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Sunday, April 30, 2006
The Sunday that never ends
Somehow it is still Sunday. It has been Sunday for God only knows how many hours. We were out and about in the hotel at about 7:00 this morning. We wandered all over Seoul. Saw a large Presbyterian Church complex. Visited yet another Starbucks. Walked to a very old gate and discovered we were just in time for a ceremonial guard change. We picked up a brochure and the map indicated there was a palace not far from the gate. The guards do a walk from the palace to the gate every couple of hours. So we followed the guards. We came upon one of the oldest palaces in Seoul. It was fantastic.

We departed the hotel at 4:00 pm to catch our 7:20 pm flight to San Francisco. We arrived in San Fran at about 1:40 pm (still Sunday.) Our original idea was to get on the 4:30 flight stand-by. United Airlines had other plans for us. Our tickets are for the 7:15 pm flight, but we were hopeful. Unfortunately, in order to get put high up on the stand-by list you have to give them your United Airlines mileage number. We have one, but are both so tired we didn't even think about it. I asked the gate agent where we were on the list and she said we weren't too far down. They started to call the names and of course they call Jamie & Suzanne, but not us. Then I go ask the little ticket taker dude where we were on the list and why we didn't get called when we checked in before J&S. He was something of a prick!! Very condescending and out right rude. And I am not saying this because I am exhausted. It was the worst treatment I have ever gotten from a UA agent. Needless to say here we sit in yet another airport. It is 5:12 pm (still on Sunday) and we won't board our plane until 6:45. That means we won't get into Seattle until sometime around 9:30 or 10.

I do happen to be suffering from a bit of traveler's stomach. It is suspected that Starbucks might be the culprit. That milk and all you know, but I think otherwise. I am so exhausted I can barely think. All I want at this point is to go home. The whole crossing the date line really screws you up.

I am looking forward to catching up on all of your blogs. I have kept up on some, but of course not as much as I would like. I do have one request. Please keep Margaret in your prayers. She found out that she will be unable to adopt Peanut. This is devastating news for all of us. You are in my heart M, D and I send you our love and hugs.

I've missed you all very much, and we are glad to be back in the USA!
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Oh sweet Latte!!
Tonight we are writing from downtown Seoul, South Korea. One of the perks of paying through the nose for plane tickets to fly with Asiana is a free hotel room when you have a super long layover. I am figuring that 26 hours counts as super long.

When we arrived at the airport we asked the nice airline lady and she directed us to the correct spot. We had to pass through immigration to enter Korea. The cool part about that is they stamped our passports. Neat!

Once through immigration we found the Asiana desk and there was a nice little man waiting for us. They had arranged a hotel, dinner, breakfast and lunch for us. Then we had 2 options to get into town. a) wait for the hotel shuttle that arrived at 7:30 (it was 5:30) or b) pay for the "airport limousine" aka. the bus and the hotel would reimburse us. We took option b.

The bus ride in was fascinating. Korea is a beautiful country. The people are so friendly. I will say that I have never felt so white in my life. Despite being one of 4 white people in the area we don't get stared at like we did in Russia.

We enjoyed our complimentary dinner at the hotel restaurant and then set off on a little walk. Our hotel is located in the fashion and shopping district. It is crowded to say the least. Absolutely fascinating. I thought New York was busy. This place puts the big apple to shame!! From our window we can hear some shop hawking its wares over a loud speaker. I did have the opportunity to snap a few photos.

Upon our little walk about we discovered the best part of the day. Starbucks. Actually we had passed 2 on the way to the hotel, but this one was right in front of us. Of course it has been over 9 days since we had been so we had to stop. We did find mugs for our Brother-in-law and ordered a coffee. I had to settle for a latte since they did not have 1/2 n 1/2. I also may be up all night since Koreans evidently don't believe in decaf.

This happens to be a nice little side trip. A bonus if you will. Now we have to prepare to sleep on a rock hard bed and endure the Sunday that never ends. Wish us well.
Friday, April 28, 2006
Good Bye Хабаровск!
Not sure if that Russian in the title will work or not. Of course it took me a while to type it. A little hunt and peck on the keyboard here.

This will be our last post from beautiful Far East Russia. We rode the trolly bus down to the little cafe and then did the last bit of souviner shopping. A few matroyskas as some gifts. We walked back to the hotel and took a few last photos and video. I have just a little bit of packin to do and it is only 11:20 am. Lena and Andrei don't come to get us until 2:00.

Last night we had a cab adventure. We were invited to the Catholic Church in town to see a choral concert. Suzanne has been in contact with Father Joe, the priest here. His lawyer friend called us a cab to take us from the hotel to the church and then he called a cab to take us back. A white knuckle ride to say the least. The concert was fantastic. Father Joe brought in an organist from central Russia to play. There was also a Mezzo Soprano and a Soprano Soloist. A string quarted from the local philharmoic and a young women's choir (8 members.) The did a wide variety of music. All of it was amazing. We were able to snap a few photos of the inside of the church, which is a renovated barracks. D also got a photo of the Soprano in all of her bling! Well worth the scary cab ride.

