We arrived just on time and were so excited to see Danielle and our kids + Maggie in the van waiting for us outside of the baggage claim. We drove home, put the kids to bed, talked with Danielle and then crashed. I thought that I would sleep in the next day, but after going to bed at 1am - I got up at 7:30am. I was afraid that perhaps I wasn't back on FL time zone, but I stayed awake all day yesterday - functioning rather well, I might add - and went to bed at 8pm last night, getting up at 7:30am again this morning. So I think I'm back on the time zone, amazingly enough. Although I think I am still tired from the traveling, itself.

What happens now? We should be gearing up to return for our 3rd and final trip in early March - still waiting on exact dates from Sveta. I am hoping that this recent news of Russia stopping all adoptions for Americans will not affect our adoption. Time will tell. I miss Calvin and Silas and hope nothing will prevent them coming home with us next month.

Just so you know...

We are home now. We made it safely. A more detailed blogpost is forthcoming. All is well.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Let the 30 day wait begin

Court was 3 hours long. It was grueling. The judge approved the adoption but did not waive the 30 days. And so we went and bought a train ticket for tonight from Nizhny Novgorod to Moscow. We will arrive in Moscow in the morning and will fly home tomorrow. Of course we are disappointed that the 30 days were not waived. However, we did everything we could do and we are rolling with the decision. We are excited to be home with Anna, Keith, & Iryna and will return back to Russia in a month. The 3rd trip should be up to 2 weeks long. Thank you all for your prayers and support. It's been a long process thus far - 14 months - but the end is near in sight and we will have Calvin and Silas home in March. :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

14 visits with Silas

Today marks our 14th visit with Silas. We had a great visit with Silas today. He is very comfortable playing with us now and is making more sounds. He ate some raisinets, threw a ball around, and even did the sign for “more” when his Papa was throwing him up in the air. It was a great visit.

After our visit, we went to SPAR to buy some ingredients. Then Tyler & I watched some ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT before Sveta and Nicolas came over to make dinner. I taught them how to make chicken parmigiana. We also had garlic green beans, angel hair pasta, Italian cheese bread, and I showed them how to make the apple bread pudding. We had a lot of fun talking and cooking. After dinner, we went over paperwork for our court appointment tomorrow. I am very nervous. It could be up to 3 hours long, and other than getting all the wording correct, I won't be able to use the restroom at all during that time. That kind of thing makes me more nervous as I don't consider myself 100% able to prevent my body from needing to use the restroom other than not drinking anything - which leads to dehydration...anyhow, it's a worry. Please pray for us that court will go well. We are extremely hopeful that the 30 days will be waived and then we should be here in Nizhny Novgorod for up to 2 weeks more, gathering paperwork, and going to Moscow to check in to the US Embassy. Sveta is working hard so that we will get everything done as soon as we can so we can bring the boys home.

Pictures from Monday - when I brought some cute clothes in to try on Silas:
His caregiver bringing Silas in to play and his underclothes before changing him into the outfit I brought.

His coat fits! 

Passport pictures. Isn't he adorable??

iPad time. 

Pictures of the play room.

More iPad time.

He looks completely different in these clothes. So cute. And he loved the shoes.

Pictures from today:

My happy boy!

Sveta, Nicolas, and Tyler.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Raspberries and Tickles

When we went to the playroom today, the caregiver said that Silas had been asking for his Mama and Papa since 10am that morning. It was nice to know that he wanted to see us and spend time with us. Silas really unleashed his personality today – he was on the go and revealed a stubborn side to us. When the caregiver came in to take Silas to eat lunch, she asked him to put the toys away. He didn’t want to help so he threw himself down on the floor and put up a fight. Silas ate more raisinets today, but wouldn’t try a Russian fruit snack that Tyler bought for him. We watched some baby Einstein and he enjoyed it when I blew raspberries on his tummy. He also liked being tickled and we got some cute video of his belly laugh. 

After the orphanage, we went back to our apartment. Incidentally, the street we live on is called "Cold Street" - funny, huh? It is still around -7 degrees outside. I think that I am acclimating to it more now since we've been here over 2 weeks. I made more chicken strips and warmed up the macaroni and cheese and peas and we took a 40 minutes taxi ride down to Lower Nizhny Novgorod to visit with Misha and Natasha. Natasha just gave birth to their second son, Viktor. They have a one year old named Sasha. We talked and laughed and ate - she made blini and we ate it with sweetened condensed milk - so good!

