"Being a family means you are part of something wonderful. It means you will love and be loved for the rest of your life. No matter what." ~Author Unknown

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snowman and a Show

Remember the perfect snowy day, with the cutest snowman ever?  Well, that snowman stayed amazingly long and has been slowly doing the limbo in our front yard!  I finally had to take a picture of it because it was so amazing!  JUST the bottom snowball is touching the ground!!
Maybe this isn't blog worthy, but you have to admit it's pretty cool!

On another note, Emily and I took the girls to see Mary Poppins yesterday.  So cute!  My girls had seen it in Chicago a couple years ago, but Lexi had slept through most of it.  She was excited to see what she had missed!  It is a great show for kids because of the special effects.  Mary Poppins flying is worth it all!  I highly recommend it!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!  We made it home from St. Petersburg without any trouble.  Smooth flights that left on time...okay, thanks Delta.  It was bittersweet leaving, but it just means we're one step closer to bringing S home for good.  I was SO happy to see the girls!  They were SO excited to see video of sweet S.  I could watch it over and over and each time I see something different!  Mark and I both slept good that night and were ready for Christmas Eve.  We had our usual routine, open house style from 3-6, then gifts and dinner with CF, Sal and Don.  Had a great time, girls looked cute in their dresses.  Can't believe another year has come and gone.
Don, Sal, CF, Lexi, Me, Mark, and Adrienne(by the way...I'm wearing heels and Adrienne is wearing flats, my 12 year old has already surpassed me!  So happy for her, she won't be vertically challenged!)

Anne, Rick, and Joni Denyes

Steve, Em, Olivia and Kaitlyn
(Baby Freitag in belly!)
Christmas Day was a treat, Emily hosted!  I'm totally into Emily hosting.  If I knew I'd like it this much I would have bought them a house much sooner!  JK-I actually love hosting, but it was nice to keep the mess at their house this year!  We had a great dinner and the kids got everything on their lists.  It was a very relaxing day!  Can't believe it's over...Christmas 2010. 

Who's due first? 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Two visits today!

We were so happy when we found out this morning we would have two visits!  We got to the orphanage around 10:00 and were able to spend over an hour with her.  She was the same as last night!  She came in and was apprehensive.  She cried a bit at first, but I just hold her and she settles down.  After awhile she will let me sit down and we get some activity out.  Today she liked the photo album of our family that I brought to leave at the orphanage.  We flipped through that a few times, and Mark just slowly starts to inch closer.  She is fine with him an arms length away as long as she is securely on my lap!  Eventually he got some mega blocks out and she showed an interest in those.  He gives her one, she gives it back, on and on.  Then I slowly have her stand in between my legs while still holding her around the waist.  Finally she can't stand it anymore and she starts freely playing with the blocks!  She's very funny...particular I guess.  She will only put the single blocks with the single blocks, and the double with the double and so on.  If she is building a tower and you give her the wrong block she gives it back and says NEYT!  Then she seperated all the blocks on different chairs according to their size.  There was one that was different, kinda like a roof piece of sorts, it was making her so mad!  She kept putting it on the different chairs and she just couldn't decide where she wanted it!  She was so full of it and really enjoying herself.  Then all the sudden she decides she needs a cuddle and she will come running to me to hold her.  She LOVES me to hold her and sit with her.  It's hard because we so enjoy watching her play, and want to see her interact with things and hear her laugh, but she would really be happy just getting loved up for the hour.  That doesn't promote a relationship with Mark though!  So we try to encourage her to play, but when she's done and comes back to me we give her the cuddle time she so desperately wants and needs.  Mark has been very patient!  I know he would love to get his hands on her, but he's letting it happen on her terms.  It was a really great visit and not hard to say good bye because we knew we'd be back in a few hours.  While she was eating and napping we went to the notary to fill out paperwork.  After that we stayed in the area of the orphanage for lunch because if we went back by the hotel the traffic would have caused us to miss our last visit.  I didn't want that visit to come, because then it would be gone!  We got back to the orphanage and they brought her to us and same drill!  She was not as playful tonight, wanted me to hold her more.  I said, "Maybe she knows this is it and she's sad too".  Mark said, "No, she's just pissed we took her away from TV time".  I think my version is sweeter.  Typical...She was fussy, and wanted me to stand and  hold her.  She did play for a little while, and let Mark feed her some applesauce off a spoon.  That was interesting to see.  She ate it but showed little feeling about it.  Eating isn't an option there.  It's put in front of them and they eat.  That's it.  It's not good nor bad.  I don't think she even knows that it's an option to like it and want more, or to not like it and not eat it.  I was also more aware tonight of the fact that she does not know that if she puts her arms up that means she wants to be held.  It's like the universal baby language, but it means nothing when you live with 80 other babies.  It was sad to see these behaviors in her.  She lives at a very priviliged orphanage, but there are just some things they cannot provide those kids.  Anyway, we were so happy to have the extra time with her tonight.  I have no words for the good bye.  You can imagine.  We know she is being well taken care of and we will return quickly.  Tomorrow we will leave for the airport at 5:45, fly 3 hours to Amsterdam and 8 hours back to Detroit.  With the time change it gets us home in the afternoon which is great.  Can't wait to see our other girls and enjoy the holidays!          

