Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tubing and Sky rides

We had a pretty exciting day today. Galia arranged for a guide and a driver to show us around today…they turned out to be 2 young college girls, and they really made wonderful guides. We discovered that they do in fact have big shopping malls in Almaty, just like at home. We had a wonderful lunch, and then they took us to a nearby mountain with a tubing run. I have never been skiing or tubing or anything like that, but it looked like a lot of fun, so we had to try it. The girls kept the baby safe and warm, while Shaun and I trekked up a very long flight of stairs. On our first run, we made the mistake of going down a run that wasn’t packed in very well. The snow is like powder, so we wound up buried in it! It took our breath away, but we couldn’t stop laughing. So we went a few more times, opting for the more travelled runs after that. We thawed out with some hot coffee and tea after that, and headed back to the city. They took us to a skyway…you know…cable cars going up the side of a mountain. The view of the city was awesome. Shaun was even crazy enough to go on a toboggan/ roller coaster type ride when we go to the top. We met another adoptive family while we were there, so that was pretty cool, too. After that, we went to a Moroccan place and had couscous and tea. It was a really good day.
Tomorrow we should be able to pick up her visa, and then early Friday we begin the journey home! It has been an amazing experience here, but I am looking forward to getting home to my family. Miss you all!!

Going tubing

Cable Car

View of Almaty...the track in the front is the ride Shaun went on.


Couscous? Nah, got milk?



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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!







Merry Christmas! It has just begun for all of you, but it is coming to an end for us here in Kazakhstan. We felt like the only people around who thought today was a day for celebration. We did come across a backpacker from London when we went out to dinner last night. We were looking for some “American Grill Bar”, but could only find the burger house. I love picture menus! As we were waiting on our food, in walks a man who stands out even more than us! And he spoke English. So we sat and talked for quite a while…he is on his way to India, hoping to teach English there. That’s pretty bold if you ask me. He just thought he would pick up and travel there by foot, and enjoy the sights along the way. When we parted ways, he wished us a Happy Christmas! I hope his was happy as well.
Christmas Eve brought more snow, so when we got up on Christmas morning, the world was fresh and white. We had a quiet Christmas, venturing out in the afternoon to go to the Grand Market. When we got back, we discovered they do in fact have room service, so they brought the entire buffet to us. (I am trying to give the food a chance, really I am!) Since then we have been watching movies on the laptop and trying to get Mackenzie to smile. Her smiles are tricky…sometimes they come without even trying, and other times I could stand on my head and she would still look at me with those somber brown eyes. She did give me lots of smiles when I showed her pictures of her sister and brother…she even talked to them. I think she is just as eager to meet them as we are to see them again!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Almaty

View from our balcony in Almaty

In Bishkek



With our guide, outside "White House" in Bishkek





I tried to post one last time before we left Bishkek, but I lost connection, and so I think I lost my post. I will check when I get online, and try to backtrack later. We are in Almaty, Kazakhstan now. The drive from Bishkek wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected it to be (except for Shaun, he was still sick). Crossing to border was fine, although the lines were a little long and it was cold! We got out of the car and crossed on foot, passing through checkpoints for Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Once we were in Kazakhstan, I enjoyed the drive though the countryside. Rolling white hills, rocky snow covered mountains…I think my favorite image was of a shepherd on horseback, with his German shepherd by his side and a hillside full of sheep (sorry, it was on the wrong side of the car to get a picture). When we reached the city, I was surprised at how different it was from Bishkek. It is a much larger city, and much more modern. Gas stations looked just like at home (although there were still roadside booths selling oil and such), and restaurants and hotels were lit with neon. I saw an upside down McD’s arch, and the sign said “West Burger”. There are even Christmas lights on buildings and lampposts…actually, I am sure they are New Year’s lights, as they do not celebrate December 25thhere. But their New Year’s celebration bears a very strong resemblance, complete with decorated trees and a character who looks an awful lot like Santa.
We went to the SOS clinic today…baby Z got a great bill of health, weighing in at almost 15 lbs and measuring 25 inches long. She is still congested, although her fever is gone. The doctor called it a mild case of bronchitis. She was really good for the doctor. She smiled away during the exam, showed off her jumping skills, and didn’t even cry when they took blood for the HIV test. Our agenda is actually pretty wide open from here. Tomorrow and Wednesday we are free (although Galia is working on our behalf), and Thursday we should be able to go pick up her visa on Thursday. Then Friday, we begin the journey home!!!
So, for those of you that have been here in Almaty…what is there to do to occupy us while we wait? Our room is fine, but if we spend too much time in it, it is going to seem very small very quickly. We ran into 2 other American adoptive parents at the SOS clinic….I didn’t think to ask where they were staying! So, if anyone has restaurant suggestions, or sights to see, I would really appreciate it. I should be able to check in daily, as we have dial up from the room. We will see how well it works when I try to post this.
We miss all of you, and hope you have a wonderful Christmas Eve!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Farewell, Bishkek!

