kaluga park

kaluga park

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Flight 47

We are checked all the way through to the gate and are waiting for take off.  We have met up with an Illinois couple that we met at JFK on the way over.  It has been fun to catch up with them as we wait.  We have found out that the heavy winds during our return trip will likely slow us down.  It seems we will land around 5:50 EST.  We are still scheduled to take off at 12:55 pm.  There is a storm blowing into Moscow over the next two days and I'm not sure if it is currently out over the Atlantic which will slow us down.  We pray for time to be made up while we are flying.

All is well for us and we will certainly call and email when we are on the runway in Atlanta.  We will have to go through immigration and such so it might take a while.  We'll let you all know when we are in the car.  Love you all!  Josh and Claire

Gonna put a few pics of us in Moscow on the blog.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Leaving Russia

Hello to all our sweet family and friends!  It's been wild to have so many of you keeping up with us on our tour of Northern Europe.  We are only moments from being picked up at our hotel.  We have had a large American breakfast in the hotel lounge, printed our boarding passes, and have checked out of our room.  All of our stuff sits next to us in the lobby as we wait on Violet and Vladimir.  We love you all for the continued prayers and support.  Believe me we have felt them!  God's peace has been with us throughout this journey.  We look forward to speaking with each of you for a good bit less than $4.00 per min!  Love to you all, Josh and Claire


We passed!

Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers today as we went through our medical panel.  Violet picked us up this morning at 10 AM and we drove across town to the medical complex.  The complex was really large comprised of maybe 6 multi story buildings.  We checked in and then proceeded upstairs to get our souvenir - we each got an x ray.  I guess in Russia they like to have chest x rays to be sure there is no TB.  We were tested in the States but no x ray is ordered unless something turns up.  Not so here. We then went back down to our interview room, which was basically a conference room with a small section partitioned off with a medical table.  Two Italian couples who are adopting as well joined us in the panel.  The doctors normally come all at once and each takes a turn going through the process.  However, this weekend begins a National celebration of Women.  The holiday will be through the weekend and on Monday.  Because of this, the doctors were very busy and came in as they had time.  We were there about 4 hours while we went through the process.  Eight doctors came through to visit.  One doctor gave us a hard time about not having our medical blood panels but our sweet Violet jumped in and told her how long she had been working with this process and that our Medical referral letter was enough.  With your prayers and Violet's strong suggestions we didn't have to have blood work done!  Yay!

We did have several turns behind the screen with our shirts off.  I have no idea what they checked us for but they signed the paperwork and took our money!  We were very happy to be finished.  We did have to be checked by a psychiatrist .  Claire was most worried for me during this time!  I think we tricked her!  Surprisingly all the doctors were women.  I guess Russia has come a long way since the USSR.

After we left the clinic we drove to Red Square and Violet took us on a 1 1/2 hour tour.  The sun was shining, people were everywhere because of the holiday and the afternoon was perfect!  Jill, we went in the most opulent mall I have ever seen.  We took pictures for you!  Every store you could imagine.  Violet said that everything there was tremendously expensive because of the location but the amazing nature of the mall almost grabs you in.

We walked beside the Kremlin, stood in front of St. Basil's Cathedral, saw Lennon's tomb (not John), went into an Orthodox Church on the Square and saw the History Museum.  What an incredible ending to our great journey.  We then drove around the City just to get back to the CSS office to drop off our medical papers.  Now we are back in the hotel where we are about to have dinner.  We are going to eat pancakes!  That is part of the celebration for women.  I am going to try Smoked salmon, chopped red onion and sour cream all baked into the cakes or poached salmon with spinach and fish cream sauce.  I think Claire is going to have Toffee banana, dark rum, with chocolate ice cream!

We might have a couple cheese burgers too!

We love you all very much and are being picked up at 9 AM to be taken to the airport.  Delta flight 47 leaves Moscow around 1 pm landing in Atl at 4:30.  I can't believe it's only a  3 1/2 hour return flight!  Maybe its almost 12 but who's counting.  We'll be dreaming of our girls and our little boy!

