Thursday, July 31, 2008

Farewell Russia

We are all packed and ready to go (almost).  I will miss Russia, but we are ready to go home.  Please keep us in your prayers as we travel.  I hope Andrew does well on the plane :).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Below is my post from yesterday.  Today Andrew has been very fussy and tired.  We totally took him out of his element today with all of our running around we did.  Plus he might be teething a bit.  I am hoping that he will return to his special self tomorrow.  Thanks for your prayers for Andrew.  We did get everything done at the embassy so tomorrow we just have 2 quick trips around town and we will be done.  I am going to get some rest now, as I don't know how long Andrew will sleep.  Again, thank you so much for your prayers for all of us!


Now, the post from yesterday :):

First for the pictures....

Andrew with Vernon:

Our internet is down so here is our post from Tuesday evening...

Today (actually Tuesday) has been another good day.  We had some good news to start out with.  A translator who contracts with our agency was able to file our passport application yesterday, so we were able to pick up Andrew’s passport today.  We do not have to make another trip to the police station for the passport – yeah!  Evidently this police station doesn’t handle typical police work, it just handles passport issues.  Russian citizens have to have an internal passport to be officially documented in their country, so the passport business is quite big here. 

Andrew woke up bright and early at 5:00, and didn’t go back to sleep.  Nor could he get comfortable to sleep during our drive, so he was very discontent by the time we made it back to our apartment.  But as soon as we got back home, he wanted to play.  We finally got him to nap, but not before Vernon.  We all rested, actually.

This evening we did dinner with new friends Ron and Dinia, and another adopting couple, Bill and Megan.  We went to what was by far the best restaurant we have been to since arriving in Moscow.  I was a bit nervous about how Andrew would handle being at a restaurant.  He can get a bit skittish in new surroundings.  It was another baseless concern, though, as Andrew evidently can also be quite the entertainer.  We could barely coax a sound out of our little guy when we first met him.  At dinner he babbled on and on.  He even showed our friends his precious smile. 

We only have 2 days left in Moscow before we return home.  I have actually grown fond of this very interesting country.  It is an amazing culture and people.  Very resilient, just like our little Andrew.

P.S.  Here is my post from Wednesday afternoon:  Andrew has been fussy all day.  He just isn't into his morning nap.  We have to be at the U.S. Embassy at 2, so he won't be able to get one until after that trip.  I hope their isn't  a large number of families waiting for their exit interview...  I'll post later, internet connection permitting.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Day 2 post Andrew

First for the pictures (I haven't done a lot of pictures lately because we are too busy soaking Andrew in):

Andrew with his serious face (he smiles a ton, we are just too busy to take pictures during those moments):

Andrew about to go out for a quick stroll (I think the SC hat is a bit small)  Oh, and I like the Ergo carrier, despite the holistic instructional dvd that was a little bit cheezy:

Andrew reaching for the wrapping paper:

