Adoption Adventures in Kazakhstan

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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




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


img_29441.jpg 1-2-3!




Papa’s Scratchy Cheek


img_2947.jpg Small Boy, Big World



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


Vada and Conversation with Mama

I will worry.



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.


Adorable Little Shoes img_2885.jpg

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.


Goldfish with Papa img_2888.jpg

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!




Happy Birthday, Dad – Grandpa – Bob! June 30, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — kozastan @ 11:04 am

30 June 2007



Happy Birthday, Grandpa Bob!



I can’t wait to meet you! Love, Sasha

Before Sasha Time today I want to wish my dad a happy birthday. He and my mom have gone above and beyond the call of grandparenthood as they stepped into our shoes while we are here. This trip has lasted longer than any of us predicted, and they have done a fantastic job keeping our furry and chaotic world spinning for the girls. The girls are happy and healthy because of their efforts and we cannot thank them enough. As grandparents they are imaginative and patient . . . as can be seen in the following photo.


100_05281.jpg Sorry, Dad!

We could not add Sasha to our family without their support (and sacrifice of one entire month of retirement). Being a bit frazzled as we left for Kaz, I did not leave a thank you gift for them, so if any of you reading this would be able to drop by a bottle of wine and a big smile from me and Steve, we would appreciate it. We will return the favor by bringing you the best Kazakh wine we can find . . . or the fermented camel’s milk, if you would prefer.


Sasha Time


We had our first Masha free visit today, and it went great! We have our routine, and he didn’t seem to be more frustrated with us, so we will do it again tomorrow. Sasha resurrected the drinking vada from the vada bottle cap—and let me do the pouring—so he wasn’t drenched with vada today.


Mmmm . . . Vada from a cap. . . mmmm img_28351.jpg

You may have noticed that Sasha calls Steve Papa—we learned that “Dada” here means “Uncle” or any random man. So when he called Steve that in the beginning of being here we made a conscious effort to switch Dada into Papa. In all my photos Steve is Papa, but we think he will become Dad once Sash hears the girls saying that . . . sorry for the side note, but I just realized that I keep referring to him as Papa . . .




Papa played vitamina today, and everyone wins in Vitamina!


img_2846.jpg Reading and calling every animal a Biggemwott


Checking out the Biggemwott with a buddy img_2851.jpg


Here is a kind of random photo, but I love this little girl. We don’t know her name, but refer to her as eyelash girl. I gave her a morning glory and she gave me this sweet smile . . . adorable!


img_2854.jpg Eyelash Girl


The Other 22 Hours


We went to dinner at the Blinidom with two other families who are adopting and it was great fun. The menu (like all menus) was in Russian, but that didn’t stop us. There were no photos of the blinis, and that slowed us down . . . but we fought back with the words we know. We said things like Reevka (fish) dva (two), saucison sa siram (hot dog with cheese) dva, and siram, pomidore e champinon, dva and blini fruta, adin (one) we had great hope that we would end up with seven dinners someone would eat.

After that ordering triumph we turned to the ПИВО (Pivo). Our friends the Flynnsons clued us in to this important word—it means beer. We have been drinking beer, but just what we have bought at the store, so we didn’t need the word for it . . . until last night. We found the ПИВО page, and I started using my advanced Cyrillic alphabet knowledge to sound out МИЛЛЄР M-ee-l-air, and then laughed that I had just ordered a Miller . . . we went on to order five other ПИВОs, most of which were new or foreign.

When they arrived, I enjoyed my Meelair, and it was the only beer that was served at lower than room temperature. Those crazy Americans love their beer cold! (I did secretly enjoy the fact that it was cold—it might not have held up as a warm beer.)



Ahhhh . . . . Meelair Time


Dinner beckons, so we will check in again tomorrow—Happy Birthday again, Dad! We will talk to you in a couple hours!

I almost forgo this photo. If you are having trouble sleeping try to imagine yourself as the young white kitten . . .





Playground Action June 29, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — kozastan @ 1:58 pm

29 June, 2007

Sasha Time

The weather was beautiful today so we were outside again. There were no new toys, so after Sasha ransacked the tan bag he was left with pretzel goldfish, six m & m’s and some juice. He makes quick work of the juice. There is focus and determination as he powers that down. Great progress has been made with the juice box, we believe he is employing the suck rather than squish method because there is a lot less juice on everything around him now.

