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First Road Trip

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We took Liam on his first extended road trip over Memorial Day weekend and he did great!   We left Friday after work and drove to Brady, TX to visit friends.   It’s about a 3½ hour drive and Liam stayed awake for the entire drive and never complained.   On the way there, we passed several fields with cows, sheep, & goats in them and along the way, he’d remind us of the sounds they make.

We stayed at our friend Glenda’s house and she spoiled him rotten all weekend.   He got to eat & drink all sorts of sugary items that we would never give him at home, but since it was a mini-vacation for him and gave Glenda such pleasure, we let him be spoiled.   She has a swimming pool at her house and unlike our last swimming adventure, the water there was warm and the temp outside hovered around 100° all weekend.   We started him off in a tube floaty that has a seat in the middle but he didn’t like that at all because he was too far removed from the water.   Next, we put arm floaty’s on him and he did pretty well with those but never felt confident enough to try to swim on his own.   The next day I bought him a swim vest that clipped on to his swim trunks and that worked out perfect for him!   Rob taught him how to kick & dog paddle and he let go and swam from one side of the pool to the other on his own and would get in and out of the pool by himself.   He’s definitely going to be a swimmer!

Liam & Mom swim in Brady


After mastering the pool, Liam was very interested in Sladyn’s Razor so he convinced him to take him for a ride on it around the pool:

Slaydn and Liam on Razor


On Saturday, we took Liam to Georgina (GiGi) & Joey’s farm in Calf Creek, TX to visit the cows and sheep.   Joey’s dad, "Pappy," is 88 years old and still lives on the farm.   He was thrilled to have Liam come visit the animals.   GiGi rode in the back of the farm truck and held Liam while we drove out to the pasture.   When we got out to the pasture, Joey blew the horn and cows came running in to the truck from every direction.   Joey put out feed for the cows and then took Liam and walked in the middle of all the cows so he could pet them.   Rob & I felt like really city-slickers at that moment not knowing anything about cows or farms and asking stupid questions like, "Can you milk these cows?"   We were quickly educated that cattle are either raised as dairy cows (for milking) or free range cows.   The cattle we were looking at were the latter variety — or in other words... steak.   Either way, they all say "moo" and Liam was so excited to hear them:

Joey and Liam visit the cows


After leaving the cows, we drove through the pastures hunting the sheep.   I’m sure glad Joey knows his way around those pastures because there was nothing in sight but trees and I had no sense of direction out there.   He finally spotted the sheep in one of the three pastures they hang out and took Liam up to see them.   The sheep were much more skittish than the cows so Liam was not able to pet them but he did get close to them and hear them say their "baa’s."

After that, we headed back to the farm house and thanked "Pappy" for letting us visit the animals and Liam blew kisses goodbye to him & Joey:

Pappy, Joey and Liam


On Sunday, we drove to Brownwood and ate at Underwood’s; which is the best BBQ place in the world!   Liam loved the cherry & apple cobbler and the fresh hot rolls.   After lunch, we did some shopping and then it was back to the swimming pool for the rest of the day!

We drove home yesterday and Liam stayed awake for most of the ride, but was exhausted by the time we got home.   He ate a late lunch and then went down for a long nap.   He learned a new word in Brady which pretty much sums up the whole exciting weekend... Wow!
 

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posted by Dede at 7:09 AM 10 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 21

Friday, February 8, 2008

This is it; our final day in Moscow!   Our only trip today was to the Ministry of Education to sign paperwork to finalize everything and to let them meet Liam.   Everyone was very nice and wished him a happy life.   All of our CSS friends met up at TGIF tonight for one last gathering before we all head our separate ways.   We’ll be leaving Doug & Kathy behind to hold down the fort here after they pick up their son tomorrow.   We finished up the last of our packing after Liam went to bed and we’re exhausted.   We still have hopes of making our Atlanta connection and getting home tomorrow night.   With any luck, maybe our Delta flight will arrive a little early and give us more time.

We’ll leave you with a family photo taken yesterday in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square.   This photo suggests that Liam is as ready to be Texas bound as we are!   Da svidániya, Russia!

Liam St. Basil

 

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posted by Dede at 11:50 PM 15 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 20

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Whew, what a day!   We spent most of the day in the car fighting tough weekday Moscow traffic — we even had to feed Liam lunch in the car because there was just no time to stop.   We started our day with a trip to Red Square for a few of those typical "The 'X' marks the spot" family photos in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral & the Kremlin.   (I’ll try to get those 1 or 2 of photos ready for posting here tomorrow.)

We went from there to the U.S. Embassy to get Liam’s Visa & immigration paperwork.   We met up with Chris & Teresa with their new daughter Anna, and several other couples with their new adopted children.   Liam had a ball playing with all the other kids.   We think he’s really been missing some of that social interaction and being cooped up in this confirned apartment (when we’re not on the go) isn’t helping much either.

Due to computer problems at the Embassy, the wait was kinda long and Liam’s afternoon nap was very delayed.   He fell asleep almost instantly once we were back in the car.   And we got him back to sleep fairly quickly when we got back to the apartment.   But his schedule being whacked out today seemed to really set things off on a downhill roll.   He had a great dinner and we had a little good playtime afterwards, but then he got very cranky and was inconsolable for most of the next couple of hours.

Same thing with bath time — he had a great time splashing around and playing with his tub toys, but once the water had gotten kinda chilly and it was time to get out, he turned into a crabapple all over again.   I lotioned him up, put on his jammies, & tried to rock him to stop the tears, but again, he just would not be comforted.   We ended up laying him in the crib and letting him cry it out.   He cried & chattered for over 30 minutes before his heavy little eyelids got the best of him.   The stress of the week’s events seems to be starting to catch up and his mood is getting a little rougher each day.

Fortunately, we do think we have a pretty good handle on how to deal with him in the airplane since we’ve had to learn lots of tricks in the car this week.   So we’re not nearly as intimidated by the Moscow to Atlanta flight as we had previously been.   However, the representative at the Embassy cautioned us that there’s a very good chance that the 1½ hour layover in Atlanta will not be nearly enough time to clear Customs and/or Immigration with Liam.   So we’ve put in a call to our travel agent for alternatives in the event that we do miss our connecting flight to Houston.

Anyway, we’re both exhausted, so off to bed we go!   Tomorrow promises to be a long day too!
 

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posted by Dede at 10:40 PM 11 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 19

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

There wasn’t too much on today’s agenda, paperwork wise, and Liam seemed a bit restless this morning so we started our morning with a stroll down Novy Arbat to check out the MotherCare children’s store that we hadn’t been to yet.   They had some really cute things in there but they were a bit on the pricey side.   We did end up buying a couple of cool bibs with pockets and a new sippy cup that doesn’t leak.

When we went outside from the store it had started snowing and was coming down pretty hard so we figured we better start heading back to the apartment with Liam.   We had him bundled up in his snowsuit so he was pretty warm and wasn’t really happy about going back.   He loves the outdoors!   The snowsuit is a pain to put on but I think all the kids look so cute in them with just their little faces showing.   Here’s a picture of Liam on the way over (before the snow started) waving with his mittens on (see how happy he is outside):

Liam in snowsuit on Arbat


After lunch Tonya & Alusha picked Rob up and headed for the U.S. Embassy to file Liam’s Visa application paperwork and schedule an interview appointment for all of us tomorrow.   We’re also hoping that there’ll be nicer weather tomorrow so we can do a family photo at Red Square.