I would like to second D's parent's comment about the support. I want all of our readers to know how much we truly appreciate you. Your support has been nothing short of astounding. There is no way we could have gotten through these last 11 months without you. The highlight of our day (besides visiting Pickle) has been to rush up the 5 flights of stairs to the internet closet to read all of your comments. Our journey is not over yet. We still have just a little way to go. Please contine to pray for us and especially for Pickle. You are all in our daily prayers too.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
This is technically a weekly update since we were able to participate in weekly chat this week, but since nothing really happened at chat and you all are much more interested in Pickle we will stick with what is important! (wow that was one long run on sentence)

We were picked up a little before 9:00 this morning for our appointment with the notary. There was, of course, a line when we got there, but we had an appointment. So we were allowed to cut. D and I went first with the paper signing. This piece of paper is the intent to adopt with the request for the release letter. The little notary lady had to laugh when Suzanne asked if she could take our photo while we signed. She thought that a little odd, but we are grateful Suzanne had the knowledge to take such a momentous photo. Thanks!! After the notary we dashed out as to not get beaten up by the throngs of people waiting.

Our facillitator, Irina, was busy with paperwork duties today and were unable to accompany J & S to the Detski dom so our translator Lena had to go with them. (older kids need a translator) So that meant we had to go it alone at the orphanage. Andrei dropped us off and asked the security guy to call the SW for us. A few minutes later she arrived and of course I was nervous without Lena so I did what I always do when I am nervous. I had to go to the bathroom. I tried in my best bad Russian to ask for the toilet. She was so kind and directed me to the correct door. Thank heavens!!

After that we dropped our things off in the visiting room and wandered upstairs to Pickle's group room. He wasn't quite ready yet. We waited patiently as the caregivers diapered and dressed him. They do not usually diaper the children on a daily basis. Ask me later why. He was dressed in a little tank top, some knit tights, a t-shirt that seemed 3 sizes too big and a pair of over-alls that were 5 sizes too big and a cute pair of little girl shoes. Good thing Mama & Papa brought proper clothes for the boy.

We went back to our visiting room and made a mess with some banana puffs. We got him to do one "drawing" with the new crayons and paper we brought and then he started demanding the walks. Pulling at our fingers. We took one walk. Up and down the stairs. Up and down the hall. We finally got him back in the visiting room and fed him goldfish crackers. He was more interested in feeding them to Papa. Our boy just wasn't that animated today. He has a cold and we could hear the crud in his lungs starting to break up. Very rattley.

He did one more drawing for us in between walks and then when Mama tried to tell him no on another walk he started the lip quiver. He snuggled with Papa and of course Papa gave in. They got up and down the hall a few times before a caregiver told us it was lunch time.

We asked Tatiana to take one last family photo of us and then it was time to take him back to his group. We gave Tatiana the disposable camera we brought, the little stuffed monkey and his photo book. She was so interested to look thought it and hear who all the people were. She said Babushka Renee was much too young to be a grandma!

As we got ready to leave we looked over at our little man shovelling food into his face and we waved bye-bye. And amazing enough... he waved back. Spoon in hand, but he waved back.

We went down stairs with Tatiana to get our things and asked if we could get a photo of her. So We have a beautiful photo of me and her. I was trying so hard not to cry. She kept saying don't cry, you will be back soon. I thanked her very much and told her all the children we so beautiful. She said, "no, thank you so much for giving this little boy a family to love him." (at least this is what I thought she said. We said our good byes and piled back into the van.

It was a sad day, but a good day. We hope that recent russian adoption issues don't cause anymore delays in this process. I am ready for all of this to be finished and to bring our baby home.

Thank you all for all of your wonderful comments. Please keep them coming. We leave here tomorrow, but have 26 hour layover in Korea. We should be home Sunday evening or night.

Ps. Dad, thanks for the hockey report. computer too slow here to check it. Glad to see Ottowa is up over Detroit and D was pleased to see Colorado up too. At least we are only missing the first round.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
No Mama! I want to go here
Our day started with a quick breakfast in the hotel restaurant. They have good food, but not as good as other places we have eaten. Andrei arrived at 9:30 to take us to the orphanage.

Today we brought all of our donations and gave them to the social worker. What a wonderful lady! This orphanage has a director but it is the SW that has all the knowledge. Then it was up to the group room. We found our boy in the little office area with a few other children. They were all tearing a newspaper to shreds. One little one tried to make a break for it. Man they see an open door and sprint for it. Papa picked up Pickle and it was off to our visiting closet. We have heard about a therapy room at this orphanage that is large with lots of toys, but have yet to see it.

We sat down and pulled out the photo book. He flipped through it again and I said all the names. Then he played with his little bus that we brought. Papa pulled out an empty Gladware cup for him to play with. The social worker was supposed to come so we didn't want him flinging food everywhere before she arrived. So when he saw the empty cup he was a little irritated. He was aware that there was supposed to be food in this cup and there obviously was not.

We have determined that our boy is going to be a lacrosse player. We would put a Little People panda bear in the cup and he would fling it across the room while still holding the cup. Hey as long as it isn't soccer I am happy. Besides... cross-checking is legal in lacrosse.

He was not amused about being cooped up in that little room. He kept grabbing my finger and trying to pull me to the door. I kept telling him no, but that just would not do. He would pull my finger (that sounds bad) and then when I wouldn't come he would trot over and sit in my lap. Finally we couldn't contain him anymore and we gave in to his demands. He walked up and down the plant hall with Papa and was quite content. Up the stairs, down the stairs. Back and forth. Then he did the same with Mama. He has a bit of a cold so this exercise was a bit tiring. Eventually he got so exhausted he just sat down at the top of the stairs. I picked him up and we cuddled a little. Pickle was quite content about that.

We met with the doctor and the social worker. He is healthy with the exception of a hernia, which we knew about. He will have surgery for that next month. He is small for his age, but very proportionate. He seems to have big feet, a little wide.

