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Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Lights dim, curtains close
This is a post I have been reluctant to write. I knew this day was coming and I had a plan. Blogging is something that I love to do. Apparently over the last 2 years I have been told that I've (we've) helped so many people. I'm glad that I could share some wisdom, humor and support to those touched by adoption. I think that is what makes this difficult.

We have decided to close this chapter in our lives. Keeping up with 2 blogs is difficult. I love the extra comments our faithful readers leave, but I am spending too much time at the computer and the warmer weather is quickly approaching.

This place, and Adoption Adventure, are all about our story to bring a child into our home. Now that he is here I feel ready to take on that new roll of mama. Sure, I've been a mama for 6 months now, but at some point you go from adoptive mama to just plain ol' mom. This is where I am now.

So why did I pick today to end this chapter? One year ago today we sat in a small purple room in our house and heard news that would forever change our lives. One year ago today we lost Alexander. It felt as if our entire world had come crashing down around us.

One year later I hear the quiet sound of my son sleeping. I see toys scattered about my house. I am wearing a tattered sweatshirt and am lucky that I combed my hair this morning. From my vantage point I see photos of my beautiful little boy plastered on a bulletin board by my desk. Quietly tucked away within those photos is one of a little boy whom we grew to love. A little one who lives in Russia with a forever family. One who never has to wake up in an orphanage again. His little eye peeks out from behind another photo as if to tell me, I remember you and I won't forget you either.

I still grieve for that little boy. I miss him terribly and on occasion I get the feeling of, "I lost my son." I will never forget his little face or his big brown eyes. But I know that he is happy. He has a family to love and care for him. That is what helped me get past his loss.

If it were not for Alexander we would have not made it through the months of waiting. In all likelihood we would have given up. We would have never met Oleg. Today I honor the little boy we lost. I look at the little boy that has become our son and smile. Because of one we have the other. I love them both so much.

I want to thank all of our faithful readers over the last 2 years. Does this mean we will quit blogging. Oh no. You should know better than that. It just means that there will be no more new Unexpected Miracles posts. This isn't to say that the unexpected miracle may never come our way again.

We invite you to come with us on our journey of parenthood. You can find my (Elle's) take on it at Life of Elle (no password required). Or you can follow Derek's ramblings on pointing out people's stupidity at Protesting Stupidity.

If you want more information about Russian adoption, our journey or our transition to parenthood you can always email me at
Friday, March 09, 2007
Places to see, things to buy
Your plane lands in some far east city in Russia and you taxi. And taxi, and taxi until your plane hits the end of the runway. Then it turns around and taxis to the terminal on the same runway you just landed. Welcome to Russia! You may or may not have to ride a meat locker bus to the terminal. Depending on the weather and the airport. You clear customs (avoid the toilets) and you are greeted by someone holding a sign with your name on it. Your driver and translator drop you off at the hotel and you are free until you have to go to a baby home or ministry of education or something. Now what?

Hopefully you have done your research on the city you are in and know that there should be at least one church in the city, and maybe a museum or two. With any luck you found a map on the internet so you can locate your hotel and restaurants that may be within walking distance. Oh and your definition of walking distance will quickly change once you realize that the only restaurant nearby has no English menu.

Of course since this is your child's town you must make the most of your time. If you are lucky like us you will have 3 fun filled trips to get to know the place. Hell by that point the lady at the corner market might know your name.

I wanted to give you a few suggestions on what kind of stuff you might be able to purchase and where to get it.

The top souvenirs from Russia would include Matryosykas, and vodka. If you are smart you brought an extra suitcase for the vodka. Other popular items would include chocolate (yes it is that good), black lacquerware, blue and white china, birch items, weavings, and amber jewelry. These are some of the things Russia is known for. Personally I have 2 very nice matroyska, a small black ware cup, a black ware vodka set, a blue & white teapot, a blue & white butter dish, and a traditional kitchen talisman. I bought all of them at one little vendor in a shopping center. And the matroyska I bought are not your average red & yellow. One is a huge purple one and the other is a little light blue one with 10 dolls inside. Both a little on the pricey side.

Despite all of the little trinkets I brought back, I have a few items that are my favorite. I have mentioned before that I collect crosses. There are crosses in every room of our house. On our trip to meet Alexander I bought a wood cross in the blue church. On our trip to meet Pickle I bought a small gold plastic one (not fancy, but it came from the gold church so fitting). And on our trip to pick up Pickle I wanted a cross from St. Basil's. Unfortunately the gift items inside St. Basil's are outrageously priced. So I didn't get my cross. Instead as we are hurrying out the door to meet our driver I happened to look up. Painted on the inside of one of the archways was an orange orthodox cross. I snapped a quick photo. That is my St. Basil's cross. I have yet to frame it.

