Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hodgepodge Update

I am very quickly learning that we will be establishing a new ‘normal’ in our lives. There are lots of changes that have taken place and still others that need to happen. I plan to work on a post that explains all of those changes. I have a feeling that this blog will be brought to an end very quickly. The most interesting part for most of the readers is over anyway. I really do enjoy blogging, but it actually has been a point of stress for me. The fact that I haven’t been able to find the time to write is bothersome. In fact I am feeling guilty for taking the time right now to do this post. Boston is down for a nap and I can think of a million and one things I would like to accomplish right now…

Yesterday was our first doctor’s appointment. Fully clothed, with shoes and diaper on, Boston weighed 22 pounds. That put him in like the 3rd percentile for 2 year olds I believe. We were pleased he made the chart. :o) He had 2 vaccines, a TB test, and lots and lots of blood drawn to test for everything under the sun. And to top off the day, I had to collect stool and urine samples. I won’t go into details, but let me just tell you this is no fun!! Each person that has done an early evaluation of Boston seems to think that he is right on target developmentally despite spending the entire first 2 years of his life in an orphanage. So far so good but it is early to tell.

I have not done a great job yet getting pictures of all of the kids together. That is on the list of things to get done. I thought I would go through some of the pictures and let them tell the story of what we have been up to…

When we arrived home there were flowers, balloons, and cards waiting for us!

The balloons got tied to the back of Boston’s new toy! 

Madison has been a big help.  She loves her baby brother.  We have actually had to explain to her why she cannot give him things if we have told him no.  The first night we were home I let Madison take Boston into her room while I read Blake a bedtime story.  About 10 minutes later I came out of Blake’s room and heard Madison giggling.  When I went into her room she was smiling from ear to ear and could barely contain her laughter.  She was so proud that in those 10 minutes she had gotten Boston to sleep.  Then a couple of nights after that, they were in the basement watching a little TV and cuddling and she put him to sleep again.  Very sweet!

On Thursday the 21st we went to Blades to get his first haircut before our big Easter weekend.

Blake really likes to play with Boston but he thought he would be much smaller.  He also asked if Boston is going to cry EVERY single day!  He made Easter bags at school and was proud of the one for his little brother.

Who’s the big brother and who’s the little brother?

On Saturday before going to my parents for Easter – before his big debut – before pictures with his cousins… Boston gave himself a black eye. He was not happy that Madison had shut the gate that kept him from going up the stairs. In pure two year old fashion, he threw a fit, stomped into my bedroom and yanked on a free standing jewelry box. It came crashing down on him, cut, and bruised his eye lid. I felt so bad for him, but I must say he has not even come close to the jewelry box since then. So in some of the pictures below you may notice the rough look on his face.

Here is his first Easter egg hunt at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

After church on Sunday, there was an Easter egg hunt and Nana’s house.

There is always so much going on.  Like all parents, I wish I could capture each moment.  All four of our children are changing so fast.  We are truly blessed to be the Overstreet family of 6!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Favorite Photo

Ok I have lots to say and still haven't found time to type it all out.  So for now I will leave you with one of my favorite photos from Easter Sunday!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Maybe tomorrow?

Things are going well but lots of adjusting to do too.  I keep thinking I will get a blog post done and then the day is over and I can not keep my eyes open.  Maybe tomorrow I can post some pictures at least....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Home Sweet Home

The flight from Moscow to Atlanta was virtually empty.  The attendants said that had not seen it that empty in years.  Boston had plenty of room to roam and the flight went very well.  Answered Prayer!

6 hour layover in Atlanta.  No fun.  But immigration went very quick.

Loaded 1 hour 35 minute flight to Moline at 9:30 p.m.  Storms were blocking our path.  We waited an hour or so on the plane before take off to get an alternative route and more fuel to make the flight.  Our flight then took over 2 hours and 45 minutes.  When it was all said and done we landed 2.5 hours after we were scheduled to land. No fun.

