Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Freezing in Moscow

We're in Moscow, and we're FREEZING! I can't even explain how cold it is here (though I hear Denver is having some cold weather as well). But it's a Christmas wonderland, the food is amazing, the city is huge, the buildings are beautiful, and we're having a good time. Our little boy was actually born in Moscow, and he lived in an orphanage here for almost a year before getting moved to Kyrgyzstan. Tomorrow we plan on visiting the place he first lived. More Moscow posts will come, but I need to get to bed now!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Bye Bye Little Boy

We said goodbye to our little boy today. It was so hard to do, even though we know he's in good hands and we'll hopefully be back soon. We left a picture album with him showing some of the fun things we've done together over the past ten days (bowling, cars, tea time, etc.). We hope his caretakers will show it to him often and remind him that it's his Mommy and Daddy in the pictures and that we're coming back for him.

It was a special day to be at the orphanage, because our son's group was putting on a Christmas program for the rest of the kids. So when we showed up, our boy was dressed as the most adorable little jester you've ever seen! He was the only one with this costume, whereas the rest of the kids were dressed the same as others (bears, fairies, sheep, etc.). He didn't really have a specific part in the program, so we're not really sure why he got to be a jester, but it was adorable. The program included all of the kids in his group and lots of caretakers. They really went all out with costumes, decorations, a script, and music. Though we couldn't understand the language (it was based on a Russian fairytale), it was fun to watch. And our son really enjoyed it. He sat with us during most of the program, though we had him go join in a couple of group songs where they held hands and danced around the Christmas tree. We totally felt like "those" parents...snapping pictures like crazy and videotaping and waving at our kid from the audience. Ha-look what we've become in a matter of days!

After the program, we helped him change back into his regular clothes, and then we just played in the main room together for one last time. We looked at the picture book, wrestled, played with a balloon, and shared lots of hugs and kisses. When lunchtime rolled around, we had to let him go. He waved goodbye and sat down to eat. We peeked through the crack in the door for as long as we possibly could. I didn't want to leave!

As for when we'll be back, we've heard all sorts of things, varying from three to eight weeks. The latest we've heard is that government workers are on vacation until January 20th. Then the paperwork takes two weeks to process. So that would put our court date in early February, but who knows? All I know is that it can't come soon enough!

We're now in Moscow for a few days. I looked at pictures and videos of our boy over and over on the flight here. It'll be hard to wake up tomorrow morning and know we're not going to see him. It's nice that we have this Russian New Year's trip to distract us for a bit before heading back to Denver. I do miss Molly, but I hope we can head back to Kyrgyzstan again very soon!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Horsing Around

On our last night in Kyrgyzstan, we ate at an awesome restaurant named Supara out near the mountains with our driver Aziz and our new friend Mary. It was a great way to celebrate the amazing time we've had in this country. Traditional Kyrgyz food was served in a yurt structure by costumed servers. I was brave and ordered besbarmak, which means "five fingers," because you are supposed to eat it with your hands. It's the national dish of Kyrgyzstan, and it included noodles with mutton and horse. Yup, I ate horse. Horse lovers, don't hate me! It wasn't too bad actually; it kind of just tasted like beef. However, I did not touch the sheep intestines or other unidentifiable things on my plate. Zack tried a bit of that and was not impressed! The chicken and mutton kebobs were delicious, and we all had some good laughs over tea and lepyoshka while trying (or avoiding) new foods.

We're so glad we've gotten to experience some of this unique culture and beautiful land. While certain parts of it remind us of other places we've lived or traveled, in other ways it's unlike any place we've been before. We can't wait to come back!

Not Quite Goodbye

Today was the tenth day with our boy, and we made the most of it. He definitely knows us now, and we actually got a video of him running up to us when we arrived. He smiled like crazy and gave us lots of hugs. Officially, this should have been our last day together, but since our flight doesn't leave until 5:30pm tomorrow, we get an extra morning with him. So I'll leave being sad until then. 
Because today is Sunday, there was a much smaller staff on duty. Only one caretaker was in charge of the whole group (about 15-20 kids) for awhile. The main playroom wasn't open, so we stayed in the group room for the first hour or so. The kids were watching a Russian cartoon, but once we were there, some of them were pretty focused on watching us play with our boy. It was so sad; they were looking longingly at us, and you could tell they wanted some attention too. When the caretaker stepped into the other room briefly, they'd all start toddling toward us like little zombie children! We tried to play with some of them and hold them, but our boy started getting a little possessive and pushing them away. It just makes you want to take them all home. We brought them little candy canes, and they loved getting all sticky while slurping on those.

