Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hold on, Katie. We're Coming!!

Well, the boys and I had a great time at the lake with my parents. We rode go-karts and played arcade games on the strip, and we rode the boat and went tubing. It was nice to get away for awhile, but poor Steve got dumped with everything that happened.

We weren't supposed to hear anything until Wednesday, which is why we decided to go ahead and go to the lake. Instead, Steve got an email Monday from Olga stating that Andrei had gone here, there, and yonder on Monday and discovered that Moscow City no longer requires adoption visas; a regular tourist visa is all they need. Therefore, we don't need any letter and nothing has to be processed through migration services. We can leave for Moscow whenever we want to. This was good news, but we were a little irritated at the fact that we lost a week -- not because we had to wait 7 more days, but because of the timing of everything. We had wanted to travel Aug 2-9 because it just fit perfectly in our schedule even down to the fact that it was a bye week in Steve's softball league. I would have had to change one doctor's appointment, but that would have been fine. Instead, we will miss seeing my aunt and cousin from Texas, who are coming for a visit (haven't seen them in months/years), and they won't be able to see Katie. My parents' church is having a 50th anniversary celebration for the church, and many people who used to attend will be coming back for that. We planned on going and taking Katie, but now we won't be back in time for it. We should return home on a Sunday, Derek starts school on Monday, and Alex starts school on Tuesday. We were hoping for some nice family bonding time before the boys went back to school, but instead we're going to hit the ground running. Fortunately, Steve will be taking a few days off after we get home so we can try and establish some sort of routine with all the craziness. I'm thrilled that we have our travel dates, but I wish there hadn't been all this confusion with the visas so that we could be leaving this Saturday. I know God's timing is perfect and mine is not, but I gotta tell ya -- I'm just not seeing it right now. However, all griping aside, we are thrilled to be bringing Katie home, and we'll do whatever it takes to make this work. Big Picture!

Soooo, we leave on August 9, and we will return on August 17. We would return on the 16th, but the rates were ridiculously high, so we'll stay in Moscow one more day and come home on Sunday. If all goes according to plan (which it rarely does, but it's always nice to pretend that it will), we will arrive in Moscow Sunday afternoon, and go pick up Katie from the orphanage. That will be her last day in the orphanage forever! Then on Monday, we will go to the Department of Education and get a letter (which is in lieu of the adoption visa) that we will take to the passport office and apply for her passport. This takes 3 days to process, and we do not know of any work that needs to be done during that time, so we plan on going sight-seeing with Katie around Moscow on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then on Thursday, the passport should be ready, but there's no guarantee. Assuming it's ready, we'll go throught the U.S. Embassy on Friday, get her visa, and register her with the Russian Consulate. Then Saturday will be another free day before we fly home on Sunday. Yea! However, if the passport is NOT ready on Thursday, then we won't be able to fly home on Sunday. We'll have to wait until Tuesday or Wednesday to fly home.

So while I was tubing, go-karting, and boating with my boys, Steve was on the phone and the computer getting everything squared away. Getting the visas started was no problem because we sent the passports and the visa application last week. Getting the apartment wasn't a problem either; the one Albina recommended sounded great. Getting the plane tickets was a nightmare, which included more phone calls and hold time than I can remember, and 2 trips to the airport. He couldn't get Katie's ticket over the phone like he could ours; he had to purchase it from the ticket counter at the airport. We could have just gone through Albina, but Delta gave us a better rate than they gave her so we went through Delta. Steve told me today that as soon as I got home from my vacation, he wanted to take a break. He was TIRED! I joked that he should try doing all that while taking care of two boys. He didn't find the humor in that. :-)

Now that all the particulars are taken care of, we have 10 days before we leave. We have alot to do, but we should have enough time to get everything done. We are excited to be going, but also a little overwhelmed at all that needs to be done. All we can say is that we have the BEST parents in the world who have put their lives on hold the same way we have so that they are available to watch our boys whenever we need them. We could not be going through this process if it weren't for them. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, in this case, it's taking a village just to GET our child. This has been one of the most emotionally draining processes we have ever been through, but it will all be worth it once we get her home. Hold on, Katie. We're coming!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Derek's T Ball Banquet

