Thursday, March 29, 2007


Sorry it took so long. As Amy would say, my jet "leg" has been bothering me. :)

Monday, March 26, 2007


While at the orphanage we noticed the babies had very few toys.

Most of the time, the babies were put in big cribs to play with each other or wait for food, but had nothing but each other for stimulation. They do have play time, but if you look at what is on the shelves, there isn't much. Also we took a picture of the clothes they have. These clothes that you see are for at least 8 babies. (We saw 8 while we were there - there could've been more in other parts of the orphanage. There are a total of 140 children at the Kotlas Baby Home.)
If anybody has any VERY small new or like new toys or any clothing that you would like to donate to the home, we would love to deliver it for you when we go back! :)

Sunday, March 25, 2007


If you'd like to see some of the pictures we took on our trip, here they are!
Click on the first picture when in the album and then "slideshow" or just manually hit "next." We'll work on uploading the video tomorrow. Thanks for looking!


Well, we are finally home! It's nice to back. Wish Alexander was here. We fixed the pictures on the page - it's nice to be back to our own computer too! Tomorrow we'll post some pictures and a short video.

Good night. :)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Pick up?

Hey mom and dad,

I know you can't check your email, so I hope you get this.

Will you pick is up at 7:45 tonight?

If you can't call my cell.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Happy spring!

The trees are budding and the tulips are up in Amsterdam! We must be next!

Good bye, Moscow!

We got up early and tried to go to Red Square. Maybe next time. They told us it would take us 3 hours to get there by taxi because traffic is so bad. Next time Dmitry gets us to the embassy so we will be able to take the metro from there. It'll be nice to get pictures there with Alexander!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Back in Moscow

So we're back at the 3 star that would be a half star at home. No hairs this time in the bed and it smells a lot better. Don't feel like I'm sleeping inside a smoker's lung. Erik

This Place Kicks Ass

Beer, pop, sandwiches 24 hours a day. Only 30 yards from the hotel and cheap. Erik


There are a bunch of trees cut like this all over Arkhangelsk. Dmitry says they are cut like this because people have allergies. Interesting...!

One last one from my phone...

I've tried my best to get the good pics off my camera. I'll have to wait until Saturday or tomorrow. All of these computers are in Russian!

The Process

It’s rare to find anyone here who knows any English. It makes sense when you think about it – this is a relatively new country and has only been open to outside influence since ’91. It’s good we have Dmitry, but we’re not his only case and he’s a busy man. Not knowing the language of a country leads to many surprises.

What we mean by that is all of a sudden we’ll find out we need to be here or there. Most often the surprise is something we ordered from a menu just doesn’t look quite how we pictured.
! J

The best surprise yesterday was going into a room yesterday to find Alexander on a blanket on the floor. We actually had no idea when we went through that he would be on the other side of that door.

We just kind of looked at each other and said, “Wow! That’s him!”

They gave us four hours to get know Alexander. (We’re still calling him that because his name doesn’t officially change until the court date. )

He was a little uncertain of us at first – you’ll see that in the video to come this weekend, but he warmed up rather quickly. He holds his hands together like a little old man praying and sucks on his lower lip when he’s nervous.

After about a half hour (or maybe even less) he started to smile. He smiles easily and watches EVERYTHING. He can sit up if you put him in the position. He can’t quite get there himself yet, but he tries.

The most amazing thing about this baby is that he did not cry until around 3:45. (We had been with him since 11:00) And let me rephrase that – he didn’t really even cry, he just got a little fussy. He is very used to his rigid routine and he knew it was time for his afternoon snack and subsequent nap. J
Even more amazing is that he also easily entertained himself on the blanket when we ate lunch. He responds to his name (Sasha or Alexander –but you have to say alex-ah-nder), loves to bounce, asks for contact by reaching out or handing you something, and responds to contact with a big toothless smile.

The orphanage is in need of many things, and among them are teething rings. Poor little guy keeps gnawing at his fingers – his top knuckle on a couple fingers is almost raw. I could feel his first tooth coming in – it’s almost through the gum.

