9.30.2006

Conversations at our house

transcribed from the English/Russia/Sign Language which has become our household norm

Andy: "Can I do the dishes now?"
Papa: "We are still eating, please wait."
Andy: "Can I vacuum then?"
Mama: "Too noisey, please wait."
(Andy then clears the table and wipes down all the parts that he can reach -- Jamie and Suzanne are lingering over coffee.)
Andy: "Dishes now?"
(Jamie and Suzanne notice the rain clouds rolling in.)
Mama: "No you may not do the dishes or vacuum; you must go outside and play."
Andy: "Please?"
Mama: "Outside. Play. Now."
Andy: (tearing up) "Please please Mama? I don't understand."
(Suzanne points the clouds and draws raindrops.)
Mama: "Hurry if you want to play outside."
Andy: "If I play outside now can I vacuum and do the dishes later?"
Mama: "Maybe."
Andy makes a very long and passionate speech in Russia which results in them frantically assembling themselves for outdoor play and racing out the front door.

Did I mention that they make their beds in the morning and love to sort laundry and neaten their drawers?

9.29.2006

still here!

It is very hard to type on one's laptop on one's lap when the lap is also occupied by five plates and a teapot and two teacups, a LUSH tub, and a small mug each full of playdough. Playdough tea, playdough fish, playdough applecrisp, playdough zuup, playdough milk etc.

First, thank you for your supportive and thoughtful and encouraging posts and emails and telephone calls. We are doing so much better. I didn't know that missing naps made kids more awake at night. We were skipping naps in the hope that they would be tired enough to sleep through jet lag, but it wasn't working. We reinstated naps and everything got better.

Second, flip through the older posts - I've added a lot of pictures.

Yesterday, we visited the International Adoption Clinic at the University of Washington. We got to meet with our doctor and a translator and it was very helpful. Juliana shared that she was afraid of the window at night, that something bad would come in. We talked about how the windows lock and that she has a bolshoy papa and barky dogs and a big brother in the room and that mama and papa's room is right below them and that she and Andy could switch beds so that she was far from the window. This all seems to have helped, as we had no crying at bedtime last night nor at naptime today. The doctor asked Andy if he had any concerns or problems at his new home and he proclaimed that he liked everything and that the food was good.

The children did really well at the clinic. Juliana patiently and cooperatively sat through 13 x-rays and they both visited the vampires without flinching, though Andy's eyes watered. We got ice cream on the way home and they chanted, "Da Mama y Papa dom; Nyet detsky dom." I'm sure the ice-cream helped.

Sometime this week -- it's all a fuzzy blur to me -- my dear cousin and two of her children visited. Julie got to meet her namesake and the second cousins got to play.Andy lost a tooth this week and was just delighted with his toothfairy haul. He got ten pennies andthree candies and promptly gave one to his sister and one to his parents. He's such a nice boy.

Last night they got to pet one of the kitties for the first time. The kitties have been very scarce up until now. We've taught the children to sit when they see a kitty and it finally paid off as kitty became comfortable enough to approach them. Yeah. Today they got to meet the bunnies whom they petted gently.

We were all set to welcome Jamie's folks tomorrow for their first long visit (they got to meet the children at the airport, but that was just a tiny visit), but Jamie has to work graveyard tonight (11-7) so we will be on an odd schedule tomorrow.

In closing, big big thanks to
  • my parents who have been here (one or the other or both) nearly every day with casseroles and warm playclothes and practical help
  • Diana for dinner and applecrisp
  • Jody for a yummy yummy lasagna and a clean kitchen floor
  • Aunt Christy & Uncle Grape for the dried apple slices with which I can buy most any behavior I want.
  • all of you who have taken the time to write long emails full of very useful and appreciated advice.
  • you! for coming back to read the blog even though I've been so boring this week.

9.24.2006

All I want for Christmas is a full night's sleep

This is really hard. We have wonderful support and we are finally home and we are so weary. We did not baby-proof our home sufficiently, imagining that our children would be reliably obedient about forbidden zones from the get-go: very naïve of us.

As it is, it is as if we are baby-sitting in that we can never have them out of our sight. Having lived in a world where everything was a.) safe for children and b.) existed expressly for children, Andy and Juliana can not hang onto the thought that some things are truly and permanently off-limits. In the orphanage, things that were not appropriate for children were kept in other rooms – rooms the children didn’t even know existed – so anything that was in the three rooms in which they lived truly was for them, if not now, then later.

We will say that something is off-limits and they hear that it is off-limits for now. It is all very reasonable considering what they are familiar with. It is also wearing us out as they keep checking to see if something is still off-limits. It is a bit like living with toddlers, but they are tall and have excellent fine motor skills and can open latches etc. Yes, it is exactly like that. Imagine you have an inquisitive toddler who hasn’t learned boundaries yet. You put everything up high or behind a baby-proof latch. Now imagine that your toddler is tall and can easily manipulate your latch and there are two of them. What do you do?

So, you experienced adoptive parents, how do you handle this? Oh right, you don’t have time to read blogs, you are busy parenting. Hmmmm . . .

Just in case you are reading, here is our other dilemma. Juliana has night terrors which of course wake Andy up as they share a room. Juliana gets cuddled and rocked back to sleep as she is icy cold and sweating and is, well, terrified. Andy does not get rocked back to sleep as he is merely grouchy from being awakened. Of course the “I want what she has” reflex kicks in and then he cries because she is being rocked and he is not. This keeps her from going back to sleep. Obviously, we could deal with this by giving them separate rooms, except that in general, Andy is frightened of being alone at all. They are used to having an adult sleep in the same room, but we really don’t want to start that. Ack. Our current lousy plan is to take turns staying up late waiting for the terrors (they happen in her first cycle of sleep) so that we can get her out of the room before Andy really gets going. This of course will only work until Jamie goes back to work on Monday as the parent who did the night shift gets to sleep in the morning. Or I’ll be doing the night shift as well as getting up with the kids at 7:00 and I’ll be grouchy and crying.

What I wouldn’t give for 24 hours of our old life back, just so we could get the house straightened out and a solid night of sleep so that we could handle this better. I don’t want our old life back for keeps, but it would sure be nice to have it back for just for enough time to get properly ready for the new life.

9.22.2006

a bit more - pics added

I just have to say that Jamie’s employer, Acuren, rocks. We received a beautiful bouquet of flowers and two stuffed lovies yesterday morning.

Today we took the children to Value Village and got the last little bits of outdoor playclothes that we needed and then took them to beach where they promptly walked into the water, fully clothed, and had a wonderful time splashing and playing and making stone soup for us. Pics to follow. Good thing we had all those dry clothes in the car.











