4/1 10:45 am Russian Time

I am currently in “McCafe” a McDonald’s wanna be Starbucks in Moscow. The good part is FREE INTERNET ACCESS!

We only have 30 minutes and I want to give the bulk to Deana, but wanted to say we made it here safely, the kids are doing great, and there is SO MUCH to tell you! I am having a blast but almost as anxious as Deana to get home and back to reality (and American food!) McDonald’s is good but not what we are used to so it’s a so-so situation. Deana has been able to eat more so that’s good. We also have a refigerator in our room so went to the market to get food, too.

Okay, hope you all are doing well. Will try to post more later too.

G

3/30 11:30am Russian Time

SPECIAL NOTICE – WE MAY NOT HAVE INTERNET ACCESS IN MOSCOW SO WE MAY NOT POST VERY MUCH, IF AT ALL. PLEASE TRY TO COPE!!!

Special Instructions – if you want to leave a comment but don’t have a Google or Blogger account, NO WORRIES! Just click on the COMMENT at the end of any post and you will go to the comment screen (as well as see what comments have already been posted). Type in your comment and remember to include your name in the body of the message. Then select ANONYMOUS and click PUBLISH (or POST, I can’t remember).

Well, first of all, SUCCESS! Deana and I slept through the night! I was shocked when I heard Zack whispering this morning and realized it was 6:30am and I wasn’t wide awake at 1 or 2 in the morning! I feel much better today (I was nauseous and dizzy all day yesterday) and even put some make-up on!!!! I think the receptionists in the lobby probably didn’t recognize me! LOL

Yesterday, despite my feeling gross, was filled with precious moments. If you’ve seen Deana’s blog, you would have seen that Zack did his circus performances, including standing on my shoulders! Before getting there, you need to realize that he JUMPED onto my shoulders as I was sitting on the bed (legs over my shoulder, etc.) He is very agile, doing somersaults on the bed, standing on me as I lay down, standing on my shoulders – I can’t imagine what he will be capable of once we get out of this tiny room!

But that isn’t best part! As many of you know, I am addicted to sunflower seeds. Yes, I mean addicted! I was sitting reading on the bed, eating my seeds, spitting the shells into a brown bag I brought for that purpose, loving life. Zack came over and asked for some too. While he is not as proficient as me, he knows how to eat seeds! So we sat on the bed, me reading and Zack watching TV, eating seeds. When he was finished with the seeds I had given him, he would show his hands to me and Deana to receive praise. Let me tell you, it seems very silly with me typing here, but it was a true bonding time for me and Zack.

Later, he also reclined against me, which is a huge improvement. He is not as physically receptive as Sophia, so the fact that he touched me and relaxed with me was very special.

The other huge thing with Zack as that he has begun calling Deana MOM (not Mama). While previously he would acknowledge that Deana was Mama when we would question him, he never called that. But especially when he wants to show her something, he screams “MOM!” It is so cute! And it is from him – I have never referred to her a Mom up until that point and I don’t believe I’ve referred to anyone else as Mom in his presence. Today, he even asked for a kiss from Mom when she kissed Sophia, another huge deal!

He is also cute – when you say “you are so handsome” in Russian, he says “Nyt!” and acts all shy. He also ALWAYS shares! For example, the kids had been dying for more goldfish crackers all day. Trying to protect their little tummies, we have been careful about letting them eat. Finally, Deana said okay and joy abounded everywhere. Therefore, it was very endearing to see Zack offering me some of his cherished goldfish! He did the same thing with his rice crispy bar today – he took one bit and immediately offered me a bit. He does the same thing with Sophia – he always shares and makes sure she has food, etc. It is so very precious.
He also is getting very good as thanking us (spiceeba!) for things. If Deana is not in the room when he does it, he proudly tells her that he said thanks to me for something! He is really beginning to like when we praise him for doing something good.

Sophia is amazing with words! She copies words all the time, even when we are not trying to teach her English. She already calls her brother Zack, calls Deana mama, although Gina is difficult for her to pronounce. (I think it sounds more like Xena, but hey it could be worse. NO RONA, this is not your cue! LOL) She is amazing – already she knows where her nose is, her belly, and we are working on the foot (all the time I was teaching her, she thought I met my sock!) While her personality seems to be a bit more stubborn than Zack’s, she has a very sweet spirit. She is much more physically affectionate – she loves to kiss us. She also tries to be a circus entertainer like her brother but lacks the coordination so she often gives us heart attacks. They both love for me to throw them around and/or tickle them. Sophia loves it just as much as her brother and I have been happy to oblige them both!

