kaluga park

kaluga park

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Don't chase the dog/don't run from the dog

We have had an adventurous few days at home.  We got home on Wednesday night.  The flight was on time and was pretty uneventful.  Vasa played with his toys--some he liked better than others.  He kept his seatbelt fastened and even slept a few hours, so we saw it as a success.

The first day or two was a little rocky.  The girls enjoyed their new toy, but reality set in that he wasn't going anywhere--he was staying here.  After a few tears, they seem to be enjoying his company and the funny things he does.  We haven't had a toddler in the house in a few years, so we realized how unbaby proofed our house was quickly.  We now have plug protectors, cabinet locks, and a few gates up when needed, but it still takes a little work to keep Vasa out of the toilets and fireplace.  He is loving his freedom, but I'm trying to limit it a little to keep our sanity.

The dogs have probably been the biggest challenge.  He has kind of a love/hate relationship.  He would chase the dogs then run from the dogs the first few days.  We are now having to say, don't kiss the dogs in the face, don't pull on their leg, etc.. they will bite, vasa!  He now knows, "come here, sabaka! (dog)".

We've taken him here and there for things for the girls, and he has done really well.  Shy at times and crazy hyper during others, but overall very well.  It's been sweet to see his interaction with the girls.  He hugged and kissed Ava when she came out of Sunday school this morning.  Probably nice to see a face he recognizes :).

We are thinking about taking him to the pool this afternoon.  We are supposed to go to the river this weekend, so we thought it may be wise to expose him to the water--make sure he has a healthy fear of it at least.  We are taking two cars, though, in case the lifeguards ask us to leave--running and plunging into the deep end for example.  We're hoping he is content in the baby pool.

Sleeping has been ok.  He sleeps from 7-4, then is restless after that--up for the day by 6:15.  Josh and I are still tired from the trip, so it's been hard to recover.  Josh is actually working in the yard and I got a chance to wash 2 loads of laundry, so we are feeling successful today at the 4 kid thing--I know when I actually have to cook and such, though, it will be trickier. So many people have been kind enough to bring us food, so that has helped a ton.   Time to go--Vasa needs to go pees pees (potty) so I'll try to write more details later.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hold Your Breath!

So today started pretty much as usual.  Way to early for me (with a 3 year old to chase all day I've been needing more sleep) with a boy who is ready to look at cars out the window and have some breakfast.  Sweet Vas is going to think we sit in the window sill at meal time and he's going to be disappointed that there are only 5 cars that come down our street each day!  He'll adjust.  We were excited to have only a couple more days in Moscow and to have something to do today as we had to be at the Embassy today at 11:30 for our "interview" whatever that means!

Our driver picked us up at 10:30 with our translator Tonya and we made our way the two blocks to the Embassy.  We were a bit early so Tonya took us down the street to a really nice shopping mall and let us look around.  She showed us places we could eat, nice dress shops and she let Vasa ride an escalator.  After our stop at the shop we went to the Embassy.  Tonya was not allowed inside, as she had no business to conduct, but she took us as far as the security door.  We pushed our way through just like good little Russians and made our way right to the front.  We brought a bag of things for Vasa to do while waiting and one of the items was his little plastic phone.  While the bag ran through security they made us take out the phone and "check it" with the guard stand as it was not allowed inside.  We didn't think about that.  After checking my son's cell phone we proceeded to the Interview waiting room.  It was the same place I went yesterday with Tonya and she made me practice getting there several times with her to be sure I knew where to go.  No problems.  We were the first of five families to turn in our "invitation" for today's interview at window 1.  It was really nice to speak with other families who were all adopting, one for the second time, all of which were traveling home on Wed.

Before being called up for our individual interviews a US Embassy worker, Kathy, came out to address us all.  She went over policies and procedures for our paperwork and told us what to expect next.  She swore us all in and then the interviews were to begin.  Claire, Vasa and I were called first.  We were asked to verify all of Vasa's info on the computer screen before they printed his Visa.  All was correct.  Then I signed a few papers and she told us we could go once our paper work was finished printing.

While we waited, we played with the other children and talked to the other families.  About 30 mins later our package was ready and we were out the door.  I had to stop by the check window with my ticket to get Vasa's cell phone back but that was really quick.  Tonya was waiting and with a quick check to be sure we were given everything properly we drove across town to see the panorama view of the City.  It was from the Moscow University campus looking down over the river, sports complex and all of downtown.  It really was beautiful.  We picked up a souvenir for Vasa and got back in the car.

We took Claire and Vasa back to the apartment and I went with Tonya to the agency office a few blocks away.  When I arrived I was greeted by our sweet team and was congratulated on having all of the adoption completed.  They were so good to us and even informed me that we would be free to go home tomorrow!  I was beside myself!  Just yesterday Claire cried when talking to our girls.  We told you all of how rough yesterday was for Vas.  Last night at dinner, while Claire had Vasa in the restroom I told the Lord how tired, lonely and ready we were to go home.  Our sweet Heavenly Father gave us, yet another, amazing gift today by allowing us to go home even earlier than expected.

Now to find a flight!  Delta in Moscow is very helpful.  Claire had looked up all the numbers for me and I jumped on the apartment phone (remember all my local calls are free) and I had us on the 12:05 flight to Atl for tomorrow.  Just like our Father to even have our Moscow Suites representative in the unit next door checking in another guest when I came in so we were able to work out our check out info with him right away.  So we are all set!

Claire kept Vasa up today since there was so much going on with our booking flights etc.  We have been debating his nap time because he likes to rest but then is able to stay up later at night, which is the same dilemma  we had with all our girls about this age.  We ventured out this afternoon about 3:30.  We took Vasa, who once again has to have on a jacket and hat, for  a walk around town.  We walked down Arbat street  for several blocks where Old Arbat joins New Arbat which is the neat pedestrian street we walked the other day and may have told you of earlier in the week.  We walked and looked and listened.  There were musicians about, street performers and artists.  There has been one sketch artist who has been stalking Vasa for most of our time on this street.  We bought Vasa a picture of St. Basil's for his room and a few other things for back home.

On our way back up to the main street we walked behind a British family who was on vacation.  They actually asked us for directions and I was able to help!  I'm such a Muscovite!  We dined, again, at Chili's but this time we blew it out!  We each ordered our own meal!  I don't think Claire and I have done that on several trips to Russia.  We even had a couple margaritas!  Don't tell my Granny.  We laughed at Vasa while we waited.  We sat on the porch (all the restaurants on the street have these wonderful covered porches) because there was a gang of skateboarders right out front and Vasa liked to watch while he beat his balloon.  A man and his son sat behind us and the boy thought Vasa was funny too.  We played with his To Mater truck and his balloon while we waited on dinner.  Once the food came we all ate and enjoyed chicken, potatoes and veggies.  Claire is going to have to make mashed potatoes for every meal as we can hide anything in Vasa's mashed potatoes and he'll eat it.  I think he found one bell pepper tonight and gave it to Claire but all else I was able to sneak in.  He took a bite of my corn on the cob and gave me a half crazy look.  All is not lost because he likes grits!

After dinner we walked back under the street to our apartment.  Up the macheena to our floor.  We gave Vasa a bath / water torture as I sprayed him with the shower head and he played with his boat.  This sweet boy is going to love his tub at home!  No more Papa spraying him with water.  The funny thing about Moscow is that during a few weeks of the summer they just stop providing hot water.  That's right.  No hot water for most of the City because it costs too much.  Thankfully, our apartment has a small water heater so we have really hot water until it runs out.  So Vasa stands naked on the bath mat until I tell him to jump in and he move to the back of the shower and sits down on the cold tiles while I spray him with warm water until it runs out.  Sounds like we've improved his life already!  My poor sweet boy!

Since he missed his nap we put him to bed around 6:45.  He went right to sleep.  We happily packed for an hour before Vasa popped up.  I tried to help him back to sleep but found he had gone kaka.  Sweet thing has eaten so much food since last Wed that his little body is workin overtime!  We don't have a scale but are pretty sure he's put on some weight since his Momma got her hands on him.

With a new pull up on and a clean bottom Vasa went back to sleep.  You don't know the joy it is to sit with him on the bed while he's curled up with his bear and tell him that we will always be here to put him to sleep.  I know he doesn't understand my English but something in the way he looks at us I'm pretty sure he gets it!

After Vasa went back to sleep we finished packing (except the clean clothes on the drying rack - JD Claire can't stop doing laundry) and Claire and I made our last bit of tea and had a left over doughnut.  So hold your breath because our sweet Heavenly Father seems to have made a way for us to come home tomorrow!  We are so excited and cannot wait to parade our boy around to each of you!

