Monday, October 30, 2006

Another Thing I Missed

I love Chinese food!  My sister brought lunch today from Asia Wok – the best Chinese restaurant ever.  This is the first time I’ve had it since being home and it was so great!  It’s a good place to support – owned by a local family.

Water, Slides, and Costco

Our boys are troopers!  They are so great about going places, riding in the car, etc.  We are so please and impressed.  We had a busy weekend and they did really well until Sunday evening and that’s okay.  We are enjoying them tremendously and love to see their personalities developing.  

Calvin wowed us tonight by being a “big boy” and putting his face in the bath water.  It was super cute!  He was so proud of himself as he dipped his face in over and over again.  Of course, Mommy and Daddy were pretty proud too. :)  We bought him a toy today that will hopefully help him to practice walking – it’s really cool and the boys will probably fight over it.  

Patrick was adorable playing with Pippi yesterday.  He is feeling more comfortable with her and decided to play with her toy.  She did well accepting him and even tried to bring toys to him today.  He also likes to feed her his snacks – out of his hand.  Pippi is spoiled!  Patrick loves to laugh and be tickled.  He slid down the slide today at our neighbor’s house and looked a little scared but then grinned at the end.

I ventured out to Costco with the boys (& Nana) and discovered with delight that the carts are made for two kids.  That means I can go there by myself!  They did pretty well except when we had a sample of the twice-baked potato…Calvin didn’t want just a sample.  He was mad when we left the stand – especially since there were several more cups already served up.  Oh well.  

Friday, October 27, 2006

Update

Well, here’s the report we’ve been waiting for – the boys are overall healthy and developmentally on track! We are very happy. Calvin weighed in at 18 pounds 10 ounces which is nearly 2 lbs. heavier than a couple weeks ago! Patrick weighs 22 lbs. 13 ounces. Both boys did really well although Patrick did not like the exam. We love our pediatrician and everyone in the office was really sweet. We will have doctor’s appointments at Riley within the next week or two and begin some testing with the international adoption clinic. After a very long night (3 hours up), I’m a little tired but Calvin evidently is not and is now fighting naptime. Very frustrating! We have a big evening tonight and hope the boys will do okay.

Nighttime Battles

It’s 4 a.m. and Calvin has been awake for 2 hours and is still going strong.  We are so tired.  He seems to think sleeping is a necessary evil.  Both boys have really been testing us for the past day or two…testing the limits, etc.  They do this in completely different ways.  Patrick is sleeping right now and even when Calvin was in the same room crying, he didn’t wake up.  This is one exhausted Mommy.  We’ve changed his diaper, given him Tylenol and water, kissed him and loved him, and now we hope he will eventually fall asleep.  

Shoes: Take 3, Part 1

Well, I feel I must return to the topic of shoes.  After a month of wearing my brown crocs all over Kazakhstan, I still approve.  They were wonderful!  I did get a little tired of them but that’s just because I love variety.  So, I still whole-heartedly recommend them and they are okay with socks. :)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Of Weather & Light

Does anyone else really dislike that fact that it’s dark in the morning?  I can’t stand it – I feel like it is 3 a.m. when in reality it is 7!  I’m admittedly not a morning person anyway but this is making it worse.  Much as I love the fall, I dread the cold, dark winter that follows.  It would okay with me for it to be light 18 hours a day and dark for only 6.  And how about the weather - cold weather is okay at night but how about a minimum of 65 degrees during the day.  Yeah, I know, I live in Indiana…which actually means that we could hit 65 in the dead of winter and then it would be -30 the next day (of course!).  Oh well.  Such is my wish for my perfect world of weather and light.

Walking

Evidently Calvin’s walking mantra must be working.  He took his first solo steps a couple days ago.  It was so exciting!  He gets a little ahead of himself (really his personality is that way!) but I hope he’ll be walking soon.  He was absolutely adorable trying to act like Pippi.  He brought me her rope toy and wanted me to throw it for him.  He tried to hold it in his mouth and crawled on the floor.  At one point, he was studying Pippi and all of sudden he barked 5 times.  Too cute – we were laughing so hard!

Patrick is the sweetest kid when he wakes up!  He is so happy and gives nice smiles and baby coos.  He patiently waits for breakfast and then laughs and grins all the way through the meal.  His eyes constantly dance.  He has been so loving to other people lately.  We are so glad he’s warming up and giving Mommy a little break. :)  Patrick was so cute yesterday – he was playing with Aunt Steph and bending down really low and walking to be eye level with her (she was crawling towards him).  It was hilarious!

Today I feel like we are finally settling into a bit of a routine.  I was able to clean the downstairs this morning which was great!  Both boys were intrigued with the vacuum cleaner but not scared – Pippi is the scared one, she hates it!  I think if I work out a cleaning schedule and devote the first 1-2 hours after breakfast to housekeeping/cooking then I will be able to stay on top of things.

Naptimes have shortened for Calvin, so I only end up with ½ -1 hour of time in the afternoon (usually lunch for me).  Patrick remains the sleeping king!  He is so great about going to bed, napping for 2-3 hours and sleeping through the night (12 -13 hours).  

We have been so blessed to have meals provided all week by ladies at our church.  It has been so great to not have to think about it.  I’ll be on my own next week with everything – that will be the real proof of how things are really going. :)  


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Efforts

We really have the cutest kids! I have two Calvin stories to share today and one about both of them.

The first one happened yesterday at lunch. Calvin is never a picky eater but yesterday he decided that all he wanted for lunch was peaches (I had added some crumbled banana bread to it). He thought it was the greatest and wouldn’t eat his vegetable soup (ground up of course) – he screamed and cried big crocodile tears when the peaches were gone. Every time I tried to feed him the soup, he looked at the spoon and cried harder. I didn’t want to put him down for his nap hungry so I told him he was going to talk to his Dad. I called Andrew and told him the story (all the while Calvin was crying in the background). Calvin got on the phone with Daddy (I held the phone to his ear) and immediately stopped crying. He listened and when I took the phone back he started eating his food instantly. No more tears, fits, or refusals! I was amazed since I really didn’t think it would work. It was great!

Calvin was initially more frightened by Pippi but now he is making a valiant effort to be friends with her. This morning he tried to play peek-a-boo with her and wanted to share his toys with her. She was barking at the window and he started to crawl as fast as he could to see what she was barking at, she met him half way and he talked to her – not sure what words were exchanged. :) He wanted her to lick him on the head but not the face. When she barks at him, he just looks at her like he can’t understand why she would be barking. We went upstairs to get dressed and Pippi started barking at him – his solution was to pick up her giant rope toy (almost bigger than either of them) and heave it with all his might for her. She wouldn’t play with him. I have to give props to my son who is definitely being the bigger person…one of these days Pippi will understand. In the mean time, it’s absolutely adorable to watch!

The boys are contentedly playing - kind of together. They have this Little People barn that plays music and makes sounds and they love it! They keep pushing the music button and dancing together – so cute! Their dancing consists of them moving the upper part of their body back and forth sometimes putting their arms out and occasionally bobbing their heads. Patrick actually started it but it didn’t take long before Calvin was joining in. They both really like music – and lucky for them, they have many musical toys. I think I’m going to hear that tune in my sleep now!

That’s it for this morning. They are a little happier today but still have nasty colds. Calvin woke up coughing this morning but that seems a bit better. Both are sneezing – so I’m constantly wiping noses. No fever for either one which is good. Nana is coming for a little bit – they will love that, they haven’t seen her for a few days. Life is good and motherhood is truly great.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Neglected?...I Think Not!

Pippi is feeling neglected lately.  In fact, she is on a hunger strike.  I’ve been lavishing as much attention on her as I can and we spend lots of time with her in the evenings but evidently it’s not good enough.  She is making it quite clear.  We aren’t sure exactly what to do.  She has been great with all the changes in our household and hasn’t had an accident in over a week which is no small miracle.  But somehow, things aren’t working from her perspective.  I would think she would be happy with all the leftovers dropped from highchairs but even that is not enough…  She practically attacks anyone who comes to our house, begging for attention.  I think she is trying to make us look bad. :)  Seriously, we give her love, we pet her, we let her sit on our laps, we give her treats, we take her outside…what more does she want?  