Andrew playing with the wrapping paper (and babbling):
We have had a good couple of days all in all.  As you can tell, he is getting around well.  Andrew seems happy.  And he seems to be doing new things before we know it.  He is crawling all over the place - Vernon calls it the Andrew 500.  He is also pulling himself up to a standing position completely by himself, and even tentatively moves with the assistance of the coffee table.
Today we had his doctors appointment, if you can call it that.  The doctor weighed him, took his length measurements, poked him in a few areas, checked his ears and breathing, and then we were done.  All for the price of 2800 rubles.  The dollar is so amazingly weak here in Europe.  I even read an article online how all the Europeans are traveling to the U.S. to make all of their purchases, because their currency goes so much further in the U.S.  Oh well.  Whatever it takes to get Andrew home.  The doctor said he was just a bit small but healthy.  Of course, I don't know how much one can gather from such a brief exam...
Tomorrow we go to the passport office to try once again to get Andrew's passport.  I wish we could have done this on Friday because it will be a long day for Andrew.  He doesn't like different surroundings, and being in a car is quite different for him.   I guess this will get him ready for our marathon flight home.  We will be on a plane for 12 hours from Moscow to Atlanta, a 3 hour layover for Atlanta (to make sure we get everything done for customs), and then the quick hop to Charlotte.  
We are pretty much done for the day.  Andrew is sleeping and Vernon is studying Russian.  Andrew woke up at 5:00 this morning, and although I got up first with Andrew, Vernon pitched in and let me sleep from 7 to 8.  And Vernon got Andrew back to sleep as well.
Tomorrow we will do dinner with our friends Carol and Lance, and Ron and Dinia.  Carol and Lance have adopted with through our agency, and Ron and Dinia are from Alabama but presently work here, but not for long.  Ron works for BP and if you google BP and Russia, you can learn some interesting business/political news.  I'm glad we will get to see them for a little while tomorrow evening.  
Well, that's it for now.  The weather dropped 20 degrees overnight.  Vernon's long sleeved clothing is coming in quite handy now.  Oh, and we got back the disposable camera we left at the baby home back in June.  The good news is it looks like they took pictures.  As adoptive parents, we don't get to see the living quarters for these babies, so I am hoping the pictures give us a glimpse into his life at the baby home.  I will wait until we return to the States to get them developed, though.  Talk to you later!

Christa and Vernon

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Introducing Andrew

Introducing Andrew:

(the bruise was when he fell while at the baby home - oops).

Here we are leaving the baby home:

Here we are with Andrew about a week ago:

Here we are with Andrew sometime last week.

Well, we are settled into our apartment with Andrew.  The baby home visit was a little different, because it was a Saturday and there weren't as many workers at the home.  We had a little event changing Andrew's clothes into his going home clothes.  Fortunately, everything fit.  One of his caregivers, Oksana, stopped by to tell Andrew goodbye.  We received his daily schedule of feedings and activities.  And then we left.
Andrew slept on the way to our apartment, which was good because there was a bit of traffic and traffic exhaust - I wasn't sure how he would do.  Andrew was a little stressed in his new environment at first.  He kept looking around, wondering where he was at.  I don't blame him, it was quite different.  He ate well but we are going to have to work on the bottle.  They are used to being bottle fed rather quickly, and he isn't used to our bottles - we will enlarge one of the nipples and hope that helps until we make it back home.
It takes Andrew a while to go to sleep.  We are finally getting more familiar with his sleep time personality.  Actually, daddy (Vernon) took the first nap yesterday :).  
Bath time is definitely scary for him.  I will probably just sponge bathe him until we get back home.  
He is definitely smiling a lot more, though.  It was beautiful this Sunday morning when he woke up and I looked down at him and he smiled.  He is content playing in our laps.  As one friend said, this week in Russia is just surviving until we can get home and really establish a routine and start working with him.
Andrew is crawling around a lot right now.  Vernon is watching him, making sure he doesn't get into anything :).   Andrew can also almost pull himself into a standing position unassisted.  Believe me, this is leaps and bounds beyond what he could do when we first met him June 4th.

Today is our only day to really have with Andrew uninterrupted.  We have a busy week next week, starting with his doctors appointment on Monday.  We are going out to eat with friends Tuesday night, which will be one of our few 'fun' excursions out.  

Although we have had a good day, please continue to keep Andrew and all of us in your prayers.

Thank you!


On our way to get Andrew for keeps...

