Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tree Decorating

Tonight we had a great time eating homemade turkey noodle soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Then we decorated the Christmas tree.  What a night!  Enjoy the video and pics!


Joel, Clarion, Slav & Sergei

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Getting Colder Outside

Greetings everyone! We're having colder and colder weather here in St. Louis. It was still nice and warm when we got home from Russia in early September. It's so hard to believe that we've been home with our boys for over two months now. As of tomorrow, Slav will have been with us (counting our time in Vlad) three months. Unbelievable! While we were waiting in between trips, everyone always said that once you get home with you child(ren) time really starts to fly. That is so true!

Sergei is still sleeping in a crib, even though he is a tad over three years old. He has started climbing out several times during the night. We were very concerned about him falling while trying to climb out, so we took the side rail of the crib. Well, that was a mistake. Within an hour of going to bed, he rolled out of the bed onto the hardwood floor. Ouch! (This happened a lot while we had him with us at the hotel in Russia.) So we decided to put the rail back on but to put it as low as it would go. That way it still prevents him from rolling out of the bed, but if he climbs out he has much less of a chance of falling and hurting himself. Of course, with easier access in and out of bed, Sergei now climbs out two sometimes even three times a night. Thankfully, he usually goes right back to sleep when we put him back in the bed, except at 5:30AM when he is ready to get up. Gotta work on that one! We hope within the next six months to have both boys in big-boy beds.

The boys are definitely making progress with English. We have noticed that more and more they are speaking English to one another. The other day Slav was laying on the couch watching TV and Sergei stood right in front of him, blocking his view. Slav growled at Sergei saying, "I can't see!" They speak mostly English to us, but use a few Russian words yet. They have not stopped using the Russian words for "pee" and "poop," although they are beginning to say the word "bathroom" when they have to go. Sergei is using more and more two or three word phrases, one of which is "not yet." We're very proud of their progress with language!

Slav is making some progress with eating. Recently he ate some chicken noodle soup and actually liked it. One of the caretakers at his orphanage told us that he didn't like soup. He also ate about half of a small bowl of potato soup a few days ago. The biggest struggle with Slav's eating habits is not necessarily what he eats, but getting him to actually eat. When he is hungry and likes what is on his plate he usually devours his food. This is the case when he has sausage, hot dogs, corn dogs, bologna or chicken nuggets. Much of the time, however, Slav just eats so slow. He will chew on something for five minutes. Sergei, Clarion and I will be all done eating, sometimes even with two helpings, and Slav still has a long way to go to finish his food. Thankfully, at least we can usually get Slav to try a bite of something. Last night I made chili. Slav took a bite and hated it. It wasn't even the hot kind of chili. Sergei, as he does with 99% of the food we put in front of him, devoured his chili. He is a very good eater!

The boys love playing outside. With the colder weather, we've already started bundling them up with hats and gloves. Slav isn't a big fan of jackets, but he is learning that he must have it on to play outside when it's cold. Sometimes he throws a little fit, but once he realizes he's stuck inside, he changes his tune. Slav has gone from throwing big fits, to little whiny fits once in a while. He especially does it when he's tired. The good news is that whether it's a big fit or a little whiny fit, he quickly begins to understand that all the fit does is get him into further trouble. Back to playing outside. Just about everything Slav finds outside (sticks, etc.) gets turned into some sort of weapon. Slav also like to climb trees. Thankfully the tree on the side of our house is fairly small and he won't find himself to high up off of the ground. Sergei loves to play with the soccer ball. I will kick it all the way across the field and he will chase it. He would do this all day if I stayed out and kept kicking it. I think we've found a great way to tire the little guy out!

The boys are getting excited about Christmas. We were in the mall last weekend and they saw the Christmas trees and immediately started talking about Christmas. It seems that they have a pretty good idea of the tradition of Christmas. We're trying to work hard with them about why we really celebrate Christmas. Every evening before bed we sing a hymn and pray the Lord's Prayer. We are amazed that both boys get some of the words in the prayer, words that you wouldn't expect, like "hallowed," "trespass" and the like. Cool stuff! We have some great children's books that tell the story of Jesus' birth. Thankfully the boys love books!

That's all for now. Thank you for your continued prayers for our family! Congratulations to Eric & Becky who have their court date and will soon return to Vlad for their three children. As always, our prayers go out for all those who are waiting for referrals and court dates. God bless you all!