Monday

So we are sick and grouchy today. :)  Both boys have colds – no surprise since Mommy and Daddy have had them too!  The boys are usually great at napping but today they slept less than two hours.  They are tired and whiny.  Hopefully their runny noses don’t last too long.  Despite all that, Calvin is still giving me lots of sloppy kisses and tight hugs.  Patrick is clingy and even when I’m holding him, he isn’t necessarily happy.  He does give some of the sweetest smiles though.  All in all, it’s a Monday.  

Sunday, October 22, 2006

We're Back

Well, we are home and adjusting to our new, very different, very good life.  We intend to keep the other blog going for happenings with the boys and keep this blog for other interesting things and thoughts – they may overlap occasionally. :)  

We just have to say how blessed we are to live in the U.S.  Living overseas for a month really made us realize how much we take for granted!  

The top 5 things we missed the most were:
  1. DSL

  2. Beds

  3. Fluffy towels

  4. English television

  5. Good cookware

The top 5 foods we missed the most were:
  1. Milk

  2. Pancakes

  3. Vegetables (especially green ones)

  4. Hamburgers (not that we even eat them very much!)

  5. Cereal

Foods we ate so much of we don’t miss:
  1. Pasta

  2. Potatoes

  3. Yogurt

  4. Cheese

  5. Bread

Life is good.  We are thrilled to be home.  You’ll have to check out our travel blog to see pictures of the boys – click on the side link.  

One more thing I have been wanting to write about is baby food.  I was absolutely floored by some of the delectable selections available in Kaz.  Our boys particularly liked the veal – I refused to feed them fish, rabbit, or lamb.  Yep, these were available also.  All right, that’s it for now.  


Friday, October 20, 2006

Of Boys and Bites

Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve written!  I thought I would take a few moments to report while the boys are occupying themselves with their many toys.  They are playing together okay and unless one of them is hurting the other, we try to stay out of it.  

Last night was awesome!  We were only up once with the boys and that for only a minute!  They both slept past 7:30 this morning.  Yay – about 12 hours!  We know we can’t get too used to it but it was much needed for us after a very rough night the night before.  We went out to Starbucks after the boys went to bed for a little break/date (Nana stayed with the sleeping boys).  

In the midst of writing this, Calvin and Patrick were playing with the same toy and Calvin bit Patrick’s hand to the point of breaking the skin.  He didn’t seem the least bit remorseful even as Patrick was wailing.  Brothers!  

We had our first outing yesterday to buy groceries and a wedding gift.  The boys did great!  I’m not used to getting so much attention while I shop. :)  The lady at the deli thought they were beautiful and said I was doing a great job raising them (I smiled and said thanks – I didn’t mention they had only been mine for 2 weeks! :).  Everyone thought they were twins and I said nope, just brothers.  They will probably get that question for most of their growing up years!  Calvin is so petite compared to Patrick but when you spend time with them you can tell that Calvin is older by his developmental skills.  

We’ve really had a great week despite our exhaustion.  We are taking it easy for the next few weeks and trying to seriously limit our activities.  The boys are eating us out of house and home. :)  We were forewarned but anyone who has seen Calvin eat is in awe.  He should be gaining weight quickly!  They have their first pediatrician appointment next Friday and I feel pretty confident they will tell us that Calvin has been malnourished.  He looks a bit like a national geographic picture – bigger on the top and very, very small on the bottom half.  

The boys have their first wedding tonight…we think just the reception (I will go to the ceremony).  Our friends are getting married and graciously said the boys could come.  It’s a little too early to leave them with a sitter while they are awake.  We hope they behave but if not, we will head out early. :)  That’s it for now, other duties call.  We’ll try to keep this updated and there are lots more stories to share from this first week.  Stay tuned. :)
  

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Incredibly Amazed: An Update

Okay, I know many of you all are dying for details about our trip home and how we have been doing since then. This is the short version :) (A longer version has been started, but due to the time given to toddler care and continuing jet-lag recovery, this is all we can do for now . . . :)

The trip home was long. Very long. For good or for ill, none of us slept very much either on the flights or in the airports – so from Saturday morning in Kazakhstan to Sabbath evening in Indiana (which was Monday morning in Kazakhstan), Alaina and I slept only snatches. The boys slept only a little more, though they did have naps and then slept several hours before we went to the airport. This lack of sleep meant we were all exhausted once we arrived here, but I think it also meant that we have more quickly adjusted to the change in time zones.

The boys did remarkably well on the flights home. Yes, it was difficult, and we don’t look forward to flying any time soon with them, but it could have been a lot worse. We were so thankful to have bulkhead seats for almost the whole trip (only the half hour flight from Chicago to Indy did we not have bulkheads), so we had more legroom and the boys could sit on the floor and play. Many people along the way helped us out, and we received many kind looks and comments. In Frankfurt we met a man in the armed forces who with his wife is in the process of adopting, too, and we had a very interesting conversation with him.

We were greeted at the airport in Indianapolis by both sets of grandparents and two uncles (Noah and Wes). Papa and Nana Judd had brought our Jeep with two baby seats in it, so the new family of four drove home together. It was our first time in the car with Daddy driving, just the four of us.

Pippi gave us an entirely enthusiastic welcome home. She obviously had not forgotten us, much to Alaina’s delight. The boys were not quite sure what to make of her, or her of them, but there were no real problems. The boys seemed to settle in quickly to their new home. Patrick woke up from his nap and was a little sociable, but Calvin kept sleeping for some time, despite being passed between almost all the grandparents and aunts and uncles. Aunts Stephanie, Liz, and Margaret and Uncle Elliot also were delighted to meet their new nephews.

We are incredibly amazed at how well the boys have adjusted to life in our home. We find ourselves wondering if they are really the same boys. Calvin’s fits have largely dissipated. Patrick is warming up more quickly to those who come to visit. Both boys are sleeping better, and Calvin is going to sleep in a few minutes instead of a few dozen or score of minutes. Both boys are devouring their meals, although Calvin continues to eat almost twice as much as his brother.

We are praising God for a good trip home and two fantastic days – and two incredible little boys!

I'll leave you with a couple cute photos of the boys in some hats we brought home for their uncles Noah and Wes. In case you can't tell, this first one is of Calvin --

And then one of both boys :)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Farewell to Kazakhstan

Well, this is our final blog from here in Kaz. We leave for the airport in just over an hour.

Today was unexpected. :) This is sometimes good and sometimes not, but today it was great! Nadya called us at about 1:30 and said she would be here in 10 minutes and we would go to the mountains! We would have preferred a bit more notice but we got the boys up from their naps and bundled them up in their snowsuits. Before we could even finish, she was here. We went out to the car and she introduced us to her husband. They spent a couple hours showing us around Almaty and taking us to different mountains. It was so nice and the mountains were beautiful! She asked if we were ready to go back to the apartment and we requested to be dropped off at one of the shopping centers to do a few final things. She readily agreed and then said they would come back and pick us up! What a blessing…no more trying to find a taxi! So we finished our shopping and found some wonderful things to bring home. The boys were troopers. Calvin loves Nadya so she held him for most of the excursion. Andrew was the official photographer and videographer so I carried Patrick. That made him very happy, but my arms were so tired! Thankfully we had stuck the stroller in for our shopping!

Even in the tough days (and nights) we wouldn’t trade this experience for anything! We have two gorgeous boys and a lifetime of memories plus lots of new friends. We thank you for your love and support throughout every aspect of this journey. We are so thankful for many of you who encouraged us as we waited to travel and as we went through so much to get here. We will never forget.

On another personal note, we both have been incredibly blessed through the miracle of adoption. We have been challenged by others who have gone before and we pray there will be many that follow. We cannot believe how blessed each family is – for some, like us, these are their first children, for others, they have adopted or biological children at home. We are all bringing home. The children are so wonderful and there are children just like them all over the world. We are so glad God had this plan for us; we cannot imagine our lives without Calvin and Patrick.