Me, Viktor, and Natasha - isn't she beautiful? And Viktor is so cute - he looks more like a one month old rather than 2 weeks old.

Tyler couldn't get enough of holding Viktor. The group picture is Sasha, Misha, Tyler & Viktor. We played some baby einstein on our iPad for Sasha to watch. Their cat took a keen interest in it, as well. :)

After a few hours, we took a taxi drive to the church building in lower Nizhny Novgorod. I normally don't have much to say about a taxi ride - but this guy was so odd that I need to share. I don't know his name - his picture profile is above - but he was SO tickled by the fact that Tyler & I were from America. He kept laughing over and over and over - and smiling at us constantly. I felt like I was royalty by the way he was treating us. At one point he asked if we were here in Russia to use drugs. We assured him that we do not use any type of drugs. Although, by the way that he was driving and behaving, we wondered if he was using them.

We went to the church because there was a meeting tonight with Elder Bennett, a general authority from the 2nd quorum of the 70s of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For those of you not familiar with that title, Elder Bennett and three other men are responsible for the leadership of the church in Eastern Europe. About 60 people attended, many missionaries included. We got to see Elder Bitner who we met last year in Nizhny Novgorod. He is about to finish up his mission and go home next month. Elder Bennett spoke about Jesus Christ knowing us personally and how we don't come to church because we are perfect - we go to church to work on our imperfections. It was very uplifting and I felt the Holy Spirit very strongly. What a blessing to be here in Russia at this exact time. 

We spent one month in Russia last year and we've only been here for over 2 weeks now, and yet I feel so close to the members of the church here in Russia. It's such a small world when you're a mormon. I love that I can go to church here in Russia and they are singing the sames hymns and learning the same lessons as back in Florida. It is amazing. And the members have reached out to us and they accept us and genuinely love us. In fact, I got a text today from "Sister Ukraine" that said: I love you very much and I hope everything goes well on Thursday! And I've only known this sister for less than a week. The gospel of Jesus Christ is such a beautiful thing that binds us together.

We took a taxi drive home - not nearly as exciting as our prior one - and I made some potato medallions for a late supper. Sister Foutz made them for us last Sunday. You wash the potatoes, slice them thinly and cook in a little bit of oil. Then you layer them with Lambar cheese. Oh my goodness! So good!

Lambar cheese. It is SO incredibly good. Does anyone know if they sell it in the states? I almost hope that they don't because I just paid  $13 dollars for this big hunk of it!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Progress with Silas

Today was a wonderful visit. Something changed because Silas is much more comfortable with us now. He let us hold him and play with him. I would say that “Mama lubit Ilya. Davi?” (Mama loves Ilya, right?) and he would grunt in agreement. When we held out our arms for him to come to us, he would actually come. And when we gave him a raisinet, he ate it and was only too happy to have another one. It was fabulous. We are excited to visit tomorrow and continue our attachment with Silas. We also brought the clothes with us for Silas to try on and they fit perfectly. In fact, just like Calvin, Silas really liked his shoes. He kept pointing to them and touching the top of them, affectionately. So cute. I took lots of pictures, but Sveta has our memory card to print pictures for the court on Thursday. I should have them for you tomorrow. 

It was busy this afternoon. Tyler went to the store twice and I began making a big feast for tonight. We had the Elders and Sister missionaries over for dinner. I made chicken nuggets (I soaked the chicken in milk for a few hours before preparing them and it made the chicken so tender, definitely doing that again), macaroni and cheese, peas, and that same apple bread pudding. 

Sister Owens, Jill, Sister "Ukraine" Talakh

Elder Bressler, Tyler, Elder Lyons

We had a wonderful time talking about Russia, Ukraine, and even Taiwan. After dessert, the Elders left and the Sister missionaries stayed a while longer. They ended up asking to serve us by doing our dishes. We finally relented. They insisted on hearing about how Tyler and I got together and about our adoption stories, so we had to share it all with them...it was a great night. If the 30 days are waived and we are here longer, then we will have them all over again next week. I can't wait. I love spending time with the missionaries.