After a bit, we went outside, and our boy had fun popping bubbles that landed on the ground, touching the snow, and getting pushed on the swing. We had a little bit of time in a smaller playroom before we had to go, and we built (and knocked over) towers of bricks and stacked rings. He also thought he was pretty funny when he ran into the adjoining room and peeked at us from the doorway. We wonder if he's ever been allowed to go in a room unsupervised before!

We've packed up our suitcases, including way too many toys and souvenirs for our boy. Tomorrow, there's some sort of show at the orphanage at 10am. We'll stick around until noon, but then it'll be time to say goodbye to our son. We'll be leaving him with a picture book of fun times we've had together, some clothes and a blanket, and hopefully lots of great memories until we can be together again.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Bubbles and Mountains

It was a beautiful, sunny day today, so we spent part of our time with our son outside at the orphanage. He liked popping the bubbles we blew and walking around in the snow. However, there was a stray dog trotting around, and anytime we got too close to it, he started crying. We'll have some work to do to get him to like our dog Molly! He recognized us again when we arrived and came right over to us. In the playroom, he was a bit all over the place today, playing with a little bit of everything. Our time with him went by way too quickly. Luckily, our flight doesn't leave until 5:30pm on Monday, so we get to visit him for an extra day. That's good, because it means tomorrow is not our last day with him!

After we left the orphanage, our coordinator and her husband took us through the mountains. The other two couples are gone now (they came earlier than us and already finished their ten days), so it's just us in town. It was a gorgeous drive. Cows, horses, and sheep walked alongside (and sometimes across) the road, little kids were riding on real sleds with runners, and there were small villages with amazing views. Sometimes we felt like we were back in Colorado. It's incredible to think that just six months ago we didn't know this country existed, but now we're here falling in love with our son and the mountains of his homeland.

In this picture, you can see some people in the distance playing Kok-Boru, a traditional game played on horses. One team tries to get a headless goat carcass into the other team's goal. There were dogs running around as well. Behind them, you can see a Muslim cemetery. The Kyrgyz are officially Muslim, but their religion is heavily influenced by nomadic/animistic/nature-related spirituality and beliefs.

We loved our time in the mountains, and we stopped by another fabulous Kyrgyz restaurant for lunch on the way back to the hotel. We ate delicious shashlik (kebobs)...beef, lamb, and liver. Well, Zack tried the liver one (and liked it). I was afraid to gag in front of our coordinator! We also had fish and the usual bread and tea. It was another wonderful day in Kyrgyzstan!

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Fun Snow Day

It snowed last night! Everything was so beautiful on our drive out to Tokmok. There doesn't seem to be any wind here, so even the tiniest of branches had snow piled on them. Gorgeous! Their system of making the roads safer is interesting. They have trucks full of dirt with guys standing in the back. They take a shovelful of it and launch it out into the street. So there are random streaks of dirt all along the snow-covered road. There are also snowplows of sorts that look more like tractors.

We had a really fun visit with our boy today. He was in such a good mood. We think it was because they had just finished up with a Christmas program (with big bubbles and everything) when we got there. He totally recognized us. When we came in, he saw me, and he got off his seat right away and ran (well, his version of running) over to me. So cute! I picked him up and he gave me like four big hugs in a row, totally unprompted!

We went to the playroom, and Zack found a ladder and swing contraption in the corner that we hadn't noticed before. Thankfully, Zack had a good grip on him, because he was all about climbing and hanging and swinging and such. He had the biggest smile on his face the whole time. He also had some fun rolling around on the floor and just being silly. We were all laughing a lot today. We also learned that he knows how to do a fist bump, and Zack got him to say "Papa" (their word for Daddy).

