"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

Monday, February 28, 2011

Finally, reunited with our girl!

Before I get to the good stuff...my email is down!  It's driving me crazy!  I'm guessing they are doing some sort of maintenance on the web connection.  If I was at school I'm sure I would be getting an email about that, but I'm not and I'm not getting or sending any emails!!!!  I hope it's fixed soon or I may lose my mind!  Now, we got to see S this morning!  We arrived at the baby home around 9:30 and there was all sorts of people coming and going.  There was a large group of students waiting to go in.  I'm sure they are some sort of medical students doing hands on practice at the baby home.  I wanted to yell out, "Do any of you speak English?  Do you know my baby?  Can you tell me about her?".  Don't worry, I didn't embarrass our culture by doing it, but I really wanted to!  It's hard not to stare here, it's fascinating to see another culture in their day to day activities.  I was struck by the fact that after having the experience of working in these baby homes, these young girls will probably grow up to birth their own babies.  This baby home has 80 children, from ages 0-4 yrs, all fairly healthy.  They would be snatched up in a heartbeat at home!  We went up to the little waiting area and sat on the couch.  The head doctor brought her to us and I couldn't believe how tiny she is!  I know her measurements, and I traced her foot when we were here last, but when I went to buy clothes and shoes I would look at the 12-18 mos. clothes and size 5 shoes, and I would think she's not that tiny!  I have bought quite a few 18-24 mos. and size 6 shoes:)  She really is that small though!  It was like deja vu when we went into the room.  She cried, clung to me, threw every toy we gave her, and wouldn't get off my lap.  Eventually she got interested in a "My First Purse" we brought.  I knew she would love this!  She likes to put things in and take things out.  Then she played with a puzzle(which she was quite good at!) for awhile and we saw some smiles.  I brought a couple pairs of shoes to try on her, some 5's and some 6's, so I took those out.  Oh yes, this is where the planets aligned, I looked in her eyes, and knew SHE IS MY CHILD.  Her eyes lit up at the sight of those shoes(first the pink flower ones with the squeaky heels) and she immediately started taking her shoes off and putting on her new ones(by herself:).  She LOVED those shoes!  Mark looked at me and said, "You're going to let her keep those shoes right?".  I hesitated, of course silly man I'm going to let her keep those adorable, semi-expensive, pink and flowery, go with a couple outfits at home shoes...unless I can con her into putting on the target clearance shoes that I also brought.  Don't think I'm awful, I know this child will appreciate them more when she's wearing them with the matching outfit!  So, I pulled out the Target shoes and walla, same reaction!  I have to admit, there's a devious side of me that wants to have a whole truckload of squeaky shoes delivered to the baby home-how funny for all 80 of them to be squeaking around?  Anyway, the 5's fit with some room!
I also tried on some jeans from Gymboree size 12-18 mos. fit perfectly!  I brought an 18-24mos. shirt to try, but she got so busy playing I let it go!  I also brought some yogurt melts for her to try.  I got them out and she was real interested in the bag, then I gave her one and she played with it, and I put it up to her mouth(which she resisted at first) and she finally ate it.  She loved those!  It was great bribe to get her close to Mark!  He took the bag and made her go to him to get one, then he made her sit on the chair next to him to get one, and finally on his lap!  I know this sounds like dog training but the man's been patient!  I was really pleased to see her enjoy that food, and take the texture so well.  She would have eaten the whole bag, and it's tempting to let her when she's getting so much pleasure, but we cut her off after about half the bag!  She went on playing then and picked up a ball out of the toybox.  Mark showed her how to roll it, but she picked it up and gave it an amazing overhand throw!  I explained to her that she was going to be dancer or a gymnast, not an athlete, but I think it was lost in translation because she kept throwing the ball.  We'll have to work that out later:)  She was very happy and ran around and played with all different toys.  It was a really great visit.  Of course it had to end at some point:(  The head doctor came in to get her and she was really happy to see her.  S ran right to her and the doctor told her to wave to Mommy and Poppy!  I blew her a kiss and that was that.  I wasn't really sweating the good bye this time because I thought we were going back after nap time.  Turns out we probably won't get to though.  With the one translator ill, it's making the other staff juggle around.  We were told we would get a call if it's possible, so we're sticking around the hotel until about 3:30 which is the latest we could go.  Then we'll head out and do some shopping.  Court at 1:00 tomorrow, and then a visit with S.  Can't wait!                        

