Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Jetlagged Diaper Dude

If anyone has experience dealing with a jetlaggedtoddler, please let us know :-)

We’re finally home!

We arrived back in Seattle at 11am on Sunday…24 hourslate. We ended up being stuck in Russia due to heavy winds. It was an absolute nightmare journey home (more on this in a later). Apologies to everyone who wondered what had happened to us, the high winds and snow also put the internet out of action, meaning that we couldn’t let everyone know what was going on.

Roman seems to love his new home! Despite the awful trip home, his eyes lit up as soon as he saw our house, and Missy ran out to greet us. He adores the pets (not sure if the feeling is mutual yet), and has run around exploring everywhere, especially his bedroom. He has already picked up a new English word (“Hi”), and Rich has taught him how to do a high five (essential for an American boy).

Thanks to our dear friend Mari, her partner JoAnn, and handyman Darin, we arrived home to a wonderfully clean and tidy house (it had been in total disarray when we left due to all the last minute packing and planning). Darin had put our child gates up, and the house was quite child proof (but only about 25% Roman-proof, sot hat’s what we are going to be doing soon, ROMAN-PROOFING). Although Roman is very excited to be in his new home,h e is a little overwhelmed by the whole transition. Last night, he was too scared to sleep alone in his crib, even though Helen was sleeping on the sofa bed next to him. However, as soon as Helen put him in bed with her, he fell sound asleep. We worried about him falling out of the sofa bed, so Helen stayed awake all night to make sure he was safe. Harry (the fat orange cat) and Missy (the Basset Hound) also joined Helen and Roman in the bed. Like Roman, they got a goodnight’s sleep, and poor Helen laid awake listening to them all snore.

Harry and Missy particularly missed their mum so they our currently following her around everywhere. They do not seem to be jealous of Roman, in fact, the three of them are getting along rather well! Rich’s cats Brother Tom and Aretha spent the night stretched out next to their dad, and Sally slepti n the basement as far away from Roman as she could get.

We spent today just trying to get over the jet lag and taking it easy. The three of us took Missy for a walk and we met another toddler and mom who were outwalking their greyhound. We then went to a coffee shop and Roman had fun playing in the kids' area. After that, we stopped by the Next to Nature pet store and Roman met Moses, an absolutely huge cat. After a short nap, we visited our friends Mari and JoAnn who live across the street. JoAnn gave Roman an official NFL football, and he loves it! Rich wants him to be the Packers quarterback in Superbowl LXV. Helen wants himto be the England striker, so she is rushing out to buy him a soccer ball.

He is asleep right now in his new crib and Missy is being his guard dog (actually she's snoring rather loudly).

Looking forward to seeing you all soon, it's great to be back home!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Dasvydanya Russia!

The day we have been waiting for is finally here …we’re coming home!!!

It’s 1:30am on Saturday here, and we are busy packing while Roman sleeps. We tried packing while Roman was awake but he kept pulling everything out of the cases (we think he was trying to help). This is an ongoing theme with him, as he likes to open drawers and cupboards and pull everything out.

Our flight leaves Vladivostok at 3pm on Saturday, and we arrive in Seattle at 11:00 am on Saturday (due to the 18 hour time difference, we get home before we leave). We have a 2 ½ hour flight from Vlad to Seoul, 2 hour layover in Seoul then 10 hours from Seoul to Seattle. As soon as the wheels of the plane touch American soil, Roman automatically becomes a citizen of the United States. We’re sure he’ll be completely unaware of the significance of this and will probably be busy blowing raspberries (his favorite activity). Helen, on the other hand, has to take a history exama nd pledge allegiance to the flag if she wants to be acitizen…

On Tuesday, we went down to the frozen bay and watched a beautiful sunset. Roman enjoyed playing in the snow. We met the owner of the skating rink, who was excited to show us that they had Miller beer in the snack bar. Our Russian was actually better than his English, buts omehow we managed to communicate. He had a cute cat named Chorny (which means black in Russian) who looked a lot like our shorthaired black cat Brother Tom. He and Helen had a “We hate President Bush moment” whileR ich decided not to tell them they were both crazy. Helen knows how to say “I hate Bush” in Russian, she loves to say it and it amuses the Russians (we have not yet met a Russian who doesn’t agree with Helen on this subject). In case you want to try it for yourself, it is “YA NEE LOU BLU BUSH!” If you love Bush (like Rich) you would say “YA LOU BLU BUSH!”