We asked what his schedule is. They said he wakes up at 7:00 a.m., has breakfast, then “toilet”, then plays. We laughed at the “toilet” part. (Ha! Ha! Ha! ALWAYS in that order we asked.) Little did we know how literal they were being. They are actually potty training an 8 month old! (I guess it makes sense. Diapers can be expensive.) It was pretty strange seeing all those babies on little pots. Then form 9-11:00 he naps, has lunch then TOILET again, and then plays until 3:00. He has a snack at 3:00- we watched this also – he can eat a big bowl of porridge in about 2 minutes flat. Not kidding. Just wait to the video! J Then he naps until 5:30, has dinner at 6:00, plays, goes to the toilet at 8:00, and then goes to sleep at 8:00. They wake him up at 10:00 for a bottle. Then he sleeps until 7:00 the next morning. That’s life in an orphanage.

The ladies that work there make eye contact with the babies and call them by name. They constatntly talk to them. At least while we were there.

Everything seems so be on target for his age…he rolls around, balances on one leg on the side, tries to talk, and follows everything with his eyes. But it’s the big easy toothless smiles that are nice to see. All the babies actually do seem happy. It’s not until they get older that they seem to understand where they are.

Alexander weighs in at about 15 lbs. right now. Such a little guy for such a big name! They keep saying he skinny (maybe compared to some of the others) but he continues to gain weight.

We got to see him again after his second nap to say “good-bye.” Then some lady took him and something in Russian. Probably “good-bye” because that was the last we got to see him.

Today we flew back to Arkhanglesk. (The pilot had breakfast in the cockpit again. J ) The stewardess passed out barf bags before we took off. I thought (as anyone would, I think) that we were up for a rough flight, but actually it was fine!

We had to go to the notary office to petition the court to adopt him and officially change his name. It’s now Dmitry’s turn to complete a bunch of paper work on behalf of little Alex. He’s making sure no Russian citizens or other couples can petition the court to adopt him. We have him officially “on hold” so to speak until we go to court!

Russian citizens had six months from the time he was in the federal database to adopt him. He was put in September 10 and available to us March 10. We were the first family he was referred to. He spent the first month of his life in a maternity hospital (which is normal). Very unlike the U.S. where they kick you out 48 hours after giving birth!

Alexander has appointments here in Arkhangelsk April 19 and 20 with many doctors. They need to find something ANYTHING wrong with him. Russians do not like to see their “healthy” children being adopted by foreign citizens. We’re not nervous about this part because if you look hard enough at anyone you can find some sort of defect. I would have some kind of foot disease because one foot is a whole half size bigger than the other. (I’m being serious.) J

After Alexander’s doctor appointments, they will give us a court date. We’re hoping for the end of April or beginning of May…

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Look it's a dada

His hair is blond!

He has blond hair and dark blue eyes. There is no more red in it although it can sometimes look that way depending on your computer screen. His hair does look reddish in pictures from his younger days. Dmitry copied them for us. He also let us have a picture of his birth mom. She is very pretty with brown hair. Very young looking.

I will send more tomorrow. We got some great ones of the other kids as well. The 1-2 year olds would all stare at Erik. Some would yell DADA DADA or something like it. They didn't care too much about me. I don't think they see too many men. Erik said he felt like an exotic zoo animal. They just all stood back and WATCHED him carefully! Oh and by the way Erik said to add tigers are cool. He'd be a tiger.


Yes. The name he has now would look better on a hockey jersey. But unfortunately we have a German last name and they only look best on soccer jerseys! We know... We realize this...BUT...

The vote is over! It's a done deal. We will however, open up the polls again to those offering a 4 year scholarship to a college of Jack's choice! :)

He's a happy kid!

We had a heard time deciding on a name. We wanted to keep Alexander for part of it and have Fritz be a part as well. Our favorite is Jack so we used them all. He is Jack Alexander Fritz Reis. I'm sure we will call him Sasha for a while to come. It's what he's used to. Who knew Sasha was short for Alexander? :) it is now time to leave the orphanage. They tell us we may hear at the end of April about a court date.

The album was a hit!

I know some of these pictures are sending goofy but he really is alert, happy, and cute!

Jack Alexander Fritz Reis bundled tight!!

Going for a walk


It's the only time in my life you'll hear me say, "Go Blue!"

We meet!


We are here!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Hi Ingrid!

Are you put there? Our emails aren't going through. We found another penny right when we got to our kotlas room... Are you back from Georgia? We are getting comments but not all our emails.

Kotlas or bust!

Fw: Kotlas

The plane ride was ... Indescribable. We were on a turbo prop. Two engines, Russian built. It looked kinda old, but also kinda cool. No one else was afraid or nervous, so we decided right away we would not be either. Plus it was comforting to know that Dmitry had flown this route many times before. But if you are the type who doesn't like to fly (Michelle) this may not be the best choice of travel for you.