Okay I will go now and I don’t have pics because Deana is hording them so there you go!

3/29 9:00am Russian Time

Deana and I are commenting on how surreal this experience has been! We have gotten into our routine here in the hotel with the children – wake up, potty, get dressed, go to the café for breakfast, come back, watch TV and interact, go outside to play, come back, dinner in the restaurant, baths, bedtime.

Except today, Zack begged to take a bath and Sophia concurred, so right now they are in there having the time of their lives together! This bath experience is so different than what they are used to – they would be hosed off in the tub and not everyday. So they are really enjoying the bubbles and the warm water. This is the first time they’ve bathed together and they are really having fun with each other. They DO get a little overly excited at times and I hear Deana telling them to sit, but overall they are being very good.

So, back to my first comment – this is still very surreal!

Our “friends”, the couple from South Carolina, go to court today at 11am Russian time for their daughter. I am praying that it goes well for them. This is different from their first experience when they adopted their son – that time, only the father could speak. NN is very women driven – most officials seem to be women. So the wife was a little nervous because you have to name all your siblings, all their children, including their ages. While Deana had a very hard time with this and even stumbled a bit, this couple has like 28 nephews and nieces! I pray that it goes well for them.

We also met another couple this morning – we saw them in the café and then Deana met them in the lobby. They are adopting a 1 and 2 year old (not sure of gender) and are also going to court this morning. Deana was able to give them some advice about not feeding the kids too much food even though it seems like the right thing to do. We learned that the hard way! Zack and Sophia are doing better in that area and were able to eat some cereal this morning, which was especially exciting for Zack. They are also already learning that water is our friend (as my boys have already learned!).

One interesting thing – I have mentioned to several others, including Anastasia the translator, that I need to fight the urge to speak Spanish to the children. Every single one of them were amazed that I speak Spanish (although I told them I speak very little). All assumed it was because I live in Southern California, which seemed to be a logical explanation for all of them. Wow, I’ve never even thought about that! It just seems so natural that, when you learn another language, you choose either Spanish or French. Those were the two that were prominent when I was growing up. But I guess that is not the case in other parts of our country, huh??? Como no!

Zack is funny though – during the night when we can’t sleep, Deana and have our “fourth meal”, although really we haven’t eaten on schedule (especially Deana). We eat fig newtons or maybe some chips. This morning Zack saw the evidence – the empty packages – and wanted some of his own! He cracks me up! I will have to do a better job of hiding the packaging!!!!

I’ve mentioned this before, but I am amazed and how very much they have stolen my heart! I am completely their slaves, heart and soul. I would die for these children and I am so thankful that I can see them blossom under the love and care that Deana is giving to them. I pray for the day when they meet Christ as their own Savior and walk in His light. I look forward to them growing and learning – becoming accomplished young people that know they are loved completely by their mother and extended family and friends. I look forward to the day when we reminisce about this trip – looking over the pictures and videos with smiles and amazement. Zack and Sophia have changed my life completely and I am a better person for it!

Okay, I have been multi-taking while writing (helping with bath time, doing homework, sending emails, answering the phone, sending laundry, playing with the kids, and otherwise being the silly one that I am) so it is now 10:15am Russian time. I pray that you have a wonderful day (or night, as the case may be). Thanks for reading this blog and continuing to pray for Deana!

Especially for Heather and Allie….

….who I’ve been told have religiously checked the blogs each morning and upon getting home from school! YOU ROCK! But the rest of you, who have done a great job as well, can benefit too!

Zack showing Sophia how to pop her balloon but jumping in it!


Zack is doing well in the “Gina’s School of Silliness”! Here he is licking his balloons.
(He did it especially for a picture!)
Here is Sophia right after getting dressed in the morning. First thing, must get backpack!

Having a blast here, although it is the middle of the night and we are wide awake! We are becomming a nightly fixture in the lobby – I come down around this time to get updated internet passwords and Pepsi Light! Fortunately, I am not the only one with this problem – I have made a few friends at the lobby “bar” where they sell the sodas. Seems like the time change is hard for all who are visiting Russia!

I must say, the service here is stellar! Tonight I asked about how to handle the laundry, and one of the receptionists came back to my room to get it from me! Very cool. (Well, I WILL need to wait about 24 hours to get them back, but still…..)

