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…
Gina

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

December 22, 2004 – Regression is Occurring

Well, I’ve begun to regress to my old college days.

I’ve been sharing e-mails with folks, and a few mentioned that it sounded like Spencer and I were reliving my college days. Well, I can see that happening as we speak.

1. I really hated doing laundry in college. Well…I was hoping to get out of it here as well. Gina left us with plenty of clothes. But, spencer is going through them like a wild man, and I’m down to two pairs of underwear with a week left. So…I might be able to make it, but if you come to the airport, you may not want to give me a hug. FYI – I do laundry at home. We have a washer and drier.
2. I’m not eating a lot protein, unless you count peanut butter and beer. I lived on beer in college (Grandma Pat, you didn’t read that). It truly was a staple of my diet. At least here, you have to carry it all the way home from the store so you get a decent work out.
3. I hang out in a pair of sweat pants and a T-shirt, like I did in College. I had these ugly yellow sweats I would wear every day in college. Well now, I have some very nice valor sweats from lands end. But I still wear them everyday. At this point, they pretty much stand up on their own.
4. We’re sleeping odd hours and taking lots of naps. My old college roommate, Aaron, mentioned that it sounded like Spencer was mirroring my freshman year sleep pattern. Aaron is right, Spencer is….but so am I.
5. The place is a mess. I just looked in the kitchen and the dishes are piled up, and the old jars and bottles need to chucked. Reminds me of the house I lived in with 12 guys in Somerville.

Gina is going to have to re-house train me and Spencer. When she left we were in tip top shape. Hell, I was doing all the cooking, cleaning, and diaper changing. I guess something had to give…it was the cooking and cleaning. Spencer and I have our routine, and he is treated like a prince. He looks great. I’m the one who looks like I should be hosed off.

I swear Spencer said “dada” today, and when I showed him a picture of Gina he said “mama”. Maybe I’m dreaming a little, but I’m impressed. He is becoming a lot more vocal, in a positive way. He babbles and talks. I keep a picture of Gina as the background on the computer, so he sees her face every time he is in the family room (and that’s a lot)

It’s %^$@! cold out here!!!! Overnite it got down to -18 degrees Fahrenheit, a high around -8 degrees Fahrenheit. I found a website with the temperature at the Airport. We are so far north that the sun rises at 9 am and sets at 5 pm. Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, so the sun doesn’t have much time to heat the place up before it sets. We haven’t gone out for two days because its so cold.

We are out of two key staples of my diet; beer and pizza. So, we will definitely be going out tomorrow. I started dipping into Spencer’s teething cookies. There not bad….

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

December 20 & 21, 2004 – And the Beat Goes On

Well, I didn’t have much to say yesterday. It was a pretty slow day, and so was today.

Spencer and I have gotten into a routine, and that has helped our lived immensely. Our only problem is he keeps waking up at 12 am and at 6 am. He didn’t do that before Gina left, but now, who knows. I can usually coax him back to bed, but…sometimes it takes a bottle to bribe him.

Today we watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” on DVD. He just played and I sat on the floor half watching the movie and half watching him. He is getting a little bit more independent each day. At least now he doesn’t whale when I leave the room, he comes and finds me. For example, I really had to go the bathroom, and before I was done, guess who is in front of the door talking to me.

When I went out with the New Yorkers over the weekend I spotted a nice picture in gallery. Yesterday, I went with the translator to buy it. It’s an oil painting of an angel in the snow huddling by a fire. I know it’s sappy, but I figured it was Spencer’s Kazak angel looking over him. I plan on putting it in his room. The artist is relatively famous in Kazakhstan. We had to get a special letter stating that the painting did not have any significant artistic value. I guess there is a law that precludes any art from major kazak artists from leaving the country.

Spencer is progressing and growing each day. Yesterday was his 9 month birthday. So, I measured his head. It was 44 centimeters on the nose. This is a major accomplish. He his now firmly on the growth charts, and that is great news for Gina and myself. I guess all those steroids we were pumping in him worked. I still have no idea how much he weighs or how tall he is, but I’ll get that next week when we go for our visa medical appointment.

We got some good news yesterday. We will be traveling to Almaty on Sunday. Our medical appointment is Monday, embassy appointment on Tuesday, free day on Wednesday, fly out Thursday morning. We bought our tickets praying that we would make it out by Dec. 30th, and it looks like we will. How's that for good project management.

Gina and I freaked out when our U.S. Adoption agency coordinator told us she needed a power of attorney for our visa appointment at the embassy. Previously, our facilitator here in Kazakhstan told us don’t worry about it. Well… we worried, and Gina had to run around all day today to get the Power of Attorney sent to us. $150 later, it ends up we don’t need the POA. I e-mailed the embassy, and they set if we don’t have “no big deal”. Can you believe that it costs $150 to UPS a letter to Kazakhstan. It won’t even get here until Saturday.

To all those folks who were thinking about sending us a Christmas gift: Save your money, and put it in Spencer’s college fund. I'm planning on sending him to Tufts or Harvard or Berkelely or....I figure in 18 years it will be $100,000 a semester in tuition. So... we need all the help we can get.

Monday, December 20, 2004

December 20, 2004; R&R in the USA

Bob and I have been a bit frazzled today. Before I left Kazakhstan Bob and I reviewed the documents we would need for him to process through the US Embassy without me. Unfortunately, we got conflicting information as to whether a Power of Attorney needed to be executed by me. Well, today it was confirmed Bob can not process through without this doc!

So I’ve had my work cut out for me today. Had to print the forms, get them notarized and shipped internationally to our facilitator. Problem is, Bob leaves Karaganda on Sunday 12/26 to fly to Almaty, Kazakhstan to begin the process of immigrating Spencer through the US Embassy. Although I shipped the docs off this morning, it is a real possibility they will not reach him in time before he leaves.

Fortunately, Sandy and Chuck our fellow adopting friends from PA are coming to our rescue. We have contacted them, and they will be arriving in Almaty on 12/26 the same day as Bob. Both Sandy/Chuck and Bob will be processing through the Embassy at the same time. They have generously agreed to hand carry a set of docs over to Bob. Whew, what a lifesaver!

Meanwhile back on the ranch, after the long grueling trip home I have been trying desperately to get back onto my time zone; a 14 hr difference. Jet lag is one thing. Jet lag combined with a new pregnancy is another. I haven’t been able to sleep a full night through, even though I’ve given up my morning nap. Seems in the afternoon around 3:30 or 4 pm, I hit a wall and am out for a few hrs. Trying to stay up an hour later each night and last night I barely managed to stay up to 10pm, hoping this would get me through the night. But my sleep is short lived; I’m up again around 1 or 2am for a few hrs then back to bed again. Ah well, in due time it will work itself out.