You don't know how much we have felt your prayers, love and encouragement throughout this process! You all have been God's mouthpiece through this long journey and have continued to bless us by just caring enough to read and comment.  We love you all and thank you for loving us!  Pray Vasa won't "draswitcha" the entire plane to death for 12 hours straight tomorrow!  See you all soon!

Half of the Dunlap Six!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chilis and Dunkin Donuts never tasted so good

Josh and I are enjoying Vasa's naps each day, because it allows us to catch up on some sleep.  Yet, when he doesn't go down until after nine and up at 6:45, we don't like them so much!  We started the day early today and decided to head to Dunkin Donuts.  Vasa has seemed sensitive to fried/fatty things, so we got him a plain donut and let him have half.  I think he felt a little gipped, and fussed a good bit when we offered him kix instead of donut, actually turning his nose up to them.  He seemed ok once I offered him some yogurt in the room.

Josh had to head to the embassy today with our translator to finally file our papers with the embassy for Vasa's immigration/visa stuff.  Thank goodness it is finally in the works.  Vasa and I washed clothes (one of his favorite things to do--although he doesn't get why he isn't allowed to turn it on and off) and played with play doh.  I was afraid we would get a little stir crazy in the room, so I was thankful when it only took Josh about an hour.  We head tomorrow to the embassy for something they call an interview--heard it's more of a lecture about things we need to know and more paperwork stuff.  Josh will head back to the CSS office after that and Vasa and I will come back here to play in the room.  I've tried to save some things for our time, so bubbles and paint with water activities will come out while Josh is gone.

Right before lunch, Vasa came in the kitchen asking for a cookie.  I still don't know a whole lot of Russian, so Josh got it, but I didn't.  I probably could had nipped it in the bud with some cheerios, but instead he got mad, went and laid on the floor, rocked a little back and forth, and gave me dirty looks.  That was the start of a rocky afternoon for us.  I picked him up and tried to calm him down, then Josh told me the cookie thing.  By that point, no cheerios or milk cheered him up.  Finally, the food was ready, and all was right with the world for a little while.  I decided to let him look at some pictures after lunch.  Josh and I were trying to think of the right time to let him see some pictures of him with his friends and his caregivers.  I have been reading several books, and some talk about the importance of letting kids grieve and look back at pictures.  One of the saddest parts of it all was that we have been skyping with the girls and our families.  He now thinks the girls are cartoons instead of his sisters--but back to the pictures.  When he saw them on the screen, he tried to talk to his friends and caregivers, thinking they could hear them like skype.

He had a fussy start to his nap--sad, and not happy (sure it was the pictures and realizing we're it ).  He woke up after 2 hours or so still mad at the world.  I would hold him and walk.  If I put him down, he would start pulling at his hair, pushing things down, getting in the corners.  Feel very sad for him.  Trying to distract him, we decided to make the hike to the kremlin again to go to the museum.  We were hoping we could make it there before the rain hit (it looked like it may rain).  Well, before we got 100 yards down the sidewalk,  a large thunderstorm hit.  We spent about 15 minutes or so under the street with 20 other russians (they have a lot of walkways under the streets because of busy roads). One good thing, though, is I think it took his mind off of his baby home losses for a while and probably now had it on the massive thunderstorm that his parents were stupid enough to take him out in.  The rain slacked off and we found a very large grocery store (russian standards--probably 1/4 size of our beloved Publix).  Vasa was very sweet and was good the whole time.  We came back and I called my kids.

This day made me so homesick that I had to hold back the tears while I was on the phone with them--only to cry when I talked to my mom and dad--can never seem to not cry on the phone with them when I am upset.  We are so ready to be home.  A full week is too much to be away from your kids.  We miss little things, too- ice in our drinks.  We miss free refills.  We miss people opening the door and smiling at you as you walk by.  Readable appliances and signs.

We went to chilis for dinner--the waiters there have been very kind.  They have talked with Vasa and tried to play with him a little.  They asked him, though, how old he was tonight--he had no idea--something among many things we need to work on with him.   They do want to be very accommodating.  They made sure I knew where the bathrooms were and checked to see if we wanted Vasa's milk warmed.  They did have diet coke and put ice in our glass.  My nachos tastes like some you would get back home.  That helps.

Vasa seems to be connecting with Josh--I'm a tad bit jealous, b/c he will willingly give Josh and his bear kisses.  I don't get them yet.  He also will ask Josh to pick him up--I don't get that yet.  I wonder a little--maybe just to make myself feel better--if it is b/c he's a man and I'm just like every other care giver he has had for the past 2 years.  I'm hoping it changes soon.    I continue to work hard on making eye contact with him and working on all the attachment tips.

I'm nursing my precious diet drink with the ice we did make out of bottled water with the small ice tray in our room.  Josh and I had to look hard for a diet coke or diet pepsi at the store--found a few.  I told Josh I thought it was funny that Russia may be the only place in the world that you have several rows of 2 liter beer in plastic bottles but can't seem to find soft drinks--small section of a row on the very bottom (pepsi only 2 liter).   We've already gone through all of the tea bags we brought, but the ice would melt so quickly that it almost didn't seem worth the effort :).

I'm done complaining--only two more full days in Moscow.  We'll survive.  Vasa will be happy about a car ride tomorrow.  He has to tell the doorman each time we walk in that we've seen lots of cars outside--at least I think that is what he is telling him.  Much love to my family.   One thing I have to add-funny seeing Vasa's face when he has watched Josh do manly things--shaving and peeing standing up and stuff.  It has been like Vasa is watching a freak show--he can't look away.  Sweet thing smiled one minute and whimpered the next while he was shaving.  All these new things...  

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day 2011

Well Father's Day 2011 was certainly one to remember.  I shared the day with my new son but only got to spend a few moments on Skype with my sweet heart girls.  They are the sweetest and I miss them very much.  I did get to see them with their Grandpa holding a big fish they pulled out of the river.  Way to go!  My girls have been fishing twice since we left and are getting pretty good at it.  Maybe they can help feed all the mouths we will have at home!

As a part of our Father's Day activities at Christ Community Church today I was asked to share my testimony and how it ties into our adoption.  My big old head was on the big screen at church today but it was neat to share all the Lord has done in my heart, marriage and family over the years and celebrate His being our Father!  That was a really neat activity and I'm thankful that Keith and the staff at our church would ask me to share and that we have such wonderful technology which allows us to feel so close even though we are so far from home.

We ventured out this morning to see the sites of the Kremlin.  Vasa was a trooper during the entire morning because it was rainy and cold.  We walked the 10 or so blocks from our apartment in a slight drizzle under a tiny bright green compact umbrella that Claire was smart enough to pack (probably against my complaining!)  We arrived but had trouble figuring out which ticket we should purchase.  Do the "full" tickets include everything listed or do you have to purchase them individually?  Full seems to mean "adult" price to me but not to Claire...we just bought the Kremlin Courtyard tickets because the ticket people didn't speak English and weren't interested in trying to understand my Russian.

While I was inside trying to buy tickets Claire was outside the little ticket booth with Vasa.  Claire is pretty certain that the old drunk lady from Friday afternoon in the lobby of our apartment building was outside the Kremlin.  Vasa was singing his "la, la, la" song when the old lady came over sang la, la, la back to him in a nasty tone then stuck her tongue out at him!  Claire said she had to laugh because the lady only had a couple of teeth.  Apparently the old woman had been holding a grudge against my boy since he got cheerios while she was being jerked off the bench by security earlier in the week.

Well as the rain picked up and the wind kept blowing the three of us sloshed through the courtyard of the Kremlin.  The place is really neat and despite the rain we had a pretty good time.  We walked around for a while looking at the palace, senate buildings, towers and churches which are housed inside the Kremlin, which means fortress in Russian.  There were beautiful churches that were constructed in the 1500s and are still standing.  They were used for crowning all Russian Tzar's etc.  We saw huge cannons  that were used in battles.  The palace was a bit different that I expected relative to the other buildings.  It reminded me of the gov't center back home.  If you can imagine it next to these majestic old churches!  Claire was the tour guide for Vas and I.  She read from our little wet map while I handed Vasa Kix as we stayed dry under a wing of a church building.  We decided to move on out and the rain stopped a bit.  We walked along the side of the Kremlin walls where we had seen the tomb of the unknown soldier on Friday.  We let Vasa look at a couple fountains and some statues that were in the fountain at different places.  Ducks, bears, foxes, wolves, children and an old man fishing.  He liked to see the water but was shivering from being wet.  There is a mall under the road at the base Red Square which had a food court.  We chose McDonald's and ordered except I felt under pressure while pointing at the "I don't speak your language" picture map and didn't order enough food for us all.  Claire shared her cheese burger with Vasa and I meant to order him carrots since he can't handle fries (learned that in Kaluga).  So to make up for that mishap I went back to order 2 (duva) vanilla ice cream cones for my bride and her new son.  Well, they don't have vanilla in Russia - then what are the 40 other people eating ice cream cones with white ice cream eating in here?  I chose strawberry and asked for 2.  Thinking i would receive a couple of pink colored cones...nope I got ONE plastic cup with vanilla ice cream in it with strawberry preserve on top.  Vasa liked the ice cream and I'm sure the berries were somewhat good for him but I didn't fire on all cylinders today when ordering for my wife!

