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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Picking up Alex??? Not yet

We called Alexei and Lela and made plans for them to pick us up later today, around 1 Pm. we use dthis time tos leep in, eat breakfast at a leisurely pace with Marina (aka "little Miss"). We laid out a care bear blanket on the floor and stocked iwth with toys for her to play with. Her favorite toy appears to be the mirrow. She is a very vain little 1 year old who gets a huge kick out of dancing in front of the mirror. *editor's note: Just like her namesake Aunt Mary* It was very cute. All morning was spent getting the gifts organized and individually packaged in bags. This was much more time consuming that I thought it woudl be, but we were able to get everything ready and be ready outselves by 1:00. We were missing some gift components which we made a list of and we needed to get some groceries. We asekd Alexei to take us to the green market for the groceries and to look for a cheap stroller. We bought the groceries, but found only one stroller that weas too big folded up which we passed on. After this, we called Ruslan to see if our paperwork was ready so we could pick Alex up. It was going to be close, he said, but he thought it might be ready. Based on this, we decided to get the photos printed for the gifts for Alex's orphanage and also to get some frames to round out our gifts. This took a long time (1 hour) so we went to the apartment for lunch . There we grabbed some clothes for Alex, assembled the final gifts, and headed out to the car. When Alexei saw that we were hoping to get Alex, he called Ruslan one more time and the passport was still not ready yet. Plus, since the next day was a holiday, he doubted that the babyhouse director would be staying pass 5:00 anyway. We were tired at this point (doing errands with Marina is like walking in deep mud)so we just decided to let Alexei and Lela go home for the night and we didn't even make it to see Alex since we did all of that running around. We played some more with little miss and then put her in her suitcase for a nap.

Once things were quieter and settled, Carol and I realized that we were tired so we took a nap too. All three naps turned into sleeping for the night. We slept straight through the morning, but got up really early, then forced ourselves to sleep until 6 Am. The jetlag is still lingering, I think. Also, the constant stress and anxiety over when we will get home is tiring in and of itself. *editor's note: That last sentence was really Steve's words...if he is stressed out you can imagine how stressed I am!! Also, please placate Steve and read all of the blogs from now until 11/23 as he made me type them all today while Little Miss is being a cute yet perilously close to melting down any moment!!!*

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Happy Birthday Alex...a very flexible day

We got up, got dressed and ate breakfast. (which took longer than normal since we now had Marina). We met Alexei and Lela and Ruslan at 7:30 and headed to Karakastek. Alexei's car got a flat tire when we were almost there which he changed quickly. We then proceeded to bounce around Karacastek playing hte waiting game and signing alot of papers. Ruslan would go inside for about two hours then we would come in and sign our name about give times and then left. Alexei was able to get his car fixed during one of the waiting times. On our ride back, we got a call from British Airways that our luggage would be there in 40 minutes. It would take us longer than that to get to town anyway. Marina was getting fidgety so we deiced to drop Carol, Lela, and Marina off at the apartment to make room in the car for the luggage. Alexei and I went to pick up the luggage, which wasn't there yet due to traffic. (Ruslan had already been dropped off somewhere). At the apartment, Lela got a call and would have to leave at 2 PM. We decided that Carol and Lela would make a list of thing we would need from the green market and feed Marina while Alexei and I got the luggage. At the British Airways office, Alexei and I were told that the baggage was delayed in ground transportation, but that it would be here after lunch. (Wow!) We drove back to change our plans.

We would go to lunch at the American Grille with Alexei (Lela was leaving), then we would get the luggage, go to the green market, get some digital photos made, and end up visiting Alex on his first birthday! What a great plan. We ate lunch at got the baggage (finally). As we were getting the luggage into the apartment, Gabit called and said that we needed to sign more papers. (so much for our plan). We basically waited in the car until about 4 PM and then signed a few papers and left to visit Alex. *Editor's note: We are still dragging Marina around who hates to be put in and out of her coat.

At the babyhouse, Alexei talked the caregiver into letting us bring Marina in to visit her new brother. Alex was back to his usual happy self and played nicely with Marin uuntil she tried to take a plastic doughnut away from him and he bit her (didn't break the skin but set the tone0. The peacefulness had lasted a whole 5 minutes. After their first squabble, they played more independently while Carol and I talked to Rich and Anne Marie with their little girl Bianca. They told us about their hellish court yesterday and showed us pictures of their 6 month old girl from another orphanage. We got a call from John, one of two couples we had briefly met at Karacastek while picking up Marina, inviting us to Mad Murphy's. We in turn invited the couple from our agency Rich and Anne Marie. the dinner at Mad Murphy's was huge with about 7 couples, four of which had children with them. We talked mostly with Rich and Anne Marie, but met everyone briefly. Unfortunately, we didin't even remember everyone's name, too many people. One couple had adopted a boy named AJ from Uralsk and they knew Kenny, Cathryn, and Ben (the couple we met from S. Carolina who knows my Aunt Shirley). It was nice to speak to everyone but we had to leave early to get Marina home. We took a taxi home where we fed Marina some bananas and rice, gave her a bath and put her to bed in a new pajamas out of our luggage. By the way, she is sleeping in the suitcase and loves it!!

