Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Officially a mom now...

Yes, I officially became a mom to Emily on January 29th but there are some initiations that babies put you through that make you "official" to them.

• I had a string of drool running from my shoulder to Emily's face and hands today... nearly a 12 inch stretch!
• I have changed my share of stinky diapers on a squirmy little girl... who likes to try to put her socked foot into the aforementioned dirty diaper before it's completely off of her.
• I have picked my daughter's nose. (Ew! Gross!)
• I have learned that Emily gets fussy if she doesn't get her food as quickly as she'd like.
• I have learned that Emily gets fussy if she has a wet diaper.
• I have lost any semblance of a living room - it's been taken over by baby "stuff".
• The amount of laundry I have to do has doubled... all from a tiny, 14 pound baby girl!

Aside from those fun things, there are even better things that make the gross, nasty, and otherwise less than exciting parts so worth it:
• I love watching Tom play with her in the evenings and they look into each other's eyes and share laughs.
• I love seeing the huge smile and bright eyes on Emily's face when I wake her up in the morning.
• I love snuggling with Emily during our 6am bottle and cherish those quiet morning moments.
• I love playing peek-a-boo with Emily and it makes her giggle.
• I love the feeling of Emily's hands on mine as I give her a bottle and the feel of her hands caressing my necks or shoulder as I rock her to sleep.
• I love watching her roll ALL over the living room... knowing that a little over a month ago she couldn't even roll over.
• I love watching the proud look she gets on her face when she stands up as I hold onto her waist.
• I love to hear her coo and giggle over the baby monitor while she plays in her crib waiting for me to come get her.
• I love watching her learn something new every day.

There are so many things I love about this kid that I just can't write them all out. Even though we've worked and waited for this moment for nearly 2 1/2 years it has been so very much worth the wait. We have been so blessed - EVEN during the times when the requirements for our paperwork/dossier kept changing. We were so blessed to have friends and family (and perfect strangers) praying for us all the while. Those prayers were answered and we met "our" Emily in God's perfect timing. We were totally taken care of while we were in Kazakhstan and we had so many prayers answered. We could "feel" the prayers being sent up for us and we were so at peace during what could have and "should" have been a stressful time for us.

We are so thankful to ALL of you that have continued to keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Please keep them coming! Emily still has a way to go to get caught up developmentally but we have no reason to doubt that she won't catch up quickly. She was born approx. 10 weeks premature and was in a babyhouse (orphanage) for the first 8 months of her life. We recently contacted "Help Me Grow", a state agency in our county, and will be scheduled to have her evaluated soon so that we might know what kind of therapy/rehabilitation she is going to need.

We are SO blessed!

Blog Hits, Interesting Stats

I have been amazed at the amount of support we have gotten on and through our blog. At the bottom of the left column we have a "hit" counter that tracks how many times our blog has been viewed.

Here are some stats to share...
• Since Dec. 25, 2006, we have had 4,752 hits on our site!
• We average approx. 620 hits per week.
• Just today alone... We've had visits from Cincinnati, OH; Columbus, OH; Atlanta, GA; Alamo, CA; Kenton, OH; Bellevue, WA; Herndon, VA; Corona, CA; Marion, OH; Delaware, OH; Granville, OH; Corunna, MI; Johnstown, OH; Philadelphia, PA; Youngstown, OH; New York, NY; Marysville, OH; Barcelona, Spain; and Okinawa, Japan.

We have been using and would highly recommend it to anyone that's looking for a hit counter. It's free and offers a lot of stats and summaries!

Please don't forget to leave a comment! We'd love to hear from anyone that's reading along!

Take care and be blessed!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Reflections - Street Children

I miss Kazakhstan. Over the course of the next several weeks or so I will take some time to reflect on some of the other things we saw and experienced while we were in Kazakhstan. I want to make sure I write things down so we don't forget them in the future.

Now that Emily is home and we are getting a glimpse at the kind of life she might experience, I can't help but remember the children we left behind. Yes, the kids in the babyhouse are on my heart but I feel fairly confident that many of them will find homes in the near future. Even if they don't find homes right away, they are loved and well cared for by the caregivers, doctors and other staff that interact with them. It's not an ideal situation for any child, but their needs are being met until their forever families come to get them.

The children that are on my heart today are the street children that we met while in Uralsk. There are many, many children in Uralsk that beg for money. I'm not sure when we were first exposed to these children beggars but they were frequently around the churches, the Atrium, the Big Market and on the way through the cemetery to the old church. Sundays are a big day for beggars at the churches.

The first street child I remember seeing was a little girl that couldn't have been more than 7 or 8. Misha drove us to one of the old Russian Orthodox churches and as we got out of the car she crossed the street and walked up to each of us and asked us for money. Aliya, being a seasoned Kazakh, didn't even acknowledge that the little girl was talking to her and kept walking toward the door while Tom and I on the other hand were trying to figure out what she wanted.

I caught up with Aliya and she said the little girl was wanting money. I looked around and there was an older woman across the street selling goods that could be used/taken into the church but the little girl didn't seem to be associated with her at all. She seemed to be out on her own trying to get whatever she could scrounge up. As we went back inside the church, the little girl crossed the street again and waited for the next people to arrive.

