Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

How Do We Spell Relief?


Yes - you read that correctly! We had our home inspection yesterday. Now we have this in our front yard:

What a great feeling!! All this from some woman who was walking by and not looking for a house, but then decided she just had to have ours last Monday! (We were happy to oblige.)

We don't have to be out until January 11th, but the plan is to start to move soon....today? Tomorrow? We want to be out (and in) by Christmas and to FINALLY be able to be 'normal' in the new house. Today was our FIRST day NOT for sale and we are taking full advantage! You should see our living room. We've made NO effort to put ANYTHING away today. Jack's toys are still out...it's so much easier to have a toddler and a house not for sale. Today we didn't even cringe if he touched the dishwasher or fridge or got food on the floor because....we can clean it L-A-T-E-R... when we want to because nobody is coming over today - at least nobody who doesn't already know us. The 'real' us. :) And get this...we may even have FISH for dinner!

We've gotten much, much neater as a household through this ordeal, and we don't intend to let the pendulum swing completely the other way and turn into utter pigs... maybe just on Sundays, but it is liberating to be able to sit in this mess and not care. :) I know we'll put it all away later, but we can actually go to the grocery store tonight and leave everything as is because we won't have a showing while we are gone.

And...get this - another bonus came with selling the house, last night we actually got to go shopping. Since we didn't know what house we would be living in (and oh yeah, two mortgages and adopting from Russia made things just a little tough. ;) ), shopping had almost become nonexistant for the past year except for maybe a stop at Kroger....how I've missed shopping....for things other than food....

Last night we bought mirrors for our new bathrooms. Doesn't that sound exciting?? Actually it was great fun. I think even for Erik:) (Okay, I just reread those 2 sentences. Do I sound old or what?? - did I actually just say it was fun to shop for bathroom mirrors on a Saturday night??)

Wow. :)

On the way into the store, Jack was in his first snowfall. He looked up at the sky and opened his mouth. He thinks snow is great fun!

One thing Jack does not think is great fun is getting stuck in the toy box. Earlier today we heard crying by the toy box and after rounding the corner, we were greeted by this sight:

Of course we helped the poor guy out.....(giggling the whole time to ourselves.)

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Christmas Card

Having a baby brings a whole other element to sending out Christmas cards. In the past, we've just looked for humorous or cute cards. But now that we have a child.... he should be on the card, right??? And it should be easy. Just take a cute picture. Put it on the card. Kids always cooperate.............right???

Well we found out the hard way that it's not quite THAT easy, but Jack was a trooper for the most part. After three DAYS of pictures, we proudly present picture number 57 - FINALLY a keeper!!! :) I guess once we have more kids we can multiply that number by 2 or 3 or 4....???? :)

Here are some of the pictures that didn't make the cut:

"What the Heck Are You Guys Doing?"

Amish Santa

Gandalf Santa (Lord of the Rings)

Neil Diamond Santa - (a.k.a. - Hairy Chest Santa - all I need is a gold chain)

Shaving Cream Santa

That's It! We're finished! It's Attack of the Crabby Santa!

So after a lot of effort we took finally got the "perfect" spontaneous, candid picture - this is the kind of stuff people only do with their 'first' kids, right? :)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Putting on Dada's Shoes

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sharing Toys

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Jack's Baptism

Jack's baptism was today. Just a few pictures from the day:

1. Jack, Mom, Dad, and Godparents Uncle Todd and Aunt Amy.
2. Out to eat with my grandmas
3. Being Silly with Cousin Michael
4. Getting Tired
5. What a Party!

Happy Halloween!

Look at all this candy! Yum!

Jack's New Friend Waiting For Crumbs

Did you know cats will eat string cheese and beg for bologna?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Jack's Lifebook

A lifebook is a book that celebrates the life of an adopted child before he joins his forever family.
Making Jack's was an interesting process....it made us think, REALLY THINK, about what we should or should NOT put in it. We found ourselves wondering - How do we explain his biological mother? What kind of pictures do we include of Russia? Do we put nice pictures of Russia (what if he wants to go back?) or do we include pictures that will make Jack want to stay here when he gets older? I know that sounds silly, but that was a consideration!
In the end, we decided to just put pictures that truly reflected our experience and text that we could expand upon later. We have more information about his family history, but that history would be hard for a young child to understand. Instead we elected keep the story simple and brief, leaving room for conversation as we go through it when Jack is older.

