- We received a call from Tina with our court date. Tina had called
a few days earlier to tell us that Andrew's release papers had arrived
in Rostov and that we were expected to get our court date assigned within
the following week. Today was the day. Our court date is scheduled for
December 9th, and we are going to take a few extra days to travel to
Germany on the way over to see some friends that we haven't seen in
quite awhile. So our basic agenda is:
12.07.04 - The trip to Moscow from Frankfurt was not nearly as exhausting as the last trip we took, but we were very happy to see Vassa outside of customs. He hurried to get us to the other airport so we could take the earlier flight to Rostov instead of hanging out in the airport for 3 hours. It was close but we made it. We were on the same flight as the Stephens so it was a chance to get caught up. The flight to Rostov was a bit like riding a roller coaster - the pilot seemed to enjoy banking right, then left then up then down and we were all glad when we finally landed. At the house, we all got settled in, enjoyed a quick dinner, and planned for our visit to the orphanage.
12.08.04 - We were up early to get ready for the trip to the orphanage. A quick breakfast and then we were off. The trip there seemed to take longer than we remembered, but we finally arrived. They took both families into the music hall where we waited for the boys to arrive. Andrei arrived first, and they had him so covered up in clothes and a goofy hat, that the Stephens weren't even sure it was him at first. Then they brought in Andrew. Again, in a goofy hat, but he was still the cutest little boy. He doesn't seem to have grown too much, but his hair is much fuller and longer. His eyes were a bit red and swollen, and had a little congestion, so it seems he is fighting a cold. He was a bit timid and hesitant, and didn't seem to be too sure about this couple who were anxious to get him in their arms. But he eventually had a smile or two.
You can tell from the pictures we took that his hair is going to give his mama a fit - he had a bad case of bed head going on, and we think its going to be an ongoing thing - it seems to have a mind of its own. But he is still the cute, adorable little boy. We got to spend only a couple of hours with him, until he (as expected) started drooping his head and quickly fell asleep. We're still hoping he keeps that part up on the plane ride home.
As we left the orphanage, we had a chance to ask Elena, our interpreter, questions about what to expect in court tomorrow. Our court appointment is at 10:00am and the Stephen's is at noon. Because we will be seeing a new judge, no one is sure of how the day will go and what type of questions exactly to expect. We're still hopeful that we will get at least a partial waiver so we can be home as expected on Christmas eve. After dinner back at the house, we had plenty of time to watch a movie and prepare for questions that might be asked in court. We all are praying for a successful day, and have our fingers crossed about getting a waiver.
12.09.04 - Gotcha Day - well, today was THE DAY. We had spent alot of time going over possible questions that the judge might ask us, and Elena came at 9:00 to prep us for the procedures that would take place. We got there just a few minutes after 10:00 and both of us were worried about being late - but apparently, we were there well before the judge so it was ok. In the court room during the proceedings were the judge, the prosecutor (whose clothing reminded us of a drum majorette - boots included), the orphanage director Tatiana, Olga the representative from the Ministry of Education, Elena and us. Court went about as Elena had described - we had about 30 minutes of questions asked of us by both the judge and the prosecutor. Questions about if we were sure this was the child we wanted to adopt, were we ready for the hard work and problems related to having such a small young child added to our home, how would we discipline him, were we able to afford to care for him, who would take care of him when I go back to work, etc. Chris was the designated spokes person for us, however, the judge had some specific questions just for Deb.
After our 30 minutes of "glory", we listened to the orphanage director explain Andrew's legal and medical status, and then Olga explain why she supported the adoption in Andrew's best interest. We then listed to the judge go through each sheet of paper in our dossier and his medical folder, listing off all of the documents. Chris then had to petition the court for the partial waiver which was supported by all parties in court - Elena said that was very unusual. The judge left for a short recess, and returned about 15 minutes later announcing the approval of the adoption and granted the partial waiver. This means we can work on his paperwork during the 10 day waiting period instead of having to wait until after 10 days to start the paperwork process. This means we are right on schedule with our tentative itinerary and are expected to be home Christmas Eve - YEAH!. What a great day. The Stephens were next and when they returned to the house after their hearing, they had received the 10 day waiver also. Elena indicated that there had been another family that had gone before the same judge just before we did, and they did not get the partial waiver, so we are very pleased - she thought we had good answers to our questions and that helped. So now, we wait out our 10 days visiting Andrew at the orphanage and getting his paperwork done.
