Weekend before trip #2

May 22, 2006 on 11:41 am | In Uncategorized | No Comments

Friday we had only one car.  The van started squealing when I would brake on Thursday night so Ernie, a friend, convinced me to drive it over to his house that night.  I took the
kids to school and Michele to the Metro on Friday morning and then headed to
Annapolis to get some final documents certified and apostilled.  Then I took them to our adoption agency’s office in Baltimore
. I met Ernie at an auto parts store to pay for my new break pads, but they had to get them from another store.I worked in the afternoon before going to the kids’ “fashion show” at after care. It was silly and cute. Irina and Artyom both worked the crowd, Irina playing the role of diva, and Artyom shaking his booty. After that we picked up Michele and I dropped them off at Synagogue with challah, the brownies I had made the night before and corn I made that afternoon (starting from just seeds, water, and a can-do attitude). I headed towards the auto parts store but got called back by Michele who was suffering with an Artyom melt down. He convinced her he was going to be good so I headed out again. I got the parts, went to Dana’s and killed some time until Ernie came. I helped him a little with the first set when I got called by Michele again. They weren’t in services and could be picked up anytime.

I got there to see Artyom’s shoes in the street and him running around on the grass. He was really in a mood. We went back to get the van (now done), thanked Dana & Ernie and then Michele took him home and I took Irina to Polina’s for a sleep-over. Artyom had finished settling down by the time I got home. He said his mode stemmed from the anxiety of having to go on the bema (altar) with his class.

Saturday he was a sweet little boy again, I took him and Georgia out for a walk (him wearing Rachel’s old rollerblades). There was some dog event on the walking path. At the turn off for the Glenn Dale Community Center there were booths setup and a demonstration by a Greenbelt K-9 officer and his dog. It was good/lucky timing. Of course during the demo Georgia chewed thrown her halty, but she didn’t get into any trouble. After that we had hours and millions of dollars of shopping. For Irina’s birthday we all got roller blades.When we went to pick up Irina we got Polina too. We went home and tried our roller blades (since she had seen them). At least Irina, Polina and I did. It is much different than ice skating (who would have thunk it). I did it a little up and down the sidewalk before going in. I did it much more than the girls, Polina was very scared and Irina was in too much pain from an initial fall. Happy Birthday to her.

That night was Artyom’s friends b’day party tail-gating at the Baysox (AA) baseball game. Then we saw the actual game (11 innings, 1-0 loss), and then, finally, fireworks. We dropped the non-daughter off and went home. The next morning the kids had their last Hebrew school and we did MORE shopping. We spent so much on donations and gifts and the new kids that we’ll still be paying these bills off when the kids are in college (hopefully by scholarship). After school Artyom went on the moon bounce there before I took him for pizza. Irina and Michele got all dressed up and went to the Retro Tea Room for a belated mother/daughter mother’s day luncheon. They had a nice time. Irina got to wear a very old (Victorian) hat and had her picture taken. They ate a lot of goodies, Michele got to have some clotted cream on a scone, and then they came home. I took the boy to a park where I thought we could practice roller blading on the tennis courts. We did it for a while before taking the path down to the playground.
That slightly banked hill was just about the scariest thing I ever did in my life. Twice I had to angle over to the grade and do a funny run to slow my self down. I never fell, but my fear of falling is probably making my learning curve greater. Then Artyom joined in a pick-up game
of soccer.

He scored several goals before apologizing that he tires easily. I don’t know where he heard this, but what he doesn’t notice is he is running hard the entire time while the other kids lazily went around. He doesn’t tire easily, he runs a lot harder and gets tired because of it. It’s funny, but he was stand-out with these kids and I had to tell him to stop shooting and just pass for a while. He even volunteered to be the other team’s goalie for a while so they could catch up.  He’s not any good at soccer, but by comparison he was Pele.

At home Michele and Irina were doing laundry (Irina has to do her own laundry now because she kept putting clean clothes in her hamper). She was enjoying it Sunday, but I’m sure it will get old for her quickly. We had some trampoline time at home as well as sprinkler time. I had done the yard in the morning after shopping so there were lots of grass
clippings to stick to us. Michele worked in the garden and then, later, I did some work in the garage. 

