Sunday, February 27, 2011

Going to Get Cohen (Part 15)

New Orleans 2/27/2010 6:35 PM
Vladivostok 2/28/2010 10:35 AM

We had such a wonderful evening last night. We went to one of the other American families hotel room and sat and watched our kids play. There are three families here now with our agency, EAC: the couple from Wisconsin who adopted a 15 month old girl (they arrived the same day as us) and a couple from Chicago who adopted a 10 month old baby girl. The couple from Chicago has four other children at home, three of those were adopted from Russia, and one is biological, ranging in ages from 7 years old to 18 months. They are basically experts now. It was so nice sitting and talking to them about their different experiences and how things have changed for the better for the kids in Russia since they adopted their first child almost 7 years ago.

There was one other couple there, from a different agency. They had just been granted custody of their three year old little boy. He had not warmed up to our English language, so he was very shy. The other kids played really well together.

This morning when I woke up, I noticed it was snowing outside. It has snowed here before, but never with snowflakes quite this big. They are so fluffy and it is sticking to everything. So beautiful!

Only 3 more days to go!! Yay!!

We played around in our hotel room here are a few of the picture I took from today.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Going to Get Cohen (Part 14)

New Orleans 2/25/2010 10:35 PM
Vladivostok 2/26/2010 2:35 PM

As of yesterday, we are done with all the Russian authorities until we get to the airport next week. We picked up Cohen’s passport yesterday and his photo is hysterical! Looks just like a mug shot.

It is sort of setting in that he is really ours. His passport had his new name on it, although it is spelled out the way it sounds in Russian…Raney is Reyni and Cohen is Koen.

We met with the American Consulate yesterday. It was really neat to be at the American Consulate building with Cohen. I showed him the American flag and a picture of our President. The Consulate was really nice. He asked us a bunch of questions then signed all of our documents. Cohen was great while we were doing all this paperwork. We met a diplomat as well. She and her husband live in Moscow, but she was spending two weeks in Vladivostok for training. She gave Cohen cookies, so he really liked her.

The only thing we are waiting on now is Cohen’s visa so that he can enter the United States. Cohen will technically become a Untied States citizen when the plane touches ground in Los Angeles, CA. He will remain a Russian citizen as well, so he will have dual citizenship. His passport is only good for 5 years, so after that, we can choose to renew the passport or allow it to expire. The Consulate warned us that in Russia, boys could be called up for the Russian Army in the event of a draft. If Cohen is in Russia when the draft occurs, he would be required to serve. We will just have to make sure that Cohen does not travel to Russia between the ages of 18-30.

The weather here has been nice. We’ve been able to get outside some and enjoy the snow. Two days ago it got above freezing for most of the day. The snow started to melt and the ice on the road all melted, so we put on our coats, got out the stroller and took a walk with Cohen. He loved the walk, of course he loves being outside. We walked to a small grocery store, sort of like one of our gas station convenient stores, except this one didn’t have gas. We got some cokes and snacks and headed back to the hotel.

Below are a few of the pictures we took on our walk today.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Going to Get Cohen (Part 13)

New Orleans  2/22/2010 11:26 PM
Vladivostok  2/23/2010 3:26 PM

We only have one week left! Horay! I’m so ready to be home already.

We went yesterday to go take passport photos. Our little guy did great. He looked right at the camera and gave them his best mug shot photo (you aren’t allowed to smile in passport photos…so the mug shot was perfect).

Jace will go tomorrow to pick up our little guy’s new birth certificate and to meet with the Consulate to sign some paperwork for his passport and visa into the US. We are just so excited. On Thursday we all go to town to meet with a doctor and to go to the consulate to answer some questions. No big deal. It will be a busy day but we are so ready to get out of here for a while.

I’m so happy that everything is working out great and right on schedule. The courier will leave for Moscow on Friday with all the paperwork. He/she will go to the Embassy and get the passport on Monday, I believe, then we will be on our way to the US on Wednesday. We have a courier do this part for us so that our family of three does not have to pack up all of our stuff and go to Moscow ourselves. We could mail it, but it takes about 4 days for the mail to get to Moscow from here (no overnight fedex here I guess). This is really the best way to do it.