Signing off with love from Kaz, The Falk Family (Andrew, Alaina, Calvin, & Patrick).


(Our first family photo, in Calvin's baby house.)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Embassy etc.

Right now, it feels like it’s been a very long day – and it’s only 5 p.m. Our only real outing was to the Embassy, where things went smoothly enough and we heard the words we’ve been eager to hear – “Congratulations, your adoption is now complete”! We now have visas for the boys and their passports. Immediately afterwards we went and confirmed our flight tickets for the Lord’s Day. If all our connections go according to plan, we should be back in Indianapolis around 6 that evening. We will go to the airport at midnight tomorrow night.

Despite the smoothness of both the Embassy and the airline, the boys made it difficult. Calvin especially has been cranky since about 10:30 this morning. He and Patrick played well for me this morning for a couple hours, allowing Alaina to get some extra sleep (she missed a lot last night), but since then it’s been pretty rough. After an early lunch I took him out for a walk and Calvin fell asleep in his stroller, and then slept here in it when I got back for about an hour total. But I think he needed a lot more. Patrick has done pretty well, but when Calvin is cranky it kind of transfers over and Patrick gets whiny, too. Calvin has been crying a lot and is just really not happy. We hope he goes to bed well and sleeps through the night. (Alas, see below . . . )

We had a close call this afternoon as we were leaving for the Embassy when Alaina slipped and fell down some stairs. She was carrying Patrick at the time but he was fine. Thankfully, Alaina wasn’t hurt badly.

We need to start packing tonight after the boys go to bed, but I sure feel like crashing. I think both Alaina and I are starting to fight colds, too.

A little after 6 now. The boys are fed and bathed. I guess part of Calvin’s deal was a “hunger problem,” which is a little inexplicable due to the number of baby cookies they ate this afternoon. He’s much happier right now. Actually, he’s trying to figure out how our vacuum sweeper works, and loves it. The hose and wand is like a fire-fighter’s hose for him – a little overwhelming. But it’s keeping him busy, and he’s totally fascinated.

Have we said that Calvin loves baths, whereas Patrick hates them? Well, we might have to revise that. Patrick did pretty well tonight once he got in the tub; it was the apprehension before hand that was so traumatic. Once in, however, he was fine. Calvin, conversely, was excited to get in, but didn’t want to stay there very long!

And have we mentioned that Patrick has an obsession with electrical cords? Yes, we’ve been doing everything to cure him of it, with some success. But just now he tried to plug in his doodle pen (it goes with a magnetic, Etch-a-Sketch deal) – it was so cute . . . but, of course, potentially dangerous, so Daddy put a stop to it.

We’re listening to Wes Tillet’s CD (our cousin – coincidentally, their little boy was born on Oct. 4 – 3 new members of the family on the same day – all boys!), and Calvin is grooving. The other night we had another CD on and he was taking it all in. Both evenings, with just a little help from Daddy, he started “conducting” the music. It’s adorable. Another possible future profession?

Calvin’s putting a book on the top his head and dropping it behind him. With a little encouragement from Mommy, who is gamely laughing along, he thinks it is hilarious. (If you hadn’t figured it out, you’re getting a little play-by-play here from Daddy as he types and watches the boys!)

Patrick has a problem staying upright tonight; whenever he hits the hardwood, he loses his grip and hits the deck. A few minutes ago he tottered toward me, his sippy cup outstretched toward me – upside down! I managed to calmly get him stopped, but Alaina says the fear was clear in my eyes as the dripping cup edged closer to the laptop. Just last night we heard from another family who lost their laptop to a spilled glass of water from their new son . . .

You know how there are five-alarm fires? Well, sometimes you have five-wipe diapers. I had one this morning, courtesy of Calvin. (Patrick just hit the deck again . . . and again. He’s starting to laugh when he does it.) I guess Calvin just had another such diaper, with Alaina at the controls this time. “Hurry, get me more wipes!” As I’m rifling through the diaper bag looking for them, I hear a scream from Alaina like I’ve rarely heard – and then near-uncontrollable laughter. You can imagine what happened. He wasn’t done, and the new diaper was used before it was even fastened or even close to it :) Calvin seemed quite proud of himself.

(I apologize if you’re getting too close of a look into our lives :) Well, I’m handing the computer to Alaina and taking a turn with the boys myself . . .

Yes, it’s been quite the evening! Thankfully the boys have been great since supper. Calvin doesn’t seem very tired…unfortunately. :) He doesn’t seem to need quite as much sleep as Patrick. Since they both had short naps and a big afternoon, we are going to try to put them down a little earlier. So much for that, Calvin is just awful to put to bed. He has now been screaming and crying for over an hour with at least one of us right there with him. He is extremely stubborn! He is so tired it’s not even funny. Yeah, we don’t really like bedtime. :) Tonight he is keeping Patrick awake which is not good.

We are having a debate about what to do tomorrow with our airline schedule (we have to be at the airport at midnight and our flight is at 3:20 a.m.)…any suggestions? We’ve thought about keeping them up all day and hoping they sleep but sometimes that is counterproductive because they get sooo tired they can’t sleep and are grouchy. We’ve also thought about letting them take as long of a nap as they want but then that might mean they don’t sleep at all on the plane. And we’ve also considered putting them to bed and then waking them up to go to the airport – also flawed, as they might think they are done sleeping. I think there really is no good answer but we are very open to suggestions. We are counting on Gerber puffs to get us home . . . we will be rationing them. :) The boys are crazy about them and we’ve saved pretty much all of them for the trip home – I think we have 3 ½ containers. We almost made it without having to buy more diapers but alas, we are going to be maybe 6 or 8 short – oh well.

Well, that’s probably all you want to hear from us for now . . . maybe more! :) Our final post from here in Kaz will be tomorrow, though I think we will keep this blog going and use it for pictures and anecdotes of the boys. It has been a wonderful outlet for us and we look forward to sharing it with all your comments with our boys when they are older.

Andrew now. It’s almost 9 now, and after a monumental struggle Calvin is asleep. Patrick fell asleep within five minutes, but Calvin cried and struggled and tried to get up for almost an hour and a half. But he’s asleep now – praise God!

I’m a little sad this blog is coming to a close – at least from Kazakhstan. As Alaina says, we’ll try to keep it up some when we return, but it won’t be quite the same :} We have loved writing it, together and separately, and all your comments have made it so much better, as well as encouraging us far beyond you all can ever know. At the same time, we are both eager to be home and to be with family and friends (and getting a little help with the kids)!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

More on Today: An Afternoon Excursion & Bedtime

Well, we are just praising the Lord! The boys are both down for naps at 1 p.m. for the first time!!! It took about 15 minutes to get them both settled and asleep which we think is great! They are so different when falling asleep: Patrick does not want touched but likes you to sit there and sing while Calvin wants to have his back or stomach rubbed. Calvin screams and cries, whereas Patrick just lays there (although he occasionally kicks the wall or tries to get up).

Andrew just ran to the store to pick up some butter so we could make grilled cheese and came back with these wonderful bread and cabbage rolls. They are delicious…he went back for a few more! There is a bakery attached to the store here in our apartment complex. Sounds great but overall we have not been that impressed with their pastries. The bread however is pretty good.

Andrew now: It’s easier to feel and write this on a day when things are going so much better, but even on the worst days there are still moments of joy and delight. Calvin is one of the most expressive little boys I have ever seen: his smile lights up the whole room, and his laugh is so enthusiastic and contagious. Patrick’s unique ‘likes’ are so endearing – his love of opening and closing doors and chewing on his shoelaces, and he’s about the cutest little guy (although I will admit our bias :)

One of the most exciting things about the boys right now is that they recognize us and are so delighted to see us. If either Alaina or I enter the room and we call to them, their faces light up and you can see their joy to see us. What a joy to see this love on their part toward us after such a short time!

