Sunday, January 02, 2005

December 30, 2004 – Thank You, Lord!!!

Thank you, Lord, for helping Spencer get better.
Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to get home.
Thank you, Lord, for watching over Gina and protecting her from a major injury from her car accident today.
Thank you, Lord, for making us a family.

Spencer was not too happy to be awake at 5 AM in the morning after the rough night we had together. We were all packed, got the bags to the lobby with the translator’s help, checked out and headed to the airport to begin our 23 hour, 10,000 mile journey home.

Spencer’s diarrhea was not quite as severe, and his vomiting was gone. He just seemed really tired, and a little scared to be out at such an early hour. Frankly, I was too.

We made it through Kazak Customs with no problems and were the first people in line for the plane British Airways flight to London. I had requested bulkhead seating on our two flights, but the flight from Almaty to London didn’t have a bulkhead with a basinet, so they gave me a seat by myself for the first part of the flight.

While waiting for the flight to board, Spencer was able to digest about 4 ounces of fluids. It was a bold move to give him so many fluids after the night we just had, but he sucked the bottle dry in no time flat. It all stayed down, and I started to thank the Lord that we were going to make it on the plane and begin our journey home.

The flight had a stop-over in Russia, where a ton of people boarded the plane and filled up my row. Spencer, was so pooped, he just lay on my lap and fell asleep. When he woke up, he downed more fluids. I had to get him up every hour to change his diaper. He still had diarrhea and his butt was cherry red from the diaper rash.

One of the flight attendants noticed me heading to the WC a lot and asked if something was wrong with him, so I told her our story. She listened, and then told me she was a nurse. She checked Spencer out and re-assured me he was looking fine. No signs of dehydration. This was a big relief, and a pretty cool little sign that someone was watching out for us.

Spencer downed roughly 800 ml of fluids on the 9 hour plane ride from Almaty to London. He turned the corner and was obviously getting much better. Our plane landed in London at exactly 12 PM. This gave us plenty of time to make it to our 1:30 flight to San Francisco, right? Wrong….

The plane took 20 minutes to get to its’ gate, then we were then bussed to terminal 4. Well, our SF flight was in Terminal 1. So we hopped on another bus, and walked about 20 minutes to make it to the SF gate with only 20 minutes to spare!

I had requested bulk head seating with a basinet over 8 weeks ago, and continued to request this at least 4 more times while in Kazakhstan. I was told this had to be done at the gate. Well now that I was at the “gate” I was told they gave all the bulkhead seats away because I was too late getting to the gate! Then…. A nice gentleman offered to switch his family’s bulk head seats with me. Great, but….the BA gate representatives didn’t talk to each other, and didn’t give me his seats. So… I ended up being crammed in the back with Spencer. Of course, we’ve since learned the problem was we actually paid money to buy a seat for Spencer. It ends up if we had saved our money, and didn’t get him a seat, we would have gotten priority seating for the basinets. Explain that ont to us?! Needless to say I was pissed when I walked around and saw the people in bulkhead with no children and using the basinets as drink holders. THIS IS REASON NUMBER 201 NOT TO FLY BRITISH AIR!!!!

I ended up sitting next to a very nice gentleman who was flying back to Stockton from his brother’s wedding in Pakistan. He was very sympathetic and helped me get settled with Spencer. Luckily, it was Spencer’s bed time around the middle of the flight, and he slept a good five to six ours on my lap. I, on the other hand, slept maybe a total of 2 hours the whole trip.

After watching 2 movies, an England vs. Wales soccer match, and various other sports things on the Airplane TV, I finally crapped out with about 2 hours to go in the flight. When we landed, we made our way to the US Passport / US Customs and Immigration Service Station. They had a special booth for new immigrants, and we stepped right up to hand over our double top secret sealed envelope we received at the US Embassy in Almaty. The CIS guy cut open the package with scissors, looked through the stuff, stamped Spencer’s passport and visa, and then sent us on our way. No problems.