Pickle is a pretty laid back little boy, but seems to get frustrated easily. He is not overly verbal, but understands anything he is told (in Russian of course.) The was evident when we had to go back to the visiting room to talk with the doctor. He cried big crocodile tears. He came to sit with Mama and we finally asked if we could give him some of the snacks we brought. We were told yes and this made him happy.

He likes to play with paper so we gave him a piece and then the pen. He could hold it in his hand and draw on the paper a little. Mama showed him how and he got better. We now have our first piece of Pickle Art. I think I might just frame it when we get home.

Bye Bye was ok today too. We did sign the intent to adopt. I was very adamant about asking if he had been seen by the required number of Russian families and asked if all his paperwork was in order. They assured me that all was good and when we signed the intent to adopt they would no longer show him to anyone. This boy is all ours!!!!!

Tomorrow we go to the notary public at 9:00 to sign the release letter request and then off for our last visit.

We spent the rest of the afternoon with lunch at the cafe. We went back to the blue church and bought some great souviners. We walked back toward the hotel and stopped in the new family center. This place is amazing. Full of games and all kinds of activities. One part of the building is all shops. We found a great toy store and a children's furnishings store that sold none other than IKEA furniture. I am not kidding here. They apparently buy IKEA stuff, put it together and sell it. We did buy diapers for the orphanage at one of the shops. Diapers are just as expensive in Russia as they are in the US. Yikes!

Tonight we are planning a nice dinner together at the Restaurant Russki. Can't wait!
The Pickle Report
So this is the day you all have been waiting for. We had our first "Pickle Sighting!" I know you want all the details so I will tell you about the whole day.

We had a fantastic breakfast down at our favorite little cafe. Great Blini and good coffee. On the way to the cafe we saw the military practicing for the May 9th parades. (Victory Day) Of course me without my camera. After breakfast we took the trolly bus (not the Gluag Express) back to the hotel with a quick pit stop at the pharmacy (totally deserves its own post.) Then it was back to the hotel to read all of your comments. We still had about 2 hours to pass the time before we were picked up so we grabbed the camera and headed back to Lenin Square to take some photos of the parade practice. It was nearly complete with the exception of the band. We watched with awe. They were amazing. Then we walked to a secret little toy store just across the street from our hotel. They have the cutest little shoes there. Just adorable. Then back to the hotel where we still had 2 hours to wait. That was occupied by 2 more episodes of Lost (only 4 more to go.) At 3:15 it was time to leave.

We all piled into the van for the trek to the orphanages. Jamie & Suzanne are adopting from a different orphanage (older child) so we dropped them off and then it was our turn.

Baby home #2 is much different than #1. No ornate carved door, no quaint little play yard. More of a Soviet style building. The inside was a mint green and then a basic beige. We followed Lena down various corridors and through a long plant filled hallway, up a set of stairs and into a group room area. First was the outter office. We walked in there as Lena opened the door to Pickle's group play room. I could hear the caregiver calling his name and telling him that Mama and Papa were here. Then Lena beckoned us inside. There were about 12 shining little faces. A woman picked a little boy up out of the group and there he was! More beautiful than the photos we had seen! Just precious. He was all smiles for the caregiver. They picked out a few of the toys off the wall and then it was time for us to take him.

I wasn't sure what to do, but the caregiver told me I could take him. I snatched him out of her arms and he wasn't too sure about this new lady. He resumed his stern look that we saw in the photographs. We took him back downstairs to a little tiny room with 2 couches and a row of chairs and a fish tank. We sat down on one of the couches and tried to comfort him. He wasn't crying just scared. I set him down on the ground and he immediately walked to Lena (oh yes... he is a walker.) Lena did her best to calm him down.

I broke out the Gerber banana puffs and put one in his mouth. He pulled a Bethany Kate and spit it right back out. He was so frightened his little hands were shaking. Poor baby! We tried to calm him with a few other toys, but nothing seemed to work. Finally I pulled out the little photo album (the chewy "Who Loves Baby" one) and he sat down in my lap to look at it. We went through the book saying "Mama" "Papa" "Babushka" "Dedushka" "Totya" "Dedya" "Keeska." Then he started flipping through the book on his own. He was totally fascinated. We have a little bookworm!!! Good Boy!!!

After the book he started to soften up. He started to play with the food we brought, eventually trying some of it only to find out that, "Hey!! Banana puffs and Goldfish crackers are great!!" That lead to little hands stuffing fistfuls of puffs into his mouth. He downed an entire Glad snack size container full. (Thanks Lauri for that Gerber hint!!)

Lena left the room for a while and we both sat on the floor with him. I held out my arms and he got up and then sat in my lap. Then D would hold out his arms and Pickle would get up and go to him. P thinks Papa is pretty cool!

After a while he heard a noise out in the hall so we decided to go for a walk. I held his hand while we walked to the plant lined hallway. He loved going down the stairs into the hall. I think he was trying to make a break for it. We got to the end of the hall and wanted to keep going. That was fine with Mama, but I didn't think they would think too kindly of that. So instead we played a game where Papa would hold out his arms and Pickle would run to him and give him a big hug. Then Mama would do the same and get a big hug too. It was so much fun.

Shortly after it was time to go. We did ok with the good-bye today. Tomorrow we leave the hotel at 9:30 for our visit. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the orphanage since we have to drop off Jamie & Suzanne. We will meet with the doctor and the director tomorrow. We did learn his full name today (so no surprises at the notary) and his birthdate. Our boy does have very dry skin so we will have to start greasing him up with some good quality lotion once he is officially ours.

