Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Bittersweet Day

Today was a bittersweet day. It was our last official day in Uralsk.

Emily still hasn't been feeling so well. Well, I should rephrase that... she's "feeling" much better but we're still having diaper explosions. There's a night and day difference from Monday when we brought her home from the babyhouse. She has more energy and she's a lot more smiley and alert when she's up. I gave her several more meals of baby wheat cereal today as well as a packet of the drink mix from the doctors and I attempted some of the baby yogurt at my late night feeding since she acts like she's starting to feel better.

Tom went to the Atrium this morning and took one of our family pictures with a thank you/farewell note on the back of it to the folks at MacJohn's. We've enjoyed their smiles and friendly service and the closest thing to American food that we could find here. They wished us well and said they would miss us.

After he got back to the apartment, I broke away and took a beautiful walk in the big fluffy snow to the Chagala Hotel a couple of blocks away to check on internet and post a very brief summary of our blog since I haven't been able to get that computer to read my USB thumb drive. It was the first nice walk I've taken outside of the apartment when we weren't in a hurry to get somewhere and it was such a nice change of pace. The snow was beautiful and I took several pictures along the way. On a daily basis, we see people at the local water spigots filling up their buckets and containers with water. On days like today they use sleds to transport the water back to the their homes since many have no running water. On warmer days, they use wagons and dollies and sometimes just carry the jugs.



When I got back to the apartment, I tag-teamed Tom and he left with Phillipich to meet Aliya on the way to the Big Market. We wanted to pick up a bunch of the KZ car stickers they have here before we left and Aliya helped us find them.

Aliya told Tom that she would be over to the apartment sometime after 5pm and Olga would stop by as well and drop off our tickets. It was so good to see Aliya for the evening without other plans. We just hung out at the apartment and she got to enjoy some more Emily/Nadya time before we had to leave. She stayed until around 8:30 or 9. We laughed so hard and we shared fun stories. We gave Aliya several of our books that we didn't want to haul back home with us. She really big into reading the classics and I brought some cheap ones with me to read in the down (which I didn't have much of). She got "Uncle Tom's Cabin", "The Jungle", "Walden", and something else that I can't remember. Tom also gave her "A Day with a Perfect Stranger" and "How to be a Christian Without Being Religious". I also had a "Nifty Knitter" kit that I gave her that is similar to a loom you might use to make hats, scarves, etc... She knits and seems to be pretty crafty. I was trying to tell her that if she didn't want it she could give it to Zhas Daurens (the older children's orphanage) or a friend or whoever and she insisted that she wanted it and wouldn't be giving it to anyone! ;-) That's my Aliya!

While Aliya was at our apartment it was time for Emily's feeding and I offered to let Aliya feed her and she jumped at the chance. In all the time she's been working with WPA families, she's never fed one of the babies... she loved it! She was very nervous of the gas bubbles that Emily kept sharing with us... but it gave us all the more reason to laugh. After a while, Olga stopped by with her 2 1/2 year old son to give us our tickets and a parting gift. She little boy is 2 1/2 going on 30. What a sweetie! He took his glove off the minute he walked in the door, stretched out his hand and said "Sdrasvoitcha" (hello) and stood very patiently and quietly while we talked for 10-15 minutes in the doorway. Then, when it was time to leave he put his hand out again to say "Das v'danya" and he actually said he wished us a safe and happy trip home. Wow... what a kid! Our 2 1/2 year old back home are ready to do their own thing in about 30 seconds and certainly wouldn't great adults that way or wish us safe and happy travels. We gave Olga our spare court album which we had weeded out and put a half dozen pictures of our family in and told her she could use the rest for the pictures of the families that I have received via email. We also gave both she and her son a laminated version of a world map with the U.S. on the back. (Aliya got one too!)

It was so hard to say goodbye to Aliya... even though we knew we would be seeing her at the airport in the morning. Gee, have I said yet how much we adore Aliya?

Later that evening, I knocked on the neighbors' door and asked if they would like to come grocery shopping in our apartment for any of our leftover foods. We loaded them up with a couple of bags of groceries. Vlad (their 6-year old) was thrilled to come over and peak at Emily while she was sleeping. He is so cute and his excitement is contagious. We chatted with them for a while in the kitchen and then said our good-byes as we were leaving before they would be out and about in the morning.

By 9:30pm we were ready to START packing for the trip to Almaty in the morning.
;-) I haven't changed. LOL. Tom was a huge help and with Emily already in bed it made it very easy. We were done by 12 or 12:30 so we still got a decent night's sleep.

Surfacing briefly for an update...

I'm really sorry it's taken soooo long for me to get back on here to update you guys. I've been trying, honest.

The past week in review...
- We stopped using internet from our apartment because it cost us WAAYYY too much money to use it. We've since resorted to walking across the street to the internet cafe which has a slow (almost dial-up speed) connection or we walk to the Chagala Hotel and pay a little bit more for a faster connection.

- Friday was pre-court... everything went according to plan and was a snap. It was basically just for the judge to learn a little bit more about us and our adoption plans.

- Saturday and Sunday we continued visits with Nadya/Emily and did some last minute souvenir shopping.

- Monday was COURT. Court was a breeze was according to plan as well. Our petition to adopt Emily Nadezhda Hypes was granted and our petition for immediate execution of that decision (immediate custody) was also granted. We are blessed... this is the last region in Kazakhstan that still allows this on a fairly regular basis. With that, we left. We later went to the Records Office to pick up Emily's birth certificate and certificate of adoption. At 2:30 we arrived at the babyhouse to say our goodbyes to the babyhouse director, doctors and caregivers. One of Emily's caregivers in particular was genuinely touched and I could tell it was a bittersweet fairwell. We were also told that Emily wasn't feeling well... and the saga continues.

- Monday afternoon/evening and Tuesday... we reworked Emily's schedule. The had a very high fever when we left the babyhouse and we were given a list of 2 medicines to pick up on the way home. She had an upset stomach and diarrhea (I'll spare you the gorey details.). We are feeding her MUCH smaller portions more frequently. Fortunately, she still has a decent appetite and isn't fighting the feedings or bottles of misc. liquids. On Tuesday afternoon, the babyhouse doctor made a house call to check on her and gave Aliya a paper with 2 more medicines on it. Aliya and Tom picked them up later in the afternoon.

- Wednesday... I woke up feeling exhausted and somewhat scared... I'm giving this baby medicines that I know nothing about and can't read the labels on. Talk about trust. I have to put full trust in the doctor that she really knows what she's doing and in Aliya that she's readin the dosing correctly. Today I'm following "mother's instinct" and making a few choices of my own. Some of the medicine is going to fall by the wayside because I think it might be making Emily feel worse...

Anyway... big prayer request here... please pray that Emily feels better soon. We are supposed to be leaving Uralsk tomorrow morning and taking a 5 1/2 hour flight (1 1/2 hour layover in Aktyrau) to Almaty. I'm praying we don't have any diaper explosions for the trip and will probably double-diaper just in case. Yes, our kid is going to have a BIG BUTT tomorrow. ;-)

Anyway... that is a VERY brief update... the computer here isn't reading my USB drive so I can't copy/paste my actual journal entries... I promise to do that as soon as I can.

Take care and be blessed!
-jenni

jhypes@treca.org

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

One sick kidlet...

We spent the entire day today reworking Emily's schedule and making sure she is getting plenty of fluids and eating more often but less at each feeding. Her fever broke over night but she still has an upset stomach and "interesting" diapers... again, I'll spare you the details.

The doctor from the babyhouse came to the apartment today at noon to take a look at Emily. She said she still had a fever but it had definitely come down from last night. On top of all that, the doctor brought some "baby yogurt" for us to give Emily instead of formula. She also wrote down 2 more medicines that we are to give Emily. At this point, I hate being in a foreign country -- only because my child is sick.... I'm giving my daughter medicines that I've never heard of before. I can't read any of the labels to understand more about them or to confirm that it's okay to give a baby of 8 mos. that much medicine all at once.