We had dinner at Mom and Dad’s (yum yum) and I had the joy of pushing my children on the same rope swing on which I was pushed as a child. (I grew up in the same house that my Mom did, and they still live there.) The children behaved quite nicely.

So, here is what I am glad we did while we were in Russia (this is all for you, Rhonda).

  • Make the kitchen and the parent’s bedroom off-limits unless accompanied by an adult and even then, a tenuous privilege that is easily lost. By having places that require extra good behavior they have an opportunity to practice for other things, like visiting Grandma’s and you have an opportunity to see what they can do when motivated and in addition you have a place to hide your chocolate.
  • Establish a vocabulary and routine that says that if you don’t comply you will lose something. We use Paka Paka? (Bye-Bye?) If a child is acting up, defying, or whining, we can ask PakaPaka ____________? And they know that if they continue to act up, the _________________ is disappearing.
  • Both our children have a hard time being happy with what they have. I think the years of going without have established a habit of feeling deprived, even when they are not deprived. When they whine about not getting enough or someone having one grape more or whatever, they usually lose something related to the whine, like another grape etc.
  • Practice holding time for tantrums.

You can use the wash-tub at the MarKuel as a booster seat. Turn it upside down and put a towel on top. We wish had bought plastic dishware and glasses on arrival, as there wasn’t much left of the glassware by the time that we left.

Q&A

How is Holly?
Holly’s ultrasound was on Thursday and no masses were found. The lab results from the liver and spleen tests came back happy. There is no sign of more cancer and we are very grateful for this.

How did the children react to our other kids?
Andy and Juliana love the dogs. Our little dog loves them. Our older dog is so happy to see us again that she doesn’t pay them much attention. The kitties hide from the kiddos. The bunnies are off-limits. A&J love the goats and the goats love them.

How is their English?
We had first sentences from each. Andy: “Juliana three books.” This is actually a sentence fragment as it is missing a verb, but I didn’t want to quibble. Juliana: “Isn’t she cute?” asked of herself while looking in the mirror.

Home Sweet Home

We made it!

Last night was the first night that the children slept at night! Jet lag with Littles is a big drag. They are adjusting really well and we are reaching a place of peace and happiness which is much better than fatigue and anxiety.

We tossed out the "don't visit us" rule as we spent so much time bonding in Russia we are not worried about it now. If you do want to visit, we have a few requests:
  1. Please arrive empty-handed; we want the children to experience people, not things. This doesn't mean you can't bring a casserole -- just leave it in the car and we'll sneak out to fetch it.
  2. Don't feed or offer sweets.
Mom and Dad have blessed us with a couple of visits and we got brave and took the children to my sister's for Mom's birthday party last night. They behaved very nicely and it was so fun to watch Aunt Christy and Uncle Grape (formerly known as Greg) play with them. They remembered Uncle Tim from the ride home and greeted him with hugs.

Oops -- gotta go . . .

edited to add that we were greeted at the airport by Jamie's folks and picked up by my brother Tim. Here are the first photos of the children with their new relatives.





































First lessons with Aunt Christy

9.19.2006

Where are we?

Writing from: Swiss Air Seat 14C
Local time at writing: sometime really early Tuesday morning September 19, not sure what time zone I am in right now.
Posting from: Zurich airport
Local time at posting: 10:05 am Tuesday September 19th, 2006

So many things to write about.

As we were departing from Khabarovsk, Lena was chatting with the children, asking if they had any questions about their new life in America. Juliana did. She wanted to know if we could have an elephant. “No.” “Not even a baby elephant?” “No” “A rhino then?”

When Jamie and I are going crazy because the children seem to have forgotten basic rules of good behavior – behavior that we know they know as we saw it during our many orphanage visits – I just tell myself “baby elephant.” In their fantasies of their new life, anything is possible, and of course life without tiresome rules would be at the top of their wish list.

The children do fairly well on the flights. Andy had the window seat across Russia and was delighted to see all the malinky machina (little cars) and then the clouds below us. Juliana couldn’t see out the window – too short – so she really didn’t have as much fun.

Flying in to Moscow we flew over the outlying areas. The clusters of homes we could see were charming, often two-story with barn style roofs, and brightly painted. The surrounding areas were under cultivation and it was all very pretty.

Moscow is also very pretty. I had heard horror stories of the Moscow airport, but we found it to be clean with good signage and free carts (what is with the US Airports that charge for carts? So unhospitable!). We easily found our traveling companions, as well as our facilitator. We were loaded into cars and whizzed off to the city. The roads are wide and in good repair and the drivers have nerves of steel. Our hotel was located very near the heart of the city so our drive into town gave us a good peek at Moscow.

Our free day in Moscow, Sunday, was a real treat. We took a tram (#44) from our hotel straight to the Kremlin. Easy and cheap. The Kremlin sits on Red Square, as does St Basil’s as well as many other lovely buildings. We walked through the complex, around the complex, and through the complex from the other side. We got to see a real live Communist Party rally as we walked and walked and walked. Lunchtime arrived and found us smack dab in front of McDonalds. All that yummy food in Moscow, and we ate burgers. Sad, isn’t it?

After lunch we walked down to the Moscow River which flows right through town and took a boat ride. This kept the children awake and did not require us to walk. We were afraid to go to our room, as the kids would fall asleep and be up all night again. They loved the boat ride as did we. I highly recommend it if you tucker out while sightseeing Moscow.

So, I think that fills in the details and takes us up to the glorious night of ten hours of sleep. Ten Hours. You can’t imagine how delicious that was. Monday morning we had open, but we were too tired to sightsee, too tired even to visit a LUSH store. We were very happy to find that the Ukraine offered a free buffet breakfast. Andy ate and ate and ate. He loves raw veggies: cucs, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers. Yum yum. We are still astonished at his capacity.

We then took turns amusing the children on the lawn and shopping for souveniers in the gift store. Contrary to expectations, the prices in the snazzy hotel were as good as, or better than what we found Khabarovsk.

At 1:30 Andrie picked us all up in his compact car. All. That is Jamie and I and Andy and Juliana and Y and A and their 7 yr old and their infant. We were nine in a car that seats four. To relieve us of our discomfort as soon as possible, Andrei drove double speed. Somehow this did not help us relax.