Sasha has now tried three varieties of goldfish, the classic, cheddar and pretzel. Both Steve and I prefer the pretzel, but they were a bit dry for our little guy. He was surprised at how much more he had to chew today, but he did get them down pretty quickly.

The m & m color game is progressing nicely. I pick out an m & m, say the color, tell him “Skazjee, red” which he says, then we find it in our picture dictionary and today we introduced finding a marker of the same color. He liked the added dimension and was inspired after looking at and saying and eating “green” to find other things in the picture dictionary that were green. He is a quick study. Especially if chocolate is involved.

img_2796.jpg 1-2-3!

Steve has introduced the game that is now called 1-2-3 (because the fun part always happens after three). In this game Steve hurls the little butterball into the air. I have tried to do it but lose steam after just two or three throws. Sasha keeps Papa throwing him by counting in English and saying “More! More!” when Steve is ready for a break. We should both be in better shape when we come home—we had forgotten how much little kids can wear you out!

img_2786.jpg Jumbo Stroller for One

Sasha pushed the limits today by leaving the playground to go sit in the jumbo stroller. We all went with him and told him we couldn’t take it out because it wasn’t ours. Again, his ability to stick to an idea shined through our cloudy outlook.



Mama attempting to negotiate our way out of the giant stroller

We never did go for a stroller ride but we did all stand around by it for about five minutes. He liked to buckle himself in (this should be good when he has to sit in a car seat) and the way we finally got him away from the stroller was for Papa to ask, “Koychish 1-2-3?” (Do you want 1-2-3?) The answer was a resounding yes!


img_2801.jpg Sand Time—Always Good

We had a little sand time today—Steve buried Sasha’s hands and this was a marvelous trick.


img_2785.jpg Swing Time, Also Always Good

Swinging is a staple, and I am racking my brain for the nearest park with swings. If worse comes to worse we will ask our neighbors two blocks down—I am sure they wouldn’t mind us showing up in their back yard 2-3 times a day.


img_2818.jpg Papa napping in the Yurt

At the end of our visit today we were in the Music Room for about ten minutes and in that time Steve went into the Yurt to lie down. Sasha was so sweet—he picked up two little blankets and put them over Steve to aid the napping process.


img_2819.jpgBefore we left Steve returned the favor


We don’t have much to show for the other 22 hours. I have had a lot of headaches over the past four days and Steve is working a lot, so we have stuck closer to home. We are meeting two other families for dinner tonight at the “Blini-dom” where they prepare both sweet and savory crepes like items. We are going translator free, which always makes restaurant eating more entertaining.

Tomorrow we are visiting Sash with out Masha . . . she has been stepping out of our time together a little more each day—she doesn’t have to be with us now because we have completed our bonding period. Oddly enough, we don’t “have” to visit any more, but since that is the highlight of our day we will continue to see Sash until we leave.



ПЕТРОПАВЛОВСК (Petropavlovsk) Top Ten June 28, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — kozastan @ 1:18 pm

28 June 2007

Sasha Time


We got to go to Sasha’s “speech” therapy this morning, and it was good to see him interact with his teacher. Again I was surprised and impressed with all that she did with him—there was speech and occupational therapy mixed together in bite sized chunks so that he was pretty focused for about 25 minutes. Apparently each kid gets this one on one time at least once a week. In the winter, when they don’t go outside as much, they come three times a week.



You may notice a bit of a forehead “shiner” on his right side. Apparently he flew off the slide in their playroom a bit too fast yesterday. We aren’t worried about the bump—we are just glad it didn’t happen while we had him.



Police car Machina! img_2741.jpg


img_2751.jpgTeaching color names with m & m’s (vitaminas)



The Other 22 Hours


Now that we have been in Petropavlovsk for 18 days I thought I would share with you some observations we have made on daily life here. Because we have not lived in other parts of Kazakhstan we don’t know if the following observations are applicable outside of Petro or not. (We will not be living in other parts of Kazakhstan to see.)


For entertainment’s sake this will take the form of a Top 10 list.


