Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fire House Fun

Yesterday the boys had a special fire station tour set up for them by our good friend and adoption supporter, Wendy. It was so exciting for all of us. Nate loves fire trucks so was particularly excited to see them close up for the first time ever. Matt really enjoyed the two firemen who gave the tour and gave him detailed information about the equipment and stuff they do.

Nate really liked honking the air horn and sounding the siren...which he did until we were all just about deaf.

Both guys got to handle the fire hoses and both narrowly avoided getting any of the rest of us soaked. Way to go boys!

One of the funniest parts was when three of the guys had a race to see who could get all of their gear on the fastest. Way under 2 minutes. It takes me at least 10 and I don't have a 45 pound air tank anywhere. Impressive!

Can't wait for some daughters that I can take on girly outings. :)

You're really never too old for a plastic helmet.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

One Month Home

I think he feels right at home!

Wow - how do I even begin to tell you all that's happened since we got home?! It's been amazing and intense! Halloween was the first day we were home, and both boys celebrated birthdays within a week of getting here. We went up to Richmond to watch my brother run his first marathon...he did great! Then we went down to Tallahassee to visit the Brogdons for Thanksgiving. In between we've had so many other firsts - church and Sunday school, cubbies at AWANA, first Christmas tree, first movie with hot chocolate and popcorn, and on, and on, and on.... Here are some of the photo highlights.

Right before the finish line!

Right after the race - see Dave's medal?! Us with the incredible Auntie Meg, and my mom hiding behind me.

At the Backfin. Nano, Uncle Dave, Booch...and us.

Even though one is in marathon shape, I see a resemblance :)

The marathon was SO fun! Clint had to be home for church but Matt, Nathan and I headed up by ourselves. It was a long drive - about 9 hours - with a carsick little boy but we made it. It was great to introduce N to the rest of my family, and the atmosphere at marathons is so exciting. We went to dinner the first night at the amazing Backfin Restaurant. The tables were really tall and Nathan slid off the edge of his seat once and popped up and said "it's okay". He is a tough little guy. We loved race day and had fun ourselves, racing from one view point to another. It was hard work...all that clapping. Phew!

Trenton and Nathan...don't remember ever seeing them with bare feet up on chairs at the baby house.

Back - Trenton, sis-in-law Neysa, C's dad 'Grand Daddy'
Middle - C's mom 'Nana', Matt, me, Nathan
Front - C's brother Clay, Clint

The boys

Posted by PicasaThanksgiving was great - had the chance to get away as a family of four...even if it was only for 2 days since Clint used all his vacation time for Kazakhstan adoption trips. I am on a low-carb, no sugar or white flour diet which made eating a challenge. I hope I didn't hurt too many feelings! Marie and Neysa...if you are reading this please know how much I wanted to enjoy all of the really tempting food you all made!! Clint is nice and has been doing this diet with me so I don't feel too bad, but at Thanksgiving he really messed up. He actually SNUCK a piece of the 'Oreo delight' and thought I wouldn't notice. I hope he gets a cavity! :)  (just kidding)

One of the really significant things that we were able to do was dedicate Nathan at church on Orphan Sunday. It just worked out that the regularly scheduled child dedication day was on Nov.7...the first Sunday we all made it to church. It was also Matt's 13th birthday!! To be able to introduce Nathan to Jesus and the gift He has given us is so significant. We always marvel at God and how he has given us a Mohammed.

One of the funny things about that picture from Dedication Day is that he has a bald spot on the back right side of his head from where he freaked out at the barber...for no reason at the end of the haircut. Too funny!

There are so many things I'd love to share with everyone but I'm out of time. Next time, I promise!

Nathan's first night in his new room!

Go Skins!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


We have been home for a few days now and things are going well! Nathan loves his room, his toys and clothes, the food, and he seems perfectly at ease in his new home and with the new routine. After a few tense moments when the dogs were let out the first night (read - terrified screaming) they are all getting along...and they all seem to enjoy the extra company. We love having him here but things still aren't quite right since Matt isn't home yet, but thankfully we pick him up at the airport tomorrow! Then we can really get a taste of what life will be like.