The embassy process was relatively quick and painless. We arrived, took numbers, paid our fees (they take credit cards, btw), and were sworn in en masse. There were about ten families there. Each family was called up to the window to confirm all the documents and spelling. We then waited while the visas were printed and affixed to the children’s passports, which were promptly returned to us along with the sacred “DO NOT OPEN” packet that we hand to immigration when we arrive in Chicago. If it is opened, the whole family has to return to Moscow. We will not open it.

After the embassy we doodled about and then ate dinner at the hotel buffet. It was not as good as the breakfast buffet, but kids were free and adults were cheap, so it worked for us. Then we bribed the children with the promise of bath and a movie which allowed us to pack in relative peace.

I was so worried that we would fail to wake up on time for our flight that I didn't sleep. Everyone else woke up at 3:45 a.m. and at 4:17 we in the car; Jamie and I even got showers.

The Zurich flight on Swiss Air was wonderful. Clean. Short. Free Chocolate. Good Food. On arrival here we found the children's play area of which my cousin Jenny had told me. More on that in the next post.

Thank you to those who reminded me that the Russia Passports are keepers. Of course. I am so focused on getting home that I spoke of no longer needing them in those terms.


Blog stuff – Suz I can’t post on your blog as I updated and you are set to receive Blogger IDs only. If you set to accept others I can put in my two cents worth again. I had a nice borschty post for you and it wouldn’t go through.

Everyone on my Families in Waiting blogroll got a Zurich click.


edited to add this pic of Juliana's preferred sleeping position since Swiss Air would not let us make beds for the children at our feet.

9.17.2006

Crying and Whining! Me, that is, not the children.

Posting from: Ukraine Hotel, Moscow Russia
Local time at writing: 9:45 am Sunday September 17
Local time at posting: 8:00 am Monday September 18
Weather: Perfect - clear, warm, light breeze

Ai Yi Yi!

Or as Juliana would say, “Oy!”

It was a dreadful flight. Though there is much to be thankful for, -- Andy and Juliana and I got bulkhead seating so Andy didn’t kick anyone the whole flight, and there were no screaming meltdowns – we didn’t get to sit with Jamie and the bathrooms were vile. Vile is the nicest word I can think of. So vile that I waited the whole nine hour flight. The kids could not, so we held Juliana up in the air above the toilet and hoped for the best.

We did finally arrive in Moscow and were met by Andrei who transported us to our hotel. We were thinking, “okay, feed the kids, baths, and bed” as it was midnight on kid time. Nope! Paperwork with Andrei time. Have I mentioned that Andy is a bit hyper in new situations? He is. And this was new. So there we were, trying to do paperwork with two children bouncing off the walls and we didn’t dare lay down the heavy hand of the law as these same two children had no naps and were up way too late and had not eaten and a Screaming Fit was in the making. So, we get through the paperwork. Food, Baths, Bed? Nope. The next delay was well worth it and we are grateful, as usually one has to get up really early to see the Embassy clinic doctors before applying for the children’s visas. I suppose since we arrived on the weekend and have Monday embassy appointments, we got to have a housecall. I really don’t know why; I didn’t expect it.

As we couldn’t leave the room because the doctor is coming, we ordered some food up from room service and tried to feed the nearly melting children who each ate three small bites before Doc arrived and got them all excited again. Doc left. Meals were abandoned. Baths were had. Children were in pjs. Children were asleep by 10:00 pm Moscow time (6 am kid time). Happiness. Sleep. Pillows.

Boing! Andy woke up at 2:00 am and I spent the rest of the night making him stay in bed and lay down and be quiet and stay in bed and be quiet and no it’s not morning, hush, stay in bed, no, don’t get up, no, you just peed 10 seconds ago and stay in bed. By 5:30 I was crying and made Jamie wake up and do the next shift. At 7:30 J and the munchkins left so I could sleep. At 7:31 toddlers upstairs woke up and started their laps.

Today we hope to see some of Moscow if no one melts down. I think I am the leading candidate. Poor Jamie. I did do the whole flight of kid-care and most of the paperwork, and the night shift. I think that entitles me to a bit of wobbliness, don’t you?

On a perky note, there are five LUSH stores in Moscow!!

The Ukraine Hotel is huge and rather pretty in an old architecture sort of way. It needs a bit of paint and TLC here and there, but it is more then adequate for our needs. Cots cost extra and cribs are free, so both kids are in cribs.


Why the lag between writing and posting? We left the hotel yesterday morning and walked the city ALL DAY. We wore our poor kids out until they wobbled. They slept a solid ten hours, as did we last night, so it was worth it.

9.15.2006

may I brag a bit?

We had a potluck at our place tonight with the other AIA couples here and Andy and Juliana did great. They did not go beserk and Andy complied with a quick time-in with Mom and they looked after the visiting toddlers and all was well. We are very proud parents tonight.

9.14.2006

Counting the hours

Posting from: MarKuel, Khabarovsk, Russia
Local time: 2:45 pm, Friday, September 15, 2006
Weather: Perfect. Warm sun, light cool breeze, no mosquitos.

We are packing! Joyfully gratefully merrily packing! 24 hours from now we will be at the airport and I don’t care how long or cramped or bumpy the flight is, we won’t be in this flat. It is a Domodedovo flight, but our tickets say El Al. We are still puzzling over this. There is a huge “Jewish Autonomous Region” near Khabarovsk, so that may be the connection.

This morning we hiked over to the Children’s Mart yet again and bought some hand puppets and little cars and tiny hair toys and marveled at our children’s good behavior. Jamie and I have been very consistently crabby when the children whine for stuff and we often take away something, figuring that the privilege of whining should cost something. This paid off when we were at the store as they figured that the puppets in Mama’s basket were worth more than the joy of wheedling. This is especially hard for Andy and we notice and appreciate his hard work.

On our way home our driver (running ahead of schedule) passed us on the road and whisked Jamie away to the passport office. He came back bearing two lovely red passports which means that we are now free to go.

In case you are wondering why we are dawdling here in Khabarovsk, here is a recap. Though court was on Aug 31, the decree did not finalize until the 12th of September. We were then able to use the decree to acquire amended birth certificates. The birth certificates were necessary in order to acquire passports. The passports are necessary in order to travel to Moscow. We have to go to Moscow in order to get Visas in said passports so that we can travel to the U.S. As soon as we land in the US, the children are US citizens, and the red passports and the visas within are no longer needed.

Don’t look for another blog until Sunday, which is Saturday US time. We will be in transit all day on our Saturday.

9.13.2006

Another Great Day!

Posting from: MarKuel, Khabarovsk, Russia
Local time: 3:15 pm, Thursday September 14, 2006
Weather: Perfect. Warm sun, cool breeze, no mosquitoes.