Finally by 3:30 a.m. we were home sweet home!  Answered Prayer!

Brady, Madison, and Blake were so excited this morning.  It did my heart good to see them and to have hugs from Justin!  Boston used his charm to win them over in the 10 minutes they had to play.  At some point we MUST get some sleep.  It isn't taking him long to show me how non-toddler proof our house really is!!

I hope to update when I am settled.  Lots to do to get ready for the Easter weekend.  What a great way to celebrate Boston's homecoming!  Thank you all for your prayers and support.  They made a huge difference!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Last Random Ramblings from Russia

• Today Boston was issued his US Visa. The moment we get to the Atlanta airport he will be a US citizen!

• He and Blake will maintain dual citizenship for the rest of their lives unless they go through a formal procedure to renounce their Russian citizenship. Men age 19-32 are required to serve in the Russian military. If either of them visited Russia during that time they would risk being called to serve. The US Embassy personnel was sure to let us know that there is nothing they can do about that if it actually happened. Very interesting.

• Boston’s favorite spot in our room is on the trash can in the bathroom!

• The bananas we had for breakfast were about as big as Boston’s entire arm! Oh and do you see that big screen TV in the background? I could go without TV but I can’t go without intelligent noise of some kind. I am so tired of the BBC which is the ONLY English speaking channel here.

Important: For family and friends at home. One thing that is very hard for Justin and I is to set boundaries for people who would like to hold and cuddle with Boston. Other adoptive parents know all about the attachment process, but for those that have never been on this journey you just don’t even think about it. Right now Boston will go to anyone who holds out their hands to him. If you are man he will typically have a stiff back and maybe even have tears rolling down his cheeks, but still he will go to anyone. If you are a woman, he will be more relaxed. If you are sweet and kind he will even snuggle in close and give you an adorable kiss on the cheek. It is counterintuitive to Justin and I to teach that we don’t love everyone like we love our immediate family. We are the type of people who try to love others no matter what the circumstance. We TRY to teach Brady and Madison to be kind and care for others all the time. With Blake and now with Boston, we will of course still teach those very same principles, but first we have to make up for the years that we lost setting the foundation of family. In order to do that, we have to be the primary caregivers. Justin, Brady, Madison, Blake, and I have to be the ones that Boston sees as his most immediate loved ones. Of course we want him to get to know and love his extended family members and our dear friends, and brief hugs will be most welcomed! :o) But we know we have to make this short term sacrifice for a long term gain. Thank you in advance for your ongoing support and understanding!

• And now we say goodbye to Russia. It was sad to say goodbye in Vladivostok. There really is nothing sad about saying goodbye in Moscow! We are ready to be home!

Paka Paka!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Torturous Trip to Red Square

Yesterday was Sunday here and if I was going to make the walk to Red Square for the ‘must-have’ photos it had to happen that day. Today we will do to the US Embassy interview and receive Boston’s visa. We will then pack everything up tonight and head home tomorrow!!! I am beyond excited about being home. I am DREADING the 12+ hour flight to Atlanta and the 6 hour layover for a 2 hour flight to Moline however. Ok back to our Red square fiasco…

As I have mentioned before, it is virtually impossible to take a stroller anywhere. The only way I was going to make it all the way down Arabat Street, the couple of blocks to Red Square, around Red Square and back was to figure out a way to use the stroller. Here is a picture at the feeble attempt to be handicapped/stroller accessible. Perhaps their fancy carriages with the monster tires fit in those tracks, but not my stroller! I had to manage 5 of these underground passages. That makes 10 sets of stairs on the way to the Square and 10 on the way back. This was the first one that I cross every day to get to the market and Arabat Street.

On the way down Arabat is was pretty quite. It was just about noon and there wasn’t a whole lot going on. I even had a time to snap a couple of pictures on the way down.

