Saturday, November 28, 2009

We are home

It's been a while since I updated our blog, but I wanted to get caught up on everything that has happened since our Embassy Appointment and finally share some photos.

On Thursday, Irina came to the hotel to give us the Russian Consulate documents. When she saw Hannah, she commented how relaxed and happy she looked. She said she looked like a different child. That was great to hear that she is already benefiting from having a family and one on one (or two) attention.
She did quite well on the flight home. Although she screamed for the 1st 2 hours she finally slept for about 2 hours. When she woke up she was great and played quite contently. It was a long 9.5 hours, but we arrived at Kennedy early and were able to catch an earlier flight to Boston. Our friend, Michael, picked us up at the airport and by the time we got home, it was 8 pm (4 am Moscow time) and we were utterly exhausted. I can't believe that in all that time, Hannah only slept for 2.5 hours. It will take quite a few days for her to catch up on sleep.

I was very excited for Emily and Hannah's first meeting. When we pulled into the driveway, Emily raced to the front door. I was carrying Hannah and Emily gave her a quiet "Hello Hannah" and a soft kiss on the cheek. Very cute. We played for a few minutes, but needed to get her to bed.

Saturday was a great day getting settled back in at home. It was great to watch Emily and Hannah play together. Emily is a little tentative. She hasn't been around young children very often, so it will take her a little while to figure Hannah out. Emily was a great helper all day. When I put her to bed at night, I asked her what she though tof being a big sister. She said "it's OK", when I asked why, she replied "it's a lot of work!".

Since our first day, things have only got better and better. Hannah is such a joy and is a very funny, cuddly, confident child. It is fantastic having a young child again. I just love hugging her and rubbing her little back. At first she was very easy to put to bed. She would cry out twice and them go to sleep, but after 2 weeks, she refused to go to bed. It would take a couple of hours to get her down because everytime I left the room she wuld get out of bed (she is in a twin bed with a rail) and scream and scream at the top of her lungs by the door. The last thing I wanted was her to fall asleep on the floor from crying, since everything is so new still, so I would stand by the door or rock her in the rocking chair until she fell asleep... which some nights took 2 hours because she kept looking up to make sure I was there. I am sure this is mostly typical baby behavior, but it also has to have something to do with the affects of being in an orphanage. She is getting much better now because we are getting into a better routine and falls asleep pretty quickly.

She LOVES her baby dolls. She spends most of the day pushing them around in doll strollers, and giving them their bottles and rocking them. It is so sweet. She is very nurturing. She also likes her little baby bike and her noisy toys, but mostly, she loves to climb on everything, including us.
She's eating great. She finishes most everything we give her, although is starting to be more picky, perhaps because she figuring out that there is a fridge full of food.

We took her to her pediatrician 3 days after we returned from Russia and she gave her a full bill of health. She is 70% for height, 50% weight and 90% head. We are getting caught up on her vaccinations and she got 4 shots that visit (including N1H1) and has another visit in a month. We are also taking her to Children's Hospital in Boston in early December for a Post-Adoption Evaulation. I am not expecting any problems, but it will be good for her to be checked by an adoption specialist. Her speech is slightly delayed, which is fully expected. She didn't say too much while in Russia... Da daaaaaaahhhhh, and a few babbles, but since we've been home, she is babbling all the time and it is so adorable. She makes new noises every day and we think she says "Cat" and "Meow". We are not sure, but she gets very excited when she sees the cats. She does occasionally say mamamama. I expecially love the long conversations she has with us. I am sure she knows exactly what she is saying, we just nod in agreement.
We are thrilled that everything is going very well. We are so grateful God found us this beautiful girl and it is wonderful being a family of 4.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Embassy appointment

Today was a lazy day. Hannah got up around 8:15am - very respectable! We went for breakfast and them just lounged around waiting for our 2pm Embassy appointment. We joined about 5 other adoptive families with young children in the waiting room while a lady explained what we needed to do when we entered the US and information about the children's dual citizenship. It was great to speak with other families and hear that their experiences were very similar, we even met a family that used the same agency. Everyone has experienced tantrums and were getting their kids out of the regimented orphanage routine. After a very quick and painless 30 minutes we came away with her visa and a sealed envelope with copies of her papers to give to immigration at JFK. We are technically now able to leave the country, but since we are registering her at the consulate, we have 2 more days. We gave in the paperwork to the consulate this afternoon and the documents will be ready on Thursday afternoon. Irina will bring them to our hotel at 5pm on Thursday and we will say our farewells.

