Monday, June 23, 2008

Synopsis of our first trip

I wanted to fill everyone in on our journey in a little more detail. This might be a longer post, so I'll see how long I can type. Our encounter with our baby we will adopt began on Tuesday evening, when the Ministry of Education presented us with the referral. It had been a stressful week up to that point. After presenting us with information about the referral (which isn't a whole lot), we are asked if we want to visit the baby. We said yes and on Wednesday we traveled to meet him. This baby was in a baby home that was unfamiliar to our agency. Basically, the Ministry of Education sort of 'assigns' baby homes to our agency, and they assign other baby homes to other agencies. This was not a baby home 'assigned' to our agency, so our driver and translator told us it may take a little longer to find it. Well, they ultimately found the Krasnopolyansky baby home. It took me a while before I could pronounce that word. When we entered the home, we put on the blue plastic booties and met with the director. The baby home director is usually a person with a lot of medical training. She was a very business like lady, and she struck me as someone who took her job seriously and was good with time management (i.e. not me ;) ). At that time we learned more about the baby referred to us. His Russian name is Pavel, which is Paul translated. She gave us more information about his history as well. Then they brought him to us. Like I mentioned earlier, he is a cute boy with blue eyes and blonde hair. He was a very serious baby. It was obvious to me that we were just strangers to him. Vernon and I played with him and I am so glad we brought certain toys with us. My 10 trips to Target in the 5 days preceding our trip paid off. We brought stacking cups with a ball, 2 teething rings, a mirror toy with a lot of bells and whistles on it (not literally), and a couple of touch and feel books. He instantly took to the teething rings, and enjoyed holding the stacking cups as well. During this first visit we took many photos and video, because we were going to have the information we could gather evaluated to make sure there weren't any issues we needed to be aware of. Little Pasha certainly has some catch up to do developmentally, which isn't unusual for babies in baby homes. He is still working on sitting up on his own, and he will stand with support but his legs need some strengthening. This is fairly typical, though. We also hired a doctor in Russia to come evaluate Pasha. This is helpful if only because he reviews all the medical information and tells us what is in his history. The Russian doctor and our doctors we consulted in the US were able to put our mind at ease about a few things. And as our visit progressed, we were quite enamored with Pasha. By the end of our visit we had found this little guy's tickle spot and he would laugh when we tickled him. He certainly has a smile that will melt a heart.
On Thursday we had our "8 doctor physical." We were driven to a hospital to have our own health examined. I guess they figure we are probing their babies, now they can probe us. We entered a rather old hospital building that, well, let me just say the building probably wouldn't have passed hospital inspection standards in the U.S. And one thing I observed is that even the professionals in the hospital don't have computers to work on. They wrote everything out by hand on a plain piece of paper. The first doctor we saw was the “skin doctor” - I guess he is a dermatologist? Anyway, we sat down in front of his desk and he pulled out 2 sheets of paper. He asks us if we have any diseases of the skin. That was pretty much it if your answer was no. He wrote down about 3 sentences on each paper, and put a special stamp on it, and sent us off to the next doctors. At the next office we encountered a group of doctors, I guess there were 6 of them, but I wasn't counting. They asked us if we had any diseases, or if we have had any concussions. I wish I could remember the other questions - they were fabulous. Anyway, then came the physical exam. Having 6 doctors quickly examine me and Vernon was interesting. The blood pressure lady did me first and the reflex doctor did Vernon first. Then there was the doctor who had us shut our eyes and do the "finger to nose test", which is basically shutting your eyes and pointing your index finger to your nose, and then doing that with the other hand. I was nervous I would forget which finger was my index finger. Then there was the doctor who put the stethescope to me. I began to instinctively take deep breaths when the scope was placed on my chest. She looked at me and said in broken English, "don't breathe". So I stopped. Then when she got to my back she announced, "now breathe." So I did. After about 5 to 8 minutes, the exam was over. We had one last visit, and that was to the psychologist. The psychologist's office was next door to the room where they make prosthetic limbs. So as we were waiting for this doctor we heard something that sounded like a saw rather frequently. The sound of prosthetics