Friday, May 28, 2010

Nice Surprise mixed with what we already knew......

Nice surpise: Today I received an email from our Russian translator. She is so sweet, I just adore her. She is so concerned about our return to Russia. She is visiting some of her family in Pskov this months and is going to talk with the orphanage director and ask her to PLEASE take some pictures of our boy for us, or at least take some periodically while we are away so that we can have some pictures as he grows. I told her any information she could get us would be much appreciated. When news of this fiasco originally broke, she was on phone calling people on our behalf. Even if her efforts are in vain, I so appreciate her desire to help us in what ever way she can. What we have been through makes us feel so isolated, as if the ocean that seperates us from Charlie is like an entire universe, impossible to cross. But when you stop to remember that we have made relationships (not only with our son) but with the people we came in contact with during our brief visit, it makes that impossible ocean a little smaller, the abyss a little less isolating. I firmly believe that God places people in our lives to get us through these trying times. And now, what we already knew..... We heard today that our Judge has started her 6 week vacation. We knew (even when things were "normal") that unless things went exceedingly well for us, with the timing of our first visit, most likely we would be delayed by this summer vacation. So, International incident aside, we thought figured this would happen, and now it has.
So now we wait for the next round of bilateral adoption talks in Washington DC in mid-June and hope that everything goes smashingly well, so that when the Judge returns we can get something scheduled. We are hopeful that it will go that way. Let's keep praying, We have seen first hand that God always has better ideas than ours.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Nursery update.....

I finished putting up the curtains in Charlie's room (yeah Ikea!) and only burned myself once with the iron while I was "hemming" them with that webbing that comes with the panels. That's because I can count how many times I've actually picked up an iron.
I also painted some gears to match his rug....I am ok with the way they turned out- I was hoping for better, things always look better in my mind!

We also FINALLY found a rocker we could live with- It reclines which is cool.... we just need to get a more suitable cover for Charlie's bright room. But for now I like the way it looks in our breakfast nook!

I also hung up his little toy holder in the corner- perfect timing for a "robot/space nursery" with Toy Story III coming out soon. Yeah Buzz Lightyear!
P.S.- Renee- Per your question about the kinds of clothes we wore, we were told that people didn't really wear jeans and we should be "business casual" for our appointment at the courthouse and for our first meeting at the orphanage. So we brought a nice outfit for that day (Chad wore khakis, a button up shirt, and a sweater vest and I wore black dress pants, a sweater and a little dressy jacket) The other days I just wore dress pants and a nicer top everyday. Chad wore Khaki type pants and an button up shirt. We felt comfortable with what we wore, kinda middle of the road, not overdressed, but not super casual either. I think what you wear is kinda a respect thing, you are showing that you are there for a special occasion. But you want to be comfortable too, because after we did the meetings everyday with the orphanage doctor, we were crawling around on the floor with our little man! Hopes this helps!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Special Post Request