We ordered the books from Kodak and they turned out beautiful. They look like real picture books. These pictures do not do it justice. Some of you who are adopting emailed us asking about the lifebook and so we decided to post this here. It's just our version and remember, there is no right or wrong way to do it.

One last tip - we ordered TWO copies of the book. One that Jack can play with now. (The cover already has food smeared on it!) and one copy safely put away for later in his life.

Click here to view the book:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

All clean!

Welcome Lucy!

So we went to the Humane Sociecty and got Roy another friend to play with. It's not Archie and we'll miss him lots. Leroy purred when he saw her. Cats are supposed to hiss. She's super friendly and her and Jack will pass a ball back and forth. Jack is pretty curious about this new kitten and she's equally curious of him. He's the first cat that has actually come up to Jack! :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Good Thing About Kids...

Cheesy shirts!

We Will Miss You Archie

On Sunday, October 21st, Jack was scheduled to be baptized. About two hours before we walked into the bedroom to find Archie Arch laying on the floor yelping in pain. We immediately left to go to the emergency vet. Archie had a mass on his liver and was in a lot of pain. We didn't know about the mass. The first time I felt it was when I picked him up that morning. That was also the first time I noticed how light he felt. Now, Arch is around ALL the time and the previous had been begging for turkey or chicken or tuna everytime we opened the fridge. Also he usually comes and lays on us - so maybe that's why we didn't notice that he lost 6 lbs. 6 lbs since March. We felt horrible. I'd lift Jack and Archie who weighed about the same when we brought Jack home - both 18 lbs. As the summer went on, I thought Jack was gaining weight and that's why he felt heavier than Archie. Anyway, we had to put Archie to sleep. He was in so much pain. They said that cat oncologists could help sustain his life for maybe another year. We rescheduled the baptism for November 4th. Leroy is so sad. He is hiding under the bed and won't come out. We'll all miss you Archie.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

All Dressed Up

Here he is - all dressed up for daycare! Erik dressed him this particular morning and Jack made it to daycare very clean and looking good.
Dad - not so much!
At about 11, Erik reached to scratch his head and smelled something a little funny.... Come to find out, he actually brought a little something extra of Jack's to work on the back of the sleeve of his workshirt! Gross! Good thing everyone is clean now....sorry to everyone in the cubes next to him this day. :)
Last but not least, here is an interesting article in Russia Today about orphans in Russia and what Grandmothers are doing to try and help them:


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Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why Do Men Think They Can Fix Everything With Tape?

Here is Jack's favorite toy:

Here is the drum that is still Jack's favorite toy even after Erik "fixed" it:

(Apparantly, Jack banged it on the wood floor one too many times...:) )

What a Summer!

It's almost time for me to go back to work. (a week from Monday) Wow! Time flies! What a summer we've had. Erik and I were talking of all of the things we've learned this summer about being parents. Here's our top 10 list. (Thanks, Dave. :) )

10. No matter how well you THINK you've cleaned your child, once you get out in public, you will ALWAYS notice something you missed - maybe lasagna in an ear or even yogurt smeared in his hair.

9. Baby poop comes in a RAINBOW of unimaginable colors and consistencies.

8. Speaking of that subject, it's amazing how someone else's poop schedule can affect your daily schedule in such a profound way.

7. Cats will eat hot dogs if they are cut up and thrown on the floor.

6. We left half of our brain cells in Russia. I can go to a meeting, forget to bring paper and a pencil to take notes with, but still have a pacifier and a Little Swimmer in my school/work bag.

5. You can buy a baby all kinds of fancy toys, but it doesn't mean he will play with them. Outlets (even those covered), remotes, an open dishwasher, cell phones, that little springy doorstop thing, or even a plastic bowl will always be more fun.

4. No matter how well you vacuum the floor, your child will always find that one little piece of fossilized cheese from weeks ago and eat it.

3. Babies never get tired of "Daddy Rides".

2. Without warning, babies think it's perfectly okay to give off an ear piercing, startling, scare-all-the-old-people, happy squeal even in the quietest of public places.

1. That three months later we would "graduate" from feeling like Aunt Mom and Uncle Dad to just "Mama" and "Dada."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Things Are About to Change Around Here!

Still Happy!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Make that FIVE!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Guess Who Can Take THREE Steps!

Continued Progress

Last week Erik and I went on a little vacation. His work pays for a trip out east and wives are encouraged to come. Since his work has been so great about giving him time off to go to Russia and time off afterwards, we thought it important that I go. I was very hesitant in doing so because of the bonding process, but Erik did just start this job the second week of May and so we need to make a good impression there too. He left for Russia after only two weeks of being there - and they gave him paid time off. We are lucky they have been so family-oriented.