In about 30 minutes, we will leave to pick up Andrew.  This really hasn't sunk in with either of us.  I don't suspect it will, even when we have him in our apartment.  Our apartment manager set up Andrew's crib, and I have tons of clothes and food for him.  
Yesterday we drove to the courthouse and picked up our court order allowing us to adopt Andrew.  This took a while, as they hand sew the documents together.  Then we went to the registration office about a half hour away.  Here we obtained Andrew's birth certificate that identifies us as his parents, and an adoption certificate.  We had to wait a while here as well, but quickly noticed that this office also conducts weddings.  So, while Vernon and I sat in a waiting area, we saw three brides get married.  It was similar to a wedding by a magistrate judge, but they turn it into more of an event.  They play the procession music and love songs.  Think synthesized recordings of retro '80s style music.  They even had a wedding gown boutique at this office for the weddings.  And the same photographer photographed each bride and groom, and quickly took pictures for the lovely couples.  It was good entertainment for us as we waited for our documents, as Vernon and I were getting starting to get a little silly with all the waiting we had to do.
Finally we went to the passport office to get Andrew's passport.  Unfortunately, the directors here were on vacation, and their staff took off early.  So we couldn't get Andrew's passport started.  We were disappointed because it was quite a drive to this office and that means we will have to come back next week with Andrew.  We will have to tote the poor fellow around quite a bit next week.  We will have a doctor appointment next week to get clearance to leave Russia with him, an embassy appointment and 2 trips to the passport office.  
Well, we are off to get Andrew.  Keep us in your prayers and pray that Andrew acclimates to his new environment and adapts without any issues.  Thank you!

Christa and Vernon

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Andrew and Pictures of St. Pete

The past couple of days have been real nice.  We have visited Andrew for the past 2 days.  Both days we were able to take him outside.  Yesterday we had a lot of fun.  Andrew was busy with the toys, crawling and standing, and playing with a ball.  He seemed to have a lot of fun.  He is almost certainly a southpaw.  I tried to give him some banana and he got a very odd look on his face.  I'm pretty sure he has never had banana before from that expression.  Andrew ultimately fell asleep before we had to leave.

Today our visit was a bit different.  Evidently, Andrew had received a vaccination yesterday.  Plus, his caregiver told us he did not sleep well.  Andrew was quite tired and wasn't as interested in playing.  He preferred to just snuggle instead.  He fell asleep after about 20 minutes of our visit, and then woke up and began playing again.  His caregiver was telling us to make sure we gave him music lessons when we got home.  She seemed to be quite fond of Andrew. 

Okay, now I will share some pictures of our visit to St. Petersburg:

Here is one of the few pictures of both me and Vernon together.  I was a bit skittish in asking strangers to take pictures, but here we reciprocated with another group.  We are in front of the Peterhoff Palace:

Here is a picture of me in front of the River Neva in St. Petersburg.  The Hermitage museum is the blue building to the left of the picture.

This is Vernon in front of one of the many beautiful fountains at Peterhoff.  We took a boat to get to Peterhoff and it was a bit rainy, but the fountains in the gardens were simply beautiful.

And here I am after a long day at the Hermitage museum, ready for my favorite snack:

And finally, although we didn't get anything here, I thought it was a good commercial picture to put in.  Can you read the Russian?

I will post more pictures later, but this was a few of the highlights in St. Petersburg.  Tomorrow we will be very busy.  We will start just before 9:00 and we will go to the courthouse to get the court order for the adoption.  We then have to go to several other places.  As it can take about 2 hours to get from one end of Moscow to the other, we are planning for a long day.  On Saturday we will get Andrew.  We will bring cakes to the baby home as it is customary to bring cakes to maternity homes and baby homes after a birth or adoption.  We will post more later!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Our post from July 15...

Post from July 15 - This is what I typed but could not post from last Wednesday, July 15.  I know it is late and really out of order, but I thought since I wrote it I would post it...