Josh and Claire

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Doctor visit

We are up and running again Friday morning.  We have the doctors appointment today which we have always heard is no big deal.  However, we don't have the results from our blood work tests with us we only have the letter from our Dr back home saying all is healthy.  We already know that we have to have chest x-rays done today because in the States we only do the chest x ray if there are signs of TB.  Now we are likely to have some blood work done as well.  Carol our CSS case worker in the States tells us not to worry...however we are the ones about to face a Russian Dr with a needle!  Only kidding.  I'm sure all will be fine.  Please ask the Lord for His favor today as we visit with the panel of Docs.  We heard a story of the panel worrying because they couldn't find the reflex in a guys knee.  We have been meaning to have Claire check my right knee for responsiveness but I think I could fake it in a pinch! 

Not much else to report this morning other than Claire pulled a fast one on me last night and called Ava and Allie while I was asleep!  I heard talking from the bathroom and heard her asking about their day.  At least I know they are safe and happy!  We are only 24 hours or so from heading back to the airport to begin our trip home.  While it will be hard knowing our son is in this Country without us for the next few months it will be incredible to hold our little girls again.  I guess God has cared for Vasa for the past 3 years and we can certainly trust Him to hold our son over the next few months until we can do so ourselves! 

Love to all and we'll post some pictures of Moscow later today.  J&C

Nachos in Moscow

Completely stuffed...the two of us are sitting in the lobby on couches that are a bit too low and make our fully tummies a bit sore.  We ate at the Flat Iron Grill tonight in the lounge of our hotel.  It was very nice.  We had heard that the ribs were excellent, sorry Dad, they were out of that tonight.  We started with nachos because I missed guacamole almost as much as the girls.  We had a traditional Russia Borsch soup tonight, which we had the first night in Kaluga (even though we didn't mean to order it) and Claire had scallops with ratatouille while I had stroganoff (which was reported to be a Russian dish - I always thought it to be German I leave that to Jill to help determine).  Claire thinks the Germans stole the recipe during WWII.  All was very good.

We had a revelation tonight about Vasa.  I think this is very interesting.  God put the call in Claire's heart about two years ago for us to adopt.  We prayed, talked to you all and eventually decided that the timing was not quite right for us to adopt.  As we thought back over our time tonight, it dawned on us that Vasa was placed in the Kaluga home right at two years ago.  We were told that Vasa regularly asked if anyone was coming to visit him.  In his heart, he may have been asking God for someone to come and visit him.  God answered that prayer by putting in Claire's heart the desire to adopt.  In His perfect timing we are here.  Knowing Vasa, loving Vasa, and ready to take him into our family.  Isn't that incredible!  To think that I would not have thought twice about never adopting but Father had His little boy out there waiting for us.  A high school couple from GA who had three perfect little girls and two of the most amazing nephews to share with a small boy who was all but forgotten about in a town south of Moscow.  While most had forgotten God had not!  He was grooming us to come and show the love of our Heavenly Father to Vasa.  To show him what a family is like - but mind you just as God often does - he is not bringing Vasa into just any family but one that is so full of love, care and abandon for one another that Vasa may never grasp how fully his little hopes were answered!

Thanks to each of you as you play an important role in who Claire and I are as people, as a couple and as parents.  We are so thankful to have the opportunity to share each of you with this precious little boy.  There will be some challenges to come.  At this point, we still don't even understand Vasa and he doesn't understand us.  I remember the story from Bible school classes where God confused the tongues of men thus causing us to have different languages.  I believe and have been praying that He would unlock the mystery of languages for Vasa and our family so that we quickly would adapt to Russian/English.