Our window was directly underneath the wing and the landing gear. Yes, it was that small of a plane. As I sat on the plane saving Erik a seat (you could sit where you wanted and Erik and Dmitry we're busy loading our bags into the cargo hold) I was slightly taken aback bythe sight of them using jumper cables to start the plane. After they plugged them in, the lights got brighter, the engines roared...

And I mean ROARED! They were so load that our voices took on a whole new vibration. We sounded like we we're talking into a couple of oscilating fans.

The stewardess came down the aisle with food - for the pilot. She emerged from the cockpit with an empty tray. At home the news reports the dangers of distracted driving. Apparently, not the same case here. I just hope he wasn't on his cell phone too while flying the plane!

It took about an hour and 20 minutes to fly down to Kotlas. We landed on a sheet of thick, thick ice. It was just warm enough or the plane was just heavy enough or a combination of the two, we could look out and see the wheels cut two thick gashes as the plan went through the ice going down the runway. We got off the plane and stepped down a narrow stairway with one handrail. It was like being on skates for the first time watching everyone take teeny, tiny babysteps for next 20 yards. You'd think a country surrounded by all this ocean could find a little salt! I actually bit it going to get my suitcase. Most of what I was carrying ended up under the plane. There must not be many Sam Bernsteins here cause you know in Michigan that dude would be watching from the fence in situations like this passing out business cards.

We piled into a van with the other Russians we are now traveling with-Dimitry. The doctor/director, and two other ladies. Dimitry said we can meet them tomorrow. For now we all just kinda smile at each other and they say things like, "Ha! Ha! Ha! Russian safari!" whenever I take a picture.

Riding on the roads is similar to riding a horse with all the potholes. There is a lot of up down up down. You can go about 10-20 miles per hour at any given time. Erik and I will never again complain about the potholes in Michigan! Lauren, you are right- this isn't something you'd find in a Frommer's guidebook, but very cool just the same!

The important thing is we are here in Kotlas! We made it - and so now we are just sitting watching a DVD and Erik is eating a Russian "jelly donut" - a Danish wrapped around a whole little fish!

12 hours and counting...

Old Soviet Buildings are Cool

That's right, this place is just like the history books. Every thing is plain looking but the old Soviet presence is all around. We saw a MIG jet just outside of the airport. I will try to get a picture of it later. As you can see, Jen is thoroughly enjoying the food. She is still looking for caviar and the famous herring. Maybe later. I will tell you this, Vodka is cheap as hell and people here can really put it away.


Alexander Evgenyevich Bolotov

That's his full name. We just met with Dimitry again. He's trying his best to fix a bad situation. He said tomorrow we will go to the orphanage at 9 and then be with Alexander from 11-3. Then we can tour the orphanage and also walk around freely wherever we want. He says the ladies there are really nice and he wants us to see the kids. He says they feel loved from the ladies that work there and he wants us to see the children smiling. Babies can't fake smiling like adults he says. Then he's arranged for us to back from 6:30 to 8 even though the orphanage is supposed to be closed after 5. He says if weather pemits, we can take him out in the stroller. At first I was surprised-what if we just steal the baby? But I guess they realize we couldn't get out of Kotlas by ourselves if we tried! :)
The picture is Alex at 2 months. Dmitry says he's taken picture every 2 months and will give us those. Notice the yellow sweater. You can't see it but he's wearing blue pants.

Oh and mom, his birthday is June 26. I know you were hoping for June 9-but would that still make him a Gemini?

We've also got the mother's relinquishment papers so if we sign for him, no one else can have him. His mom was kinda tall, brown hair, gray blue eyes. Kinda like a mix of Erik and I. :)

We also have to decide on a name by Thursday. Everyone calls him Sasha. Sasha is short for Alexander. Interesting... But I kinds like it. Still like Jack too. I guess we'll have to meet him first! What do you guys think?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Erik on the beach! Notice the playground

Just Hanging Out on Top of the World

So here we are in Arkhanglesk. If you've followed our first itinerary or even second maybe it's time to stop following because we now have a third. I feel like we've been running a marathon these past few months/years and just when I thought we were almost finished someone says, "nope – haven't you heard? Marathons are now 30 miles long instead of 26. But don't worry about it. Just keep going."