10. Not a lot of people jog.

We continue to get the odd glance as we plod along each morning. We especially appreciate the stares from the people drinking beer outside the bar at 6:00 a.m. because they are still out from the night before.

9. A lot of people do smoke, but not inside.


The human ability to adapt shows in our tolerance of smoking. The longer we are here the less we notice the smoke that is always in the air. Granted half of it is from the noxious emissions coming from the cars, but still, we do appreciate that people tend to smoke outside rather than inside.

One accoutrement of smoking that we particularly enjoy seeing in places of commerce is the cigarette lighter that is shaped like a hand gun. It has that whole slow death/fast death irony thing going for it.

8. The women are not shy about hair color.

This is a moderate example of hair color–

I will look for better ones–I know they are out there.


We have never seen the range of colors on hair that we have seen here. I have been unable to capture the most glorious evidence on film, but trust us; there is more eye-popping purple, magnetic magenta, outrageous orange and brilliant blue hair here than anywhere else we have ever been.

7. In general, buildings are entered from what we would consider the back.

img_2769.jpg The (back) main entrance of our nice apartment

In the beginning we kept thinking people were taking us down the back streets and alleys in an effort to confuse us. Now we understand that residences are not entered from the street side. We don’t know why, but at least now we don’t always think we are being kidnapped.

6. About 30% of cars have right-side steering wheels.


Again, we don’t know why, but it continues to surprise us when we see people driving their cars from the passenger seat.

5. Heat is delivered to all buildings from a huge heat factory outside of town. The heating pipes are above ground, but some have orange insulation sprayed on them–which I am sure helps a lot when it is -50.

img_1947.jpg We pass under this heat pipe every day on the way to the BH

There is a very strong Soviet block era feel here, and the heating system is part of it. We have heard that the temperature in the Baby House is sweltering in the winter, but part of the problem is that the people in the building do not control their own heat. (For the teachers at school . . . does this sound familiar?) It is blasted in from the factory when the factory decides how much heat there will be, and everyone is used to the system. Interesting.

4. Kazakhs love Texture!

img_2314.jpg img_24391.jpg

I have never been to a place that has more surface textures. There is a huge variety of building facades, with some buildings using three different kinds of texture. The odd part is that the texture is applied only to the lower half of the first floor. From that point up it reverts back to the crumbly concrete and indiscriminate paint that prevail on the upper floors.

There is also texture on every interior wall—there are no wallpaper or stucco free walls here, and it does give the eye and mind something to enjoy when someone is speaking in an indecipherable language, so we appreciate that.

3. Drainage systems do not seem to exist.


We are here during a moderately rainy season and whenever it rains enormous puddles gather across the somewhat level ground. People have to plan long, circuitous routes to avoid the puddles, and even when one tries really hard to not get wet, there will always be some place to step that is just a half inch too deep, and the shoes will end up wet.


This sinkhole appeared in the Bazaar one afternoon after a big storm

In the market where we buy our produce every day, someone has strategically placed bricks in what becomes a mini-lake so people can sort of walk across, rather than around it. In the beginning of being here we thought this may have been a problem unique to our apartment complex or neighborhood, but now we know it is just how Petro is non-absorbent. It does make the morning running more exciting – you get to employ some hurdling techniques to leap and avoid getting wet.

2. Fashion is important.

I have to admit I was surprised by this. It is clear that fashion is important to the young women of Petro and many times this fashion takes the form of tight pants and high heels, with glitter or sparkle on each piece of clothing. It is not that everyone is a “Fashion Don’t” but a lot of people are “Fashion Maybe You Shouldn’ts.


Some women pull it off. Our translator, Masha, has great style, and has the long, lean dancer figure that begs for close fitting clothes and high heels. Alas, many women here do not have the body or more understated fashion sense of Masha, and it certainly adds entertainment to our daily walks. It also has affected how I dress—rest assured I am not going the tight pants, high heels route, but when I dress as I would in the summer in the U.S., I feel somewhat underdressed. So my highest heels and skirts have been getting more of a workout than I would have guessed, and Steve is learning to walk a bit slower because, while fashion here is important . . .