When we left the babyhouse with Emily on the 29th, we were given a list of 2 medicines to buy and also told to increase her fluid intake. We had to purchase Emigyl-F and Linex. The Emigyl-F is the only med I have that has a little bit of English on the box ("Metronidazole benzoate and Furazolidone suspension - Ensure rapid relief from diarrhea"). l believe we were also told the Lenix would help with the upset stomach. After the doctor's visit today we then had to purchase Panadol Baby (which I think is supposed to help take the fever down) and CMekTa packets which we are supposed to add to her water... (I believe this might be like our Pedialyte).



I was hoping to have Emily on formula for the 5 1/2 hour trip to Almaty because it would be so easy to mix up for her... but that's the one thing I'm not supposed to be giving her right now.

Tomorrow (1/31) we will press on and make it through another day. Our flight to Almaty leaves at 10:10 tomorrow morning and we don't have a direct flight. We land in Aktyrau for an hour and a half before continuing the flight to Almaty. We've been told that airport isn't all that comfortable but Aliya assures us we will be okay. I will have our rented cell phone with us in case we need to get ahold of her for anything or if we need her to translate anything for us. (Aliya and I are both so glad we rented a cell phone for this trip!)

We upgraded our seats for this flight to business class yesterday in hopes that we will get a little better service and have a little more room for a sick baby.

Please keep us in prayer! It's scary to be in a foreign country with a sick baby and weird medical practices. I'm anxious to get home and have Emily feeling better or at the very least to get her to an American doctor to be checked out. (It's not that I don't trust the doctors from the babyhouse - they've done a great job with Emily over the past 8 mos.)

Today I will continue working on our new feeding and medicine schedule and will attempt to work on packing while Emily is napping.

- - - - - - - Posted later today 12pm - - - - -

Emily woke up a little more cheerful this morning. She greeted me with a smile and although she still doesn't seem to be feeling well she's a little more alert today. We're following "mom's instinct" and letting up on some of the meds that were prescribed. I'm going to continue with the one that says diarrhea relief and will keep giving her bits of wheat cereal (very fine Cream of Wheat) and the packets that seem to resemble Pedialyte.

I'm feeling a little better about the whole thing too. It's just so frustrating when you know your child doesn't feel well and there's not much you can do about... or for that matter you can't easily communicate with those back home that might have some good motherly advice. We do have some very good neighbors across the hall that are also here to adopt through WPA. Deb has a medical background and has let us borrow their underarm thermometer. She also brought some of her medical equipment to Kaz. in case she would need them and has offered her services as well.

I'm still a little leary about flying with a sick baby but if we can get Emily to eat wheat cereal regularly it will be as easy to prepare as formula.

Until next time! Das v'danya!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Happy B-Day Ryan! (and Court)

HAPPY 15th BIRTHDAY, RYAN!!!!

We miss you so much and wish that we could be home to celebrate your birthday with you! You have grown into such a wonderful young man and we are so blessed to have you as part of our family. We love you so much and can't wait to get home to see you!



Today, (for Ryan's birthday!), we get to go to court to petition the court to adopt Nadya/Emily. If all goes well, we will be at court at 10am, then we have a meeting at the records office at 11:30 to get all the final paperwork signed and filed. Then, at 2:00pm instead of our regular visit we will have our "going away" party for Emily at the babyhouse. We will present the babyhouse staff with our thank you gifts, we will take them a cake for the party and we will get to take pictures of the staff that have played such an important role in our daughter's life so far. At the end of the party we will bundle her up in her new snowsuit and whisk her away to the apartment!

We don't know yet when we will be flying home but we know there is more paperwork and details to be wrapped up in Uralsk and then whenever we fly back to Almaty there will be more paperwork and meetings to take care of before we can leave the country.

Take care and be blessed... and most of all - HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RYAN!

- - - - - Later entry - - - - -

Court went exceptionally well. We arrived at 10am and didn't have to wait too long before we were asked to go upstairs to the 3rd floor to the Judge's chambers. Tom and I were both usually calm and we knew that God had everything under control. Everything went as planned and as our partners had told us it would. The judge went through the formalities to explain why we were all there and what our rights were. He asked Tom and I if we supported the applications to adopt and introduced those present for the hearing and asked if we would like to have any of the staff changed. Tom then handled most of the hearing, answering the judges questions that were the same as ones we were prepped for - for our pre-court hearing. The inspector, baby house director and records office representative were all given a chance to present their paperwork and to talk in support of our adoption. After that, Tom was asked if he would to add anything and this was his opportunity to give a short speech. He did an exceptional job and Aliya was very impressed.. (and I was very proud of him).

As part of our petitions for the court we had requested immediate execution (immediate custody) so that I could return to work as soon as possible and so that Tom could return to the bookstore and church and so he could return to his son, Ryan. We are also concerned for Emily's health as there are respiratory infections spreading around the babyhouse right now and she is very susceptible to them because of her prematurity. The judge didn't question anything in Tom's speech except for him mentioning his son. As Aliya explained later, it is VERY hard for men of the Kazakh culture to comprehend being a father to someone who is not your biological children. He could not imagine the kind of relationship that Tom and Ryan have or that they have been able to bond as father and son without biological ties.

After Tom's speech, the judge asked me if I had anything to add and I simply said that Tom had spoken from my heart as well and that I supported everything he had said. I also said that we were really looking forward to having Nadya join our family as soon as possible. The prosecutor was concerned with how I would balance my job and caring for our child. I shared our childcare plans and he seemed content with that.

In the end (and as predicted)... the prosecutor supported our petition to adopt but did not support our petition for immediate execution. However, without missing a beat, the judge granted both petitions and wished us well. With that, court was over and we had become Emily's parents!

The inspector and babyhouse director and record representative all congratulated us right away with big smiles and we got big hugs from Aliya and Olga. Ahhhhh... it's over!



We were taken back to the apartment to change clothes and then at 11:30 we went to the records office to finalize all the paperwork. We both signed the ledger to officially record Emily's adoption and then were presented with her Kazakh birth certificate and her adoption certificate. We gave those to Olga so she could begin the passport process.

We had Phillipich drop us off at the Chagala Hotel so we could eat lunch and access their high speed internet to post some updates. Then, at 2:00 we were picked up to get all the gifts, cameras and snowsuit from the apartment. On the way to the babyhouse we picked up a cake for the staff. We gave Aliya our clothes for Emily and while we waited we went to talk with the director and thank her. Once back in the music room, Emily was brought in by the 2 caregivers that were working with Emily that day. We could tell that the one caregiver was really attached to her and it was a bittersweet parting for her. After the caregivers, the doctors came in to talk with us and bid Emily goodbye.



We are concerned for Emily's health right now. She was burning up with a fever when we took her out of the babyhouse. We've also been told that she has an upset stomach and that respiratory infection has started to spread around her group at the babyhouse. The doctors have given us 2 medicines to pick up to give her for her upset stomach/diarrhea. We are also supposed to give her lots of fluids.



It seemed to take forever to get Emily back to the apartment because after 2-3 stops at places that should carry the medicine we had only found one of meds. Phillipich, being the grandfatherly type, insisted that we get Emily home soon and he would drive Aliya back later to look for the other medicine. The poor kid really isn't feel well and it was an interesting night of trying to make the right choices to help her feel better. We'll spare you the details.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Expensive Lesson Learned (DSL)

During our visits today, Emily was very content to just be held in our arms and watch things in the room move around. Her favorite toys seem to be anything shiny or swinging or moving. She loves to watch her plastic links being twirled in the air and when we swing them like a pendulum. She LOVES to chew on these too and just hold onto them. These will definitely be coming on the flight home with us.

Emily also likes to hold on to her spit rags... I think she's going to be a blanket baby. She likes to hold onto them while she sucks her thumb, especially when she's tired.

