Saturday, September 10, 2005
He makes me laugh every day with his antics, and he's been known to make me so frustrated I could spit nails. However, that has nothing to do with our journey to adopt Ivan, which is what this journal was about. So, I have decided to move to a new journal.
J and I are still uncertain about going back for another child some day. We may, and if we do, I hope to journal it in this space.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
Thursday, August 11, 2005
The three T’s made it home safely on July 30. Ivan was wonderful on the flights and slept a great deal on each leg and during the 7-hour layover in Frankfurt. What a blessing!
We missed our connection in DC, due to having to go through Customs, but thankfully we made the next flight out and we were only a couple of hours behind our original schedule. The Grandparents, Aunt Catherine, Uncle Mike, Cousin Wilson and Cousin Caroline greeted us at the airport. It was wonderful to see our families again after 30 days away from home.
We have been home for almost two weeks now, and we are all learning a lot! Ivan and Sherman are experiencing peaceful co-existence by basically ignoring each other, unless there is food involved. Ivan has learned that if he does not want to eat his vegetables then he can pitch them over the side of the highchair and Sherman will devour the evidence. If Mom and Dad have their backs turned then this trick works really well.
Ivan is really flourishing and we could not be happier with the son that the Lord has blessed us with. He is a typical 16-month-old, which is to say that he is keeping us on our toes. We love every minute of it.
We thank you all again for the prayers and love that you have so graciously shared with us.
Blessings to you all,
Charlotte, Joe, Ivan and Sherman
Friday, July 29, 2005
We hope that this note finds everyone well, despite the heat wave that we have heard about there in NC. It is still really warm here in Almaty as well, but without as much humidity as NC. Ivan continues to be a delight and we can hardly believe that he is really ours! What a blessing we have received.
With each passing day Ivan shows us a little bit more of who he is and what type of personality he has. He has really started to assert himself with us and let us know his likes and dislikes. It appears that he has already figured out who is the softy in the house and who has the iron fist. It’s amazing how quickly he has picked up on things. Perhaps Sherman sent him some information ahead of time about how things run in the T household.
Ivan’s appetite has been increasing as he continues to feel more comfortable with us and as he learns that he has choices. At the orphanage he got what he got and that was that. When you are trying to get 15 children fed at one time, there is no time for choices.
Tuesday morning we had our medical appointment for the Embassy. Ivan couldn’t stand it! He screamed while he was weighed and measured and squirmed the entire time that the Dr. was listening to his heart and lungs. We were thrilled to hear that Ivan’s lungs are clear (even though he still has a slight cold) and that he is in fine health for travelling to the US. He has gained a little over half a pound and grown an inch since the middle of June. We were very excited to hear that as well. He has a lot of weight to gain, but with his new found appetite and plenty of time to eat, we are confident that he will catch-up in no time.
We moved our appointment at the Embassy from Thursday to Wednesday so that we could go on a tour of the city with our translator and coordinator on Thursday. We did not actually go to the Embassy itself; we went to the Consulate’s office where we had our "exit interview". We received a packet of information that included a translated copy of our court transcripts and most importantly, Ivan’s Kazak passport with his IR-3 visa in it. The IR-3 visa allows Ivan to enter the US and become an American citizen when we touch down in the US. This was our final adoption task!! Now, we are just waiting to get on a plane and come home!
Speaking of which, the Lord has been gracious once again! We leave Almaty at 3:20 AM on Saturday! So, we will be home two days before we thought we would! Once again, thank you all for your prayers.
Thursday morning we went on a tour of Almaty. We went to many of the war memorials that they have here. Then we went to the Natural History Museum, where we learned a lot more about Kazak history from our translator. The museum would have been interesting with out Sonya’s help, but she really helped the exhibits come alive for us. It was great. Ivan rode on Dad’s chest in the Bjorn the entire time and even managed to get a little nap in while we walked around.
Today we will be busy packing and trying to figure out what we will need for a 24-hour trip home with Ivan. We are taking a couple of extra outfits for Ivan and ourselves and plenty of food and toys to occupy our little guy. The most challenging part of the trip will likely be the 7-hour layover in Frankfurt. What does one do with a 16-month-old in an airport terminal for 7 hours? We’ll let you know.
We plan to send a final update once we get home and settled into our new life as a family of four. Once again we want to thank you all for your love, prayers and support. Not just for the time that we have been travelling, but throughout the whole process. As you all know, it has been a long (sometimes hard) road to get to this point, but we can assure you that it has been worth it! We can’t imagine our family without Ivan, our Kazak Prince.
TTFN and we’ll see you all soon!
Charlotte, Joe and Ivan (soon to be American Citizen)
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Joe woke up at 4 AM on Wednesday but Charlotte slept until 6. As we all met at breakfast it became clear that no one had really slept well. We were all anxious to get the show on the road and get the heck out of the Beibars Hotel. We kept joking that it was the hotel from the song Hotel California. We were all a little worried that we would check out and still be stuck there forever. Thankfully our driver, Alexi, showed up on time and we loaded up and went to the orphanage for the last time.
We arrived a little after 9AM and all of the kids had just gone down for their naps. We walked up to Ivan’s room as usual where we were greeted by two of his caregivers. One of them was Helena, who had also been there the first day that we met Ivan. The other caregiver was the older lady that we all refer to as the orphanage Babushka, Svetta. Helena went and woke Ivan up from his nap. Svetta washed his face and hands and then handed him to us. We dressed Ivan in the outfit that we had chosen for his departure day. It was one that Charlotte’s Mom had bought for us and it was just precious. The caregivers ooed and ahhed over it and kept saying how sweet little Tollie looked in his new clothes. After Ivan was all dressed and ready for the road his caregivers wanted to have a few more minutes holding him and the other two boys from his group, Daniel and Ben. Svetta just kept holding them all and talking to them in Russian. Then the tears started. Svetta was crying and telling all of us parents "thank you, thank you" to which we all tearfully replied "No, thank you!" We spent the next several minutes in tears telling each other in our respective tongues how much we loved the children and how much we appreciated the other one and their role in the children’s lives. It was one of the most moving moments we have ever been apart of. As Svetta handed Ivan to Charlotte for the final time, they exchanged a very tearful but heartfelt hug. Charlotte turned and saw that Helena, who always had a warm smile on her face and was quick with a laugh, was crying as well. She told her one more time "thank you" in Russian and we closed the nursery door behind us. We all cried all the way down the three flights of stairs and out of the building and onto the front porch. When we looked back we saw many faces peering out of the first floor windows trying to get one more look at their precious ones. Ivan spotted one face looking at him through the window and he waived as Mommy said "Paka Paka" (Bye Bye in Russian). As if in anticipation of his departure, Ivan started waiving on Monday at our afternoon visit. Now, he waives all the time!
We took a few group shots outside of the orphanage. Then we boarded the chariot for one last ride. When we arrived at the airport there was so much going on that it was very difficult to say any proper good-byes to our driver and translator. In the end this was probably easier on all of us, as there was a lot of emotion in the air already.
Ivan was strapped to Charlotte in the Baby Bjorn and Joe was pulling the luggage over to the check in counter. The airline wanted to have us all weigh our luggage as one group in case of overages. Of course we were over the limit and we had to pay some money (what a racket). So, we all sat around the gate area and waited for our flight to be called. Much to our surprise our flight was on time (from previous adopters we had learned that the airlines in Kaz rarely run on time, often being delayed by several hours). So we walked out on the tarmac and headed for the plane. Ivan was totally in awe of the other planes on the tarmac and was especially taken with another prop plane that had their props running already. We climbed the steps and entered the den of chaos that is travelling without any seat assignments. Thankfully, Joe scored two seats together and we settled in for the flight.
Ivan was wonderful during take off. He just enjoyed sitting on Mom’s lap and watching everything. Mom just shed tears of joy as the wheels left the ground. Ivan was ours now, and nothing could change it. It was a wonderful feeling. We hoped that he would drop off for a snooze, but that was not to be. He was awake for all but 20 minutes of the flight. He ate a little ham, cheese and bread for lunch and seemed content just to look around at the other people on the plane. The decent was a little frightening for Ivan and Mom. Mom hates prop planes and this one was no exception. However, we landed safe and sound in Almaty at 1:40 Wednesday afternoon.
We were met once again by our translator for Almaty, Sonya, and her husband. We all loaded up and went on our way to the Hyatt. Ivan had a brief meltdown in the car when we first got in but he quickly recovered when we started moving. We pulled into the Hyatt about 20 minutes later and it felt as though we had returned to the US. Everyone speaks English here. All of the menus are in English and the prices are definitely American! However, when you are new parents to a 16-month-old, you are just so thankful for anything familiar you don’t really care what the price is.
When all five couples walked into the Atrium, you would have thought that we were the Clampetts the way that we were gawking at everything. I’m sure that we all had to close our mouths a time or two. We checked-in and got everyone’s room number and decided to meet downstairs for dinner at 6. Much earlier than any other night that we had been together that it for sure!
We got into the room and laid our bags down and tried to take it all in. Here we were, alone for the first time with Ivan since he officially became our son. What a moment. After trying to get somewhat situated Ivan started to show signs of wanting to take a nap. He usually gets two two-hour naps a day. At this point in the day he had had approximately 45 minutes of rest and he was exhausted and so were we. We learned (as you saw in the picture) that when Ivan is tired, he puts his hands behind his head. He went down about 5:15 and we used the time to call our parents.