Then it was on to customs. I was expecting to be stripped searched, and interrogated by the agents because I was bringing in a fur hat and some vodka from Kazakhstan. When I got to the customs official she asked where I had been. I told her Kazakhstan. She asked the purpose of my trip. I told her to adopt my son. She looked at Spencer with his big brown sleepy eyes, and at me with my disheveled trip from hell look, and said “go straight out.” They didn’t even x-ray my bag, or search me.

We made our way through the exit, and into the loving arms of my wife. We hugged and teared-up. What a relief to be home!

Gina sat down with Spencer in her arms, and then I saw the big bruise on her hand. Its at this point she disclosed that some idiot made a left turn in front of her this morning and she ended up plowing right into him. Our brand new BMW is totaled, but she walked away with a bruised arm, a stiff back, and a headache. The airbags deployed, the BMW emergency system engaged and asked her if she was hurt. They called the California Highway Patrol, an ambulance, and the EMTs. The CHP consoled her and re-assured her that she was not at fault. Needless to say she was very shaken up and in disbelief.

It really comes in threes. 1. We lost the pregnancy. 2. Spencer got sick. 3. Gina was in the car wreck. All of which took a physical and major emotional toll on this family. The key word here is FAMILY. Gina, Spencer, and I are now a happy family and looking forward to a brand new 2005.

God bless all of you who have been following our travels. We truly appreciate all your love and support. Until our next trip, prevyet (goodbye)!

December 29 – Please, Lord….

This was one of the hardest days of my life.

Twenty hours before the plane ride home, Spencer started throwing up, had diarrhea, and was refusing to eat or drink. I knew this was not a good thing, but had no idea what to do.

The day was supposed to be a nice relaxing day in Almaty. Spencer and I were planning on going over to visit Sandy, Chuck, and Jacob at their hotel to say goodbye and thank the Schultis’s for all their help in getting documents to us in Almaty. I decided to feed Spencer before heading over to visit his “baby house” roommate. He wasn’t too keen on taking a bottle. That was a little weird, so I thought why not try feeding him a little rice and applesauce. He gobbled it right down….and then it came flying right back up.

I called the Sandy and Chuck to let them know we weren’t coming over, and immediately called my translator and told him we were going back to the International SOS medical clinical. We arrived around 12:30, and got in to see the doctor around 12:45. Spencer played, and acted like his usual curious self in the lobby. He was crawling around the halls and playing with the toys. He looked like a boy with no problems in the world. Boy was I wrong.

The doctor said he had a viral infection that manifested itself into a digestional tract problem. The vomiting and diarrhea were related to the virus. She gave me some pills, an electrolyte packet to mix with water, told me to force fluids, then sent me on my way. No problem, right?

Have you ever tried to force fluids to a child that does not want them? This is not a fun thing to do. The “owners manual” says to “set up a calming room with nice music to soothe the baby, and then offer fluids to the child every 1 or 2 minutes”. Yeah, right. What *&^_ planet do they live on?!

I knew it was important to keep Spencer hydrated. The doctor said to put at least 1.2 liters of fluids in him in the next 24 hours. This is the equivalent to roughly four full eight+ ounce bottles. How the heck was I going to do that?

The first issue was how to make the electrolyte solution. It was in Russian, but the doctor gave me the instructions in English. I had to mix 1 liter of boiling water with the packet of “salts”. This sounds easy, but try doing this in a hotel where you can’t drink the tap water. After a little thought, I went down to the café on the third floor, bought two bottles of table water, asked the waitress to boil them in a tea pot, handed her the packet and told her mix it up. I then took the mixture back to the room and decanted the potion back into the water bottles for the plane ride.

A nine month old child who has stuff coming out both ends does not want anything to do with a bottle, cup, teaspoon, or dropper. Actually, when he was screaming and arching his head back, I was able to sneak a couple of teaspoons of fluids in him without him noticing by dumping them in the back of his throat. Around 4pm I thought we were doing pretty well. Spencer had about 2 to 3 ounces in him and we were headed in the right direction. I set him down on the floor to play…. And all the fluids ended up on the carpet. Back to square one.

By this time, I had called Gina and was begging for some kind of guidance. I was literally freaking out. If Spencer couldn’t eat, drink, and had diarrhea, How the heck were we going to make it home? I did not want to take a very sick child onto the plane. Gina called Acsa, our dearest of friends, and I called the doctor again at the SOS clinic.