I think she's been dealing with a cold this week. She sounds a bit congested in her breathing during her visits. We've been told by the babyhouse doctor that she contracted pneumonia while in the womb from her mother and she received full treatment for it when she was born. They also said she was more susceptible to respiratory infections because of that. The babyhouse doctor told our coordinator recently that she would be happy if Nadia was able to go home with us "yesterday" because there are a lot of colds and respiratory illnesses going around in her group right now.

I also learned today that I have been spelling Emily's given name wrong. I sent a journal full of questions for the babyhouse with Aliya. She translated the questions into Russian. The caregivers and doctors responded to my questions and Aliya translated them back into English for me. On some of the questions I listed Nadia's name and in the responses, her name is spelled Nadya. I like that spelling and will convert to that.

It's interesting that now that Tom and I have had our pre-court meeting and have been prepped for our court hearing we are both starting to feel more comfortable calling our soon-to-be daughter by her new name. It has always been so awkward before because so much was up in the air. Now it feels like an end is actually in sight.

We feel that our time here is coming to an end soon. Tomorrow morning at 10am is our court hearing. We are well prepared for this and feel confident that we are here because God has this time planned for us.

At lunch today I commented to Aliya that is amazing the change in perspective of your time here once you have "dates" to work toward. I'm looking at things differently and instead of being content or tolerating things I have a greater appreciation for everything we see and do because it might be the last time we get to see or do them. I went shopping with Aliya at lunch to buy a few remaining gifts for the babyhouse doctors and directors and felt like I was taking things in more than normal. We're trying to work in the last visits to certain places and trying to make sure we get whatever gifts purchased that we think we will need.

We're looking forward to tomorrow's court date. We will plan on going to the babyhouse at our regular afternoon visiting hours to pick up Miss Emily. We will also present our thank you gifts to the staff at that time and purchase a cake to take with us for the party as well. I plan on taking a lot of pictures of this going away party and will post them to the blog after we get home.

Speaking of the blog, we are going to be able to post to the blog every couple of days but I will keep writing on my laptop and just catch things up to date when we get a chance. Everything will be journaled but it will just show up online less regularly than before.

Our internet problems are still a major snafu at the apartment. CAUTION TO ALL FUTURE WPA FAMILIES coming to apartment #12... we learned an expensive lesson and so did the Kaz. staff in Uralsk. When we moved into apartment #12 we were told that we had DSL internet access and were thrilled. We asked about the cost for this service and if there were any stipulations on usage. At the time we were told that it's fairly new to this apartment and that they've had only a couple of families use the internet via the DSL modem since it was installed and they never charged these families extra because they were still trying it out to see how it worked. They told us to go ahead and use it like normal and not worry about cost... that it would be about $50 for our time here. About 2 weeks into our trip though we received a rude awakening. Literally! Shortly after the alarm clock woke us up, we received a phone call from the Kazakh Telecomm company asking if we realized our account was over 74,000 tenge (over $500!!!) and they were wondering when we would be in to pay for it. Fortunately, when the lady on the phone started speaking Russian I knew enough to say something that sounded like "Pongliski" which is some semblance of hinting that I speak English. She was able to explain fairly well in English what we needed to know in order to communicate this major problem with Olga.

We immediately stopped using the internet from our apartment and called Aliya to ask her to please talk with Olga and check on this for us. The problem is that we were told we could use the DSL "like normal" and for us normal means we do a lot of uploading and downloading using the internet for work and for entertainment. Tom had downloaded several episodes of "24", "The Daily Show" and several other shows for his iPod and I had been uploading pictures and videos for our blog entries. These uploads and downloads that we did exceeded the 1GB maximum for the account in less than 2 weeks and we weren't told of any limitations on the account when we asked about it. Had we been told this up front, we wouldn't have downloaded shows and certainly would have limited what we used the internet for. We still haven't been offered any sort of apology but have been asked to pay the full amount. Olga and Misha were over to the apartment a couple of nights ago and looked at the account details to ensure that someone else had not been using the account... that wasn't the issue... the concern we have is that we weren't told about any of this up front. The problem is that this sort of internet is totally new to Olga and she's not that familiar with internet, uploads, gigabytes, etc. so she didn't know to give us a heads up. I REALLY wish we had been told the details of this account before we started using, but the problem was that the staff here didn't understand the details in order to communicate them to us... so although it would be nice to have some sort of compromise on this issue, we are stuck paying over $500 for just 2 weeks of internet use.

So, for now, Tom and I are resorting to playing solitaire and DVDs on our laptops as well as storing our digital pictures on them and composing our blog entries. We will then be saving our blog entries to a flash drive and walking to the internet cafe across the street to copy and paste them into our blog.

It's an expensive lesson to learn but I hope that by sharing our story here others that come after us will not end up in the same predicament. We brought some extra money with us to use to purchase donations for the babyhouse before we left, but unfortunately, because of this unexpected cost we will not be able to be as generous as we had initially hoped.

Take care and be blessed we miss all of you back home and can't wait to see you!

jhypes@treca.org

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Longing for Home

Misha's car had broken down so we had Phillipich as our driver again today. He has such a beautiful smile and reminds me so much of family back home.



We rode with Phillipich to the babyhouse this morning. Deb and Bo have visits right before us and we get to see their daughter each morning as they take her back to her room. After they left, they were talking with the kids that we've seen playing outside during our visits. It took a few seconds but we finally made the connection that their daughter is in the group we've been watching. So they took some pictures, gave some hugs and got to watch their playtime for a little while this morning. We took some pictures from inside the PT room and will share them with them before we leave.





The visits are starting to go faster and it's amazing how much more time we spend looking out that big window now that we know there's a date coming up soon that we might be able to bring our baby home. There is a longing to be on the other side of that glass WITH our baby girl.



After our visit, Phillipich hauled us to the Big Market to meet up with Aliya and Deb & Bo. They had been there with Aliya for a little while shopping for shoes and clothes for their daughter. We did some shopping with them and found some shoes that Emily can grow into as she gets a little older. I wanted to buy her something from here that can be saved for when she is older. We found some other souvenirs that we will take back home with us but we still haven't found the hand lotions and other gifts that we wanted for the babyhouse staff. Maybe tomorrow.

After the Big Market, we rode with Phillipich again as he took us to the Atrium to have lunch with Aliya and Bo & Deb (and Vladimir). It was nice to share our favorite place to eat with them and "pass the torch" so to speak. Before I left for our afternoon visit I had to be sure to show Deb where the macaroni & cheese was at the grocery in the Atrium so Vlad would have a steady stash of food supplies while he was here. It's so nice to know that I share the same fine taste in food as a 6-year old! ;-)

Aliya accompanied us for the afternoon visit and I had her translate for Phillipich that he reminded us of family back home. When we first met him at the airport a few weeks ago, Tom said he reminded him of his dad while I thought he reminded me of a combination of both of my grandpas. I had Aliya tell him that he reminded me of family back home and he said that he would be our baby's grandfather soon. (He keeps track of all the adopted children he's driven for and calls them his grandchildren... he has well over 150 so far!)

During our afternoon visit, Aliya finally got to watch the last episode of "Friends". Ahhhh, what will we watch next? It's been a running joke between us that I have to bring my laptop and "Friends" to every visit and Tom constantly tries to find ways to hold the DVDs hostage from her. (Future families... consider bringing any episodes of "Friends" with you... from what we hear, most any of the interpreters would enjoy watching them... the show was a big hit over here too!)



At the end of our visit, after Aliya took Nadia/Emily back to her room, she surprised me by coming back to get my camera and said the caregivers would like to have a picture with Nadia and that Aliya could take pictures of her crib, sleeping room and play room for us. I gladly handed the camera off to Aliya and told her to take as many pictures as she could! I am so grateful that she was able to take these pictures for me... we will save these for Emily as she gets older and put them in her lifebook. I will post some of these pictures in an upcoming blog entry since I've already max'd out the number of pictures I can post in this entry.

