Thursday, October 27, 2011

US Citizenship Certificate

Andrei actually has been a US citizen since we arrived in the states on September 9, but the official certificate arrived a few days ago. Strike a pose, buddy!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Over A Month Home and GLASSES!

Hello, adoption blog world! Sorry to be absent for so long. Life with three boys keeps us on the go. The Fritsche family is doing extraordinarily well since becoming a family of five. Andrei continues to progress with attachment to his new parents and siblings. He looks to his Mama for comfort and provision, to his Papa for silliness and laughter, and to his brothers for mischief. Actually, he is a wonderful addition to our family and is making strides with attachment, language, eating and more. We couldn't be happier!

Clarion's maternity leave ended last week, so this past Monday morning it was back to the classroom for her. The mother of one of her students watches Andrei four days a week, along with her own 7-month-old little one. So far this has gone very well. Andrei cries when his Mama says goodbye in the morning and is very happy to see her and be back in her arms in the afternoon. This has really been positive so far!

On Monday, Slav, Andrei and I went down to their pediatric eye doctor's office in St. Louis to pick up glasses for both boys. Clarion selected green frames for Andrei. So far so good. He tends to keep them on his face most of the time. However, if he's in his room playing and we have our eyes off of him for a few minutes, the glasses will suddenly be around his neck. It will definitely take some getting used to, but we're thankful he's not fighting them tooth and nail, ripping them off his face or anything like that.

I suppose that's pretty much it for now, except for one more thing. Happy birthday to my dear wife, Clarion!!! I hope your day is as special as you are to all of your boys, me included!

God bless you all!!!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011


We're so used to cutting things up in little bites for our children. Then came Andrei. He's not a big fan of having things cut up. He likes to just pick it up and dig right in. He does it with fruit. Last night it was a hot dog. And tonight it was corn-on-the-cob. He wanted nothing to do with the corn that Clarion had cut off the cob and put on his plate. He was reaching for a corn-on-the-cob. And he ate it! He's doing fairly well with food. He doesn't seem to be a big fan of meat, but it's probably because it's so new to him. Slav was like that too, and still is in many respects. Meat just isn't his favorite. I don't even think it's the taste. I think it's the texture.

Anyway, back to Andrei. All is going very well. We all seem to be adjusting nicely. Clarion took Andrei to the IA doctor in St. Louis last week for his first visit. Miraculously, he didn't need any vaccinations. Thanks to Sasha for translating his vaccination record from Russian into English. It proved enormously helpful at the doctor. They did, of course, have to draw blood. That he didn't like. But the doctor said that Andrei is quite healthy, just really really small, like off the charts small for his age. So, we've got him on Pediasure and are making sure he gets the foods and nutrients he needs to grow. He saw the dentist also last week and got a good report. Next week is the appointment with the eye doctor.

Wednesday Clarion will be going to our home study agency for a post-placement visit. The state of Illinois requires a post-placement report within a month of coming home. We expect it to go well. Andrei is an active boy, but we've had good training in that with Sergei, who remains very active. Clarion is enjoying her maternity leave and is definitely bonding with our new addition.

Prayers to all of you who are waiting and especially to the Booths who are in Vlad for court and for Kyle and Ashley who will soon be leaving for Vlad for court. God bless you all.


Joel, Clarion, Slav, Sergei & Andrei

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Sorry for the delay in posting! It's been quite busy since our return. We made it home on Saturday instead of Friday. Our plane from Moscow to New York was delayed by only ten or fifteen minutes, but it was late enough to make our already tight connection pretty much impossible. Unfortunately Delta had no more flights out to St. Louis that night, so we had to spend the night in New York. We also had to transfer from JFK to LaGuardia in order to fly out the next morning. Oh well, we made it. Andrei's Mama, brothers, grandparents, and his aunt and uncle were waiting for us at the airport. He is doing very well. We'll post more later. For now, enjoy the pics!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Finally Heading Home

Today is the day! I have waited for this day for a long time. It is the day I bring home my son, Andrei. His Mama and brothers cannot wait to see him. We cannot wait to see them as well. I am filled with all sorts of emotions this morning. It has been an incredible trip to be sure. While I am thrilled to be going home, I am quite melancholy at the same time. Russia is special to us. We have three wonderful boys from this country. We have seriously awesome friends here: Nadya, Irina, Lana, and Sasha to name a few. I don't know when I'll be back here. I hope to return within a couple of years, but that's doubtful. It is doubtful that we will adopt from here again, but not completely out of the picture. Who knows what the good Lord has in store. I'd love to return for some mission work, perhaps to do something for orphans. I don't know. I'm glad to be going home, but I feel the sadness of saying goodbye. Go figure! We've spent so much time here the last few years that it almost feels like a second home. Goodbye to all my Russian friends! We love you dearly! Hope to see you in the near future!



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Silly Boy

Things are going great here in Moscow! Got Andrei's visa yesterday.  Our coordinator is registering him at the consulate today.  We'll get his passport back on Thursday.  Outta here on Friday!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Great Weekend in Moscow

It's been a great few days in Moscow. Andrei continues to make progress. Every day he comes a bit further out of his shell. He is definitely a two year old little boy. He no longer just sits calm and still and quiet. He's all over the place. When he gets into some mischief and I say, "Nyet," he just smiles that sweet little smile, like an innocent little cutie who couldn't possibly do anything wrong. What a stinker! Actually, it's been a lot of fun to see his personality come to the forefront. Things that described him in his medical report and in his profile on the Russian orphan database are starting to make a bit more sense. At first, it seemed like they characterized him all wrong. Nope. Not at all. He's definitely active, struggles a bit getting to sleep, and is a happy child. We saw none of that during our first and second trip visits. But now the real Andrei is showing himself. Very cool.

