Saturday, April 30, 2011

Updates from America

Hello from Texas! We are home and doing well.

The travel day and flight home went as well as could be expected. A little sleeping, some tears, lots of playing, but nothing too crazy. The twins have been adjusting so well to being home. They love their house and their new family. We have been keeping their world very small and I think it has made their transition easier. They have still not adjusted totally to the time change - the first morning they got up at 2:45am but it has progressively gotten later each day. We hit 6:30am this morning! I keep having to wake them up from their naps because I think they believe naps are really bedtime (it would have been on Russia time). At least they are taking naps though as it is the only time I can get anything done. They are good eaters and are learning about what it is like to be part of a family. Their English is coming along very quickly and they already have quite a handful of words that they speak.

The biggest part of their day? I would say that they spend about 75% of the day chasing the cats and then screaming when they get near them. My cats are going to need treatment for post-stress disorder and I may need to invest in headache medications. I kept thinking the novelty would wear off eventually but no such luck yet. They have been enjoying spending time with their cousin Kynslie and think their aunts are wonderful. They finally got to meet their Great-Grandmother and Aunt Fran so that was pretty exciting.

I don't have much more to report about our daily activities. We pretty much just hang out at home and that's it. I think our life has become rather boring to write about. Well, here are a handful of pictures from Russia and our first few days home.

I am really looking forward to everyone getting to meet the twins. Thank you all for giving us the time to settle in. We are finally getting adjusted to the time difference and getting settled into a routine.



Saturday, April 23, 2011

How We Are

The last two days consisted of getting the girls American visas and getting our paperwork to the russian embassy. We were with 6 other families and their new children at the American embassy. My girls were definitely the biggest and wildest of all the kids (including another set of female twins). I think the other kids were probably afraid of my girls - good thing their cousin Kynslie is a tough cookie too. LOL

Today was a free day so we headed over to Red Square and took the traditional adoption photos in front of St Basil's. It was so cool to do and to realize that I am finally one of those people who has completed their adoption. I think sometimes it still doesn't feel real. As a special treat after lunch, the twins and Tessa got to experience their first tastes of ice cream. The twins clearly loved it - Tessa seemed like she wanted to love it but wasn't so sure about the coldness of it. We had a great time!

The girls are really starting to settle into life with me and my parents here in Moscow. They seem so happy and are learning new things everyday. They can repeat bunches of English words but have only a couple they use in context without prompting. I think the first word they really learned how to use was "yuck". I guess we used that a lot when we didn't want them to pick stuff up off the ground.

Here are a few "twin facts" that we have discovered over the last week.

1) They are very possessive over "special toys" and work out between themselves which toys belong to who. Sometimes it is hard for us to figure out their system. I decided that I need to buy toys in duplicate if they become favorites to avoid fighting.

2) The girls speak in a language only the two of them understand - I call it a twin language. We thought we were the only ones who couldn't understand them but apparently most of what they say isn't understood by Russians either. They definitely understand each other, though.

3) They are terrified of "wolves". To clarify, this means anything with fur walking on four legs. I am afraid that things are going to be a little crazy when they discover they live with dogs and cats. Hopefully they will get over it quickly. Apparently in Russia they sing bedtime songs about wolves getting your feet if you get out of bed. I would be scared too! They enjoy chasing each other and us around the room with stuffed animals making scary sounds and yelling "Volk" which is Russian for wolf.

4) They get nosebleeds. I have already handled three since I met them. Twice for falls and once just randomly. So...I may not be great at handling vomit yet but I am getting pretty good at nosebleeds.

5) They are disassembling our wooden apartment floor so we suspect they are going to enjoy puzzles!

6) They initially liked any food you put in front of them but now they have become opinionated about food choice. They are still good eaters though.

7) When in the mood, they can give some pretty good kisses (especially Mariya). They didn't seem to know how to kiss when we picked them up but I worked with them on it and they have the idea down now. So cute!

Well, Happy Easter everyone. Just a few more days and we will be home! Still wish we could be with family for the holiday but glad to have my girls for this special day. Sorry to my siblings for stealing Mom and Dad away for the holidays but I hope you all still have a great Easter.

- Lindsey

Location:ул. Нов. Арбат,Moscow,Russia

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Last Few Days

Sorry that I have suddenly gone missing from my blog. Having two children is hard work. I have had to choose between sleep or blog posts and unfortunately sleep usually wins.

The girls are amazing, wonderful, and it is still hard for me to believe they are mine. Of course, it hasn't been all easy. The girls are mostly well behaved but have had a huge traumatic life change to deal with and their two years old. So as expected, they have their moments. All in all we have had 5 wonderful days, though.

I won't have time to explain everything we have done but will try for a general overview. Monday was pretty much a free day except for picking up the girl's Russian passports. Their pictures on them are so adorable. We mostly played at the hotel but did walk down to the park for a bit.