12.10.04 - We found out from Alex that we'll be able to visit the orphanage on every day except Sundays - so we'll leave Sundays for shopping days. We left around 10am today to go the court house to see if our final adoption decree was ready for us to pick up - we need that before we can apply for his birth certificate and his passport. Alex went in and checked, and although it wasn't ready, Alex said it should be ready on Tuesday. So we headed to the orphanage.
They brought out Andrew, and we all chuckled. He was decked out in quite a cute pink sleeper - after all the teasing we gave the Stephens for the day that Andrei was dressed in pink, they were able to return the favor. Although I must say that Andrew looked good in pink - we're convinced he is secure enough in his masculinity to wear pink proudly :) It was also a good sign that Andrew seemed to remember us from a couple of days ago, and when we reached out for him he came to us very willingly.
Andrew was feeling much better today - he was still a bit shy at first but he started really opening up after we got out some more toys and the Cheerios. He had his first Cheerio today - not sure he liked it at first, but after a couple more of them, he was convinced they were good. He really loved just playing with the plastic container that the Cheerios were in. We also had a soft photo book for him with pictures of mama, daddy, Andrew, Grandma Ruth, Grandma Jean and Andrei. He would sit intently looking at the photos and letting mama read it to him. We're hoping this is a good sign that he has a love of books. We were able to see him crawl today and he even stood by himself for about 30 seconds. He has plenty of smiles to share with us, and he loved his toys.
We were able to spend just a little over an hour with him before it was nap time. One of the caregivers came in to get him, and we were able to get pictures of them together. She also was trying to get Andrew to blow kisses to mama and daddy before he left. He wasn't quite sure what he was suppose to do, but he put up with it anyhow. Although it was hard to let him go, knowing that in just 10 short days we'll have him forever made it easier. Can't wait for tomorrow.
12.11.04 - The day started off slow since we couldn't go to the orphanage until after lunch. The waiting time is dragging - we're playing alot of cards and watching videos trying to make the time go faster, but it still creeps by. Our visit today was so much fun - too short, only an hour - but Andrew was really playful. He was crawling around smiling at everything. We had a great time - he is quite the charmer. He really has warmed up to us, and even though we were only there an hour, he played hard for the hour. Tomorrow is going to be a hard day - can't visit the orphanage on Sunday - we're going to try to pass the time shopping, but it will be hard not being able to visit there.
12.13.04 - We found out today that 2 other families are coming in for their first visit. Not sure how that is going to work - its going to be tight here. I think one family will be sleeping at a neighbor's house but staying here during the day and eating with us, and the other family will be in the second room upstairs. It should prove to be interesting getting showers done on time, and splitting up the driver's time getting all of us to where we need to be - we're just hoping that we do not miss out on any of our visits. We did quite a bit of shopping yesterday, and drove around Rostov and did a little sightseeing. Its a bit too cold to be out too long, but it felt great to be walking around the downtown shopping. They are just starting to gear up for Christmas Holiday season (they actually celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7th) so we're seeing stands selling Christmas trees and decorations throughout the downtown. Still hard to believe its Christmas time since we're not home, but this will be a Christmas to remember. We've had a difficult time getting connected to the internet this trip - and with the extra people in the house, we'll probably not get a chance to get online again this week.