Bob and I are emailing each other often and we’ve spoken to each other almost daily since I’ve been home. It’s hard being away from him and Spencer. I miss them both terribly. But Bob is doing a fantastic job and I admire his courage in taking on this challenge. He is doing far better then I could ever imagine myself doing in his shoes. As I have told him repeatedly, I got the easier assignment by far!

Thankfully my mom has graciously been staying with me. It’s a big house to be roaming around by myself, and she has given me a great deal of comfort by being here with me. So I’ve been dragging her out to the movies with me. So far, we’ve seen Bridget Jones 2 and Ocean’s 12.

Had a Doctor’s appointment today, but at this early of a stage he is unable to really tell us much at all. So I’m undergoing some testing and will have a better idea within the next 2 weeks or so as to our fate. Please continue to send your prayers our way.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

December 19 – Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Oh…… I’m okay now, Dad. Let’s go play.” That was Spencer and me the entire day.

I go through my little checklist: Diaper, Bottle, food, cookie….What is it? Still crying…..time for a nap. Sometimes, the nap works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Man has been around for many many moons, yet no one has figured out how to translate baby speak/cry into English. What is going on here? Is it a conspiracy that they didn’t tell me about over her in Kazakhstan? Is it all you other parents little joke to see how long it will take before I start babbling. I mean, there has got to be some kinda books on tape thingy that I can take. Repeat after me “mamamamamamama”, that means “mother”.

Spencer was up at 1:15am – needed a bottle. Up again at 2:15am – needed changing. Up for good at 6:30am– I have no clue. After breakfast we have a little routine of going and playing on the couch in the family room. After about an hour he is ready for his nap. Up again at 9;30. We played and laughed on the bed in his room, and then had an early lunch. I put him down at 11:30 for his second nap. Here is where the problem began.

I woke him at 12:30 because I wanted to meet up with some missionaries who are working here in Karaganda. They were really nice, and invited us to come join them for lunch after their church service. Spencer was great, until it was time to go. Then…..(See the opening paragraph). The entire restaurant was looking at me and Spencer like we were some nutso duo from the dark beyond. I know what they were thinking, “what the ?%%^ is that Dad bringing that kid to this restaurant for?” Been there, done that. At least it wasn’t the movies.

I have a new found respect for my mother. She keeps e-mailing me little tid-bits about stuff before I was born. Like how when Judy was 3 months old, my Dad took a promotion to Illinois, and was only able to come home every three weeks. So, my Mom had a 3 month old and a 2 year old in Albany, New York, while dad was in Chicago. This was in the 1950’s, so there was no cable, no e-mail, no VCRs or DVDs. At least she could drink the water, and understood that language, but…I don’t know if that makes a whole lot of difference.

The worst part of the day, was…..I just burned my pizza. Oh well, tomorrow will be a better day.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

December 18, 2004 – Alligator Wrestling.

In this corner, weighing in at 220 pound, with a height of 5’11”, from Sacramento California “THE DAD” (Okay, I may be a little shorter, and little heavier)

In the opposite corner, weighing in at 15+ pound, with a height of 66 centimeter from Karaganda, Kazakhstan “THE KID” (I hope he’s at least 15 pounds, and bigger than 66 centimeters)

Place you bets to see who wins this international wrestling competition, aka, diaper change. THE DAD has the weight advantage, but THE KID can really spin out of any hold the father has. THE KID has the perfect arch your neck and twist to the side move that really befuddles anyone who “wrestles” him. The trick is to grab those two feet and distract him with a toy or blanket. But…If he starts crying and whaling…”forget about it”. Your done for. Doesn’t matter if it’s a dirty match or just a wet one. THE KID will beat THE DAD every time.

Yes, folks, Spencer sure is a squirmy worm when it comes to putting on a diaper after his bath. And don’t even think about putting on his bed time clothes. The last few nights after his bath, I simply let him run around the apartment in his diaper for about 30 minutes. He is so hyped up, he literally will follow me from room to room.

Somewhere along the line today, I lost one of the binkies he sleeps with. It wasn’t until after the bath, on his crawling crusade did he find the binky. Man oh Man…It was like Gollum from the ‘Lord of the Rings’ looking at the Ring and saying “my precious”. He literally carried it out into the hall and stared at it for about 30 seconds, then triumphantly marched back into the bedroom to show me his new find. Then, he was off to something else…

We had our longest adventure outside the apartment today. The cleaning lady came at 10:00 am so we evacuated. I took an hour long stroll, came back, and put him down for a nap. We then went out again at 1:30 and didn’t get back in until 6:30. We met up with the NY folks and walked around and went out to dinner. They leave tomorrow, so it was good to see them one last time.

I swear this kid is a chick magnate, if you like older chicks.(don’t worry honey, they look at me and go, blah…) Every little old lady stops, and checks him out. Makes sure he has the proper clothes on. If he is crying, they come out of the wood work to see what the deal is. I changed him in the hall of one of the malls, and swear there were 7 women watching me change his diaper.

Fortunately…I won the match.

Friday, December 17, 2004

December 17, 2004 – Gina Finally Made it Home!!!

After a 55½ hour journey from Karaganda to Sacramento, Gina finally made it home. The trip involved an early morning ride to airport in Karaganda, a bumpy flight to Almaty, an extended stay in a flee bag hotel, pushing and shoving at the Almaty Airport, Long lines, a delayed flight, a missed connection, an extended layover in London, an 11 hour plane flight to LA, another flight to San Francisco, then a long ride home to Sacto.

Per her e-mail to me, "the plane ended up being delayed on the first leg in Russia. Ended up on the runway for 2 1/2 hrs The "power cell" was out and the Russian generator they brought to jump start the plane didn't work and they had to find another one. Got an empty row on that flight but it was short lived; several people boarded filling the plane, as they had all been diverted."

"The trip was absolute hell, so very thankful it's over. Had a meltdown in London with a cust service rep trying to get my tickets printed to board the flight to LA. But the tears worked, got me out of the line and on the plane pretty quickly. I just love Bristish Air! I hope I never fly them again in my lifetime. LA flight was 11 more hrs -- ugh!! Ended up with a two seater in the very last row, so seats didn't go all the way back. And the two two beefers in front reclined theirs all the way back for the whole duration."