Last Monday, we had Derek's T Ball Banquet. Derek plays with the Exceptionals, a special needs T Ball and Coach Pitch league. This was Derek's 3rd year to play with them, and he just loves it. The kids range from 5-21, with any sort of physical, mental, or emotional challenge, and I think every one of them absolutely loves playing. There are "buddies" that volunteer their time and energy to be one-on-one with these kids. Usually they are boy scouts, girls softball teams, or individuals that want to help. Sterling Farber, the man who started it, was honored at a Royal's game in April, and many of the families went to the game in support. The league is completely underwritten so the families don't have to pay anything. It's just wonderful what people will do.

Here is Derek with his trophy
And here's the "love fest" I mentioned in an earlier post. Derek was on my lap, and Alex was on Derek's lap, and they were both so tickled at the whole thing.

We are so blessed to have the children that God has given us, and we appreciate them every day!
On another note, the boys and I are heading down to Table Rock Lake with my parents for a few days. We won't hear anything about the adoption until Wednesday, so we decided to get out of KC while we know we can. Therefore, I won't be writing any posts until at least Wednesday, hopefully with an update. Stay tuned...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Some More of Our Favorite Pictures

Here is Katie sitting in her chair next to her bed. There were 8 beds in this room, and each one had a little chair with pajamas on the back. The room was very bright and cheery. Here, Katie is holding the bear we gave her on the first trip, the bear we gave her on the second trip, and she's wearing the outfit we gave her.
Walking with Daddy
The day of our court hearing. Our first picture with her as our daughter
A Mother's Love

Some of Our Favorite Pictures

While we're waiting for next Wednesday to arrive with information, we thought we'd post some of our favorite pictures of Katie. We had to wait until Monday when she legally became ours. These pictures are all from our first trip in May.

We call this one the portrait picture
Daddy's Little Girl
It's a Stare-Down!
So Sweet!
I Love My Mommy

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Spinning Our Wheels

There is an exasperated sound that I want to make, but I don't know how to type it.

Olga found out yesterday from the Russian consulate that they will accept an invitation, not directly from the court, but processed the old way through Migration services. Only Russian consulates located in Europe are taking direct letter invitations from the judges, not processed by Migration Services due to the latest European -Russian governmental agreement. The US doesn't have that same agreement with Russia, so invitations should only be coming the old way, processed by Migration services. In order to process the invitation, Migration service should have a letter from the Department of Education (this was the old way), but the Department of Education doesn't want to issue these letters. They feel that since the courts issue letters, it is unnecessary for them to do it as well. Also, the court-issued letters don't require any further processing with Migration services and work perfectly for European adopters. So, Andrei has an appointment with the Migration Services on Wednesday, July 30, to ask them to process an invitation using not the letter from the DOE, who doesn't want to issue such letters anymore, but the letter from the judge we already have. If the Migration Services refuse to process the invitation without the letter from the DOE, and if the DOE refuses to issue the letter, then I don't know what is going to happen.

Olga says that hopefully the delay will be a "short" one. Keep in mind that "short" in Russia means a month or less. This means that departing on August 2 is out, and it's possible that even the 9th is out if this can't get figured out. If we leave on the 16th, we'll miss Derek's first day of school and Alex's first day of Kindergarten. Also, the grandparents will have to work harder because they won't be able to just go down to the lake with the boys for the week. Any later than that, and we'll just be irritated that we can't go get Katie. Technically, we were able to take custody of her last Monday...and we can't get to her.

At this point, I don't know what you should pray for except maybe sanity for Steve and me. We know this is all part of God's plan, but this not knowing is driving us crazy! We are so close, and yet we are stuck. The way we understand it is we are "on hold" until Wednesday when we hope to get more information.