It was a nice weekend, we got a lot done. Michele had trouble sleeping last night and got up in the middle of the night to pack for our upcoming trip.  Anxiety annoying.

The Weekend, May 6th, 2006

May 8, 2006 on 12:07 pm | In Uncategorized | No Comments

Friday after work Artyom had lacrosse. It’s scheduled for before Michele gets home, so I take them. Irina played with her little friends (3-6 year olds - she likes being in charge) and I tried to watch them both. When I was kicking around a soccer ball with Irina, though, Artyom was asked to change jerseys because the other team didn’t have enough players. I kept looking for him and couldn’t find him (I thought it was odd because I can usually pick him out from the way he moves/his size/etc. [the jersey number then confirms it]).  It was even stranger when they had a water break and some kid from the other team was sitting on my folding chair drinking my son’s water! I then realized what had happened.  Saturday was spring planting and working in the yard day. What a beautiful day for it! Michele was up at 6 and started making a vat of meatballs and sauce (our supply had dwindled) and got the roast ready for dinner. She also started a marathon laundry session which continued into Sunday. We had Polina over (she’s turning into my Saturday daughter), but she didn’t help at all! The others helped me a fair amount as I tilled the garden, put up a new 4′ fence (Georgia could jump the 30″ fence), mulched, mowed, and shopped (that part was only partly outside). I didn’t really do much shopping either; I just had to entertain the kids as Michele picked out plants. We went to the sheds at Home Depot and climbed around in them, hid in them, etc. We also found a flat bed tractor trailer (parked) to climb on and jump from. Artyom managed to get onto the roof of one of the sheds through the window (he spent some time literally swinging from the rafters) and I had to talk him down (he was talking about all the things he could see from there). 

That night a little boy’s dream came true. Polina’s mom’s husband owns pawn shops. We called her to see if they had a PlayStation 2 because Irina and Artyom had been saving their stickers for one. They had one (used) and it was a pretty good price so we asked them to bring it when they picked up Polina. He ended his bath early when they got there and was so excited he hugged and kissed Elena (the mom) without shying away. He’s got quite a crush on “Miss Elena”. When Elena and Gary dropped off Polina that morning, he was in the back yard doing work. When he saw Polina, he ran into the house to see Elena. When Michele told him that she’d gone, he was disappointed. But all was not lost! They had turned around on the cul-de-sac and were driving past just as Michele opened to door to see if they might do that. Artyom got to wave to Elena and he was satisfied.  Anyway, back to the PlayStation. He played a little before bed and then before Sunday school the next morning. After dropping them off there, Michele and I did the food shopping for the week as well as got some more mulch (you can never have too much mulch). I took the kids to my mom’s (bringing a big ball of Edam Cheese for all the good bread). We stopped at Susie’s where Rob threw me out. It wasn’t before I exchanged Artyom for Rebecca, so I took the girls to my mom’s. 

Back at the ranch, Michele planted all the new plants and veggies, finished up the laundry marathon, put the roast in the oven (she’d forgotten it in our busy-ness on Saturday (we had spaghetti)). When we got home, a nice dinner was waiting with mashed potatoes, peas, and salad. There it was very laid back, just the Silvers (who came in two waves) and 2 Simms (Laura and Zach). I got a glimpse of how Irina is going to communicate with her new brother and sister though–she asked Zachary if Ellie, the dog, was coming. Zachary mumbled some reply about him coming straight from college (alluding to the fact that he wasn’t at home and didn’t know if Ellie was coming or not). Not getting the answer she was expecting (yes or no), Irina leaned a little towards Zach and in a very loud voice says, “EL-LIE!?!”  

Before we ate dinner, I managed to mulch some more, we all had dinner, Artyom starting catching up on his Hebrew School homework (he’d been hoarding it, he insisted he didn’t know about it) and then we all went to bed.  