One of the interesting aspects of our trip is seeing how people respond to us as it becomes evident that we have adopted. Of course we can’t see inside their minds to know exactly what they’re thinking, but their looks communicate a lot. We get some big smiles from some people; whether they’re happy for us or just appreciate how cute the boys are, we’re not sure. Other people just don’t see happy at all, and seem to be quite rude to us. Of course, some people are just like that, but we do know that some people are not happy that “outsiders” are adopting children from their country. That perspective is just incomprehensible to me: if they really care about these kids, they should be delighted that they are going to good homes. If they’re really concerned about these kids, they should be adopting them themselves. If they saw what life is like for these children, they would be happy for the adopted children. (I’m not saying that they are cared for poorly in the baby-houses; I think some of them are cared for very well. But pretty much everyone in the baby houses agrees that it is hard on the children and that it is much better for them to be living in loving families.)

Later – 7:30 p.m. Almaty time. The boys are playing busily, freshly bathed and almost ready for bed. For some reason about this time of night, Calvin thinks it’s time to climb the entertainment center. At least, this is the second time I’ve seen him try it, and both times it was about this hour. Maybe something about the moon? :)

It’s been a great day. Alaina wrote above about the good morning and the way the boys settled down for their naps – both major answers to prayer. The boys awoke from their naps about 3:30, a little grumpy, but otherwise okay. Our coordinator stopped by briefly; it looks like we’ll be flying home on Sabbath, leaving here at 3:20 a.m. No, that won’t be so fun, but that’s the only time our airline leaves Almaty for Frankfurt. And we’ll be happy to be going home.

We decided to do a little more shopping and eat out tonight – our first such outing since last Sabbath. We met Kyle, Susan, and Sultan – another adoptive family that was with us in Uralsk – at one of the major shopping areas here in town.

Getting there was another adventure. This time we were all on our own hailing a cab or passing vehicle, and not entirely sure how to go about it. Our efforts were handled by rush hour traffic – the three lanes of traffic, which occasionally was more like five, prevented only 1/3 to 1/5 of the cars from being available to pick us up. Finally a guy stopped, and we jumped in. Cars and buses were piled up behind, all horns blaring incessantly. We were rather embarrassed, and our haste only hindered our efforts - we even lost one of Calvin's shoes. But the guy was patient and helped us in. Once again, it was a private individual, not a regular taxi. We communicated where we were going and he was fine with it. When he dropped us off, I almost think he wasn’t going to charge us anything – he just did it out of the goodness and kindness of his heart. But when I offered him tenge, he took the lesser of the two amounts offered – about half what we usually pay.

We enjoyed shopping and found a number of cool Kazakh items for gifts and the boys as they grow older, plus a few things of interest for ourselves for Kazakh mementos. The one I’m the most excited about is a wood stand and bowl. The stand is four interlocking-camels, carved out of one piece of wood, which in turn supports this carved wood bowl. The sales lady told us that it represents the Kazakh family. Since it was four camels (they also have larger stands with up to seven camels), we thought it was perfect for us and had to get it.

Of course, I’m looking for a chess set. I brought several home from Russia when I traveled there and another from Mexico a couple years ago, so think I should find one here, too. But I haven’t been able to select one that fits my criteria and budget yet. Alaina is also looking for a traditional teapot. So we’ll probably be back before we leave.

After shopping we went to the Italian restaurant which Josh and Saige introduced us to. Once again, it was a delicious, but also an adventure. The boys did pretty well except at the beginning, before the food arrived, and at the end, when it was all gone and we were waiting for the check. Patrick stayed in his stroller the whole time and was fine. Calvin sat mostly on my lap and some on Alaina’s and ate almost everything he could reach. The boys devoured the mashed potatoes and picked over the grilled veggies we ordered. Calvin was still going strong, so we pulled out a meat and potatoes baby food jar. When it was gone, out came the creamed spinach and potato baby food we brought. We thought it looked like about the most disgusting thing you could imagine, but Calvin gulped it down, with a little assist by Patrick. Alaina and I enjoyed pizza and lasagna, and there was plenty left over for lunch tomorrow (I actually knew it would be more food than we could eat, but I knew the lasagna would be a delicious lunch!).

The meal complete, we once again hailed a cab – a real one this time. He charged us more than anyone else yet, but it was worth it – he returned us almost to our door. He did seem a bit lost, however, and kept asking us for directions – in Russian of course. We couldn’t help him much anyway, as we’ve not been out much, it was dark, and he took a different route than we were familiar with.

So now it’s bedtime. We’ve been looking through some of the stuff we purchased – and have some adorable pictures of the boys with some of it. But as it’s a surprise, you’ll just have to wait to see those pictures! :)

Bedtime was a HUGE struggle with Calvin. He screamed and cried for over 1 hour, rubbing his eyes and yawning all the way. We feel bad for our neighbors…it sounds like we are awful people. He just gets himself so worked up that he can’t stop. Ugh! So much for the easy naptime! We sat with him and rubbed his back but that didn’t even seem to help. Oh well, we’ll work on it when we get home. We think he isn't feeling very well so we gave him some medicine that will hopefully help!

We go to the Embassy tomorrow afternoon. That is our final "have to" thing before we can leave the country. Yay!

A Happy Birthday to Jon & Jason...sorry we didn't get cards in the mail this year but we didn't forget you! Hope you have a great day!

A New Day - Hooray!

Okay, so the pizza wasn’t great. It was edible but we were happy we only bought one!

The boys slept through the night for the most part – Calvin woke up at 5:15 and again around probably 6 but we were able to get him to fall back asleep. Patrick got up around 7:45 with Daddy and Calvin and Mommy got up at about 8. We had breakfast and the boys have been playing ever since while we took turns showering. They are pretty content today – so far. Calvin has attempted several fits but for the most part we have been able to head them off with a firm, “Nyet, Calvin!” We found this to be somewhat successful last night at bedtime, so decided to try it today and so far we are a fan.

Calvin has been practicing walking a lot! He seems very motivated - perhaps watching his brother?! He seems to wake up each morning with the mantra, "today I will walk, today I will walk!" He pushed the stroller around for awhile which was adorable. Patrick is really getting the hang of his sippy cup and loves to drink water. Neither of the boys seem to like juice much (we've tried it a couple times mixed with water).

Our coordinator will be stopping by this afternoon and then we hope to do some shopping and maybe go out to dinner with the boys (after their naps, of course!). An outing is much needed.

Thanks for all your prayers and encouraging words. You have no idea how much you have ministered to us. Everyone is feeling better today and we are very grateful! We just keep taking it one day at a time and spend lots of time praying! Can’t wait to see you all.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Day Continued

So, sometimes you just have to laugh to keep from crying. :) We got a call at 7p.m. as the boys were getting their baths. The person on the other end said that the owners of the apartment need to show it (nobody even told us this was a possibility). I asked if it could be tomorrow and they said that it had to be tonight. I explained that I have two children that need to go to bed. He said that they didn’t want to inconvenience us (I’m thinking, yeah right!) and they could come in 1 hour or 1 ½ hours. I said fine (what was I supposed to say) and said 1 hour. 1 hour is nearly up and if they aren’t here by 8:15, the boys are going to bed. We had to clean up the apartment complete with vacuuming because the boys had bread crumbs everywhere! Well, at least it will be clean for tomorrow…all of 5 minutes before the boys have it a wreck again. :) Andrew laughs at me because I pick the toys all up at least twice a day – it makes me feel better!

Well, thankfully the people have come and gone. They were on time and it only took about 5 minutes. After a 45 minute bedtime battle (not too bad :), the boys are both asleep. The trouble with mobile kids is that you can’t just lay them down and leave them there. Calvin actually fell asleep first which is truly remarkable. We gave them both some Tylenol before bed in hopes that they will sleep better. We are praying they both will sleep through the night without trouble and that we will have a good day tomorrow.

We found a supermarket on our walk this afternoon which was great! It has all the baby food and everything we will need for the rest of our time here. It is only a few blocks away…wish we had known about it sooner! There are actually several stores – it’s called The Promenade and is like a mall. They often have the supermarkets in malls which is so different than home.

We are having pizza for dinner…the frozen variety. We paid way too much for it but we’ve really been craving pizza so figured it was worth it! We’ll see, it probably tastes like cardboard. :) We’ll let you know tomorrow.

