Friday, October 30, 2009

The lights are on, but is anyone home???

This morning, I went to my office per normal.

I stood outside my office for about a minute and a half, and became increasingly frustrated as I could not get my office door unlocked.

I then realized that I was trying to open my office door by using my car remote clicker. I was actually pointing my car remote at the office door and pressing the "unlock" button.

Thank goodness it is Friday!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Completely Random....

Here's the deal.

My brain apparently has ceased functioning as it used to. I now have a serious case of Adoption Mommy ADD. (AMADD that would be, I'm thinking).

I sat down last weekend with full intention of posting a very thought-provocative, informative blog post about our time in Kaluga. I ended up posting some pictures, that, now that I look at them are like "What was that about? Was some crazy person running around Kaluga with a camera?" Now that I think about how to explain what I was thinking, I am at a loss. I will attempt to post the explanation for all of this sometime, but in this mental state I can't promise when that will be. I just don't know.

The baby furniture arrived Tuesday morning. Steve and our friend Brad spent most of yesterday afternoon putting most of it together. I just wandered in and out and offered to help and made white chili and bread for dinner. It all went pretty well, except for the part where they put the base of the dresser on the wrong end, and then all the drawers would have needed to go in upside down! It was easily fixed, they told me.

I stayed up way late last night making up the bed with the dust ruffle and sheet bumper pad. It is WAY cute--if I wasn't so big, I would have crawled in myself. I was sort of prepared for class today---it went fine, but toward the end of my lecture (about the unification of Germany) my brain just sort of went on shut down, and I found myself repeating myself--a lot! I am worried that my students are concerned about my sanity!

We did hear today that all of our documents are IN KALUGA! Now we're just waiting for the judge to check them over and issue the court date.

And there is SO much to do. I have about 40 papers to grade, find something to wear to court, get the court photo album head is spinning!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Kaluga---Pictures From Trip One

The sign on the gates of the Baby Home in Kaluga---we're almost there!

Tsiolkovsky's grave in Kaluga--more about him to come!

Marker at the southern entrance to Kaluga--we didn't come into the city this way, but Vladimir drove us south out of town so that we could see and cross the Oka River. Kaluga was founded in 1371, so it's an old town!

Afternoon meal that we splurged on at the Black Bull restaurant! We had "Buffalo Wings" and "Onion Rings" as our appetizers (ok, we were really hungry at this point!)

Part of the Cosmonaut Museum in Kaluga--Tsiolkovsky, the Russian father of space travel, was from Kaluga, and the Cosmonaut Museum was located there in his honor and named after him.

Part of the main cathedral of Kaluga. The cathedral was built in the late 1700s for Catherine the Great's visit to the city. It's amazingly beautiful inside, and recently restored (some restoration is still taking place).

The view from the Cosmonaut Museum. Nadia told us this is part of the Kaluga reservoir

The WWII Victory monument about 4 blocks from our hotel in Kaluga. It looked really cool with all the lights at night. I'm hoping for a better picture on our next visit!

The view from our hotel room window of the Cathedral of John the Baptizer. We went to church services here on Sunday morning, and you could hear the bells ringing twice a day for services while we were there.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

One Month

We have now been home from Russia one month. One month and no news. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Squat.

The first couple of weeks were relatively easy. We were both SICK and we had an amazing backload of stuff to get caught up with, and then daily stuff that just needed doing.

But the last couple of weeks have been tough. We celebrated K's birthday last weekend by going out to dinner and registering for stuff at Tar-zhay and Babies-is-us. It was fun to shop (without spending much) but there were so many things that are still "wait and see." What kind of diapers, what kind of bottles, etc., etc. It all brings home that she's not here with us.

And I'll be honest. I am NOT focused on my job. I still do it, and I think I'm doing an ok job, but I just do not care about it like I used to. I have let some things slide that I normally wouldn't (granted, I did need to let some things slide!), but my heart is just not there. Even teaching Russian history is not as much fun as it used to be. I have papers to grade that I just don't even want to read (ok, granted, grading is NEVER fun, but I don't think I've ever put them off this long).

It doesn't help that so many caring people ask, "so when are you going back? Do you have any news?" I know they are trying to show that they care, but after answering for the umpteenth time each day, I feel like people are just tired of hearing, "nope."

This IS tough.

Sorry for the rant...I do feel a bit better now.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Steve's Posting--Karina's Odyssey

This was my beloved husband's letter in the church newsletter a couple of weeks ago. Just thought I would share it with you all, since it touched me so much!


