Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cold in Astrakhan

"I can't put my arms down mom"
It has been very cold that last few days. We went out for a walk on Wednesday because the sun was shining. Nolen was bundled up so much he reminded us of the kid from the movie A Christmas Story. We had a good outing. He really likes to ride in his new stroller. We ended the outing with lunch out at his first restaraunt. We ate at a small cafe near the hotel. I do not know the name of it because it is in Russian. They only serve lunch and it is cafeteria style, so we can point to the food we want. He ate a whole plate of mashed potatoes and gravy.
The little guy can eat like a grown man. We are having a difficult time determining if he has had enough to eat because he always wants more. We have not found any food that he doesn't like. He will eat whatever we give him.
He is happy most of the day. The hardest part is going to sleep.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Our first night together.

Yesterday we were told to meet the coordinator and translator downstairs at 3:00pm. We went down there and nobody showed up. After waiting for a while Chad was able to contact the other translator by phone. This is how we learned that time changed in Russia on Sunday morning. Everybody just forgot to tell us. So we went back to our room and waited until the real 3:00 pm. While in the car with everybody the translator noticed that our name was mispelled on the court decree. This meant we were not able to go pick up Nolen. We then went to the courthouse to get the document changed. It took about an hour to get the name corrected because they were having difficulty with their computer (our luck). We then went to the store and purchased three cakes to take to the baby house as gifts.
We were worried that it was too late to pick up Nolen but the administrative staff at the baby house waited on us. When we got there they were ready to go home for the evening so the following events happened in less than 15 minutes (about the time it took for them to deliver Sadie by c-section). We had to sign a book at the baby house saying that we are adopting Nolen and that we are aware of the terms. Then the caregiver came in and took the clothes we had brought for him including a diaper. She left and changed him in another room. The director of the baby house had one baby picture of Nolen and he was two months old in the photo. We really wanted the photo but they would not let us have it so we took pictures of the photo. Then they handed us a sample menu of meals he eats during the day. Next, they brought him and told us it was time to go. That was it. He did very good on the trip to the hotel, he sat very quietly. We were suppose to go to the grocery store to purchase some of the food on the list but the coordinator did not take us because it was very cold and late. The low for last night was 21 degrees Farenheit.
Once we arrived in the room we put together a meal for him because he thought he was going to starve and then skyped to family. He has been vary curious and is touching everything he can. He had a difficult time going to bed. Nothing was familiar to him and he could not get comfortable. He finally surrendered on our beds and slept with us for the night. He doesn't even want to look at the baby bed that the hotel purchased for him.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Gotcha Day!

Introducing Nolen Alexander Stewart

Today we picked up Nolen from the baby house. I will post more details later.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

One More Day

The last few days have been filled with a lot of emotions. We have experienced so many different emotions on this trip from the highest highs to the lowest lows. I feel like I have been in labor for the past 3 weeks and it is finally time to push. Sometime Monday afternoon we will go to the babyhouse for the last time. We will be going after our little man's nap. We want him to be in a good mood and well rested because the day will be stressful for him. We can't go in the morning because the paperwork can't be picked up from the courthouse until noon.
Once at the baby house we will get information about his daily schedule, naps, food, and etc. We will change his clothes and take him to the hotel. It will take seven days to get his passport and then we can go to Moscow. We plan to arrive in Memphis on Saturday, November 7th.

We spent today getting ready for him. The hotel brought the baby bed to our room. We went to the store to buy diapers and wipes.
We also went to a store that is like a Circuit City. There we purchased the Disney movie Tarzan. The movie is in Russian and in English. We are excited to have a new movie to watch tonight.
Oh and I finally finished the world's hardest puzzle. Yeah

Friday, October 23, 2009

Almost time for Gotcha Day! Finally

Today our translator brought a copy of a newspaper she subscribes too. It is in English and we found it very interesting to read. One article made me a bit nervous because it discussed Astrakhan being within range of Iran's nuclear missiles. Not what you want to read about while in Astrakhan.

We have spent the last few days doing a bit of shopping. We bought a stoller for our little guy. We also purchased a Russian hat that makes you look like Eddie from the movie Christmas Vacation.
We did some more laundry. Washing your clothes in the bathtub really makes me miss my washing machine. It is not fun but we have figured our a system to get our clothes mildly clean. The picture shows our drying technique.

The other picture is us in front of Elizabeth, Peter's daughter. It was taken at the Art museum.