Aliya made a good observation... When the children come to ask you for money... they no longer look like children. This little girl was a child by stature, but was not child-like except for the way she scurried across the street to miss the traffic. When she looked at us, her face was somber. Most children have a sparkle in their eyes and are quick to smile... but this little girl's eyes were blank. Dead.

We saw her again as we left the church and I'm pretty sure Tom handed off a little change to her before we got back into the car.

Most days while in Uralsk we ate lunch at MacJohn's which is in the Atrium (a small mall by American standards). There were several times (especially on Sundays) where there would be a handful of boys that would also ask people for money. At first, they reminded me of the kids at Wal-Mart or Kroger's that are collecting money for their ball teams. They would stand in the entryway between the double-doors and ask people for money as soon as they walked in. I don't know if they did it to everyone but they tended to follow us from one door to the next (about 20 feet) and repeatedly ask us for money.

Another day, we visited the Big Market. This is a 3 story market that is set up like an indoor flea market. There is a large area out front were people tend to stand around and talk. On this day, there were several boys begging for money. One was obviously handicapped and was doing his best to stay out of peoples' way. He had difficulty walking, was slightly disfigured and had crutches with cuffs similar to kind used for long-term mobility problems.

Another boy had obviously had a rough night or been in a brawl with somebody. His eye was blackened and had scratches all over his face. He was with a few other boys but none of them could have been older than 12 or 13. Aliya had asked us not to give money to the children but Tom's heart told him otherwise and he handed off a little money behind his back while we were talking. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite that sneaky and Aliya and Bo and Deb thought maybe the boy had tried to pick Tom's pocket. (Which we had also been warned about before our trip to Kazakhstan.) We cleared it up and no, the boy was only taking what Tom had offered him.

SO, now my heart is breaking for these kids that have to beg on the street. I'm also really torn because not all of these kids are truly in need. Other adopting families have reported in their blogs that they later saw the same street kids playing games in the internet cafes... which you have to pay an hourly rate to use. Many of these kids were simply putting on their sad faces so they could get a few extra tenge to play games with their friends.

Aliya also shared that unfortunately there is a real danger in giving money to some of these children... especially if you're one of the families that likes to explore the town on foot or walk to the places where these kids hang out. A former adopting family offered some money to one of the kids and every time the family would see this kid he remembered them and would ask them for money. He began harrassing them and would not give up. He even got to a point where he and some friends followed the couple home to their apartment and repeatedly knocked on their apartment door and shouted at them inside. He showed up several times and they began to fear for their safety.

The moral dilemma I faced was knowing which kids were legitimate and which ones were scamming everyone. These kids are good! Several have even been reported as having handicaps, crutches, etc. and then are seen picking up their crutches and running to the next good begging site. I wanted to be able to help someone that was truly in need but you can't really sit down for an impromptu interview and ask to see all their financial statements from the last couple of years. So, my heart will continue to hurt for these kids... whether they are truly in need or if they are scamming the system so they can play a few games down the street. Either way, I've seen where many of these kids live and it isn't pretty.

Emily was in a good place when we found her and in my opinion she's in an even better place now.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Isler Open House

Yesterday my family had an open house/welcome home party for Emily. She got lots of visitors throughout the day and was a real trooper! I handed her off to my mom at 1pm as I walked in the door so I could get our coats off. I had to snag her back to give her a bottle around 2pm and I'm pretty sure I didn't see her much again until about 5:30. She loved getting to know her new cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends!

Here are some pictures for you!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Our Little Girl...

Just some quick photos to keep you guys entertained.

Emily borrowed a Bumbo from her cousin Abby. The Bumbo is the seat she's sitting in. It helps her get used to sitting up and helps her strengthen her tummy muscles so she can start sitting up on her own soon. It's also great to feed her in. At the babyhouse, they fed the babies while holding them. It takes some coordination and strong muscles for mom. You cradle her on your lap and tuck the arm closest to you around your side and hold onto the other arm while holding onto the food bowl/mug at the same time. The video that Tom took the first time I fed her (in a previous post) shows a better picture of how it was done. We followed the same practice while we were in Kazakhstan and for a couple of weeks after we got home, but now we need her to get used to sitting up and sitting in high chairs.

Emily likes to watch us work on our computers and she enjoys watching just about anything on TV (especially cartoons with music). "Somehow" the most recent episode of Heroes disappeared from our TiVo list before I had a chance to watch it so I watched it on the internet. Emily kept rolling over to me and finally propped herself up to watch the last 5 or 10 minutes with me.

I snapped this picture a few days before we left Kazakhstan while we were still in Almaty. I updated that blog entry yesterday with the photos and a video but it was too cute to pass up and post again. ;-D

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Visit with Dr. MacDowell

Today we had our first check-up with Dr. Andy MacDowell in Delaware. Emily was a real trooper!

She got weighed (14 lbs.), measured (26 inches?) and we got to tell the doctor different things that we have observed about her development. He is impressed with how healthy she is and with her muscle tone. As we figured, she does have some gross motor skill development delays and he recommended we get ahold of the "Help Me Grow" program for an evaluation and see what types of things they recommend to get her caught up.