The rain had slowed when we walked back and by the time we made it up to the apartment it was time for Vasa's nap.  He slept pretty well and Claire and I got a bit of rest too.  It felt good to get out of our wet clothes and lay down for a while.  I tested Skype with our church crew before the service and then we took a short stroll next door to the grocery store to buy a couple frozen pizzas for dinner.  After the first service testimony we took a walk up and down the street to get out a bit.  Of course the sun was out and the breeze was nice.  Then we came up and baked our pizzas (not half bad) and drank tea that we brought from home.  It was nice to have a glass of iced tea!

We've just been hanging in the room this afternoon and put Vasa down around 9.  Claire and I have been reading and resting this evening.  She will keep Vas here tomorrow while I go with our translator to file his paperwork at the Embassy.  We plan on bullying our way to the front of the line since we are US citizens...just kidding.  I'm sure I'll be in line a while everyone tries to get their travel visa just like my Vas!

Well that's it for the Father's Day edition of "A week in Moscow" by Josh and Claire!  Love to our sweet Daddy's and we will update you all tomorrow.  Sorry we've been less frequent with our posts but you try posting multiple times with a three year old who likes to play with his deflated balloon!  Love you all!  J&C&V

Saturday, June 18, 2011

successful day-4 to go

Good day in Moscow.  We spent a good bit of the morning walking on arbat street. Vasa didn't quite have an appreciation for the artists and musicians, but he loved the crane that was making repairs below the road.  We spent a good bit of the time watching that.

We ate lunch at the hard rock.  They had a blow up jumper inside--how cool is that-so Vasa played in that a while.  Then, when he saw the milk come, no more jumper.  Josh worked very hard trying to teach Vasa to only put one piece of food in his mouth at a time and to chew.  His meals for him still consist of him trying to shove as much food as possible as quickly as possible in his mouth.  We were prepared for this, b/c so many of the books that we read explained how common this is in institutionalized children whose food is limited every day.  He liked his mac n cheese and the bread and our hamburger meat, but wanted nothing to do with the brocolli or carrots. We bought the girls and my nephews a t-shirt and grandpa.  I continue to be impressed with how well our waiters speak english--wish my russian compared.

We headed back to the room for a much needed nap for all of us.  Vasa willingly went down for a nap.  After a few hours, we were all up playing in the room.  We were a bit frustrated b/c we tried to skype with Buddy and had a lot of trouble getting it to work.  We also tried with Mimi later and had trouble with hers, too.  We just downloaded the skype last week, and it kept saying that mimi's was outdated.

Vasa loves the toys--his favorite is probably the $7 big lot car that goes forward and back and makes lots of sounds.  We've enjoyed seeing him dance to his elmo cd player.  Turning on and off the lights is still also loads of fun.

We went out tonight to Chilis.  It was very yummy.  Josh and I split a piece of salmon, rice, and steamed veggies and vasa had a chicken sandwich and mashed potatoes.  He loved the potatoes and would eat some of the vegetables if I hid them in the potatoes.  He has left every meal with a very full tummy.  Speaking of full tummys-when you have lots of full tummies there is lots of kaka.  It has been a while since I had a child that couldn't ask to go to the bathroom, so josh and I forgot to take him to the potty when we got home--we were skyping with mimi when Josh said, oh no!!  Kaka!  He has actually done really well--only 1-2 accidents.

At chilis, they gave Vasa a balloon.  He has played with that balloon like I think no other child has played with a balloon.  He was very entertained with it and insisted that we take it back to the room.  He didn't want to put his jacket on until he saw me taking it off of his high chair.

Now, after some crying, he is in the bed but not sleeping yet.  Quiet, but not sleeping.  He seems to soothe himself by rubbing his head, eyelid, and pulling at his hair a little. Now he is rubbing the bear on his head.

 Josh and I have noticed, though, while we are rocking him at bedtime and when he got hurt (pulled the door on his toe), that there are no tears.  We think he must have blocked tear ducts or no tear ducts at all--may be a reason he's had some eye problems.  We also noticed that he looks flat footed-special shoes for that?  We thought maybe it is because of shoes that he has worn on  his feet thus far weren't the best quality or maybe the wrong size.  Josh said he couldn't be in the military for flat feet--maybe that will keep him out of the russian military, too :).  We heard that if he enters the country between the ages of 19-32, he may have to serve in the military.  He will keep dual citizenship, and I think most of their men must serve at least a short time.  He may just have to stay far away from Russia during that time-no gog/magog war for my child.

Love my girls and miss them.  I'm still hiding behind the drying rack (have a washer but no dryer) while josh is trying to get Vasa to sleep.

Friday, June 17, 2011

4 AM in Moscow

Four AM in Moscow on a Friday night and you would think it had been a wild night!  Just sitting on the toilet seat in our comfortable studio apartment as a light on anywhere else could wake up the fam.  After Vasa's nap today we played and talked to most of our family (Buddy and Jay - 8.30 am & JD you are on the docket)!  Vasa quickly put on his socks, shoes, jacket and hat after he woke up as he was ready for another ride in a macheena.  No such luck as we won't have another driver until Tuesday.

We did get out and venture to the grocery store right next to our building to grab some essentials.  Water, milk, juice, yogurt, cereal and eggs.  Vasa won us some points with the security man in our building who watches us with a careful eye (I know...I'm pretty menacing) with a quick "draswicha".  We took our purchases up to the room and then headed just down the street to everyone's favorite Moscow restaurant...TGI Friday's!  Our translator said we would probably see every other American in Moscow there for dinner but I think it was just us.

We took a stroll for about 30 mins after dinner to help Vas get ready for bed then came up and gave him a bath.  Again, no bathtub (which he loves) so we sat him in the shower and I held the removable sprayer and held it at a level he could play in while sitting on the shower floor.  All in all he had fun only it isn't as fun to play with a toy boat in the water that collects on the shower floor.  At least he is imaginative.  We soon put Vas down with a little tag team effort but it only took us about 30 mins.  He is a very sweet boy.

My Moscovian adventure really began after Vasa went to bed...and believe me this isn't a raunchy tale of Claire and I in action!  We decided to contact Delta in order to change our flight for a day earlier.  I tried calling from the common room just outside our door (shared with another unit) but the call failed once the agent got on the line.  So I tried again from inside our unit next to the window.  Same response.  I tried calling the local Delta office from our room phone (local calls are free!) but they only work 9 - 6 Mon - Fri at it was 8.30ish.  So, I grab my passport, ticket info and wallet to go outside on the street.  I got off the elevator and almost went out when I saw our (not so friendly) security man.  The door has a code after a certain hour (which I left in the room) and I was certain that I would be outside longer than 15 mins which would be 9 pm (not sure when door is locked but didn't want to sleep on the street) so I headed back up to get the code.

When I got up to our floor I decided to try the small balcony that serves the entire hall.  I thought, "It's right past our door" so it will be good.  Three calls to Delta later (the first two were dropped again while waiting for a supervisor to help) and no less than 1 1/2 hours on the phone we got it worked out.  Great story right?  Well, I was leaning over the rail (i'm on the 21st floor) so that my reception was strong enough all while praying the battery would stay alive.  Did I mention the door to the balcony only has handles from the inside?  No?  Well that's why I had one foot stretched back across the balcony wedged to keep the door open so I didn't get stuck.  So I'm waiting...on hold when I see another couple coming down the hall (obviously not Russian) and they are our partner unit.  They enter the unit and I hear them LOCK THE COMMON DOOR!  It's a cool 11:00 pm by now and I'm stuck on the balcony, half hanging over the rail (I'm afraid of heights) with my leg still inside and the door to my room is locked.  And of course I didn't bring my keys.