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 2

This morning started very early with our medical.  You have to have a complete medical done here that takes about 3 hours and consists of 8 different doctors.  It's an experience to say the least, but then again so is birthing a child.  No need to expand on that anymore...
The traffic is horrific here.  It's takes about an hour to get to the orphanage(it's 5 miles away).  I was seriously thinking it would be easier to walk today!  St. Pete is very busy right now because everyone is doing their holiday shopping.  With traffic, the medical was 5 hour round trip journey.  It was lunch and nap time for S by then so we had to wait to see her.  We ventured out and had some yummy ham and cheese on a "pancake" for lunch and did a tiny bit of shopping.  I'm having a hard time buying souveniers because everything is so American!  There are all the same things here as at home!  


It was nice to do a little exploring though.  We have been busy every minute!  Finally it was time to go the orphanage.  We were so excited!  We got more time today, a little bit over an hour.  When they brought her in she was apprehensive again.  I went to her, talked to her, kissed her, and picked her up.  She was fine as long as she was on my hip or lap!  If Mark got close or if I put her down she started to cry.  As much as I love that I know it's just because I look like a safer option than Mark!  I really wanted to see her get down and play tonight.  So, Mark stayed away for a little while and I got her interested in crayons and paper.  She's definitly Mark's kid, the OCD came out!  She kept taking the crayons and lining them up.  If you move them she puts them right back!  Maybe she can teach Adrienne a thing or two:)  After awhile Mark started to inch closer and she would give him a crayon and he would give it back.  We played this for a long time and then I put the crayons on the chair next to me and had her stand between my legs.  She was good with this so Mark inched back little by little so she would have to walk toward him to play the crayon game!  She totally got into it and started going to him and giving him the crayon, and then she would run back to me for some lovin' and reassurance!  So cute.  We did this for quite awhile and finally got some pictures of her smiling.  She talked so much tonight!  Sounded like baby babble to us, but Anya said she thought she was trying to say a sentence, and she could hear some dominant sounds.  I was just happy she was so vocal!  We got giggles and then big belly laughs from her.  If you want a happy ending log out now...then they came to get her:(  She looked unsure, like she was thinking, "Hey, I'm having fun here. I'm not ready to go!".  We of course were not ready to have it end either.  We said good bye and then she was gone.  It's such a weird feeling.  One minute you're completely engrossed in her world, and the next you're standing in an empty room.  We both teared up walking out.  I can't imagine how we will say good bye tomorrow.  For now I don't want to think about it, I'm just happy to have at least one more visit before it's over.  We were really hoping for 2 visits tomorrow, but they were not sure tonight if that would happen.  We will go to bed hoping for that. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Day To Remember