After our afternoon visit we were both tired and ready to head home. We still need to make it to the internet cafe so we can let the folks back home know how things are going. It stinks to not have internet access whenever we want it, but we realize we are spoiled in that area back in Ohio with having DSL and access to family, friends and information any time we want. We don't mind walking to access internet at the cafe, but the room is REALLY hot and we have to cross the street to get there... which we really don't look forward to as traffic here is chaotic at best. People jump the stop lights before they change, they travel at random speeds, they don't seem to care about "lanes" and they tend to turn whenever they want to turn and plus, you look like an idiot here if you "run" across the street instead of confidently playing chicken with the cars. (The slow pace of Waldo traffic beckons me!)

On our trip back home Phillipich apparently started to feel a connection with us and suddenly felt a need to give us a mini tour of the city. It was fun. He speaks almost no English but he knows "OK!" - which is usually shouted as soon as we get in the car - and "Hello". ;-) He would drive by something, point to it and say one word... soldier, Manshut, home, etc. (but it was all in Russian and I did my best to translate) We "think" we got to see a military building with a tank outside, we saw the monument to the girl that died in WWII and we "think" we got to see where Phillipich lives. Then, he took us home, and announced Sva Dom... which apparently means 2 people's home... according to the number of fingers he held up. Regardless, of whether we comprehended what he was saying correctly or not, the entire mini-tour had me smiling the whole time. He has the kindest eyes and smile I've seen since I've been on this side of the world and it was very heart warming.

Back at home, it was mac and cheese and green beans for my supper and the recurring spaghetti for Tom. Don't worry, kids, surprisingly, I'm STILL not tired of mac and cheese yet and will continue eating it when we get home!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Pre-Court!

Today was quite a busy day. We had our morning visit as usual and Nadia/Emily was her usual pleasant self. She was very mellow and seemed to be quite content as though all was well with the world. After our visit we ran a couple of errands and then went home to change clothes and get ready for pre-court.

I think we made Aliya and Olga a little nervous because we weren't nervous and didn't have any questions for them. We were taken to Uralsk Court House No. 2 where we waited for the inspector, the babyhouse director and Olga to arrive. Once everyone was present we were invited to the 3rd floor where the pre-court meeting would be held. When the judge was ready, we were invited into his chambers and Tom and Aliya and I sat in chairs facing the judge. Aliya sat between us so she could interpret for us as we went.

It was really a very simple process and the judge simply asked us some basic questions that Aliya and Olga had prepared us for the night before. The judge did not make much (if any) eye contact with us and his secretary simply jotted some notes about the meeting. At one point she was actually doodling in the margins. The judge started with Tom and asked him the following questions:
1. Did he support the application to adopt?
2. Why did you decide to adopt?
3. How long have you been married?
4. Is this your (Tom's) first marriage?
5. Did you have children from your first marriage?
6. What do you (Tom) do for a job?
7. Have you been informed of the child's health and medical background?
8. Who will care for the child if we both work?
9. Since what day have we visited the child?

Then he turned the questioning to me (Jenni) and asked:
1. Is this was a mutual decision to adopt?
2. What do you (Jenni) do for a job?
3. Do you have any experience raising a child of Nadia's age?

The judge then asked if there were any questions or objections and asked the inspector/director/Olga for the documents for the case. He then announced the date for the final hearing would be on Monday, January 29 at 10:00am.

We said our thank you's and were done! We are amazed that the final hearing is so soon and are now kicking things into high gear to get everything ready for that date. (Our initial court date was estimated to be around Feb. 5 or 6!) We don't have a ton to do yet, but all of a sudden it feels like this whole process will be over before we know it. We need to shift a lot of our caregiver/babyhouse gifts around because we found out that Nadia has 15 caregivers... that's about 5 more than we were expecting. We will need to buy some new gifts for the director and the 2 babyhouse doctors and should also get something that Olga and Aliya will like as well.

To the best of our knowledge, we have less than a week left in Uralsk. We will visit on Saturday and Sunday but will likely get custody of Emily on Monday morning. When we get custody, we will take a cake and the gifts to the babyhouse to leave with the staff and we will bring Emily back to the apartment. We will need to buy formula and baby food on Sunday or at least before we bring her home. I'm not sure when we will fly back to Almaty, but I'm definitely going to miss the staff over here very much. I am already dreading having to say goodbye to Aliya. She has become a very close friend and has made the time over here move so quickly for us. We have shared a lot of laughs with her and have had a lot of very good discussions on faith that I hope other WPA families behind us will continue.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

POSTINGS DELAYED & Pre-Court

Just a quick blog today to let you all know that we will be delayed in posting for a least a day or two and then may have some more simplified blogs. We found out yesterday morning that DSL over here is billed quite differently than in the states and we are working out some details of that before we do much more uploading and downloading online. We are going to tentatively hold off on posting our blogs until we get things ironed out on this end and figure out what's going on. I just wanted to be sure to let everyone know so if you didn't hear from us for a while you didn't get worried. We are fine and the other American families came in yesterday afternoon so we have English-speaking company now too.

In other (better) news we found out that we have pre-court on 1/26 at 2PM. It should only last about 15 minutes and we were given a run through of potential questions that might be asked. It's a formality of the court system and should be pretty painless.

Okay, enough from me... I don't know how much this is costing me so I need to keep it short and sweet today. Remember, there will be a short delay in my postings but I'll keep them running in the background and will upload them once we get everything ironed out.

Take care and be blessed!
-jenni

Scrambled Schedules - post-blogged



Today was a little stirred up because 2 other American families were coming into Uralsk this morning. We received a call around 9:00 this morning from the Kazakh Telecom company (www.megaline.kz) telling us that our balance on our internet account was higher than normal and were we aware of that. No, we weren't aware of that and were under the understanding that we might expect to have to pay about $50 at the most for our time here on the internet. Yikes!

We made a note to be sure to mention this to Aliya at our morning visit so we can get them to check on this and understand what's going on. (We don't know if the balance is from just us or combined with the families that were ahead of us because we've only been here for 2 weeks.) Regardless, we're going to pass this issue to Aliya and Olga to figure out... until then we're stopping internet usage from the apartment and in the meantime, will try to go to an internet cafe once every day or 2 to keep up with home.

Around 9:30am we got a call from Aliya saying that she was going to be unable to be at the morning visit but that her sister, Asia, was going to fill in for her again. The American families still hadn't come in yet and their flight was delayed because of the fog this morning. Apparently their flight had been circling the airport for almost an hour and a half and had been diverted to the airport in Aktobe (I think). Aliya and Misha were needed to help bring them home.

After our morning visit we called Aliya to ask about the internet charges and to ask her to touch base with Olga to find out what was going on. Aliya was sitting at home and waiting for a call to head to the airport. She was still waiting for the families to fly from Aktobe to Uralsk and didn't know when that would be.

We received another call from Aliya around 1pm and she mentioned the other families were finally on their way in. They would be getting into their apartment across the hall from us hopefully before 2pm. When Aliya and the families came in, she came over to introduce us. Across the hall from us are Bo and Deb Bloomer and their 6-year old son, Vlad, (he was adopted from Kokshetau, Kaz. about 4 years ago) and also Bo's dad, Ted. The other family is a single mom named Jean and her mom, Madilyn. They are staying at the Pushkin Hotel about 10 minutes away from us. They were definitely tired from their long trip and I would imagine they were pretty hungry too. They had been in an unfamiliar airport for several hours with very few people that spoke English and probably no vending machines. Aliya also let us know that Misha would be late coming to get us and that she would not be going with us this afternoon.

Misha showed up shortly before 2:30 and took us to the babyhouse for our regular afternoon visit. He came in with us to let someone know we were there and in a few minutes, Nadia/Emily was brought into the PT room to us. She was in a pretty mellow mood this afternoon and was content to just sit and lay and watch Tom and I and her toys. Usually she gets a little cranky toward the end of our visits but she was content today. I think she's fighting a cold again as she's been somewhat congested lately and seems pretty tired during our visits. Afterwards, Misha brought us back to the apartment where we settled in for the night.