Not Such a Good Day

It is 3 o’clock and I wish it were time for bed! This has not been a good day so far…perhaps it will improve? Both boys woke up on the wrong side of the bed and have been super grumpy and whiny today. For Calvin, that means long, drawn-out, screaming and crying tantrums. For Patrick, that means deliberately doing everything he is not supposed to and being very whiny and weepy.

Patrick is finally napping – it took me over an hour to get him to sleep. He took a brief nap this morning but evidently it was enough to make him not want his afternoon nap. This is unusual for him; he is usually very willing to sleep. Calvin is fighting sleep and being horrible – poor Andrew is walking him outside. We can’t wait for cribs!!! So today, we are not feeling like very good parents. It doesn’t help that none of us slept that well last night.

We are trying to be patient and flexible but we find ourselves increasingly frustrated with the lack of communication here. We were told we would go to the mountains this afternoon but we have not had any phone calls or anything. We just would like to know one way or the other – really a day ahead so we can plan the boy’s schedule.

The weather here is absolutely gorgeous! We are enjoying warm days, mountains views, and sunshine. This is a fairly busy city with lots of traffic. The cars in general are very nice – expensive!

We are thinking we may not be home until Sunday. We are waitlisted for Saturday but can have confirmed, bulkhead seating for Sunday. So, as much as we want to get home, we think we better choose the best travel option. We will leave here around 3 a.m. and I’m not sure when we would arrive back in Indy. We’ll see. We have to get the phone number for the airline from our coordinator.

Please keep us in your prayers, we are so tired of being away from home. We know we will have a whole new adjustment period with the boys when we get there plus jet lag. :) The boys definitely need prayer as they learn to trust us (and obey us). Really, we’ve seen God’s hand at work so much but days like today are just discouraging. It’s been one week since we officially became parents and the boys have been with us for 6 days.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Of Examinations and a Delay

When I was in college and law school, people told me that I had more free time then than I ever would. I felt like I was so busy and had a hard time believing them. Then I married and started working, and I was busier than ever. Still I heard that I had more free time then that I would once we had children. While recognizing that children would make life busier, I found it hard to believe I could be more busy than before. Well, now I understand. :) Perhaps it’s not necessarily more busy – the time is just filled more than ever before.

Case in point – I just “had” to run take a picture of the boys – posted below.

And then I had to mediate a dispute and render discipline, take one boy while the other had his diaper changed, etc., and am only now back to this blog entry – for yesterday, for which there was no time yesterday, either.

(Giving you the play-by-play, Calvin just crawled off into the kitchen for some privacy, it seems, to take care of some important business. Let’s just say both boys must be on a similar schedule. :) Due to diet changes, we have had an inordinate number of dirty diapers to change. Patrick holds the record so far with seven in twenty-four hours!)

Thinking back over yesterday, at first glance there doesn’t seem to be much out of the ordinary and, if you can call it that, the routine (with all the changes of lodging, activities, etc., “routine” might be a bit of a stretch). But we did go to the International Clinic for the boys’ first doctor’s visits since they have been in our care and for a blood draw for an HIV test. The nurse took their measurements and then it was in to the doctor for an examination. There were few surprises and we really liked the doctor. Patrick had a terrible attitude and screamed and cried for the whole visit including just being weighed. Calvin did better but didn’t like being examined either but did much better overall. (She seemed to be impressed that Calvin recognized Alaina – his face lit up when he saw her when she came up to him on the examining table.) We think the doctor is from South Africa and spoke with their delightful accent. She did give a number of pieces of advice helpful for their care, so we really appreciated that.

Then it was on to the blood draw. Neither of the boys had been on their best behavior for the exams, but Patrick was in hysterics for the blood draw. It was only a pin prick on his finger and a little suction afterwards, but you would have thought they were drawing liters of blood through a huge needle.

Calvin, whom I was holding, thought he was really in for it and was quite upset himself. But when it came for his turn, he sat quietly on my lap, looked surprised at the pin prick, and then was silent for the suction. “He’s very brave,” the nurse said. We were proud of him.

From the Clinic it was on to a photo studio for passport photos for the boys. Neither cooperated readily, but the photographer was able to get satisfactory photos more quickly than either Alaina or I expected.

We had thought we might go to get our tickets changed in the afternoon, but that never materialized. Dinner was uneventful and both boys went down relatively well to bed. To our delight, both boys slept though the night (except for one brief outburst from Calvin, when we didn’t have to pick him up or anything, and he went right back to sleep) – which meant we did, too! Praise the Lord!!

Calvin’s doing better, especially as we have figured out that it’s best just to ignore his fits (per the doctor), but he still has fits sometimes for which we can see no explanation. He’ll be playing one minute, throwing the fit the next, and playing happily a moment later. We don’t fully understand but think it may be the only way he would get attention at the baby house; we trust they will decrease as he recognizes that when he isn’t throwing fits he gets lots of attention.

We’ve learned a number of things about the boys. Patrick likes to chew on his shoe laces. He loves doors and thinks it is so cool to open and shut them. He likes power cords, but is learning – slowly – that he must not play with them. Patrick thinks bread is the greatest to the point of eating crumbs off the floor and we figure it will strengthen his immune system. :) He also loves to spit/sputter.

Calvin loves hats. He’ll bring his outside hat to us and want it to be put on. Alaina gave him a little beret, too, and he’ll wear it for hours. He likes building things and gets very frustrated if it falls down before he wants it to (he does like to knock his towers over, too!) Calvin also likes to crawl into “tunnels” (under our coffee table, under chairs, etc.) and to climb up onto things.

There were rumors that we might go up into the mountains today, but as of 11:30, we haven’t heard anything about it yet. We definitely have to get our tickets changed, and hope to do some shopping either today or tomorrow.

Well, I was just interrupted again – this time by the doorbell. It was our coordinator here. Alaina asked if everything was okay, and she said no. Then she pulled out her cell phone and said we needed to talk to Almira, our translator in Uralsk. My heart almost stopped as Alaina took the phone. Both of us feared the worst – that somehow we were losing one of the boys (we had to promise in court that, as a condition of the fifteen-day waiting period being waived, we would bring the boys back if parents showed up in that time period). To our great relief, we learned that it was a paperwork/signature problem in Uralsk (not our fault) with the result that we’ll have to stay an extra couple days: we’ll now be leaving on Saturday instead of Thursday, it looks like. We’ve never been so happy for a delay – we’d much prefer that to what we thought it might be! Our coordinator, Nadya, felt so terrible but we assured her we could manage another couple of days…it’s probably good it happened today after a very good night’s rest. :)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

In Which We Hail a Cab

Well, all I can say is that this has been quite the adjustment. Our poor boys will have lived in 5 places in 1 week – the first being the baby house, then 3 different apartments, and finally, home. Home! Yep, you heard us. Providing all goes well at the embassy (which we anticipate it will), we will be leaving for home on Thursday. We could not be happier.

We found out at about 2:30 this afternoon that we would be moving to a new apartment in 1 hour. It was a bit stressful trying to fit everything back into the suitcases and every available bag. (We had, of course, gone grocery shopping right before this news.) Our new apartment has a nicer living room but a smaller bedroom and we lost our view of the mountains (much to Andrew’s chagrin). We are able to put the boys on each side of the bed on the floor (fully padded with blankets) and not worry about them hitting their head or falling out of bed. The bed is only a double (as opposed to the king at the last place). This apartment is fine, we are just tired of moving and can’t wait for cribs and highchairs!

We were able to spend about 3 hours with our friends, Josh, Saige, Andrey, and Gregory, today, which was great! They leave for home tomorrow and we will definitely miss them – all of the families we have spent time with on this trip have become lifelong friends. They showed us around which we really appreciated. We had an interesting time with taxis today: Andrew asked a man at a fruit market where we could find a taxi, and he indicated the corner at which we were standing – but then, perhaps seeing both of us holding or pushing a boy, he actually went to the corner himself, hailed a passing car, and negotiated the rate. We quickly realized the driver was actually just a guy who saw we needed a ride and offered to give us one – I guess this is fairly common. :) Anyway, he was very nice and practiced some of his English with us and assured us that President Bush and Osama Bin Ladan are secretly, best friends. “Big secret” :) We were so grateful for the guy who stopped – not such a common practice in the U.S. Our second ride was actually a taxi, a very old taxi. We worked hard to hail it; all four adults. :)

We ate at a great Italian restaurant with our friends, which was awesome. The boys did pretty well and we managed our first restaurant experience with only 1 glass of water spilled into the diaper bag (ironically, this happened right after we were complimented on the boys’ behavior). Oh, we did have a few thrown papers and napkins but hey, overall it was good.