Mary gave us a horse puppet to use with him, and Zack had fun showing him that while he drank his juice box. Cars were a big hit again. Zack grabs a truck and starts pushing it, and our son always immediately goes and finds this huge red car (it's like the size of him) that he pushes around behind his daddy. It's pretty adorable. We worked on fitting shapes into a box again, played some music with the Russian book, knocked over bowling pins, and drank fake tea. We're definitely learning which toys we need to be sure to have for him at home...a bowling set, a kitchen set, and a huge red car!

When we got back to Bishkek, we tried to go to a restaurant recommended by our hotel, but they were having a private party. After wandering around for awhile, we found another recommended one, and we had a delicious meal with some of our favorite traditional Kyrgyz food. Tonight is pretty low-key. We might watch a movie and just go to bed early. Our days in Kyrgyzstan are winding down.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from Kyrgyzstan

Christmas morning started out with a beautiful sunrise today as we drove toward Tokmok. I don't think I could have dreamed of a better Christmas present than our son! How can any future Christmas ever compete with this one? Of course, next Christmas, when he's hopefully home safely in Denver with us will be pretty awesome too. I can't wait to take him to see Santa, hang a stocking for him, go sledding, decorate Christmas cookies, put up the tree together, sing Christmas carols, and just be together as a forever family.
When we first arrived at the orphanage this morning, the caretakers explained that he had been sick the day before. From what we could gather, he was hot (had a fever?) and his throat was red (sore?). We know he's been congested, but we didn't know if that was normal for him. The air in the cities here is extremely smoggy and polluted, so we worry about his lungs and breathing. Time to get him home to some fresh Colorado mountain air! An interesting belief here is that if you drink something cold or expose your throat area to cold air, you will get sick. So they put a scarf on our boy before going outside today, and they double-checked the juice box we gave him to make sure it was room temperature.

We spent the morning playing with our boy's usual favorites (cars, blocks, shapes, pretend food, doctor, etc.), along with some new things like stickers, looking in the mirror, talking on a toy cell phone, and hitting a balloon. His Christmas present was a little toy piano, which he had fun playing for awhile. We taught him to clink his cup with ours when we say "Cheers," and when we quack like a duck and flap our arms, he does the cutest shoulder shrugging thing. He's definitely getting more comfortable with us and testing some limits. We had to say "nyet" (no) a few times and take away a toy or two when he started to hit things! But he's still the sweetest little thing and loves to give hugs and giggle. We can't believe our time with him on this trip is already more than half over. 

We spent the afternoon at our in-country coordinator's house in Bishkek having a Kyrgyz Christmas feast. The Kyrgyz do not let you go hungry! We had all of the usual favorites (tea, lapyoshka, soup, plov, fruit, etc.). It was so delicious, and it was awesome to spend the holiday with the other couples who are in Kyrgyzstan for their bonding visits as well. In the picture, you can see Song and Darren, who are adopting a baby girl from the orphanage where our son lives. Saule is our coordinator, and her husband is standing next to her. Haley and Piyush are adopting a little girl from another orphanage, but they are staying at the same hotel as us. It's been awesome having others to share the journey with us. We're hoping that our second and third visits can be coordinated together as well!

Merry Christmas to all. We hope yours is as happy as ours!

Words Zack Butchers

Okay, this post is all in good fun, because Zack knows how bad he is with remembering names and/or how to say things, and we are cracking up as I'm writing this and we're remembering all of these. I think he finally learned to say Kyrgyzstan correctly right before leaving on this trip. In no particular order, here are the names/words Zack has butchered a few times while in this country:

Burana Tower (the minaret we visited): Braun Tower

Saule (our in-country coordinator): Sonny, Sully, Sooly, etc.

