Thursday, January 31, 2013


Yes, it's finally time!!!

We just got word this afternoon that our court has ruled that we may pick up our decrees on Monday or Tuesday!!!  We knew the judges were going to meet today in our courthouse. They told us the meeting was to set a new hearing for our case for sometime next week.  But I guess they decided that there was no point to set a new hearing because they already knew they were going to have to overrule their original decision to not give us our decrees two weeks ago.  Hallelujah!!!!

As I'm sure you can imagine, we are breathing huge sighs of relief, excitement, and disbelief!  It was starting to feel like we would be here forever, even though we've kept busy and knew we would eventually get home.

And to cap it all off, tomorrow I finally get to go visit my boy for the last time!!!  No more visits.  Next time I will come with his new clothes in hand; a little snowsuit, mittens, hat and boots.  Next time I will tell him, "let's go, little man!" and we'll climb into the car together forever.  It's a day I have imagined a thousand times over in the past year.  Imagining that day has gotten me through the hard days.  And now it is nearly here!  Oh the joy!

I can't wait to see all my family and friends back home.  I can't wait to squeeze my kids so tightly.  But honestly, a part of me will always be in Russia.  I have come to love this place and its people.  We have only encountered kindness by the people we have met.  We have had a few strange glances thrown our way, but I'm sure there was a good reason for it!  I will always teach Gabe to be proud of being my little Russian son!  One day I hope to bring my whole family back here, and show them all of the things I have been so fortunate to see, and introduce them to the wonderful Russian people.  There is good everywhere in the world, no matter what is going on in politics, no matter what one country says the other is doing wrong, there is always good.  I hope my children have seen this lesson through this experience.  I look forward to sharing with them all that I have learned during my time here.

I know that I have said it before, but I want to say thank you to all of you who have checked in here and sent us messages of hope and love.  I am sure that without you, this journey would have been much, much more difficult.  You have lifted us up when things seemed so dark, encouraged us to hang in there when it seemed this desire would never be granted.  Thank you.

I will update as soon as I know when we'll be heading out of Moscow!


In the mean time, how about an update on what we've been up to lately?

On Tuesday Jeana got to go visit her little girl, so we rode the Metro into town and I walked around a mall while she had her visit.

When she got back, we headed back over to the GUM mall for lunch.  This time we decided to try the more authentic food.

My cabbage salad (very yummy!) and a mushroom-stuffed roll (not my favorite, but I'm not a mushroom fan.  No, I didn't know it would be stuffed with mushrooms when I bought it :-)

Jeana got a beet salad (yummy!) and some pasta with a sour cream sauce and a chicken cutlet.

Then we headed out to look around and looked in a few stores.  We went in to the Bosco store, which is the Olympic sponsor for the official apparel of the athletes for the Sochi games in 2014.  Want to guess how much the parkas were?  $1,200.00 to start with!!!!  We saw some knock-off's at the Ismylovo market, so we'll have to compare prices when we go there next.
I never get tired of taking photos of the GUM, it is beautiful
We walked around a bit more, and I found a Russian hat for Gabe!  They're clearancing out all their winter apparel, so I was able to pick it up for $10.00!  I think it's pretty cute, and I can't wait to try it on him tomorrow.  

While we were waiting in the Metro for the next train home, I noticed that a woman stopped to give a quick rub of the nose and leg of this dog statue.  At first I thought it was a fluke, but then sure enough, more and more people were stopping for a quick second to do it!  I wondered what was up, so I asked Sally about it and she said that many Russians are superstitious, so they do things like this for good luck!  

The man in the center of the photo is rubbing the dog's nose.