Today is our last day in Bishkek. We spent most of our day yesterday exploring it. In the morning, Natasha took us up the mountain to a place called Hot Springs I think. Along the way, we saw ramshackle houses with no eaves at all and brightly painted gates, and huge mansion homes as well. There were cows walking the streets of the little towns, men on horseback, and many dogs and sheep. Along the way, in the most random spots, you would find three or four Kyrgyz men just standing and talking, or two women going for walk, sometimes with a warmly bundled child by the hand. They walk a lot here. I prefer it, over the wild driving style! The springs had some really cute cabins that tourists could stay in, and a beautiful cafe, with 12 individual dining areas outside, each with their own fireplace. We saw a local 'cowboy' with his dog, taking some calves up the mountianside.

(Lost part of this post....update more later :)

Friday, December 21, 2007

It's snowing!

We drove into the city center today to do some shopping. It has been snowing all morning, so everything is covered in a blanket of white. It is so beautiful. Trees look like lace, and even the abandoned buildings look nice with white roofs. And it is really not as cold as I had feared. Sure, it’s cold enough to snow, but it is not bitter cold or windy.
Baby Z has been such a doll today. Last night she got kinda fussy, and decided that I looked funny. She cried whenever I looked at her. But today, she likes me again. She has been so good. Right now she is rolling over and over on the bed, talking and exploring her little hands. Here, some more pictures for you. Our 24 hour access is up soon. I am sure we will have it again sometime soon though. We are in Bishkek until Sunday. I am not sure what to expect from Kazakhstan, but we will do our best to stay in touch. Thanks for reading!











Pictures

Playtime

Tummy Time...she was smiling a moment before this.




Big Smiles



All Clean




Baby massage

Thursday, December 20, 2007

GOTCHA!!




The road to Tokmok was still dark…it takes about an hour to get there. We did finally give into sleep despite our excitement. As the sun rose, we could see the mountains in the distance. Beautiful.
We arrived at the baby house with very little ceremony. It looked just like another building along the already busting street. Our facilitator took us to the director’s office, where we spoke briefly of Baby Z’s temperament and schedule. The Director was very kind, and really seemed to care about each of the children. We brought over some pictures from Hillary for her, of Anara…she was very very pleased with those…almost like a grandmother admiring her grandchild.
Then she took us across the courtyard and into another stone building. We waited in a playroom, with a huge playpen and bouncy seats and mobiles. Moments later, they brought her in, sleepy eyed and a bit confused. She came right to us, looking us over intently. It is hard to describe that moment…I am tearing up again thinking about it. They were holding this little child, in a hand tied cloth diaper and worn clothes. It was the first time I had ever laid eyes on her. Yet the love I felt for her was overwhelming. I do admit that there are moments now where I feel like she isn’t really ours yet. But we felt the same after A was born, Shaun even asked one time when her parents were going to come get her. It’s just the newness of it. But when I look at my baby, she breaks into a smile, and I feel so connected, it feels so perfect and right.
She is so tiny, yet so big…very healthy with chubby cheeks and dimpled legs. She has a little cough right now, they apologized, saying she had never been sick before and they are sorry it had to be now. They gave us medicine, and she takes it with no protest. She is very content and observant…she looks and looks and tries to take everything in. Her smile is quick to come, and quick to fade…a hard thing to capture on film. She laughs when you talk to her, and tries to talk back. She is fascinated with faces, and also her hands. She keeps holding them out to admire them, like someone who just had their nails done. Here is for Becca (my sister who is an OT)…she seems to be doing pretty well developmentally. She grasps objects, she pushes up on her hands when she is placed on her tummy, and Shaun witnessed her rolling over. She doesn’t track objects very well yet, and her body seems very stiff all the time, her movements jerky. I am sure that in no time at all, she will be right on track.
She is being pretty patient with us today, as we are really dragging. She let us take a nice nap this afternoon. Right now, she is cuddling with daddy on the couch. I believe we can go to the business center and upload these posts; we will try to do that just as soon as I retrieve the pictures from the camera.
A&M- we miss you so much and are thinking of you every moment. We told baby Z she had cheek like her sister, hair like her daddy, and a bad thumb sucking habit like her brother! You are going to just love her! Have a lot of fun while we are away…enjoy being spoiled a bit by your grandparents! We will be home before you know it.