First, happy birthday to Jamie’s Dad. You can figure out which one he is.

Two excellent days in a row, if you don’t count the crash and burns of last night when many cards were lost and tears were shed. The cards are working beautifully.

Today Jamie got up with the kids and fixed them oatmeal and let me sleep in a bit. My hero.

Then we took our new shortcut (details at the end, worth reading if you are coming here) through the playpark where I brided them to pose for Mama and then to the tram and rode past Lenin Square and up to the train station, just for the ride.

At the train station we got off and took more cute pictures and then walked down to the Central Market, which is also known as the Chinese Market, though every Asian person we met there was from Vietnam. We bought the children some little wallets to keep their privilege cards and kopeks in, as well as some cute gloves, as the wind was chilling their fingers.

Right as we were about to enter the Amethyst Hotel for our first restaurant meal with the children, Andy started to express a lot of anxiety and worry about lunch arrangements. The Amethyst staff speaks English, so we just opened the door and the nice lady translated for me while I explained that he does not need to worry about meals as that is Mama’s job and I won’t forget my job. Then we walked into the restaurant and sat down. He was rather impressed.

It is really hard for him to rely on us; he is so accustomed to being self-reliant. Yesterday I took his precious toys that had come from the orphanage with him and tucked them into my apron pocket as his sister was moving in on them. He panicked and wept. We went downstairs for translation and I told him that I knew they were special and important and I was keeping them safe for him, just like I keep his baby photobook safe for him. He was visibly shocked and amazed. He had thought I was stealing them. From then on, he brings me his treasures to keep safe for him. Today he let Papa take his precious new wallet and look at his cards and kopeks and stayed calm the whole time, trusting that Papa would give it back. This is a big scary step for this boy who has had to take care of himself. The orphanage staff feed and housed him, but no one worried about the small treasures that mean so much to little kids.

So, the restaurant. We have to eat in restaurants in Moscow so we thought we had better practice. The Amethyst is small and we like the food and we are comfy there. Andy and Julinana did quite well especially in the areas we have been working on. Juliana did not wave her knife and fork around in the air above her head. Neither child got out of their seat. Juliana clicked her fork on her plate for more food only a few clinks before she remembered and said “Please Mama.” Nobody played fussy food games. We had cabbage rolls (we really like these), potatoes, pelemini soup, bread and cheese, salad, and blini. The waiter was visibly surprised at how much the children eat. We are still surprised, and we see it every day.



After lunch we walked through Lenin Square and got nicely wet when the wind carried the spray to us. We cajoled a passerby into taking this nice picture for us.




The short easy way to the tram: leave the MarKuel. Turn right and head. downhill. When you get to the bottom of the hill, turn left and walk uphill past the store with the green frontage. At the top of the hill you are at a busy street. Turn right. When you see the tram tracks you are getting close. Wisely and cautiously cross the street. Confirm that you are getting onto the right tram (use the map you bought at the Amethyst Hotel). Kids are free.

9.12.2006

Andy and Juliana's Excellent Adventure

Posting from: MarKuel, Khabarovsk, Russia
Local time: 1:45 pm, Wednesday September 13, 2006
Weather: Perfect. Warm sun, cool breeze, no mosquitos.

We have had a wonderful marvelous day and I am thanking God for the cards idea as A&J have completely absorbed the relationship between rebellion and loss. There is a lovely theological lesson here for us all.

Several times today I have seen each child move towards an unacceptable impulse and then pull themselves off it. On the few times we have had to take a card they have not rioted and when only one child gets a privilege the deprived one expresses sorrow, but not anger. In fact, yesterday we made a big step when Andy brought his sad feelings to Mama (yes the same Mama who had taken away the privilege) and was able to sit and cry quietly and receive comfort on her lap.

We got up at 7:30 to find their beds beautifully made and themselves nicely dressed in the clothes I had set out for them. We had breakfast and then went to the Children’s Store (DetskyMat) to buy hats, as the wind is often cold now-a-days. (Anyone coming soon? Bring gloves and a hat for everyone). From there we went up to the Blue Church and the children got to ride the little motorized scooters. They were thrilled to bits.

Onward ho! We walked down to the river and threw rocks into the water and ran in the sand and rejoiced. After a small snack, Mama pulled out the bubbles and we chased bubbles and admired how pretty they were floating in the breeze. Then we hiked up the long long staircase counting the steps in sets of ten in English. Andy can get up to 7 now without help, and Juliana can get to 4. At the top of the hill we whipped out the bouncy balls from Papa’s pack and played with them and another little child whose Mama quickly figured out our situation and then directly and without ado stared at us for a full five minutes. When we finally took our leave she blessed us with a big smile. I’m sure she is trying to reconcile what she saw in our family with what she learns from the media about the horrible Americans who adopted in Russia and subsequently hurt or killed their children. Wherever we go, we are the counterexamples to the stereotype perpetuated by these tragic cases.

We’ve decided that lunch is the meal which they can eat to the end of their appetites. Today we had bread and cheese and cucumbers and apples and when that was gone, pelemini. I think Andy ate about 20. He is definitely gaining as his lowest rib is no longer visible. By the way, the chicken fettucini was postponed to last night as I was barely functioning by dinner on the day Jamie was sick. I thought I’d make something easy that the kids would be sure to like: fish sticks. They hated them. Just hated them. The fettucini was a big hit though. Tonight it is cabbage rolls again.

Jamie is feeling much better and I am so happy to have him back on the team.

Our biggest happy news of the day is that our beloved kitty Parsley, who had apparently gone on a walkabout, returned home and is canoodling with our excellent house and pet sitters N&N. Here she is with her dog, Laurel.

Oh! You wanted Andy and Juliana pics? Not pet pics? Well, if you insist.

Only three more nights here . . .

9.11.2006

Family Day

Posting from: MarKuel, Khabarovsk, Russia
Local time: 4:11 pm, Tuesday September 12, 2006 – Family Day

Today the Chandler Family became official with the finalization of the adoption decree and the issue of amended birth certificates showing their additional names and naming Jamie and I as parents. Legally, we are finished, though I won’t truly relax until we clear customs in Chicago.

Yesterday was a really hard day. Jamie was flat on his back all day and the weather prevented outings and the children refined and polished their trouble-making skills. After crying and praying myself to sleep I woke up with a really useful idea. Each morning the children are issued tickets (drawn on index cards) good for the following privileges:

  • Chocolate wafer cookies with their post-nap yogurt
  • A sweetie after the dinner dishes are done
  • A bath
  • An outing
  • A video before bed - LeapPad's Letter Factory is the current favorite

When they chose defiant behavior, they have to surrender a card of my choosing. Ooops! Even as I typed this they snuck a forbidden item off our dresser and lost their sweetie-after-dinner.

