Adoption Adventures in Kazakhstan

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We Are Back July 16, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — kozastan @ 4:48 pm

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Our Version of American (Kazakh) Gothic–the end of our time in Petropavlovsk

Okay, I can’t stop. We have been home for a week and as I was going through the 155 photos that were taken in our last days in Kaz, I realized I have to resurrect the blog. There are too many cute pictures of Sasha and his gang, as well as the interesting and enchanting aspects of Kazakh culture we experienced. How could we deprive you of all that? I will post at least two more times before I leave to go retrieve our young man. I leave MN on Wed July 25, arrive in KAZ Friday July 27, then do paperwork with Sasha and will return to MN Friday August 3. Read and enjoy!

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Writing and Crying . . . the July 3 Blog Creation

So, after the emotional July 3, we faced the emotional July 4 . . . our last day with Sasha in Petro. We had planned a party for his group, which was a good distraction, but balloons and tissue paper, while fascinating to a two year old, can only distract adults for a short period of time. Steve and I knew we were flying away from Sasha on this day, and the sugar coating of the party didn’t help the bitter pill of leaving go down very easily.

img_3066.jpg New Stuff—All For Me?

In preparation for the party we had gotten gifts of developmental toys for Sasha’s group, as well as balloons (possibly more interesting than the developmental toys), a new LOUD truck, and snack (including Teddy Grams) for his gang. We also had gift bags for all the caregivers and a photo album of the group for the group. Needless to say, we were a bit overloaded with bags as we entered the BH.

As we staggered up the exterior stairs we could hear the wailing of a kido on the interior stairs. There were caregiver voices talking calmly and a certain amount of kid noise in general. When we had rounded the corner and headed up the stairs to Sasha’s house, we encountered his family on their way down the stairs to a walk . . . they had forgotten about the party. So we helpfully added more chaos to the scene by having Sasha start yelling to us, “Mama! Papa! It’s my mama and my papa!” the caregivers turned the little posse around, the crying child stopped, another started, and Sasha bolted toward us and our bags of loot . . .

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Masha helped us maneuver all the bags into the Music Room where we blew up the balloons. Sasha joined us for this, and was incredibly adept at removing gifts from the bags . . . until he spied the noisy truck, pitifully camouflaged in a plastic bag. Oh, what joy a noisy truck brings! The noisiness! The truckness! The fact that it is in a bag that is tied around it! The challenge of working with it while it is still in the bag! The joy of ignoring the three adults telling you to not touch! Noisy trucks tied up in bags are a great gift indeed. . .

A Noisy Truck in a Bag! Awesome! img_3078.jpg

By the time we had blown up the balloons and gotten those, as well as the bags, down the hall, the caregivers had their charges seated and ready for our snack. Sasha, of course, was not interested in the snack because he already knew about the noisy truck and the other bags of loot. The empty chair in their dining area is where Sash should be sitting . . . but he had gone off into party excitement mode, and no adult was going to convince him he actually had to sit down and eat.

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Just a note on Sasha’s posse . . . we had the pleasure of getting to know these little ones, and they completely rock. Each has his or her own personality, but above that, each is a toddler, who is just getting to know the world. We got to experience the sheer joy of blowing the seeds off a dandelion with them; we had intense ant watching, the fun of BIG swinging, going down the slide—on your stomach, the back and forth exchange of a wilted daisy with smiles and spa-see-bahs (thank yous) abounding. They are Sash’s siblings; the kids he helps more than harms, and with whom he has gone through his life. We love them for who they are to him, and we fear how much he will miss them.

img_30751.jpg Sasha (2), Nikita and Valya

Actually, being seven days and half way around the world from them, I am surprised at how much I miss them. There must be some teacher gene that allows us to fall in love with kids immediately. We learn how to find their strengths and challenges, then we engage with them—it is not something I am capable of turning off, and on that playground when Steve and Sasha were together, I loved playing with his group. They are each little wonders, ready to explode onto the world and it is fun to be a part of their discovery. I wish there were a way for us to keep up with what happens to them, but I don’t think that is possible . . . we will just keep them in our hearts and photo albums, and be thankful we knew them for a short time.