Hannah is starting to get used to Marc more and more each day. As I write, he is giving her a bath, so I took the opportunity to sneak away and enjoy some tea and desserts in the Executive Lounge (yes, I'm becoming a hotel snob). The embassy appointment was right at nap time, so Hannah got about 10 minutes nap on the car ride there and about 30 minutes on the car ride home, so hopefully the bath will soothe her so she is ready for bed. Hopefully she'll sleep in late!

Nothing much planned for tomorrow or Thursday. We'll probably walk around town a bit more and try the pool again. We tried the pool yesterday and at first Hannah was petrified and just put her head on my shoulder. Her ears turned bright red and hot, not sure if this was a reaction to the temperature of the pool or fear. After a short while, I sat her on the ledge where she was much happier splashing the water with her hands and kicking her feet. We walked down to the pool again this morning just to look in the window to gauge her reaction and I couldn't pull her away, perhaps this means she liked it? We'll find out.

Thanks to everyone for their well wishes, kind words and prayers. It has made the trip even more enjoyable knowing there are folks who care so much back home.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Back in Moscow

It is so great to be back at the Marriott. It is great to hear English and be understood again. The room is great, we were upgraded to a deluxe room, again with Butler service, and access to the Executive Lounge that has drinks and food all day long. The hotel restaurants are very expensive, so this will help keep meal costs down.

The pediatrician arrived at 10:30am on Saturday to examine Hannah. She didn't cry once while he measured and poked her. He was very kind and spoke great English. She is 75% for head size, and 25-50% for weight and height. The doctor said she was in great health and there were no signs of any of the medical issues on her chart at the orphanage. Her speech is delayed, which is expected, but she will catch up quickly. The examination lasted about 30 minutes after which he gave us a sealed envelope to give to the US Embassy when we apply for her Visa.

She took a nice long nap (as did I) and in the afternoon, we walked around the hotel, played in the room, and ate in the lounge. The first time I tried to bathe her in the region, she screamed the whole time and refused to sit in the baby bath, so I gave her a quick shower. I am not sure why she reacted this way. Perhaps bath time was not pleasant at the orphanage, or not frequent. The next night, I put the shower head on the floor making a fountain and this seemed to occupy her while I washed her. She desperately needed a good soak, so I decided to try another bath when we got back to Moscow. She started crying while the water was running, but I added bubbles which she loved and she completely enjoyed the bath. Yay! Now she likes it, this will be a good activity each night.

She slept great on Saturday night. She fell asleep at 6:30pm. I was nervous she would be up early again, but she fussed for about an hour around midnight, then slept until 8:30am. WOW! We felt totally refreshed!

Today is Sunday and at 11am, Irina met us in our room to go over all the Embassy paperwork. She will take everything to the Embassy on Monday and will meet us again at 11am. We will have the rest of the day to ourselves. She left an envelope with various documents that we need to read over to prepare for our interview at the US Embassy at 1pm on Tuesday. Nothing to get nervous about, they will just ask us about the process.

So, for now, we are relaxing in the hotel, we may try out the pool tomorrow, now that Hannah seems OK with water.

Right now, we can't access the internet on our own laptops, only on the computers in the Executive Lounge, and unfortunately, we don't have a flash drive to transfer photos. We will try to add photos later in the week when Marc orders internet for the hotel room. We don't feel comfortable adding photos of Hannah until we are home, just to be safe, but we'll share photos very soon.

Week in Petrozavodsk

The week we spent in Petrozavodsk was very quiet. The hotel room was large enough for Hannah to run around, but there were only 2 beds. To make sure Hannah slept well (which would make our lives much easier in the long run), Marc graciously offered to sleep on the couch. Hannah went to bed around 7:30pm each night, but kept getting up earlier and earlier each morning, with a 4:15am wake up call on the last day. As most of you know, I am not at my best that early in the morning, but we survived and I took advantage of her nap time to catch up on sleep myself.

Our typical daily schedule was breakfast, then pace the hotel hallways (there were 4 floors which I think we covered several times), a walk outside with Hannah in the stroller, then back to the hotel for a nap. After nap, lunch, then playing in the room, more walks in the hallways, more playing, dinner, and finally bed.

Over the course of the week, we learned a lot more about Hannah including that she can eat a LOT! We don't know where she puts it all. For breakfast, she can down about 1 ½ cups of oatmeal, ½ peach, a pineapple ring, 2 large pieces of cucumber, ¼ of a tomato, and a small glass of milk. She stumbles back to the room letting the weight of her full belly propel her forward. It's pretty funny.