We got out the first suitcase tonight to start packing a few things.   It feels good to finally be preparing to go home.   We still have a couple of days left in Moscow but since we have little free time these days, we figured we’d better go ahead and get started with the packing.

I’ll leave you with a picture of Liam in today’s outfit.   He could barely be bothered to stop playing long enough to pose.   ;-)

Liam in brown cords

 

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posted by Dede at 1:19 PM 8 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 18

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

We started our day with a trip back to the police station that we went to last Friday when the power was out.   We were there so they could compare Liam in person to his passport photo (apparently there has been some fraud in the past with people showing the photo of one child and then taking another child out of the country).   While we were there we ran into Teresa, Chris & Anna.   I think Liam & Anna enjoyed briefly seeing each other again (they’re from the same baby home and of the same age group).   We still want to get them together for a playdate and see how they act around each other.   After the police station, we had our usual stop by the CSS office to drop off & pick up paperwork.

After we got back to the apartment we went to visit Kathy & Amanda one last time before they head home tomorrow.

Kathy & Amanda in Moscow, Russia


We met up with Randy & Susan and Doug & Kathy for dinner at T.G.I. Friday’s and while there we ran into Carlos & Sally and they joined us too.   Teresa & her sister were also there picking up take-out.   It was nice to visit with all the CSS families and see pictures & videos of their children.   Liam was being his charming self during the meal and I think Randy & Carlos enjoyed interacting with him since their sons have not yet warmed up to men.

After dinner, it was nice to have some help getting Liam geared up to go.   We have to get his snow suit on him (which is no easy task), carry him down all the stairs all while carrying the stroller & bags.   Moscow is not a stroller friendly place!   But at least the ice was melted on most of the sidewalks which makes walking much easier.

Carlos & Sally in Moscow, Russia


Once we got back to the apartment, Liam was eager for his bath and had a great time splashing around.   Unfortunately, there were some tears when he had to get out of the tub and get ready for bed.   There was a little fussing when we put him in the playpen/crib but he was fast asleep in no time.

Tomorrow we have a free morning before we will be picked up.   Doug & Kathy loaned us a Sesame Street DVD that’s in Russian that we’re going to check out.   If it looks good, we’re going to shop for one for Liam along with some children’s music CDs in Russian.   He loves music and I think it’d be comforting for him to hear some of the same songs they obviously sang at the baby home.
 

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posted by Dede at 11:30 PM 3 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 17

Monday, February 4, 2008

Our day started with a trip to see Dr. Boris so he could examine Liam and give him clearance for the U.S. Embassy.   Dr. Boris is a Russian pediatric doctor that also speaks English.   He was wonderful with Liam and comforted him throughout the exam.   Liam did great and never cried once during the exam.   Dr. Boris said that the only problem he saw was that we’re going to have to fight off the women when Liam gets older because he’s quite the charmer.   ;-)

After we left the medical clinic we stopped by the CSS office for Tonya to drop off some paperwork.   While we were waiting in the car for her, Pasha who was our driver/guide from Trip 1 showed up with Susan & Randy.   We visited with Pasha for a few minutes and invited him to our apartment to give him the gifts we had brought him.   After that, Liam & I were dropped off at the apartment while Rob went on with Tonya to the notary office to sign paperwork to have Liam removed from the database of available children.

We stayed in the rest of the afternoon while Tonya went back out without us to the Moscow Regional Court in Krasnogarsk to file paperwork to cancel out the Power of Attourney that we had done just a few days ago.   It was pretty much an afternoon of just hanging out, playing, & a little napping.   After dinner Pasha stopped by our apartment and Liam seemed to remember his old buddy.   We visited with him for about 30 minutes and then he was on his way — he’d already had a long day with Susan & Randy.

Pasha & Liam


As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we’d decided to use baby sign language to help us communicate with Liam.   The book we have recommend that we start with the word "more" and to only teach that one word until the child masters it.   We figured it’d take a couple of weeks for Liam to get that mastered but he already has it down pretty good.   Even without the sign language, he does a really good job of letting us know he wants more!   ;-)   Here’s a video from lunchtime yesterday demonstrating his new skills:



 

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posted by Dede at 10:32 PM 18 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 16

Sunday, February 3, 2008

It was another great day of bonding with Liam.   He truly is a little sponge, picking up so many subtle things as each day goes by and testing his boundaries with us.   We had a great morning playing and his giraffe finger-puppet is currently one of his favorite toys (along with a shoe box).

Liam with finger puppet


After nap time, Ron & Dinia came by for a visit and brought us some gumbo & spice cake (yummy)!   Liam seemed really happy to have visitors and was quite entertaining for them.   Here he is showing them his giraffe finger-puppet:

Ron and Dinia meet Liam


We received a call from Susan & Randy who had arrived in Moscow for their first trip just this afternoon.   They invited us to TGIF for dinner and we were a little hesitant about how Liam would react to going out since yesterday’s outing was a little rough.   We decided to meet them a little late and have coffee with them at the end of their meal.   Not only did Liam not fuss during the stroller ride there, but he was "Mr. Charmer" after we got there, working the ladies with his big smiles.   Cheerios & his Ikea froggy sippy cup kept him happy while we had a nice visit with them.   He also showed off a new skill, signing "more" with his little hands a couple of times.   (We were inspired to teach Liam some rudimentary sign language after watching Melissa & her son Iliya’s videos on their blog.   I’ll post a video of this soon.)

We’re really anxious to hear about Susan & Randy’s first meeting with their referral tomorrow!

Susan and Randy at TGIF in Moscow, Russia


After we got back from TGIF, Liam surprised us again at bath time!   He decided tonight that taking baths was okay and he sat & played in the water for awhile.   It was off to bed after the bath and this time, there were only a few tears before he was fast asleep.

I hope this is a sign that he’s getting more comfortable with us and his new surroundings.   It’s been a GREAT day!
 

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posted by Dede at 11:28 PM 12 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 15

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Today was our first full day as parents — and whew, we’re exhausted!

Bedtime last night was pretty rough.   As soon as we placed Liam in the crib, he did some of that "I’m terrified!" crying that just broke our hearts.   He made fast friends with the fluffy rat backpack that "Aunt" Dinia gave us on Wednesday, hugging that little fellow while he cried himself to sleep and thru the rest of the night too.

But despite the tough time getting to sleep, he awoke and began the day with big smiles & lots of happy chatter.   We played for a little while dad fixed a round of oatmeal for all.   We followed that up with a warm shallow bath that didn’t really go over too well.   Liam seemed a little scared of the water and stood for most of it.

Dede & Liam on Old Arbat Street in Moscow, RussiaYesterday, while we were in the car, we very briefly caught the faint sound of Liam singing some kind of little song.   He chattered for just a few seconds then seemed to get very sad and we thought he might be remembering singing songs at the baby home.   Well, today we were in for a real treat — we got several concerts!   They all sound about the same, and consist of lilting little verses of "Lar, lar, lar..." but they’re just about the sweetest thing you’ve ever heard.   Tanya remarked how dramtic he seems sometimes and this just makes it all the more likely that we may have quite a little performer on our hands.