After Arabat there were the remaining four underground passages to contend with. I tried carrying Boston in one arm and dragging the stroller up and down with the other. That didn’t work too well as the stroller was too heavy for me to lift very high and I was banging it on every stair. At that rate the stroller would not hold up for the remainder of the walk. So that technique was out. A couple of times a man graciously volunteered to lift the front for me without me even asking or anything. This act of kindness about brought me to tears (of course that is easy to do these days!). But seriously, my anxiety is already running high and to have someone help out was such a relief. I made a note to myself at that point that Justin and I would make certain to teach our children to always take a second and help a person out when needed. We already try to do this, but I am going to be very intentional about it. Something that took those couple of gentleman less than one minute to do made a HUGE difference for me at that moment. The other times when no one volunteered, I waited for some man to come along that didn’t look too scary and would say please in both English and Russian and point to the front of the stroller. They would then help me out. It is hard for me to not be independent! If you see the picture below, at one point I was right across the street from Red Square. Again across the street means ANOTHER underground passage. I was so mentally exhausted by the time I got to this point. I was beginning to think I was going to forget how to get back to the hotel if I went underground one more time. I was close enough to see the Square but STILLLL couldn’t get to it. Of course I knew I would be furious at myself all day if I made it that far and didn’t make the last bit of effort to cross the street so on we went.

I took a picture of the point where we came up from the underground passage so I wouldn’t forget how to get back. 4 crazy horses - surely I could find them again.

I took pictures of different structures but didn’t go into any buildings. Here is a neat church that Justin and I went in last time we were here. This time a picture from a distance is all we got!

So when we got close to St. Basil Cathedral I got brave enough to let Boston out of the stroller. I was able to snap just a couple of pictures when in true two year old style Boston was getting tempted to go running! I could not risk trying to chase him and leave the stroller with our belonging unattended. There are lots of warnings about theft – after all it is a tourist area. Back in the stroller he went.

The rest of our photos were taken with him in the stroller. The quality of the pictures were so poor I wonder if it was truly worth trip!

Boston began to get fussy and then fell asleep. I found a bench and sat down for about 15 minutes to let him rest. Actually, I think it was so I had time to give myself a pep talk about making it back to the hotel. I was so done with this trip!!! I stood up and with newly found determination I headed back to the hotel. This time I did not even wait for the right person to ask for help with the stroller. I ask whoever was next to me, and you know what??? Not a single person told me no. I had a lady in her fancy boots and silk dress help, a punkish 20something guy with many piercings, a teen-aged boy with headphones on, two teenage girls, a business man, etc… I was beyond the point of caring what they thought. Each person helped and most even gave me a smile when I said thank you in both English and Russian.

It was a relief when I saw the entrance to Arabat Street because then I knew I hadn’t lost my way and I only had ONE underground passage left to manage. When we entered Arabat, I was overwhelmed. There were thousands of teenagers holding signs that said ‘Free Hugs’. Many were in various costumes and running around hugging everyone. They were blowing bubbles, singing, and dancing. After I was able to get my bearings, I tried to capture a few photos and video but neither do justice to the chaos that was going on. At least people were smiling!

I was excited when I got back to the hotel! There was no way I was leaving for the rest of the evening. I knew the restaurant in the hotel was closed but there was supposed to be 24 hour rooms service. Boston and I would have dinner delivered to our door! No more stairs or stares! So I call 2222 to place my order. The person on the other end answered saying something in Russian and I understood the word restaurant. I stated I wanted to place an order for my room and I hear a sound like the phone was set down. I could hear clanging in the background, so I figured when the person heard English they were going to find someone else to speak with me. I waited and waited and then heard a click like the phone was hung up. I called back. No answer. I called again. No answer. I remained calm. Let 5 minutes pass and called yet again. No answer. I could feel the tears of frustration coming again. The thought of leaving our room and trying to get a meal seemed like such a production. I REALLY did not want to have to do it. I was trying to come to the reality that I was going to have to leave when my ‘Momma Bear’ instinct set in. I knew the restaurant was on the 3rd floor. I decided to just take the room service menu down, point to what I wanted, write the room number on a piece of paper, and give them the money – maybe even with a little tip if needed! This is really out of character for me. I don’t like to cause any waves, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do! So down we went. There was a kind young man that was happy to help us out. Boston and I had a hot meal in the comfort of our hotel room!

