Saturday, June 30, 2012

Home away from home?

Okay Denise, Vick, we know you're reading this, so don't freak out. Remember how we told you we're staying in a really nice apartment? But just that building left a little to be desired and smelled like cats?

Well THIS is what we first saw a few days ago when we walked into the apartment building we'd be staying at for the next week.  Creeeeeeepy.
And this is the scary little elevator that allows us not to walk up 4 floors of feline feces. 
And this is Jay showing how he felt when we first entered the building. He's only smiling on the outside...

But....thank Goodness that when we actually walked into the apartment we found it to be very secure, safe, and inside - really nice!

Here's the computer room where we have internet access and Skype every night.
The cute little kitchen - see the teeny washing machine?

The TV room - complete with lounging Papa.

The bedroom - see? Looks like my bedroom at home, Mom! : ) Life's tough living out of suitcases. 
Despite it's shocking first impressions, this apartment has turned out to be a gem for us.  It's very affordable, in a nice part of the city, just blocks from our translator in case of an emergency, and has lots to do nearby. The kiddos will stay here with us for two nights before we head to Moscow.  We will definitely need to do a little cleaning and rearranging before they arrive, but this has been much nicer than staying in a hotel. 

And today....we slept

Jay has the unbelievable ability to fall immediately asleep as soon as we get in the car here, so I had to take at least one picture as proof.

We had a quick appointment at passport services this morning.  Passport services in St. Pete is like the DMV on steroids. Luckily we had a contact at the passport services and we skipped a line of roughly 400 people. Pretty exciting to see 3 cute little faces on their own passports. 

Afterwards, we were dropped back at our apartment where we proceeded to take a quick 6 hour "nap".  It felt so good to sleep all day!  The jet lag, worry, and preparation for our trip had finally caught up with both of us. I've also been told several hundred times to "sleep now, because you'll never sleep again."  Thanks guys, noted.

Tonight we explored the neighborhood we're staying in this time around and took a few pictures along the way.  All of these pictures were taken between 10 and 11 PM.  Notice how I'm wearing sunglasses? Yes, yes, those are the White Nights of St. Petersburg! 

Melissa, this picture's for you.  Mexican Restaurants DO exist in Russia....but I am not brave enough to try it.

Jay found at the movie theater that his new favorite movie is showing.  I may or may not get dragged to it later.

Canal full of boats

Canal full of  butts

And finally, some broken English on signs that made us giggle : )
This one says " I Love SoHo: Because Nothing else."
Paka folks, we'll talk tomorrow!  2 more days until we pick up the kids! 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Worth It

I could tell you all about the 12 hours we spent today on paperwork, driving, and in waiting rooms, but let’s face it – you could care less about that. 

What you’re interested in is the approximately 10 minutes I spent with my son and the 45 minutes I spent with my daughters - aren’t you?   Less than an hour and worth every second of boring tasks. 
We were supposed to wait in the car while our agency staff member ran into his orphanage. She had to grab some documents for our day’s worth of paperwork.  We did as we were told, but this Mama was not too happy about it.

Then suddenly we see a tiny boy burst through the orphanage door and bolt towards our car.  He had spotted Svetlana in the hallway.  He asked where we were and before she even finished her sentence, he was out the door and in my arms.  That’s my boy!  Smart, speedy, and a snuggler with his Mom.

The rest of our precious minutes were spent tossing a ball, talking about Spiderman, shooting “webs”, playing tag, boasting that he was faster than Papa and he could climb a tree.

When it was time to say goodbye he was promised we would be back to pick him up soon he gave us a confident PAKA, a big smile, and waved goodbye. 

Slightly boring but important medical update:
In between paperwork appointments we were allowed to visit the girls.  The great news is whatever they had looked much better than we expected.  After researching both chicken pox and scabies, and consulting a few doctors back in the US…we are pretty confident/hopeful they were chicken pox. Whatever they were they’re definitely on their way out.  No scratching from either of the kiddos, just a few leftover bumpies on the mend.  Can we say “sigh of relief?”  (Fingers crossed it stays this way)

K, back to the girls…

Stella’s favorite word is still “nyet”, so we were glad to see she hadn’t changed since our last visit. 
Have you eaten breakfast? Nyet.
Do you know how to sing? Nyet.
Will you braid Mama’s hair? Nyet.
Will you braid Papa’s hair? DA! 