The weather was pretty decent — no snow or rain today at all — so we decided to go off on a short family outing to Old Arbat Street to grab a couple more items to add to our souvenir/gift pile.   Liam was bundled up well enough to be comfortable, but just venturing outside his new known world (our apartment) seemed to be pretty frightening and we got a few tears.   But after a bit though, he settled down and became kinda chatty with some of the older Russian ladies in the shops.   He charmed his way right into a new toy — at a bargain price, of course.

We got back in and had our first lunch — and man, it was some seriously "good eats" (that was for you, Soph!) as you can tell:

Liam’s first lunch


Naptime brought more "terrified" tears and again we ended up having to just let him cry it out.   All the while, clinging to his dapper little rat pal...   who Rob has decided needs to be named "Simon," although I have no idea why.

We had bumped into Kathy and her daughter Amanda when we left out this afternoon so we invited them up for an after-dinner visit.   Amanda seemed to have a great time playing with some of the toys we have and Liam showed us yet another new talent — he did a couple of unassisted summersaults!   the first one caught us completely off-guard and scared us.   But he was unfazed and really proud of his accomplishment.   While Kathy was available, we got her to take a quick picture — our first official family photo:

Family photo

 

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posted by Dede at 11:05 PM 12 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 14, Part 2

Friday, February 1, 2008

Well, all 3 of us survived the day!   We were picked up at 8:15 a.m. this morning and of course there was some paperwork that had to be taken care of before we could go pick up Liam.   It was after 12:00 by the time we got to the baby home.   They took the clothes we brought for him, woke him up from his nap, and changed him while we visited with his doctor one last time to go over his schedule and anything new on his medical record.   We were then taken to the bottom of the stairs and his caregiver walked him down to us.   As you can see below, he looked adorable in his new outfit and seemed really happy to see us.

Liam on Gotcha Day


We gave him several hugs & kisses and then our guide rushed us to get his snowsuit on him so we could leave.   He did well until his care-giver kind of broke down and started telling him goodbye.   I think he could sense that something was wrong and he started crying.   After we got him to the car, the crying continued for about 30 minutes until we were finally able to calm him down with some Cheerios & a sippy cup of water.   (Rob has decided that Cheerios are right up there with Mac & Cheese for their almost magical universal ability to please kids.)   He’d be okay for a while and then start back crying.   We had a couple of stops before we went back to the apartment and everytime we took him out of the car and back in he would get very upset.   I was happy that he didn’t get carsick though.   We were told to bring a towel and bag just in case.   Here he is in his snowsuit on one of the stops:

Liam in snowsuit


We thought he would fall asleep sometime in the car since he missed his nap but he never did.   At one point it sounded like he was singing a little song to himself and then he just stopped singing and started to cry.   Maybe he was remembering one of the ladies from the orphanage or maybe he was expecting us to join in, who knows...

We finally got back to the apartment around 4:30.   Liam calmed right down as soon as we got into the apartment and started playing with him.   He learned two new words tonight:   "light" and "up."   He got really excited over dinner.   Here’s a picture from dinner after he was all done.

Liam dinner


After dinner we played for a while and about 7:30 he started rubbing his eyes so we put him in his crib.   He cried and rolled around for a bit and then went sound asleep.   Needless to say it has been a long day for all of us but overall I think it went well.
 

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posted by Dede at 9:28 PM 29 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 14, Part 1

Today is what everyone on the adoption forums & blogs refers to as "Gotcha Day!"   And I can’t recall a day that I’ve begun with so much anticipation but also so much anxiety.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re eager to begin our new life with Liam.   We’re so excited about everything well be able to give him — we’ve had more than 2 years to dream about all of the firsts that he will experience with us:   first birthday cake;   first trip to the park;   first day at the beach.   I’m sure these are the kinds of dreams that all parents-to-be have.   And we’ve done everything we can think of to prepare ourselves & our home for his arrival.

But at the same time, we laid awake last night worrying about how we’re plucking our poor little guy out of the only stable, caring environment he’s had for more than half of his short little life.   Everything that’s comfortable, familiar, & safe for him will be snatched away in the course of just a few minutes today.   Thinking about how disorienting living in Moscow for a couple of weeks has been for us, we can only begin to grasp how terribly disorienting the coming weeks will be for Liam:   Strange new people;   unknown new surroundings;   words that make no sense;   odd new foods.

Without a doubt, Liam was meant to be with us and this is a wonderful beginning to a better life for all of us, but at the same time, we’re really wracked with guilt about the stress & confusion that we’re about to put him thru on the way to that new, better life.

Anyway, here we go!   Look for "Gotcha Day" photos in a few short hours...

 

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posted by Dede at 7:45 AM 19 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 13

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Today we went back to the Moscow Regional Court to finish up some final paperwork in preparation for picking Liam up in the morning.   After that we went to the supermarket to buy a cake for the baby home.   We’re told that it is traditional to give some sort of sweets when you take your child out of the baby home.   The staff there eats the treats and offers toasts to the child’s "sweet" new life.   We were hoping that we would be a part of this party but apparently it takes place after we leave.

After we were dropped off at our apartment, Tanya came up to help us fill out some of the forms for the Visa and Immigration applications that will soon be needed.

We met up with Mark & Sinziana at T.G.I. Friday’s tonight for dinner.   We got to hear all about their new little one Diego that is from the same baby home as Liam.   It is so much fun to visit with the other families and hear about their referrals.

That’s about it for the day. Right now, we are packing up some last minute items for our big day tomorrow.   We’ll be picked up early in the morning and, depending on how well Liam does in the car, it’ll most likely be a long day of getting some more of the paperwork out of the way.   I can’t wait for our little guy to be with us forever!
 

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posted by Dede at 11:05 PM 7 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 12

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thanks to our new friend Dinia, we were able to cross another "To Do" off of our list today.   As you may remember last week we rode out to the end of the green line of the Metro but were never able to find the bus that was supposed to take us from there to the Mega Mall.   Well today, Dinia & her excellent driver ’Dimer took us out there and we got to shop at our most favoritest store in the world...   Ikea!   I know, I know, it may seem strange to come all the way to Moscow and then want to shop at an Ikea, but hey, it’s a thing we do.   We always go to Ikea stores anytime we’re near one and this was our first foreign Ikea.

Moscow Ikea


We bought a few wooden toys for Liam from there and one of those bead mazes that you always see in doctors’ offices to leave at the baby home.

We walked around the Mega Mall for a bit and went to a grocery market located inside Stockman’s department store.   The store is similar to a Dillard’s or Macy’s, so we thought it was kinda strange that there were groceries there too.   They had a lot of American-brand foods in there and we bought some salsa & tortilla chips!   My Tex-Mex cravings are getting the best of me and I’m hoping that the spicy salsa might also help Rob fight off his cold.

We ate lunch in the food court at the Mega Mall.   Can you guess the name of this chain restaurant?

Pizza Hut in the Moscow, Russia Mega Mall


After the Mega Mall we stopped off at a Metro Cash & Carry store that is similar to a Sam’s or Costco.   We found another little toy there for Liam.

