Introducing our budding family. We hope you will enjoy watching us grow... and everything else under the sun. ;)

A Few Pics...

While we sit through some dreary weather, I thought we would post some pictures that we have sitting on our computer. Even though we may not post a lot on the weekends, we are still thinking of all our family and friends.
On a side note, we truly appreciate all the comments that have been posted and thank you for all your support - they mean a lot to us! ;)

Taken at the Peterhof Fountains

Armenian Church of St. Catherine

Home of the American Consulate during WWI,
& of the Singer Sewing Machine, now it's a cafe & book store

Just one of several garden sculptures,
Divo Ostrov Park on the island of Krestovsky Island

A Learning Curve

A picture from July 15, 2011
On the ride home from the orphanage today, I had a lot of thoughts going through my head. I'm sure everyone knew I was stressing about the visit we had just had. Deeana "performed" better than her previous car visit, much thanks to favorite care taker. But Deeana didn't really want to leave her side - not even for a second. In the car, Andrey our driver, was kind enough to translate some questions we had about Deeana. And the care taker had no problem answering them.

Because the trip took up most of our visit, we only had 15 minutes of alone time with Deeana today (a little glitch about how many photos were actually needed, required us to turn back around and do some retakes). Once we got back... Deeana was again, very hesitant to play with Me or Michael. Though we brought her a new doll and a banana (it was too late for snack at this point)... she didn't want us to play with her with it. She clung onto it with the toughest grip.

Eventually Andrey came in and saved the day... and well... that was hard for me. To see him being able to communicate so easily, her speaking to him (barely though). And telling him that she needed to go potty. They quickly took care of business and she seemed to perk up a bit - but she wasn't the Deeana we had been seeing in the weeks past.

Once we said our goodbyes... we hopped into the car, and I held back my tears. Andrey eventually received a phone call from our in-country coordinator and I later found out they were talking about Deeana and us. Apparently, her behavior towards us is normal. She saw us as cool people who brought her new toys all the time, and played with her. But then we kept coming and coming. She became anxious.

They call her smart in Russia - we would call her mature in the States. She needs to be aware of her surroundings and what is happening. Because she is being adopted at an older age they say is partly the reason. We all think she knows change is happening, and is nervous. I guess if I were in her shoes, I would be nervous about 2 people trying to play with me all the time who I don't understand, and don't understand me.

So after chatting with Andrey, we arrived back at the apartment and I hopped out of his van. He, like the gentleman his always is, let out his hand to help me down. But this time he held on and told me not to worry.

Once inside, I pulled up all my Russian adoption resources online and made a list. A list of translations to help us better communicate with Deeana when our time comes to bring her to Moscow. "Are you hungry?" Are you tired?" Do you need to go to the bathroom?", etc... one page long... so far.

I know this will be hard, but we are prepared. No one ever said learning was easy.

Monday, we go and receive our court decision. It will be a busy day.

Paka! 1 comments

The Road to Change

Today with Deeana was rougher than yesterday - and even without trying the car!

We met her in the playground out back again and when she saw Michael and I she started to whimper immediately. I knelt down to her, put my arms out and she let me pick her up. But she started to cry. Andrey, our driver, suggested we go find a playground, but a quiet one. So we walked around to the front of the orphanage and we headed to our usual spot. However, we quickly got shooed out because there was a small group of toddlers playing in there with the flu and we couldn't be near them.

So our driver said how about this spot here under the trees. Well that spot was buggy and had uneven ground and lots of low tree branches with a low bench that would have broke if Deeana sat on it. Meanwhile we did our best to console her, but nothing was working. Nothing! She wouldn't really stay in Michael's arms for long, poor Papa. So eventually I took her for a walk. She started crying when I brought her back. So I ended up picking her up again. Finally, I said enough and we went to sit on some stairs. She didn't like that either because she thought she was going inside the door at the top of the stairs. OYE!.

So we tried everything, again. But this time we added a snack. It helped a tiny bit, but tears still trickled. Eventually our driver came and said we could go back to the playground. NOW? Not that it will help much - We only had 15 minutes left.

So we tried a 3rd time to calm her down and make her happy, but all Deeana wanted was to be held. Our driver tried talking to her. He asked her if she was sick, he asked... he got nothing. He asked if she felt hot... it's 85 degrees... we're all hot.