These are the Days of our Lives ...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Visa Saga Continues

Here's the latest. For simplicity I'm going to call the 2 groups in the consulate the old and the new. The new group doesn't like the way visas for adoptions have been done in the past so they are trying to change the process -- thus the new invitation. However, the old group has not yet approved nor does it recognize this new procedure. The new group doesn't want to do it the old way, and the old group doesn't want to do it the new way, and our visa is stuck in the middle while the powers that be try to sort this all out. Olga (our agency) is going to call Andrei (in Moscow) tonight (tomorrow morning for him) to see if he can get the old invitation through the Russian Migration Service using our court letter. Maybe if we inundate them with old paperwork and new paperwork, the consulate will just throw in the white flag and let us go. What do you think? At least we are not having to wait until the consulate comes to a decision before Olga and Andrei do something. The best news that we have is that Olga has been in constant communication with Albina (the one who is actually getting the visas for us) and the consulate over this issue, and she has been emailing us updates as soon as she knows anything. At least we're not in the dark about what's going on. We can't do anything about it, and we can't really prepare for our trip, but at least we're informed. Honestly, though, I think I'd rather be ignorant, have my visa, and know my travel dates!

Steve had a good point tonight. In the 11 1/2 years that we have spent building our family, the one word that can be used to describe this journey is "wait." More than 7 of these 11 1/2 years has been spent waiting for one of our children. 7 years. How appropriate, then, is it that for the last trip for our last child we have one last unexpected wait. You know that God is up in heaven laughing hysterically at our attempts to know what is going on, but we just can't help it. We know that all of this is according to God's plan, and we know that God's timing is far superior to our own, and that everything happens for a reason. We just want to bring Katie home now. Period.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Stuck in Limbo

Well, it's always something, isn't it? The worst part is we just don't know anything. Russia is moving towards requiring adoption visas for the final trip instead of the normal tourist visa. This requires a different invitation to be included with the visa applications. Well, Albina (travel agency in Seattle that also takes care of the visas) took the letter across the street to the Russian Consulate to make sure everything would be okay. Since this is very new, the people at the consulate don't know how to process it. They say there's not enough information on the invitation to process the visa, but since it's all so new, .... Albina is hoping to find out today or tomorrow if that invitation is enough. If it's not, then whatever is needed will have to come from Andrei in Moscow. Depending on what that is will determine how long it will take to get it. If we need something extra and it takes too long, then we won't be able to travel on August 2, because we won't have our visas and passports back yet. Therefore, we can't buy airfare, or reserve our apartment, or make arrangements for the boys, or update the "manual" the accompanies them, or reschedule doctor appointments that may or may not be missed, etc. I can't do ANYTHING ... except try to live a normal life without checking my email every 2 seconds. Poor Alex is getting the brunt of it, because Derek is in summer school all day. I'm a planner who is potentially leaving the country in 11 days, and I am unable to plan anything. For those of you who are also planners, you know how frustrating this is for me. Also, the pump at our neighborhood pool is broken so we can't even go swimming -- which isn't at all relevant to the adoption except that it's one more annoyance.

OK. I feel better. On a positive note, Derek had his T Ball banquet last night and the boys were having a love fest with each other, which made for some ADORABLE pictures. I'll send them in another post.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Back to Moscow for our Third and Final Trip

Well, it looks like we'll be leaving August 2 to return to Moscow to bring Katie home. Andrei picked up our court ruling today and filed for her birth certificate and adoption certificate, which should be ready tomorrow or the next day. Then once he has those, he will file for her to be moved from the permanent resident list to the temporary resident list. This will take a few days to process. When Andrei files for the residency change, he will get an idea of how long that processing will take, and we may need to change our travel dates depending on what they say. So we are tentatively planning on leaving the 2nd, arriving in Moscow on the 3rd, and coming home on the 9th (with Katie).