Jamie is feeling a wee bit better, but not enough to really do much with the children.

When we were here last spring the director of the orphanage let us see some pictures from Andy’s other orphanage. Every time we were at the orphanage this time, I asked about the pics but they didn’t exist, had been given to the facilitator to give to us, or had never existed – depending on who I asked. Today I asked our facilitator again; she called and was told they had never existed. We went over there. The photo book is now in our possession.

Speaking of photos

The farewell party at the orphanage.















Juliana



Andy's first visit to the haircut chair. He was trying very hard to be brave.




PS ELarch, I didn't get your email from Feedblitz, but I would love it if you would email me your blog. chndlrs@msn.com

9.10.2006

Holding Therapy

Posting from: MarKuel Hotel, Khabarovsk, Russia
Local Time of Writing: Naptime of course, 2:00 pm on Monday, September 11th
Weather: A Blustery Day: cool, rainy, and windy

Thank you once again for your good advice, both here and in email. We are relentlessly firm, and that seems to help a lot. If the line in the sand doesn’t wiggle, it is not as interesting.

We’ve been using and having great success with Holding Therapy. This is what we do when someone is losing it (not used for mere Whaa-whaas, but for anger and raging – aka temper tantrums). Plop your raging child onto their belly over your lap so that the legs dangle over one side and the arms over the other. Plant your elbows on your kneecaps to hold your kiddo there (this also allows you to put your fingers in your ears if you wish). Let them express all their angry indignant feelings in whatever volume they wish (not that you could stop it anyway). Wait until their angry energies are spent. Your child will relax and you can rock your legs left and right and pet them; I start humming the soothing song about now. Juliana will stretch out her legs for the full head-to-toe pet. After awhile they will stir and you move them into a cuddle-on-the-lap position. If they have really been working hard they’ll be hot and flushed. I offer them a drink and ask them to wait while I go get it. This helps them transition back to child-as-onewho-obeys and Mama or Papa as trustworthy-meeters-of-needs. They wait, the drink arrives, they return to the cuddle lap. Both children want to have us hold the drink like one would for a baby. I’m sure if we had a bottle, they would take it. Now there are a lot of “I love you’s” exchanged, and loads of eye contact (tentative at first) and mutual patting. It is amazing. From five minutes to the next they go from raging to cooing.

Thank you to all of you who have affirmed what we were thinking, that letting it all out – as unpleasant as it is for us, the neighbors, and all the people within a six block radius – is a sign of trust.

On a related note, during the first few rages we heard a lot of “detsky dom; nyet Mama y Papa dom” (orphanage, not Mama and Papa’s home). We just waited till the quietness came and then gently said: “Nyet detsky dom; da Mama y Papa dom.” So, last night when Jamie and I were serving them their humongous dinner and gazing in awe at their capacity, I inadvertently used the word detsky dom in my sentence. Both children got real quiet and then Andy said gently, with a hint of inquiry: “Nyet detsky dom; da Mama y Papa dom.”

Speaking of dinner, tonight we are having chicken fettuccini, if I’m still alive that is. Jamie is down with a bad cold and I am flying solo today, a preview of what life will be like M-F. He has to be vertical for tomorrow’s visit to the Vital Statistics office and on Saturday for our trip to Moscow. It is unusual for him to be sick but we are so very sleep deprived. There have been wind storms the last few nights which sets the light fixtures on the exterior of the building ahummin’. The nights prior to that the soccer players upstairs practiced their floor thumping and door slamming skills until one or two in the morning – they are quite accomplished at both skills.

The children wake up on their own and make their beds beautifully and then come sit on the side of our bed and pat us, begging for their clothes. I had to take their clothes out of their room; who would have known that clothes were such attractive play things? Until I confiscated the clothes, they would avoid sleeping by assembling and reassembling their clothes piles.

I'm blogging all the challenges, but that is what we need advice and support on. Really though, 85% of our time is spent giggling and cooing and playing and being happy together. Today I taught them how to really build a fort (a malenky dom - little home) and then they peeked out from it while their bear and kitty danced and sang for them. Their joy and laughter was a balm.

Because Germie, I mean Jamie, is occupying our bedroom, which had become Juliana’s nap room, she is in her own bed and Andy is on the couch next to me with his blankie and books and of course Meshotka the bear (the little pillows and blankies are a big hit, Mom, thanks again). He delights in not having to go to sleep and with his guard down, he always does. So with him asleep, this is my big chance for a shower or a nap. Tough choice.


Khab tips of the day:

  • if you are coming to stay at the Markuel, especially with a child a bit older, the best playground is on the other side of the building that you look at as you exit the Markuel. From the Markuel doorstep, go downhill to walk around to the otherside of the building. The playground there has a really cool climbing castle.
  • bring an apron with pockets. Very useful both for cooking and for hiding contraband in (my Toblerone for example, or their forfeit toys).

All the news that's fit to print

Posting from: MarKuel Hotel, Khabarovsk, Russia
Local Time of Writing: Naptime of course, 3:30 pm on Sunday, September 10th
Local Time of Posting: 8:30 pm, same day
Weather: A Blustery Day: cool and windy – anti-mosquito weather

First, Happy Birthday to my Sister Christy (she's the pretty one on the left).


Second, you may have to click on this picture to realize its significance, but I nearly fell over when I saw this item in the yard next to us. If you know me in real life, you'll know that I have two stores that claim my loyality: LUSH and __ __ __ __.

Third, I think all the losses yesterday made quite an impression! Last night they were so well-behaved they got both the ice-cream and the movie. We had had to forfeit those every single evening prior. In addition, they went to bed with only one "PeeSiet" break and today have been quite nicely behaved.

We have had trouble with their clothes fitting - everything is too big. We brought size 2T and 3T for Juliana and everything is huge. We are seriously doubting that she is 5 years old. She looks and acts like a 3 year old. Andy's clothes fit a little better, but his size 6 jeans fall off of him and we have no belt (we've been using bungee cords). On today's outing we bought her a belt (couldn't find one for him) and him some jeans that fit (size 5). They were thrilled.

It is cold and windy today, so we took a cab. Juliana got all quiet and scared-looking again. She was very withdrawn and, though easy to manage, spookily quiet. On the way home, near our flat, I swear I heard Andy say "Juliana, blah blah nyet detskydom, Mama y Papa dom." as in "Juliana, we are not going back to the orphanage, we are going back to Mama and Papa's house." She brightened up right away. This breaks our hearts.

