Friday, September 9, 2011

Sorry we haven't posted. The past few days have been a world wind of activities. We will catch up our posts when we get home tomorrow including Sweat peas debut. To all the other adoptive parents, we will answer all your questions privately when we get home.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Wednesday, August 31st Gothcha Day!

In the adoption world, the day you actually get physical custody of your child is known as “Gotcha Day”. Not terribly eloquent, and I have no idea who originally came up with it. But after 2 years, hundreds of pieces of paperwork and thousands of dollars, Sweet pea--we gotcha!!!
Just like last Friday, we woke up bright and early at about 0400. We still have not acclimated to the time change. Vlad is 15 hours ahead of Michigan. Just like last Friday, we made the 2-hour trek to Ussyrick. I was not as nostalgic this time. We had a relatively smooth trip, little traffic, but I am done with this drive. Last Friday I took about a hundred pictures, today I took two.
Sweet pea is doing much better. She feels better from her earlier pneumonia. She even looks better, a little more filled out. They had said she gained a kilogram (2.2#s) while we were gone for 5 months, but I thought last week she looked thinner.   I am glad we decided to leave her here. We are anxious to be her parents, but this place and these people are all she knows. I’m sure it was less stressful for her to recuperate here. 
She is again excited to see us. She is in the front crib by herself, but has graduated from having socks on her hands. She is actually dressed in pink, which looks very pretty on her. Not sure if I mentioned in the past, they don’t really follow the pink and blue rules for baby girls and boys here. Whatever is grabbed is what you get.
While we wait for Ivan to finish all the detail work, we play with Sweet pea and get to feed her again. More pureed meat/veggies/bread stuff. It is not really very appetizing, but probably very healthy as it is all fresh foods—and not a preservative in site! She also gets warm tea in a porcelain cup. After lunch, all the other children are put done for their 3-hour nap. Not Sweet pea, although she looks very tired. She is going with us. We begin to change her, but the caregivers want to wash her first.  They come and grab her. They are treating us like we have never seen a baby before. I want to dress her in a beautiful lavender and green dress from Janie and Jack. I got it 50% off and it is still the most expensive piece of clothing I have bought for Sweet pea.  I also bought the little lavender coat to go with it, but it is too hot today. Who knew it would be 80 degrees here? The dress has straps, so I did not want to put a onesie t-shirt under it. The caregiver tried her best to communicate to me that I needed one. I feigned ignorance until she went to grab an old one from the cupboard. I had to give-in and ran and got a new one from my bag first. Doesn’t she know it’s 80 degrees out?! So now the dress looked stupid and Sweet pea is tired and irritable. She is ready for that nap. Did I mention she also had to have tights on? Yeah, I know, it’s 80 degrees out. I anticipated this and brought the tights. We tried to take the obligatory caregiver pictures, Sweet pea is sobbing. She has hit the wall. We take 2 bad shots; grab our stuff and head out the door. The medical director, Tatiana sees us off and gives us hugs. Sweet pea is still crying. No, at this point I am not wondering “what have I done?”. I understand the value of a good nap. I am certain Sweet pea will pass out in the car and the world will be right again afterwards.  And as expected, she is a new girl when we arrive at her home for the next week, the Vlad Motor Inn.
When we are walking in to the Vlad Inn, Clarisse was carrying her. She put her down in the hall to let her walk by herself while Clarisse held her hands. Well, Clarisse wanted to stop, but Sweet pea just kept going! She was walking by herself!!! I yelled out “Stop her!” because I wanted to tape this momentous event. I had seen her take a few steps in her crib, but not like this. I did not really expect her to be ‘stopped’ but Clarisse said just for a second she almost reached out and pushed her down. Luckily she realized that would be wrong and didn’t. We had a good laugh.
The first thing we did was go to eat. We brought food into the restaurant that we had bought for Sweet pea to eat and she did great. No complaints. She even took to the bottle right away. We returned to the room and just played. She seemed very happy and went with the flow. She had a great time playing with the toys while we made fools of ourselves trying to get her to smile, which she reward us with often.
We had asked for a crib and they brought us a white Jenny Lind crib, the kind that has the front side rail that goes up and down (the kind that is now apparently illegal in the US). Sweet pea’s schedule said  she went to bed at 9pm and she was getting a little cranky. At first we tried to get her to go to sleep by rocking her and carrying her. Since she is not used to that kind of closeness, it just made her uncomfortable. Finally, I just put her in the crib and covered her with her blanket. We braced ourselves for the crying…but after a loud effort…that lasted maybe 10 seconds- literally- we put her fingers in her mouth, rolled over and went to sleep. She slept the whole night. Hallaluyah!