Tomorrow, the boys have their medical appointments. There is mandatory HIV testing so we will have to wait for that test to come back before we go to the embassy; we will go to the embassy on Wednesday. Both of our boys have previously tested negative but evidently there has been a problem in one of the regions. We have heard the physician is wonderful and we are looking forward to getting the boys updated weight (it’s been over a month since they were last weighed). They are both very good eaters but haven’t been with us long enough for there to be much difference yet. :)

This is a long overdue mention of the boy’s first meeting. We picked Patrick up first and it was just very cool to talk with the director again. She wished us well and pointed out to me that there would now be 3 men in the house. :) We took our donations at that time and also brought some chocolates for the nannies. I was able to exchange a new outfit for one of the outfits Patrick had worn while living there (to put in his baby box). He was so happy to see us and had been looking for us all morning. :) We are so thankful for the excellent care they gave him. Then we went to the other baby house to pick up Calvin. He also was thrilled to see us but regarded Patrick as a minor inconvenience as he hopped back and forth from Daddy to Mommy with big smiles. Patrick was feeling very shy and would only let me hold him. He observed Calvin without a smile. :) So no big hugs or anything, but we didn’t expect that. They were very tolerant of each other and even a bit cordial unless it came down to sharing something. :) They are doing pretty well with each other though Patrick is a bit of a bully. Calvin is probably warmer to Patrick than vice versa but Patrick sometimes tries to calm Calvin when he is crying, which is very sweet but Calvin hates it! They sometimes are a little jealous of each other but we try very hard to make sure both feel loved and secure.

We’ve spent a little extra time with Calvin today – he didn’t take a nap this afternoon at the same time as Patrick, so we played with him which he thought was great! He fell asleep much later which made his bed time later as well. Patrick has been very tired and is so good at taking naps and going to bed. We are happy to report that both boys are in bed and really we had a minimal number of fits today.

We are delighted to have found food more suitable for the boys…their digestive tracts will appreciate it! We think our weight loss plan started the moment the boys came to live with us. I don’t think Andrew or I have eaten 3 full meals in a day yet! Oh well, we will get into a routine when we get home.

We can’t wait to back home again in Indiana! We think it will be awhile before we want to travel again!



We are posting this sweet picture of the boys sleeping together the first night. We have since learned that it is better to separate them as they inadvertently kick and hit each other in their sleep. :) They are both bed hogs and toss and turn a lot!

We will try to keep up with the blog for these final days. The countdown is started! We feel so blessed that this trip has gone so smoothly. We are making it out in the fastest possible time (very rare!).

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Almaty - brief again

This also will be brief. We made it to Almaty – the boys did very well on the plane. Amazing what food does! :) Since being here, it has been another story. We covet your prayers as we all adjust. It’s a lot of change for the boys and Calvin is particularly sensitive to it. He is not sleeping well at all (fights sleep constantly) and has thrown numerous fits (during the day and night). We are weary. We are also very isolated – dropped off at our apartment yesterday and have heard nothing else from anyone (nobody has phone numbers for each other – we don’t even know our own). Our apartment is great though! Very modern and in a new building. We are very grateful!

So just keep praying – we are ready to be home!!! Sorry to delay reporting on the boys meeting but we think we better catch some zzz’s while we can. Miss you all. Your comments, e-mails, and prayers have really encouraged us and many times kept us going – thank you all!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Brief

Just a quick entry to say we are well! We picked up both boys this afternoon and enjoyed the rest of the day as a new family. Both boys are sleeping now – no problem with them going to sleep for which we are grateful. We are still figuring out what to feed them but it worked out tonight with bread, mashed potatoes, and yogurt (they had applesauce for a snack earlier). It was a very white meal – wouldn’t have passed any home ec class. :)

We are blessed beyond belief with these two beautiful boys! We will write more about the day hopefully tomorrow and especially their first meeting. But we have to be ready to leave at 7:30a.m. tomorrow morning for the airport and have much to do to be ready. Thanks for your continued prayers – we have been blessed by your notes!

Also a Happy Birthday to my sisters, Stephanie & Margaret, I’m so thankful for both of you as sisters and friends! Love you and miss you!

P.S. We’ve tried posting several pictures but are having a difficult time…we apologize. And don’t worry, eventually we will make up for it! :)

Yesterday (Court) In Review

(I wrote this last night but did not post it until this morning so Alaina could have an opportunity to review it :)

Today has been, obviously and as stated above, just an incredible day. Court could not have gone better this morning, and we are so excited and so thankful for our two precious boys, Calvin and Patrick. At the same time, this afternoon was somewhat anticlimactic, as for the second day in a row we were not able to visit either son :( The next time we will see them, sometime tomorrow afternoon, will be the time they are entrusted fully to our care!

As you would probably guess, we didn’t sleep the best last night. We rose and prepared for court. For me, that involved eating an ice cream bar for breakfast. For Alaina, it meant that breakfast would come after court; she was too nervous and excited to eat.

We left for court at the appointed time: 9:30. By 9:37, we were sitting in the car, parked outside of the courthouse. I can understand being prompt and early for such a momentous occasion, but this seemed to be pushing it a little :) Anyway, we waited outside until everyone arrived, then trooped into the waiting room. A few minutes before ten, we all climbed the three flights of stairs to the judge’s chambers.

The first family went into chambers a few minutes after ten. They were back out about twenty minutes later, in tears and hugging our translator and coordinator. At first we couldn’t tell if they were tears of joy or sadness. It quickly became clear that they were joyous tears: their adoption was final, and their fifteen days had been waived! The second family went in while the first family shared their experiences with us. Everything had gone smoothly for them; the soon-to-be father didn’t say exactly what was expected of him in his little speech, but our translator, Almira, adeptly covered for him, “interpreting” in the loser sense of the word but in a way that was more beneficial for his cause.

As we waited for the second family to finish, I became a little more nervous and stood instead of sitting calmly in the waiting area. All along, Alaina had been the jittery one while I was calm. The enormity and the closeness of it all started to sink in, however – this was by far the biggest “case” I have ever and likely will ever “argue” in court, and I wasn’t nervous? But as the hour approached I began to feel a little of the weight of it all.

The second family finished in about another twenty minutes. Again, there were tears and hugs as they emerged from the chambers, and we all shared in. Similar to Monday, however, one of the baby house directors had been told to arrive at eleven, but we were ready to go in at 10:45 (all three families had a boy in one baby house, but we alone also had a boy in the other one, and both directors were required to be there for the proceedings). So we had to wait. Today that was less of a problem, as it allowed for a debriefing from the second family. Their adoption had also been granted and their fifteen days waived. Both were positive signs for us.

The baby house director arrived a few minutes before eleven, and we followed her into the judge’s chambers. It was set up exactly as on Monday with the exception that a prosecutor for the state and a vital records clerk was also in attendance. The judge’s chambers are very light and airy, with a simple dignity. Obviously the judge sitting behind his desk was the focal point of the room. He sat at one end of the room, flanked by large windows on either side. It is a large room, perhaps twenty by forty feet. The sky-blue Kazakhstan flag is to his left, and the great seal of the country on the wall above his head. The ever-present photo of the president of Kazakhstan adorns the wall over one of the hutches (it is also in the offices of the baby house directors, doctors, and other officials we have met with). The walls are painted light blue, a few shades lighter than the flag. Two hutch-type pieces of furniture are in the room, loaded not with reporters (volumes of cases) or books but apparently with stacks of newspapers.