3rd post from St. Petersburg

May 1, 2006 on 12:29 pm | In Uncategorized | No Comments

April 19th

I’m not sure why I bother titling these emails, Michele will probably make it look like a system generated error.  Yesterday we were watching the seconds tick down as we tried to get the email out.  Sure we could have bought more time, but then we would have stayed even later, you don’t know how tough it is to see a countdown of your time all the while.  Anyway:
Today we had our physicals.  It started out at the blood clinic having a finger stabbed (pricked would not do the action justice) before having it milked (Michele here - Peter asked Maria if the woman had grown up on a dairy farm, she was so good at it).  I went first and told Michele it didn’t hurt, I didn’t want her to worry (and if I said it did and then she thought it didn’t I would look pretty wimpy, we mustn’t have that).  She thought I should have told her so she wasn’t surprised when it hurt, oops.  After that we had some time to kill before the results would be ready so we did a little shopping.  We should have had lunch, but we had a big breakfast at the hotel so didn’t bother.  When we went to the real clinic we got to meet with the many doctors. 
First we had x-rays that confirmed that we didn’t have TB, then the infectionologist (I’m not making this up) confirmed our blood test results that we don’t have HIV, 2 different Hepatitii (is that how you make it plural?), 2 different types of sypillis (I didn’t know there were 2), and something else that I’ve forgotten.  The GP asked us some questions before pronouncing us medically sound.  It was then time for the dermatologist, who I must assume has the warmest heart imaganible because her hands almost made us jump out of our skin.  Then an oncologist. There was one I can’t remember. The funnest of them all was the Psychologist/Narcologist (I didn’t make that one up either) who asked us an assortment of questions that culminated with the biggie, “Has anything fantastic or miraculous happened to you ever?”  We answered about the kids before he clarified he meant “like something from a movie type of fantastic.”  We answered unfortunately not.  He finished with some other questions before pronouncing us sound.  I couldn’t help but ask if he had experienced something fantastic.  It turns out he had, and it was what made him become a Psychologist–when he was young in the Leningrad region of Russia he saw the Abonimable Snow Man.  Of course when Maria first translated it we just heard he saw “a snow man” which didn’t seem nearly as interesting.  I asked Maria if he just asks that quesiton hoping someday he will find someone else who saw the ASM (it has already become a labor for me to type that), she chose not to ask it of him though.  His demeanor changed once he confided this in us, though. Initially, he was kind of curt and stand-offish and then became amiable and crazy. 
We saw an oncologist and then somehow convinced a neurologist to approve us before finally before finally finishing.  It wasn’t really as bad or as long as we had expected (just the slash in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon).  The ride back from the clinic took almost as long as the appointment (rush hour is really terrible here).  One more obstacle down, though, so that is the main thing.
I thought I would include other things about the trip that I left out of the message yesterday because of the whole time crunch.  Of course I can’t remember them now.  Oh yeah, Violetta asked Maria if she would be coming to America with us to translate, it’s so sweet how she thinks ahead.  Okay, this is sad, there were so many that we talked about in the car today but I am coming up blank.  I guess if I send this to Michele now she’ll have plenty of time to work on it though. 
Oh, also, when Violetta had our digital camera (she took probably hundreds of pictures), she knew that, if she wanted the subject to see the picture afterwards without having to fidget with dials and things, that she had to hurry. Well, in the end, she was clicking and running before the picture had been taken, so we ended up with lots of photos of blurry parts of the room.
Sorry, our old, jet lagged memories are fading here ….
We showed many of the doctors pictures of both Irina and Artyom as well as Violetta and Daniil.They all marveled at how such ugly parents could have such cute children.  Behold the magic of adoption! 