Tsum (the department store): Soon

Piyush (one half of another couple here): Pee-yesh

Plov (the rice dish): Pilaf

Samsa (the baked dumplings): San-sees

Darren (one half of the 3rd couple here): Brandon (sounds like their last name)

Marat (our driver): I don't even remember, but it was wrong

Lagman (the noodle dish): lagma

Zinat (Mary's roommate): Zinaida and several other incorrect things

Song (Darren's wife): Som (which is the currency here)

Faiza (restaurant): Faish

Xenia (translator): Seena

Not to mention the many Russian words he's attempted to pronounce with much difficulty! To his credit, these are not easy words, he's trying, and he's been recovering from a nasty cold, so he's not at 100%. He also gives it his all when we're with our son in the mornings, so that's been wearing him out. Good thing he has me to translate for him and keep him from embarrassing himself too much! :) Love ya, honey!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas Eve from the Keys...all three of us! We had another great visit with our son this morning. We attempted to read him The Night Before Christmas, but he mostly just wanted to look at the pictures and get back to playing with toys! He continues to love cars, bowling, horsey rides, and playing with pretend food and drink. He also loves real food and drink! Zack bought him a juice box with vitamins at the supermarket this morning, and he slurped it up like it was candy. He also downed a container of yogurt quicker than I could! 

After playing with him for a couple of hours, we had a good meeting with the director of the orphanage (and the translator), and we got some good information on what she knew about his history, health, family, etc. We get a lot of people (friends and family members) who ask us about that information, probably just out of curiosity. The books we've read and trainings we've attended have taught us that this information should be his to share if and when he wants to (when he's older). So please don't ask us about that kind of stuff. We know you're not trying to be rude, and neither are we, but we want to respect his privacy and let him decide what to share for himself. Thanks for understanding.

This evening we were able to meet up with Mary and Zinat again, and we ate dinner at a restaurant called Faiza in Bishkek. It has good authentic Kyrgyz food. We pigged out on tea, lapyoshka (bread), samsy (baked meat dumplings-not in the picture), shashlik (lamb kebobs), and lagman (a noodle dish). It was all delicious, and it was great to spend Christmas Eve with new friends. 

We miss our families, but we're excited about the new family we're starting by meeting our little "Christmas miracle" (as my mom calls him) on this side of the world! 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Birthday Boy

Our little boy turned two years old today! We had a great morning celebrating with him at the orphanage. We bought him a cake and candle, the caretakers let us light it and sing to him, and he got a big piece to eat (which he loved). We dressed him in the outfit we had bought at Tsum yesterday, and he looked absolutely adorable. It's better that I can't show you his face in the picture, because you would probably die of cuteness! His present (other than the fun lollipop from the Dubai airport) was a toy guitar, so he can play along with his daddy when he gets home to Denver.

After he ate cake, we joined the other kids in the main room for the practicing of their Christmas program. One lady played the accordion, and the caretakers and some of the kids read parts (in Russian) and did little dances. It was precious, and it was so nice to see how much the workers love the kids and take good care of them.

After the practice, we went to the playroom and tried some painting crafts. We were attempting to get his handprint on a Christmas ornament and fingerprints on paper to look like little Christmas lights, but we totally overestimated the ability of a toddler to understand how to work (nicely) with paint. We basically made a mess! But I guess he had fun doing it. One thing that's interesting is that the workers insist that the kids do everything with their right hands...eat, color, paint, etc. No left hands allowed! After some more time with toys, including cars, bowling, pretend food, balls, etc., it was time to go. We're so glad we got to spend the day with our son on his second birthday!

Oh, and after visiting Burana Tower this afternoon, we spent a few hours at the notary getting power of attorney forms done for future visits. This is only significant to mention because it means that our boy officially has a name! Yes, we had to decide on this trip (which we didn't expect) in order to put it on the paperwork. And no, we are not telling anybody what it is until he is officially ours! But we will say that we moved his current Kyrgyz name to become his middle name, so he sort of gets to keep that.

One more thing...we are getting better at saying some Russian words and phrases, which has really helped us communicate better with our son and the caretakers. So far we've mastered yes, no, good day, hello, goodbye, good boy, thank you, happy birthday, and I love you. We carry around a little booklet that helps us when we need it!

Okay, it's been a busy birthday. Time for bed on this side of the world!

Burana Tower

Today, after leaving the orphanage, we visited Burana Tower. It's a large minaret that is part of the remains of an ancient city established at the end of the 9th century. You can climb the metal spiral staircase on the outside for part of the way and then steep steps inside the tower to get to the top, where you are supposed to make a wish. From there, you get a great view of the mountains in both Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. It was such a sunny, clear day, so I was finally able to get some pictures of the beautiful scenery. Sometimes I feel like I'm back in Colorado!