A short desk tees into his desk, perpendicular to it, at which his secretary and the prosecutor sit. We three – Alaina, Almira, and me, sit in swivel chairs several feet in front of this table, without a table or desk or anything in front of us. A huge conference table stands behind us and to our right, at which the two orphanage directors, our coordinator, the records clerk, and the social worker sit.

The judge appears to like horses: he has at least three statues or figurines we can see, the largest of which is the famous sculpture of Napoleon on his steed rearing, with a clock under the horse’s forefeet. Unlike most judges and attorneys, there are no diplomas, certificates, etc., adorning his walls.

The judge is wearing a black suit and tie. At neither hearing does he ever look at us that I could see; I speculate that it is because we speak only through a translator, for he does look at the directors when he addresses them and they answer. Even then, however, it is only a brief look. His attention is almost entirely given to the notes and documents on his desk.

Today the judge asks us some of the same questions he asked previously: what are our professions, who will care for the children, when we first visited them, do we support the petition to adopt and for immediate execution of the adoption (in other words, waiving the waiting period). He also informs us of our rights: the right to understand what is going on, to ask questions, to investigate facts and to submit documents, and to appeal the ruling of the court. (Although a significant portion of my experience is in appellate work, I pray there is no need to appeal anything today!) The judge also asks whether we want to challenge the court – i.e., request a change of judge I believe. I answer, no. (Of course not! Not after our friends’ adoptions have gone so smoothly!)

The prosecutor, whose job it is to represent the state and insure that laws and procedures are followed, has the right to ask us questions. He asks me only one: why do we want to adopt two children at once. This is my primary mistake: I state that I had a great relationship with my brother growing up, who was close to me in age, and we want this for our sons – and we did not think we could return for several years. That last bit was not something I should have said. But fortunately Almira is fully aware of this and translates it thus: and Alaina had a good relationship with her siblings, and also wants that for her sons. Very nice! This is why we need a translator (plus our Russian is very bad :)

The judge asks why we want to have the waiting period waived, and I answer that it is due to the medical needs of the boys and because I need to return to work. Then he asks whether I have anything else I would like to say, and I reiterate that we love these boys very much, that we have come to love them as we have visited them every day, that we will provide for all their medical, educational and other needs, and that we love them very much. (Notice a theme? That was one we were to stress, and I remembered!) The judge asks Alaina if she has anything to add, and she restates some of what I said and adds a few things I forgot to say.

Next it is the turn of the baby house directors. They read the full medical report for the boys, and state that they fully support the petition to adopt and to waive the waiting period. The records clerk informs the judge that the boys have no listed father and that they have received their mothers’ patronymic name. The social worker reads excerpts from our dossier to establish that we have the financial means to care for the boys.

Finally, it is the prosecutor’s turn. He summarizes much of what has been said and what we are doing, reading from a typed page before him, with notes he has taken through the proceedings. He does not object to the adoption going forward. Incredibly, unlike the first two families today, he does not oppose waiver of the waiting period. Only later do I realize everything that came to bear upon this decision. The orphanage director responds to the judge’s question that it is very difficult to repair Calvin’s cleft. Several times surgery was scheduled but he became sick and the surgery was canceled. The judge himself showed the prosecutor a picture of Calvin and his cleft. So it appears that everyone, including the judge, was on our side. Of course, the judge could have waived the waiting period even if the prosecutor objected, as the judge did for the first two families. But in our case, the prosecutor did not even oppose the waiver.

The judge wraps up the proceeding. We don’t understand what he is saying, and he is speaking too rapidly for Almira to keep up, but she gives us a big smile and a thumbs-up. We feel like we should thank the judge profusely, and perhaps even give him a hug, but we have already been warned not to thank the court. We can’t believe it as we walk out of court: it is official – we’re parents!

(One of the amazing things to me about this whole process was and continues to be that, although in our very first meeting with the Board of Education they told us we would not be allowed to adopt two boys, we have indeed been allowed to do so! In fact, in the pre-court hearing on Monday, the judge asked the orphanage directors and social worker only one question: could we adopt two children? Apparently they all answered in the affirmative, for nothing more was said about the two-issue. I was a little concerned the issue would arise again today, but the only mention of “two” was the prosecutor’s question why we wanted to adopt two at once. Very shortly after we started visiting the boys we knew there was no way we could go home with only one of them, and discussed the “what ifs” of a possible “only one” decision. I’m so thankful to God that issue never arose again!)

From court we returned to the apartment and drafted our blog entry for the day. Uploading the pictures takes longer than the drafting. Then we are off again for more paperwork – getting the changed birth certificates. Alas, the office we need is closed for the noon hour (which for this office extended until 2:30). So we have an hour and a half to spare. To fill the time, we shop at a little mall across the street, and find a number of treasures. We also exchange money to purchase tickets back to Almaty. The temperature has dropped dramatically, so we quickly return to our cars for warmth whenever we have to wait outside. Once we return to the office, it takes only a few minutes and signatures and we have the documents we need.

On our way back to the apartments, we stop and order our tickets, but learn we must return in a couple hours to pick them up. On our way back to our apartment, we stop at a little bookstore and find several children’s books in Russian, Kazakh, and English. After returning to our apartment, I run back out to convert some more dollars to tenge and to pick up a few items at the grocery store. On my return, I meet Almira waiting for me. It turns out that she has been waiting for several minutes for us because she needs us to sign some urgent papers. But alas, I had taken the keys to our apartment (the doors can only be locked with the key, and I locked it as I left) and Alaina could not let her in while I was gone! Almira was not upset, however, and we signed the forms and she quickly departed.

A short time later Almira and our driver returned. We picked up our tickets at the travel agent’s office and attempted to go to a notary to sign additional documents, but the notary had already closed. So we were dropped off at the other families’ apartment for supper. Meal preparation had only begun, however, when Igor, our main driver and acting attorney here, knocked on the door and announced, “We go – now!” Supper was thus delayed as we flew to another notary where Almira, our coordinator, and the notaries were already hard at work drafting documents for our signature. It was not an overly long process, but the day had been long enough that I fell fast asleep in my chair as I waited, my head against the wall.

Despite my earlier weariness, I am still up, trying to remember all the details from this wonderful day. It was a fun evening; after returning to the other families’ apartment, we spent some time talking about the rest of our trip with our coordinator, devoured a delicious supper, and enjoyed a hilarious movie. It was late when we walked back to our apartment, but the other new fathers joined us in our walk and made us feel safer.

As I go to sleep this evening, my thoughts are once again on the Psalm upon which I thought this morning as I prepared mentally for court: “Defend me God and plead my case . . . Oh send your light forth and your truth; oh let them lead me well.” (Ps. 43.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It's Official! Introducing...

Calvin Amirkhan Joseph Falk & Patrick Murat Rudolph Falk!


Calvin

Patrick


We could not be more pleased! We are officially a family of four plus Pippi! :) We will write more about court later but couldn’t wait to pass on the good news. The 15 days were waived (not even contested for us because of Calvin’s medical condition) so we hope to be home in just over a week! We are so thrilled we just can’t stop smiling. We will pick the boys up tomorrow and bring them here to our apartment and then we will fly out of Uralsk Friday morning. Thanks for praying with us!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Of Turkey & Duck

Today has been a very unusual day, a day very different from any other we have had in Kazakhstan. As Alaina wrote yesterday, we had to stay inside our apartment all day today due to the fact that it was a holiday here in Uralsk, with the presidents here and about, etc. So we did. And except for the fact that we missed seeing our boys (that was very hard), we had a great day.

As the title of this post indicates, we had some fun with duct tape today. Duct tape was on the list of things we were supposed to bring, although we weren’t entirely sure why. Today we learned why. Our diaper bag has been falling part. This evening, it sits on the table newly restored. With duct tape! Alaina and I took turns making repairs; what she initially took for frustration for her style of repairs was actually eagerness and impatience at taking a turn. Caleb, you would be proud of us. No, we don’t have a diaper bag made entirely of duct tape, but silvery duct tape now complements very nicely (and strengthens greatly) our black diaper bag!