I learned something today. When a person is waiting to hear when she can leave to go get her daughter, the mind is absolutely worthless to do anything except play Spider Solitaire. Anything more constructive and productive is a waste of time because the mind is nowhere near the task at hand, and the end result would be disastrous. Just thought you'd like to know. :-)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Alex Playing T-ball

Even though we were very busy with Katie's adoption, we enjoyed the typical things you do in the summer. Alex played T-ball for the YMCA and he loved it. He really improved quite a bit from the beginning of the year to the end. He enjoyed hitting off the tee, but has said he likes it better when someone pitches to him.

He did a good job in the outfield too. In fact, he was voted the "best player to play all positions at the same time." It sounds like a great award; however it basically means that wherever the ball is hit, that is where he winds up. He showed great hustle, but we will work on only playing your own position and letting the other 9 players play theirs.

He's got pretty good form on his throws. All in all, he had a great time and is looking forward to playing coach pitch.

By the way, if there are any grammatical errors, I apologize. This is my (Steve's) first time at writting a blog.

Derek is 8 Years Old!

Derek's 8th birthday was yesterday, July 17. I took some cupcakes to his school in the morning for snack time. As it turns out, he is quite the ladies' man!

These two girls just couldn't keep their hands off him, and one of them proclaimed to be his best friend. Not bad for a kid whose social skills are just a bit lacking (OK...alot). On another note, have you ever tried to get 7 blind and visually impaired children to look at the camera?
For dinner, we ate at The Rainforest Cafe. We went there for New Year's Eve, and Derek has been asking to go there for his birthday ever since. He never asks for anything, so we definitely granted him his wish. He had a great time, but was bothered by the fact that their birthday song was not "Happy Birthday," so he just sang "Happy Birthday" to himself before he blew out the candles. Too cute!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Funny Story

On our way to Moscow on July 5th, we changed planes in Atlanta. We walked to our gate at the very end of Terminal E, and discovered that it was absolutely freezing there. Just 2 gates down it was fine, but there at the end it was probably around 60 degrees, if not colder. We were there only a short while, and I was already very uncomfortable. I went to the gift shop and bought a sweatshirt not only for the gate, but for the flight. I've realized that international flights are usually colder than domestic ones, and in our last-minute rearranging of our suitcases my jacket inadvertantly got moved to our checked luggage. As I was taking off the tags, I saw a woman shivering under a lightweight scarf wrapped around her shoulders, and I made a comment about how cold it was. She simply smiled politely so I knew she must be Russian. I held up my sweatshirt with a shrug and a smile, and she went straight over to a man (I assume her husband), and started talking and gesturing towards me. About 10-15 minutes later I saw her walking down the hallway towards our gate wearing the same pink sweatshirt! We laughed and pointed at each other, and enjoyed our little "bonding" moment. I never saw her on the plane, but I'll probably always remember her. Even with different cultures, languages, and customs, we will always be more alike than different from people around the world. Let us always remember that.

Here I am wearing my Atlanta sweatshirt by some beautiful fountains right outside the Kremlin. (Thanks for the tip, Cindy). This sweatshirt came in handy more than once. Even though it was July, the weather was still quite cool -- upper 60s and lower 70s.
Steve took this picture as we flew over Greenland. It looks like the mountains are coming up out of the ocean, and we think it's a pretty cool picture. I was asleep at the time, so Steve just leaned over me with the camera!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Why Not?

Since we have nothing else going on, we decided to buy a new car. We've been sitting firmly on the fence about whether we should buy a new car (minivan or SUV) with more room, or stick it out with what we have. The additional room was appealing, but the car payment was not. We haven't had a car payment in years, so we really didn't want to add one if we didn't have to. Well, God made that decision for us. We took Steve's car to the dealership because it's been running hot for several weeks now. We've tried different things, but since the mechanics could never get it hot, they couldn't really see what the problem was. The dealership was more successful in determining the problem, and it was going to cost more to fix the problem than what the car is worth. It is 13 years old, and has just over 200,000 miles. The windshield has a crack about 15 inches long, and the gas gauge hasn't worked in 8 years. God gave us a nudge off the fence and we decided yesterday to buy a minivan. Several weeks ago, we had decided what kind we wanted for when the time comes, so Steve found some online yesterday and I went and looked at them today. I now have a lovely 2007 Chrysler Town and Country in my garage, and I can already tell that I'm going to love it! It's a bluish grayish greenish color called "Magnesium Pearl," with gray interior, and it has those wonderful stow-n-go seats. Steve will drive my old car, which was actually his car until 3 1/2 years ago, and Steve's old car is no longer our problem. Our car payment is right where we wanted it to be, and now we just need to take care of licensing and insurance. This is good timing, too, because I have nothing else going on in my life right now. Ha, ha. To be honest, nothing will happen with the adoption process until July 21st, so as long as I take care of everything next week, it actually is good timing.