And once again it was time to go. He talked to her again. Andrey found out she was hungry, and wanted to play with her friends. She wanted a banana, and a new toy (he suggested a small doll).We walked her back inside, down the hall, and up the stairs. She seemed happier to be back with her familiar surroundings. She even let Michael pick her up, give her a kiss and then onto me.

It's heartbreaking to see her cry and not be able to help her, communicate with her, or know her needs and wants. But it's something we will all have to come to terms with in the coming weeks.

Tomorrow we will be doing passport pictures, as Deeana's favorite caretaker is available to join us for the trip. We are crossing our fingers our little darling is able to relax better in the arms of a more familiar face... for what is supposed to be a short trip.

Paka, until tomorrow! 1 comments

No Photo Today... :(

It was a rough day for Deeana today. We met her at the playground, which is unusual. But only because we detoured around construction, got stuck in traffic, got stuck in more traffic because of construction. Huh... it was a mess. But we were only 15 minutes late.

Anyway, she was already sad when we met her outside. Maybe it was because she knew she was going in a car, or they had put her in a diaper, which she normally isn't. Maybe it was because we were late... or maybe all 3 threw her into a funk. Who knows... but still, the caregiver took her inside for a quick outfit change (as she needs to wear white for the passport photo) and brought her back, she was a bit reluctant to come me. Me - Mommy, ouch!

So, we head outside to our driver's van. As I set her down on the bench seat in the back, she starts crying, slowly turning to a wail. I climbed in, but her reaching arms and her scooting bottom meant Daddy needed to grab her - fast! By then we were both in the car, and it didn't look good. We were doing everything we could think of, her ball, Goldfish crackers. Nothing worked. And then we got word that a caregiver would NOT be joining us today as they were too busy. Ummm... time to reschedule. Crying toddlers do not make good passport pictures.

A little background info on why she didn't like the car. Most children in orphanages don't like cars (from our driver's perspective). Reason being because usually the only reason they are being put in a car is to go visit a doctor. And what happens at the doctor? Kids don't like to be poked and prodded.

So we are hoping to try again tomorrow if a caregiver is available. But we have a few days, so we aren't in too much of a hurry.

After that, we headed to the park. But Deeana was in no mood to play. She didn't want to be consoled, tickled, shown her favorite toys... nothing! Eventually we went to sit on the bench (immediately before this Deeana had let me pick her up and hold her, she started to snuggle. Once at the bench, she molded her body into mine) and we tried again. Ball? No. Magna-doodle, No. Photo Album... Eh, Let's practice saying Hayden again... She is getting better, she is starting to say "Hay" in a quiet whisper.
We then moved onto snack. Michael held the snack bowl there for a few minutes and then she slowly stuck her hand out and ate. And ate and ate and ate. Then we took out her sippy cup. And drank and drank and drank. This is when she perked up. She eventually sat up and she said "thank you" in Russian - nice and loud. Well, hello! Nice to hear your beautiful voice!!! All we've heard before were whispers.

Later on we played bubbles, and before we knew it, it was time to go. Unfortunately, because our hands were so busy with Deeana - we didn't get a chance to pull out our camera. Not even once. :(

Paka, until tomorrow! 0 comments

One Week, One Day

We had another fun and exciting day with Deeana. It's amazing to think we have been here a week and a day. We have gone through so much and done so much since we got here. And now we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Deeana was brought down the stairs and taken outside by a caregiver in a very pretty yellow dress today. We, meaning all three of us, made sure we kept it clean or brushed it off.

We started our playtime in a quiet mode. We aren't sure if they wake Deeana up for our visits, or if she is just naturally sleepy in the morning. But she is quiet and timid... and we have never ever heard her get loud. Anyway, we sat on the bench in the playground in the front of the orphanage and started to read her a Care Bear book. She is learning from Daddy to follow the words with her finger when you read, and when we are finished with the book, we count stars or hearts or bears. We kept things simple and relaxing since it is a very hot day here today.

Eventually we moved onto something else (we have many toys in our bag and by now, I can't even remember what came next!). We figured she was thirsty, sitting on Daddy's lap and playing in the hot weather. So we pulled out an apple juice box. Her eyes light up brighter than the morning sun. She must have remembered this from our earlier visit and was eager for me to open it. She guzzled and guzzled while we talked to her and read more books.