being made along with the smell of smoke (Russian hospitals don't have quite the ban on smoking that U.S. hospitals do) made us realize that if we need medical intervention, we were going straight to the airport or embassy :). We finally made it in to talk to this doctor. These visits were the longest, relatively speaking, and were done individually. This doctor was very nice and just asked us about our extended family, are we friendly with our family, and how often we see or speak to our family. She also asked us about hobbies, what we did for stress, and if we went to church. She asked what church I went to and I paused, knowing denominations may not be familiar to her, so I settled on the word Protestant. Evidently when Vernon was asked the question, he said Presbyterian and the doctor had a puzzled look on her face. Then Vernon thought a little more and said Christian. The doctor then asked if he went to the same church I went to, and he said yes. The doctor seemed satisfied. This doctor also asked us a few more questions - a few on the serious side, to make sure there weren't any red flags. Then it was over. We paid our 36,000 rubles to the assistant (about $1,550 dollars) and received the form that had 8 doctor signatures and 8 stamps. Evidently this is super important for court because our translator counted the signatures and the stamps 2 times.
Then we proceeded to the baby home to have another visit with Pasha. Our time with him was not as long as the previous day, because we got there so much later. We did have a good visit, though. One thing we try to look for is subtle changes from one day to the next. We noticed Pasha was more verbal. We also practiced his walking motion with his legs. Then we just spent time holding him. That is pretty much Thursdays update had I posted :).
Then we get to Friday. Friday was going to be a busy day, we knew that in advance. We had to get Pasha's passport photo made. We used a picture I had taken and went to a digital camera store that was more like small room with a photo printing machine. Vernon and I laughed because the “store” had passport photos on display, and evidently if you want to get a passport photo made, you can select a suit that your face will be matched with. Men and women both can select from 4 different suits. Anyway, once we got Pasha’s passport photo developed (and I must add he looked very Russian in his developed passport picture), we went to visit with Pasha one last time. We knew we wouldn’t have a lot of time, because we had to get documents notarized later in the day. These documents will be filed with the court and the documents officially petition the courts to adopt Pasha. When we got to the baby home, we were able to use a different room, and in this room we were able to actually put Pasha on the floor, which they didn’t allow us to do in the other room. This was nice because we had more freedom to let Pasha play. Pasha had a bit of a cold, and was a bit sniffly, but we still had a good visit. With only an hour to an hour and a half to visit, it is kind of hard to really try to ‘bond’ with Pasha, and we knew it would be about 6 weeks or so before we could see him again, so we just held him and played with him.
We had to say goodbye to Pasha before we knew it, and we gave him his “build a bear” cat (orange tabby, of course), and left the teething rings and a few other toys for him. When we left, we fought the Moscow traffic to get back to our agency office and pick up the official documents that we had to get notarized. Then, we drove for a while to get to the notary’s office. We waited a while and then signed our documents, paid them, and left. That was really the end of our official trip. Vernon and I went souvenir shopping on Friday evening, and had a good dinner at an Italian restaurant.
We left Saturday to return home. It was a good flight, and there were several parents with their newly adopted children on the flight to America. It was special seeing these families return home. These sweet children will become U.S. citizens once the flight touched ground in Atlanta.
As for what to expect from here, we are waiting for our court date. We are hoping we will get a call soon that will inform us our court date is in mid July. We will be gone for about 3 weeks on that trip. After court, we will have a 10 day waiting period before we can take custody of Andrew. Yes, his name will be Andrew Paul Sumwalt. Then, we have to to the embassy and finish paperwork to bring Andrew home. So, we hope to be home with Andrew in early to mid August. Andrew’s first birthday was June 18, so I hope we can get him home soon for a belated celebration.
I will post more about our experience later. I just returned from registering Andrew (Babies R Us and Target), and I laughed because I felt like I was registering for the whole store. If it looked cute, I zapped it.
Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. We continue to pray that Andrew is well loved and cared for by his providers in his baby home, and that he continues his progress in sitting, crawling, standing and babbling!