Acsa told Gina that I had to keep going. The more fluids in him the better chance to make it home. The doctor called back and told me she had an anti-vomiting medicine that would help. One of the two sets of advice was very wise, the other….not so good.

I tried the translator, but his @)#)$ cell phone wasn’t on. So, I hopped in taxi and went to the clinic with Spencer. The bellman flagged down the unmarked taxi and gave the address to the driver. I had no idea what they were saying, but somehow the guy got me to the clinic. The doctor gave me the medicine, and showed me how to give it to him. It was a fluid mixture that had a plunger to stick in the back of Spencer’s throat. When I got back to the hotel, I filled up the plunger and gave the 2 ml dosage to Spencer. He wasn’t to pleased when the “Anti-Vomiting” medicine went down, and was even less pleased when the “Anti-Vomiting” medicine came back up with about 3 ounces of fluids I had forced him over the last 2 hours. Back to square one, again.

At this point I was at my wits end. It was around 7 o’clock in the evening, or roughly 10 hours before we were scheduled to leave for the airport. I had no idea if we were actually going to make the plane. I was not too hopeful, so I called Gina to consult with her. She helped talk me back from the edge, and together we developed a game plan for the next 10 hours.

I gave Spencer his anti-diarrhea medicine with a few ml of water, and put him to bed. He was exhausted and so was I. It was at this point that both Gina and I started praying like we have never prayed before. All I could imagine was Spencer and I would be stuck in Almaty to January 9, 2005, when the next available plane with our ticket class was scheduled to leave. Or, worse we got on the plane and he got so dehydrated that we had to put him in the hospital in London or ????? None of the scenarios in my mind worked out well. I curled up on the bed like Gina had a few days before, and asked the Lord through my tears to help get us home.

Every hour on the hour, I got Spencer up and fed him some electrolyte fluids. He is programmed to reach for a bottle the minute he wakes up. So, this plan worked pretty well, until I gave him too much. Then…it came right back up onto my shirt. Back to square one, again.

At 10, 11 and 12 am he kept at least 2 ounces down. So, at 1 AM I decided to try the anti-vomiting stuff again. Big mistake….It all came up down the middle of my chest with about 2 ounces of fluids. Back to square one, again.

The good news was, the anti-diarrhea medicine seemed to be working on his stomach problems. The fluids were staying down as long as I didn’t give him too much or feed him the “anti-vomit” stuff. At 2 AM he kept more fluids down, at 3 AM another dose of the diarrhea medicine with an ounce of fluids, 4 AM another 2 ounces. At 5 AM it was time to make the go/ no go decision.

Every hour I called Gina to give her an update. She was surfing the net for ideas and helpful hints. She really grounded me and helped keep me focused on getting him hydrated. She was a real rock in my time of need, and I love her for that. At 5 AM we decided to GO HOME!!!!. I packed up the remaining electrolyte fluid and some water, said some more prayers and we were on our way…..

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

December 28, 2004 – Piece of Cake

Today was the day that we have been working toward for over 17 months. Spencer received his visa to come to the United States and become a US citizen. The process of getting to today was long and very difficult. Getting the actual visa was really easy.

Our day began at 12:30 AM with continual jack hammering, pounding, and general construction noise of a new apartment complex they are building behind the hotel. It ends up that they are working on the site 24/6. I guess they take Sunday off, because I didn’t hear them on Sunday night. Almaty obviously doesn’t have any noise ordinances, because it was non-stop. After I gave Spencer a small bottle of formula, he went back to sleep no problem. It was dad who was getting pissy with each bang of the hammer. Fortunately, Gina left me some ear plugs, and I covered my head with a pillow.

We got up at around 8:00 am. Gina called to check in and see how things were going. After talking with her, I decided to stay in the room for the next two nights, and use the earplugs. It ends up it doesn’t matter where you stay, there is always some construction going on in the City. The Hyatt, which is the nicest hotel in town, has construction going on next to it as well.