Just wanted to post a few last thoughts before we roll ourselves off the couch and into the elevator for the night.  Moscow might be rockin on a Thursday night but these two Georgians will never know!  Love you all - Josh and Claire  


When we arrived this afternoon the sky was grey and there was a bit of snow falling.  Later in the day, after lunch and a rest, the sun came out and Claire and I decided to brave the street with the rest of the Muscovites.  We walked a couple of blocks in one direction (I am not good with directions) found a nice park and took a stroll.  It kinda felt like Paris in the Winter or something (I've just been to the parks in Columbus so give me a break) but the streets were busy, the park was beautiful and snow was everywhere.  We strolled to the end of the block thinking we were close to the Kremlin but we were not.  While in other towns most are fearful of being taken advantage of by those who are less than respectable, however, Claire and I heard while checking in that the Police could stop us at any point and ask for our passports.  Therefore, we ducked and weaved anytime we saw the police.  At one point there were several police cars coming our direction with their lights flashing and they were talking through their microphones.  I told Claire they were probably trying to the stop the two obvious Americans one of which had on a bright blue snow jacket and the man with no hat.  I didn't wear my hat this afternoon because it was a very balmy 36!  We did stop in a bookstore and purchase a couple of Russian children's books that are in both languages.  We thought the girls would enjoy these now and Vasa soon.

We did walk on down and find the Kremlin.  We took a few pictures but didn't walk all the way around what is several city blocks of the compound.  We came back to the hotel, changed some money for our doctor panel tomorrow and are now having a drink before we eat dinner in the hotel.  This part of the day has really felt like vacation.  I so enjoy hanging out with my wife and we are so not well traveled that we make each other laugh at our "griswoldness".

This should be enough for the evening edition to the Josh & Claire's adventures in Mother Russia.  We are off to have Vodka and fish.  Dosvidonia J&C

Moscow - Thursday March 3

Claire and I have arrived in Moscow.  We left the Hotel Kaluga this morning around 9:00 AM after having our room checked by the hotel maid to be sure all was in order.  Claire has a destructive streak that must have preceded us even to Russia.  After a nice breakfast, we loaded in the van with Vasily (our driver not our son) and headed to Moscow.  The ride to town was about two hours of which Claire stayed awake about 20 mins.  I was happy to have her resting next to me.  I read JD and Jill's Kindle (thanks so much!).  Claire tells me that Jill and Allie wouldn't haven enjoyed the ride as it was bumpy and many cars were on the road.  We arrived in Moscow about an hour before we found our way to the CSS office.  Claire and I were completely in the trust of Vasily.  He can't speak English and us no Russian so we road in the complete trust of our Father!  He parked and asked us to come.  We crossed the street went into a building up some stairs (eerily their was Russian being spoken above us on the stairs) my ninja training began to kick in naturally as I thought I might have to protect all that is most important to me in my wife.  Thankfully we entered a room with two older ladies who spoke English and told us they were Svetlana and Irina - our Moscow CSS workers. 

They had pictures of Vasa - the ones we had in email form - for us.  We received paperwork that will be completed back home, notarized and apostilled then returned for our Court petition.  Claire almost offended Irina when we were questioned about our medical records which we don't have with us.  We have a letter from Chris stating our health however we didn't bring our background lab work for proof.  Of course no one told us this was needed so Claire, who has worked so hard to keep all in order, was a bit defensive about us not having something.  There was obviously no offense taken as Claire is probably the sweetest woman on the planet (no offense to any women reading this).  After about 30 mins of rapid Russian being spoken because Vasily didn't know how to find our hotel - another woman graciously told us what was being said.  Then randomly Svetlana asked if we lived in Atlanta...then more rapid Russian...you've got us!  Without any further chatter we left.  Vasily looked at a map then we left and made our way to the hotel.