Jennifer (waiting for a travel date as we are waiting for a court date and trying not to go crazy like me) has requested a special post- "What to Bring/What to leave"  on her first trip to Russia. I actually LOVE this idea of post requesting, since I can only say in so many words "we don't know anything". So if you would like to request a topic I would LOVE to post it here! (Fun, right? I could be like the Casey Casum of the blog world!)
So, Jennifer, this one is for you!
What to bring in your carry-on
Your dossier (with copies of all of your Apostilled documents)
A change of nice clothes (if this is the only thing you have to wear you'll want to look slightly nice when you meet the government officials)
Camera/Video Camera
My kindle (or a good book)
Medication (tummy trouble, headache, cold med, etc)
Hand sanitizer and a bar of soap (everything else is just gravy if your luggage is lost or stolen)
Passport with disappointing visa sticker intact (you would think when you pay that much money for a Visa it should, well, I don't know, like be on a scroll with calligraphy or something. Turns out it was just a sticker 2 inches by three inches stuck to the middle of my passport. No wax seal or nothin'!)
New money in 100's and a few 50's and 20's spread out over various parts of our bodies (two waist packs and one neck holder one)
I brought a tiny "side saddle" very hideous purse with a spot for everything. It was ugly but it kept me organized and I could keep important stuff on my body against me at all times, like passports and tickets. In it I had a "if I get robbed wallet" with like a hundred dollars in it.
Stuff I should have left home
Chad's book (he watched all the movies available and never picked it up)
Make-up and a bag of other toiletry items such as travel tooth brushes and facial wipes (it's better to come to terms with the fact you will look like a hag the entire week and leave the face at home and pack the toiletries)
Long underwear, hats, gloves, scarves. It was 1000 degrees inside at all times. I wanted to get down to my skivvies and roll in the snow any chance I got, not bundle up against it!
More than one pair of shoes. My snow-ish boots would have been enough because as soon as you walk in the door you take off your shoes (that goes for the orphanage and people's homes)
A language pocket translator guide. We were with our translator the whole time and when we weren't no one talked to us anyway, so we didn't crack the book.
Stuff I should have packed on my checked luggage
Blow up travel pillow (as if you will have room to tilt your head 10 degrees to the right or left when you are packed in your seat tighter than sardines!)
Emergency food (save this for your trip to bring your little one home, the airline actually fed us really well!)
Travel toiletries
Stuff to pack
Not nearly as many clothes as you think you need. Pack what you think you need and then take at least half of it away. Everyone we came in contact with wore the same outfit everyday. I thought I did a fab job with two suitcases and two carry on backpacks, but really I could have just brought clean underoos everyday and like 3 outfits for the week. I was not there to make a fashion statement AND our translator thought it was hilarious that I thought I was "packing light".
A power strip/surge protector that you can plug ALL your American electrical devises into. I got  the Universal EWSS505 Surge protectormine (per Amy) at I think it was $40 and it was soooo worth it. Just be careful when you are grabbing to unplug it. That made me yell some cuss words one day when my arm was blown backwards and the blue fireball came out of the outlet, but I was just happy the blackberry/video camera/digital camera was spared the surge of energy. To get a price quote on eastwest, just send them an inquiry and they get back with you about the price. It's weird, but you can negotiate cost and shipping.
The host family we stayed with had toiletries for us (soap, shampoo, etc) but I still would bring my own stuff. I couldn't read what anything was anyway. My luck I would end up putting hair remover on my face or something and end up without eyebrows.
We did not bring a laptop and I'm glad. We had access to our host family's computer-and-
We rented an International Blackberry (traded for Chad's non-International Blackberry) it was only $10 to rent the phone and it had unlimited access to the Internet. Phone calls were still pricey but we only called home once and we were thankful we had it when we were stranded in Frankfurt and then again when we missed our connector in DC (BOOOOO Lufthansa!!!)
A few toys for Charlie to break the ice, food for him (little goldfish and teddy grahams in portable cups) and of  course a few loveys and a photo book to leave with him. I also wanted to test his language skills so I made some flashcards with pictures on them and phonetic Russian pronunciations for me. So I could say "Ree-bah???" and see if he would hand me the picture of the fish. I made a "Stas" flashcard with his picture and a "mama and papa" flashcard with our picture. I also made him a card with our dogs and labeled it Sa-bak-a." I don't think he had ever seen a dog.
Half my suitcase was orphanage gifts for the kids. I bought tons of fleece hoodies and shoes (gender neutral, because the boys are often dressed like lil' girls, half the pictures of Charlie are him sporting some fab bunny tights)
Stuff I wish I would have brought
Disposable cameras to leave with the orphanage workers to take pictures of him while we've been gone. Especially now that it will be months between our visits. I am kicking myself over that one.
More bills in smaller denominations in my purse for airport layovers, tips, etc. By the end of the week when we wanted to buy a few souvenirs from the street vendors in Pskov we only had big bills and it was a hassle to exchange it.
More stuff for the kids at the orphanage and less stuff for me (I am serious about the clothes thing, I know it sounds gross, but it's ok to wear the same thing twice or three times...) You'll fit in more!
The best advice I have is pack light and when you think you are packing light, pack even less. Even in tiny Pskov, we were never without if we truly needed something. We could always ask someone to pick something up for us if we truly needed it (like tic-tacs!) and some water (without bubbles is in the light blue cap, dark blue is seltzer, ick)

Ok- who is going to pick the next topic?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Charlie's newest toy

So, this is Charlie's latest fun thing! I bought the original book "Springtime Surprise" on a Target 90% clearance and had no idea it belonged to the Leapfrog Tag Junior system. I just bought it, well, because I am cheap and it was 90% off. But it turns out it has this cool gizmo (pictured is the Target Toy Story online exclusive) Normally, it comes in white with purple or green trim, but this one is the alien from Toy Story and it is so cute! Well you download the books online that you buy in the store and it links up interactive reading and questions onto that little guy you hold in your hand as you skim it over the book. You can even program your child's name into the gizmo. So when you turn it on it says "Hello Charlie!" When you scan it over the pictures in the book it says "Can you find the green egg?" and when you move the lil' guy over the green egg, it says "Good job! You found the green egg!" It makes reading fun and truly gets a child comfortable maneuvering around a book. It keeps track of your child's learning patterns online and you can print out corresponding activity sheets for the books. I thought Charlie would love it! It would interest his desire for "high tech" items, catch him up on some language skills, and the way he responds to language. I can just see him playing with this on the airplane. I know I've already had a blast playing with it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Good sign!