What I am getting at is that the traditional souvenir shops are not the only place to buy things. All of the orthodox churches have little gift shops in them. They may not be the biggest and best, but they are little reminders. CS purchased 2 icons. One from the blue church and one from the gold church. I also wished I had bought a bible in Russian. That is one thing I do regret.

Also, be aware that often times there are knock offs even in Russia. Matroyska are sometimes manufactured in China and then sold at super cheap prices in Russian cities. This is something I learned from our friend Galina, who lives in Khabarovsk. She directed us to a shop that had authentic wares. How you tell the difference is beyond me. The only thing I can tell is that all my matroyska have little stamps on the bottom.

I do recommend that you do visit the local Orthodox church. You may not be a God loving kinda person, but it is a big part of Russian culture and history. Many of the churches today have been rebuilt since the fall of the Soviet Union. I know that in Khabarovsk there is only 1 original church left. The Bolsheviks destroyed the others. The 2 big fancy churches are brand new.

Visit the local museums. We went to the Archeology Museum and wished we had visited the others. We strolled through the sports complex, walked along the river and took the time to enjoy ourselves. Don't stay cooped up in your hotel. Don't sit around feeling sorry for yourself because you can't speak the language and you are stuck in "this god forsaken place." Get out, experience your child's culture. You'll thank me for it.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Travel tips from the BTDT
I was going to write a post about surviving the wait, but you can go back and read the whole blog. The majority of it was written while waiting so you can see how calm and collected crazy I was during the whole ordeal. I only have one thing to say about waiting. It sucks. The time between trips is not easy. The longer the wait goes on the worse it gets. If you are one of the lucky ones that only waited 6 weeks or so between trips you know that at the end you were ready to go get your child. Amplify that by about 1000 and that is what those who waited months on end are feeling. All told we waited 15 months. 9 months for Little A, 2 months between not having Little A and meeting Pickle and 4 months for Pickle. 15 of the longest months of my life.

What I did want to focus on was travel tips. I've given various travel tips here and there, but I thought I'd put them all together. Mostly as a review of what I did, what I should have done and what I shouldn't have done. But I'm lazy so you get them bullet style.

  • Pack light. I cannot say this enough. You should have seen the Albatross we had between us and Kathou & Paypay. So bad we took photos. We didn't think we were going to be able to fit us and all the luggage in our driver's van. I think Paypay may have lost a limb somewhere in there. You really don't need a clean pair of pants for every day you are there. If you are afraid of smelling bad, don't. No one will notice. Russia has a distinct smell and no one will know that it is actually you.
  • Don't wear black to the baby home. I have said this over and over again. Caregivers in the baby homes wear white lab coats. (or at least in the 2 we were in) The children see people dressed in white all day long. So someone dressed in black can be frightening. Black seems easy considering I just said to pack light, but bright colors are good.
  • Learn the Cyrillic alphabet. Russian is a phonetic language. If you learn the letters you can sound out many of the words and signs.
  • Learn the polite words. Please, thank you, excuse me, hello, good bye. Even if you make a small attempt to speak Russian they are happy. You may butcher it, but at least you are showing respect.
  • Food in Russia is not that bad. There are some things that are not that appetizing, but for the most part it is pretty good. Pelmeni in a pot is often a stew like thing, as opposed to dumplings in butter. Same Pelmeni, but served differently. Make sure you try the ice cream from the roadside vendors! To. Die. Fo.
  • When they hand you forms on the airplane to fill out, do it. Don't ask questions, just fill them out. Chances are you will need it and if you don't have it a Russian customs agent will scold you.
  • Expect your first trip to be the most exhausting week of your life. Time changes, culture shock and the shear emotion of meeting your child for the first time will wear you out.
  • Take more photos than you think you will ever need. Of your child, of the town, of everything. Sure, when you get home you will think, did I really need 100 photos of the gold church? Yes. This is your child's town.
These are the main things I learned on 3 trips. The biggest bit of advice I can give anyone though is to go with the flow. Don't try to control every last thing. And make sure you take some time to have fun. You are spending time in your child's home country. Take this opportunity to see the sights and take in the culture.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Six Months
Six months ago today we walked into Baby Home #2 in Khabarovsk, Russia a childless couple. Six months ago today we walked out parents.

Has it been 6 months already? We have had Pickle longer than we waited between trips. Everyone said that after 6 months we would see a definite difference in his behavior. This is somewhat true. He wakes up a different child everyday. He can speak better, he gets more sounds, he knows more letters, he can climb, run, jump and manipulate like a pro. He is on the verge of speaking in full sentences. It is amazing.