It's so good to be home and, no offense to Kazakhstan, great to know we don't have to go back any time soon!!
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

See Ya 'Round

I can't believe we are finally here...this will be my last post from Almaty! We are so excited to get back to America and our house and our dogs! For some reason I am craving nachos this time (last time it was cheeseburgers) so I think I know what we will be having for lunch soon. Everyone in Semey thinks we will be back for a little girl, and Marina told us that there is a Kazakh saying that God will give a baby to anyone who takes in an abandoned child. I guess we will have to see how that turns out. :)

Nathan has done so well and seems to be enjoying the "normal" kid thing. His English is amazing kid...and he has adjusted to the different schedule and food (even in Kazakhstan the food is very un-babyhouse). His favorite thing is the How to Train Your Dragon movie, which he is watching in this picture. We will miss the people here and in Semey, but we are SO ready to see Matt!!! As Nathan says, 1. Almaty 2. America 3. Matt (with much enthusiasm on the last one!)

Saturday, October 23, 2010


One more are my new clothes. Mail-in blogger posts stink!

New clothes

My new clothes...kinda like picking out the outfit your newborn will wear home from the hospital!

Killing time in Almaty

Nathan was so excited to leave the baby house with us. We were told by no less than three people that he has been talking about "my America" since we left. He has been telling everyone that his mom, dad and brother are coming to take him to "my America", and he even knows where it is on the map! 

Not surprisingly he was excited to change his clothes (see the photos of the clothes he left behind), and then we spent one last hour in the bonding room with the other families who were in Semey at the time. Two of them were adopting boys in Nate's room which was really cool. The Director of the baby house came in to say goodbye. It's kind of crazy after all the massive amounts of paperwork that we've done at every step of the way that all we needed to do was sign two little composition notebooks and then he was ours! We did manage to get a picture of Nate and the director together before we left...I think he was pretty happy to see him going home with a family!

The flight to Almaty was horrible...most turbulent, swervy, all over the place flight I've been on in a long time. I cracked my head getting on board because I was trying to help Nathan get over the threshold without falling through and I almost knocked myself out. Good thing the top of the door frame was padded or I would have needed many Kazakh stitches on top of the giant goose egg! After doing fine the first half or so, Nathan threw up for the whole rest of the way. Between that and the splitting headache we were quite a crew. The flight attendant guy kept coming over to practice his English...yikes. 

We are one step closer to home...Almaty...where we are busily killing time. Our first morning here we woke up to snow - what a welcome! Days are long but it is SO much better than being at the baby house! We are free to do things our way and start becoming a family. Nathan is really enjoying watching movies and playing with the few little toys we have. He doesn't seem to be overwhelmed by the noise of the crowds, the mall, or anything else for that matter. He is adjusting really well and his English is coming along quickly. He understands much of what we are saying and is doing great at repeating everything we tell him.  He is very much like Matt in some ways, and nothing at all like him in others. Very interesting to get to know him better! 

Speaking of Matt, he talks about him all the time and even "called" him from his phone (remote control)! Yesterday when he saw xbox controllers in the mall he screamed "Matt, Matt" and went running over to them. How did he know?! Too funny!

Right now we are waiting for Nathan's visa to be processed in Astana, at which point it will be sent here to Almaty. Then we can have his medical exam done, and finally, his exit interview with the US Embassy. These are scheduled for Monday and Wednesday so I believe we will keep our flights that are on Friday. We are ready for America!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Back in Semey

After a very long flight we are finally back in Semey!

We landed in Almaty at 4am and caught the 8am flight up here, and went right to the baby house. We headed up to Nathan's room but he wasn't in there so we headed back outside and saw him as he rounded the corner. He saw us right away and came running!! So much for worrying about whether or not he'd be happy to see us. :) He leaped into my arms, just like old times, and he was making this excited sighing precious! We played outside for a bit and then headed in to the bonding room because, yes, it's cold here.  There are two other families here right now bonding with two little boys from Nathan's room so it was great to see these kiddos that we know with parents of their own.