We also asked Dr. MacDowell about her babyhouse schedule and feeding schedule. He agreed with us that they had her scheduled to sleep a lot more than normal and said that we could start simply following her cues to see when she needed to nap. He also recommended that we start feeding her at our meal times as well and start working in some vegetables and other foods so she's getting a more well rounded diet.

Here's the schedule she's been on from the babyhouse:

6am - 8 oz. bottle of formula
6-9:30am - sleep
10am - cereal and applesauce or fruit baby food
10-12 awake / playtime
12-2 nap
2pm cereal
2-4pm awake / playtime
4-6pm nap
6pm 8 oz. bottle of formula
6-8pm awake / playtime
8pm - 6am night sleep
10pm 8 oz. bottle of formula

Emily also got 3 shots before we left. She was already up way past her regular naptime but she did really well. She got 2 shots in one thigh and one shot in the other thigh. She cried during the shots and when the bandaids were put on but as soon as I picked her up she was all smiles again! What a kid!

After our check-up we went shopping to buy some more babyfood. I bought a little of everything so we can start sampling some different foods. So far, she's not too picky. The only thing she hasn't liked that I tried is some rice cereal while we were Almaty. I don't think she cared for the texture. She tried some rice cereal in a baby food jar and she ate it fine.

So far, she's had wheat cereal, mixed cereal, rice cereal, oatmeal cereal with apples/bananas, apple juice, apple/banana juice, pears, apple/banana babyfood and we tried ham & apple flavored babyfood today and it was hit. We also tried some apricots and they passed the test too! She's still a really good eater and sometimes will only fuss if I don't get it in fast enough when we start out.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

More visitors and PIZZA!

My cousin, Marla, and her daughter, Brooke, braved the snow on Thursday evening and came over for a quick visit with Emily. Emily had a blast and we enjoyed talking about baby stuff with them!

On Friday, we had a surprise pizza delivery. We had been given a heads-up to expect something but didn't know what or who the surprise meal was going to be from. Marla and Mom did a great job keeping the secret. Low and behold there were a couple of surprises:
1. Steve, Karen and Lauren Young had bought us pizza all the way from Arkansas and had it delivered!
2. We learned there's a place that actually delivers pizza to our house in Waldo!!!! There are 3 places in Waldo that make pizza but nobody delivers... except for a place that almost in Marion! Woohoo!

Thanks so everyone that have been following our blog and emailing us or leaving comments! We appreciate finding out who's been following along! Please continue to drop us a note every now and then! We're keeping the comments as part of Emily's lifebook when we convert the blog to an actual book for her!

Take care and be blessed!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

More Visits and Baby Butt Chair

Our friends Amy and Heather came over for a quick visit tonight.

And, some of you have heard Tom refer to his "Big Butt Chair". Technically, it's one of those chair and a half things and is quite comfy. Well, Emily has her very own "Baby Butt Chair" and loves it! Here she is in her chair with one of her quilts from Great Grandma Isler!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Grandma and Grandpa Gaston came over this afternoon to watch Emily while Tom and I escaped to Columbus for several hours. Before they showed up I decided to put Emily in a pair of bibs and one of the new sweatshirts that Grandma bought for Em. It was cute. It was glittery. But, it was warm.

Only a few of you probably know about my "fear" of glitter. Okay, so I'm not really afraid of glitter, but have you noticed that glitter never seems to go away? I've never liked glitter and I'm already dreading the school projects that Emily will bring home that are covered in glitter.

I didn't think the glitter on the sweatshirt was going to be an issue but 3 days later (I'm posting this on the 16th) I'm STILL seeing glitter on this kid!

It goes something like this. Friction from the front of the bibs caused abrasive action on the front of the sweatshirt which eroded the glitter away. As most are well aware, gravity comes into play and the aforementioned glitter was forced settle elsewhere. I didn't notice anything amiss until I went to change Emily's diaper later that evening. Hmmmmm, glitter. Wonder where that came from?!? The front of Emily's diaper had become the collection bin for all the glitter that was rubbed off the front of her sweatshirt! I'm still laughing about it as I write this!

What better reason to give a kid a bath than to get all the glitter off. So, here are some pictures of that event. Who doesn't like seeing a kid getting ready for a bath!

Monday, February 12, 2007

House full of Hypes!

We all went to church on Sunday and Tom delivered a great message related to our trip and our experiences. It was so good to see everyone again and to share Emily with them after we have waited for so long for that moment. Emily handled church like a pro. I had mapped out my escape route and was prepared to leave in the middle of the service if necessary but never had to leave. She sat quietly and watched her daddy the entire time!

Later in the afternoon we had Tom's family over so they could meet Emily. We had a surprise visit from Anna-Vija who came all the way up from Tennessee! Surprise! It was so good to see everyone. Here are some pictures from the afternoon.