On Wednesday, we took Roman to some Vladivostok landmarks. He won’t remember (of course) but it will be nice for him to see photos of the three of us inVlad when we are telling him the story of his adoption. We took him to the Trans Siberian Railway,the Children’s Puppet Theatre, and the old Russian Submarine. We bought him a few souvenirs, including a Red Army Partisan Hat circa 1920 and a fuzzy warm Soviet fur hat. Helen has a thing for the Russian sailors so Roman (and Helen) had their pictures taken with a sailor. Rich is not too worried but if she had a little vodka in her … well let's not go there. Most of the sailors were too young for her anyway. For fun, Rich and Helen bought a couple of Russian hockey jerseys. Hers is a Soviet style jersey with Sergei Federov’s name on it. Rich has one that is a Moscow area club team.

Each day Roman is socializing more. He is not as afraid of strangers but he is wary. If he likes them, he will hand them a toy or a balloon, or something interesting he has found on the floor. At certain times when our hotel room becomes too confining, we will go to different parts of the hotel. One area is the White Rabbit Room; a bar with a pool table, some toys and a TV. Roman decided to climb up on the pool table and started throwing the pool ballsi n the pockets and everywhere else. We managed to catch most of the balls but a few hit the ground. They are loud when they hit and he has the best laugh. Roman also likes to go up and down stairs any chance he gets. He can climb up by himself on all fours, butc an climb up properly if we hold both his hands. In fact, he likes to climb most anything.

He is starting to cut his canine teeth. Sometimes he’s a bit cranky as a result, but mostly he’s a happy, giggly guy. Feeding time is always interestinga nd at times deliciously messy. We found out that he likes spaghetti, as you will see from the photo. Our little trooper usually eats pureed babyfood, but we have been transitioning to more grown upfood the past few days. We have had some super (“cynep” in Russian) messes. We are slowly dialing back his schedule to fit ours better. He actually slept until 10:30 am today. He usually takes about 2 naps a day and is very difficult to wind down. He is also starting to like having books read to him. When we first read to him, he seemed more interested in putting the books in his mouth. Now he pays attention, looks at the pictures,and will bring a book to us for us to read it to him. We think it is because the English words are beginningto make sense to him now.

We can’t wait to get home! We missed our pets so much the other night that we called our wonderful housesitter Mari and had her put the telephone to Missy’s ear just so we could say hi to her (she apparently responded by licking her chops).

We have met many wonderful people over the last four weeks here in Russia. The Russian people have been very kind and welcoming. We can’t wait for all of you to meet our son. Roman has now been with us for 10 days. Our love for him is indescribable (but if you have children, you will know). From that first night, when he fell asleep in Helen’s arms, every day has been magical. Our agency WACAP and the people in that organization have been great. There are frustrating moments but overall it has been fantastic. Every few nights we find ourselves in tears of happiness over this joyous occasion. It has been highly emotional, stressful,and at times, overwhelming, but we wouldn’t trade any of it.

See you soon,

Helen, Rich and Roman

Monday, February 18, 2008

Roman's Day

dada, ugh?, mama, caaaa...., gurgle...

(translation) Howdy Comrades! Roman Green, triple nationality, boy traveler here..

Many people have asked me how my schedule has changed since I left the baby home. Well, here are some pics of what my typical day is like with my mummy and daddy at the Vlad Inn.

Hope you like them,



Friday, February 15, 2008

Roman David Green!

Happy Valentines Day!

We got the best Valentines gift of all….our little Diaper Dude!

Tuesday was a whirlwind of a day for us. First, we had to go to the Leninsky Vital Records Office to obtain our adoption Certificate and Roman’s new birth certificate. Then we had to visit the Russian passport office to file his passport documents.

Finally, we went to the orphanage to pick up our son. It was right in the middle of his nap time, so he was a little sleepy. The caretakers brought him out to us wearing bright green tights… then we changed him into his new clothes (as you can imagine, he was rather cranky since he’d just been woken up, and getting him into his snow suit was quite a challenge). Each of his caretakers gave him a kiss goodbye, and wished him lots of luck. Of course, he had no idea that he was leaving for good.