Well, we are in St. Petersburg!  I am typing this post at 1am I guess Thursday morning.  But Wednesday was a wonderful day.  We got to visit with Andrew, and we had a wonderful visit.  We were once again able to go outdoors with Andrew.  I took him to a covered area, because it was quite warm.  Andrew was in typical baby home clothing.  A pink onesie, shorts, and a lavender cap.  Very interesting combination of clothing.  Anyhow, Andrew really enjoyed our playtime.  I brought one toy that he had played with back during trip 1, and he really took to the same toy.  Then, I found a bouncy ball about 12 inches in diameter, and Vernon and Andrew tried rolling the ball to each other (I was helping Andrew out a good bit).  Andrew is not very verbal yet but during this time he was very verbal and excited.  Then, we began playing with this dump truck.  Andrew was straddling my left leg, his back leaning against me, and as he held onto the truck, he stood up with me only slightly holding him for balance.  We were quite amazed, because even 6 weeks ago when we were on our first trip, this was nothing he could have even attempted.  It was quite encouraging to get a glimpse of what a little parental love and attention can accomplish.  Every few minutes, Andrew would stop playing and look up at us, almost as if to check and see if we were still there. We had a splendid visit with Andrew, and after that was over we left for St. Petersburg.  The train ride was phenomenal, with Vernon and I sitting across from each other by the window.  Some of the landscape was beautiful, but when you passed a town or village, I was struck by the imposing apartment skyscraper buildings – very generic looking and worn down.  Not very attractive at all.  And the housing that we saw was very old looking as well.  I felt like the smaller areas of Russia were probably more economically depressed than the urban areas.

Anyway we made it to St. Pete around midnight.  We had to take a taxi to our hotel because we couldn’t find our ride, but our hotel is smack in the middle of the historic district and we even found a 24 hour pizza place right next door.  Because all I had to eat all day was a pop tart, a power bar and a candy bar, the pizza was a delicious late night snack.

We will go exploring Thursday and report back more later.  Thanks for your continued prayers for Andrew.  

Monday, July 21, 2008

Last Day in St. Petersburg!

Vernon and I have had a wonderful time in St. Petersburg! Yesterday we traveled to see Peterhoff, which is a beautiful home with amazing gardens. It rained on us all day, so that was the only drawback.
Today we went to see the Peter and Paul Cathedral, which is where the Romanov family is buried. It is fascinating to see how much of Russia's heritage and history has been recovered in the past 15 years or so. We will visit a few more places tomorrow (Tuesday) as our train does not leave until 6:30 in the evening. I will give a lot more detail along with pictures later (I promise)!

Have a nice day, everyone!


Friday, July 18, 2008

Day 2 in St. Petersburg...

Well, we are exploring the Hermitage today. I decided to do the audio tour as well, but didn't realize that Vernon would hit the button for each and every exhibit and painting and listen to every detail. So, I am on the internet at the cafeteria at the Hermitage, my brain completely maxed out on information.
Our hotel has breakfast, so we aren't having to snack on pop tarts and cereal bars, that will by the way be banned from our house when we return. The sight might just turn my stomach.
St. Petersburg is very nice. We have 3 and 1/2 more days to visit, so we should know the town quite well.
We even found a 24 hour bookstore near our hotel. As you may know Vernon reads books only in Spanish and managed to find 2 more books out of his Spanish author's series to read at this bookstore. I bought some children's books (for very young children, in Russian, of course) to give to the baby home when we return.
So, that is it for right now. I am hoping there is enough time left for this to post. Will update in detail later (with pictures)!

Christa and Vernon

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

St. Petersburg

We are in St. Petersburg. My internet access will be real limited so I won't be posting much while I'm here. We had a wonderful visit with Andrew yesterday. I will post more when I can. I will do updates every day and then upload them when I have better internet access. Thanks!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tourists for a Day

Well, we spent most of the day traveling around Moscow.  Our morning started at the notary office.  I love that their government offices don't open until 10.  Absolutely love it.  I also love that Europeans take such long holidays.  Our translator's daughter lives in Germany and she gets 5 weeks off a year.  Here I am with our translator Irena:

Anyhow, I digress.  The notary assistant who helped us had just returned from a vacation in the Crimea, which is by the Black Sea.  It took about an hour to get our documents notarized, but then we were on our way.   To get clothes.When we were here in June, we were lucky if the temperature got into the 70s.  In the evening it was definitely in the 50s.  So, Vernon packed only long sleeved clothing.  It is well into the 80s right now and Vernon was melting.  I knew he was warm when I suggested we ask Irina our translator to stop at a store to get some short sleeved clothes, and he readily agreed.  It takes extreme moments like this to get the guy out shopping.  So, Irina found a mall near the Kremlin.  She didn't know if she could find a 'normal' store with moderately priced clothing, but she did wonderfully!  She found a store called Zara that had guys shirts on sale.  We found Vernon about 4 shirts.  As you may know, European styles are a bit different that American styles.  I kept teasing Vernon that he would get a tight, sleeveless, V-neck shirt with a lot of writing on it.  We managed to find some normal styles, though.  Except the sizing is way different.  He likes loose clothes and he had to go to an XL to find one that looked like a men's size medium in the states.  Here is a picture of the mall we went to:

So, now we were set to do some sightseeing.  We first drove around to see some sights.  We drove by Christ the Saviour Cathedral.  This cathedral was built as a monument to Russia's
 victory over Napoleon, but was ordered razed by Stalin.  That never happened, but for a while it became a big indoor/outdoor pool.  Don't ask me how.  Anyway it survived and was never demolished and here it is today:

We also went to the Kremlin and saw the Cathedral of the Assumption.  It is located in an area called Cathedral Square, so there were many church buildings so it was hard to distinguish the cathedrals.  Of course, we also saw St. Basil's Cathedral, here below:
We also saw some pretty gardens:
And some old cannons:

Then, in the evening, we met up with new friends.  Four of the families were adopting (2 already have their children, the other two of us are still waiting to pick up our children). Another couple at dinner was an American family living in Russia who loves to provide support to adopting families.  We had a great dinner.  

Tomorrow our train doesn't leave for St. Petersburg until 6 in the evening, so we will get a chance to see Andrew tomorrow.  We are looking forward to our visit with him.

I am not sure about internet access in our hotel in St. Pete, so my posts may or may not be more sporadic.  I will try to find a coffee shop to update if all else fails.  

I am going to bed once the slowest washing machine in the world stops washing our clothes, so I can hang them up to dry.  Load number 2 will have to get washed overnight.  

Have a nice day!


Monday, July 14, 2008

Smooth sailing for court!

We are officially Andrew Paul's parents!  We had a very uneventful court experience today, and the court granted our petition to adopt Andrew.  I had prepared myself for all sorts of scenarios and questions.  Neither the judge or the prosecutor had any questions for us.  I did have a speech prepared that encompassed all of the questions we might get asked.  Another adoptive family who had been to court recently provided us with all the information we needed to say.  It was funny, because another family with our agency went before the judge right after we did, and we basically both used the same speech.  We both benefitted from this same information.  It is interesting because here in Russia, the 'healthy babies' are not supposed to be adopted by foreigners.  So part of the court experience is to for the social worker to lay out the health concerns so that the judge could be satisfied that no one in Russia would adopt the baby.  Isn't that just so different?  Anyway, the judge ultimately said it was in the best interest of the Andrew for us to adopt him.  So, that is over and we now just have the 10 day wait.  Thank you all for your prayers.  They really meant so much today.  I didn't get much sleep in anticipation of court, so I might try to get some rest now.

Tomorrow we go to the notary to sign some power of attorney, and we might get another visit with Andrew in.  Wednesday we will leave for St. Petersburg.  Our wonderful agency here in Russia made a couple of quick calls and we now have train tickets and a hotel for St. Pete.  I am such a travel planner (I know that's a bit out of character - for me to plan anything), but I am so glad I didn't spend a lot of time trying to plan our trip to St. Pete.  So, if you stay tuned you will get to hear of our adventures traveling and sight seeing.  I am really looking forward to it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Back home in Mocow...

At least it feels like we are back home.  We are staying for the first few days in the same apartment we were in last month, and we confidently walked out and down Arbat Street.  It was much different than the first time when it all felt so new.  We got groceries and made some pasta for dinner.

Well, we have court tomorrow morning at 10:30 in the a.m.  Which is about 2:30 a.m. for everyone in America.  So, hopefully by the time most people wake up we will be done with court.  I understand court takes about 40 minutes to an hour.  There is a prosecutor involved (I think it is quite different than a prosecutor in the U.S.), a social worker from the baby home, the judge, and us.  I have a "speech" prepared that I think and hope will answer the usual questions asked by the judge.  Please keep us in your prayers today as we prepare for quite a big day tomorrow.  