Our repairs were interrupted by a phone call. Unlike most of the calls we have received here in this apartment, the caller spoke English. (We don’t know what to say other than “we don’t speak Russian” to the unintelligible callers most of the time.) It was most unusual, however: “We’re calling to take a survey of your television watching habits.” Huh? It turns out it was a “prank” call from one of the other families here. Her real purpose in calling was to let us know that our coordinator, translator, and driver were on their way over to our apartment for a document-completion and signing session.

Indeed, they arrived shortly thereafter, and we worked on filling out more paperwork for the next hour and a half. I could tell you about it all, but don’t want to bore you unnecessarily.

Speaking of television, our viewing has been rather limited. We did catch some of the CNN live coverage of the Amish-school-shooting last evening. Due to the time change, it was prime-time live viewing here, despite taking place mid-morning in Pennsylvania. We watched with both fascination and horror. We feel so awful for the families and that community.

Amazingly, I am being permitted to blog tonight because Alaina is engrossed in her book. We have both done more reading in the last twenty-four hours than in much of the rest of the trip. I just finished Dances With Wolves. It was a quick read, but very enjoyable, especially for me as I have long been fascinated with the American Indian. Last night or the day before, I finished Stephen Pressfield’s The Afghan Campaign. The Campaign was particularly good, but like Dances doesn’t have the story-book ending I would have liked :)

Alaina finished Three Weeks With My Brother last night and is in the middle of several other books. Like me, she thoroughly enjoyed Three Weeks. If you enjoy the novels of Nicholas Sparks, Three Weeks offers some incredible insights into the source of many of his novels – and also helps to explain why so many of his stories are both so sad and so heart-warming.

It has been enjoyable today checking regularly on our blog and seeing the various comments coming in, rejoicing with us on our good news from yesterday. Thank you all also for your prayers for our court tomorrow. Immediately before I wrote here, Alaina and I spent some time planning what I will say in my mini-speech tomorrow. We’ll spend some time in prayer before we go to bed and again tomorrow morning. We leave here about 9:30; the other families go at 10 and 10:30, and then we have court at 11.

Another fun activity for the day was making supper. Alaina’s been planning a turkey meal (we brought some packets from home) for a while, and today we had the time – and the ingredients – to make it. So we feasted on a stuffing-like casserole (turkey, bread, onions, garlic, cranberries, and almonds), mashed potatoes, and beets – absolutely delicious! And because we have few containers to store leftovers and few meals in which to eat them, we cleaned out most of the pots!

So it’s been a full day, and one for which we’re thankful.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Joy: Part 2

Another great day! We could not have asked for today to go any better. The city is bustling with excitement with the presidents coming to town and there are police officers on many street corners. Despite all that, we had pre-court – we’ll tell you how it went after our report on the rest of the day. :)

Our reps worked it out (at our request) so that we could see both of our boys this morning since we would not be able to visit this afternoon. We went to see Patrick first for 45 minutes. When he saw us arrive, his face lit up and he came running across the room. We were just as excited to see him! We tried giving him some baby food fruit stuff (approved by the doctor) but he wasn’t very interested. Instead, he made a mess all over Mommy, himself, the bib, the jar, and the towel. Ugh! He was way more into the spoon and even gagged himself with it but he didn’t like the soft spoon end of it. He ate a couple of bites but in general, food doesn’t seem like much of a motivator for him (though you can’t tell by his size!). He had to have a chest massage again today which did not make us very happy. It especially made him mad! He let Daddy hold him again today and even reached for him. We feel so blessed to have this little guy part of our lives! He is so wonderful!

We’ve only seen Calvin once in the morning so this was kind of new. He seemed a little confused that we were there but happy. He cuddled with me for awhile and then got down to play. We gave him his snack when our coordinator needed all of our attention to talk about the pre-court appearance. He quietly ate – unlike Patrick, food is a huge motivator for him and we are counting on it for the plane ride back! He absolutely loved riding on this plastic car today. He fell off twice and had a huge smile as he clamored to get back on. Daddy was a good sport and drove him all over the room (Calvin was clutching his plastic keys the whole time). Mommy was little slow for him but he tolerated her driving, too. He was overall very content and played well! There were lots of people in the room but it didn’t seem to bother him. Again, we can’t believe how blessed we are. He is amazing!

Tomorrow, the city is basically shutting down, so we will not be able to visit our boys – we are very disappointed and hope they aren’t too upset with us (they are too little to understand why but not too little to know we aren’t there). We also may not be able to see them on Wednesday because………………………………………………………..
WE HAVE FINAL COURT ON WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2006 @ 11 A.M.
We are absolutely thrilled! We had been praying that Wed. would be the day. We couldn’t believe it! We didn’t know how it would work with everything going on this week but God knew! So you can pray for us as we anticipate this exciting day! Our hearts are full of thankfulness and joy tonight.

Pre-court really wasn’t bad. We were seated for the entire 5 minute process. :) The judge did not look at us - just asked us a few questions about why we were adopting, what we do professionally, who would care for the children, who the guardian is, and if we agree with the petition. We gave the judge photos of us with each boy and individual ones of the boys (front and profile). He also looked at our passports. He asked the social worker if we were allowed to adopt two and she gave him the paperwork for it! Very simple procedure but very meaningful for us!

Afterwards, we went shopping at the Atrium so we would be set for tomorrow. We bought some food but mostly purchased some toys to donate to the baby houses with the clothing and blankets many of you so graciously contributed. We also bought a couple of toys for the boys…who could resist! We got them each a truck; Calvin’s is a dump truck with shape sorter and Patrick’s is a truck that has shovels and things with it (he is really into shovels!). We hope they will like them and will share. :)

So that’s a report on our day. Praise God with us for His work and please continue to pray for final court and our remaining days here in Kazakhstan.

Even though we are sad not to see our boys tomorrow, we are looking forward to a day with nothing. We really hoped that this trip could be partly a vacation but it has not been at all. So tomorrow, we are going to cook, watch movies, read, and play music! We aren’t allowed to leave our apartment due to the festivities. Our reps will come though for us to sign some papers.

Pictures of the boys will be posted soon…after court!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Joy

Today was a great day…perhaps one of the best we’ve had so far. I’m not sure what made it among the best exactly but maybe it’s the incredibly content and happy feeling we both have here at the end of it.

Our visit with Patrick was fabulous! We went outside for the first time in over a week and he loved it! We spent time cuddling and singing and he fell asleep. He also took his sippy cup for the first time – he’s still not entirely sure about it but hey, it’s progress. He is one of the sweetest kids I’ve ever met. He is shy until he gets to know you and then you are rewarded with these wonderful smiles and dancing eyes. He really wants to stay with us every day but doesn’t complain when it’s time to go back to the caregivers (just tries to jump back into my arms :).

We spent part of the afternoon doing laundry at our friends’ apartment. They leave tomorrow for Almaty so this was our only chance to use their washing machine. We enjoyed visiting while the clothes washed. I’m hopeful that will get us most the way to Almaty but our other friends said we could give them laundry and they would bring it to us the next day - not a bad deal. :)

Calvin was like a different child today! He was happy and content for pretty much the whole visit. We felt like we were seeing the kid we absolutely fell in love with from day 1! He was very loving towards us and enjoyed playing with the toys. The cutest thing was that he stood up and walked along the chairs lining the walls and looked so proud of himself and suddenly shy. He then proceeded to climb easily up on to one of the chairs – Mommy was proud, delighted, and terrified all at the same time.

Our coordinator, Nadya, arrived today from Almaty. She is so friendly and seemed glad to see us again. She came to our apartment to collect gifts and other things tonight. She seems to think we are nearing the end of our stint here in Uralsk; we hope so. :) Everyone we have worked with has been wonderful! We have been incredibly pleased with our agency at home and our in-country reps here. What a blessing!

All of these things make us thankful and happy tonight. We praise God for how relatively smooth things have gone so far and most of all for the beautiful boys He chose especially for us. We can’t imagine it any other way.

Please pray for pre-court tomorrow at 2 p.m. our time (you will probably still be sleeping). We are hopeful for a close final court date. Thanks for praying and keeping in touch. We'll let you know how it goes!