Wanda, let me know if these pictures help satisfy the masses! I know that Deana is working on her blog now to get some more out there, too. Thanks to everyone at home who has read, prayed, and encouraged!

3/28 7:30pm Russian Time (Plus pics!)

Well, we made it through another day with success! While Zack and Sophia are definitely angels, they are not PERFECT. They implemented times of testing the waters on occasion, pushing the limits and being downright defiant. Zack especially tests me as I am his “silly buddy” and he doesn’t seem to realize I can be serious, too. But I found a very effective way of dealing with this – ignoring him! He hates that and stops being defiant so that I once again interact with him (can’t take the credit for that one, it was all Deana).

Zack and Sophia having fun with their balloons

Sophia also is very persistent, aka stubborn. But Deana has done a wonderful job with her, as well. Sophia kept wanting to get up from the chair at dinner, and Deana kept putting her back. Sophia, ever so smart, thought she would win that battle by kicking her shoe off so she could get up to get it. Nope, she doesn’t know that Deana is the champion when it comes to those kind of games! She took the shoes and put them on a shelf and put Sophia back on the chair. You should have seen her face! “Oh my word, my shoes are gone!” is what her face said! She stayed in that chair the rest of the night, ate her dinner very well, and was very happy when we left so that she could put those shoes back on.

Zack has balloon ears!

Zack put a small battle up as well concerning dinner. Because they’ve both had issues with digestion, Deana received some feedback from Olga#2 – rice for dinner. So that’s what they got. Zack had no desire for rice, but was very interested in the French fries that I had ordered, thinking I would get extra for Deana since she’s basically been starving since arriving (it turns out she ordered pasta and no fries at all!) anyway, I negotiated with Zack – “Nyet” (no, while pointing to the rice), “Nyet…” (while pointing to the fries). This was not effective until Deana reduced the amount of rice he should eat and then created a plate with a handful of fries. He ate that rice and got the fries! He wouldn’t eat more rice though. He also wanted some of my Pepsi Light but I was good at saying no! J

All of that to say, I still love them VERY much, but I also wanted to be real. They are real children with real personalities and they push the limits like any other kid in the world! However, I do admit that the language barrier really adds a level of complexity to this process!

Some highlights, however!

Sophia:
1. Is getting very good at saying her name, my name, Zack, and is already a pro at calling MAMA to Deana.
2. Sophia has said Apple, Nose, and Belly and can point out the nose 100% of the time.
3. She is very loving and was kissing me tonight (well, she was alternative between hiding, tickling me, and kissing me!)
4. She completely idolizes her older brother, doing everything he does. Yes, even when he’s being naughty!

Zack:
1. Zack is SOLID, he might weigh very little, but when you touch him he is solid. He has more strength than you’d expect.
2. Zack is very smart. We were teaching Sophia to whisper at dinner and she was doing a great job. Zack was being a bit stubborn, but then he whispered “creap” (bread) so that he could have a piece. He said spiceeba (thank you) without being coaxed which is a big deal.
3. Zack loves to wrestle, and he really touched my heart today because he began to wrestle with me and hold me. He is not as physically affectionate as Sophia is, but when he did that, it really touched my heart. He is also very light, so it makes it easier for me to throw him all over the room! J
4. As if to give us a huge reward, he said his name today several times at dinner “Zack!” I almost cried.

I can’t wait for you all to meet Zack and Sophia! They are the best!

Zack gives Mama balloon ears, too!

Thank you also for praying for Deana, she is feeling much better and is able to enjoy her children much more!

3/28 2:00pm Russian Time

Today has been an awesome day! Not that anything huge happened, but it was the first full day that the family unit for Deana has begun. It started with waking the kids at about 7:15 – they were so cute but we were both excited to see them and knew that they both usually were awakened at 7:30. They woke up slowly, although Zack immediately went to the bathroom and then dressed himself completely – in a flash! He is very self-reliant and proud of it. Deana dressed Sophia and then we went to breakfast. Since they both had stomach issues from the dinner the night before, Deana was very careful in what they ate and the quantity they were allowed. Both asked for more food but it was love (and believe me, it was difficult!) that said no to them. They were well behaved and we have all gotten better at communicating. On a few occasions Zack has tried to communicate to us and we’ve not understood well and he gets a little frustrated, but never mean.