Moscow has been a nice change of pace from Vladivostok. We love Vlad and cherish our time there, but it is definitely cool to have a change of scenery. Our dear exchange student from last year, Nadya, took a 12-hour train ride from her hometown to come visit us for a few days. It's been so awesome to see her again and for her to get to meet Andrei. We haven't been too adventurous in taking Andrei out and about. Sightseeing with a two year old who has not even been with us a week certainly presents its challenges. Mom has been kind to watch Andrei during naps and down time so that I could do some sightseeing with Nadya as my guide. Nadya took me on the Metro a couple of times and we visited Red Square and some other places. It's a plus if you can have a native Russian speaker with you when seeing Moscow! Thanks, Nadya!

Today we finally all ventured down to Red Square together. We just spent a couple hours there. Mom has some challenges with walking, and of course, Andrei is just a little guy, so we took it easy today. It was nice. This weekend was a huge celebration for the birthday of Moscow. There is a lot of stuff set up in Red Square, so you have to walk around it all when seeing the sights there. We did the obligatory picture in front of St. Basil's today, although we may return in a couple of days to try that again. Andrei's face isn't even clearly visible in the picture. Might have to have a redo. All in all, it was a nice day today. We'll be venturing over there again Wednesday and or Thursday.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is our appointment at the American Embassy for Andrei's IR-3 visa. Sasha will pick Andrei and me (and another family) up tomorrow morning for that. Hopefully, if it goes like it did for our last adoption, it will be short and sweet. We'll spend a little more time with Nadya tomorrow afternoon before she boards her train home. It'll be tough to say goodbye to her once again not really knowing when we'll see her again. She's such a part of our family! She spent a bit of time reading nursery rhymes to Andrei in Russian. Very cool.

Some of our highlights from the last couple of days...
-Andrei charming all the ladies on the hotel staff.
-Nadya taking me to the wrong Metro stop.
-Cramming into a Metro train like a sardine.
-Red Square with Andrei, Mom & Nadya.
-Teasing Nadya in person.
-Watching Andrei blossom.
-Andrei on Skype with his Mama, Grandpa, and older brothers.

That's pretty much where we're at for now. I definitely miss Clarion, Slav and Sergei more than I can even put into words. Can't wait to have our whole family together soon. Nevertheless, we're here in Moscow until Friday, so I'm sure we'll have more adventures to report in the days ahead. Paka paka from Moscow!


Joel, Andrei & Babushka

Friday, September 2, 2011

Safe in Moscow

Hey Blog World. Just a quick note to let you know that we are safe in Moscow. Andrei did very well on the almost 9-hour flight. We've basically been resting up and taking walks. We'll probably do some sightseeing this weekend. Then we'll do another post with some Moscow pics. Andrei is doing very well, definitely coming out of his shell. He smiles and grins and even blurts out something once in a while. He is a good eater and a good sleeper. Today our exchange student from last year, Nadya, arrives in Moscow to spend the weekend with us. We are very excited to see her. I'll post again soon. We have a nice free WIFI connection in our hotel lobby. We are at the Marriott Renaissance in Moscow by the way. Very nice hotel. And their hotel shuttle will drop you off right by Red Square. Pretty cool. More later!


Joel, Andrei & Babushka

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Goodbye Vladivostok

Hi Everybody! Our time at the VMI and in Vlad has come to an end. This morning we are off to Moscow. Andrei has been doing great! He is really coming out of his shell. We are all packed. It's juts under two hours until we are out of here. Who knows when we will ever return here. I'd like to bring our family back when our three boys are a bit older and can appreciate seeing where they came from, especially visiting the orphanages. Someday, perhaps!

We had a wonderful evening with Irina and Lana and another one of our agency's families who will be traveling to Moscow also today. Here are a couple of final pictures from Vlad. Next post from Moscow.


Joel, Andrei & Babushka

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gotcha Day!!!


Andrei Vladimir Fritsche

It's been a long ten days not having Andrei with me at the baby home. I visited him three times during the ten day wait. But today was the day! Another new dad and I did all the running around downtown with Irina today, beginning at 8am. We visited the notary, the courthouse, a couple of different vital statistics offices, and the passport office. When the ten days are up there is a lot of busy work to do, lots of signing. Basically we signed for birth and adoption certificates and applications for passports. We made it back to the VMI about 1:30pm.

My mom arrived this past Sunday morning. It's been great having her here. She waited at the VMI this morning during all the running around. but she wasn't about to miss the final excursion to the Artem Baby Home #2 to see where two of her grandsons have lived AND to pick up her latest grandson. We made the hour drive to the baby home. Thankfully there wasn't much traffic. I went wit Irina to the orphanage director's office. We visited for a few minutes and she congratulated me about adopting Andrei. I gave her a donation from Clarion and me to help the children at the orphanage. She was very thankful and explained that the funds would assist them in preparing a room for an additional group, allowing them to keep groups as small as possible.