The Odyssey is an epic poem by the Greek poet, Homer, (not Homer Simpson, just in case you were uncertain about that ;-) ). In this poem the hero Odysseus, goes upon a long and eventful journey, with perils and adventures along the way as he tries to make his way home, to a loving wife and son. There are many obstacles in his way, some of them seeming to be insurmountable, but Odysseus doesn’t give up, but just keeps striving to move closer and closer to home, in spite of those obstacles.

This past week felt a little like that for me, as Carolynn and I made our way nearly half way around the world, a journey of literally thousands of miles, in search of a little girl who was waiting for the ones who would give her love, a home, a family. There were some obstacles to overcome (long flights and the accompanying jet-lag, not always knowing what was coming next, some language barriers, and the nagging concern that there were people who still could say “No, we’re sorry, you aren’t healthy enough or young enough, or something… enough”). We also didn’t know what we would find as far as Karina’s health was concerned. While we were hoping for the best, and praying for God’s healing, there was a chance that something that had already happened could have done permanent damage (though we should have remembered that with God there is no permanent damage, just as without God there can be no permanent joy).

Being in a place where there are lots of signs around you, but most of which you can’t read, was a reminder to me of just how much it would stink to be illiterate (I even found myself searching the billboard ads to see if there was a word or two I could recognize). But for all of that, we had many blessings along the way as well. Two young Russian men, who though they could have taken care of their business with us in 2 minutes and left us there to wait alone for our contact, instead stayed with us until it was certain that we had made our connection as we energetically hammered away at the language barrier between us. There was a beautiful worship experience at the Russian Orthodox Chapel (2+ hours standing up, so not for wimps, but a full house with many young people and children in attendance). We also met a young woman who was trying to restore a church in her region, to try to combat their local crime problem. The priest told us to give the offering that we were going to give to his church, to this woman instead. It felt like a real “God thing”, being able to be an answer to prayer is always cool. J Nearly all of the people we met along our journey were friendly to us, some of them over and above what might normally be expected. We found the orphanage staff to be helpful, and genuinely concerned for the children in their care (this made it a little easier to face having to leave Karina behind this trip, though that was still very hard). The orphanage itself was getting ready to celebrate 70 years of service on their anniversary (which just happened to be the same day as my birthday, hmmm…). It was pretty clean and in relatively good repair (better than either of us expected to find).

But by far the greatest blessing of all was being able to meet Karina, who though she was also meeting us for the first time, seemed to gather us in to her world and accept us as if it were always meant to be. Though she was teething she still was a trooper, keeping a smile on her face most of the time. And teaching me that it really doesn’t take any time at all to be in love, and to also be able to see the joy in Carolynn’s face as she held her and played with her, helped us both to feel this long odyssey was still headed toward a home where God will continue to bless us all as we travel this road together.

Thanks so much to all of you, for your prayers, and encouragement, we are one step closer to “home”. And we thank God for this chance to share this joy with all of you.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Baby K

Today is Baby K's first birthday. It has been difficult to think of much else today, since we would have really liked it if she were here to celebrate her birthday with us.

The wait has not been too bad until this last week. Probably because we've both been so busy since we got back from Kaluga that we haven't really had time to process all that happened yet. What with the LONG trip home, and then being sick as soon as we got home, in many ways it has felt like I just woke up from this very strange dream in which I dreamed I have a baby in Russia!

I know that we haven't waited a long time, especially compared with many other families, and I can't imagine how difficult this is (or has been for them). My prayers are with all of you who are still waiting for your child to be a part of your family. I will have to say that THIS waiting, between first and second trips, is different from waiting for the first trip to even happen. In some ways, this is easier--we know what we're waiting for, and why we're waiting. On the other hand, there are ways in which it is more difficult--we know her now, and in some ways don't understand why she isn't already here. I know that, perhaps just a year from now, we'll look back on all this and say that it was just part of the process, but now it is just not that much fun at all.

So, Happy Birthday, baby K. Know that there is a family who wishes you were here, and who can't wait to get you home so that you can blow out your candles, eat cake, and be loved and hugged to pieces!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Trip 1--Days 1 and 2

At SVO in Moscow! We're met by Dmitrii and Victor, two great Methodist guys!

The video monitor on the plane---we're finally here!

On the plane to Moscow---I'm guessing this was early in the flight, because Steve looks really well-rested!