Regina, Sasha, Smiling Boy and Blue-Eyed Bow Girl img_30761.jpg

On this last day together we were able to give each kid a gift to open . . . and this was an interesting thing to observe. There were kids who had no idea what to do with the brightly colored tissue paper—it was hilarious to see the gift/wrapping/balloon action. Note, I have considered bringing balloons on the planes with us as we travel home. I am not saying all the passengers would enjoy them, but I am sure Sasha would, and really, who needs to be happy on those plane rides? Me. With wine and balloons, I think we have a winning combination.

After the party we played with Sash outside as his group went out for their walk. Through out our play Steve and I kept asking Masha to explain to Sash that we needed to go home to get ready for him to come to be a part of our family. We hoped that he would understand what was going to happen, but any time you try to project actions into the future with a three year old, you are asking for misunderstanding.

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Masha tried to talk to him, and he was adorable. She would say, “Mama and Papa need to go home for a little while . . .” and he would say, “Nyet”, then she would say, “They need to get ready for you to come home,” and he would say, “Nyet.” The conversation continued along these lines and while it was sweet to have his firm denial that we would be away from him for a while, it was heartbreaking to think of the confusion that he had/has ahead of him.

img_3089.jpg Out on a Walk

One hilarious aspect of our play time on the last day was the presence of an inflatable swimming pool. Sasha quickly learned that we would not return to the entrance of the BH to see the pool if that was what he asked. On the other hand, if he asked to go to the bathroom, we had to go by the pool, and if you are right by the pool, why not just play a bit? He needed to go to the bathroom about six times this morning. On one trip he returned to the playground with the entire bill of his hat wet. We assume he will wear a life vest at all times once he comes home.

I need to go to the bathroom . . . .

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The end of our Petro time involved negotiating our enormous phone bill with our landlord, Ivan. There was actually no negotiating, it was just, “Here is the enormous bill, I need some money”. Both Ivan and Masha were impressed with the numbers we racked up, and we were impressed with the amount of paper our bill took up.

img_3098.jpg Big Bill

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Sasha and Masha took us to the airport in the afternoon and stayed with us until we boarded the plane. This was very sweet of them, and a huge help because our bags were over the weight limit. On the way to Petro we paid $110 in excess baggage fees, so we were expecting something similar, but since we were with Masha, the baggage guy (who had all gold teeth—seriously I don’t think there was a natural one in there) said that if we paid him 800 tenge (~$8.00) he would get the bags loaded without using the scale. We jumped for our money and happily found a 1,000 tenge note for him . . . a huge win in the excess baggage category.

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Alexander Maier Kozachok! July 3, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — kozastan @ 9:35 am

3 July 2007

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Sasha is ours! We had our court date today, and we realize now that we may not have communicated well how chancy this bid for adoption was. Since Sasha has five siblings spread all over Russia and Kazakhstan, and the government of Kazakhstan has a strong preference against letting one sibling be adopted without the others, the odds were stacked against us.

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Despite the policy against adoptions of fewer than all siblings in a family, we went ahead with our argument that no one had adopted the entire family while they were waiting during the past two and a half years and that an adoption of all of the children together was less and less likely as time went on and the kids grew older, so that Sasha would remain in institutions his whole life if the siblings were to be “kept together”. His sisters in Kazakhstan are ages 17, 14 and 13 (in two separate orphanages that are different than Sasha’s), and he has two other siblings that were “adopted” by their father after he got his life more together, and they live in Russia.

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You may have read the blog from June 20 about his oldest sister Valya who talked with her sisters Lena and Natasha about letting him be adopted. They all agreed that it was in his best interests, so Valya came to meet him and us, and wrote a letter saying she thought he should be adopted.

Svetlana (our lawyer), Molli, Rezina (the representative of child custody), Dr. Rimma and Masha

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Court went more smoothly than anticipated—it lasted about an hour. Steve was clear and focused, I was a bit more emotional, but as always, we balanced each other out. The hard part was waiting for the judge’s decision. It was a long, hot and sweaty hour, but in the end she called us in and said the court approved of the adoption, that Sasha’s name would be Alexander Maier Kozachok and his birth city would be Petropavlovsk, and that Steve and I would be listed as his parents on his birth certificate.