We are learning that Deeana is very aware of her surroundings. At first I thought it was her having trouble concentrating, or being easily distracted. Don't get me wrong, she still plays with us, she's happy and content. But every once and awhile, she will turn her head and "poof" she's not paying attention anymore. But we now think she is just watching the strangers that are around - being overly cautious. Sometimes it's hard to get her attention when we are playing with her outside if other children are out as well. She is on constant watch, and we are always calling her name. We hope that once she comes home, we will have a calmer environment and she can relax and let her guard down.

Once all the children went in, we had about 30 minutes of Deeana all to ourselves (this is common). We played more sandbox. She almost rode the Cozy Coupe again, etc. We got a lot more hugs today and she realized that Mommy will pick her up if she puts her arms up in the air - Mommy has to be careful about that one as we don't want to spoil her. ;)
We also confirmed that she doesn't like heights - as Daddy tried to put her on his shoulders, she had a fearful look on her face. I had to lift Deeana off very fast and calm her down with hugs. She got over it quickly.

Anyway, we have a 4 day break and have to put up with a little Russian heatwave ourselves. We go back to the orphanage on Tuesday, and Deeana will most likely take her first car trip with her Mommy and Daddy to get her passport pictures taken. That should be interesting.

Until then, here is a little something to hold you over:

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Peek a Boo...

We started our day today by being picked up by our driver at 9 AM to visit our daughter (so nice to say now that it is official) Deeana at the orphanage. When we arrived we were led to a new playground behind the orphanage. As we were waiting outside, Mel was the first to hear her footsteps approaching down the stairs.  We entered a little playground and took out the infamous O-Ball.  We all enjoyed a rousing game of catch, spinning the O-Ball, kicking the O-ball and let's throw the ball as far away from daddy as possible!

Then the O-Ball played peek-a-boo in the sandbox. Deeana loved burying it and then digging it back out again!  Soon a caretaker gave us a pail and shovel making the job much easier. We learned Deeana loves digging in the sand, putting it in her pail, and dumping most of it back in the sandbox (some of course landed on her shoes and pretty dress). We even brought out the My Little Pony and the brush, a couple of times she brushed her own hair.  Soon the brush and pony were playing peek a boo in the sandbox!

We played a few other things in between, but the moment we knew her attachment was becoming more real to us was when she climbed in mommy's lap and gave hug after hug after hug, and blowing kisses to both of us. We are looking forward to playing with her again tomorrow, and three more times next week.

Our next steps in the adoption process is a 10 day court mandated waiting period.  During the first week of August, we apply for her passport and her name change on her birth certificate. After we apply, it takes about 5 days to become official. Once that occurs we will most likely travel by train to Moscow (the airport is undergoing construction so we hear).  It will take 2 full days to apply for her visa and her last medical check-up, and then it is a nice long plane ride back home, where she will meet her big brother!

To round off our afternoon, we traveled to The Fountains of Peterhof. It was a gorgeous day to walk through the beautiful gardens and take pictures of the magnificent fountains adorning the grounds. Thank goodness for shade as it was a warm day by St. Petersburg standards.

And finally, the moment you all have been waiting for!!!
No more peek-a-boo little "D".

And Then There Was Four

Phooey, Mel's eyes are closed :(

First off, pictured above are the proud new parents of one little "D"!

Last night after filling our bellies on McDonald's (we tried a new Russian restaurant that opened below our apartments, but they were so new they didn't have an English menu or one with pictures yet) we came back home to cram for Court.  I practiced my speech, but fortunately, did not have to have it memorized.  I made sure to write notes on the various classes we took 3 years ago, thanks to my Home Agency refreshing my memory in a very timely fashion via e-mail.

Quizzed each other on various questions that might come up in Court...we figured we would get the "Will you treat her any differently since she is adopted?" or "Describe your visits with her".  So we focused on the types of classes we took as that was a while ago.  I made sure I knew my financial numbers really well. We studied her background info, her medical info and what they mean in laymen words. Also,I  made a list of her personality traits and reasons why we think she bonded with us. Feeling as prepared as we could, we went to bed with the alarm set for 7:00 AM.

Mel had a bit of a restless night, I slept fairly well. Showering, dressing, making sure we have all the appropriate documents, passports, visas, speech, notes, snacks, umbrella, camera, pictures, mints and water (85 degrees in St. Petersburg). We met our driver right on time at 9:30 AM and headed into traffic, at one light we were stuck for 10 minutes before it turned green. Our driver told us a police officer is in control of the light at the intersection and usually at this time he doesn't wait 10 minutes to change it.