Thank you so much for your excellent and thoughtful advice and your encouraging words. We have completely changed naptime and it works so much better. Right after lunch, we talk about the plans: Spat (sleep); Yougurt and Chocolate cookies; Park Gulache (play park outing); Dinner. Andy double confirms the chocolate cookies for good behavior. Then he does the dishes (yes, alone; he hums as he washes and seems very happy), and Juliana and Mama or Papa go lie down in Mama and Papa's room. She wails and carrys-on because he is doing something else (she has a rigid need for everything to be the same between the two of them), but then she quiets down and plays with her kitty-lovie and goes to sleep. Andy gets quiet toys and books in his room and may sit or lie down on his bed, but not stand or walk about. If he runs about he loses the books and toys and the chocolate cookies. He is not required to sleep, but only to be very very quiet. He's sleeping as I type, as are Papa and Juliana.

They are shockingly well-behaved in stores. We expected mayhem, but I think they are so in awe of Papa's power to buy things that they don't dare cross him. On today's outing he bought them juice and animal crackers and they were very very impressed.

Other tidbits

  • Now and again we forget to pray before our meal; Andy always remembers (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and twice has volunteered to pray; we have a book about Christmas and he recognizes the story.
  • Tonight for dinner we are having Pelemini and Green Salad (which they love) and Bread and IceCream. They spread their banana ice-cream on their rye bread and declare that it is "Yummy". Whatever gets more bread in them is fine by me.
  • Andy and I played Memory during yesterday's Quiet Time. I didn't cut him any slack and he nearly won. He has a very quick mind.
  • Two bully girls were giving Juliana a hard time at the playground yesterday. She, half their height and out-numbered, stood her ground. Andy saw this going down from afar and blasted himself to her side. He stepped between them and shouted "NielZha blahblah Sistra" (Don't touch blahblah sister!). That was the end of the encounter as I had arrived and we headed home.
  • We have not found the end of their appetites. They will eat until the food is all gone. We are a little afraid to let them gorge, so we don't just keep supplying it. For breakfast they each ate a big bowl of hot kasha with milk and blueberries, a half an apple, a half a banana, a yogurt, a glass of juice, and a slice of bread with jam. For lunch, a big bowl of noodle soup, a half an apple, 3 little pickles, 3-4 little slices of bread with cheese on top, and juice. Jamie and I are not eating enough as we keep giving them food off our plates. No matter how much I cook in order to have extra, there is no extra.
  • On Tuesday the 12th at 10:15 we will pick up the adoption decree and the updated birth certificates (they include our names and the children's additional names). The birth certificates allow us to apply for their Russian passport.

In news from the home-front, we got Holly's biopsy report back. She does not have the nasty aggressive sort, neither does she have the no-worries sort; she has the inbetween sort. So we will do an ultrasound when we get home and see if it has spread at all. If so, we'll be looking at chemotherapy. Poor girl. Jamie and I are both very homesick for our furbabies and beautiful view of mountains and meadows and our lovely home and our friends and family. We called our folks today (we got to talk to one set and the other set was a busy signal), so that helped a little. I usually talk to my parents at least every other day, so this is a hard go for me.

9.08.2006

Advice needed

Posting from: MarKuel
Local time: NAPTIME! Aka 1:30 pm Saturday, September 9, 2006
Weather: Overcast and muggy; mosquito weather.

Well let’s see, what shall we report today? Last night for dinner we had broiled salmon and mashed potatoes and salad. Fascinating, I know. Tonight we are having cabbage rolls and bread and boiled potatoes with parsley. I’ve not much else to blog about as the children have spent most of the day in tears and lamentations because they have mean parents who do not tolerate sassy looks and stubborn refusals and blatant disobediences. Today we have had two raging temper tantrums and one canceled outing and one canceled playground time and one prematurely terminated playground time and one trip to the translator to discuss the relationship between ugly defiant behavior and loss of outings/playground time.

On the happy news side, Andy loves to do the dishes while Juliana wipes and puts away the mats and wipes down the table. That’s about it for the happy news side for today.

Other than the raging temper tantrums, the hardest thing for Jamie and I is living in a flat. We are getting cabin fever right at the time when the children are testing their limits, which means our outings have to be short and sweet and close to home in case we need to retreat; running away in defiance is one thing in the flat and another thing altogether on a city sidewalk.

So, my question of the day is: When your little ones are avoiding nap time by crying wolf with potty needs, what do you do? They are up every five minutes contributing 7 drops to the toilet, yet can go for hours during non-nap intervals. Do you just say no? Do you use a timer and limit one potty break per interval? When one goes, the other has to too and it becomes a big event. Your sage advice is requested.

9.07.2006

Haircuts and Outings

Posting from: MarKuel
Local time: NAPTIME! Aka 3:30 pm Friday September 8, 2006
Weather: Clear and warm.

Well I can’t post pics of the kids yet, not until the 12th, which is the day our decree becomes finalized. And of course, now that we have the children, I don’t take pics of anything else (what else is of interest?), so you will just have to do without pictures for awhile.

Yesterday’s outing went really really well. We started at the haircut place and Andy got a very sharp looking haircut which we both prefer over the bowl cut he was sporting. We got the passport pictures taken there too, which for some reason terrified Juliana. She did not cry out or fight, but drew herself in and turned icy pale and cold. Some old association apparently.

When we got back into the van she perked up a bit, and by the time we got to the BIG grocery store, she was back to her dynamic self. The store was, of course, full of delights and temptations and they of course asked for everything, but they took their “nyets” pretty well and delighted in the sheer mass of food we were accumulating. We filled both of their children’s carts and Papa’s hand-basket. We’ve been buying our groceries at the convenience store near the flat, but the prices are higher and the selection is very limited – just like at home. At the big store, we loaded up on fresh produce and meat and coffee. When we got home they were elated to help us unpack and every now and then I find them in the kitchen admiring the hoard.

On the way to the store, they explained to our lovely translator that Papa has all the money in the family, so he is better to shop with. I pointed out that I don’t need money, as I have Papa. Yes, they replied, Papa has money and Papa has Mama to spend it for him. So, they have figured that our right quick.

Dinner last night was an omelette with cheese and bacon, fried potatoes, toast, grapes, and cucumbers. They ate huge portions and begged for more. I bought them off with fruit crumble.