Jeana couldn't miss out on some good luck!  And check out how cute she looks in the hat Julia gave her!
When we were dropped off on the Metro to ride into the city, we thought we were at the second-to-last stop, so that's where we got off on our return to Sally's.  Well, we were wrong.  We should have gone all the way to the end of the line.  Oops!  So we called Sally and she told us to wait at the Domino's pizza and she would come get us.  We have been an endless source of entertainment for Sally, let me tell you.  Check out Domino's little delivery cars:

Jeana, looking mighty suspicious.
We have also ventured out to a huge supermarket with Sally a couple of times.  Last night I picked up this gem.  This is delicious Russian chocolate, and they make several varieties: milk, dark, with almond, cinnamon, and other flavors.  My stepdad and I call it our heart medicine, and we must have a little each day :-)  
Don't you love the design stamped in it?  So pretty.
Sally's home is part of an International compound here, and it really is like it's own little world inside Russia.  They have their own school, small supermarket, and a big community center with a pool, tennis courts, restaurant, and....a three-lane bowling alley!  Sally and her husband spend every Tuesday night bowling with another fun couple that live here, and they invited Jeana and I to join them on Tuesday.  It was so much fun!  These guys know how to have a good time!

Walking to the community center.  There is about four feet of snow here (at least).  I keep thinking about how much fun my kids would be having if they were with me, making tunnels in the snow and snow forts and such.

Sally getting ready to throw a snowball.  Too bad the snow was too powdery to do it!  Ah ha  ha ha!  Maybe next time, Sally!

Check out that hair action on Jeana!  She really knows how to throw the ball!
We were pretty tired by the end of our game, and the other couple had already left.  I had put my regular shoes back on, so Jeana was bowling for me.  We only had one minute left until our time was up and our lane would automatically shut down.  So Jeana gets up, grabs the ball in her left hand, does this hop-skip-and-jump and lobs the ball down the lane, and with only seconds to spare.....bowls a strike! What a funny way to end the day! 


Today we started out by joining Sally and her neighbor Peggy at a big food market.  For my kids, imagine the market on Aladin, where Jasmine walks the streets and all the vendors vy for her attention and want her to buy something from them.  It was the same here.  Each vendor had their produce or meat set up, and as soon as you approached they'd shout out "pozhaluysta" (please!), asking what we'd like.  There was every kind of produce you could imagine, and many meats that I couldn't stomach very well.  My tummy has been a bit more sensitive here.

Cheeses and dairy

More cheeses, with the fruit beginning in the back.

A neat mushroom and some potatoes.

A whole selection of dried fruits.  There were probably ten varieties of dried apricots on the top there, with all kinds of nuts too.
The lettuce on the right is the most delicious lettuce ever!  It has a very slight cabbage taste, but is super crispy and delicious.  It stays good for a week.  We've had this at nearly every meal at Sally's and have loved it.  I wish we had it in America. 
This was only about half the varieties of honey available.  Everything from almost white, to the darkest of dark.  So pretty!

After the produce market we went to another mall to a regular grocery store ( many of the malls here have grocery stores in them!  Another awesome idea!)  Jeana and I told Sally we would make dinner tonight, so we went super fancy and made a spaghetti dinner (ha ha).  We went to the bakery to find some crusty bread to have with dinner, and they had all of these beautiful breads on display.

Pretty amazing!  I have noticed presentation is a large part of Russian food.
A fancy new apartment building we passed on our way home.

On our way home we passed fisherman on the frozen river, and people paragliding on their snowboards.

Pulled this photo from the internet so you could get the idea-it looked just like this.

Finally after all of this shopping we headed back to Sally's to make dinner.  We had all stayed up late last night watching movies, so Jeana and I laid down for a wonderful nap when we returned.  We have been spoiled by Sally so much!  Soon enough we will be back to reality of being moms to small children and naps will be a thing of the past!  
Jeana is a woman of many talents.  Here, she is displaying her grape throwing-and-catching-in-her-mouth abilities.  This woman is amazing, I tell you :-)
And look at that graceful execution of said grape-catching.  
Seriously, though, we have had quite the adventures here.  It has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that I have only shared a part of on this blog.  My son's story is miraculous, and I look forward to telling him how I was led to him and the many mountains that were moved in the process.  As Sally would say, "life is good."  

Inspiration III and a Funny

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

More Inspiration

I will do my best to write an update today. But for now, a bit more inspiration, and a few funnies as well :-)

Monday, January 28, 2013


Just wanted to post a few of the inspirational photos I've seen lately. Some of these were posted to my Facebook wall by dear friends and acquaintances who just wanted to help encourage us. Thanks to all...

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Today was another great day at church. We attended the international branch of our church here in Moscow (a branch for English-speaking members and others who are living in or visiting Moscow).