2nd post from St. Petersburg

May 1, 2006 on 12:26 pm | In Uncategorized | No Comments
April 18th
Sorry, we didn’t see an internet cafe in Sortavala and didn’t really have any time to stop and write if we had.  We left St. Petersburg early Sunday morning arriving in Sortavala a bit after noon.  The trip was of the particularly bone-jaring vareity, but well worth it.  After we put away our bags and had lunch (they are very particular about meals) we headed to the orphanage.  We first met with Andre, the Director, Ludmilla, the Assistant Director, and Marina, the Welfare Official for the area.  They were all extremely nice and genuinely seemed to love children.  They were very happy with the pictures that Michele brought from other families that had adopted from that orphanage in the past, very appreciative.  After we talked about Daniila and Violetta for a while they were sent for and joined us for tea.
Violetta was shy but Daniil and food seemed to have been separated at birth and were enjoying a well deserved reunion.  The first impression of them was that they were very sweet.  Violetta shrinking into her seat behind her cup of tea while Daniil’s huge smile stretched well past both sides of his cup as he drank (and drank and drank).  They were sent off after a while as we finished our business in the office. We then went up to see them in the common room of their group.  I think there are three boys and three girls in their group, they share two rooms as bedrooms and have one common room with couches and a tv. 
Violetta warmed up when she got her Barbie.  She seemed so genuinely touched to get such a beautiful present.  At first she didn’t want to even open the package, just stare at it through the plastic.  Daniil wasn’t as sentimental with the packaging of his motorcyle/hoovercraft.  As well as they wrap up toys today it was truely amazing how quickly he had it out.  We played for a while, chatted, took pictures, showed them pictures of home and Irina and Artyom and left them too quickly.  After dinner we went to bed.
Okay, a side note, on the plane over I started feeling a cold coming on.  When we got to the airport in St. Petersburg Maria gave me a scornful look that I did not have a coat with me.  We had looked at the weather and the highs were going to be in the low 40’s, so I knew I would be fine with a turtle neck and a sweatshirt.  She immediately said she was worried I would get sick.  I was worried that I was already sick and would have to suffer a cold and “I told you so’s” the entire trip.  I hoped it would go away, but it didn’t.  Anyway, wherever we would go I would hear Maria say something to the people and then they would look at me with a mixture of pity and surprise.  I’m sure “dumb American” came to mind.  I had no luck convincing anyone my cold and my lack of a jacket were not at all related.  I am sure I will be a story for a long time related to other prospective parents when they come to meet children.  “There was a man once, a nice man, but a very stupid man.  He thought he could come to Russia in April without a coat but he immediately got a cold and was very sorry.”  If you knew Maria you could probably hear her voice as you read that.  Okay, back to the story.
That night I had trouble sleeping because of my cold, Michele had some trouble too, hers due to excitement and the lousy beds.  Anyway, the next morning we went to the Orphanage right after breakfast.  There had been much discussion the day before but they finally decided that the kids could take a day off school as long as they committed to making up their work.  When we got there we leared that Violetta cried a lot after we left, she is a very sensitive child.  Daniil probably didn’t notice.  Anyway, we took them for pictures for their passports and visas before having them show us their school.  We didn’t get all the way there, but got close enough to take a picture.  We had to be very careful about stepping on man hole covers because that is bad luck.  I tried, to no avail, to explain it was only bad luck if it didn’t hold your weight. 
After we went to a cafe on the way back to the orphanage.  There was a misunderstanding and Violetta got stuffed pastry with rice, cabbage and meat when she only wanted rice.  She quite valiantly agreed to eat it as opposed to exchanging it and dutifully ate every crumb.  It seems that she is a picky eater and doesn’t like, among other things, meat, fish, cabbage, onions and just about everything else we named for a while.  At first we were quite shocked that there is a Russian child that does not like cabbage because Irina and Artyom love it so much.  Anyway, after the shock wore off we started worrying about what food she would eat.  After a bunch of negative responses we found she does like kilbasa, hot dogs, cucumber, mashed potatoes and pasta.  We can work with that.
We dropped them off at the orphanage and headed to the notary to get our paperwork done for getting a court date.  After that we ran back to the hotel to get some gifts and then back to the orphanage.   We picked up the kids and headed to Skaska, the orphanage for children not yet school aged.  This was where the kids were first.  Again we were impressed by this orphanage, very bright and happy with apparently nice caregivers who were very happy to see V & D again.  We looked around a little, the kids played, then we headed back.  We picked up 50 pounds of fruit on the way back for the orphanage.  We then went for an early dinner/very late lunch.  We decided that we would play with the kids at the orphanage again instead of taking them back to the hotel.  I’m not sure why we decided this, in Pitkyranta we never stayed at the orphanage.  Anyway, we got the Jenga game and some puzzles and headed back.  We played in the common room and the other members of the group were there most of the time. 
The oldest is a 16 year old boy that shares a room with Daniil and another younger boy.  He was the other boy in the video, I keep forgetting his name.  Anyway, the 16 year old appears stern to the point of mean, but when you see him interact with the kids you can see they really look up to him and he cares for them, it was nice.  The other two girls, Christina and Katya, were maybe 11 and 10.  They enjoyed coloring with Michele while Violetta ran around with a camera or two and Daniil and I played soldiers.  They much preferred the things that Irina and Artyom picked out for them over the things we had, it was smart to enlist their help in this regard.  The caregiver for the evening was there too, mostly chatting with Maria.  She told her that she liked that we spent time there with the group, that it was a positive for the group and the other kids.  Further she said that there had been some initial jealousy but that the current feeling was they were happy for V & D more than anything else.  It tugs on your heart, the kids were so nice there I wouldn’t have minded inviting more home with us.
The day was long, but way too short.  The next day, today, we got to spend some time with the kids in the morning before we walked them to school.  Violetta bravely fought the tears that had been plaguing her as she asked many questions about America, the schools, our Dacha, etc.  She’s a tiny little grown up in many ways, but such a baby in others.  We promised her we would see her again soon, with her past disappointments it probably will take all her energy to believe it.  Meanwhile Daniil loped along, hand in hand with me, just happy to be walking in the sunshine.  He is as carefree as they come, Artyom’s figurative brother in addition to his soon-to-be actual brother.  There is so much of Artyom in Daniil and Irina in Violetta that makes everything seem so right for us.  Tomorrow we have our day at the clinic having blood squeezed from a cut in our finger and meeting with 8 specialists.  I hope their conclusion is favorable.
We’ve been so busy but we have had plenty of time to miss our own babies, We look at the time and take away 8 hours to talk about what they are doing or where they might be at the time.  It is hard not hearing their voices and feeling their sweet kisses, but soon we will be back with them.  I think they’ll be very happy with the additions to our family.  V & D said they like Irina and Artyom already, it was said with some relief so I’m not sure what they were expecting for siblings.  At least there will be two more people in Maryland who can pronounce their names properly.
Goodbye for now, see you all soon.