And…she’s still a Papa’s girl. : )  She made a huge attachment step towards Jay today when she ran to him for comfort when she was upset. On our last trip back in May when she was told we had to leave she rocked back and forth to self soothe because she was upset.  This is a very common reaction for a child whose lived or does live in an orphanage. This time when she was told we were leaving she flung herself into Jay’s arms for comfort.  That’s big stuff.  Way to go, Stella girl.

Stella also continues to be very dramatic, um well, all the time, and in the middle of playing today, she stopped, looked around, put on her little half glare- half mischevious smile and asks…

“HEY! Why didn’t you bring my brother? Where’s my brother?”

Little Livvy shows us more and more of her personality each visit. She is still mostly comfortable on my lap and if I scoot away, she quickly scootches to find me.  She happily tossed the ball and made silly faces at all of us, tussled around with Stella and even said a few words in Russian…in a big loud voice!  We’ve not really heard her say much more than Ma-ma-ma and Pa-pa-pa…so to hear this booming voice come out of this little thing was a sweet and shocking surprise.

Speaking of sweet and shocking surprises – Family Day has been moved up a day!

Monday, July 2 – we’ll pick up the kids and become a forever family.  We’re pumped.  That gives us just 3 more days til things get really interesting.

Okay, sleepy time in Russia – thanks for listening to me gab, folks. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Smelly Cat, Smelly Cat - What are They Feeding You?

After over 30 hours of travel, we were so happy to have our friend and translator Svetlana help us to get all checked into our nice apartment with lots of space, homey amenities and a distinct smell of cats.  Ahhh Russia! 

Since there is never a dull moment in our ongoing saga, she greeted us with interesting news and a funny story.

Interesting news: (And by interesting I mean that's the nicest adjective I could think of to describe it)

The girls have CHICKEN POX!  They are on their fifth day of it, so it should hopefully be on the downswing by the time we pick them up, but Grandpa might need to bring us a few extra things when we meet him in Moscow - just in case.  Also, we're not sure if their brother has ever had chicken pox so this could get reeeeeeal interesting folks.   I mean, we might as well check chicken pox off the list at the same time as: first day as a family, first train ride, first experience being left with 2 people who are calling themselves mom and dad and speak no Russian, and let's not forget first 20 hours of traveling day! Chicken pox - bring it on!

Funny story: (relayed onto us by one of the caregivers at the baby home where the girls live)

Our middle daughter, whose personality is unending, saw another girl at the orphanage wearing the dress her caregivers put her in the day she met us.  Apparently she looked at her and gave her a big ole "NYET! That is MY special dress I wear when I see my Mama and Papa!"  Love. that. girl.

Alright, we've got an early morning tomorrow driving to Luga where the kids live and working on all of the documents to get them US Citizenized. If we get finished early, we get to see the kids!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

July 7, 2011

On July 7, 2011

We did this....
...and consequently this piece of mail had insufficient postage and got returned a month later.

BUT... we DID officially send that first letter on July 7!   

And we WILL officially be stepping onto US soil with our three amazing children exactly one year later.

Pretty cool if you ask me, even if we did forget a stamp or two along the way. ; ) 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

One Week!