He slept all the way back to the hotel (about an hour’s drive), then we carried him in, still dozing. Once we got him into the room, he stirred, and looked annoyed that we’d woken him up, but when he noticed that he was in a brand new place his eyes got really big . . . and suddenly it was time to explore. Within in his first five minutes “home” with us, he attempted to turn on the stove, open the window, stick his fingers in the radiator, and scale every piece of furniture he could find.

Our first night, we holed up in our hotel suite, just enjoying being a family. Roman was excited to be with us and did not show any signs of being upset. He loved the Russian spinning top we had bought him, and spent almost an hour running back and forth through all the rooms playing with it. We will especially remember his first night with us, as there was a power cut for about 90 minutes! There we were, brand new parents, chasing after a toddler in the pitch dark. No one told us toddlers can see in the dark, but it certainly seemed like it…it didn’t stop him at all. Rich got the video camera out and put it in “night vision” mode, so we could see what he was up to!

Roman’s first meal was some peach baby food and formula. Formula is an important part of his diet because he has a lot of catching up to do. The baby home had taken him off formula and we were a bit worried that he wouldn’t go back on it, but he loves it! Since then he’s been eating us out of house and home! But of course, when food goes in one end, you get a return on your investment. Rich was rusty at best atc hanging diapers, and Helen had never had the pleasure in her lifetime. The poor kid didn’t know what had hit him. Of course, it didn’t help that the baby home swore he was potty trained. Of course a 17 month old boy isn’t potty trained!!!!! The business at hand(and in the diaper) was messy. We are now much better with another 48 hours of experience. He never stops moving and that makes it difficult to change him but Helen is getting good at changing him on the move (you’ve just got to be sure to catch everything).

He has been sleeping very well but to get him into bed we have to cuddle him until he falls asleep, then gently move him into his crib. He screams like a wailing banshee if we try to put him in his crib immediately. We were worried that he would have trouble sleeping since he was used to sleeping with nine other kids, but so far, he has been sleeping through the night. Helen and I are night owls and he is used to getting up at 6:30 am. The first morning he slept until 6:40 am and woke up happy (we woke up cranky). He takes two naps a day usually. We say usually because on Wednesday he missed his afternoon nap due to a doctor’s appointment and signing legald ocuments for his passport and visa. On the way home about 6 pm he fell asleep and didn’t wake up until the next morning at around 5:45 am. He woke up happy again and he was running around again nonstop.

We are thrilled that we have such a good-natured little boy. He is bringing us such joy. Valentine’s Day was the first full day where we didn’t travel anywhere. We took him around the grounds of the Vlad Inn in his stroller (which he loves). There is a little play area with a slide, swings and the usual kid stuff. He enjoyed swinging, but he was kind of like the little brother in “A Christmas Story” since he was so bundled up. We were worried he might try to lick some metal and get his tongue stuck.

We took him back inside to play in the kids area and he loved it. There were balloons and a little kid fort that he was running in and out of. Since he is a rough and tumble kid, he also took his first header with us. He slipped off the couch and did a nose-dive into the portable potty. (The potty hasn’t been used yet and is more of a toy to him.)

Roman is also getting a little more comfortable with strangers. He usually buries his head in Helen’s shoulder and cries, but today he wasn’t showing thef ear that he had been displaying earlier. His institutionalization shielded him from outsiders, especially men. We are happy with his progress but don’t be surprised in the future, if he shies away from you if he hasn’t met you before.

Tomorrow we go to the US Consulate here in Vlad. This will be our final official business. They will be asking us questions and getting the paperwork ready for his US visa. Once that is done, we just have to wait for his paperwork to be processed in Moscow. That will take about a week and our wonderful Russian advisor Tatiana will be taking care of that so we know it will be done correctly.

Russia is treating us well. The people are so kind and wonderful, and the food is excellent. There is no such thing as fast food here. There are no McDonald’s, Wendy’s etc (Rich might lose a few pounds because of that fact!!) The grocery stores are quite interesting to shop in. At times the language difference hinders certain communications with people and full understanding but in the end it doesn’t matter that much. We have met some wonderful people who are also adopting, and cherish our new friendships because we know what they are going through. Rich is homesick but hanging in there thanks to FOX News Channel and American Idol on the STAR ASIA channel. Helen is also homesick but prefers to watch BBC World and the Australia Network (although she does admit to being hooked on American Idol too, which we get only 9 hours after it airs in the US, wow!) We’re trying to keep Roman away from TV as much as possible (he’s at risk for ADHD due to his birth mom’s nicotine use, and early TV exposure has been shown to exacerbate that). We do admit though, that he may have caught just a bit of American Idol tonight, we hope it hasn’t scarred him for life!