Here is one of my favorite homecoming gifts we have received so far! Tom's mom went through all our blog entries and wrote down all the stuff we had been craving while we were in Kazakhstan. The chips and salsa were the first things to be opened... Tom had been craving them for quite some time. We could find salsa in Uralsk but he NEVER found chips and much to our dismay, Aliya has never had chips and salsa.

It was a full house this afternoon, but boy, was it fun! Thanks for coming everyone and for all the goodies and yummy food!

Emily had help from several people to finish her bottle. There was so much going on and so many things to look at that she just couldn't chug it like she normally does... but I think the people that fed her didn't mind it so much!

Here's Emily with Tom's mom, Nancy (otherwise known as Mawmaw).

And, Tom's dad, Pawpaw (codenamed: Bill), couldn't help but get in on the action as well.

And, you can't open presents without the help of the little ones... that tape was awful hard to get off! I'm so glad they had the muscles to open the goodies for Emily! Meet my helpers, Rachel and Jeffrey!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Meeting Great Grandma Isler

We had a small family get-together on Saturday after we got home. Emily got to meet her Great Grandma Isler for the first time! Grandma has been anxiously awaiting her arrival and couldn't wait to meet her. We have several quilts and baby blankets that Grandma made that we have saved for Emily. She loves them!

Emily is very social and is doing very well with meeting new people and experiencing new things. She handled the short visit like a trooper and she and Grandma played together quite a while.

Later that evening we picked up Ryan and he got to meet his sister for the first time. We visited with Ryan's family for a while and Emily got to meet quite a few really neat people!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Meeting cousin Abby!

A few days after we got home, Emily got to meet cousin Abby for the first time! Here's Jenni's cousin Steve, his wife, Katie and their daughter Abby with Emily. Abby is about a month older than Emily and they will be spending a lot of time together growing up!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

We're Home!

Here are some pictures from last night... enjoy!

I handed Emily off to my dad first... I knew he didn't stand a chance to hold her with all those women around! ;-)

Here we are meeting my (Jenni's) sister, Michelle.

Here's a shot of all of us at the airport.

This is Laura Kunkle... a very close family friend that amazingly caught all of this excitement on film! Thanks so much, Laura!

Do these guys look excited to meet Emily or what?!?!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Looong Way Home

The alarm sounded at 4am to start getting the troops rallied. We waited until the last minute to wake up Emily and get her all bundled up. At 5:10, Dima met us to help carry down the luggage. It's funny how having a kid saved me from having to carry anything BUT the kid down 3 flights of stairs! Bummer. Hehehe.

Dima helped us haul everything to the airport and helped us get through all the checkpoints... at least as far as he could get without a boarding pass. It was a quicker than expected good-bye for Dima as he wanted to hurry us through the lines to get ahead of the crowds. Before we knew it, he was standing at the back of the crowd waving to us and the crowd pushed us through the check-in line. Thanks for all your help, Dima!

After leaving Dima we had quite a few more lines to go through. Immediately to our left we were asked to run our luggage through yet another conveyor belt/security scan. Then, we went to the KLM counter to check in and request bulkhead seating so we could get a bassinet for the trip. They were very helpful, but the process was extremely slow. We stood at the counter for nearly a half hour while they tried to get everything lined up. I still don't know what took so long but wow... Meanwhile, since the passport control line was growing by the minute they finally allowed me to leave the counter and stand in line with Emily so that Tom could join us when he was done. We made it about halfway through the line before Tom and one of the KLM reps pulled us out of line and ushered us to the very front! (It pays to travel with a baby!)

We had no problems getting through passport control and were processed and sent to the terminal to wait for our flight. When the flight was ready to board, we passed through another security checkpoint and had to run all of our carry-ons through the x-ray screening again.

Once we got to the plane we were greeted by some really great flight staff. They were so excited to meet Emily and did everything they could to make sure we were comfy. Once we got settled in and ready for take-off they brought us champagne and nuts and a welcome gift for Emily. They gave her a KLM bib with her name on it and a goodie bag with baby food, a spoon, a pacifier, and a trinket model of a building from Amsterdam. After take-off, they brought around a bassinet that fastened on the wall in front of our seats. It was a great place to lay Emily down for a nap and to store all our baby stuff when we were holding her. The first flight was 7 1/2 hours long and took us from Almaty to Amsterdam.

We had a layover in Amsterdam for a couple of hours which was just the right amount of time to stretch our legs and hit McDonald's before getting in line for another flight. The people at the Amsterdam airport were very kind and made sure we were among the first to board the plane so we could get settled in. We didn't have bulkhead seats for this flight but one of the stewardesses did a lot of juggling to get bulkhead seats for us. Unfortunately, Emily didn't want anything to do with the bassinet they provided but again, we were blessed to have some extra legroom for juggling a baby and to store our gear. Overall, she handled the flight pretty well, but every time she would start to fall asleep they would roll the drink carts through the aisle and she didn't want to miss it. Then, she'd start to drift back to sleep again and they'd come through to pick up trash. Then, off to sleep again and they'd come through with a meal. The poor kid (and us!) got some small cat naps in but nothing of substance.