"Met a really nice old man next to me from Ireland, but he was a bit of a talker. Only got in 2 hrs sleep on the plane. I ended up standing ALOT. For over an hour at a time, that helped and there was space in the back to hang out, and since I had the last seat; wore my headphones and watched movies standing up. Next to the toilets, but no smells that I was afraid of, of course my nose gets so plugged from being dried out I couldn't have smelled anything"

I was like a love struck teenager waiting by the phone waiting for Gina to call almost all day. I knew she was delayed almost immediately, and was freaking out. Will she make through customs? Did they loose her luggage? Was she able to sleep? Did British Air screw her over one more time?

Since Gina Left, Spencer is doing okay. He is a little clingy, I can't leave the room without him howling. Lisa, one of the NY folks, said that Isabella did the same thing when Allan left. Spencer also wants to be picked up all the time. He isn't playing as independently as when Gina was here. Maybe it's me. I'm sucker for that whining.

He is taking 3 naps a day, about 1 hour each. He got up at 7;30, then down again at around 8;30, up at around 10:00, then down again around noon. Up at 1:30 then we waited for Gina’s call....After I got a hold of her, we went for a walk. About 4:30 he was whining, and so I put him in the crib with the binky. Didn't work. So I fed him 1/2 a bottle and cookie, tried again, and got 45 minutes out of it. Well worth it for him and me.

I made a critical error, and let work know that I had some spare time on my hands in the evenings. Well, they quickly filled that void. Looks like I’ll be writing some proposals over the weekend. I guess our happy little world is slowly coming to an end...

Thursday, December 16, 2004

December 16 – Struttin’ Around Town

Well, this is the first full day of Mr. Mom, and we started off by trying to sleep in. Actually, I was the one who wanted to sleep in, no one else in the apartment wanted anything to do with that. Yes, young Spencer was up right at 7:00 am. Fortunately, I was up at 5:30 worrying whether or not Gina made it to the flight. So…I had Spencer’s breakfast all laid out for him when he woke up.

Gina called at around 7:15 to say she made it safely to the airport and was on the flight. What a relief. British Air has given us nothing but headaches the whole time we’ve been here. First with the re-routing to Bishkek on our arrival, then not addressing our complaints, then making us jump threw major hoops to change Gina’s flight. And to top it all off…..

Gina’s flight from Almaty to London was delayed somewhere in Russia and she missed her connection to San Francisco. So, they re-routed her through Los Angeles to San Francisco. I can only imagine that she is really happy right now. Fortunately, they serve free booze on the plane. Unfortunately, for her, she can’t have any.

To take our minds off Gina’s problems, Spencer and I went for a nice long walk around town with one of the NY couples, Evy/Jerry/Nathan. Spencer really enjoys being outside and checking out all the people and places. He is like a little sponge. I will probably get ten demerits for not putting a scarf on him. His cute little checks got a little wind burned. Next time, I swear I will follow the, “no skin showing” policy.

We stopped at a Jewelry / Art Gallery. They had some very nice paintings from Kazak artists for reasonable prices. It’s not like going to Hawaii and having to pay $1000 for a numbered lithograph. These are signed originals for around $100 bucks. So…I figure why not. I haven’t bought one yet, but I’ll be sure to take a picture and post it on the website.

Spencer is having a good time using dad as a jungle gym and learning to fall. He tried the very difficult stand up while holding on to Dad’s leg, then hurdle over the leg. He never made it before…but today he did...on his face.

No blood, no foul. I told him to suck it up and get back in the game. I don’t want no cry baby….next time I’m going to have to bench him if he whines like that. After being checked out by the trainers, I sent him back in the game. No injured reserve for this kid, he’s a trooper.

By the time we get out of this two week training camp, my boy will be ready for the big leagues....when MOM takes over!!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

December 15, 2004 – The Bachelor Pad

Okay, now that Gina’s gone, Spencer and are turning the place into a Bachelor pad. The dishes are piling up, the TV and stereo are always on, and the place is a mess. We drink the milk straight from the bottle and cereal over the sink in our underwear. We even went out late on the town!!!!

There are no graceful words to say it. It pretty much sucked dropping Gina off this morning. We’ve really grown together as a family in our little incubator. As my mother said, “Sometimes the wisest choice is not the easiest one to make”. This definitely fits into that category.

We headed for the airport at 7:30 for Gina’s 9:30 am flight. The airport building is as big as one of the Terminals at the Sacramento Airport, but only 6 or 7 flights leave each day. Our driver parked at the curb, and came in with us. I was afraid he was going to get towed. I kept waiting for the overhead speaker to blear out, “the green zone is for loading and unloading”, and some parking nazi to come over and ticket him. But…since this was the only flight for the next few hours, and the plane only holds 20 people… who cares.

We waited a few minutes for the plane to begin boarding, and then realized the 2 bags she was carrying were over the 20 kilogram limit. I exchanged all my Tenge for dollars to pay the rent, so… we had no way to pay any overage fees. For every 1 kg over it was 1000 tenge (roughly $10) So…I told her to hide the smaller of the two bags behind and carry it on. It worked!!! As we were leaving our translator told me the overhead speaker did blear out…”the total of all bags must be under 20 kg”. Gina is sooo crafty.

Gina, Spencer, and I said our goodbyes as she entered the gate area. It was tough, and very tearful. As I walked away, I kept looking back, and Gina kept on waiving…I think Spencer caught on that his mother was not going to be around for a couple weeks, because on the way home he started crying. (of course it could been because he was hungry and missed his nap time, but….who really knows)

Gina made it to Almaty safely, and should be back home in Sacramento sometime Thursday night California time. Roughly a 24 hour sojourn more than half way around the world.

Spencer and I played and napped most of the day. The New Yorkers invited us over for dinner. I almost said no because I was feeling sorry for myself, then realized, I better suck it up and take advantage of some free food and beer while I can. They leave this Sunday, so I’ll have a week to be pissy, if I want to be.

I think I’ll go brush my teeth and leave the top off, or leave the seat up on the toilet, or strut around in my boxers, undershirt, and black socks and show Spencer what being a man is all about.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

December 14, 2004; Farewell Karaganda

I leave tomorrow morning to fly to Almaty, Kazakhstan on the 8 am flight. Then on Thursday will fly from Almaty to London and then onto San Francisco. I should be arriving SF time at 4:45 on Thursday 12/16/2004.

It was difficult decision to make and even harder one to execute. I will not only be spending Christmas away from Bob and Spencer, but will also miss Bob’s Birthday on the 23rd. Not a pleasant choice to make, but one that I do know needs to happen. Whoever said being an adult was fun?

