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!