This flight was 10 hours long and flew from Amsterdam to Memphis... that's Memphis, Tennessee.... in the USA!!! We were pretty concerned with the short layover in Memphis because we had to pass through customs since that was our "port of entry". However, God was good once again. Not only did we make it through customs in a breeze but we also had time for Tom to satisfy his craving for real American food by grabbing a bite to eat at Backyard Burgers!

The next flight was only about an hour and a half and took us from Memphis to Columbus where our family was going to be waiting for us. This flight, although the shortest, was one of the hardest because we were all so worn out. It don't know if she actually cried most of the way or if it just felt that way because we were exhausted but the people around us tried to be very accomodating. Fortunately the guys in the seats in front of us liked babies and felt bad for us! We tried formula, rocking, etc. but she was just so worn out and couldn't get the sleep she so badly needed. Luckily, this flight was a short one and we were ALL glad to get off the plane when it was done!

Even though a lot of airports look alike... it was soooo good to be back in Columbus and to know that we were done with juggling flights! We expected to see my family after we picked up our luggage or at least at the baggage claim area but they surprised us by meeting us on just the other side of the security area. My eyes started welling up with tears the minute I saw them anxiously waiting for us. The next 15 or so minutes were abuzz with photos, hugs, baby passing and me just admiring my family. Finally, Tom remembered that we still needed to pick up our luggage from the baggage claim and headed off with us following closely behind. It was easy to find our bags since they were the only ones still sitting around waiting to be claimed!

To quickly wrap up the night's events: Mom and Dad drove us back home and Emily had her first ride in a real carseat (and did very well). We spent a few minutes getting settled in and quickly crashed in the most comfortable bed we'd slept in for over a month! Ahhhhh. We're home! We're finally home!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Embassy Visit

My deepest apologies for not updating our blog before now. I have become the new mom that I swore I would never be. Over the past couple of years I have been following other adoption travel blogs and suffered from withdrawal when families would stop updating their blogs cold turkey. And, alas, I have become one of those moms. ;-)

Let's see... Where did I leave off?

I still owe you a story on the U.S. Embassy visit. Dima dropped us off at the law office and we met 2 single moms and their little girls. Asel walked us across the street to the Embassy where we passed through the security check-in and were escorted upstairs. When our name was called we walked up to the window and were given Emily's paperwork for INS (immigration) and a packet that contained all of her medical information and some information on how we apply for her social security card once we get home. The folks at the Embassy were very nice and this appointment was not as intimidating as I expected. They simply reviewed our paperwork and then handed us the paperwork and packets that we needed to take home with us. They explained everything to us and were very excited that Emily would be a US citizen soon.

It was pretty funny when we met up with the single moms. We were all starving for American conversation and we talked about our trips and foods we were craving and things we couldn't wait to get back home for and, and, and... I felt bad for Asel because we all pretty much ignored her and were talking at warp speed about everything we had been through. We found out we had been REALLY blessed on our trip. The other 2 moms had been in-country for 8 weeks - we had been there for 4 weeks. The other 2 moms had been in very rural areas and the temperature had been well below zero for most if not all of their trips. They were also stuck with only a couple of TV stations and we had several English speaking channels in Uralsk.

After our trip to the Embassy we all walked back across the street to the sister's/law office and wrapped up the necessary paperwork before we left Kazakhstan.... basically we just chatted and paid them the remaining money we owed them for the apartment rent... or we were supposed to. I apparently didn't read that part of the WPA manual and forgot to bring the extra money with us! They didn't hold Emily hostage or anything though! They let Dima pick it up when he dropped us off at the apartment. ;-)

We spent the afternoon relaxing and sorting out what stuff we wanted to take home with us and what we wanted to leave behind. Despite how badly I wanted to get back home to family and friends it was really hard packing everything up and saying good-bye to Kazakhstan. We have had such a wonderful experience and I don't think I was really ready for it to end and open up the next chapter of our lives.

It's spring in the mountains!

The weather here is so beautiful... it's usually warm in Kazakhstan this year according to the locals... but we love it! The cold weather hit Uralsk the day after we left and Almaty is having weather like our springs back home. It's about 7:45am right now and the birds are tweeting, dogs yipping and it's at least 50 degrees F outside.

We went to the mountains yesterday and it was a gorgeous day for the trip. Dima drove us about 30 min. outside of the city and through the national park (reminded us a lot of the Smoky Mountains). We left the heavy smog of the city behind and went to the ski resort. We purchased tickets for the ski lift and rode it up one level and back down. Emily did great and slept through most of it. Tom took some really pretty pictures and it was so nice to get out into the crisp, fresh air. We couldn't have asked for a better day for this trip.

(The beautiful mountains of Almaty.)

(That's not clouds or fog in the background... Almaty has a thick layer of brown, choking smog settled over it all the time.)

After the ski lift ride, Dima recommended we eat at the cafe at the resort. He introduced us to Solanka... a soup made of broth, ham, potatoes, pickles, cream, olives, parsley, lemon, and I'm sure some other things I could not identify. It was surprisingly good! (Aside from the pickles and olives and unidentifiable things that I didn't eat!) ;-) Tom and Dima both ordered the BBQ chicken and a side of fries. The BBQ chicken ended up being a marinated chicken shishkabob and Tom really liked it. It wasn't smothered in U.S. flavored BBQ sauce but it was good nonetheless. Dima's a good man!