We played again in the afternoon and then headed out to dinner for our one night here. At our coordinators suggestion we decided to let Nathan stay in the baby house until this morning since we are staying in a hotel and don't have enough bed we wanted to catch up on a little sleep since we raced straight here. That all means that we will pick him up this morning and head to Almaty in the afternoon. We have so much to do and I am praying we get it all done. We still need to talk to his caregivers about his schedule and likes/dislikes, whether he sleeps at nap time, etc. We also want to pick up a cake from the yummy bakery here and deliver it to his room. There are also lots of pictures of his rooms and his roommates that we want to take. It will be an exciting day for everyone! Praying that his transition goes as smoothly as possible...

Monday, October 11, 2010

We can go get Nathan!!!!

Our coordinator called me today and somehow I missed it. Her message said 'give me a call...just checking in'. I figured she didn't have any real news so I left her a message and didn't think much more about it. When she called back I answered this time, and after the standard greetings she absolutely shook our whole world up. She said "YOU CAN GO GET NATHAN!".

And as for our friends who have worked out our airline tickets for us...we will love you forever and our neighbors will be calling you about the reconstructive surgery they need on their eardrums after all the screaming that's been going on!!!! :)

Oh WOW!!!

Passing time

While we are waiting to go get Nate we have also been busy clearing out our house and trying to make some last-minute money to travel back for trip #2. A week ago we had a huge yard sale at our friend Wendy's house and did really, really well!

Matt was up at 4:30 to work all day...pretty cool for a 12 year old boy!

Before we left on our first trip we intended to do this but we just ran out of time since our travel was so unexpectedly fast. Wendy, who is pretty incredible if I do say so, championed our cause unasked and made this event the huge success that it was. Her friends and family (who we don't know) donated lots of stuff and she let us store things in her shed, reminded us to do things like advertise, promoted it, helped us all day long...and I do mean all day since we were there from 5am until about 10pm...and she even made us fried rice and egg rolls for dinner!!

Both sides of Wendy's driveway were lined with tables and stuff...a pretty impressive sight. A lot of the stuff was ours (our garage is so much cleaner now!) but so much was donated by friends and unknown people who were helping support our adoption. We had several friends from church give us stuff, and some even helped out all day as well. Needless to mention, there were so many friends and community supporters shopping that we were overwhelmed most of the day. We feel so incredibly blessed and loved to have the support that we did.

Mr. Curtis working the runway!

If you've ever had a yard sale before you know how much work it is, and this one seemed like so much more than normal because of the sheer size. I won't lie...we were bruised, exhausted, in pain, and did I mention exhausted! After every yard sale we promise ourselves that we will NEVER do this again, but I guess it's like childbirth pain...well worth it and quickly forgotten.

We did have lots of fun though thanks to two special girls...Ally (who we claim every chance we get but who actually belongs to Wendy) and her roommate Olivia. If you've paid attention you'll remember that Ally was one of the three who redid Nathan and Matt's bedrooms! She and Olivia came from college the night before and were both up before 5 helping us get set up. They definitely brightened up the day!

We told Ally she could have this outfit since it looked SO good on her, but she really wanted us to raise all the money we could and so, sacrificed her own fashion needs.

Throughout the day we were all telling people why we were holding this yard sale, and of course we had pictures of Nathan, and many people made donations as well as buying up all of our junk. It was all overwhelming!

Our philosophy was to make money, but also to get rid of the stuff so we had decided that we would stay 'in business' until we stopped having people show up. There was a steady stream of cars until close to 6pm, at which point we were left with very little. We stuck a big Free sign out front and had people stop to take away everything else. The funny part is that we made another $100 just giving stuff away!