Then it was time to see Andrei, get him dressed, say goodbyes, and make the journey with him back to the VMI. Andrei didn't cry when they brought him in. His lower lip stuck out for a minute or two, but then he eased up. We got him dressed and ready for the journey. He didn't cry when we got into the car. He wanted to sit on Papa's lap. Cool with me! He did quite well in the car. he didn't cry. He didn't get sick. He just wanted to watch everything.

At the hotel we spent a few minutes in our room holding him and playing with him. But since he didn't get to eat after his nap, we figured he might be ready to eat. We decided to eat at the hotel restaurant tonight to celebrate. Well, Andrei didn't open his mouth for any of the food we put in front of him. We tried mashed potatoes. Nope! We tried a bit of bread. Nope! We even tried some raisins. he wouldn't have any of it.

Back at the room after dinner, we had bath time. He was a bit scared of the water, but didn't cry. He was shaking during most of the bath, probably because he was cold. So we kept bath time short tonight. We got him into his jambes afterwards. We thought we'd try once again to see if he would eat. So my mom mixed up some of the night time baby cereal that I bought a few days ago at the baby store. Score! He ate the whole bowl. After that it was cuddle time. Andrei is a very good cuddler. After some time snuggling, I layer him in his crib and played some Russian bedtime stories. After a few minutes, those were done, so I switched to "The Essential Yo Yo Ma," which he seemed to like quite well. He layer in the crib fairly still for a few minutes, then I noticed that the rocking began. Many institutionalized children learn to rock themselves to sleep. I watched him doing the rocking and was just amazed by how these little ones learn to cope and adjust to their lives in the orphanage. We look forward to growing together as a family and watching Andrei learn what a joy it is to be part of a family.

Here are some shots from Gotcha Day...

That's all for now. Time to call it a night. Tomorrow (Wednesday) is our last full day in Vlad. We'll be picking up Andrei's passport and having dinner with Irina, Lana and the other family from our agency before making the flight across Russia to Moscow on Thursday. I don't know if I'll post again before Moscow. If not, paka paka until then.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday of Week 2 in Vlad

Greetings from Vladivostok! It was quite a day yesterday (Friday). I had my last visit with my boy before picking him up this coming Tuesday. Irina picked me up just before 9am. We made the hour drive to the baby home in Zavodskoy. It was foggy this morning and a little damp, so Irina said we would ask to bring him to the gym. The gym is a fun room with slides, a big container filled will balls that the kids can jump into. Sergei had a ball in this room with us a few years ago. This little guy, however, well he's another story. It was nice to be in the gym, but he is nowhere near as active as Sergei. Nevertheless, we had an enjoyable visit. The best thing of crying when he saw me today!!! Awesome!!!

We played on the slides. He rode the tiger (like a rocking horse, but a tiger). He also rode the zebra. We listened to Russian nursery rhymes and played ball. It was a good visit today. Before too long the hour was up and it was time for him to return to his group for lunch. We followed him and his caregiver back to his room. Irina asked what size diapers he wears. His caregiver said he needs diapers to fit a 10 kilo child. We said goodbye and we were on our way back to the Vlad Inn.

When we arrived back at the hotel, we picked up our agency's other family. They have their little girl with them. We all drove with Irina toward downtown to run a few errands. Irina took pictures for the passports today. So we stopped at the photo store so she could download the pictures for the photo guy. Then we went to exchange money. I exchanged $500 into roubles for our orphanage donation that we will make when we pick up the little guy on Tuesday. Then we went to the baby store to buy diapers. I also picked up some bath toys and some baby cereal for him. Irina helped me tremendously. I was, of course, lost in the baby store. She knew exactly what to get. After the baby store we made a final stop at the grocery store once again. I picked up just a few items. I needed onions and bell peppers to help flavor my eggs that I've been whipping up in the mornings. I also got some Russian Mountain Dew. How about that!

Upon returning to the Vlad Inn, I relaxed with a beer (definitely time for one of those!) and decided to cook dinner since I had missed lunch today with all of our running around. I bought some pelmeni at the store. Basically these are little dumplings filled with meat, kind of like ravioli, that you boil. The pelmeni definitely hit the spot. It's nice to be able to cook in my room. I didn't eat at the restaurant at all on Friday.

So that's it from Vlad. I'm ready for Mom to arrive here tomorrow. It'll be nice to have some company. Not long after, we'll pick up my little buddy. Two days later we'll be off to Moscow. I'll be in touch after the weekend. Paka paka!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday of Week 2 in Vlad

We went to the baby home at the same time today. We left just before 9am. When we got there, Irina told me that I would be alone with the little guy outside today. She was going to run some errands in Artem City. When they brought him out, he fussed his usual minute, probably not even that long, then he became his sober self. I think we're making progress though.

We had a nice time outside walking, playing with toys, looking at family pictures, etc. Unfortunately about thirty minutes into the visit, he peed in his pants, unbeknownst to me at first. They didn't have a diaper on the poor little guy today, so his tights and his shorts were soaked. I decided to wait a bit before taking him in because I wasn't sure I'd get him back after going inside. After a few minutes I took him in and explained in the best Russian I could muster up, "On peesat" (He peed). The lady at the front desk was really nice and smiled and said something ???? Papa. Who knows what. Anyway, that was the last I saw of my boy. She explained a few minutes later that it was lunchtime. I didn't understand everything she said, but I pretty much got the point. Soon after, Irina was back and we made our way back to the hotel.