The little guy is making huge progress. He now knows where his ears, eyes, and tongue are (thanks to Mr. Potato Head for teaching those important body parts). He can make sounds like a monkey (some kids start with the sounds of a cat, dog, or cow…but not him…he does monkey sounds first). He’s getting really good at understanding commands…although he only chooses to follow a few. He understands sit, go get ___ (usually ball or block), come here, out, and go….among many others. He’s beginning to get what we mean when we say “no” but like any 20 month old, he’s testing us really well. When he gets mad he walks around the hotel room and hits everything in sight (table, chairs, walls, refrigerator, cabinets, the floor, even me at times). We are working on not hitting things because the other day he got a little angry and hit his friend that’s here with us. She was not too happy with that.

Earlier today while on a web chat with Meme and Big Al he played Pee Pie for the first time. He covered his eyes and said “pee pie.” Thanks Meme for teaching him that one…so cute!!

There are several Russian families here at the hotel as well and we meet up with them every now and then in the play room upstairs. Our little guy still remembers some of his Russian as well because he looks like he totally understands what they say when they are talking to him. I’m hoping they are keeping it clean because I don’t understand any of it.

I must say the most miserable part about being here is the food. The lack of peanut butter is just a start. We’ve resorted to eating grilled cheese sandwiches or fried eggs for nearly every meal. The grocery store has lots of stuff there, but none of it is really all that good. I’d love to have some Chick-Fil-A waffle fries right about now, but I guess I will just have to wait. We’ve tried to find the most American type stuff at the store but the only thing that’s kinda acceptable is the frozen pizzas and they don’t have just cheese, so we end up getting mushroom or some other strange combo and I just pick it all off my side of the pizza. While we are having trouble finding things to eat…our little boy is quickly eating up everything in sight. Not a picky eater there…thank goodness.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Going to Get Cohen (Part 12)

New Orleans 2/17/2010 11:57 PM
Vladivostok 2/18/2010 3:57 PM

It snowed here last night, so we are going to go outside in a few minutes and play in the new snow. So much fun. We all love the snow...and it will be nice to actually go outside. I haven't been outside in two full days. I'm getting a little stir crazy.

Our little guy is picking up on English pretty well. He can now say “ball,” “block,” and “Hugsy”. He also says "mama" but only when he's playing hide and seek....not sure what that's all about.

Also, I would like to send a special thanks to the Pourciau family for the lovely talking Valentine’s Day card. We keep trying to hide it because we are so annoyed with it, but he keeps finding it. He loves that card!! It's so funny to see him dance to the song. He's figured out that if you keep opening and closing it, it will start all over again. Too funny.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Going to Get Cohen (Part 11)

Is anyone actually still reading this? Not sure, but I'm just going to keep posting....maybe one day Cohen can look back over these and he will enjoy this.

No journal post for today…but I did find a picture taken earlier in February that I never did share.

I took this using my iPhone just before we left for Russia. This was the weather our first week in Russia. I told you it was cold!

I also took a couple of pictures this morning of him eating his breakfast. Yum!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Going to Get Cohen (Part 10)

New Orleans 2/15/2010 11:14 PM
Vladivostok 2/16/2010 3:14 PM

It’s just me and Cohen today because Jace went out to do some sightseeing. The hotel is nice, but we are getting cabin fever. We can’t take the Cohen out yet because his paperwork saying he’s really ours has not come back yet….so someone has to stay here with him. Also, it’s really cold outside! They said that it’s too cold for snow. I didn’t know that was even possible. Supposedly it hasn’t actually snowed here for a few weeks, but everything is covered in snow. It’s so different from how things work in Louisiana.

Today has been interesting. It all started with a few royal fits because breakfast wasn't long enough, I wouldn't let him take a bath (that kid loves his bath), then because I tried to change his clothes, then because I tried to put socks on him. I can't help but laugh. He so funny when he gets mad. He lies on the floor and throws his arms and legs up and pulls his hair. It's so funny. I will have to video one of these fits eventually so you can see it....or maybe he'll be so gracious to show you one when we get home.

Cohen is finally warming up to me. Up to this point he really only wanted Jace. It was heartbreaking, but I understand this is all part of the process. After all his fits, this morning we played hide and seek and when he was hiding he would call out “mama.” It was so cute. I don’t think he was actually calling me, I just kept saying it over and over again, so he repeated after me.

He’s really picking up on English really well too! He understands a few commands and he knows “ball,” “block,” and “puppy.” He can’t say these words, but when I say “go get the ball,” he understands me and goes to get the ball. I can’t wait to see what he learns tomorrow.