Anyway, the day is awesome! We have watched TV, we hang out in the tiny room, and we even went outside to play with balloons for a time. I went back into the hotel to grab Deana’s camera and ran into a couple from South Carolina who are here to get their second adopted child, a daughter. We had a nice discussion and bonded as Americans so far away from home. They had adopted a boy three years ago so they were giving a tiny bit of insight as to what to expect in Moscow. They couldn’t say too much because they didn’t want to offend Anastasia (yes, the same translator we had yesterday) or Sergei and Olga. During this time Olga informed me that we will not be able to leave NN until Friday so that is kind of sad but it is what it is. That means that it is most likely we will be returning home on the 6th instead of the prayed for 4th. But God is wonderful and is giving Deana the peace she needs to deal with the homesickness and disappointment of the delay.

The kids are very, very smart. Sophia at first insisted her name was not Sophia, but she is eager to please and does anything to hear “BRAVO!” from us (which means “great job!”). So I ask her in Russian “what is your name?” and she yells, “SOPHIA!” It is so cute. I also taught the kids how to say apple and they taught me how to say it in Russian but of course I can’t remember it right now! Sometimes we just gesture to get our messages across. Zack is very good about communicating, too. Although he is not as eager to say his name or react when we say “you are so handsome” other than giggling. I think he is emotionally more affected by the adoption – it seems he is thinking it’s too good to be true. But he also is becoming more comfortable with us and is interacting more and more. He is also very kind to Sophia, who does everything that Zack does. Zack also answers to his name although rebels against “performing” by stating his name as Sophia seems to do. I knew I would love them, but I am truly amazed how very much my heart has been touched so instantly. I look at Deana and realize the feelings and emotions she is feeling, only so much stronger than my own!

Okay I will post this for now, as I listen to Zack splashing in the bath and Sophia softly snoring as she naps!

3/27 11:20pm Russian Time

Words cannot really express how today has been! We woke up so early so that we could get a good breakfast in before heading on the long journey to Viska one more time. On the road by 7:30am, we watched the morning traffic of people heading to work via cars, buses, and by walking. It was a beautiful day – more crisp and cold than previous days, but the sky was completely clear and beautiful.

The drive, for me at least, went by quickly. Deana didn’t sleep, nor did I – the anticipation of culminating nearly a year worth of effort was too much to bear and must be faced with eyes wide open! We went to Zack’s orphanage first – walking in for the last time was almost sentimental. We were shown to the room where Deana first met Zack in December and I could not help but think how perfect that was. Shortly afterward, Zack was brought in attired in new clothes and a big smile (these clothes were left behind). Deana hugged him and he was shy but overtly happy. She then changed his clothes, and YES, we all had to turn our backs when he got down to his underwear! Deana said he was Speedy Gonzales when he changed those! He also likes his new Doc Martins! And shout out to Stephanie and Drew – he LOVED the shirt you bought him and I must say he looked wonderful in it! We had a nice visit with the Director, who when we were saying goodbye began to cry. Deana told her she looks very much like family and that Deana’s family cries, too. It was a touching moment. Zack’s wonderful caretaker was there too and was nice enough to write down their address so that we can keep in touch, letting them know how Zack is doing in America.

We then left to get Sophia. As we left the office, there was a large group of Zack’s friends waiting for him. They all said goodbye and walked out to the exit so they could wave. Zack, for his part, really never looked back and had no hesitation whatsoever as he walked with Deana to the car. She basically waved his arm for him, as he was more focused on his new life with Deana and the passing world that was being presented outside of the window.

When we arrived at Sophia’s orphanage, we were told that Zack could not go in, so he stayed with Sergei in the car. He was fine with that and was excited that he was able to move to the front seat. We went inside and were lead to an entirely new area of the orphanage for us. Inside a small room were two staff members who immediately began paperwork for Sophia and asked for her clothes, as they would be changing her. Deana took out the gifts for the orphanage, which per their request were meds. She and Anastasia the translator changed the instructions to Russian. Based on their reaction, the items she purchased were a great success.

Suddenly, Sophia walked up wearing her new clothes and jacket and Bjorn shoes! She seemed very tired and overwhelmed at first, but went straight to Deana. There was less ceremony with this hand off but it was amazing to realize she was Deana’s daughter. Even the words are magical for me as I type! However, the true moment of anticipation was yet to come.