We decided to go on down for dinner with the group, however, just before we went down Ivan threw-up his snack from earlier in the afternoon. We decided to try and chance it, but he was obviously not feeling well and so Charlotte brought him up to the room and tried to put him down for the night. He went down fairly quickly and stayed down about an hour and a half. Joe asked the restaurant to send Charlotte’s food to the room, so she was rather shocked when someone knocked on the door saying "room service". Charlotte sat on the floor of the entry hall with the bathroom light on and ate her Cajun chicken burger and fries. This was her first meal as a mother and here she was sitting on the floor alone. Welcome to motherhood she thought. (At least it was still hot when she ate it!)
Shortly after Joe returned from dinner with the others, Ivan woke up coughing. His nose was draining and it was tickling his throat. He was up and he was howling. We both rocked him and held him and put him down, only for each successive cough to wake him up and send him into orbit. He was so exhausted from the day that he was just unable to really let go. We were both up with him until about 2. Charlotte took the 2-4 shift and woke Joe up promptly at 4 and said that she was about at her wits end and needed to sleep. Joe was up in a flash and took over until 6. We finally stopped trying to get Ivan to sleep and just got dressed and ready for breakfast. We went downstairs to the fabulous breakfast buffet. The buffet is included in our room rate, but it is normally around $20 per person. We ordered porridge for Ivan (what we were told he normally eats for breakfast along with eggs). It came and he wanted none of it. We were shocked since he never ate anything for dinner and we were certain that he was starving. We tried some eggs and some bread. He nibbled on the bread, but that was all he would eat.
As we chatted with the other families we learned that none of the adults really slept that night. All of the other kids did, but the adults were all just staring at their angels sleeping trying to believe that all of this was real. We laughed and told them that it was real all right!
We headed back upstairs and tried to get Ivan to take a nap while Charlotte and the other Mom’s went to the grocery store with our translator, Sonya. She showed us all what we would need for the kids and asked our coordinator to pick us up, so that we would not have to walk back with the groceries. When Charlotte returned Joe and Ivan were sitting on the bed watching a Baby Einstein video. Both of them looked totally enthralled…it was hilarious!
We ordered some chicken soup for Ivan for lunch, since he was used to having soup at lunch. He wanted no part of it or anything else that we tried. We were getting a little concerned that the poor guy was going to starve! We came up stairs after lunch and played for a little while. About 2 we decided that Ivan needed to try and take a nap so we all piled onto the bed. We put Ivan in-between us and we all started to drift off. Ivan was still awake, but seemed to realize that we were all going to sleep now, so he drifted off too. The family napped for about 2 hours and we were all feeling better afterwards.
After we awoke we realized that it was Ivan’s snack time. Joe had brought a banana back with him from breakfast because we had been told that this was one of Ivan’s favorite foods. He still had not pooped yet, so we thought that we might kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. He ate the whole banana and drank a glass of Kafeir (a milk yogurt mixture that is popular for young children here in Kaz and Russia). He was a happy man. We were happy parents because that was really the first food that he had eaten since lunch on Wednesday. Later that night, the banana worked it’s magic and all was right with the world.
We went down to dinner and tried some of the jarred baby food that Charlotte had bought at the grocery store that morning. Ivan did not care for it at all. So, we busted out a jar of apple baby food and he ate every bite. We were just relieved that he was not on another hiatus from food.
We went upstairs and gave Ivan his first bath. We know that he got baths at the orphanage, but we are fairly certain that they were not a time for play. Joe got into the tub with Ivan to help him relax somewhat. As soon as he hit the water all we heard until it was over was "nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah". He did not shed any tears, but just crumpled his face and yelled. Charlotte soaped him up and washed his hair. Once it was over and he was wrapped in a towel, he was quite happy. We combed his hair and put on his jammies.
After a few laps around the hotel atrium and lobby in the stroller it was time to put Ivan down for the night. He went right down and only awoke a couple of times due to his cough. Each time he awoke he was easily and quickly consoled and back off to sleep. Mom and Dad were thrilled.
Friday morning we got up about 7:15 and woke Ivan up to get him back onto a semblance of a schedule. We went down to the fabulous breakfast buffet and ordered omelets for ourselves and picked up some yogurt, bread, milk and fruit for Ivan. We all ate a wonderful breakfast and left feeling great. We came up to the room and played for a while and then put Ivan down for his morning nap. He slept for two hours. We went down to lunch and tried a different type of baby food, to no avail. So we pulled out the emergency jar of fruit and he ate that with gusto. He’s already got this figured out. If he refuses to eat his "main course" fruit will be provided b/c his newbie parents want to make sure that he eats. Stinker.
We decided that we would walk over to a mall (this one really is a mall and less like a flea market) and look around. Being new parents we did not have the diaper bag completely ready for an offsite outing, so Dad went upstairs to get the things that we needed. While he was up in the room, Mom took Ivan out of the stroller and discovered that we had a "code brown" situation. Of course right at that moment Dad exited the elevator. We all headed back upstairs and finally left the hotel thirty minutes after we had planned to. This will be our life for awhile, won’t it?
We walked to the mall and looked around quite a bit. We bought a tiny brush and comb for Ivan because we had forgotten to bring one. Then we went into the grocery store where we bought some more baby food for Ivan and an apple, his other favorite fruit. Then we walked back to the hotel. Ivan fell fast asleep on our journey back so we stopped and chatted with Lorraine, Alan and Ben. They were just getting lunch since Ben went down late for his morning nap. Once we returned to the room we made a new parent mistake…we took our sleeping child out of the stroller. Of course he woke up and refused to go down for the rest of his naptime.
We played and had a snack and then played some more. We went to dinner and decided to eat outside at the "Beer Garden". We split a delicious grilled pork chop topped with sautéed greens and sundried tomatoes. Charlotte enjoyed a nice glass of red wine and Joe had a glass of Kazkh beer, something that he has really come to enjoy during our time here in Kazakhstan. Ivan enjoyed some baby food and some pears and a bottle of apple juice and water. The weather was just perfect in the 70’s and low humidity. We all really enjoyed ourselves. While we waited for the bill to arrive Ivan began to get a little fussy so Mom strapped him into the stroller that we purchased and made a few laps around the garden before we all headed inside.
Ivan slept from 8:30 until 8:15 Saturday morning and so did Mom and Dad. We were all still tired from our adventure on Wednesday. We headed down to breakfast as usual and met with all of the other families. Apparently, everyone had slept in a little that morning. Then it was back upstairs for a little while. We wanted to keep Ivan up until after lunch because Charlotte was going souvenir shopping with our translator at 1 and Joe was planning to stay "home" with Ivan for the afternoon. Our translator and coordinator are very strict with us about taking the children out. When they are around we keep the children close to the hotel. They are worried that the children will get over stimulated and exposed to too many unknown germs etc. They have a good point and we have all tried to be respectful of their opinions, however, when you are living in a hotel with a 16-month-old, you need to get out from time to time.
So, Charlotte left for the afternoon to find some "Gotcha Day" gifts for Ivan. Our hope is to present a little token from Kazakhstan to Ivan on July 18 as a little reminder of where he came from and how proud we are of his homeland. Ivan went down for his nap fairly quickly after Mom left and Dad was able to get some laundry done in the bathtub. We were planning to send out some things to be laundered, but when we discovered that our underwear alone was going to be close to $50 we decided that we could wash it in the tub with the Woolite that we brought.
Ivan woke up about 20 minutes before Mom returned from her shopping adventure and he and Dad decided to go for a stroll. By the time they were all ready to go, Mom was home and met them at the elevator. We went back to the room and played some more with the stacking cups that we bought a few days ago and of course the puppy sorter.
The group decided that we would meet for dinner around 6 because it was Mary’s last night. Sunday morning she was leaving to fly back to Ireland. She and Austin have been away from their daughter Maria for over three weeks now and they were ready to get someone home. Austin’s Mom who is keeping Maria is probably ready to have one of them home as well. We ate inside and decided to split a pasta dish. It was penne pasta in an Alfredo sauce with sautéed spinach and chunks of tuna. It was wonderful. We ordered some potato soup for Ivan, but he did not want it. He ate some baby food and enjoyed a bottle of juice and water as a dessert.
We all enjoyed ourselves and decided to go for a little stroll after dinner. We said our good-byes to Mary and turned off at the store to buy some water and Cokes for the room. By the time that we had returned to the room Ivan was fast asleep in the stroller. We took him out of the stroller and put on his jammies. By the time we novices got Ivan into the crib he was wide-awake. He decided that this was the perfect time to work on something, so he did. He lay there happily grunting away and stood up when it was all over. We changed his diaper and went to put him back down. Oh no he said I am ready to play. Ivan was in the best mood that he has been in since we left the orphanage on Wednesday morning. He played and played and played until we MADE him stop. Joe took him out for a stroll around the floor and he finally started to relax. However, the minute that they returned to the room, Ivan started howling. He did not want to go to bed yet. We put on a Baby Einstein and put him in bed with us. He was really relaxed when the video ended, and Joe put him down. He played quietly in his crib for another 20 minutes and then dropped off to sleep. Unfortunately, he awoke at 4 this morning and was ready to roll. Ivan and Dad strolled the corridors for over an hour and they both got back to bed about 5:30. We all slept until about 8:15 and then we went on down to breakfast.