12.18.04 - This week has been interesting with the other couples here -its definitely been alot of activity. It has helped to pass the time away though. Both couples have accepted their referrals for little boys - one is 9 months old and the other is 16 months old, so we've passed the evenings away sharing baby pictures each evening. Its strange being viewed as the "experts" on this, but the other 2 couples have been filled with questions for us, and we've tried to help out as much as we can, especially about what to expect for the court day and what to bring with them the second trip. They left today for Moscow, and we've recently found out that the Federal Ministry here in Russia has temporarily suspended passing out release slips, which means that until they get their release slips, these 2 couples won't be able to get their court date - so they have no idea when they will return. Rumors are that it may be February before they travel again. So glad we are through that part and on the downhill slide of this journey.
12.19.04 - We visited the orphanage today for our last "visit" - tomorrow we pick up Andrew and head to Moscow. Alex & Volodya took us around Taganrog today so we have some pictures and better idea of the town where Andrew was born. Anton Chekhov (Russian author and playwrite) was born in Taganrog so we visited the house he was born in, and the Chekhov museam at the gymnasium (school) that Chekhov attended. It was really very interesting and we found Taganrog to be a very cultural town. We were able to pick up some oil paintings of the area and a few informational books for Andrew to look at later so he'll have some idea of where he came from. Can't wait until tomorrow - can't believe it is finally here.
12.20.04 - Today was quite a day. We left the house around 8:45 and headed to the courthouse to pick up the final decree that held there until our 10 day waiting period was up. The orphanage needs that decree to release Andrew. We got to the orphanage around 10:45 or so, and it was just a whirlwind. We handed over the clothes for Andrew and they got him dressed for us. While we waited we met with the director, received Andrew's baptism records and gave the director the gifts of chocolate and champaign we had bought for the caretakers. Within about 10 minutes they brought Andrew down all dressed up in his snowsuit and ready to go. After a few pictures with the director, we started to leave and their were about 8 of his caretakers out in the hall to see him off - many of them with tears in their eyes. It actually was quite emotional, but Alex & Volodya quickly moved us out of the orphanage and got us on the road. Andrew's eyes were the size of saucers as we got in the car and took off on the 1.5 hour drive back to Rostov. Alex's driving is quite memorable, and I'm surprised Andrew didn't get car sick. But we made it back to the house for a quick lunch, diaper changes, and a little time for the boys to play before we headed to the airport.
The airplane ride was quite interesting. The plane was so full and cramped (like only a Russian domestic plane can be) and Andrew was not quite sure what was going on. He handled the taking off quite well, but about 20 minutes into the flight he took a look around the plane, and it was as if he suddenly realized he was "not in Kansas anymore" and that he didn't recognize anyone on the plane. He puckered up, and started some big crocodile tears - not really crying out loud but you could tell he was scared. We just got him another juice bottle and that seemed to calm him down.
Once we arrived in Moscow, Vassa was there to pick us up and we headed to get the boys pictures taken for their visas. Of course, we hit terrible Moscow traffic, which means it took about 2 hours to go about 2 miles I think. Andrew chose to just sleep as much as he could - it was quite a big day for him, and he was exhausted. So his visa picture looks like he just woke up because he had. But after the pictures, we got checked into the Arbat hotel - our home for the next 4 nights. Quite a day - but so glad to have our little boy with us. And we started our first night as a family.
12.21.04 - Today was a full day - 6:00am Andrew had his doctor's appointment for his medical physical for the embassy. The doctor came to the room to do the exam, and he was quite pleased with Andrew. Around 10:00, Anya (one of the Moscow coordinators that is going to help us with our embassy work) arrived for us to fill out some papers for the embassy. She took all of our papers we brought (tax returns, paystubs, homestudy, etc), his medical exam, and the other papers to the embassy to get us an appointment for the afternoon. Our appointment ended up being around 2:15, and it went very smoothly. We were only there around 30 minutes, received our sealed manila envelope of papers that insure Andrew's citizenship. Tomorrow Anya will start the process to get Andrew registered with the Russian government, and basically we're done. We're going to do some shopping, and spending some good quality, bonding time with Andrew. And of course, we've really enjoyed have a Hard Rock Cafe and a MacDonald's just around the corner from us - almost feels like home. We had hoped that we might be able to do a little sightseeing here in Moscow, but it is much too cold to take Andrew out, and neither of us want to tackle the plane ride with a sick baby. So we're just sticking around the hotel, doing the shopping and eating in shifts - one of us stays with Andrew and the other gets out. Oh well, we'll just have to plan a trip back some time to visit the Kremlin.