We also found out that she can pull a fantastic tantrum – for just about anything. If we take anything away that she either shouldn't be playing with or is putting in her mouth that she shouldn't, or pull her away from a hot radiator, or even if Marc tries to pick her up, she collapses on the floor and flops backwards into a fit of crying and tears. She's bumped her head on the hard floor a couple of times, but now we can see the signs and are there to catch her. We've let her cry it out a few times, but Irina told us to keep her quiet so not to attract attention, so if we are in public, or in earshot of anyone, I quickly pick her up and she immediately stops crying and places her head on my shoulder.

It seems, right now, I am the only one who she will come to to be picked up or comforted. I feel terrible for Marc since I am getting all the cuddles and bonding time, but he is taking in stride. He prepared himself for this very thing, understanding that she has not had much exposure to men, having only been cared for by women.

Although it has been a long week, with not much to do, it has been great to spend so much time together and get to know each other. We are very much looking forward to returning home and introducing her to Emily and our family and friends.

At 2pm on Friday, while Marc looked after Hannah, “Frodo” picked me up and we drove to the Office of Internal Affairs to pick up Hannah's passport. We first went to the office on the 2nd floor. Here we needed to get her birth certificate stamped, I think this validates her Russian citizenship, although I am not sure. Unfortunately, the ladies were not very organized and has not completed the paperwork. They also needed the papers signed by the manager who was returning in about an hour. So, we were asked to return at 4pm. “Frodo” took me back to the hotel to wait. When we returned, the papers were ready and we went to Office 12 on the 1st floor where I signed for her passport and we left. I was so relieved to have her passport because it meant we could board the train. Without it, she could not leave the region.

At the hotel, we finished packing and at 6:15pm, “Frodo” took us to the train and we waved goodbye as the train left the station at 7pm. This was a big moment since it was the first time she had ever left the town where she was born and we were one step closer to home.

I was fully expecting Hannah to enjoy the movement on the train and fall fast asleep, but unfortunately, she didn't settle at all and kept us up for most of the night. In the early morning hours, I was starting to lose it, so Marc stepped in to help and since Hannah was so tired, she allowed him to hold her and comfort her. I was so grateful, because after a 4am start to the day, I was running low on energy and patience. She finally fell asleep from 1-4am and again from 5-6pm. She was very restless and it made for a tough night, but we finally made it to Moscow.

The Amazing Race - Adoption Day

The object of today's race is to pick up Hannah. The train arrived in Petrozavodsk at 8:50am and Team Crosier found their driver, Fyodor (or “Frodo” as he has become affectionately known). First we raced to the bank to transfer money for her passport. It was then onto the court to pick up copies of the Judge's adoption decree. The next stop was the Office of Vital Statistics for Hannah's new birth and adoption certificates. Here we met a Detour. Because the judge used abbreviations in the documents, the clerk would not accept the paperwork and we needed to get it redone which would take about an hour.

To pass time, we stopped for breakfast and much needed caffeine to keep us going. We visited the Ministry of Education to return some paperwork, thank them for all they have done, and offer a gift (which the clerk was too shy to accept). Our revised court documents were ready on time and we were back in the race. With lunchtime approaching, the new papers satisfied the clerk at the Office of Vital Statistics and thought she asked us to return after lunch, we pressed her for the documents right away. While Team Crosier was with the clerk, “Frodo” raced to the orphanage to collect Hannah's passport photos and rejoined the team.

Office of Vital Statistics

Next was a quick stop for photocopies then into the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Here we hit a Road Block – one of us had to face this challenge alone. Natalie was “volunteered” because Russian law requires children's passports to be linked to the mother, so Natalie needed to sign the papers. Inside the office building (which looked like the Department of Motor Vehicles) we tried to enter Office # 12, but it was locked, as were all the other offices. In order to get into the offices, someone had to swipe their badge to turn the red light green. When someone entered Office 12, we darted over to the door. I had already closed, but when we knocked someone let us in. We gave the lady the papers and left for an office on the 2nd floor. This office was open and we gave the lady more papers and were told to return on Friday to pick up here passport. Since we completed all the steps in the Road Block we could continue the race.

Court House

At this point, Team Crosier was feeling pretty confident, so we had lunch and checked into the hotel. About an hour later, at 3pm, “Frodo” took us to the supermarket to buy gifts for the orphanage, diapers, and food for the week and it was onto the final stop – the orphanage. When we arrived, all the children were getting ready to go outside to play, so they kept Hannah inside. We played for 10 minutes while Irina did “official” business, and the children and caregivers said their farewells – a few even cried. It was very sad to see their faces and say goodbye to the women who had taken such great care of Hannah. We changed Hannah into her new clothes and shoes and left her old ones neatly folded on the table. This upset me because she was leaving without even the clothes on her back, but at the same time, it was a fresh start and everything would be new and exciting for her. She had a bright future ahead of her. We left 12 gift bags in the room, extended our thanks and said our goodbyes to the Orphanage Director and got into the care and left. Unlike the Amazing Race, there was no sprint to the finish, no wondering if we were in first place, we simply picked her up and started our lives together.