Sergei and Zack were walking the grounds when we exited the orphanage with Sophia. Zack, all “cool” in his new jacket and clothes, basically ran to us and Sophia. Her reaction was priceless – she went right to him and touched him. He, on the other hand, went immediately into shy mode, basically looking at the ground or giggling and pretending she wasn’t there. She kept walking to him and touching him. It was still priceless. We all then went to the car and headed back to NN.

Both were VERY excited to be with Deana and in the car. They had their own little celebrations in the car in their own way. Both began to play with me and Anastasia, who were sitting in front of them, by tagging us or poking us. Laughter abounded everywhere. Both listened to Deana well, “sit down”, etc. At one point they seemed to reach critical mass because they got VERY active in the car! It was evident that they were loving life!

Some words spoken by Zack and translated by Anastasia, in no order:

“I do not speak your language.”

“On the plane, I am not going to sleep.”

“There is a gorilla behind you!” (said to Gina, who he apparently really enjoys trying to scare.)

“I am not going to wear a seatbelt on the plane. I will stand and look out the window the whole trip!”

“There is a house on your head” (or mice in your head, or a shop on your head – many variations to try to evoke Gina’s silly expressions or reactions)

Through it all, Zack and Sophia slowly began to interact with each other. Zack, always shy at first, seemed to melt the layers of protection he seems to build around his heart quickly, and before you knew it, he was speaking directly to Sophia. It quickly became apparent that she idolizes him, often trying to do the same thing he does, mimics what he would say, etc. At this point they BOTH began telling me there was mice in my hair or a gorilla behind me, etc. I would look at Deana with a petrified face and scream, “Mama!!!” and they would howl with laughter.

On that note, Sophia is very vocal about Deana being Mama. Zack is a bit more reserved – if you ask him “is that Mama?” he giggles and says “da (yes)”. But he doesn’t say it on his own – I think it’s a combination of his shyness as well as his protection mechanism. Or maybe it’s a guy thing! After all, when I would tell Zack there was a gorilla behind HIM, he would say “I am not scared of gorillas!”

When we arrived at the hotel, they excitedly got out. Anastasia showed Deana the food they should be able to eat and then we headed to the room. They both immediately went to the TV and figured out how to turn it on. They were transfixed! We unloaded everything and then went downstairs to eat dinner.

It was here that much of their personalities began to surface, including the testing of the waters. Zack loves to be silly, especially with me (the biggest kid, apparently). So it was harder for him to take my NO seriously at first. But we managed and we survived not having an interpreter present throughout the meal. He did NOT want the borsch that was ordered for him, so he ended up sharing the pasta Sophia got, as well as some of the French fries Deana had as well as some of the potatoes from my meal. This was kind of sad, because especially Sophia ate rather frantically. She spilled a pasta here and there and she focused on getting that pasta and not wasting it. When Deana would take some of her pasta for Zack, she would begin to try to scrape the remaining food back as if to protect it. It was difficult for me and Deana not to cry and we rejoice that the days of being concerned about food are now over for Deana’s son and daughter. (I really love that sound!)

Back at the hotel room, it was FUN TIME! First, Sophia got her bath and she LOVES the water! I think she was a little freaked out to be able to sit in it, but once she got over that it was fun all around. I showed Zack some pictures of our visit on my laptop and he loved it. He also wanted to type and touch the computer – a kid after my own heart! Soon, it was hand off time – I took Sophia, all fresh from the bath, and got her dressed in her jammies while Deana gave Zack a bath. It was Sophie’s turn to see the pics and she was very delighted – saying “mama!” and “kriska!” (her nickname) as she would alternate “oy!”.

Zack proved to be a fish as well and he was soon calling me and Sophia to the bathroom so he could show us how he can “swim”! After he was done, I helped him to get his jammies on but he is very much a “I can do it myself” type of person! He loved his Spiderman pjs!

Suddenly, I was at the computer with both on my lap and we HAD to see the pictures over and over again!

At this point, interaction between the children was complete – they talked together, they played together, they even shared!

This is long, so I am skipping stuff, but as they were put to bed, they whispered to each other for so long – I almost wanted to cry! As I type, they are sound asleep! (Well, I have been asleep since the kids went to bed – around 8pm, but woke up and am now wide awake!)

Okay, I will write more later. This blog has been very much “Gina’s perspective” – I have purposely not mentioned much about Deana because I wanted her to be able to write it herself – which I hope she will do soon! She is VERY tired and got car sick on the ride home which has been difficult for her. But she is LOVING being a mother and has done a fabulous job!