I had a quiet afternoon Wednesday at the VMI. It's now Thursday morning. I'm up in the White Rabbit again. I'm definitely the odd man out here (no wife or child with me). A couple of families have left for home, another leaves at noon today. I'll get some work done this morning, then hopefully get out of here this afternoon, maybe spend some time down at the beach. Right now it's a bit cloudy. I don't see any sunshine out the window. But I don't think we're expecting rain today, thankfully. They're turning the water off at the VMI from 2:30-4:30pm today. The city has been doing some work on the pipes.

That's about it for now. I'll be visiting my little boy again Friday morning. My mom arrives on Sunday. Things are looking up! Catch ya later!


Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday of Week 2 in Vlad

Howdy from the VMI! It's Tuesday morning here, Monday evening back in the states. I've spent my entire morning on WIFI in the White Rabbit getting a lot of things done for work, sending e-mails, and Skyping with family. A blog post is long overdue!

First of all, Clarion had a horrible journey home. Her flight left Vlad two hours late. Because of that, she (and 14 others) missed her flight from Moscow to New York. She had to spend the night in Moscow. Thankfully, the airline put her up in a hotel. She flew out the next morning. Ten hours later she arrived safely at JFK in New York. Unfortunately her newly booked flight was out of LaGuardia. So she took the shuttle transfer there. At LaGuardia she learned that her flight to St. Louis had been cancelled. The weather was really bad in New York. She was then booked on a flight with another airline. Later, it was cancelled. So she got a hotel room for the night. She finally made it back to St. Louis Monday afternoon and is now home with our boys. What an ordeal! Just glad she's safe and still sane!

I visited our son Monday morning at the baby home outside Artem. I hadn't seen him since Wednesday of last week, so I didn't know what to expect. Thankfully, after some rain that morning, the sun came out and I was able to play with him outside. He did his usual fussing at first, but only for about a minute. We walked around the playground for a while. Irina helped me show him our family photo album. She explained all the pictures to him in Russian. He enjoyed that, as did I. It was a fun visit. I'm making progress with him, but still unable to get him to smile or laugh. All in good time, I guess.

In the afternoon Irina took me to the grocery store. My room is now stocked. I'm in a suite by myself until my mom gets here on the 28th. But at least I can cook, make coffee (instant), and have a little bit more space. I spent about 2700 roubles, which is around $90. I'm sure I'll end up passing off some of it when I leave here, but it's nice to have a room full of food.

All is well here at the Vlad Inn. A couple of families are leaving Wednesday. They're anxious to get out of here after almost a month. I don't blame them. I remember last time we went through this. As for me, for now I'm enjoying the time here. Now that I'm over my stomach bug that lasted two days, and now that Clarion is home safe, I'm relaxing, even while getting some things done for work. It's all good. I'm supposed to go visit my boy again Wednesday. That is, of course, the highlight of my time here! Until next time, paka paka!



Here are a couple of pics. Still can't reveal his face until Gotcha Day on August 30th!

Isn't my hand handsome!

Nope! You can't see me yet!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Court Day

Hello Everyone! It's Saturday morning at the VMI. We had court yesterday morning at 10am. We were up around 5am, spending some time praying and preparing for the day. Irina picked us up at 7:45am. That was wise. We sailed right into Vlad from our hotel. We beat the traffic and got a good parking space. We waited in the car for a while because the courthouse doesn't open until 9am. Once inside we all sat down and waited. Finally, just before 10am, they motioned us into the court room. It was pretty much like it was three years ago. They have you state your name and place of birth. They read through the petition. Then come the questions. I (Joel) volunteered to go first. That took about ten minutes. Then it was Clarion's turn. After that the social worker makes her statements. Then it's the prosecutor's turn. We were back out in the hall by about 10:40am. A coupe minutes later we were invited in for the judge's decision. The verdict was in our favor. We've been approved for the adoption of our little one. Thanks be to God!

After court, Irina had a few errands to run, so we waited inside the courthouse. About a half hour later Irina returned. She took us to the US Consulate so that Clarion could sign a Power of Attorney. After that we went back to the courthouse. Our agency's other family had court immediately after us. Byb the time we returned from the consulate, their court hearing was complete. We switched cars and rode back to the hotel with Lana and Olga, the social worker.

The rest of the day wasn't so great. I ended up getting sick. I think I got way too dehydrated yesterday morning. You'd think I would've learned by now to take bottle of water with me everywhere I go. Nope! We were both so hungry and so thirsty when we got back to the hotel, we gorged at the restaurant. Then my demise began. Back at the room I took a two hour nap. I woke up with a slight fever. I took some Ibuprofen. We watched a movie. I went back to bed about 9:30pm. I spent quite a bit of time in the bathroom during the night. Fun fun!

That brings us to this morning. I'm feeling better. I'll probably just take it easy today and lounge around the hotel. Irina is picking up Clarion at 7:45am to take her to the airport. Yes, my wife is heading home this morning. I'll be roughing it alone until my mom gets here on the 28th.