Hannah and Dad leaving the orphanage

OK, so comparing our day with the Amazing Race is a tad corny, but we are little stir crazy and needed to change things up a bit.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Back in Moscow

Greetings from Moscow. We arrived safely this morning after a great flight. We were a little delayed getting out of JFK because Air Force One (the President's plane) had arrived and backed up departures. We saw the plane parked outside a hanger as we were taking off. Pretty cool!

In Moscow, we were greeted by Irina (our host) and Valery (our driver) who took us to the Marriott. We are staying at a different Marriott this time because it has more amenities what will help occupy Hannah. It is beautiful and thanks (again) to Marc's frequent travel, we were upgraded to a suite that has it's own butler!!! No kidding. Seconds after arriving at the room, the butler knocked on the door and bought us some champagne and told us to call him if we needed anything. A ½ hour later he arrived with cheese & crackers and a full bottle of wine. I could get used to this!

We got caught up on sleep, took a shower, and are now relaxing in the Executive Lounge (another perk) and enjoying appetizers and drinks and getting caught up on emails. Tomorrow we plan to visit the inside of the Kremlin. Irina will pick us up at 5pm to go to the train.

It is strange to think this is our last trip. Although I am sure we will be back when Hannah is older. It is still hard to believe we will be coming home with another daughter. We feel very blessed that everything has gone so quickly and smoothly. God has been in control of everything and we trust that he will be with us over the next 2 weeks as we finalize everything and bring her home. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers and can't wait for you to meet her.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hannah is our daughter!

The judge agreed to the adoption! So, Hannah is now part of our family. We are overjoyed.

The morning was quite stressful. After breakfast at the hotel, we headed across the street to the court house and took a small elevator up to the 6th floor. After a security check, we were taken to the court room which was about 20 ft x 20 ft with benches at one end, where we sat, and 3 large, ornate wooden chairs at the other end of the judge. In the middle were 2 rows of tables facing each other where the prosecutor and the social workers sat. There was also a computer where the secretary sat and prescribed the proceedings. There was also a cage on the right of the room; I imagine this is for criminals.

Irina had warned us about a male prosecutor she has seen in the past who is against international adoption and asks lots of tough questions and is rather rude. We were very fortunate that the prosecutor was a woman – she was much nicer. Once everyone arrived, we stood up as the judge walked in and sat down. We introduced ourselves and answered the many questions from the judge and the prosecutor, standing up when we were addressed. The questions weren’t very difficult, but we had to be careful about how we answered them to make sure we didn’t accidentally say anything wrong. Irina sat behind us and translated everything. The questions lasted for about 30 minutes and then the judge read from a large folder containing all of the documents we had prepared at the beginning of the process. The social worker read her conclusion, followed by the prosecutors conclusion (both of which recommended the adoption) and after our final remarks, the judge left for 15 minutes. She returned and read a paper that has been prepared that stated she approved the adoption. As she read, we held back tears. We couldn’t wait to go to the orphanage to give our daughter a big hug! Everyone congratulated us and then it was all over. In total we were there for about 1 ¾ hours.

We returned to the hotel to pack, check out and have lunch. We got to the orphanage around 4:30pm and played with Hannah until 6pm. We played with skittles, in the ball pit and she scaled the wall a few more times. People over here carry blue shoe coverings that they put on when they enter buildings after it has rained. We were wearing some of these and Hannah was very curious, so Irina gave her a set. She was so proud of herself and walked around the gym showing off her “shoes”. She was so funny. At 6pm she had to join her group for dinner and we had to go to the train, so we said out goodbyes. We desperately wanted to take her with us, but we can’t take custody until after the 10 day waiting period.

We return to Moscow on October 23rd and will see her again on 26th. She will stay with us in the hotel in Petrazavodsk until her International passport is ready on October 30th. Then we take the overnight train back to Moscow. A doctor will visit us in the hotel over the weekend and on Monday we will apply for her visa and on Wednesday will register her with the consulate. Everything should be completed by Thursday November 5th, and we will return on the 6th. It will be a long 2 weeks without the conveniences of home, but it will be great bonding time.