We both want to get home because we miss our fourlegged kids, friends, and relatives. We cannot wait to bring Roman David Green home. (His passport says Roman Devid Grin). This process, although frustrating at times, has been more than worth it. We have been blessed with the perfect boy for us. We are so thrilled to be his parents. We cannot believe how lucky we are. Random chance brought him and us together and we are blessed.

Thank You for being our friends.

Spaciba Bolshoi (Big Thank You)

Helen, Rich and Roman

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Great Diaper Caper

Prevet everyone,

We hope you had a good weekend.

Today, when we handed Roman back to his caregivers we knew that it would be the last time we would have to leave him at the baby home! Tomorrow, we officially become his parents and bring him into our family forever! One of his caretakers told us that he is the most active child in the baby home. OH BOY!!!! Time toget the running shoes out. But he is a wonderfully affectionate little guy, and we already love him very much.

We have been extremely busy buying diapers for Roman's baby home (we have included a photo of what $1000 worth of diapers looks like.) We bought Huggies, Pampers, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese diapers (we guess the Russians don’t make their own). We are just glad we don’t have to change all of them at once!

Since we can’t visit Roman on the weekends, we decided to do some exploring. On Saturday, we hired an interpreter and driver for some more sight seeing,a long with our friend Heather (who is also adopting through WACAP). First stop was a monument dedicated to the originators of the Cyrillic language, St Cyril and Methodious. It is located at the highest point in Vladivostok and has one of the best views of the city and harbor. Next, we stopped at a beautiful arch, built for the Tsar in 1912. There is a children’s puppet theatre nearby that we hope Roman will enjoy. Just down from the arch is a World War I era submarine converted into a museum. After clambering around inside, we can honestly say, we’re glad we never had to live in one of those things!

As we were exiting the submarine there was a vendor selling some Soviet era memorabilia. We purchased some for Roman. (Lenin is starting to feel like an old friend, or should we say Comrade?…there are statues of him everywhere). Later, we visited a fortress with a huge array of weapons on display… Kalashnikovs, Tank busters, RPG’s, Antiaircraft guns, a cruise missile and a Surface to Air Missile. It is scary to think that at one poin tthose missiles were pointed at us!

Sunday, we were more adventurous and took the local train into Vlad ourselves. The rail track runs right along the bay, and we were able to see hundreds of people out on the ice., fishing, driving and ice surfing (similar to wind surfing). The train was no frills and very dirty - Helen says it reminded her of old British Rail. By the way, don’t ever go to the bathroom in a Russian train, in fact never go to a public restroom anywhere in Russia. Hmmmm … maybe those diapers aren’t such a bad idea….!! If you do have to go, you’ll need 10 rubles per visit (about 40 cents). Oh, and bring toilet paper too. That costs extra. We just carry an extra roll with us. And it wouldn’t hurt to bring a seat.

Once in Vlad, we went to a cafĂ© called Studio Coffee. We couldn’t understand a word of the menu but after pretending to study it carefully for ten minutes (as if we were having trouble deciding) we said“ cappuccino pazulsta (please)” and “mocha pazulsta.”That seemed to work and the coffee was fantastic. Better than some of the Seattle coffee shops. After that we walked around the downtown area and had a nice relaxing day, although it was bloody freezing. We rode the train back to our hotel without any problems, although people often tried to talk to us in Russian, and we just smiled politely (apparently we look quite Russian, except when Rich is wearing his Green Bay Packers hat).

We have now moved from our small hotel room to a suite. The hotel very kindly let us move early so that we could get ready for Roman’s arrival tomorrow.

We miss you all and thank you for your kind wishes, advice, and emails.

Helen, Rich and Roman.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Roman and Alexander's Excellent Adventure

Only four more days to go before we get custody of Roman…we can’t wait!

On Tuesday, we were given permission to take Roman to have his picture taken for his Russian passport and US visa. We arrived at the orphanage and were presented with a squirmy bundle that looked for all the worldlike the “Michelin Man” (you will see what we mean when you see the photos). Our friend Heather was also given permission to take her little boy Alexander (whoa lso bore a striking resemblance to the Michelin Man).