1. Side walks are not important.


The ankle strength of the women here must be phenomenal. The “sidewalks” in Petro are spotty at best. There are stretches of uninterrupted pavement, but those only last for 20-30 feet before deteriorating into mud, sand, churned up asphalt or puddles.

We observed a work crew over a series of two days dig a deep narrow trench, (ostensibly for a cable or pipe) that traversed a sidewalk we use daily. One evening we walked by and saw they were filling it in—great! The next day we expected they would repair the sidewalk as the final step. Ten days later we have realized that this sidewalk was as good as it was going to get, and that we, and the other pedestrians, are helping to smooth it out every time we walk over it. One good part about all the asphalt left behind—it does provide a stepping space for when the sidewalk is a huge puddle . . . maybe that was the plan all along.



This last photo sums up the top three points. Notice, the mud where a sidewalk should be, and note all the little holes, from the stiletto heels. We have bad drainage, fashionable over functional shoes and all where a sidewalk should be. As Sasha would say, “Voit” “There”



Missing Home and Forces of Will June 27, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — kozastan @ 11:46 am

27 June 2007 Missing Home and Forces of Will


Sasha Time


Writing requires FOCUS

We met Sasha 17 days ago and that amount of time seems both so short and incredibly long. Our world was monumentally rocked when we first met him in the hall outside the director’s office. There he was, standing with one of the doctors, having a little conversation with Masha and I distinctly remember locking eyes with Steve, raising an eyebrow and smiling. He smiled in agreement. This young man stole our hearts in a matter of two minutes (or less).


SMAK (soon to be SMAKS) in Mexico . . .

Now 17 days later he has become a part of us and as we looked at a calendar we realized we will have only seven more days with him before we go home. Yet we are thrilled to be able to see our girls in a mere seven days. I believe it is a unique aspect of being human—to be happy in one place while longing actively to be in another. We are divided in our hearts and minds and emotions are closer to the surface.



Kats and Anni on the Beach

We miss Katia and Annika in so many ways. Those small things kids do that seem inconsequential in a daily context are now huge sources of nostalgia for us. Katia’s ability to sneak reading material to the kitchen table and surreptitiously read while the rest of us eat and talk—a habit that is moderately annoying in regular life—is missed a great deal over here. Annika’s hugs that melt her on to you like warm butter on a pancake are also sorely missed. Katia’s little voice reading aloud with such expression, Anni picking out a tune on the piano, their ridiculously messy playroom, finding either girl reading in any location (including the wagon), the sweaty sweet smell of them after a bike ride, excited reports on the new happs in Club Penguin (a new disco floor for the igloo!) . . . I think I even miss their bickering . . . maybe not that much, just a little.



Pepper—Queen of Everything

We also miss the fur faces. Not one cat has ordered us around since we have been here. No dog has alerted me at exactly 4:00 each day that it is time to eat. Every once in awhile we wonder how we can keep our days organized with no pets keeping us on schedules surrounding their lives. All of this homesickness is part of this process, but it is still surprising the hole left in our lives with no Anni, Kats, Pepper or Fletcher to keep us on our toes. If any of you see our girls in the next few days, give them a big hug from us. If you see Fletch you don’t have to hug him because we know he is probably a little stinky, but you could pat his head.




Fletch . . . not looking stinky at all

Back to our lives here . . . today’s highlights involved bubbles, a huge truck and forces of will. Sasha is revealing himself to be just stubborn enough to qualify as a Kozachok. Each day we spend with him more of his personality emerges and we know that he is bright, funny, quick to help others (or take his toys away from them) and strong willed.


Case in point—the new toy today was bubbles. Bubbles are hard to manage—there’s the wand-circle thing, the bubble juice, the slippery container, the coordination of actually blowing rather than spitting, holding the wand at the proper angle and distance so a bubble could actually appear. Seriously it is a wonder that anyone can blow bubbles at all. So he worked with them, getting 92% of the bubble juice on me because I stubbornly would not let him hold the slippery container. He would make a bubble every fourth try, which was fine—and even exciting.






Bubbles are Exciting!