All in all it was a fantastic day. I was so nervous in the hours leading up to the meeting, but like before the instant we saw that beautiful little face all the fear and anxiety just melted away. More tomorrow. It was an exhausting day and it is an early one tomorrow.
Monday, April 24, 2006
Back in the USSR
Yeah, I know. We have been her for 4 days. But today drove home what communism did to Russia. Despite the bustling town Khabarovsk has become, much of it is still stuck in the 1950's.

Today was our last round of medical exams. The hospital is just around the corner from the Hotel so we walked. Upon entering we went into a little registration area. Lena took care of all the formalities and then came the waiting. We waited in the little area for our names to be called. Then we were all ushered into the exam room. The doctor was fantastic, quick and thorough.

The funny part was when she did the "follow this thing with your eyes" test on D. You are lying on a table and she moves it back and forth and then down to your nose. You are supposed to cross your eyes as it comes to your nose. Well, D's eyes don't work together so only one eye crosses. She thought that was a little strange. She had to do a more thourough inspection of his eyes. She informed him that one was weak. We kind knew that.

The thing that throws me back to the 1950's is the environment itself. There are no carts full of plastic things, no carpet, no instruments in the rooms. Alcohol is in glass bottles. Just all very different than back at home. I am not saying they don't know how to practice medicine. Far from it. Many Russian docs are very well trained. I have had previous experience with them to know. All in all it was a very harmless procedure. Those who will go after us have nothing to worry about.

So onto other news. We woke up to a light dusting of snow this morning. It is about 8 C today (roughly 34 - 36 degrees). The snow melted by lunch and the sun in now shining. We met with Irina this morning and she said they will come at 3:15 tomorrow to take us to the orphanage. (I don't know what time exactly that will be back home. Figure for the west coast subtract 6 hours and add a day.) We will go earlier on Thursday and meet with the doctor and social worker. We are starting to get very anxious. So you probably won't get to read a Pickle report until Wednesday (your time.)

Galina is coming in about 20 minutes. We aren't sure what she is going to take us to do yet. She can tend to have her own agenda. Actually she is here now!! Gotta run!!
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Officially Sane!
I realize that many of you had to go a full day without hearing from us. Sorry. We thought about posting after breakfast, but thought we would wait to let you in on our first round of doctor exams.

Yesterday we took it pretty easy. We ventured out to the market. Very interesting. I want to go back to take some photos. We then wandered down to the Central Department store. Nothing of interest really. Then back to the hotel for some Lost watching and a nap. We met Jamie & Suzanne for dinner. We decided to eat at Scalini's the Italian restaurant in town. Great place. Good food and the waitress was very formal. Of course we were in jeans, but that didn't seem to matter.

Today we had breakfast at our favorite cafe and then hiked down to the river. When I say hike I mean it. We counted the steps on the way back up. 222 in all. Yikes!! We did go into the blue church this morning. We didn't have the energy to make the trek yesterday. I am still a little bummed about that.

So onto those doctor visits. The first was the narcologist. We sat in her cozy little office and she asked us questions. Then we were onto the Psychiatrist. Where we were dubbed "mentally fit."

After that clinic we headed off to the the dreaded blood draw. We did this at a Regional Clinic. Let's say that it was quite the people watching experience.

We did get a call from our friend Galina. She is planning on coming to the hotel tomorrow after our doctor appointments. We can't wait to see her. Hopefully she will be up for helping us with some shopping.

Yes family!! I am eating. We stopped at the little grocery and picked up some meat and cheese. Quite yummy I might add. That has served as our "lunch" so far. Very filling. I will also say that the little cakes and such are delicious too. Good thing we have an entirely empty suitcase for the return trip! ;)

Well all... take care. We'll let you know how the rest of the doctor visits go.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
The best 8000 won I ever spent
Greetings from the beautitul city of Khabarovsk, Russia!!! We arrived at a little after 4 pm on Saturday (yesterday.) We cleared customs with no problems other than the arrival lady had to get a second opinon on me since I look nothing like my passport anymore. I can't say it was so easy for 3 other Americans travelling. They arrived with no Visas. They were immediately booked on the return flight to Korea. Note to all travellers!!! If you are going to Russia you need a Visa. All our luggage arrived safely and other than a little jet lag we are doing well.

To start I will say that it was voted in Korea that as the person with the least amount of sleep I should not be posting. That's why you got the susinct version from D. The flight to Korea was fine. A little bumpy and not crowded at all. Either one of us failed to claim our own row on the flight (that's how few people there were) so I tried to sleep in 2 seats while D slept sitting up. Needless to say I was awake from 7:30 am Thursday to about 2:00 am Saturday. I crashed last night and slept for nearly 12 hours.

So about that 8000 won. That is roughly the price of a shower at the Transit lounge in Korea. The water runs hot then cold, but after an 11 hour flight it was worth every cent. The flight to Khabarovsk was quick at about 2 1/2 hours. We had enough time to get in one more episode of Lost.

It was amazing coming back. The snow is all melted and the city looks the same as when we were here last time. Today is Orthodox Easter so we wandered down to the blue church after dinner and got to see the preist blessing the people's Easter breads. No photos of that but it was neat to watch.

Our schedule for the week is as follows: Today is our free day. We are going to do some walking around and maybe venture into the grocery store. Tomorrow Andrei picks us up at 12:30 to see the psychiatrist and do some bloodwork. Tuesday includes additional doctor visits and on Wednesday we will finally get to meet Pickle!! That will actually be Tuesday for you guys.