We found out earlier this morning that our pre-court meeting is tomorrow at 2pm but we still haven't heard many of the details. I thought we would get a call this afternoon from Aliya to set up a meeting for tonight or that we would discuss the details during our morning visit. Nope, I was wrong... Aliya and Olga and Misha showed up at the apartment shortly after we had finished supper. Tom had just changed into PJs and was checking to make sure his court clothes didn't need ironed for tomorrow and had to run in to change back into regular clothes when the knock came on the door. Misha had come to check out the details on the internet account and to see if he could figure it out... apparently they allow a maximum amount of uploads/downloads per month and once that's exceeded the rate goes way up. It would have been nice to know those kinds of details up front. I don't know if we can negotiate our way through this one or not but Tom is not a happy camper right now. ;-) Tom and I made the decision later in the night that we will not access the internet from our apartment until this is resolved.

After that, Olga and Aliya switched into business mode and we discussed what would happen tomorrow at pre-court and what kinds of questions we should be prepared to answer. She ran through the list of potential questions the judge might ask and said that the meeting would last about 15 minutes at the most. It sounds as if Tom will do most if not all of the talking. Then, Olga shared the details that she knew about Nadia's mother. For Nadia/Emily's privacy we will not post all the details here but will say that she had a normal, but premature delivery and her mother had pneumonia at delivery. Nadia/Emily did very well with treatments and although she struggled with her health for the first couple of months she began making steady improvements and gains in her development.

During the review of pre-court details I had been handwriting notes on what the questions would be, but when Olga started sharing the details about Nadia/Emily's background I pulled out my laptop and started typing because I didn't want to miss a thing. I was able to type verbatim what Olga & Aliya shared with us because it takes them a little longer to translate and speak... they were both amazed to see anyone type using all 10 fingers and to do it without having to look at the screen. I'm not sure they had ever seen this done before and Olga ended up moving from across the room to sit beside me on the couch so she could watch. ;-) Hehehe... it made me chuckle.

After Nadia/Emily's background review we bid our friends farewell and they went across the hall to check in with the Bo and Deb. Tomorrow we will get picked up for our morning visit as usual and then will miss our afternoon visit due to pre-court.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Aliya and a darn cute kid

Today, I asked Aliya to send a quick hello to all you WPA families that are following along... and the rest of you can take a peek too. This is Aliya being very serious (which we don't see too often!). Aliya is very professional when she needs to be but deep down she's a fun-loving young lady.



Tom was able to catch a glimpse of the children that go out to play while we're in the PT room. The kids are about 3 or 4 years old and are very well behaved. The go outside to play with their caregiver for a while and we see them all bundled up like this a couple of times a week. The one in the orange coat is a real firecracker. He/She usually goes along with the rest of the group but every now and then decides to do his/her own thing. The group gets ready to head in and he/she try to head to the other side of the playground. We've learned that hoods come in handy for keeping kids on a leash... in a kind way of course! ;-)


Here is another view through the PT room windows... behind the trees is a car with Misha in a red coat. He likes to spend time cleaning ice off his car while we're visiting. Also... if you look closely... it's SNOWING! I've been waiting to see it snow here and I finally got my wish! It's snowed a couple of times during the night since we've been here but this is the first that I've really been able to enjoy watching it snow.



Here is a picture of the playground that was purchased by our agency (WPA) about a year and a half or so ago. It's still in wonderful shape and if it weren't so slushy right now I'd go try it out! Our agency has done a lot to help the babyhouse here and has even donated money to replace the roof on the building and fix structural issues within. The big tree that was in the music room when we first arrived was also purchased by our agency. They really do use the money wisely and it ultimately goes to help the children. I can't say enough good things about WPA!



Just another cute shot of Nadia/Emily cuddling up to her daddy today. This is the first time I've tried setting her on her knees like this because she just hasn't been too flexible until now... boy did she love cuddling up against Tom's tummy and she just kept patting his shirt with her hands. It was too cute!



Nadia/Emily is really into standing up and bouncing right now. Here's a clip. I'm just holding her steady... she's doing the bouncing on her own and loving it!



Take care and be blessed!
-jenni

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mad Ramblings

Mad Ramblings from the Other Person on this Journey...

I realize that I have not talked much on the blog so I thought I would type a little on some random thoughts on our trip.

Food – I miss it! Big bags of chips instead of small bags of meat flavored chip (YUCK); regular pizza instead of a land that has no clue what pepperoni is; Bar-B-Q anything but would love some ribs; and shouldn’t the US help a country that does not have Chips and Salsa? Box me up some Pizza Hut and send it over!

Our one ray of sunshine is MacJohn’s. Jenni may have typed about it but it is as close to US restaurants as we’ve got. I had a hotdog sandwich that was unlike anything I had before. It was really good but designed more like a sandwich you would get at a fancier restaurant. Great food and the owner treats Americans like celebrities. It also helps to have an English version of their menu. I could eat there daily but I am still ready for some El Campesino or Pizza Hut.

Driving – They save a lot of money here by not painting lines on the road but they would just get in the way. Imagine there is a 3 ½ lane road without lanes. The right one is generally for regular traffic and the left one is for its traffic. The 1 ½ in between is a free for all and you’re very comfortable driving within an inch or two of each other. WEEEEE!

It is worse in Almaty where they drive and park in open spots of the sidewalk but its still fun! Misha, our driver is very good though and feel very safe with him. I teased him today (through charades) of wanting to drive which he got a chuckle out of.

New Friends – Misha (driver), Olga (coordinator), and Aliya (interpreter have been great. They are doing well with our brand of sarcastic humor, even the ones who don’t speak English. We really enjoy them and they make the trip much more enjoyable.

I think the most fun times are when we get to tease with Misha, whether it be through Aliya or charades. He has quite the mischievous sense of humor. For instance, Aliya talks a lot which we enjoy but Misha likes to tease her about her talking. Yesterday, Aliya took a day off and her sister, who used to work for the agency filled in as an interpreter. She does not talk as much. Misha told her yesterday that compared to Aliya, the sister is deaf and mute. Maybe you needed to be there.

I think the worse was when I was teasing Aliya today that I was going to find her a man which made her nervous as we walked through the Atrium. When we got in the car, I told her to tell Misha that I was trying to find her a man and what kind of man did he suggest. She did not want to but I kept bugging her till she did knowing he would join in the fun. However, as she tried to tell him through her laughter, I realized how mean it is to enlist help in teasing someone by forcing the victim to interpret for them. I’m surprised she didn’t change what I said to get me back.

Churches – I’m not going to say a lot on here about the local churches because I want to hold some back for talking at church. For those who don’t come to the church, I will give more details later. However, they are very different than our church back home and really, any church from back home. Going to the few here, it is powerful and beautiful but also more like going to a museum.

We talked through with Misha and Aliya what our church was like by playing them sound files and showing pics. This is kinda building on our many talks as they have been interested in the fact that I’m a pastor. They both really like the concept and set up of the Fellowship but there is nothing like it here. Please continue to pray for us as we get a chance to talk to them more while we are here. We are building on the witness of others who have been here before. When Josh prayed at our church that we would be bold and be able to share the gospel in this country, I knew it would take the Lord to open that kind of door here. I’m glad He has and pray more will be open.

Home – I miss it and want to be home. Want to see my son. Want to see our families. Want to see our friends. Trying to enjoy what we can because I know we will miss the people once we leave but come on…………

Emily – BEAUTIFUL………It is great to see her everyday but it’s hard to leave her twice a day. The fun part is we still don’t have to change diapers. However, I would add that to my plate to have her with us and not have to leave her and sit in this apartment knowing it’s just a matter of time and paperwork before we can bring her home to all of you.

Speaking of you – Thank you….thank you for your love, support, prayers, and thoughts. We love you all and will be home soon…..as soon as possible. May God bless you!

-Tom

How "Bazaar"!

Between our morning and afternoon visit we went to the Bazaar which is like a giant outdoor market. Not really a flea market (with used stuff) but with booths set up for outdoor sales. This operates throughout the year even in cold, snowy weather and this seems to be where a lot of locals do their shopping. We had 1 main item on our list of things to purchase and that was a snowsuit for Nadia/Emily. I didn't want to try to pack one to bring along especially since we didn't know for sure what size she would be.