In Christ,

Joel, Clarion, Slav & Sergei

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Halloween & Glasses

The boys enjoyed their first Halloween last Friday!  Slav went as Batman.  Sergei went as Superman. It took a little bit of time for them to figure out the concept of trick or treating.  We practiced at our front door several times before going out for real.  We bought the boys the little plastic pumpkins with handles to hold all of their candy.  When we left the house to go out and trick or treat, Slav said, "Papa, Batman no pumpkin."  He was telling me that Batman doesn't carry a pumpkin.  AFter a few stops at houses on our street he realized that carrying the pumpkin was a necessity.  He had to get all his candy home somehow.  Surprisingly, the boys have not begged and pleaded to eat all the candy.  We give them a little bit each day and they're very happy with that.  Ask if that's the case again next year!

Slav went to the eye doctor last week so that he could be evaluated in light of his strabismus.  The appointment went very well.  The doctor also determined that Slav is a bit far-sighted.  Yesterday he got his glasses.  He looks adorable in them.  However, he doesn't like them at all.  At first he kept trying to take them off, but thankfully he eased up on that.  I think what he dislikes is that the nosepiece is rubbing on his nose and it hurts.  We're hoping that he will get used to them over the next few days.  If we determine that they are rubbing him too hard we will go back and see about getting them adjusted a bit.  Anyway, all is well otherwise.  Both boys will be seeing the dentist next week.  We are pretty sure that Sergei has some cavities and we know for certain that Slav will need some dental work.  His teeth are not in the best of shape.  Here's Slav in his new glasses. 

As for learning, the boys are progressing by leaps and bounds.  Every day we hear new English words that we weren't even sure they knew.  Slav's newest phrase is "Not glasses"  Sergei even said "medicine" at the table last night to remind us that they needed their iron.  They are each counting more and more each day and they are now masters of colors and shapes.  Slav has moved on to letters and recognizing his name.  Sergei is learning to hold a crayon correctly and follow lines.  They make Mama so proud! 

God's blessings to all of you who are waiting for referrals and court dates!  Our prayers go out especially to Eric & Becky who are anxiously awaiting their court date so they can bring home their three beautiful children from Vlad.  Their paperwork is being reviewed by the judge and it should be only a matter of days before they receive their good news.  The Lord be with you all!


Joel, Clarion, Slav & Sergei

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Very Big Week!

This was a big week for the boys.  Clarion’s mom and dad arrived this week for a visit to meet their newest grandchildren.  The boys had a great time getting to know them. The boys have done so well meeting relatives.  They have attached to their mama and papa very well and seem to know the difference between us and other family members.  Temper tantrums are less and less every day.  Usually they’ll only take place if one of the boys is very tired.  Overall the boys are progressing nicely.  Slav had a 24-hour stomach bug in the middle of the week and his temperature got up to about 104 degrees.  The next day he had a light fever, but he was much better.  The day after that he was back to his old self and asking for sausage, one of his favorite things to eat.

The boys were baptized at church this morning.  This was the other big event of the week.  Today is Reformation Sunday, a day when Lutherans rejoice in God’s free grace in Christ Jesus.  It was great to see God working that grace in Slav & Sergei’s lives through the water and Word of Holy Baptism!  Clarion’s brother drove over from Tennessee and Joel’s mom flew up from Texas.  It was nice to have so many family members here as the boys were received into the family of God.  The boys were very well behaved.  We talked with them quite a bit about Baptism the last few days so they sort of new what was going to take place.  Below are pictures from the last week or so, including the baptism.

God’s blessings to you all!


 Joel, Clarion, Slav & Sergei  

Friday, October 10, 2008

Coming up to 1 month...

Wow, it has been awhile since we have done a blog post. Well, needless to say we have been very busy keeping up with two active little boys. Wonderful boys...but tiresome nonetheless.

What growth we have seen this month! Our little ones are so loving. There are lots of hugs and kisses (especially for Mama...too bad Papa had to go back to work) They both crave love and attention and we are trying to be patient with their demanding ways. Slava is counting to ten, knows his colors, and various shapes. Sergei is trying to master his colors, does pretty well with shapes, and loves practicing counting. They both just adore their cousins that live up the hill. Every day they want to see them. Slava told me he loves August and every day he says " August school?" Which means "Is August in school?' Now, Slava says "Mom, hachoo school" meaning I want to go to school. Sergei is definitely calming down and responding to discipline. It's difficult to discipline him because he wants to touch and see everything and doesn't really understand why he gets in trouble so much. So, we try to set boundaries without destroying bonds.