Even with that delay we still arrived right on time, meeting our coordinator outside the Court building.. After flashing our passports and accidently blocking our judge in line...we headed up to the Court room. We met our translator, saw the orphanage director (such a nice lady!), and some governmental official.  And in we went, sorry, but we can't say much about what happened as it is a "closed court session"...but we came out happy as can be as the Judge agreed that we would be great parents for little "D"!

For now we can rest...though on August 1st we start preparing more paperwork to bring her home.  In the meantime we'll have 2 visits each week and have some time to do more sightseeing.

Thanks for all your love and support!
Michael 2 comments

Little Lady In Blue

We enjoyed our day with little D. We played outside again, and less mosquitoes were available for the filming. The weather was cool for the most part, but the sun did beam down on us for a bit making us roast like chickens. "D" didn't seem to mind, as long as we supplied entertainment, she was happy.

We walked her down the drive to the smaller park and asked her if she wanted to play on the swing. Knowing she had NO IDEA what we were saying, she still didn't seem keen on the whole "swing" thing and headed to the bench. We set our bag down and pulled out her fav - the "O" ball, of course. We tossed it back and forth for a few minutes, telling her she was doing a nice job and slapping "High Fives". What was so adorable, was if she gave Daddy a high five, she needed to give Mommy one too... and vice versa! :)

We also brought along a "My Little Pony"... which immediately caught her eye once we opened the bag the next time. She insisted on opening the box herself - not a surprise. Michael keeps telling me she and I are going to butt some heads when she gets older. Eh, like I'm not used to it now with Hayden? Anyhoo, she knew exactly what to do... she brushed the pony's hair, and even let Mommy had a crack at it. Once.

While she was playing "brush the pony" it gave us the chance to have her try on some shoes we bought in the U.S. She was an awesome customer. And if we would have let her down off my lap, I wouldn't have doubted for a second that she would have modeled them as she loved both pairs!

After modeling, it was snack time. We wanted to see if she would like a drink and some fish crackers (as they are a staple in my house, even though Hayden is 8). She couldn't have devoured it more! And if we would have let her keep going, I think we'd still be there. Though at first we kinda had to let her "know" it was food by doing some "mmmm mmmm" and chomping noises. Michael was worried at first she might choke. I had no fears.

Little D is very fond of our bag. So much so, she is starting to "help herself. So after snack, she decided to find herself something to play with. And she chose bubbles. Man, what were we thinking? I felt horrible letting her play with bubbles on her gorgeous blue dress, but there is no stopping her! So we tried to be careful. She enjoyed them so much, she said her 1st English word: Bubbles. Did u hear me? BUBBLES!!!

After that, nothing could compete. She tried coloring, it didn't last. She tried playing pony... it just wasn't enough. Magnadoodle... eh, that was so Friday mom. So we walked around and waved to Daddy. It was a fun game. To bad it had to end - it was time for us to go.

I picked her up and gave her kisses and hugs and she noticed I was wearing her favorite necklace. She played with it a tad and then we all three walked hand in hand back to the front of the orphanage. Ahhh, what a great day!

Tomorrow is court, wish us luck!!!
Mel 0 comments

Sightseeing This Weekend

This weekend we went sightseeing and did some souvenir shopping. We took pictures near the Griboedov Canal (and as you can see, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is in background above Michael's head). We toured St. Petersburg's subway system, which happens to be run under their rivers. You must take escalators down to the train levels, of which some have a ride of 3 minutes long! And if you are afraid of heights, this is not an easy feat for you. It was hard for me not to get motion sickness - as I am finding out I may be getting when flying on planes. I have been feeling sea-sick after all the flying we have been doing.

Anyway, after looking like the tourists we are, we continued on our walk to the souvenir market "nab kanala Griboedov" street. We picked up a few things for "D" to remember her heritage, but also to play with as well.

Today (Monday), we are heading to the orphanage to play with "D" all on our own. We won't have our coordinator, nor translator with us to help us along. We are looking forward to playing with her by ourselves, but know there will be challenges ahead.

More on our playdate later. :)

Mel 0 comments

She Remembers!!!

"D" is for Darling!
Today we had our play date with Deeana. Though we had some work to do beforehand... it gave us something to look forward to. We've been waiting this long, what's another hour, or two?