Thank you all for your prayers! Everything has gone really well, with the exception of this little bug I seems to have picked up. I think I'll be ok. Please pray for safe travel for Clarion and a relaxing week for me. I'll probably visit our boy two or three times during the ten day waiting period. I'm hoping he'll continue to warm up to me before we step onto that plane to Moscow on September 1st. That's all for now! Paka paka!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We're Still Here

Hello Everybody! Yep, we're still here. Sorry you haven't heard from us for a day or so. Yesterday was a very busy day visiting our little guy, then medicals in the afternoon. For those of you who have been here, you know. Most of the time is spent in the car sitting in traffic. We did a lot of that yesterday. Uggh! Here's how things went yesterday and today...

We were picked up by Lana at about 9:00 Tuesday morning. We arrived at the baby home and were taken up to the room where we visit with the little guy. A little while later in comes our adorable, sleepy, weepy son. He had a little bit of a hard time seeing us again but we worked to comfort him and calm him down. It didn't take too long and he was snuggling with mom and then pop. It didn't take too much longer and he was sound asleep with his arms around the little doggie Grandma and Grandpa got for him. It was so precious for Mom to get to hold him while he slept. It was a very good visit and we can't wait to see him tomorrow!

After we said good bye to little guy we headed back to the hotel to pick up our x-rays for our medical evaluations. Just getting to the hotel and then into the city took forever because of traffic (of course). We got to the city around 2:30pm and Irina said that we had some time to kill because our medicals weren't until 4:00pm. So, we went to a mall and had a soda and a slice of pizza for lunch. It was very enjoyable visiting with Irina and having some lunch. The medicals, however, were not that enjoyable. If there was a word to describe it, "weird" is probably the best one. Thankfully, they really are very fast (10 minutes) and the uncomfortable feeling is soon over. We were just asked a few questions and the doctors each gave us a quick once over. It was definitely a little weird but overall quite painless and quick. Thirty thousand roubles ($1200) later and we were outta there.

After the medicals we stopped by the grocery store on the way home. It's fun to pick up some things for the room that can tide us over so we won't be eating in the restaurant all the time. I know Joel and his mom will have a blast getting some things to cook in their little kitchenette. For now, crackers, juice, fruit, sausage, chips (bacon flavored Pringles), and soda help us make it through the day.

We just got back a couple of hours ago from our Wednesday visit with our little one. The sun is finally shining here, so we got to spend our time with him outside on the playground. As usual, he wasn't very happy to see us. Our visits with him are completely different than the ones with his brothers three years ago. He is younger and much more apprehensive to be around us. Clarion held him for a while as our visit began. He cried for at least five minutes. Then he snuggled up with Mama as Papa played Russian stories and children's music on the iPod. After he settled down, it was Papa's turn to hold him. Thus began the crying again. But Papa took him for a little stroll around the playground, sang to him a little bit and he settled down. After he got used to us, we took him to play on various things on the playground. We tried the slide and a couple other things. While he didn't cry, he didn't really get into playing too much He didn't even show much interest in the beach ball today. Oh well, all in all, it was a good visit. We're making progress with him. The more time we have with him, the more he gets used to us. We had the social worker with us today and she seemed very pleased with our visit also.

We have the rest of today and tomorrow to ourselves. Another family from our agency is arriving this afternoon. They have court also on Friday. Lana and Irina will be running them around tomorrow. Today they'll be taking another family to get their daughters' passports. That family will be leaving for Moscow tomorrow. By the way, we had the pleasure of meeting several families yesterday and today. We might make a trek over to the beach later with some folks. Joel can finally have his shashleek (kabobs) now that the weather is pleasant and we can sit outside.

That's about it for now. We'll be spending some time also preparing for court today and tomorrow. We have a list of potential questions (thanks Heather!) that we need to run through a few times. We're expecting it to go smoothly. Your prayers are greatly appreciated! We'll be in touch after Friday's court hearing. Paka paka!

Joel & Clarion

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hello from the VMI

Well, we're here. The flight from Moscow to Vladivostok was fine. We actually got a fair amount of sleep during the flight, but we're both still exhausted. It was raining when we landed. Irina got the car as close as she could to the terminal and we bolted into the rain, loaded our luggage and were on our way. We stopped at Lana's to drop off some documents we brought for court that need to be translated. Then we made our way to the Vlad Inn. Irina got us checked in. We're in a regular room for our first few days, then we should have a suite with a kitchenette. Cool.

We decided right away to Skype with the boys back home. It was good to see them and hear that things are going well. After unpacking some things, we decided to walk down to the store. We were surprised to find some of the shelves rather bare. The soda cooler was empty. No diet coke in sight. Uggh! At least I had an extra one from the flight that I stashed in my backpack. Clarion managed to find some Pepsi. To each his own, I guess. We purchased a few munchies and made our way back. Fortunately, the rain stopped. After putting away our groceries, we decided to eat at the VMI restaurant. Stewed potatoes and pork with Olivier salad was on the staff menu today. It was good. Clarion stuck with her usual menu picks. Today it was the club sandwich. I tend to enjoy the local cuisine, so I'll be trying a number of things on the menu. I think I'll pass on the pickled beet salad though this time around.

After lunch we decided it was nap time. We set the alarm for a two-hour nap. Clarion managed to get up when the alarm went off. I couldn't quite drag myself out of the bed. She took a bath, then made me get up after she was done. So I took a shower. Now we're just chilling out. She's watching a movie on the iPod. I've been reading. We could easily go back to sleep, but we're trying to stay awake. We'll see how it goes. I have a feeling we'll be back asleep before too long.