We are finally getting into a routine and things are beginning to calm down. Clarion's parents will be flying in on the 20th to meet the boys. They are staying a whole week and the boys are being baptized on the 26th of October. It's amazing that soon we will be heading into November. Time does fly.

So, things are going well from our end. Busy, but certainly good. Our prayers are with all those who are in the adoption process. It is amazing to see God bring families together. We certainly praise Him for ours. Here are some more pictures from this month for your enjoyment.

The Fritsches

Sunday, September 21, 2008

First Week at Home

Hi Everybody! We've been home a little over a week now and a lot has been going on. Here is everything from my (Joel's) perspective. Grandma and Grandpa Fritsche (aka Babushka & Dedushka) were here to greet us when we got home and spend a week with us. The boys really enjoyed their time with them. As you can see from the attached pictures, the boys got haircuts right away. They did so well at the barber shop. We'll definitely continue to get their haircuts there. The barber is great with them.

Last Sunday was Slav's birthday. I think we successfully communicated to him in Russian that it was his birthday. He was very excited to learn that he turned 5 that day. Now he counts to five in English all the time. Even Sergei can count to five! We had a nice birthday celebration with ice cream cake and birthday cards and balloons.

We spent a few hours at the St. Louis Zoo on Monday of last week. The boys had fun trying to feed the giraffes and trying to feed popcorn to Mama & Papa. We'll definitely be going back to the zoo, especially since it's less than ten minutes from our house and FREE. We also made an outing to the Mills Mall where the boys got to ride the carousel. They thoroughly enjoyed that as well as a look at the animals and fish at Cabela's.

The boys are behaving fairly well. Sergei gets into trouble when he touches something that he knows he should not. Slav tends to throw very loud screaming fits when he doesn't get his way. We usually have at least two of these per day. When he screams and cries his punishment is having to sit by himself on his bed. He does not like this at all. If he continues screaming (which he tends to do) he gets a spanking on the behind. I have not enjoyed giving the spankings, but I feel they are necessary. Slav knows that he should not be screaming at the top of his lungs continually, but he chooses to continue doing it. Thankfully the fits tend to last no longer than five or ten minutes. Unfortunately right now he is throwing a fit because he refuses to share anything with Sergei. We have explained that many of the toys belong to both boys, but Slav has a very difficult time with this concept. We will continue to work on this. I am really working hard to have Slav listen to me and look at me when I call him, especially when he is in trouble. I have lots to learn as a Papa.

As far as eating goes, Sergei is our little champion eater. He eats almost everything that we give him. He has eaten sausage, various soups, various yogurts, oatmeal, bread, cheese, pizza and numerous other things. Slav on the other hand is a very picky eater. He loves sausage (breakfast sausage and types of dinner sausage). He does not like to try new things. Saturday morning I made waffles and Slav didn't want anything to do with them at first. I snuck a little bit of syrup onto his lip, then he realized that he would like the waffles. Slav absolutely hates eggs. He wouldn't touch them in Russia and he won't here either. Sergei loves them. We think Slav will warm up to typical American foods as time goes by. He ate some chicken fingers at the Vlad Inn at first, but then only wanted fries. He refused to eat McNuggets at McDonalds in Moscow. I made him try a bite, then I could tell that he didn't think it was all bad, but he didn't want to let on that he didn't hate them. He is already warming up to breaded chicken strips, so we hope he'll do the sam with other foods.

All in all, things are going very well. The boys have enjoyed playing with their cousins here in our neighborhood. I think that this will be really good for them, especially since Clarion is spending this first year home schooling them. We were worried that the boys would be afraid of our dogs, but after a week, we are convinced that it is the other way around. The boys tend to treat the dogs well, but the dogs definitely fear them.

Our prayers go out to everyone in the Houston area, especially many of our loved ones who are still without power, including Mom and Dad who returned home Friday. Thanks for continuing to pray for us and our family. We appreciate all of you love and support! We'll write again soon.


Joel, Clarion, Slav & Sergei

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

More Pictures from Russia

As promised, here are some more pictures from our stay in Russia. Things are going very well. I'll post another update in the next few days along with some pictures since we've been home. Blessings!