He no longer hits and only rarely will throw something directly at us. He still screams, but it isn't for prolonged periods. He no longer perseverates on things. He is learning to ask for help. He is starting to eat solid meat. He loves music, cars and truck, things that go round and round and the outdoors. Pickle has gone from a shy little boy to one who loves to make friends. He is learning to share and does so with abandon.

While he likes to make new friends he still is cautious of strangers. Especially men. He shows the correct amount of concern when he is left with someone. I wouldn't say he is 100% attached, but he is doing well.

Our only hangup is still rocking. 6 months later he still rocks. If I look at his rocking when we first got him compared to now I would say it has improved greatly. It is no longer a distressed freak out. It is now him simply soothing himself. Some nights he rocks for almost an hour. Some nights it is only 10 minutes. Wake up rocking is getting better too. He may only rock for 10 minutes before he calls for us. The simple fact that he calls for us is amazing! That is something he didn't do just a month ago. He has cried in his bed once. That was the most wonderful sound we had ever heard. He had a tummy ache and didn't want to go down for a nap.

I can honestly say that even though we've had our ups and downs parenthood is the best thing that has ever happened to us.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
What's in a name
Wow look at me throwing out 2 posts in 2 days over here. I have some stuff on my mind, can you tell?

You are ready to adopt. You've done your research, you've selected a social worker, and an agency, sent in your paperwork after thinking long and hard about what age of child you would like. Your referral arrives and you consult every known international adoption specialist out there to determine if he is healthy or not. But there is a hang up... his name. He comes with some weird name like Oleg. Who the hell names their kid Oleg? Oh yeah, me.

To some a child's name is like planning your dream wedding. At age 14 most girls have the details of their entire lives planned out. I'm going to get married in St. Patrick's Cathedral, take a carriage ride through Central Park, and have my reception at the Rainbow Room. I'll have 2.5 children and live in a vintage home in old town San Antonio. I'll only shop out of the Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn catalogs. My son will be named William and my daughter Feather. If you did that we have nothing more to say to each other. I got married at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Lacey, WA, had the reception in the parish hall with no booze and my chariot? My 92' Geo Storm to a hotel in Seattle. I live in a rambler in a suburb of Tacoma and I shop at Target and my son is named Oleg.

To leave our church via the back door you walk through the preschool. There are little coat hooks with apples above each hook. The names of the children are written on the hooks to identify who's hook is who's. If you glance at the names there are no fewer than 3 Madisons, 2 Olivias, 4 Jacobs, and maybe a Kelston, or Jaxin thrown in there. Parents either seem to go with the uber popular or the totally off the wall these days.

We agonize over our child's name, but do we think of the long run. "Tell me about when you were a kid Grandma Brittney." Not really. A name may be cute on a baby or toddler, but as a full grown adult? I have friend with normal run of the mill names. Heather, Danielle, Kathleen, Jessica. Then there are the ones where the clerk at the supermarket looks at their debit card and says "Have a good day Ing... Have a nice day!" Or there is my sis in law. Same name as me, but spelled so it looks like Ly-ee-see. No disrespect to my in-laws or you Lee. Love your name actually. But the poor woman married a Japanese man and now the clerk at the supermarket totally butchers her name. At least it provides some comedic relief for the rest of us.

When it came time to give our son a Russian name we quickly ruled out some. Igor, Evgeniy, Boris, Vadislav... We didn't think about others. Ilya, Artyom, Grigoriy, Roman. All good names, but not ones we would pick. And Gaye... Roman so looks like a Roman! Love his name. Some of the names just seemed a little off the wall. Oleg for example. Again, who names their kid Oh-leg.

So we get this email and the child is named Oleg. When I called CS with the news that we had a referral my first words were, "What do you think of the name Oh-leg?" (notice how I write that out phonetically) "Ole the goalie!" was his reply. Ole the goalie is actually from South Africa and his name is German (Olaf Kolzig.) Anyway, many jokes were made about the name Oleg. Eventually it started to grow on us. Before we met the boy we were sitting at one of the various medical clinics and I asked our translator, Lena, what the diminutive for Oh-leg was. She replied, "Ah-lyeg? Well they are kind of long. Ah-lyeh-zhek or Ah-lyeh-zhka." I couldn't get past how she pronounced our child's name. "Ah-lyeg." not Oh-leg. This totally changed our perception of his name. It now sounded interesting. Thus he ended up Oleg Roy (pronounced Ah-leg Roy) Occasionally it will come out Ah-lyeg or Ah-lyeh-zhka.