Tuesday was a travel day as we had to move to Moscow. This was a difficult day. We left the hotel at 5am (two hours before girls usually wake up). There were some plane delays and we ended up stuck at the gate for over two hours with sleep deprived toddlers. This airport funnels everyone from the flight into one small room which was very crowded and not a great place for kids. Addie had a major temper tantrum since Mommy refused to let her go onto the tarmac or roll around on the dirty airport floor. I ended up in the bathroom with her and came out to find a whole room of russians glaring at me. It was probably the most embarrassed I have ever been in my life (although my sister tells me not to worry - they will embarrass me many more times before they are grown). Thankfully, they both fell asleep in my lap before we even took off and didn't wake until nearly the end of the flight. My prayers were definitely answered.

Mariya got car sick again on the way to the apartment. Poor baby! Once at the apartment, I filled out American embassy paperwork, the girls played, Mom went grocery shopping and we were all thrilled to see Dad that afternoon. The twins LOVE him. He is clearly the star as they constantly talk about him, show him things, and bring him literally all their toys. I guess men are a novelty for children from orphanages as they hardly ever see any. We were all tired and headed to bed reasonably early.

Wednesday was pretty much a free day. The kids are still adjusting from the time change and it was very, very windy out so we didn't do too much. The American Embassy physician appointment was at 6:30 that morning as well. I was pretty unhappy when they said 6:30am since that would mean another early morning. However, kids are still on Kemerovo time zone so they were up at 5:00am anyways. Ughhh! They were both given a clean bill of health and their paperwork is ready to go. We had lunch at Sbarro (see clown photos below) and dinner with Kathy & Tessa at TGIF.

Mom and Dad went on a tour of Moscow all afternoon. They had a good time, but Dad had a hard time staying awake. The time change from home to here is 12 hours so it takes some adjusting to get used to. Hopefully he will feel better in the next day or two.

I still can't make my comments work so I will do my best to reply to everyone here. Thank you all for the comments and congratulations. In the picture of mom and I with the girls on pick up day - Addie is in Mom's lap and Mariya is in mine. Hopefully that will make it easier to identify them. Beryl, you are certainly welcome to bring a picture of them to bible study. Amber, would love to skype anytime. We are nine hours ahead of you guys. Try not to call around 9pm my time. I use the computer for the girls bedtime lullabies and someone always calls right when they are almost asleep. Not a huge deal if you do, but I won't be able to talk anyways. Trish, hopefully you are right about the bossy thing. Actually, one of the twins seems to be at least a little less bossy than the other. We will see how they are in a couple months.

Well, we fly home on Tuesday. I will do my best to write before then. It is almost impossible to write while they are awake. Can't wait to see everyone soon.


Location:ул. Нов. Арбат,Moscow,Russia

Sunday, April 17, 2011

First Full Day With the Babies

I know everyone is wanting to hear how our first full day together went. I definitely feel like a new mom as I am whipped out tonight.

Bedtime last night went pretty well the first time but then they were both up probably fifteen minutes later and the second bedtime was more of a struggle. However, they were successfully sleeping by 1:15am (is that really considered a success- not sure but it felt like one). I did not sleep well as I got stuck under Addie and was afraid to move for fear of bedtime #3. The room was hot, and the kids were terribly restless. Living in a foreign country with two toddlers adds some special challenges to parenting. For instance, I have no bed rails and the set-up is in a way that I can not put the mattress on the floor. Luckily the bed is low to the floor (Mom and I call it a munchkin bed as it is seriously about the height of a toddler bed) but Dasha still fell off twice despite me moving them away from the edges all night long. Kathy had the same problem with Tessa so at least I was not the only one. Waking up to happy faces this morning made it all worth it though.

We headed down to breakfast this morning at the hotel. The twins are ravenous eaters and can put away a ton of food. Once again, they ate great and had excellent table manners. After breakfast, Kathy and Tessa came to our room and the kids played for a while. They really like active games, but I did manage to squeeze a bit of reading in.

We decided to attempt our first go at leaving the hotel and an out to eat meal for lunch. First we headed to a park in Soviet Square for the kids to play. They had a good time.

We ate at Traveler's Coffee and all three kids were very well behaved. Tessa is very quiet, tiny and just adorable. I don't think anyone was worried about her behavior in public. The twins are so active that Mom and I (and probably Kathy too) were pretty worried that eating out would be crazy but it is almost impossible to eat in every meal here since we have no stove to cook on. They were angels - thank goodness. It was past their nap time by the time we finished so we hurried to get home. The twins love their stroller. They hop right in every time. Here is a picture from the three hours following our arrival home.