Amazing things have happened here that I will forever be grateful. Our family has been created and cemented here; Bob and I began down our “parental path” together and without the daily distractions of home. We met interesting people and had once in a lifetime experiences. So much growth for us personally and so much appreciation gained for our country, our home, our life, family, and friends.

It’s been a wild ride, one that I could never have imagined taking without a life partner such as Bob. He makes everything seem so easy and effortless and I am forever thankful he is my husband. I can’t express enough how deeply I will miss him and our son. I can only hope time will speed up and they will both be in my arms shortly.

As I said on June 10, 1995, Forever through time, my love……….

Monday, December 13, 2004

December 13, 2004 – Curveball

It’s amazing how life take its twists and turns. You plan as best as you can and then a curveball gets thrown your way.

We confirmed this past Saturday that GINA IS PREGNANT!!!

Gina has been feeling a little under the weather over the last few days. On Friday she mentioned she was feeling some of the same things she felt went she was pregnant the other 3 times; very tired, her abdomen hurt, etc…That triggered one long sleepless night for the both of us.

I woke up at 6:30 AM on Saturday morning to go find a 24 hour pharmacy. Well, I found one, but it was a hole in the wall, and you had to place your order in Russian. Anyone know how to say “Pregnancy Test” in Russian? So…I continued on my search. There are actually 4 pharmacies within a 2 block radius of the apartment. You can buy just about anything from Viagra to Steroids. It’s all legal in Kazakhstan.

Since, I had no luck. I trudged back home, and we went out together with Spencer around 11am to get the test. Fortunately, Gina is very good at charades. She was able to mimic a pregnant woman, point to herself, and say “Test”. The pharmacist pointed to her, then to Spencer and chuckled. She had previously helped us get Spencer some cold Medicine, so she knew we were new parents. In the deep dark recesses of the cupboard behind her were the pregnancy tests.

The test cost a total of 280 Tenge. That’s just a tad over 2 dollars. As many of you know over the years we’ve bought our share of tests. An EPT test in the States costs a minimum of 10 bucks a pop. Why the big difference in price? It’s all in the packaging. You don’t get the frilly, plastic encasing around the strip and you don’t get the extra fancy plastic cup to pee in. Nope, here it’s just the strip, nothing fancy, but functional, and as a substitute we used one of Spencer’s empty baby food jars as the cup.

Once we got home, the cleaning lady was still here so we had to wait to find out our fate. Gina did her thing, and we stuck the test in the urine. Within a minute, it showed the magical two lines. With that, we sprung into action.

What to do? Should Gina stay in Karaganda with me and Spencer, and hope for the best? Or, fly home to be under the care of her OB/GYN? Well…The answer is …

She’s flying home!!!! Based on our last travel experience and pregnancy, we are erring on the side of caution. We don’t want a repeat scene of the Emergency Surgery she underwent in New Hampshire, for an ectopic pregnancy. That has left scars on us both to this day.

We talked to Evelyn who is a nurse (She and Jerry are one of the other US couple that are here). She basically said pregnancy, in and of itself, is not a big deal and problem pregnancies have been around forever. We then called SOS International and talked to a doctor who basically said, we should get her out as fast as possible, at a minimum to London where the medical care is up to US standards. So…She’s leaving tomorrow morning Wednesday 12/15/04 and is flying to Almaty, Kazakhstan; on Thursday 12/16/04 she’ll fly home through London and into San Francisco.

This is extremely bitter sweet for both of us. Spencer is bonding so well with the both of us and the thought of being away from each other during the Holidays is not real appealing. Unfortunately, we are bound by the laws of Kazakhstan that say we can’t take Spencer home until after the waiting period is over. So… I’ll be here in Karaganda and She’ll be home in the lap of luxury.

We are praying everything turns out for the best, but are planning for the worst. The fate of this pregnancy is not in our hands, but that doesn’t mean we have to be in an area of the world that does not have the best medical practices if something does go wrong. Please everyone send your prayers our way, for Gina’s safe travels home, for a safe and healthy pregnancy, for our family to be reunited, and for Bob and Spencer to have safe passage home as well.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

December 12, 2004; It’s Showtime

Thankfully we’ve brought some DVD’s for us to watch in the evenings. However on most nights we’re both so tired, we rarely make it through one whole movie in one sitting. We’ve been working on the first DVD of the Lord of The Ring for the last four days. It’s mainly my fault. I’ve been falling asleep easily and always make Bob back it up to when I last remember. So this has turned a 3+ hour movie into a 5 night feature. Tonight, I had to promise that I would stay awake to finish it. I’m proud to say we did!

Actually, it’s a good thing we have had these extended viewings as there is not much else to do in the evenings. We brought a total of 3 paperbacks with us and we have both read 2 each, so there’s only one left for each of us. Room to spare in the suitcase coming over is short, so we had to decide on what our evening entertainment would be. DVD’s take us far less room than a paperback by far.

But we do wish we had brought more movies and less music CD’s. Don’t think young Spencer has even laid his eyes on a TV program yet. They obviously do not have a TV in the baby house and we have not turned on the TV here yet. We get a total of 3 channels all of them in Russian, so what’s the point?!

When we work on the laptop, Spencer practically jumps off our legs and dive bombs the keyboard he is so fascinated with the thing. You have to physically hold him back and usually get frustrated in restraining the tyke that we end up setting him down. There is one thing we’ve definitely learned about our son; if he wants something, come hell or high water he will struggle till he gets it. He does not give up easily that’s for sure!

Once we return home, we have no hope of holding him back from the TV. We are hopeful we can find some good programming for him to watch on occasion. They still have Sesame Street we’re told, and we’re going to pick up some educational type DVD’s to pop in. Don’t think he’s ready for MTV just yet, and he’ll never be if I have my way about it.

Interestingly, we passed by some graffiti the other day and it said; MTV. Amazing how much of our so called “culture” has seeped into this country. Our driver plays a radio station that broadcasts all American tunes; Britney Spears (uugh!), Lenny Kravits (which we didn’t object to), Madonna and a lot of remixes to older tunes by unknown artists. We also regularly pass by a bar in a basement that is always blasting American music.

We were looking at hats again, this time baseball caps, which are more affordable. But we could only find American logos such as the Detroit Redwings and a “killer loop” hat also made in the US. A lot of clothing has English sayings on them, Coca Cola is a plenty here, as well as Snickers, M&M’s, and Twix. Some of the baby food we have bought is a Heinz brand, and the diapers are Pampers.