Sister "Ukraine" Talakh and Sister Owens

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Weekend stuff

Yesterday Tyler went to help Elder Foutz help a young man work on his apartment. I cannot pronounce the young man's name, let alone spell it. His English is pretty good and he greatly enjoys speaking with native English speakers.

Tyler and I walked down to a nearby grocery store. It's not as big as the SPAR stores, but it was decent. I found some lemon pirouettes for Tyler - yum! On the walk back, it felt like my cheeks had frostbite! And when I got home, sure enough, my cheeks were chapped and red. I see many people outside who aren't wearing gloves. My hands are cold even when I have my gloves on. I've never been in a place this cold before in my life - and even though I am cold, I still find it fun. Tyler is freezing everywhere we go and does not find it fun. When we're inside the apartment building, but not inside our apartment yet, I can see my frozen breath. It's currently -8F outside.

Last night I made blini (Russian crepe pancake) with strawberry jam inside and Grandpa Bob's famous hash browns. Tyler & I watched the 4th Pirates of the Caribbean movie - we've been having a Pirates movie marathon. We really like the apartment here. The only downside is that some people smoke in the apartment across the hall and the smell is really strong in here. Oh, and we found a jar high up in the kitchen that was full of, well, intimacy-related items. Ahem.

Today is Fast Sunday, so Tyler and I fasted that our court date will go well and that the 30 days will be waived. Church was wonderful. Fadel and Ming were there and in the second hour Tyler was able to teach Ming more about the gospel of Jesus Christ in Mandarin Chinese. He taught her about who God is and how to pray. She comes from a non-religious background in China. We had a really good visit and Ming said that she understands more about the church now and wants to meet again this week. Who would have thought that my Mandarin Chinese speaking husband would be speaking Mandarin in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia? Well, God knew it and he allows us to use our skills to bless the lives of others.

Andre brought us home after church - he is so kind to drive us to and from places - and I made this recipe. I skyped with Anna for a little while. She is so cute. She informed me that Iryna swallowed a quarter and had to go to the ER. They x-rayed her and said it was in her stomach. Poor Iryna. I feel bad for Danielle - who is taking care of the kids - she's had some drama since we've been gone! Andre picked us up to go eat dinner with the Foutz's. They are so kind to have us over for dinner. It feels just like home for us - as they are about the age of our parents. We had salmon (well, Tyler had salmon and I had chicken), sliced potatoes, steamed vegetables, rolls, fruit salad, and the apple bread pudding with whipped cream that I brought. Then we sat around and talked. It's very relaxing and nice and the Foutz's say that they enjoy having company over, too. So it's a win-win situation for everyone.

Tomorrow we are hopefully going to visit Silas - if he isn't more sick than before - and we are having the young missionaries (elders and sisters) over for dinner. It should be a lot of fun. It's so nice to have things to do and people to be with here in Russia. We are so blessed. Thank you all for your prayers - I know that many of pray for us and our safety. We appreciate your love and support in our adoption.

The walking street (where the grocery store and souvenirs are sold) and two views of the street outside our apartment complex.

The top is a building near us and the bottom is our apartment building - ours is on the second floor to the left.

Lemon pirouettes and Grandpa Bob's hash browns with blini (Russian crepe) with strawberry jam in the middle. Yummy!

Friday, February 3, 2012

A nice busy day (for a change)

We met with Silas today. He was very uncertain of us in the beginning, but became more comfortable as the hour went on. He liked rolling a big ball back and forth and especially enjoyed it when I would roll the big ball to him and it would bounce off his stomach. He liked the Baby Einstein DVD and would tolerate us holding him for short amounts of time. I am hopeful for things to improve with each visit.

After our visit, Sveta dropped us off at Elder and Sister Foutz's apartment. Fadel (a guy from Africa who speaks French/Russian/English - in that order) and his girlfriend, Ming (a girl from China who speaks Mandarin/Russian and zero English) came over for lunch, too. Fadel joined the church last October and is eager to share the gospel with Ming. When he heard that Tyler speaks Mandarin (he served a mission in Taiwan) he wanted for us to all get together. The Foutz's made a homemade chicken and vegetable soup, homemade bread, and homemade snickerdoodles. Afterwards we just chatted for a while and got to know Fadel and Ming. It was wonderful and we had a good time. Ming said she is coming to church on Sunday with Fadel and was thrilled that we could get together again then. :) 