Paying for adoption is overwhelming and fundraising can be a huge challenge. For us it was difficult because we didn't want to ask people for help...there are always those who think you shouldn't do this if you can't afford it ahead of time. We felt differently because we clearly heard God call us to it, and even though we wanted to argue that we couldn't afford it, etc. we knew He was bigger than our doubt and the last thing we wanted was to be in direct disobedience to God. As we draw near to the end of this part of the process the honest truth is that we have seen all kinds of different reactions. Adoption is not for the faint of heart. There has been grumbling that we should be adopting locally, disgust that we were asking for money, envy over our process being faster than some, and on and on. Bottom line though is that we have also seen such tremendous support and excitement. There are families who can't afford it that bought things or donated things to the yard sale, people who go above and beyond to help us through this time, and many, many who are so excited for us to bring Nathan home so they can meet him. In the end we have been truly humbled, and as I said in the beginning....

God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful. -1 Thessalonians 5:24

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The latest...

From our very first full day! precisely nothing.

We received word on 9/21 that the birth certificate was back and that everything had been sent off for the passport. I'm assuming it didn't get sent more than possibly two days before we received that word. It makes sense that they have to get that birth certificate before they can proceed with the passport, but frustrating that it takes close to two weeks from the end of our appeals period (court was 8/26).

Since the day we returned home we heard the rumors (which turned out to be true) that Kazakhstan's Ministry of Justice decided to stop expediting adoption passports and that this was expected to delay things by about 3-4 months...forever when you're a little child waiting in an orphanage.

The next thing we heard was that passports were again slowed because they actually ran out of the passport books and had to wait for more to arrive.

Now we hear that the Ministry of Justice has overturned the previous decision which means they are again expediting adoption passports (good call!). This expedited service is supposed to only take 10 days, which is what it was originally.

Now we're just trying to figure out what the constantly changing passport stuff means...are we now stuck in some endless backlog since our stuff arrived in the middle of their mess, or will it now only be 10 days for everyone no matter where they are in the pile? Big difference! We obviously are so ready to go get Nathan but would also like some clue about travel times so we can be prepared physically.

Something else that occured to us this week was that we've only gone 6 weeks from our court date (which seems like forever of course!!) and the original estimate for us was about 8-10 weeks before travel back. The families who were picking up kiddos while we were there had waited 10 weeks...wondering if there was a passport backlog already at that point.

Anyway, we are trying really hard not to obsess and the "waiting" article by America World was a needed slap for me - I highly recommend it if you've not yet read it. I'm now trying to remind myself that every good and perfect gift is from our Father and He does indeed hold this whole crazy timeline in His hands. (Have I mentioned that patience is the fruit of the Spirit that I struggle most with?!) Ugh! I will not my day searching for details about the workings of the Kazakhstani Ministry of Justice...I will spend my time listening to and serving my God who can't be anything but faithful.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  -James 1:17
When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way -Psalm 142:3

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Waiting in Expectation

Waiting to go back and get Nathan is hard. We know he is ours and that nothing will change that so we are waiting in expectation. Practically speaking we still have lots to do that is keeping us physically the moment it is the yard sale on Saturday...but it's still tough. We are in complete limbo. No plans can be made because "that could be the day we travel" and with the holidays coming up, not to mention both boys birthdays, we really really want to do this. Last night I had a dream that we finally traveled but when we got there Nate was an adult. Yikes!

There's been no new information about the passport processing time, but we did hear that his birth certificate was done and all the paperwork officially went to the Kazakhstani agency that does the passports. At least it is another step in the right direction! I miss him terribly and can't wait to feel him in my arms again...and get him cleaned up and in some new clothes. :) Waiting to get started on our new life as a family of four is so tough but God obviously has a lot more about patience for us to learn!

One thing we did do was get a booster seat since we have to have one once we land back in the States. It's really crazy to see one in the car again! We have been storing it in the car since our house doesn't have any room for it, but we keep having to move it to the trunk...or out of the car altogether because of all the people we seem to drive around. Not sure how this will work once that booster seat is actually needed. I never really saw myself as a mini van kinda girl. :)

"In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." -Psalm 5:3

Monday, September 20, 2010

Inside of the baby house

I don't think you are ever prepared for the inside of the baby houses. You read millions of other blog posts about them and look through endless pictures, examining the rooms from every available angle - and yet, it doesn't even come close to how it is in person.