People are cell phone crazy here, probably because their phone lines get so busy you can’t connect. In the mall there are, no joke, about 10 kiosks all in a row selling cell phones. Lena our translator traded in her perfectly good and relatively new phone for an upgraded one that takes photos. A week later I asked if she had taken any photos yet and the answer NO. On the few times we’ve tried to call the states, it’s hit or miss on if we can even get a line to dial out.

Ah well……life goes on in Karaganda.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

December 11, 2004 – Another day in paradise

After another lousy night of sleeping, we decided we better get out and about for some exercise. Plus on Saturdays the cleaning lady comes, and we like to be gone and out of her way as she cleans. So, we had lunch at Assortie and then our usual stroll around the neighborhood.

We finally remembered to take the camera and have some shots of our favorite places. The first shot is of the Assortie restaurant. Unfortunately, Ludmilla the owner wasn’t there, so we’ll have to get her picture later. We seem to be hitting the place during its off hours, so we’re not as much of a disruption to every one else. Spencer hangs out in the stroller and looks around at the people. If he gets a little cranky we give him a teething biscuit, and he calms right down.

The second shot is of the back-up chicken lady, alias the “rip off” chicken lady! The first string chicken lady works Monday thru Friday. The back-up chicken lady generally works on Saturday and Sunday. The back-up chicken lady always charges more for the chickens than the starter. I was pissed when she did that the first time, then I realized I was trying to fight a lady that had no upper teeth over 80 cents. Besides, how do you say in Russian, “You’re screwing me, the other chicken lady only charges me 600 Tenge”?

We’re also posting a picture of our angel asleep. It’s a hard one to catch and we are especially careful not to step on any more squeaky floor boards. Otherwise he becomes very “squeaky” himself. As many of you have noted, looks like he has put on some weight already. His cheeks are definitely fuller, and his stomach is huge because he is always eating most of the time, and the clothes seem to be fitting a bit better.

More news later…..

Friday, December 10, 2004

December 10, 2004 – Chicken Soup for the Soul

We’ve been hibernating the last couple days, and haven’t really made it out too much. Gina has a mystery novel filled with murder and suspense, and I borrowed Gina’s other detective book that is a real “who done it?”, so…we’ve been holed up playing with Spencer and reading our books. Sounds a lot like vacation. I’ve been comparing this adventure to an extended camping trip. We have to boil or filter the water, we go on little hikes around the “village”, and the sleeping arrangements are really uncomfortable (Spencer sleeps a lot better than we do). At least we don’t have to dig a hole to use the bathroom!

Each night, Gina and I pull the mattress out of the bedroom (Spencer’s crib is also in there) and plop it on the floor in the family room. The bed frame is made of springs, without any box spring to support the mattress so…when either one of us rolls over, it squeaks very loudly and the whole bed shakes waking the other person up. The mattress itself is about six inches thick and really springy. At least now on the floor, it’s not quite as bad. Both of our backs are killing us, and we’re looking forward to a nice long massage when we get back home.

For our last two diner parties, we’ve been getting our roasted chickens from our local “Chicken Lady”, so we ended up with 3 chicken carcasses in the fridge. Gina decided to put her great cooking skills to use and make some good ole’ fashion chicken soup. We already had the potatoes, noodles, carrots, and spices, so… her soup turned out great and is a big hit. It’s a good thing, because we’re going to be eating a lot of it over the next week or so.

By the way, as of yesterday the gas is back on to our stove! Not sure why they told us we wouldn’t have any gas until after the New Year. We mentioned it to Lena who said “well you got lucky”.

We’ve instigated the three yawn with two eye rub rule. We know Spencer is pooped and will go sleep when he yawns three times and rubs his eyes at least twice within a five minute span. It seems to be working pretty well, except this afternoon. He ended up babbling and gurgling to himself for about ½ hour. I think he was discussing the pros and cons of whether he should scream really loud for mom and dad now, or wait until later. We tip toed around the apartment to make sure we wouldn’t bother him, and in due time he drifted off to sleep.

He is now beginning to crawl, up on his hands and knees versus the army crawl on his stomach. He does very well on the carpet, but once he gets off that, the floors are very slippery and have no traction. So he manages about 2 steps with his knees, then they slid out from under him and he’s back onto his stomach.

I’ve actually done a little work while over here. I’m not sure it’s work. It’s more like bugging people back at Bender Rosenthal to see how things are going. My office e-mailed to say they are giving a donation to Spencer’s orphanage this holiday season. We are both very touched, and are very thankful for all their support. Gina and I literally could not do this without the support of our friends back home. THANK YOU!!!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

December 9, 2004 – Three Weeks To Go!!!

Break out the comfort food, cause we still have 3 weeks left to go. I went to the store today and ended up buying Doritos, Twix, Coke, and some cookies! All the little creature comforts of home that remind me of all that I’m missing.

We posted more pictures under today’s date. The first shows the glory of parenthood, the next is of tea party with the doctors at the orphanage after court. Then comes our get together last night with the New Yorkers, and finally some good shots of our boy. http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/morrcoba3

The stores are a little different around here. There is a little mom and pop grocery on every corner that carries all the essentials; loaf of bread, gallon of milk, stick of butter…. But for the heavy stuff or the real junk food you have to go the “Super Markets”. These are not the local Safeway, but scaled up versions of the local markets. The one I went to today had a deli that you had pay for stuff separately, then pay for veggies separately, then cheese and meet separately, then buy the usual groceries. Much different than the other “big store” we usually go to.

Everyday Spencer is learning something new. Today he learned how to hold onto his bottle with no assistance from us; a major win for the parent’s side. He lies on his back and holds on tight to the bottle; don’t even try to take it away before he’s ready.

He also pulled himself to a stand without the use of any of our fingers. He used Gina’s pant legs, and pulled himself all the way up to a stand. Also while standing he can let go of one of our fingers and tries to walk around, but he’s still wobbly and took two major headers today before we could catch him. A lot of crying resulted from these; mainly from being startled then from any real bruising.

With all this progress he is making, we feel very fortunate to have been able to set this time aside to bond with him and as a family. We wouldn’t have done it any other way, this time and attention will never be replaced. Absent are the usual everyday distractions at home and that is a bonus that makes up for the lack of amenities.

It hardly seems like Christmas is around the corner for us. They don’t celebrate on the 25th. Rather, they celebrate on the 1/7/2005; they are on the Greek Orthodox calendar. I did bring some Christmas music along, and we were playing Gina’s favorite Johnny Mathis Christmas album she grew up listening to. The neighbors across the way have hung up some Christmas lights; we can see them from our kitchen window. They seem so out of place here, as they are not many other signs of Christmas.