September 18 and 19---We leave for and arrive in Russia for Trip 1

(Ok, yes I know this is a bit late--wanted to at least give you some info on what we did while we were there, since my laptop was not behaving properly in Russia!)

The trip over was interesting--we were able to fly from the new Springfield airport to Atlanta, and from there non-stop to Moscow. We got to the Springfield airport WAY early, because they wouldn't let us pre-book our seats (many thanks to Lin who not only drove us there, but picked us up on the homebound trip when we were seriously delayed in Atlanta by weather).

We also found out, belatedly, that there's no food service inside security yet in the Springfield airport--if you want to eat, you have to do it on the other side. We settled for bananas and snacks that we'd brought from home.

The flight from Springfield to Atlanta was on a teeny plane--not as small as the puddle-jumper I used to fly from St. Louis to Columbia, but almost. There actually was a flight attendant, this time.

In Atlanta we had a few hours to wait for the Moscow plane. We made use of the time by finding our way to the international concourse (the signs in the Atlanta airport are somewhat confusing--they need to have signs that say "look behind you") and by having something to eat. We chose TGIFridays because we could sit at a table and have someone wait on us--a step up from the food court food. The rest of the time we just waited, read, and tried to rest up for the journey.

The plane from Atlanta to Moscow was ok---very crowded, with lots of Russian-speaking people. It was at this point that Steve commented that he probably should have reviewed his Russian language tapes a couple of times. Both of the movies (Night at the Museum 2 and Star Trek) had Russian characters--go figure. We both slept a little. When we arrived in Moscow, they "took our temperature" to see if we had swine flu as we were getting off the plane. This was completely non-invasive. They just pointed this thing that looked like a radar gun at us as we were walking off. I didn't see them stop anyone. I guess that we all passed---or we weren't speeding, anyway!

The movement through passport control and customs was the fastest I have ever seen it be at SVO. We must have been through in about 30 minutes. We did have to wait for our luggage, but even that was not a huge problem--we were just glad it made it with us!

(OK, at this point it has now become day 2--you lose so much time when you travel east!)

Now the story gets sort of different from many other peoples'. You see, (1) we were supposed to be met by "someone" from our agency, probably a woman, and (2) we had this coat. Ah, the coat story!

Time for "flashback" sequence here: about 7 years ago, I went on my first mission trip to Russia. One of the guys on the trip, Mike, has such a heart for Russian missions, and was just there about a month or two ago. They had met a man that trip who was working with the church in Russia who needed a winter coat. Mike asked me if I would be willing to take a coat over, and of course I couldn't turn him down. We had stuffed this rather large coat into the top of one of our suitcases (thanks to my amazing packer of a husband). Mike had told me that he would have someone meet us at SVO when we got there to pick up the coat. So.....

Back to the story---we're waiting in SVO (we actually got there early) for these people. And we waited. And waited. Finally, Victor and Dmitry (who I knew from before and was very glad to see) showed up to get the coat. We talked in their ok English and our pitiful Russian for quite awhile, (actually Steve and Victor started sharing pastor stories) but they were clearly worried that there was no one there to meet us. So they were going to wait with us. That was very cool. So we were all standing around. For awhile....

Finally, this poor guy comes up to us and asks if we are the Burbees. He's clearly distraught, and says that he's been waiting for two couples. He's been looking for two couples together, and hasn't seen them. Of course, we've been standing there talking to Dmitry and Victor. We don't look like who he's been waiting for. His only clue was that we had our ex-rays with us, and they were clearly labled "BURBEE". Now the problem was what had happened to the other couple.

Ok, I had talked with the wife of the other couple that week, and knew they were coming over for court about the same time we would be there, but didn't think they were coming that day. We didn't know them to see them, and hadn't met them on the plane. After waiting around, and then Ivan looking around and talking to the people at the airport, he finally decided that they weren't coming that day, and there had been some misunderstanding--but there were several phone calls made to various people to make sure that they weren't being left there. I can say this to all the people who are with our agency--they aren't going to leave you behind at the airport unless you are hiding someplace! Ivan was very thorough. (They did arrive the next day, in case any of you are still worried!)

We told Dmitrii and Victor goodbye and headed for the van with Ivan. We then made the about 3 hour drive to Kaluga. Let's just say that most Russian drivers are pretty aggressive, and Vasilly our driver is no different. I told Steve that I will never again complain about his driving! I actually don't remember much about the trip to Kaluga--I do know that we drove by Vnukovo (I saw the airplane out by the airport), and that after we got out of Moscow the traffic wasn't too bad. We both dozed on and off for awhile.