The hotel has a little outdoor play area set up on Sunday afternoons for all of the adoptive families. We ventured out there this afternoon after lunch with Ivan and Daniel. Austin needed a little break, so we volunteered to take Daniel with us. We strolled around the grounds a bit and then hit the play area. Ivan is a little small for most of the toys, so he hung out with Dad in the shade, while Mom and Daniel hit the swings and the slide. Ivan has finally hit the sheets for his afternoon snooze, so we will sign off for now.
We thank you again for all of the love, prayers and well wishes. We will try to write again soon, but as many of you know, life with a 16-month-old is a little busy. Have a great week and we hope to be home before it is over!
Charlotte, Joe and Ivan
Friday, July 22, 2005
(Ok, so this was written while Ivan was taking several different snoozes)
As you know we had court Monday July 18. Our group looked spectacular all dressed up for court. We are all so used to seeing each other in t-shirts and flip-flops we hardly recognized each other as we assembled on the front steps of the hotel. We piled into the van, affectionately known as the chariot and off we went to the courthouse. We stood outside of the main entrance and enjoyed the cool morning as we waited for our last minute instructions from our coordinator and translator.
Curtis and John went first because Curtis had prepared their long statement in Russian (with our translator’s help) and our coordinator felt that this may help loosen the judge up a bit. So at 10:01 Curtis and John were whisked into the courthouse. The rest of us stayed outside and paced. This was the day that we had all been praying for and it was finally here. Now we just wanted it all to go as planned. At 10:25 or so, Curtis and John came out of the court house beaming and we all sent up a loud WOO HOO until our translator told us to hush. Apparently the courtroom was on the first floor and the window was open. Our translator did not want the judge to have any reason to get tough about anything so we quickly dropped the congratulations to a whisper. Next up was Lorraine and Alan…both lawyers and very comfortable in the courtroom. They went in looking rather pale and came out about 20 minutes later looking completely exhilarated. Next up were Eugene and Bridgett, then Mary and Austin and finally it was our turn. As we waited to enter the courtroom we said a prayer of thanks for getting us to this point and then we were whisked into the courtroom.
Joe stood at the podium and read the first half our long statement to the judge and prosecutor. Our translator translated as we spoke. Then Charlotte read her half of the statement. Then Joe stood up again and read the short statement that basically informed the judge that we would like to change Ivan’s name on his birth-certificate but we would like to leave the place of birth as Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan. Then the orphanage director, Dr. Natalia spoke. She told the judge all about Ivan’s medical information and testified that we had fulfilled the 14 day visitation requirement and that she recommended that we be allowed to adopt Ivan. Then the lady from the Ministry of Education spoke. She informed the judge that she had reviewed our dossier and that we were approved to adopt by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Then it was time for the prosecutor and judge to question us. Each couple was asked different questions with one exception. We were all asked if the wife would continue to work. Charlotte told the judge that she did not intend to return to work and that she would care for the child full time. Then he asked Joe what his job title is and what it entails. He also asked us how long we had been married. The prosecutor did not have any questions for us, so we were asked to leave the courtroom while the judge made his decision. No sooner had we left the courtroom, we were being asked to return for his ruling. The judge announced that we were now officially Ivan’s parents and that we could legally change his name to Ivan Marshall Tew. We both looked the judge in the eye and said thank you in Russian and a hint of a smile crossed his face for the first time during the whole proceeding. Joe had tears of joy streaming down his face as we left the courtroom. We said another prayer of thanks for all that the Lord has done for our little family and went outside to tell the group the good news. Then it was picture time.
Since we had to return to court the next day to request that the 15 day appeal period be waived, we all wanted to get out of our nice clothes so that they wouldn’t get too dirty. No one knew that we would have to appear twice, or we would have packed two court outfits. However, most folks wear outfits two days in a row here, so we fit right in.
We had our usual afternoon visit on Monday and there was a new air about all of us. The kids picked up on it b/c we all had a great time that afternoon in the playroom. Unfortunately, Ivan had developed a little cold, cough and fever overnight. Nothing really serous, but he tired quickly as we played. We left that afternoon and headed back to the hotel. We were hoping to have our celebration dinner at the Italian place that we had all enjoyed so much earlier in the trip. Charlotte was already planning to order a bowl of the soup that she missed out on last time. However, when our translator called to make a reservation they were booked for the night. So, we had to revamp the plan. Our translator suggested one of her favorites, Shanghai.
Our dinner was filled with a lot of toasting, congratulating and just joy all around. We were all rather surprised to learn that not only did Shanghai serve Chinese food, they also served Tex-Mex. It was quite a menu. We started by ordering some nachos for the table. They were fried wonton wrappers topped with ground beef, cheese and a sliced tomato. They were really good! Charlotte and Mary ordered some nice French Red wine while everyone else ordered beer. Joe ordered a Chinese noodle soup and mutton with a mandarin orange sauce. Charlotte ordered the peppered salmon with lemon drizzle. Everything was wonderful and we all left full and happy. On the way home we saw the most silvery moon that we have ever seen. It kept peaking in and out of the clouds, but honestly it was the most shimmering moon any of us had ever seen. It was a wonderful ending to our Gotcha Day!
Tuesday we all met outside looking a little rumpled, but just as dashing as the day before. We jumped onto the van once again and off we went to the courthouse. We arrived at 8:45, but the judge and prosecutor were not there yet so we waited. It started to rain, so we all hopped into the van to stay dry. Our translator went inside several times to make sure that they were not waiting on us. Finally, about 9:20 the judge and prosecutor were ready to roll, so we all piled into the lobby of the courthouse and waited to be called. We went in the same order as Monday, so we were last again. Curtis and John, who were first, got the full treatment. They entered the courtroom and read their statement about why they wanted the 15 day appeal period waived. The judge listened intently and asked that they leave the courtroom while he and the prosecutor consulted about the decision. A few minutes later, they were asked to return to the courtroom where the prosecutor read the official statement about the purpose of the appeal period. Then the judge said that he would approve the waiver of the appeal period. The rest of us did not get this much of a production and by the time that we went in, we just read our statement then the judge said that he would make his ruling immediately and the appeal period was waived! As we assembled back in the van our translator told us that things had sped up because the judge was running late and he has another case that was starting soon. We were all just thrilled to be done with the legal proceedings and to know that we were officially parents and that we would be getting to leave Ust on Wednesday as we had hoped.
Our next stop in the rain was at the equivalent of the Register of Deeds office. We signed the last piece of paper for the Kazak Gov’t stating that we are now official Ivan’s parents!! The lady helping us was so wonderful and congratulated each couple as they signed. She even offered to let Austin and Mary look at the book they had signed when they adopted Maria in Oct 2002. Then it was back to the hotel for a quick change and then to the orphanage for quick visit. Ivan was not feeling great so we just took it easy and snuggled a lot. It was still raining so we were all in the playroom.
The afternoon visit was really short for us. When we arrived his caregivers told us that he was sleeping and that they wanted him to sleep for at least another 30 minutes. We were fine with that and used the time to talk to some of his caregivers with our translator. We tried to find out what pacifies Ivan when he is upset, but they said that he rarely gets upset. This may sound like a crock, but to tell you the truth, so far it is true. He gets frustrated sometimes, and he cries and whimpers, but overall he is fairly even tempered. We know that this will change as he learns that we are here to comfort him and that he is no longer one of 10 children in a group. They stressed that he LOVES to be held and we let them know that we already know this from first hand experience. We learned that he loves fruit, especially bananas and apples. Each one that we spoke to also told us that he is the slowest eater in the group. Too funny. We were also told that he had not been in that group very long. From the information that we gathered we are guessing that he joined this group shortly after his first birthday. We asked as many questions as we could think of. Then we asked our translator to tell them how much we appreciated all that they do for the children and that their love shines through every child that they care for.
It was still raining as we left that afternoon, so we decided to stay in and eat at the hotel. We met in the upstairs lounge area for drinks and snacks at 7. Curtis and John surprised us all with a bottle of Moldavian Spumanty. It was pretty good and we all enjoyed toasting one last time before the children entered the picture 24/7. We laughed and traded stories until about 10. We then said our good nights and all tried to sleep before one of the biggest days of our lives, the day that we would get to take the kids with us forever.
More to come tomorrow…We have a child to look after! Love you all and can’t wait to get home with the newest T!
Joe, Charlotte and Ivan
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Well everyone apologies for the tardiness of this very important email. It became nearly impossible for us to email from the Beibars hotel in Ust. However, now we are in Almaty and it should be easier from here on out. The 15 day waiting period was waived (another praise) and we are here with our son. Yes our son. We can hardly believe it. Ivan is taking his first nap away from the orphanage right now, and he looks pretty content. All three of us are eager to get the final steps of the adoption process complete at the US Embassy and head home. We will let you know the exact date for our departure as soon as we have everything all set-up and ready to go. The earliest it will be is July 29, and the latest is Aug 1. So, one more prayer request for a July 29 departure, please.
