Category Archives: First Adoption

Last Day Here

Our flight will hopefully be taking off in 5 hours. I cannot wait. Well, actually, I am not looking forward to the whole flying with kids thing, but I cannot wait to be home. About 26 more hours and we will be home. Home the place with all the foods I love, medicines in abundance, a washer and a dryer, a big bed, and of course, my dogs. Well, two of the three. The third is still off having special adventures with Amy, Milo and co.

We made the kids take a nap today. Neither of them wanted to, but Lena has not thrown a single tantrum since. Ilya has actually been worse. So, Lena not throwing a tantrum sounds great, right? Well, I’d really like it if she slept tonight. 9, 10, 11, 12, 1… still waiting.

We also discovered something else which makes Lena happy, quiet and well behaved… videos of babies. I had the idea because she gets so excited when she seems my sister and her baby on Skype. Yesterday, she was being bad, so my sister showed her my nephew and she was just mesmerized. Well, they both loved the videos of babies laughing, but Lena especially can’t get enough. It’s pretty adorable, she just puts her head on her elbows and smiles. We have had no success with any other kinds of videos, so I am glad this works. We need something which they’ll sit calmly for.

Well, I need to go finish packing. I hope that all of our flights will be on time.

This is the video I wanted to show you yesterday, but had some trouble with…

How Things Are Going

We got all of the embassy stuff straightened out yesterday. Fortunately, an extremely nice and proficient woman works in Aaron’s HR department. She got us taken care of. We also had an American helping us at the embassy. He was nice. Even a bit Mr. Rogers like.

The kids are still hard. Scratch that, Lena is still hard. Ilya has his moments… he talks to us in Russian and we don’t understand. He gets upset over food. He can get really wound up. Yes, he just seems like a 3 year old. He can also be so cute. Like finding a piece of string on the floor and telling us it’s a snake or how good he’s gotten at signing “more please”.

Lena on the other hand is really hard. Incredibly hard and frustrating at times. She has thrown two fits in the last hour. The first because I wouldn’t let her play with dirty tissues and the second because she wanted to drink out of the big water bottle or Ilya’s cup instead of her own– they all just had water in them. We also had a fit today because she wanted to go the bathroom at the same time as Ilya. She will repeat behavior that she knows she should not do and will laugh until she has something taken away from her. I am hoping it is just because she’s 3. I talked to my sister tonight and she was encouraging. I haven’t felt in my right mind lately, so it was good to hear how she’d handle the situation. And that her bio kids act the same way. Lena still is not talking much. I am hoping that this because she was with children even younger than her at the orphanage and she needs to catch up. She has picked up some words and will use them without being prompted. She also seems very comfortable signing with us and will sign sometimes when she is upset too. The signs we’re using are all pretty basic… “more” “please” “potty” “drink” “eat” “sleep” “wait” “no” “stop”. They both have more, eat and please down very well and seem to understand the rest, but will rarely sign them to us.

Ilya drinks A LOT. 1-2 cups of water an hour. I am not sure why this is. He has only had two accidents during the day. The first was when we were walking home a few days ago and could not get him to a bathroom. The second was today, he was upset because we were waiting on dinner and Lena was upset. He cannot make it through the night now, but he has accepted this and will let us put diapers on him now. I am not worried about him making it through the night.

I am really ready for bed. I have not been feeling too great for the last couple of days.

Don’t they make it look like everything is just perfect here?

I had a video of Ilya learning to count in English for you, but it won’t process in Flickr, so you’re just going to have to wait another day.

Not So Good Day

Today was a hard day. Not just as a parent and for the kids, but a hard day for us, just as people, trying to get all of the paperwork to get home.

We had to go to the embassy today. Our cab was supposed to come at 9:30. It pulled up at 9:52. We went downstairs at 9:30, Aaron waited out in the snow while I stood with the two kids in a very dirty staircase. Of course, Lena tripped and fell over into a pile of sludge just as Aaron came to tell us that the cab was there.