The first girl to give a talk in Sacrament meeting today blew my mind. She is a 13-year-old American, here in Russia by herself while she attends the Bolshoi ballet school. She lives in a dorm inside the ballet theater. This 13-year-old had more grace and poise than I still do at almost 35 years of age. She spoke on the importance of family, and how much she appreciates her family during this 9 months that she is away from home. What a strong young woman!

The next speaker was an Armenian mother who also spoke on the importance of families. I especially enjoyed her talk. She spoke of some things she appreciated in her own upbringing, and then of things she wanted to do differently in her own family. She spoke of how her parents taught her the value of hard work at a young age; how she used to pull weeds in her grandparents watermelon gardens to earn a few rubles to be able to buy her own things. She also spoke of how she was always taught to respect her elders. She said when she would visit her grandparents house, or any elders home, she was taught that you always helped. If there were dishes in the sink, you washed them. If the floor needed mopping, you mopped it. I really liked this (kids: we're going to talk about this when mom comes home!:-) I have seen, being a teacher in public school, the mentality of so many children these days being so selfish! They are so focused on themselves and what they get out of life, instead of helping those around them. I think this is an important lesson to pass on to our children.

The other reason I really enjoyed watching this woman speak is because she is Armenian, and she has the same ethnic look as Gabe! We were told he almost certainly has some Armenian heritage, and after seeing this woman and other Armenian people, I would have to agree.

In Relief Society (this is the last hour of church, where the women meet separately from the men), the dear Filipino sister spoke about doing good in the world, and how we should pray each morning that we are able to help someone else that day. She was such a humble woman, and I could see that she had been deeply touched by the kindness of others.

What great messages to hear today! After church, we drove back to Sally's with a different and very friendly Filipino couple and another young woman from church. They joined us for a delicious dinner that Sally prepared (pot roast and carrots/potatoes! Just like home!) During dinner and after we had the best conversations about their country, living here in Russia, and many other things. It was so sad to hear of the prejudices they have experienced here. They are stopped nearly every day on the street by police officers asking to see their passports and visas to make sure they are here legally. Jeana and I have never once been asked for documentation. Every day they hear racial slurs and have been asked at times to pay bribes to be let go by the police! Once the police officer just helped himself to her wallet and took the money himself before letting her go. It is an outrage! They live here so that the wife can teach at an international school. She and her husband both have University degrees, but the salary in the Philippines is so low, they had to move elsewhere for work. They said this is very common-for highly educated Filipinos to leave their country for work, and most have to essentially start over with very low paying jobs in foreign countries. It is sad that they cannot stay in their own country and make a decent living wage. It is even more sad that they have to endure such prejudice.

All of our conversation made me reflect on my own ideas about groups of people. I have never been taught that one group of people are superior to another. In fact, the gospel I believe in teaches that we are all equal as children of God. I wish that every person had a chance to go live in a foreign country for at least a year, and experience what it is like to be the outsider, the foreigner, the minority. How different would our world be if we could all experience such humble circumstances? I think there is a place for national pride, and patriotism-I believe it is good to love and appreciate one's own roots and upbringing. But I believe it is wrong and becomes dangerous when that love and pride turns to hate for those not in the same circumstances.

Anyway, another soapbox of mine, I guess.

I am once again feeling very blessed to get to meet people from all over the world and hear their stories. I absolutely loved looking around the church congregation today and seeing Africans, Filipinos, Americans, Armenians, Russians, and on and on. What a beautiful world we live in, and each person and culture makes it that way.

Tomorrow we find out when we get to visit our kids this week! Hallelujah! And Thursday the panel of judges meet to decide when to set our (hopefully) last hearing. I just pray they will set it immediately, and not a week out. I may come home with no hair left on my head if they do; it will all have been pulled out due to frustration by then!