Well, I was cut off on my final Delta call as well due to battery issues but I made the very helpful agent promise that under all circumstances she was to complete our transaction.  She did!  So ear sore, tired and not sure how to get into my room I head back into the building.  I beat on the door and sweet Claire comes out (asking through the door if it's me) to unlock the door.  She can't!  We spent a few mins with her trying.  I'm telling her to knock on the neighbor's door as they locked me out here when she realizes that there are two locks - the 2nd needs a key.  She grabs our key and I'm back home.  No joke - I went through a lot of scenarios in my head on how to get back in my room - most contingent on my now dead cell phone!  Thank the Lord Claire heard me.

The other side of the story is sweet Claire.  She doesn't know where I am (i left to go outside) and I've been gone for close to 2 hrs.  She is trying to figure out where I put the contact numbers for our translator and the company from whom we rented the unit.  She even emailed my sister to ask her to call me.  We only have one cell that is working!  We quickly let buddy know that I was ok.

So why am I up?  Not sure.  I think the stress of the day has me reliving all my events.  At the end of it all there is a pretty cool 3 year old sleeping soundly with an arm around a bear while covered up with his "Cars" (Disney approves of this use) blanket right outside my bathroom door.  I like that...

I miss you all, girls mostly the three of you, and can't wait to be home!  Love ya'll, Josh

We are in our new place in moscow to stay-we think

Just got Vasa down for a nap--boy, did he need it.  He went to bed after 10 last night and then was up by 7:15.

We started off the day by being cheap.  The "cheap" breakfast in the hotel that includes your drink, cereal, fruit, and toast was 40 dollars a person, so we took our cereal down to the lobby and ordered milk and coffee.  I had planned to give Vasa flavored oatmeal today (the plain for him was not a hit), but he refused to even try it.  I don't blame him-I don't like plain oatmeal, either.  I just got the impression that he was used to eating porridge.  Apparently, everyone has to draw the line somewhere on what they will eat and not eat.  So, he ate our cereal, drank his milk, and ate the biscottis that the waitress brought us-probably feeling sorry for us when she saw our box of cereal.

We went to Vasa's doctor's appointment.  It was a total of 3 minutes.  He is 27 pounds and 35 1/2 inches long.  He spent 3 of the five minutes checking out his man parts.  Those seem to be in working order, too.  He told us he looked good and off we went (after getting the paper for the embassy).  Now we wait until Monday.

Our translator took us to red square where we saw the changing of the guards.  That was really neat--especially how they balanced the guns with the sword thing on the end pointing to the sky in their hands.  Vasa was unimpressed.  He just wanted to play with the chain surrounding the changing of the guards.  We walked through another pretty shopping mall.  We took Vasa's picture in front of Saint Basils.  Then, we headed to the other beautiful cathedral--right now I can't remember the name-how horrible was that?  But, it is hard to pay too much attention in a gorgeous, quiet cathedral with a 3 year old in tow.  It was gorgeous, by the way.  FYI--it was blown up in the 1930s, on the land was a public heated swimming pool in the 1960s, then they raised lots of rubles to rebuild the cathedral after the pool was run down.

Then, we waited for a pizza at a cafe to bring back to our new apartment.  Vasa has been extremely patient today.  Yet,  the one or two stop rule applies to all 3 year olds.  After more than 1 or 2 stops, time to go home.  We headed to the new apartment.  We enter the lobby to wait on the man meeting us with the key.  The doorman was not thrilled to see us waiting there.  We were also followed in by a drunk woman holding her beer.  He had words with her, but allowed her to stay.  She proceeded to push our things over so she could sit on the bench.  The doorman physically wrestled with her while Josh, the translator, and I hurried to move Vasa and our things out of the way.  I am trying to divvy out cheerios during all of this, too, so Vasa would stay in the stroller.  He has already learned how to unthread the buckle to get out-smart boy.  Our representative for the apartment finally meets us-he's originally from Australia but lived several years in new york city.  He was super nice, but by that point the bellman/security guy felt the need to check our passports to make sure we were legit or whatever.  By the time we get upstairs, my sweet husband pulls me aside and says we may not be staying more than a night here.

Yet, after we have gotten comfortable with the apartment, it actually seems very nice. It looks like an american like apartment.  It is air conditioned. we have wifi, we have hot water, and we have a kitchen.  The translator showed Josh around and we are actually in a great location.  Lots of restaurants and such around.  The rep from the apartment assured us that drunk women and mean doormen weren't the norm here.  He also said that he felt safer here than in NY.  He just said to mainly watch out for police officers looking for bribes or petty thieves.  But, our apartment rep in on call 24 hours a day and we have the translators #s and an american medical clinic # if we need it.  We will make it--as long as we can leave Thursday :).

Josh said the cathedral was the national cathedral--it cost 600 million american dollars to build.  Just fyi.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wow-what a day-finally made it to moscow

We had a great morning with Vasa.  He only got up once during the night.  He woke up happy and ready to play with all of the lights and doors in the hotel room.  We spent a lot of time in the parks today and walking, because he really seems to enjoy his time outside.  After lunch at McDonalds, we headed back to the room where Vasa and I took a nap.

At 2:30, we were picked up to go get Vasa's passport.  Nadia made the mistake of saying to us, "Maybe you can fly home sometime this weekend."  Josh and I were beside ourselves happy, b/c we weren't scheduled to fly home until next Friday.  We headed out to Moscow about 3:30, ready to start our Moscow leg of the trip.

Vasa was very good in the car.  He enjoyed snacking and playing with his toy phone for most of the way.  We are now regretting the McDonald's decision, b/c Vasa's stomach began to get upset on the way to Moscow--only a little accident in his pants--only one so far.

Got to the CSS office around 6:45, hoping we were doing a touch and go.  Regretfully, we were there about 2 hours, where Josh filled out paperwork for what we found out is our embassy appointment on Monday--what??  We were told that we can go home on Thursday.  If we didn't have our hopes up already, we should have been happy.  But, now Thursday seems really far away.  Vasa is such a people person that CSS folks said, boy he is a talker--not your usual baby home kid--very smart.  Thank goodness he was entertained while we were there by his own antics on his telephone.  He said that me and some bad wolf are the only people that call him on his phone.

We arrived finally at the hotel-after much traffic--stopped traffic for we think was some government officials arrival.  Vasa was very tired and irritable in the car and got his kicks spitting on us on the way here.  Not fun.  I will say, though, that when we were getting out of the car, our translator asked Vasa if she could hold his hand and walk in with him and he said, no, I want my mamma.  Thought that was a good sign--I had a proud parent moment.

We got upstairs and ordered room service.  Our room (for just one night--it will be fine)  is apparently the handicapped room, so there was no tub.  Instead of a relaxing warm bath, Vasa was slipping and sliding and continuing to turn the shower and tub on --remember, just a drain, no tub.  I am trying to hold him with one hand and unscrew bottles of shampoo and stuff with the other.  He laughed the entire time--any other time it may have been funny, but not tonight.  We got our room service, fed Vasa, and put him to bed.  He did go to sleep right away--after 10, so he should have been tired.

Sorry a little grumpy--but, it's my birthday, so I can be that way just for a few moments.  Pray that maybe, just maybe, we could fly home Wednesday.  If not, that we can be more comfortable in Moscow to stick it out for a while.   Love u guys!! Sorry no skype tonight--Josh let me come down to the lobby for wifi, so it's not in our room.  Miss my girls!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

We did it!

I'm really lost for words!  There is the sweetest 3 1/2 year old boy in PJs my Momma bought holding a bear my mother in law bought asleep!  I can't promise you I didn't look into the eyes of my Jesus while we put him to sleep tonight!  I don't know how or why Claire and I would be chosen to have such a little boy come into our family but I couldn't be more in love!

I can't wait to tell each of you our story of today.  After a bit of rest we made our way to pick up two cakes, I don't know, and then went to the Baby home.  We met with the director who had us sign a letter stating we knew his medical background and were ok with it and then her book which identified the specifics of our picking up Vasa.

We got to walk down the hall to get our son.  When we came into the room the children were just waking up from their nap.  I saw a couple children still laying in their beds.  One sweet girl, who is one of Vasa's good friend - Tonya - even had on a night gown I think DD has!  Vasa was going potty and the care givers were wetting and brushing his hair as he walked out.  He had on underwear and sandals! He couldn't have been cuter!  He will probably be encouraged to wear very similar outfits every time he is with Buddy - if he choses b/c he will always get to wear whatever when he's with her - it could just a easily be rain boots and overalls.  Anyway, the care givers were clapping for Vasa, the kids behind him were excited and Claire and I got to dress our son in the waiting area.  He seemed a bit overwhelmed by the whole process and to be honest we might have looked the same.  It was really a sweet time.  The director let him say goodbyes to his friends one by one and in groups.  Vasa got to hug his care givers and he started to cry.  The care givers were sweet to quickly tell him not to worry because his Momma and Papa were here for him.  Vasa tried to be brave!