Finally Here!!

Well, thanks to the very kind airline staff in Istanbul, we made our connection. The flight from London was 45 minutes late, and our layover was only 1 hour, 30 minutes. But we made it! We sat next to a very nice Muslim young man from Turkey who was on his was to Kyrgyzstan on a mission. I guess today is a Muslim holiday here, and he was bringing food to the hungry.
When we left the airport, it was 4 am here, round -2 C, with a light dusting of snow. The roads were empty, and we couldn’t see a lot through the dark, but I was surprised at the beauty of the tree lined road. There are trees everywhere in this city!
We only have about 2 hours at the hotel to freshen up and get ready, for it’s off to Tokmok at 6:30 am! I feel like I am in a dream!

The Silk Road Lodge

He is faithful in the journey


The flight from Orlando to London was long but uneventful. We arrived in London, and had a good friend waiting for us at the airport. How wonderful to see a familiar face! We had a ‘lovely’ afternoon, seeing his part of London from a real local’s perspective. We had lunch a fantastic Indian restaurant, and it was off to the airport. Things began to go a bit sour once we were there however. It is a bit complicated and rather boring, but essentially, one of us was able to check-in, but they couldn’t get the second one through, it was too late. We missed our flight to Bishkek! Let me tell you, I was hardly holding it together. We went back to the ticketing desk, and the agent was so wonderful. She searched and fiddled forever, and was able to get us on a flight the next morning to Istanbul, and then a connection to Bishkek….with no extra fee! So, if all goes well, we should be arriving in Bishkek around 2 am local time on the day we are to pick up baby Z!
Everything does happen for a reason though; God really does have a perfect plan. We called our friend back, and he came to our rescue. He took us back to his place, and we were able to see his wife and their son. As we were showing her the pictures of the baby, I realized we forgot to pick up the prescription from the pharmacy at home that we had gone through so much trouble to get (sorry Carly!) It was for the baby, in case she does have scabies as we imagine she must (we have confirmed cases from her orphanage, and it is just so contagious.) So they took us to the drugstore, and we were able to get it here (over the counter, too!) After that, we went to a real English pub, complete with ‘football’ on TV! How perfect….how London. Then we got some sort of Turkish take-away (not carry outJ), and went back to their house again. We ate, we laughed, and we toasted our anniversary with Champagne and truffles (wow…amazing truffles). And we slept so well. Now we are waiting at the airport with plenty of time, having an English breakfast, a cup of tea, and ‘smash’ (or is it squash?)

Monday, December 17, 2007

And we are off!

Here we are....I am sitting at the gate at the Orlando airport. Check-in went fast and smoothly, so now we are just waiting to board. I still cannot believe we are finally on our way! Just a few short days...



So if I dwell on her too much I am going to get very very impatient. A distraction is in order. Gen tagged me. I dont usually do this sort of thing when it comes to me via email, but in this case...what else am I going to do for the next few hours? I am supposed to post eight facts about me (100 on my 100th post...not sure about that one!), and tag 3 more people. Here we go....

1. I have been with my husband for 13 years (9 married)! Yeah, I was just a baby of 15 when we started dating. He still spoils me :)

2. I am a Marine Biologist...at least according to my diploma. I went to UNCW, where I was fortunate to plug in with a professor who studies bottlenose dolphins. I worked in her lab, and got to spend at least one day a week out on a boat, doing photo-ID, population, and acoustic studies. Yeah, really really cool.

3. When I found out I was going to have my first child, I worked as an educator at an aquarium. I worked until the day before she was born, but then gave it up with no regreats.

4. I wish I had more time to scuba dive. I used to be a hobby of mine, but it has moved to the back burner. Someday I'll be blowing bubbles again.

5. I love to decorate kid's rooms. I have done murals for my kids, and some family. One was a teddy bear theme, one garden, one buggy theme, and a super cute pond. Takes me forever, but it's really fun.

6. I would love to start an adoption ministry at our church...just have no idea how to do that.

7. I am the Awana commander, for our church, offically at our next club meeting in January. Wait- how did that happen? :) I really have a heart for children's ministry, and am humbled to be able to serve in this way. Just hope I can balance Awana tasks and being a new mommy.

8. Last one....should be a good one, but I am running out of interesting facts. Actually, this is reading more like a resume...sorry about that. OK....Interesting fact #8......I can flare my nostrils.....Especially when I am aggravated at my husband!

So, I tag Mayla, Marnie, and Johnda...I know you are super busy, but please play along- I would like to add some more dimension to my bloggy friendships! I am sure we have more in common than our Kyrgyz kiddos.