After the trip to the mountains, I had Dima drop me off at the Ramstore while the guys waited in the car with Emily and talked "music". I picked up some more baby cereal and formula for the trip home and then we headed back to the apartment for the rest of the night.

We put a new OSU outfit on Emily this afternoon that we brought from home... I think the shirt was from Michelle and Laura and the pants might be hand-me-downs from Pam's kids. Emily's so cute in it and LOVES the texture of the pants. I took lots of pictures this afternoon and a couple of videos and will upload them in a couple of days to this blog once I get back home to my dearly beloved unlimited DSL!

(My beloved couch potatoes!)

Take care, everyone! We'll be home soon!

SCORE for Jenni!!!!


My 6-year old taste buds are in heaven right now! No, it's not JIF or any other brand that I've ever heard of before but yesterday when I was around the corner from the apartment at the International Foods market ("food shipped in daily from Germany by plane" is their motto) I found peanut butter in the cooler section!!!!

Emily has this cute "bottle bliss" that she goes in to when I'm feeding her... her eyes roll back, her eyelids flutter and she looks like she's in pure heaven. On this trip, that's been my mac and cheese/green bean meal and loading my finger up with peanut butter as soon as I opened the jar!!!


Peanut butter on my finger... peanut butter on a teeny tiny piece of french bread... peanut butter on a chocolate square... mmmmmmmmm!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Of Bjorns and Bottles

LOL... so, Amy... you asked what a Bjorn is... ;-) This post's for you!

A Bjorn is a brand of front carrier. I bought mine at a 2nd hand kids shop and it works great for hauling Emily around in the grocery store so I can have my hands free. Think of it as a baby backpack... but I wear it on the front. I'm learning that she doesn't like it so much when she get too hot or doesn't like to be in it for too long.

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Yesterday morning was too cute. I woke Emily up for her morning bottle and she was all smiles. She smiled when I picked her up from her crib. She smiled when I changed her. Best of all, she kept smiling while I was trying to feed her and was having a ball.

We spent the day yesterday inside and tried to get back to a regular schedule. It's going to be thrown off so badly in a few days, but schedules keep this baby happy right now. Tom ran (okay, not really, he walked) around the corner to the supermarket to pick up some more diapers and groceries but other than that it was nice to have nothing to do all day.
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Today we have an appointment at the U.S. Embassy for our exit interview. More on that later.

We have also asked Dima, our driver, if he could take us to the mountains today. It's about a 30 min. drive but he will take us to the ski resort for lunch and we can ride the ski lift to take pictures and such. It's supposed to be really cold and we'll probably have a really cranky kid on our hands if we don't stick to her schedule today. More on that later as well!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Blog Finally Updated Today

Heads-up Gang! This morning I was finally able to get a fast enough connection from the apartment to make it worthwhile to upload the previous blog entries that I haven't been able to post yet. They date from 1/25 - 2/2.

I've put placeholders in for pictures that I will upload in the future but as I was getting ready to do that this morning my connection slowed down dramatically. They're coming!

Happy reading!

(BTW - Emily is doing much better! Feeling better and starting to actually get cranky if I don't give her enough food. She's not shy about sharing her feelings!)

I'll work on another entry and will post it tomorrow.

Take care! 4 days and counting!

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On 2/3/07 Dima took us on a tour of the cathedral and war monuments while we were on a shopping excursion. He's an excellent tour guide and a FAST walker! But, it's really cute how protective he is of me while I'm carrying Emily. He helps me cross the streets without getting smeared by the cars by grabbing my elbow and giving me a nudge when it's safe. And... he lets Tom fend for himself... hehehe. ;-)

We walked through the park on the way to the cathedral and saw all these kids feeding the pigeons and playing with their toys. I'm a sucker for little kids and pigeons... it's like a scene out of Mary Poppins!

Dima offered to take a picture of us while we were there... Here's me with Emily in the Bjorn and Tom.

Here's the cathedral we visited. Like many other cathedrals in Soviet times this one was converted to a museum for quite a few years and then was reverted back to a cathedral after communism fell.

We walked a short distance past the cathedral and there was a large war memorial. Man, these guys like to commemorate their wars! There was a large monument, another eternal flame and lots of stuff written in Russian. For some reason, these memorials are also very common places for wedding parties to visit for photographs. While we were there we saw a Kazakh wedding party (pictured here) and a Russian couple that had gotten married. Both groups are very dressed very similar to how we dress for American weddings.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Medical Exam and Sisters' Office

This morning we got to visit the SOS International Clinic to have Emily checked out. It's a routine visit that all of WPA's adopted kids go through before they leave Almaty. Dima walked us in and dropped off our paperwork for the visit.

The staff at the clinic were all very sweet. There was a nurse that came did an HIV test (similar to a prick from a diabetes tester) and Emily did great! No tears at all and the nurse was so good with her.