No matter, we’ll make due with what we have. 21 more days left and counting…..

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

December 8, 2004: The Usual

Not too much going on today. We have our routine; Bob gets Spencer up and fed in the morning. Spencer and I still have colds that seem like they will never end. Each time I think we’re getting better, one of us starts sneezing or coughing some more. Although I do think mine is getting better, just slowly.

Today to break up the same ole same ole; we had the New Yorkers over for dinner. It was a repeat dinner menu that they missed out when we had Sandy and Chuck over on Sunday. Chickens from the chicken lady, although it was a new chicken lady today and she ended up charging Bob more money! Not by much, but still, when did the price go up?! We want our regular chicken lady back! We might have to start a boycott!

Lisa brought over two salads, some type of beat salad; Bob and I didn’t try it, and a carrot cabbage meat type salad. Bob says the cabbage one was good, again I didn’t try it. I’m still scarred over the liver fiasco we had a while back. Dessert was cake type brownies, and they were good. Bob broke out the vodka and he and Jerry managed to finish the bottle (he says there was only ½ left and it was a small bottle  ).

On their way out, we had a chorus of crying babies. It was quite funny to hear all 3 of them at the top of their lungs. It was also good to see that the other parents get the same treatment from their babies as we do from Spencer. So loud were the 3 of them that the neighbor lady across the way came out to see what was going on once we opened the door up. She looked out, scowled and went back inside. Luckily, they we’re on their way down the stairs and out the door quickly.

It is supposed to be bitter cold tomorrow at about 0 degrees. No other new worthy items, we’re just hanging out in Karaganda.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

December 7, 2004 – The Baby Union

I don’t know what the other children taught him at the orphanage, but I think he figured out we are now his parents. He is beginning to manipulate us, by crying for no reason (without any real tears) and then turns on the charm.

I think there is a secret baby union that teaches all babies how to cry on demand. They must sneek out at night and meet in dark alleys to plot ways to confuse their parents. I’m sure they teach them how to scream in the middle of the night just after mom and dad drift off to sleep; how to be happy and playful one minute and then start balling the next. Feeding time is the best. Spencer’s newest trick is that he yells and screams for food, then eats only a little, then screams some more, then eats a little bit more, and so on… We just know we ordered the baby that never cries, but they must have confused our order. Oh well….

We can’t wait until he takes the advance courses on crawling and gets into things he should not. And we are definitely looking forward to the moment he pitches the fit in the middle of the store; the kind that makes everyone look at the parents and think, “what are they doing to that child.”

Spencer has become much more talkative and is now babbling sounds. The non verbal communication (as opposed to the very loud communication) is quite challenging, but we are slowly getting the hang of it (he is yelling at Gina in the background as I write this). Nap times are our little bit of peace and sanctuary. At nap time, Gina does a little dance of joy around the apartment and then we meditate to the wonderful sound of silence, praying that the silence lasts for a full 2 hrs instead of 45 minutes.

Even with all this “communication” going on, there is no other child we could love more. Funny, how you get used to the noise in short order.

We know folks want more pictures, but unfortunately we are on a dial-up connection. One picture takes about 7 minutes to load. Most of the time we lose our connection to the web in the middle, so…we’ll keep trying. We did manage to post a couple of new ones on the yahoo website, check them out. I posted them under today’s date. There are some pictures of the apartment and of Spencer “running the hall”.

Also for those who have asked, our friend Lisa is doing fine without Allen. She did opt to stay in her apartment and spends most of the day there. For the evenings/nights she heads over to Evelyn and Jerry’s apartment and spends the night. Her dad will be arriving this weekend.

We also learned from Tamara yesterday that we will not be getting the gas turned back on to our stove/oven. Apparently, the buildings propane tank has run out and there is no more until the beginning of the year! Gina and I are managing to cook on our little 2 stove electric burner. Yes, I do cook some and am a proficient “short order” cook. Grilled cheese sandwiches are one of my specialties!

Monday, December 06, 2004

December 6, 2004; It’s Official

We are now the proud parents of SPENCER TAYLOR MORRISON!!!!!

We got up early this morning to get ready for court. With a baby underfoot, amazing how much longer it takes to get ready for things. Our babysitter arrived at 9:30 who was a Doctor from the Baby House. The court house is about a block away, but we were driven over.

We entered a non descript building, and waited in the front entrance/ lobby area. Rosa the Director of the orphanage and the Doctor for Spencer’s room was present, along with Tamara our facilitator and Lena our translator. After about 10 minutes or so we were ushered down a hallway into a very small room. The reception room for the Judges Chambers, took off our coats and waited for he Judge to conclude a phone call.

The Judge began yelling on the phone shortly after we arrived, so we asked Lena what it was all about. She said he was upset with whoever he was talking to on the phone saying “that’s what I’ve been telling you”.

After a few minutes we were taken back into his chambers. Again a non descript room with a desk and side table. Seated next to him at the side table was the prosecutor and the court reporter or secretary. Tamara, gave a speech about our wanting to adopt Spencer, how he came to be at the baby house and a review of our docs that we have submitted, and recommended us as parents. Rosa the director confirmed essentially the same info. The social worker for the orphanage also reiterated how Spencer came to be at the orphange and recommended us as parents. The Judge reviewed the photos we submitted and turned to Bob and said “he looks like you”! Yes, we know……..

Then it was Bobs’ turn to answer why we were here in court. The prosecutor asked a few other questions of Bob and then I was asked if I agreed with what Bob had said. I replied with an immediate “dah” (yes) to which they all chuckled. We were excused for about 10 minutes, and then returned to the chambers. We stood as the Judge read his decision that he agreed to their recommendation of naming us as Spencer’s parents. It was a tearful moment for us. We kissed and hugged each other, then thanked and shook the Judge’s hand. In the reception area, hugs were due all around and then we were on our way.

We headed over to the grocery store with Lena to buy food for the “celebration” parties. There are 2 parties; one with the Doctors and Rosa, the other with the caretakers. Loaded up on cheese, salami, cookies, candy, cake, wine, and vodka. It was a small group for both parties, way too much food but they have a fridge to keep the leftovers. Were able to present our vacuum cleaner to the room and give our gifts.