We pick up Marina!!

We couldn't sleep so we got up early to get ready. We also called Ruslan to set up a meeting with him and Gabit to go over the detailed plan including all paperwork and "action items" necessary to complete. We were hoping to meet in the morning, but Ruslan said that they would not be able to meet us until 7 PM. Alexei showed up at 9 AM with Lela (Laura's sister) who would be our translator. First we drove to the British Airways office near us to check on our luggage. They said that it would be in Almaty on Tuesday morning but they would call us.

Next, we drove out to Karacastek where they let us take Marina. We took more photos of caregivers, who said their goodbyes and we told them would be back with gifts once we got our luggage. The ride back to Almaty was nice. I got to hold Marina almost the whole way while she mainly slept. It was just nice to see her out of the orphanage setting. The five of us (including Marina) ate lunch at Alexei's favorite cafe/restaurant in Almaty. After lunch, we went back tot he apartment where Carol stayed with Marina while Alexei, Lela and myself went shoppping for a stroller and some small grocery items. When we got back (with no stroller because they were $110 for a little umbrella stroller), we decided that we would get Marina fed and situated at the apartment while Alexei and Lela ran some errands for themselves, then I would go to visit Alex while Carol stayed with Marina. (babyhouse 2 would not allow children to visit).

Bulgin went with me to the babyhouse because Lela had to leave. At the babyhouse, Alex came out and was crying as if it was our first meeting. I felt badly until about ten minutes into the visit he seemed to remember me. This made the rest of the visit go well as he was essentially "back to normal" and made me feel better. After returning from Alex's visit, Alexei went home for the day while Bulgin stayed with us to translate for our meeting with Gabit and Ruslan. Since we had some time before the meeting, Bulgin stayed behing to sleep while Carol, Marina and I got somethign to eat and then we took some leftover pizza back for Bulgin. When we returned, Ruslan and Gabit were in our apartment, so we had our meeting and they explained the we would most likely be leaving on the 23rd (and showed us the details). We also found out that we would need to leave the apartment at 7:30 Am the next morning to go BACK to Karacastek to sign some papers. After this we felt that we at least had a clear picture of what needed to be done and that they were trying to meet this.

Once everyone left, we gave Marina what may have been her first real "bath". I scrubbed her head to toe and let her soak for about an hour. She loved the bath and loved to splash the water with her hands. When she got out, she was sparkling from head to toe and never looked cuter in her new pajamas. We all went to bed so that we could get up early tomorrow.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

12/10 - 12/12 the long road back to Kazakhstan

we spent eh day with some last minute house preparations and packing for the trip and left for the airport with plenty of time to spare. I got some more things done that were not on Carol's list (that got me in trouble). *editor's note: This was the second time that I had to load the van for our trip while Steve was attending to some random last minute chore. This time my mother helped me load the van, but she seemed equally annoyed, for the record.* Carol's mom and Matthew rode with us. When we got there, Matthew was napping. We woke him and said our goodbyes in teh parking lot. Matthew took it well, but I don't know how much of this was due to his half-asleep state. We went in to check our baggage, eat and board the first flight to Chicago. The check in and boarding went ok, but the plane was delayed in taking off by almost two hours in heading to Chicago, so that was pretty much the last thing that went well. We had to run like OJ Simpson in a Hertz commercial to get our connecting flight to Lond which was halfway across O Hare airport. We boarded successfully although winded. The plane was a 777 which was a very nice plane. (it was better than the A330, except the cheap seats had less control in terms of movies shown on individual monitors). This leg went well. We landed in Heathrow with almost 4 hours until our connecting flight. Although we didn't have enough time to visit London, we did have enough to do a little shopping in the airport in stores like Harrod's, Burberry, Cartier, Hanley's Toys. Everything was very expensive (accentuated by the weakness of the dollar). We spent so much time browsing around that we ended up pulling the same last minute race to board the plane (our fault this time). We barely made it as the gate was again 1/2 way across Heathrow (a large airport). The final leg was actually two mini-legs consisting of a stop off in Ekaterina, Russia to unload some passengers and fuel up. We weren't even allowed to get off the plane. We just waited to refill and take off again. The A320 was weak with no seat monitors and a range of only 2000 miles vs. the 7,257 mile range of the 777). The second of the mini legs was about 2.5 hours after which we landed in Almaty.