Every Sunday after church is "Sister Sunday" where me and my sister hang out, running errands, shopping, and definitely involves some form of eating. We usually do breakfast (after the early service) but yesterday we had a few things to do after church and decided to get some Chinese for lunch instead. So Britt goes and grabs us both fortune cookies from the front and tosses me one. We were joking it was going to say "Your Court date is going to be on __________ date." Laughing I opened my cookie. This is what it said: We almost fell out laughing! I know this stuff isn't real, but it was just the sign I needed. In all seriousness, all of the news coming out of Russia has been very positive, with the signing of a "final draft" of the new agreement taking place in Washington in mid-June. It is our understanding that with this agreement 1-Less agencies will be allowed to conduct business in Russia. 2-Independent adoptions will be no more and 3-More post-adoption studies will be required after a child is brought home. We agree with all of those changes and hope that these efforts will protect all children involved. Things are going to be OK. It's only going to be a matter of time before I am on that airplane! I just wish I could tell our Judge at this point we would agree to ANYTHING to get Charlie home sooner. Psych eval? Sure. Kidney? No problem! My own personal Russian official living with us for the next two years of Charlie's life to make sure we are good parents. "Privet! Russian roommate!"

Thursday, May 13, 2010


More information about the process, what is happening at this point. Our agency has told us that our Judge is still not accepting our documents despite the positive news. We are struggling to understand. Maybe she'll change her mind or maybe we'll have to wait the two months until an agreement is reached and officially signed. Maybe we have no idea. That is a definite maybe. But regardless, we are relieved that things are moving in the right direction. Charlie in August is better than no Charlie at all. We are remaining hopeful and praying for a miracle.

Official: U.S.-Russia adoption agreement to be finalized

A draft agreement on international adoptions between the United States and Russia will be finalized by Friday, Moscow's children's rights commissioner said Wednesday.

After it is finalized, the agreement will be forwarded to the Russian Health and Education ministries and the Cabinet of Ministers, said the commissioner, Pavel Astakhov. If approved by the Cabinet, a signing date will be scheduled, he said. The final copy would be signed by Russia's Education Ministry and the U.S. State Department or Department of Justice, he added.

Under the proposed agreement, the number of U.S. adoption agencies dealing with Russian children will be diminished, he said.

"We will reduce the number of U.S. adoption agencies accredited in Russia," Astakhov said. Only those agencies that are accredited in the United States and compliant with the requirements of the Hague convention on international adoptions will be allowed to continue working in Russia, he said.

In addition, he said, "independent adoptions" will be abolished altogether. The draft agreement envisions setting up a joint Russian-American body with the authority to check out any U.S. family adopting a Russian child, Astakhov said.

High-level meetings between the two nations on adoptions followed an uproar after a Tennessee woman sent the young Russian boy she had recently adopted back to Russia unaccompanied. Artyem Saveliev, who was then 7, carried a letter to the Russian Ministry of Education from his adoptive mother saying he was "mentally unstable" and was violent with "severe psychopathic issues/behaviors."

The draft agreement stipulates that the two countries should coordinate and sign it within the next two months, Astakhov said. The two countries do not disagree over the agreement, but a number of details are still being hammered out, he said.

A senior State Department official said last week that Russian authorities continue to approve U.S. adoptions despite some public sentiment there to call for a complete halt. The official insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. But he said one possible provision of a new U.S.-Russia agreement would allow earlier and more frequent sharing of information both before and after adoptions. He said that some American couples don't see details of a child's medical and psychological condition until a court appearance for final adoption approval.

– CNN's Charley Keyes contributed to this report.

More Positive News

This is great news, but I would still like someone to call me personally and say "Chad and Sarah, this is how this effects you and Charlie" Is that too much to ask? I mean, there can't be too many of us in this exact predicament, right? I need some clarification people! I mean it is ALL ABOUT ME! (That's a joke, but not really....)I am waiting to hear from our agency, I have resorted to annoyance. I am trying the "squeaky wheel" approach. I didn't want it to come to this. I am hoping they may be able to provide more definite answers to our questions. But, nevertheless, this is a wonderful step in the right direction. Please keep praying.

Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children’s Issues

May 12, 2010

A U.S. interagency team held meetings to discuss an adoption agreement with their Russian counterparts on May 12. The meetings are ongoing and will continue on May 13. The initial talks were positive, productive and conducted in a spirit of cooperation. Both sides are interested in taking steps to increase the safeguards for adopted children. The discussions were technical in nature because they involve domestic laws of two countries. There is still important work to be done and this continues to be a high priority for both governments.

It is our understanding that there has been no change in the status of on-going inter-country adoptions originating from Russia. Many thousands of Russian children, who were not adopted by Russian families, have found loving, safe and permanent homes in the United States through inter-country adoption. We are pleased to be discussing with the Russian government a future approach to ensure intercountry adoptions continue.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Russia and US hold second round of adoption talks

Published 12 May, 2010, 09:30, Edited 12 May, 2010, 15:21
Russian and US representatives have met in Moscow for the final round of negotiations to lift a ban on adopting Russian children and finalize a deal between the two countries.
Adoption from Russia to America was suspended last month after the culmination of several cases over recent years of neglect by foster parents, including the deaths of Russian children in the US.
The first round of negotiations took place in Moscow on April 29 and 30. At the time, Russia handed the American side a draft agreement. Now the concrete details of it have been discussed.
The American delegation is headed by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Michael Kirby. The Russian representatives include officials from the Education Ministry, the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights Pavel Astakhov.
Pavel Astakhov said that the text of the agreement will be finalized by May 14. He added it will most likely be signed between Russia’s Education Ministry and either the Department of Justice or the State Department on the American side.
The deal will lead to the creation of a special Russian-American body for foreign adoption, which will also follow the fate of adopted children in foster families.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Russia declines to stop American adoptions

Fri May 7, 9:04 am ET
MOSCOW – Russia's parliament on Friday defeated a motion that would have prevented Americans from adopting Russian children.

The motion was put forward in reaction to the case of Artyom Savelyev, an 8-year-old Russian boy sent back to Moscow alone last month by his adoptive mother in Tennessee. The mother claimed the boy was violent and that the orphanage had lied about his condition. Russian physicians said they found no mental issues with the boy.

Savelyev' return led to calls for more control over foreign adoptions and a freeze on all adoptions to Americans until the United States signed a bilateral agreement allowing Russia to better monitor and control adoptions.

A motion to freeze all adoptions to the U.S. pending the signing of such an agreement fell 98 votes short Friday in the State Duma, the lower house.

After a month of conflicting signals, Education Minister Andrei Fursenko confirmed earlier this week that Russia had not suspended U.S. adoptions, which he said required legislation to be passed by parliament or a presidential act.

The dominant Kremlin-friendly party, United Russia, voted against Friday's motion, saying it did not make sense given Americans' willingness to discuss an agreement.

"If an agreement is not signed, we will be the first to submit a freeze bill to parliament," deputy Natalya Karpova said.

Some 1,800 Russian children were adopted in the United States last year, according to the Russian Education and Science Ministry.

U.S. citizens have adopted nearly 50,000 Russian children since the early 1990s, the ministry's Alina Levitskaya told the State Duma on Friday.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Update/Prayer Request

Yesterday our case manager in Russia met with the Judge. She is still not accepting our case due to the “climate” in Russia right now. She wants to wait until the second meeting on May 12th between US and Russian officials before she accepts our case onto her roster. This doesn’t really bode well for us right now.
Although things are certainly not “frozen” things will most likely be slowed down for us in getting him home. Unless, that is a miracle happens. This would be what a miracle would look like:
1-The meeting on May 12th goes exceedingly well and though changes in policy are inevitable, that they decide to have mercy on us folks that have already jumped through 5,000 hoops and “grandfather” us into the old way of doing things since we are in the final stages of his adoption.
2- Then the MOE would issue a clear statement on how this effects us, other parents like us, parents that have not yet traveled, parents that have not yet gotten a referral, as well as families that are just beginning the process in the states.
3- Then the judge in our region reads the order immediately (prior to her pending vacation) and “pencils us in” either before her vay-kay or immediately following it.
4-Then off we go!

-OR- this is the one I like better (the other scenario has too many ifs and relies on too many people to make efficient, speedy decisions which has obviously not been the case thus far)

1-God intervenes and the Judge has a change of heart and wants us in Russia immediately.

See, isn’t that one better? In all seriousness, our case manager state side is still doing a magnificent job pleading our case and is sending the judge some information from the MOE stating that “adoptions are not frozen”. Because they aren’t! Keep the faith people. Miracles still happen everyday and we are needing one right now. We need him home!