I'm looking at a picture of Katie right now, and my heart aches to go back and get her. Please pray that our return is sooner rather than later. At least the car will keep me busy for awhile.

We're Back Home (for now)

Now that we're home, I wanted to post some of our pictures from our trip. Our adoption of Katie will not be completely final until July 21st, when Andrei picks up the court ruling. Therefore, we can't post any pictures of Katie's face until after that date. However, here are some others.

Here is Steve and Katie walking around the grounds of the orphanage on Monday. There was a lovely playground there, but because of the rain on Sunday, Katie couldn't play on any of it. It's so great to see that they have it and that they take the kids outside so often.

Here is G.U.M. and St. Basil's lit up at night. They were really beautiful to see, but since it didn't get dark until 11:00, we questioned our judgement in staying out so late!

Also, on Wednesday, Andrei picked us up 2 hours before our court hearing because he anticipated that it would take an hour and a half to get there with the traffic. However, the traffic was quite light that morning so it only took us 20 minutes to get there. Since we had an hour and a half to wait, we visited with Andrei for awhile about what to expect with everything. In that conversation, I asked about the length of the hearing, and he said it shouldn't take more than an hour, but since we were her (the judge's) only case that day, she may not hurry us out. I thought it odd that we were the only case so I asked if she had made an exception for us or if she just didn't have any other cases. Andrei said she made an exception for us. I asked if he knew why -- yes. I asked if he could tell us -- no. Hmmm. Steve and I are just so curious about why she made an exception for us. We don't know if it's because of us, Katie, Andrei, or what. We are very grateful that she made this exception, because our court date may have been much later otherwise, but we are sooo curious about why. We'll probably never know.

Our flight home was uneventful, but not as pleasant as our flight there because there weren't any empty seats around us. We had to actually sit in the seats we were assigned! Can you believe that? However, I must admit that I got addicted to one of the games they offer on the individual screens -- Zuma -- so the flight actually went by pretty quickly!

We landed in Atlanta, and that is by far our favorite airport to go through customs and passport control in. We've gone through New York (JFK), Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. It was so well organized and open and well-marked. It was a breeze to go through. After rechecking our luggage, we checked the screens for our departure gate, and to make a long story short, the Atlanta airport had closed for 35 minutes earlier in the day due to weather, and EVERY flight was delayed or canceled and there were countless gate changes and subsequent confusion. We were supposed to catch a flight leaving at 8:07, but we ended up going standby on an "earlier" flight, scheduled to depart at 5:45, but actually departed at 8:45. Our original flight, scheduled at 8:07, finally left at 10:15. By catching the earlier flight, we landed in Kansas City around 9:45, and our parents took us home. However, our luggage didn't arrive until 11:15, so Steve drove back to the airport to pick it up. We only live 15 minutes from the airport, so it wasn't that big of a deal. It was a minor inconvenience in an otherwise pleasant trip.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

She's Our Daughter!

We had court this morning and everything went smoothly. Everyone seemed to be more nervous than we were, and they were all so glad that court went well. At the hearing, there were 9 people: the judge, the prosecutor, the secretary, Steve, me, our interpreter (Yelena), Andrei, a doctor from the orphanage, and a lady from the municipal government. Steve went first and then me, and the judge asked us each basically the same questions: name, birthdate, citizenship, why we wanted to adopt, and why we chose Russia. Since Steve went first, he had additional questions like when we got married (He had to think about it, but he did remember!), our address, when our previous adoptions occurred (He remembered those dates, too!), description of our house, his job information and income. The judge asked me if our boys knew about us adopting a girl, and I said, "Yes, and they pray for her every night." She seemed really pleased with that answer, and I didn't even have to make it up; that's really true!