The first picture is of a Russian electrical job. And yes that is a Sprite bottle covering the wires.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Not Much New

Things have been quite boring in Astrakhan over the last few days. We have had our once a day visits as usual. Our little man has been a bit fussy but we think he is getting a new tooth. On Thursday morning we will be taking him to get his passport photo taken. He has only left the baby house one other time and that was to go to the hospital when he was sick. It should be a fun outing and will be a nice change of pace for us.
Today we went to an art museum that had Russian and Iranian art. We went with our translator and her husband. We enjoyed the company and had a nice lunch with them afterward.
This evening we will be trying the Russian version of Ramen Noodles. Yum, I haven't eaten those since college. We are tired of eating at restaraunts so we are limited to what the grocery store has. We do not have easy access to a microwave but they do have a water cooler that gives you really hot water. That is what we will be using to cook the Ramen. I can't read the label but I am pretty sure it won't be organic.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What I Have Learned While in Russia

Pedestrians do not have the right-a-way.
You drive either on the right side or the left side of the car. It does not matter.
Hot water sometimes comes from the right knob on the faucet and sometimes on the left.
The napkins are tiny, really tiny.
It is appropriate for a man to carry a purse, wear acid wash jeans, and have a mullet.
If it is cooler than 70 degrees you must wear a snowsuit.
There is no ice for beverages.
Watch your step because stairs are not always the same height.
Women must wear the tallest heels they can find.
Their children are beautiful.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Another Weekend in Russia.

The last couple of days have been about the same. We saw our little man once each day. On Friday we said goodbye to the Culver family. For the next three weeks it will be just Chad and I.
Today we went for a walk to the Kremlin. It is the original fortified city walls. Inside are cathedrals, government buildings, and museums. While walking outside the Kremlin Chad noticed a hamburger wrapper on the ground. We are always looking for new restaraunts to eat at. The places that have English menus are very nice and eating takes several hours. We will have difficulty eating at most of them with our little man. We picked up the wrapper (gross I know) and on the other side of it was the name of the restaraunt and address. So we spent quit a while trying to determine the location of the restaraunt. But we were able and from our terrible translation it is called something like Picnic Cafe. We ate dinner and it is close to the hotel. The cafe did not have an English menu so we were proud of ourselves for successfully ordering our meal. We had hamburgers, fries, and fountain cokes. This is the first place we have seen fountain drinks at in Astrakhan. We think they also have hot dogs and pizza.

Not much else has been happening here except for the honking of horns from all the weddings today. It is impossible to get a nap on the weekends here.
Today is day 2 of our ten day waiting period.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dah! Dah! Dah!

Today we had our final court hearing. We are now mama and dada to our new son. Yeah! I know the photo isn't much but its all I can give you for the time being.
We had a good visit this afternoon and nice celebration dinner with the Culver family.
A little bit on how the rest of the trip should go.
First we must wait ten days before we have custody of our little man. The ten days is for the court to have an opportunity to appeal the decision. This rarely happens. During the ten days we will remain in Astrakhan and visit him once a day except for Sundays. We should get custody of him on October 26th (Gotcha Day). Then it will take seven more days for him to obtain a Russian passport. After he has a passport we will travel by airplane to Moscow. We will be in Moscow two to three days. There we will have an interview at the American Embassy and he will receive a visa to enter the U.S.A. After that we can bring him home. If all goes as it should we will be arriving in Memphis on November 6th (Happy Birthday Nana).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What day is it?

That is the question we keep asking ourselves. It is hard to remember is it Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday when there is nothing to distinguish the days from each other. Its sad, I know.

Tuesday night we went to dinner with the other couple who is here. They know a bit more Russian than we do, this is their third trip to Russia. We were determined to find a hamburger. We have been told that hamburgers are not common in Astrakhan. While walking we found a restraunt with palm trees around the door. It had a sign out front with a few pictures of menu items on it. We were so excited to see a hamburger on that sign. The restraunt did not have an English menu nor did the waitress speak any English. With the help of our guide books we were able to order four hamburgers and fries. You would have thought we won the jackpot we were so excited. We have not had any type of red meat since we have been here. The burgers were different. They were open-faced on a slice of Texas toast, topped with tomato and cheese, and they were smoothered in a sauce. The fries were wonderful. The strange thing was we have been looking for hamburgers for a week. We found them at an African themed restraunt in Russia. Who knew.

Our little man is doing great. He has become very curious. He wants to touch everything. I guess it is a good thing that Sadie already baby proofed our home.