We will send a more detailed email as soon as we can, but until then just know that God has blessed us more than we ever could have imagined. Ivan truly is a precious gift from God.
Love you all and can’t wait to introduce you to the newest member of the T household!
Charlotte, Joe and Ivan
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Hello once again from Ust!
Can you believe it? We have been in Kazakhstan for two weeks! Hopefully just two more weeks (or so) until we get back to the good old USA!
Each day that we spend with Ivan we get a clearer picture of the child that the Lord has blessed us with and we LOVE what we are seeing!
Wednesday we began our time with Ivan in the "ball pit". It is one of those soft-sided play areas that is filled with little plastic balls. He loved sitting and standing in it and handing us ball after ball. Sometimes he would attempt to mimic Daddy by throwing them, but he hasn’t quite got that down yet, so most of his fell back into the pit. After an hour or so of playing and walking our translator came into the playroom. It was finally our turn to meet with the orphanage director about Ivan. We asked our translator what we should do with Ivan while we met with Dr. Natalia. She said that we could take him with us to the meeting, take him back to his room, or leave him in the playroom with the other couples. The three other couples that were in the playroom with us quickly volunteered to watch him while we went downstairs. Charlotte gave him to Lorraine and Ivan immediately began to fuss. She took him over to the window to look at the world and to distract him while we slipped out.
We were the last couple in our group to meet her, so we knew what to expect. Before the other couples went we had hopes of getting some more information on Ivan’s birthparents. However, after hearing what the other couples were told, we knew that we would not get very much if anything beyond what we already knew. As expected, the director did not have much that was new to share with us about the birthparents. One thing that we did get is a black and white photo of Ivan the day he entered the orphanage. The picture is precious and we will always cherish having a photo of him at such a young age. Most everything else that Dr. Natalia told us we already knew from spending the past week and half with him. However, we appreciated her time and willingness to answer as many questions as she could about Ivan’s biological parents and his life up until this point.
Then we went back to the playroom. Ivan was not there, as it was time for lunch. So we walked over to his room, and we found him happily eating some soup. As soon as we walked through the door the other couples told us that Ivan had fussed and looked for us the whole time that we were gone, until he was brought back to his room for lunch. This was some of the most glorious news we had ever heard. Lorraine said that he just would not be consoled and continually looked at the playroom door, waiting for us to return. He is really starting to recognize us as "his people"! We know that he is in a tough place right now, straddling the line between his caregivers, and us but we are so thrilled that he looks to us for comfort. This is one of the reasons that the two-week bonding period is such a blessing. It allows the child and the parents to begin forming a bond.
We returned for our afternoon visit and played and walked as usual. Then we went outside for a long stroll using the Baby Bjorn. All three of us were as content as can be and only came in because the temperature was really getting to us. When Ivan is tired or insecure he likes to cling to his Mommy. A lady that is using another agency came into our playroom today for a visit. She just adored Ivan and kept talking to him. He stayed firmly in Mom’s lap while she was there.
The group decided to go out to another local pizza place last night. We declined and decided that a night in was in order. We ate downstairs again (this time we were in and out in an hour). We took the laptop and worked on our court statements that we will have to read to the judge. All in all a quiet but delightful evening alone…one of our last for quite a while!
Thursday we had another great couple of visits with Ivan. In the afternoon he was in a particularly good mood. Ivan and Mom were playing a type of peekaboo and every time Ivan would spot Mom, he would just bust out laughing! He was as happy as a clam all afternoon. Dad and Ivan enjoy more "rough play" like playing Super Ivan, where Dad lifts him up over his head and Ivan flies like an airplane. They also enjoy wrestling with each other on the floor. It’s a real hoot to watch 6’3 Joe with 2’3 Ivan on the floor!
Thursday afternoon went much like Wednesday afternoon. Another walk around outside until the wind and the temperature got to us. Inside, more playing and laughing.
Thursday was Alan’s 45 birthday so we decided that we wanted to make a night of it here in Ust. We went to a local Georgian restaurant that we had all heard about. We arrived at about 7:15. We quickly ordered some Georgian wine and settled in for the evening. As we were all chatting away a table of 12 walked in. They were obviously locals also celebrating a birthday. They immediately ordered a couple of bottles of vodka and cognac for their table. They had pre-ordered from the banquet menu and had food fairly quickly. They were quite a rowdy group, and they kept the pace rockin’ most of the evening. There was live entertainment for our listening pleasure. They played plenty of Kazak pop music as well as some American tunes. As we waited for our meals to arrive, the other group started dancing and doing Kareeokee. Most everyone from our table decided to get up and boogie as well. We quickly learned that it is a Kazak tradition for the birthday celebrant to get in the middle of the group and dance. So, Alan being the good sport that he is, got in the middle and danced for us all. With all of the excitement in the air, our table decided that it was time for us to order a bottle of vodka. So we did. It was served to us in lovely cordial glasses. Joe and some folks ordered some OJ to go with it, but Charlotte enjoyed hers straight up. As the band took a well-deserved break, our food arrived. Everything was just delicious! We both ordered the chicken soup. Charlotte ordered a steak shishkobob with onions and potatoes. It was served in a mini cast iron skillet and was still sizzling as they set it down. Joe ordered rabbit in a sour cream and onion sauce. He enjoyed it, but there were a lot of bones in it. Thanks to Curtis’ quick thinking and elementary Russian, we each received a little birthday dessert of peach ice cream with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. We sang Happy Birthday to Alan and the gentleman from the other table. As we were leaving the other table returned the favor and sang Happy Birthday to Alan. All in all it was a wonderful, unforgettable evening.
Friday morning we were taken to the Ust Maternity Hospital were most of our children were born. We all snapped a few photos from outside so that we could show our little one’s were they were born. Then it was off to the orphanage for our morning visit. Things are pretty much the same whenever we visit now. Lots of playing and walking and just enjoying being together as a family. Ivan continues to cling to us on arrival and when he is uncertain about someone or something. We love every minute of our visits, but we are ready to have him with us now.
Friday afternoon after our visit we all decided that we wanted to stay in town and do some shopping. So we were dropped off at the local "mall" and requested to be picked-up at the Supermarket a few hours later. Joe bought a nice new watch (his battery died and we were unable to figure out how to get just a new battery). We just looked around at all of the different vendors and strolled over to the Pizza place that we were meeting at for dinner. After dinner we went over to the Supermarket and restocked the fridge for a few days. If all goes as planned, we won’t need to stop there again so we all went ahead and bought more diapers and wipes in anticipation of Wednesday’s big trip to Almaty with the children!
Monday is court, so we are all getting a little nervous as that is the big moment that we have all been waiting for. Tuesday we should learn if the 15 day waiting period has been waived. We have learned that our agency seems to be the only one that gets the appeal period waived on a regular basis…so please keep those prayers coming! It is really too wonderful for words the peace and love that the Lord has blessed us with throughout this enter trip. Your love and prayers are crossing the miles, and we appreciate them all so much. We also love hearing from you all. Due to our Internet situation, we are not really able to respond to everyone, but please know it lights us up when we open our inbox and see mail from home!
Well, that about wraps it up for now. We will let you know about court as soon as we can on Monday. We send our love to everyone back home, and we can’t wait to see you all and introduce you to our new little man.
Charlotte and Joe
PS. We are 10 hours ahead of Home and we are anticipating having court sometime Monday morning between 9 and 10 AM local time.
PPS. Here are some quick observations about Ivan’s hometown…
The city of Ust-Kamenogorsk looks a lot like you would expect a town of the former Soviet Union to look. Most buildings are plain and boxy. The few exceptions are some of the pre-revolution buildings that were not destroyed…they are beautiful. Most everyone in town lives in an apartment and almost all of the buildings look exactly the same from the outside. While the buildings are really nothing too remarkable, the landscape surrounding the city is fantastic. No matter where you look you see beautiful mountains and rolling hills. Since we are here during the height of their growing season everything is green and lush. If we had come in the winter months we would have seen nothing but snow and temperatures that are normally 40 below zero and that does not include the wind-chill! There is also an interesting mix of cars here. A car is either a "Soviet Era" car (think Yugo) or a modern Japanese car Toyota, Mazda and Subaru are huge here. We have only seen one Ford the whole time that we have been here and that was in Almaty. The city and the country are changing very quickly. Kazakhstan’s economy is growing at something like 15% a year and it shows. There is construction everywhere here in Ust. There are gas stations under construction on just about every corner!
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Greetings once again from Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan!
Things are continuing to go well here for the T family, thanks to everyone’s love and prayers. Thank you all very much!