I hit the buffet with Spencer in toe. The jack hammering knocked my rose colored glasses off. The buffet was nice, but didn’t make up for all the construction noise. I took a bottle with me and a wool blanket from the room. After I got my food, I set Spencer on the ground on top of the wool blanket with the bottle. He sucked away while I chowed down some salad and pastries.

We hung out and played the rest of the morning. At around 1:30, Almaz came to pick us and go souvenir shopping. I finally bought the fur hat in the department store. It’s very nice looking, and has flaps that fold over my ears. It was about $50 more than if I bought it in Karaganda at the hat vendor on the street, but it was worth it. I also picked up a coffee table book, and some knick-knacks to bring home. Next, we hit a Turkish restaurant for some shiskabob. Then it was off to the embassy for our visa interview.

I was expecting Spencer and me to be taken into a small dark room and grilled about why we wanted a Visa and what were we thinking. Actually it was really easy and the people were very friendly. There were no torture devices, spot lights, or chairs with straps. I guess I’ve been reading too many spy novels.

The consular section of the embassy is on the top floor of a 17 story building on the upperside of Almaty. I made a slight error and took a picture of the building from the car. Fortunately, no one saw me do it, or I would have been shot on site. We headed through security and were escorted to the waiting room. The room has about 40 chairs, and 5 or 6 booths with bullet proof two way glass. We got to the room first, which was a good thing since there ended up being roughly 10 other babies coming through for Visas.

I brought a hole bunch of back up paperwork included our home study, tax returns, power of attorney, extra pictures of Gina with Spencer, an extra I 600 form that Gina signed, plus a copy of the whole package we sent over to Kazakhstan. Basically, I had every piece of paper we had accumulated over the last 17 months for the adoption. And they didn’t ask for any of it.

The interview was more of an informational session by the embassy staff member. First, he handed me Spencer’s passport with the US visa on one of the sheets in the back. From there, he simply made me take an oath that I was Spencer’s sponsor, sign some forms we handed in the day before, and asked me some survey questions about our time in Kazakhstan. He then gave me a “sealed” envelope that I could not open and needed to hand over to immigration in San Francisco. I was expecting the seal to be made of a top secret material that was impossible break without a special top secret tool. It ends up its friggin’ scotch tape!! I guess the budget cuts have really hit the State Department.

After the appointment, Almaz dropped us off at the hotel. It wasn’t until I got to the room did I realize what a momentous occasion it was. Gina and I now have all the paperwork completed for Spencer to come home. I looked at his Kazak passport, looked at the visa, and started crying. WE CAN FINALLY GO HOME!!!!!

Monday, December 27, 2004

December 27, 2004 – “My, How You Have Grown”

Yes, we all heard that phrase when we were growing up from our Aunts and Uncles or parent’s friends as they pinched our cheeks. Well, “Spencer, my how you have grown.”

After Spencer woke up at around 7:00 and had his breakfast. I decided to check out the morning breakfast buffet. I was expecting coffee and rolls, like at the cheap hotels in the states. But when I walked in the room, my mouth dropped. It was a huge spread of salads, meats and breakfast food. This was the second nicest buffet I had ever seen, second behind the one on the cruise we took. I was in pig heaven. They even had mashed rice for Spencer. You also have to realize that on Sunday the morning we left, I had peanut butter for breakfast in our apartment in Karaganda. Not with toast, not with jelly, just straight peanut butter. So maybe my vision was a little rosy.

After breakfast, Spencer went down for a quick nap, and I jumped in the shower. A real shower, not some crappy hand held, water stickin’, brown spew from the tap shower. But a real shower with clean, hot, almost potable water. After getting dressed, it was time to head to out.

We went to the International SOS clinic for our embassy medical appointment for Spencer. He is now 7.9 Kilograms, 70 centimeters, and his head is 46 cm. That is roughly 17.4 pounds, 27.5 inches, and 18 inches. At 7 months, he was 6.3 Kilograms, 66 Centimeters, and 43 centimeters. At eight months he hadn’t grown any. So, after only 5 weeks with us, he has really begun to sprout.