The embassy, ugh. I had paperwork to finishing filling out. Blanks that I wasn’t sure how to fill in. Aaron took the kids to play. So, I wrote the same information a dozen more times and gave it all back to her, paid a ridiculous amount of money and then she asked me what proof we had of our healthcare and that it would cover the children’s needs, because of their special needs. First of all, this is not something that we have ever been told we’d need. Not by Reece’s Rainbow, not by the embassy. Why? Because’s it’s absurd… really just discrimination. She gave me a paper, which was clearly written for the embassy staff and clearly not even intended for immigration as an adopted child. She told me proof of sufficient income and showing them our insurance card are not enough. My blood was boiling, but I went to get Aaron and the kids. And we went to the clinic for their medical exams. Uneventful, boring even, but there was another American family there who we talked to for awhile. Such a sweet family, and they have a heart for older boys. The boy they’re adopting is 15! They implied that they too left their hearts in the orphanage, all three of them– mother, father and 10 year old bio son.

We did find out approximately what the kids weigh. They were weighed with all of their winter gear on and Lena was about 25lbs and Ilya about 37lbs. You have to subtract a couple of pounds for the coats, hats, boots, gloves, etc.

I got home and started emailing about our embassy situation. There are some really wonderful, helpful people out there. People with connections who just want to see children come home. I love these people who dedicate lots of time and energy to helping people like us– tired and nervous in a foreign country. It sounds like the embassy fiasco will be taken care of. We did contact our insurance and Aaron’s employer about getting this letter. That will be done. If that won’t do the trick, more strings are being pulled by those lovely people I mentioned above. If you want more details about our embassy situation, if you are a family traveling soon, please contact me privately.

Both of the kids had hard days. I think they were tired. Ilya threw several fits today over weird things, like being asked to sit in his seat during lunch. Lena throws fits over more reasonable things, but she is very difficult to calm down. It seems like she needs to cry for 20 minutes before she will be okay. It is an encouragement to hear that this is a normal 3 year old thing… fits over nothing. I think I usually think of it as an effect of being in an orphanage because many of the fits are over things that most kids would not care about. Over food and sharing toys, and sometimes just when one of us wants to sit next to them. They think we’ll take their toy away.

Lena’s bedtime is really hard still. She seemed to be getting better the last few days… a little shorter and a little less fighting. Tonight was the worst night. I was actually kind of impressed by how hard she fought it… really, really fought it. We started signing with them today and what she always does is tries to get out of bed, and go out to where Aaron and Ilya are. She yells a combination of words, things I don’t understand, but sometimes yells “papa” “mama”. Tonight I signed and said “mama is here”. I am not sure that it helps her now, but I think it will eventually. Lena is definitely picking up the signing too. I am using them as much as I can remember, just so they begin to learn them. She has shown me “please” and “eat” so far. Eat was completely out of the blue. Aaron got oranges out and she wanted another one so she signed “eat” to him!

I have some new videos, but honestly, I am just EXHAUSTED and feeling too lazy to post them.

The Good and the Bad

I’ll start you off with the bad. Both kids had huge meltdowns today. Ilya’s came in the morning. He was in the kitchen with Aaron, he ran into the living room where I was, threw a piece of cardboard and a few papers on the ground and ran back into the kitchen. I went to go get him to pick up the papers and he just started screaming and crying. I think he knew what he was doing was not okay to begin with and I wonder if he was expecting a far worse punishment. His “punishment” was sitting with me until he calmed down. It took awhile. He cried for at least twenty minutes. I think the whole situation over the past two days may have just hit him right then.

Lena’s meltdown came in the evening, walking back from a fun night out. She just started crying and screaming and would not stop. Meredith Cornish tried to comfort her in her sling and gave her some hand warmers. But Lena just cried and cried and cried. She was cold, tired, and had to go to the bathroom. Meanwhile, Ilya kept telling us he had to go to the bathroom and Aaron and I argued over walking or taking a cab. Not our family’s finest moment.

But, the good. Apart from the meltdowns, we had a good day. We decided to go out for lunch, to TGI Friday’s. Not the greatest or cheapest restaurant, but Aaron and I have both been homesick for America food. Taking Ilya and Lena into TGI Fridays was so worth it too. Ilya was so excited about all of the food. It was like a scene out of a movie. I took this video when we were about halfway through the meal. I wish I had taken one when the waitress first brought out all of the food… total awe on Ilya’s face.

After we ate lunch, we took the kids to the underground mall. That was fascinating for them. Of course, they liked the toys the best. Here they are, faces pressed up against the glass.



We still had some time to kill before meeting up with Meredith & co. so we got ice cream. They may have never had ice cream before, especially not chocolate. Oh boy. Another movie moment, this time with both of them. The sweetest part? We just got one cup and they shared it. Ilya would take a few bites, Lena would ask for it, and he’d hand it over. She’d take a couple of bites and hand it right back. I have to say that this surprised me a bit. I expected them to be more possessive of something so yummy, but nope. I love how they enjoy these experiences, but also are so good at sharing and taking care of each other.