So the final word is that we have made is safe and sound. We are doing well! You may not get a post everyday since we are working with dial up. We also have no way to add photos. So you will have to wait for the movie!!
Friday, April 21, 2006
We made it to Seoul
Well, it was a long 12 hours on the plane ride from San Fran to Seoul but we finally made it. We got here about 5:30am local time (and it's also Saturday... where did my Friday go? I want it back!) We have enough time here that we'll be able to grab a shower at the transit lounge and some breakfast before we get back on the plane and head for Khab. We're pretty exhausted after the long flight but hardly wait to get to Russia.

Tomorrow will really be a down day since we figure most things will be closed in Khab due to orthodox Easter. Just a quick note to let you know that we're doing fine and we will post some more soon. Keep those comments coming, we love to read them during our trip.

Thursday, April 20, 2006
A Surprise Weekly Update
Bet you all thought we would be on an airplane right about now. Well you thought wrong. It is currently 11:40 pm and here we sit in the San Francisco airport. The good news is this is where we are supposed to be. Yeah... D had to pay for internet. We thought is would be free, but only for customers of the wireless provider that we do not have an account with. Hey, we're used to shelling out money might as well do some more.

We were able to participate in chat from the airport in Seattle. The bad news there are now additional paperwork requirements. Shocking!!! We need a letter from our county assessors office that they previously stated they would not give us and FBI clearance letters. Fun fun!!

We met Jamie & Suzanne at the airport in Seattle. They are going to make fantastic traveling companions. Suzanne also love to play games. This will indulge my inner child for a while.

I am finally to the point of excited. Due to the allergy attack and the copious amounts of medication I was reluctant to board the airplane. Once the wheels left the ground I was feeling pretty good. To make things better, when we checked in in San Fran the ticket agent told us the flight was very light. We have 3 seats for the 2 of us and no one else around us. So hopefully we will get rows to ourselves so we can lay down and sleep.

More from Seoul. Don't want to waste precious Lost watching battery!
Holy Cow!
We have about an hour before D's parents show up to take us to the airport. The plan is to check in early, grab a bite to eat and be back to the terminal in time for agency chat and meet Jamie & Suzanne.

So far I am about ready to lose it at any moment. I had a helluva time cramming all of our stuff into the suitcase. Sorry no photos. I was so panicked I was almost in tears. It just didn't want to fit. The problem is the time of year. The temperatures are in the mid 40s during the day, but down to the low 20s at night. So that means coats, gloves, warmer shoes, long sleeve shirts. It just adds to the bulk.

Better yet! D's parents just showed up... an hour early.

To make matters worse, my body decided to have a major allergy attack today and I had to restart the computer because iTunes kept locking up. This is also adding to the near meltdowns. iPod is not nearly full!!!

Wish us luck. Let you all know when we get to Korea.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Down to the wire
Tomorrow is the day. Yikes!! I am actually checking stuff off my list. Amazing. Of course everything that gets checked off the list costs money. I swear I have shelled out more money in the last 2 weeks than in the last 10 months. Not only is the actual travel cost expensive, but so is all the other stuff. Refill prescriptions, make sure the cats have food, buy small snacks for the flight, small gifts for the people in Russia we haven't seen in months, replace necessary clothing that is falling apart. It all adds up.

I think my list of stuff to do to day is just about wrapped up. I still need to clean the floors, empty the dishwasher, fold the last bit of laundry and plant a few plants that are still sitting in containers around my garden. I do think I will steal one job from D today though. Our lawn needs a good haircut before we go and it is supposed to rain tomorrow. I am going to bust out his fancy new self-propelled mower and go to town. (No Rhonda, I've already been to the grocery)

So once the lawn is mowed it only leaves, cleaning the fish tank, changing the sheets, clean the bathrooms, vacuum, and oh... finish packing!

Here is my beg and plead for comments while we are gone: Please oh Please send a few comments our way during this trip. We do have internet access while in Russia. We will do our best to let you know how the trip is going. In turn I expect some love. We had a great time reading everyone's kind words while we were on our last trip.

Shall we review the commenting procedure for those of you just joining or returning to our story?

Step 1: Click on the words at the bottom of the post that read "# Comments"
Step 2: Type your comment into the box that reads "Leave your Comment"
Step 3: Select your identity from the "Choose Identity" radio buttons
Step 4: Fill in the funky word in the box. Sorry about that step. It is to keep stupid people from commenting.
Step 5: Click the "Publish" button.

Congratulations! You have now commented and made Elle very happy. Now remember, if you don't have a blogger ID you can still comment. Just make sure you sign you name so we can smile and say, "see! so and so commented."
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Packing mania
My email is down. I think I might actually have a panic attack as a result. I know, I know... get away from hotmail, but that would require changing my email address. Despite the fact that I have 4 other email addresses, I have had the hotmail one the longest. I get too much spam on my gmail account to use it. I think I currently have upwards of 73 uread messages. They are all from Google alerts and the "work at home" business I used to do. Of course those aren't spam, but I am just not interested in reading them.

So since I can't check my email you will now be subject to my packing mania. I am the type of person that usually won't pack until the day we leave for a trip or at the most the day before. For some reason yesterday I thought I would start with all of our orphanage donations at least. This gradually morphed into D coming home and saying, "well... we could start packing."

Of course that resulted in us realizing we needed a few additional items. I was in desperate need of some new undergarments (TMI, but so what) and I also could use some regular lounge around in t-shirts. So off to our local Target for the necessities. *as a total aside here, Target has some great retro t-shirts right now.* I also needed contact lens solution. Of which, every store in town is out of. We went to 3 different places only to find 1 bottle a Walgreens. Of course in the "impulse items here by our cash register" section D found little book lights 2/$5.00. So we picked those up too. Later, he comes into my office and says, "hey these things have a little Star Trek action. Of course the obsessive blogger I am shoots a video of them. Wanna see?