When I went to lay him down for his nap, he didn’t even cry. We are making so much progress and we are having loads of fun. I hate that not everyone gets to experience this!

I forgot to write about this yesterday, but I went with the other lady from America to the grocery store and we left the dads and babies at the hotel. Everyone survived. I still get so nervous at the grocery store! I never know what to get and I’m always so confused when I get in there. It’s so different than our stores back home. Hopefully I got everything we needed.

Jace took a few pictures during his walk. Here are a couple of shots of the Vlad Inn where we are staying.

And here are a few shots from his walk.

We have no idea who this is...Jace took a picture of it, and now I posted it on the blog. Maybe you can figure out the history behind this guy.

This is a picture of the frozen bay. That piece of land that you see is actually an island. 

This is a park bench, that usually looks out to the beach area on the bay. No beach area today!

How was your marathon?

GREAT! I loved every minute of it. Ok, well maybe not EVERY minute, but overall it was a wonderful experience. I had a ton of fun!

On February 13, 2011, I joined about 17,000 other people at the start line for the 2011 Rock 'n Roll Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans, LA. The race started at 7:00 AM.

Here's a picture of me waiting for my group to reach the start line. We actually started the race around 7:30 AM.

Here I am crossing the finish line. Don't pay attention to the finishing time was 5:14:56!! Yay!!

Overall, it was a great run. I was doing really good up until mile 20. Prior to running the marathon, the longest run I had finished was 18 miles. I was supposed to do 20 miles two weeks before the marathon, but that's when I got that terrible stomach bug and I was totally dehydrated and in no condition to run.

The course took us through some of the most beautiful parts of New Orleans. We started at the Convention Center, ran through uptown, Audobon Park, the French Quarter (right in front of Cafe du tempting), City Park, and along the side of Lake Ponchartrain and back to City Park.

I was keeping up with my split time on my watch, and about 16 minutes into mile 15, I realized I totally missed the mile 15 marker. Yep, the run was that good. I wasn't paying any attention to the mile markers. Fear not, I saw 16, so I wasn't quite at the delirious stage.

When I saw the family at mile 18, I was feeling great. I was running right on pace to finish in under 5 hours. I kissed my boys at mile 18 and headed out to the most difficult part of the race course: the long run to Lake Pontchartrain. The road that took us to the lake was long and straight and in full sun. By mile 20, I was feeling every one of the prior 20 miles. I was still running though. I don't remember much from miles 21-25 except bordom and pain. I was so tired and hungry. I took 2 gu's during those 4 miles. Probably not the best idea, but I needed something to get me through. Once I saw the finish line, I took off. I felt nothing. At the finish line, I hugged Jace and Cohen and cried. I still can't believe I actually did it!

Prior to the race, I signed up for runner tracking, so Jace could keep up with me during the race. They sent him a text message at certain points along the run. Below is a chart of the info he received.

Cohen was such a great spectator all day. At the end of the race, he even helped me with my stretches. He's my favorite training partner (sorry Jace...I'd pick you, but you never want to run at my pace, and he always goes at my pace).

And now for the BIG THANKS....

I want to start by thanking God. He gave me the ability to get up every morning and train for the marathon. He was with me on the worst days of training and on the best.  I hope that one day He will look at me and say "well done," until then, I will do my best to show Him how grateful I am for the gift of eternal life He has promised me.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." --1 Corinthians 9:24-27

A special thanks to Jace, my wonderful husband. Without all your support and encouragement through months of training, I never would have made it! Thank you for constantly pushing me to do more. You are the reason I knew I could do this. Thank you so much for running all over town so that you could be at mile 1, 2, 4, 11, 18, 25 and 26.2! Thanks for being there at the end to tell me how proud you are of me.
To my Cohen: You endured bear snacks, gummy snacks, bananas, poptarts, bagels, chocolates, raisins, the bitter cold, blistering heat, rain and Mommy's loud girl music for miles and miles in the stroller so that I could run. One day, I hope to repay you for your patience and enouragement.

And now to all my friends and family who were there for me during the months of training offering support, free babysitting, or just waving at me during those long runs. To Mrs. Jan, Mr. Jerry, Mitzi, Tricia, Adam, Damon, Scarlett, Stella, and Cille for coming to support me the day of the marathon (I understand that you were not all there for just me...Scarlett and Tricia did run 13.1 that day, and that's a HUGE accomplishment! I'm so proud of both of them!!) It meant a lot to me to have you there, and it allowed Jace to see me at all those miles listed above.