On the way back to our apartment, Dinia invited us up to see her very nice apartment off of Tverskoi Blvd.   She also gave us a fluffy little Rat backpack (2008 is the Chinese Year of the Rat) for Liam that is so cute!   We just can’t get over her incredible kindness towards us.   She’s also extended her hospitality to any other adoptive families staying in Moscow.   She goes to the Ismailovo market (that we went to last Saturday) most weekends and has offered to take any of the families interested.   I have her contact info if anyone is interested and I’ll pass it on to the CSS office as well.

A few of you have asked if we’ve visited Liam during the 10-day wait.   Unfortunately no, we haven’t seen him since the day before we went to court.   The decision was ours though, we were told that we could visit him some but we decided to not do so for a couple of reasons.   Of course, there’s the expense of the driver & translator for each day we visit — and at the most we’d only get to spend an hour or so with him — but the main reason is that we were told how much it upsets their routine and confuses the child when you leave after the visits.   We figured our little guy has been through enough already and since the visits would be more for our sake than his, we decided to just tough it out & wait.   It was a tough call, but it seemed like the right thing to do.   The 10-day count starts the day after court and every day except Sunday counts, so ours will be up and we’ll get to pick Liam up this Friday.   I can’t believe we’re only 2 days from having him forever!   Also, we will be allowed to post pictures of him after that too, so get ready!!!   :-)
 

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posted by Dede at 7:17 PM 15 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 11

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Today was a day for catching up on our rest.   Rob felt like he was trying to catch a chest cold last night so aside from a quick trip to the grocery market for water, we stayed in the apartment all day, napped, and caught up on email & blog posts.

We were thrilled to hear news of Mark & Sinziana, who met their son, Diego Ivan Urban, and Nick & Beth, who met their new son, Jaxon Artyom Esposito, yesterday.   The accounts of their first meeting of their "referrals" really brought back lots of memories & emotions from our first visit with Liam just a few short weeks ago.

Today’s downtime also gave me time to try my hand at splicing together some videos and uploading them to Google Video.   Here’s a video of the changing of the guards at the Kremlin that we were on-hand for last Tuesday:




In a comment left on an earlier blog post, Christen had asked about the souvenirs we’ve bought while here.   This seemed like a good opportunity to show you those too:

Russian souvenirs


To wrap up this mish-mash of random thoughts for the day, Rob wanted me to mention that, from what he can tell, Russia doesn’t know that artificial sweetners exist.   We haven’t seen any of the yellow, blue, or pink stuff even at the American chains like Hard Rock Cafe, Starbucks, or McDonald’s.   So, if you’ve just gotta have some Splenda or such in your coffee or tea, be sure to pack a box in your suitcase!
 

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posted by Dede at 9:15 PM 6 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 10

Monday, January 28, 2008

We decided to venture out on the Metro again today.   This time our destination was Detskiy Mir which we had heard was the largest children’s store in Moscow with lots of toys and clothes.   Our trip over went very smoothly.   We did one exchange on the Metro and then it was only two stops away.   Below is a view of the front of the store from the Lubyanska Metro entrance:

Detskiy Mir


We were quite disappointed with Detskiy Mir — although it had 4 floors, only part of the 1st floor was toys.   The toy section did have an elaborate 2-story carousel that was cool to see but we didn’t find any toys that were age-appropriate for Liam.   They did however have an impressive selection of children’s shoes and some cute clothes on the other floors.   Overall it really wasn’t worth the trip.

There was also supposed to be a Tex-Mex restaurant nearby that I was really looking forward to but we never found it.   We roamed around in the cold for a while searching for it and stood on the corner where it was supposed to be but never saw it so we gave up in disgust and headed back to the Metro.

Our return trip on the Metro did not go nearly as smoothly as the first one had.   Somehow we keep missing the exchange line from the red to the blue line.   We’ve figured out that part of the problem is that there are 2 blue lines (light blue & dark blue) and it’s not possible to get directly on the dark one from the red one even though the Metro map makes it look like you can.   We missed our Arbatskaya stop by 1 but somehow walked there through the maze of subway tunnels and came out at the right place anyway.

After we got back to the apartment and thawed out a bit, we received a call from Doug & Kathy and met up with them for dinner.   They had court today and will also be staying during the 10-day wait period.   We swapped stories & photos over Chinese food and before we knew it, 4 hours had gone by.   They told us about a toy store that is across the street in the basement of the market we have been shopping at that we have never seen.   We’ll be checking that one out tomorrow.   It was great to visit with some fellow Texans (who’re also CSS PAPs).

Doug & Kathy

 

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posted by Dede at 11:56 PM 8 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 9

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Today was a lazy day — we slept in very late and I didn’t leave the apartment until around 2 p.m.   Rob did take advantage of the downright balmy weather to go to the market this morning for water, Pepsi Light, & juice — gotta stay hydrated, y’know.

Here’s a shot of the apartments down our stretch of New Arbat Street bathed in the rare sunlight.   Our "Cathedral" apartment building is on the rightmost side of the photo.   Notice all that abundance of blue in the sky?   That doesn’t happen too often.   You could only just barely see your breath...   Where are my shorts & flip-flops when I need ’em the most?

New Arbat Street apartments in Moscow


Rob’s name in CyrillicAfter a little bite of lunch we decided to go back to Arbatskaya Lavitsa on Old Arbat Street, which everyone says is the place to get nicer, higher quality souvenirs.   We bought a set of Christmas tree ornaments that we hadn’t seen anywhere else, a couple of old-fashioned wooden toys for Liam, a couple of beautiful musicboxes, and a handful of other crafty gift items.

We also stopped by trusty ol’ Starbucks for a coffee to rest our feet & warm our hands.   Of course, there are plenty of other cafés along Old Arbat St., but we’re kinda creatures of habit...

While we were hanging out at Starbucks, Sinziana & Mark, a couple of fellow CSS PAPs recognized us and joined us for a nice, long chat.   They’ll be meeting their referral tomorrow — we can hardly wait to hear back from them tomorrow evening to find out how the first visit with their child goes!

Sinziana and Mark

 

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posted by Dede at 10:15 PM 3 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 8

Saturday, January 26, 2008

We met a very nice transplanted Alabamian (is that a word?) Dinia W. on the Delta flight over from Atlanta to Moscow.   Dinia & her husband Ron have lived in Russia for about 5 years now — in Moscow for 2 of those.   She’s been following our progress over the past few days and sent us email a couple of days back asking if we’d like to go with them to the market this weekend.

The Vernisage Ismailovo is a large, outdoor shopping market, loaded with the kinds of Russian souvenirs, crafts & goods that you’d find on Old Arbat (and much, more!) but at awesome prices.   You can easily spend a couple of hours browsing around among the vendor stalls.

Dinia, Ron & their driver, Vladimer (front):

Dinia, Ron, & their driver, Vladimer


Rows of vendor stalls at the Vernisage Ismailovo:

Ron & Dinia at Vernisage Ismailovo in Moscow, Russia


Vernisage Ismailovo market stalls in Moscow, Russia


Ron & Dinia also treated us to some very tasty chicken shashlik (kebabs) with flatbread.   Afterwards, the chefs insisted that Ron & Rob pose with them over the smokey barbeque pit:

Shaslik grill photo from Vernisage Ismailovo


We really enjoyed our day out with our new friends and got lots of souvenirs to take back home. Thanks Ron & Dinia for a great afternoon!
 