One random picture I wanted to include on the blog is the one of my favorite monument in Moscow. There are amazing churches, cathedrals, buildings, statues, etc… But my favorite is the “Make Way for Ducklings” monument that was given to the children of the Soviet Union by Barbara Bush. We have Blake’s pictures with these bronze ducks also.

I am excited that we are at the end of our time here in Moscow. I am guessing I will do one last update before heading out!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Random Moscow updates

Two years ago, April 16th, Justin and I were in court in Vladivostok. After a 30 minute or less hearing, the judge granted us our petition to be Blake David Overstreet’s parents. We love him so much! (I included a short update on our private family blog)

• On our way from the airport to the hotel Boston was his chipper. He was babbling and singing. Of course I have no idea what most of what he is saying is. I don’t know if it his words are Russian words or baby babble. Our Moscow facilitator, Sasha, says to me “How old is Boston?” I stated that he just turned 2 on March 6th. He then says, “I do not see any developmental delays. He is reacting appropriately to many things.” I was a proud momma! Of course he is smart ;o) From what Sasha told me he knows the words for car, baby, man, woman, mom, dad, knock know, hello, bye bye, cow, bird, dog, cat, give to me (his most favorite!) and he knows the tunes to some childhood songs but doesn’t really say the words clearly. Whenever I try to record him talking or singing he sees the camera and stops. I need to find a way to be more sneaky.

• This is the view from the outside of our hotel room at night. The windows aren’t completely clear so the picture looks a bit blurry.

• Sasha took all of our documents to the US embassy today. Everything appears to be in order. We will return on Monday at 11 for our interview.

• Right across the street there is a 24 hour market Sasha took us to to get a few items for our room. I hope to sneak some pictures when I go back.

• On from the market is the start of the famous Arabat Street. After seeing the exact location, I knew I would have the nerve to venture out on my own with Boston.

• 4 buildings down from the market is the infamous McDonalds. This section of Arabat is for pedestrians only. I love the ‘drive-thru’ window!

• On down from that is another taste of American culture. You probably can’t tell from this picture, but Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks are right across the street from each other. I now feel like Boston and I have a to-do list!

• On the way back I figured Boston needed his first Happy Meal! It was chaos and hard to manage a 2 year old, a tray of food, and climb the stairs but somehow we made it! Here is the ceremonial chicken nugget Happy Meal! (I will not leave the room without my good camera again!)

• I can’t stand that you can smoke in public places here. There is always someone smoking in the hotel lobby which is the only place there is internet service (at least free internet).

• It would be a thousand times easier to walk down the street with Boston if he was not so intrigued with the darn pigeons which are everywhere. He will virtually be walking backwards to keep an eye on a bird. This makes keeping a hold of him very difficult. I prefer not to use the carrier too much because I don’t want to flare up my lower back pain that I tend to get and a stroller is not the easiest thing to use in Russia ( most things are not handicapped accessible or stroller friendly). He is a great walker and stays close to me, but with so many people around I have to have a hand on him all the time. If the birds would just not fly overhead we would be in good shape!

• I have learned to deal with the stares from those around me. I swear children age 1-4 must not be allowed outside here! I have seen one or two carriages with babies and a couple of children that appeared to be about 5 years old. Other than that everyone is over 5 years old. Even in McDonalds which is always packed here in Moscow. There was seriously one other child I saw and again she appeared to be older than 4. For the most part people stare at me. Thankfully Boston flashes his big smile or waves paka paka and even the crabbiest of people tend to crack a smile.