Mom and I took them for a walk to another park very close to the hotel after our naps. They have a permanent carnival there once the weather gets pretty. This was either their first or second weekend to be open. It was packed with kids and parents. The girls really enjoyed watching everyone but wanted to stay very close to Mom and Nana. I think they were a little nervous about all the new stuff. We eventually headed home, had dinner, played a while and then put them to bed. They have been asleep for several hours now and haven't moved. I figured out the air conditioner so the temperature is much more comfortable and we finally figured out a way to fix the bed to prevent fall outs. I am sure it will be a better night.

We have had a wonderful day but it has not been completely easy. The things we are struggling with the most are tantrums, difficult bedtimes/nap times and figuring out how to communicate with Russian speaking toddlers. I am still getting used to juggling two kids and my own needs. I have never been so grateful to have a fantastic mom. She has been helping with the girls, getting meals for us, and making sure that I eat/drink and take care of myself. I don't know what I would have done on this trip without her.

Well, until tomorrow, here is a last shot of Mariya. She says "say cheese".


Location:Kemerovo, Russia

Pick-up Day Finally

Today we picked up my beautiful Russian daughters. The day started out with a bang when I couldn't sleep and got up in the early morning hours only to find that my iPad had crashed. Thank goodness that I was able to use mom's to find an online fix for the problem but that was only several hours of worrying and not being able to get back to sleep.

We headed to the orphanage at 8:00 am. The ride there went fine and we were all very excited to finally get our kiddos. Things happen pretty quickly when you get to the orphanage. We had a little time to get some of our questions answered by the doctors and to give her all the donations. Those of you who know me well will appreciate this. I asked about the girls interactions with other children - are they bossy, quiet, etc. The doctor replied, "In most twin sets there is a bossy child and a submissive child. This is not the case for your children as both are very bossy". I was "occasionally" a stubborn, bossy child so Mom said that this is well deserved. LOL.

We waited a few minutes for the kids to finish their lunches and then they were brought to us. The interpreter told us to change them into their new clothes right away. They were angels during the whole process and were practically pulling us out the door when it was time to go. There were no tears or even looks back as we headed out the door. Here is a picture as we were about to drive away. I think Mariya's face is priceless.

Kathy also had an easy time with her precious daughter, Tessa. So it was wonderful leaving with three happy babies!

Maybe I just didn't pay attention, but I don't recall other families mentioning problems with car sickness. However, all the people helping us in Russia kept talking about how all the kids get sick. Poor Mariya got to experience this. Let me tell you that I have never been so appreciative of my mom. Mariya threw up all over herself, Mom, and the floor. Mom jumped right in and cleaned everything up while I attempted to be a good mother and not vomit on my child. The rest of the three hour car ride went well. The kids slept in shifts but neither got much sleep. I think it was all too exciting.

We had a good but busy evening. Mom went out and got us take out food which we ate on the floor of the hotel room. We played a bunch and spent a a lot of time on the big girl potty. I think that the novelty of a "big" potty was very exciting. The kids use little pots at the baby home.

The girls got baths, brushed their teeth, and bedtime went reasonably well. Unfortunately, it didn't last long as both kids were up again fifteen minutes later. It took a while to get them down the second time and then I was stuck in bed since they were laying on me. Not such a problem for me as I was wiped out.

Will write more when time permits - it is a little harder to come by these days. :-)


Location:Kemerovo, Russia

Friday, April 15, 2011

Waiting Day 11 - Paperwork

Today was our "extra" waiting day which involved paperwork and shopping. We left early this morning to get the kids birth certificates and apply for their visas. Things went smoothly and most of the time we just sat in chairs and chit chatted while Anna did all the work. I had to sign my name a couple times but that was it.

After that we headed to the drug store to get some items for the orphanage. Several people from my church and Kathy's donated money for the orphanage. When Anna told the orphanage doctor, she requested a number of different medications that she would like us to buy for the orphanage kids. We had quite a bit of money so we were able to purchase lots of medications. Actually, we bought out one store and had to head to a second one for more creams. We ended up having to order the final medication because none of the pharmacies had enough. So, anyone who is reading this and donated, please know that your donation was well spent and very appreciated by the orphanage.

In the afternoon we did some shopping, watched a movie, and ate sushi at a restaurant here. We are very tired and are about to head to bed. Tomorrow is the big day!

Anya informed us today that everything is official now even though we haven't picked the girls up (apparently the kids do better if you pick up in the morning so that is why they asked us to wait). So, I figure that if they are mine now then I can post at least one photo of them for everyone. Here is one of my favorites from our pre-court visit with them.

Hope everyone enjoys! Will post bunches more tomorrow.


Location:Kemerovo, Russia

Waiting Day 10 - The Final Day

We finally boarded our plane around 2:30 am this morning and took off for Kemerovo. We arrived around 10:30 this morning. We checked into the hotel, unpacked a few things and headed straight to bed. After some much needed sleep, we all got up and tackled the internet. When we were here 10 days ago we realized the hotel had an internet connection it was all in Russian so we couldn't figure out how to connect. Thanks to our friend Trish's directions we are all successfully connected now.