Steve with the Ladies

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So, we have a son. He is everything a person could want in a child. He is smart, kind, funny, curious and . . . Sasha. This is the way this journey was supposed to culminate, and for all of you who have been on this journey with us, thank you for your love and support.

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This has been a trying year in many ways, but to be here, today, and to know that we have this gift of a child . . . the other problems fade . . . they are nothing compared to what happened today. Annika and Katia have a brother; many of you are aunts and uncles again today. And we should warn all the grandparents that Sasha is going to give all of us a run for our money.

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We saw him for a brief moment today after court and the obligatory champagne toast with the director and those who helped make this happen. As always he was a sunbeam on chubby legs. We are so lucky . . . our lives have changed forever.

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There will be a party with our friends tonight and a party with his group tomorrow morning, then a good-bye that is already breaking my heart. For now, the tears are out of joy, and sheer wonder that this child of God is joining our family. We can worry about tomorrow’s tears tomorrow.

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July 2, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — kozastan @ 10:53 am

2 July 2007

 

 

This was another good day, but the feeling is bittersweet. Our court date is tomorrow morning at 10:00 (if any of you are inclined to be up and giving off good energy at 11:00 p.m. central time, feel free to send it on over to all of us) and we have other business to take care of, so we may not see the Sashmeister. We fly out to Almaty on Wednesday at 2:00 and will have a party with Sasha and his group at 10:00 but won’t be able to stay too long . . . so today was our last real play day.

 

We have evolved into a sense of comfortableness in our relationship and it is not easy to leave that behind, even if it is for only three weeks. The huge benefit of leaving is being able to see Katia and Annika (and all the rest of you) again, hence the bittersweet feeling.

 

Our lawyer, Svetlana, is flying in today to meet with us and prepare for court. She and Masha will be here in just a bit, so you will get more photos than words today. The highlights of our time today: Steve captured the Mama hug on film, Sasha saw chee tee ree (four) machinas, Papa and Sash played 1-2-3, Sash had his snacks and was generally cute and agreeable all day.

 

At the end of our time Masha talked with him and told him that we won’t be coming tomorrow in the morning, and that we will try to come in the afternoon, but that also may not happen. She told him he shouldn’t worry about us, that we will see him on Wednesday, and he said in his little voice, “I will worry.” Those three words have tears running down my cheeks . . .

 

We hope to report good news after court tomorrow—keep us all in your prayers!

 

img_29251.jpg Mama!

 

Papa Helping Sasha Open His Superman Lunchbox

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Seeing Masha Again! (It was two whole days.)

 

img_29441.jpg 1-2-3!

 

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Papa’s Scratchy Cheek

 

img_2947.jpg Small Boy, Big World

 

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This Seems to be a Great Watering Technique

 

img_2928.jpg Adin (1) Machina

Dva (2) Machina img_2961-copy.jpg

Tree (3) Machina img_2962.jpg

Cheeteeree (4) Machina! img_2963.jpg

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Vada and Conversation with Mama

I will worry.

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Bonding and Playing and Gifts Oh My! July 1, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — kozastan @ 11:28 am

1 July 2007

Sasha Time

img_28891.jpg Boy Wonder

Today is Sunday and the BH is “closed” on the weekends, so you don’t have to visit, but you can if you want. The last two weekends we paid Masha extra to come and visit with us, but this weekend we didn’t, and it has been a good experiment of us figuring things out on our own. Since the BH is closed we have to get past this elaborate lock that holds the gate shut.

 

img_2884.jpg Elaborate Security System

When we get to his “house” he is in the playroom and his little shoes are in the “dining room”. Every day he sits down to get his little sandals on, and every day I help him, and every day his caregivers tell me “He can do it by himself!” Ahh, the pattern never gets old.

 

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Today I made the mistake of helping another little guy with his sandal, and he yelled at me to stop . . . these Amerikanskies aren’t very bright, are they?