Big day tomorrow. We'll go to the baby home right away in the morning to see our little guy. That was a nice surprise to find out we'd be seeing him so quickly. We thought we might have to wait until Wednesday. So, baby home around 9am. Then we have our medicals downtown at 4pm tomorrow. It'll be a relief when that's done. We should get to see our little guy one more time before court, either Wednesday or Thursday. Our agency has another family coming on Wednesday. We both have court Friday morning, like 10am and 11am. The judge wants to hear both cases before lunch, so hopefully it'll be short and sweet.

Anyway, that's all for now. We'll try to post again sometime tomorrow after our day's activities are done. Good to be back in Vlad! Paka paka!

Joel & Clarion

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Greetings from Moscow

We made it safely to Moscow. We have about two hours until we board our flight to Vladivostok. Just thought we'd say hello. Next post from the Vlad Motor Inn.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Goodbye USA

Well, today is departure day. It seemed like yesterday it was still a few days away. Nope! It's here. Thankfully, yesterday was a great day. Bags were mostly packed (2 suitcases and 2 carry-ons). Clarion's suitcase is right around 50 lbs. Mine is around 46 lbs. I think we're ok there. We just had to do a few last minute things yesterday and then enjoy some quality time with our boys, Clarion's folks, and good friends from church. It was a very good day!

In two hours we'll be backing out the driveway. I'm enjoying my morning coffee as we speak. I think everything is in order. I double and triple checked the lists. I'm really at a loss for what I should be typing right now. We've been through this before. It's hard to describe the feeling. Those of you who have done this before can probably relate. In a week Clarion will be on her way back. I'll remain in Vlad. I guess that's the one major difference from last time. I guess it will hit me when she departs and I'm there alone, waiting out the ten days. No fears though. Vlad is pretty much like a second home. And Mom will be joining me toward the end of the ten days.

The best part is that in just a few days we'll see our little one again face to face. Even though I can't be with him face to face during the ten days, I'll see him two or three times. Hopefully it won't rain a whole lot so I can get out of the hotel a bit. Anyway, now I'm just kind of rambling. I felt like I had to post something as we depart this morning. Thank you to all of you for your prayers. Please keep them coming. Thanks be to God for all of the wonderful people whom He has used to bring us this far along in the journey of adoption. I feel like this is the end of not just the adoption journey we began a year ago, but the end of the one we began about five years ago when we started our first Russian adoption of two wonderful boys. Never did I think we'd be going back to get their biological baby brother. The Lord is good!

So that's all for now. Next post will be from Vlad. Paka paka!


Monday, August 8, 2011

Five Days Till Departure!

We're getting there! We've both been scrambling to get stuff in order for work. We're both pretty much caught up and have our bases covered on that end. Our documents are in order for court and the embassy. Our bank promises me that they'll have the newest money they can gather when I come in this week. Clarion's parents arrive on Thursday. They'll be staying with the boys until she gets home the day after court. My parents are set to arrive here a few days after Clarion gets back.

I've been doing my best to prepare my mom for her travels through Moscow and on to Vlad. She's travelled overseas, but never alone. I'm trying to remember every detail as clearly as I can so I can steer her in the right direction in Moscow. Today she was researching how to explain to Russia airport security that she's had a total knee replacement. Metal detectors are sure to beep. But she has her little phrase printed out in Russian and folded up in her purse. Hope it's all good.

Today we got the last of our court documents apostilled in Springfield. I'll be glad if I don't have to set foot in that place again for a while. I guess I'll be heading there soon after post-placements begin. Uggh! When we lived in Missouri during our last adoption we never had any trouble with apostilles. The Missouri SoS office would apostille my left pinky toe, certifying it true and authentic, if I paid them their ten bucks. Illinois is another story. Anyway, we're good to go with documents. We did some shopping today too and bought gifts for our in-country agency coordinator and interpreter. We can't wait to see those wonderful, dear ladies again! They're almost part of the family!

Our boys start school next week. Their backpacks are already packed with new school supplies thanks to their awesome Mom. Grandma and Grandpa will be seeing that they get to school their first couple of days before Clarion gets home. Clarion's folks raised five children in Panama, so two little Russian-America boys in Staunton ought to be manageable!

That's about it for now, friends. Thank you for your prayers as we prepare for this culmination of our adoption journey. We're so thrilled to be going to get our boy and bringing him home. Our congregation collected $1000 for us this past weekend. Between that and other gifts from church members this past year, we've received over $3000 from them. Thanks be to God! What a blessing they all are to us and to this little one they've never even met.

I'm sure we'll post one more time before we leave. If not, definitely from Vlad! Paka! Paka!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Three Year Post Placement

Today was our three-year post placement visit for Slav & Sergei. It's so hard to believe that it's been three years. Our court date to bring home their little brother is almost three years to the day from their 2008 court date. Today's visit went very well. These post placement visits are so important for the folks in Russia and for the future of Russian adoptions by Americans. It lets them see how well the children are doing, the majority of the children. Of course, you can read the countless number of blogs out there to see it for yourself, but these reports are official, done by social workers, signed, notarized, apostilled, etc. etc.

Since our family won't be together to celebrate "gotcha day" for Slav & Sergei, we had a nice evening out. Dinner at the mall! How exciting. Everyone gets to choose what they want. I had Thai chicken. The dude with the free sample got me. Anyway, we did a little shopping as well. The boys needed new jeans for school, which is right around the corner. We needed a new luggage set as we prepare for our upcoming trip. So we got it all done tonight.