We moved hotels Monday morning as planned. All ten of us were packed and ready to go at 10 Monday morning. A few people needed to settle their bill at the front desk and needed our translator to help. It seems that we were not all charged the same rate. Our rate was really reasonable for the room that we had, so we just paid and moved on. Others were not so fortunate. Bridgett and Eugene had a "single" with two cots and were being asked to pay almost as much as we were and we had a two-room suite and a queen size bed. Once all of the bills were settled, we loaded up the van with all of our luggage and off we went to the new hotel. The Beibers is very opulent compared to our previous hotel. The lobby has marble floors and crystal chandeliers and wall sconces. On the second floor there is a huge pool table that looks like it would fit nicely into the Biltmore Estate. The grounds are well manicured (considering that they only have two or three months for a growing season) and there is a fountain out front that is surrounded by petunias. Our new room is very lovely as well. As you enter from the hallway, there is a little alcove for leaving your shoes and coat in the winter. There is a powder room directly off of the alcove as well. Once you move through the double doors you enter the living room. We have two plush wingback chairs, a couch, coffee table and a TV in this room. There is a nice sized balcony off of this room as well. The bedroom is directly off of the living room to your right. It is a nice size room as well and we have two twin beds that have been put together to almost form a king-size bed. We are out in the country compared to our other hotel so it is nice and quiet. We sat on the balcony of our new room last night and listened to what we think are frogs making a real racket. It almost felt like home, only not nearly as humid and there was no Sherman looking for lizards in the bushes. We are now all unpacked and ready to start phase two of our trip.
Monday morning we arrived at the orphanage a little late, due to the hotel switcharoo. Charlotte went to get Ivan from his room. The caregiver brought him out as usual and quickly dressed him for our visit. He was a little clingy to start with (he is a slow to wake up) but once he got on the floor he was ready to get busy walking. We are pretty convinced that Sunday was his first time walking without assistance. In fact, he still won’t walk without assistance if his caregivers are within sight. The stinker. Joe and Ivan played while Charlotte worked with our translator on our adoption petition. She had to hand write the petition while sitting at the piano in the playroom. What a way to fill out one of the most important documents within the process! Joe took Ivan back to his room for lunch and fed him "caregiver style". That is to say, getting the food into Ivan as fast as possible. Apparently Ivan had cabbage soup as his "soup course" and according to Joe it stunk.
Since we cleaned out our fridge at the old hotel, we were rather limited as far as lunch options since we had not been to the store yet. So we decided to eat the complimentary snacks that we found in the fridge (unlike in the US, they are free and are replaced daily). What a mistake that was! First we opened the little bag of potato chips…cheese flavor. They did not taste like any cheese we had ever had before or that would ever care to encounter again! Then we opened the little bag of crouton snacks. We thought that we were safe so we each took a big handful. Oh my gosh they were horrible! It turns out that they were caviar flavored! Very fishy and very bad. After that we just gave up and hoped for better things at dinner.
Our afternoon visit was filled with a lot more walking and very proud smiles from Ivan. He is just thrilled with himself every time he walks! By the end of the visit he was no longer satisfied just walking to and from us. Now he knew his freedom and he wanted to exercise that freedom. He was very interested in Leo’s toys and kept making a b-line for them. The only problem was that Leo had a fever and we really did not want Ivan to put Leo’s toys into his mouth. So we kept having to intercept him. Finally he wound down a bit and wanted to snuggle on Mom’s shoulder until snack time. Charlotte took him back to his room for snack. Once he was done with his snack, he was off to bed for a nap. He has had a very busy couple of days, so he welcomes his naptime.
The group decided that we would give the new hotel’s restaurant a try. We met at 7:30 and went down to the gorgeous restaurant. We were served on fine china and drank from crystal. We knew from past experience at the other hotel, that we needed to order quickly or things could take a while. We all ordered right away (Curtis and John had brought us a copy of the menu that afternoon so that we would know what we wanted when we arrived). So our orders were placed no later than 7:45. Everyone had beer, except Mary and Charlotte. They split a bottle of white Kazak wine. Mary and Charlotte agreed that the wine probably would have been ok, had it been their second bottle and not their first. So, everyone had his or her beer and wine. Then as time ticked on, another round of beer was consumed. Then a little before 9 o’clock the folks that had ordered starters received their first course. There were two orders of herring and several bowls of soup. Joe and several of the others ordered the chicken and egg soup, but Curtis was brave and ordered the salty cucumber soup. The chicken egg soup seemed to be exactly that…chicken broth with scrambled eggs in it. The cucumber soup was something to behold. It was bright red (like borsht) and had black olives and onions in it. It was indeed very salty, but not a single cucumber was found in the whole bowl. After the starters arrived, we thought that our meals would be out shortly. No doubt the kitchen staff was laughing at us silly Americans thinking that we would receive our entrees shortly after our starters! Ha Ha Ha Ha!! A little over an hour later some of our entrees arrived. It was nearly 10 PM at this point and we were just now getting our dinners! The worst part was that Charlotte could see into the kitchen from where she was sitting, and many times when she looked in, she saw people sitting around and chatting. Or on occasion, something was being put into the microwave! The last entree arrived a little after 10. The food was good, but not 2.5 hour wait good. Charlotte had a chicken breast cooked in a cream/wine sauce with mushrooms. It was a little spicy and very garlicky, very good. Joe ordered the pan-grilled veal. His was good, but cooked a little too much and so it was a dry. No one wanted to take their chances on dessert, we were afraid that it might take until Tuesday morning to actually receive it. After that we came up to our room and enjoyed the balcony for a few minutes before turning in for the night.
Tuesday we went downstairs for breakfast since it is included, we thought that we would give it a try. It was a lovely buffet of boiled eggs, plain crepes, pound cake and many other breads. We were also given the option of ordering an omelet, fried eggs or porridge. We both opted for the omelet. It was plain, but quite tasty. Alan ordered the porridge, and said that it was cooked with heavy cream and very rich.
Our morning visit this morning was fun as always. Charlotte went to get Ivan as usual, since he tends to be a little shy in the morning (that slow wake up thing again). He was excited to see her and attempted a few steps on his own in his room. He fell after one or two though…thankfully Mom was expecting this and caught him before he smacked the hard floor with his head. He thought it was hoot and smiled as we left the room. We decided to take advantage of the nice weather today, so we grabbed a hat from his room and went off to explore the grounds for a little while. Joe carried him in his arms face forward in anticipation of the Baby Bjorn. He loved it! He was so busy just looking around and taking it all in, it was a joy to watch him discover his surroundings. We finally headed back upstairs and did some more walking. Today he was into taking a few steps away from Charlotte, and then abruptly turning around and walking right back. Each time he would just grin from ear to ear as he started the turn and all the way back into Mom’s arms. Charlotte loved it as much as Ivan did, if not more.
The afternoon visit was much like the morning except that we brought the Baby Bjorn carrier with us. Joe immediately put Ivan in it and off we went on a walk outside. Ivan seemed to really love it. He was perfectly content to walk around strapped to Dad’s chest and continue his exploration of the world. We switched up at one point and put the carrier on Charlotte…again very content. So, at least for the next little while, we think that Ivan will enjoy the carrier. The best part about this carrier will be while we are in the airports trying to get from one gate to the other. After a nice walk around the grounds of the orphanage we returned to the playroom. Ivan was interested in the ball pit today, so that is where we spent a great deal of our time. He loves to hand us the balls (or puppies) and hear us say thank you in Russian and then in English. He lights up when we say that to him. Joe took him back for snack/nap time and we returned to the hotel.
We are planning to have our driver take us into town for dinner. The plan is to go to the Black Bull Pub again. We are leaving shortly, so we will sign off for now. Love to everyone at home! We miss you all very much and are really looking forward to sharing the blessing that is Ivan with you all!
Charlotte and Joe
Monday, July 11, 2005
Thank you all for your wonderful emails. We love hearing from all of you! Of course we also love reading that you all think Ivan is as cute as we do (we know that we are slightly biased, being his parents and all).
Friday was a very good day with Ivan. We had two fabulous visits with some babbling, unsolicited smiles, giggles and obvious recognition. When we walked into his room Friday afternoon, he was sitting in one of the playpens playing quietly. As soon as we walked in he immediately pulled himself up to a standing position. We were both thrilled to get this recognition from Ivan. We went into the caregiver’s "lounge" where we have had all of our visits so far. The orphanage has a very large playroom for adoption visits just down the hall from Ivan’s room on the third floor and it is filled with lots of interactive toys. However, we have not been allowed to go in to that room with the other families since Ivan had a fever on Sunday. So, we have been cramming into this room with one other family (Austin, Mary and 15 month old Daniel) all week. Since Ivan is not too interested in walking the small room has not been much of a problem for us. Daniel however, is practically running at this time, so the small space is really frustrating for him. Towards the end of the visit, Ivan was leaning against Charlotte, and kept trying to climb up. Finally, she realized that he wanted to snuggle, so she scooped him up and he immediately put his head on her shoulder and began to relax.
Friday evening the group decided to stay in and have a low-key evening. We met on the patio of the hotel and had a couple of beers together before all retiring early for the evening. We came upstairs and started to watch a DVD when all of a sudden there was this load cracking noise outside. We opened our window and saw fireworks going off! There had been a very large wedding reception going on in the Irtysh’s ballroom and this was the final hooray for the bride and groom. What a neat way to wrap up our first full week in Kazakhstan!