First e-mail from St. Petersburg

May 1, 2006 on 12:24 pm | In Uncategorized | No Comments

April 15th


Well, we’re here. The shift key on the keyboard at this internet cafe is a little iffy and i might get tired of fixing the caps, so bear with me, please : )
e had an uneventful flight. our hotel is very nice. it’s in a different area that our hotel was the last time, but we ended up walking right by the Radisson on our search for an internet cafe. e remembered this one and so we’re back. or anyone coming to t. petersburg, it’s Cafe Max (the shift worked that time!) on Nevsky prospect.
Tomorrow, sunday, by the time you wake up, we should be in sortavala and meeting our children. e’ve bought them treats at a local supermarket, the really really hard thin chips that sound like they are breaking their teeth chewing. our kids love them!
Not sure if we’ll have access to an internet cafe in sortavala but, if we do, we’ll keep in touch. Hopefully, peter will be sending the emails. He’s a much better writer than i am and can keep you all entertained.
oh, the weather during the day is hovering above freezing, probably closer to 40 (7 or so C). it’s ok. I brought my rain coat and peter just brought a sweatshirt. Maria, our translator, chided me for not having my jacket zipped up and peter for not bringing a coat! : ) t was really nice to see her again, and Vlad, our driver. He has a new car and was proudly showing it to us. eter commented that it feels like we were just here last week, and it does, except for all the construction. They’re preparing for a G8 summit this summer. another thing we get to try to work around for our court date and 3rd trip!

April Fool’s Day Weekend

April 3, 2006 on 11:09 am | In Uncategorized | No Comments

It was a beautiful weekend, although it had an inauspicious beginning on Friday when Michele (who was home with the kids (day off school)) called to say the dishwasher was broken. She hasn’t been that happy with it since we moved in, it doesn’t do a great job even when you rinse everything pretty well, so she was hoping it was unfixable. Michele was also watching Polina, Irina’s friend, who was off school as well. Polina’s mom and step father have a shop and Polina would have had to spend the day sitting at the shop, so she instead stayed at our house. Irina and Polina had some fights about cleaning up their toys so we will have to institute a new rule for when the kids have company – they can’t do anything new until the last thing is cleaned up. This way a trail of destruction is not left when the guest goes. 