We've waited so long for this day I can't believe it's over.  I'm going to try to get all the details in, but I was so concentrated on our girl I don't know if I'll remember everything!  She is everything I imagined and expected!  We got to her orphanage(Sally and Amber-#16!) just after lunch and before nap time so our time was oh so short.  We first met with the doctor and social worker to go over all of her information.  In the middle of the meeting a caretaker opened the door and had S with her!  We were so unprepared for that!  I think we both gasped at the sight of her, and we tried not to start bawling and scare her even more!  Imagine being thrown into the arms of two complete strangers who talk weird!  She cried and I held her, but she was very scared.  The doctor took her and she sat happily on her lap.  She played with things on the desk and responded to what the doctor was saying to her.  She obviously felt loved and comforted by her.  From there we were supposed to finish our meeting which I totally couldn't concentrate on because there was my child just 5 feet away!  I'll have to ask some questions tomorrow to clarify some things!  Then we went into a room and they left the 3 of us there.  We got out the toys we brought and started engaging her in those.  She had NO interest in the baby doll!  She took right away to a book with flaps and sound buttons.  She sat on my lap and turned the pages for awhile.  After a bit another couple joined us with their daughter.  They are here for their second trip.  Their daughter is a firecracker!  She was dancing and smiling and very social.  S kept watching and taking it all in.  She's very observant and contemplative.  I think even when she warms up that is her personality.  She was terrified of Mark.  We got a family picture but only if I held her on the opposite side of him!  The children don't see men often so it is common.  We'll work on that tomorrow!  I got a puzzle out and she seemed to know what it was right away.  She took the pieces out and tried to put them back in.  She got a couple pieces right by herself, and if you show her the spot she'll move the piece around to try to make it fit(Barb Winters I know you'll love that!).  We're pretty certain she's a genius.  Finally she started taking a piece and showing it to me, then I would say yay, and she would put it in.  We got a faint smile while she was doing this!  Then all of the sudden they came in and whisked her away for her nap.  We weren't prepared or ready to say good bye!  She happily went to the caregiver, which was great to see.  The orphanage is very clean, lots of toys, great outside play area, and the staff were wonderful.  They obviously have bonded with the kids which is what you want to see.  She should be afraid of us and she should be happy to see familiar faces. Tomorrow we will see her again and I will be counting the hours!  I can't wait to have her in my arms again:)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

We made it!

We got into St. Petersburg tonight around 8:30(their time, 12:30 home time).  We were literally the last flight leaving Frankfort, and now they are closed.  I'm not even thinking about the return flight, 3 days has to be enough time to clear some snow??!!  Yes, you read that right, we only have 3 days here.  It already doesn't seem like enough time with S.  We enjoyed the drive from the airport to the hotel.  Such amazing architecture here, and we only got to see it in the dark!  Our driver was very nice but spoke little english.  We got along alright with hand motions!  The strip we are on is like Magnificant Mile in Chicago.  Tons of shopping and restaurants.  Once we checked in, we got a bite to eat in the hotel bar which was very good(and expensive!).  It was great to sit and eat and take in the last 36 hrs. and the coming 72!  Now we are back in our room and trying to get our stuff ready for the morning.  I have packed my bag with the toys I bought for S, and I can't believe we will get to use them tomorrow!  So much anticipation!  We get picked up at 9:15 tomorrow morning(just 9 hours away!) and we will go first to our MOE appt. and then to the orphanage.  While you all are sleeping we will be meeting S!  Hopefully when you wake up I will have updates on our visit!  That's all for now, going to try to convince our bodies it's bedtime! 
St. Petersburg Airport
A balmy -11 when we landed!

Everything is decorated for Christmas


We're in Frankfurt...

Typical Culley travels.  Culley's + airplanes = hassel.  Dana and Jeff remember...we drove to Florida last year from the airport(Thanks Delta).  We got to the airport yesterday and found out that all connecting flights out of Amsterdam (Mark calls it Amsterdam-it) were grounded.  Thanks again Delta for letting us know before we came to the airport.  In true Delta style they did absolutely nothing to help us.  I hope the president/CEO is reading this...shove your airline up your bleep.  Did I mention I begged the "customer service representitive" to get me to St. Pete because I have a baby there waiting for me?  Could you have a better sob story?  Guess what she did for me?  She said, "We got you booked on a flight, go check in!".  Elation and tears.  We go to check in, she did not book us on the flight, she put us on a stand by list on a flight already overbooked.  What???  I understand weather, I understand cancellations, but lying to get me off the phone???  Just to clarify for those who know me real well, I totally kept my calm, and was very nice.  Thanks to a combined effort of Continental, United, and Lufthansa, we ended up getting a flight to Frankfurt(at seriously the last minute) and now we are sitting in Starbucks waiting for our flight to St. Pete.  At the end of the day we are going to make it to see our sweet S.  This trip falls under "what you would do for your kid".  Anything.  I'll walk, just get me there.  We're almost there and all is well.  A side note to Adrienne and Alexa (and any of my Kindergartners whose parents will cliff note this for them!)...Daddy and I always say no matter what job you are doing, do it right and to the very best of your ability.  There was ONE woman who cared enough to do her job and get us a flight.  Thanks Dawn from Continental, we owe you!      

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tomorrow's the day...