We met up with Meredith, her newest daughter Aleksa, and her friend Chris. We walked to see all of the Christmas lights. The kids seemed a bit bored until we got to the huge Christmas tree and tons of characters dressed up. Santa everywhere. Ilya would hardly budge, he just wanted to stare at Santa. We walked along, down to this underground mall to get some dinner for Meredith and co. We were not hungry yet, but Meredith shared some of her fries with the kids. When we walked home was when Lena’s meltdown began.



As I said before, she calmed down once we got home. We skyped with some family. First Aaron’s sister, her husband and sobaka (dog). The kids enjoyed that. And when we were done, we skyped with my family- mom, sister and sister’s kids minus one. That was fun too. The kids seem to have fun with each through skype, feeding each other crackers. Lena loves my sister’s baby, too.

Bedtime with Lena seems to be getting a bit better every night. Tonight she still cried, but she fought me less. She eventually laid down on the pillow with a big smile on her face.

Ilya, wow, he impressed me tonight. We decided to wait to put him to bed until Lena was asleep and the screaming was over. We had the door to the bedroom open, where Lena and I were sitting. Aaron was folding laundry in the bathroom. Without being asked, Ilya picked up all of the toys, the computer, etc. and piled them neatly on the desk in the bedroom. He put the clothes on the bedroom floor in the suitcase. When he was done, he asked me if I wanted him to turn off the light, and I told him yes and thank you. He got a big smile on his face, obviously pleased to know that I was pleased, and shut the door. I have to say, sometimes I am shocked that he is only 3. He has his meltdowns and some bad behavior, but then he does something exceptional like that.

Meredith commented tonight that it is hard to believe they’re just 11 months apart. I would have to agree! Lena is so small. People often refer to her as a baby and she can act like an older baby, crying to get her needs met and mimicking everything that the three of us do. Her behavior all seems normal if I think of her as 18 months old, instead of 3. Ilya on the other hand sometimes acts like a typical 3 year old, but he has moments like the one I described above, behavior which seem to be beyond his age. He also talks so much, and is happy to teach me Russian. We have a book with mostly just pictures and I will point to a photo and he will tell me what it is, I’ll repeat the word back and if I say it right, he’ll say “da” (“yes”) and if I say it wrong, he’ll repeat it again. Today when we were at the mall, someone’s McDonalds bag fell off of their table and he picked it up and handed it back to them, without any kind of request. He seems to have a strong desire to have things orderly and to help others.

Yesterday and the Train

Yesterday was one of the craziest days in my life. Running around started at 8am. First to the court house to get the decree. I thought this would be a quick thing… what, maybe a half hour at the most? We waited. And waited. One hour. After another half hour, Sasha finally came out and had us sign something. She said that the judge did not want to come into today because the weather was bad and that was what took him so long. But, he did come in, finally.

Then, to do some dossier prep, as Sasha called it. That took another couple of hours. At this point I was getting nervous. It was nearly noon and we hadn’t even started with the birth certificates, passports or bank. Soon we were done and off to get Lena’s passport. That did not take long at all, and then off to get Ilya’s. He was born in a town a little ways away and so we had to drive for about a half hour. His birth certificate took awhile. Around 2:30, we left and headed to the notary to copy the birth certificates. Around 3:30, we went to get the passports. I think it was about 4:30 when they were done. Cutting it close, because we still had to go to the bank and then pick up the kids. And the train was at 7. It was about 5:30 by the time we left the bank to get the kids and go. Around 6, we had them. Now an hour to get home which always takes about half an hour in good weather and yesterday was slick and icy. So, drop Sasha off so she can take a taxi to get us train tickets, a half hour home, run upstairs, grab everything and go. We got to the train station MINUTES before 7. It was like 6:50 and the driver told us to stay in the car. What?