After us, the doctor talked about Katie's health diagnoses and about her personality in general. She talked about how it was in the best interest of her for her to have a family. The lady from the government then said that we had filled out all the necessary paperwork, that we had petitioned the court for this adoption, and that they had accepted our petition, etc. etc. Andrei then showed them the photo album we had prepared with pictures from our first visit. The prosecutor looked through the album, and it was obvious how much she enjoyed the pictures. With a little girl as adorable as Katie, how can anyone not love the pictures?! Lastly, the prosecutor spoke about how it is the opinion of the state that it is in the best interest of the child for this adoption to take place. Then the judge left the courtroom to make her decision. She returned after about 5 minutes, and ruled in favor of the adoption. Everyone shook hands and congratulated us, and it was smiles all around!

After we left the courtroom, Andrei took us to the orphanage with the orphanage doctor for one last visit with Katie. Earlier, before the court hearing, he said that we weren't going to be able to go see her today because he had too much work to do on our case to take us. We were very disappointed because we hadn't said goodbye to her yet. On the contrary, we told her that we would see her the next day, so we were glad when Andrei changed his mind. As it turns out, the office that he needs to go to for this document closes at noon so he couldn't go today anyway. When we got to the orphanage, Katie was dressed in a darling red and white checked dress. We only had maybe 15-20 minutes with her before Andrei returned, and I just held her in my lap the whole time. Steve took some precious pictures of the 2 of us. She was content to just sit and snuggle with me with a huge smile on her face. The doctor told us that she is going around the orphanage saying, "Papa, Mama, I will go home." Also, yesterday when we were walking around outside yesterday, she was saying, "Mama kharasho" to everyone. Sergei even said it when he picked us up. We asked Andrei today what that word meant and he said it means "good." She's telling everyone that I'm a good Mama. Does anyone have a tissue?

We told her goodbye one last time, and she blew us kisses. Andrei took us back to our apartment where we ate lunch and took another nap. We're still not sleeping well here. Our flight leaves tomorrow at 12:55, and Sergei will pick us up at 10:00. From here, we're not completely sure how everything will work, because Andrei contradicts himself. However, we think that this is what we can expect: On July 21, Andrei will get the judge's ruling. Then he can take that to get Katie's birth certificate and adoption certificate. Everything will need to be translated into English for us (court ruling, certificates, and anything else). Then we will return to Moscow. Once we arrive we will apply for her passport and visa. This takes 3 days. So, we think that we may leave to come back on either July 26 or August 2 (this is our estimate not Andrei's - he will not give one). We would arrive the following day (Sunday),pick up Katie, apply for passport and visa on Monday, pick them up on Thursday, go through embassy and consulate on Friday, and fly home on Saturday. Once again, we'll just wait and see.

We are now firmly in the "wait" portion of this "hurry up and wait" process. These next few weeks will be difficult because we are already chomping at the bit to return and take her home. Right now she is officially our daughter, but we have to leave her here. Ouch!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Gorgeous Day in Moscow

We went to see Katie again this morning at about 9:00. We thought Andrei was going to drive us as always, but when we got outside, we saw that Sergei was driving us instead. Sergei is the coordinator for the Moscow City Region, whereas Andrei is the Russian coordinator for the agency. Sergei is a very nice guy, but he doesn't speak any English. It was a very quiet drive to the orphanage.

We went walking with Katie again outside, and the weather was absolutely beautiful! We walked around for awhile, and everytime we would pass another person, Katie would tell them that I'm her Mama. It was so sweet! After we walked around, we went inside and played in the play room. Boy does she love goldfish crackers!! She is signing more, all done, eat, swing, and another one we can't remember. She is feeling more and more comfortable with us as evidenced by her testing boundaries. This is good to see, but it's hard to handle while we're in the orphanage.