This last two weeks has been kind of a blurr, and I can't believe we're leaving tomorrow(really, I can't believe it!).  It's been so smooth because all our great friends and family totally stepped up to the plate!  There has been a whirlwind of information the past several days.  L is a Russian woman who works at our agency.  It was so great to talk to her.  She prepares you for the cultural differences, what to expect in each phase of the trip, and a little reality break mixed in.  When I got off the phone with her I was excited not only about meeting S, but also about seeing the country.  The other great news is that there will be another woman there at the same time as us, in our same hotel, from our agency.  It will be great to have someone else there to talk to about the experience.  We spoke on the phone, and she seems like a lovely person and already has two adopted daughters from China.  She is very knowledgeable about foreign adoption and I think will be a great resource!  I did all my packing yesterday and tonight need to do some household chores.  The kids will be in good hands with my mom and sister.  No school, dance or gymnastics schedules to keep up with.  Adrienne will barely notice we are gone(only if it inconveniences her-typical 12 year old), and Lexi of course can't stop thinking about orphans.  This morning she asked if we could all go to Russia someday to see where S was born, and later she reminded me that I will be her mommy forever!  I teased her that forever was along time and what if I wanted to quit?  She said I can't quit my mommy job but if I want to quit my wife job I just break up with daddy!  LOL, where does she get that stuff???  She also said, "Some child went to the orphanage today".  She totally gets it, so Lexi, she's going to be a missionary!  That's all for now, off to eat dinner with my girls and at least vacuum!  Next post should be from Russia!  Hugs!   

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snow Day

As a teacher usually I relish snow days.  In fact, if we go a winter without at least 2, I feel cheated!  Today, however, I had plans that did not involve my children being home!  I wanted to get all the Christmas gifts out, take inventory, and wrap.  You can't do that with the kids home.  So, I had to write down what I've bought(impulsively and randomly over the last few days) from memory and then I went to the mall to fill in the holes.  I'm quite certain I did not remember all I've bought and now will have to return or repurchase something.  Oh well, the best laid plans.  I want to have Christmas all set by tomorrow so the end of the week can be focused on packing, laundry, and other household duties.  Fun.  This is the kind of invigorating post that makes people want to come back to this blog...  I did get one of those super cute Sassy brand photo books for babies.  I put family pictures in there and plan on leaving it at the orphanage.  Any adoption buddies out there that did this?  Did the caregivers let the children keep it? 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Today was the perfect day!  After church Anne, Rick, Emily, and the girls came over for lunch and gingerbread house decorating.  Adrienne and her friend put all the houses together and then each kid had their own to decorate.  After they were done they wanted to play outside in the snow.  It was really coming down!  They lasted a long time sledding!  Finally the little ones came in for hot chocolate and Adrienne and Madi stayed out to make a snowman.  It is the cutest snowman that has ever been outside our house!  Dorky I know, but it was a Hallmark kind of day!  I was thinking we would have to do the gingerbread houses after we get back from Russia, but I'm so glad we didn't wait.  Yesterday Mark worked on many of the things I consider "his department"!  Cell phones, power converters, hotel reservations, etc.  So much to do!  In just a week we will be meeting our sweet girl!  Last night was all about Adrienne and her play though, and today was all about the kids.  Priorities...the rest will come together!    

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Adrienne's Musical

Opening night of Adrienne's Middle School Musical("Thoroughly Modern Millie") was tonight.  So good!  The kids did an amazing job!  The talent there is really unbelievable.  I was also so impressed with the costumes, hair and make-up, and props.  It was so professional looking!  I regret only watching it once now.  She doesn't mind though, so many people came to see her!  It was a great experience:)


Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I've never completed so much paperwork in my life!  Of course, I've never applied to parent a child.  Patience is short at the Culley house!!!  On the upside, between Amazon.com and a trip to the mall, I got most my Christmas shopping done for the kids.  Between the airline tickets and Christmas shopping I spent so much money they flagged my credit card for fraud.  I had to call and have it reactivated!  This trip to the orphanage they ask you to bring 5 snowsuits and 5 pairs of boots.  That will be tomorrow's project I think...way more fun then filling out Visa applications!  