Jack stayed with Nana Joyce and Papa Mike two nights and then with his Oma Ingrid two nights. Split equally! :) I was really nervous about leaving him and was afraid he would forget us, but as it turned out when we picked him up on Friday we were greeted with a big smile! Even though we really missed him, it turned out to be good for everyone as Jack bonded with his grandparents and Erik and I could have some time together.

Also we are finally seeing this week that Jack has, in fact, bonded to us. We went to the grocery store and as we walked in a cashier said, "Oh how handsome! Can he have a sucker? Is he too young?" I replied that he was too young and gets all sticky. As we were checking out this nice lady came back and tried to talk to him and Jack turned to reach for me to protect him. :) (She got really close; :) ) I know that doesn't seem like a big deal, but it is. He sees me as someone he can trust and as someone who will protect him. He no longer is going to just any adult.

This week we were also at a playgroup. This is the second time we've been with this group of kids/adults. The first time he went around to many adults and begged for food or would let them play with him. This time, this week, he only wanted ME! :) He only came to me for food or to be picked up. He does the same with Erik and it's so nice to see and it helps us really feel like his mom and dad. We are now this baby's preferred "go to" people! How cool is that??! :)

It's been amazing since watching him learn all kinds of things. He knows how to kiss and hug. He can do "jazz hands" which is really funny. He did it in the car to "Copacabana". He can stand for about 10 seconds and took his first step yesterday. He's just amazing to watch!

Because of all of this, even though we haven't sold the house just yet, we've decided that I'm going to wait to go back to work until October 1st. Financially this was a tough decision to make, but I'm just not ready to let someone else care for him a majority of his day. I'm not sure I'll be ready in October either, but at least we'll have an extra month of MOM time under our belts!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Playing With Noah's Ark

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Good News!

The adoption agency reimbursed us for our last minute tickets! This is such a relief! We talked to the director of the agency last week and she agreed to cut us a check for the full amount! Cashed it yesterday. :)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sometimes You'll Do Anything

To Entertain a Baby! Halloween came early for Erik this year upon my return from the grocery store. Every time Jack laughed Erik called him a weirdo. Yep,JACK is the weirdo.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cookie: 99 Cents. Smile: Priceless.

Baba, Nana, Mama, Dada…all words Jack can say now. Mama is still food. Dada is still both of us. Nana and Baba…he can repeat. He’s making more sounds. But the biggest deal this week has to do with his UNDERSTANDING of words. His understanding of English has improved so much! I knew something was missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on it…. We’d talk to Jack and he’d look at us and he’d smile if we DID something goofy…but still I felt like there was something missing. Then Monday it all came together....

We were coming home from the mall and with the forward facing car seat, he now falls asleep during all rides over 15 minutes. This was a 20 minute ride and I’ve learned that falling asleep in a car seat can equal NO NAP and lots of crying the rest of the day. He won’t fall asleep in his crib if he sleeps in the car seat. Even if he just sleeps in the seat for 10 minutes or so - no nap. So in the mall, I kept thinking, “What can I do so he doesn’t fall asleep on the ride home?” Then I thought, “Food! Jack loves food!” And I know this won’t win me any mother of the year awards, but listen, I needed food that would entertain, food that is tasty, food that will keep him awake the whole ride home and would allow him to take his nap that afternoon and allow ME to take a nap that afternoon. He's fallen asleep with goldfish in his mouth. I needed something better than goldfish. Better than Cheerios. So I bought him a cookie. And you know what - the cookie worked! He savored that cookie the entire ride home and never fell asleep. At one point, I turned to the backseat to look at him when stopped at a light. I said, “Jack, isn’t that GOOD?!” Jack gave me the biggest smile. Then it occurred to me, this was the first time he smiled, not because of something I did, but because of something I SAID. He was understanding ENGLISH. And that was the best feeling! So worth the cookie. We’ve said “Isn’t the good?” about everything we’ve fed him. Just a habit, I guess… We’ve said it about peas, bananas, chicken, everything. He finally understands what we're saying and that cookie WAS good - for BOTH of us! :)

The rest of the week we noticed other words he now knows too. For instance, I’d say “look” and his head would turn or I’d say “blah, blah, CLAP, blah, blah” and he’d clap. I didn’t have to demonstrate. Once I said, “Smile for mama.” And he did…I got a giant smile!