Then another nurse came and weighed her and measured her. After a while we were called back to the doctor's office and he reviewed all the paperwork and then examined Emily. He checked her eyes, ears, mouth, temperature, and listened to her breathing and her heart. He plotted her growth on the charts and checked out her medical history and also her vaccination history. We told him about her recent bout with a fever and upset stomach and he said we were fine to stop the meds that the babyhouse had prescribed and he gave us a few more packets of the CMETKA stuff and said we could give them if we had any more troubles. Emily got a clean bill of health and her paperwork will be ready to pick up later tonight.

After this, we were driven to the sister's office (the ladies -- that are real biological sisters -- that coordinate all the legal aspects of our adoption). We signed a few more documents and made sure the paperwork they had done already were filled out correctly. Emily fell asleep in Tom's arms for this visit but handled the busy morning pretty well.

We made one more quick stop at the Ramstore, which is right around the corner from the sister's office. The kitchen and bathroom in this apartment are a little scary on the cleanliness scale so I felt the need to pick up some cleaning supplies and disinfectant. The apartment is nicely laid out, has nice leather furniture in the living room and a comfy bed... but the kitchen seems to be lacking in the silverware department and the pots and pans are a little gross. I could really use some steel wool about now. I've noticed a nasty smell coming from the drains in the bathroom and in the kitchen and the washing machine (which is beside the toilet) also has a stinky smell. Not sure if bleach would help that problem or not... or if I could even find bleach without assistance because most everything is in Russian.

Emily is certainly feeling better today. She greeted me with a smile when I woke her up this morning has been a real trooper during this leg of our trip. I broke out the Baby Bjorn this morning and took it with us on the trip today. It was a huge help at the Ramstore (none of the carts have seats for kids in them) and we also walked to a restaurant around the corner called Stetson's and she enjoyed being carried in the Bjorn for that as well.

She did really well in the restaurant once our food came... she sat on my lap and I think she watched every bite of food and every swig of water that went to my mouth. She really doesn't like being bundled up to go outside or the process of putting her in the bjorn but once there she's fine as long as she doesn't get overheated.

It's a challenge here to keep her on the same schedule as she was on at the babyhouse. We have so many errands to run during the days now that we're away when she's supposed to nap and sometimes her meals are delayed. Overall though she's doing a great job and is proving to be quite adaptable despite the strict schedule she was kept on for the first 8 months of her life. Tonight we stayed up a little later and gave her some play/interaction time since she's hasn't had much of that since she's been with us. She was soooo smiley and I almost got a couple of good belly laughs out of her.

Oh! And I almost forgot to share -- we're expected to be flying home on Wednesday! That's a full week earlier than the original tentative date that we were given when we booked our flights to Kazakhstan. Add into that the fact that we adopted from the last remaining region in Kazakhstan that still grants immediate custody and we're heading home a full 3 weeks earlier than most families!!! Our coordinator and interpreter in Uralsk were surprised to hear how fast we were able to complete our process and hopes that other families don't get their hopes up after hearing about our experience. They say this rarely happens... especially for a family to have pre-court on Friday and court on the following Monday. That's usually at least a week apart.

We have been truly blessed and we can't wait to get back home to Ohio. We should be rolling in to Columbus late Wednesday evening! We're hoping to lock ourselves away for several days to try to get ourselves adjusted to the time change, jet lag and to try to get Emily onto some sort of schedule. I'm counting down the days until I can brush my teeth with water from the tap again instead of using water from a bottle. I can't wait to drink "real" milk that I'm used to from home. We are so spoiled in America and there are so many things from this trip that will trigger memories for me long into the future.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Goodbye Uralsk, Hello Almaty!

Phillipich was to meet us at the apartment at 8:00 to pick us up for the airport. I don't know the other driver's name but they both helped load our 4 suitcases into the cars and I was so surprised to see Misha and Olga outside. Olga was going to be at the airport to see us off, but she ended up having an early meeting and was unable to accompany us. We were hoping to see Misha one last time before we left and sure enough... he drove Olga to see us off! He gave Tom a bottle of wine that is used in religious ceremonies here as well as a note that I believe Aliya translated for him. I hope we can get it home without it breaking... it will be wonderful to remember them by. Tom gave Misha a big hug and then Misha came over to the care window and looked in and waved at us. He looked so happy to see us as a family and yet kind of sad to see us go. Emily and I were hustled into the car because it was so cold out this morning (the coldest one yet!) and so I really couldn't spend much time on goodbye's and hugs. I blew some kisses to Misha through the window and waved like mad, but somebody give Misha a big hug for me and let him know how much we appreciated his kindness, his thoughtfulness, his sense of humor and his teasing.

After our quick adieus, we were driven to the airport and picked up Aliya along the way. She was such a big help. She walked us into the airport with Emily and Phillipich and the other driver brought our luggage in for us. Aliya helped us get checked in and figure out what we needed to do to pay the extra fees for the extra weight that our luggage was over limit (it's a given for American adopting couples to do this... except for Gene and Mary!!!) She stayed with us and held onto Emily until it was time for us to go downstairs at the last minute to wait for our plane. The new couple coming into town (Sara and Mike) was just getting off of their plane and Aliya needed to go meet them. It was a tough goodbye to Aliya. I'm not a crier and it made me tear up. She watched us go all the way down the steps until we could no longer see her.