Sweet Pea's last day at the baby home

Showing us how to dress a baby...

Not a happy baby!

Back at the Vlad Inn

Tuesday Aug 30, 2011


Hello all, this is Clarisse’s Corner and I’m here to tell you all about our excursion into the lovely city of Vladivostok! We had been saying we were going into the city many times. But, as our days progressed we grew lazy and would put of the adventure for another day. But today we finally decided that this procrastination is an abomination, we’re going’ in! Joe arranged for Dmitry, our driver that picked us up from the airport, to come get us and take us into Vladivostok for the day and show us the sights. But first, we had to go to a mall so Joe could buy some cord for the camera or something like that. Mom and I decided to explore while the boys were getting what they needed. As we walked we giggled at the store clerks gawking at us, “Do you think we stick out like a sore thumb?”, my mother asked. We meandered in and out of a few tiny clothing stores, most were the size of large office cubicles. At one point I gave a small squeak when I walked past a store window and saw a manikin. Note to future adopters: Russian manikins are scary. After we found the boys we headed off to see the sights. Dmitry said he knew just the place. As we wound up streets that were more like the dark, run down back alleys you see in West Side Story, mom and I look at each other and I know she is thinking the same as I am, “where is this guy taken’ us?”. Finally we arrive on top of the world, or at least that’s what it seemed like. “Most beautiful view in city” Dmitry says, obviously very proud of himself. Mom then says, “oh yes, our driver brought us here on our last trip!” Dmitry immediately deflates in the realization that he has not brought us to one of the few moments in our lives where we are truly in awe. When I hop out of the car and gaze down at the Russian city miles bellow us, I am in awe (this is my first time seeing it because I was not here with mom and Joe on the first trip). I’m not even quite sure how to describe this view because it really was magical. I remember laughing at myself because it was an unusual kind of beauty because it was almost all man made. I have never seen anything like this. I have been to Florida and watched the sun set, into the ocean, seen the hilly, clear plains of Idaho, and even the wide-open space on the Mediterranean Sea. But, I have never seen so many big apartment buildings whose beauty increases with the amount of wear and damage on them. All different colors, green, yellow, cream, tan, and even baby blue. Behind this sea of buildings, or should I say works of art, was a vast body of water stretching to what it seems to be the edge of our flat earth. There were four or five war ships in the harbor to our right, black and grey. Directly in front of us was the construction of a massive bridge probably as big as the Golden Gate, though I have never seen that bridge to be able to really compare. 

The railing that stood between the huge drop and us was adorned with padlocks. All different sizes and shapes of pad locks with an inscription of the date the lock was placed on top of this great city and the initials of who had put it there. The was also a huge statue of 2 guys, maybe saints?  Dmitry told us newly married couples came here to take pictures with the statue and place a lock for luck in their marriage. 

“Souvenirs, yes?” Dmitry says. And we walk down to the souvenir shop. We spend what seems like hours picking out presents for our selected few. I have never seen so many of those stacking dolls (you know, the wooden ones that when you open them there is a smaller one inside her and the same for that one and so on). Every color, many different characters. I picked out a few frilly ones for my friends and a panda one for my sister Mallory (SHOUT OUT!). She and I share quite the infatuation with panda bears and I was elated when mom discovered this unique find. 

After buying almost one of everything in the shop we headed back out. Dmitry told us about a war memorial that has a submarine you can tour for just 100 rubles a person (plus 50 to bring a camera in and take pictures?). One hundred rubles is about $3.50 in US dollars for those of you who are not familiar with the ruble. The front part of the submarine was gutted out of  all the pipes and tubes and stuff and made into a small museum, decorated with pictures of the inhibitors of the submarine and the things that belonged to them (old cameras, pocket watches,  metals, etc…). When you make your way to the back it feels like you really are in a working submarine. We took many pictures; mostly silly ones of us pretending to be subineers looking out the periscope and sleeping on the hanging cots (even though the sign said keep off hahaha!). In our defense, we saw the sign after we took the picture. We left the submarine and took more pictures of the war memorial, the eternal flame burning in honor of the men, old cannons, and machine guns on large marble pedestals. 