Today we took a cab up to Lenin Square (100-150 rubles is the normal price, though some have tried to ask for 200 – we just say Nyet and walk away). The children loved the fountain, which was in full flow, and the pigeons. Other families were feeding the birds and A&J were not the least bit shy about barging into their crumb bag. They see all things as communal. Later we had to fish them out of the handbag of the lady seated on the bench next to us. So, we have some work to do on boundaries.

We rode the tram home which drops us off about 6 blocks from home. Six blocks is a long way with hungry tired children, but it is downhill (which is why we cab out and tram in). Lunch was cucumbers, apples, miso, cheese, bread, and (ack) hotdogs. Yes, in a mere three days I’ve become a hotdog mom.

Andy has a loose tooth and was thrilled to hear about the tooth fairy. Apparently, the tooth fairy doesn’t visit the detskydom, so he is pretty excited about this.

Names

Someone in Remarks asked about names. We added, to their Russian names, names that have meaning to our family.

Jamie’s middle name is Drew, which shows up in Andrew. We also added the name of Jamie’s late brother Daniel. So Andy is actually Andrew RussianName Daniel FamilyName.

My beloved cousin is named Julie, which we morphed into Juliana. So we have Juliana RussianName FamilyName. I’m not telling the Russian names as I don’t want to blog anything that the Russian officials may see as private until the decree is finalized. Juliana’s Russian Name also has a family connection too, so that is nice.

They are not at all opposed to their additional names. We use all four at random. I bet that eventually their Russian names become their private family names, names of endearment, and their American names are their public names. By adding to, not replacing names, they have the option of using whatever they prefer when they are adults.

They haven’t a clue about the Family Name. That can wait.

9.06.2006

Tidbits yet again

Posting from: Khabarovsk
Local time: 1:45 pm on Thursday, September 7
Weather: clear and warm

While the children nap, I'll address a few questions and comments from the Remarks section and from my email box.

  • Yes, I made the borsht -- I practiced before we left home. The pelemini is in the frozen food case at the store. I have no idea what flavor we ate.
  • They seem to be getting a clue about the future. Andy has started to show interest in the picture book and last night was showing Juliana their future beds.
  • They are usually very nice to each other, sharing and helping. Andy does enjoy teasing her more than I would like, but I am rather teasing-intolerant in general.
  • We figured out that the problem with the borsht is that zupa (soup) is a lunch item and we had tried to serve it at dinner. When we served it at lunch time, it was a hit. Today we had miso, which Andy loved and Juliana hated. I have the fixings for chicken soup for tomorrow.
  • They answer to their new names, but when meeting new people they introduce themselves with their old names.
  • Though they love the bath they both burst into tears, recoil, and whimper when I pick up the spray. I set the sprayer on low and the temperature on warm and they very slowly and tremulously test it. When they confirm it is okay, we spray. Each and every time, though, they are afraid of it at first. Poor tykes. I do love it that they are willing to trust me enough to try it. I’ll know we are making good progress when they don’t have to test it each time.
  • Eating: they eat a lot and are thrilled to be able to get second/thirds. Andy is really thin and has virtually no muscles, so we are pleased to see him clean his plate 2-3 times a meal. They usually will pour some of their drinking water into their yogurt cup or soup bowl in order to get the last drops.
  • Language: All this is language that we’ve learned in less than 48 hours. Imagine how much we will have by the time we come home!
    • Words they use now: Please, thank you, more please, I love you, good afternoon, mama, papa, okay.
    • Words we use that they understand, but don’t yet say: socks, shoes, kitty, give to mama/papa, come to mama/papa, pajamas, pillow, sit, don’t touch, bed, sleep, stop, yes, no, good boy, good girl, hurry, pick up your toys, time for breakfast/lunch/snack/dinner, make your bed (they did this without being asked this morning J), clear the table, leave the kitchen, take a bath, bubbles, it’s okay, no.
    • We recognize the Russian words for: bath, walk, give, hungry, pillow, teeth (they love to brush them, btw), shoes, small, mouse, dog, cat, cereal/rice, juice, poo and pee.

A few observations for those of you adopting older children.

  • The first day was really hard, but life is steadily improving. Everything has just changed for these guys and they have no way of knowing whether or not behavior expectations are included in this change. When they started to see discipline (we are using TakeAway) their behavior improved a lot.
  • If you are debating between one child or two, here are some thoughts about two. We think it is much easier on them and on us too, as they have a playmate and an ally. Though not biologically related, they have been living as siblings in their group all along, and the transition is natural. If you are considering two, I would suggest that asking for two from one group may be more significant than asking for two with shared genes.
  • Don’t forget forts. Any living room can be transformed into a fort to their endless delight and amusement. Forts, as you may recall, have to be built and rebuilt a zillion times and will keep your children happily occupied for hours.

Our cool thing of the day: Andy asked us how to say something in English. This was the first time he has made a move to adapt his communication to us. Prior to this, everything was just repeated with hyper-clear enunciation. I think he has decided that we are too dumb to ever understand Russian, so he may have to resort to English.

So much better

Posting from: MarKuel, Khabarovsk
Local Time: 9:17 pm Wednesday September 6th

We had a lovely dinner. We held hands and Papa prayed and everyone ate everything that was served and politely asked for more. Nobody played with the silverwear in their water. We had pelemini, rice, green salad, and cucumber slices, and berry cobbler. They especially loved the berry cobbler.

After dinner they cleared the table and wiped it off. Then we had playtime, a very bubbly splashy bath complete with dinosaurs, and finally VegieTales Lord of the Beans. They've been in bed for fifteen whole minutes without any noise above a whisper. This all is in sharp contrast to last night when dinner was a circus and we went down hill from there. Mama and Papa have gotten much better at their "take-away" discipline strategy. If we have to say it twice something goes away. This has improved their listening skills immensely. It is also amazing how much Russian we have learned.

Seventeen minutes. I'm beginning to believe it.

Tomorrow we will go get a haircut for Andy and get their passport photos taken and go to the big market. Three things in one outing. Yikes.

9.05.2006

a few more tidbits

I am quite sure that my days of long well-thought-out posts laden with pictures are a thing of the past.
  • The backpacks are the favorite toys.
  • Going down for naps was much better than going to bed was last night.
  • They ask for baths at every opportunity.
  • The borsht that they hated at dinner they ate for lunch!
  • The yogurt here is super yummy.
  • They can't get enough of the fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Juliana sings to herself all the time.
We play a little game where one assumes the identity of another by wearing their shoes. Jamie and I tiptoe around in the children's shoes and they become Mama y Papa. So, "Mama" Juliana heads out of the room in my flip-flops and I say "PaKah Mama" (Bye bye Mama). She says over her shoulder "PaKah DoichKah" (Bye Bye Daughter). This is the first indication we have had that she understands the relationship as opposed to merely the names.