We were home by 1:30; in time for Spencer to wake from his very short nap. For whatever reason, he is not napping that long on either of his morning or afternoon naps. He has a meltdown daily in the later afternoon and we’ve begun putting him down for a 3rd nap of the day. Not sure if that’s really helping yet or not.

Our big celebration dinner consisted of two grilled cheese sandwiches and some diet coke. Young Spencer had some yummy cereal with beef & carrot baby food mixed in. I guess the days of champagne and caviar are over for a while. I really don’t like caviar anyway. Grilled cheese tastes so much better….

Sunday, December 05, 2004

December 5, 2004; Dinner for 4

Tonight we had Sandy and Chuck over for dinner. The New Yorkers were otherwise engaged with a hockey game tonight. It was quite the feast; they brought over a couple of chickens from the “chicken lady”. They also managed to score some CA wine. No joke and it was pretty tasty. We served up a first course of Gouda and Jalapeño cheese along with salami and mustard. Then had a couple of salads we bought from “Assortie”. We made carrots and mashed potatoes along with Russian vodka and beer. For dessert, we served up some chocolate cake also from “Assortie’.

Sandy and Chuck will be leaving us on Wednesday 12/8. They will return to Almaty, Kazakhstan in about 2 weeks time to pick up Jacob, their son. Then will immigrate back through the Embassy, at the same time we will. So there’s a good chance we’ll meet up with them again in Almaty.

When we were at lunch at “The Assortie” today, the owner Ludmilla sat down with us for a few minutes and showed us pictures of her family. Turns out her son, is studying geology at Western Michigan in Kalamazoo. A hop skip and a jump from where Bob and I lived in Grand Rapids, MI. Her daughter recently married, and lives in town. Her husband owns and runs a geology lab and her son will help run the business once he graduates; he’s in his 3rd year. Ludmilla herself is a Bio Chemist, but now runs The Assortie as a “hobby”. Quite the hobby I say, her food is excellent. Recipes from her mother she told me.

Spencer seems to be well and over his diarrhea. In the afternoon, he only got a 45 min nap, and his parents paid the price for it later in the day. We did put him down a few times but he would have nothing to do with any type of nap. Even when he’s a crank pot, we sure do love him . Tomorrow after court we will “officially” be his parents!

It was a late night for us, so we’re off to bed, more tomorrow

Saturday, December 04, 2004

December 4, 2004; 1/2 Way Home

The end of the day marks the halfway point for us. We have 25 days remaining and counting. We’re still without gas to our stove but today Lena brought us over a 2 burner electric stove. There aren’t many plugs in the kitchen so the only location we can get it plugged in is a spot right next to the kitchen sink!

We also had a visit from the Doctor today. Seems overnight Spencer developed diaherra. My dear friend Acsa located some Pedilyte in powder form for us to bring along with us, so we began having him drink that in addition to the formula. But after nap time, we noticed a very small amount of blood in his diaper, so we called in the Doc. Doc said his cough isn’t in his lungs, thankfully, and gave us a RX to help his intestinal issues. He seemed fine through out the day, so we think he’s on the mend already.

After we were done with the Doc, Bob headed out with Lena and picked up the vacuum we’re donating to Spencer’s room. He also went for groceries and hit the ATM. We’re getting ready to go to court on Monday 12/6 at 10am. We will be meeting with the Judge, our facilitator Tamara, the Orphanage Director Rosa, Lena our translator, and also a social worker will be present. Bob as head of our family will be answering questions from the Judge and has to give a small spiel at the end about why we want to adopt Spencer. Nothing too dramatic, and should go smoothly especially since they’ve given us the questions the Judge will ask ahead of time. Wish I’d had that option in college!

After that, we have a party with the doctors, then another one with the caretakers and will present our gifts to each caretaker at that time. As I noted previously, the gift is customarily cash, which is everyone’s favorite gift. We are tucking the $$$ inside a note card with thank you written in Russian, and each of their names on the envelope. It’s a bit odd trying to write the word, one of the letters is very funky, and looks nothing like any letter in our alphabet. But I’m giving it my best shot. We also brought along T shirts for all 9 of them, given to us by my sister Helen’s place of business the San Francisco Chronicle.

After that day; we begin the 15 day mandatory waiting period. Then Spencer’s Kazakhstan birth certificate will be reissued with his new given name and our names as parents, along with a Kazakhstan passport. After that we’re heading back to Almaty, were a doctor will examine him, and then we will meet with the US Embassy for an Immigration Visa to be issued which allows Spencer to enter the US with us.

Once we get home it is optional for us to “readopt him” in the State of CA. This process allows a US birth certificate to be issued and makes him a US Citizen. We will be opting to go that route once we return, so up to age 18 he will have dual citizenship to both the US and Kazakhstan.

So that means Bob has grand athletic plans for him. Ever since Bob turned 35 this past year, he has begun to realize “his time” to be a pro athlete has passed. So he is now bucking for Spencer to make the Kazakhstan Olympic team at 16 and then the US Olympic team at 20. To all of which I say HOOEY, get over it old man!!


Friday, December 03, 2004

December 3, 2004 – And he’s off and running….

We already have Spencer in training. Training for what? I’m not sure yet, but we have him running wind sprints down the hall. Okay, not exactly wind sprints, and not exactly running, but we are lining him up and letting him crawl the full length of the hall. We stand at the other end and call for him to come to us. So far Gina has the best time, but she rigged the course.

Initially, we had him “run the hall” with all the doors open. He would stop and look in the bathroom, then stop and look at a spot on the floor, and then stop and look at the wall, then…you get the point. She cheated and closed the doors. That kid flew down the hall. Spencer’s time with me coaxing him to come my direction was about 10 minutes. With her, his time was roughly 2 minutes. I guess it’s that Mother-Son bond.

We are thinking about starting an underground baby hall racing league. (The BHRL) We can invite all the parents and kids of the adopting families over, and make a day of it. We’ll do the time trials just after the morning nap and snack, then have the finals after the afternoon nap and snack. I will be the booky, and we’ll all place bets. Remember, the house always wins. Spencer will be a lock to kick Lisa & Allan’s kids butt, Isabella, because she can’t crawl yet. Our only real competition will be Evy & Jerry’s kid, Nathan. That kid has some wheels on him.

It’s been really windy and cold out the last couple of days. So we didn’t venture out as a family today. Our gas is still out and today we learned the whole building is out because the propane tank is empty and we’re told it takes a “few days” for the company to get it filled (fortunately the place is heated with steam). Gina asked, do they work on Sat and Sun or will we have to wait till Monday? Our translator said “I don’t know”.