When we got home and checked out our new suitcases, guess who decided they could fit inside and accompany us to Russia. I so wish we could take the boys! It's just not a good option for us right now. I would totally do it if the timing were better and our bank balance was a bit higher. Someday, when the boys are a bit older, I know we'll all go back to Vlad. I told Irina, our in-country coordinator, that several of us families, especially those who have adopted twice from Vlad, will all come back together one day and have a big reunion there. That would be cool.

This 53 lb. boy would never pass the weight limit at the check-in counter!

This 43 lb. boy would never stay still long enough in the suitcase.

So today three years of post placement reports come to an end. Soon, three more years will begin. We're just a little over two weeks from departure. Thank you all for your prayers, especially our beloved church members at Zion Lutheran in Staunton who have prayed for us, loved us and supported us from day one. Thanks be to God for all of you!


Joel, Clarion, Slav and Sergei

Monday, July 25, 2011

Living in a Whirlwind

Well, it's been about five days since we received the news of the August 19th court date. Life has certainly become a whirlwind of activity. Those of you who have been through this know what I mean. The day after we received our good news we had a plan in place and flights booked. Everything is coming together!

We've been all over the place with how we wanted to do this trip. A few months ago, before we went on trip one, we were very seriously considering taking both of our boys for the court trip. It's been three years since they've seen where they came from and aside from all the pictures and videos that we look at quite often, they really don't have much in the way of memories, even of our time there picking them up. Unfortunately, the timing just isn't there this time, so we're not taking the boys. Someday we'll take them all back to visit. Someday!

Here's the plan for the court trip. We leave from St. Louis on August 13th. We fly to JFK and then on to Moscow. From Moscow we take the long flight to Vlad. We arrive in Vlad on Monday the 15th. On Tuesday we have our medicals. Wednesday or Thursday we'll visit our boy along with Svetlana the social worker. Friday is court. On Saturday Clarion will fly home and I will stay on in Vlad. Clarion is a teacher. She'll be missing the first week of school for this trip. Her school counts her time away in Russia as maternity leave, so we decided it would be better for her to get back to the classroom for three more weeks. That way she'll save the bulk her maternity leave for when our little one is actually home. It didn't make too much sense for me to fly all the way home. I'm a pastor. As you know, pastors only work on Sundays. Wink. Wink. Well, Sundays are big days anyway. So if I came home during the ten days I wouldn't get there until late Saturday night. I wouldn't be worth a whole lot the next morning, less than I usually am. :-) And I'd have to start making my way back the next Saturday morning. Between that and the cost of flying home, I'm better off staying put in Vlad.

Unfortunately, I won't have my boy with me during the ten days. The Artem baby home has never gone for that as far as we know. In our last adoption, Slav stayed at the hotel with us during the ten days. He was from the orphanage in Artem City. Sergei, who was at the Artem baby home, had to stay put until the ten days were up. So, I'll be spending ten days in Vlad after court, visiting my little buddy maybe two or three times. That ten days is usually kind of a lull after court. After the ten days things get busy running here and there and then heading to Moscow. So, I hope to find myself relaxing a bit. I am, after all, using my vacation days for this adventure. But I'll probably do some work too. I have some plans to do some teaching with our school kids through Skype or FaceTime. That'll be cool. I hope to do a bit of exploring in Vlad too.

The good news is that my mom is planning on joining me in Vlad just before the ten days are up. She'll arrive on the 28th. We pick up the little one on the 30th. We'll do his doctor visit and then pick up his Russian passport. We head to Moscow on September 1st. Since Labor Day is on the horizon, the embassy will be closed on Monday the 5th. That will necessitate a little extra time in Moscow. Our agency also gives the option to have your child registered while you're in Moscow instead of sending their passport and all the paperwork in after you get home. So we'll do that while we're there as well. We leave Moscow September 9th for home. During that time we also hope to see Nadya, our exchange student from this past year. We haven't figured out all our plans for that just yet.

So things are hoppin' here on this end. Flights are booked. We already have visas since we did 12-month multi-entry ones. That was definitely smart! Clarion and I are both scrambling to get work stuff in order. I have guest preachers covering for me. Clarion is getting her classroom and yearly planning all in order. This past weekend we were fortunate to have the opportunity for a weekend getaway. My student pastor intern (we call them vicars in the Lutheran church) was ordained and installed as pastor of a church in Iowa. On the way there we decided a short stop in Macomb, IL was in order. One of our fellow adoptive families, the Overstreets, live there. After about three years or so, it was great to finally meet them face to face. It was awesome, in fact! One of the greatest things about adoption is those you meet along the way! Saturday we drove into Iowa to see some college friends of mine in Cedar Rapids. That was awesome too. Nothing like hanging out wit old friends and watching your children play together. Very cool. We went to church with them Sunday morning. Then in the afternoon I had the privilege of participating in the ordination of a my dear brother in Christ, Sam Beltz. Today we made the five hour journey back home. Back to the grind tomorrow.

Anyway, that's where we're at. We have a few documents to get together, have notarized, apostilled and take to court with us. Those are coming together nicely. We'll probably do our chest X-rays this week too. Fun, fun! Clarion's folks will arrive a couple days before we leave. They'll be staying with the boys and getting them through their first couple of days of school until Clarion gets home. All is well here. The Lord is good. Everything is coming together.