Christa and Vernon

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hello everyone.  This post will be short and sweet.  I hope to post tomorrow that we have filed the paperwork to adopt the baby referred to us today.  He is a precious 11 month old with a birthday in a couple of weeks.  He has dark blue eyes that are quite big and round, and he soaks in everything he sees.  He also has dark blonde hair.  He is very cute by all accounts.  Vernon and I are excited to have met him today.  We will visit him tomorrow and see what tomorrow brings.  I will post a picture of his little hand tomorrow (typical shot since as pre adoptive parents we don't want to plaster the baby's face everywhere.  Anyway, thanks for your thoughts and prayers as we try to make all the right decisions.  


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Starbucks in Russia

I am a bit delinquent in posting so I thought I would do a quick update.  We don't have much to report right now in the adoption front, but there has been a lot going on.  I hope to be able to give more of an update tomorrow night.

I can fill you in on what it is like to be in Russia.  The longest days of the year are in June and in Russia that means really long days.  It is the season of 'white nights'.  Right now it is 10:00 and it is still daylight.  Really weird.  According to our translator, the Russians take advantage of this time and stay up late.  Not me.   My sleeping schedule is already too messed up.

We are having our passports registered with the Russian police today.  Even Russian citizens have to be registered in the city where they are staying.  Russians have an internal Passport that they have to have on them at all times.  They have to register their passport with the police and when they travel within the country, they must register in the cities where they are traveling.  So, we are being registered so if a police person stops us, we can be legal.

We are staying in a nice area of Moscow that is quite 'touristy'.  It is good to walk out of our apartment and be in an area where we can walk around.  Although if you eat at an American chain restaurant, it will be much more expensive.  For instance, at dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe last night, my 20 ounce diet coke was the equivalent of $8.00.  I will never complain about the price of sodas back home again.  Neither Vernon nor I are coffee drinkers, but we have frequented the Starbucks here for breakfast.  We get our hot chocolates and scones for breakfast, although we acknowledge that what we are spending is pretty ridiculous.  Tonight we ate at a restaurant named My-My, which translated sounds like Moo-Moo.  It is Russian so therefore more affordable, although I couldn't tell you what I ate.

I do hope to post more about the real reason for our trip soon.  Thanks for all of your support and prayers!


Sunday, June 1, 2008

We have made it to Russia!  It was a small adventure getting here, starting in Charlotte.  Our flight from Charlotte to Atlanta was delayed and almost cancelled due to a maintenance issue.  We had already boarded when we were told of the problem.  Of course, if we missed our connecting flight in Atlanta to Moscow, there wasn't exactly another flight to Moscow that would take off later in the day.  I explained our situation to the flight attendant who secretly took us off the plane so we could get to the ticket counter in case the flight was cancelled.  The ticket agent was looking at putting us on an alternate flight that would take us from Charlotte to Cincinnati to JFK in NYC to Paris to Moscow.  It would also get us there much later (if you couldn't tell by all the connecting flights).  Fortunately, we were notified that our plane was fixed and we could continue on with our original flight plans. We were quite grateful to the attendant who snuck us off the plane - she smiled and said that in return we could name our child Delta. I smiled and didn't know what to say in response. I think I just laughed a bit nervously and said maybe the name will have a "d" in it.

When we arrived in Atlanta we met another family with our agency that was also traveling to Moscow.  They are adopting their third child.  We then boarded our 10 hour flight to Moscow.  We had some interesting movie choices.  The flight was uneventful.  We landed and went through customs which was equally uneventful.  Then our driver and translator, K and A, picked us up and took us to get some money exchanged and to the grocery store.  Of course, we stocked up on our coca cola light (i.e. diet coke).  It is about 3:00 in the afternoon now and we might try to venture out for a bit.  Vernon is taking a quick nap and I might follow his lead.

Tomorrow we leave at 10:00 for the CSS offices where we meet with S.  Then we go to the Ministry of Education where we will receive information on the baby that has been referred to us.  Then we travel to the orphanage and visit for a while.  I have been told that Monday is a long day and we will probably eat lunch in the car.  

So, that is it for now.  I will catch you all up to date later!

Christa and Vernon

P.S.  I really cannot recommend the movie "Walk Hard, the Dewey Cox Story".  It was one of the movies on our flight.  I had bigger hopes for that movie...

P.P.S.  The picture is of our cat Sebastian who has a 6th sense and knows when we are about to travel.  He wants to make sure we have enough fur on our suitcase.  We don't have to tie a ribbon around our luggage.  We just look for the one with fur on it.