Saturday morning we went out to get a dishwasher. Consumer Reports rated one Kenmore and 3 Bosches at the top of their list. The Kenmore looked best since it had a self-cleaning filter and garbage disposal built in but Sears was closed! They don’t open until 10:00 … on Saturday!!! That’s half a day away when you wake up at 4:00! (I woke up at 4:00, mostly because I went to sleep early. I was also worried about the kids who were having a sleepover on our floor, because I thought they might be cold so I had to keep waking up to tuck them in). After a couple of hours Artyom came down (oh, I got sidetracked from the dishwasher story, that will resume in a minute I guess) and asked to watch tv. I said yes, but it was so nice outside that I rescinded it and told him we would walk Georgia. He asked if we could walk to the park with the tennis court and when I agreed to this he asked if we could bring tennis stuff. Sure, why not?  We played some tennis and when we got home the ladies were up. We stopped off to pick up Elena (Polina’s mother – Polina was at a sleepver), so, by the time we got to Sears after 9:00, it seemed late enough that it should be open. Best Buy was closed too (what’s up with that?), but Lowe’s was open and doing great business (I guess the early bird does get the worm).  The Bosch’s were small inside, so we ended up getting Michele’s favorite brand, Kitchen Aid, with the self-cleaning filter and garbage disposal in it. Okay, we didn’t get it because it wasn’t in stock. But we saw it.  Michele then took Elena to a Pampered Chef Party and I took our kids and Artyom’s friend, Jacob, to Annapolis to see Ice Age 2. Jacob’s grandmother had called in a panic. She had to help out at church and was watching Jacob. So she dropped him off with us. Another weird thing is most theaters have stopped having their 11:00 shows, so they all start at 1:00. So I had to go to Annapolis with the kids to see the 11:00 movie. After the movie, I took them to another Lowe’s to get the dishwasher that Michele wanted. Ernie had stopped over on his way to work that morning to see if he could fix the dishwasher. Michele was very upset about that possibility but the dishwasher gods were with her. The motor was shot. So, when we got home with the dishwasher, I shut off the water, got the old one out, and the new one mostly installed but I was stuck with one thing and wasn’t sure about another. 

In the meantime, Michele had dropped Elena off home and came home to a disasterous kitchen. No water, dirty dishes everywhere, and company coming for dinner. She set the kids up on the front lawn with the sprinkler to run through and then there were lots of trips to the bathroom faucet with a pot for water to use in the kitchen! We had invited Dana and Ernie (and family) over for dinner so that Ernie could install the dishwasher, but I was hoping I would have it done so he wouldn’t have to help, but he did. It says not to pre-rinse anything so we stuck all these filthy dishes in it (it’s really big inside somehow and the upper tray can adjust up and down to accommodate big things). The next morning things were cleaner than Michele could have imagined. She loves it. Sunday I dropped the kids off at Sunday school and went shopping. At home Michele started painting the boys’ (doesn’t that sound neat?) room.  I took apart the final bed and moved furniture around for Michele before shampooing the carpet in the office. I then got the kids from Sunday school and came home to drop off Artyom and took Irina to my mom’s. She (my mom) wouldn’t let Irina play in the sprinkler because she decided it was too cold (Irina’s gone two or three times at home already), but Irina had fun playing with Rebecca, Deborah, Carlos and Rebecca’s friend. It was a beautiful day. We threw around a football for a while too, just to be outside. 

Artyom had a lacrosse practice which Michele took him to. He was a bit fussy beforehand because his shoulder/chest pad was too big, but they got him a smaller one when he got there. Michele was so proud of how hard he was working that she stayed and watched him instead of running over the arena to sign us up for more skating lessons (she ended up doing this afterward). She said Artyom was being praised by the coach and his shoulders were back and his chest puffed out. He might be pretty small, but at lacrosse, he was walking tall! He later told me that he was the fastest kid out there. I don’t know about all that.  At home Michele had a work friend over for dinner. We had ribs. It was a nice meal to end a nice weekend.  

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