I think I finally have the blog up to day on our journey to this point.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Boston’s first plane ride.

(I added a cute picture I found of B to yesterday's post!)

We first looked out the window and said goodbye and paka paka to Vlad. While we are more than ready to leave, this place will always be near and dear to our hearts.

Before takeoff Boston is all smiles. He thinks this 9 hour and 45 minute ride is going to be fun!

He received his free Aeroflot bag just like big brother Blake did.

It wasn’t long and out came the toys. We played with the same 5 toys for hours. Boston was happy as can be. I was about ready to lose my mind!

At one point B fell asleep. I was hopeful it would last for a couple of hours. After taking this self portrait, I too fell asleep. The nap lasted one hour. That was the total amount of sleep Boston had all day. He went to sleep around 6:00 p.m. Moscow time which is 1:00 a.m. in Vlad. He wasn’t even fussy!

After the short nap, the toys came back out. It seemed the bath toys Justin bought were the favorite. At one point we resorted to pretending we were eating the fish.

Then mama remembers the earbuds that were passed out. Boston loves music. This entertained him for quite some time. Of course they would not stay in his ears.

So we get out our headphones. This is much better!

It even seemed that maybe – just maybe he would go back to sleep. Of course that was just wishful thinking!

And again the toys came back out. The fish took some rides on the tractor.

I have to say he was quite the trooper on the flight. I was really struggling by the end, but I just kept thinking of how much worse it could have been. At least he was not screaming and crying! I also feel God gave me an extra dose of patience before getting on that flight. Being patient is really not a strength of mine – at all! This is something I pray about and work on almost daily. Here is how I knew I was doing well in the patience department…. A meal was served to us. Boston did very well while eating but once he was finished he was ready for everything to be out of his way. He wanted to push up on the tray which of course would have dumped everything. I got him to stop trying that and we were doing well. In one of the containers there was a full thing of rice and chicken. It was so dry I couldn’t eat it and B was almost choking on it so I gave him something else. The flight attendants came by with the cart to collect the garbage. Right before they got to us, Boston spills the entire thing of chicken and rice on the floor. Now a good mom just rolls with it and doesn’t make a big deal about it and even says it is ok, it was just an accident. I typically will say it’s ok – but through gritted teeth and sure annoyance. Perhaps I would even throw out a ‘what were you thinking comment’. I know, I know not the best way to handle it, but again I said I have a patience shortage. But amazingly I barely reacted and wasn’t even too irritated and definitely not angry. Together B and I had it cleaned up in no time.

The other situation I surprised myself with came when it was time to get off the plane. Again, I usually get caught up in the hustle and bustle of things and feel like I have to get off as soon as it is my row’s turn. I had mentally prepared myself for this moment. I told myself to take my time and not get too stressed. After all, I had to strap Boston into a carrier, and manage three bags and our coats down the narrow aisles. And on domestic flights at the Moscow airport when you get off the plane, you board a bus that then takes you to the arrival gate/building. So I gather up everything and am doing ok. I stop in the bulk head row to put on Boston’s hat so I don’t get yelled at by the babushkas. I realize I cannot find the hat. I try looking for it, but it was difficult for me to move with Boston strapped to me. I can feel my body temperature rise. Then I remembered – relax , you will never see these people again. Just ask for help. So two flight attendants begin looking for the hat. I found it on the floor but was unable to bend over to get it! One of the attendants gave it to me and I headed off the plane. I was the very last one off. I could hear them radioing after I got off that the plane was clear and that the lady with the little boy was the last passenger. Of course all of the passengers on the bus were staring at me as I made my way down the stairs and over to the bus. Again, typically in this situation I would be a mess and totally flustered. But I felt like a dose of confidence and patience come over me as I was walking to the bus. I was doing the very best I could given the situation.

I can only hope that God grants me some of that patience for the 12 hour and 45 minute flight from Moscow to Atlanta!