Saturday we were finally allowed to go to the playroom with the other families! While we parents were thrilled about the move, Ivan was a little unsure of his new surroundings and stayed pretty quiet. We had tried introducing the sippy cup a few days earlier, but found that it was just not going to work at this time. (Of course we bought the kind that only flows one way!) Ivan is so used to drinking like the adults, he has little tolerance for having to "work" for his water. So, today we brought a sports bottle with us. He loved it! We loved it because now we can get him some water while we are there. The playroom has been hovering around 90 – 95 degrees with the windows open, so we want to make sure that he is getting plenty of fluids during his play time. During our morning visit our coordinator, Elena came by with a representative from the Ministry of Education. Alfia (our translator here in Ust) translated the instructions in regards to our court appearances. The goal is to answer as many of the prosecutor’s questions in our prepared statement as possible, so that he won’t need to ask them. As the representative was giving her instructions, the Mom’s were asked to bring the children back to their room for lunch. We walked in and everyone else had been fed, so it was just our three little ones that needed to eat. So, we all sat down and started feeding our boys.
When we returned for our afternoon visit, we were allowed in the playroom again. This time Joe went to get the little man from his room. As soon as Ivan saw Joe he started to reach for him, which just lit Joe up for the rest of the day. Ivan definitely likes to snuggle with Mom, but he is warming up to his Daddy. The kids in the orphanage rarely see men, much less men that are 6’3! Joe and Ivan played a lot (lots of sitting on Daddy’s stomach) but the heat was almost unbearable in the room this afternoon. The humidity is really soaring and making the heat feel all the more oppressive. This kind of heat takes the energy away from the kids and the parents, that is for sure.
Saturday evening we arranged for our driver to meet us at 7:30 and take us to an Italian restaurant that we had been told about earlier in the week. Alexi (the driver) arrived just as planned and off we went. The restaurant was right next to the Irtysh river and the breeze blowing off of the water was just heavenly. We decided to eat on the covered patio so that we could take in the breeze and the gorgeous view. This evening was by far the best that we have had here in Ust. It was fantastic from top to bottom. We all let our hair down and enjoyed great food, wine and company. Joe had a fabulous cream of mushroom soup and a chicken breast stuffed with mozzarella cheese and tomatoes and fries on the side. He ordered mushroom risotto, but was told "Nyet, Nyet", so he revised and ordered fries instead. The funny thing was that John ordered the exact same thing after Joe, and was allowed to get the risotto. Who knows why. It’s just one of those things that gets lost in translation. Charlotte did not order the soup, but was awfully sorry when she tasted Joe’s…it was so yummy. She ordered veal with crispy mashed potatoes on the side. We split a piece of ice cream cake for dessert. We arrived back at the hotel thanks to Alexi about 10:30. Everyone was out like a light by 11.
Sunday dawned with early morning thunderstorms. By the time we were all up and out the temperature was a lovely 70 - 75 degrees and somewhat drier than the previous two days. It was wonderful! Everyone was in good spirits as we boarded the van to head to the orphanage for the first visit of the second week. We were in the playroom once again. Ivan was obviously still very sleepy when we arrived, as he was most content to just rest on Mommy’s shoulder. He did a little standing, assisted waking and some sorting but that was about it.
When we returned this afternoon Joe went to Ivan’s room to get him and Ivan went right to him once again. We sat on the floor as usual and played for about thirty minutes. It was obvious that he was feeling much more lively than this morning. Little did we know what Ivan had up his sleeve for us today. We started to do some assisted walking around the room, which was fun. Then we sat down for a break. Ivan was willing to stand when we encouraged him to and after a few minutes he was standing without us holding on to his hands or leaning on anything. Then he did it. He took a few steps without holding onto anything at all! We were amazed, as were the rest of the parents in the room. Then Charlotte went and sat a few feet away and called Ivan over to her. He toddled right over and the last few steps he would practically run into her waiting arms. He was SO proud of himself, which was the best part. He performed his little trick for us several more times, and each time he was obviously proud of himself and his new feat. So, now we have a walker. We will really have our hands full in Almaty while we are there. Even though this adds a new element, it is one that we are thrilled to be a part of. At the usual time one of his caregivers came into the playroom and whisked him away for snack time. We hardly had a chance to say goodbye for the day. However, sometimes that is probably best…less stress on him and us.
Once we returned to the hotel we went across the street to a baby shop that Lorraine and Alan discovered yesterday. We bought a new sippy cup that flows both ways and a couple of other small items for Ivan. No toys though. They did not have anything that looked like his speed at the moment. Then we decided to go on a walk in the park that is located right near us here at the hotel. The roses are just past their peak but still beautiful. Lots of flowers and shrubs are in bloom and the park was a wash of color. The temperature has remained relatively low today, so it was a great day to get out and see a little bit of the city.
Tonight will be our last at the Irtysh in downtown Ust. Tomorrow morning we move to the new hotel which is a little further outside of town. We have inquired about moving back here, but the rooms with A/C are all booked until after we leave on the 20th. So, we will likely spend the rest of our time at the other hotel. We have looked at other options here in Ust, but nothing else has worked for a group our size. So, we will all just try to make the best of it in our new digs. We are not sure how or when we will be able to access the Internet moving forward, but we certainly will try!
As we have said before, we greatly appreciate all of the prayers that are coming our way. God really does hear them and He has answered so many of ours throughout this process. Not always the way we thought that we wanted Him to, but in a much better way than we ever could have imagined. Please keep them coming! We are scheduled to have our court hearing on Monday July 18. Please add this date to your prayer list. We hope that everything will go smoothly and as planned, but you never know until that gavel goes down and the judge approves our petition. We would also like to request that you pray for the 15 day appeal period to be waived. We have a hearing about that on Tuesday July 19, if all goes well on the 18th. Usually, the appeal period is waived for our agency, but the judge can rule however he/she wants. It is not a given. So, please pray for a smooth court hearing, fast approval and for the 15 day appeal to be waived, so that we can get our little man home as soon as possible.
Off to dinner we go…more as soon as we can figure out where/when we can send from.
Lots of love to you all!
Charlotte and Joe
Thursday, July 07, 2005
The Lord continues to richly bless our little family here in Ust. We have now completed 5 days of the required 14 days of visitation with Ivan. Every visit brings us new joy and wonder. Ivan continues to take more and more of an interest in our faces, which is just wonderful. We both love it when he plays with our glasses. He really enjoys it when we kiss his hands and fingers and pretend to gobble them whole. He likes to do the same to us as well.
We have been slowly introducing new toys as well and so far the biggest hit is one sent by his Nana. It is a soft sorter called the "Puppy House". It has three puppies, a red, a blue and a yellow one. Plus the "house" has several different size holes to put the puppies in and take them out of again. Ivan started with this one on Monday. At first he did not even want the toy to touch him. Then he warmed up to that and started to put the puppies into the house, but would not take them out. By Tuesday morning he was very busy pulling the puppies in and out of the front door (the largest opening) and moving towards the smaller holes on the sides and the back. By this afternoon (Thursday) he was happiest sucking on the yellow puppies feet and pulling on the blue puppies tail with his teeth. We thought that we had won the lottery when he stuck the blue puppies tail in each of our mouths for a tug! We also have a child friendly picture book with pictures of Sherman, Nana, Papa Wayne, Grandma, Papa, Aunt Catherine, Uncle Mike and Wilson. So far, the most popular face to look at and touch is Sherman! Ivan will reach out and pet his snout and rub his belly. Sherman already has him trained and they have not even met yet!!
It is REALLY hot here now, and the orphanage has no A/C of course. Ivan is often drenched with sweat when we arrive (as are we after riding in the non-a/c van for 15 minutes). The good news is that at his age they are less apt to bundle them up in spite of the heat. When we arrive, he is often in just a tee shirt and undies. Sometimes in the afternoon, they hand him to us in nothing but undies! Wednesday we were allowed to have a fan in the room where we visit and that gave Ivan (and us) a new lease on life. We had the best visit so far Wednesday afternoon. We feel certain that it was because we were all a little cooler and less lethargic.
Ivan has started to make some babbling noises and stood for us a little bit on Thursday. He even took a few tentative steps while we held his hands. We aren’t pushing anything, as we have plenty of time for him to be "on the move".
Our group continues to be doing well together. Our dinner Tuesday at the Black Bull Pub was really wonderful. They serve a lot of grilled meats there. Our group sat on the patio were the fire was and it was a most pleasant evening. We stopped by the Baskin Robbins for dessert and all came back to the hotel feeling quite happy with life.
Wednesday night we decided to try the restaurant here at the hotel. We had all heard good things about it and we were all exhausted from the 100+ degree heat. We met outside at 7:30 for some beer and wine. Then headed inside about 8:15 for dinner. We wanted to eat outside since it had cooled off so nicely but we were told that they are awaiting insurance and cannot serve outside until they receive the insurance. We all laughed and came inside. We were the only customers in the place. The menu was over 10 pages long and VERY detailed. We all ordered and began the wait. The last entrée arrived around 9:45 or so. Alan was brave and ordered off of the menu. He requested a traditional Kazak dish, and the chef was thrilled to prepare something for him. He received a bowl of large egg noodles, with vegetables in a thin broth and horse. Yes, Charlotte sat next to a man who was knowingly eating horse. He offered us all a taste, but we all passed. Joe had a fried chicken dish and Charlotte had grilled shrimp with olive oil and green olives. Both were quite tasty.
Tonight (Thursday) the group ventured out to a local pizza place. We had a wonderful time, but ordering and paying were a little complicated. There were no English menus and no one spoke English, broken or otherwise. Thankfully, Curtis speaks some Russian and she helped us all to stumble through.