Roman did great in the car and enjoyed looking out of the window but Alexander didn’t seem to enjoy the car ride at all. However, as soon as we got into the photography studio, Alexander was all smiles, while Roman burst into tears and clung to mama and papa. We had a really difficult time getting a good passport picture, and we ended up having to sit him on Helen’s lap, the photographer then photoshopped Helen out of the background (we had a feeling that this wouldn’t be acceptable to the US authorities, and sure enough it turns out that we will have to get his picture taken again for the US visa…we’re not looking forward to that).

We realize now that we will have to take things slowly on Tuesday as all the new surroundings and people will be overwhelming for him. We had known that this is the case with children who are adopted from orphanages, as they don’t get to experience much of the outside world, however, we had thought our sociable little guy might be more curious than frightened. Our plan for Tuesday is to come right back to the hotel and just enjoy being together, play with toys, maybe go out in the snow, take a nap, have a bath, and read some bedtime stories….just have fun being a family. The three of us are already feel like a family. Roman calls us mama and papa, and imitates some of the words we say. He loves to play peek-a-boo with papa, and when he is upset he holds his arms out and runs to his mama. At the moment, he especially loves to exploreour faces and pull our hair! He likes books but prefers eating them to reading them. In fact, the onlything Roman doesn’t put in his mouth is food. So far,he has refused to eat any snacks we’ve tried to give him (although he did enjoy playing with them).

Tomorrow, we will be buying $1000 worth of diapers for the orphanage. All adoptive parents make a $1000 donation to the Russian orphanages. They asked us to spend it all on diapers, so we will probably be buyingt he entire stock of the supermarkets in Roman’svillage. We’ve been trying to figure out just how many diapers that will be! In one of the pics you will see Rich with Raisa, the“babushka of the baby home.” She is 70 years old, and her main job is to take all the children out in strollers one at a time. She is a wonderful lady, and we told her we would like to adopt her too!

We will be visiting Roman again tomorrow, sight seeing on Saturday, having a lazy day on Sunday (our last child free day for oh, at least 17 years), visiting Roman on Monday, then picking him up forever on Tuesday. We just can’t wait for Tuesday!

Hope you all have a good weekend,


Helen, Rich, and Roman

Monday, February 4, 2008

More Pics of the Russian Rascal

Hello. We had a nice Monday. We spent three hours with Roman at the baby home. He doesn't immediately cry anymore when he sees Rich. He was very active today playing, throwing, exploring and laughing.

We have met some nice couples here adopting also. We can't say too much due to privacy issues but it is nice having others around to chat with.

Tomorrow we are allowed to take Roman out of the baby home to get some photos taken for his Russian passport and US visa. Hopefully it will be around 20 degrees or so. A warm day in the Far East is above zero. At least it has been sunny everyday and there have not been any power outages.

Helen, Rich, and Roman

Friday, February 1, 2008

From Russia With Love

Prevet everyone!

We have good news! We had our court appearance today, and despite being grilled by some very severe babushkas in uniform, our adoption of Roman has been officially approved by the Russian government. We now have to wait ten days until we get custody of him and can begin the US visa application. February 12th will be the day he officially becomes our son (we can't wait)!

Roman is getting very talkative, although he only knows a few syllables and doesn't say actual words. He does say "dada" "mama", and "papa." We're not sure if he only calls us mama and papa, as kids in orphanges tend to call all the women they know "mama" and all the men "papa." However, we haven't head him call anyone else mama and papa yet, so we're quite encouraged by that.

We were so excited yesterday as he made his first attempt at a real word... and it was an English word! We were reading a book to him with lots of animals in it. It had a fuzzy picture of a cat that he could pet, after we said "cat" a few times, Roman said "caaa", "caaa"! That's wonderful considering he has not heard much English.

These pics are from our Wednesday visit with Roman. Our camera is out of action at the moment because the orphanage electricty burnt out our battery charger (a Russian power surge was too much for it). Anyway, we hope to be able to take photos again soon. Meanwhile, Rich is working on a video. It was originally quicktime but he had to convert it to WMV, and something didn't work quite right. He's working away at it furiously anyway, thanks to everyone who offered tips on how to make it work!