Security was a breeze and we didn't have to dismantle or remove our coats or anything. I didn't even have to empty out our carry-ons or take my shoes off or set my laptop out separately. Unfortunately, we had to wait in the holding area for quite a while and had to hold Emily the whole time... my arms definitely got a good workout today and I will be SORE tomorrow.

Our flight was to leave at 10:10. Finally, the airline folks allowed the crowd to head off for the plane. People were pretty courteous and allowed me to go to the front of the crowd as we walked about 50 years or so across the snowy (and sometimes icy!) tarmack to get to the plane. For a mere $70 extra per ticket we had upgraded our seats to business class and we are so thankful we could do that. Since this was our first flight with Emily it was good to have a little extra room to stretch out in and the staff and people around us were very kind. (Business class also allowed us 30kg per person instead of just 20kg so we saved some money on overage fees too!) We couldn't get a direct flight to Almaty for today so Olga ended us booking us a flight that had a 1 1/2 hour stopover in Aktyrau... weird airport. The first leg of the flight was about 50 minutes and it was a little rough for Emily. She fell asleep shortly before we landed and even though that same plane would be taking us to Almaty everyone had to get off the plane so they could refuel.

We met several guardians angels on this part of the trip. The kindness of strangers is SO amazing. There was a shuttle that took us from the plane to the "airport"... it was basically a cold hanger that just kept the wind off of us. It was pretty confusing when we got off the shuttle because there were 2 different sections that people were going into. One took you into a room for another flight and the other took you to the "transit" room. Obviously, we must have looked totally lost, because a sweet fellow named Allen looked out for us and made sure we got to the right place. I found a seat to sit down with our gear and handed Emily off to Tom. After a few minutes, a lady came up to us and once I said "Pongliski" she spoke in very fluent English that since we had a baby with us we might want to go to the back of the hanger where there was a heater we could stand near. It was a good thing as we were all starting to get a bit chilly.

We were also concerned that we wouldn't know when to leave the hanger to get back onto the plane to Almaty. Fortunately for us, we had Alan on our side. At one point, the crowd seemed to move toward the front of the hanger. Alan and Tom met eyes and Alan shook his head "no" that this wasn't the one for us yet. Another shuttle arrived at the door and it wasn't for us either but Alan can over to me and said that the next one would be ours. He also gave us a heads-up that we should wait a bit to board the shuttle so we could be near the doors and would get to board the plane earlier because of that. We followed right along with him and struck up a good conversation with him. It was sooo good he was there because as far as we could tell, there were no announcements of flights and the little paper signs on the shuttles were all in Russian and I don't even know if they had flight info on them.

We rode the shuttle to the plane and then walked to the bottom of the stairs. One of the flight crew was holding the crowd back from boarding the plane and pointed to us in the back... the sea parted and everyone let us ahead of them because we had a baby. It was very kind of them. We boarded the plane again and this time, Emily fell asleep before we even took off and sleep nearly 2 hours on my lap. We juggled our lunch around her and the staff and other business passengers were really good with her. We landed at about 4:30 and after the flight, our new friend, Allen found us in the airport again and helped Tom get our luggage off the conveyor belt and made sure we had someone coming to pick us up. THANK YOU ALAN! This flight would have been very frustrating without your help!

The rest of the afternoon was typical adoption/getting settled in "stuff". Dima, our new driver, met us at the airport and made sure we knew our schedule and pointed out things of interest as we passed them. We also went to a photo studio to get pictures of Emily taken for her medical exam tomorrow (I think that's what they were for). We then went to the Ramstore and he showed us where we need to go if we need to purchase another iCard for our internet access. After that, he went back to the car and we went grocery shopping for some food to hold us over for the next couple of days. Emily has been a real trooper. She gets very hot and fussy riding in the car (because we have her in a big ol' snowsuit and it's almost 50 degrees F) but when we took her shopping she revealed her true self -- she's all girl and loves to shop! Even though I had to carry her through the whole store, she looked at all the shelves and the people and didn't fuss the whole time we were there.

It's fun watching people out in public around Emily. Today was the first day we've been out with her and she loves just looking at people and they love watching her. The middle-aged guys on the flight were flirting with her, the airline stewardesses were playing with her, a young couple waiting at the luggage carousel and another young couple in the Ramstore were really taken by her. It fun to see a baby make people smile so much... another way to make a connection with perfect strangers and cross the culture barriers.

Back at the new apartment, Dima walked us upstairs and I felt bad because he and Tom ended up carrying all our luggage and groceries up 3 flights of stairs. It took them 3 trips. Tom was a trooper! He did such a good job and I wish I could have helped... but we're learning that having a baby in tow limits how many extra arms we've got to get tasks done. Next time we go grocery shopping, for instance, I will be putting Emily in the baby bjorn so my hands aren't tied! ;-)

Well, take care and be blessed! We just wanted to let you know that we made it safely to Almaty! We're still working on getting our internet connection going here at the apartment but it shouldn't be too much longer.
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