I know it’s pretty much impossible for the head to grow 3 centimeters in a month. So, either the doctor at SOS measured wrong, or the folks at the orphanage did. The doctor said a one time measurement didn’t really mean much and that you have to chart it over time. He said his own kid’s head size was always small, but now his son is taller than the doctor. I felt like say, “Yeah, but is he stupid?!”. All the literature says if the kid isn’t on the chart for head circumference, then there could be real neurological damage. Spencer has always been barely on the chart. So, his large head circumference is good news to us.

After the doctor’s appointment we ran and got some additional visa photos for Spencer. It seems they didn’t provide enough photos in the paperwork we had. Then, it was off to the embassy to drop off the paperwork for Spencer’s immigration visa. At this point, Spencer was pooped and fell asleep on my chest in the baby bjorn. We went through 2 checkpoints to get into the embassy and he didn’t budge.
At the first checkpoint, they asked me if I had a cell phone, and I said no. They searched the bag, and low and behold there was my cell phone from back home. I was wondering were that was. It doesn’t work here, so I dumped it in the cell phone carrier that is attached to one of the diaper bags. All US federal buildings don’t let you carry cell phones in anymore. I guess they think that people can take pictures with them, or trigger some kind of explosive. I hope I’m not on some watch list now.

After the embassy, we went shopping at the biggest mall in Kazakhstan. I needed some baby food and couple of presents for folks back home. Spencer finally woke up at the check out stand and started bawling. He hadn’t eaten anything and was hungry. So right there in line I whipped out a bottle filled with water, poured in the already proportioned formula, shook it up, and fed it to him. All this before the cashier was done checking us out. I was SO proud of myself because four of five women were all looking at me in disbelief!

Next, it was off to try and find Sandy and Chuck Schultis. They were on our plane ride in to Kazakhstan, are adopting their son from the same orphanage, and same room as Spencer. They got in last night, and brought some paperwork that we need for the visa interview tomorrow. I forgot their phone number, so we drove by their hotel. Unfortunately, they weren’t there. So, the translator dropped me back at my hotel and we headed upstairs.

Right after feeding Spencer lunch, Chuck called and mentioned they were up for going out. I wasn’t one to refuse, so we met half way between our two hotels and walked over to an American burger joint. Spencer was obviously tired and ready for a nap, but I didn’t want to meet with them after dark, and they had the papers we needed, so I got Spencer all dressed and we headed out.

He slept most of the walk to the restaurant, and didn’t wake up until the waitress came for our order. I had a really good hamburger, fries and beer. We sat and talked and had a very nice time. Their son, Jacob, is coming down from Karaganda on the train, and should arrive tomorrow morning. They were a little nervous and asked lots of questions about what Spencer eats and his routine. Pretty weird, I remember asking the same questions about a month ago.

Chuck broke down and bought a fur hat earlier in the day. It is really nice, and has flaps that come down over your ears. Gina gave me the a-okay to buy one. It was just too cold in Karaganda, so I never went over to the mall. Well, it’s now or never, so a fur hat is back on the list.

Spencer was really good until after I fed him a bottle with pear juice at the restaurant. I guess that didn’t sit well with his insides, and you can guess where that ended up. Needless to say, I’m glad the hotel has a speedy laundry service. His out door jacket and outfit, and my four or five pieces of laundry were done in less than 4 hours for only $4! What a bargain compared to what we were being charged in Karaganda, let alone any dry cleaner in the US. Plus, I didn’t have to do it.

Gina and I talk every morning and every night at around 8:00. It is really a good check in for both of us. I really miss her, and I know she really misses me and Spencer. Tonight Spencer was a little cranky, so we didn’t talk too long. Right after I hung up, I put him down to bed. The minute his head hit the crib, he was out like a light. No whining, no peep, no nothing. I guess I wore him out. So tomorrow we sleep in, relax, and get our final papers to head home.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

December 26, 2004 – Almaty, Here We Come!!!!

Today was Spencer’s biggest adventure in his young life, and he really enjoyed it.