Onto the packing. We started pulling clothes out of the closet and D says I should take a picture of it. I think blogging has even gone to his head. So now to make you suffer since I can't check my email here are some of our packing conquests.

Orphanage Donations (before)

Orphanage Donations with the miracle of space bags!!

The ever mounting pile of stuff that has to fit into that suitcase. (Stephanie, pay no attention to the badly knitted scarf in the background)
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Happy Easter
I wanted to wish all of you a very Happy Easter. Our day started at a bright and early 6:00 am with the alarm clock waking out of a very sound sleep. This was later followed by setting up tables at church for our handbell choir. From 8:30 service we moved to cooking for the Easter breakfast put on by our church youth. Great job kids!! After cleaning up after 300 people we were finally able to go home change and then turn around and drive to Olympia for family time.

The rest of the afternoon was fairly quiet. I took a nice little nap. D brought me a coffee, I learned how to make deviled eggs (I know, I'm slow.) Now we are waiting for dinner. Mmmm, Prime Rib.

Only 4 more days until we board that plane bound for Russia. I am nervous, but mostly freaking out. Pray for my soul.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Language Lessons
First of all... Christ is Risen!! (to which you all answer, "He is risen indeed!!") Of course this is for my Christian friends. To my Jewish friends I wish you blessings this Passover and for my non religious friends I wish you warm and joyous Spring days.

Yes, I say Christ is risen today because in our church we celebrate the resurrection on Easter Vigil. It seems strange that we observed Good Friday just yesterday and the next day we are pulling the guy out of the tomb, but that is what we do.

D's sister and brother-in-law arrived on Thursday from California. In tow was our 3 1/2 year old niece B. She is currently the only grandchild and quite aware of that fact. For 3 1/2 she is incredibly smart.

Yesterday afternoon D and BIL were in the living room (at D's parents house) playing xbox. I tried to sit in the chair and read, but that just was not going well. I thought I would use my time to do one of my Russian language lessons. I have 2 of the lessons loaded onto my iPod. So B comes into the room and asks, "Uncle D, what is Ammie Missy doing?" D replies she is listening to music. (He didn't know I was listening to a lesson) A little while later she comes over to me and says, "I don't hear any music." She gets right in my face. "Ammie Missy, I don't hear any music."

So I started talking to her in Russian. She looked at me like I had 2 heads. Then I put one of the earphones in her ear. She heard the person speaking Russian and then I would repeat it. Then she would try to repeat it. The funniest part was at one point the speaker says, "now say please." Be says, "Please," in English. She thought the female speaker was me.

She actually was picking up some of the words. She can almost say "excuse me" and "please." When she couldn't repeat what the speaker was saying she would say, "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers." It was hilarious!!!

When we were done with the lesson she crawled up into my lap and we listened to music. She laid there for about a song and a half. I guess she wasn't too impressed with Teddy Gieger. I told her his "Confidence" song was my favorite. Her reply, "my favorite is playing ball with Papa" and off she went.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
The Weekly Update
This week's update is brought to you by the number 7. That is how many days until we leave for Russia.

This may be the last weekly update for a few weeks seeing as we will be out of town. Evidently next week we will be able to participate in the agency weekly chat from the airport, but the plane boards during the chat so there won't be time for posting the update. I will keep our readers happy by posting in Russia. I may only have dial-up, but at least it is internet.

So news... not much really. There is at least 1 family in Khabarovsk right now completing their medical trip. Another 2 leave today for their pseudo first trips. This includes Kathou and Paypay. Safe travels to you guys! I'll miss you.

No real major news or changes in the process. For once there is no additional paperwork that is required, no personal changes in the Russian legal system. All is eerily calm.

I am starting to get a little freaked out actually. The whole process since reaccreditation has gone way too smoothly. Well... except that whole losing A thing. We were forewarned about all specific wording for the homestudy. Our the special social worker was able to quickly fix the one mistake on the update. There were no apostille issues. And Olga informed us that it looked as if our paperwork was in order. We got on the flights with Jamie & Suzanne and our Visas should be arriving on Monday.

I am vigorously knocking on wood, because something just has to happen. After the last year we have had this is just a little too smooth. I guess I should be counting my blessings at this point.

I wish I had more real news to report. But I suppose no news is good news.

I guess the only major thing on my mind is; did you see last night's episode of Lost? What is up with that island??? Good thing I have a very long flight to finally get caught up on the first season. (Sorry Rhonda, still haven't seen it all)

Blessings to you all and happy Easter and Passover.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
A 6 minute tour
D was so kind as to put together a video of our last trip to Khabarovsk. We previously had a 15 minute video that included these same photos, but it also included photos and video of A. We wanted to be able to show all of our readers where exactly we are going.

First... for the visual types here is a map of Russia. See that big red arrow? That is where Khab is. So when we tell you we are flying through Seoul you will understand.

The video is quite fun. And yes... you will all get to see my face. I gave D permission to include a few photos of me. Of course there aren't very many since I took most of the photos in the first place (not the ones of me of course!)

** Warning: not dialup friendly...
Saturday, April 08, 2006
It seems that we have become an example. There are quite a few reasons that people happen to follow our blog. Some of you relate to us because you are also in the process of adopting from Russia. Some visit because you are family or dear friends. Others are here trying to learn more information about the process of international adoption and in particular, Russia. A few of you just think we are darn funny. But there are some that see us as an example. An example of the problems surrounding the Russian adoption system.