Getting off the plane, we went through customs smoothly. We looked out in the waiting area outside of the baggage pickup and saw Alexei, Bulgin, and Gabit waving to us. We waited for about 45 minutes before getting to talk to them because we needed to get our luggage before going through the final exit gate. As it turned out, our luggage had not made it to Almaty. (all we had were our carry ons) The airline baggage claim person could not even tell us exactly where our luggage was at this point . She told us that they would reimburse us for up to $200 worth of necessities that had not arrived and that we should come back tomorrow morning to get more information. We are expecting the bags back on Tuesday(in two days).

After the baggage discussion, we went out to meet our team. It was good to see them, but more bad news. They had not gotten any paperwork done on Saturday and weren't sure exactly when we would be able to leave with the kids. One thing they did tell us was that the Embassy would be closed on Dec 16 and 17th for their Independence Day. (this is not looking good). We also didn't know who our translator would be. Gabit said we would have to get things worked out tomorrow.

The apartment wasn't terrible, but it was a big step down from our original one. (no English TV other than MTV, no microwave, smaller rooms...). After getting in, I told them that we wouldn't need them today and made arrnagments to meet tomorrow. I was not in a good mood at this point, and just wanted to be alone with Carol to get a recovery plan started. The apratment was very close to our original one, within easy walking distance from the mall, so we walked there to eat, get a phone card and get our $200 worth of necessities. We are just tired and concerned about the luggage and the schedule. At least tomorrow we will get Marina and hopefully we can get a plan together that gets us out before Christmas.

We tried to stay up until at least 9 PM to corect our jet lag and called our parents to let them know we made it here safely if not smoothly.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

11/30 through 12/9

This time period was generally spent getting caught up at work and getting ready for the new children to come into the house. Carol's mom came over often this week which was helpful and greatly appreciated. We got the crips up, car seats situated, Matthew's toys cleaned up, Mattehw and some other kids clothes sorted out to select thos immediately needed. Due to the nice weather, I was even able to get the lawn mowed one last time and the leaves raked before the snow. (not on Carol's list but it needed to be done). It was a busy week or so. I was also very anxious to get back and finally take our children home. (hopefully before Christmas).

Monday, November 29, 2004

First day back at work

The first day of work was not as bad as I had pictured it would be. I got in early (5:30 AM). This wasn't by choice so much as due to the fact that we were gone during the "fall back" period of the year, so my alarm clock was one hour fast. This helped me to get a good start before others arrived.

First, I came into my office to find two welcome back signs as well as a large pile of gifts and cards for the children. Aside from the fact that the gifts were very generous, it meant alot to me to see how many people from work had thought about us during our trip. All day this was reinforced by the well wishes of everyone I talked to. I am fortunate to work with the people I do. I don't believe that this would be the case just anywhere. Second, it was obvious that the people had made an effort to keep things moving in my absence. The piles of email, voice mail, and regular mail were all smaller than I expected. Even between the recounting of our story to many people, I was able to get caught up relatively quickly. I thank everyone at work for their support.

I arrived home from work with bundles of presents for Alex and Marina and was greeted by Matthew "Who are the presents for??" he asked. I told him that they were for the babies. Where's mine? Was his next question. Fortunatley, thanks to Mark Weberding, I had a Lego helicopter for him which he loved. I asked Matthew to help us open the presents and he great instantly less jealous when he saw that the majoirty of the gifts were "only clothes" (very nice, but not exciting to 4-year-old boys). After openign the gifts and eating dinner, it was upstairs to put the Lego helicopter together with Matthew. This was one of the first realizations by Matthew of the fact that he would now be sharing attention, but it generally went well.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Day After

We got up early Sunday morning, had a quick continental breakfast with Scott and Renee, then went to pick Matthew up. When we arrived, the three kids were playing with musical instruments. We could hear the noise from outside the house. Madison was playing moroccas, Syndy was on the piano and Matthew was playing some kind of whistle. We talked briefly with Renee's mom and left with Matthew (who had gottten a kazoo as a parting gift). *editors's note: I guess that was Yvonne's way of paying us back for making her watch another child last night*. We stopped at Home Depot on the way to get a few things, then spent te rest fo the day home with Matthew, getting ready to get back to work. We did a little more playing in Matthew's room as well, which has become a new favorite pasttime.