Now I have a question for you....will you join me next time?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Going to Get Cohen (Part 9)

New Orleans 2/14/2010 2:44 AM
Vladivostok 2/14/2010 6:44 PM

Happy Valentine’s Day!

For those that really know me, I don’t typically celebrate Valentine’s Day. I believe it is a holiday created by the greeting card companies to try to get us to spend our money.

This being our first Valentine’s Day with Cohen, I decided to get him a book to tell him how much we love him.  Don’t get upset if it never happens again. I think we should tell people how much we love them every day.

Anyway, enough of that soapbox.

We opened our Valentine’s Day cards from Nan and Pops, Lucy and Ella, and the Pourciau’s. Cohen was introduced to Stella thanks to an adorable picture of her in pigtails. Too cute!

Earlier today we moved Cohen’s bed back into his room and he took a nap in there all by himself. He did great! We actually had to go in there and wake him up so we could make it to our dinner reservations.

For Valentine’s Day we went to the restaurant here at the Vlad Inn with the other American family here with us. We had a great time! Cohen was wonderful so long as we kept Cheerios in front of him. Jace and I split a seafood plate and we each got a dessert. We were there for almost an hour and a half. The restaurant had a band, so Cohen stayed entertained for most of the evening. They also had a clown there making balloon animals. Cohen just watched her; he wasn’t interested in getting close enough to actually get a balloon. She popped a couple of the balloons and it scared some of the other children that were there, but not Cohen. He wasn’t really fazed at all.

For those looking for more pictures, I’m not sure what happened today. I didn’t take any! Hopefully I do better tomorrow.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Going to Get Cohen (Part 8)

New Orleans 2/13/2010 2:16 AM
Vladivostok 2/13/2010 6:16 PM

Well, things are going great here in Russia. Cohen is doing great. He loves to play! His favorite toys are the blocks we brought from home, and his dad’s watch. He also loves looking at all the picture books we brought.

So far, we have had a video chat with both families. First, Cohen got to meet Nan, Pops, Uncle Awesome and Aunt Trix. He smiled and laughed for them…so cute!

Then he met Meme, Big Al, Aunt Joani, Uncle Charles, Aunt Mitzi, Uncle Jamie, Mama Ginny, Alyssa, Ana and Mitch. The kids sang songs to Cohen….he loved it!

It’s really cool to see how far we have come with our technology. Jace, Cohen and I are in Vladivostok, Russia, but we can have a real-time video chat with our families back in Louisiana. Just a few years ago, this would not have been possible. There was a time when even a phone call home was not an option. My grandfather, Daddy Bruce, spent time on a navy ship in World War II, and Mama Ginny would go for long periods of time never hearing from him. I’m so happy that technology now allows us to speak to one another whenever we want!

Bath time last night was so much better than the night before. It was tons of fun! Cohen whined a little at first, but when we pulled out the bath time book from the Millet’s, he was so excited. The book has Bible characters, like Baby Moses and Jesus. They stick to the side of the bath tub, or in the book with the story for each character. His favorite is the fish from the story of Jonah. My favorite is Jesus, because the story in the book is where he walked on water, so I keep making Jesus walk on the water. We had lots of fun.

Cohen LOVES to eat! He is eating all sorts of baby food. We haven’t found anything he doesn’t love. The worst part of feeding him is when it is all gone. As soon as he realizes there is nothing left, he screams. We have been just taking him out of his seat and we just let him have his fit on the floor, where it is safer. They say this is normal for kids raised in institutions…they aren’t used to having an endless supply of food, so they want to overeat when they get the chance. We are trying to keep him from overeating, but these fits are the worst!

Tonight after dinner I gave him a little Russian cookie as dessert. He got down from the table with the cookie and didn’t cry. That was a little better. Hopefully his eating issues get better soon!

We did get out of the room today to go play in the snow. Cohen loved the snow and he loved being outside. It’s difficult not being able to tell what he’s thinking and not really being able to communicate with him, but I’m sure that will get better with time.

He got to wear the new snow boots Uncle Brian, Aunt Katie, and Katherine gave to him. He was so cute!!