After about 2 hours with her, Sergei picked us up and took us back to our apartment. Thankfully, Andrei called him and spoke to us so we know that Andrei will be picking us up tomorrow morning at 8:00 to go to court. Our hearing is at 10:00. Our apartment is on the 6th floor and they are working on the elevator. We have 113 steps we have to climb every day -- multiple times. We're getting a nice workout while we're here. We took another nap this afternoon because neither one of us slept well last night. Afterwards, we took it easy. All the walking yesterday around Moscow made my left knee and right hip hurt. I guess I'm getting older! Steve took the Metro to pick up our visa registrations, which we had dropped off yesterday. If you are in Russia more than 3 business days, you have to register your visa. Since we are leaving the morning of the 4th business day, we wondered if we would need to register, but since we are going to court tomorrow, we wanted to make sure everything is in order.

We're eating better this trip since we brought more food with us this time. With our court in the morning, we're hoping for a good night's sleep. Thank you for all your prayers and support. Hopefully the court will go well without any surprises or difficulties.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Two Days til our court date

Andrei picked us up this morning at 8:30, and we went straight to the orphanage. When we got there, Katie was all ready and waiting for us...dressed in the outfit we gave her yesterday and wearing a necklace and bracelet. Of course, she preferred my bracelet so we traded. It was a beautiful day, so we went for a walk outside on the grounds for awhile. Then we played in the play room before returning outside for a little more. Her group was outside as well, and they went in at 11:30 for lunch. We thought it would be a smooth transition for Katie if we went in at the same time and she just joined her group. Well, it was somewhat chaotic getting everyone inside and up the stairs, and at one point we heard a child cry on the stairs at the same time that a worker struggled to get a child to stand up. We thought it was the same child until we saw Katie walking up the stairs ahead of this child. Katie stopped at the landing and turned around. Her face was red with tears streaming down, and she was crying. I ran to comfort her, and she stopped crying but was still very sad and upset. We don't really know why she was crying. She's never cried any other time that we've had to leave, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. One of the workers took her from me after awhile and told me to do something, but all I could do was look at her blankly. I felt so helpless, but since we'll be going back there tomorrow, maybe we can comfort her some more.

Katie's signing is really coming along, especially when goldfish crackers are involved!

After Andrei picked us up, we came back to our apartment for lunch before resting for a couple of hours. Then we went to go register our visas before doing some shopping and sight-seeing. We ate dinner at a Russian restaurant, which was very tasty, and we went to Red Square to see St. Basil's and G.U.M. lit up at night. G.U.M. (pronounced goom) is a beautiful shopping mall with gorgeous architecture. Dusk lasted for about 2 hours before it was finally dark at 11:00. We would post pics, but one of our converters doesn't work anymore, so I'm using the laptop on the battery -- no time for uploading pics. Sorry! I took an adorable one of Steve and Katie walking hand in hand outside today. We'll post it after we get home.

It's midnight, so we're going to bed. We'll see Katie again tomorrow and then court on Wednesday. We're getting there!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

We're Here in Moscow

Well, we made it! It was a long trip, but everything was fine and we arrived safely. Flying Delta was much more enjoyable than flying Aeroflot! For one thing, there was no one sitting in the two seats behind us, so Steve moved back a row. We each had two seats to spread out in, and that made a huge difference! Also, instead of having an overhead movie, each seat had its own screen just above the tray. On this screen we could watch movies, TV shows, HBO shows and movies, play games (trivia, solitaire, chess, etc.), listen to music, or watch the path the plane was taking across the Atlantic. Each person could choose whatever they wanted, and combining all the movies, TV shows, and documentaries, there were probably 30 choices. I mostly watched movies while cross stitching Katie's stocking, and Steve did almost everything. He only played solitaire briefly because when he poked at the screen, he moved my whole seat. In addition, the headrests could angle forward to rest your head, and one complimentary alcoholic beverage with dinner was included. All of these were just little things, but they added up to make an enjoyable flight. Steve and I both rested, but I don't know that either one of us slept.