Wow. A whole paragraph in one sitting.

First Day

Wow. Here are a few tidbits from our new life.

They LOVE LOVE LOVE the bath. We've had two long long baths already.

We had a really really hard time getting settled for bed. Too exciting. Too different. So we have some very grouchy sleepy children this morning and we are counting on good solid naps this afternoon.

Time for a Gulache, which we finally figured means a walk. Alas, they have packed all their booty into their backpacks and apparently expect to take them on the walk too.

They hated the borsht and loved the oatmeal.

More later. Maybe,

9.04.2006

One Hour . . .

Posting from: MarKuel, Khabarovsk
Local time: 3:45 pm on Tuesday September 5
Weather: Clear and pleasant, slight cool breeze

In one hour we will go pick up the children. In one hour, our lives as will change forever. We are both far more nervous than we were in the hour before our wedding.

Yesterday's visit went well. We arrived right after nap time which is "open play" time. Juliana played dress-ups with her little friend E (the only other girl) and Andy played Sequence for Kids! with us. He learned quickly, but enjoyed winning much more than losing. Imagine that.

For our first family meal tonight, I have borscht and roast chicken, and potatoes, and tomato and cucumber salad. We found some wild mountain blueberries being sold at the tram stop and some blini at the market. I'll serve blini with sourcream and blueberries for dessert.

Which reminds me, that which I've been calling a trolley, they call a tram. If you are coming to Khab, you'll want to know that the ONLY good map of the city that we have found is sold at the Amethyst and it includes the tram lines. Just don't go looking for the trolley lines, as that is something else. The tram runs from near the MarKuel to the Central Market (by the Amethyst), so it is very handy. When I have time (maybe after the kids leave for college) I'll try to retag all my old posts regarding Khab with the words "Khab tips" so that future sojourners can click on the tag and all related posts will be gathered up for them.

CNK and Cath, Father Joe says "thanks".

9.03.2006

What we know . . .

We are hovering over our phone awaiting news. Today? Tomorrow? While you wait with us, surf on over to Derik and Lisa’s blog as they have something to say.

Yesterday we walked the city once again. We strolled along the waterfront, visited the art museum (one Rubens, one Bruegel), and found this little monkey statue. We visited the Intourist Hotel (the big fancy one with everything in English and double the price of the rest of the city) and made our way to the Japanese restaurant at the top of the building. The “Unihab” restaurant (though prohibitively over-priced) does have the best view in the city and they didn’t charge for the pictures.

From there we walked up to the Central Market and bought fresh produce and cheese. We can’t find feta here; what we think might be feta turns out to be curds, as in curds and whey. We don’t quite know what it is one does with curds, so we sprinkle them onto of nearly everything trying to use them up.





Just got the phone call. Today we will visit at the orphanage from 4-6. Tomorrow we will go again at 4 and pick up the children for keeps. We will take a cake and gifts and have a Farewell Party and then bring them home for dinner, games, bathtime, and bedtime. Yes, their very first bath will be with LUSH.

9.02.2006

Our Big Day Out

Posting from: Khabarovsk
Local time: 10:37 am on Sunday, September 3
Weather: clear, cool, pleasant

Just want to clarify that we are not disappointed about the schedule. We had the option of picking them up full-time on Saturday, but the gradual transition makes sense to us, and also – via translation – to Andy. It also gave us a chance to make sure that we had brought the right size shoes and clothes, so that when we do pick them up, we are not surprised. Everything we brought fit, including the little green birthday shoes.

Our morning visit was great and a great learning experience for Jamie and me. We started out in the apartment where they vigorously searched through every cupboard and drawer, looking (presumably) for the mountain of sweets and toys. They handled that disappointment pretty well and we headed off to play in the park. (Sweets and toys are hidden in the backs of the tallest cupboards, but don’t tell them that!)

They have a decent play yard (trees, grass, walls to bounce balls off of) at the orphanage, but I did not see climbing equipment, swings, etc. The play-yard had these and Andy and Juliana loved them. Up! Over! Down! Dash to next! On! Off! We were surprised, however, when after about a half hour they were visibly exhausted and asking, yes, asking for their naps. We headed back to the flat.

They perked up when we got back and indicated (sign language) that they were hungry. “Bring on the ice-cream!” we think they thought. Alas, milk and cheese and crackers. Again, they handled the disappointment without tears, though they had clearly expected something decadent and special. “Nap! Nap!” they implored. They went to their bedroom and fluffed their special pillows and blankets from Grandma B. and found their pajamas and started to change into them. It was all we could do to keep them from their naps, but our facilitator was due to pick them up in ten minutes and we needed to keep them ready so that she could get them back to the detsky dom in time for lunch and naps.

It was tough saying goodbye, especially as Juliana looked up at me saying “Mama mama blah blah nyet detsky dom, blah blah.” She is so ready to stay. I think Andy was ready to go back and have a chat with the kids that told him that Americans are all about ice-cream and toys and sweets.

I forgot to include in the last post that the orphanage staff was really grateful for the Legos (thanks M&J&JB), coloring supplies (thanks B&S&B), and craft supplies (thanks B&D) that we delivered. As we are the poster-people for international adoption for this orphanage, we were especially appreciative of your help in being generous. We also took some balls and lots of toothbrushes and toothpaste, clothes, shampoos, hair toys, and one special outfit for one special girl who has to stay at the orphanage.

After the children departed, we had a bit of lunch and then trekked into the city. My good walking shoes are not holding up, so we are on the look-out for replacements, as we have a lot or walking ahead of us.

We walked up to the Gold Church and the World War One and World War Two memorials. We saw many wedding paries here, as apparently one must stop here to get one's portraits taken.


Our walk took us down the hill, past the pretty buildings, and up the hill, past the pretty window, to the Blue Church.



The square in front of the blue church was full of more wedding parties and small motorized children’s vehicles to rent, not related, I don't think.

We rested here for quite awhile (I napped) while Jamie shot these pics of the square.










Our journey then took us down this long flight of stairs. We bought ice cream and strolled along the riverside. We located all the museums that we want to take the children too and found the last gift that we had to find and finally made it home about 9ish.









If you are coming to Khabarovsk, don’t rely on your credit cards. We find that sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t and we often end up using cash where we didn’t expect to.

I also wanted to mention that we had a fabulous potluck at our flat on Friday night to say farewell to the folks that are leaving. A Canadian couple with an other agency dropped by with their little fellow. They are in their final week here and we were quite pleased that they joined our gathering.