Friday morning we had a fantastic visit. It was the warmest morning thus far and the most humid (not compared to home, but for Ust it was humid). The orphanage Babushka brought in some toys from Ivan’s regular playroom. He loved playing with them and us! It was wonderful. Since the toys were familiar, he was into them from the get go. One of them was like the Little People Village that he has waiting at home for him, from Mike and Barbara! After some playtime Ivan decided it was time that we saw him crawl and pull up for the first time. What a moment that was for both of us. We now know with certainty that our house will never again be the same. We are thrilled! (Note to Sherman…get ready!)
As you can see our time with Ivan continues to improve and fill us with joy and anticipation about this new chapter in our lives. The trip here continues to be an adventure and an exercise in patience. We were informed yesterday that we would need to change rooms after the 10th of July. When we pushed for more information, we discovered that the "suites" that we are currently occupying have been booked after the 10th. These are the only rooms in the hotel with A/C, which has proven to be a must for sleep and rest. The hotel offered us 3 single rooms (code for two cots and four walls). Our group agreed that we need A/C and we need our own rooms. No one wants to bunk with another couple. Your room is the only place that you have to just be alone with your spouse, which at times is really necessary just to process all that is happening. So, we are heading to another hotel on the 11th. The only real downers about that hotel (that we know of) are that it is out of town, so there will be no walking anywhere and that it is twice as expensive. However, we have decided that we will make the best of it and just learn to use taxis in the evening for our dinners out. So, Monday we move to the Beibers Hotel in Ust.
Well, we had better go ahead and sign off for now. We have tried compressing the pictures, so hopefully we can send more at a time. We’ll see. Thank you again for all of the heartfelt prayers and words of encouragement. We miss you all and are really looking forward to introducing the newest member of the Tew clan very soon!
Joe and Charlotte
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Tuesday we had our third day of visitation. Ivan is coming out of his shell a little more with each visit. This morning we even got a small smile while Joe was playing peep-eye with him. We have gotten other smiles, but always after lots of kisses and tickling. Every little smile is a blessing and we have cherished every one.
We arrive at the orphanage about 10:15 every morning and leave around 12. Usually, lunch is served at 11:30, so we have been fortunate enough to feed Ivan his last three lunches! What a sight they all are sitting at their little tables and waiting for chow time. Lunch begins with a piece of bread, then a bowl of chicken broth, carrots and either noodles or potatoes. Then the "main course" is served which is usually mashed potatoes and some type of meat. All of the children eat EVERY bite, and whine if you take it away before they have cleaned their plates. "Dessert" is another piece of bread and a cup of tea. Yes, tea. They are served in china teacups, and truly prefer to hold the cup themselves. We’ve noticed that when someone holds the cup for them, they spill. However, when they are allowed to do it themselves, they don’t miss a drop! After lunch we leave until our afternoon visit.
We return about 2:15 and visit until 4. We play until about 3:30 when it is snack time…usually a cookie and some milk. Ivan is always the last to finish his cookie, which may explain his low weight. Our little man is too busy taking everything in to eat quickly when left on his own. The caregivers are always telling him to hurry up and finish! Then they are off for a bath and a nap.
The caregivers are so fabulous. We can not tell you how much love is in that room. It has been such a privilege to watch them with the children. They love them like their own and they truly adore each and every one. Ivan’s favorite is a blond (just like him) who coos over him. We feel so indebted to this woman, as she has clearly loved our little boy while he waited for us to get here. It is really sweet the way they all react to each other.
The other couples are all having a wonderful time as well. There are three of us adopting 15 month olds, one couple adopting a 14-month-old and one couple adopting a 9-month-old…all boys. What a treat to have so many around the same age!
Lorraine and Alan are from San Francisco and are adopting Ben who is 15 months. Ben is very Kazak looking, meaning dark eyes, skin and hair. Very cute and curious.
Curtis and John are from Boston and are adopting Leo who is 9 months. We have only seen Leo once, and that was very briefly. He is very Russian and seems to be a very active little man…lots of crawling and pulling up from what we have heard.
Mary and Austin are from Dublin, Ireland and are adopting Daniel who is 15 months. Daniel is quite a character, running around and into EVERYTHING that he can get his little hands on. He is by far the most outgoing and advanced of all the children so far. He has blond hair and blue, blue, blue eyes.
Bridgette and Eugene are from Ireland as well. They are from a little village in the Midlands of Ireland. They are adopting Rory who is 14 months old. Rory has been in the "sick room" ever since we arrived and no one has met him except Eugene and Bridgette. They say that he is doing very well and appears to just have a very bad chest cold. However, we think that he may have been in the hospital for a while, which is why he is now in quarantine in the sick room for 14 days. Hopefully he will be out with the others soon.
Ivan is a mixture of both Kazak and Russian features. He has blond hair (which was a total surprise to us, since it was so dark in the video), large brown eyes, and chubby cheeks that you will all want to pinch! His eyelashes are so long and luscious, all of the ladies will wish they were theirs!
Everyone is getting along well, and we try to go out to eat as a group in the evenings. Our translator has shown us a couple of places that have English menus, so we mostly stick to those places and eating in our rooms.
Ivan appears to be very shy; however, with each visit we see his self-confidence improve. Today (Tuesday) we saw him not only hold onto his toy while Daniel tried to take it away, but get up and go get it once Daniel had let go and fallen down! Very funny.
We know that Ivan can walk, with assistance…we’ve seen him do it a couple of times. However, he won’t do it with us yet. Anytime we try to make him stand, he slides right onto his bottom, but if one of his caregivers tells him to stand in place, he does it with no problem whatsoever. Same thing with walking. He won’t walk for us, but he does for his caregivers. When we are there he just likes to sit and play and be held. He LOVES to be held and we are more than happy to oblige him. We know that once we have custody or when we get home he will be busy enough walking and running around.
This afternoon (Tuesday) we were able to put Ivan down for his 4 PM nap. He polished off his warm milk and Charlotte carried him into the "crib room" for his nap. She laid him down in his crib and he immediately started to arch his back and cry. His favorite caregiver came over and covered him with a blanket and started to sing to him and push his crib back and forth. He hushed immediately. What we wouldn’t give to have a tape recorder of her singing to him when we leave. Perhaps that is something we can find here to help Ivan with the transition once we leave Ust.
Tonight we are going to dinner at a local pub, the Black Bull. We tried to go last night, but we missed it by a block, so we all came back to the hotel and just drank beer and wine in a little reception area on the 5th floor. It was so therapeutic for us all to sit around and discuss all that is going on and what will happen as the trip proceeds. Austin and Mary adopted from Ust in October 2002. They are the proud parents of Maria, who is now 28 months old. Things have changed slightly since they did this in 2002, but not so much that their experience is not beneficial to the rest of us. Their presence has been a real blessing to us all.
It’s time to wrap it up for now. Off to the pub for some dinner and laughter.
Love to all!
Charlotte and Joe
PS. We have not had a chance to read the emails that you all have sent yet. We hope to do that tomorrow. Sorry that we don’t have time to reply to everyone individually, but our Internet experience so far has been a little stressful. We are hoping to find a better connection tomorrow at the library, but who knows what that will be like. We will have DSL in Almaty, so then we should be able to send lots of pictures, or we may post them on Ofoto or something like that. Thanks again for all of the love and prayers coming our way...we really can feel it half way around the world!!
Saturday, July 02, 2005
Hello from Kazakhstan! The T’s have arrived safe and sound. Our flights were smooth and uneventful, but it was a long trip and we were very happy to arrive Friday night. After we deplaned in Almaty we were met by a portion of our adoption team at the baggage claim area. Our group has 5 couples, three American couples and two couples from Ireland. The couples from Ireland had some trouble with their flights into Almaty and we have not met them yet. They loaded our group into two vans and off to the hotel we went. The other American couples are Lorraine and Alan from San Francisco and John and Curtis from Boston. We stayed at the Ai Ser Hotel in downtown Almaty Friday night and we are leaving for Ust-Kamenogorsk at 4:30 Saturday afternoon. We will be very glad when we are able to unpack and settle in to our temporary home in Ust.
Our morning here in Almaty has been very good. We ate breakfast with Lorraine and Alan and then we went on a little shopping adventure at the local "mall". It was more like an indoor flea market than a mall, to be honest. When we plugged in our converter this morning, both fuses blew and it was all over. We feared that we had hauled the laptop all the way here and now we would not be able to use it! However, Alan told us about a potential work around. All four of us piled into a cab and off to the mall we went. We were able to buy exactly what we needed to make the laptop work, and all is right with the world again.
We arrived Ust last night at about 6:30 and we are happy to report that at no time were we served Tongue for our in flight meals! However, at dinner this evening it was a very big item on the menu (tongue salad anyone?) but we all declined.
We checked into our hotel here in Ust, the Irtysh. We are right in the middle of town, which is nice. We can walk to dinner and the grocery store etc. When we arrived at the hotel, our coordinator told us that we would be allowed to go to the Orphanage on Sunday, instead of on Monday as we thought.