We started off early and headed out to pick up our translator. She helped us a tad today with Deeana, but mostly she will be here to help us with court and such. On Monday, we are on our own! :) Afterward, we went to the MOE and got permission to visit the orphanage again, and received her blessings. :) Easy Peasy.

Then we went to play. It was so comfortable to see all the familiar buildings we had seen just 3 months ago. The same roads we took on our drive to D's home. And when we pulled up, it felt like we had never left.

Once inside, we had to wait a bit... but that was ok, because we got a chance to meet and speak with another family that was adopting and currently on their 2nd trip as well. They are a Russian family, but live in Washington D.C. and are adopting a 3yr old boy. We chit-chatted a bit until the director came in and called us all into her office to sit, sign some forms and wait for the children to come.

First down the hall was Deeana. No problems when she walked in the door... They said "Mama, Papa" and she looked right at us. We called her and she walked, slowly, to us. No crying, nothing. We were shocked! Our translator insists she remembers us, recognizes us... and I believe it.

We went outside to play, where Daddy carried her down the wet steps. We pulled out her favorite "O" ball and played catch with her. She was so happy and all smiles! She loved it! Shortly after that, I took her to the swing, which we aren't quite sure if she cared for or not, and gave her a push. She looked around a lot and didn't seem very interested. We did some more playground stuff... but overall decided to pull out something from our bag. When we mentioned it to her (translated), she got very excited. She remembered our bag of toys I think... So we pulled out a magna-doodle, finger-puppets, coloring books, etc, all of which she thoroughly enjoyed. Eventually, the rain and the mosquitoes got the best of us and we headed inside.

We ended up reading the CareBear book she liked so much previously and a new puzzle. Deeana and I even got some alone time while Daddy and Marina (the translator) had to run an errand. It was tricky to communicate with her, but we still had fun.

At the end of our time together today, we practiced High 5's and then gave each other big hugs and kisses (and even blew each other a kiss). We will see her again on Monday after nap time and we plan on bringing her some Goldfish (Hayden's favorite) and some apple juice.

When we were done playing, we had to go finish our "business" part of the day. More paperwork, the medical, went over some court questions and dropped off Marina, and then stopped off at a real grocery store. Thankfully our driver, Andrey, came in with us and read the packaging for us. He is such a riot and it is great to have such good company while we are here. We couldn't be more thankful.

This weekend we are totally free and plan on doing some exploring.

Paka for now,
Mel 1 comments

We Made It!!!

Wow, it was crazy the week before we left town for Russia!  We frantically finished our last round of paperwork,  and awaited on our visas to arrive the day before we leave. Then two days before our flight a huge storm blows through and knocks out our power for almost two days.  We spent the day before leaving for Russia doing laundry at Michael's mom's house and when we arrived back home figuring we'd be packing by flashlight and candles, but thankfully our power had been restored.  We (and by "we" I mean mainly Mel) quickly and efficiently packed up for Russia.

We originally reserved a towncar to bring us to the airport on Wednesday, only to have a stretch limo pull into our driveway, which turned out to be perfect for our 6 bags of luggage and an umbrella stroller.  Although the ride made us a bit motion sick as the steering was faulty, but we arrived in plenty of time to check in.  We thought for sure we'd be paying for two extra bags, but perhaps the empty stroller or the story of us adopting put the girl behind the counter into a generous mood, as she did not charge us extra for anything!

Nothing too exciting about our flights...although there was a slight delay on our connecting flight for the pilot to have a new seat put in, we arrived in St. Petersburg right on time. We were so happy to be met by Andrey, the driver we had during our previous visit. He drove us back to our same apartment, entertaining us with more stories and our itinerary for Friday. Shortly after unpacking our belongings, we walked across the street to the "UFO"ish mall and enjoyed our 10th Wedding Anniversary dinner at Chile's Pizzeria.

Afterward we walked across the street to the grocery store, picked up some staples and headed back to the apartment. Tired and fighting sleep, as it was too soon to go to bed...we called Hayden and had a very nice video chat with him on Skype. It was so good to see his smiling face! As 21:00 (or 9pm for all you Americans) arrived we slid into our bed and fell fast asleep to the sounds of St. Petersburg's traffic and the bright sunlight outside our windows.

Next date with Deeana!

Michael 0 comments