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


We got "the call" last night...they invited us to travel on December 22.  I immediately panicked and explained I have two children here that I cannot leave for Christmas.  God bless Marina in Moscow who called St. Petersburg and got our trip moved up a few days.  So now we are traveling Dec. 18-23.  Pray there are no snowstorms, volcanoes, stupid people, etc. that could delay our flight!  We are excited now that the shock has worn off:)  On December 20th we will meet our daughter for the first time.  I look pretty good for being that pregnant...
By the way, the family picture above was taken for our Christmas cards.  Enjoy it here, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Maybe next year I'll get around to cards:)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Dresses

Yesterday we went to Sal and Don's house for our annual Christmas get together.  Background for those of you that don't know us...Sal and Don are family friends that spend Christmas Eve with us.  They love us and our girls.  Sal is committed to helping our kids remember Mark's mother, and they are both master's at creating traditions!  Every year we get together around this time at their house, and they present the girls with dresses for them to wear on Christmas Eve.  Both of the girls look so forward to it.  Gotta give Sal some serious credit for being able to pick out a dress for a 12 year old girl that she absolutely loves!  Not an easy task!  This year was no exception, the dresses are perfect and can't wait to see them all done up on Christmas.  The dresses are big deal for the girls, but so is just visiting with Aunt Sal and Uncle Don!  Sal always has a project or two to keep the girls interested and involved.  Every year she leaves one part of the meal for the kids to make.  This year they made Red velvet cupcakes with frosting and decorations!  Good thing Adrienne is a pretty good cook...we had to send Sal in the basement to find the hand mixer.  After dusting it off and finding the beaters the cupcakes turned out great!  Needless to say....Sal doesn't bake!  She had gel clings for Lexi to decorate the windows with, and they both helped set the table.  All of those things make the afternoon special and make the girls feel special.  Don has an equally important role, he always has a drink of the day!  This year was "Midnight Manhattans".  Don's bar tending can't be beat!  We had a wonderful meal, and didn't get home until 1:00am!  Thanks for such a beautiful day and creating lasting memories Sal and Don!  We love you!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Night Fun

We had a great weekend!  Typical Friday night...Em, Steve and the girls came over, we ordered out, and hung out at home.  In the end the boys went downstairs to play Wii with the kids...not!  Adrienne was at a sleepover so the little ones were on their own.  They love to play dress up and do crafts!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Decorating for Christmas

The house is finally decorated for Christmas!  The kids had a great time doing the tree.  They love unwrapping the ornaments and rediscovering them each year.  They remember each one, and love retelling the stories.  I enjoyed watching them this year...they're finally old enough to not put EVERY ornament on the bottom branch!  I admit I did a little rearranging after they went to bed!  It was hard to not to think of our sweet Russian, and how she won't be with us this year.  There should be 5 stockings hung.  But on the positive side...for one more year my fireplace is symmetrical.  Which side do you hang an extra stocking on???  On a totally different note, I've tried everything and I can't rotate pictures on this blog.  So annoying!!!!

Can't wait to see 5 stockings next year!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

We had a great Thanksgiving filled with friends and family!  We had the usual turkey dinner, cooked by your's truly, and I must say it was really good:)  We celebrated 4 birthdays(Emily 32, Adrienne 12, Grandma Jackie 87, and Steve 36) with an array of desserts thanks to Mom and Emily!  After all that we went over to Anne and Rick's house to mingle with their crowd.  LOVE seeing Anne with all that family!  Friday consisted of shopping, a movie, and MEGA 80's!!!  So much fun!  Huge thanks to Emily for being such a good sport!  Pregnant, sober and driving a full sixteen passenger van at 2:30am...can't say I would have been as accommodating!  Before the family left on Saturday we went to Hallmark for our annual Christmas ornament shopping.  Grandma buys each Great Grandkid an ornament every Christmas.  That way when they are grown and leave the house some day(God willing) they will have enough ormaments to start their own tree.  This year Adrienne picked a cell phone(fitting!), Alexa and Olivia picked the same Nutcracker ornament(because it plays music and dances), and Kaitlyn picked Ironman!  So funny!  Now it's time to get the Christmas decorations out.  So happy there's no school Monday!
Adrienne, Olivia, Alexa, and Kaitlyn
Mark and I
Steve and Emily
Mom and Dad
Grandma Jackie
Covert-Mark's Dad
The Birthday Crowd

Here's the ornaments!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Santa Already???

Lexi had a Brownie Field trip to Aunt Annie's pretzels in the mall, so while we were there she wanted to see Santa.  My first instinct was you're not wearing the right clothes, and it's too early anyway!  Then I saw that the line consisted of 2 people and reconsidered.  Check that off the "To Do" list:)
                                 Lexi and her friend Bree in their Aunt Annie's Chef's hats!

                        We got lots of time with Santa because there was no one behind us!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I'm giving in and doing a blog...

I have resisted for a long time because I just can't imagine who would be interested in following our life...then again there is always something happening!  We so enjoyed following Steph and Brian's journey in China though, and I can see we can't update everyone separately.  So, here we are!  A family of four, waiting for a travel date to Russia to become a family of five.