Our translator and driver picked us up at 7:30 for our “9:30” flight to Almaty. I was so excited about leaving Karaganda, I started packing on the 23rd. So when they showed up, we were ready. We had 2 large bags, a fake diaper bag that was really the document bag, another diaper bag, and the painting I bought that won’t fit into the suitcase. (oops)

We got to the airport at 8:15, and started waiting. When Gina left, the gate opened at 8:30. Well, 8:30 came and went. So I asked the translator, and she said, “It’s Sunday morning before the new year.” All I could think about was two drunk pilots flying a broken down old Russian plane. This ought to be fun.

Finally, at 9:30, the gate opened and we headed in. Each passenger is allowed 20 kilograms on the plane. Anything over is an extra charge (180 tenge / kg) Both big bags weighed exactly 20 kilograms, which is the limit. We had two passengers, Spencer and myself. However, since we didn’t pay for Spencer’s ticket, we got dinged. (I guess I’m not as “crafty” as my lovely wife) It was at this moment, I wish I knew Russian. So, I looked around for my translator, but she already left. So, Spencer and I were put to the side of the line, and then marched over to the cashier to pay. Of course, all the other passengers were on their way to the plane. So, I was freaking out thinking the plane was going to leave without me, and I was powerless to prevent it.

My fears were for not. I made it to the back of the line for the plane. Then, a very nice couple motioned for me to go to the front of the plane with Spencer, and board first. It was a very nice gesture, and the entire plane let me cut to the front. Once on board, we had a row to ourselves. Mind you, I’ve been totting Spencer around in a Baby Bjorn this whole time. Basically, he is strapped to my chest, and makes me look like a have huge beer gut. So, when we sat down, he was ready to get away from dad.

I unhooked him, and set him on my lap. He was actually napping in the terminal, and all the way out to the plane. (You walk on the tarmac to the plane) But once we got on the plane he was up and ready for action. He very much wanted to know what was going on around him. I swear he wanted to go through the pilots pre-flight routine with him. You know, kick the tires, spin the propeller, check the oil, the works.

I had a bottle ready for the take off. He was hungry and sucked the thing down pretty quickly. We have bottles that allow you set the speed of the flow. When Spencer first came home with us, we had the speed on “high”, but he sucked everything down in a nano-second. Now, I put the bottles on slow, and make him work for it. Seems to help, especially if I have to do something. I just put him on the floor, let him drink his bottle, and I go fix his lunch or clean the dishes.

He was well behaved during the whole flight. I gave him a binky, and that was a special treat for him. He usually only gets the pacifier at night. He played and made faces at people. He yawned a couple times, and I even tried to get him to take a nap, but he wanted nothing to do with it. So I fed him a snack, and we kept on playing.

Once we landed in Almaty, Almas, the substitute translator, was waiting for us. I guess he had the job for about 3 years, but hasn’t done it for the last 6 months. He didn’t say why he isn’t doing it anymore, just that they told him they didn’t need him. He is the cousin of the Bolat who is currently the translator. It’s all pretty incestuous. Almas's aunt is the director of the orphanage, and Bolat who usually is the translator is the son of the director. Our translator Lena in Karaganda was the niece of one of the doctor’s for the orphanage. I guess the facilitator figures she’ll be able to work the system better if she hires the relatives of the people working at the orphanage.

Almas helped get the bags, and then drove me to the Hotel Almaty. I got the “mini-suite” with two rooms for 9000 tenge, or about $70 bucks. The rooms are little cold because they are on the north side of the building and never get any sun. So, they gave us a space heater. I actually had to change rooms because the drain in the bathtub was clogged, and the maintenance guys couldn’t unclog it after an hour.

The hotel is like a 1960s version of the comfort suites. Everything is a little worn, but still very functional. The only problem is that I put the crib in the sitting room, where the mini bar and TV are. This means, I am stuck in the bedroom after Spencer goes to sleep. Just as well, I really don’t need anymore candy bars or vodka.

Gina called to make sure we were still alive. She was very nervous about the trip, and was afraid we might get robbed at the airport (there is a story about that we haven't relayed). We had a nice conversation, and it was good to talk to her. Although she is going through a tough time at home, she is still the anchor that keeps this boat in Kazakhstan from floating off course.