While we were visiting, some men were building a yurt nearby. I'm not sure if it will stay there permanently or why they were building it today, but it was really cool to watch the process. I love this shot, because it's got so many Kyrgyz elements...a stray dog, a traditional rug (shyrdak), the building of the yurt, etc.

It was the perfect day to visit this tourist attraction, and the yurt building was just a bonus! In January, Zack and I are doing a snowshoe trip to stay at a yurt in Colorado for a weekend, so we will remember our time in Kyrgyzstan when we saw the real deal being made!

The Newest Broncos Fan

Yesterday was Monday, and because the Denver Broncos were playing on Monday night in the United States, we decided to introduce our son to the importance of cheering for his (future) home team. He looked adorable in his shirt and cap. We can't show his face, but I think this picture is allowed!

Because we got there later in the morning, after playing in the playroom for a bit, we were allowed to stay with him through lunch. He had a big meal of bean soup, bread, a corn dog type of thing, and potatoes. He stuffed himself full until he couldn't eat anymore. Then we got to play some more. He enjoyed piggyback rides, rolling around on the ground, and airplane rides.

We had a nice long visit with him, and it was so hard to leave. Normally, we leave at lunchtime, and he's hungry, so he easily goes into the room with the other kids. This time, because it was mid-afternoon and the other kids were taking a nap, he didn't want us to go. When the caretaker told him to say bye-bye ("pah-kah, pah-kah"), he turned to her and said it while waving! She had to explain to him that he had to say it to us, not her. So sad! After lots of hugs and kisses, we went into the little hallway area off the main room and shut the door to put on our coats and boots. All of a sudden, we hear this big bang. Our boy had pushed open the door to come out and see us again! It was hilariously adorable and heartbreaking! Zack had to carry him back into the main room, and his caretaker hugged him as we left. I don't know how I'm possibly going to be able to leave him at the end of these ten days. I could barely handle it yesterday, even knowing I would see him the next day!

When we got back to Bishkek, Zack and I ate some American food at a place called the Obama Cafe (ha!). We then did some souvenir shopping on the top floor of Tsum, a huge department store. I was able to get our boy a traditional Kyrgyz outfit that's a bit big, so he can grow into it and use it for several years. It includes a vest, pants, and a kalpak (traditional hat).

In the evening, we had a nice Italian dinner at a restaurant called Fatboy's with the other couples who are here. There was a live violin player and a singer, and they were incredible. Overall, it was another great day. Too bad the Broncos ended up losing!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Marushkas, Lapyoshka, and Plov

When we first told my family that we were pursuing international adoption in Kyrgyzstan, we were surprised to hear that my mom worked at church with a lady who was soon moving back there for the school year to teach English. She had lived there before during her time in the Peace Corps, and she loved the land and the people. My mom put me in contact with Mary, and she's provided us with so much help as we've gotten ready for our trip. Last night, we were able to meet up with her and her Kyrgyz roommate Zinat (who speaks perfect English) and enjoy a traditional Kyrgyz meal.

After walking through a local bazaar and buying some lapyoshka (local bread), we rode a marushka (public transport van) to the town of Kant, where we enjoyed the view from their apartment balcony. Can you see the enormous mountains in the background? Those are huge sheep and a shepherd in the field. We enjoyed the delicious lapyoshka with persimmons and tea, and Zinat told us stories of all sorts of Kyrgyz traditions. It was awesome to hear about the lifestyle and enjoy the food of our boy's native land.

For dinner, Mary and Zinat made the traditional meal of plov. In the United States, we'd call it pilaf. It was rice cooked with onions and carrots and garlic. It was delicious and so flavorful! We ate in the traditional style, with the man (Zack) starting first and sharing the plate. And of course we drank more tea!
After dinner, Mary had us open our boy's Christmas presents. She filled an entire bag with goodies for him! Not to mention the bag she had already given to me full of crafts and toys to use with him at the orphanage. What a lucky little boy! Thank you Mary and Zinat for an incredible evening together!