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posted by Dede at 11:20 PM 6 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Days 6 & 7

Friday, January 25, 2008

We suffered from technical difficulties yesterday (Thursday) when our phone & Internet services were down all day so there was no blogging.   Instead, we took advantage of the rare blue skies and a little bit of sunshine (but it was still plenty cold) and went exploring again on Old Arbat St. & Novinskiy Blvd.   Here’s a photo of what the cobblestones on Old Arbat Street look like when they’re not covered in snow & ice.

Old Arbat Street


We went to the end of Old Arbat (the McDonald’s end) and then up Novinskiy Blvd and back down New Arbat to get to our apartment.   I think we’ll skip Novinskiy Blvd next time and go back down Old Arbat since it is a pedestrian only road, is much easier to navigate, and is maybe a little shorter route back to our apartment.

Today (Friday), we got bold and ventured out to the Moscow Metro on our own.   Our plan was to start at the blue Arbatskaya stop and go to the end of the green line in order to get to the Mega Mall where Ikea is an anchor store.   The interchanging from one subway line to another was a little tricky and we overshot our stops once or twice but we managed to figure it out and get to the end of the green line.

There was supposed to be a Mega Mall bus at the end of the green line Metro stop that comes every 10 minutes to take you there.   We waited and searched for the bus for over an hour and never found it.   Several people tried to point us to the city buses but the subway was enough public transportation for us for one day.   There was snow & ice coming down hard all afternoon and our toes were so frozen that we couldn’t feel them so we decided to call it quits and head home.

The photo below is a glimpse inside one of the many Metro tunnels we explored today.   Because of the architecture & elaborate carvings, they’re almost like museums inside — really a sight to see if you have the time.

Moscow Metro tunnel


Here’s Rob on the Metro thawing out after our adventure:

Rob riding the Moscow Metro

 

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posted by Dede at 9:09 PM 6 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 5

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Not much exciting to report today...   We were on our own and spent most of the day at the apartment except for getting out to stock up on a few groceries.   We did discover more stores across from our apartment.   There are stores hidden behind the strip mall front stores and we found a whole mini-mall back behind there.

Grocery shopping is always a fun experience.   Some things are not packaged like you expect them to be or on the aisle you expect so it makes it a little confusing.   For example, some milk and yogurt are on a shelf, not refrigerated and toothpicks are on the aisle with toothpaste (this actually makes sense in a strange way).   A tip for shopping is to prepare your grocery list ahead of time.   I write the list in 3 columns:   English, Russian & phonetic pronunciation so I can either say or show the list to someone in the store if I can’t find it on my own.   This comes in very handy when trying to find lunch meat for sandwiches...   it’ll save you from having sliced duck instead of chicken on your sandwich!   Also, don’t stress too much over bringing shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste or other hygeine products — if you run out, they seem pretty easy to find in the grocery stores in brands that you’ll recognize.   It’s nice to have brands familiar to you but you should also be open to trying a few Russian brands too;   after all, how often are you going to be on the other side of the world?   Tanya turned us on to a little tasty treat called Copok (pronounced so-rock) which is kind of like ricotta cheese covered with chocolate but that doesn’t sound as good as this tastes.   You will find it in the stores near the yogurt.   I’d like to bring this stuff home by the caseloads!!!

That’s about it for today so I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures that were taken on Monday after court.   The first photo is of Svetlana (head of the Moscow CSS office) and Tanya (our guide/translator).   The second photo is of Alusha (our driver).

Svetlana and Tanya


Alusha

 

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posted by Dede at 10:22 PM 7 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Days 3 & 4

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

After our successful court experience, we went to the CSS office to meet with Irena for our visa registration and our power of attorney paperwork.   After a bit, Teresa & Chris arrived, fresh from their courthouse victory and we all drove to a nearby building to get those forms notarized.   Alusha & Tanya dropped us off at our apartment, done with official stuff for the day.

We cleaned up, changed clothes, and set back out to meet Teresa, Chris, & their driver, Anton, at Hard Rock Cafe over on Old Arbat Street.   We had a great time visiting with them — we didn’t head out for the hike back to the Cathedral apartment until well after 10 p.m.   It was a great but long & emotion-filled day!

The Phillips & their Russian driver


Today, Jan. 22nd, began our "10 day wait."   Several people have asked us about this.   As we understand it, this is technically a "10 day appeal period" that’s a provision in Russian law so once a Judge renders a verdict in a civil court case, either party has adequate time to file an appeal, if needed.   So, it’s not specific to adoption.   We’re told that Russian judges do have the ability to waive this appeal period, but it’s almost never done in Moscow & the Moscow region.

Alusha & Tanya picked us up at 10 a.m. to do some sightseeing.   The Russian weather wasn't cooperating much since it was snowing hard all morning but in spite of the cold, we were struck by how pretty the city can be — with the fresh blanket of snow, it looks like a live version of those old Currier & Ives Christmas paintings!   The Kremlin & Red Square area was especially beautiful!

Rob and Dede in Red Square in Moscow, Russia


Next, they took us to the incredible Cathedral of Christ the Savior.   The interior of this massive church was just amazing — but it’s a working church, so no photos are allowed.   We also drove out to tour around a bit of the Moscow State University campus and got some awesome panoramic photos from that hilly vantage point.   That was a pretty full day — we’ll see what tomorrow brings!
 

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posted by Dede at 11:00 PM 8 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 3

Monday, January 21, 2008

I’ve been called many names;   some bad, some good, some funny, but today I got a new name and it’s one of the best ever...   Momma!   As of 11:58 a.m., we became Liam’s official parents!   Here are the new, proud parents in front of the court room:

Rob & Dede in the Moscow Regional Courthouse


We were a little worried this morning because we thought we were going to be late for court.   Tanya kept calling us saying that Alusha was running late due to traffic.   We were supposed to be picked up at 9:30 but he was about 45 minutes late.   We picked up Tanya on the way to the court house and arrived there without a minute to spare.   Fortunately, the judge wasn’t in the court room yet and the Prosecutor was running even later than us — in fact, she nearly missed out on the whole proceeding!

Once the judge arrived, the proceedings only lasted about 35 minutes.   The hearing went smoothly and we were only asked a few questions each.   None of the questions were difficult or a surprise because Tanya had already done an excellent job of preparing us for the kinds of questions that might be asked.

We spent the afternoon at the CSS and the notary offices finishing up more paperwork.   We met up with Teresa & Chris whose court case was at Noon — they became new, proud parents today too!   We’ll be celebrating with them tonight at the Hard Rock Cafe before they head home tomorrow.

We’ll be entertaining ourselves doing touristy things and meeting up with other PAPs over the next 10 days as we wait to pick up Liam.
 