So that's what we are trying to do…just go with the flow. And we were doing that fine UNTIL they touched the amount of time we were to have with the baby.

Earlier we were told we'd have some time Tuesday, all of Wednesday, and then some more on Thursday. Now we don't even leave Archangelsk until tomorrow night….tomorrow night is TUESDAY. And we leave Kotlas to come back here on Thursday, but our flight time is 8:00 A.M. That only leaves us Wednesday to spend with him.

Dimitry is the one who is scheduling all of our flights and seemed like a nice guy and I'm sure he is. But he found out days ago the flight was cancelled – so why couldn't we have taken a train?? There are other modes of transportation. (How ironic- we even brought Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – the movie – to watch during all of our "downtime." Seriously.)

So we are frustrated. I looked at Dmitry and just said, "no that is not good enough." I actually started crying. I'm sure he thinks I'm crazy, but at this point I don't care what all of Russia thinks of us. We did not take four planes to come to the top of the world for a one hour meeting. We cannot base a decision on one or even two hours with a baby we've never met. I don't have one, but I do know that sometimes they are crabby or sometimes they are happy. Wouldn't it be nice to at least be able to compare two experiences with him? To see how he is when cold medication wears off or how he is at night versus in the morning? To see if his motor skills are consistent or whatever. This is all information it would be helpful to have even when we take him home. Also what about the video we were going to email the doctor just to make sure his gross motor skills were on par for a child his age in an orphanage????

So after all my voicemails and emails to the U.S. at what would be 4 a.m. eastern time, Dimitry and knocked on our door with the director/doctor of the orphanage. I guess they are stuck here too.

They agreed we could spend ALL DAY Wednesday with him. We can feed him and see how he plays and what his routine is. Dmitry also gave us the paper that we needed from the Minister of Education. I guess that has changed as well and we don't have to actually meet with him. He told Erik to MAKE SURE he did not lose it because he needed to give it to the director of the orphanage tomorrow. He was very adamant. Don't lose it! The director needs it! Did I mention he gave it to Erik IN FRONT OF THE DIRECTOR? I guess it's just something else we don't quite understand about Russian culture. Erik saved the paper to give to the director tomorrow.

They both smile when Dmitry tells them we are going to meet Alexander and it seems like they both really enjoy him. They say they are like his orphanage mother and father. This kid is gonna be really confused because my count that is six parents now – birth parents, adoptive parents, and ORPHANAGE parents! J Erik said he saw a picture of Alexander when he was 2 months old and that he looked fat and healthy. So tomorrow if his is tall and boney we at least know that he started out healthy. They will let us look at the file and pictures they have Wednesday when we get to the orphanage.

I hope that our Wednesday itinerary stays true. Tomorrow night we have the ticket to go to Kotlas.

So now we are going to actually venture out of our room for a little bit, since we are no longer waiting for calls or emails from the U.S. The room is nicer this time by the way. We don't have the I Love Lucy beds and it smells like – AIR. We love the smell of AIR – even if our baggage smell still reminds us of other room. JThere are even occupied buildings all around us and a working T.V. with BBC. It's also half the price of last night's hotel to boot! Go figure…

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The view

We are here

We are here in Moscow! Plans changed again and we'll be back here again Thursday night.

It's funny because our consultant was going to try and avoid having us stay in Moscow because the hotels are outrageous. She said bottom one stars are $250 and Marriots are $800 a night. We are paying 200 so I guess you can imagine where we are at. We have a beautiful room and a very pretty view! ;) it also has a beautiful intense smoke smell - much worse than the a downtown casino in Vegas! We went to a small store and cigarettes are about 70 cents a pack. I guess that may explain why!

We leave in the morning for Ark to meet with the minister of education sothat we can get permission to go to the orphanage. If he gives it to us, we fly to Kotlas tomorrow night!

One last thing, I opened my suitcase to find another penny sitting perfectly on top of my clothes. I didn't put it there and after all the shifting in flight we can't figure our why it was there. There were no coins in my clothes. Very strange, but kinda cool. It's been a while since Fritz left us one.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Leaving soon...


We're off!

We're at the gate! Ready to go. 13 more hours and we'll be in Moscow.