Now, our parents did not raise us this way.  Claire and I think we have found that we have a taste for more simple but typical American tradition as it comes to hotel choices.  That being said, enter the Courtyard Marriott Moscow.  Beyond the metal detectors at the doorway (which is better than the three men carrying ozzis in our hotel lobby in Kaluga) we found much of what we are used to in a full service hotel.  Now I'll explain our spoiledness.  We only missed fitted sheets on our bed, a decent toilet paper, more than one towel, WASHCLOTHS, tv in English, people who speak our language...these are all that we are so thankful for in our new hotel.  We have had a nice simple sandwich in the lobby as we type this update.  We are going to make reservations in an upscale restaurant in the hotel tonight. 

Tomorrow Violet, our translator, will pick us up at 10 AM for our medical.  We are not sure what this will entail as we don't have any blood work proof of our medical reports.  We know we will have chest x-rays as proof of no TB.  We might each have bloodwork done as well.  Beyond that and we are excited Violet will take us on a tour of Moscow.  We are staying just off Red Square - we saw the Kremlin on our way in.  Then Saturday we are heading home.

Tell the girls how much we love them, Mr. U - know that this hotel meets requirements for your daughter's safety and health, Sharon be sure to know we will take in some Moscow sights and tradition.  Jill, Kaci, and the rest know that we love you all and are ready to be with you guys.

We will check in later as I think we are staying in the hotel most of the day.  Love to all!  Josh and Claire

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Thursday morning

What a difference rest can make!  After our cheese burger in paradise last night we packed and got ready for bed.  We did take some sleep meds and I'm ready to go but am having to drag sweet Claire around a bit.  We are excited to be going to Moscow today!  We are staying on Red Square which will have many sites for us to see.  The weather has been fabulous the past couple of days but the Russian sky can only produce so much sunlight before the gray clouds come back.  Today is overcast and I believe Saturday has at least a chance of snow.

If all goes as planned, we will be in Moscow by 1:00 pm RU time and should get checked into the Courtyard Marriott soon after.  We are not sure but think our CSS folks will be meeting us there today.  Claire is rushing me as Vasily is meeting us at the hotel in 3 minutes.  We love you all and will post a bit later...probably while you are still sleeping.  Josh and Claire

Last visit with Vasa

Today has been a different day for a few reasons.  First of all, as we mentioned we have been tired, secondly Claire and I are quite homesick for our little ladies, lastly we had to say bacca to our little Vasa this afternoon.  The fun part was we were able to take him outside this afternoon for about 45 minutes.  We were excited about this outing because everyday in the play room Vasa looked outside and wanted to out and play.  I was pretty pumped about seeing him all dressed up for the snow (they are very particular about how warmly everyone is dressed to be outside) and he didn't disappoint!  When we arrived he started scurrying around to get dressed.  He came out a few moments later with a huge jacket, boots, a scull cap that covered his ears and mittens that were attached to his little wrists.  He looked like the Michelin Man!  We went outside and he got a shovel and we worked in the snow together.  We walked around the entire campus where he lives, which is the normal route when they are out, twice.  He made the sounds of the animals that he saw.  We saw a kitten (meow) and birds (caw) not chirp - and he held our hands so he wouldn't slip on the ice.  

We could tell that Vasa was tired when we got back this afternoon and later as we came in from outside he continued to be sleepy.  We weren't able to go to the "exercise room" because another couple Amy and Corey were playing with their little man.  The other students were having music and there are no other open rooms.  So we played in the foyer to his room.  His room consists of a decent sized play room with tables, toys and a tv and then behind another set of doors in the back is the bedroom where you can see regular beds lined up against the wall.

Back to our play time, the fact that Nadia was looking for a room for us to play and the fact that he heard his caretakers and friends in the room behind us, Vasa had a difficult time concentrating on just us.  We showed him all the family pictures in the book, fed him a few treats and then showed pictures of our Disney trip for him to see the girls.  I think he was confused because he kept asking for "Vasa" as most of the pictures we have been showing him were of him.  We made the best of our last visit with him.