When we arrived we were incredibly tired and totally disoriented, having just arrived in Semey an hour earlier. We were wisked down halls that all look the same (doors everywhere but they were all closed) and into the director's secretary's office with no notice. The smell in the building is overpowering. It's a very clean place, don't get me wrong, but the smell is like no other. It's got to be something to do with cabbage but it literally gagged us.

They really do a good job trying to make it a cheery place. The stair wells all have murals painted by college students (as I was told) and every time we would go up or down N-M would point to various animals and we would do the Kazakh-English version of the word thing...and make animal noises of course!

The outer room for N-M's group of rooms was a little cubby room that the kids used to put their outdoor shoes and clothing on in. They each had a locker which housed a hat and maybe a sweater/heavy shirt. That was it. All of the kids had a pair of shoes to wear inside and one to wear outside...sizes were not exactly right for the child but they would sit down on the little benches and change them religiously. The caregivers were always very proud to show us how well N-M could straighten up after himself...neatly lining up the shoes and straightening the bench, etc.

Each locker had a different animal picture on it, and there were some hygiene pictures above them. I guess they went over some of the stuff with the kids (although it doesn't look like tasks such as brushing your teeth are very important here).

The next room in was the eating area where all the little tables were set up. It was so cute/sad to see the little kids sitting there drinking their tea. They had a fair number of toys on these shelves but I never saw the kids playing with them. The only ones I ever saw them with in the inner room were the really big lego blocks. Bigger kids would use them to bang the heads of little kids if they were in the way.

Here is N-M (who had just faithfully washed his hands before returning to the group!) heading into the 'inner sanctum'.

The tables are directly to the right of little peanut. The doorway he is going to head through there is one that was normally open and all the kids would pile up right there and wave to us or play peek-a-boo. When we would show up to get him they would see us and scream Mohammed...Momma...Papa! A second later the little guy would pop his head around the corner, see us there, and run full speed to jump into our arms. Hard to beat that!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The baby house...outside

While we were in Kazakhstan our blog posts were limited to what we could write up at night and load during our 30 minutes a day (if we were super lucky) at the internet cafe. It didn't leave much time to post stuff that wasn't directly involving the young star of the show! Now that we're back though...and have tons of time on our hands while we wait, and have unlimited internet access (thank you God!) I can finally share some of the other stuff. Actually, all of our photos (thousands of them) that weren't loaded onto the desktop to go into the blog were accidentaly erased but I do still have some of the baby house since I intended to do a post or two on it. Before we travelled I spent tons of time looking over other peoples blogs to catch even a glimpse of where we would be going. So, for those of you who may end up in Semey...

This is the front of the baby house...the main entrance is just on the other side of the car there. Nathan's rooms are the three windows on the top floor right in front.

I was told that these signs say "Baby House" in Russian and Kazakh.

The baby house is surrounded by typical Soviet-style apartment buildings on most sides and is right next to the main down-town part of Semey.  

On the baby house grounds there is a road/path that circles the whole thing, and there are playgrounds scattered around it. If you are here while the weather is nice you can take your child outside to play instead of using the bonding room. We much preferred it...but we were also visiting an 'older' child. Some of the families with younger ones would come out for a walk but in general I think it was easier for them to be inside.

When the other kids went outside they rarely ever played on the playgrounds. I guess it would be too much for the caregivers to look after that many kids scrambling around on this stuff, but it was still sad. They mostly just walked around the circle a time or two...and maybe stopped by the swings for 2-3 minutes.

This is the little shelter at the very back of the property where we headquartered ourselves (at N-M's request) almost every day.  There are two swings on one side of it, and the two slides on the other. That was it.

And our favorite part...the trash area right next to it. They didn't burn every day though! :)