 

img_2900.jpg Don’t Even Try to Help Me, Lady

We go outside right away, and even though all of us talk to each other, we don’t always understand what the other wants . . . there are moments of misunderstanding, but Sasha has a great personality and he recovers quickly from disappointments. The goldfish, juice and m&m’s are the first areas to address now, and he is finished with that (the best part of the two hours) in about four minutes.

 

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Today we tried asking him if the green m&m was blue, and he grinned up at us and said, “Nyet. Gree.” This is pretty clear evidence that he is one of the smartest three year olds in the world.

 

img_28941.jpg m&m’s (colors) with Mama

We have a lot of fun on the playground, and it feels more like being at the local park now. Usually just one of us is with Sash, and the other is playing with other kids or chilling in the gazebo. Today the boys went off and did “Man Stuff” which included looking in the garage, finding rocks, then throwing them, banging things with sticks and possible discussions about how men and boys go to the bathroom.

This bathroom question comes up regularly. Sasha is potty trained, and he is good at knowing when he has to go. Here all the kids in his group sit on a potty to go to the bathroom, and if we bring him up to his group room he does just fine. The other day Steve tried to take him to the public bathroom on the first floor of the BH. It was awesome; Sash took one look at the toilet, firmly said, Nyet, and walked quickly away.

So here is our question for you parents of boys: when does a little guy move to the standing up, rather than sitting down method of peeing? Being parents of girls, this has not come up until now. The even deeper question is about bathrooms on a plane. I have a good 16-18 hours in the air with the little man, and I am thinking we will have to go to the bathroom at some point. Is there a different protocol for a small, bumpy, flying bathroom? Reply to our email or the blog . . . any insight will be appreciated.

 

img_2913.jpg Very Interesting Manhole Cover

As we wind down our playtime Sasha helps us put all our toys in the tan bag, then proceeds to find this manhole cover very interesting. This manhole cover can be very interesting for five to ten minutes. We look at it, stand in it, put rocks in it, throw rocks out of it, stand near it and hope to see a machina . . . there is a lot to do at the manhole cover.

 

Very Interesting Broken Tile Puzzle img_2903.jpg

Once we peel him off the manhole cover, we head inside, where he finds the very interesting broken tile. This, too, is fascinating. He takes the tile “puzzle” apart, puts it back together, makes a very satisfying noise by clinking the tile pieces together, scrapes at the sand that is below the tile . . . you get the idea.

It is awesome that he has a great curiosity, and that he has people (us) who will take the extra 15 minutes for pit stops before going in, but the most awesome thing is that these seem to be delay tactics to avoid ending our time together, and that rocks.

This bonding time has served its purpose: we know each other well, and we belong to each other. We are his and he is ours, and it is all a gift.

 

The Other 22 Hours

 

While Steve toils endlessly in our “office” I have found good things to distract me. My favorite (that just came to an end) is the book Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. If you like to read, get this book. Her writing is amazing, and the story gripping. When I read the last page I had book grief—that sad feeling when a great book is over. But I thwarted the feeling by opening back up to page one to start again.

My other endeavors have been acquiring all the gifts we need to give people after court on Tuesday. I had an inkling that many gifts were involved, but not exactly how many and of what caliber. So Masha, great cultural guide that she is, has been helping me shop. We have the nine caregivers (I only brought enough stuff for six . . . and I think all the gifts have to be the same . . . . grrrr), the Director of the BH, the assistant to the director, the representative of the department of child care, and the judge. Yes, even the judge gets a gift. Other friends of ours were given a list that had even more recipients, including the Chief of Police. Suspiciously, their translator said she’d take care of delivering the gifts to about half of the people, and away went the gifts.

So the gift-giving shopping is almost done, and now we get to move on to the fun gifts—the toys and loot for Sasha’s group. We will have a small party with them on Wed. before we fly out and give them their presents then. They are headed for play-doh, floor puzzles (not as great as the broken tile in the hall, but they will have to do), a noise and light making truck they can ride, and serving ware for their pretend kitchen.

The most important gift we need to get is for Masha—she has been a godsend and our good experiences here are directly connected to her. Now that we know her better we want to get her some things from the U.S., so I will bring her loot back to her.

We are off to meet friends for some pivo . . . we will check in again tomorrow! Ciao!