The caretakers were very sweet as we left.  They took the bag of gifts we left for Vasa including the picture book with everyone's name, a ball, building blocks and a Mickey Mouse.  We also left two disposable cameras for the caretakers to take pictures of him over the next couple of months.  They wished us all the best and thanked us for becoming Vasa's parents.  They also brought him back out and asked him to kiss us one more time.  He will kiss Claire but is still a bit watchful of me (Josh).  He started the week calling me "Dadda" which means man.  Just any man.  He then started calling me "Popa" which is a term reserved for a man that he knows well.  Today he called me "babusket" (we're not quite sure) but Nadia took a breath and said that is the Russia word for "Daddy"!  He has taken to his "Mommy" quite well and likes to have her hold him.  They are two beautiful blondes as they sit together!

We ended our exciting Kalugan adventure as any great American would...we ate at McDonald's!  We are so hopeful that we will soon sleep that we wanted something to take back to the room.  We have now packed and checked out for tomorrow morning.  Vasily - our Moscow transporter is picking us up at 9:00 AM.  We are soon to take two PM pills and hopefully sleep!  Thanks to everyone for the prayers and love!  We are excited to be getting closer to Vasa and  sooner getting home to all of you.  Please hug our little turkeys for us and tell them we will be home very soon...wearing shorts!  

baby home visit-day 3 morning

Josh and I are a bit tired because we slept horribly.  It was kind of funny around midnight that we were both up, but by 4:30 this morning we were no longer amused.  We didn't want to take a nap this afternoon, because we're hoping that we'll sleep better.  We had a good visit with Vasa this morning.  We blew bubbles, ate cheerios, and he wrote on just about every page in our notebook with our pen.  He really liked that.  We then went to the notary's office to have a few documents signed.  We are about to head out for our last visit with him.  We are excited because they are going to let us take him outside!  We've been in their playroom and he loves looking outside.  We think he'll love the chance to go.  They don't take them out much because of how cold it is and the amount of children.  Occasionally, a few go out at a time for a short 15 minute walk, but most of the time they are indoors in their room.  The sun has been out the past two days, so it actually feels good, even though it is still cold.  The snow has melted some on the sidewalks but has been replaced now with slick ice.  We got to meet a couple that I have talked with via e-mail that is here for their court date.  It was nice to hear/see someone american.  Josh and I said we actually think a little in russian accented english because that's what we hear (other than each other talk :)) Headed out to take pictures and go for our last visit before heading to Moscow tomorrow.  We are told we're leaving really early tomorrow morning because of traffic.  I'll try to attach a few pictures.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Beginning Wednesday

Claire and I are getting our start on Wednesday, our last day here in Kaluga, and our last day visiting with Vasa.  We are excited about seeing him today but tentative about saying bacca, or goodbye, to him today.  Although we have a sweet picture book, machinenas (cars), and other small toys to leave with him we hate to let him know that it will be some time before we meet with him again.

We didn't sleep at all last night!  We didn't take a tylenol pm which apparently was a mistake.  We do get to meet Amy and Corey, a couple we know via email who are going to court for their adoption on Friday.  They just arrived yesterday.

Claire is pushing me because Nadia is here now.  Love to all - Josh and Claire

second visit-day 2 in kaluga

We took a break after our morning visit and had a nice nap after pizza!  Around 4:00 PM we met Vasa and played with him until we wore him out around 5:45.  He loves to blow bubbles!  He played in the ball pit, played hide and seek, rode the power wheel motorcycle and ate cheerios / yogurt bites.  Always a hit!  He made our day today - I took him up to the potty and Nadia, our translator, told us one of the caretakers that was helping in the afternoon reported that Vasa told them during nap time that "his mommy was going to come again"!  WOW!  He has started calling me Papa.  That is not quite the word we know but "Dada" is just a male which he called me yesterday.  Papa is a bit more endearing.

Vasa was not quite as active this afternoon as he was yesterday.  He let us hold him, sat in our laps, let us tickle him.  I think he is getting more comfortable just being himself around us.  Nadia told us that when he gets home and we are the ones providing food etc for him all will move rapidly in his trusting.  He is a very sweet and funny little boy.  He really likes to laugh,  It is fun to be with him.  He does tire quickly with so much individual play time.