I can't imagine having waited all this time to be woken from a nap, stuck on the potty and told "Hey, your new parents are waiting in the lobby!"  This boy is incredible!  Once we got downstairs, Vladimir saved the day as he had a "macheena" waiting to take us away.  We went to the passport office, where one of Nadia's (our translator) former students was waiting to help us.  Claire took Vasa outside and I went in to sign his document request.  We are set to pick up the passport tomorrow and then we head to Moscow!  (I told you I'm asking the Lord to get us home quickly!)

We scrambled a bit because we didn't have a place to stay in Moscow tomorrow night.  We are all set now.  We then came back to our room and had the cleaning staff bring sheets for Vasa's bed.  After a bit of snack we put Vasa in the tub.  We were worried that he might not enjoy the water as we have read such things before.  He must know that Uncle JD and I sit and watch our crazy 5 play in the river all Summer because he started pulling off his shirt when we entered the bathroom.  He sat on the potty and went prior to getting in the tub.  Then he tried to soak Claire and I while laughing and playing with his duck and boat.  He didn't mind us bathing him or washing his hair.  I think my 3 1/2 year old was easier to bath on day one than my second child is even at 7!  Claire is commenting about my potty statement but this was meant as a praise for my sweet boy who is potty trained!

After bath time we went for a walk.  We headed down to the main street and walked down the middle of the divided road where there is a long walkway with benches.  It is capped on either end by large parks.  The picture at the top of our blog is from the park (in the snow) at the other end of main street.  In the park there were lots of people, balloons, games, and pigeons.  Vasa and I ran at the birds trying to make them fly.  We walked around the park a time or two then headed back up the street.  We went to dinner at a restaurant we ate in last week.  It seemed really kid friendly as it had a kids table with toys and was playing cartoons on a big screen.  Well, the put us in the super nice quiet section of the place (not sure why) but Vasa was a champ.  We fed him a few snacks as we waited and he drank milk from a sippy cup.  We ordered a risotto dish for us all to split and a bowl of chicken noodle soup for Vas.  Claire and I had the two pizzas for lunch remember...so  we weren't all that hungry.  We also have leftovers in the fridge next to sleeping Vasa.  He'll probably smell it at some point!

We ate all the food and came back to our room.  We changed into PJs, made the bed and brushed his teeth.  Then we read books and sang songs.  This is the same routine we have had for almost 9 years at home and it seems as natural as breathing.  Vasa was so excited that it took a couple hours to get him to sleep.  Not bad really!  We were surprised at how well he rested.  I couldn't keep myself together as we held him on the bed and sang to him.  Vasa kept looking at Claire and then at me.  He would smile at us and close his eyes.  I think for a while he fought going to sleep somehow afraid we might go away if he closed his eyes!  Mama y Papa y Vasa...Mama y Papa y Vasa!  I kept telling him this as he would close his eyes.  I want my son to know, as my girls do, that we are here to stay!

All in all I don't know how today could have gone any better.  You know what?  My Heavenly Father has been doing this same type of thing since we started and Claire and I have come to believe in His faithfulness!  I was certain today would have been just as wonderful.  Only three things could have made it any better!  I wish my princesses could be here with me to help greet him.  Although, Vasa might need a bit of time to prepare for the "love sandwich" that awaits him when we get home!  These girls don't know how to not love!  They are the perfect sisters for this little boy.

I saw a scripture in the front cover of a Russian language book we brought to help with phrases and such.  It's a Psalm and its says "The Lord will bring the lonely a family."  He has brought my sweet (lonely no more) Vasa to us!  We are not home yet but we are getting there as soon as we can!  Love to you all!  Josh, Claire and Vasa

3 PM!

It's 1:30 PM and Claire and I just returned from the registrar's office where we signed Vasa's birth certificate and Claire signed the registrar's book as his mother.  We left and took his birth certificate and court order to the passport office to be "stamped".  Claire and I were not needed for the passport office this morning so Nadia took us across the street to look at cakes (which is a customary gift for the care givers).  After the passport office Claire and I had pizza.  We only meant to order one but received two four cheese pizzas!  Good thing we were hungry.  We ate then walked back (with our leftovers) to the hotel for a bit of rest before we pick up Vasa at 3 pm!

It is a bit cooler here this trip (still very nice) so we are going to take Vasa a light jacket and sweater to wear with his clothes.  Maybe a bit over the top but we understand the caregivers have a very watchful eye when we dress him to go out the first time.  They have been his caring "mom" for the past couple years but look out 'cause his real "Momma" is on her way!

We have an appointment at the passport office this afternoon at 4 PM to apply for his passport.  Claire thinks I'm crazy but I'm asking Father for His favor that we might get his passport tomorrow and have doctor's appointments and visa applications turned very quickly in Moscow.  I know we plan to be here throughout next week and that will be fine but Father says we can ask of Him anything we want and I know that He who only spoke creation into being can bring us favor with the workers here to process our information quickly!

Not too much of an update for now but in a short while we will have our son in our hands for good!  I continue to ask Father to bring sweet Vasa His peace during our transition.  There are many new things ahead and I want my son to enjoy them and feel safe at all times!  I would seek nothing less for any of my wonderful children...and he is mine!

Love to you all from the last quiet hour Claire and I will have...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Can you believe today is the day?

As is our ritual here in our favorite little Russian town, Claire and I are up with the Sun having coffee and our first breakfast.  When you rise at 4 AM you can have more than one breakfast.  Kinda like the Taco Bell 4th meal but we are geriatric and go to bed around 8 PM local time so our fourth meal comes early.

We are sitting here pinching ourselves as we look back over what seems to have been a long process but in hindsight, as is always true, things moved rather quickly.  Today I will have my first boy!  Joshua...Jr...not really but I think living in the South, having a pickup truck, a fishing pole, riding lawn mowers and a son...he should be called Jr.  Claire won't agree and we will call him Vasa.  We are going to wrap our gifts for the care givers, pack Vasa's sweet little back pack and get his clothes together.

We arrived safely and on time yesterday from our flight.  Neither Claire or I really slept on the plane yesterday so we were pretty tired.  I gave Claire an early birthday present (joking really) and upgraded us to First Class on the short ride from Atl to NYC.  We had a nice grilled chicken salad and an actual glass (not plastic) of white wine on the ride up for lunch.  (Claire comment--funny having a recliner function on the chair and having the stewardess ask "Mr. and Mrs. D-what can we get you today?  Hot towel?  I just kept thinking of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry was sitting in first class.  It was a treat to feel like somebody for just an hour or two :) )I probably did us an injustice by letting us sit there when we still had such a long flight in coach ahead.  When we got to JFK (NY airport) we were in line for the shuttle and saw a pro wrestler, we think--maybe you can help us figure out who he was.  He looks a bit like a latin version of the James Bond evil guy w/ metal teeth.  He has a really pronounced chin, dark hair, 7 feet tall.

Our economy comfort seats are much better than the far back of the plane.  The aircraft we came over on was the newest plane we've had.  The seating arrangements were different, storage seemed a bit better and we had our own tv mounted in the chair in front allowing us all to pick movies, tv shows and music to watch.  Again in an effort to get all possible entertainment and Claire and I have been counting quiet time next to each other watching movies on the plane as a date...I watched four movies on the way over and Claire watched 3.  My seat wouldn't stay reclined so I didn't get to take full advantage of the additional 4 inches I paid for by being in economy comfort but all was good.

We were hoping to be in the same hotel as last week and we not only are in the same hotel but the same room!  I told our family that we feel like important travelers (much like our well traveled brother in law) who often stays in the same rooms and all the folks know his name.

Claire and I were thinking back and praying this morning and we really believe that God has fulfilled his promise in Matt 6:33 in our lives since we decided to obey His call on our lives in October.  We have not worried and He has provided "all things" since we actively began to "seek first His kingdom".  What a testimony to His faithfulness as two young (watch it - we still feel young) kids from the US stand ready to bring our 3 year old son home with us today!

Much love to you all for caring, loving, reading, supporting and giving to us while we have gone through this journey.  We are getting closer to having our little boy home with us and we can't wait to share him with you!  Last post from a family of 5...Brady bunch numbers here we come!

Josh and Claire

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Something you should know

This blog has been a beautiful communication tool for Claire and I while being away during our adoption process.  We have written much of God's faithfulness to us, Vasa and his sweet little life and the exciting adventure we have been on since February when travel began.

I wanted to take a moment to share with you some of the amazing adventures that I live each day just because I have the most incredible group of girls living in my home!  I don't think I have shared much about my girls but for those of you who don't know them I pray one day you get the chance to meet them.