This was all fine until we tried to take the bubbles away so he could swing and we could blow bubbles at him. Oddly our explaining this plan in English did not communicate the fun it would be—so he melted down. Masha tried to help console him, but he is two and someone took his bubbles so there was not a lot of consolation. He got out of the swing, took his bubbles and headed for the open road. We stopped him from leaving campus, and I watched as he opened the bubbles, dipped the wand in twice, then tried to hit a bug with the hand that was holding the bubble juice, and Surprise! It all spilled! The great part was that he looked at the container, then the wand, then me and said, “Ne kok,” which means “I can’t.” “Da,” was the only response—Da, I feel your pain buddy.



HUGE Truck, small child

The next battle of wills involved a HUGE truck. He had tried to get into a machina early in the day (he catches on to patterns fast—car trip yesterday = car trip today, of course!) but that machina was nothing compared to this truck. We looked at it and talked about it a long time, continuing to say he couldn’t actually get in the truck because it wasn’t ours. He was fixated and the spell could not be broken, until his Papa asked the truck driver if Sasha could get in. Super hero Papa! He sat in the truck for about two minutes, then the truck driver said he had to go, and did Sasha want to leave his Mama and Papa behind. To his credit he did answer “Nyet” but we are pretty sure that somewhere in his mind he was thinking why can’t we all go in the big truck together?



I can almost get in by myself . . . almost




Heaven—sitting in a super HUGE Truck


The rest of our visit consisted of watering a lot of weeds at a close distance,



Eating Goldfish with Mama



img_2718.jpgWorking with Dandelions


And inspecting plants with Papa img_2709.jpg


It was a good day, and while we really miss home, this adventure and finding Sasha are definitely worth it. Until tomorrow ~ Cheers!


Full Baby House Tour June 26, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — kozastan @ 12:48 pm

26 June 2007 Full Baby House Tour

Sasha Time

img_2568.jpg Machina!

We had another beautiful day today—and a great visit with Sasha. First thing we got to go on the best ride ever . . . to the place where they took his passport photo. It was the best trip ever for him because he got to go in a machina. We think that this was his first car trip (or first trip in a looooong time) and it was awesome to watch his little face. Every bump, turn, slow down or speed up registered clearly in his eyes. He looked from window to window to try to see everything—but it was all moving so fast (30 mph can seem very fast if you are trying to see everything you pass).


img_2571.jpg Papa and Sasha out for a ride

It was the best trip for us because we were getting one step closer to bringing him home. He will have a Kazakhstan passport for our trip home, and will become an American citizen when his feet hit our soil. We will need to get him a U.S. passport and do some follow up court things here, but he will be American just by getting off the plane. After the reams of paper gone to bureaucracy it is amazing that the kid will be an American at such a clear and simple point. Get off the plane, become an American citizen. Cool.


img_2573.jpg Mama and Sasha

In his photos today you may notice that he has a green mark on his face. He has a small scrape there and the caregivers have this magic green pen they put on all cuts. We don’t know what it actually is, but it seems to help the cut heal, and while big green spots may seem odd when appearing on little faces, we are embracing them. I actually think I am going to get a magic green pen for myself—I tend to get a lot of cuts from gardening, and having hands covered in cuts covered in green spots can’t be bad—can it?


img_2576.jpg Baby’s got a new pair of shoes

When we returned from our photo errand we had Sash try on his new duds. We guessed correctly on almost everything and they fit pretty well. Before we went shopping we dutifully measured Sasha in all different ways to figure out what size of clothes to buy. I thought this was a bit silly because I was just going to look at the number in the clothes he was wearing and buy that size number. Simple, right? NYET.

As we shopped I tried to work within my scheme, but surprisingly the clothes that were the same size all had different numbers. We were clearly out of the land of 2T, 3T and 4T. I thought Sasha was an 8 based on the clothes he wears, but we ended up with many different numbers, some 6, 10, 15, 25 and there were some letters thrown in for good measure.

I really wanted some article of clothing to have Russian writing on it, but Cyrillic seems to be in short supply when it comes to clothes. There is plenty of awesome English, or derivations thereof (my favorite is the shirt we got that says: WE TUMBLER the game is what most stick MORE!) Actually that probably sounds a lot like the Russian we try to speak. Eventually we found a Chicken Little shirt in red (Sasha’s favorite color) that says Chicken Little in Russian, so he will have something in his first language.


img_2582.jpg Pockets go in FRONT!