12.23.04 - We got Andrew's passport back today from the Russian government so he is now officially registered, and we are cleared to go home. Our last night here in Moscow - tomorrow we start our journey home. Although the first couple of nights, Andrew slept very well, last night was rough. I think the change in food has caused him a bit of gas and he can't get comfortable. We hope tonight is better. We leave for the airport at 3:00am so we're not looking forward to having to wake him up in the middle of the night. We're just glad that our stay in Russia is at a close.
12.24.04 - Oh what a journey. Andrew started it off with another restless night with gas. He finally got comfortable and sound asleep around 2:00, just in time for the two of us to get up and take showers and finish packing. We loaded him up at 3:00 and met Vassa in the lobby to start our flight home. The Moscow airport was quite interesting - it seemed to take forever to get us checked in, but we finally made it. Andrew just wanted to get down and crawl, and it was difficult to keep him in our lap without fussing. The first flight from Moscow to Vienna was a little over 3 hours, and wasn't too bad. Andrew slept some and but we were glad to land in Vienna. While getting off the plane, we met another couple who was heading home from Moscow after their "first trip" of their adoption. They shared photos of their soon to be son with us, and we were able to share Andrew's story with them. It sure felt good to be at the end of the trip and not waiting for the second trip.
After a 5 hour layover, we were headed off on the biggest leg of our journey - the 10 hour flight to DC. 10 hours is quite a long time for such a little boy who has gone through so many changes in the past week. He was quite the trooper - only about 1.5 hours of fussiness during that 10 hours. And we have found that Cheerios are definitely our friend. However, we also learned very quickly that he does NOT like the changing "table" in the airplane bathrooms - he was very scared and cried his heart out the entire time we were in there. When we came out, I'm sure the entire plane thought I had been beating the poor little guy. And wouldn't you know it, he gave me quite a lot of opportunities to head back to the bathroom during that 10 hours. We were all very happy to land in DC. Both of us let out a small "yeah" when the plane touched down - Andrew was officially a US citizen. Of course, we still had to turn in his paperwork to immigration at the airport, but he was official.
After getting the official "stamp" on his passport, we were off to catch the last flight of our journey. We didn't have a lot of time, so Chris had Deb running through the airport to the gate, pushing Andrew in a stroller. The airport was packed - everyone trying to get home for the holidays. Apparently, United was not prepared for it, and didn't have enough flight attendants for the flight and had over sold the flight as well. So we waited to board at least 30 minutes as they scrambled to find another flight attendant (I think they pulled her out of the restroom to work the flight in fact) and then another hour plus sitting on the plane at the gate while they tried to squeeze in every last seat, even tried to get us to give up Andrew's paid seat. Chris was so tired, he was just up for the fight :) Andrew was so tired of planes at this point, that he was getting fussy just boarding. But he finally settled down, and was actually asleep before the plane took off, and never woke until we landed in Chicago.
After a long wait to gather our luggage, we were on our way to Grandma & Poppa's house, a little later than we had planned, but so glad to be so close to being home. Andrew slept the entire way in the van, and was just waking up when we arrived. He had quite the big eyes when we walked into a house full of people to greet him, and all the Christmas lights. He had a great disposition though, and warmed up to everyone pretty quickly, even though everyone wanted to get their hands on him, and he was surrounded by puppies. What a Christmas eve, and what a great ending to our 30+ hour travels. We'll spend a few days here at Deb's parents, and head back to Indianapolis on Monday or Tuesday.