We are having a hard time taking him back to his room.  We would like to play longer.  When we take him back it is hard to watch the other 11 children in his room who are so impressed to see a man.  There is a lot of need.  We are so thankful to have the opportunity to help and very thankful to our incredible families for allowing us the grace to be here!  You are the best!

There are three little girls that are greatly missed all the way from cold, cold Russia!  Give Ava, Allie and Addison love from their parents who wish their three princesses were here with us!  You are our hearts and we love you and miss you very much.  We will be home very soon!

Love to all - Josh and Claire

Day 2-our second full day in Kaluga

Today we have had another opportunity to visit with Vasa at the Kaluga baby home.   Sleeping has been a little tricky, because we have both been waking up around midnight wide awake for a while.  It just kind of feels like we're just napping!  Benadryl has been a good friend to help with that.  We ate breakfast in the lobby-josh eats the bacon that still looks raw.  I have been sticking with yogurt and toast.  The food has actually been very good.  Our translator makes sure we get fed-she orders for us wherever we go and then comes back to pick us up.  Today we just picked up a slice of pizza and took it back to the room for lunch. Anyway, back to our baby home visit.  Our driver and translator usually pick us about about 10.  We head to the baby home.  It's still funny to see all of the snow.  Never seen snow like this in my life.  The only snow I've seen before this trip was in Gatlinburg.  The dusting we get in Georgia doesn't compare.  We put booties over our boots to keep things clean in the baby home when we get there and head up to his room.  They have a group of cubbies when you enter.  There is another door that leads to his classroom.  All of the kids get excited to see us and more than a few come out to greet us.  Vasily (they call him Vasa (vosa)) came out eager to go play downstairs in what they call the exercise room.  I'm not clear on if they come in the room at any time other than when parents come to visit.  He loves the motorcycle powerwheel, but I was a little relieved that he didn't want to continue playing on it.  The batteries are dead and my legs and arms are sore today from pushing him around.  We played in the balls some, played with bubbles, and the magnadoodle.  He hasn't been keen on reading.  I brought one book and he has no interest.  We don't know whether to be concerned about that!  I know he doesn't understand us and maybe not totally comfortable with us?  Anyway, if we are feeding him, he will sit still with us.  I would feed him the whole time if they would let us :).  The translator makes us put the food up after a while.   He also likes us to hold him while walking around.   The translator is trying to teach him that we are his mom and dad, but when he has no concept of what that is, it's hard to explain and understand.  He loves to look out the window at the cars and constantly says he wants to go for a car ride.  We didn't know if he had ever been on one!  We have been able spend a good 1 1/2-2 hours with him each time.  We took him back upstairs for pot time (potty time) maybe they really sit on a pot?  They don't let us in the room, but maybe I'll see it on the third trip.  You can see the beds from the door, so Josh and I wonder about how they keep 12 kids in their beds for naps and bedtimes.  I'd like to be a fly on the wall for that.  When we dropped Vasa back off, 4-5 kids came running out to hug us.  I don't know why I thought this was funny, but a little girl kept hitting Josh in the leg.  Maybe if we don't laugh, we'll cry at the situation.  We left about noon and our translator took us on a tour of a park that had a memorial to the creator of the first rocket in space.  The park was very pretty and I enjoyed seeing kids out playing all bundled up.  I also love seeing the women with their furry hats on-so what you think of when you think of Russia.  Anyway, after we picked up our pizza, we headed back to the hotel for a short rest.  They'll pick us back up at 4 to go visit Vasily again.  I miss the girls so badly.  That's probably what has been the most difficult about the experience.  We are struggling with what to name Vasa-if we should use his given name first, as a middle name, and what "A" name can we give him to go with our 3 girls A names.  We're hoping that they don't ask us to decide this week.