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posted by Dede at 5:42 PM 28 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 2

Sunday, January 20, 2008

We began our day with Tanya & Alusha picking us up for the ride out to Podolsk at 10 a.m.   We were pleasantly surprised that the trip took only about half as long as expected due to the much milder weekend traffic — even with steady snow & messy road conditions, we made it out to the orphanage in just an hour.

We’ve been a little anxious about whether Liam would remember us but he came right to me and gave me a big, long hug!   Yup, he’s still my little boy!   Rob couldn’t really see it, but I think Liam has grown a little since we last saw him in early December.

Apparently, he had been just set down for lunch so being pulled away to come visit us brought on some tears.   But he perked right up and played with us for nearly an hour.   One of the ladies took him off to have a quick bite and we spent a few minutes with Tanya reviewing the upcoming court proceedings and fine-tuning the way we answer the judge & prosecutor’s questions.   They brought Liam back and we played with him for another 30-40 minutes until it was time for his afternoon nap.   It was the best & longest visit we’ve had with him so far, which sure makes going to court tomorrow all the more worthwhile.

On the way back into Moscow, Tanya all but insisted that we stop for a pizza, so we wouldn’t have to get back out in the heavy-falling snow again.   Per her recommendation, we got a "generous" supreme pizza and took it back to the apartment for lunch.   We ate & rested up and around 4 p.m., the snow stopped so we decided to venture out for a few minutes.   Rob thought he had an idea of how to make it over to Old Arbat street where a bunch of touristy shops are at.   And sure enough, we discovered that we were not far at all — even better still, we found Starbucks and Hard Rock Cafe!   We made quite an evening of it, only finally dragging back in around 9 o’clock.

Moscow pizza   Starbucks on Old Arbat in Moscow


Tomorrow is the big day — we leave early in the morning to go out to the regional courthouse.   Provided that all goes as expected, Liam will really be ours by about noon.
 

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posted by Dede at 10:20 PM 13 comments

Moscow - Trip 2 - Day 1

Saturday, January 19, 2008

We’ve arrived safely!   There were a few minor mishaps along the way but in the end we’re here — and all of our bags & boxes made it!

Our day started yesterday morning at 5:30 a.m. as we left the house and the problems began as soon as we checked in at the Continental ticket counter.   First there were issues about us not having paper tickets then she saw that we were connecting with Delta and said that our flights had not been merged and everything would have to treated as separate reservations.   We were clueless as to what that meant. She said that we would have to talk to a Delta representative once we got to Houston about the rest of our flight.   Our main concern at this point was our bags and the odd thing was that she told us they would be checked all the way through Moscow even though she didn’t have any record of us being booked on Delta.   Needless to say we didn’t have a warm, fuzzy feeling about our bags making it all the way.

Rob immediately left a message for our travel agent so she could check on things while we were still en route to Houston.   She called us while we were still on the tarmac after landing in Houston and said she had spoken to Delta and confirmed that everything with our reservation was fine.   When we checked in at the Delta gate they issued us our boarding passes to Atlanta and to Moscow.   We quickly discovered that our seating assignments were not what we had booked.   After talking with Delta, we found out that because they checked us in as Continental passengers on the first leg instead of a Delta partner passengers it released our reservations the rest of the way and we lost our seats.   Fortunately there were still seats available on both flights but we were stuck with some pretty crummy seats. Once we arrived in Atlanta, we were told that the Moscow flight was completely full.   Imagine our surprise when another couple showed up with the same seat numbers on their tickets — fortunately our backsides were already in the seats!   A flight attendant ushered the couple off to resolve the issue and we never did find out what happened to them...

Rob had his usual identity issues going through Customs again. He’s just got to get a new picture on his passport!   While waiting in baggage claim, I was approached by someone who recognized us from the blog (Hi Rebecca) — it was great fun meeting them.   Our translator Tatiana and our driver Alexis (I think that’s his name) were waiting for us outside baggage claim and took us to exchange money, get a few groceries and get us checked into our Cathedral apartment that we arranged through Peace Travel.   So here we are, a few hours later after a much-needed short nap & hot shower.

We’ll be heading out at 10:00 in the morning to visit Liam.   We can’t wait to see if our little guy still remembers us!
 

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posted by Dede at 7:48 PM 9 comments

Ready, Set, Go!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

We’re about 12 hours from heading to the airport for Trip #2 to Moscow and boy is this different than the first time. We’ve been boxing and packing for over a week now so the only thing left is the last minute toiletries. You learn a lot about packing on that first trip!

Since we’ve been there once, there is much less anxiety and stress over the travel and being in Moscow. All our stress this time is focused on court and getting Liam home. Our agency informed us today that our court time will be at 11:00 am Monday. I’m glad we are getting it over with earlier in the day.

Thank you for all your comments and support! For all the other PAP’s that will also be in Moscow during our stay, we look forward to meeting up with you.

Our next post will be from Moscow!
 

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posted by Dede at 5:19 PM 13 comments

Travel Questions

Monday, January 7, 2008

A few of you have asked me for some travel advice so I thought I’d post some of our experiences here in the hopes that they might help some of you out.

Our adoption agency doesn’t handle any of the travel arrangements or hotel bookings.   If you are in this same situation, you might want to research a few travel agencies to make things easier for yourself.   While there’s all kinds of great travel agency advice on FRUA, we went with International Adoption Travel agency for booking our trips and they were also able to take care of our Visas.   We liked the fact that they’re a Texas-based agency (I know, I’m biased).   ;-)

My only complaint was that they used DHL for our Visas which put us through that whole last minute fiasco of getting our passports back in time.   However, I will say that they handled the problem well, staying in contact with DHL and us until everything was worked out.   DHL is no longer an option for us since our ordeal with them and then the even more recent heartbreaking events of Susan & Randy only confirmed that.   I told them this time that they’d only be doing our Visas if they switched to FedEx and they agreed to let us use our account and ship everything that way.   Have I mentioned that FedEx rules?

If your agency is not taking care of your Visa for you, I’d suggest filling out the Visa application form ahead of time.   You can get the form at the Russian Consulate NY site.   Your agency should be able to help you with any of the questions on the form that you aren’t sure how to answer.   Also, note the different fees for processing time.   We went with the "3-5 day" processing last time and that cut it way too close for comfort.   This time we’re going with the "next business day" processing.   You’ll also need to send 2 passport photos along with your passports with the Visa application.   Each trip you’ll need to repeat this process so you might as well get 2 sets of your 2 passport photos to cover both trips.

We used Peace Travel to rent our apartment in Moscow for both trips.   I can’t say enough good about this company.   They understand the value of great customer service and strive to provide it.   They can also handle your Visa registration once you’re in Russia.   They sent a courier to our apartment to pick up and deliver our registration documents.   This process was very confusing to us and we had problems getting a straight answer on how to handle this before we left but Peace Travel took care of everything for a minimal fee.

I guess my last travel advice is to figure out how much cash you will need to take over and talk to your bank about getting clean, crisp bills for you.   Depending on your bank, it may take 1-2 weeks for them to gather enough new-looking bills for you, so don’t wait until the last minute.

If there’s anything in particular that you have questions about that I didn’t cover here, be sure to let me know and I’ll be happy to to try to answer your questions.
 