For those of you who are waiting, know that we pray for you. May Christ be with you. May God give you patience and strength for the wait. All things will happen in His good time, which is rarely what we would ever choose as the right time. I'm speaking from experience you know. The Lord of heaven and earth knows what He's doing. Entrust yourselves and your little ones to His gracious care and keeping. Psalm 46 comes to mind: "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (46:10-11). God bless you all.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Court Date!!!

Hey Everybody....

August 19 it is!!!! We leave in about 3 weeks to go to court. We are busy trying to get everything organized. We praise God that we are a step closer to having our little one home but completely nuts trying to make plans. Thank you for all of your prayers on our behalf. We are still praying for all families involved in the adoption process. May God bless you!

Joel and Clarion

Monday, July 11, 2011

Documents Submitted!

It's been a crazy day, but a good one. We received some very good news today! Our agency informed us that our documents were submitted to the court today. They won't officially be registered until tomorrow because new cases are only registered on Tuesdays. We remembered that one from the last time we did this.

What happens now? It usually takes at least a week for the judge to be assigned. Once the judge is assigned, she has 60 days to review our case before setting a court date. Thankfully, it does not usually take 60 days, more like a week or two. So, we might be receiving news of a court date by the end of the month. She may or may not request more documentation from us. We hope she doesn't. For now, more waiting. More praying. Thank you for your prayers!

We even received another picture of our little guy today along with the good news. Here's what we can share:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Saturday Surprise!

Greetings and salutations. We received a nice surprise in our inbox this morning. Nope, not a court date or any news of such. Still hoping and praying for that! What we did receive was a nice new picture of our little boy. Thank you, Lana! He was having some fun playing outside with a beach ball. Of course, the picture we received has his face on it. :-) We're just not allowed to post that part yet, not until he's "officially" ours. Please keep praying that that day will come soon! Happy Saturday!


Joel & Clarion

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Two Months!

As you can see from the boys' silly faces, we are going NUTS waiting for our little one to join us. It has been two months since we have returned from Russia. Two months since we have held our littlest boy. Two months since we saw that smile we worked so hard to earn from him. Two months praying that court will come quickly. Two months worrying that something might go wrong with the adoption.

We are getting closer to the end though. We can feel it. Our interpreter is translating our documents and preparing them to submit to court. We don't know when that will be but we are confident that God has the best timing all worked out. We will be packed and ready to go whenever we get the good news!

In the meantime, we have all been very busy. Joel has had several funerals this summer and a wedding along with Vacation Bible School, a church picnic, and regular services on Saturdays and Sundays. Clarion had fun running the music for Vacation Bible School, helping with the funeral lunches, and preparing for the coming school year. She has also been enjoying the extra time with her boys. Slav and Sergei have had fun swimming, working on their reading, math, and writing, watching movies, riding bikes, and playing DSI and Wii. All in all it has been a GREAT summer. We are just missing one little thing.......

We're praying that God will bring us back to him soon. Blessings to all waiting families who know what we're feeling. You're all in our prayers.


Joel & Clarion

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Goodbye, Nadya!

It's a sad day today! This morning we said goodbye to our Russian exchange student Nadya. Today she and Sona (another exchange student from Armenia) left together on a flight to DC. From there they will make their way back to their home countries and to their families. Nadya was with us for just over ten months. I remember that just a year ago we were making the decision to host her. How time flies! It's been an awesome year. Nadya was a perfect fit for our family, a great big sister to our boys, and just an all-around wonderful young lady. We've shared a lot of laughs this past year and made some unforgettable memories. Goodbye once again, dear Nadya! You'll always be a special part of this family! Poor Clarion was unable to join us because she had to attend a teacher workshop in Springfield today. We're planning to see Nadya in Moscow on our way home from Vlad! And she'll get to meet the newest Fritsche!

We can't recommend this exchange program enough! American Councils for International Education runs some outstanding exchange programs. Adoptive families take note. This is a great way to bring the culture of your child's birth country into your home. We've met a number of the students from American Councils the last couple of years. They have all been top notch kids, all of whom we would welcome into our home. Expenses are minimal, mainly another mouth to feed and another kid to drive around. All in all, we don't regret hosting at all. If we weren't on the brink of bringing home our son from Russia right now, we'd have hosted again. We will definitely host again in the future. If you have any questions about American Councils, I'd be happy to connect you with some of their personnel. They really need host families for next year!

As for the adoption, the remainder of our paperwork is on its way to Russia. We're really hoping for a quick turnaround. About half our documents for court have been there for several weeks. We're hoping translations go quickly so the docs can be submitted to the court sometime in July. An August court date is definitely possible. Lots of factors though--governments, judges, and more. As always, we are thankful that all things are in the hands of the God who loves us in Christ! Please continue to keep us in your prayers! Thanks!


Joel & Clarion

Enjoy some of the pics from Nadya's year with our family in Staunton, Illinois!

Nadya's arrival at St. Louis

Nadya and Sona at Missouri Botanical Gardens

Family Christmas Picture

Texas-Sized Cinnamon Roll in San Antonio

Nadya and her pal, Dodger, aka "Mr. Snuggly"

Senior Prom 2011

Spring Musical: "Beauty and the Beast"

Waiting To Say Goodbye

Saying Goodbye to Slav and Sergei

The Last Goodbye