We were a bit disappointed to find out that we will be picking the kids up on Saturday rather than tomorrow. Apparently tomorrow is reserved for paperwork. Oh well, nothing we can do about that.

We are headed out to dinner and then will probably all crash again. Will write more tomorrow.

- Lindsey

Location:Kemerovo, Russia

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Waiting Day 9 - Airports

Not much to report today. We successfully made it to the airport and onto our first flight which went to Moscow. We arrived in Moscow and met up with Kathy. At 10pm we boarded a bus to our flight to Kemerovo. Clearly this airport experience was going to be too easy. As we go to get off the bus and onto the plane, they close the doors and tell us all something in Russian. After we sit/stand there in the bus for a while, we notice that the few lucky people who did make it onto the plane are now more unlucky than us and are dragging their stuff back off the plane. Once everyone is on the bus we head back to the terminal. We eventually learn that we are delayed due to weather. So after the "pretend boarding" we are back in the airport waiting. Hopefully we will be boarding sometime tonight!!! We are all very tired.

- Lindsey

Location:St Petersburg & Moscow, Russia

Waiting Day 8 - Peter and Paul Fortress & Vasilevskiy Island

This was our last full day in St Petersburg so we decided to back it with all the activities we had left. We walked over to Vasilevskiy island to see the sites there. We saw the Sphinxes, St Andrew's Cathedral, Rostral Columns and Menshikov Palace. We were a bit disappointed when going into St Andrew's as their was only a tiny closet sized room open to the public today. There must have been a special service going on.

For the afternoon we went to visit Peter and Paul Fortress. It was a long walk and once we got on the island we couldn't figure out how to get into the fortress. We ended up taking the long route which took us through the beach area. We were really surprised to turn the corner and find a large number of sunbathers leaning against the wall. Please see above pictures and notice that Mom and I are still in winter jackets and then see picture below. do they handle the cold and, yes, that is snow on the ground. Mom wanted to join them but I told her we were in too big of a hurry. Just kidding. :-)

We finally made it into the fortress and grabbed tickets and audio guides. We rushed over to Peter and Paul Cathedral. This is where many of the Russian Tsars are buried. This is also the place where the last Romanov family is buried.

Unfortunately, Mom and I lost each other at this point and spent the next hour looking for each other. In all the craziness I dropped my ticket so that was the end of my touring. Mom was able to visit the prison system while I listened to the audio guide. On the upside, I did get to sit and pet a Russian cat. We walked around the fortress, took some pictures and then it was closing time.

We did take a short detour on the way home to peak at Peter The Great's cabin. Too late to go in but we got a peak at the outside and some pics with the lions that guard it.

As a finish to a wonderful eight days we went to eat a nice meal at Tandori Nights, a local Indian restaurant. The food was great and we enjoyed it very much.

Tomorrow we head back to Kemerovo as it is almost time to pick up the babies.


Location:St. Petersburg, Russia

Waiting Day 7 - Walk Around City & Tsarkoe Selo

Today we got up and headed for a walk around the Sennaya Ploshchad area. We walked over to the Bolshaya Neva River and then headed back towards the Mariinskiy Theater.

We got a look at several different areas of town and walked down to St. Nicholas' Cathedral. We tried to look inside but mass was going on. We did get a look from the window and it was very beautiful inside.

By then it was nearly noon and we had a 2:00pm tour across town so we hurriedly went to get lunch. Since Mom had missed my lunch at The Idiot the day before, we decided to go there for lunch. This has actually been one of our favorite places to eat so far. Here is one of my favorite pictures from the meal (Mom thinks I set her up).

We headed over to the tour bus which was about a 15-20 minute walk. The tour took us to Tsarskoe Selo (Pushkin) which is the place where Catherine's summer castle is located. It is about 19 miles outside of St Petersburg.

The tour guide was a little grouchy but overall the tour was great. The castle was fabulous and very extravagant. It was actually designed by Catherine's daughter, Elizabeth, but was named after her mother. The grounds are still covered in snow and mud but I think they are probably unbelievable in the summer month.

We arrived back to St Petersburg at 7pm and we decided to eat at a place that makes really good blinis. We searched and searched for the place and FINALLY found it. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed. We were starving and didn't have the energy to search any longer so we headed to McDonalds. McDonalds is crazy in Russia - all the young people love it and both times I have been in one here it has been a mad house.

We were so exhausted after dinner that we headed straight home. I did some laundry in the sink and then I crashed. Tomorrow is our last full day in St Petersburg so we have it packed full of activities.


Location:St Petersburg, Russia