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posted by Dede at 10:13 PM 7 comments

Moscow - Trip 1 - Day 6

Friday, December 7, 2007

Moscow T.G.I. FridaysWe ventured out to our little market kind of late last night to pick up some water & cough drops (I think we’ve managed to catch Liam’s cold).   On the way back, we stopped off at the T.G.I. Friday’s just down a block or so from our apartment building.   Luckily, they had English menus and the waitress spoke just enough English to get by, which made things much easier.   Once seated inside, we could almost forgot we’re in Russia — it seems like potato skins are potato skins, no matter where you are in the world!   Yummy!

Pashe picked us up at 9:30 a.m. this morning to drive back out to the baby home but for some reason the traffic was extra horrible today.   It took us almost 2 hours to get there.   The picture below is the road sign (The Russian version of the word "Podolsk" is on the bottom) where Pashe turns off the highway each trip.   This is always our visual clue that Liam is nearby!

Podolsk road sign

It was almost 11:30 a.m. when we arrived at the baby home and we were worried that we were only going to get to see Liam for 15 or 20 minutes but I think Pashe explained the traffic to them and reasoned with the caregivers that it was our last day here so they let us visit with him until 12:30 p.m.

We weren’t required to wear face masks today but they warned us that Liam was in a cranky mood.   We heard him fussing as they brought him upstairs but he settled down once he was with us.   His chest congestion seemed better, like it’s beginning to move up out of his lungs.   He seemed a little tired and worn down but wasn’t fussy at all while he sat with us looking at books & eating his animal crackers.   We were even able to get a few good family photos for our court pictures.   When our time was up, one of the caregivers swiftly carried him off to lunch and that was that.   We never had a chance for a long goodbye — it was sort of like ripping off a Band-Aid quickly.   Even so, it was much harder than either of us had imagined it would be to see him go, knowing that it’ll be several weeks before we can see him again.

We left a couple of cute blankets & his soft photo album behind hoping he might remember some of our visits, although we were warned that we might not get them back.

After we left the baby home, we had to pick up Liam’s social worker to prepare his court papers.   She rode in the back seat with me while Pashe explained to her that we were so sad because we were going home tomorrow.   She told me that she would get his papers filed quickly so we wouldn’t be apart for too long.

We arrived back in Moscow city around 3:00 p.m. and stopped off at the CSS office to say our goodbyes there.   Svetlana was not at the office, she was in a court hearing but Irena (shown below) said they would get the court documents ready and hopefully we’ll have a court date by the end of January.

CSS Moscow Irena

Once again there was no time for shopping or touristy stuff this evening.   Although we’ve been here a week, this has been a whirlwind trip with so much packed into nearly each day and given how long it takes just to get from one place to another through the Moscow traffic.   So, I guess the souvenir shopping will just have to wait until the next trip.   We’ll be busy tonight packing and Pashe will pick us up first thing in the morning to head to the airport.   So, this will probably be it for the blogging until we get back home.
 

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posted by Dede at 6:59 PM 5 comments

Moscow - Trip 1 - Day 5

Thursday, December 6, 2007

There was a change in our schedule today and unfortunately we did not get to visit Liam.   :-(

Our day started at the Moscow Regional Courthouse (shown below) to file our intent to adopt paperwork.   We also saw our judge to be pass through the hallway.   We’re told that she is a very fair judge and her court cases usually last about an hour so that was good news.

Moscow Regional Courthouse


When we entered the Courthouse, we stood in line at a window booth and showed our passports while Pashe explained our business there.   We then received a barcoded plastic card that we used to pass through the turnstiles.   From there, we went into another room where we gave them our coats and they gave us a number.   You have to remember, we don’t really have winter in Texas so there are no coat check rooms in Texas but I thought it was a great idea for a place like this.   I’m easily amused!   After ditching the coats we went upstairs and waited in the hallway outside the judge’s office until one of her secretary’s showed up to take our paperwork.   This had to be done today because we were told that she only accepts adoption case paperwork on Thursday’s.   The secretary had us sign a few forms and sent us on our way.   After we unchecked our coats we were out the door back on to the icy parking lot.   By the way, learning to walk on ice is another skill needed for Moscow!

We had a couple of hours before our appointment at the medical center so we stopped off at a mall for a quick bite to eat & a cup of coffee.   It was suprising how much this was just like any U.S. mall with many of the exact same brands & stores there.

After the mall, we had a 1:00 p.m. appointment at the medical center.   There was some issues getting into the gate at the parking lot as the guards tried to shake Pashe down for some quick cash but a phone call later and the gate opened.   We were required to put on the now-familiar blue plastic shoe covers when we entered the building and they charged us 10 rubles per person for them.   (I know that’s not even a dollar, but hey, they’re free at the orphanage!)

We were seated in a long hallway where we were to be seen by the 8 specialists.   In reality there were only 6 doctors unless some of the people standing in the offices were doctors and we didn’t know it.   The exams consisted mostly of repetitive questions about family history and demographic data.   It took about 3 hours to see all the doctors and get our medical report.   In spite of it being a little tedious, we were amazed that we could see that many doctors in that short of a time.   That would never happen in the U.S.

On the way back to the apartment, Pashe detoured to Red Square for a few standard tourist photos.   I just know he has to hate that and probably does it on a weekly basis!   Anyway, here’s the traditional Moscow photo op.

Moscow St. Basil's Cathedral


That was it for the day.   It was almost 7:00 p.m. before we got back to the apartment.   We’re off to Podolsk first thing in the morning to see Liam for the last time before we head home.   The week has flown by and we still need to fit in some touristy shopping tomorrow afternoon before we pack.
 

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posted by Dede at 9:40 PM 8 comments

Moscow - Trip 1 - Day 4

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pashe picked us up just before 10 a.m. to drive out to Podolsk to spend about an hour and a half playing with Liam.   His chest congestion was a bit worse today — and it was nearing lunchtime — so he was a little fussy.   Even so, he was in pretty good spirits considering that he seemed a little tired and had a bit of a rattly cough.   None of the toys we brought today were interesting, but he was eager to scrounge through our bags for some more of the Animal Crackers that he munched on yesterday.   We were a little concerned about whether we’re supposed to give him snacks, but after he got us busted a couple of times smacking on the cookies as the caregivers passed by, we figured they must not mind.   And he was only eating tiny pieces anyway so I’m sure he still had room for lunch.

We headed back to Moscow city center to get photos of Liam printed for passport & immigration then Pashe worked his way through the dense Moscow traffic (he thinks the traffic this month is the worst he’s seen all year) to a notary to sign several intent and post-adoption documents which we’ll file with the court tomorrow.

We had a late lunch/early supper with Pashe and now we’re back at the apartment for the night.   Tomorrow starts earlier than normal and jetlag is still kind of taking a toll on us, so w’re staying in & turning in a little early tonight.
 

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posted by Dede at 7:39 PM 6 comments

Moscow - Trip 1 - Day 3

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

PasheOur day started with the long drive back out to Podolsk.   Jetlag and our nervousness are still getting the better of us so we napped while Pashe drove to & from the baby home.   I think that it works out best for all of us that I’m not awake to see most of the driving because the traffic is pretty brutal (those of you who have driven me, know what I mean)!   Thankfully, Pashe is an excellent driver and we haven’t seen any dings on his vehicle.