My oldest, Ava, is almost 9 but most days she could be 20.  Ava is patient, kind, loving, teaching, caring and beautiful!  She loves to spend time with Claire and I.  Ava was the student of the year in 3rd grade this year at her school (i'm bragging a bit) and while there are many, many smart and wonderful students in Ava's grade (most notably her cousin Jack) she was chosen this year.  I believe it is due mostly to her sweet spirit.  Ava is smart and works very hard but she is very kind and always does what she is asked without complaining (at least at school).  At home she loves her sisters.  She sometimes struggles because she is getting older and my two younger girls like to play games and pretend while Ava would rather not play the same games.  The girls do a wonderful job of playing together and loving one another but they are sisters and that leads to a few screams and tears from time to time.  All said, Ava is a sweet and wonderful daughter and I couldn't be more proud that I get to be her father!

My second, Allie, just turned 7.  Allie is sensitive, loving, joyful, imaginative, and daring.  Allie loves to make people laugh.  When the family is all together or there are people around with whom she is comfortable she is ready to make someone smile.  She will work at this no matter what.  She will make up stories, events, challenges, dances etc.  She loves music and likes to imitate the performer.  She is pretty good too (we can't get her to do her Ludachris imitation from Justin Bieber's "Baby" for anyone but it's funny).  Allie is a great student but she will turn in her work early (even wrong) just to get to continue her conversation with others.  She would come home on "yellow" during the year for talking.  Her response would be that "It just couldn't stop".  Allie worries about things that I wish she wouldn't.  She tends to reason like an adult and sees risk in places that I pray she would rest and trust in God.  I tell you that this child brings something different to every day and she along with her older sister will be an amazing teacher for their little brother.

My baby girl, Addison, turned 5 a week ago.  Addison is completely delightful!  She is an entertainer at heart.  I often refer to her as our cruise director.  DD, as we call her, will enter kindergarten in the fall.  Her job during the past few years around the house on school days was to report to Claire and I Ava and Allie's progress as they got ready for school.  We never asked her to tell us but she would run around the house and come update us on who had their pants on or was brushing their teeth.  This little lady is rarely in a bad mood.  She is such a joyful, sharing, selfless child.  I love to watch her play with toys.  I don't know many children (other than her cousin Weston with his pokemon) who enjoy playing with just about anything like DD.  She loves to learn too.  She is reading so well, she can remember anything if it is put to music and she loves to laugh.  I wish you could hear her laugh!

These are my precious little ladies.  I couldn't be more proud or blessed than to call these perfect little people my daughters!  Yes, they are all asleep right now but that by no means is why I could refer to them as perfect.  I do realize that they fuss, fight, disobey and can be challenging but so can I.  I am not always who I was created to be or live up to the potential that was designed for me but the grace and love that meets my imperfection is the same Spirit that allows me to say my girls are perfect just as they are today!

I'm surrounded by wonderful children!  You also should know Jack and Weston, my nephews.  These two heartbreakers are such funny, sweet and giving little gentlemen!  I cannot believe that the response from these two guys of Vasa's coming is that they now have even numbers with the girls.  3 on 3!  They are ready to share a room on vacation, teach how to swim, tube and fish at the river or just do anything that is completely boy (and believe me they are all boy!)

That leaves my wife.  Honestly, there isn't enough time or cyber space for me to tell you about my Claire.  She has been my best friend since 1993.  I continue to wonder how I could ever have ended up with such a loving, smart, beautiful and incredible partner.  I believe that God gives us what we can handle in life, which means that I can't handle anything (thus I have Claire and the three girls listed above) and my wife is the most patient and long suffering person on the planet!  While that is very true and you can clearly see her patience, love and sacrifice everyday as she parents, cares for and loves our family - she is an amazing representation of her Heavenly Father!  She possess all the fruit of the Spirit and has since I've known her.  She doesn't have anything but love to share!  She comes from the most incredible family and I couldn't be more thankful for my in laws!  Through her family I have a wonderful sister and I have a great older brother in JD.  There is no way to describe how much I love and appreciate my wife!  If you know her you know love, grace and beauty.  She is my best friend and my partner in our amazing journey and there is nothing I could ever dream to be more wonderful than her!  This is where God's word come true for me "He is able to do more than we can even ask or imagine!"

I could go on and on!  Believe me I haven't even touched on my family - which will be another post some time.  I just thought it fair for you all to know a little bit more about my fun home life!

Sorry for writing about my peeps but I just couldn't help it!  Josh

Friday, June 3, 2011

Amazing Race - Dunlap edition

There is nothing left for Claire and I to do in Kaluga this trip.  We had our rest time this afternoon which was shortened due to Vasa's wild west ride in a car to have his picture made.  I think our jet lag is in full force as we would like to go to bed after lunch but have a hard time sleeping past 4 am.

This afternoon at 3:50, as always, we met our driver downstairs for our last visit with Vasa.  When we got to the baby home he was having "pot time" so we waited for him to come out.  In record breaking fashion, our sweet Vasa wore the exact same outfit every single time we saw him this trip.  Therefore, we are naming our pictures by day in our iphoto as his outfit does not determine a change in day.  He has had the need for a hat completely drilled into him as he wore his orange boating hat / fedora all the time.  We would play with it, throw it, catch it and pick it up but when we began to move from the shade Vasa wanted his hat.  Claire bought him a very similar hat about two weeks ago, its navy blue, without knowing the love of a boy and his hat.

As I told you earlier, we took Vasa on his wild ride during lunch and nap time.  We weren't gone long but I think Vasa was too wound up to sleep.  There was also a strong rain shower which apparently dropped hail on the baby home which scared some of the children.  All this to say that sweet Vasa was worn out when we got to visit this afternoon.  He almost fell asleep on the swing right away, he sang his sweet songs while being held and he acted like a three year old who missed his much needed nap the rest of the time.

For the first time we saw an opinion of snacks out of V.  He had previously eaten all of the strawberry yogurt snacks but he was turning down cheerios and banana cereal bites in an effort to find his yogurt bites.  He gave in after looking in my bag to be sure I wasn't holding out.

Vasa's songs consisted of (all the same tune) his repeating "macheenas' three or four times, his repeating "Momma" three or four times, alternating "Momma" and Papa" or just plain la las.  After carrying him around the building 7 or 8 times with his head on my shoulder and the three of us trying to sing his song we decided it might be time to drop him off with his "groupa".  Just like our first trip, the goodbye was a bit sad and anti-climatic as he bounded off to be with his group and we had to leave.  He did give kisses, hugs and told us that he would be waiting for us when we return.  He really wants to go on a macheena again.  Boy he has no idea how much macheena he will get with Claire and her taxi cab lifestyle!

Vasa has a little boy that has stood out to us since the first visit because he seems to be alone most of the time.  He and Vasa seem to be friends.  They hugged when we dropped him off this afternoon and yesterday. This little boy looks out the window or around the corner if the kids are outside and just watches.  He is a cute little fella and Claire and I prayed that God would provide for His son.  As we were leaving, Vasa's caretaker was talking to us and this little boy kept hugging us and holding onto Claire's leg.  Every time we would move a bit he would come along and hold her.  He kissed her legs and held her hands.  He even threw his legs up to see if she would pick him up.

Well our bags are packed, we have had a nice meal at the Black Bull and we are settling in for the night. We board a plane to return home tomorrow and when we arrive only 9 more days will pass before we are back here to add Vasa to our family.  If you think of us continue to ask Father to supply all Vasa needs for this transition.  We pray that his struggle with our language barrier is not too great, that our girls are never neglected or feel overlooked and that God's peace will continue to be with us.

We love you all and will see you or speak with you very soon!  Love, Josh and Claire

It's Official!

Court went well!  We had our court appearance this morning and after two hours of time the Judge recommended that Vasa be our son.  We now have to wait the 10 days to have all the processing period and objection period over.  As we understand it, we can pick Vasa up on June 15th (one day before Claire's birthday!)

The court was interesting. There were several Government employees from the Baby Home, the Warden's office, his pediatrician and a prosecutor who all spoke.  The Judge had questions for each of us.  I was questioned first.  I tried to look confident, but didn't want to look too confident, (which I wasn't).  It was hard to listen to the Judge then listen to our translator and then formulate an answer.  She probably questioned me for close to 20 minutes, maybe more, all they while Claire was unsure she was going to be questioned so she tried to enhance my answer.  I had to sweetly ask her to wait until I asked for her support (which I did) to give her meaningful and so important input.