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Good News!

We got a call late last night that we will be going to see S this morning and this afternoon.  That's the great news!  The bad news is our translator is hospitalized with pnemonia, so it will be just a driver picking us up.  She called us from the hospital to fill us in, and said not to worry about court.  She said we have a woman judge and it it should be short and sweet.  She said we may not even have to read our speech, we just submit it to the court with our pictures.  Hope that's all true!  Anyway, so excited to see S this morning and will have updates later! 

A Day of Sightseeing

Today was a free day and we took advantage of it.  Last trip we were so busy we felt like we never saw anything!  It was nice to walk around today and get our bearings.  We took a city tour that was a bus with english audio.  This city has unbelievable history.  Every building has a story to it.  That was very interesting, but I have to admit I couldn't keep up with most of it!  So many Czar's, Emperor's, and Emperess's!  On our own we walked to the Church of our Savior on Spilled Blood.  It was very beautiful, all mosaic tiles.  The pictures do not do it justice.  We went to a bookstore and I bought a funny little book that is about 3rd grade level.  It's about 6 little children named Clever, Fat, Noisy, Naughty, Slow, and Funny.  Definitly something you wouldn't find at home!  The kids will get a kick out of it!  We also shopped around an outdoor flea market for souveniers.  Didn't buy anything, but will definitly go back!  I was just happy to figure out where all of it was.  We had dinner at a little bar with good food, live entertainment, and an english speaking waitress:)  The band did a rendition of "My Way" which immediately made us think of Sal and Don!  We're back at the hotel and there is no message from our agency to tell us the itinerary for tomorrow.  That is dissappointing because it most likely means we won't have a morning visit with S.  So frustrating!  We're going to get up and be ready by 9, which is when we were picked up last trip for our morning visit.  That way if they call in the morning we can say COME GET US!  WE WANT TO SEE OUR CHILD!!!!!  At this point I'm not hopeful though:( 

That is completely made of mosaic tiles!

We were the only ones on the bus.  Can you say "tourist"?!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

You know you're in Russia when...

the receptionist at the hotel says, "You're lucky to be here this week, only -10 today, last week was very cold!".  I admit I've been watching the weather and this week is definitely warmer than last week, but there's just something wrong with "lucky", "only",  and "-10" in the same sentence!  We are here though and happy to be back.  I should apologize to any poor soul that ever has to be on a flight with Mark and/or I.  The Culley's and flying just don't mix.  Now I will say I'm thankful we always get there eventually and most the time get our bags.  This trip started with a four hour delay due to electrical problems.  That was okay with us though because we had a 6 hour layover so we were still able to make our connecting flight.  We just did the layover first!  Then we got to Amsterdam, boarded our flight, and the captain comes on to make an announcement.  The announcement is that one of the passengers has been arrested due to a security breech, and they will have to find the passengers luggage and remove it from the plane.  Seriously?  I hope they made sure this person was traveling alone and didn't have a partner still on the flight!  All said and done we arrived in St. Pete pretty close to on time.  We got our bags, found our driver, checked into the hotel, skyped with the kids, and went to a little restaraunt we had been to last time.  They serve pizza among other things and Mark was liking the security of that.  I decided to try something more Russian and it was really good!  Pork, mushrooms, cheese, sour cream...what's not to like?  We will not be able to visit the orphanage tomorrow because it's Sunday:(  We expected that though and planned on having the day for sight seeing.  So tomorrow we will soak in this country that our youngest child is from, and Monday we will be reunited with her.  Good stuff:)               

Thursday, February 24, 2011

We're leaving, on a jet plane...