Monday, October 12, 2009

We get to go back on Thursday

We went back to court this afternoon. The document that was needed has not yet been found. Therefore, we get to go back to court on Thursday. We hope Thursday is our last day of court.
We had a great visit with our little man today. While singing the itsy bitsy spider he started to move his hands with us. He had lots of grins and giggles for us today. I think he knew we needed them. We meet another couple who is adopting two children. We ate dinner with them at the Kreme Cafe. They are from Texas and are on their first trip. It was great to have someome to talk too other than each other.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Our Weekend

The weekend was uneventful. We had a visit to the baby house on Saturday morning. This was a long visit and was very nice. We put our little man in a pair of squeaky shoes for the first time. He walks much better when his shoes fit. We had a good dinner at the Kreme Cafe and walked on the river walk in the evening.
On Sunday we did not have anything planned. We walked to Sans Pizza during the late afternoon and ate an early dinner. Sans Pizza is about an hour walk from our hotel. We are both very proud of ourselves for purchasing a map and being able to follow it to Sans Pizza. After the walk home we are tired and will spend the evening watching a movie.
Monday afternoon hopefully brings the end of court process. I will post after court and let you all know the outcome.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Our Purple Palace.

This is the view from our Hotel and the "love bridge." This is our current residence.

Just another day in the Khan

We visited the baby house this morning. We had a nice hour long visit. Our little man walked around the room today more than usual. We were in a different room so it was nice to get to see more of the baby house. They told us he does not have many opportunities to walk much. I think it wore him out because he feel asleep sitting up at the end of the visit. His mosquito bites looked better today, yeah. This afternoon included a failed attempt at a nap. Our hotel overlooks a bridge that we call the love bridge. It is custom after you get married to travel around town and take wedding pictures at different locations. One of those locations is the love bridge where couples place a lock on the railings. Many of the locks are engraved with names and dates. While wedding parties are driving around town taking pictures they announce to everyone by continuosly honking their car horns. We heard car horns all day, it was lovely. We took a long walk this evening and were excited to purchase some milk. Lunch and dinner today were both peanut butter and jelly sandwichs. I think its funny that Teddy Rukspin (probably spelled wrong) is the peanut butter mascot.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Not as we had planned!!

Today we had our first and not our last experience at a Russian court. Chad and I were asked questions for almost two hours. After this the court realized that a document required for our little man was not present. Therefore, court was postponed until Monday afternoon. When this document is received everthing should be fine. This means we will be staying in Astrakhan about a week longer than was originally planned. This brought our spirits down because we greatly miss our Sadie and our family. We would like to be home as soon as possible. Our prayer for now is that the court will be able to acquire this document by Monday. We are staying in the hotel room for the night. We walked to a grocery and bought some snacks for dinner. We purchased the items for peanut butter and jelly sandwichs. Or at least we think we did.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Our first visit

On Wednesday afternoon we had our first visit for this trip with our little man. It was good to see him. We do not think he remembered us, but it took less time for him to warm up to us than it did the last time. We were surprised when we first saw him because he was covered in mosquito bites. My first thought was that he had chicken pox. He had maybe two dozen all over his face and body. The doctor said it was mosquito bites. We saw him scratching them several times during the visit. My guess is they sleep with the windows open at the baby house. We did not even get to see how bad his legs were because he had on a pair of white lacey tights with hearts.
We have court at 10:00 on Thursday morning.

We are in Astrakhan!

We arrived in Astrakhan late Tuesday night. It took a total of 32 hours travel time with very little sleep on the airplane. The hardest part was the six hour layover in the Moscow airport. I don't think I have ever been that tired before. Once we got to the hotel room we took showers and went straight to bed. We slept for 13 hours. This morning we ate breakfast at the hotel. We had our favorite, hotdogs and green peas. Just what you want after two days of airplane food. We don't understand the hotel breakfast because our translator told us a traditional Russian breakfast is waffles and eggs. Where are the waffles? We are waiting on our coordinator, Gallina this morning. She will provide us with the information we need about court and will set up a time for us to go visit the baby house today. We plan on going to the grocery store this morning to buy some essentials.

The room at the hotel is very nice. It is very Purple with three twin beds. I of course love the purple. However, after this I do not think Chad will ever let me have another purple room in the house (other than Sadie's).

We think another couple will be joining us within the next week. If that is so we will be very excited to get to speak English with other people.

The photo is Chad at about 24 hours into our journey.

Have a good day.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Returning to Russia

We are spending most of today packing for the journey ahead of us. We will leave Sunday after church and travel to Memphis. Our flight leaves Monday morning and we should land in Astrakhan sometime Tuesday evening. It will be a long two days of travel. When we arrive in Astrakhan we will visit our little man on Wednesday and attend court on Thursday. We will not be able to post again until Wednesday because we will be in transit. We look forward to writing to you from the otherside of the world. If anyone has skype let us know and we can talk to you while in Russia.