Friday, March 16, 2007


Things have already changed! We've just been notified that we'll be staying in MOSCOW on the 18th and then flying to Arkhangelsk on Monday. If we can get on a flight to Kotlas then we'll be in Kotlas Monday night. If not, we'll have to stay a night in Ark and won't get to Kotlas until sometime Tuesday. We're confused as to why we can't buy tickets ahead of time and secure them...???? I guess it'll be fun to see Red Square at night.... maybe we can get on the webcam. :) It's warmer there...34 degrees and "broken clouds." That must mean partly cloudy!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Bet you don't know what that says...

We finally received our visas today. Interesting little tidbit – they wrote our names in Russian.

We are ДЖЕНИФЕР РЕНИ (Jennifer Rene) and ЗРИК МАЙКЛ (Erik Michael).

It's hard to believe that it's almost time to go...just TWO more days! It's weird packing Cheerios and baby clothes for a baby we've never met! :)

Erik's mom found a website that gives information about Kotlas - the town where the orphanage is. You'll find pictures, history, etc. here. Thanks Ingrid!

The countryside looks very pretty. It'll be very interesting to compare going in March with going again closer to summer. Here are some pictures from the town's official website:

We've heard so many mixed comments from other people that have been. Some say they were told to stay in their room in Kotlas when they are not at the orphanage because people are suspicious of outsiders and don't like foreigners to adopt Russian children. Some say they have been approached in a bad way by people. Some people have found Russians in this town to be quite friendly. Either way, I know we'll be fine....usually we find if we just fly a little under the radar people are pretty nice everywhere!

Hopefully we'll spend most of next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at the orphanage. They only send us away when he needs to take a nap. Otherwise, I guess we can visit 2-3 times a day...

I've added a live webcam of the Red Square. You'll find it if you scroll down on the right side of the screen.

Well I guess it's back to packing....

Friday, March 9, 2007

One week left!

One week left! A week from tomorrow we start on our way to meet Alexander. (or Jack)

It's funny, we feel like we know NOTHING about where we are going. In the past when we've traveled, we've had guide books, been able to look things up on the net. This time, nada. We have no idea what we'll be able to do once we get to Kotlas - where the baby home is. We've found information about the city of Arkhangel'sk. The hotel looks nice...we'll have a bathroom...Internet access. In Amsterdam Erik has an idea of where he'd like to stay...and even that I can check out on the website before saying, "yes." (or "no") Apparently people with mullets stay 50% off. (Not kidding by the way - check out "The Winston"! ) :)

But Kotlas is a different story...

We know it exists. It has to - it's on the map, right? But whenever we try to do an Internet search, the weather station comes up and that's about it. It's like no one has traveled there except those who want to adopt. If we do a search on msn, THIS website comes up third. :) That's how little is written about Kotlas. It's an enigma.

To us, this is a little nerve wracking. We're used to having contact with the outside world....of being connected... or going to a restaurant, to be able to plan out what we will see or do. This is definitely new territory.

I guess we stay in an apartment, but whose - we have no idea. We have a picture from another parent who adopted from the agency.... I guess we stay in the penthouse of this building.

We might be expecting the worst, but I'm thinking there's a chance it may be difficult to stay in touch...

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


So I was in a chat room for adoptive parents who adopt through the same agency in the same region last night. All of the boys they were referred were dressed in pink too! Little pastel pink jumpers, hot pink t-shirts, red tights!! :) The pictures they sent me are really cute. I know they must use whatever they have, but it looks like Alexander has on a little cute blue outfit underneath. I wonder if they save the pink clothes for pictures or for presenting kids to potential parents...

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Any Ideas?

When we were talking to our consultant yesterday, she suggested we bring age appropriate snacks and toys to the orphanage so that when they leave us with Alexander we will have something to share with him. Does anybody have any ideas of things that we can bring? He is 8 months old.

Thanks for the help!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Off to Russia!

We got travel somewhat finalized today. We'll be traveling in two weeks. (March 17th-24th) We'll be flying to the captial first - Moscow! We'll then fly from Moscow to the city of Arkhangel'sk where we'll get permission to visit the orphanage. On Monday we'll get on another small plane and we'll fly from Arkhangel'sk to Kotlas where we will meet Alexander and get to play with him. We'll be at the orphanage Monday through Thursday. It'll be very interesting to be there and to meet all of the Russian children and their caregivers. Maybe we'll even get to meet the lady in the picture!

Then we'll make the return trip home with a layover in Amsterdam Friday night. We've heard that Internet access will be fairly easy to find. We'll be sure to send lot of pictures of Alexander and of cool things we see along the way! We are so excited! (I don't even care how cold it is anymore!) Can't wait!