The point I am trying to get at is selecting a name for your child is important. Don't rule out the name they come with just because it isn't on your "list." Meet your child. Get to know them a little bit. Oleg looks like an Oleg. He doesn't look like a David or a Peter.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Age Related
We now return this blog to regularly scheduled adoption related stuff. When we last left on the "Adoption Retrospective" walk down memory lane we discussed social workers. Or moreover, the fact that I am dumb and didn't research the social worker (at all) and got screwed in the process.

I want to switch gears for a moment and backtrack yet again. I posted about evaluating a referral, but I didn't talk about making the choice on age and such. I kinda glazed over that subject. I want to return to it now.

When we made the decision to adopt from Russia part of it was because at the time one could receive a referral as young as 6 months. Yes, yes... I've talked about this before. The hurt of not being able to get pregnant was still fresh and I truly wanted an infant. I believed that I could have a child home before their 1st birthday. Hey... I was on track to do so. Our paperwork stated "up to 18 months as young as possible." I didn't want to go much over 18 months. I was scared. When a child is mobile, can talk and has had 2 years of institutionalized life things get more complicated. I didn't think I was prepared for that. Little A was 10 months at time of referral. If all would have gone as planned he would have been home at 13 months. I was good with this.

After losing Little A we had to redo all of our paperwork. This included a homestudy update. We spoke with the tool and he didn't so much talk us into upping our age range as we informed him this is what we wanted to do. 9 months of waiting gives you a whole new perspective on parenting. We felt confident that we could handle a child about to enter the terrible twos. Of course secretly we still wanted a young child.

We got Pickle's referral and he was 17 months. To say the least we were a little stunned. Within our age range, but older than we anticipated. By the time he came home he was 23 months. Looking back, I wouldn't have it any other way. I love my toddler. I see brand new babies and sure, they're cute, but my toddler has this little personality. He talks to me, he plays, he has this amazing sense of childish wonder. Yes, a younger child would eventually get to this point.

I hear so many stories of people choosing domestic over international because they want a tiny infant. Many of those are people who have gone through years of infertility treatments. I am not saying it is wrong to want a tiny infant. They are cute in their own right. But I encourage some to think about children closer to toddler age.

There are certain first that you will miss out on. First step and all, but there are so many that you will get to experience. First time he tastes ice cream, first dinner as a family, first trip to the zoo, first trip to the beach, first time he calls you mama, first time he falls and comes to you for comfort. Every first is just as amazing as that first step.
Friday, February 23, 2007
I am Jack's raging bile duct
See how I'm still posting here? Why is that Elle? I'll tell you why. Because Monday some jagoff hacked my website. Then I contacted the hosting company and they gave me some lame ass excuse 12 hours later that it was somehow my fault. So I tried to switch hosting companies. Then the new company was slow in responding to my tech questions too. So I got pissed at them and tried to switch back to the first host company and that didn't work. So I got even more pissed and tried to go back to the second company while investigating a 3rd company. The second company was moderately helpful so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Then they turned me into this raving lunatic who yells at her husband and child for no apparent reason. You know why? Because I submitted an email question to them and their website clearly says that they have a 30 minute email response guarantee. Now this company must be using a geologic clock or something because their 30 minutes turned into 12 hours. The answer I got didn't even help me. So I submit another email. 8 hours later no response. I try another. 3 hours later no response. Another. 1 hour later no response. I try live chat for the bazillionth time. Guy-whose-first-language-is-not-English tells me he will resubmit my help ticket. Not good enough. He tries to "help" me. I then sit on hold for 40 minutes with no response. 6 hours later I get an email (which is almost 24 hours from the time I submitted the response) that helps me with my email. Not what I wanted.

So a week after the jagoff hacker stole my site I still don't have a site. I have an old hosting company that pissed me off, a new hosting company that pissed me off more, email that finally works and a significantly less amount of hair than I started the week with.

These people obviously don't realize that my website is my way of getting stuff out. I have all of these pent up posts in my head and sure I could write them down in some other program and save them, but where's the fun in that? Don't these people realize that I need validation from the outside world to tell me it is ok to let my child roll around in a pile of Cheerios on the floor and then let him eat them even though I haven't vacuumed this week? Don't they know I have hair issues to be solved and new "mommy" magazines to make fun of. The humanity of it all!

Sure I could spend my time working on graphics for someone's design, but all I can think about is my site and that it is this useless void out there in internetland. I really need to get a life. Someone come and feed me to the wolves just to put me out of my misery.
Established March 19, 2006