When we got to the hotel in Kaluga, we met our Kaluga translator, Nadia. Nadia is Ivan's grandmother, and a former college professor of English. We checked into our room, and then Nadia took us to dinner at "The Wall". For those of you who haven't been there, the elevators at the hotel are tiny, and they sort of clank/rattle as they work. A bit disconcerting the first time you use them, but you sort of look forward to it after awhile. "The Wall" was ok--we were the only people actually eating there (it was at an odd time--about 4 or so in the afternoon), and we were entertained by videos of a guy named Robbie Williams singing pop songs in English. The food was ok, too...the soup was good, and the main courses were pretty decent, with sort of odd names (I had the pork deja vu--that's what it was called. We wondered if it was pork that reminded you of pork you had eaten before. It didn't.)

After dinner, Nadia took us to the grocery store to buy water and a few basic supplies. The grocery store was well-stocked with nice looking (and some expensive) items. Bottled water was very reasonable, and we got some milk and bread and other stuff. We walked back along the main street of the city (Kirov Street) and looked at the large amounts of reconstruction going on (even the hotel was under "restoration" while we were there!)

When we got back to the hotel we both crashed---hard. Before we even had much of a chance to try out the modem we had rented from the hotel. It would continue to frustrate and not work while we were there, but I think the fault was with my laptop and not the modem. We did get our money back, after much insistence from Nadia with the people at the hotel. However, after sleeping for about an hour or so, we both woke up about 11:00 because fireworks were going off near the hotel. We found out later that it's part of the way that some people celebrate weddings!

Finally back to sleep. It was a LONG two days, but we're here! We had some good news from Nadia about baby K this afternoon--apparently she's sitting up on her own! YAY!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hands and Feet.....

I think that I'm ok in posting these can't see anybody's face, but you can see some sweet little hands and feet!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Oh, my goodness...where do I even start???

So....I guess I should start with the big news first...because you all have been so very patient with me for the last few weeks. I'll explain the blogging absence in a bit, but I'll get right to the point here:

We got back from Russia LATE Saturday night. While we were there, we met the sweetest little girl in Kaluga, and we have officially signed the papers to petition the Kalgua court to adopt her. So, now we work on finishing up some "not quite so timely" paperwork, and getting things here ready to journey back for court.

We're both fighting colds (not sure if they came from Russia or since we've been home), so just basic stuff has been a bit of a struggle this week. Now that the weekend is here, I've decided that I HAVE to get you all caught up with what's been happening. I can't post all of it tonight, since my brain is a bit snot-filled, but I can give you some of the basic details, and then fill in other things later.

I stopped posting right after we had our fingerprints done--this was basically because we had sent the medical information that we had about baby Malibu to an IA doctor here in the US (in St Louis), and the IA doctor called us that week with an incredibly scary, worst-case-scenario report. We were both shocked, but we decided that we would pray about things and see what we felt led to do. We also managed to get hold of Dr. Togoyev in Russia, and asked him if he would follow up with some of the questions that our IA doctor had concerning bloodwork, etc. In the meantime, we received our visas, our fingerprint approval, and a bunch of other stuff that we needed to be able to go. And, there were just so many signs that we were supposed to go. We asked our close friends and our church to pray for baby Malibu, and to pray for us. But it was something that was very uncertain, and so we didn't feel comfortable telling everyone what exactly was going on---in part, because we weren't really sure. Up until the day we left, we knew we were supposed to go. We just didn't know exactly what we would find or what we were supposed to do about the referral, or how we were going to feel about potentially not accepting the referral. Looking back, I can see what a huge amount of stress this was--but at the time, we felt like we needed to keep things quiet from most people, mainly because it needed to be our decision.

The good news---God answered all those prayers! We met a little girl about whom we had really no doubts. The doctors' reports about her answered so many of the questions that our IA doctor had raised, and Dr. Togoyev's evaluation of her (which basically was the icing on the cake) was "take her home, love her, and she will be good." He said that he thought she was a completely different child from the one he had seen in June/July---she can sit up on her own, can stand up if you let her hold on to your fingers, and she is very responsive. I can't post pictures let, but let's just say that she is definitely a cutie-patootie!

So...more details later about our adventures in Kaluga and Moscow. We kept a journal for the first couple of days, but then we got tired and distracted by Malibu and sort of let that fall by the wayside. However, I will attempt to put those memories back together, so that I don't forget them, and so that I can share them with you all.

Hope you all have a great weekend!