The photo below is of the Primary room at church here. Don't you love the little chairs?!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Day With Julia

Cathedral of Christ the Savior
Today we checked out of our hotel, put our bags in storage there and headed out with Julia for the afternoon.  She picked us up and took us to the amazingly beautiful Cathedral of Christ the Savior.  All I can say is wow.  The cathedral is huge outside, but once you enter you get the real sense of how big the place is.  Unfortunately I couldn't take any photos of the inside, as they are understandably not allowed, but it is like nothing I have ever seen.  I pulled these photos of it off the internet so you could see the inside:

 And here is an ariel photo so you can get an idea of how big it is:

This cathedral is the tallest in the world, at 344 feet tall!

Some more of my photos:

I love that these huge Christmas trees are still up all around the city.  Each one is decorated so uniquely. I loved the angels on this one outside the cathedral.

The cathedral was originally consecrated in 1883.  A year earlier Tchaikovsky's 1812 overture debuted there!  But in 1931, the cathedral was destroyed under the USSR's campaign of atheism.  

Can you imagine what it must have been like to watch the systematic destruction of all churches in Russia?  So sad.
After the death of Lenin, Stalin had plans to build a monument to himself and socialism there, but his plans were always thwarted. After perestroika, the Russian Orthodox church got permission the rebuild the cathedral, so in the 1990's they did just that, building it exactly as it was before.  Looking at it today, you would never know it was only built so recently.  What an amazing feat.  

After we visited the Cathedral, we headed across the street to the famous Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.  This is the most famous museum in Moscow, with hundreds of pieces of famous art, sculptures and artifacts from all over the world.  It was very interesting!

There were lots of school children visiting the Museum today.
Again, we weren't allowed to take photos, but I pulled these from the internet to give you an idea.  

Art aficionados will know this one better than I, but the placard said this was the God of the Rivers.  It's hard to see, but the children were playing with river otters and crocodiles!

In the Egyptian area, there were sarcophagus's and mummies and many artifacts.  Those tall human/horse statues by that doorway had five legs, to show that they were very powerful and could catch anyone quickly.  There are now two of them there, one on each side of the entrance, and it was thought that they could read your mind when you passed between them.  
There were many Greek artifacts as well.  This is a plaster cast of Michelangelo's David.
What a great day filled with culture!  

An art museum acros from Pushkin.  A famous artist who paints photos of political leaders and famous people in Russia has his own exhibit here.  
Julia invited us to her home to have dinner with her.  We were so grateful.  She made us a delicious soup, salad and chicken curry with rice and vegetables.  I loved that in her kitchen hung mugs from the many countries and cities she has visited so far.  Julia travels often because of her job, and has been fortunate to see much of the world.  
These are only some of the mugs!
We had great conversations over dinner, and I found out that Julia has been visiting and helping older orphans in many ways.  She gave credit to Olga for introducing her to these children.  She is such a generous person, with a giving and compassionate heart.  We felt so blessed to get to know her a little better and to be invited to her home.  The only thing that was missing was Olga herself, but she has been very sick and has had to stay home to get well.  

Soon it was time to head back to the hotel, where Sally was going to meet us to take us to her house (which she calls our "base of operations"!)  On the way we passed the last statue that was built as a monument to Lenin.  

I think I remember seeing photos of this very monument in my AP World History class in High School.  If I had only know that I would one day visit this city and see this for myself, I think I would have paid closer attention!  
 We also passed this statue of the first Russian to go to space:

Jake, doesn't this remind you of Ironman?!

Can you believe this is my life right now?  I feel like I am living a second life.  Suddenly I have no children with me, I am with a dear friend and we are laughing like we're college roommates.  We are exploring one of the most historical cities in Europe.  What is going on??!  This almost feels like an out-of-body experience.

On the adoption, we have no real new news since it's the weekend.  The next thing will be to go to court most likely on the 4th, to hear the panel of judges decide whether to overturn our judge's ruling from last week that didn't allow us to get our decrees.  We still don't understand why they even need to hold this hearing because the Supreme Court has already told them they must turn custody of our children over to us, their adoptive parents.  But we will play their game and do whatever it takes.  In the mean time, we will do some sight-seeing and laugh like college roommates because if we stop to think about this whole situation for too long we will just cry!  

Thank you to all those at home who are taking care of my babies there and my husband :-)  I know there are many helping that I'm not even aware of, so please know that I am so grateful to you for the ways you are being my hands and feet when I can't be there.  I always choke up just thinking about it.  Thank you.