It didn't take us long and Tom was ready to make his first purchase... a hat for his noggin'. It was a bit chilly outside and quite sloshy too!

It took us a while, but after at least 2 pair of soggy socks (Jenni's and Aliya's) we finally found a booth that sold baby-sized snowsuits. The sizing is different here and we had 2 to pick from... we did the best we could without a kid in tow and the lady said she would let us exchange for a smaller size if we needed to. The original one we picked up was a pretty bright purple color but later after trying it on Nadia we decided to exchange it for a smaller size and they only had blue. Both Aliya and the sales lady were concerned that I might buy a blue snowsuit for a little girl, but the only other option was to buy a goofy looking one with what looked like satanic horns on the hood. (Tom and I both agreed blue was better than making our daughter look like Satan!)

While we were looking for snowsuits, we also ran across a couple of tables that sold jewelry and I found several silver rings that had Russian prayers on them for just 600 tenge each (just about $5)! I picked out 3 for myself and 1 to save back for Emily as she gets older.

Here are a few pictures from the bazaar...









And, just so I don't get in trouble for not posting any pictures of the jitterbug today... here ya go!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Coos, Dogs and Potter!

Today's visits weren't anything out of the ordinary. Since the kidlet has been a little spit-up factory lately we have run out of clean rags to bring with us. All 4 are hanging up to dry! I had asked Aliya if she could get one for us to borrow today and she had forgotten. She brought Nadia/Emily into the PT room for our visit this morning and no sooner had she left the room to borrow a rag and Nadia erupted!

It would figure, too. Aliya needed to take our family picture today for our court album. Fortunately, Aliya was quick to the rescue and we got her cleaned up... except for the wet spots on her shirt and pants which you can see in the picture if you look closely.




Here's a little video to keep you entertained as well. Even though Tom's hand looks absolutely huge over her head she absolutely loves when he does this. It actually calms her down and she would let him do this all day!



After our morning visit we went to visit Maternity Hospital #3 (where Nadia was born). We didn't go inside, but Tom took pictures from the outside while Aliya shared the story of the hospital. It goes something like, "You know, there are 2 maternity hospitals in Uralsk..." "I do? I thought we were at #3?" At this, Aliya busts up laughing because she realized what she had just said... it doesn't take much to make this girl laugh. I never did find out what happened to the missing babyhouse, but I will assume it was closed down for some reason or another.

The "other" babyhouse is used mainly by those that are native to Uralsk, this babyhouse that Nadia/Emily was born in is much bigger and is used by those women coming in from the surrounding areas. It is also used on occasion as an overflow hospital if the main hospital for Uralsk citizens is too full. This little bit of information tells us that most likely Nadia's mother is not native to Uralsk but comes from one of the surrounding suburbs or rural regions. And, it's very possible that our coordinator, Olga, knows more about her birth parents.



On our way up to the maternity we found a great opportunity to share some of the wildlife in the area with you. Remember the dogs we've talked about? Here is a pack them that were greatly interested in introducing themselves to one another while we were walking by. ;-)



Not too much to share in other news. For Katie and Carrie... I include this brief clip... Harry Potter was on TV tonight. So, here it is, just for you!



And, for those curious about the laundry situation, this is for you. We are learning to put loads of laundry in the washing machine when we're headed to bed or headed out the door. It's a top loading washing machine that sounds like a jet engine taking off when it starts the spin cycle. Not only that, but remember I said it's in the kitchen beside the sink? The entire counter top shimmies and shakes when that things running. Here's a quick snippet of the event... as it's turning off. The dishes in the drying rack rattle, the water in the sink splashes... all in all if you didn't know better you might think we were experiencing an earthquake not a spin cycle!



That's enough for one day! Until next time! Paka and Das'vdanya!


Current spew score:
Jenni: 4
Tom: 1
Aliya: 1

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Feeding Frenzy & Photographs

Today, I got to feed our baby. After spending 2 years reading other family's travel journals I felt prepared to do my job. Sort of. We were told yesterday that we would move our schedule up a half hour so we'd be able to feed her when she normally eats. Aliya wasn't able to join us today but her sister, Asia (pronounced Uh-see-ya)came along for the fun.

We met in a different room this morning for feeding time... it was a little room that connected to the babies' playroom. At first they told me I had to wash my hands... but then they changed their minds. (Must have been the sparkling radiance from my shower this morning!) So, during that brief period of confusion I got to take a quick peak inside the playroom! (So sneaky, I know!) They use this room for feeding, playing, changing babies, etc. and I believe the babies' sleeping quarters are in an adjacent room around the corner. There were a couple of cribs, some comfy chairs for the caregivers, and several squealing babies from what I could tell. Tom made the observation that while we were there, when the babies got a little louder, the music on the radio in that room got turned up a little louder. Very effective and we had some jammin' music to feed Nadia/Emily by! ;-)

They brought Nadia/Emily out to me dressed in the clothes we brought for her this morning and then the caregiver went back in to get a tray that contained a huge bowl of Cream of Wheat with a regular-sized metal teaspoon and a big tea cup filled with lukewarm tea. There was also a bib and a dish rag on the tray. I didn't know if I was supposed to go ahead and feed her or if I was to wait for instructions but Asia said I should just go ahead.



What ensued was pure chaos of the sweetest kind. Man, can this kid eat! First off, the portion was enough to fill a grown man... let alone the fact that I have every reason to believe this is not her first meal of the day. This is 2nd breakfast for her! Not only did she love the stuff, but if I didn't shovel it in fast enough she wasn't afraid to let me know. Oh, and forget about high chairs and sippy cups and rubber covered safety spoons, we're talking hard-core feeding at it's finest.

I held her on my lap while I fed her and attempted to hold her hand down and hold onto the bowl and the spoon all the while trying to get the loaded spoon into her mouth and not her nose, eyes and ears. We were a little bumpy at first but once we got the system down, we were off to the races! Here's a video of the event for your pure amusement! (Oh yeah, it wasn't until we were 2/3 of the way through the bowl that someone came out and suggested that I tuck her roaming hand under my arm so she wasn't trying to grab the spoon!)





And, when it was all said and done I only had a tiny bit of cereal on me and the masterpiece that I had made of Nadia/Emily's face was easily wiped off with the dishcloth.

Now it was onto the tea. Again, no sippy cups or bottles for this tough Russian girl. At 8 mos. old she's just as grown up as the Queen of England. Well, sort of. She needs a little assistance getting the tea cup to her face and hasn't quite mastered the elegant pinky finger in the air technique but this kid can chug a cup of tea! I thought she was doing really well and really didn't end up with too much of a leaky chin until the caregiver came back out to see how we were doing. She said we could also try feeding her the tea with a spoon. Are you kidding? This kid loves her tea so much and was way too impatient for this technique... so it was back to drinking out of a cup like a big girl for her!



We came out of it unscathed!

After mealtime it was off to the music room. We were told that the photographer was coming today to take pictures of Nadia/Emily for her passport. Great just what we needed... she just finished stuffing herself and we had to try to keep her clean until after the pictures were taken. This was fun. I thought for sure we'd get a lot of spit up but it really wasn't so bad. After seeing how much she had just eaten we couldn't keep ourselves from holding a rag under her mouth all morning. We're such dorks. Fortunately, the photographer showed up after only about 15 minutes and took several pictures of a very full Nadia. I'm pretty sure she didn't smile in any of them although we tried. She wasn't crying either, she was just stuffed and content... all was well with the world.



Here's another picture taken from today... just a close-up for you to enjoy since I didn't have my camera handy during the passport photoshoot. Here's Nadia/Emily just being her doggone cute self. She didn't have to work too hard for this one. (Note the spit rag ready at the chin! This was taken just prior to the passport photos! hehehe)



Have a happy Monday! We'll see you on the flip side!
We love you and miss you all!
Tom and Jenni
jhypes@treca.org

Again, please post comments so we can add them to Emily's book down the road!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Back to the music room.