I believe I'm in a bit of denial.  I've been off of work all week, so no shortage of time to prepare to leave(tomorrow).  In true Jen fashion though, I got out the suitcase around 3:00 today.  One of my favorite quotes...
"If it weren't for the last minute I'd never get anything done!"
I've been buying things and packing in my head all week, so it's not like I'm completely unprepared!  It's wonderful to think that in a couple days we'll be holding S again, and 3 days she will officially be ours.  One more leg of the journey down, and one more to go!  Next post should be from Russia:)    

Thursday, February 17, 2011


This week I have been preparing to leave, and trying to remember that (thankfully) we will only be home a short time in between our 2nd and 3rd trip.  We booked flights and a hotel, bought new toys to bring, wrote our court speech, and ordered pictures to complete the album required for court.  I am amazingly relaxed and just feel a new joy in each day.  I know the transition will be hard, Lexi is sad we'll miss her birthday, but I am so so ready for it.  I've assured Lexi that her birthday will be well celebrated regardless of the day!  Today I wrapped up a lot of things at work.  My partner will take over the class while I'm gone so it's an easy transition.  Some of my friends at work have put together a shower for when I get back.  It feels a little uncomfortable for me, but they were relentless about it!  As happy as I am to have S so close to home, I have to say I've enjoyed the process.  It brings people together, it's something joyous that everyone can rally around, and so many people love this little girl already.  I am continually amazed at the outpouring of love and support for S and our whole family.  We are truly blessed by the people in our lives. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!  So much has been going on, and I just haven't had time to update.  Last week I spent a day helping Grandma look at an assisted living facility.  I think we have it figured out, and now just need to do the legal stuff.  It's so complicated!  Unless you ask the questions over and over until they answer you, they just try to get you to sign on the line and take all your money.  I like to see things in black and white, no surprises for this girl!  These facilities like to talk in kinda's and maybe's.  So, I'll keep working at it until I feel comfortable!  Good news is Grandma likes the facility and that's what's important.  After a long day of Senior home shopping I received the email for our court date.  I've been waiting and waiting for that email, but it still took me by surprise.  I just can't wait to get back there and hold my baby girl again!  Alexa and Mark went to the Daddy Daughter dance last week also.  Alexa looked so old!  She's grown up right before my eyes this winter!
On Saturday we went to a couple's house who adopted last June from the same baby home as S.  Oh my gosh she's so cute!  It was just amazing to see this little girl, same age as S, who came from the same place as S, and now is just like any other toddler running around the house.  It made my heart ache for S.  I want her home soooo bad!  It was great to connect with people who have been through the journey also.  We got some great advice and really enjoyed our evening.  That brings us up to Valentine's Day!  My sister and I have had a Valentine's Day Dinner celebration for many years now.  I don't know why, but I really love this holiday!  I think because there's not too much else going on this time of year so it's fun to celebrate!  I also love the sweets!  Anyway, Em did it at her house this year and we had a really nice time.

Next year there will be 6 girls!

  Olivia (6yrs) made this picture of our family.  It couldn't be any cuter!  She has every one's hair and eye color right, and even included S!  It's a keeper:)

Yes, we do gifts.  Just little ones for the fun of it! 

Everyone had to write Valentine's and each kid has a mailbox.  The kids wrote to the grown ups and each other, and the grown ups wrote to the kids.  Very fun...Mark gets the prize for his Valentine's.  He really got fancy!  He wrote two for Adrienne...
*Roses are red, Violets are blue, If you don't clean your room you will be blue too.
*Roses are red, Uncle Stevie likes Penn State, I hope you never go on a date.
For Alexa...
*Roses are red, pickles are green, I am glad that you're not mean.
For Olivia and Kaitlyn...
*Roses are red, violets are blue, I'm glad I have a niece as special as you.