I wish I could show the pictures of the fun we had with our son yesterday. When we got there, he and all the other kids were on their little potty chairs. Yes, he's potty trained! They have them on such a schedule there that he's trained to go at certain times. He looked up and smiled at us when we came in; I think he recognizes us now. Once we took him to the playroom, he built a big cup tower, played some piano on the nursery rhyme book we bought him, played with a car, colored, and reeeeeally enjoyed "horsey" rides on our knees. He'd run back and forth between Zack and I, never getting tired of another ride, giggling like crazy.

We're about to leave for the the orphanage again this morning. Gotta go!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Day Two

We had another awesome visit with our son today. He started off wanting to play with the cars and trucks, and he also did a bit more bowling. Then we had fun with the red punch ball we brought. He particularly liked to wham things with it, which was rather amusing. After that, he sat at the little table and we had a tea party. He liked pouring the pretend tea and fake drinking it. We "ate" some fake food as well. The time went by way too quickly.

The drive from Bishkek to Tokmok takes about 45 minutes each way. The scenery is beautiful, with towering mountains and big open fields. It's also interesting to watch the people coming and going and see how life is lived on this side of the world. We always stop at the grocery store in Tokmok to pick up some food for the kids. Today we brought them some cheese and a couple of rotisserie chickens, which I think they ate for lunch.

After driving back to Bishkek from the orphanage, we've been having a late lunch with our in-country coordinator and one or both of the other couples who are here for their bonding visits as well. Yesterday, we ate at a Turkish restaurant. Today, we had more traditional Kyrgyz food, including lamb and potatoes and some meat-filled dumplings. After lunch, we took some pictures in the main area of the city called Ala-Too Square. It's decorated for Christmas, and various dressed-up characters were there (including Alvin and the Chipmunks!) to take pictures with people. We also did a bit of shopping at a toy store, where we got our boy a little toy car, a stuffed ram that says a message in Russian, and a book that reads/sings some common Russian fairy tales.

Our favorite part of the day is always the time we spend at the orphanage. It's so hard to say goodbye to our son. We want to just take him home to Denver today. Here's hoping that tomorrow comes quickly!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Our Kid is the Coolest

So, our little boy is basically awesome. Our first meeting with him couldn't have gone any better. He is the sweetest and smartest little thing. I can't wait until I can post the video and some pictures! For now, I can post this picture of the outside entrance of the orphanage.

We had so much fun building blocks, coloring, bowling, playing music, reading, and just hanging out together. He has such a fun and easygoing personality, and the caretakers say he knows lots of words in both Russian and Kyrgyz. He even knew how to give a high five, and he called me "Mama!" It was super hard to leave him; we wanted to take him home today! We can't wait to go see him again tomorrow morning.

In no particular order, here are some other things we've noticed so far, items of interest, etc.:

-people here wear a lot of fur...fur coats, fur hoods, fur-trimmed skirts, etc.
-the mountains are a lot bigger and more beautiful than we expected
-traffic in Bishkek is pretty crazy and crowded in the afternoon
-menu items are heavily focused on meat
-stray dogs of all shapes and sizes roam the streets
-the only thing separating the border between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan is a barbed wire fence
-you can get 58 som (the Kyrgyz currency) per 1 US dollar today
-cars and rooms are kept at a very high temperature (I'm always taking off my coat)
-babies/kids are excessively bundled up to go outside for even a brief moment
-not a lot of Christmas lights are up, but the ones that are tend to be the rope light kind
-you can function on less than three hours of sleep in two days

Because of our severe lack of sleep on the loooooong trip here (almost exactly 30 hours from our front door in Denver to the door of our hotel in Kyrgyzstan!), Zack and I are headed to bed, even though it's only 6pm here. We hope to sleep through the night and be all caught up tomorrow. I'd like to write more about the rest of our day, but I'm ready to crash. What an amazing start to our trip though; our future son is so cool!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

We're in Kyrgyzstan!

We are here. We are exhausted. We are headed to the orphanage soon. We are excited. We will update more later!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On Our Way!

We are sitting on the Emirates flight in Chicago about to take off to Dubai. This plane has all sorts of fun gadgets, goodies, and entertainment options. I don't think we'll get bored. Zack brought the ridiculous ostrich pillow, so he'll get some good sleep and weird looks. Our next blog post might be written from Kyrgyzstan!