Well, hopefully I will be able to check in again from london. Thank you for your prayers!

A & M..Mommy misses you already. Have fun with Grandma andGrandpa...be good!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Zero Days!

Zero Days?! I really cannot believe it! We are really close to being ready. The bags are packed, we have a list for the last minute run to the store (I realized as I was finishing up my suitcase that my ankle socks are probably not going to cut it in 6 degree weather!).

We made a point to have today free for some family fun with A&M. After church, we came home for lunch and headed out to Sea World. They transformed Wild Artic into The Polar Express, complete with Santa. We also caught the Shamu Christmas Miracle show, which was really nice. And the kids rode all their favorite rides, about two time each. M just cannot decide if he loves roller coasters or hates them. He was asking and asking to get on the Shamu coaster("And it will go FAST, and I will scream like a GIRL!" he said), and then as soon as that lap bar went down, he was almost crying. He got off, and refused to go again, but he wouldn't stop talking about it. "It's a little bit scary." he says as he holds up his hand in that tiny gesture. The boy is crazy. I am going to miss them so much! A assures me she will take care of her little brother. I am sure she will...when she is not trying to aggravate him!

So, we leave at 6:30 tomorrow. We arrive in London around 7 am their time. We have some awesome friends there that are picking us up at the airport and taking us back to their place to freshen up and "have tea" during our eight hour layover. (That still makes me laugh) after London, we fly all night again (I do hope we will sleep on the plane), and arrive in Bishkek in the early AM again. So we don't arrive in Bishkek until the 19th...our anniversary. Then on Thursday, we get to go pick up little Z! After that I am sure it will be a blur of embassy appointments and doctor visits between feedings and naps and diaper blowouts! Oh, I cannot wait until Thursday!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Am I ready?

To see them carry her into the room? YES. To finally hold her in my arms? YES! To see her first smile for us? YES! To put all those cute little clothes on her, and feed her, and feel her fall asleep in my arms. ABSOLUTELY! But am I packed? Nope. Do I have everything I need for the trip? Nope- (I see a midnight Walmart run in my future). Is my house in perfect order with instructions left behind on the care for my other two? Ha! Am I ready to leave them for two weeks?....wont ever be ready for that. Two days....not enough time, and yet it cannot go by fast enough. Can your heart be in two places at once?

A poem

3 months

I had no idea, but my sister (in-law) is quite a poet. She has been very supportive of this process, and very encouraging (Thanks for the party!) So, here is what she wrote that brought tears to my eyes:

Precious Angel, sent from above,
We have not yet held you,
Or given you your first kiss...
But immensely we love you,
For you have brought us so much bliss!

And here is another one:
Every night I close my eyes
and think how wonderful it will be,
when the morning finally comes
that I have you here with me.

There is one more, but I will wait to share that one after Baby Z is with us!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Here she is...

Referral photo...one and a half months old....


And today, at four and a half months.....
So, sometime in the last two hours, the 30 day waiting period expired, and she officially became our daughter. There were no fireworks! I am up late, working on assignments I have to complete before we go for my EPI class (I am getting my teacher's certification). I guess I expected something to feel different somehow. Really, though, why would it- we were in love the moment we saw that first photo...we knew she was ours.... So I guess it's OK there were no fireworks. I am probably too tired and overwhelmed anyway. I do this before any trip, so you can imagine this one is worse. Instead of getting excited, I worry about the details...I have to do this and that before we go, cant forget to bring such and such. (Seriously, I am not usually this bad. I have discovered a new irony in adoption- you can be expecting a baby in less than a week, and still be experiencing full blown PMS :) The excitement usually kicks in when the journey has begun. It is then that I will finally be able to relax and reflect on what a miracle this all is. It still seems unreal.

So, isn't she beautiful?

Friday, December 7, 2007

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of the widows, is God in his holy dwelling."-Psalm 68:5

I have been reading a devotional put out by the people with Shaohannah's Hope called Hope for the Journey. It brought this verse to my attention. I am so thankful for it! He truly is holding her close right now, caring for her while we cannot. I am amazed at the care she is receiving. We got updated pictures today (thank you Jackie, and CWA!), and she has grown so much, and she is getting so strong! She is sitting with light support, her hair is growing out (she looks a little like Ernie:), and she is positively chubby! Dont worry, I will be able to share them on Dec 12th! I have to laugh, because she actually looks like her Daddy and her Papa...dark eyes, chubby cheeks, fuzzy hair! So precious.


Less than two weeks now, baby, and we will have you in our arms.