Joel, Clarion, Slav & Sergei

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Back Home Safe and Sound

Greetings everyone! Sorry for the lack of posts the last few days. In Moscow at the Holiday Inn the internet is expensive, so we didn't purchase any internet cards. At McDonalds you can get thirty minutes of free WIFI, but by the time Drew Payne and I were done sending e-mails, we ran out of minutes so I couldn't do a post. Anyway, below is what I intended to post from Moscow...

Greetings from Moscow everyone! We made it safely! We were sad to say goodbye to friends in Vlad yesterday, but were eager to move on to the next leg of our journey--Moscow. However, we were not looking forward to the long 9-hour flight from Vlad to Moscow. We left the Vlad Inn at 11AM on Tuesday morning to head to the airport. On the way we picked up Lana so that she could se us off at the airport. Timing worked out very nicely. Lana helped us get checked in, then she bid us farewell. We made our way through security to the gate and only had to wait a couple of minutes before they started boarding our flight.

The boys were very excited to get on the airplane. Clarion and the boys had the three middle seats and I sat across the aisle from them. It worked out ok. Poor Clarion had the blunt of taking care of both boys. I helped as much as I could. We gave Sergei a small dose of Benadryl when we got on the plane. Slav is pretty smart and wouldn't go for our trickery. He wouldn't take the Benadryl. The Benadryl made Sergei very tired, but unfortunately he had a very hard time getting comfortable which made it very hard for him to actually sleep. He did manage to sleep a little bit, but definitely not enough. We both took turns walking him up and down the aisles of the plane. We learned that he gets very scared when you flush the toilet in the lavatory on the plane. Sergei was a little cranky the first few hours since he was uncomfortable and couldn't sleep, but actually did quite well for the rest of the flight. Overall, I'd say Sergei did very well on his first plane ride.

Slav was great on the plane. There were only a few moments of frustration. Aeroflot Airlines gives a little kids pack to the children on the flight. In Slav's kid's pack was a puzzle of an airplane. He insisted on working on it right after takeoff, before he could put his tray table down. Well, it made for interesting puzzle work. He was tired and cranky as he worked on the puzzle, but he and Clarion finally finished it. After handing the puzzle over to me, I accidentally spilled all of the pieces. So now we are several puzzle pieces short. Anyway, Slav made a couple of friends during the flight, a guy probably in his twenties and an old man. Slav talked to them for at least an hour, maybe more. It was cute. They kept smiling at Clarion and me as they talked to him. You could tell they thought Slav was a great kid. We had two meals on the flight. Both boys ate very well. All in all, none of us got much sleep on the flight. We were all thrilled when the plane touched down in Moscow. We were taken by surprise to find it quite chilly and rainy in Moscow. Clarion and I were both in shorts, the boys in pants and short sleeved shirts. Thankfully we had their jackets along.

Once we got to baggage claim, there was an excruciatingly long wait for luggage. The conveyer did not even start running until about 45 minutes (seriously!) after we got there. It's the longest I've ever waited for bags at an airport. What really stunk was that both boys had to use the bathroom, but the toilets were on the other side of security. After waiting for about 10 or 15 minutes we finally decided that Clarion and the boys should exit and hit the toilets and look for Mia, our CHI interpreter. I waited for the bags for another half hour. Finally the bags came. Grabbing your bags from the carousel at Russian airports is always an interesting experience. Everyone crowds in and just kind of shoves people out of the way when their bags come. As soon as I had the bags I made may way out and was met by Mia. She took me to the car where Clarion and the boys were waiting. We had about a 1 1/2 hour drive to the hotel with Moscow traffic. Slav dosed in the car for a bit. Unfortunately when we arrived at the hotel the boys were wired. The other bummer of a thing is that embassy paperwork needed to be filled out right away (which I expected) so that it could be submitted early the next day. So, Clarion and the boys hung out in one of our rooms and Mia and I worked on paperwork in our other room next door. Mia informed me that CHI would submit our paperwork for us on Wednesday and we would have a free day in Moscow. However, CHI is very busy with numerous families in town this week, so we would be unable to get a driver from CHI. After Mia left with the paperwork, Slav and I crashed in one room and Clarion and Sergei in the other. Thankfully they brought a little pack 'n play for Sergei to sleep in.