After deplaning, we waited for over an hour to go through passport control before getting our luggage and meeting up with Andrei. We drove straight to the orphanage, but Katie had just fallen asleep 5 minutes earlier for her nap, so we went to our apartment. This apartment location is better than last time's, so our drives to the orphanage should be about 30 minutes instead of an hour. We unpacked and took a nap before Andrei picked us up again at 3:30 to go to the orphanage. We played with Katie for about 2 hours, and she must be feeling more comfortable with us because she showed us her ornery side! If she didn't want to do something, she would arch her back and lay on the floor. She didn't actually fuss or pitch a fit, but she was making herself clear! She loved the seesaw again, and this time they had a little plastic swing in the room, which she loved even more. We also played a made up game where she would plop on my lap, I would stand her up, and she would plop again over and over. She got the giggles pretty good with that one, too. She ate lots of goldfish crackers, and according to Andrei, she said that she would be waiting for us tomorrow when we return (how sweet!). We gave her a little outfit today, and when she went back to her room, you would have thought she was a model on a runway. She was so cute! We also brought donations for the orphanage that we will deliver tomorrow: clothes for the kids (from our house) and fragrance samples for the workers, which were donated from Dillards.

We came back to our apartment, found a deli to buy a few things, and ate dinner. We're now getting ready for tomorrow, because Andrei will pick us up at 8:30 to go see Katie, and we're just a little bit tired. We love spending time with her, and we are just so anxious to bring her home. Lots of love to you all!

Friday, July 4, 2008

We're off to Moscow!

This is our last night in Kansas City for 6 days. Our flight leaves tomorrow morning at 9:30, we'll arrive in Atlanta at 12:30, we leave Atlanta at 3:30, and we'll arrive in Moscow at 10:30 Sunday morning (1:30 A.M. our time). We have all our bags packed except for last-minute items, and all the arrangements for the boys have been made. As I sit here listening to the "rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air," I can't help but feel proud to be an American. We live in such a wonderful country, and I hope we remember all the sacrifices that people made to help make our country as wonderful as it is.

I hope you all have had a glorious 4th of July, and please pray for us as we travel again. Pray for safe travel, a successful court hearing, and safe travel home. We don't know what we'll be doing each day except for court on Wednesday at 10:00. We'll be writing posts while we're gone to let all of you know how we're doing and what's going on. We love you.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

We're Getting Closer

Tonight was kind of a hard night as Steve put the boys to bed. He will leave for work tomorrow morning before they wake up. They will leave with Nana and Grandaddy to go to the lake before Steve gets home from work, and we will leave for Russia before they get back from the lake. Therefore, it'll be 9 days before he sees them again. I won't have much more time with them, and the reality of us leaving is setting in. We got our passports with our visas back today. There's something very bothersome to me about mailing my passports to a stranger one week before leaving the country, so I'm always very glad when they return with time to spare. Everything is set, and all we need to do now is take care of some last-minute details and pack.

Tomorrow I will focus on getting the boys all packed for their weekend at the lake. We had planned on all of us going, but as we planned we knew there was a possibility that we might be traveling this weekend. Nana and Grandaddy generously offered to go ahead and take the boys down as planned, and this will give us 2 1/2 days with no children. Steve will be off on Friday for the 4th, so we are really in good shape to get everything done before we leave on Saturday.

When Nana and Grandaddy return with the boys on Sunday, Grandma and Grandad will take over while staying at our house. Derek starts summer school on Monday so he's set. Alex's last day of summer school is tomorrow so I've scheduled lots of things to keep him busy next week. Otherwise, Grandma and Grandad will have to hear the following, "What can we doooo? Where can we goooo? Who can I plaaaay with? There's nothing to dooo. I'm so booored." Hopefully, the boys will still be intact when we return, and hopefully the grandparents' sanity will still be intact when we return next Thursday!

Have a Happy 4th of July!!