We're understanding each other! How awesome! How fun!

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Walking Around with My Oma

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I Love Dada!


This past week Jack has discovered he likes hugs - even sharing one with Elmo.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

Now Listen, I Don't Know About You - But I Love Baths

I'm Serious About This, You Know - I Really Do.

It's Over Already? I Could Do This All Night!


The Italian, The Movie

picture: Sony Classic/The Italian Website

Tonight we finally had the opportunity to rent "The Italian". It's a movie about a six year old Russian orphan who is about to be adopted by an Italian couple. The boy, Vanya, runs away from the orphanage after taking papers from his file to go and find his birth mother. He does this after another boy tells Vanya if he ever changes his last name, his mother will never be able to find him.

It's an interesting movie and one we included a link to at the right. The backdrop of the movie is pretty accurate - at least compared to what we saw while there. We watched remembering those minty green walls, the roads full of potholes, the cold, and the women wearing short skirts and tall heels even though it was freezing. Another interesting note is the movie takes place during the same time of year we went to Russia. It looks as if the Italian couple make their first trip in late winter and then return in late spring.

While most of the set of the movie was extremely accurate compared to what we saw while we were in Russia, we are not sure about the actual orphanage. Once children turn four they move out of the 'baby home' which is supposed to be a medical facility and where Jack lived. Once four, children move to an educational facility and this is where Vanya lived. We wonder if this is not unlike the orphanage Jack's birthmother grew up in.

The movie does a good job describing all of the social layers and complexities that exist - all of the orphans...the new mothers who give up their babies every day. In our experience, it is also accurate with regard to how people treat each other in Russia. We noticed while we were there that people are much 'gruffer' with each other than here. There is no mincing of words. Rarely are people polite. It's "an every man for himself" attitude - even getting off an airplane. People don't let the row ahead of them go first. Everyone rushes to the middle. People cut in line like crazy. Towards the end of our second trip, we finally just cut in front of the people who cut in front of us at the food stand or in the grocery store... they didn't seem to mind....it's just how it is.

In the movie children smoke - we did not see that, but we did see a child who looked to be about 9 pull a pint of vodka out of his coat pocket while playing soccer in Moscow.

What the movie DID do is make us think about Jack's mom. In the beginning there is a birthmother who longs for her child that she abandoned a few years before. She arrives too late - after he has been adopted. For the first time, I really thought about Jack's birthmother and what she could be going through. I wonder if she thinks of him. I wonder if she longs for him. I wonder if she'll ever try to get him back - she can't, but I wonder if she'll ever try. What would she think if she knew her son is living in America?

The orphanage in the movie made us wonder if that was what her life was like for 18 years. She was four when the Soviet Union was dissolved. I don't know if foreign adoptions took place before that. We think it was probably unlikely and people aren't as likely to adopt a child that is four, five, six, ten - an older child. Did she ever really have a chance? We were told she lived in a clean apartment, but the apartments in the movie are nothing like what we have here. And the older teenage kids at the orphanage - what kind of life will they have when they get out? Perhaps it was very brave for her to give up Jack. Perhaps that's just me making excuses to make myself feel better. Who knows what the situation really was for her. I can't imagine how she feels, but I bet she thought about him on his birthday and then again on the 28th of the June - the day she decided to put him up for adoption. I thought of her on those days. For the first time, I see how important it is to include Jack's birthmother in his lifestory. He needs to know what we know. It's part of his identity. I haven't shared it all here (for his privacy) and we are lucky to know so much. If he wants to contact her, he can try. If he wants a picture, we have that too.

The movie also made us wonder about his birthfather for the first time. For the first time, I also COMPLETELY understood why the doctor in the U.S. was SO positive about Jack's health when she found out his birthmother was young and he was her first. I can totally see how being the second, third, fourth pregnancy may cause issue for health concerns. How depressing to have to keep giving up your children. Why would you even care what you do when you are pregnant if you know they are not yours to keep? I don't think I would be in my right mind thinking of long term effects and what not.

As the credits rolled, we looked at each other and said, "Five minutes ago we thought this was a good movie." The ending was contrived for the Russian public and was clearly a statement regarding foreign adoptions, but that didn't really matter - again it was the middle that mattered....the struggle of the people in Russia, the attitudes, the landscape, that allowed us to really think about things - in the comfort of our own home...it also made us feel really lucky to have Jack and to have had so few problems in our own lives, in our country....