Tomorrow is our big day at the SOS Clinic. We’ll find out what Spencer’s latest statistics are. It will be interesting to see how much he has grown in the short time he has been with us. Until tomorrow…..

December 26, 2004: So far, so good

Bob and I have taken to talking to each other twice a day. The sound of each other's voice is soothing to our souls. We're on a schedule, I call at 6am my time/ 8pm his time and then again at 6:30pm my time, which is 8:30am his time.

His flight from Karaganda into Almaty was late in getting off the ground due to weather, but Spencer did well during the 2 hour flight. They have gotten settled into the Hotel Almaty, after making a room change and getting an extra heater for the room.

Our docs that we expressed mailed never made it to our Facilatator, at least they were never delivered to Bob. Luckily, Sandy and Chuck hand carried a set for us and met up with Bob on Mon afternoon and delivered them.

Since Bob is 14 hrs ahead, he has already gone through the medical exam which went off without a hitch. Spencer has indeed grown! He now weighs 17lbs, has grown 4 inches in length, he's now 27.5 inches and this Doc measured the head circumference at 46cm vs Bob's 44cm. So he is definately on the charts and doing well.

Shortly, Bob will be heading off to the Embassy appt on Tues at 4pm, his time to get Spencer's Immigration Visa issued. Wednesday nothing is scheduled and on Thursday Bob and Spencer will board their flight for home, his time at 8am. They will arrive in San Francisco, our time at 4:45pm on Thursday.

Bob will give more details about all of the above once he returns home. He is continuing to write daily and will post his journal for the last few days once he gets home. Please everyone send your prayers out to them on Thursday (which is really 6pm PST on Wed) for a safe a speedy return flight home!!

Saturday, December 25, 2004

December 25, 2004 – Merry Christmas

Gina and I will always remember this Christmas for its highest of highs and lowest of lows. Spencer has brought such joy into our lives, and that joy will last us a lifetime. We became a full time family on Thanksgiving, and the rewards and progress can be seen almost daily. On Thanksgiving, Spencer….:

• ….could not crawl, or hold his own bottle, or talk baby talk.
He can now.
• ….could not stand on his own, or sit without some help, or play by himself. He can now.
• ….was barely on the growth charts for kids his age.
He is now.
• ….could not stick his hand in his armpit and make a fart sound, or belch speak, or leave the toilet set up.

He can now.

I snuck out last night and went to church. Lena, our translator, babysat for me. There are a number of missionaries in town. Through one of our adoption e-mail buddies, I was able to meet up with them, and they invited me to church on Christmas eve. Since I consider myself a Christian “Specialist” (meaning I go to church on Christmas and Easter) I could hardly say no.

The service was amazingly similar to those in the States. Their were about 120 people crammed into a small storefront that was converted to a hall for church services and events. There was a praise band, and singing, and a very good sermon that hit home.

Most of the service was in Russian. I requested an English bible so I could follow along. One of the missionary’s children translated most of the important parts of the service for me. The service started with the usual welcome and a reading. Then a trio of Kazak folks got up and sang a song in Kazak. That was followed by a series of Christmas songs that the whole congregation sang in Russian. It started with “Joy to the World” and continued with other songs I didn’t understand. I tried to sing along in English, but it’s kind of hard when everyone else is singing in a different language, so…I hummed the tunes.

The kids got up and did a play about the importance of Christmas, then the band did a praise song that was very moving to those who understood the words. Of course there was the reading of Luke Chapter 2 about the birth of Jesus along with a re-enactment of Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the manger. I offered Spencer the chance to play the role of baby Jesus, but he said it was too cold out, and didn’t want to go.

The Kazak singers got up again, and did another song. This time they asked the congregation to come up and dance with them. It was pretty neat. About one quarter of the congregation was dancing in the aisles and in front of the congregation. Most of the Americans kind of stood around and clapped to the music.

The sermon was actually presented by the missionary who invited me. His sermon was based on the fact that we always look for god in great miracles, when he is here everyday. That was shown in how Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and no one in the town took notice. He further went on to say that it is truly up to us to look for God, and to show others that he is with us. This hit home, and truly helped me see that God is with us. Sometimes it takes a little while to find him, but he’s there.