Don't worry though, Claire got her 15 minutes.  She shined while she was up.  We didn't have to take the stand or anything just stand up from our table while speaking.  Claire was confident and well spoken addressing the Judge directly while speaking.  Claire made the Judge laugh and thru everyone her beautiful smile which as usual, disarmed everyone!

After the questions, which all came from our home study, so we had read over the content each day while waiting and nothing came as a surprise - we listened to the others give a report of Vasa's history, medical report and the story of him coming to us.  The prosecutor didn't have any questions for us, which we thought she would, but only had sweet things to say about us.  The Lord's favor was absolutely upon us in the court room today!  Praise our Father for his love and grace!

The Judge asked (I didn't understand what I was saying) if we would like to have a decision on the case immediately.  Which I thought meant she would rule on our request this morning.  I answered yes.  The Judge said I hear your request and we will come back to it later.  The Prosecution opposed our request for an immediate decision.

What we came to find out was that I was requesting that Vasa be released to us today.  I really would have loved that but the Judge said she could not agree to overrule the State's 10 day objection period (wait) because Vasa is healthy and not in any major medical need.  I am absolutely thankful for that and could not disagree.  The Judge ended with sweet things to say about Claire and I.  We brought Vasa's shutterfly book from our first visit and showed all the court including the Judge.  We also showed her the pictures of our family.  She seemed pleased by this.

After the court was complete - the Social Worker (basically our lawyer) gave us four pictures of Vasa from the past.  One was February 2009 on his first day in the Baby Home.  Sweet baby Vasa!  The others look like our boy.  Eating soup and playing.

After nearly being arrested for taking a picture of Claire in front of the Court house - we rushed off for possibly the most exciting part of our trip.  We took Vasa on a car ride!  A worker from the baby home came with us but Vasa rode in my lap.  He held on to the window with a death grip.  He seemed to be alright and looked as if he might go to sleep.  He stayed up from nap time to go with us.  We took him to have a picture made for his passport.  I had mine taken as well as I will sign for him on the passport next trip (in like 11 days!)  On the ride back to the baby home he seemed to relax a bit in the car.  He half sat in my lap and half in Claire's while laughing his head off as we bumped down the road.  We acted like we were steering the car and beeping the horn.  He would wave to the passersby and say paka.

We had our pizza to celebrate and just walked back to our room for a rest.  We will get to play with Vasa for a couple of hours this afternoon.  We can now begin to count down the days until we pick up our boy.  While that is fun to think about...I'm excited to hold three little girls tomorrow night in my own home!  I am certain they have had fun with their cousins but I'm ready to see my squirrels.  

When I got to hold Vasa as we got into the car I said, "Tee moi sihn" which means "You are my son".  He said "Dah".

We love you all and thank you for your sweet prayers!  Praise to our Father who has united a child with his family from across the Ocean!  He is to be praised!  Josh and Claire

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Day in Court

When I told my boss that we were coming to Russia to appear in Court for our son he joking asked if Vasa was already in that much trouble.  We have long awaited "our day in court" and it is now upon us.  Claire and I, as is our custom here, have enjoyed several cups of Nescafe', had our breakfast and have been reading.  Jill/JD and Jan let us borrow their Kindles (which have been great) so we've been reading books in their libraries.  I just started one today that must have been Jack's.  It's pretty good!

We have applied our wrinkle release spray, which Claire swears does something, to our clothes so we don't look like we slept in our nice outfits.  JD laughed at us while at Disney because I had packed for this trip a week prior so my suit has been in a carry on suitcase (only 1/2 was used for me) for about 16 days!  I think we feel decently prepared for our court appearance this morning.  At first we were told it would most likely be in the afternoon.  I am happy that we go to court this morning so we can enjoy lunch afterward and relax a bit more.

I think we have already decided on the pizza place we ate lunch in yesterday.  Again, outside of Vasa, few things are as important to Chicken and I as our food.  We might try the Stroganoff pizza today.  It sounded really good to me.  I don't know what Claire will feel like by then.  It might be hard to beat yesterday's four cheese.

I want to thank everyone for their support, prayers and kind words.  We have absolutely felt the Lord's peace throughout this trip!  We might keep some weird hours but we have rested well and our time with our little boy has been very fruitful.  We can't wait to introduce all of you to him.

I wasn't sure when we arrived but I think we have become a fan of this hotel vs the other here in Kaluga.  It is nice, quiet and off the busy street.  We have two rooms and the couch we are sitting on is a pull out bed which would be perfect for Vasa.  We have also enjoyed our boil pot for coffee.  The wifi in our room has been really nice.  It is much more fun for us to search on line, work and keep up with home while sitting in our room rather than going to the lobby.  Claire and I have tried to stay up with Kalugan life by watching tv a bit.  There are no English channels in this hotel (one BBC channel at the other) so we have been trying to catch words or phrases.  Yesterday we watched about 30 mins of a E True Hollywood Story about Tyra Banks.  What?  "That was Tyra Banks fool!"  I will always hear the commercials for Penny Hardaway and his little puppet "lil penny" when I see her.  We thought it was funny to watch as all the story was in English but we could only hear before the dubbing came on.  Funny how you can entertain yourself.

We got a fist pump of approval yesterday as we left the hotel.  It made us laugh.  We were told on our last visit that customarily you leave your key with the front desk when you go out of the hotel.  Not sure why but I guess they don't want you to lose the key.  The cleaning staff does come into our room so I guess safety of the key is the only reason.  As we left yesterday afternoon we were asked to leave our key.  We did and on the way out we got an Arsenial Hall like fist pump.  Couple of Yankees!

I suppose I'll get back to Jack's book (which is probably over my reading level) and then get ready for court.  Again, thanks for your prayers and encouragement!  It means the World to Claire and I that you so lovingly support us and care for us and our children!  There is no way for us to tell you how much we love each of you.  We are so blessed to have family and friends as incredible as you.  JD is right, Vasa has hit the lottery as he comes into this wonderful family of friends and relatives!

Until our day in court is over and we can officially tell you we have a son...paka Joshua

Day 2

Today we had a good day.  We  headed over to the baby home again around 10.    We stayed a few hours and went back around 4.  Today he was happy to see us and eager to play.  I think he really enjoyed having the freedom to go anywhere outside (on the baby grounds) that we would let him go.  Both days, his group stayed in one area, so I don't think he gets to run where ever he chooses very often if ever.  He seemed a little more tired today.  Maybe it was all of the playtime we had yesterday.  We noticed his lazy eye a bit more and he actually seemed to fall asleep a few times when we swung him on the swings.

He adored the machinas (cars).  He would just stare inside them.  He even got mad that we made him walk away.  The baby home director told us today that he is getting very eager to leave.  She said a little girl in his class left with her family and he had a difficult time with that.  She said for days that he continued to say, "Why can't I go?"

We pushed a broken stroller around for at least an hour or so.  He enjoyed walking around the fence and knocking on it.  He loved peeking out the cracks in the fence to see if he could spot any cars.

We are learning a few more things about him.  We think he must sing to himself when he gets tired.  He has done that a few times.  We have tried to sing the "wheels on the bus" song a lot, but changed it to " the wheels on the car" and he seems to like it.  We also learned that he is very nervous about dogs.  He heard a dog barking and he wanted to run and hide.  Hmmm..  Hopefully he will get over that fast since we have two dogs!

We got to show the pictures of the girls to him.  At first the translator didn't know if he even knew what a sister was, but he seemed more interested in looking at their pictures and hearing their names than last trip.  He even would shake his head yes after a little while when asked if they were his sisters--dah.  We showed him his room on my phone, but he didn't seem to grasp that--that's not my room, he'd say.

He loved my cell phone--even on the lock mode.  He would pretend he was talking on the phone.  Very cute.  We have already bought him a toy phone for the next trip, so that should be a hit.

Found out what the green goo is that I've read about on other blogs.   Josh and I were surprised thinking that they actually had markers (thinking it was marker on his arm)  but when his boo boo started to bleed, we put two and two together.  That must kind of be their neosporin.

We are a little nervous about court, but everyone has been very encouraging here about it.  Looking forward to it being over.  Josh said, What if they decided we could have him tomorrow?  Dream come true, but likely a dream.  I haven't heard of the 10 day wait being waived here.  

Meals--always a priority for Josh and me.  We ate at a great restaurant that had pizzas.  We ate a four cheese pizza with blue cheese and feta, etc.. very yummy.  We ate at the same pub tonight that we have been to many times that we are comfortable at.  Food's good there, too.  I will say, though, it's still strange to me that dill is served on just about everything.  I like dill ok, but I may go on a dill fast for a while.  (maybe just dill pickles).  Josh and I went to buy more water after dinner and he had to pick up the alabama beer just because--we think it's manufactured here, but we don't know.  Very funny, though.    We have also treated ourselves to several ice cream snickers--I don't think there is a better ice cream bar. I may have to hide some in the freezer at home.