Oh, and we saw Andrew today!  I am calling him Pavel (Paul) right now because that is his Russian name I will use in court tomorrow.  He now has 2 more teeth (top row).  He has grown and is getting stronger.  We certainly have some feeding to catch him up on, though.  We were complete strangers to him again but by the end of our visit, he was really warming up to us and even making a few sounds.  I will be glad to have the 10 days over with.  We have a different translator this time and she asked the staff at the baby home if we could take him outside.  It was so nice to be outdoors with him.  I am fairly certain this was one of the first times he was outdoors just for fun.  

I will post more tomorrow.  Thank you all again for your prayers!!!

Christa and Vernon 

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Well, here we are at the airport.  I feel oddly relaxed.  I'm only checking to make sure I have my passport every 15 minutes instead of every 5.  We had a late night, of course.  I thrive on the last minute details.  I was even at the CVS at 1:30 in the morning printing off more pictures for court.  We will be going to court on Monday, so please keep us in your prayers as we get ready for this big day.  We go in front of the Russian judge and we hope that she will grant the adoption without any issue.  Sometimes there can be little bumps.  A family that preceded us just a couple of weeks ago had a judge who was insistent that yet another document be provided that would satisfy her inquiry as to whether they owned a house.  Fortunately, our agency told us to get that documentation last week.  Russian adoptions can be interesting, though, as there could be yet something new next week that they want.  So, we'll go with the flow but hope and pray this week is a smooth process.
We will visit with Andrew on Sunday.  His baby home is near the airport, so as it will work we will land and go straight to visit him.  I hope he is doing well.  It will be interesting to see how and if he has changed.  He had 2 bottom teeth last time.  We will see if he has any new teeth tomorrow!  Most of our luggage contains items for Andrew.  Clothes, diapers, bottles, pacifiers (not sure if he'll use it), food, formula, a few toys, and towels.  He probably won't know what to do with all the attention we bestow on him.
We won't get to officially pick Andrew up until July 25th, so we will keep you posted on our travels to St. Petersburg in the meantime.  I am sure they will be quite adventurous.  Thank you all for your prayers over the next few days and beyond!  

Christa and Vernon

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Going back to Russia!

We have dates to return to Russia!   We will leave Charlotte July 12 and arrive in Moscow July 13.  Then on July 14 we go to court.  This will be quite a big day as we go before the judge to officially adopt Andrew.  We are already starting to get ready for this experience.  After court is finished, we will have a 10 day wait before we can physically have Andrew with us.  This wait is over on July 25, and on this day, we will go to his baby home and bring him home with us.  Home for the time being will be an apartment near a historic area of Moscow called Old Arbat.  We will have to process through the American embassy and do a little more paperwork before we can leave Russia.  We anticipate being home in early August with Andrew.  I can't wait to show everyone his big blue eyes and cute smile.  We continue to pray that Andrew receives lots of love and attention from his caregivers, and we are eagerly looking forward to having him home with us.  

While we are in Russia and wait for our 10 day wait to expire, we are going to travel to St. Petersburg and visit this beautiful city for a few days.  We hear this city is the cultural and artistic center of Russia, and we hope to absorb some of Russia's beauty during this trip.

And meanwhile, this week we will be busy packing, preparing for court, and doing everything else we have to do to get ready for our 20 day trip.  Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as this promises to be quite a crazy but wonderful week!

I have attached a picture of a Matryoshka doll, also known as a Babooshka doll, which is a stacking doll with one doll inside the other.  It is a Miami Hurricane Matryoshka doll, which we found in Moscow on our first trip.  When Vernon saw this, it was a must have gift for him.  He enjoyed seeing his school on display in Russia.   Russians clearly anticipate gullible American tourists like us.  Have a nice day everyone!

Christa and Vernon