Sasha came out and told us that the train was not until 7:50. Oh, wow. So, she translated a bunch of important stuff that we needed and then took me to get food for everyone. This was literally the first food that Aaron and I had eaten all day. Back to the car for a few minutes, Sasha says it is time to go. The ground was just inches of slush, so we had to carry the kids. Two kids, two BIG suitcases, my purse (stuffed completely full), our diaper bag, a grocery bag stuffed full of food, the two bags of food we had gotten at the cafe, a 6 liter jug of water and a duffel bag with some other things for the kids. It was A LOT of stuff. Four adults to carry all of that and two kids. Well, we all just loaded up. Aaron, Sasha and I got inside and where was the driver? Was he struggling to get our two heavy bags? So, we sent Aaron out to help him and then the driver called. He was already by our train and now Aaron was missing. Sasha ran out to get Aaron, and then we had to run to the train. Literally across the snow covered train tracks. If you know how train tracks at a train station are typically set, they are a few feet deep, down from the platform. Ugh. That was hard, meanwhile, Sasha was constantly yelling at us to run. We got to where the lady would take our tickets. I had them in my purse and set Lena down to get them out. The snow was not deep there at all, but we quickly learned that Lena needs to be held in an unfamiliar situation. She instantly started crying and only calmed down when I got her in the train cabin and held her. Sasha ran off the train, quickly. Hardly a goodbye, but she was afraid of getting stuck on the train.

My mom will give me a hard time again, for not getting a single photo of yesterday before our train ride, but Sasha was exhausted and just refused to let us get a photo of her. We were in the orphanage for such a short period of time. No opportunity to take photos or long goodbyes.

The orphanage staff was really wonderful. I am a huge fan of all of them. They lectured us saying that the kids should really have tights and scarves on. I can’t say that I agree with that, but I love that they care. One of the ladies looked like she was near tears. She said bye to Lena, paused and came over and kissed her on top of her head.

The clothes we brought fit the kids well. Lena’s 18 month pants are big. They are from Children’s Place… anyone know if their clothes run big? Ilya has on a 3T shirt and 4T pants. Lena is OBSESSED with her boots. I am not sure if this because she is used to wearing shoes all the time or if she just really likes them. Obviously, we love both of them and can’t imagine leaving either of them behind. But, I am SO glad that they have each other. In the car, just after leaving the orphanage, Ilya was obviously upset. Lena reached over and started stroking his face. The two of them were a riot in the train cabin together. Going back and forth, teasing each other with food. Most of the time, they play very well together and seem to enjoy each others’ company. We are convinced that they are going to be the kind of siblings who are best friends.

The train ride was not so fun. The first couple of hours were good. Food and just hanging out. Around 10, we decided to try to get the kids to sleep. Dressed them in pjs and turned almost all of the lights out. They refused. We put on some music and eventually Ilya fell asleep. Well, Lena was wired. WIDE AWAKE. Doing flips on the bed, etc. We were taking turns with her– Aaron walking her around in the train and me trying to get her to sleep. Finally, around 1:30, we decided to just make her sit there. I could tell she was getting tired. So, I held her on my lap and let her cry and scream. Eventually, I set her down next to me and she started rocking. If you have researched how children in an orphanage may behave, you know what I mean. I knew this was normal, so I just rubbed her back while she did it. She put her head on the pillow, gave her a sippy cup with some water and she was done. She let me keep one of my hands on her while she fell asleep, which I consider a good thing. We are trying to get her slowly used to physical affection without totally overwhelming her. It was 2am when she fell asleep. At 7:30, she woke up on her own. She had a sharp intake of breathe like she was a bit surprised about where she was (no kidding!) but she took my hand when I offered it to her and sat on my lap for a bit. She certainly displays some of the behaviors of a child who has been in an orphanage, but she also seems to be okay if we try to soothe her in some way. She loves to press buttons and she went to press the ones which light the gas stove today. She got a sharp “NYET” (“NO!”) and started to slowly rock herself. But, she let me pick her up and she just put her head on my shoulder and all was fine.

We have learned that both of them are totally potty trained. Lena was okay with wearing the diaper at night. Ilya looked at us like we were the stupidest people in the world and told us something like “HEY, I’M A BIG BOY. NO DIAPERS!” But, he did fine and only got Aaron up once to take him to the bathroom. By the way, I think you should get an automatic parenting award for spending your first night with a potty trained child on the train, using the train bathrooms. In disgusting things I’ve done, train bathrooms rank right up there with gutting moldy houses and cleaning the house after a sick dog has been alone for a few hours. Combine that with two 3 year olds who touch everything and are way too big to sit on the grown up seat. Yes. Wonderful.

Sorry for this very long blog post. This is the short version of the last 30 hours. So much has happened and it is hard to really comprehend it all. I can’t imagine how many “new” things these two have experienced since we picked them up. They’re both doing so well.


I’ll leave you with the cute picture of them looking at the train window this morning, taking it all in.