I really can't believe it.  It's a week away. Time to go back for our third and final trip. 
Time to pick up our little cuties and bring them home forever.  Wow, when I type it out, it sounds so easy.
Hi-ho, hi-ho, back to St. Pete we go!
A neighbor asked me last night if I was "nesting" at all. Nesting? Oh you mean that 6 page long to-do list I'm obsessing over? Is that nesting? Um, yes, I'd say so. For every thing we cross off the list, I add three more items.  By the end of this week, Jay will probably sprint to the airport seeking sweet relief from the relentless list of tasks.   
"I'd rather be at my favorite Russian art museum than doing your to-do list"
Example: The 10 day forecast in St. Petersburg is 65 and rainy. This Mama didn't take into consideration that it would be that much cooler than it is here. Panic! Panic! My kids need sweatshirts.  Fun fact: a toddler sized sweatshirt is impossible to find in Iowa in the middle of June. Shocker, I know.  Halleluiah for online shopping after a day's worth of visiting every children's clothing carrier I know.   
Cold? Windy? Russia? No!
Example: The laundry room is suddenly way too dirty to be used as it has previously functioned.  Must...clean...every...corner. I must re-organize everything. I find a painting extension rod with the brooms - What is THIS doing in here? I javelin launch it into the garage where Jay is busily cleaning.  Jay threatens divorce and forces me to "hug out" my frustration. Oh how I love my husband. 5 minutes later I come to the realization that BOTH my washer and dryer are not working.  Almost in tears, I bring in Jay from the garage again, who has already lovingly forgiven me for the javelin incident. I explain to him that the washer and dryer have suddenly stopped working.  Kels, the cycles are just finished, he says. Good God, I've lost my mind and I've admitted it in a public forum.    
Laundry is important so we don't have to see Jay wear this shirt every day next trip.
Example: We have been so fortunate to be showered with love and gifts from family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. Like ridiculously fortunate. If it's possible for children who live in an orphanage to be spoiled, ours are. I decide at 11:00 last night that I need-to-right-this-instant put together the sand/water table we've been gifted and haul it from the basement upstairs and into the backyard. That would have been all well and good had I not made the executive decision to NOT screw in the legs with screws as advised.  Turns out those screws actually keep the legs in place.  I learned that as I bumped the table into the wall and all the legs went crashing down the stairs. 
Jay has visions that due to their Russian heritage, our children will turn their water table into a fountainous masterpiece
There you have it, three brutally honest examples of the hot mess I actually am right now. It'll all get finished, and in the end, it will make me feel better. In the end, it will also probably not help us to be any more prepared than we were are the beginning of this week.  Oh well.
My favorite place in St. Petersburg
As I typed this post, our passports with visas just showed up at the door! Cross it off!
Item # 19839 Visas/passports arrival
 And for those curious, writing a blog post... was not on the to-do list.

Friday, June 8, 2012

You've got questions, We've got answers

Q: First of all, where the heck have you been?
A: To Russia and back of course!  Although there are many good stories to tell, the adoption process is not always good for my writing habits.  When we're in the state of waiting, my mind and emotions are too preoccupied to complete a full sentence. Then we get a phone call that sets the wheels back in motion and our schedule turns to frantic planning of a trip - more paperwork, more appointments, more acts of financial creativity. Sounds like a pretty legit excuse, right?

Q: How was the second trip and what did you do?
A: The purpose of the second trip is basically the court date. 
Trip 2 in a perfect little dreamworld (AKA my world 80% of the time) goes like this: Arrive in Russia, see our kids, go to court, the judge says "Yes!", we celebrate the good news, see the kids once more, then back to the US of A to wait our 30 days. 

That was not our experience. 

The reality was more like this: Arrive in Russia, see the kids (yay!), go to court, the prosecutor starts saying angry Russian words we can't understand, the judge says she is going to delay court for another 5 days, we are left to wander the streets of St. Petersburg with no clean underwear until then, we see the kids 2 more times, we go back to court, we're very nervous, Jay has a special speech prepared just in case, but the judge says yes. We celebrate and hightail it out of Russia. 

Q: What did you do with the extra 5 days?
A: We were allowed to see the kids 2 more times, and then the rest of our days we spent sightseeing.  We bought a book of self guided walking tours around the city, Jay attempted to learn to read cyrillic, and we tried to soak up as much of the culture as we could.  Given the circumstances, and despite the fact that Jay wore the same t-shirt for three days in a row, we really did have a lot of fun. 

Q: So what's next?
A: Russia's civil court cases currently require a 30 day processing period until they take into effect.  For us, those 30 days are up on June 26.  We fly back for our third and final trip on June 26. 

Q: Yah, yah, but what about the KIDS?
A: Right now it looks like we'll pick up the kids on July 3 (family day!), take a train with them to Moscow July 4, Grandpa Kuebler (my dad) will arrive on July 5, and we'll all leave Moscow together July 7. We will be renting an apartment in both St. Pete in Moscow to give the little ones some more wiggle room while we are there.

Q: Do the kids speak any Engligh?
A: Nope, they still don't speak any English.  I've learned a little Russian though...we will speak a lot of love, do a lot of gestures, sign, and practice a lot of patience in our first months together.

 Q: When can we finally see them?
A: When we arrive in the US, we'll be able to post pictures freely like any other parents : ). 

Okay, I call that pretty good for one day's blog. I'll be back with more frequently asked questions in the next couple of days!

Monday, June 4, 2012

A flight itinerary for WHO?

It's confirmed. It's booked. It's official.

They're coming home!  

July 7. 

(And yes blogworld, we've got some catching up to do. ; ) )