Our Christmas day got started a little early. Spencer was up at 12:54 am. I think he was excited about Christmas and wanted to play with his new toys, or it could have been that he needed his diaper changed. I did buy Spencer some new toys to play with. I took some photos, and will post on the website.

This will be my last post for a while. We are leaving tomorrow for Almaty, and won’t have an internet connection. We have our Doctor’s appointment on Monday, Embassy appointment on Tuesday, shopping on Wednesday, and home on Thursday. We’ll be staying at a hotel that has room service, a laundry, a crib, and a real bed. Heaven compared to the apartment. I’ll be writing everyday, and will post them all when we get home.

We thank you all for your prayers and kind words throughout the highs and lows of our adventure. Spencer is a lucky boy in that he has two parents, family, and friends that love him and will support him as he grows.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 24, 2004

December 24, 2004: Another Angel in Heaven

In the early stages of a pregnancy a doctor can monitor the viability and health of a pregnancy by measuring the amount of HCG being produced in the blood. The doctor looks to see if the number is increasing and doubling about every other day. I’m sad to say that unfortunately for us, it’s been determined this pregnancy is not viable, and also not ectopic. I have already begun to experience the beginnings of a miscarriage. The cramping and pain is intense and powerful at times, but they are lessening as time marches on.

Emotionally, it seems almost unbearable at times, and more than once I have cried out that this has to be the cruelest of cruel jokes to play on us and our emotions. Four miscarriages in ones lifetime seems far too much to endure. But then in my bleakest of bleak moments I can see through the tears, a bright beacon of light; a ray of sunshine so brilliant against a cold, damp and foggy night. This light’s name is Spencer. He’s real and tangible and so loved by Bob and me. I have taken to curling up in bed with my photo album and looking through all the happy pictures of our family. When I remember his smile, the joy in his laughter, the sparkle in his eyes, and his heart beating against my chest when he sleeps, it seems at these moments this too will be endured and life will go on.

In this season of miracles, it is sad that this miracle of life was not meant to be and instead another Angel has been sent to Heaven to watch over this family. Bob, Spencer and I are truly blessed. Our lives, home, family and friends are filled with love, and we all are anxiously awaiting the return of Bob and Spencer.

Our family wishes you a Holiday that is filled with good food, good company, lots of laughter and an abundance of love. Have a very Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

December 23, 2004: Happy Birthday Bob!

Happy Birthday to you…. Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday…dear… Bob…… Happy Birthday to you!!!

Yes, that’s right! 36 years ago today, Grandma Pat was a bit busy. In her own words she says “Bob was due on December 8. He wasn't nearly as active in utero as the other boys, so I assumed this calm child was a girl. He was in no hurry to greet the world, so huge as I was; Don and I went to the neighbors' party on Dec.22. Next morning I knew it was time to go to the hospital and we left home by nine o'clock. There was kind of a long labor because the contractions stopped for a while. Dr. Grumbles (yes), who stayed in the hospital as long as it took for his patients to deliver, was very kind, gave me some medicine that encouraged labor and at 9:01 PM we (surprise!) had a beautiful baby boy who weighed 8 lbs.2 oz and had a little red hair. We were thrilled at the red hair because my dad had red hair and Bob was the first grandchild to have that characteristic. What a lovely child!

Only Andy could visit me in the hospital because the others were too young, so I waved to them from the window. Don remembers them all going to buy a tree Christmas Eve day and getting everything ready. I know I had the gifts all wrapped. Don gave me a diamond watch and a green wool dressing gown with a pink silk sash. After five days, Bob and I went home and the older kids adored him as much as Don and I did. What an even-tempered child - and so cute! (Incidentally, there were three women in their late thirties within two houses of each other in our neighborhood who all had babies in a 6-week period from Dec - Feb.)
So, Bob, Happy Birthday!! We love you, Mother and Daddy

Yesterday, I spoke with Spencer a bit on the phone and he said to me “ggoogaa ahhaha oooo ee bbbabab daddaadd” I was able to locate a translator and found out he said: “Happy Birthday, Daddy”

Bob, All my love to you on this special day…