So what to do for dinner? I ended up running out to get a roasted chicken, but the “Chicken Lady” sold them all before I could get one. So, I ended up going the deli around the corner and pointing at items, and hoping they would be something edible. Well…they weren’t. I ended up getting liver and cabbage wrapped in chicken (Gina spit it out on the first bite), fish with bones that had been sitting in the display for a few hours (very dried out), meat (maybe horse) and potatoes (we both spit that one out), and some chicken curry thingy (we got one bite down). I thought it would be like dim-sum in San Francisco, but it all ended up in the garbage. So it’s microed potatoes again. I’m pretty sure the chocolate cake I got will be good, they can’t screw that up too much!

Spencer is beginning to play somewhat independently. This is a big relief for both Gina and me. He can crawl anywhere to get a toy. The only problem is, he can crawl anywhere to get a toy. So we always have a watchful eye over his movements, and still spend most of the day on the floor with him. We’re finding out that the floors aren’t real clean around here; Spencer is becoming a very good broom. Thankfully, the maid comes tomorrow.

P.S The cake sucked too!

P.P.S. The neighbor lady next door, we found out, was telling us to turn off the light in the hallway when we're done!!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

December 2, 2004; In and Out

Well right about now, we are having dreams of In and Out Burger. That’s right folks, we confess, a double double with cheese, animal style has ours names written all over them! For you east coasters, that’s a burger joint out west, ask Judy, Zyg, Callie or Hayley all about them.

Up till this week, we haven’t had any issues with the food, but we haven’t laid a fork on a real vegetable since we arrived and it is growing tiresome. The Assortie, does have excellent food, but getting all 3 of us ready and trekking there daily, has its drawbacks. We are down to 3 popcorn bags, and when they run out, it’s going to get ugly around here. We eat a lot of different types of meat pies, for lack of a better description. It’s like a bread dumpling or bread bowl with meat inside. Usually beef. The Assortie also offers a crepe like chicken dish with sauce, but the crepes are more of thin pancake style. Very tasty.

We have tried some other restaurants: Johnny Walker’s Pub, which has all its waiters dressed in kilts, not sure if they’re sans the underwear though! The booths are very large and set far from the table. Gives one the feeling they should be hanging out with a large group of people. Food was just OK and overpriced. They allow smoking in the restaurant, and being from CA, where there is no smoking in any restaurant, we have grown very sensitive to smoky places. So when we went, I wanted out as soon as possible for fresh air. We also tried The Grand; it has an English menu, very formal air about the place. The food was good but it’s further from our apartment. We have also stopped in at various other “fast food” type stores with varying degrees of success.

We shop at the grocery stores, picking up small frozen pizzas; but sans the tomato sauce. Not sure why they don’t put any sauce on them. We have also often gone to the deli counter and gotten various items, with the point and finger method showing how many we want. The cole slaw is pretty good, with a vinegar/pepper type dressing, also having lots of potatoes. I guess cabbage and potatoes are vegetables. We have also gotten roasted chicken from one of the street vendors a few times. She’s very friendly, and it is very very tasty.

Our gas is not working on our stove today, which is probably why I have launched onto this topic. Not sure how we’re going to make dinner tonight. The door bell rang again today, but after the “police” incident, we didn’t answer. After as few more minutes the bell rang again several times in a row, which is how our neighbor friend rings us. So we opened the door, and this time it was for a reading of the gas meter. Apparently, last time was only the water meter. Still have no answers for why our gas is turned off, will need to touch base with our translator about it.

Also on our way in from our afternoon outing with Jerry and Lisa to The Assortie, our neighbor was outside the building with another woman talking. We waved hello and they began speaking to us in Russian. NO clue as to what they’re saying. They followed us into the building, went to the floor’s light switch turning it on and off, holding up 3 fingers. Based upon our Charades experience we are guessing the electricity is getting shut off tomorrow at 3??

Spencer was such a joy today, very happy and a very easy day for all of us. He is starting to stand up on his hind legs and support himself with his hands. First movements to getting up himself, and we’re thrilled to see the progress. Might have to start calling him Tri Pod, like I used to call my niece Nicki, when she did this move.

It’s time to put Spencer to bed, so…till tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

December 1, 2004; Cry me a river

We posted new pictures at:

http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/morrcoba3/

Well, it is officially COLD!!! Woke this morning to a fresh new blanket of snow. Picturesque, but definitely cold. On our afternoon outing today, my breath froze on my beard. Yes, that means it’s “snot freezing” cold.

We had a nice get together last night with the two NY couples, Allan & Lisa, and Evelyn & Jeremy. We all had dinner together as a send off for Allen who left this morning, back to the states. Because of the “police” incident Lisa will be spending much of her time with Evelyn & Jeremy, whose apartment building is very close to hers. In about 9 days her father will be coming over to help out.

Spencer has been a little pip-squeak, and Mom & Dad are learning a lot about what he likes and dislikes (and a lot about themselves). He still has a nasty little cough that sometimes wakes him up in the middle of the night, but he is able to get himself back to sleep in no time. Well… at 1:30 am this morning he had a coughing fit. Gina sent me in to make sure he was breathing okay. When I got to the door I still couldn’t hear anything, So…I inched into the room a little more, then a little more, and finally I heard Spencer breathing. Just as I was turning to leave, I stepped on a creaky floorboard which startled the youngest Morrison, and …..45 minutes later of continuous blood curdling wailing, Gina finally gave up and put “the plug” in his mouth so he would stop crying. It worked instantaneously and like a charm. The 2 adult Morrisons however, were up for another 2 hours trying to get back to sleep!

When we left the baby house the care givers told us the only time Spencer cries is when it’s time to eat or when his diaper needs changing. Well, for whatever reason this hasn’t completely sunk into our heads until today. This afternoon he went on another wailing rampage for another 20 minutes, nothing we did seemed to work. Finally, Gina said, “do you think it could be his diaper?” What a stroke of genius!!! It was, and the moon and stars were put back into alignment.

With all this crying, I’m pretty sure the neighbors think we are the world’s worst parents or beating the child. Fortunately, we are on the top floor of a three story apartment complex. I would hate to be the person living downstairs when Spencer lets out one of his high pitched, blood curdling baby cries for attention. Fortunately, no police have come to our door demanding to be let in.

We knew it was only a matter of time, today he crawled out of the living room and into the hallway. He also found the phone cords to the laptop so more instructions on the word NO were given. We’re both awfully tired today, so we’re off to sleep, vowing not to step on anymore squeaky floor boards……..more tomorrow.