Heard from the girls--very glad their having a good time at the beach--miss them a lot, but will at least see them in two days.  This trip has certainly been much easier, being familiar with the "drill"  and the city--feeling like we know what's going on.  I love that you can walk just about anywhere.  Wish we had that at home.

It's 10:30 at night and big day tomorrow.  Plus, I think the sun may finally be going down.  I think it comes up around 5, so I may need to hurry to bed!  Pray for us tonight before you go to bed!  We'll be headed to court around 2 am eastern time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Long mornings

It's amazing what you can accomplish when you have six hours to get ready and meet your party.  Claire and I wake up with the sun that rises around 4:30 AM.  We don't have to be ready until 10 so there is much time for a leisurely breakfast, quiet time in the Word, reading, blogging, working, studying for court, re-decorating the room, taking up online painting classes, word working classes, daydreaming, taking a nap, and eventually getting ready an hour early so we can sit on the couch.  I believe this is what a perfect life would be like (not the getting up too early but the leisurely pace)!

What we thought was a brilliant idea to download a netflix movie last night turned out to be a tease.  Who knew Netflix wasn't international?  I'm gonna write my congressman - or Consulate.  I thought I beat the system by going directly to the network websites to download shows...no dice, tried Hulu - nope again.  The only thing that did work was You Tube, which has a limited amount of free movies you've never heard of but the buffering process was unbearable so we read.  Don't get me wrong, I love to read but trying to stay awake past 10 pm is difficult with a full tummy, gentle breeze blowing and a soft bed while reading.

While I was joking about taking on projects with our morning time we have enjoying reading back over our home study, reading/praying together and having time to think before our day begins.  We haven't heard much about tomorrow and the court time etc.  We are hopeful to get pretty good insight on what the day will hold.  JD, we found a promising steak place just down the road called the Black Bull (apparently the Jones boys are opening restaurants in Kaluga) that we might try in celebration if all goes well tomorrow.

The place we lunched in yesterday had a kids table with toys on it and a big screen which played cartoons.  It is right down the road a block or so and has a menu English.  The food was nice and I think it is somewhere we will take Vasa in a couple weeks.  If you will remember, for our avid blog readers, Kaluga was the birth place of the Russian who first constructed and formulated the Russian space efforts.  It was kinda funny that right above our table was an article from the Huntsville paper, all in English, on how the Russian's had sent a man into space.  Brought a bit of home back to us as our dear family, the Griffs, love Huntsville!

A note for Jae, while shopping for milk last night I glanced at the beer aisle and found an Alabama beer. Blue can, red letters and white stars.  There will be one consumed in your honor my friend with pictures to boot.

Well, my time of leisure is rapidly escaping me as I now only have 32 minuets to be down stairs and ready.  The funny part is - while having all this time I find myself rushing a bit to make it.  Jan, I feel ya sister!

As always, we'll try to have two additions to our blog before you all wake on Thursday.  Love to our peeps!  Josh and Claire

Lunch for you - Meat mix for me

Claire and I had a nice lunch this afternoon walked back to the hotel and took a nap.  At 4 pm we went back to play with Vasa.  We had so much fun with our little macheena lover!  He must have sonic hearing and can pick out cars that honk or engines that rev within a pretty decent range.  A couple of vehicles were coming and going at the Baby Home and he wanted to get inside.  He kept asking where were the keys.  We smelled flowers, played on the swings, chased each other, played hide and go seek, and banged on metal things.  We beat on a metal bucket and knocked on the metal fence.

Vasa was still wearing his hat so he and I took turns throwing it up in the air while trying to catch it on our heads.  We are pretty sure that his caretakers are not going to like that game!  We looked for a cat that kept playing in the yard and watched the birds fly.

Of course, we had time sitting with Vasa in our lap so he could eat and drink.  That boy loves a snack as much as Buddy and my girls love a spoon full of peanut butter!  I guess the simple things are always best.  He polished off the rest of Allie's cinnamon apples and dug into some yogurt bites.  He hadn't changed clothes this afternoon so he was still sporting his nursing shirt (with birthday animals on it) shorts and strawberry sandals.  I kept picturing him in all the cute clothes our friends and family gave him at the shower a week or so ago.  He is gonna rock a Polo shirt!  Soon his cousin Weston will show him how as a 3 year old he would pop his collar.  That is what all the cool 3 year olds do!

We almost got into trouble with the caretakers, not really, because they had to come and find us while we were out playing so our big man could have dinner and go to bed.  With hugs, kisses and a wave he took off up stairs.  We told him we would be back tomorrow and he liked that.

We did meet another couple from NYC today who are meeting for the first time a 9 month old little boy. They have previously adopted from Siberia (and I was talking about how far away we are!).  They seemed very nice.  They will be heading off to Moscow in the morning for their physical on Friday so we said goodbye this afternoon.

With this couple back in Moscow, we will have our translator and driver from the first trip again tomorrow and Friday.

We went to dinner in a pub just down the street from our hotel which we ate in twice on our first visit.  We had no idea how close we were to that restaurant last night or we would have walked down.  It is very nice.  Claire had quesadillias  and I had meat and mushroom mix.  I know what that sounds like but the picture looked good and I've always been a bit adventurous.  I did verify that it only contained meats that I recognized and only cuts of that animal that I would like to ingest.  All in all it was very good!  We both enjoyed our meal.

On the walk back we stopped in our early morning / late night friendly grocery and picked up some milk.  We thought we bought milk this morning but I'm not sure what Claire put in her coffee.  We asked Rita, our translator, to write down what we should look for in a regular bottle of milk.  We found some and matched it up to what we bought this morning and there is really nothing in common at all.  Thankfully we didn't use much and Claire feels fine.  I think it was some type of flavored milk or yogurt product.  We paid for the milk, plastic bowls and two more Snicker Ice cream bars.

We upped our wifi for another 24 hours in the room and are getting a shower and ready for bed.  We did figure out that Netflix works so we might watch a tv show or movie to stay up later tonight!

With love to all of our sweet friends and family I say pakka for now and will talk to you soon!  Love as always, Josh and Claire

PS - Vasa played a sweet game with Claire where she pointed at him and said Vasa - he pointed back at her and said Mommy!  Wipe the tears off your face!  Love you!

trip 2 photos

Vasa time!

Claire and I were able to play outside with our little man this morning!  We left the hotel around 10 am and drove to the baby home.  We pulled in and then left.  We weren't sure what was going on but we soon learned we needed to pick up our CSS worker, Margherita.  Thankfully, we went right back to the baby home.  We found our boy outside playing with his class and we got to take him to another play area and spend time together.  Vasa was a bit reserved at first but he soon perked up and played.  We got out our trusty bubbles and Cheerios and the world was once again right.

I took lots of pictures, however this camera doesn't have a video camera (Buddy's gonna kill us) so we'll have to remember that for our next visit.  Claire is so used to pulling weeds in our own yard that she taught Vasa to pull weeds and put them in a bucket.  They carried the bucket around the grassy area and put trash and other items in.  Vasa liked the swing which he settled into and relaxed.  He and Claire held hands, ran and hopped around.  It was a very "Van Trap" like.  We fed him some dried cinnamon apples, which Allie would have fought him over, and Vasa liked them.  He drew circles on a paper with crayons and said it was his Mommy.  I think I got one small line.  He sat in our laps, we got to hold him, rub his back and he even gave us a kiss.

Claire has read about similar affection and thinks that he cannot understand that certain affection is only for family not just anyone but we were happy that he felt comfortable allowing us to hold, stroke and kiss him.  He didn't readily allow some of these things on our first trip.  He still likes to laugh at my scratchy face.

He drinks a bottle of water in DD fashion by putting his whole mouth over the bottle.  I'm pretty sure there's some floating apple in my water bottle now but I'm happy to have it.  He was sporting a nice orange fedora today with strawberry sandals.  All in all only Vasa could pull off this look and be so cute.

Our translator was new for today as there is another couple visiting today from the States.  Our translator was very kind and helped us tell Vasa some things ourselves.  She took us to the city center and recommended a nice restaurant.  We had pasta primavera with veggies and pasta with mushrooms.  Pepsi  helped wash it all down.  Now we are back in the room resting until 3.50 or 7.50 AM back where you stay.

By the way, we did measure Vasa today and he seems to measure in the low 3 year old range which is good.  We feel pretty good about the measurements as he was eating.  We think he is 35 inches tall.  I'll put a few photos up for everyone.  Love to you all!  Josh and Claire