When we got to the baby home today they made us wear the plastic booties over our shoes again and we also had to wear face masks.   They said that there has been a viral respiratory infection going around and they’re trying to protect the children.   We weren’t really happy about having to wear the masks on the whole time we were there and we were worried that it might frighten our little guy but he didn’t seem to mind much.   He was just as happy & interactive with us today as he was yesterday.   We got to give him lots of hugs and kisses and he was full of smiles.   We’ve discovered that he is going to need "soft" toys because he likes to play the "throw it on the floor and let Mom pick it up" game.   After about an hour and a half, our visit came to an end when they took him away for lunch and a nap.   Already, it is getting much harder to say goodbye to him.

After the baby home, we drove back to Moscow to the CSS office to meet with Irena who translates the court documents for us.   The first thing she asked for was his new name, so it is official, our son’s new name will be "Liam Matthew."   We wanted him to have an Irish first name to go with his new last name and his middle name is the English version of his Russian first name.   We also received an English translation of his birth information and a little more information on his birth mother.

After leaving the CSS office, we had a late lunch with Pashe at a traditional Russian restaurant and then he dropped us off at our apartment.   Since today was warmer (the high almost got out of the 30’s), we decided to venture out onto the streets on our own.   We’re proud to say that we were successful in ordering our own coffee & latte at a little coffee shop and we picked up a few more groceries at our local market.   I mentioned before that New Arbat street at night is like Vegas and here are a couple of pictures to show you what I mean:

Arbat street at night


Rob and Dede Arbat street


That’s it for today.   It’s almost 11:00 pm here and we’re off to try to get some much needed sleep...   Goodnight!
 

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posted by Dede at 10:56 PM 10 comments

Moscow - Trip 1 - Day 2

Monday, December 3, 2007

I forgot to mention in the last post that we’re blogging these in Moscow time so the date & time of the posts are 9 hours ahead of C.S.T.

What an eventful day!   Pashe picked us up at the apartment at 9:15 a.m. to go meet Svetlana at the CSS office.   While there, Svetlana assured us that the little boy they had selected for us was just perfect.   She was very proud of her selection, saying that he looks very much like his new daddy.

While at the CSS office, we made fast friends of another couple, Keith & Debbie from North Carolina, who’re here on their 3rd trip to take their new son home.   They offered up lots of great insights from the other end of this whole adoption process.

We went from there to the Ministry of Education (home of the smallest elevator in the entire world - no kidding!) to get our referral.   The MOE director presented us with a very early photo and some basic history & medical details.   Keith had warned us not to be alarmed by the horrible baby photo that we’d be given and sure enough, we’ve decided that the same people who do DMV photos in the U.S. must be responsible for the photos of the children in the Russian adoption database.

We left the MOE and traveled about an hour out to the southern edge of Moscow to the Podolsk baby home.   Here we are in front of the baby home:

Rob & Dede at the orphanage in the Moscow region


We met briefly with the doctor, with Svetlana & Pashe translating and guiding us through some basic information - he’s 20 months old and very healthy.   We were given slipcovers for our shoes and led upstairs to a little area with a couch.   One of the orphanage caregivers arrived with a sturdy little fellow (weighing about 25 lbs.) in her arms and just as simple as that, we met our new son!   Everyone kept commenting at how much he looks like Rob.   We were prepared for him to be cranky since they had just awakened him from his nap, but he was very alert and happy.   He didn’t hesitate at all to give me a big hug and even went to Rob right away.

As you know, we’re not allowed to post photos of him yet.   He won’t be officially ours until after court and the 10-day wait.   Then you’ll be sick of looking at all of the photos of our little guy.

We were so nerve-wracked last night, neither of us got more than an hour or so of sleep, so we should rest well tonight.   Then we’re off with Pasche early tomorrow morning back out to the orphanage to spend a couple of hours playing with our son.   (That still sounds so weird to say!)
 

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posted by Dede at 8:23 PM 16 comments

Moscow - Trip 1 - Day 1

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Rob & Dede on the way to Moscow


Hello from Moscow! We arrived safely this morning (10:40 a.m. Moscow time).   It sure was strange looking out the windows of the airplane as we were landing and seeing nothing but white.   There were a number of other adopting families on our flight including our old CHI friends, Ward & Lynn who sat just 2 rows ahead of us.   They’re in Russia for their court date this week. Lynn seemed reluctantly thrilled at the prospect of being featured on our blog.

Lynn & Ward on the way to Moscow


We made it through Customs with only a minor glitch.   I had joked to Rob prior to leaving that he’d be lucky to make it through customs since his passport photo is several years old and he is about 140 lbs. lighter and now has a goatee.   Sure enough, he was detained and a second Customs Official came out and scrutinized his identity.   Luckily, his profile & eyes still matched up so they let him through.

After passing through Customs, our bags were waiting for us and our translator/driver Pasche was standing ready to greet us.   We had felt overdressed the entire flight with our double layers of clothing and heavy coats right up until the point we stepped out of the Moscow ariport and got that first blast of frigid air.   This is a cold that people from West Texas are just not equipped to comprehend without experiencing it!

The drive from the airport to the New Arbat area only took about 30 minutes. We had heard that it is sometimes 2 or 3 times that long, maybe we just got lucky with traffic and it being a weekend.   Pashe took us to exchange money (a gave us a few money scam pointers) and then to a market to pick up a few groceries for our apartment.   We were very happy he went along with us for our first trip to the market.   You’d think that food packaging would be familiar enough that it would be easy to pick out a few basic items but we were suprised at how different everything looked (check out the mustard that comes in a toothpaste tube and the stern woman on the milk box.)   Here’s what roughly 450 rubles (or $18) worth of groceries in Moscow looks like:

Groceries in Moscow


After grocery shopping, we checked in to our "Panorama" apartment and are very pleased with it.   It is exactly how it looks in the photos and we are close to several restaurants amp; food markets.   Peace Travel sent a courier over to our apartment about an hour after arrival to pick up our passports and register our visas.   I was a little uncomfortable handing over our passports but I was assured it was safe and the courier returned with them about an 10 minutes later.   We are still unclear about this whole visa registration thing and I didn’t see anything different on our passports so I’ll be following up on that tomorrow to make sure everything is okay.

The view out our apartment window is impressive.   We can see a little bit of what would normally be the Moscow River (right now it is just frozen ice) and the street is lined with casinos.   At night, it looks like we are on the strip in Vegas.   Here’s a photo from this afternoon:

New Arbat Street


The building on the left side of the photo has a casino at the bottom of the floor.   If you continue up the road it leads to the Kremlin.   In fact, just as we were arriving at our apartment today, the police made Pashe pull over because they were clearing the way for Putin’s motorcade.   We never actually saw him but Pashe said that this occurs each time Putin travels down New Arbat street.

We took a short nap this afternoon and are trying to stay awake so we can get on Moscow time.   I’m really looking forward to bedtime though!   Tomorrow we meet with our agency’s local coordinator and then go the MOE to receive information about our referral and then it will be off to meet our little one.

I can’t wait to post the details of tomorrow’s events!   Until then, think WARM thoughts for us!!!
 

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posted by Dede at 9:00 PM 10 comments