When we got to the pants part of trying on he was adamant that the pockets go in front. Which is often true, but in this case he was looking at the pockets on the back of the jeans. So he wore them backwards, because, God bless him, he is two, and when else can you wear your pants backwards? If any of you reading this are currently wearing your pants backwards, don’t feel you need to tell me, just know you have something in common with our little fashion icon.


img_2585.jpg Lookin’ Good

Sasha didn’t want to take his new clothes off to go play outside, but he had about four layers on and we didn’t want him to roast so Masha eventually convinced him to change back to his BH clothes. (I think it involved some bribery with the watering can and talk of COK (Sohk—juice). The next four photos show a daily ritual that happens over the span of about 30 seconds.

1. Getting loot from the tan bag, retreating to the bench to investigate.


2. Trying to open one of the little metal lunch pails we keep stuff in.


3. Finding the new thing (hidden among the regular toys) in the pail.


4. Testing out the new toy . . . today it was an airplane.



We want to start talking about how we are going to go to Katia and Annika on a plane, then I will come back on a plane, then he and Masha will take a plane to where I am then he and I will go on what will seem like the world’s longest plane ride to HOME where Papa, Annika, Katia, Sabaka and Keeska are! My lower back gets sore just thinking about it, although I won’t be sitting as much on the trip home with Sasha . . .


The Other 22 Hours . . .


We got the grand tour of the BH today from the director, Dr. Rimma. She was great, and we were with three other families who also had their translators so there were a lot of words floating around the BH for that hour. It was cool to see the rest of the BH, and to see where the donations of families who adopt go.

We learned that the renovations to Sasha’s family’s house came from a second separate donation, and that when a space is renovated it is the actual caregivers who do all the work! They farm their kids out to other groups and then spend two weeks painting, wallpapering, creating elaborate curtains and generally spiffing things up.

While we were in Sasha’s house he came tearing out of the bathroom and love-tackled me. He is an easy kid to love. We asked him to show us his bed, which he did, and then he told us where every other kids sleeps (in case we were interested in that as well). img_26141.jpg

When we tried to peel off to go back to the tour he would have none of it and threw a minor tantrum—an awesome sign of attachment to us. He acted as though he was going back, but went through his house and appeared in the hall with the tour group again—as if by magic! Steve tried to reason with him but eventually his caregiver had to convince him to come back. I am dreading the big goodbye.


Sasha and Dr. Rimma

Dr. Rimma also noted to the parents who are adopting babies that the BH would go through 6,000 + diapers a month, so while the caregivers would like to use disposables (all called “Pampers”—go P&G marketing) they can’t afford to . . . so they use them only when they are out of the BH on field trips. The Baby rooms are nice—the kids are in the play room area when they aren’t sleeping and, again, it seems like good day care.


There are eight kid “families” grouped by age, and two of the eight are in what we would call foster care. Their parents are hoping to be able to support them again, so they visit their kids, eat and play with them, but leave the big picture care to the BH.


We saw the kitchen—it is big and renovated—really pretty nice . . .



The laundry facilities—an enormous job—but with equipment that also is pretty good.



The infirmary (there are three doctors including Dr. Rimma on staff) was nice—it is where kids who are new to the BH go to get acclimated, or where sick kids go.


img_2632.jpg img_2611.jpg

The biggest surprise of the tour was getting to see the sauna and indoor pool!



The kids go swimming twice a week if the outside temperature is below about 75. One time they take a sauna, then go swimming, the next time they just swim.




After that they get massages and have aromatherapy. Needless to say, Dr. Rimma said that the kids always want to go to this building. There is also a little family room where they can lounge and watch TV as they wait for their massages. I wanted to ask if I could come for some spa time—but I thought they would think I would be joking. I wouldn’t have been joking.



Rose Essence for Aromatherapy

I will try to make this the last time I say this, but seriously, life in this Baby House is not completely horrible. It is true that these children and their families would prefer to be able to care for the kids in their own safe homes, but if that is not an option, this BH is a great alternative. We are thankful for all they have done for Sasha—he would not be himself with out all of their hard work and love. More mañana ~ Bah Kah! (Bye!)