Our entire group (everyone is here now, some without luggage) went upstairs to "sleep". When we assembled in the lobby Sunday morning, we all admitted to getting very little sleep. How does one sleep when your child is only minutes away and you are about to meet them for the first time? You just don’t, that’s all.
Sunday morning also brought another surprise. The entire city of Ust had shut off their water supply in order to do maintenance on the lines. We would not have water again until 6 PM July 4. We all made the best of it though and eagerly looked forward to getting a long shower on Monday evening. As it turned out, the hot water did not return until Tuesday morning, so it was a very COLD shower on Monday night...but at that point water was water.
We piled into the van at 10 Sunday morning and sat in silence for the entire 15 minute ride to the Orphanage. We were all a bundle of nerves as we sat in the "waiting room" of the orphanage. Then Elena, our coordinator walked in at 10:30 holding two beautiful little boys. We looked at the one on the left and KNEW that she was holding our son. His eyes and cheeks look just like they do in the video we have of him from when he was two months old. She looked at Charlotte and said "Svirid" and she walked over and Elena placed him in her arms as tears of pure joy rolled down her face. She turned around and brought him over to meet his Daddy, who was also crying. As we held our son for the first time we said a prayer of thanks, as it was very obvious that the Lord had heard and answered every prayer that we had said for this little boy. As others met their little ones we were completely oblivious, so we have no idea how others reacted to meeting their children, but we assume that it was similar to ours. Pure joy…there are no other words to describe it.
We went upstairs to his group’s room, since the orphanage director was not there, we were not able to go to the "play room" where we likely have the rest of our visits. However, what a blessing this was! We got to feed Ivan at lunch time, meet his little buddies from his group and meet his caregivers (who are so wonderful, there is no way to tell you the love that they have for these kids, but it is SO obvious despite the language barrier).
Then we left so that the children could nap and we grabbed some lunch at a local pizza place. The van ride to the restaurant was filled with tons of laughter and joy. We were a different group now…we had met our children!! Everyone was gushing about their child and everyone else’s as well. It was fantastic.
Then we came back to the hotel for a few minutes and then back to the orphanage for another visitation. This time we just went straight upstairs and the children were brought in. The other two couples in our room (also adopting 15 month old boys) were told that they could go outside if they wanted, but we were asked to stay indoors as Ivan has a slight fever and a runny nose. So we stayed inside and had some time alone with Ivan. It was wonderful. It was obvious (even to new parents) that he was not feeling up to snuff, so we just cuddled and he fell asleep in Joe’s arms. After his little naptime, we were asked to come to the main room so that he could have his afternoon snack. Everyone else was just about finished when we arrived, so they handed Ivan his sugar wafer and he started to gnaw on it a little. His friend Ben (Lorraine and Alan’s little boy) reached over and tried to take it out of Ivan’s hand, but Ivan had a good grip on it. Lorraine and Alan sprang into action and told Ben "Nyet, Nyet". Crisis averted. As all of the others were taken off for a bath, Ivan continued to nibble on his wafer. He was quite content to sit there and soften it up a bit before finally polishing it off. Then it was washed down with a cup of milk. After that we said good-bye until tomorrow and he was off to get his bath.
We left and went to the grocery store and stocked up on some quick items for the room. Then we all went to dinner at "The Pancake House". It is a restaurant that serves mainly crepes filled with sweet and savory concoctions. It was great. We all sat around and chatted for a couple of hours and then made our way back to the hotel for an evening of much needed rest. I think that all ten of us will sleep better tonight than we have in months.
Thank you all for the love and prayers. We must tell you that EVERY prayer has been answered, from prayers about travel to prayers about meeting Ivan. Every one has been heard and fully answered. God has truly been with this family on this journey. We have some hurdles to overcome (court, living in a hotel with a new baby when the time comes, return travel etc.) but we know that the Lord will see us through it and give us exactly what we need. So, please keep those prayers coming, and know that we are feeling them more and more every day.
The "business center" where we are sending this from, is only open Monday through Friday, so we will try to email again, mid week.
Joe and Charlotte
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
I know that the flights will be nothing but exhausting for me and I am really dreading the long haul. The two times that I have been to Europe I was unable to sleep a wink coming or going. I have never been able to sleep while on the move. Even as a child, I never slept in the car. It drove my parents batty when we drove to Florida.
Once we arrive in Almaty we will go through the usual airport whohah and then we will meet our coordinator and driver. At that point I am certain that I will be a walking zombie and I will just be thrilled to be on my way to the airport hotel. We will spend (what's left of) the night at the hotel and then the next day we will board a Soviet jetliner (from the rear I am told) and fly to Ivan's region.
If all goes as planned we will meet Ivan on Monday, July 4, 2005. We will then have 14 straight days of visitation and bonding in the Baby Home. On July 18, 2005 we should have our court appearance. If all goes well in court, we should take custody of Ivan on July 20, 2005 when we fly back to Almaty. Once in Almaty we will check into the Hyatt and spend the next 10 days waiting for all of the final paperwork to be completed. We will have an appointment at the US Embassy, where we will receive all of the paperwork for Ivan's IR-3 visa. This wonderful packet of paperwork is what will allow Ivan to enter the US as a US citizen.
After that, who knows what life will hold for us. A lot of joy and chaos I am sure.
I am not sure if I will be able to update this journal from Kaz. If I can, I certainly will! If not, I'll let you know when we are home and what it was really like while we were there.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
We had it narrowed down to two names and then we read something about a Kazak tradition and that settled it for us. Apparently, it is a tradition to name your child for the meaning of the name and not the name itself. Well, Ivan means Precious Gift From God.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
J and I have been very busy over the past couple of weeks. We have started pulling everything together as far as clothes and other necessities and making lots of lists. I have been buying gifts, gifts and more gifts to give to the various people along the way. I have really enjoyed shopping for our little one's caregivers as well as our translator and driver. These are folks that I know that we will truly feel indebted to by the end of our time in Ust-Kamenogorsk. However, there are other folks that I need to have gifts for like the officials that have approved our paperwork along the way etc. These gifts are a lot harder for me to buy. I will likely never meet some of these folks. From what I understand, when J and I arrive in Ust we will hand over the 13 gifts for the "adoption officials" to our coordinator and then we will never see the gifts again. Apparently, while our coordinator is calling on these folks in regards to our adoption, she will present them with a token of our appreciation once the task has been completed. We are not to spend more than $10-15 per person, so it is not anything really nice, but it is hard to know what would be appreciated.
Not to mention that there are severe weight limitations on our luggage once we get to Kazakhstan. Until we arrive each of our bags can weigh up to 70 pounds without overage charges. However, once we enter Kazakhstan and have to travel domestically we will be charged $5 per pound over 40 pounds! So, we are trying to make sure that our bags don't weigh too much over 40 pounds each. This may prove to be very challenging.
Lots to do this week...so no time for cocktails!
Friday, June 03, 2005
July 2, 2005 - arrive Almaty, Kazakhstan
July 18, 2005 - Court
July 27, 2005 - leave Almaty for HOME!!!
As with everything, this may change. We still don't have our official "Letter of Invitation" yet, but we have no reason to believe that it won't arrive in time.
Praise the Lord for this wonderful news!! His timing is perfect and I have to continue to believe that He will unite us at just the right time. What wonderful news for an otherwise unremarkable Friday! Thank you Lord!!
Sunday, May 29, 2005
After I had completed my Matron of Honor duties and everyone was enjoying the reception, I was given a real blessing from God. J and I were circulating saying our hellos to everyone and just enjoying ourselves immensely. As I stopped and chatted with various people I noticed over and over people asking me "So, when do you leave?" I always answered "We are hoping for the first of July". Then almost everyone who asked me about our adoption would say, "Well, we are really praying for you all. We can’t wait to meet him as soon as you get home." I was so blown away. Some of these people have known J and me for years and have been pulling for us for a long time now. However, there were many that really don’t know us. People that we have met once or twice but are as interested in our adoption as my own Mom! Many of these interested parties were C’s family that only know us through S and C.
As J and I drove home from the "day after wedding breakfast" this morning I was thinking about all of the folks that are "thinking of and praying for" us and our son. What a wonderful blessing from God…tendrils of love from far and wide. Yet again, He has provided us with so much love and support and in a place and time that has nothing to do with our adoption or us. When we do get our little man home, he will be surrounded by love and care that he won’t even know about.
Thank you Lord, for your perfect provision every time.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
This weekend has been really wonderful though because I did not have to get all of my usual running around, house cleaning and laundry done in two days. I will have some time during the week to get some things done and that is a wonderful thought. I have quiet a "to do" list before we leave for Kazakhstan (still hoping for an early July departure date), but I feel that with some of the extra time that I will have between now and then, I will get it all done.
I am really looking forward to helping my sister, who is eight and half months pregnant, by looking after my niece, W, a few days a week before she begins her maternity leave in mid June. W is four and such a character. I am really excited about our forethcoming time together and I think that she is too. So, we'll see how that goes.
I am hoping that the next few weeks will allow me some down time before we travel, as I know that I will never really have that again. Being a Mom is a full-time job for life. I am so excited about taking that job, but if I can start out a little rested...all the better by me! I'm still nervous about the coming weeks, but once I dive in and get busy, I don't think that I will really have time to be scared. Let's hope so anyway.