While it is true the system is flawed, we don't want to be that kind of example. I could give you reasons why the US system is flawed. Reasons why we decided not to adopt from another country. I could cite regulations put on other foreign governments that cause me to steer clear of them. One thing I wouldn't do is single any one family out just to say, "this is why not to go there."

The last 15 months have been the most challenging in my life. I can say it has been more difficult than being a newlywed at age 20. More stressful than any single day in our marriage over the last near 10 years. We have been through so much. Much of which I never wish on my worst enemy. But through it all we have learned from each and every day. We have come to love one another more, have grown in our personal faith and have met people that we are blessed to call our true friends. What is more important is that we have been blessed with the two most wonderful little boys in the world.

The heartbreak caused by losing little A will never go away. I have come to accept that. I will continue to miss him every day of my life. But through that lost we have found the child that we hope will be coming home to us.

Yes the Russian system is flawed. There should be no reason for enduring waits. There is no reason that nearly 700,000 children should languish in poverty stricken orphanages. But that is a foreign system. We cannot do anything to change it lest we further the stereotype of "ugly Americans" butting in where we are not wanted.

The example I want to set is that of faith and perserverance. True there are problems with Russian adoption, but please don't single me out as the poster child. Do your homework. On me, on this system. Make the decision that is best for your family. If you are not able to handle an extreme emotional roller coaster than this country may not be for you.

If asked if we would do another Russian adoption, what would my answer be? I would say it depends on the situation. There are many options available to us as far as expanding our family goes. Russia is dear to my heart, but so are so many other countries.

I have tried my hardest over the last 15 months to help other families. I try to be as honest as possible when people ask me questions about international adoption. I would never tell you the process is 100% rosey. It is hard. It tears you up inside. The stress does horrible things to your body. Is it worth it? Yes. Every lost hair, every lost pound, every tear shed. I would do it again.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
The Weekly Update
It's that time again. Time for the weekly update. This week's update is brought to you I type it so there.

I find it best that you grab yourself a nice glass of wine for this one. First, it may be a long one. And second, if you are anything like me you will need a drink. Wow, that might be insinuating that I have a drinking problem. In fact I do. I have no glass of wine sitting in front of me at the moment. (college humor: substitute wine for beer and no glass for one in each hand and you get the oldest college joke in the book)

I have quite a bit to write about so get comfy.

As far as agency info goes there really isn't much. We currently have 2 families in Khab doing their medical trip. The first is the oh so well known Doug & Candy. The second is the beautiful and vivacious Lisa W. If any of you read this I expect a full report on your children upon your return home.

I did get our paperwork sent off to the agency yesterday. I still have not heard if Olga received it or not. Of course the smart person would check the $40 FedEx tracking number. But let's face it people, I am working with limited brain capacity here.

Tuesday I purchased our airline tickets. I about had a heart attack when I had to hand over the credit card number on that one. Nothing like 2 1/2 weeks notice to fly international to jack up the price. For those of you who are truly interested you can check out our itinerary at Suzanne's website. This is the couple we will be traveling with. They live up by the Canadian border (lucky) and I can't wait to meet them!

We are fortunate enough that we will be home for Easter and in Russia for Orthodox Easter. This lessened the stress upon my good friend I. We were all a little concerned that we wouldn't be home for Easter causing 2 fewer bodies in the kitchen at the church that morning. Mmmm Pancakes!! We are still contemplating the possibility of attending service in Khabarovsk. I did do some reading on the service today. There are no pews in an Orthodox Cathedral (I knew that.) The service can run up to 3 hours long (I knew that too.) But here is what I didn't know, The service starts right after midnight on Easter. So we would start flying at 7:15pm on Thursday, stop flying at 4:20pm Saturday (sure we lose a day flying, but hey... it's my story.) Then we get to the hotel, have some food and maybe a nap, turn around and attend a 3 hour long church service while standing the entire time. I am thinking the babushkas will have to settle for me buying some icons later in the week.

The remainder of our 2 weeks until travel look like the following:

Tomorrow: Both have eye appointments in the morning, drive to Seattle to drop our Visa applications and passports off at the travel agent and pick up our plane tickets, stop for a quick lunch at Dicks. (yes, the famous Dick's, from the Sir-Mix-a-Lot song... "Go back the other way, we'll stop and eat at Dick's. Guess you have to be me.) Then head to downtown Seattle to pick up the expensive hair conditioner and skin cream. Drive back to Tacoma to be at the church at 6:15 to take our Sr. High youth on an all night lock out.

Saturday: Sleep, have dinner with Kathou and Paypay. Celebrate Paypay's birthday since they will be in Russia for it.
Sunday: Church in the am. D has his first softball game in the afternoon.
Monday, Tuesday: attempt life as normal
Wednesday: That one is a surprise. Check out Life of Elle sometime around the middle of next week.
Thursday: D's sister, niece and BIL arrive from CA. Maunday Thursday.
Friday: Good Friday.
Saturday: Tell everyone we are going to Easter Vigil service, but really end up hanging out at D's parent's house.
Easter Sunday: Easter breakfast with the youth. Ring handbells 2 services, visit my grandparents and dinner with D's parent's.
Monday - Thursday: PANIC.

Sleep is going to be a luxury at this point.

I want to thank all of you for your wonderful good wishes over the past 5 weeks. From the loss of A, to the referral of Pickle, to the excitement of travel. You have all been fantastic! I also want to thank those of you who have donated to "The Pickle Fund." I have been just so overwhelmed by your generosity. If any of you decide to do adoption fundraising please let me know. I would be happy to contribute in some way.