After they left, we spent time with the Foutz's and were able to skype with Anna on the iPad. Andre drove us home and I baked a cheese souffle. It was a bit tricky to do as the oven has no gauge other than a knob that you can turn for a temperature - I just guessed where it should be and then adjusted it. There is another knob that you turn to turn on the oven light, and then three other settings - maybe broil is one of them? Not sure because it doesn't specify anywhere! Augh! I picked one that I hoped was right and noticed that when the oven is on that the light is also on - which is unlike our oven back in the US. Thankfully - the cheese souffle turned out wonderfully! It was nice to have something warm and comforting when it is -20 outside. We ate that plus some Choffy for dinner - Yum!

This afternoon I was outside our apartment building and an older Russian woman approached me and starting speaking in Russian. I replied (in Russian) that I do not speak Russian. She said "All right," (in English) and then "I love you!" (also in English). It was pretty funny and she was happy to learn that she said them both "ochen khorosho!" (very well)

Elder and Sister Foutz, Fadel, Ming, and me. The cheese souffle. Tyler skyping with Anna on the iPad.

Tonight we went to GAME NIGHT at the church building. Tyler & I played ping pong, foozball, and a game called Evolution that I never seemed to get the hang of...something where you pat your legs twice and then clap twice and then make a sign of a cat/worm/animal, etc, of someone else and then you  move around the room if you mess up - which I did every time it was my turn. I got to see Daria - whom I met during our trip here last year, and make new friends at GAME NIGHT. Everyone here in the church is so welcoming - I love it. In fact, we are going to Natasha's house for dinner on Sunday. She just had her second baby boy 2 weeks ago and we are going to bring dinner to her house and spend time with her little family. I am looking forward to it. Tyler is amused by how all the power outlets show the wattage on them - when they are all the same wattage here in Russia. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

From Vyksa back to Nizhny Novgorod

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Sveta was with us today and we talked with Calvin about what is going to happen now. We told him that we are going to leave, but that we will come back. And when we do come back, he will get to wear his new shirt, pants, shoes, and coat. And when we come back, we will take him home with us. He will get to ride an airplane. We asked him if he wanted to go with us and he said yes. We asked him if he understood what we were saying and he said yes. I was worried that he would be emotional and cry, but he was more thoughtful as he processed the news. We played with the tube and had a snack. We went over family pictures and then the caregiver brought out a small photo album with pictures of Calvin in it. We had fun looking through them with Calvin and he identified the other children in the pictures. When we first showed up to see Calvin, they were having a dance party with his groupa. We took off our shoes and joined in the fun! Calvin seemed very happy to have us there and showed us off to his friends.

We are now back in Nizhny Novgorod. It's good to be back. The apartment was okay in Vyksa, but the one here in NN is better and the water doesn't smell bad and is clear in color. It was sad to leave Calvin, but of both he and Silas I assume that Calvin can understand better that we are coming back for him. (I hope). Our laptop went through some major problems yesterday and we ended up having to restore it back to factory settings - hence my not posting anything yesterday on here. We think that the fan in the laptop is broken, so we currently have a fan blowing on the back of the computer to prevent it from overheating and just turning off because of it. This is all fine and good and I am grateful to have a working computer again (so grateful!) but it is -11 degrees outside and having a fan blowing in my face is enough to have me underneath two blankets with my hat on and still shivering. Brrr! But - like I said - it is worth it to be able to post pictures and updates from this trip. 

We had planned to see Silas today, but Sveta said that several of the children in Silas' groupa (his room at the orphanage) are sick and Silas is "teetering" between health and sickness, so they asked us not to come today. I hope we can see him tomorrow. 

Dance party!

Playing with balls.

Looking at pictures of Calvin.

Family picture!

The very old fashioned key to our current apartment. And that is a bag of cucumber dill potato chips. Tyler said they were "okay".

Living room/bedroom.

Shower/washing machine (no dryers here in Russia)/toilet with a knob on the back that you pull up to flush the toilet.

Kitchen - it has an oven! No disposal and no microwave. You learn to make things work.

I have found it funny that there was a cactus in our apartment in Vyksa and in this apartment in NN there is an aloe vera plant. ??? Tyler is holding the longest shoe horn that I have ever seen. They are quite common here in Russia. We think that this one is meant for boots and that that is why it's so long.