Who knew he had these skills?  He does love his girls!  Now we're just looking forward to our trip and being one step closer to having our family together!   

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

We Got A Court Date!

Yay!!!  We got a court date...March 1:)  We leave February 25 to go back to St. Pete.  Can't wait!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Snow Surprise!

We had a busy weekend planned!  Adrienne had her annual Ballet Tea Party on Saturday.  This is an interactive show with dancing, singing, and food!  The guests are all seated and served lunch, while the kids perform all around the room.  After their performance they are assigned a table to sit at and eat.  Did I mention they do NOT sit with their family??  They have to practice using their manners(which I've never seen at home!), and making small talk with people they don't know.  How tough is that at 12 years old?  Adrienne of course did wonderful and we thoroughly enjoyed the food, company, and performance! 

Which brings me to the the surprise part...my Mom and Grandma joined me at the show and my Dad went with Mark to airport to pick up my sister.  My parents had driven 2 hours to be there and planned on going home in the early evening after dinner.  As we were driving to the Tea Party we noticed it was snowing quite hard...when we were eating we noticed it didn't stop...when we left we noticed the roads were not good!  An hour and a half airport pick up turned into 3 hours, and with that my parents said, "forget it, we're staying"!  So, we enjoyed a fun evening of food, friends, and family.  Anne and Rick joined us, and my Aunt Sally and Uncle Erik stopped by on their way through town. 

Aunt Sally, Mom, Anne
We ended up watching home videos, which seems to be our favorite pastime lately!  Anne and Rick are a special part of our lives now, but we've only known them for about 7 years.  It's weird to think of the special events(weddings, babies, etc.) that they didn't experience with us.  Home videos are a way for them to feel like they were there!  They are so invested in the adoption and Emily's pregnancy!  On that note, we are just waiting for a court date.  I'm still hoping for the end of February, but I know in my heart that it's unlikely.  So, beginning of March would be acceptable too!  For now I just busy myself buying ridiculously cute clothing for S.  At some point I'm going to have to break down and get the less fun items like diapers, bibs, car seats, stroller......Ugh.     

Friday, February 4, 2011

Another week gone by...

I don't know where the days go!  So, random update here...my last post I mentioned my Grandma and her love for her "stuff" and the memories each thing holds.  That was Sunday, and on Monday I drove past a church in my area that always has cute sayings on their sign.  Wouldn't you know this is what it said...
Crazy huh???
I had to stop and take a picture of it!  It really made me remember to be ever so patient with Grandma through this process.  All of her things tell the story of her, and getting rid of them must feeling like losing who she is.  Getting old sucks, but not living to be old would suck worse...wow, profound huh?
Tuesday everyone was a buzz about the big storm coming.  I actually wrote snow day in my lesson plans for Wednesday because I was so sure!  It started getting nasty Tuesday night, but Adrienne still had dance.  We were invited to come the last half hour of her acting class for a little viewing(she takes all kinds of performing arts classes at her studio).  So glad I braved the weather to be there!  The kids did a few scenes they had been working on, and then they did an improv game for us.  It was so funny!  I mean the kind of laughing that makes you cry kinda funny!  I always marvel at my 12 year old middle schooler(isn't that like the worse, most awkward time of life?) with all her confidence.  Yes, she's beautiful, talented, and smart, but that's still not enough for some 12 year olds to feel secure.  Not Adrienne, she walks with confidence, but not competitiveness.  You go girl!  
Sure enough we had a snow day Wednesday.  Kids had sleepovers with the neighbors and spent a lot of the day playing outside.  I couldn't resist taking a picture at the dinner table when I realized Alexa still had her pajamas on AND she hadn't taken off her hat!      

Back to school Thursday and Friday...I was happy:)  We've had so many days off it's throwing my class for a loop.  They're rockin' in Math and I hate all the disruptions!  I like my routine:)  TGIF!