Miss Nadia/Emily was a bit tired today and while we did play on the floor, roll over and chew and drool on everything... (by "we", I mean "she"!) we also held her a lot and walked around the room.

We were back in the music room today. I believe we've been staying out of the music room because the doctor's offices are being remodeled while we are here and their desks have been moved to a corner of the music room. Aliya and Olga had arranged for us to have visits in the PT room because sometimes the doctors tend to be a little too helpful when they watch us the whole time. I didn't mind it so much the first day as they made a few suggestions on things Nadia likes and showed how they deal with fussiness, but I imagine their helpfulness would get old, very fast day in and day out.

Speaking of fussy, Nadia/Emily really isn't a fussy baby but she will let you know when she's tired of sitting, tired of laying down, etc. She doesn't really turn on the waterworks but just vocalizes in the only way she knows how right now. And, being that she's just now reaching a point when she can roll herself over she's starting to be a little more independent and takes care of some of those issues on her own. She does like to cuddle though and when she does get tired and fussy the best way to console her is to walk with her and let her look around the room.

We don't have access to a walker or exersaucer at the babyhouse I imagine she would love it. (They do use walkers in the babies rooms - we just don't have one where we do visits.) We have an old walker in the apartment here that I will try out with her. She loves for me to hold onto her and let her stand up and loves to bounce up and down that way. She also seems to really like to sway and will probably enjoy the swing we have back home too.

Today, Nadia/Emily inducted Aliya into the Kazakh Spew Club. The score so far is: Tom-1, Aliya-1, Jenni-3 (I'm either winning or losing by a landslide!) Unfortunately, Aliya was dressed up for a birthday party yesterday and was going to have to go home to have a bath and change clothes after our visits! She got nailed good!

Tonight I wrote down a list of questions for the babyhouse staff into a journal and will give it to Aliya so she can translate the questions. The staff will respond in Russian and then Aliya will translate the responses back into English for me. I also left a lot of room at the back of the book for the staff to leave comments and memories of Nadia and also well wishes for her. We will share this with her as she gets older. I also hope to take pictures of the babyhouse staff to include in her journal with their entries.

Well, enough from me, without further adieu I turn you over to the star of the show.

Our morning chats:


A little interaction... and drool:


And, finally, who doesn't love a crying baby? ;-)


Take care and be blessed! We love to hear your comments!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Our Friday Visit

Some of you have inquired about our sleeping patterns and why I'm up emailing and instant messaging in the wee hours of the morning over here. Most of my blog entries are usually written at about 4am Kaz. time but I don't get to post them until after our morning visits. I'm usually getting over 7 hours of sleep each "night" but at weird intervals. Somewhere between 5pm and 8pm I start getting really tired and fall asleep... then I wake up anywhere from 12:30 to 4am. Last night, I fell asleep around 8:30 and woke up around 4:30am. Even when it's time to wake up (I've been setting the alarm for 8:30am) it just doesn't feel like it should be time to get up... this next picture might explain why. I took this picture from inside our apartment around 9:15 this morning.



Here are some more video clips for the fans back home. We brought our video camera with us but haven't used it yet. We are able to record small video snippets from both of our digital cameras. (We brought 2 cameras because Tom's camera takes better pictures and is smaller but doesn't date stamp the pictures as far as we can tell and we have to have data stamped photos for our photo albums that we have to take to court with us.) We will probably break out the actual video camera once we get our kidlet back to the apartment with us. Who can resist a video clip of a baby smiling and cooing!



We actually caught her rolling over on video this morning! Enjoy!



And, just for proof that I really do hold her every now and then... ;-)

The freezing cold Epiphany!

In between our morning and afternoon visits Misha and Aliya took us to see the Epiphany Celebration. Aliya tells us this is a big holiday here in Kazakhstan. I'm still interested in going online to learn more about this custom but it was very interesting to watch and I'm glad we were in Kazakhstan for it as I've read about it in several other adoption journals.

The locals cut a section from the ice in the river and jump in, dunking their whole bodies (including their heads) under water 3 times to cleanse themselves of their sins. This is a one-day thing and apparently goes on all day. We were there around 10:45am and there was a constant stream of people (mostly men) submerging themselves. Some husbands and wives went down to the ice together. The men were wearing just their swimming trunks (speedo style) and it is customary for the women to do this wearing a nightgown (for modesty) but several had swimsuits on as well.

We saw one younger girl that reminded me a lot of Jessica at church. She was around 11 or 12 years old and her parents held onto her hands and lowered her into the water 3 times and then lifted her back out.









There is another place about 20 feet from the main hole where people fill up large water jugs with water from the river. If I understood correctly, it is said the water on this day is blessed by God and more holy. I walked down with Misha to help fill up his 3 water jugs. While I was with Misha, Aliya was telling Tom that her father used to fill up jugs and this particular water helped things grow better than other water and lasted an unusually long time compared to other water.



I can attest that even though it is a very mild winter here right now the ice is already 8-9 inches thick and the water is icy cold and the wind on the iced over river is very brisk. Misha was not into submerging himself today but he did wash his hands in the icy water after filling the jugs and then used more water on his face when he was done.

PS - I did a little more research on the topic after posting the original blog entry. To learn more about this holiday and tradition please read this article posted by Christianity Today.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2002/januaryweb-only/1-21-53.0.html

Here is a general information page on what Epiphany means for Americans... sort of. I understand the meaning, but as Christians, my family has never celebrated this holiday nor have I heard it as more important that Christmas or Easter, etc. It is always on Jan. 6... 12 days after Christmas.

http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/society/A0817499.html

If you know more about Epiphany or celebrate it yourself, please post comments... I'm intrigued and would like to learn more.

On Kazakh Food...

As we mentioned before the food here is interesting. Nothing bad so far... just interesting. The fun part is that we still haven't ventured off to try any of the local Kazakh cuisine. We just aren't as brave and daring as some of you. Even at home... we go to Chinese and Mexican restaurants and always order the same old things never venturing off the beaten path to try something new and adventurous.

Believe it or not... this is milk and it is not found in the cooler but on the shelf. I've seen 1%, 2.5%, 4% and 6.2%. We're sticking with the 1 and 2% as I don't have a lot of interest in cutting my milk with a knife. I really like to drink a lot of milk at home but the milk here isn't quite the same. I don't know how to describe it other than it has an "earthy" taste to it. I don't care to drink it straight from the carton but I've stepped out on a limb and put it on cereal once or twice and it's not so bad after the first couple of bites. Tom has been using it on cereal for a while now... but he's not as picky about tastes as I am. An interesting side note... there are clear 1 liter and 2 liter bottles of milk in the coolers at the markets. I was very tempted to buy these because it looked like normal, cold milk to me but Aliya strongly recommended against it. She said it was disgusting stuff... milk that has been carbonated. (Possibly fermented?) That was enough to make me head the other direction.



Purchasing produce in the grocery store here is a little different from how we do it at home. Most of the fresh fruits and vegetables are in a cooler with shelves similar to what we would find our cream cheese and yogurts on. You will typically find apples, pears, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and bananas here. These carrots were pre-packaged and you could just pick them off the shelves but anything that is sold individually you hand to a person standing in that section and they bag it and weigh it for you. There were 4 large carrots in this bundle for a whopping 32 tenge (pronounced ten-gay)... which is equivalent to about 30 cents.



Eggs don't come by the dozen here.. they come in 10's or can be purchased individually. Each egg is individually stamped for approval. These are still in my fridge... I'm hoping to make scrambled eggs or at least hard boiled eggs one of these days!