I then chose to announce I was hungry and wanted food. Dmitry said he knew a little fast food burger joint that we would like called Royal Burger. Mom and Joe repeatedly ask if it was anything like Magic Burger, because they had that a few days before while they waited for their medicals and hated it. Dmitry said “no, no, nothing like Magic Burger, this better!”. I never had the pleasure of eating any of Magic Burgers cuisine but I don’t think that Royal Burger was any better. I’m not sure why, but Russians are against pickles and don’t put them on their burgers, instead you get two cucumber slices (like what??).  I don’t care what anyone says that “meat patty” was anything but meat. After smiling and nodding saying “mmm” so many times it was almost obvious we were faking, we left the Royal Burger to start for the hotel.

 After lying around all weekend and Monday, this trip into Vlad knocked us all out. Forty-five minutes later, we arrived back at the Vlad Inn and stumbled out of the car, thanking and paying Dmitry. We headed straight for our room where we crashed down on our beds and almost immediately fell asleep, regardless of the fact that it was about 5:30 in the afternoon.

Saturday, Sunday and Monday, August 27, 28, 29th, 2011

Wake up, eat, watch tv, go for a walk, read, nap, repeat times three days. Yeah, that’s about it. We were going to go to the seaside Saturday, but Joe didn’t want to. So, we were going to go Sunday, but it was cloudy and rainy all day.
The highlight of the weekend was that on Saturday; they changed the satellite channels so we started to get ACTION TV 1000. This channel runs movies in English!! Granted, we haven’t seen anything from later than 1990, but did I mention it is in English! The low point of the weekend was when we realized; sometimes the movie is in Chinese. Pout! Lots of Jackie Chan’s early action movies. We’ve watched Universal Soldier, Biosphere, something with a young John Travolta, lots of others that are so old or obscure we don’t even know the names of them.
While we’re talking about TV here, I’ll go on. The only English channels we get are the following; BBC from London. BBC is ok, but they play mostly news over and over with hardly anything in between. The news shows are run back to back and they all cover the same stories. If it’s an interesting news day, this is ok, but otherwise not a lot of bang for our buck.
Another channel is the Australian Channel. They play a lot of different programs. We are hooked on a few of the Australian series. Tangled is about ranchers in a small town, Rush is a soap opera type show, City homicide is similar to The Closer or The Glades (cop shows) at home. We also watch The Best of… Which is a cooking show with 3 chefs. They get a topic at the beginning of the show and they have to cook it like a competition. It is always the same 3 chefs. Themes have been; the best potato recipe, the best seductive dish, the best of Australia etc. They send their dishes out anonymously to a 3-judge panel who taste it and decide which is best. I also like Poh’s Kitchen. Poh is an Asian girl who runs around cooking food, often with this old white guy. I am not sure why this unlikely pair is matched up, but I find their recipes interesting. Joe and Clarisse groan whenever I turn this show on. They hate it. The Australian channel also plays a lot of current American videos, which we all enjoy.
Through the satellite we also get The History Channel, which at this point rarely comes in and a Sports Channel, again it is hit or miss with the satellite.
We also watch TB-3, which is like TNT at home. Lots of reruns and shows like Warehouse 13 and True Blood (neither of which I would watch at home, but here, oh yeah!). This would be great—except they are all dubbed in Russian. Sometimes you can hear the English underneath. When they sing (we watched The Wedding Singer) --that stays in English too. Sometimes this is better than nothing.
The highlight of each day is going to eat in the restaurant. We have some simple food in the room, mostly things you can rehydrate with hot water. But going to the restaurant just seems to give you some purpose in life! We only go for 1-2 meals each day as it costs about $30-35 for the 3 of us to eat breakfast, at least $50 for lunch or dinner. Luckily the food is good and worth it.
We are counting down to Sweet pea’s arrival. We should be able to pick her up on Wednesday. We have not been able to go see her on the weekend, as we have not had a driver. This is just as well because although we would love to go see her every day, it cost 3200 rubles or about $112 for the round trip. We just cannot afford it as we already owe the driver over $530 for the three days he drove us around.

Also,  a big shout out to Sweet Pea’s biggest sister Mallory. Yesterday, we received a picture of her first ultrasound. Yes, that is right, I am going to be a new mom this year and a new grandma next year! She is 8-weeks along, so the baby is the size of a blueberry. Isn’t SHE cute? 

 Walking around Vlad Motor Inn