I have much, much more on my mind, but I think that I will save that for another post. Despite the limited brain capacity I still lay awake at night and think of stuff. In all reality I should just get up and write it down, but who am I kidding. It is cold outside of the bed.

Congrats to you newly home families (Lauri) and to those of you getting ready to come home (Jason & Melissa). Safe travels to those of you getting ready (Gaye & Andrew, Caroline & Blake.) And huge hugs to those of you still waiting. May your waits be shortened and all your pain be champagne.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Can I relax now?
No my head has not officially "esploded" yet. Although I did think it was going to last night when I figured out that I gave the social worker the wrong dollar amount for my salary. Fortunately he was able to correct the page the error was on.

I think I can actually take a break to go work in my garden. I finally sent all of our paperwork off to our agency. When all is said and done we will have redone all but 2 pieces of paperwork. Let's all pray that the 2 we don't have to do never have to be redone. They are our 171-H (refingerprinting) and our Certificate of Residency (has to come from Chase Manhattan Bank.)

My day consisted of going to D's office to have the required paperwork notarized, drive to Olympia (30 minutes away) to pick up 3 certified copies of our marriage certificate. I then argued with the notary there that I had to certify that it was a true and correct copy. She refused to do it. She said the Sec. of State would apostille it the way it was. I didn't believe her. I then trusted this strange lady and drove downtown to the SoS office. I proceeded to wait 15 minutes for them to call my number. A rude lady took my paperwork and said have a seat... it will be about 15 minutes. She handed my paperwork to another lady (who was nice) and she went over everything. I paid her a handsome chunk of change and she told me the paperwork would be done in 10-15 minutes. I waited patiently. About 10 minutes later she handed me my stuff and I was outta there! I headed to my local ship it there quick store to send our stuff off. I again shelled out nearly $40 to mail my paperwork to the agency (money well spent if you ask me!)

I was so relieved to have that paperwork out of my hands! I drove from Olympia to my favorite supermarket in Tacoma (not TJ's) to buy me a reward sandwich and one of my favorite treats of all time... Orangina! I think now I am going to go play in the dirt and not worry about what I have to do for the rest of the afternoon.

The sun is shining, I bought our plane tickets yesterday, I sent my paperwork today, we are planning on going up to the travel agent on Friday to drop off our Visa apps and then we are ready to go. All is left is to pack!
Monday, April 03, 2006
What could make Elle's head esplode?
So I am sitting at my desk today, minding my own business (as I'm apt to do), and my cell phone starts buzzing. I am getting a call from the beautiful and talented Elle. Turns out that she got a email this morning from our agency and they wanted to know if we could travel April 22-29... uhhh, come again? April 22? As in two weeks from this Saturday?
Don't get me wrong, this is great news, but very sudden news. We thought we we're going to have until May to get our paperwork ready, get orphanage donations, pack, etc. So now begins a flurry of notarizing, apostilling (is that a word?) and general panicking at our house. So if you see on the news that a little lady's head esploded or she spotaneously burst into flames, that would be Elle.

All kidding aside, we can hardly wait to go and meet Pickle. We're interested to get to know him and find out what his personality is like. We also can't wait to see Russia again, even though it may be a bit cold still at the end of April... Guess it's a good thing we didn't go out and buy cold weather gear. It will be nice to be able to walk around without having to wear parkas and long underwear ;) Well, back to the paper chase...

P.S. This is more news that Elle wanted to surprise everyone with by posting from the airport in Seoul, but told her that was just mean. I also don't want anyone to egg the house while we're gone.

Saturday, April 01, 2006
Opening the Door
On March 13th we closed the door at the end of the hall. For the past 3 weeks that door has remained closed. I couldn't stand the thought of seeing no name on the wall and all the artwork removed. At the same time it was a door that was closed to our moving forward. So yesterday we decided to open it. D asked if I was ready and I burst into tears. Opening that door meant letting go. Letting go of A. Letting go of my visions of that particular little boy running through our house. Mostly it came down to my acceptance of this journey taking just a little bit longer. D looked at me and said, "That is Pickle's room now." I was ready.

We opened the door. I looked it and it was so empty. The furniture is all still there, but D's mom had taken down all the artwork. The hardware that held the quilt on the wall was even gone. But the one thing that remained was the cross. It was a gift from D's Aunt & Uncle. It has an inscription on it that reads,
"For I know the plans I have for you', declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11
I am glad she left that up. Now we are faced with redecorating that room. Do we put back the same artwork or buy all new stuff. There are a few pieces that I want to put back up. Some of it was D's when he was a baby. I am just not sure I have it in me to complete a whole new quilt though. The last one took me forever!


On a totally different note we have started yet another web site. This one is actually a real website! Go check it out This is my attempt at another fundraiser actually. Upon opening that door we quickly came to the realization that we need the money to complete this thing. We have done tons of fundraising in the past year. Sure some of you may think that it is not appropriate to do adoption fundraising, but that is your opinion. We simply don't have the near $40,000 sitting around to pay for this. Yeah, our's is costing a little more due to an added third trip.

Anyway, I belong to a fundraising for adoption yahoo group (let me know if you want the address.) One suggestion was to create a simple website and put something on your car that has the website name. I hate stuff stuck to my car. I am very particular about it. But I thought in the interest of getting Pickle home I would give it a try. So I created a very simple window cling to put in my back window. It is simply the website name. We'll see how it works.

So go visit our site. I hope to add more pages that have all kinds of adoption information. This is a precursor to creating the charitable foundation site.

Established March 19, 2006