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