Today (Wednesday) we decided to brave the Moscow Metro subway system and venture out to Red Square. I spent an hour or so this morning planning our route. Thankfully a Metro station is right across the street from our hotel. We were a little nervous, but we made it. The Metro is cheap and fairly easy to figure out, despite the fact that nothing is in English and the attendants really don't speak English. We counted the number of stops until we came to the stop where we needed to get off. When we exited the train and made our way back up to the surface, there was the Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer, staring us in the face. It was really great! We took a few minutes and got our bearings and started toward it. It was definitely a challenge to walk with two little boys in the cold, wet weather, trying to balance a travel guide, digital camera and video camera. I've got to hand it to my family. Clarion did great, often having to carry poor little Sergei, just so we could move a bit faster (and sometimes just to keep hold of him since he sometimes just darts off after a bird or after something else). The boys also did well with three hours of walking in the cold and off-and-on misting rain. Anyway, we did the quickest tour of the area anyone has ever taken. From Christ the Redeemer we walked along the Moscow River toward the Kremlin. We walked along the perimeter of the Kremlin through Alexander Gardens. There were a lot of beautiful flowers. We saw the tomb of the unknown soldier and the Russian guards standing by. We walked from there to Red Square where we finally got our shot in front of St. Basil's Cathedral. It was cold and wt and Slav kept saying, "ustal," which means "tired." So we took a few pictures, even one outside of Lenin's tomb (which was unfortunately closed). We quickly made our way down the rest of our route, past the statue of Karl Marx and then thankfully we spotted another Metro station which would take us back to Sokolniki where out hotel is. It was about a ten minute ride on the metro. We're quite proud of ourselves for venturing out and braving the public transportation in Moscow. I wish we would've had more time. If the weather had been better we might have stayed out longer.

As I said, we're now home safe and sound. We'll give another report soon when we have some time. The boys are still quite wired but Mama and Papa are tired. Thankfully my (Joel) parents are here to lend a hand for a few days. Thanks again to all of your for your prayers throughout our journey. Blessed be the name of the Lord!


Joel, Clarion, Slav & Sergei

P.S. - More pictures from our trip coming soon!!!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Finally a Family of Four

Greetings again from Vlad. Today was gotcha day and we're all four together at last. It was a long, crazy day with lots of running around and sitting in Vlad traffic. What a day to remember! Pictured from left to right is Mama, Sergei, Slav & Papa. This is a day we've looked forward to for a long time. Thank you to all of you for your many prayers and words of encouragement. We'll try to blog about our adventures as much as possible in the days ahead. We have three more days in Vlad after today, then three days in Moscow and then we'll be on our way home.


Clarion, Joel, Slav & Sergei

Monday, September 01, 2008

Still Waiting out the Ten Days

We’re still doing well here in Vlad. Boy these ten days can be long, especially when it rains. We’ve had days of rain interspersed between some very beautiful days. We really enjoy going to the beach with other adoptive families and their children. The children play at the playground, throw rocks into the water while the adults visit. Then we usually have a nice meal of shashleek (kabobs) at the cafĂ©. Great stuff! Things have been kind of crazy at the hotel the past few days because Putin has been in Vladivostok and he is staying near the Vlad Inn. Many of his aids are staying here at the hotel, so we’ve had lots of activity here, even roads up to the hotel closed to car traffic for security reasons. We’ve taken our older son with us twice to visit his little brother at the baby home. We’ll do another visit tomorrow, then pick little brother up on Friday. We leave Vlad on Tuesday, September 9th. We’ll try to post again before that, hopefully with pictures. Blessings!

Joel, Clarion & the boys

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Waiting out the Ten Days

Hey Everyone! The internet connection in our room has been crummy, so I'm down by the front desk with a much better signal, but I will keep this short to conserve internet time. We're doing great! We can't wait for the ten days to be up. They should be up on September 4th and we'll have both boys with us at the hotel. Yesterday we were able to have both of them together for a visit at our youngest boy's baby home. We had a blast and got a good taste of what we'll be experiencing when we have both boys with us. Our youngest is full of energy and keeps us running around almost constantly, while the older is a bit more reserved, but still a lot of fun. Yesterday was the first time the boys have seen each other in over a year. They had a joyous reunion and will be together for the long haul very soon. Well, we just wanted to say hello and give a brief report. We'll post again when we can. With the bad signal in our room, we may not post often, but know that we're fine and having a wonderful time here in Vlad. God's blessings to you all!

Joel, Clarion & the boys

Monday, August 25, 2008

We are Officially Parents!

Hello Everyone!  We had court today and have been approved to adopt our two wonderful boys.  It was truly an awesome day.  We will post more as we wait out the ten days, then pictures when the ten days are up.  For now, thank you to so many of you for your prayers!  To God be the glory!

Joel & Clarion