Ah, pure yumminess here. Several of you know of my affinity for macaroni and cheese. I considered bringing a box or 2 with me in case I had trouble finding things I liked to eat here. Never fear! Mac and Cheese is here! And -- not only that... it's made in New Jersey! We've already had 2 boxes of the stuff and I have strong feeling there is more to come! Woohoo! We also picked up some Nesquik cereal which is basically Coco Puffs... I don't know if we have this back home or not... but it does a good job covering up the milk flavor and is tasty to eat as a dry snack in the middle of the night when I'm up. I've also picked up a bulk bag of generic frosted flakes and they were so good that I ate the whole bag (2 servings) in one sitting. Aliya is right... we, Americans, get so wrapped up in packaging.. she picked up some not-so-impressively packaged chocolate cookies and I bought the cereal and both have been pretty tasty and a lot cheaper! The third item in the picture below is something like a Little Debbie Swiss Roll but it also has a swirl of strawberry in it... We bought these our first day in town and they sure helped tie us over until we could get ahold of some real food... Mmmm, these are really good!



Aliya assures me this is ham. I asked her if she could help me buy some ham at the grocery and we walked back to the meat counter. She asked if I wanted beef, pork or chicken ham... hmmmmm. I should have taken that as a clue. Maybe she thought I said "Spam"? Actually, I have only seen what looked to be our typical ham in one market. The rest looks like this. I did tell her pork and it seems to be almost some sort of salami. It doesn't really surprise me I guess... everything here resembles a sausage of some sort... their hot dogs are actually sausage too. Anyway, this smells like ham, but I haven't been brave enough to try it yet.



I'll try to cover some of our restaurant meals in a later post. I've snapped a few pictures of the cuisine and you might be interested in what we've been eating when we go out... things like steaks, lasagna and such just don't look the same over here.

On Germs and Prevention...

We couldn't resist taking a picture of this prevention poster in the hall at the babyhouse. There are three "homemade" posters like this just outside the room we meet in and I'm told they are made by the caregivers of some of the different groups. This particular one has handpainted pictures that we thought you might enjoy!





Thursday, January 18, 2007

Shopping, cats and fruit salad...

Today was pretty uneventful. We again went to the baby house for our 10:30 visit and then decided to come home for lunch. Tom wasn't feeling well so he stayed home and rested up during our 2:30 visit while Aliya and I went to the babyhouse.



The picture above is the atrium where we do most of our grocery shopping. It is a small mall with a grocery store built into it but there are also 2 restaurants.... Dixie Pub (where Tom enjoyed Chicken Fajita's) and MacJohn's which we frequent several times a week and they serve good pizza and burgers as well. We'll have to post a picture of Nader (the owner of MacJohn's). He's fascinated with Americans and loves to hear our impression of his food. He greets us each time we come in with a big smile and usually sits down with us for a bit to chat and practice his English. I don't remember if I've put anything in the blog about him yet, but he's an Egyptian that spent 5 years in Lebanon working at a Pizza Hut so he could learn to make American pizza and bring it back to Kazakhstan. Interesting concept. It's the best pizza we've had here but it's not like our Pizza Hut at home.



This is the front entrance to our apartment... we use the brown door on the right. The cat is one of the many strays that live around here. There are plenty of cats and dogs roaming the streets around here and they all seem pretty friendly. This one followed us into the building and hung out in the stairwell for a while. The stairwell is concrete and has an interesting aroma... It sort of smells like the cats and dogs have left their mark in there on occasion. And, of course, who would blame them! It's not horrible and having grown up around farms, it's just part of life here I guess.



This is the fruit salad thingie that I've talked about having when we've eaten at Kamelot. It's really pretty good. Diced cold chicken on the bottom, with apples, oranges, pineapple, bananas and some parsley and olives thrown in for conversation pieces.

(Don't forget you can click on any of the pictures in our blog to see them at a larger size.) Don't forget to post some comments and let us know what you think or if you have questions you'd like us to answer for you! Our lives are an open book and we're happy to share this experience with you.

Take care and Be Blessed!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Baby Bliss

Sorry, I can only post about 5 pictures per entry... but thought this was worth including today...

She fell asleep in my arms at the end of our 2nd visit... ahhhhh.

Ah, another day in paradise...



This morning we were picked up by Misha and what a surprise when we got in his car and heard the OSU marching band playing some tunes! I started applauding and he began to grin from ear to ear. (At least from what I could tell from the rear view mirror!) Aliya had told him earlier we were from Ohio and he had been given an OSU Pride of the Buckeyes CD from one of the previous visiting families. As we were driving he held up the case and ask Tom what the O was in the picture... painted on the field. I think he was either a little confused or just very good at messing with us because he asked us if it was a baseball game and if they drink there.

Misha is a very good driver and he is starting to come out of his shell. He was very quiet when we first met him and little by little we are getting to know him better. Aliya also tells us he's not a morning person so he is more chatty in the afternoons. They are funny when they get to speaking Russian very quickly in the car. He asks a lot of questions about us and about the news and sometimes you can tell he is correcting something that Aliya has said when she's talking about the city. Sometimes they remind me of an old married couple... you can tell they've worked together for a long time and enjoy it. We still need to find out about Misha... he is married but we don't know much more than that. Aliya is still single and teases me about learning how to train a husband... as if that's even possible! ;-)



Our visits with Nadia/Emily are going great. We're still meeting in the physical therapy room. It's not so bad meeting in there, but when you know there is a bigger room that you could be meeting in that you could spread out in... well, the grass is always greener on the other side.



Nadia vs. Emily - Nadia is the baby's given name. Actually, it's Nadezhda (pronounced Nod-yesh-da) but it's shortened form is Nadia (pronounced over here/Kazakhstan as Nod-ja). It's very awkward for us to call her Emily when everyone else is calling her Nadia... especially when we don't have custody yet. So, for now and while we're visiting we are referring to her as Nadia. We put both names in the blog so it's less confusing and so you don't think we're talking about a totally different child. We will call her Emily once we get back to the states and will likely start that conversion with her once we get custody. It will probably be a combination of her names until she gets used to hearing it since she does turn her head sometimes when she hears Nadia.

Nadia/Emily is such a sweet little thing and very snuggly. I just love it when she nuzzles into my neck when I'm holding her and she's recently started rubbing my shoulder or arm while holding her and walking around. Sometimes she will also just lean back a bit and stare into my eyes like she's studying me. She's very inquisitive and watches everything around her. If she starts getting fussy the best way to calm her is to walk her to the big cabinet in the room and let her look at all the toys and equipment inside.

Some of you have asked about sizes. At our first meeting with the doctor when we met Nadia/Emily, we were told that she weighs 6 kilograms and is 65 centimeters long. That converts to 13.2 pounds and 25.6 inches long. We have tried a few different sizes of clothing on her. The 3-6 mos. onesies and shirts will fit her but they are tight. The 6-9 mos. clothes that we brought fit much better even though we have to roll up the sleeves a bit. (She has my short arms!)

After our first visit with Nadia/Emily I couldn't tell you what color her eyes were, but after further inspection they are gray with a hint of blue. I had never noticed that eye color on anyone until I met Tom... they are exactly like his!

As far as her nose... she has a button nose just like Ryan's. On one occasion so far, it has been a VERY snotty nose... but we'll save you the details! ;-)

In regard to her hair... well, there just isn't a whole lot there yet but she promises that she won't be like her Grandpa Gaston forever. It is coming in and there are some hairs at the back that are almost a whole inch long. Her hair is coming in very light brown... so far.



In other news.... she's a champion spewer - especially in the afternoons. They feed her right before we visit her at 2:30 in the afternoon. They must shovel it in because she is usually bursting at the seams when we get her. I (Jenni) am going to be inducted into the spit-up hall of fame. So far the score is: J-2, T-1 (Yes, Ryan, as in putt-putt the object of the game is to get the lowest score and so far I'm losing!) We had our tour of Uralsk in the afternoon after our visit and I got to wear my new scent - "Essence of Emily" as my badge of honor. ;-) Mmmmm, yummy.

We got to see her turn on the waterworks for the first time this afternoon. I'm still not sure what triggered it but she was very content and all of a sudden she puckered up, her eyes got red, the lip started quivering and real, genuine tears started to flow. But as quickly as it started it also stopped... as soon as I picked her up. Man, she's got me trained already! She's good!

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